“I am simply uneasy about the situation,” Quartermaster Husk said, his tail twitching in accompaniment, “I just need to grind the situation over with you before I approve the request.”
Commander Thresh gave an encouraging thrum from his secondary vocal chords when the quartermaster paused. Thresh knew very well exactly how soft his own scales were compared to the old Quartermaster. Husk’s scales had grown opaque long before Thresh was hatched. Moreover the old Gathering had dedicated himself to his calling of providing for the adventurous and the youthful spirited. Added to all of that Quartermaster Husk had been on one of the few ships that had encountered humans in the first days of their contact with the Galaxy at large and had been in near constant contact with them since. It would have been stone-brained for any Commander to just dismiss the Quartermaster’s concerns, let alone a Commander as new as Thresh was.
Still, it was clear that the older Gathering was by natural disposition, a disposition that had been strongly tempered by the experience of those first chaotic days of contact with the humans, far more than overly cautious. Therefore Commander Thresh listened intently to the long list of minor safety infractions that the current human population of the base had incurred over their stay.
"They are simply going to, what is the word they use, upcycle some expired equipment?" Commander Thresh glanced at the proposal. "It is considered safety equipment at that. There is nothing toxic or dangerous and every human is rated to safely dispose of pressurized containers. Added to this they proposed a slow, gradual release of pressure. They are also requesting the activation of every cleaning drone in preparation. It seems that every safety and hygienic measure is being proactively taken."
“Then there is their scent when they talk about it,” Quartermaster Husk said after a particularly slow and contemplative blink.
His tongue flicked out as if trying to recapture the memory of the smell.
“The smell is so very similar to the smell they give off when anticipating danger,” he said slowly, “not exactly the same, scent me here, but very, very close. I simply do not think that it would be safe to let this idea sprout.”
Commander Thresh hummed thoughtfully as he deliberately mulled over the arguments. It clearly wasn’t enough to forbid a moral boosting safety training exercise that everyone was so obviously willing to participate in. Clearly Quartermaster Husk understood this as well, the dejected slump of his shoulders showed that clearly enough. It also showed that he clung to his theory that the training session was going to go horribly wrong in some unscentable way.
The Commander drew in a deep breath and bobbed his head firmly.
“Authorize the session on my word and note your objections as clearly as you are able,” he said.
Quartermaster Husk flicked his tongue out in obedience. Having the decision made clearly relaxed him but he still looked uneasy.
“We will at the very least get good data on our newest allies out of it,” Commander Thresh said with a comforting wave of his tail. “Now I have to go inspect the outlying bases for predator safety. Hopefully the exercise will still be going on when I return and you can detail your concerns then with the aid of active observation.”
Quartermaster Husk gave a noncommittal grumble and Commander Thresh scrambled briskly away to his transport. The predator inspection left him as uneasy as ever. Not at the sight of any predator, but at the clearly murderous contraptions the humans insisted were basic predator defense. Granted they had not lost a single ranger to predation since they had implemented the human’s tactics but the buzzing of the electric fence alone was enough to set his scales tingling with empathetic stress for any poor creature that touched it. He arrived back at the base far later than he had expected and was pleasantly surprised to find that the indicators lights showed the exercise was indeed still in progress.
“Curious,” he muttered as he approached the main airlock.
The ground outside the airlock was dusted with a fine white powder and signs of freeze burns tinged the ground-cover that had been healthy when he left. His tongue scented that the dust was fire retardant. He grimaced in annoyance. How had the humans gotten waste product so far outside of the disposal area. He supposed the old quartermaster would be more than glad to fill him in. He ambled through the airlock and immediately noted the cacophonous noise from the far side. The airlock floor was covered in chemical fire retardant interrupted with broad swaths that looked like the cleaning drones had tried to remove it and had only marginally succeeded and the air was stale with extra carbon dioxide.
“Life support!” the commander snapped out. “Give me a carbon dioxide reading!”
The system exhausted a chemical profile for a fully safe and clear but it was overlapped with and indicator that the systems were having to overclock to maintain that state. The commander rushed through the final lock and froze as he looked out on chaos. Before he could begin to process what he was seeing a warm pair of hands scooped him up from under his forelimbs and deposited him under one of the benches the humans sat on to make putting their foot gear on easier.
“Safer under here Sir!” Assistant Quartermaster Smythe said with a sigh before sitting back down on the bench above them.
Commander Thresh was vaguely aware that Quartermaster Husk was grumbling something beside him. It was no doubt some variation of having told him so but the chaos that had taken his base was consuming the commander’s attention.
All obstructions had been moved out of the main hallway and the cargo doors had been thrown open. Someone had painted guide tracks seemingly randomly across the floor and what seemed like every disc shaped cleaning drone had been set loose in a sea of chemical fire retardant. Which might have made some level of sense he supposed. Except someone had gone to great lengths to set controlled fires alight on top of each and every drone. Dashing through this chaos, humans -more humans than he thought his base contained-perched in pairs and singly on the office chairs meant for their use and mobile benches meant for the use of the lower bodied Gathering. The humans appeared to be using the expired fire extinguishers as propulsion, explaining the sea of retardant that covered the floor. When a human managed to get near a flaming cleaning drone they would aim the extinguisher at the flame and hold it there until the propulsion of the escaping gas or chemicals pushed them away. The second human used an extinguisher in the opposite direction to counter but without apparent synchronization it seemed difficult to manage.
“Are they practicing putting fires out in zero gravity conditions?” The commander finally managed to gasp out, hoping that he sounded like a reasonable adult rather than the sun-stunned hatchling he felt like.
“I have no idea,” Quartermaster Husk grunted out as he rubbed his nose against a thigh to wipe off some retardant.
“Well,” Commander Thresh said with a tone of forced cheerfulness. “All the fires are nearly out so this should be over soon.”
“Takes them maybe two minutes to put the fires out,” Quartermaster Husk snapped.
“Then how are they still-” Commander Thresh began.
His question was interrupted as an extinguished cleaning drone rolled past them busily sucking up retardant. One of the single humans on an office chair rolled past, and with a whoop of glee sent a gout of flame pouring into the dish taped to the drone’s top. The flame seemed to come from an improvised device. The fireproof drone continued on its way dutifully with a fresh pillar of fire leaping from its dish. Delighted hoots from the paired humans followed as they tried to aim for the newly lit drone.
“What could go wrong?” Quartermaster Husk demanded in a grim tone.
“I begin to understand why my human colleagues fear that question,” Commander Thresh murmured.
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