Hidden Feelings

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, November 2015

Blue and green lights twinkled on the medi-bot as it spoke: “Depression is a very serious issue on a spaceship.”

The spines on S’lisha’s neck twitched, but she kept them from extending into a thorny display of her anger.  The spaceship captain wanted the boxes of robot arms on his cargo deck rearranged yet again.  If he’d explained himself clearly in the first place, it would have saved so much time.  S’lisha seethed silently and imagined crushing the spaceship captain with his own cargo.

“Wow, the captain sure got on your nerves,” Malcolm said.  “You looked like you wanted to tear his head off.”

S’lisha had been working with Malcolm for several months on this ship, and the small human had an uncanny knack for sensing her emotions. However, she’d researched it, and humans weren’t actually telepathic.  He was only guessing.  He could prove nothing.

“Are you afraid of me?” S’lisha said.  Usually, she clammed up when Malcolm called her on her emotions, afraid of playing into the violent stereotype of her species.  She’d been told that they looked like miniature dragons to humans, whatever that meant.

“No.”  Malcolm affixed an anti-grav unit to one of the cargo crates and lifted it up to stack it the way the captain wanted.  “Where did you get that idea?”

S’lisha lifted one of the crates herself.  She didn’t need an anti-grav unit.  “You’re always telling me about these violent images you have of me.  Snapping necks.  Breaking arms.”  She didn’t stop her voice from hissing in the way humans found so disconcerting.  “You should look into that.  Being plagued by violent imagery can be a sign of depression in your species.”

At the word depression, a small round medi-bot came flying over.  Blue and green lights twinkled on the medi-bot as it spoke:  “Depression is a very serious issue on a spaceship.”

“I’m not depressed.”  Malcolm glared at S’lisha.

“You are plagued by violent images?”  Blue and yellow twinkly light this time.  Apparently, the medi-bot had heard more than the word ‘depression.’

“He told me that he was picturing the captain being decapitated,” S’lisha offered helpfully.

Red and yellow twinkly lights:  “Please accompany me to the medical bay.”

Malcolm grumbled, but he followed the medi-bot docilely out of the cargo bay.  As S’lisha watched him go, she relished imagining her scaled talons shredding the small human’s arms and legs.

But she knew better than to say anything about it.

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