“One of the humans is missing.”
Subcommander Grist let out a hiss of annoyance and curled closer to his sleeping partner. If he could just ignore the voice long enough.
“Subcommander,” the voice pressed. “One of the humans is missing.”
Grist gave a low grumble. His traitorous sleep-fellow rolled away from him and kicked lazily at his thigh. The sleep curled talons posed no danger to his skin but it would still leave some bruises if he didn’t moved. He stretched and slipped out from under the thermo-cover. He resolutely ignored whoever had woken him as he stomped over to the shelf that held his torga juice. He flipped the lid off with his lower jaw and shoved his muzzle into the sweet liquid. He took a few blessed moments to swirl the fluid around his teeth. He felt a rear tooth shift and made a mental note to make a dental appointment. He finally took a deep breath, swallowed. And rotated his body to glare at his commander.
“What do you mean that one of the humans is missing?” Grist demanded.
Commander Pulp shifted on his forepaws uneasily and glanced sideways as if he was watching the actual question hovering between them. Why did Pulp think that this issue was Grist’s problem when it was very clearly his offshift. Grist fought back a groan. Pulp was new. As in arrived four days ago with no prior human experience and forty years of command experience new. He was trying not to be a complete ridge-skull at least.
“Grimes was last registered by the sensors in his sleeping situation over an hour ago,” Pulp informed him. “I grew worried as it was his sleep time and followed his scent track to the airlock.”
“Did you ask the other humans?” Grist asked, rubbing a paw over his eyes in an attempt to loosen his scales.
“I did,” Pulp said, then gave a long sigh. “The answer made no sense.”
“What did they say?” Grist asked.
“He always gets twitchy during the witching hour,” Pulp replied, raising his nasal ridges to indicated a direct quote.
“Witching?” Grist ran the word over his teeth as they ambled out of the room and into the hallway.
Pulp was looking at him hopefully but Grist bobbed his snout in confusion. Pulps eyes dimmed in disappointment.
“Never heard the word,” Grist said.
Pulp stared at him pleadingly.
“I’ll take care of it,” Grist said with a glum sigh.
Pulp hummed in gratitude and scuttled back to the command center. Grist sighed and headed for the airlocks. Humans were never hard to track. While a healthy human didn’t necessarily smell bad, they certainly smelled strong. They left a trail of volatile chemicals behind them that might as well have been a detailed coordinate map. Still Grist paused at the edge of the airlock. He could already feel the cold seeping into his paws. He hunched his shoulders and stalked out into the cold.
The planet was deep in the night cycle. The stars gleamed overhead and the cold air trapped the scents of the sparse forest close to the ground. Grist hurried over the cold stones calculating that he had perhaps an hour before he dropped below functional body warmth. Fortunately Grimes wasn’t far from the base. Grist paused at the crest of the small knoll the human was on to take in the scene.
Grimes was wearing only a loose set of pants leaving his heat signature free to glare out on the trees around him. He was pacing back and forth across the rocky surface leaving trails of afterimages in the air and line after line of fading heatprints on the rock. Grist took a moment to admire the glowing view and wonder and the raw amount of heat emitted by the mammal.
“Grimes!” he barked out.
Grimes jerked to a stop and his head swiveled comically as he tried to locate the sound. Grist knew the exact moment the human spotted him as the human jumped and gave a yelp of fear. Grist grinned widely. It was petty he knew, but being able to terrify the massive hot-bloods even for a few moments was pretty good on his ego. The human worked its narrow jaw like he was trying to speak but nothing came out.
“Whatever this behavior is it is freaking out the new commander!” Grist snapped.
He declined to mention the wild flares in the humans thermoaura and the frantic set to his face were freaking him out too.
“Get back to your sleeping situation and explain whatever this ‘witching hour’ is to Commander Pulp as soon as it warms to day.”
Grist whipped his tail around and stomped down the slope in what he hoped the human saw as a dignified manner.