“Are you absolutely certain this is the best current to follow?” Touchesgently asked as the two Undulates huddled together in the ventilation shaft of the main boat shed.
Beneath them the rough lapping of the waves against the sand, the clicking of the boats against the docks, and the creaking of the lines was interspersed with soft woofings of mammalian inquisitiveness and the scratching of spines on packing materials.
“No,” her companion replied with listless ambivalence in his touch. “No, not in the least.”
“Then why are we doing this?” Touchesgently demanded.
“Because no one else in the entire farm complex has any better idea,” Prodsfirmly replied, “and something must be done for him.”
“This is true,” Touchesgently agreed as the person in question came into the covered area headed for the crates by the edge of the water. “We owe him so much-”
Her statement faded out as Human Friend Darryl entered the room below them, his eyes on the datapad in his hand and his feet rattling across the drainage grates of the flooring. He was wearing the Ranger uniform that was, so far as Tochesgently understood the uses and patterns of clothing, only used by humans on Undulate worlds of higher than average temperature. Only the broad soles of his feet were fully shielded, these shields were held on with crossing straps that barely reached his ankles. Formed cloth covered the great joints where his lower appendages met his trunk and this was topped with a wide circular radiation shield. Tochesgently thought that there was supposed to be a cloth sheath covering the cage of muscle and bone the humans called a torso, but she had never seen Human Friend Darryl wear one.
“It is like a war of tides,” Prodsfirmly stated, grief and no little horror in his touch.
Touchesgently had to agree. The uniform, and how Human Friend Darryl wore it, gave them an unusually thorough view of his colors. When he had first come to the algae farms he had positively glowed with joy and eagerness. Just his presence was enough to boost the moods of everyone around and fill them with delight. The younger podlings had covered beach after beach in their attempt to capture the play of his colors when he was hauling the boats against the fantastic friction of the sand, or lightly tossing the heaviest predator traps into position.
Even the time he had nearly died from attempting to eat the captured predators that had “looked kinda like jumbo shrimp” had been...if not a joyous occasion at least an entertaining one. His skin had flushed terrifying colors for days afterwards as it had struggled to expel the toxins; terrifying, but beautiful.
Then had come the long haul Shatar freighter with their supplies and messages. Their first oddity had been when the ship and pulled into a low geosynchronous orbit instead of just higher, energy saving one. Only Human Friend Darryl had taken that as a warning, stiffening and ever so slightly showing his teeth as his lights were suddenly shot through with dangerous warnings. The skiff had separated, personally delivering their ordered supplies and one particular message. Third Grandmother, nearly as tall as Human Friend Darryl even in her old age had escorted out her mate, tiny even by Shatar male standards, but with gently curling antenna and a wealth of wisdom in his old eyes.
All this time Human Friend Darryl had been growing more quiet, and had been giving off more and more danger pheromones. Tochesgently had quietly ordered the podlings back to their pools, uncertain what the threat could possibly be, but not willing to ignore the instincts of the galaxy’s most advanced super-predator.
Third Grandfather and walked up to Human Friend Darryl and without a word had taken one of the human’s hands in his. Third Grandmother had, with a Shatar attempt at subtlety indicated that she wanted to discuss business with the Undulates and had led them some distance off. Either it was supposed to be a polite but meaningless gesture, or Third Grandmother, with her stubby antenna and lined frill, had no idea what the Undulates effective hearing range was, because they had all heard Third Grandfather gently inform Human Friend Darryl that his Second Brother had died.
Human Friend Darryl’s lights had drained from his body as if he had died standing on the beach in that moment. The sands still savored of the intense stress hormones where he had stood, but his face had gone stiff and as soon as Third Grandfather had finished giving the message Human Friend Darryl and abruptly turned and walked across the sand. The podlings who had witnessed this still whimpered about it. Human Friend Darryl had walked like a machine, like a malfunctioning AI he had spent half the night stacking and sorting the next season predator traps. A task that was so far down on their priority list that they wouldn’t have begun for weeks.
The next several weeks had been strange. There was no chance of sending Human Friend Darryl back to his home pool to mourn with his family. The Shatar ship was headed in the other direction. The farm’s own ships were barely rated to take a human to the nearest system. So Touchesgently had determined to help the human mourn as best they could. She had assumed that their many similarities would make this fairly easy.
Humans shared grief through touch and loved podlings, but Human Friend Darryl gently repulsed the mature Undulates and flat out refused to go near the podlings.
“They don’t need to deal with this,” he stated gesturing at his exposed skin.
Touchesgently reluctantly had to agree. The dead look was gone most of the time, however what had replaced it was, as Prodsfirmly had just observed, like a war of the tides. Colors that could only be grief would creep out from his core, only to be pushed by swathes of rage, which would in turn be washed out by sickly guilt, and then all of it spiked through with irritation. It was as if some stringy emotional algae had gotten into Human Friend Darryl’s system and had created putrefying eddies where emotions should flow freely.
Humans were supposed to cry in their grief. The physiology books were very clear about that. The intense fight or flight hormones that kept humans alive on a world where the three most cultivated fauna were two apex predators and an herbivore that could and did kill both of them were not meant to linger in the human brain. Cleansing these out was the purpose of shedding that much water, but Human Friend Darryl had not shed a single tear.
This situation could not go on. Touchesgently had researched what could be done and the suggested remedy seemed not only dangerous, but quite frankly mad. However it did make sense in a barbaric sort of way...a very human sort of way. So she had put in an order to one of the farms farther north that was experimenting with a more bioactive approach to clearing the algae predators out of the pools. Now here they were, hiding like mischievous podlings as Human Friend Darryl approached the crate the drone had brought them.
The human stopped two meters from the crate and tilted his head to get a better angle on the sounds emitting from the crate.
“The frack?” he muttered.
Human Friend Darryl examined the warnings on the exterior of the crate and moved in obvious perplexity to erect the safety fence around the crate before opening the message attached to the top.
“My name is Cuddles?” Human Friend Darrly read aloud. “I am a poor, helpless, little orphan who will have to be put down unless you can adopt me and raise me to be a good genetic backup for the domestication process.”
Touchesgently was quite proud of the message. She had spent three days pooring over human psychology texts to make it as appealing as possible. Even now the sickly war of emotions written across Human Friend Darryl’s skin was being replaced by the faint promise of healthy perplexity. He crouched over the crate and opened it. At first nothing happened, then something round and furry, with four forward facing eyes crept out, and out, and out, and out of the crate. The eyes were deep black and luminous with flecks of silver. The fur was a soft golden brown. The skin was loose and wrinkly. The body was impossibly long.
“A baby seal-snake?” Human Friend Darryl demanded in shock. “What are you doing hear little guy?”
He glanced at the message again, as if hoping it would tell him something new. Then the seal-snake, a very social being, having not a single predator avoidance gene in its body, gave a painful distress cry and humped forward to butt its head against Human Friend Darryl’s leg. It’s four large eyes sought out the human’s two and when it had eye contact it gently rubbed its head against his leg.
Human Friend Darryl stared down at the creature as if it had stunned him, and almost mechanically, reached down to stroke the round head. Somewhere between its origin and completion the motion failed however and pure, clean grief burst over Human Friend Darryl’s skin. His massive lungs gasped for air and he collapsed into a crouch over the baby seal-snake. The creature was startled at first, but immediately began nuzzling the human. Human Friend Darryl wrapped his arms around the impossibly long body and held it to himself tenderly as his body was wracked with sobs.
“Is this the reaction we were hoping for?” Prodsfirmly asked.
“Close enough for government work as the humans say,” Touchesgently said as they began to sneak away.
Please go and leave a new rating and review on my 2nd book!
Barnes & Noble
Google Play Books
Kobo By Rakuten
What does it mean when your human friend says “Watch This?”? Why does this simple phrase seem to terrify any alien that has first appendage experience with humans? #HFY #HumansAreWeird #HumansAreSpaceOrcs #EarthIsADeathWorld #EarthIsSpaceAustralia
Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 155 reviews and ratings! If you bought the book and enjoyed it, it would really help me out if you leave a quick star rating on Amazon. A review would be great but just stars would be a huge boost *****!
QUICK NOTE: RE: everyone who asked. The book is avaliable in Amazon regions US-UK-DE-FR-ES-IT-NL-JP-BR-CA-MX-AU-IN. HOWEVER The above link only takes you to the US Amazon site. The one indicated by the .com ending. If it says "not avaliable in your country" that just means that you need to click over to your Amazon region.
Of course if you want a signed first edition you can email me at the email on my website and I can ship you a signed Author copy of the first edition for the same price as the crowdfunding campaign $35 domestic and $50 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.