“But we like music!” Bist insisted as he scurried to keep up with the human.
Even laden with the musical instrument that was easily half again Bist’s sized the human was falling down the corridor at an alarming rate. The commander said that you got used to the steady double tread over time but it was difficult to imagine how one could ever ignore it.
“Our concepts of music are nearly identical,” Bist went on.
His voice was getting huffy now as the speed began to steal his breath.
“I know Bist buddy,” the human said as he continued down the corridor. “That is why I want to go and practice my guitar by myself. I don’t want you hearing me when I’ve lost it this bad, also you know how the smell of blood and fresh tissue damage freaks out you little lizard folk.”
“Lost what?” Bist said as he parsed the long complex mammalian sentences.
“It means I haven’t practiced the instrument in a long time and my skills have atrophied,” the human explained. “I don’t want to subject anyone on the base to bad music. When I’m back to the point that I can keep up the necessary musical rhythms without excessive mistakes I’ll come back and practice in the warm again. I promise.”
Bist fell silent but kept up with the human as they approached the outer door lock. His brain was still busily parsing the human’s excuse. The towering mammals used so much metaphor in their daily conversation that it was hard enough just to sort out what was literal from the duff. Meanwhile he had to secure the human in his thermal insulation. The human set the musical instrument on the floor and from the depths of the black patterned carrier came and hauntingly beautiful sound as if some deep cave were sighing with kin-sickness after being empty of life for too long.
Bist fought to igmore the distraction and carefully provided the required second inspection point for the human. Said human kept up idle conversation about the thermal armor components in what was at least only an exasperated tone. Unlike many of the humans who did shifts on the Gathering bases this one never got angry, never tried to argue out of doing the required safety inspections, or worse never tried to slip outside during the night cycle in no thermal insulation save for the thin covering over genitalia claiming that he needed the cold air to clear his head. No, this human only ever radiated that low level tension that was just enough to express his distaste at the necessary safety procedure. Bist had just finished examining his shoes when something the human had said earlier caught up with him.
“I am sorry did you say that you were going outside of the compound so that the scent of your injured flesh would not agitate the Gathering on the base?” Bist asked, reaching carefully out with his tail for the emergency lock down button.
“Huh?” the human glanced up from where he was securing the instrument on his back and his eyes suddenly flashed with panic.
In one of those classic mammalian moves the human seemed to teleport from his position to grab Bist’s tail in one hand and nearly lift the young Gathering off the floor by it.
“Do not hit that button!” the human said in a frantic tone. “Please! Seriously! Look! No blood. No tissue damage! See! You literally just inspected me!”
Bist took his good time to blink away the confusion of being hoisted about by his tail and squinted up at the all but clawless fingertips the human shoved in his face.
“There is no tissue damage currently on your hands,” Bist admitted, “nor anywhere on your person. Why then do you think you will be acquiring some in the near future, and why do you think it is acceptable to do so outside in the cold, away from the safety of your community?”
“I’ve already explained-” the human said with a groan before seeming to realize that he was holding a fellow scientist half suspended in the air by his tail.
“Sorry,” the human said as he gently lowered Bist back to a resting position. “Just please don’t hit the snitch switch. I am not going to hurt myself-” the human paused and considered his words, “any more than is culturally acceptable and perfectly safe.”
“Go on,” Bist said in a warning tone as he waved his tail over the button the humans called the ‘snitch switch’.
“Look!” the human said. “Have you ever heard of calluses?”
Bist rolled his head in acknowledgment.
“Well you have to develop them if you want to play the guitar,” the human went on. “Do you see the one’s on my finger tips?”
Bist squinted at the smooth flesh of the human’s fingers.
“I do not,” he said. “There is no epidermal concentration there at all.”
“Exactly!” the human said nodding his head eagerly. “I have lost my calluses. I need to rebuild them and for a guitar that always involves some minor tissue disruption if you’ve let it go too long. It won’t damage my survival ability at all to go out and practice for a few hours.”
The human widened his eyes in a way that made him look even more like a hapless hatchling than the soft mammals usually did. Bist heaved a sigh and lowered his tail away from the button.
“Be careful out there you chaff brain,” he said.
“Will do!” the human called back cheerfully as he darted out the door.
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