“How long before First Father contacts us?” First Cousin asked as she arranged her favorite cushions in her sleeping nook.
Second Sister gave an amused click but didn’t bother angling her head at First Cousin. Her hands and antenna were busy arranging the positively absurd number of pharmaceutical herbal decoctions Third Father had insisted they take with them. Her fingers brushed over a textured label and she wondered what in Grandfather’s Garden he expected them to experience that would require feral lich-mould extract to treat. She put it up with the other class two toxins and reached down for a wad of dried Formica moss.
“That was a serious question,” First Cousin stated, moving over to begin pulling her datapads out of the moving container.
“He will not contact us,” Second Sister stated with an amused flick of her frill.
First Cousin gave an incredulous click as she rearranged the height of a shelf set into the wall. The base was all human right angles and corners; uot exactly unpleasant, but startlingly unnatural.
“Ultimately this is your assignment,” Second Sister reminded her, “I am just here to prevent you from doing something stupid.”
First Cousin gave a half-hearted click of protest as she began arranging her biological samples.
“It’s true,” Second Sister said. “I might be trained as a medic but we both know that I would have just hung around Fathers’ hives until First Grandmother found me a mate if you hadn’t decided that your community service requirement had to be on a death world.”
“This hardly qualifies as a death world,” First Cousin corrected her, with an irritated flare of her frill. “What happened to Second Sister Aue Tarn was an unfortunate accident and preventable-”
“With proper sanitation let alone medical care,” Second Sister said with a mildly irritated flush to her frill. “I heard the first five times you laid that argument line out for the Fathers. My point is that this is your station, not mine, and therefore First Father will not be contacting us to check in.”
Just then the comm chirped with the information that it was relaying one of the ridiculously expensive intersystem messages.
“Second Father will be,” Second Sister stated.
She was well aware that her pheromone profile was filling the air with a cloying smug fog so she gave First Cousin a cheerful wave and left her to answer the endless line of questions Second Father would no doubt have for her. This would be Second Father’s call of course. Politeness demanded that First Father not interfere, but Second Sister was aware that, just beyond the range of the home hologram projector, First Father would be hovering, waiting for her to step into frame to jump in and take his own bite of the conversation. It was only polite to leave the entire call time to First Cousin, the responsibility and therefore the stress of this assignment was hers after all. So all the fussing and soothing should be as well.
Outside of the door Second Sister flexed her legs one after the other, curling the flex all the way down to her toes. Her frill picked up the line of worried questions Second Father was stringing around First Cousin and she clicked with rueful amusement before trotting down the corridor.
The air in the common areas was surprisingly comfortable. She supposed that the base was going to be extra careful about the humidity levels after Second Sister Aue Tarn’s accident. The medical reports said she had fully regrown the amputated leg but the accompanying images of the initial infection had been rather horrific.
Second Sister followed the recently applied artificial pheromone indicators to the main observation lounge and felt her antenna stir in wonder at the sight as she stepped through the doors. The dense forest had been cleared from around the base to make the most efficient use of the local solar radiation and the light in the observation room was just on the safe side of blinding. She paused to curl and uncurl her antenna a few times as she adapted to the unnaturally bright light. Everything outside was so utterly alien. From the trees that towered like buildings to the foliage that was more yellow than green nothing was quite familiar, except for the perfectly regulation rectangular patch of local transport landing pad in front of the base.
Second Sister found her cone of attention drawn to the small symbol of civilization and control of nature. Everything else was wild, overwhelming. It seemed oddly small under the giant alien trees. Between the brilliant sunlight, the strangeness of the environment, and the relative distance it took her several minutes to discover figures moving on the landing pad. With a start she realized that the pad it self was in fact a rather large one and the figures moving around it were the base humans. She marveled at the fact that they were outside in the humidity and direct solar radiation with only the flimsiest of cloth shielding on their bodies. She flicked out her proboscis and liked at her eyes in amazement as she processed that they were not wearing protective booties on their feet, running back and forth over the rough surface of the landing pad. Something jumped in the center of the pad and generated an oddly dark cloud. The humans began to dance with delight and Second Sister licked at her eyes again as she puzzled that out.
She focused her attention on the item that had jumped. It was a large cylinder that she recognized from her safety research as one of the physical filters, meant to catch mid-sized airborne particles. They were quite advanced and one of the many items she had used to soothe her Fathers’ fears. From the color of this one it had long since reached capacity and was probably set to be set out for decomposition. Which did raise the question of what the humans were doing with it on the landing pad.
The humans had stopped their delighted dancing and one had darted over to a container and pulled something out of it. Second Sister felt a prickle of unease run over her frill as she recognized one of the symbols on the container as ‘explosive’ the other was familiar, but she had never seen this iteration of it. She was sure she had never seen it in combination with the explosive symbol.
She realized that the human had scrambled over to the filter with something from the container. The human placed the item under the filter, that was at least as tall as the human, and then scampered back. The humans were still, expectant, and then the filter jumped again, releasing a cloud of spores and dust back into the air from which it had come. The human danced with delight.
‘Recreation’ Second Sister suddenly realized. The second symbol on the container indicated something only rated for recreational use, as opposed to industrial or medical uses.
“Recreational explosives,” Second Sister murmured to herself, stepping back uneasily from the observation window.
Perhaps, perhaps she would just go have a quick, soothing word with Second Father after all.