“Quartermaster?” Fifty-seven Clicks approached the Undulate cautiously, staying safely above his gripping range and circling slowly.
It wasn’t like there was active hostility between there species, not like the hostility that burned low and fierce between the winged kin and those earth crawlers. No, one had to be careful with Undulates because it was just so easy to miss each other. Fifty-seven Clicks’ small body and his quick flitting motion made him as hard for the quartermaster to perceive as it was for the winged kin to see the slow moving lump against the floor.
“Ah, Fifty-seven Clicks,” the quartermaster said as he raised several sensory rich appendages to find Fifty-seven Clicks in the air.
“I have a request,” Fifty-seven Clicks stated quickly. “I would like to be assigned the lighter mobile vices. I would like to exchange all of my current supply for the new type if possible but even one would be a benefit to my work.”
The quartermaster was quiet for a long period but his raised appendages waved gently in the air. Fifty- seven Clicks shifted in agitation as he waited for the slower Undulate to process his request.
“Forgive me,” the Undulate said when he finally dropped his appendages. “I am unaware of any difference in the mobile vices save for the standard size variation.”
“The ones that come in multiple color schemes and have a significant portion of the flat gripping surface removed for weight concerns,” Fifty-seven Clicks explained.
“What leads you to believe that such a thing is in our stores?” the quartermaster asked. “I have not seen such a thing.”
“Human Smith had several in the common room today.” Fifty-seven Clicks replied.
The Undulate expanded out his appendages and then relaxed them in a gesture that translated to a sigh very well.
“Of course it was a human,” the quartermaster said glumly. “I can assure you no such item came through our base supplies-“
“Human Smith must have ordered it personally,” Fifty-seven Clicks said in sudden understanding.
He gave a disgruntled chirp and landed on a high shelf.
“Perhaps if you bring me an example on the item in question I can order some for a feasibility study?” the quartermaster suggested.
Fifty-seven Clicks took off again in delight. That was the thing about having Undulates around. They were so good at figuring out ways around things. He darted back across the base and begged to borrow one of the mobile vices from Human Smith. Smith handed it over easily enough, admonishing him to bring it back. Fifty-seven Clicks flew the bright red folded metal back to the quartermaster.
“This!” He called out holding up the vice.
The quartermaster took it in his gripping appendages and twisted it this way and that, humming thoughtfully.
“I do not know that I could justify this,” he finally said. “These three cuts sacrifice quite a bit of strength and the weight saved is negligible.”
“Maybe negligible to a land crawler!” Fifty-seven Clicks snapped. “Every gram counts when you have to carry everything with you on your wings!”
“Could you get the initial justification from the human?” The Undulate asked. “Surely they did a feasibility study before altering their design.”
“Humans made these things?” Fifty-seven Clicks asked in surprise. “I thought we did.”
“No,” the undulate waved a gripping appendage in dismissal. “The humans developed these to hold their documents together. Their actually designation is ‘binder paper clips’.”
“Very well,” Fifty-seven Clicks said. “You just need me to get the formally stated logic for the modifications correct?”
“Yes, specifically why the metal was punched out in this specific pattern,” the undulate said waving the vice to display the three holes in the metal. “I cannot determine what structural purpose it serves.”
Fifty-seven Clicks sped out and returned far more slowly, radiating so much annoyance and befuddled irritation that even the quartermaster noticed it.
“Were you not successful?” he asked.
“Humans,” Fifty-seven Clicks muttered as he landed on the shelf.
“Did Smith not have access to the justifications?” the quartermaster asked.
“No,” Fifty-seven Clicks said curtly.
“Did he know the justifications?” the quartermaster prompted. “Even a colloquial understanding might give me enough to get a study justified.”
“Oh he knew,” Fifty-seven Clicks said with a sigh.
The quartermaster poised his gripping appendage expectantly.
“The three-hole pattern,” Fifty-seven Clicks explained. “Is a ‘smiley face’, and the justification is that it was ‘cute’.”
A long moment stretched between them.
“Humans,” the quartermaster muttered.
“Humans,” Fifty-seven Clicks agreed.
“Well I will try,” the quartermaster offered. “But I advise you now, not since the Klath Beast incident has any feasibility study been justified because of human perceived cuteness.”
“Thanks anyway,” Fifty-seven Clicks said glumly as he flew off. Maybe he could trade for one of Smiths…