Everyone inhabiting Rough End Base knew that Thursdays were luxury days. Not every Thursday mind, usually every third, but if the nebula were tricky every fourth or fifth. The overworked Confederation supply ships rarely carried anything heaver than data in excess of the strictly necessary food and mechanical supplies. No, it was the cloud runners who brought the isolated sentients the little pleasures that saw them through the cold dark nights and scorching days of a planet that just barely qualified as habitable.
“One box for Human Sharon,” the Shatar free-merchant said holding up a roughly rectangular box wrapped in brown paper.
At nearly two meters tall and covered in body paint and semi precious stones the outcast Shatar made a rather spectacular sight. The fact that there was no way to tell which of the ornaments were actually ornamental and which were weapons added a certain zest to these mostly legal transactions.
“Yes,” Michael Sharon, PhD geology, crowed in delight as he snatched up the package. “About time.”
“We brought it in good time,” the Shatar said, his frill bristling with offense.
Sharon grinned at him and patted the free-merchant on what served him as a shoulder.
“Sure thing Big Guy,” he assured the Shatar. “There is no question. You little ships are never the problem. This probably got bogged down at the post office in Fairbanks.”
The Shatar’s skin, or outer membrane, Sharon wasn’t sure what exactly you called the smooth covering of their exoskeleton, cooled to a more reasonable shade of green. Or at least what was visible under the extensive body painting did. Big Guy dipped his antenna in curiosity even as he finished sorting the unclaimed packages back into his satchel. Sharon knew the free-merchant had a few hours before his ship had to jump back into the nebula currents and was probably interested in conversation. With a smile Sharon began to carefully open the paper wrapping that covered his purchase. Big Guy clicked in interest as he tilted his head back and forth to get a better look at the tightly packed items.
“Q-tips,” Sharon explained as he popped the package open and pulled out two. He handed one to Big Guy and slipped the other into his ear with a contented sigh.
“What are you using that for?” Big Guy asked in surprise. “I was under the impression that human auditory canals were nearly as sensitive as our own.”
“I’m cleaning out the waxy buildup in my ears,” Sharon said with a grin. “It’s okay. Look, there are instructions on the box.”
Big Guy reached over and took the offered package. He held it up in front of his eyes and rolled his head to analyze the human writing.
“It says it is for applying dermal paint,” Big Guy said in surprise. He glanced at the one in his hand and tested the soft tip with his fingers. He clicked in approval before turning back to the package. “It also says that it is good for cleaning hard surface optic sensors, and applying medication to minor injuries.” Big Guy’s frill suddenly stiffened in a show of surprise and he shot an annoyed and perplexed look at Sharon who had taken a second Q-tip to his other ear. “And here, in markedly larger print, it specifically says that it is illegal, unsafe, and unsanitary to insert them in your ear canals. It says in fact that this behavior serves no purpose and causes damage.”
“Does it now?” Sharon drawled, giving the Q-tip a twist.
Big Guy stared at him through one incredulous eye for a moment before tossing the package back and walking away muttering something about humans.