“Well I for one am glad that winter will be over soon,” the human commander said with some intensity in his voice as the two officers stared out at the rolling amber hills outside of the base.
“I would say that this winter season has been over for some days Commander Bryant,” Rollsover said with a surprised note in his voice. “The temperature has steadily increased over the last several days and the local growths are blooming quite nicely.”
“Don’t be fooled,” Bryant replied grimacing out at the field where the better portion of the human population of the base was busily recreating. “This is just a fool’s spring. You can feel the nip in the air when the wind blows from the far hills. There’s still snow up there.”
“You can feel that,” Rollsover corrected him. “I feel only the wash of pheromones of the local growths. It rather drowns out any less subtle indicators. Do you think we will get another snow this seasonal cycle? That would be stressful on the circulation systems on the base.”
“Yeah,” the human agreed. “It’s a pain keeping up all that water, but you guys need it. I am going to try to get the outer pipes better insulated before next winter. We don’t want to risk another breach.”
Rollsover shivered at the memory of the exterior pipe breach and the thing that had entered their water system because of it. The ice had damaged the sensors so that they had not even noted the incursion until the residents of one particular pod cluster had complained about an odd taste in the water. Finding the decaying body of the toothy predator in the damaged section of the system had not been pleasant. The thought of what would have happened if it had been an aquatic or semi-aquatic predator that had breached the system still sent him into rigid terrors. A thought occurred to him and he was about to address the human commander again when a flutter of movement on the edge of his specific sight caught his attention.
“Pardon me,” he began carefully, “but isn’t that human a bit too far off the ground? Not at the moment of course, and I certainly don’t claim to be a parabolic trajectory expert, but I do not think you normally jump quite that high.”
“You mean Lee?” commander Bryant asked, his face splitting into a grin.
He let out an abrupt breath that was the reflection of laughter and nodded his head.
“You’re spot on,” he said. “We don’t normally jump that high, but Lee’s special. He aces every physical and he competes in unarmed combat competitions back home. His preferred martial art is Tang Soo Do. He is capable of jumping much higher than most humans and way higher than me.”
The last statement was said in a rueful tone as the older human lifted up his mug to take another sip of his liquid stimulant. They observed the clusters of humans in companionable silence. After a moment Rollsover began to notice a pattern in the movement of the humans on the hill. At first he was uncertain. It made little to no sense. However, when the soft wind brought the clearly identifiable sound of two human bodies colliding – and wasn’t it a testimony to how strange they were that he had learned to identify that specific sound – he felt the need to address the issue.
“Pardon me Commander Bryant,” he said. “My vision at this distance is not terribly specific you know, but it appears to me that the humans are flinging themselves at one another in some sort of combat.”
This time the commander did break out in full bodied laughter. He nodded his head and waved his free hand at the humans on the hill.
“Those poor kids have been cooped up in the base all winter,” he finally managed to say. “The first day they got out like this is was practically a given that they were going to to wild, like kids at recess.”
“Will there be any injuries?” Rollsover asked.
“Oh yeah,” the human commander nodded with a wide grin. “Sprains, bruises, abrasions, the works. I wouldn’t be surprised is someone snapped a femur or two. We’ll find out at the end of the day when the survivors come limping back in for dinner.”
“Survivors?” Rollsover asked, deliberately putting a tone of human horror in his voice.
He was reasonably sure that the human commander was being fastecious but one did want to make sure.
“Joking,” the human said with a chuckle. “But the point stands. They were troopers all winter, they deserve to get out on the downs and go as mad as march hares when the spring comes.”
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