Day 182: A translator doesn’t want to translate what he’s just been told


‘Konurran, Shika not aluba.’ The Grenzing emissary, whose name translated roughly to Joolan Freel, spoke powerfully, his voice carrying throughout the Decision Chamber. ‘Oanoka, shup shup. Kanika!’ He drew a claw down a foreleg to reveal a piece of shedding skin, a symbol of sacrifice in Grenzing culture.

The Earth emissary, Callie O’Halloran shifted in her seat. ‘What’s he saying?’ She turned to Joe in the seat next to her and watched his lips move around the alien words. She could almost see as the information flowed around his mind and then back out of his mouth.

‘The time for peace is over. I require the brothers in arms to rise against the growing threat. Now.’ Joe North sighed. He hadn’t signed up for war declarations, he’d signed up for the schmoozing and the parties. Before yesterday, the most entertaining thing he’d had to translate was “How much Riolakka* will it take to get your earth woman into bed?” and that had been trouble enough. It had taken hours to find Senator O’Halloran again and she’d been dancing on the table with the Loputti. Damn, those Loputti bastards could drink.

The only reason he’d even taken xenolinguistics was to get a shot at a doss job and to be able to chat up girls in their native language. Alien chicks love that sort of thing.

He’d been thrilled when he’d got the translator job. Who doesn’t want to be trundling around the known galaxy with a smoking hot senator, meeting mostly cool aliens? The Europans can be a little bit standoffish, but that’s understandable considering they can only exist off Europa in their tanks. That was a language that took some learning, all dependant on the shape and size of bubbles through Convergel. Thankfully, I’ve got an ear and eye for language so picked it up in a few weeks. The enhanced lung capacity from learning to down a pint in three seconds probably helped.

A sharp elbow dug into his ribs. ‘North! I need to follow this. Get a fucking grip.’

‘Rocku, nortiliamu carn. Shoonla, britzo makiko!’ Joolan continued, sweeping his stubby forelegs around his body as his speech became more impassioned. ‘Cobbalitia Shalakan burka. Donsoota parsen. Grenzing, Loputtan, Europ. Ordan Ert.’

‘The time has come. All of us must play our part. The Shalaka have taken Gurn. Nothing else matters now. Grenzing, Loputtan, Europan. Even those from Earth.’

O’Halloran snorted. ‘What does he expect us to do, poke them with a stick? The Shalaka will eat us alive. Once he has finished his monologue, you’ll tell him that Earth will have no part in this war.’

‘But Callie. We could…’

‘We could let millions of our impressionable youngsters die for a foreign cause. I wonder where I’ve heard that before. We will not fight. We do not have the brawn or the brain at this time.’

Freel was coming to an end of his sermon. ‘Porchlu, garpin. Shalaka carnim shortuka!’ The Decision Hall erupted into applause, bubbling and the various cries and shrieks that meant bravo. Callie clapped politely, then rose from her seat and began to speak.

‘Ladies, Gentlemen, those of races where gender is neither function nor form. I would like to begin by thanking Joolan Freel. His warning has come at great cost to his people.’ She lifted a glass of water to her pink lips and took a small sip before continuing.

‘Sherken, Lotantia, shibulba shrolatta dis nekva da looni. Shebaka J’Oola N’Friel. Er ntuki shana ferto.’ North spoke in Grenzing as it had become the galactic standard. Only the Earthlings weren’t fluent.

‘I must say, in my capacity as Earth’s representative in this Decision Hall, that we will not put troops forward. Ours is a growing civilisation, that can barely fend for itself. We fight with each other, we fight against nature, we fight for survival. You cannot expect us to join in a war on the other side of the galaxy. I’m sorry, Honourable Freel, but our answer must be no.’

North looked shocked. It may be her words, but it would be his mouth they came from. This moment would be known throughout history as the day that Earth lost the war, with North as the source.

‘Shen… Calor…’ He paused, fighting for breath against the oppressive weight of the future. This was a tipping point. ‘Shen calor, canro rep Ert ara Keepo Al…’ He drew in a deep breath, then looked out into the chamber. He stood up tall, keeping Callie in the corner of his eye.

He was probably going to end up in jail for this.

‘Ert appa notika el endra toona labe nika molo.’ Earth pledges one hundred thousand warriors.

North felt the cold metal bracelets around his wrists, even as he finished speaking the final word. He smiled, straight from his eyes to the room, where every delegation was cheering.

Earth would not sit out this war.

*Riolakka is a spirit made by the Berlese. It appears that the process of putting fruit into a container, mixing it with some sugar or sugar equivalent and leaving it to ferment has spread the whole galaxy over. Who’s surprised?

Is it the words, the people, or a combination of the two that shape the future? I’m fairly sure this counts as treason, but it may have been the right thing. Will he be vilified by the people of Earth, or sanctified?

The Idiot in Tin Foil



7 thoughts on “Day 182: A translator doesn’t want to translate what he’s just been told

  1. I love this perspective. Super clever and something I never really thought about. I bet it is hard to translate some information due to the bombastic nature of it. We had a translator in Iraq who would come with us on missions. He wore a ski mask as to not be identified by people. I moved around so much I never really got a chance to ask him about what that was like. This story made me think of him. Great stuff, as always.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am incredibly ashamed, as I’ve only just noticed that this comment got missed in my replying spree! Argh! One of the things I love about writing is how it brings different thoughts and feelings in the people who read it. Some people imagine, others remember. I can understand him wearing a ski mask though. The thought of being the mouthpiece for anything terrifies me. Up to and including myself… Far easier to deal in fiction.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries, Andrew!

        “The thought of being the mouthpiece for anything terrifies me. Up to and including myself…”

        This cracked me up!

        Liked by 1 person

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