By Betty Adams
“Are you sure you are okay with this Twistunder?” Mack asked as he hefted his pulse rifle over his shoulder.
His companion crawled out from under the stack of backpacks that had fallen around him and twisted his front appendages up in a rough approximation of a thumbs-up. Mack smiled down at the alien and carefully began stacking up the backpacks again. In the dim light of the storage room the dusky grey Undulate might easily be mistaken for a rather matted wet mop. Mack stacked the last of the packs and hoisted his full one onto one shoulder.
“Are you ready to go?” Mack asked.
“Very ready,” Twistunder assured him. “May I help you situate you pack?”
“Probably not a good idea,” Mack said with a grin. “I still need to put a few things in it and get the carrier for my rifle.”
Twistunder hesitated and his appendages tapped the floor in a fidgety manner.
“May I help you adjust your backpack?” Mack asked with a grin.
“Please!” Twistunder lifted up the backpack and Mack carefully slipped the small backpack over three appendages on each side of the Undulate and then set it on Twistunder’s dorsal ridge.
“That is quite acceptable,” Twistunder said after fidgeting for a few moments. “Let’s go!”
“Why are you doing this again?” Mack asked as they proceeded towards the bay where the last of his gear was waiting. “One of the other humans could go with me instead and I know you guys don’t like to take part in taking the life of higher animals.”
“This is an essential part of your culture,” Twistunder explained. “And while we do not need or choose to kill higher animals for food we do end their lives for self defense purposes as you do as well. So the concept of hunting is not entirely foreign to us. I wish to both learn human hunting methods and overcome my own disgust reaction to what appears to be a fairly logical endeavor for you.”
“Good goals I guess,” Mack said as a thought struck him. “Say, you guys are basically furry and cute, graze on algae, have pretty similar social rules about excrement and illness, and even your issues on reproduction are about the same as ours from everything I’ve heard.”
“That is a fairly approximate summation of those cultural factors,” Twistunder agreed.
They reached the airlock where Mack had left his stuff and the Ranger quickly sorted out his pack while he talked.
“Well none of that falls anywhere near the human disgust reaction,” he observed. “In fact I can’t think of anything a human would find disgusting about one of you.”
Twistunder hesitated. “Was that a compliment of sorts Mack?”
“Not really,” Mack said as he shouldered his gun and triggered the airlock. They walked out into the dim red sunlight of the savannah together and he checked his compass. “I was just thinking that it was kind of odd.”
“We have not shared all of our culture with you,” Twistunder said. “For better or for worse.”
Mack grunted and sighted in on a particularly red outcropping of dunga trees that likely hosted the herd that their survey had indicated was just about to reach maximum carrying capacity.
“Well at the moment we have some protein to procure and if I have any sort of luck you will get to test that disgust reflex by sunset. Care to climb up?” Mack held down a hand and the Undulate happily climbed up his arm to rest on his shoulder.
Now Mack was all for cultural exchange mind, but he was going to have words with whoever had taught Twistunder the words to “A Hunting We Will Go”. The person who had taught him the concept of singing in rounds would come next.