“You want permission to do what?” Wing Commander Eighth Trill said as he stared, his nose wrinkled with perplexity.
“I believe that the proposal is fully explained in the document,” Third Sister replied.
She tapped the datapad with one digit to pull up the specifications of the study she was preforming again and indicated the specific section that detailed what she needed from the base commander. The Winged flexed his membranous wings and thoughtfully rubbed his winghooks over his sensory horns.
“It could be done,” he said in a cautious tone, “but it will be highly uncomfortable for the Undulates. I am afraid that with our currently limited technological resources we are simply unable to make the main surface of the wall that reflective without scattering light pollution all over the room. It’s is not a problem for either your species or mine but the Undulates are capable of differentiating nearly every nanometer of light. Such artificial scattering can cause them mild to significant irritation.”
“If you examine the collateral consequence section of the proposal you will see that that has been addressed,” Third Sister said, pulling up the relevant screens and shifting her neck frill in a brisk gesture. “All of the Undulates have agreed to safety waivers that easily encompass the irritation caused by the light scattering. I will be collecting data on their reactions incidentally to the main study.”
Wing Commander Eighth Trill gave a low, wordless grumble as he examined the section.
“I am not, nor have I ever been comfortable with preforming psychological experimentation on sapient beings,” he finally stated.
“Every antenna twitch of this study has been vetted by the central comity ethics board,” Third Sister quickly reminded him. “There will be no lasting harm caused to any participants and the human targets will likely enjoy the situation.”
“It is not even possible to fully meet the requirements of your study,” the wing commander stated with a dubious curl of one lip.
“How so?” Third Sister asked, tilting her head to the side.
“The process for resetting the reflectivity of the structurally important walls is quite complex,” he said as slowly as a Winged ever spoke. “I cannot, in good conscience, dedicate enough resources to reset it before and after each meal time. The engineers would have to leave the reflectivity in place for the duration of the study. I do not know enough of your parameters to know if that is acceptable to you or not.”
Third Sister leaned back and thoughtfully flicked her proboscis up to clean the surface of her eyes.
“That will not significantly change the results of the study,” she finally said. “Or if it does we will be able to use the other studies being done at the universities to make it a valid variable.”
“Well then,” Wing Commander Eighth Trill said, briskly closing the documents. “I will order my engineers to begin the process. We can have the surfaces ready in two local days.”
“Thank you for your cooperation,” Third Sister said, rotating her triangular head slightly in a polite farewell greeting.
To her surprise the usually brusque wing commander took the time to return the gesture. His sensory horns and flexible neck allowed him to almost perfectly replicate the movement before the flitted off to his next duty.
As he had claimed, the wall of the cafeteria were reset to her specifications within two days. The humans, as predicted, were in general quite pleased with the result aesthetically, although they did occasionally start on seeing their own reflections move, and there was one unfortunate incident with a young engineer simply walking, smack into the wall. On being questions by the medics he had simply shrugged and stated that he had thought the other guy was going to move out of the way. The Undulates grumbled a bit but soon adapted. Overall the base adapted to the change quite quickly and Third Sister and her cohort were quickly collecting data on the noted phenomena. She was giving her quarterly update on research to the base commander when he asked about the results.
“We have not yet finished collecting the data,” Third Sister said, “let alone recording and analyzing it. However given that I have yet to witness a negative or even null result I think I can safely say that the initial negative hypothesis was correct.”
“How did you even decide to quantify such a thing?” Wing Commander Eighth Trill said as he flicked through the collected images. “Some of these look like perfectly normal behaviors I witness on a daily basis.”
“The first thing we did,” Third Sister said, “even before we had the wall altered, was to gather a baseline of muscle movement for humans while eating. We then eliminated all muscular contractions that fell into that category. Fortunately for our study none of our human cohort on the base have faces that fall even a standard deviation out of the human norm for tissue damage and flexibility so we were able to use data from all of them. There is of course no way to account for idea expression during conversation per se, but we avoided that by only collecting data when an individual human had broken eye contact with their companions and was making self-eye contact with the mirrors. Unfortunately we cannot rule out the possibility of them making eye contact, and expressing positional information with another party who happened to be in the scope of their binocular vision, but those instances are so few as to not throw off our data overall.”
“Very interesting to you head headshrinkers I am sure,” Wing Commander Eighth Trill said. “By the updraft, what was that philosophers quote you were trying to verify with this experiment? I need it for my reports.”
“The original quote is actually unsourced,” Third Sister said. “Most of the humans are aware of it. I was able to track down three who had read it from a secondary source. However all they recalled was that it was an “old book” in some library of physical media they read as children before their memory formation was stable. One was able to recall that the secondary source was printed in the early twentieth century of their current calendar. However as every human I have proposed the quote too agreed with its principle I felt confident enough to base a study on it.”
“And what was the quote?” Wing Commander Eighth Trill asked as he entered in a notation for a sourceless quote.
“There never was a human yet,” Third Sister said, “Who when sitting cross from a glass, did not make faces in it.”
Wing Commander Eight Trill glanced down one more time at the images of the contorted human features and his lips twitched in amusement.
“Confirmed indeed,” he said.
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Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 35 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 *****!
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Of course if you want a signed first edition you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can ship you a signed Author copy of the first edition for the same price as the crowdfunding campaign $35 domestic and $50 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.