“These observation decks are a curious addition to the bases,” Liftsupwards said as he stirred his nutrient slurry idly with one appendage. “I propose to ask Ranger Dodge about it once he returns from sampling the current captured dorganism.”
The slurry he had chose today was one of the few whose taste drifted more towards delightful than merely palatable. It was warm and savory like the free floating algae that bloomed on the seafloor of the shallow reefs. Despite having only one appendage trailing in the cup that held it the taste and texture was engaging most of his attention leaving little to contemplate the sharp lights that glittered overhead.
“Yes,” his companion responded, “I believe that they were something of a mistake on the human engineer’s part.”
Thrustsfirmly had no fewer than six of his appendages crammed into his nutrient cup in an obvious attempt to consume the contents as quickly as possible. Liftsupwards wondered if his new companion had chosen one of the less delightful nutrient packs. Whatever might be the cause of Thrustsfirmly giving less attention to his nutrients his free appendages were spread wide in an attempt to examine the dome of reinforced material above them.
“A mistake?” Liftsupwards asked angling a few appendages in a querying gesture.
“From what Ranger Dodge has told me the domes are quite fully transparent to human eyes,” Thrustsfirmly explained. “This, glittering opacity only appears to our photo receptors.”
“Is it opaque to any other species?” Liftsupwards asked.
“It has tested out as fully transparent to Shatar, Trisk, and Winged,” Thrustsfirmly stated. “The reptilian species don’t post individuals in planetless drifts like this and the Gathering-” Thrustsfirmly shrugged and gave an expansive gesture.
“I have never heard of a Gathering traveling through space,” Liftsupwards said following the flow of the gesture. “That is somewhat odd now that I think of it. Perhaps they only travel to new worlds in spore form?”
“Do Gathering have spore forms?” Thrustsfirmly asked, his body stiffening with sudden interest.
“I assumed they do,” Liftsupwards said, “however now I ponder I realize that is just my assumption. I take it you are also ignorant as to how they reproduce?”
“I am,” Thrustsfirmly agreed. “That added to the mystery of their dispersal and the question of how they achieved interstellar dispersal has led many to assume a spore phase, perhaps even a spaceborn spore phase, but there is extremely little known and they are not exactly forthcoming with their information. That is part of the reason I requested time at this research station. The space-whales-”
The mildly disturbing trills of a low level alert vibrated through the base and Liftsupwards instantly bent half his appendages to examine his tablet. Thrusts firmly removed a few appendages from his nearly empty cup and angled himself to show polite attention.
“An unexpected but nonthreatening particle shower is going to pass over the base and the probe network,” Liftsupwards announced after a moment. “It is already striking the outer fringe of probes. Ranger Dodge is in no danger?”
“His personal shielding is more than rated for this,” Thurstsfirmly said as Liftsupwards idly scrolled through the warnings. “He shouldn’t even be able to feel the impact on his cranial shielding, though the larger frozen particulates might cause his limbs some discomfort. I have sent the required safety check as a matter of drift.”
Thrustsfirmly abandoned his almost finished nutrients to shuffle over to the wall controls and activate the viewing screen that had been added for their use.
“Why did the humans install the shielding for observation use if they knew it wouldn’t be transparent to us?” Liftsupards asked, resuming the original drift of their conversation.
“It was transparent to us when they did the initial testing,” Thrustsfirmly said. “Well, perhaps not entirely transparent, I seem to recall feeling that there was a bit of scattering. This obfuscation is a result of materials reaction with the constant particle bombardment experienced in a nebula.”
“Then what was the original mistake?” Liftsupwards asked.
“That the humans did not think to test the materials under conditions that would be common to its function,” Thrustsfirmly said.
The screen system activated and displayed the swirling colors of the nebula outside of the station, the bright points of each probe that formed the network, and the seething glittering mass that showed where Ranger Dodge was tagging and taking samples from the space whale currently entangles in the net. The appearance of the whole was odd to say the least. Like the standard night sky over any lagoon, but somehow different just out of his ability to describe.
“There has been much poetry written on the unease of staring into space without the natural filter of an atmosphere,” Liftsupwards observed idly.
“Touch me gently and give me warning if you feel the urge to add too it while on the base,” Thurstsfirmly stated with an amused ripple to his motions.
Liftsupwards felt an amused ripple flow through his appendages as he regretfully noted the savory nutrient broth was near the bottom of the cup.
“No fear of that,” he replied.
His tablet chimed.
“Ranger Dodge replied that he is aware of the particulates. He sees no danger in them and intends to finish the sampling before returning to the station by tether leaps.” Liftsupwards announced.
“Isn’t he aware of the danger of the pain?” Thrustsfirmly asked, returning to his half full cup even as they angled their appendages to observe what was transpiring out in the nebula.
“I would assume so,” Liftsupwards stated. “He has been out in many such storms. Perhaps he is confident in his ability to respond appropriately to the storm as it arrives?”
The particle storm was beginning to grow visible by the way the glowing gasses of the nebula sparked and shivered upstream of the net. The bright, reflective worksuit that Ranger Dodge wore mad him easily visible even at the distance the space whale was from the station as he gracefully flitted around the massive creature.
Liftsupwards’s tablet chimed as it accepted the latest datapoint from the Ranger and on the screen Ranger Dodge paused atop the probe platform to release the space whale. He had almost finished freeing the creature when the particle storm reached them. The space whale reacted with barely perceptible twitching while Ranger Dodge momentarily flailed, loosing his projected grace as the ice particles struck the thinner armor over his arms and legs. However the experienced Ranger quickly righted himself and released the unperturbed space whale back into the stream. The space whale drifted slowly away, what was visible through the nebula of its outer layer flexing and pulsing as it seemed to enjoy the shower of ice particles. Ranger Dodge however had near frantically secured his tether to the next probe and was hurtling back though the dust, his primary gripping appendages wrapped around his head.
Liftsupwards noted that Thurstsfirmly was rippling so hard with amusement that he was having trouble getting his appendages back into his nutrient cup.
“Is it quite the moral stroke to be amused by another sapient being’s suffering?” Liftsupwards asked.
“I don’t see you tightening up in distress,” Thrustsfirmly replied. “Flowing beside that, Ranger Dodge is in no danger. If he arranged his appendages in the shadow of his cranial shielding he would be experiencing no discomfort at all. He is just floundering a bit because despite our warning he was too focused on gathering data points and failed to mentally prepare himself to meet the storm.”
“So there is nothing morally adrift about enjoying the show?” Liftsupwards asked.
“Not an Und,” Thrustsfirmly assured him. “Observe, even now he arranges his appendages properly.”
As the other had said the human had pulled his four great appendages into the shadow of his dense cranial shielding and was letting the tether pull him towards the base. In a short time he reached the air lock and the base was trembling with the steady double beat of his bipedal locomotion. Liftsupwards was afraid that they were still rippling with amusement when he passed through the observation deck because Ranger Dodge only glanced at them and then heaved a massive sigh even as he rolled his eyes.
“It is quite amazing how they can express so much with such a limited range of movement,” Thrustsfirmly observed.
“Quite,” Liftsupwards agreed.
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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
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.