“Why do you want to know the educational background of every human on the evening shift?” the base commander asked as he squinted down at the stiff employee in front of his perch.
The Trisk shifted his many, far too many legs in what the base commander took to be a gesture of uneasiness.
“I want to ascertain if I can,” the Trisk said as he reached up nervously with his gripping leg to brush the sensory bristles over his primary eyes, “where these humans fall on the spectrum of human intelligence.”
“You are not rated as a psychologist,” the base commander said, flaring his wings out in cautious warning, “and this base does not have the capacity to contact any University extension capable of granting approval for research on sapient species.”
“I do not want to do active research,” the Trisk quickly protested. “I do not even want to make further passive observations. I just want to answer a question that was raised by observing what I assume was a recreational behavior among the field workers on the evening shift.”
The base commander considered this carefully. Even allowing passive research on a sapient species could raise tensions on a small base like this. However humans were notoriously curious and willing to be studied. On the other flap they usually insisted on being able to study whoever was studying them in turn and that could lead down very disruptive wind gusts. He ran a winghook over his sensory horns and nodded slowly as he pondered.
“I will have to discuss this with Third Cousin,” he said. “If we decide in your favor she will send you the files this afternoon.”
The Trisk nodded and skittered quickly out of the room. It was a fairly simple matter to contact Third Cousin and get her to agree to a meeting, but the meeting had to be delayed as she was quite busy in the medical bay. The base commander pulled up the medical records and blinked in surprise. It seemed that roughly half of the human population of the base was currently slated for minor medical attention. The symptoms showed a fascinating range from minor burns, to bruises, to one dislocated shoulder joint. The base commander winced and rolled his shoulder joints in sympathy. This was perplexing but hardly out of character for what he had been taught to expect from humans. He turned back to examining the surge in power requirements they had experienced since expanding their research fields.
In due time Third Cousin sent him a terse approval which he passed on to the Trisk. He didn’t quite forget about the issue but when the Trisk skittered into his office the next day with a gloomy set to his joints the base commander didn’t immediately ping why he was back.
“Can I serve you?” The base commander asked.
The Trisk brushed his eye hairs back and flexed in frustration.
“Thank you for obtaining the information for me,” the Trisk said.
The base commander remember to pause for six slow wing beats for responding.
“You are welcome,” he replied.
The Trisk bobbed his body in acknowledgment of the reply but didn’t go. The base commander wondered what the Trisk could want. That he wanted something more was clear.
“Did you answer you question?” The base commander asked.
“Not in the least,” the Trisk said with a glum set to his joints. “I only intensified my questions.”
“Would you like to tell me about your questions?” the base commander asked, hoping the Trisk had no such intentions.
However the Trisk perked up in relief and began circling slowly as he processed his thoughts. The base commander tried to subtly settle more comfortably on his perch, it was going to be a long explanation.
“I was out scouting outside of the fenced areas for the best places to set the insect traps,” the Trisk said. “I was accompanied by one of the morning shift human crew leads for protection. We had found many good sites but wanted to get some more as there was more time left in the day. I am afraid we went past our working hours for the day but our scouting was so successful. We were headed back and found a group of the evening shift humans wrapping up their work hours. The had been modulating the energy flow in the fencing and appeared to be gathering up the scattered insulating components.”
The Trisk paused and gave a sudden shudder, brushing his paws all over his body in a gesture that members of the species usually used to asses their bodies after an injury.
“One human was holding what I assumed was a cold wire but as we got closer I felt on my electro bristles that it was twitching,” the Trisk went on.
The base commander was trying to keep the Trisk colloquialism in mind while the other talked.
“I expressed my concern but my human escort pointed out that the human could not conduct the charge as his feet were insulated,” the Trisk said. “But then a second human set down a pad of insulation and grabbed the first human’s hand. Then a third did the same. Then each of the shift placed the insulation down and stepped on it, forming a chain of human hands.”
A massive shudder ran through the Trisk’s body as he recalled the next part.
“The final human put down his insulation and took the hand of the human next to him,” the Trisk finally forced himself to go on.
The base commander found himself oddly fascinated now. Something horrible was clearly coming and he couldn’t look away.
“The human who was with me had stopped walking and was watching them with his body poised as if he was expecting entertainment,” the Trisk went on. “The line of humans was focused on the last human in the line. They were encouraging him to do something. Finally the last human in line took off his foot coverings and stepped off his insulating pad.”
“But then the current would have a circuit and would have-” the base commander couldn’t help interjecting.
The Trisk stiffened in affront and to the base commander’s shock interrupted him.
“It shocked each human in the line, sending them all flying from the force of the electrocution,” the Trisk clicked out. “My escort was laughing, and once they recovered from their automatic pain display the rest of the humans were laughing as well.”
The Trisk stopped talking and the base commander stared at him in mild horror.
“What was their average educational level?” the base commander finally asked.
“Not one of them had less than a tertiary degree accredited from the home university,” the Trisk replied.
“Why?” the base commander suddenly burst out.
“I do not know,” said the Trisk grimly, “and now I am even without a theory.
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