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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 77: Brown 220
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 193
Derekís routine changed a bit after the excursion. The obvious change was that instead of preparing meals for them, he was getting the robot to do it. Gradually he was learning how to communicate requests which the machine would interpret as foods he and Vashti would find palatable. He had to give names to some of the foods so he could order them specifically. Eggs proved particularly difficult, as most but not all cooking methods, such as frying and scrambling, required removing the contents from the shell before cooking, and most but not all of the rest, such as egg salad and deviled eggs, required removing the shell after cooking but before further preparation. Gradually he taught the machine how to make what they liked, and it taught them how to describe what they wanted.
Meanwhile, although he returned to his piloting and navigation studies, he also began working on a routine to make translation an available function for robots. This was not so simple as he had thought. The machine had to recognize which language was being spoken and repeat the same message in the other language, but it had to parse not only vocabulary but grammar. Fortunately Derek had learned enough of enough languages to recognize the pitfalls, such as that some languages put adjectives before nouns and some put them after. But the number of potential grammar issues was rather large, and it did not help that he did not know the language of the indigs. On top of that, the translation had to work both directions, that is, if he was speaking English and the indigs were speaking--well, whatever you wanted to call the indigenous language--it had to recognize when English was being spoken and repeat it in indigenous, and also recognize when indigenous was being spoken and repeat it in English. It had to do this, even when one side or the other spoke a single word, which was most difficult of all, as both languages had words that could form single-word sentences in conversation, and they werenít always that different. The best way to approach that would be to have the processor identify what language was being used by each voice, and then apply that knowledge to all statements made by that voice. In short, the robot would have to be able to determine who was speaking as part of determining what he was saying.
They were, of course, back on the bridge. The captain asked about their excursion, and Derek kept the answers simple--they did not find what they were seeking, but they found something else that might do the job, but it was going to take a lot of work on his part to make that possible, which probably would have been so had he found the original device anyway. He did not bother to explain that it was a robot, or that he had repurposed it to prepare meals for them. It didnít really seem important.
Sitting at their stations was rather boring. Derek teased himself that he was entertaining himself with lessons in calculus. He wondered about those science fiction space shows--mostly something was always happening, and the characters were trying to deal with events, sometimes frantically. He supposed that were they real they would have significant dull time akin to his, with those adventures interspersed amidst that. He teased himself that in that sense his life was very like the people on those fictional starships, but that he didnít have the exciting adventures interrupting the dull routine.
Of course, he did have adventures. He had just had one, being captured by a robot, and then turning the tables so that he captured the robot. So maybe it was more like those starships than he thought. He then chided himself for calling them fictional. After all, he just came from a world that was in every recognizable way that of The Arabian Nights, and now he was on what he recognized as a lost colony spaceship, with a few irregularities. Those supposedly fictional starships might well exist, in one universe or another.
No point in worrying about them, though. He had enough to do here.
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 #443: Versers Acclimate. 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: