Bowshawm’s upper antenna quivered with irritation. Why was he even here? He was an engineer. He almost never dealt with the public. So why did he have to know all about some new species, fresh from their admission to the League and eager to explore all their new possibilities? All he needed to know about these rubes was their basic biology and a rough idea of their psychology and that was it. Then he could retreat back to his design lab and design the environmental systems that would keep them alive and happy and content while they stayed with his employers, Sun Rising Resorts. He didn’t need some stupid social etiquette lecture about which appendage they dipped in their tea or whatever.
Still, Bowshawm dutifully slotted his thorax into the cup-shaped clamp that his bio-form used as a chair and trained all eight of his eyes and both sets of antennae on the speaker who was arranging her notes on the podium at the center of the conference room. Truth was, though he would never admit it, despite his carping and griping any time he was forced to leave his lab, Bowshawm was far too ambitious and career oriented to make waves by making his complaints even faintly official. He did what thousands of similar sentients had done in his situation : did as he was told, and kept his grumbling to himself.
“Thank you all for coming. ” said the sleek furry creature at the podium. Like I had a choice, Bowshawm grumbled to himself. He peered at her but could not place her name or species. Some middle management mammal, anyhow. The new species must be warmblooded.
“I will try to be brief and just cover the basics of Entet etiquette, as I am sure you all have jobs you are eager to return to, and there are only a few things we all absolutely must know. ” she continued. That’s what they all say, thought Bowshawm, and then three hours later you are still there and ready to break off your own neural spines just to survive the boredom.
“The first and most important thing you need to understand about the Entet is where we at Sun Rising Resorts fit into their society, and for that, we need to look at their life cycle. ” Here it comes, thought Bowshawm. Soon, we’ll be looking at diagrams of their entire genetic history.
“The Entet are mammals and built along the basic biped bio-form, but they are seaborne. They live almost their entire lives in and on their home planet’s plentiful seas and rivers, and only go to land for a few very special reasons. The one we’re most interested in today is birth. ” Oh no, not mammalian birth rituals, thought Bowshawm, those are so disgusting compared to nice clear orderly ovi-deposit. Wait, sea mammals? But I just finished their environmental design, and there isn’t even a bathtub, let alone the large pools and tanks sea creatures usually request.
“As their young cannot swim until three weeks after birth, the Entet must give birth on dry land and raise their young there till they are of swimming age. This means that, despite being an almost entirely sea-based life form, they all have early memories of a time when they were on solid land, being tended to by highly attentive parents who did nothing but feed them and groom them all day long. Then, once they reach swimming age, their parents shove them into icy cold water and they have to fend for thesmelves. ” What, without even a cocoon of food to sustain them? Still, that explains a few things, thought Bowshawm. Like the deep cushioned pit, and the room temperature so much higher than the species baseline. They seek to recreate their earliest childhood. I wonder if this is one of those complicated mammalian mating rituals?
“The vital thing to take away from all this is that, despite being a highly gregarious and uninhibited species, they consider that time in their lives to be deeply shameful and there have a very potent societal taboo against mentioning it or even admitting that it happens. And yet, with League help, their scientists have discovered that the only treatment for the wide range of psychological issues that plague the Entet population after their third or fourth decade of life can be directly traced to this early childhood trauma, and so the only treatment is to take the patient back through that time of their life, but this time, have them go through the transition from land to water more gently and gradually.” Oh, thought Bowshawm. That must be where we come in.
“That’s where we come in. We are providing the facilities, but most importantly, we are providing the discretion. No matter what their scientists say, the taboo about this time of their lives is still incredibly strong and pervasive, and if a facility was located on one of their own planets, their curious and adventurous cohorts would undoubtedly find out who was there, and much shame and political fallout would likely occur. So they are counting on us to keep things very, very quiet.”
“What that boils down to for us employees is that we must not mention the real reason the Entet are coming here to anyone, especially them. As far as everyone… and I do mean everyone… who is not in this room is concerned, the Entet come here strictly to relax and meet new species. You are not to refer to their therapy, the modifications made to their rooms, or any other aspect of their visits here that would imply they are here for any other reason than rest and recreation. ”
Oh pod-smut, no! thought Bowshawm, a horrible chill going through him from spiracules to spinnerettes. I just sent a bulletin to my entire working group, subordinates included, detailing my entire environmental design because I found it so unusual. Please end the meeting now, please please let this be the end of the meeting. I still have time to cancel it before any of them read it. Maybe. I hope.
“That’s all you need to know for now. For those of you in the front-line service positions, this lecture will continue to cover their greeting rituals, eating habits, and so on. But the rest of you may leave. ”
Bowshawm was already scurrying for the exit, nearly bowling over two other sentients in his haste, by the time she finished speaking. He would make all the necessary apology offerings to those he had offended later. Now, he had to get back to his lab and cancel that bulletin before it wrecked his career by making him seem careless, or far worse…. non-cosmopolitan.
There was no worse crime in the Sun Rising chain’s eyes than being intolerant of other races. They would put up with it from guests, but never even a hint of it from their employees.
As he dashed back to his beloved lab as fast as his eight rubbery legs would take him, his mind was transfixed on the image of his supervisor, an elongated rodent of the Chrop species, looking down on him, nose twitching in angry disapproval, his ill timed bulletin on the Chrop’s screen.
But somewhere on that fateful trip back, he also decided that he should send a message to his progenitor group, thanking them for the kindness and consideration they had shown in raising him.
Suddenly, he felt that he’d never really appreciated them until now.