“Did you file the samples you collected?” Forth Sister asked as the human walked past.
The human paused in her movements and frowned in a way that was supposed to indicate thought.
“What samples?” she asked.
Forth Sister clicked her mandibles in confusion and raised her head frill a touch.
“You were out on the river’s edge collecting mineral samples for the majority of the morning,” Fourth Sister said, waving her pale green hands in the direction of the door. “You must have at least eighty kilos of sample material in your quarters.”
“Eighty?” the human frowned and then her face relaxed. “Oh you mean the rocks.”
“Yes,” Fourth Sister said with a sigh, letting her frill drop back to lay along her neck. “The ‘rocks’. Please remember to label and report them correctly.”
“Yeah, no.” The human shook her head. “I wasn’t collecting those for samples for the base. It was a private thing.”
“Oh,” Forth Sister said, pausing the movement of her fingers over the data pad and waiting for the human to continue.
However the human merely shrugged and moved away. Fourth Sister watched her disappear down the corridor with confusion. She considered pursuing the matter but her data pad chimed to remind her of her next task and she made a note to bring up the matter again at the midday meal.
She easily found the correct human again at meal time. This human wore a rather large array of outer-ear ornaments. Fourth Sister was quite proud of herself for not flinching back in natural horror from the visual of cold steel piercing not only the outer protective membrane but also the cartilaginous substructure. It was still hard not to think about it as she carefully folded her legs around the human formed bench.
“Greetings human,” Fourth Sister said.
The human looked up from her meal and one of the hairy, protective eye ridges rose seemingly disconnected from any other movements on her face. Fourth Sister fought down a shudder of revulsion and made a note to research what the gesture meant.
“Susan,” the human said.
“Excuse me?” Fourth Sister asked.
“My name,” the human said clearly. “What I wish to be called, is Susan.”
“I see,” Fourth Sister said. “Susan. So about our earlier conversation-“
“What earlier conversation?” the human, Susan, interrupted.
“The one where you informed me that the, rocks, you collected were not scientific specimens,” Fourth Sister clarified.
“What about it?” Susan demanded.
“If they were not specimens then what were they?” Fourth Sister asked.
“What business is that of yours?” Susan asked, her voice dropping into aggressive tones.
“It is my business to catalogue all scientific specimens that are collected by the base population,” Fourth Sister explained. “The Ranger Corps requires a designated specimen monitor.”
“They didn’t have one on Rough End base,” Susan observed.
“It only applies to bases that are near a population center,” Fourth Sister explained. “It is to prevent accidental contamination.”
“Oh, makes sense,” Susan said with a nod. “Well I was just collecting some rocks for a private merchant project. I checked all the regulations and the local rivers are all clear for the locals to interact with.”
“A merchant project,” Fourth Sister repeated as she entered the data in her pad. “You are correct, there is no need for me to report that.”
“Good, so we done here?” Susan asked.
“Formally. Yes.” Fourth Sister answered. “However,” her frill raised in curiosity, “what value do these rocks possess?”
“Oh, nothing intrinsic,” Susan said her face curving into a grin. “I am making pet rocks for the tourists.”
“Pet rocks?” Fourth Sister asked.
“Yeah,” Susan stooped and dug into a bag by her side. “I bought some printer time and printed out paper boxes and bedding and hand wrote the instructions on the side. See?”
Fourth Sister bent over the box and tilted her head from side to side to get a good look at it. It was a basic carrying box with “Alien Pet Rock” printed on the front. On the side were instructions for ‘training’ and ‘care’ for the rock. Fourth Sister considered for a long time and lifted her head slowly away.
“Tourists pay money for this?” She finally asked.
Susan burst out in laughter and tossed the box and its contents back into the bag.
“Yeah, the humans who come through the city love this sort of thing.” She said. “I am thinking about painting green antenna on it to make it more alien.”
“Humans buy rocks of no intrinsic value,” Fourth Sister said softly.
“If you package it right they do,” Susan said cheerfully. “Now I have to go get the rest ready to take to my vendor.”