“Following the lines I do understand that it is annoying,” Eighth Cousin said as her fingers moved quickly through the pile of assorted mechanical parts in front of her.
The soft clangs and scraping sounds echoed back from the stone walls of the buildings that half surrounded the scrap dump. The silvery light from the local star glittered down through the ever present clouds causing the unoxidized portions of the metal to glitter. She took a moment to adjust her coveralls where they tucked into her boots.
“Do you need help with that Eighth Cousin?” Seventh Sister asked, pausing where she was about to dump a container of light-weight derbies into the combustibles bin.
“No,” Eighth Cousin said with a dismissive flick of her antenna. “I am just adjusting for chafe.”
“I just can’t feel why it drives the humans quite so,” she made a vague circular gesture with a bolt, returning to the previous topic.
“Frantic?” Seventh Sister asked.
“Frantic,” Eighth Cousin confirmed with a grateful bob of her head.
They worked in silence for a few moments, pondering the question, only quiet clanking of the assorted scrap metal as the pile was sorted piece by piece.
“It is a very specially cultivated sound. It’s supposed to make humans all stressed and alert because of fire,” Seventh Sister proposed. “Perhaps our tympanic organs just don’t get stressed the same way.”
“That would be our nerves,” Eighth Cousin corrected, “and our tympanic organs are even more sensitive than theirs.”
Seventh Sister cut her mandibles over that for several long moments.
“Maybe it just isn’t the sound that is so bad for the humans,” she said. “Maybe it is why the sound that is bother them.”
Eighth Cousin waited for her to finish the thought be Seventh Sister clearly thought that what she had said was explanation enough as her gloved fingers tossed various wires into a bin. Eighth Cousin very deliberately rotated her head to the side in a demand for further explanation. Seventh Sister started in surprise and settled back on her hind legs, her mandibles working and her antennas coiling as she worked the idea into words.
“Second Brother,” she began and then hesitated, “the human Second Brother I mean. The one in charge of the human lights and sounds and stuff. He is the one in charge of fixing the problem, of making the alert sound stop.”
Seventh Sister stopped and mulled again as she pulled a steel rod out of the pile and laid it with others like it.
“Third Mother let me be his helper yesterday,” she curled her antenna in frustration, “he complained lots.”
“Human Second Brother doesn’t enjoy the work he was assigned?” Eight Cousin asked in surprise.
“No!” Seventh Sister flapped her frill in denial. “He had lots of fun, we had lots of fun trying to solve the problems. He let me reline the circuits. They mad this fun click-click sound and he laughed! He didn’t complain about the work at all!”
“Then what was he complaining about?” Eighth Cousin asked.
“He complained a lot about how we still didn’t know why the bad sounds started,” Seventh Sister said. “He kept talking about how the sounds just started, and the auto-cleaning robots started singing the power song, and how the medical tool all couldn’t talk to each other, and how the sound makers all made funny sounds, and now all of that stopped except the bad fire sensors keep making the alarms go and how it just-”
Seventh Sister curled her antenna tight in thought and Eighth Cousin had to fight back an adoring croon. Technically Seventh Sister was now in her first adult molt, but she still, moved and spoke like a child in many ways.
“He doesn’t complain about changing the power things, or aligning the wires, or even working after sundown,” she finally said. “He likes that part. He complained, he said, ‘Listen Squirt, everything went haywire on the farm and we. Don’t. Know. Why!’ and he thumped me here when he said each word!” She pointed to her chest, her frill raising in astonishment.
Eighth Cousin fought back a click of amusement.
“I mean the last three words he did!” Seventh Sister went on, “and then he said a lot of complaints! But it was all about how we didn’t know why the stuff went...haywire.”
Seventh Sister fell silent as she worked a particularly difficult tangle of wires out of the pile.
“So Human Second Brother doesn’t mind that his duties have been compounding due to the mysterious incident,” Eighth Cousin summarized. “He minds that we still haven’t figured out what caused it.”
“Yes!” Seventh Sister exclaimed, “and that doesn’t make sense. I mean the alarms are annoying but nothing bad happened. The health and safety systems didn’t fail, not enough to hurt anybody. It hasn’t even happened again! So why would Human Second Brother-”
“And the rest of the humans,” Eighth Cousin pointed out.
“And the rest of the humans,” Seventh Sister accepted, “be so worried about something that has only happened once!”
“Well Shatar aren’t particularly fond of things that we don’t understand affecting our machines either,” Eighth Cousin pointed out gently.
“But we don’t just complain about if for days!” Seventh Sister protested.
“I suppose that might be the alarms that keep going off,” Eighth Cousin pointed out. “Maybe the constant stimulation of the fear response with nothing to be afraid of is irritating their curiosity?”
Eighth Cousin’s comm chirped, a strange tinny chirp that signaled a system that hadn’t quite recovered from the mysterious system glitch.
“Time to head back to the garden Little One,” Eighth Cousin stated, standing and adjusting her coveralls a final time.
They gathered up their tools and closed the bins against rain. Eighth Cousin fought back a click of amusement as Seventh Sister wrestled with her basket of ‘finds’ filled with everything that had caught the eye of an eager young one. They made the long walk along the stone wall to the access door and it opened to let them in. Seventh Sister’s antenna immediately perked up at the silence that met them. Eighth Cousin saw the pleased question form on her mandibles before a frill curling sound vibrated out of the walls and they both winced back.
The sound of frantic human language came dimly to them through the vents and Eighth Cousin tilted her head over to Seventh Sister.
“Was that a call for help?” Eighth Cousin asked.
Seventh Sister curled her antenna in negation and her frill flushed in embarrassment.
“He told me those were not polite words,” she explained, “and he wouldn’t explain them to me without the agreement of all the Mothers and Fathers of the hive. They just mean he is frustrated.”
“Well,” Eighth Cousin said with an irritated click. “I hope he figures out how to silence the alarms soon.”
“Even if he does he will still want to know why they went bad in the first place,” Seventh Sister stated.
“Well he can worry that brush himself,” Eighth Cousin said firmly. “We have our own tangles to mind.”
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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 180 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 $60 overseas. I'll do that until I run out of extra books.