“Who the flying flip keeps hiding the pepper?” Mack Dodge snarled out as he slammed the salt shaker onto the counter by the heating surface.
“Flying flip?” another human asked with a grin from where he sat eating a bowl of oatmeal at the table.
“Headquarters says I need to share less cultural knowledge with this base,” Mack said, rolling his eyes as he brought his plate of scrambled eggs to the table.
The dull grey wall of the makeshift kitchen crowded in over their heads. The Undulates had given the humans the largest storage bay on their base for this common space but the breadbox sized aliens had never built the structure with two-meter tall bipeds in mind. Mack sighed as he salted his eggs.
“Seriously Bob,” he said. “This is the third day running that the pepper has been missing.”
“Eat oatmeal instead,” Bob suggested with a grin.
Mack glared at him.
“Helping,” Bob said in a singsong tone.
“Yesterday I found it in storage bay six,” Mack continued as Bob returned to his oatmeal. “The day before that I found it with the lost and found box at the security desk.”
“Well I never touch the stuff,” Bob pointed out. “Can’t blame me.”
“Well there are only seven humans on this base,” Mack observed. “The pool of suspects is pretty small.”
“There are forty-odd Undulates on the base however,” Bob said.
“What would they want with our pepper?” Mack asked. “Capsaicin isn’t technically a poison for them but they don’t go in for painful food.”
The conversation was interrupted by a chime that announced the arrival of one of their hosts. Mack and Bob turned to glance at the small opening in the door that served the Undulates. The dusky red Undulate came in and waved his gripping appendages cheerfully at them.
“And what motile dust mop graces us with his presence today?” Bob asked cheerfully.
Mack winced at the sheer number of diplomatic regulations that question broke, and not for the first time thanked heaven that the Undulates were so enthusiastic and forgiving.
“I am Spins Madly,” the Undulate replied. His tones were flat with effort. He had clearly learned human grammar but was still struggling with emotional expression. However from the way his motile appendages jumped around under him the Undulate was excited or agitated. “I am the Quartermaster for the station and…” The Undulate hesitated and the humans gave him time to work out his words. “I believe the proper translation is station safety officer.”
“Well hello then Spins Madly,” Bob said, giving a wave. “How can we help you?”
“There has been a safety violation in this space for three days running,” Spins Madly said arching his gripping appendages in a gesture that indicated either frustration or perplexity.
“Really now?” Bob asked his grin spreading. “What violation was that?”
“I found raw ingredients for the non-lethal defense canisters next to the heating surface for food preparation,” Spins Madly said.
“And you moved them to a safer location?” Mack asked with a groan.
Spins Madly stilled thoughtfully, and then quickly scrambled to align himself towards the object of his attention, clearly remembering that humans were an aiming species. Bob burst out laughing.
“Have fun explaining why some humans eat pepper when the smart ones use it for a weapon,” Bob said as he picked up his bowl and left the table.
“You eat raw capsaicin?” Spins Madly asked Mack.
Mack tried not to laugh at how the quartermaster remembered halfway through the sentence to add tones of astonishment.
“It is called pepper when we dry and eat it,” he said with a sigh.
This was going to be fun.