Humans are Weird - The Wrong Broom
Third Cousin gave a hiss-click of surprise as the canister of dry ice salt tipped over and hit the metal floor of the hangar with a noise that made his frill cling to his shoulders in pain.
“Disorder and confusion!” he cursed and then glanced around sheepishly to see if anyone had heard the profanity.
He shook out his frill that was still tingling with the pain of the noise. He was not in Grandmother’s hive anymore. He was a free ranging seeker with the blessing of both his parents and his hive. There was no reason to worry about offending the elders. Still, he settled his frill carefully, properly, back into its resting position as he surveyed the salt spill. The warning labels, clearly visible on the canister, showed that the substance wasn’t directly toxic to a Shatar but did carry mild warnings. He pulled out his datapad and summoned the specifics. Ah, mildly caustic to his outer membrane; he shouldn’t really handle a spill of this magnitude without a full body gloving, which would take some time and waste one of their precious few full body gloves. Third Cousin vibrated his mandibles as a happy thought struck him as he pulled up the warnings for the newest member of the base. As he suspected, the tougher outer membrane of the humans showed little to no reaction to the salts. He opened a comm line.
“Ranger Dodge,” Third Cousin called out brightly, “please come assist me in the main storage bay. There has been a solid state chemical spill.”
“Sure thing, Third,” Dodge replied in a cheerful tone. “I take it there is nothing more seriously needed than a broom and a dust pan?”
“Well, a simple respirator is suggested but not required,” Third Cousin said. “But the spill is only ice salt.”
Mack Dodge laughed, and the Shatar knew the safety suggestion would not be followed. “I’ll grab the broom on the way down.”
Third Cousin continued his survey of the storage bay, and by the time the tingling in his frill had finally faded, he heard the steady double tread of the human’s approaching footsteps. Third Cousin saw the human turn his head towards him as he entered but didn’t bother returning the binocular vision greeting so unnecessary to his own species but simply lifted his frill in greeting and waved towards the spill. Ranger Dodge glanced at the salt, but instead of addressing it directly, he came towards Third Cousin, holding up the mentioned broom.
“Hey, Third,” Dodge called out, “have you seen the right broom?”
Third paused in confusion but didn’t look up from his work. “Is not the one you are holding sufficient?” he asked.
“Well, it’ll do, I suppose,” Dodge admitted, but Third Cousin could see that his fleshy face was contorted in a look that suggested sullen resentment in a human. “But this isn’t the regular broom. Where did it even come from?” The human pulled at the bristles of the broom in annoyance. “It’s worn all different.”
Third Cousin finally turned his multi-faceted eyes on the human to reassure him that he had his full attention. “That broom came from another level of the base, I assume,” Third Cousin said on careful reflection. “Will it not suffice for the task at hand? Or is it less efficient for the task?”
“No,” the human admitted hesitantly. “But it still isn’t the right broom.”
Third Cousin stared in blank confusion at the human, who was returning his look expectantly. Dodge clearly wanted him to do something about the situation that the human found undesirable. The broom was the same printing as all the others on the base, and Dodge himself had clearly stated that it was adequate for the purpose. Yet he clearly was not satisfied. Still, Third Cousin was not the youngest quartermaster in the core for no reason. Solving problems, even situations that reasonable species didn’t consider problems, was his particular skill set.
“Would you like me to locate and retrieve the right broom for this level for your future use?” Third Cousin asked carefully.
Dodge’s face smoothed out into a look of pleasure and relief in much the same transformation Third Cousin had seen when a human visitor to his hatch-hive had been injured and then received medication for the pain.
“That’d be great!” Dodge replied, before abruptly turning to the task and proving the efficacy of the ‘wrong’ broom.
Third Cousin made a note to track down that particular broom and then another to check the cultural database. If this were not simply a quirk of this individual, and the Great Hive knew that survey core rangers had their individual quirks, the knowledge that humans became emotionally attached to inanimate objects would be critical information for any Shatar working in a quartermaster position.