Humans are Weird – Staking a Claim
There was a chorus of delighted – and mildly amused – agreement as the flight took in the preparations the humans had made for them. There was a massive cushion of velvety material set on a human sized table to capture the maximum amount of sunlight through the observation window. It was surrounded by several springy sticks set into the table. The sticks dangled local seed pods on stout twine. Several of the younger flight members landed on the seed pods grasped the twine, setting the sticks bobbing and the seed pods swinging.
“Not the worst effort I have ever seen,” grudgingly admitted a balding old wing-second as he settled onto one of the slightly raised sides of the cushion. “Bit too soft, but acceptable, don’t know about this strange fur coating it.”
“Now, now don’t be critical of such a nice effort,” the other wing-second scolded, settling down beside him. “We need to encourage interspecies friendship you know, and when you have been gone for days it is nice to come back to a deliberate welcome.”
The wing-second gave a visible snuggle down into the material of the cushion but did pick out a tuft of the strange tan fur to examine while the rest of the wing settled either onto the sticks and twin or the cushion itself. Fourteenth Trill took a moment to circle the room, half amused, half oddly disturbed. It was a thoughtful gesture on the part of the humans, who must be in the waste elimination room at the moment, but there was just something...something off about the situation.
“Is this a blood stain?” one of the flight suddenly demanded.
The entire wing lifted off the cushion with a susurration of wings and stared down at what was, obviously, after the flap, a small but distinct bloodstain on the cushion.
“Not human,” stated the medic firmly. “Not winged either. Some local mammal.”
There was a confused murmur from the flight that lasted until someone gave a frantic predator shriek and they shot for the ceiling. Fourteenth Trill felt a fierce surge of pride as the wing fell into perfect formation. Medic and injured at the center. Combat ready at the edges, mindful to keep a safe distance between them and the ceiling as well as the floor. All two wings-spread snipers with pulse rifles out and ready, but not a shot fired yet, half surveying the room for other threats, half with their weapons trained on the… the thing that had just raised its head over the edge of the table and was looking up at them with four glittering, predatory eyes.
“Eighteen Clicks!” the Wing Commander Snapped out.
“A small local predator,” Eighteen Clicks responded quickly, fluttering forward to hover just behind one of the rifle-wings. “Well documented. Too small to be a direct threat to one of us.”
“It’s a bit bigger than any of us,” the old wing-second growled.
“Look at the prey in it’s mouth,” Eighteen Clicks insisted, “it’s target prey species are less than a tenth of our mass. It poses no threat.”
An uneasy flutter went through the flight at that as they collectively resolved the mass of blood and fur under the eyes into a dead body held in thick, piercing teeth. The creature blinked at them a few times before pulling it’s horrifically long body up, and up onto the table and then prancing over to the cushion where it curled itself up into a coil of muscles, dropped the small mammal onto the cushion, lifted its rounded snout into the air, and started yelping loudly.
“They are a social species,” Eighteen Clicks informed them, ‘living in loose colonies. It is probably announcing that it has food to share but I have never heard that particular vocalization before. It-”
“Mittens!” a human voice boomed through the room, coming from the waste closet, strangely high pitched for the giant mammal. “And what did ‘ooo bring me this time?”
The door opened and the massive Chief Engineer came prancing out, hands outstretched towards the creature, that in turn gave a positive wriggle of delight on seeing the human. Engineer Evelyn, Brock to his friends, was a giant even by human standards, massing an additional forty percent over the species average, usually moved with the slow and careful deliberation of one used to being mindful of a fragile world not built for him. However today he quite danced towards the coil of murder and menace on the cushion before his binocular eyes focused on the agitated, and heavily armed flight of Winged.
“My dudes!” he called out raising his hands in an invitation to perch, or possibly a human gesture of placation, but the Wing Commander needed to perch on something. “Chill! Didn’t you get the message about Mittens?”
The wing surged forward to land on the comforting mass of the human, peeking around at the coiled predator, only the rifle-wings hanging back to secure their weapons before joining the rest.
“What about ‘Mittens’?” Fourteenth Trill demanded. “Please tell me you didn’t just … just … domesticate an apex predator while we were gone for four days. Four days Brock!”
The human laughed and shook his head, dislodging a few cartographers.
“Thank you Mittens!” the human said, stepping forward and holding out a specimen container to the creature.
It uncoiled far enough to drop the prey item into the container and then happily writhed against the touch of Brock’s fingers as the human crooned at it. The predator, so imposing on its own with a prey item between its teeth, looked small, harmless in the human’s massive hands and Fourteenth Trill felt the wing relax around him, before beginning to flutter with a flick of blatant jealousy. Brock was inquiring if the non-sapient predator like ear scritches. Fourteenth Trills was reasonably sure he wasn’t the only one thinking that he certainly would like some ear scritches.
“No I didn’t domesticate it,” Brock finally said, when apparently, the creatures prodigious appetite for ear scritches, and back scritches, and chin scritches, was satisfied and it curled up on the cushion, tucking it’s snout into a thigh leaving just a coil of fur visible. “One, it takes generations to domesticate any animal, and two Mittens decided to domesticate himself.”
“Flap around that again please,” Fourteenth Trill demanded.
“He showed up the day you guys left,” Brock said, heaving them all up with a massive shrug, as he began moving towards the sample freezer. “I still have no idea how he gets in and out, but I kept finding him nesting in my coats. So I made him a bed. He kept attacking the samples hung to air dry, so I made him those toys out of the seed pods. He kept trying to eat important stuff so I bribe him with less important food. He started bringing me these dead rodents in turn, so I’ve been saving them for the ecologist who comes through.”
Fourteenth Trill ignored the agitated chitters of the rest of the flight and fought to get his words in order. Brock opened the sample refrigeration unit and set the rodent down by a wingspread of others.
“So this creature, which you know nothing about,” he said slowly. “Breaks into our supposedly sealed habitation. Steals and destroys both our food stuffs and generals supplies, and your response was to make it a bed and feed it?”
“That about sums it up,” Brock agreed, closing the sample refrigerator and turned back to the predator on the cushion. “Now come here and let me show you why I named him mittens!”