“Is it really safe to be this close to the fringe of the canopy First Grandfather?” Fifteenth Aunt asked, her antenna flicking nervously towards where First Daughter and Human Second Cousin Betty were frolicking ahead of them.
“The sunlight is very weak this early in the morning,” First Grandfather said with an amused twitch of his psudo-frill. “I have applied a mineral radiation shield to First Daughter and Second Cousin Betty will not need the radiation shield for hours. Also, I do not think that First Daughter is young enough to bolt out from under the canopy.”
“What if she follows her human friend?” Fifteenth Aunt asked.
There was a sudden delighted gasp from the small human and the two mature Shatar turned their attention to where she had folded her stocky body down over the gnarled roots of a tree. First Daughter scampered up to her and her fill flushed with delighted fascination.
“What have you found little ones?” First Grandfather called out sensing Fifteenth Aunt’s growing trepidation.
“It’s green!” Second Cousin Betty announced, bouncing to her feet and pointing down at where First Daughter was gently prodding something with a stick.
“No it’s not!” First Daughter protested absently. “It’s all stripey, and tstk.”
“What’s tstk?” Second Cousin Betty demanded, clicking out the Shatar word very well.
First Grandfather walked up and clicked in approval, more to sooth Fifteenth Aunt’s worries than to communicate with the children. What had fascinated the little ones was a reproductive outgrowth of the forest’s fungal system. It was very strikingly colorful and he was not at all surprised that it had captivated their attention. To his eyes it was very tstk, gleaming with the colors of reproductive vigor. He strung a mental line to ask if humans had the proper eyes to see tstk.
The debate over the color was starting to grow a bit heated and he could tell that Fifteenth Aunt was about to interfere, but they were all distracted by a sharp, high pitched sound from the direction of the beach. Second Cousin Betty suddenly stiffened and her pheromone profile flushed with delight.
“Daddy!” she called out and bolted towards the sound.
First Daughter sprang to her feet and followed her.
“Second Cousin Betty!” First Grandfather snapped out. “Stop now!”
The little one staggered to a halt and then paused, bouncing on her toes, her face twitching with effort at restraining herself. First Daughter paused and titled her triangular head at him with a perplexed look.
“What is you father doing out so early this morning?” First Grandfather asked as his slower steps caught up with Second Cousin Betty. “His normal duties do not begin for nearly an hour.”
The child’s face wrinkled comically as she pondered this.
“He’s probably training Wriggles on the beach,” she said, her face lighting up.
“And how far down from here is the beach?” First Grandfather asked.
“It’s way down-oh!” Second Cousin Betty’s eyes widened as she recalled the steep, sandstone cliffs that dropped down abruptly from the forest to the beach.
Her expression fell into disappointment.
“We won’t be able to get down here,” she said sadly.
“Maybe we can wave to him from the edge of the cliff?” First Daughter suggested, scampering up and curling a sympathetic antenna down the side of Second Cousin Betty’s face.
“You might have run off the edge of the cliff!” burst out Fifteenth Aunt.
First Daughter’s frill stiffened in horrified shock and Second Cousin Betty’s face went slack. First Grandfather took a deep breath and silence Fifteenth Aunt with a stern glance.
“But you did not,” he said firmly. “You stopped when I told you too. Now, First Daughter, that is a very good idea. We will walk to the edge of the canopy and see what the solar radiation levels are this fine morning.”
The little ones set out carefully in the direction the sound had come from, following the twisting trails. Second Cousin Betty instinctively took the lead and was clearly being mindful not to let the branches of the lower brush they encountered as they neared the fringes of the canopy snap back and strike First Daughter. The reached the end of the natural shelter and the little ones bent over First Daughters wrist mounted solaromoter.
“It’s two!” Second Cousin Betty announced, grasping First Daughter’s arm and lifting it up to show the readout to First Grandfather.
“Then it is safe for you to leave the canopy,” he confirmed.
First Daughter gave a delighted click and the two little ones scampered forward.
“Don’t get too close!” Fifteenth Aunt called out.
“Let them be,” First Grandfather said with a gentle pat on her arm. “They will not come to harm.”
They stopped a respectful distance from the edge of the cliff and Second Cousin Betty started waving her head vigorously above her head.
“He is training Wriggles,” First Daughter confirmed when First Grandfather and Fifteenth Aunt came up to them.
Sure enough, the human First Father was out on the sand on the edge of the surf with the human hive’s newly imported seal snake. The creature was half again as long as the human, but only as thick as the lower section of the human’s leg. Wriggles lived up to his name as the creature shimmied across the sand towards Human First Father with a piece of driftwood in its mouth.
“Daddy!” Second Cousin Betty bellowed out, her hands cupped to her mouth to direct the sound.
“I think he is too far away to hear you,” First Daughter observed.
“Yeah,” Second Cousin Betty said, her broad shoulders drooping in disappointment.
First Grandfather was about to attempt to distract her when Fifteenth Aunt spoke up.
“Can you tell me what your First Father is doing?” she asked, her antenna poised in a very deliberate angel of curiosity.
First Grandfather gave her a look of approval.
“He’s teaching Wriggles to fetch,” Second Cousin Betty said, instantly perking up. “Seal-snakes are way friendly, but you gotta train them to come when you call or they can do stupid stuff!”
“Like little humans,” Fifteenth Aunt said with a dry click to her voice.
First Grandfather fought down both the urge to scold her, and the urge to chitter in amusement.
“Nu-uh,” Second Cousin Betty said, shaking her head with perfect aplomb, “little humans don’t do stupid things like little seal-snakes do.”
First Daughter tilted her head a bit skeptically and cast her gaze over at the cliff.
“Is that so?” Fifteenth Aunt asked.
“Sometimes,” Second Cousin Betty said, her voice dropping in tone as her face creased into what for a human was a very serious expression, “sometimes Wriggles bolts out the door and heads right for the beach! He’s supposed to be in like, coral and stuff where he can grab on. The waves on the sand would just-”
She waved her hands around with wordless exclamations, presumably in demonstration of what the waves would do to the limbless Wriggles. Suddenly her head snapped back toward the forest and her face lit with delight.
“There’s a gimungus one of those green things!” she exclaimed, bolting towards the trees, First Daughter following after her.
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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
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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 until I run out of first run books.