A sound unlike any other Watches The Approaching Flames had ever heard in his life gusted through the room and he shuffled his mass in fascination. The movement dislodged a particularly nutrient rich leaf he had just selected from the exotics buffet and it fell to the floor with a wet susurration. A passing Undulate picked it up and lifted it up to toss it back on Watches The Approaching Flames movement tray.
“Thank you Friend Undulate,” Watches The Approaching Flames said.
The Undulate rotated in what Watches The Approaching Flames thought was a friendly reply before shuffling off. Watches The Approaching Flames debated asking the Undulate what the sound was but the chances that the barely covered first year would know were even less likely than the chance that Watches The Approaching Flames could articulate the complex question with his sound generating fibers fast enough to express himself before the fast moving being was out of hearing range.
Direct investigation was clearly the best course of action and Watches the Approaching Flames quickly raised the acidity over the controls of his movement tray and backed away from the buffet counter. It still puzzled him why the rest of the sapient races all agreed that keeping their nutrient sources raised was a necessary safety precaution. They were unanimous in this though the degree of elevation did seem to vary consistently with each species average size. However he sidelined that thought thread as he carefully maneuvered his movement tray out of the cafeteria.
This rapid movement of his core mass was still a giddy experience, though his larger-massed companions assured him that he would get used to the sensation over time. It was just a matter of imaging your core mass to be simply a set of tendrils you were sending out questing. However he still needed to practice the newly budded method of physically extending a cluster of leading tendrils outside of his bio-mass in the direction he intended to go. He hoped he would be past this sign of inexperience soon but today it was still needed as he traced the sounds.
They led him down a few corridors to the main computing lab. The strange noise had altered to a more recognizable sound by this time. One of the human lab technicians, he believed that the Undulates called him Human Friend Bill, was softly chanting what sounded like pleading denials of reality.
Watches the Approaching Flames was fascinated and guided his movement tray closer to the human who was manipulating the controls of the extreme dehydration oven with frantic and nearly disordered movements. Had Human Friend Bill been a biped form of his own species his movements would have been considered precise. However the flesh tight mammals were renowned for their fine motor control. On further inspection Watches the Approaching Flames noted that the human had allowed his dead-attached tendrils to extend from his primary light sensory region and chemoreceptor concentration area. Human Friend Bill was also offgassing in greater concentrations than usual but Watches the Approaching Flames couldn’t identify what emotion it indicated.
“No, no, no, please no!” the human ended the chant with a groan and dropped the broad surface above his light receptors against the top of the oven.
Watches the Approaching Flames carefully lifted his sound generating fibers and tuned them to the humans’ hearing range.
“Are you tasting distress Human Friend Bill?” Watching the Approaching Flames asked.
Human Friend Bill glanced around but didn’t seem to be able to locate the source of the sound. Watching the Approaching Flames suddenly recalled the binocular nature of the humans’ preferred sensory method and shifted his movement tray to create movement to catch the directional vision.
Human Friend Bill directed his light receptors down to Watches the Approaching Flames and his face crumpled and flexed a few times as the great, concentrated node encased in his skull processed the question. Finally the human sighed and stiffened his mass to pull his bipedal frame upright.
“Yeah, I’m a bit distressed,” Human Friend Bill said, then expelled a massive burst of atmosphere. “Which one are you again?”
“I do not believe we have been formally introduced,” Watches the Approaches Flames said. “My sound wave designation is Watches the Approaching Flames.”
“Nice to meet you,” Human Friend Bill said, but his attention seemed to focus far more exclusively on Watches the Approaching Flames.
“So you like to live dangerously?” he asked.
Watches the Approaching Flames gave a little shuffle of confusion at that and Human Friend Bill drew in another long breath before expelling it.
“My distress, right,” he ran one of his dense extremities over his face. “You asked a question, I gotta answer it.”
“This,” he indicated the oven. “Is where I was desiccating my, chemical defoliation chemical overnight and I bungled the mixture so all the chemicals separated and now I have a dish full of useless toxic waste instead of a couple litters of necessary defoliation jell.”
Watches the Approaching Flames generated a hum of sympathy.
“Did someone interfere with your project in the night?” he asked. “That was very inconsiderate.”
“No,” the human said rubbing his face again and giving a long low sound of frustration. “That’s the thing. I just bungled mixing the chemicals last night.”
“Were you misinformed of the required composition?” Watches the Approaching Flames asked.
“Nope,” the human replied as he began to pull the protective covering over his hands and shifted his sensory loci shields over his face. “I was just tired when I mixed them and didn’t follow the procedure correctly.”
Watches the Approaching Flames observed the process with fascination as the human quickly pulled the container out of the oven and moved to drop it into the hazardous waste sink.
“Wouldn’t it have been wiser to wait to mix the chemicals until you were better rested?” Watches the Approaching Flames asked.
The human’s face twitched hard and his off-gassing profile changed with an internal emotional shift.
“Yes,” the human said curtly. “Yes it would have been much wiser.”
Human Friend Bill bent over the sink as he began the rapid process of removing the congealed mass from the container by brute physical force. Watches the Approaching Flames wasn’t sure but his interpretation of the human interactions manual suggested that this was a dismissal. He had after all discovered the source of the sound so he supposed he should return to his duties. The human had begun muttering to himself again, a sound inter-spaced by occasional sharp interjections depreciating the human’s own intelligence. Watches the Approaching Flames thought the interaction very odd, even by human standards and decided to press Human Friend Bill for more information when he was off duty. It promised to be very enlightening.