So I’ve seen my share of ‘humans are weird,’ ‘humans are cuddly,’ ‘humans will strap a knife to a cleaning robot and name it Stabby,’ etc. on Tumblr, but what I haven’t seen so far is ‘humans are hilarious when startled’.
Think about it. I imagine most life-forms experience fear, surprise, or shock, but what if they tend to respond in drastically different ways? For example, with silence and hyperfocus allowing them to either beat a hasty retreat or overcome the danger through stealth and cunning? What if humans’ outsized startle reactions make us, essentially, the fainting goats of the galaxy, and therefore funny as hell?
The Galactic InfoNet would be flooded with holos of particularly entertaining incidents, of course. There would be debates over whether or not it’s cruel to the humans, whether or not it has a detrimental effect on their health. (Some humans seem to enjoy it, though, and the most popular videos DO feature them laughing with their crews afterward.) And, naturally, ‘startle the human’ would be a popular game aboard starships with mixed crews, or at least an initiation ritual when a new crewmate comes aboard, with new humans being startled and new non-humans having to find creative ways to startle the humans who have already been through it all. There would be so much disappointment when a human doesn’t startle easily (because of course humans have a wide range of startle reactions and thresholds) that some of the nicer ones would try to fake it. Several of us would fake it badly.
But it gets better. Because some of us, when startled, get punchy.
“You have a human aboard!? P’partok’s antennae, this is going to be great!”
“No, Commander Xelthorp’p. I know what you’re thinking, and no. The captain and the chief medical officer have issued a strict prohibition. No one is to deliberately startle Lieutenant Deborah Peabody, friend-designate: Deb.”
“What? Oh, no, they’re not among those who think startling humans is cruel, are they?”
“No, nothing like that. In fact, the captain zirself initiated the startling ritual when Deb first came on board. Ze hid in the storage unit in her quarters and, when her back was turned, ze slid open the door, crept up behind her and loomed ominously before touching Deb’s arm-torso joint with a tentacle. It did not end well.”
“Did Lieutenant Peabody injure herself?”
“No. It turned out that Deb is trained in an adaptive form of an Earth fighting style known as ‘Krav Maga’. She did yell entertainingly, but then turned, disabled the captain’s olfactory organ, ruptured the cartilage in zir primary dorsal tentacle, and wrestled zir to the ground before paging security. The first officers on the scene apparently fell into fits of hysterical laughter and had to be threatened with insubordination charges before they stopped.”
“She assaulted her captain?!”
“Yes. Under the circumstances, the captain chose not to bring her up on charges, but instead institute alternative disciplinary measures. Lieutenant Peabody’s Adaptive Krav Maga class is now mandatory for all senior officers. You will be pleased to know the captain has largely recovered, though ze still has some trouble smelling breen and glor’ka.”