Humans are Weird – Just Too Hot
Amazon.com: Humans are Weird: I Have the Data (9798588913683): Adams, Betty, Wong, Richard, Gibadullina, Adelia: Books
Greetings Friend Rollsslowly!” Twistunder called out as he caught sight of the slightly larger Undulate floating down the main hallway. “Do you have some observation time available at the moment?”
Rollsslowly idly rotated his body so that one of his gripping appendages was uppermost and grabbed onto the doorjamb of the exit. This efficiently stopped him movement and allowed Twistunder to catch up to him more easily against the drift current.
“I have no pressing assignments at the moment,” Rollsslowly observed. “What did you wish to observe?”
Twistunder caught up to him and cheerfully tapped Rollssslowly’s exposed appendages in a friendly greeting. Rollsslowly returned the gesture and they drifted down the corridor.
“You expressed curiosity on how variable human reactions to touch greetings were,” Twistunder explained. “Also you were curious about how the acceptability of touch greetings varied with temperature and atmospheric pressure.”
“Actually,” Rollsslowly interjected, “I believe I expressed incredulity. That is a bit of a difference there.”
Twistunder hummed in amusement.
“Well I believe I can introduce you to a situation where the phenomenon will be exceptionally obvious,” Twistunder said. “Although it will require two distinctly different observational times.”
“Do you have sapient species behavioral observation permissions?” Rollsslowly asked.
“We won’t need them,” Twistunder said with a dismissive wave of an appendage. “Everything we will be doing falls under the casual social interaction exemption. However on that note can you think of anything personally interesting you might want to ask the humans to collect for you on today’s excursion?”
Rollsslowly mulled over this as they began to swim towards the main airlock. Above them the steady double beat of the humans’ tread filled the waterways with a soothing rhythm.
“They are going into the dense land reefs are they not?” Rollsslowly asked.
“The forests, yes,” Twistunder confirmed.
“Then there is nothing I could wish from there,” Rollsslowly said. “All of my research has been into the proper reef systems of this planet.”
“In that case you must simply exchange the friendliest greetings that you consider appropriate with the human you are closest too,” Twistunder said. “Ask for uppies if your current level of socialization allows it.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Rollsslowly assured him. “Human Friend Susan is on the team going out today. She has actually faced disciplinary hearings on no less than three separate occasions for giving unsolicited uppies. We are great friends.”
“Disciplinary hearings for unsolicited uppies?” Twistunder asked in a note of confusion. “Those were of course for sapients other than Undulates I suppose.”
“Oh no,” Rollsslowly replied. “Only the first two involved an Undulate who was holding either a high concentrate beaker of acid or a biohazard of some sort and it spilled. The third was classified by the University for diplomatic reasons but given how pale Human Friend Susan gets whenever it is mentioned I suppose the Undulate must have been carrying something quite valuable and which cost her university quite a bit to replace.”
“That is understandable,” Twistunder said in a cautious tone. “Still if one is living with humans one must learn either to dodge or to hold on tight.”
They had come to the main airlock and the joyful cacophony of humans gathered to prepare for a mission was filling both the chamber above them and the floway they were in. They slipped through the pressure barrier and shuffled up onto the main deck. Immediately the sound profile thinned as their auditory cells adjusted to the thin atmosphere. Twistunder nudged Rollsslowly and indicated the readout on the wall.
“Note that this room is kept at the lower end of human preferred temperature and humidity,” Twistunder pointed out. “These are the conditions best for physical social interaction. The most relevant issues being the humans are conserving their thermoreserves at this point and instinctively welcome the presence of social biomass insulation. Added to this their secretions glands are at the lowest possible setting, leaving their outer membrane moisture content at very close to the same level as the Shatar, only slightly warmer on average.”
“I observe that everything you say is accurate or a logical deduction or comparison.” Rollsslowly agreed.
At this point Human Friend Susan stopped packing supplies into her personal mass transporter and came over to them, her exposed face and arms flushing with the dancing light of pleasure. Rollsslowly lifted his gripping appendages in the exaggerated gesture one had to use on humans for uppies and Human Friend Susan obligingly scooped him up and happily let him curl around her shoulders. Her long braids slapped against her shoulders in an almost angry gesture that most Undulates learned to ignore fairly quickly. The concept that humans had no real control over the only real appendages the were capable of growing was a difficult concept but one that, once mastered, prevented much misunderstanding.
“You guys came to see us off?” She asked Twistunder.
“Indeed,” Twistunder said. “That and to offer a warning.”
“What kind of warning Twit?” Human Friend Mack asked, strolling over to greet the Undulates.
“The temperature and humidity will continue to rise until well path the solar zenith,” Twistunder said. “Do remember to sustain your internal hydration.”
The male human gave a loud laugh and his exposed skin flared with pleasure and the awareness of community. The female human generated a happy coo and nuzzled her chemo-receptor, the only dedicated sensory organ the humans had that was almost an appendage, into Rollsslowly before sloping her shoulders to indicate that he had to get down. The humans gathered up their packs and swung out into the dense fauna outside of the dome laughing and chatting among themselves.
“We are quite sure there are no predators that would want to eat them?” Rollsslowly asked in a soft tone as their tall bodies seemed to shrink, to become frail beneath the massive trunks of the forest.
“They insist that none of the fauna or predatory flora is a threat,” Twistunder said cautiously, reaching out to give Rollsslowly a nudge. “This station has had no human deaths.”
“Predatory flora,” Rollsslowly said and a shiver ran up his mass. “This planet has algae that eats your proteins.”
“And we humans that can preform an instant dissection if we get caught in one!” Twistunder said cheerfully, that’s why they carry those long blades, what are they called?”
“Machetes,” Rollsslowly said feeling a bit better. “I took training on those you know. I am now rated to carry even the longest ones safely.”
“That’s a good skill to have,” Twistunder agreed. “Now we need to watch the readout for their return. To observe their reactions under conditions of humidity and raised internal temperature we want to catch them just as they come in.”
“I was of the understanding that when they follow proper hydration protocol there is no raise in core temperature at all,” Rollsslowly observed.
“Oh yes,” Twistunder said with a dismissive wave of his gripping appendage. “But they never follow proper hydration protocol. Meet me here as soon as you can after the perimeter defenses alert to their return.”
Rollsslowly gave a shimmy of confirmation and went to find out if the bio-chem department had made any advancements on that predatory plant repellent mist. The day cycle passed and as Twistunder had predicted the humans returned near the heat zenith with the solar zenith several hours behind them. They were moving far more slowly now. Trudging, that movement was called. They trudged into the decontamination area and released their packs with groans and hisses. They let the lights play over them and then trudged into the inner airlock. Their skin was flushed with angry red lights of dehydration and their off-gassed chemical signals spoke of woefully low levels of several minerals. Human Friend Susan dropped down on a nearby bench and began to tug off the armored coverings she wore on her feet.
As the two Undulates planned Rollsslowly went up to Human Friend Susan and held up his appendages in a request for uppies. For several moments the human didn’t seem to notice as she wrestled with the foot armor. When she did see him she just groaned and shook her head, her braids falling limply on her shoulders.
“Not right now Rolls,” she said. “Way too hot.”
“May I help you remove your foot armor?” Rollsslowly asked, slightly excited to get such quick confirmation of the theory, slightly disturbed by the signals her outer membrane was giving off.
“Too hot for you to be near my feet,” Human Friend Susan muttered.
Which wasn’t exactly logical but the whole point of today’s exercise was that he didn’t really understand human thermodynamics. Twistunder was chatting with the crew lead, something about a plant that’s name was in debate at the university pending a more through description. Rollsslowly mused that while the humans were moving so slowly was a good time to pin them down for questions.
“Do your braids increase your retained thermal energy Human Friend Susan?” Rollsslowly asked.
She turned her head to him and blinked slowly as she processed the information. She slowly nodded and her lips formed the shape of words but she didn’t bother expending the breath to activate her sound generating organ. She reached up with one hand and gathered both braids in one hand, pulling them up, causing her chin to dip down. Her other hand gripped her machete and freed it from its safety restraints. Then in one smooth motion she brought blade, stained with the fluids of innumerable plants up and began to saw away at the braided appendages. Despite the blade clearly not being rates for something so tough as the appendages the last few strands severed several seconds before Rollsslowly began to shriek in horror.
Rollsslowly did not consider his mental processes to be particularly slow. He had often wondered how he would react in an emergency. He had never specifically thought about a friend self mutilating but it was a rather crushing blow to discover that he couldn’t react nearly in time to prevent-
His thoughts were interrupted when Human Friend Mack scooped him up in his arms and began petting him soothingly. Human Friend Mack was fairly conversant in the Undulate language but his fingers were babbling something about dead tissue and nerve endings and meanwhile Human Friend Susan was listlessly holding her severed appendages.
“Rollsslowly please collect yourself!” Twistunder’s touch suddenly interjected itself.
Human Friend Mack had stopped talking as his two primary appendages seemed fully occupied with holding the weight of two fully grown Undulates.
“She needs medical aid!” Rollsslowly insisted.
“I assure you she does not!” Twistunder insisted. “Look at her colors.”
Rollsslowly took in the heat flushed and dehydrated patterns playing across Human Friend Susan’s face. She was far from not needing medical attention but there were no signs of pain or excess fluid loss. Now that he was thinking properly he did recall that the material of the braids was technically dead tissue and that other than mass the humans lost nothing by removing it. Still the sight of those limp appendages in her hands sent a shiver down Rollsslowly’s mass.
“Are you okay?” Human Friend Mack pressed into his mass.
“Yes, I will be,” Rollsslowly pressed back. “Please set me down.”
“Come on,” Twistunder said, tugging him towards the flow ways. “I know that looked traumatizing. I didn’t think she would use such an inappropriate tool-”
“You think the tool was the problem?” Rollsslowly demanded.
Behind them they heard Human Friend Mack demand of Human Friend Susan.
“What were you thinking?”
“I was too hot,” Human Friend Susan replied with a shrug. “Less hair means less hot.”
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