By Betty Adams
"So you just eat...anything?" The breadbox sized alien's vocal chords were perhaps the closest to a human's as any of the speaking species they had encountered. They tended to be quieter and pitched lower but the one that Mack had dubbed Threes had learned to "shout" early on and knew how to aim his words in the thin air.
"Well not anything," Mack corrected as he tightened the bolts on the underside of the hover bike he was working on. "There are a lot of chemical compounds that are toxic in plants-"
"Of course there are," Threes said, exasperation tinting his voice. "It does not serve the plants ends for you to devour their photosynthesis surfaces. They pump all sorts of anti-predation compounds into their energy rich biomass!"
Mack heard the rustling that was the Undulates version of footsteps and the human couldn't resist a smile at the image of the giant caterpillar like creature moving across the ground. Fortunately a species that expressed its chosen collective name as a rippling motion along the dreadlock like appendages the seemed to compose the entirety of their bodies that varied from individual to individual as well as from sub-culture to sub-culture didn't mind getting 'named' by the other cultures they met.
"It is far safer to feed on the simpler creatures that the water is practically teaming with!" Threes made his way up onto Mack's chest and Mack absently pushed him to a more comfortable position.
"Maybe safer," Mack agreed as he reached his hand deep into the guts of the machine. "But not as convenient. Not much of the human population lives with enough water to make that a viable option."
Threes clicked in distress and moved up Macks chest to prod gently at his chin with - Mack assumed and hoped - his frontal appendages.
"But how?" Threes demanded.
Mack grunted and gave the hand signal for needing more information. Apparently human fingers were one of the best cross species communication aids that the Undulates had ever discovered.
"Humans like water." Threes explained his query. "I know you don't live in in like we do but you..." Mack assumed Threes was struggling with trying to communicate a complex Undulate word/position to someone who wasn't looking at him. "...you swim and, and I think the closest word is wade, just like we do and it is a valued excersize."
"Yup, We do love our bodies of water," Mack agreed as his hands finally found the loose nut he had been feeling around for. "Personally I grew up near Gitche Gumee. Went swimming a lot as a kid."
"But not everyone is so fortunate?" Threes pressed forward again and Mack shoved him down again.
"Keep down for a while Threes, I gotta get this loose. But yeah, some humans can go their entire life without ever seeing enough standing water to wade in, let along grow enough biomass to feed the population."
"Perhaps it has something to do with your fantastic biomass and nutrient needs," Threes suggested, trying to keep his voice level, but Mack could feel the Undulate shivering at the clearly horrible thought of desert living.
"Well lots of folks even prefer it," Mack said with a grin.
"It certainly explains your dependence on omnivorous," Threes speculated.
"Omnivory," Mack corrected absently. Threes was particular about his languages and like to get it right.