Month 6, Day 11
Capt Jane Burke
Burke twisted her seat around to see a section of air darken and begin to shimmer. “Takor,” she called quietly. The Scissan turned its head and grabbed an analyzer from under the console to study the anomaly, which slowly coalesced and solidified, becoming... Humanoid, from the looks of his back. Dark pink coveralls, brown hair… The visitor had materialized facing Takor, and backed up quickly. Jane stood, and when her seat stopped the visitor, she stepped in front of him. “Hello. I’m Captain Jane Burke of the SpaceShip Fireball.”
The bearded visitor pulled his gaze off Takor, startled by Jane’s nearness.
“Sethym!” the old translator called, then reported, “Unknown language.”
The visitor whirled, grinned in relief at the redhead. He started forward, his mouth moving silently.
The redhead held out one hand in what must be a universal sign for ‘stop’ and backed away. Somehow, Smitty stumbled out of his chair to place himself before the visitor. The two men glared at each other.
Jane moved to a better vantage point. Space, who would have thought? Two Smittys, one bearded and faded, the other - my Smitty - pale with big yellow spots. Even more important, this native recognized MacDowell right away, which must mean-
The native man and MacDowell talked to each other, although no one on the bridge heard a word they said. But the ancient translator babbed as it apparently repeated every word, still unable to translate. The newcomer’s expression, as he talked over Smitty’s shoulder, went from relief to confusion to mild impatience. Still talking, MacDowell started working again, faster than she had been before.
Where’s the translator? I still hear it... oh, she put it on the floor. Out of reach, unfortunately, or I’d turn the volume up.
Abdulla looked unhappy. “It’ll take hours for that translator to make any progress, if they only speak their own language.”
“It partially translated when she first adjusted it,” Jane pointed out.
“It translated the Gaelic portion,” Abdulla corrected. “Mac’s native tongue, which it already knows.”
MacDowell glanced at the translator, then the machine alternated between English and the unknown language. “I am Colleen. ... My visitor is Kolla. ... She arrived here by accident. ... She wants to go-” At this point, the translator reverted to the unknown language as the male asked the redhead a question and she answered. Still working on her contraption, her attention turned again to teaching the machine. “I. ... You. ... He. ... She. ... We. ... You. ... They...”
“She’s conjugating pronoun subjects of sentences,” Abdulla whispered. “Giving the machine some basic vocabulary. That will cut down the time it needs immensely.”
“Smart girl,” Jane stated.
“Wish I could convince Mr Smythe of that.”
The redhead - MacDowell, or whoever she was - gave Abdulla a startled look, then stared at Smitty – the real one - with indignation. With a sad shake of her head, she returned to her work, speaking to her ‘rescuer’ at some length. They conversed for some time, the translator repeating the unknown language except for ‘he’ and ‘she’. There seemed to be quite a few ‘he’s and ‘she’s, with an occasional ‘you’ and ‘we’ thrown in for good measure.
Now the male glared at Smitty in angry disgust. But it’s lost on my Smitty. He looks completely unaware of anything. So much so, the only reason he’s still upright is because he doesn’t realize he is.
The lessons for the translator continued. “Blerp. The verb ‘to be’. I blarp; you blirp; he she blorp; we blirp; you blirp; they blirp. Vilt, the verb ‘to live’. I vilt; you vilt; he she viltz; we vilt; you vilt; they vilt. Whib. The verb ‘to walk’. Turm. The verb ‘to run’. Spah. Sphere. Crilc. Circle. Sarq. Square. Ceub. Cube. Triag. Triangle. Tren. A planet-” She stopped, both talking and working, her forehead grooved. “A planet? No. Not…” Her face lit up as she beamed at the newcomer. “Our planet! I mean, this planet!”
She’s smiling, she’s excited, but she’s so worn out, she looks like a grinning cadaver. “Translator, change my words to Gaelunder,” Jane ordered. “Colleen, Kolla, stop trying to teach us the local language. We can learn the old fashioned way. Finish your work, and each of you claim your own body. I don’t want to lose either of you.”
The redhead gave a short jerky nod and soon put her tool on the floor. Climbing laboriously to her feet, she pulled two loose wires closer to her, each hand holding one a couple inches from the end. Taking a deep breath, she muttered, “I hope this works.”
Surprisingly, Smitty whirled, his blood-shot eyes taking in her position in a single glance. “What are you doing?” She moved the wire ends closer to each other. “No! You can’t-” He lunged toward her, but the native male held him back.
As the 2 men tussled, the woman slapped the wires between her tightly clasped hands. The bridge lights faded, headed for darkness. The redhead’s body fluctuated between a black-and-white version and a blindingly colorful version, the changes coming faster and faster until the two versions seemed to be standing next to each other in the wildly changing available light.
The bridge went totally dark for half a second. Emergency lighting came on as the two women crumpled, each falling away from the other. The Smittys stopped fighting and surged forward, each catching a woman before she hit the floor.
Smitty tore away wires and smoothed the hair of the unconscious woman he held. At least, he tried to, but her curly hair crackled, threw off sparks and each individual hair moved at the whim of whatever eddy of air caught it.
The bearded Smitty seemed less worried about the woman he held, who was semi-conscious. Is she in better condition than the other?
Someone uttered words, which the old machine translated into English swear words. I heard the original as well as the machine, so…
The semi-conscious woman groaned. “Detox!”
Dr Davis jumped forward to give her an inoculation under one ear, then ran her hand-held monitor over the young lady’s form. Looking grim, Davis gave her more shots, below the other ear and inside an elbow. Ejecting that tube of chemicals, she reached into her bag for a replacement. She checked her monitor again and sat back on her heels with a deep sigh. “I can’t give you any more, MacDowell.”
“I’ve reached that feeling-sick stage,” MacDowell complained.
“You are sick,” Davis told her. “Detox breaks down alcohol into food for the Verasis virus, and you gave it a feast. Your spots are so big, your entire face is yellow.” The doctor put her equipment away and turned to Jane. “I need them both in sick bay, captain.”
“Of course,” Jane agreed.
“And the natives have been exposed.”
“Yes.” Jane had already been thinking how to keep them from leaving. Even if we manage to explain, do they have any way to communicate with their people, so we don’t have others coming to look for them?
“Sethym,” MacDowell muttered, though her eyes were closed. The man turned his attention to her, and silently responded. She spoke gibberish, then, according to the translator. When she finished, he nodded and stood, lifting her in his arms.
“That one’s mine!” Smythe declared.
Jane knelt before her chief engineer. “Smitty, you’re sick. Go to sick bay.”
“I don’t-” he started to protest.
“MacDowell is sick,” Jane went on. “Very sick. Both natives have been exposed and can’t leave.” I hope that’s what MacDowell said to the man. “I order you to sick bay. Show this native how to get there. He’ll carry MacDowell. Evans will carry the woman.”
Instead, the yeoman picked up the native woman and started for the lift. Dr Davis and the native man – who carried MacDowell – followed.
Jane helped Smitty to his feet and nodded to Abdulla. With the ancient translator in one hand, Abdulla put her other hand under Smitty’s arm and walked him out.
With a sigh of relief, Jane returned to her chair. At least they’re separated now. MacDowell’s sick but whole. The other – Kola? – has been unconscious since they separated. That’s worrisome. “Evans, adjust our orbit. Give us as much time as possible before we come around and approach that moon base again. But not so far out that it looks like we’ve disappeared.”