There is something wrong with the human,” Twistunder announced as he slipped into the recreation pool.
“From your posture I assume it is not the sort of wrong that requires immediate attention,” Amblesover observed as he shuffled across the bottom of the pool, stirring the algal system with every lazily dragged nub.
“He is showing signs of sleep deprivation,” Twistunder explained, “and his fight, flight, or freeze circuits are so dramatically over active that even I noticed them. He nearly screamed when I simply touched his hand from inside the cupboard.”
“Did he give you any explanation?” Amblesover asked.
“Well he did specifically request that I,” Twistunder lifted himself vertical and hunched in the resentful air the human taken, “should just leave him alone and mind my own business.”
Amblesover hummed in sad sympathy and the two Undulates circled each other in a comforting greeting before settling into the artfully arranged algal garden. Twistunder ran his primary appendages over the long smooth tassels of an emerald green variety and let the warmth of the water sooth his gravity stressed appendages. After several minutes had passed by Amblesover lightly shoved him with a gripping appendage. Twistunder stiffened and edged just a thread’s breadth away to indicate his indignation. He was trying to ease out a sulk here.
“Would you like to know what is wrong with the human?” Amblesover asked with mild amusement agitating his appendages.
“You do not even know what human I indicated,” Twistunder pointed out, but he could not hide his curiosity.
“It doesn’t matter,” Amblesover said, taking off from the pool floor and waving an appendage dismissively as he swam around Twistunder. “It is the same for all of them.”
“This is a base wide problem?” Twistunder asked.
If true, that did relieve his distress about his particular friend, even if it did raise other issues.
Amblesover rotated his appendages in a gesture that had been heavily influenced by the human shrug and climbed up onto a sunning rock.
“I don’t know if you could call it a, problem exactly,” he said in slow musing tones.
Twistunder tightened his stance in annoyance.
“How is (according to you) the entire human population of the base, displaying signs of fear stressors not a problem?” Twistunder demanded.
Amblesover hummed in amused patience and stretched out against the gravity.
“Do you recall all the hubbub over the so called predator practice?” Amblesover asked.
“I do,” Twistunder confirmed. “Tag, I think the humans called it.”
“Do you recall what the Shatar were so concerned about?” Amblesover prompted.
“I fail to see the connection between that and this!” Twistunder said.
Amblesover prodded him with a gripping appendage.
“Very well,” Twistunder muttered. “I will follow your wake. The Shatar recognized the behavior as practice of endurance predation as observed in several non-sapient deathworld species. They were concerned that there was some factor in the base environment that was stimulating the human to such an extreme behavior.”
Amblesover waved for him to go on.
“The conclusion of the investigation showed that it was simply a childhood gaming behavior,” Twistunder continued, “albeit one that was the result of the human’s ecological past of being endurance pursuit predators.”
“The humans were exposing their bodies to the conditions that they might have to encounter to maintain their physical strength through play behavior,” Amblesover summarized as he leisurely stretched his non-gripping end into the water. “And so is it any surprise the also do so with their awareness?”
Twistunder slumped in blank bemusement and Amblesover rolled into the water in a deliberate display of humor.
“The humans are in the process of testing each other’s psychological toughness,” Amblesover explained. “The process also strengthens their psychological toughness.”
Twistunder slowly bobbed his gripping end in a rough approximation of a nod.
“That does explain the symptoms I have seen in my human friend,” he said slowly. “But why have I not observed the practice itself and why are they suddenly doing it now?”
“They do it at night,” Amblesover explained. “And they trek inland into the dry highlands where we can’t go.”
“Do they wish to hide this behavior from us?” Twistunder asked, twisting his appendages in distress at the thought.
“Far from it,” Amblesover said waving an appendage dismissively. “But to answer both questions, the conditions the practice is preformed over precludes our presence. They like to be high and dry, there is usually an open flame, and copious consumption of alcohol. Therefore they prefer these dry summer months.”
“That does sound particularly horrid,” Twistunder said with a shudder. “What could they be possibly doing under those conditions that counts as play and then leads to those mental states?”
“They’re telling scary stories.”