The gleaming green sunlight was just angling down for the afternoon when Flight Sub-commander Twenty Clicks discovered that one of the humans had eaten the entire supply of acidic calcium supplement for the base. He had the holo-record right in front of him. He scratched the control screen one more time just to be sure of what he was seeing. It was a fairly simple situation on the fringes of the air mass.
The human had been on duty in the supply bay. It had been his job to fill all material requests for the base. Humans were exceptionally well adapted for this duty. Their height alone made working in the warehouses an easy matter for them. Their truly terrifying compressive strength meant that they ignored the lifting machines most of the time in favor of manually filling the orders. They were more likely to send the drones for the smaller packages than for the larger ones. Twenty Clicks had once seen a human lift an entire shelving unit full of prefabricated building cores simply to retrieve a scrap of paper that the human immediately tossed in the recycler.
Twenty Clicks scratched the control again to watch the scene over, trying to understand. The human was what they called middle aged. Not yet out of his reproductive cycle but past the prime of his breeding age. His hair was beginning to thin on the top of his head in a way that made him look dull and scattered. His uniform was clean, but rumpled. He was sprawled across the chair he was nominally sitting in. He had forced two of the supports off of the ground and was bracing the unballanced position by resting his legs on a nearby storage crate. In one hand he held a data pad which the helpful AI indicated was displaying one of the popular theoretical social simulations. The other had was otherwise occupied.
Twenty Clicks watched in fascination as the massive hand, easily as large as one of his wings, lifted from where it rested on the human’s thigh and drifted almost as if not under the control of the massive mammalian brain, towards the open bag of calcium citrate supplements that rested beside the human on a crate. The hand, all the time out of range of the human’s binocular vision, drifted over and past the bag till it reached nearly the full range of the humans flexibility then drifted back and began to make short passes in the general location of the bag.
This was clearly Undulate behavior, or perhaps it would be if the Undulate was old and blinded to visible light and was feeling around for something. Yet Twenty Clicks had checked and the human had spent only a nominal amount of training time with the Undulates. What this actually resembled was the slow groping reaching of a vine type plant for some secure hold. Twenty Clicks wondered if human hands had an autonomous search function. To think of that massive crushing power under the control of plant like chemical signals was terrifying.
On the display the hand brushed over the band and flexed to reach into the interior, moving more confidently now that it had tactile information. The hand closed over what the humans called a “handful” of the supplements. Enough to supply a dozen humans for a month. However the wandering hand slowly lifted them to the human’s mouth and began pushing the mass of supplements into a mouth that opened slackly to admit them. The human chewed approximately half the mass for several moments before swallowing with a massive gulp.
The hand then pressed in the rest and even as the mouth chewed the hand drifted back down to the bag. It groped around, with slightly slower motions this time, and pulled in another handful of the supplements. This process repeated itself a few dozen time until the bag was empty. When the hand finally found no more supplements in the bag it returned to the slack, rest position on his leg. It rested there for several moments.
However the inevitable consequence of ingesting that much calcium and ascorbic acid was quickly taking it’s tole on even the legendary metabolism of the human. His skin paled as his digestive system pulled blood to his gut to deal with the unexpected meal. The muscles around his eyes tightened and strained for a few moments. Then his mouth contracted in a grimace. The hand busy holding the datapad gave a spasm. The guilty hand rose and clutched at the human’s abdomen over the general location of his primary stomach. He narrowed his eyes and looked down at his abdomen with a perplexed expression.
“What the, ever loving-?” he muttered.
He glanced over at the empty bag of supplements and his face contorted with unease and perhaps guilt. Twenty Clicks was unsure. The human rose to his feet, staggering in place of his usual graceful movements. His guilty hand reached around to clutch his abdomen as he staggered to the comm-unit on the wall. He braced one shoulder against the wall and carefully pulled up the supplies manifest. He typed in an order for an emergency refill on the supplies, hesitated when he came to the section in the form that requested a reason, and after a moment typed in ‘accidental destruction’. The human then staggered back to his seat and collapsed in it with a groan. He stayed there for the rest of his shift and Twenty Clicks let the recording play until it showed his own wings flitting into the storage area to request a new carry harness.
He sighed as he turned off the recording. He had of course ordered the recalcitrant human to the medical bay and the Shatar Medic on duty had soon relieved the human’s distress with an oral administered oil flush. It had seemed extreme to the Winged but the Shatar and the Human both agreed it was the safest method to cleanse his digestive tract of the calcium build up. When, after the treatment, Twenty Clicks had pressed for an explanation, the human had only shrugged.
“I didn’t notice what I was doing,” he said. “It was a good book.”
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