Third Sister shifted her datapad in her arm and gently rubbed her antenna with her free hand. She drew in a slow breath to her main lung and methodically stretched out first her hind legs, then her forelegs. Finally she expanded her thorax one segment at a time and let it relax. She carefully adjusted her kilt and tilted her head up. She reminded that twinge of guilt that presenting yourself neatly was not deceiving your hive as she settled down on the couch to face the holo-display. She was absolutely going to tell Second Father everything that was wrong. She was just going to do it in a way that wouldn’t worry him when he was stringing new lines in the spring.
The kiosk gave a cheery click as it recognized an incoming comm and her datapad gave the expected chirp as it recognized her own code. Third Sister reached out and activated the screen. A wild scattering of light sprang up followed by a series of barely discernible high-pitched whines. Third Sister felt her antenna curl in familiar annoyance, but forced them to a lighter curve as she quickly ran her fingers over the controls until the scattered light formed into the well known head and frill of First Sister, and the piercing whine deepened to her familiar clicks and chirps.
“There!” Third Sister exclaimed. “Very sorry First Sister. The Winged must have been using the comms kiosk last and forgot to reset the refraction levels.”
“That will happen on mixed bases,” First Sister said with an amused flick of her antenna. “Is that what has the cramp in your curl?”
Third Sister’s fingers flew up to her antenna and found them in the same relaxed position she had so carefully set them. From the meaningful tilt of First Sister’s broad, triangular head Third Sister realized the confession she had just made and felt her frill turn a deeper green in annoyance.
“Where’s Second Father?” she demanded.
“One of the egg lines came out scruffy,” First Sister said with a dismissive wave of her fingers. “Second Father is delighted with how robust it is, especially for a line of twenties, but he is going to need to shave every pod on it down for proper absorption.”
Third Sister absently clicked her understanding and relaxed back onto the couch.
“That is probably for the best,” she admitted. “I can probably vent to you easier than Second Father in the spring.”
“Vent?” First Sister asked, tilting her head to the side.
“Release my emotional frustration for no other reason than to give myself some relief,” Third Sister explained.
First Sister clicked in understanding.
“A human term?”
“Yes,” Third Sister confirmed.
“And is this a human problem you are venting about?” First Sister inquired.
Third Sister let her frill stiffen a bit and flush lightly as she traced the memories back.
“I was simply having a perfectly bland, boring even, conversation with one of the humans and she suddenly got irritated and started snipping at me!” Third Sister burst out. “All I did was ask the exact same questions that I had of every other toothed species. By the end she had raised her voice, her face was flushed, and she was scolding me for being judgmental! Then she stalked off before I could even ask what I was being judgmental about!”
First Sister clicked in sympathy, but the set of her frill and antenna suggested more confusion than understanding.
“That must have been quite frightening to be agressed at by such a large mammal,” she observed.
“I wasn’t frightened,” Third Sister objected, she knew by the way First Sister’s glossa flicked out to bathe her eye, she had protested too quickly to be quite believed. “This human is a very professional ranger and has consistently been quite friendly. I just am completely confused as to why she so suddenly got angry at me.”
“What were you discussing?” First Sister asked.
Third Sister had been hoping for a bit more sympathy, but a first sister would always be more prone to try and trim the branch that’d tripped you before she soothed the bruised membrane.
“You know how both the mammal and reptilian species exoskeletons protrude out of their muscular flesh?” Third Sister demanded.
First Sister flicked an antenna in agreement.
“Teeth, they call them,” Third Sister went on. “Well, protruding like that exposes them to all manner of parasites and each species has developed specialized behaviors to combat the parasites. The Winged run thin fibers between their individual teeth, the lizard folk use a more abrasive method with either brushes or gums, and the humans use both methods. This base has all three species so the Central University requested I string out a few surveys on the matter. I have finished interviewing the Winged and the lizard folk on base so I chose this human for my next interview. She was giving off cheerful signals while I inquired about the abrasive brushing aspect of the endoskeleton protrusion care, but she started getting agitated as soon as I moved on to inquires about the thing fiber method. Before I could even finish the question set she snapped that I should mind my own business and stalked off!”
First Sister gave a hum of sympathy, but there was an amused curl in her antenna.
“What do you know?” Third Sister demanded.
“The human isn’t mad at you,” First Sister said gently. “You can uncurl your antenna about that.”
“How do you know?” Third Sister demanded eagerly, though she already felt herself relaxing.
“I have some little experience with humans myself,” First Sister replied with a dismissive gesture. “I can tell you exactly what the problem is. That ranger of yours hasn’t been treating her teeth with the fibers for some time. She is probably already suffering the weakness in her mandible membrane because of it. She might actually be bleeding from her internal membranes. Not enough to seriously harm her,” First Sister said quickly when she noted Third Sister’s horrified flush.
“You know how robust human membranes are to damage. I will tell you exactly what is going to happen. That human will show up shortly with some form of food as an apology for her rudeness. Then she will answer all your questions while projecting shame instead of anger.”
“So you are saying,” Third Sister summarized slowly, “a human past her final adult molt, projected her self-irritation on me, because her lack of self-maintenance was causing her irritation?”
Third Sister could feel her incredulity flexing out through her frill.
“It’s not all that strange,” First Sister said with a dismissive flick of her antenna. “Like the old Aunties say, ‘When you’re in the wrong, the whole world is your Eldest Sister’.”
Third Sister tilted her mandibles as she digested that.
Then a loud thump vibrated the base and Third Sister angled her head to get a clear view of the main door. The human had entered was was coming her way, carrying a fresh succulent fruit and face flushed with human shame.
“Did she go for fresh fruit or baked goods?” First Sister asked.
Third Sister felt a resurgence of her life long suspicion that all first sisters were telepathic and only gave a mildly vexed click as she signed off.
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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
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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 until I run out of first run books.