“So far there has been no sign of hormonal shifts,” Seventeenth Sister was saying to the display screen.
Her antenna twitched as she heard the rumbling of the heavy-haul coming in. She rippled her frill in a request for silent patience as she considered. It would be the mated pair of physicists returning from the personnel errand they had requested the wheeled heavy-haul for. It felt wrong, almost deceitful, but the pair were know to be very strict about such things. She quickly adjusted the screen settings to a range a human couldn’t see and deliberately let her voice slip into the high range of soothing clicks of the mother language.
“Why are we conversing like this?” Third Mother asked, tilting her broad triangular head to the side, revealing the flaking of age behind her eyes.
“There are humans coming in from outside,” Seventeenth Sister replied.
“And we do not wish them to know about your suspected hormonal condition?” Third Mother said, her worn mandibles clicking tightly in disappointment.
Seventeenth Sister braced her own mandibles to resist snapping at her First Mother’s Third Sister. The situation, like most involving human was complex.
“I don’t mind them hearing,” she explained patiently. “I have actually spoken of this with the First Physicist before, but humans have rather strict rules about overhearing personnel medical information. If I do not give them explicit permission to participate in the conversation they will inconvenience themselves to preposterous extents to avoid overhearing what we are discussing.”
“Why do you not explicitly invite them them?” Third Mother asked.
“You know how the sexual dynamic is so...different with them?” Seventeenth Sister asked.
“They are a balanced species,” Third Mother acknowledged with a dip of her head.
“It’s more than that,” Seventeenth Sister expanded, flicking her frill in confusion. “There is a completely different set of rules for what bio-medical data you can discuss with the females and the males. It would be different if they were biologists but as they are theoretical mathematicians they don’t have any training to overcome their biological anti-parasite coding.”
Third Mother stared at her tilting her head slowly from side to side as she tried to get her antennas into that.
“What,” she finally asked, “does their branch of science have to do with the anti-code training they receive?”
“I don’t know,” Seventeenth Sister clicked in a hollow tone. “But as I was saying I think we have to face the reality that I am probably a sterile-”
“There is no proof yet,” Third Mother interrupted. “My own Seventeenth Sister had two buds-”
“A statistical anomaly,” Seventeenth Sister said with a dismissive wave. “We both know that past the Twelfth there is no guarantee that any sisters will reach hormonal maturity. I think-”
“Ach Seventeenth Sister! How long ya gonna be on that space phone?” came a loud voice.
Seventeenth Sister curled her antenna in annoyance and rippled her frill in apology to Third Mother. Third Mother gave a chitter of amusement in reply. She had heard the stories of the humans after all.
“I will be on some time,” Seventeenth Sister replied, tilting her head to direct one faceted eye towards the male half of the pair of physicists. “We are discussing my reproductive capacity.”
She indicated for Third Mother to watch his reaction and the human did not disappoint. He stuttered a bit and probably would have slunk out of the room if he had not been clearly uplifted by some triumphant joy.
“What is he so pleased about?” Third Mother asked. “Would it be rude to ask him to share his joy?”
“Not in the least,” Seventeenth Sister replied, before lowering the tone of her voice back into the human auditory range.
“Was your, you called it a Viking Raid, successful Second Physicist?” she asked.
“Aye and it was!” he said, the discomfort fleeing from his face. “We were able to get there before they sent in the bio-mashers and pulled out a ton of free lumber! More than enough to finish the project for the little woman!”
“What will you do with the excess?” Seventeenth Sister asked.
“Oh,” the human waved a hand dismissively. “Build a wee shed and store it till we need it for something or the other.”
The female human burst into the room and flashed her bony mandible protuberances at Seventeenth Sister.
“Aye an’ you’ll be off the phone in a bit?” she asked.
“Not for some time,” Seventeenth Sister replied.
“Well we can wait,” the male human said with a nod. “It’s not time sensitive after all and we need to unload the wood.”
“Who are you going to communicate with?” Seventeenth Sister asked, seeing Third Mother’s curiosity in the colors of her frill.
“My Da’,” the human female replied. “Just want to tell him about our haul out there.”
“Did your ancestors proud catching wind of that decommissioned private base,” the male confirmed. “Da’ll be pleased as punch.”
“Let’s get that free wood unloaded,” the female instructed and the two humans were about to leave.
“A moment,” Seventeeth Sister interjected.
“Ya’?” the humans turned to look at her curiously.
“You did not call your First Father when your last theory was confirmed by the team of the Gathering in the next system,” Seventeeth Sister observed.
“Space calls are expensive,” one human said with a shrug. “We just told them in the scheduled one a few days later.”
“You did not call them when your experiment was approved by the central university,” Seventeenth Sister observed again.
“Expensive,” the male repeated with a shrug.
“If I understand the situation,” Seventeenth Sister said slowly. “You value the processed tree fibers because you were able to get them for free. Now you want to spend a significant amount to call your First Father to boast of this free wood.”
“That’s the idea,” the female human replied with a grin.
“You did your ancestors proud,” the male said with a grin, reaching out and dropping an arm around his mate’s shoulders. “Da’ needs to know about this. Let us know when the space phone’s free Seventeen.”
The two walked out, still linked at the shoulders and Third Mother clicked and hissed at the adorable behavior, but there was still a perplexed set to her antenna.
“How can two math mathematicians be so, inefficient?” she asked.
“I don’t know Third Mother,” Seventeenth Sister replied. “I just don’t know."
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.