Forty-third Trill swung lightly on his perch and fought the urge to take command of the Oozle away from Twenty-Ninth Click. The smallest of the research vessels the Oozle was the most prone to catching the wind and being thrown off-course. His second in command was a more than experienced helmsclaw and when Forty-third Trill was faithfully following the thermals he could admit that Twenty-ninth Click could dodge the ship around the many hazards of the north canyons better than he could. Still, Forty-third Trill mused as he extended one wing past the protection of the windshield, the cold had to be getting to his second no matter how good that insulating coat was that nearly completely engulfed him and he wouldn’t want his second getting cold numbed.
The ambient temperature was well within the comfort range for a Winged in flight. However the air was heavy with moisture and even when they weren’t in the shadows of the tall canyon walls the pale sunlight only filtered through the thick clouds. It might make his wrinkled old sensory horns tingle, but it wouldn’t warm his wings. With a shudder he pulled his wing out of the wind stirred up from their passage and tucked it against his fur. They had a slight tailwind which was getting them home faster than usual, but it wasn’t much.
Even Private Rowlands had abandoned the perch in the bow of the ship that he preferred for the shelter of the windshield. The human was sprawled out behind him in the cargo area, having made a rough human perch by strapping down various algae traps. It was mildly annoying to have a flight member coated in the toxic algae by the time the workday was done, but the human always pointed out that he was protected by his wet suit and as long as the Winged didn’t try to perch on anything that glowed green they would be fine too. The reasoning was sound but seeing the majority of his wing clustered tightly to the human’s exposed chest, a mere winglength from where the green smears began on the wetsuit was hardly comforting.
At the moment Private Rowland’s head was bowed to duck below the stream of air flowing down from the top of the windshield and it bobbed slightly as they went over the waves. His eyes were closed behind his glasses and the majority of his fur was hidden under the thin cloth that was tied around his head. His arms were spread out, clutching the back row of traps for balance. It didn’t look particularly comfortable, but Private Rowland was breathing evenly in the way that indicated light sleep and the Winged on his chest nestled comfortably against his heartbeat.
The boat swerved as they approached their final vector causing the human to sway slightly to counterbalance. Behind the radiation shields he wore his eye flicked open and the Winged on his chest fluttered in response to his increasing awareness. The human rolled his head and his farsighted binocular eyes flicked around the canyon walls, to the approaching docks, to the still cloudy sky. Forty-third Trill could almost imagine that he could read the human’s thoughts by merely tracking the movements of those expressive eyes, with their strange white outlines and their tiny cores.
Private Rowland sat forward and with a rueful smile tapped one shoulder just a few inches from the cluster of Winged on his chest.
“No, no, not yet!” protested a chorus of voices. “We’re not there yet! Just got warm! It can wait!”
However the long lectures about how not to take advantage of human mass and thermodynamics seem to have finally caught up to the wing and with a cascade of disgruntled chirps they removed themselves from the human’s bare chest and flew to their regulation perches. They did make sure to look as put out, cold, and miserable as possible however. The human smiled absently at their antics, but his eyes were still tracking the approaching dock as he resealed his wet suit, closing the gap he had opened to warm his companions. Keeping his center of mass low and towards the center of the boat the human moved to the bow and took up the bowline in one hand.
Twenty-ninth Click expertly altered their power output to counter the sudden shift in mass and Forty-Third Trill had to admit that he could not have done it half so well. The rest of the wing was watching out the front windshield in interest as the wind from their speed tore at the immovable human where he crouched ready to leap onto the dock. Of course the automated systems could do this, but that would cause strain on the simple computer of the craft and Private Rowlands needed to be kept sharp if he was going to ever be a counter to the beasts of the depths.
“Now!” shouted half the wing as the ship approached the dock.
Weather or not he heard the human agreed and leapt from the boat, landing on the dock. Forty-third Trill had seen the human do this dozens of times now and he was only watching from half his horns. So his first hint that something was wrong was a worried trill from a younger member of the wing. He snapped his head away from the controls and stared at Private Rowland. Normally at this moment the human’s hands would be tossing the line around the wings of the cleat while his eyes tracked the movement of the boat. However at the moment Private Rowland was simply staring down at the cleat with a slack look on his face. The boat struck the dock with only minor force. Twenty-ninth Click was too good a pilot to strike even marginally too hard despite the winds. However the boat still rebounded and with the power turned down for docking there was little .
“Drop the line!” shrieked out a dozen voices as half the flight abandoned their perches for flight in panic.
Either they spoke too high for the human to hear or whatever internal convulsion had paralyzed him had blocked the sound because as the boat rebounded his massive hand still gripped it, and as impressive as the mass of a human was, it was still no match for a fully equipped science vessel and in an agonizingly slow motion the human was pulled off center, then off the dock. Private Rowland did release the line as he flailed over the water and plunged in.
Twenty-ninth Click was cursing the fool of a human, the miss-woven line, the over-engineered ship, and several other elements of the situation loud enough to be heard over the wind even as he reignited the power source and attempt to bring the ship to a stand still. Just as the boat paused the water beside the dock surged up and the humans head burst out of the water. Private Rowland spun around trying to find them through the water streaming down his face. Forty-third Trill has several long moments to work up the scolding that was about to escape through his teeth when the canyon winds suddenly experienced one of their abrupt changes. A gust blew up behind them driving the ship forward. For a panicked moment Forty-third Trill faced the terrifying prospect of having to write a report of what happens when a human head is caught between a research vessel and an immovable dock. Twenty-ninth Click was screaming profanity into the wind, as he applied full power away from the dock. The human’s head surge up and then down again before swinging out of sight below the gunnel.
Half the wing abandoned the windshield screaming frantically for Private Rowland’s attention, but the moment they were out in the wind it snatched them away and they began fighting not to be blown out over the canyon. Crushed human, wind scattered hypothermic flight, traumatized pilot, Forty-third Trill was dolefully counting up the grams of trouble this was going to cost him when the boat bumped once more against the dock and was pinned there by the perverse wind.
“Prepare the auto docking program,” he spit out to what remained of the wing in the sheltered area.
However the water on the far side of the dock suddenly bubbled up and out burst a very not-squished Private Rowland, a shimmering green slick of algae running down his unprotected face and shoulders. He scrambled up on the dock and like some sort of helpful horror snatched up the bow line and secured it on the wings of the cleat. Then he scrambled back and did the stern line before standing erect and darting down the dock with his arms held up. The struggling members of the flight eagerly took up a position in his wind lee or simply attached themselves to his hair despite the dripping green contamination. When he had collected them all he trotted back through the wind and leaned into the windshield to dislodge them.
“Hylo!” he exclaimed with a wide grin on his face. “Looks like there’s a bad algae growth under the dock! I better get the scrubbers out.”
Forty-third Trill snarled at the human.
“Wash that off your skin now! The scrubbers can wait. You are already welting up!” the Winged snapped. “That goes for the rest of you too!” he hissed at the rest of the contaminated, but they were already being doused in decon spray by the wing medic.
The human touched his face and gave a wince. The shrugged and took a running leap off the dock to get away from the contaminated water.
“Have enough spray ready for him when he comes out of the water,” Forty-thrid Trill said with a sigh.
The human was alive and mostly uninjured. He wasn’t going to have to send out rescue parties down the canyons, and it really was a good thing to discover the algae growth before it spread too far. His day had gone from normal, to catastrophic, to merely annoying in a matter of moments and he was grateful that it had not stopped at catastrophic. However there was now they issue of why a human, who was supposed to be fully mentally functional, had just completely forgotten how to tie a knot so basic that it wasn’t even restricted to sapient species, had forgotten that the ship outmassed him, and hadn't see a wall of green algae. Forty-third Trill wondered absently if he was going to need to invent another new report form.
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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
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