Fourteenth Trill swooped through the branches of the wild under-canopy with as much dignity as he could muster. The golden afternoon sun caught and reflected off of the far to many round scars where the colonists had been forced to actually cut established branches rather than growing the paths correctly in the first place as was done in civilized forests. A glimmering emerald epiphyte moved in defiance of all wind currents only a wing’s width from his sensory horns and he juttered sideways frantically. Something with far too many eyes peered out at him and Fourteenth Trill tossed dignity out of his mental satchel without a flick, darting the final few clicks to the Ranger station and arriving panting with what he hoped was more exertion than panic. The members of the local Wing were darting around carrying tools or piloting hover transports, all intent of important missions by the set of their faces.
The local safety data packet had been rather less than perfectly helpful when describing the native fauna. “Hardly dangerous if proper precautions were taken,” was a quote that didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Ranger Core’s domestication efforts on the planet. Even more worrying was the line, “of far more danger are the various carnivorous plants-” None of the Wing stationed here looked concerned of course, but he did notice that they went about in pairs.
Fourteenth Trill wrapped his talons around the comforting sturdiness of the perch outside the main entrance to the Ranger station and let his breath catch up to him as he examined the fantastically rough woodwork of the brutalist human structure. Rather than growing their habitations the humans simply took massive dead logs and carved and nailed them into frames for their dwellings. The remnants of logs not needed were stacked haphazardly behind the building, drying out and warping to uselessness in the sunlight.
The upper layers of this building were clearly built of the local wood, formed into a tall peak and reinforced with steel lacing on the top to prevent damage from falling canopy branches. Though an odd scent drew Fourteenth Trill’s attention down and he saw that most of the lower half of the building was made of local stone. Surprised, and feeling a breeze of inspiration he shoved a winghook into his satchel and pulled out his sketch pad. He was twitching his nostril tips for a nice breeze to follow up to a good view of the structure when the door he was sitting by swung open.
“Get in here before you get yourself eaten!” Snapped a balding old Winged with time thinned teeth who could never have been anything but a Sargent.
Fourteenth Trill’s digits quite literally ached to draw the image of the old Winged in the new door in the slanting sunbeams, but the old one disappeared into the relative darkness beyond that the light wind sounded full of corridors and storage containers and smelled of fresh cut wood. Fourteenth Trill darted after him and scuttled down the corridor clutching his sketch pad under one wing and attempting to arrange his undone satchel with the other.
By the time his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light of the building the old Winged, one Twenty-five Clicks if Fourteenth Trill remembered the name on the communication form correctly, had scuttled down through a slot in the floor that did not look like it would meet code regulations for a proper passage. Fourteenth Trill flicked his nostril frills in delight as he hopped down and onto a ledge, with no safety rail, that ran around a smaller human room. Meaning of course that it was massive and only slightly less intimidating than the alien forest outside. There were two windows that might have been the view ports on a space station for their size. They had been made up of dozens of standard sized windows set into a frame. The westward window was letting in the slanting golden sunlight and the alternating bars of brilliance and dimness reflected off of countless dust motes before coming to rest on a lumpy pile of something tossed on the floor. The pile was something like the discarded logs outside.
“The crew lead will brief you after he finishes his solar recharge,” the old Winged was saying.
Something in that statement was wrong enough to prod Fourteenth Trill to respond before the old Winged dissipated.
“Why would this base use solar powered tech this deep in a forest?” He asked. “You only get direct sun light for less than an hour in the afternoon.”
The old Winged tossed him a look that sounded of mild annoyance and more amusement.
“Not for the tech,” the old Winged said, jerking his head in the direction of the pile on the floor before hopping off the ledge and disappearing in a flutter of wings and a faint smell of medicated powder.
Fourteenth Trill stared at the pile on the floor curiously. He chirped and tilted his head to the side as he felt the return. Not logs he realized. They mass was far too soft and there was a Ranger Core standard solar shield tossed on one end of the mass in the golden light. Fourteenth Trill squinted at one corner of the pile that had just been relieved of the golden light by the movement of the sunbeam. With a sudden snort like a volcanic vent the pile shook itself, one massive hand appeared and came up to steady the solar shield as the pile, the human, it was a human Fourteenth Trill suddenly understood, the crew lead for the local Ranger Station, adjusted his mass so that he was centered in the sunbeam, gave two more mighty snorts, and then fell still.
Fourteenth Trill stared down in fascination. He needed to get settled into his place in the local wing. He needed to hydrate. He needed…
He pulled a hook cap out of his satchel and slipped it on. Below him the giant breathed quietly in the sunbeam. Fourteenth Trill was vaguely dissatisfied with the concept that the human actually needed to recharge in the solar rays to gather energy, but in the face of the contentment that radiated off the mammal in waves as it basked in the golden light the Winged artist couldn’t really bring himself to care.
Author Betty Adams Books
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