“And was there any sign that these atmospheric disturbances before the mainframe crashed?” Twistunder asked.
“Nope.” The human replied.
At least that was what Twistunder thought the human had said. The massive alien was curled over the side of one of the plasticized containers that housed the research base’s computing nodes. Twistunder spread out his appendages and let the ambient atmospheric conditions fill his awareness. The moisture in the air was stable so far as he could tell. He would not need to moisturize for hours. The atmospheric currents were smooth and regular. He knew that his species really wasn’t skilled in measuring such things but he had learned a few tricks from the Trisk who he had served with. All in all there was no indication that anything was wrong.
“Why are you so concerned about the functionality of the sensor array then?” Twistunder asked.
“Those storms come up fast,” the human replied. “We don’t want to get caught out.”
“Indeed,” Twistunder muttered as he observed the human wrench out the damaged component with what looked like far more than necessary force.
The human focused his binocular vision on the component and his face twisted into an expression of displeasure. Twistunder thought it had been damaged by electrical discharge but that made no sense and he was no engineer. The human was about to replace the component when he suddenly snarled and dropped the item and gripped one hand in the other. Twistunder felt a wave of pain pheromones wash over him and the fact that he could sense it at all in the thin atmosphere told him how extreme the human’s pain must be.
Twistunder contemplated offering assistance but the human suddenly straightened and slammed the top of the container shut.
“We’re leaving.” The human said curtly.
“Of course,” Twistunder said. “I will drive and we will get back to the base to tend to your injury.”
“What injury?” The human asked even as he proceeded to lock down the container.
“The one that caused you such pain just now,” Twistunder replied.
The human chuckled and glanced over at Twistunder as he gathered up his tools.
“I’m not injured,” he said.
But at that same moment he grunted in pain and flexed his hand.
“I believe I have localized your injury,” Twistunder said, reaching up for the jointed appendage.
The human snatched away his hand.
“I am not injured!” he snapped. The human took a deep breath and tossed his tools back into the transport. “Seriously, little man. I am not injured. I’ll explain on the way back to the base but we need to leave now.”
“Very well,” Twistunder began.
The human bent down and scooped him up before tossing him into the travel couch and leaping into the control couch. Twistunder took a moment to secure his safety restraints as the human initiated the engines and headed towards the base at maximum acceleration.
“Why are we returning to base at an unsafe velocity?” Twistunder demanded.
“There’s a storm coming,” the human said in a low tone, flexing his hand.
Twistunder pondered this for a moment.
“Pardon me,” he said, “but I believe the reason that we came out here was because the predictive system for storms was nonfunctional.”
“I don’t need that fancy computer to tell me a storm’s coming when it’s this close,” the human said. “My hand starts acting up. That was that pain you noticed.”
“You hand experiences pain when a storm happens?” Twistunder asked in confusion.
“Hurts like mad for a bit,” the human said. “But it passes.”
Twistunder couldn’t think of a response and after a moment the human grinned at him.
“It’s a cartilage and bone thing.” The human said. “And here it comes.”
Twistunder was vaguely aware that the human had just accelerated the transport past the suggested limits but he was focused on the western sky were the light of the sun was being blotted out by a sparking mass of chaos.
“Storm’s a’ coming.” The human commented grimly.