The soft clicking of chitinous membranes on the screen of a data pad was the only audible sound in the room. The still soft morning light was beginning to filter through the vines that covered the east windows of Second Sister’s office. The air was rich with both the moisture favored by the Shatar and the unavoidable airborne biota that thrived in the humid environs. All told it was a comfortable morning and the primary occupant of the bottomless stone urn the vines grew out was was very content with his decision to forgo full dormancy this cold cycle.
Listens to the Winds idly considered whether or not it would be worth it to tighten up his current vocal fibers or if he should just reintegrate them into in central thought mass and grow a new set. The old set had begun to make inadvertent scratching and vibrating noises. It would take several local days for him to grow a new set, and he had never been skilled at managing more than one pair of vocal fibers. Most sapient species seemed to find the doubled vibrations that resulted from accidentally using two, poorly aligned sets of vocal fibers disturbing. The humans especially recoiled from it, calling it ‘zombie feedback’. Listens to the Winds had just decided to start reabsorbing the old vocal chords when Second Sister gave an absent click.
“May I help you Second Sister?” Listens to the Winds asked, stirring his center of mass and mounding up to peek over the edge of the urn.
“Are you able to observe the exterior of the campus?” Second Sister asked without looking up from the grant request she was writing.
“Oh yes,” Listens to the Winds replied, trying to put eager undertones into the clicks and hisses of the Shatar language.
It was rather difficult to make the old fibers snap for a proper click.
“I can quickly reroute enough photo sensitive biofilm to be able to observe anything you need me too.”
“Do you have a quantitative value for quickly?” Second Sister asked.
“Three minutes, give or take,” Listens to the Winds replied.
“Excellent,” the Shatar said.
Despite the positive connotations of the word she did not exactly look pleased. Her frill was half raised in determination, as if she was preparing herself for a hivebound conflict of some sort. Listens to the Winds wondered if one of the younger cousins was feeling her hormones stirring.
“Please observe First Horticulturist as she travels from her personal rooms to the head-house,” Second Sister ordered.
“What am I observing for?” Listens to the Winds asked.
“I want you to listen to the tread of her footsteps first of all,” Second Sister stated. “Let me know if she is stepping out freely, with confidence, or if she her step is overly controlled. Then, if it is overly controlled, tell me if she is resting her hand, that is her upper primary appendage, firmly on the small of her back, her dorsal center of mass just above her primary lower joints.”
Listens to the Winds felt a small rustle of half amusement, half affront even as he sent the signals to deploy the biofilm that would catch the growing daylight and give him a clear view of that part of the grounds. He couldn’t really resent Second Sister for being so explicit in her descriptions, he had made some rather spectacular blunders when he had first arrived, but it was hardly necessary now. Out in the quad that was ringed round by the personal quarters of the mobile sapients of the base he ordered a node to release the chemicals that would quickly warm it and sent it gently above the frost line. The upper air was cold and he could feel the tissues in the node begin to cool and slow immediately. He directed more of heating chemical to the node, concentrating it into the tip and rounded the end into an orb. He spread the photosensitive biofilm over the surface of the orb and absorbed the view of the quad.
Ellen’s door was on the far side and as Second Sister had expected Ellen came out of her quarters moments later with a steady step. A far too steady step, Listens to the Winds quickly realized as he let his pressure sensing fibers that ran under the path absorb her rhythm. She was obviously mindfully controlling every step, something humans as a rule never did unless giving social displays, o if they were injured. Listens to the Winds waited patiently until she came into the focus range of the orb and clicked in affirmation.
“She has her hand placed exactly as you described,” and then a mischievous thrill ran through his fibers, “but do you have a quantitative value for quickly?”
Second Sister didn’t even bother responding to his question with words. She simply tilted her triangular head at him and laid her frill flat to her neck. Listens to the Winds deliberately gave a chuckle and she turned her attention to her comm unit.
“First Medic?” She called. “Please intercept First Horticulturist and inspect her for back pain and functionality limitations resulting from her injury yesterday. I strongly suspect you will need to order her back to her quarters to rest. Feel free to use my authority to do so.”
Second Sister turned off the comm and resumed typing.
“How do you know that she is not just cold stiff?” Listens to the Winds asked as he pulled the node back underground.
“She has a tell,” Second Sister said. “If she were merely cold stiff her hand would have been on the side of her hip-joint. As it was in the small of her back she was actively in pain.”
Listens to the Winds clicked in confirmation of the information and mulled over it.
“Why would she come into work if she was in debilitating pain?” Listens to the Winds asked after several moments.
“She has informed me that she goes a little stir crazy if she has to sit still for too long,” Second Sister explained. “She has also mentioned that this symptom is worse in the winter.”
“Would it be beneficial if I offered social interaction?” Listens to the Winds asked.
“Possibly,” Second Sister said, “but do remember to ask her permission over the comms before you grow up through the vents this time.”
“Yes,” Listens to the Winds agreed, “humans do tend to have negative reactions to hearing you in their walls at night. It is very odd.”
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What does it mean when your human friend says “Watch This?”? Why does this simple phrase seem to terrify any alien that has first appendage experience with humans? #HFY #HumansAreWeird #HumansAreSpaceOrcs #EarthIsADeathWorld #EarthIsSpaceAustralia
Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 151 reviews and ratings! If you bought the book and enjoyed it, it would really help me out if you leave a quick star rating on Amazon. A review would be great but just stars would be a huge boost *****!
QUICK NOTE: RE: everyone who asked. The book is avaliable in Amazon regions US-UK-DE-FR-ES-IT-NL-JP-BR-CA-MX-AU-IN. HOWEVER The above link only takes you to the US Amazon site. The one indicated by the .com ending. If it says "not avaliable in your country" that just means that you need to click over to your Amazon region.
Of course if you want a signed first edition you can email me at the email on my website and I can ship you a signed Author copy of the first edition for the same price as the crowdfunding campaign $35 domestic and $50 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.