“And we are just going to surrender this base to those impermanent mammals?” Flume demanded lashing his tail in frustration against the untextured wall of the base. “After all the grain we have poured into the funnel here? Is it an economically sound, no, is it a morally sound decision to abandon the investment our families worked so hard to initiate? Shouldn’t we at least consider a cohabitative experiment? It worked well for the Trisk.”
Commander Millrace gave a grunt of irritation and opened his wide mouth to snap out the exact same reply to the exact same complaint for the fifth time since the announcement had been posted this morning. However his better minerals stopped him and he heaved a sigh. Instead of speaking he lifted his tail and flicked one of the toggles set in the wall.
Flume jumped back as the sound of straining gears and struggling engines whined out of the wall and reverberated through the office. Flume opened his mouth, probably to ask about what horrible malfunction was causing that noise and to insist that the function be terminated. However before he could fill his lungs there was a crack as of glass snapping which caused them both to flinch back as the greater portion of the wall began to slowly raise revealing, instead of the transparent window, layer upon layer of glittering crystal growths.
“Grind,” Commander Millrace swore softly as he extended one stubby claw to prod at a shattered crystal growth. “It’s made it inside after all.”
“What are those?” Flume gasped out between teeth agape with shock.
“Ice crystals,” Commander Millrace stated with a tired sigh as he turned and began rummaging through his desk for the directed personal heater one of the humans had gifted him.
“How did they form?” Flume demanded, squirming back from the roiling mass of cold air that was creeping down the window now that the interior shutters had been raised. “The temperature should be constant in the base. Why-”
“Thermal gradient,” Commander Millrace grunted out. “It’s warm enough in here, could hatch a decent egg in the cafeteria, but out there?”
He aimed the heater at the growths on the window and slowly the crystals turned transparent and began to evaporate under the flow of hot air.
“Out there, it’s thirty below crystallization,” he stated, snapping his teeth grimly as the exterior yard of the base came into view.
The crystallized water covered, and invaded everything. Every transport was coated in a white frosting. Thermal covers that they had wrapped equipment in had split and cracked exposing sensitive equipment to winds that were heavy with icy particulate matter. The safety lights sent out pale beams through their cold coatings. The very ground it self, paths they had smoothed to run their belly scutes over had heaved up and warped, revealing tiered pillars of ice that broke off into razor sharp fragment when you tried to move.
Commander Millrace kept the directed heater running long after the section of the window was clear to battle the cold that far exceed the thermal rating of the window’s material. Flume stared out at the dangerous landscape and ground his teeth uneasily as he processed what he was seeing.
“Why didn’t the initial scouts report this?” he asked finally.
“The humans seem to think all this is the result of some volcano or the other” Commander Millrace said. “The area probably was plenty warm with the scouts came through. The humans say it should warm up soon because the hydrostorms cleanse the skies quick.”
“How soon is soon?” Flume asked with an uneasy glance at his commander. “The humans often have strange measurement systems.”
“Few local years,” the commander replied.
“Surviving here a few local years does not seem terribly difficult,” Flume stated cautiously. “Yes this is,” he glanced out the window and visibly shuddered, “distressing, but surely the resources on this planet are worth making a cooperative effort with the humans. They are more than willing and – what is that one doing?”
Commander Millrace grunted and lifted his head to get a better look at the human who had just skipped out of the air lock. The seemingly frolicsome nature of the biped’s movement was encumbered by a massive canister held under one arm and a much smaller bucket held in the other. The human reached the central safety light that provided for the main path and set down the two items.
“What is it doing outside?” Flume demanded. “There can’t be any scheduled maintenance that can’t be put off before the local sunrise!”
Commander Millrace turned to his counsel and pulled up the schedule for the day.
“Recreation,” he stated before coming back to crouch beside Flume.
“That is one of our hydrothermal tanks!” Flume suddenly observed. “It’s fully activated and at full capacity!”
Commander Millrace squinted and gave a respectful click. There was no way he could have read the indicator lights at this distance. The airlock opened again and a clawcluster of humans came stumbling out with their bizarre two-legged gate. Commander Millrace wasn’t an expert at reading the mammals’ tail flicks but from the way they bumped into each other they seemed excited. They reached the human with the hydrothermal canister and separated into an observation semi-circle that seemed centered neither on the first human nor the canisters but the safety light. The first human pulled something out of the pocket of his thermal armor and waved it around in the air.
“What does he have? Commander Millrace asked.
“I can’t quite tell,” Flume admitted. “Some small human device?”
Suddenly there was a ping from the counsel and Commander Millrace glanced back at it curiously. Outside the human with the device was gesturing and the other humans were rotating their semi-circle in response.
“Who is starting a private video broadcast this early in the work cycle?” Flume asked.
“Those humans,” Commander Millrace answered as his pupils narrowed in surprise.
“The video is labeled pretty lights,” Flume observed.
Commander Millrace pulled up the video on his data pad and they listened to the human, he thought it was the first one, chattering in it’s own language. The automatic translator was spitting out what seemed to be a list of safety permutations having to do with human skin tolerances for high temperature water. Commander Millrace felt his scales tense with sudden undefined unease.
“The video is on a slight delay,” Flume stated. “They are actually filling the bucket with boiling water, what-?”
His question was cut off with a gurgle of panicked shock as the human flung the bucket of boiling water into the air over the other humans’ heads. However the water turned instantly to a glittering crystal fog that caught the pale beam of the safety light and shattered it into rainbows. There was the faint sound of cheering from the grouped humans as the low wind whisked the fog away from them, down the open end of their semi-circle. A few moments later the cheers were echoed in the video.
Commander Millrace and Flume stared out at them in shocked contemplation for several moments. Finally Flume shifted uneasily.
“I reframe my question,” he said in subdued tones. “Is it a morally responsible decision to leave those unstable mammals unsupervised on such a dangerous world?”
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 180 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 $60 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.