Thank you all so much for your updoots and feedback. It gives me the will to go on. Want to see more? Think about becoming a Patreon. Tea refuses to buy itself and the more time one has to spend on a day job the less time there is for befuddled aliens.
Second Sister dipped her proboscis into the warm infusion and gave a contented flutter of her neck frill. She flexed her four legs one after the other and eased down onto the warm stone that marked the end of the cultivated area. She did truly love her work. But every year that passed the call of home colony got stronger. She was rapidly approaching full sexual maturity and First Sister was dropping increasingly blunt hints when she contacted her. That last message about the ‘stunningly beautiful First Brother’ of the next colony over had almost been an order. And family duties aside, five years time spent dealing with the madness the humans caused was quite enough civil service to satisfy even the strictest interpretations of the Mother Song.
Second Sister took another lap of the infusion and lightly caressed her badge of office. Being a xeno-psycologist was a trial at any time of life but when one’s hormones were screaming for a mate and offspring…well as First Sister had so pointedly reminded her, the gardens back home were far too large for one male to manage alone and the newly minted First Father really did need a companion. Fetching one home for him was a social duty every bit as much as riveting their place in the larger intra-galactic community was.
Her musings were interrupted by an alert that made her frill snap up with surprise and confusion. It was one she only heard rarely and she scrambled to snatch up her comm without spilling the infusion. She licked her eyes rapidly and her antenna flicked in consternation. Emergency psychiatry meetings were not something she had even fathomed existing before she began working off world, but they did in fact exist as prolonged exposure to humans had taught her.
“Second Sister,” she announced into the comm after taking a moment to force her voice down into the universal tones.
“Thank the Mother Song!” chattered a voice that was not so modulated at all. “You will not believe what I just saw one of the humans-“
“Please meet me in the private consulting room,” Second Sister said putting as much sternness into her tone as she could.
The voice on the other end continued to chitter and she stood and began striding briskly towards the point of origin as indicated by the comm display. She almost envied the amount of emotion other species could put into their purely audio speech. Even vid comms didn’t properly convey body language. For instance, she rounded the corner on the blathering Shatar who had contacted her and arched to her full height, flaring her rather large frill, and extending her antenna straight up.
The caller, a Fourteenth Sister from a mechanical colony immediately dropped into a submissive position and her trembling tactically calmed.
“Now,” Second Sister said, curling her antenna tightly in firmness, “please come into my consulting room immediately.”
Fourteenth Sister meekly proceeded her into the alcove and eased into a seat. Second Sister followed her and composed her own kinesthetics into a broadcast of sympathetic attention as she had been taught. Within she was rather exasperated with the display. Even a teen sibling should have better control than this. Whatever was the inciting incident she hopped her own Fourteenth Sister would be calmer in such a situation.
“It was a human!” this Fourteenth Sister finally blurted out her collar flaring in distress. “He was peeling off his skin!”
Second Sister started in amazement.
“Did you report this to the proper medical personnel?” she demanded, revising her opinion of the other Shatar’s mental state.
“I did! I did!” Fourteenth Sister went on, her antenna rubbing spasmodically in a cleaning gesture. “Of course I did! He fussed at me for being overly dramatic but-“
Second Sister silenced her with a raised hand.
“Is the human in question receiving proper medical care?” she asked.
“Yes, yes,” Fourteenth Sister said.
“Then please start at the beginning of your story,” Second Sister ordered. “We are here for your sake, not his.”
“Yes, I was,” Fourteenth Sister began. “I was gathering up the sample of the detritus in the outer airlock as part of the grist survey. One of the humans came in, Second Field Ranger, I think I mean Ranger Mihata?”
“That is how they prefer to be addressed,” Second Sister agreed.
“Well Ranger Mihata entered and cleaned his, those foot armor they call boots,” Fourteenth Sister went on, “cleaned his boots in the required way and before he put on his base foot coverings sat down on the bench and twisted his limb up in that perfectly awful position they do when they want to examine their, what do you call them…”
“Soles of their feet,” Second Sister offered.
“Yes,” Fourteenth Sister flared out her neck frill.
“Why can’t they just be normal and look over their shoulders like we do?” she demanded. “I know they can. I’ve seen humans do that!”
“What did he do then?” Second Sister pressed.
“He looked at the soles of his feet and then,” Fourteenth Sister twitched from talon to antenna tip for a moment before she went on. “He gave a grunt, I think of dissatisfaction from the way his fleshy face was all contorted. Then he reached down and grabbed a loose flap of flesh-“
“Humans don’t have loose flaps of flesh on the soles of their feet!” Second Sister interjected with rising horror.
“Not when healthy,” Fourteenth Sister replied. “Anyway he grabbed it and pulled.”
Second Sister began twitching herself at that mental image.
“He pulled and pulled until a strip of pale dead skin as long as my talon came off and fell to the floor of the airlock,” Fourteenth Sister went on with a set of horrified fascination to her antenna. “I must have made some noise because he glanced over at me and grinned. He assured me that he was just sloughing dead skin cells but those strips were nearly half a mil thick! Then -”
Fourteenth Sister gave a near convulsive twitch.
“Then he pulled at another and he bleed when it detached!” She burst out. “I clicked my distress and summoned the emergency medical techs. He yelled at me as I left that I was being nonsensical but-“ she gave another full body twitch and held still.
Second Sister, by an almighty act of will held herself in a calming position and began the usually soothing formula she had developed for this situation. However her true focus was far from the work she was doing. Yes, that First Brother the next colony over was looking mighty good.