Prodsuneasily was half an appendage deep in his xeno-comparitive hypothermia research and happily engrossed in prodding at the differences in reaction time between humans and Winged when the cold trill of an alarm filled the office. He reluctantly extended a few of his lagging appendages in half an effort to locate the strange sound. The surface to volume ratio was so critical to mammalian species. He had just never quite sounded why. It had something to do with all their organs he was sure. The alarm trilled again and he reluctantly stopped prodding the human liver and pushed himself away from his data pad. He had never heard that exact alert before but the tone indicated something serious and a full facility reaction.
His appendages bobbed up, past the surface of his cozy little work poll and into the chilly air of the base. Steam drifted up from the water, and the moisture and temperature gradient caused the sound of the alarm to dance gently around him in the thin atmosphere, stealing something from the urgency of its tones. The datanode producing the alarm was on the far side of the room and the space separating his nice, warm pool from it was filled with the silvery-violet light that was all that could filter through the clouds from the local star.
With a slump of acceptance Prodsuneasily eased his mass out of the pool and over the counter before sliding down the cabinet side to the floor of the medical offices. Of course the floor was not dangerously cold, the base was better engineered than that, however the knowledge that outside the ground was covered in frozen precipitation deeper than a human could float vertically somehow made his appendages tingle with imagined cold as he shuffled towards the datanode. He scrambled up the wall and touched the node to receive the sounding.
“Main recreational area,” he hummed to himself as he translated the alert. “Human Friend Freddy. Full signals given. Base wide participation suggested.”
Satisfied that he had understood the semi-critical alert the data-node fell mercifully silent, though it continued to give off a glow to indicate a continuing situation. Prodsuneasily pondered the information. The alert level did not exactly demand a response. Though he did not sound ever having seen a semi-critical alert before. Still, it looked like Human Friend Freddy was in need of some sort of assistance.
One of his appendages reached longing back for his datapad full of fascinating information about organ function. Then he felt his stance perk up as a thought occurred to him. He scrambled the long distance back to his pool and grabbed his datapad. There was no reason not to take it with him after all. He, in a very mature manner he thought, resisted the urge to read just one more fiber of the information, and scrambled out into the corridor. He dearly missed the underground flowways from his last base, but the geology of this world had not been conductive to them and they made do with well reinforced pools.
He had nearly shuffled his way to the main junction when Twistsfirmly came scrambling out of the medical storage room, where he had apparently been experimenting with the medical benefits of coating himself in dust and grime from the look of his outer membrane.
“Wonderful!” Twistsfirmly waved delighted at him. “I wasn’t sure you would respond to the alert in the office and now we will be in time for the best positions!”
“The best positions for what?” Prodsuneasily asked. “And would it be permissible for me to continue my research?”
“Yes, yes, good idea to bring that,” Twistsfirmly said with a dismissive wave, his exact meaning obscured as he produced a small rag and attempted to clean himself a bit as they moved towards the recreation room.
“This is your firs SAD response isn’t it?” Twistsfirmly asked.
“I did not even know that is what it was called,” Prodsuneasily admitted.
“Well you are aware that humans can sometimes grow depressed if they are not exposed to sufficient starlight?” Twistsfirmly asked.
“Yes,” Prodsuneasily replied. “Oh dear, I begin to catch the drift of the current. Is Human Friend Freddy depressed?”
“Not quite,” Twistsfirmly said. “The artificial lighting here is very good, but this is the dangerous part of the year and it is good to counter potential depression with plentiful social physical contact.”
“Humans are rather strict about social contact,” Prodsuneasily said, a warning gesture rippling up his dorsal side.
“Yes, yes,” Twistsfirmly said with a dismissive wave. “That is why we have a dedicated cuddle couch and a dedicated indicator pillow.”
“Wait,” Prodsuneasily said as two coral branches met in his mind. “Is this indicator pillow that strange lump of insulation material that the humans decorated to look like one of us?”
“Exactly!” Twistsfirmly declared. “I would describe the signal phrase, but you will see it soon enough. I was so tired of being the last to respond and having to make due with an outer layer position, because of how far the medical offices are from the recreation room that I installed a little program in the base security system. If a human gives the indicator phrase it instantly alerts me.”
They came to the door of the recreation room and quickly shuffled through the flaps on the bottom that allowed for easy access to Undulates. The room, that slopped gently downward to a central heated pool system and ended in large view windows, housed several human sized pieces of furniture. However only one was occupied. Human Friend Freddy was wearing her lounging layers. Soft, algae fiber weave cloths that fell loosely over her body. She had flung herself stiffly onto the couch and was clutching the indicator pillow to her head. As he watched she drew in a long breath and gave a loud sigh. Alien though she was every angle spoke of a need for close companionship.
“Hurry now,” Twistsfirmly said gleefully, “Touchesquickly must have already been in the room but there is still pleasantly of excellent space on her back and shoulders where we can get at the heat coming out of her head and neck.”
Prodsuneasily noted that there was already one Undulate curled up comfortably in what his research told him was the small of the human’s back, as he followed Twistsfirmly towards her. He wondered if his coworker’s dusty state would be a problem but Human Friend Freddy peeled open one eye and only gave them a tired smile as they came into her line of sight. They scrambled up the couch and Prodsuneasily took the position that Twistsfirmly indicated and arranged his datapad. Beneath his appendages Human Friend Freddy gave another sigh, but she was already relaxing. More Undulates were arriving, some greeting Human Friend Freddy and some simply shoving into a spot on her mass with visible delight in the set of their appendages. Prodsuneasily had to admit, even with the water/air difference this somehow felt warmer than studying alone. Though he would have to extend an ethics question to the University. Was it really quite all right to blatantly take advantage of a seasonal pattern in human depression?
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