“Maria, I will need assistance in the astrometrics department tomorrow,” Forth Sister said as she passed the communal room.
Several seconds passed with no response from the human who was sprawled out on the Shatarian couch. Fourth Sister tilted her head to the side in irritation. She understood that human joints didn’t bend the same way as hers did but was it truly more comfortable for them to spread out from the floor to the back of the couch in that almost Undulate manner? They did have an internal skeleton after all. They should act like it.
“Maria,” Forth Sister attempted again but with no better results. “Dr. Torres!”
Deciding that she wasn’t going to get any response through sound Fourth Sister reached back and unlimbered her utility rod from its sheath on her back. She eased up to within a length of the couch and lightly rapped an exposed elbow.
Maria yelped and scrambled onto the floor. She blinked her odd concentric eyes at Forth Sister and bared her blocky, enameled mandibles in a friendly gesture. Her fibrous frill was formed into twin braids that almost mimicked proper Shatarian frills from the southern fens. She had even thoughtfully added bright red ribbons to show her general placid attitude.
“What’s up Sis?” Maria asked brightly, pulling her headphones back.
“I will need your assistance tomorrow,” Fourth Sister repeated, laying her frill back carefully to conceal her irritation. It was Maria’s day off after all. “The final decision on star cluster radius has come down and we will need to update the star maps that are not directly connected to the main systems and any printed data.
“Cool, gotcha!” Maria said brightly as she leapt to her feet.
Fourth Sister had to fight back another wince as the human towered over her. It was odd, going from the tallest species in the confederation to the second tallest, odd and unnerving.
“Would you like preference on the printer for personal reasons?” Fourth Sister asked.
“Why would I need that?” Maria asked in confusion.
“This is not your regular duty,” Fourth Sister replied. “The base commander likes to make sure that anyone asked to perform outside of their job description gets some reimbursement even if it is minor.”
“I know that,” Maria said with a dismissive wave. “But why would I need access to the printer?”
“Nearly three quarters of the wall decorations in your room will need to be updated,” Fourth Sister pointed out. “Ah! Perhaps you did not realize the decision will affect the Polaris system.”
Maria fell silent and Fourth Sister had to twist her head several times to analyze the wild flush of colors that rushed across the human’s face.
“Are you ill Maria?” she demanded, feeling her frill flatten with concern. “Did you get up too fast?”
Maria snapped her head from side to side and Fourth Sister had to remind herself that it was a sign of negation rather than a request for more information. Maria’s fleshy mammalian lips opened and closed a few times and then the colors in her face suddenly cooled.
“They are reclassifying the Polaris system to what?” She finally hissed out.
Anger. Fourth Sister suddenly realized. That widely diffused anger that had no target and left humans so unpredictable. She frantically tried to figure out what had triggered this response in the normally gentle and merry human.
“They simply clarified that the outer two stars are not a part of the core system making the actual system a tertiary,” Fourth Sister answered the obvious question.
“What!” Maria demanded, her voice hitting an octave that Mother of Eighth used to sterilize the grain crops back home.
Fourth Sister tried to repeat the information but the human interrupted her.
“They cut off the fifth little piggy?” Maria demanded. “Not just the fifth, the fourth too? Oh sweet stars above this is preposterous! That has always been a five star system. Think of how many times I chanted that song as I skipped rope. Think of all the babies’ toes that were pinched to the rhyme!”
She slapped her hands together and stalked out of the communal room.
“Oh the central University is going to hear about this!” was the last think that Fourth Sister heard as the human left.
She stared blankly at the door and realized she was holding her datapad in front of her defensively. She carefully lowered it and carefully raised her frill into a calm position. All evidence indicated that Maria was furious over a technical designation change on an uninhabited system, but that could not be correct. It was patently illogical. She would call her cousin who lived on the mixed colony. If anyone could explain this behavior it was a Shatar who had to deal with these strange beings her entire life.