Brilliant sunlight filtered down through the skylights as Private Cutdepth sorted through the box in front of him. He couldn’t help glancing up longingly at the glowing patch of heat on the wall. The cold time the humans called ‘winter’ was finally receding as the revolutions of the titled planet brought the blessed light of the local star to bear on their joint base. However the long cold seemed to have driven the spirit of crystal water into every crack and crevice of the base, even into his own joints, he thought as he flexed his tail ruefully. Again he felt the loose flap of skin rub against the storeroom floor sending a twinge of discomfort into his spine. He thought longingly of the nice thick layer of fat he had displayed on the sides of his tail when he had arrived in the warm time. Growing up in his father’s colony he had never thought about those precious reserves of energy and insulation. Now he couldn’t wait to feel them expand once more as the humans promised they would with the return of the blossoms and fresh growth.
“Grind that toothful when the gears get there,” Private Cutdepth said with a sigh as he pulled his attention from the attractive patch of warmth on the wall and recommenced rummaging through the box in front of him.
He reached over and once more ran a sensitive palm over the odd, human datapad he had been issued that morning. There was no handy texture differential to indicate where the charging surface was though Private O’Brien insisted that a unique texture would soon develop from repeated use of the chargers. There was a slight, a very, very slight color differential. Something vaguely between gray and black. Private Cutdepth was able to see it, in direct sunlight in noonday, but that did him little good here. He sighed and tried to recall the distance from the edge of the charging surface to the edge of the device as a whole. Once the device was charged of course he would be able to feel the electrostatic differential easily on his palms despite the numbness around his two primary fingers.
“But if it had a charge I wouldn’t need to be here digging for a charger,” Private Cutdepth muttered to himself, before licking his eyes in frustration and shoving his hands into the box.
Thanks to the numbness it took him several more seconds than it should have to realize that these were the charging units for the great mechanical devices, far overrated for his little datapad. They would work, but it would be a shameful misuse of equipment. With another sigh he turned to a stack of unlabeled boxes on a higher shelf. His tail twitched as he mentally calculated the vertical distance to the boxes. It was technically too high for him and protocol required that he either call a human for aid or get a ladder. With a huff of defiance in the general direction of the safety manual he grabbed the lowest shelf and pulled himself up.
His own data reading device, a gift from his mother before leaving home, had finally failed. The specially made device had lasted longer than the regulation issue items had, but even it had eventually succumbed to the wild fluctuations in temperature he had exposed it to in the course of nursing their water collectors along. The rupture of the power core that had damaged his palm and left him numb had been, according to the manufacturer, an unprecedented catastrophic failure, and from the way they had so eagerly demanded it back and unparalleled opportunity to gather data. The human datapad, made explicitly to take massive temperature changes would presumably last longer with its shielded layers.
He reached the boxed that he hoped contained the smaller chargers and reached out with his good forehand to grab it. However his numb fingers didn’t quite have the grip on the shelf that he thought and just as he secured his grasp on the top box he felt himself begin to slip backwards. He felt a moment of pure, hatchling panic before the fall was over and he was gasping on the ground, blinking and licking his eyes with a cable coiled around his snout.
Private Cutdepth took a moment to carefully flex, feeling for any injuries. He doubted the short fall would have done any damage but he had lost a lot of his protective fat to the cold. Pawing at that the false stone flooring the humans used was quickly beginning to leech the warmth out of his back scutes. Determining that his spine was still intact he flung himself over. Or rather he made an effort to fling himself over onto his paws. Something was wrapped tightly around one hind leg, something apparently wedge shaped was pressing into the side he had tried to roll preventing movement, and many small things were under his tail, preventing him from getting any leverage from the floor.
He gave a few experimental wriggles and produced a small avalanche behind his head. Feeling irritation building he gave a powerful sweep of his tail, only to hear something give an expensive sounding snap and drive one eyes into something pokey.
“What’s going on here?” Called out the rich warm voice of a human.
Private Cutdepth froze and let humiliation and relief grind out their respective rights while the human approached, the floor vibrating with the double beat of his footfalls.
“My dude!” Private O’Brien’s voice explained, vibrating with suppressed laughter, “my little dude! Are you okay?”
“I didn’t sprain my scutes,” Private Cutdepth replied.
“Do you need a hand up?” Private O’Brien asked, his massive upper body swaying into view.
“If it wouldn’t gum your gears,” Private Cutdepth said.
It was a booted foot that Private O’Brien extended to gently prod Private Cutdepth, tuck under his shoulder, and roll the other onto his belly. Private Cutdepth tried to get his footing on the smooth false stone and found himself scrambling in the cluster of cables and devices.
“Take it easy little dude,” Private O’Brien said with a chuckle.
The human folded himself down and began gathering up the various charging devices and other items that Private Cutdepth couldn’t identify and tossing them back into the boxes without order.
“What are those?” Private Cutdepth asked.
“Chargers, data transfer points,” Private O’Brien frowned down at an oblong in his hand, “don’t know what this is, that sort of stuff. It’s just an odds and ends box really. You know, stuff that is too good to toss or recycle. Here’s the one you need.”
The human tossed a coil of charge cable at Private Cutdepth with the same care that he was tossing the rest into the box. Private Cutdepth carefully disentangled it from around his eyes and tucked it against the data pad as the human swept the last of the assorted items into the box and replaced the box on the shelf. Now that he had a good look at the items he could see that many were damaged and most were worn. Even the one he held, though it would be functional, showed more than acceptable wear.
“Our storage space is limited isn’t it?” Private Cutdepth asked.
“A bit,” Private O’Brien said with a shrug of his massive shoulders.
“Shouldn’t most of those be sent to the mills for recycling?” he asked, indicating the boxes of assorted items that surely only a human would consider related.
“No!” the human exclaimed, shaking his head emphatically. “They are much to valuable for that, and besides, the moment we recycled them we’d need them! And the main supply ship takes months to get here!”
Private Cutdepth blinked slowly up at the grinning human. There was clearly some joke here. The human smelled of laughter even if he wasn’t vibrating with it. Private Cutdepth heaved a sigh and tucked his new datapad and charger under his foreleg.
“Let’s go out in the sun my spinning gear,” he said in a tired tone.
“Sure thing my little dude!” the human replied.
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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.