Second Father drew in a long calming breath and fleetingly touched a mental antenna over the situation. Fourth Aunt was tending to the injuries with full competence, and if she was snipping out reprimands as fast as she was applying membrane spray there was no doubt the young one she was tending needed a bit of discipline. There were no serious injuries, thank the Mother for that, and the tangy scent of panic and fear was fast fading from the air around him even if it still permeated his membranes. The afternoon sun was slanting down through the canopy overhead and he calculated that the human children had had time to walk back to their own hive and First Grandfather would be on his way back. Second Father activated his comm unit and sent out a general ping on the adult frequency and then walked with a tired step towards the hive hearth.
By the time he arrived in the arched center of their hive Second Grandmother and Second Grandfather were already sitting on the central couch quietly chatting as they groomed each other’s antenna. They were lucky to have both of them in the hive at any time and he was grateful that they were here. Second Father curled his antenna at them respectfully and sat down on a perch some distance from them. He was fairly certain that First Mother would not attend. She was too close to laying soon, but Second Mother should be here soon and he was eager to taste his mate’s pheromones on the air. One by one the most competent members of the older generations came in and took up their places. As the light from the day outside faded the glow-nodules that stood out everywhere a set of roots crossed began to brighten the room. Second Mother arrived and flicked an antenna at him, but took a place within a cluster of Aunts. Finally First Grandfather entered and made a show of shaking the sand off of his bootings before taking his place in the center of the cluster. Triangular heads tilted and antenna perked as the attention of the room focused on the last comer. However First Grandfather only turned his head pointedly at Second Father.
“Do you care to share what you know?” First Grandfather asked as the attention refocused on Second Father.
“It is my consideration that Human Friend Second Father Brice be removed from the certified care list at community activities,” Second Father said firmly.
He could tell that First Grandfather did not like the abrupt introduction and there was a general susurration of shifting limbs and a few frills were tightly pressed to their necks in scandalized surprise. The movement increased as it generally sank in that there would be no explanation or defense until the consideration had been approved. Second Father knew that it was somewhat presumptuous of him to do this in First Father’s absence, but they were all keenly aware that the actual heads of the hive would be too busy stringing new egg lines in the garden for days to deal with the situation. There was a little discussion as the adults considered his words, most of it being questions about what had set him off and reminders that he was a very competent Second Father even if he wasn’t First Father, but finally the voices stilled and all antennas and frills showed respectful agreement, if they were a little tense with curiosity.
“First Grandfather,” Second Father began after acknowledging their acquiescence, “would you please share the beginning of the story with our hive?”
“I was napping out in the east arbor,” First Grandfather began, “when I heard the sound of something large approaching through the underbrush.”
The was a flutter of surprise and unease in the audience at that and First Grandfather held up a restraining hand.
“It was simply First Sister returning from her play time with the human children,” he quickly explained, “though I admit, I was concerned about local predators at first.”
“But she went with a handful of cousins!” a voice excliamed.
“Why were they coming through the underbrush?” Demanded Second Mother.
“How, were they coming though the underbrush?” called out a second voice.
“Didn’t that tear up their membranes?” asked another.
“Human First Brother explained that he was trailblazing to make sure she wasn’t injured,” First Grandfather explained quickly. “And he succeeded to some degree. Where he failed Fourth Aunt is treating the injuries. The human himself was rather severely scratched up in the process, though it was difficult to tell how much was from the underbrush and how much was from his previous activities. As to why…”
First Grandfather heaved a large sigh and his antenna were twitching between annoyance and amusement.
“I will let Second Father take the story from here as he interrogated the children after I procured first aid for them both.”
Second Father accepted the shift in attention and flexed his psudo-frill in preparation.
“Once the human hiveling was receiving medical care I began asking First Sister for an explanation,” his antenna flexed in rueful admiration, “she was reluctant to offer any information despite having fairly severe abrasions and laceration. However when the human First Brother saw me speaking to her he ran forward, grabbed her hand, and stated that it was his fault-”
“What was his fault?” someone asked.
“Human First Brother was not clear on that at first,” Second Father said. “On inquiry he explained that it was his idea to ‘sneak’ through the underbrush because it was a shortcut. At this point First Sister asked him about avoiding the attention of Human Second Father Brice and Human First Brother changed color a bit and admitted that that was a consideration too. I asked them why they were avoiding Human Second Father Brice and First Sister offered the information, very primly, that she had determined that she didn’t want to disturb a Father with minor injuries and just wanted to come home.”
“What injuries?” Second Mother demanded, “I thought they got the abrasions in the underbrush on the way home?”
“Just so,” Second Father went on with a grim set to his mandibles, “this was when Fourth Aunt pointed out to me that there were two distinctly different types of abrasion on both First Sister and Human First Brother. The rough lacerations from their trek through the underbrush, and a finer, denser abrasion below it. When I pressed on how the first injury happened First Sister admitted that she had been taking lessons from Human First Brother in something she called skateboarding.”
There was a general murmur of confusion and Second Father braced himself to translate Human First Brother’s enthusiastic and disjointed account of what a skateboard was. From the resulting looks of confusion and horror in his family’s responses he had at least communicated all he knew.
“According to both First Sister’s and Human First Brother’s accounts, everything went well until they attempted joint maneuvers with two boards. First Sister could not gain enough momentum with her own feet so Human First Brother offered to gift her some of his momentum.”
The was a collective wince as the twist in the story vine grew more visible.
“This too went well until the wheels, neither is quite sure whose, hit a bump,” Second Father went on. “First Sister began to topple, and might have righted herself, but Human First Brother was afraid she would hurt her joints so he pulled on her kilt to counterbalance her. Neither quite remembers what happened next but they both agree they went skidding down an adjacent slope together. Fourth Aunt assures me that First Sister’s injuries are minimal all elements considered. Apparently Human First Brother managed to keep her from contact with the ground for most of the fall.”
“She would have managed to right herself if he’d left her alone,” came a grumble.
“No doubt,” Second Father agreed, “but he didn’t know that and it was quite selfless of him to do what he did.”
“Why didn’t they just go straight to Human Second Father Brice after that?” a voice demanded.
“And that loops the vine around the point,” Second Father said drooping with a sigh. “Apparently Human Second Mother Brice had preemptively forbidden all skateboard play with our hivelings due to what she saw as obvious dangers and had instruction her mate to enforce these restrictions. Rather than return to his father and risk direct censure Human First Brother decided it was best to escort First Sister to her hive as quickly as possible.”
There was a rustle of tossed heads as a current of half-irritated, half-amused understanding ran through the gathered adults.
“Speaking of Humans Second Father Brice,” Second Mother demanded. “What was he doing this entire time?”
Second Father reached up to rub his head with a sigh.
“Offering history stories to the rest of the hivelings who went over with First Sister,” Second Father said.
“Yes,” First Grandfather said with some surprise in his voice, “he was still telling the story of the human victory on the itinerant ice world when I brought Human First Brother back to him. How did you know?”
“First Sister explained that they had needed to distract Human Second Father Brice before they could sneak off to play on the skateboards,” Second Father explained.
“So he was at least attempting to enforce it,” a voice observed.
“Yes,” Second Father agreed, “Human Second Father Brice is quite strict about rules enforcement for the most part. However Human First Brother assured her that that would not be an issue. He then asked her to prompt one of the hivelings who spoke the human language to request a story. They then waited for Human Second Father Brice to, and I quote the human child here, ‘get properly into to’, at which point the adult human was so distracted that he did not notice the two of them sneaking off.”
The hive hall resounded with reproachful clicks as the gathered adults considered, and condemned this weakness.
“Well,” Second Mother said with a decisive click. “Such an irresponsible human should not be approved to watch the hivelings!”
There was a general murmur of agreement as the gathered adults accepted the new social restriction. The task was over and almost immediately the various individuals began to drift away until only Second Mother and First Grandfather were left with him.
“So Pretty One,” First Grandfather began, reaching over to rest a hand on Second Father’s shoulder, “What do you think of Human First Brother’s story?”
Second Father fought down a wince at the nick name that dated back to his first days in the hive and pointedly ignored the amused tilt to his mate’s antenna.
“What about his story?” Second Father asked.
“Could a grown human, and a father at that,” First Grandfather asked, “really get so distracted by a question of a story that he looses track of his own offspring?”
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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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