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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 6: Brown 197
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 169
Derek escorted Vashti to her station, and as he set up the display to read in Arabic for her convenience, he spoke to her in Farsi.
“We’ll have to find instructions for how you should do this. For the moment, though, the ship has apparently been operating without a navigator for a long time, so you should be able to get through the day uneventfully.”
“Why are you speaking Farsi?” she asked in the same language.
“I’d rather our captain not know how much we don’t know at this point, and he knows English and Arabic, but not Farsi.”
She nodded. “You’d better get to your seat,” she said, “or he might think it odd.”
He nodded, and headed for his own station. He set his display for English.
A moment later the homonoid spoke, in English. “That is peculiar.”
“What’s that?” Derek asked.
“When you set up your consoles, Commander Vashti’s is set for the language called Arabic, and yours for the language called English, yet when you spoke to each other it was in yet another language.”
Derek realized he needed an explanation, but he found one quickly.
“I speak, oh, seven or eight languages, to some degree. Commander Vashti speaks three of those fairly well. My best language is English, hers is probably Arabic. However, I like to practice all the languages I know whenever I get a chance, so I was speaking to her in our third shared language. I still have to learn the native language of the people on the ship, though, and that will take some time.”
“That is peculiar,” the Captain said. “How is it you do not know the language of the people on the ship?”
“That’s a long and complicated story which I will have to explain at some point, but probably not at the moment.” Derek realized he was going to have to find a way to explain versing to a super-intelligent machine without sounding like he and Vashti were stowaways.
“Very well. Meanwhile, you will have to teach me this other language you use.”
That would be a disadvantage, but then, Derek didn’t want to say so. He had to come up with a more acceptable reason, and quickly.
“Well, I’m not very good at it. Besides, I speak about a half dozen languages or so, none of them as well as English or Arabic, and as far as I know I am the only person you are ever likely to meet who speaks any of them, so I don’t really see the point.”
“The point,” the Captain responded, “is that by learning many languages I can better analyze the concept of spoken language. The people on this ship sometimes communicate with each other by means of such sounds. I understand what the sounds mean, but not why they use them instead of some more efficient system of data transmission.”
It occurred to Derek that they did indeed use a more efficient system, as they had demonstrated the ability to contact each other telepathically. That the Captain did not know this was probably an advantage to Derek--and indeed, he could communicate with Vashti that way, and this was a reason to hurry her psionics training so she could contact him outside the Captain’s knowledge.
“For the moment, though,” Derek said, “this is our first time on the bridge, and indeed our introduction to piloting and navigation, so we should probably focus on learning our stations, and when we’re dismissed for the day we should find training courses for officers to learn what we’re expected to do.”
The homonoid nodded. Derek wasn’t sure whether that was in his program or whether it was something it had observed in their conduct, but it suggested that the machine was quite intelligent, and he would have to be careful.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #432: Whole New Worlds. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: