Above the canopy of the deep summer-gourd orchard the air grew hotter as the rays of sunlight fell nearly directly down the planet’s gravity well. With each layer of emerald green leave the light diffused and the temperature dropped until the open forest floor where even the impressively endothermic humans found the temperature cool, if the light dim.
Notes the Passing Changes had been tremendously busy for weeks in the spring, setting up monitoring nodes, distributing nutrients as he saw fit, and trying to integrate the other species’ needs into the overall plans as well. Of course the great orchard needed very little attention by this point. The Gathering had been nurturing it for tree generations and it now was mature enough to make it’s own decisions most of the time. However the younger orchards the humans had planted, the Shatar gardens, and the ever disturbed pathways and road needed constant attention as the seasons changed, but now even those had slowed down. The summer crop plants were progressing with only minor losses to predators. The autumn crop plants were singing out their pheromones to summon pollinators and the flitting creatures responded eagerly. All the fibers led to the conclusions that Notes the Passing Changes could ease down a bit and rest, perhaps only tending to lower priority issues, such as making sure the summer-gourd orchard was producing enough fruits.
Nearly three days ago Notes the Passing Changes had begun sending more mass into the thin duff that covered the bed of the deep orchard, being sure to focus any tender tendrils in the fallen logs and branches and the soil just under them. Before all of the companion species had arrived Notes the Passing Changes would have simply evenly distributed awareness throughout the bed of rich detritus, but the reptilian folk dug long shallow trenches with their dragging tails and the pounding feet of the humans somehow never managed to say on the paths. In the end there had been no point in trying to contain them. Mindfully arranging tendrils in safe little micro climates was a far easier process and the summer-gourd orchard came into focus.
It was a popular place when the sunbeams angled straight down. The tripping sound of little feet announced the presence of a rather large cluster of Shatar cousins scampering about from tree to tree, pausing at one, and then hurrying on to another. Notes the Passing Changes vaguely recalled that a local First Father had requested permission to send an educational group out to collect immature specimens for some learning project or another. Near the center of the orchard, where the progenitor tree had once stood and which was now a soft and level surface a group of humans seemed to be actively disturbing as much of the duff as they could. Two clusters of humans would suddenly charge each other, colliding like cloud masses, struggling for a bit, and then falling back apart. Occasionally an odd oblong shape they collectively held would thump to the ground. Occasionally a human would run into a tree.
Notes the Passing Changes focused attention on the signals from the trees. They felt not distress at the collisions and were quite stimulated by the excess carbon dioxide and the incidental surprise nitrogen deposits. There were a few older trees that would soon cull themselves, but they would probably last a few more seasons. About half of the trees were actively producing fruit while the other half rested this season. All told it was well within expectations and Notes the Passing Changes let attention diffuse and began looking for a change to interact with one of the neighbors. The Shatar young ones were entirely focused on what their elder sister was saying. The scrimmaging group of humans did consist of several the Gathering knew, including Notes the Passing Changes’s particular friend Pat, but they were quite focused on whatever they were doing. There were many individual humans scattered throughout the orchard but most of them were dormant with the temperature this high and the sunlight at this angle. However there was one human who was quite active, though she was sitting on one of the logs Notes the Passing Changes was diffused into.
The human female was within sight of the scrimmaging group as far as Notes the Passing Changes could tell but she wasn’t looking at them. She had a physical data storage device laying on the surface her bent legs made as she sat. Her eyes were running over the inscriptions on the surface and her lips moved slowly though she was not producing any vocal sounds. As Notes the Passing Changes observed one of her hands drifted down and began groping around the log. She then turned her attention to the surface and frowned as she began prodding at the log in a more purposeful way. Notes the Passing Changes assumed she was looking for the writing stylus that was sitting beside her on the log. She most likely couldn’t see it because of the dim level of light so far beneath the canopy. The Gathering extended a thickened tendril and lifted the stylus up.
“Sandy-” Notes the Passing Changes began.
Sandy started and gave a small gasp.
“I am quite sorry,” Notes the Passing Changes said to the woman who was breathing heavily now. “I did not mean to startle you.”
“Ye didnae,” she said, with a grin. “Nae pure anyhow.”
“Then why is your language reverting to your native dialect?” Notes the Passing Changes asked, rotating the stylus in a tendril, feeling the pitted surface.
Sandy blinked down at the tendril for several moments and then burst into laughter.
“Go dook yourself!” she said.
Sandy then drew in a great lungful of air and smiled down at the bed of the forest. When she spoke her voice had reverted to the usual tones of a trained Survey Core Ranger.
“Maybe you did startle me a little,” she confessed, “but the occasional startle is good for the soul. Thanks for finding my scribbler. It’s dark down here.”
She held out her hand and Notes the Passing Changes placed the stylus in her palm.
“What do the markings on your, scribbler, indicate?” the Gathering asked.
She glanced at it and frowned.
“What markings?” she asked.
“The deep groves near the end,” Notes the Passing Changes said.
Sandy ran her thumb over the groves and her face broke out in a grin.
“That’s just where I chew on it while I’m editing,” she explained.
“What nutrients do you extract from the stylus?” Notes the Passing Changes asked, growing more interested.
“Nae a bit,” the human replied with a laugh. “It’s just something I do, helps me focus.”
“How does chewing on the stylus do that?” Notes the Passing Changes asked.
Sandy stared down at the forest bed for a long moment and then heaved a massive sigh.
“A dinnae ken,” she finally said. “A jus dinnae ken.”
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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 for the same price as the crowdfunding campaign $35 domestic and $60 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.