“But if the title simply means assistant morale officer-”
“With denotations of alien life forms,” Flipoff interjected.
Twistaround rotated his support appendages in irritation sending a rippling shrug along his core. He debated telling the arrogant officer what his name really translated to in the human dialects, and like every other time decided against it. He shifted the datapad in his gripping appendages and continued speaking.
“If that is the direct translation,” he said, “even with all associated denotations I don’t see the need to create a new named position. Just inform the crews that there needs to be two moral officers on any ship with a human or two, a master and a student.”
“Because,” Flipoff sent a wave of his appendages up in a signal that one usually used with fresh budlings who were asking too many questions about the color of algae fields, “this is not a learning position. The goal is for the new officer to know more about humans, at least in this one field than the chief moral officer.”
Twistaround tightened his appendages in stubborn perplexity.
“And you expect me to be an expert on this state of mind?” He demanded, feeling a little proud of knowing the last noun. Centralized nervous systems were so very fascinating.
“No,” Flipoff replied with a grim flick of an appendage. “You are simply an officer with more than a month of experience with human crews like all the others we contacted. We expect you to become the expert.”
“I have only been trained in observational psychology,” Twistaround observed uneasily. “I would hardly be prepared to react-”
“Good!” interrupted Flipoff. “Acting on your observations will fall to the moral officer. It is best you understand that going in.”
Twistaround fought down the offense that inspired in him. It was one thing when one of the fast land species interrupted a flowing conversation. It was quite another when an Undulate who knew better did it. Yes, there was more than a little cosmic irony in Flipoff’s name. Either that or he understood the connotations and chose his translation deliberately. However Twistaround did not sense that much of a sense of humor in the abrupt officer.
“So my job,” Twistaround began as he examined the description yet again, trying to gain relevant information from the many, many words, “is to observe the human populations, be it one or many, and report to the moral officer for correction any instance, or chance of, a state of mind that is really not known to exist in our people, except as a rare and usually fatal neurological condition, but that humans consider perfectly normal.”
“Correct,” Flipoff replied. “And to simplify the circumstance we are naming it with human sounds and written denotation precisely because it rarely affects other species either.”
“We are talking about a state of being where the human is suffering from a lack of sufficient threats,” Twistaround offered, certain that he had misconstrued the Trisk field report. The small skittering land aliens were perhaps the most like them in appearance despite being an aiming species but their different life goals made their writing especially hard to decipher.
“Indeed,” Flipoff confirmed with no modifiers.
Twistaround expanded his appendages to patiently wait for Flipoff to expand on this but no such clarification of how Twistaround had misunderstood the concept came. As mad as it sounded this was his new calling.
“I suppose,” he said uncertain of what was expected of him, “that it is very kind of the home pools to expend this many resources to secure the mental health of our new friends.”
“There is absolutely nothing altruistic about this move,” Flipoff said assuming a grim pose. “This is strictly for the safety of our crews who have to deal with humans.”
“Why must you be so dramatic?” Twistaround finally burst out, exasperated with the posturing of his superior. “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen if a highly skilled and highly trained human gets ‘bored’?”