By Betty Adams
“Greetings and Salutations Friend Dodge!” Quilx’tch called out as six of his legs scampered over the main countertop of the cafeteria.
Survey Core Ranger Mack Dodge turned to look at him and Quilx’tch clutched his tablet to his abdomen tightly. He was no expert in human physiology but Friend Dodge did not look good. The skin under his twin eyes was sagging in a way that would indicate the terminal stage of a rather horrific infection in one of Quilx’tch’s people. The broad span of Friend Dodge’s shoulders slumped several degrees down from the usual square he held them in. This made climbing his back to perch on them rather awkward. Quilx’tch did not know the proper protocol for asking humans to square their shoulders. Furthermore Friend Dodge’s mouth was twisted into that odd expression – humans creepily flexible mandible coverings were so hard to read – was it a grimace?
“Friend Dodge!”Quilx’tch called out in shock. “Are you capable of keeping your eyes open?”
Even a new-molted fellow like Quilx’tch knew that humans needed to keep the fleshy coverings on their eyes closed for a good portion of their rest cycles. At the moment Friend Dodge’s were barely half open and twitching spasmodically.
“Hey Quick,” Friend Dodge slurred out, his cavernous mouth opening in a great gasp to draw in air. “Mostly I guess.”
Quilx’tch tried to make sense of this as he approached the human and kept pace with him. “Are you ill Friend Dodge?” Quilx’tch asked as they reached the section of the cafeteria bar dedicated to the human’s heated drinks.
“Ill?” Friend Dodge replied. “Nah, just up too late last night. Didn’t get to bed till o’dark thirty.”
Quilx’tch paused and tapped his hindmost let thoughtfully against the countertop. “I am not familiar with that temporal designation Friend Dodge.” He finally confessed.
“Eh.” The noise Friend Dodge made was indistinct and not followed by any clarification so Quilx’tch watched patiently as the human chose his drink elements and prepared them.
“Interesting,” Quilx’tch commented as Friend Dodge began sipping out of the cup of steaming water with a happy sigh. “The symptoms of sleep deprivation are fading.”
“Good old yellow bag tea,” Friend Dodge explained holding out the cup. “My favorite poison.”
“I have heard that statement before,” Quilx’tch observed. “However, forgive me, but I must doubt that what you are consuming is actually poison.”
“It’s a figure of speech,” Friend Dodge said with a chuckle. “Just means that the item in question is my preferred stimulant,” he paused and tilted his head to the side. “But it is used for depressants too.”
“I see,” Quilx’tch said, rapidly taking notes on his tablet.
“Oh good heavens, how do you drink that swill?” A third voice cut into the conversation as another human approached.
Quilx’tch glanced up in surprise as the second human brushed paste on his way to the food counter, not stopping for an answer to his question. Friend Dodge only grunted at the other human and resumed drinking his tea.
“He does not share your opinion of the quality of this beverage,” Quilx’tch observed.
“Sure he does.” Friend Mack said with a grin. “The stuff is swill.”
“But you just said it was the best,” Quilx’tch protested in confusion.
“Nope,” Friend Dodge said shaking his head. “I said that I liked it, not that it was good. There’s a difference there.”
Quillx’tch stared blankly at Friend Dodge hoping that the human would at least try to explain that bit of nonsense but Friend Dodge only finished his tea and left with a cheery wave. Quilx’tch watched him go and slowly entered his observations into his tablet.
Odd. Odd indeed.