“Now,” Base Commander Third Trill said as he shuffled his notes, “Ranger Radzik will be arriving shortly. Are we prepared?”
There was a soft susurration of agreement from the assembled department heads. The respective heads of the botany and water quality departments were huddled close gently talking over something, from the look of it the odd contaminant that was appearing around the landing field. The Undulates were concerned about the matter and the commander supposed that he would need to arrange a meeting to deal with their agitation next. He idly lifted a winghook to rub a sensory horn as he wondered why he had ever perused a command career track.
The door opened and the new Shatar Chief of Medicine walked in. She shifted her attention from the readout on her datapad and her antenna curled down into tight little coils. Her neck frill pulled down against her neck. The base commander braced himself for whatever she had found wrong with the situation.
“I was informed this was not a disciplinary hearing,” First Sister said.
“It is not!” The base commander replied quickly. “We have assembled to show our united concern for Ranger Radzik.”
“I brought my assistants too,” the head of invertebrate research said, “in case Human Friend Radzik requires mass cuddles!”
First Sister rotated her triangular head and her proboscis flicked out to clean her already spotless eyes in a gesture that one didn’t need to be a zeno-kinesics expert to understand was a gesture of exasperation. Finally, after several painful seconds where the base commander wondered if it would be acceptable to continue the briefing while their head medic remained standing in the middle of the room. The larger bodies species were sometimes touchy about physical position.
“As the chief medic,” First Sister finally said firmly, “I must order this meeting dispersed, and quite quickly, except for the base commander, myself, and possibly the moral officer, though I would suggest that the moral officer leave as well.”
There was a murmur of surprise and a few of the undulates raised an appendage in query.
“Leave quickly,” repeated First Sister. “The answers to any questions you have will, no doubt, be found in the human psyche profile under negative reactions to community inspection of emotional difficulties.”
The surprised murmur followed the various Winged as they flew out of the meeting room and the Undulates as they swam to the edge of their hydration pools and shuffled towards the doors. Base Commander Third Trill was very carefully keeping his fur smoothed down as he exchanged farewell greetings. He did not like having his authority challenged in this manner, but First Sister was an experienced medic who had spent almost the entirety of her civil service time among humans. If there was a reason to meet Ranger Radzik alone, instead in the comfort of his community, she would know of it. Before he could form the question however the human in question walked in. He gave a cheery wave to the departing undulates before striding up and straddling his long legs over an entire workstation designed for a Shatar.
“Base Commander, First Sister,” Ranger Radzik greeted them with words the a polite Shatar like rotation of his massive head.
He was a rather non-descriptive human. He had avoided any obvious scarring so far. He was of average height for the giants, average skin-tone, average fur density, average eye color, and even perfectly average tooth spacing. Except for the white of his teeth and eyes he was a near uniform shade a light brown. Quite frankly he would do quite well for an illustration of “Human” in a children’s book of the seven sapient species.
He sat there idly swinging his legs as they waited for the slowest of the Undulates to make his way out of the room. Base Commander Third Trill unobtrusively pulled up a separate report to work on while they waited. He had made several sentences of progress by the time the last Undulate made it out of the room.
“So what did you need to talk to me about?” Ranger Radzik asked.
The base commander flicked his datapad back to the issue at hand.
“We were concerned about your mental health Ranger Radzik,” he said.
The massive eyebrows rose in surprise and the human frowned.
“About what now?” he asked, a sudden wary tone in his voice.
The base commander gestured for First Sister to continue.
“It has been observed that you have displayed continual stress and discomfort indicators whenever you are outside of the base and for some time after you return,” First Sister said.
She flicked an antenna meaningfully at the base commander in what he took to be a reproachful gesture.
“As these displays,” she went on, “are of hunched shoulders, frequently checking your blind spot, and in general seem to be a response to an aerial predator we are actually less pressingly concerned for your mental health than the base commander makes it sound, other than that your mental health would, of course, be impacted by-”
She cut short the sentence and gave a vague gesture towards the door.
“By getting eaten by whatever it is I’m reacting to,” the human said with an understanding laugh.
“Several clusters of surveys reported no evidence of predator species,” Base Commander Third Trill said in confusion.
“Yeah, no,” Ranger Radzik said nodding his head. “You were right about it being a mental health thing.”
“What mental health thing produces the symptoms of sensing an aerial predator?” First Sister asked, curling one antenna down skeptically.
“It’s the mountains,” Ranger Radzik answered.
The base commander turned to look at Second Sister in confusion, but the doctor was clearly just as perplexed as him.
“There are no mountains around this base,” he said slowly. “The land is uniformly flat for kilometers in every direction.”
“That’s the problem,” Ranger Radzik said. “I got used to mountains at my last station. Had them back home too, all around the village I grew up in. Now it bothers my brain that they’re not there. I’ll get over it though.”
“Very good,” First Sister said making a note. “Would you mind discussing this issue with a few of the more active gossips on the base?”
“Was I freaking out some folks?” Ranger Radzik asked with a grin.
“You were rather,” First Sister said. “Notably anyone who understood human body language.”
“I’ll spread the word around,” Ranger Radzik said as he rose. “That all?”
“That is all,” the base commander affirmed.
The human left and Base Commander Third Trill felt more than saw First Sister focus her attention on him.
“Now,” the doctor said pulling up a terrifyingly dense data stream. “Since you did not know that it would be inadvisable to address a humans mental health is a group session I think we have some instructional material to go over.”
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Hey! The books are moving well on Amazon and now have 35 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.