“Are you very certain that you do not mind me lingering here?” Twistunder asked of his human companion.
“Nah,” Corporal Bryant said absently. “You just hang in there until we get these last sensors in.”
“Agreed,” Twistunder replied. He shifted a few of his gripping appendages on the warm skin of the human’s back and carefully shifted the protection of the shirts that protected them both so that it lay easier over them. The scientist was acutely aware of the fact that his seeking shelter here left a large swath of the human’s soft abdomen with only the thin protection of the “tee-shirt” and a thin band of “waist” with not even that. Twistunder rubbed his main gripping appendages together in guilt as he felt the solidified precipitation – what mad scientist could have postulated such a thing? – continue to strike the shirt above him. It stung a bit even through the protection of the human’s clothing and Twistunder shuddered at the memory of those horrible moments of pain before his companion had rushed to his side and sheltered him with his own body.
“You okay Twist?” Bryant asked.
“I am,” Twistunder hesitated, decided against correcting the shortening of his name, “still relatively uninjured.”
The human gave a bark of laugher as they reached the next set of coordinates and he plunged the spike that held the sensor into the soil. Twistunder felt a thrill of something that wasn’t quite fear as he felt the bipedal muscle structure surge under his appendages. What raw power the human was capable of! What phenomenal forces their bodies were capable of absorbing. Perhaps he shouldn’t feel quite so guilty about leaving the human with that bit of unprotected flesh. It was clear that even the tall, energy expensive bipedal form functioned to protect Bryant from the precipitation as the small spheres struck his helmet and shoulders then bounced away from the unprotected area.
“Two more left,” Bryant said and Twistunder could have sworn that there was joy and anticipation in the human’s voice.
“You are excited because we are near the end of our task and the safety of our base?” Twistunder asked.
There was a pause, presumably because the human was accellerateing his velocity. What did they call that type of movement? Running?
“Yeah, I guess,” Bryant finally confirmed.
They fell back into silence and Twistunder focused on attempting to read the confusing mix of chemical signals the human was sending out. This was a rare opportunity to study the humans up close and Twistunder planned to make use of it despite his still lingering terror. Off to the east the sky flashed with light that reached his photoreceptors even under the protection of the shirts and shortly after that a horrific rolling roar passed over them. Twistunder fought down an undignified squeak of fear. Shortly thereafter Bryant plunged the next to last probe into the ground and laughed. Twistunder was suddenly struck by the idea that Bryant himself was a part of the storm. The power, the careless violence, the rolling noise, all was reflected in the sky and the surging body beneath the Undulates appendages.
“One more!” Bryant called out. “And this last stretch is the shortest one.”
Bryant accelerated and thrust the last spike into the ground. Freed of that last weight that had been pulling at his arms the human altered his direction and they began to fly over the ground. Twistunder became aware of some rising sound, something like a rivulet of water falling into the shoal from a prominence but loud and terrifying. Twistunder twitched as he realized that somewhere behind them the sleet had increased and the storm front that carried it was approaching them. Before the Undulate could ponder that much Bryant gathered his muscles under him and simply leap over the protective barriers that surrounded the base.
“Oh security will not be pleased,” Twistunder gasped.
Bryant laughed and charged the front doors of the base. They opened for him and they passed throught. Bryant decelerated violently and stopped in the center of the entry way.
“Whoo!” Bryant let out a sound that the xeno-psychologists would not doubt be analyzing for cycles to come.
Bryant began moving around lightly, probably to allow his muscles to cool down without damage from his exertion, and Twistunder shoved a significant portion of himself out of the neck of the shirt in order to observe what was going on. The bases’ other human occupant was approaching them with a first aid kit.
“Did you finish the mission?” the other human asked.
“Oh yeah!” Bryant crowed. “High-five mate!”
Twistunder held on in shock as the humans raised opposing arms and swung them together with the same force that Bryant had driven the probes into the ground. The hands connected with a jar of force that traveled throughout Bryant’s body.
“You ready to get down Twist?” Bryant asked.
“Quite ready,” Twistunder said meekly.
The Undulate climbed down the human’s legs and slipped away to his quarters. He mulled over the idea of formally comparing the human behavior to a sort of benevolent atmospheric storm, a mad, mad, benevolent atmospheric storm.