Rollsalong was humming happily as he pushed up through the stream door and into the work room. Settlescomfortably gestured to her assistant absently as she filtered through the base personnel files. She was reasonably certain that she had missed at least a small tangle of the local farmers in the yearly physicals that were so necessary on a colony world but she had so far only managed to touch one profile that she had not thoroughly inspected.
“We really do need a better search engine in our file system,” she said to the room in general.
“Well,” Rollsalong said cheerfully as he sanitized himself at the full body station, taking time to soak out some dehydration that had not fully resolved itself on the swim over. “I think you mean that we need a search engine. The entire system was grown from a bud and really has no formal structure at all.”
“Yes, the infamous ion storms that took out the presets on the founding colony ship,” she said, rubbing the familiar excuse absently.
“You are very perky this morning,” she observed because Rollsalong was clearly bouncing with a need for at least one appendage of her attention.
“Human Friend Bryant was very affectionate last night!” Rollsalong declared.
“Ah yes,” Settlescomfortably murmured, as she found another farmer with a blank physical profile for the year. “You spent the human’s sleep cycle cuddling. That would explain your dehydration.”
“I am within tolerances!” Rollsalong declared quickly. “As I was saying, Human Friend Bryant is usually very unresponsive during his sleep cycle! He just lays there with his eyes covered by their flesh caps and doesn’t interact at all.”
A vague sense of unease tingled at Settlescomfortably’s appendage tips and she lifted several more appendages to focus on what her assistant was saying.
“But tonight he actively cuddled me several times!” Rollsalong went on. “Why, once he even pulled me under his main center of mass and rested his full weight on me so all my appendages were compressed at once. This of course trapped all of his excess moisture, at least the portion on his ventral side, anyway it made for a very high humidity and I only got a little dehydrated.”
“Rollsalong,” Settlescomfortably interjected. “Was Human Friend Bryant awake during these movments?”
Rollsalong hesitated as he pulled himself up to the work station beside her.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “He never opened the flesh caps and none of his vocalizations achieved any coherence that I could determine.”
“Were the vocalizations coming from his nasal passage or his mouth?” Settlescomfortably demanded.
Rollsalong visibly thought that one over as he sorted the human anatomy terms he knew.
“His nasal passage,” he said slowly. “That is the pointed one correct?”
Settlescomfortably pulled up Human Friend Bryant’s medical file. He had attended a full physical and nothing medically relevant had been noted.
“Have him come in for an examination,” she said.
“Why?” Rollsalong said in confusion. “Just because he was a little friendly last night?”
“What you are describing,” Settlecomfortably explained, trying to keep mild irritation out of her appendages, yes, Rollsalong was medical track but he was very young, “ Random limb movement, shifting of center of mass, laying over restmates, and non-speech vocalizations, is affectionate rest behavior in an Undulate. In a human that behavior indicates that they are struggling to exchange enough gas to keep their body functional.”
Rollsalong stiffened in horror as his xeno-medical training floated to the top of his memory.
“So the reason that Human Friend Bryant was more active last night?” He asked.
“Was most likely that he repeatedly nearly suffocated and his survival instincts were interrupting his sleep cycle to prevent death,” Settlescomfortably informed him. “Now, I suspect inflation of the inner-tube membranes, they are very sensitive in humans, and it shouldn’t be a medical issue so long as he is awake, but please request that he come in before nightfall so we can identify the cause of the irritation.”
Rollsalong gave a near panicked gesture of agreement before scrambling for his communicator. Settlescomfortably probably shouldn’t have laid on the danger so thickly, she mused, but better too strong an anchor than too weak.
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