The main kitchens on Furlong base was filled with steam that beaded on Quilx’tch’s chelicerae, leaving a pleasant taste of salt and spices. The pots in front of him gurgled and hissed as the heat and the water broke down the tough native plants into an edible form. Beyond his corner the larger pots the humans used sent out deeper, resonant sounds as the evening’s ‘stew’ boiled off enough water to reach the desired viscosity. A large white blur swept past as Quilx’tch’s platform rumbled with the double beat of the human cook’s footfalls.
Quilx’tch lifted the lid off the pot in front of him and ladled out a bit of the decoction. He swirled the amber liquid in the ladle bowl until it had cooled enough for him to take a sip.
“Not quite done,” he clicked thoughtfully to himself.
The chief cook for the Trisk scuttled up out of the mist behind him carrying three armfuls of dried rocket leaf and a bag of mineral salts. The cook began lifting the lids and tossing in salt crystals and handfuls of rocket leaf to what Quilx’tch seemed at random. The cook most have noticed Quilx’tch’s attention because he tilted his body to angle a secondary eye at him and his mandibles quirked in amusement.
“Is there a problem?” the cook asked in an obviously amused tone.
Quilx’tch fought down a sigh.
“Don’t you measure the weight of the ingredients?” he asked.
“What good would that do?” the cook asked as he tossed in a particularly large gripper of herb, “this rocket leaf is wild gathered and the actual nutrient content varies widely from leaf to leaf.”
Quilx’tch decided the argument wasn’t worth the effort. There was no way that a visiting nutritional anthropologist was going to change the mind of a senior swarm cook, and rotated his full attention back to his one small cauldron.
Shortly however the energy of the kitchens changed. The resonant bubbling of the giant cooking pots ceased and the space was filled with bangs and thumps as the giant bipeds shifted from preparation to serving. Their individual footsteps were soon lost in the general rumble as the teams of rangers who had been outdoors for the majority of the day taking samples of various invertebrate species returned and swarmed the mess hall. Quilx’tch observed all of this with just a tuft of hair as his decoction was fairly close to his desired results.
The chief cook came up beside him and held out a gripper for a taste. He lifted the ladle Quilx’tch handed him to his balding chelicerae and sipped delicately. His hairs twitched thoughtfully and he glanced at Quilx’tch with more speculation than approval in his expression.
“As far as I can tell this tastes exactly the same as every other ration decotion,” he said.
“That is the excellent!” Quilx’tch explained. “I was attempting-”
They were interrupted by a sudden pounding on the door. They both turned their bodies to glance at it but the cook gestured for Quilx’tch to return to his work.
“Some human wanting more salt than is good for them probably,” the cook remarked with a sigh as he scuttled towards the door.
Quilx’tch turned back to his cauldron and turned off the heat. He went to the cupboards and selected the appropriate volume of storage containers. He was just beginning the transfer when the cook came back with a perplexed look in his eyes and his mandibles twitching with amusement.
“Was it a salt seeking human?” Quilx’tch asked, mildly curious.
“In one paw,” the cook offered.
“The humans was looking for more than just salt?” Quilx’tch asked. “Or do you mean that there was more than just a human looking for salt?”
“I’m not exactly sure about that,” the cook admitted as he turned the heat down on his long line of cauldrons. “The human was really eager, frantic, for something I’d never heard of. I told him the human dinner was ready and he just seemed irritated.”
“What did he ask for?” Quilx’tch asked growing more interested as he packed away his last container into the refrigerator.
“Potato chips,” the cook said hissing the unfamiliar words thoughtfully over his mandibles.
“Ah,” Quilx’tch bobbed his abdomen in understanding. “A carbohydrate dense fat and salt carrier. I have had multiple chances of tasting them on human worlds. Quite nutrient empty and they take up massive amount of cargo space so few ships carry them. They should have established a potato crop on this planet by now however.”
“That’s it then,” the cook said with a boob of his abdomen, “subsurface fungal growths prevented all tuber growth. It has my human colleagues all joint stiff. Until they can breed a proper growth culture they have to make due with surface grains.”
“Unfortunate for our chip seeking friend,” Quilx’tch said. “He will have to let the craving go unsatisfied.”
The cook let out an explosive click of derisive amusement at that.
“You are new to these out of the way planets then?” he asked.
“Hardly,” Quilx’tch said, more than a touch offended.
“Whatever you say,” the cook said with a dismissive wave. “There is “a guy” on the base as the humans phrase it. I directed this human to the guy I know. He will get his potato chips. If he is willing to barter.”
The cook turned to decanting his own more freestyle decoctions.
“Did the human say why he was craving the chips?” Quilx’tch asked.
“I think he did,” the cook said. “I didn’t pay too much attention.”
Quilx’tch fought down exasperation. His curiosity was his own issue. He bade a polite farewell to the cook and skittered out into the main dining hall. By this time the hungry humans had settled down to their various boiled greens, heated meats, and stewed legumes and the main sounds of the room were the grinding of their teeth and the scraping of the chairs on the floor as the massive bipeds shifted. Quilx’tch worked his way along the spider walk that ran around the room examining the few humans in his sight range until he spotted one sitting at a distinctly different angle than the rest. The human was holding a reflective bag and lifting individual chips to his mouth one at a time.
Quilx’tch gave a satisfied click when he saw how close to the wall the human was sitting. He closed the distance between them and called out to the human. The human didn’t seem to notice so Quilx’tch called out the greeting again. The biped glanced around in perplexity before his bifocal eyes rested on Quilx’tch.
“Hey,” the human lifted a potato chip in greeting and his face lit up with a smile.
“Greetings Human Friend,” Quilx’tch said. “I was wondering if you could answer a professional question for me?”
“If I can,” the human said before placing the chip in his mouth and reaching back into the bag only to glance down at it with a look of disappointment in his face.
“The cook stated that you were experiencing an intense craving for potato chips after returning from the day’s work,” Quilx’tch said. “Would you mind sharing what inspired this?”
The human’s face twisted into a rueful grimace as he tapped the open bag against his palm and then licked at the contents that fell out.
“You know the bug samplers?” the human asked.
Quilx’tch had to ponder this a bit but he did remember a discrete tool used in the invertebrate sampling procedure.
“The sealed containers the crew was using to hold the captured invertebrates?” He asked.
“Those are them,” the human said with a tired nod. “We just switched to using them today. Every time, every single time, someone opened one it made that little pop that a sealed bag of chips does.”
“Tough luck for you Pavlov!” the nearest human said with a laugh. “How much did Three Fingered Pete soak you for those.”
The human sent a glare at his companion but returned his attention to Quilx’tch.
“So yeah,” the human continued. “After a day of listening to that sound I just had to have some potato chips.”
“Thank you for the explanation Human Friend Pavlov,” Quilx’tch said.
The other human, and several others burst out laughing at that and even the one he was addressing looked amused.
“My name’s not Pavlov,” the human said. “It’s Bobby. Bobby St. James.”
“Then why did-” Quilx’tch began glancing at the still laughing humans to the side.
“Look,” Human Friend Bobby said getting up, “I’ll explain it after I get some real food if you have the time. That’s a long story.”
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What does it mean when your human friend says “Watch This?”? Why does this simple phrase seem to terrify any alien that has first appendage experience with humans? #HFY #HumansAreWeird #HumansAreSpaceOrcs #EarthIsADeathWorld #EarthIsSpaceAustralia
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