Breathing bodies is a term for people, not necessarily qualified who can be used for tasks that free up more qualified people(@) - third hands? Well humans have only two, but some people are quite good at being a third hand when needed.(*)
(@) example "here, put your hand on this and yell if it gets hot."
(*) "Hold this steady while I tighten the coupling up." And there are times when they are invaluable. -- Knitnan
[AN: Footnotes in prompts are NOT a success]
Their human was baffling, to say the least. The mercenary was hired to keep other deathworlders away from the Kikiru and its crew. The human, easily four times any crewmember's mass, was not just a ferocious guardian with the ability to pack-bond with any creature in its orbit for longer than forty-eight hours. In-between guarding the crew, they wanted to be helpful.
It was a common question in transit between waypoints. And confusing for all its repetition.
"Hey, you need a third hand, there?"
Individually, the words were intelligible and clear in their meaning. Put together, and in that order, there were immense problems.
Rumours abounded of freakish body experiments that, in combination with the human's extant bodily modifications, seemed remarkably plausible.
And attempting to clarify lead to increasing confusion.
Revelation came when the human, in their usual gung-ho attitude, wound up getting stuck in the fallout from rescuing a crewmember. She had one arm free, and most of her torso, but the rest of her, and the livesuit that helped her survive in the hostile atmosphere, was firmly stuck.
"Need a hand here, my bugs," she said. "Some of that excavation equipment might be nice."
Once again, confusion reigned. "We are not donating our arms for your body. The environment is incorrect for additive surgery."
A growl. "No. I mean... you use your hands on your bodies to help me out of this... mess."
The truth, as it is said amongst the Formicids, dawned like a bright light. The entire crew simultaneously made the noise of acknowledgement.
"...seven damn months on this boat and now they get it," grumbled the human. She continued picking smaller stones out of the avalanche that trapped her while she waited.
And then she was upset that only the construction and deconstruction crews turned up. A pack of humans, the Formicids were given to understand, could unite and perform all of the tasks necessary. Including a chain of bodies to ferry smaller stones away from the site and thus speed up extraction.
All of this was explained in patient tones and finished with, "And I only have so many hours of air, guys."
It was a new concept for the Formicids. Nurse crews, in addition to being nurses, could also carry things or pass things. The same went for food construction crews, exploratory crews, and so on.
Now they could understand why it only took a crew of five to run a human vessel.