Challenge #02181-E352: Mightier How?
Aliens find out about "ink poisoning" and get concerned about crew members who write on their hands. -- Anon Guest
There should be no reason for a living being to draw on their own bodies. Data readers are flexible and wearable, they can go anywhere a cogniscent being does. The art of writing in and of itself is a niche for hobbyists, since everyone in the modern era types. Well. Almost everyone. There are niche hobbyists and the occasional fanatic who just... like to do things the old-fashioned way.
Niche hobbyists and fanatics who share the same love of pokey little shops that seem to contain three hundred versions of the same thing. Those who fund them can spend hours making decisions about those things, no matter how seemingly identical they are to a novice. One such place has, for instance, a million seemingly identical pens. All of them, no matter the construction, the content, or method of ink delivery, are subject to one question:
"How's this for writing on skin?" Apparently because those who love pens can't be bothered with paper or paper substitutes. The most likely reason is that people will forget bringing a notebook, but can't exactly leave their skin just any old where - swear though they might that they would forget their own head next.
Xorg happened to be looking for a gift for their ships' Human, trying to tell one particular kind of ink delivery system from another, when they overheard the question, and a caution from someone who happened to be interest shopping.
"How's this one for writing on human skin?"
"Oh you don't want to ever do that," said the interest shopper. "You'll get ink poisoning."
Xorg suppressed an initial shriek of dismay. Their Human wrote on their skin practically every waking minute! They drew on themselves when bored, etched reminders into their skin, and 'stimmed' with ink and interesting patterns when they needed the rest of their body to be still. Could their Human be poisoning themselves in small amounts whenever their pens touched their hide?
Fortunately, the clerk came to the rescue. "Ink poisoning hasn't been a thing since Humans stopped using heavy metals in their ink making process. The inks used today are all bio-compatible solvents and colours that are completely harmless. Level four and five Havenworlders should avoid contact unless the inks have been cleared by a trained Medik." All this said in one monotone breath, as if it was a well-practiced line that they had long since memorised and had nearly engraved it on their heart.
"Well you shouldn't do it anyway," insisted the interest shopper. "Someone could be allergic."
"Our products are tested and guaranteed non-allergenic except for class four and five Havenworlders," insisted the clerk. "We have a certificate from the GalStand Safety Board."
"What if someone stabs themselves and injects ink into their bloodstream?" complained the stranger to the entire Pen scene.
"That would be a medical miracle," said the clerk. "None of these are sharp enough to penetrate the human skin."
"They could be made to be sharp enough," they raved. By now, it was obvious that this was one of those kinds of shoppers. They were unreasoningly afraid of something unfamiliar and were determined to make everyone else around them afraid of it too.
Indeed, the customer who had asked about the pen they were looking at was discreetly summoning Security for a de-escalation from Causing Public Disturbance.
The clerk remained unflappable. "Then that would void the warranty and be a case of Manufacturing Harmful Goods. The person causing the alteration would be at fault, not the product itself."
"But--" the interest shopper got no further, because two Security Officers appeared. Both wearing their best expressions of fearsome neutrality.
"Is there a problem we can assist with?"
The interest shopper in question stammered something about being mistaken and left to find something more interesting and less fearsome somewhere else.
One of the Officers sighed and grinned. "Every Foursday. Regular as clockwork."
Xorg decided to read the reviews on the packaging rather than bother the clerk. They had clearly been through enough.
 Pick a hobby emporium. Any hobby emporium. Watch the people who go there for maybe half an hour. You'll see what I mean.
 Not actually purchasing anything, just seeing what was interesting wherever they happened to wash up.
 As practiced by anyone whose usual job is to stand and watch for trouble whilst serving double duty as a visible deterrent for said trouble.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / seregam]
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