The main community hall at Rough End Base was never really clean or orderly. The attempt to provide furniture fit to the needs of roughly a dozen species had been successful from a practical point of view. The various relaxing devices that surrounded the one long couch provided texture and density comforting to the respective bodies that they had been designed for, but a general ignorance of color theory and the cluttered appearance made the space look more like a disordered maintenance hanger than a lounge of any sort. Though the various lounging humans and Undulates didn’t seem to mind as they read, ate, or napped.
The breadbox sized aliens that looked more or less a cross between a wet mop and a loaf of bread, were perhaps the main frequenters of the community hall. They were a very social species and enjoyed inter-species interactions even more than humans. They also found the frigid, arid nature of the desert base fatal for extended periods, making evening strolls inadvisable. So it was no surprise to Dr. Sharon when three of them approached him with their gripping appendages raised in greeting. He set his book aside and smiled widely at them, showing his less than perfect teeth.
“Hey there my moppy friends, what gives?” He greeted them. He had long ago given up on identifying individuals among the earth-toned Undulates and thankfully they didn’t seem to mind.
“Greetings Dr. Sharon,” the one at the front of the three said, its soft, mouthless voice seeming to come from the center of the mass of drooping appendages. “There was a strange sound outside the rear safety exit.”
Dr. Sharon nodded and closed his book. “And you wanted the big bad human to go take a looksee.” He said. “Sure thing, probably a rock-rat. I’ll go chase it off.”
He got up off the couch and ambled across the large room. He passed the storage lockers that lined the walls and ducked under the low (for a human) emergency exit at the rear. Even in the airlock chamber it was chilly and Sharon shuddered as he stepped out the final door into the bitter desert night. He glanced around but didn’t see any fist sized arthropods. He shrugged and went back inside.
“They must have run off,” Dr. Sharon called out as he came back to his seat on the couch. . “I didn’t see any-“ He stopped talking and narrowed his eyes.
He glanced around the community room. It looked like every Undulate in the place was now grouped on the couch, their appendages pulled tight and pressing against one another. The mass was grouped where he had been sitting. Some clung to the back of the couch. Some were sitting primly on the seat. Some of these were tucked against the arm rest. Some clung to where his legs had rested. In fact they almost formed a near perfect map of where his body heat would have warmed the cushions.
“You heard a noise outside…” he said.
“That we did,” one of the Undulates said cheerfully. A gripping appendage raised out of the mass and gestured to the spot beside them. “Thank you for reassuring us. Please sit back down.”
“Sure,” Dr. Sharon snorted and shook his head.
He eased back down onto the couch and the mass of undulates seemed to flex and expand to press against his side from his ankles to his shoulder. A contented, sigh-like sound came from the earth tone mass. His book was produced by an appendage and he accepted it with a wry grin.
“Must have been a quick rock rat,” he said.