The high noon sun was casting blue light into the improvised laboratory the human First Daughter had set up in the old storage shed. Streamers of the light caught on the bundles of herbage the human had hung to dry from the support rafters and refracted through the silicate rich fibers across the far wall. Various old storage containers had been pressed into service as perches, shelving, and work surfaces. In one corner a vat large enough for a grown Shatar male to climb into bubbled in a rather ominous manner.
Third Cousin inched slightly closer to the open door as the cacophony of smells assaulted her antenna. She had come here to receive a gift given in a wholly friendly spirit. She was not about to offend a First Daughter, human or not, by refusing to accept the gift. Still, she wondered how the safety comity had allowed this combination of health hazards and fire risks to continue. Granted the place was beautiful, as long as you didn’t think too much about what you were looking at.
A pile of dusty and torn tarps in one corner suddenly shifted and emitted a very mammalian grunt. Third Cousin tilted her head to the side and clicked her mandibles uneasily. She had no idea what the protocol was for greeting a First Daughter under these conditions. Even had they been on a hive world this meeting would have been unorthodox. Out here on the frontier, dealing with a new species it was pure chaos. Why a family would even let a First Daughter out of the gardens, let alone off planet was a mystery that Third Cousin couldn’t even begin to probe.
Fortunately the pile shifted even further and the thick, fleshy arm of First Daughter emerged and shoved the tarps away. The human rolled to the side almost like an Undulate and then arched her body in a series of almost normal looking stretches under the loose overalls she wore. Normal that is if you could ignore the ‘tongue’ that curled and flexed inside of her mouth. The membranous outer coverings of First Daughter’s eyes blinked open, revealing the beautiful twin rings of her hazel irises. Her near matching hair was pulled up in a tight coil under the hat she wore.
After a few more stretches First Daughter caught a glimpse of Third Cousin in the mirror and spun around with a yelp.
“Yo Cuz!” she called out. “How long have you been watching me?”
Third Cousin tilted her angular head to the side as she tried to understand the purpose of the question.
“Since I came through the door?” She offered.
First Daughter stared at her a moment before bursting out laughing.
“No matter,” the human said. “You came for the discovery day gift right? It’s over here.”
First Daughter turned and reached up for one of a stack of packets on the top shelf. There was a waxy disc inside pressed to mimic the hive matrix of one of the primitive insects of the human home-world. The disc was translucent and when the blue sunlight caught it the lipids refracted the light in a rainbow glow. Third Cousin clicked admiration.
“It is beautiful,” she said, her frill flushing with delight.
“Thank’s,” First Daughter replied her face flushing with pleasure. “It’s granny’s own anti-microbial mix. That stuff will keep your hands clean as a whistle. The silica herbs gave it a nice scent too-don’t open it!”
The final phrase was yelped out as Third Cousin was about to slip a talon under the seal of the clear packing. She froze and her antenna curled tight in embarrassment. What social custom had she offended, she wondered?
“You have to wait two more weeks,” First Daughter hurriedly explained. “It isn’t cured yet. I would have left it on the shelf till discovery day proper but you are going to be out in the field for that week and I wanted you to have this before you left tomorrow.”
Third Cousin relaxed at the reassurance and slipped the soap into her carry pack.
“Thank you First Daughter,” she said. “Could you tell me more about the curing process? Will the anti-microbial factor not be effective before that date?”
First Daughter gave a bark of laughter as she pulled a coat out of the pile of tarps and put it over her coveralls.
“Nah,” she said. “The germ killers’ll work just fine. It’s just that the lye’ll be active for awhile and that’ll burn your skin right off it you touch it.”
Third Cousin flicked her antenna in respectful understanding as they stepped out of the shed and First Daughter closed the door behind them. The Shatar figured that a compliment would be the best way to end the conversation.
“It was very thoughtful of you to research Shatar membrane sensitivity,” she said. “I know how little humans have to fear from chemical damage.”
First Daughter glanced at her with a puzzled expression on her face.
“We might be pretty tough,” she said. “But that soap would do a dozy of a job on our skin as it is now. Lye’s sodium hydroxide ya know.”
Third Cousin couldn’t keep her frill from darkening in horror but she masterfully held her antenna at a mostly loose curl. One did not insult the intelligence of a First Daughter. Fortunately First Daughter had turned her attention back to the main compound and was chatting away about what she was going to eat for dinner. Third Cousin made a mental note to report the clandestine lab to the safety comity. There was no way they knew what was going on.
Thank you all so much for your updoots and feedback. It gives me the will to go on. Want to see more? Think about becoming a Patreon. Tea refuses to buy itself and the more time one has to spend on a day job the less time there is for befuddled aliens.