The idea is simple – post an unedited stream of consciousness piece that ties into the weekly prompt –this week’s is “I/eye/aye”, which yielded a flash fiction story inspired by Star Trek: Enterprise, and the vagaries of my native tongue…
Hoshi Sato frowned at the display on her datapad as she entered the Mess Hall, wondering whether it would make more sense to address this problem to the Chief Engineer, or the Science Officer.
As luck would have it, they were both here, and bickering.
“All you ever eat is that broth and salads. How can you survive just on that?”
“Commander Tucker, I have ‘survived’ my entire life on a plant-based diet. My metabolism and nutritional requirements differ from yours, and my physical dimensions are appropriate for my age and species.”
“Your age, huh? Now, what would that be?”
T’Pol raised one elegantly groomed brow the width of two hairs. “Classified.”
Trip groaned. “I swear every Vulcan should have that word tattooed across your foreheads at birth -”
“You propose to disfigure my entire species, Commander?”
Trip spluttered, “Maybe not, but it would save time.”
“Excuse me, Commander, Subcommander,” Hoshi said, before Trip could get himself in any deeper. “I’m having a problem with transmissions from the Science station, and I was wondering if either of you could tell me where the glitch is, and how to fix it.”
“A problem?” T’Pol set her spoon carefully into the bowl of plomik broth before folding her hands in front of her.
“Have a seat, Hoshi, and tell us about it.”
Hoshi pulled up a chair. “Well, for the past three days, I’ve been getting random strings of Vulcan characters in the Sciences readouts, or else gibberish – not English, and not Vulcan either, but a hybrid of the two.”
“With you so far,” Trip said, around a mouthful of mashed potatoes nearly drowning in gravy. “T’Pol?”
“Is that a representative sample?” The Vulcan tipped her head slightly toward the pad Hoshi held.
“This is the complete rundown.” She handed over the pad, and tried not to smile as the two heads, one fair and one dark, leaned in toward one another as they studied the readout together.
“Looks like a glitch in the translation matrix – but why’s it coming up in Vulcan?”
“I’ve programmed the station to accept written commands in my native tongue, and translate output to English,” T’Pol said.
“Why? Doesn’t seem very efficient to me.”
T’Pol actually looked uncomfortable. She reached for her tea, and sipped, studying Hoshi rather than Trip. “I learned to speak English in childhood, but I couldn’t read or write it when I was assigned to Enterprise. It is – a most perplexing and inexact language, and poorly suited to reporting of a scientific nature.”
Trip nearly sprayed mashed potatoes on the pad, and T’Pol’s hand as she held it between them. “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
T’Pol looked directly at him and said, “I. I. I.”
“Precisely.” T’Pol sipped at her tea. Trip sat there with his fork dangling in his hand, staring at her.
“Were I speaking in Vulcan, you would have known that I was speaking three separate words – ”
“I think I get it,” Hoshi said. “Not I, I, I, but -” she tapped her chest. “I.” Next, she pointed to her face, and blinked. “Eye.” Then she pulled a mock salute, and said, “Aye, sir.”
“Precisely,” T’Pol said again. “It’s the same word, when spoken, but each meaning is written differently.”
“But you speak English as well as any of us- ”
“Better than some,” Hoshi chuckled, and Trip gave her a dirty look.
“I can infer spoken context, but I find it prohibitively difficult to discern which spelling is accurate for many words I wish to use. English doesn’t follow even its own convoluted rules. This poses considerably difficulty where precision and alacrity are necessary.”
“So you input everything in Vulcan, and the station computer translates for you?”
“Apparently not as consistently as it should.”
Trip took the pad from her, scrolling through the display. “Shouldn’t be a problem – looks like there’s a faulty circuit in the translation matrix – not all of your signal’s getting through. I’ll come up and fix it for you at the start of shift tomorrow, and, now that I know your little secret, I’ll keep an eye on it for you. Hoshi, will that solve the problem?”
Trip groaned. “You know, I just heard it. Sorry I teased you, T’Pol. I’m guessing that I wouldn’t do half as well even just trying to speak Vulcan.”
“Most members of your species lack the muscular control needed to produce many of the vocal forms.” T’Pol picked up her spoon, and sipped daintily at her broth.
“Guess I deserved that,” Trip muttered, digging back into his potatoes.
“She’s telling you the truth, Commander. I could understand Vulcan years before I could speak it.” She looked at T’Pol. “If you’d like, Subcommander, I could help you improve your written skills.”
“That would be most generous, Ensign, although I would find it a simpler matter if Starfleet had elected to make a more logical choice regarding the operating language on its starships.”
“Like what?” This time, Trip took the time to swallow the potatoes before speaking.
“I’m competent in written and spoken Latin. Since it lends itself well to scientific discussion, it would be a more logical choice.”
“Only a Vulcan would make a suggestion like that. I flunked Latin – twice.”
T’Pol reclaimed the pad, and, in flawless Latin, looked at Hoshi and said, “If you’re free, I will assist you in translating these data streams.”
Hoshi smiled. “Tempis fugit.”
“An illogical statement, in any language.”
She and T’Pol rose together. Hoshi didn’t need the translation matrix to read the touch of humor and enjoyment in the Vulcan woman’s eyes as they walked away, leaving a scowling Chief Engineer to chew on mashed potatoes and Latin.
Enjoy stream-of consciousness writing? Come play – there’s just a few simple rules. See you next week, for another live-streaming look into the lovely chaos in my mind! =)