Notes: As a fellow linguist, I can sympathize when Hoshi's supposed to translate something with Captain Archer (or someone else) impatiently hanging over her shoulder. I also know what if feels when you finally translate a reading passage and someone says, "That it? That's all there is?"
There are several African languages, like Xhosa, that use clicks and other "glottal stops" as a normal part of their language. These are notoriously difficult to learn because they use sounds that aren't found in English. The name of the people in this First Contact story is the "Iz(cluck)Yeen." That's "cluck" as "the sound a chicken makes". And the clicking sounds of their language are marked by (parentheses).
I read an article on how to be a United Nations translator and came up with this idea.
Rating: T for language
Language Notes: Translations for Chef's and Hoshi's Italian are in bold. "Lei" is the formal "you". "Tu" is the informal, used among very close friends and family. Malcolm says something in French too.
Pairings: TnT and R/S
Squawk means Hello, Cluck Means Goodbye
"Squaa-(click, click)-bwaawk-bwaawk, (cluck-click)clawk-braaaawk."
Heads turned all over the Bridge. T'Pol raised an eyebrow as she gazed at the linguist at the comm station. Captain Archer's mouth twitched as he struggled to keep a straight face. Travis Mayweather wasn't so lucky; he clapped his hands over his mouth as a strangled chortle made its way out of his throat.
Hoshi Sato ignored them all. She concentrated on the cadence of the voice in her ear piece and mentally translated the odd vocalization into Standard English. To her, it was a complex and utterly fascinating language, even if it made her sound like an angry bird.
"The Iz(Cluck)Yeen invite us to their royal celebration, Captain. Their First Henn would be honored if we accepted; she is eager to meet you in particular, sir."
"First Hen?" Archer repeated, trying (and failing) to keep the smirk from his face.
"It's pronounced "he-yenn", Captain. Stretch the vowel out, stress on the last syllable." Hoshi sounded a bit miffed. "Think of her like Queen Elizabeth. She wouldn't be amused if someone called her female barn fowl."
Malcolm Reed coughed from his Tactical station. "God forbid we insult their version of the Queen."
Archer nodded in agreement, then replied, "Relay our acceptance to the First He-yenn that we accept her generous offer."
She nodded and passed on the message. This time, muted snickers echoed from the conference table at the back of the Bridge. Archer pretended to look down at his PADD, Malcolm smirked, and T'Pol's eyebrow climbed higher and higher. Hoshi's face became redder and redder as she noticed the attention, but her speech remained calm and perfectly on-key.
"She's sending all the cultural and other pertinent information right now, sir." Hoshi listened intently. "It appears that the First Henn requests clothing sizes for all personnel in the diplomatic party."
"Clothing sizes?" Archer asked.
"Suitable costumes. The Iz(cluck)Yeen have traditional holiday wear for occasions like these."
The captain nodded. "Have her clothiers coordinate with the Quartermaster's department. They should have all of our current measurements on file."
Hoshi relayed the message, causing more chuckles from the crew, then nodded in satisfaction. "She graciously expects us in 200 'bwaaawk-bak-squaaak', or 16 hours, sir. The clothing will be sent up as quickly as possible."
"Tell her thank you and we look forward to visiting her planet. Archer, out."
Several musical clucks later, Hoshi nodded again and closed the channel. She rubbed at her throat. "Their language is pretty hard on a Human's throat."
T'Pol nodded in sympathy. "Its grammatical structure is similar to Vulcan, but there are several fricatives and glottal stops that even a Vulcan would find difficult to reproduce adequately. The fact that you are able to do so is a monumental achievement."
T'Pol's voice reminded everyone of the effort Hoshi put into these First Contact communications. Hoshi looked at her and smiled in gratitude. There were many times when her linguistic talent was taken for granted, especially by Captain Archer.
Archer heard the gentle rebuke in his first officer's words. He went over to the comm station and placed a hand on Hoshi's shoulder. "Good job, Hoshi. We don't thank you enough for what you do on the ship."
She blushed in response. "Thank you, sir." She was saved by a soft pinging sound from her console. "That should be the information for the celebration. I'll go over it to make sure there aren't any...complications."
"If there are, it's better than we know now rather than later. Inform me when you're finished."
Hoshi nodded, retrieved the data disk from her station and fled into the turbolift. She sighed as she leaned against the back wall and rubbed her throat again. It was time for some warm tea with honey and a few moments just by herself.
Chef insisted that she 'borrow' his largest tea cup, the one usually reserved for his personal use. Then he measured the loose tea by hand, boiled the water in a kettle, and poured the aromatic brew himself. Hoshi insisted that all this wasn't necessary, but Chef's tone brooked no argument.
"You do so much for us, Signorina. Allow me to do something nice for you." He broke the seal on a vacuum-sealed jar of genuine honey and added two generous spoonfuls of the stuff into the tea before presenting it to her.
"Molto grazie, Antonio," Hoshi murmured. "Lei e troppo gentile." (You're too kind.)
Chef clucked his tongue. "Quanto volte devo dirti, che mi puoi chiamare da 'tu'?" (How many times do I have to tell you, you can call me by 'tu'?"
Hoshi chuckled. "Mi dispiace. E'un abitudine."(Sorry. Habit.)
She sat on a wooden stool in the kitchen and sipped at the tea, made perfectly like always. Chef surveyed the recipes she had brought him and chuckled. "So. No baked turkeys, no stuffed pheasant, no small game hens. A huge bowl of your equivalent of...snack mix?"
"Not just that, Antonio," she huffed and pointed to other items on the menu. "Some tuber-like vegetables in some pepper sauce and soup in hollowed-out gourds."
"Remind me to tell you of the time I shared a kitchen with a Hallorian. One of the greatest culinary geniuses I ever met...with claws so sharp she didn't need a knife, and she came up with a caffeine substitute that was safe for her kind and another for Dawgonians...won the Lagasse Award for Creative Cuisine-"
"Bam," Hoshi said with a grin.
"Ah, you've been watching Crewman Cunningham's series of instructional videos, then."
"They're very entertaining."
Chef nodded and grinned as he tapped the PADD. "Well, I believe I can make these in short order, Hoshi. Leave it to me."
"Grazie , Antonio. I do appreciate your help."
"For you, anything. Now, let me work, and I'll let you know when all is ready."
Hoshi refilled her tea cup and as she left the Galley, she felt much better. She was halfway to her quarters when her commuicator went off. "Sato here."
"Hoshi, this is Chief Desgauld," came the voice of Master Chief Antoine Desgauld, Enterprise's Quartermaster. "The first of the holiday costumes have arrived, including yours."
"I'll be right there, Chief."
"I gotta admit, these Iz-Clucky people are snazzy dressers." Trip Tucker said, as he examined the fabric of his dark blue festival shirt. It clung to his body like a second skin, soft and comfortable like nothing he'd ever owned in his own closet. A closer inspection revealed that it was made of interlocking ovals of fabric, seamlessly woven together. The black pants were made in a similar fashion.
"Yeah," agreed Travis Mayweather. His tunic was a warm yellow and orange, adorned with beads resembling little wings. A jaunty fez-like hat perched on his head. The whole ensemble made Travis look like an African chieftain, down to the beaded sandals.
Malcolm leaned against Shuttlepod One, as he admired the thin-bladed knife that was part of his costume. 'Knife' was a misnomer; it resembled an icepick more than anything else. The rippled steel was deceptive. It could cut through paper...or a thick PADD...like butter. Malcolm had found that out by accident.
"They didn't give you any explosives, did they?" Trip asked him.
"No, but I'd be interested in discussing weaponry with them."
Trip laughed. "Figures they'd dress you up as a 22nd century version of D'Artagnan."
Malcolm shrugged as he looked down at the silver-and-blue tunic and breeches. The Iz(cluck)Yeen had even given him a cape, a la French Musketeer. It gave him a dangerously rakish look. "I wonder if these people are simply more perceptive, or if they read our bios to find something suitable for our backgrounds."
"In that case, I wonder what Commander T'Pol and Hoshi are wearing," Travis quipped.
"And Captain Archer."
Trip shrugged. "I guess we'll find out soon enough-"
The doors opened to admit Archer, T'Pol and Hoshi. The captain's green-gold tunic matched his eyes perfectly, and the four golden squares at the collar marked his rank. Trip's mouth dropped open at the elegant midnight blue gown that T'Pol wore. She also wore a circlet of gold, with a soft veil of blue feathers that fell from the circlet and straight down her back.
"Wow," Trip breathed.
Travis elbowed Malcolm and said in a loud stage whisper, "You're gaping, Malcolm." The Armory Officer closed his mouth, but he couldn't take his eyes off Hoshi. Not that anyone blamed him.
Hoshi's ruby red dress was of similar cut to T'Pol's, with scalloped sleeves and tightly fitted bodice. It was gathered at the waist, to flow in gentle waves to the floor. The fabric was woven with interlocking ovals, like Trip's shirt, but each oval was outlined in gold. She wore no circlet, but beaded feathers were woven into her long, black hair.
Malcolm finally shook off his paralysis and nodded at Archer. "Sir, everything's ready for our arrival. They're expecting us."
"Very well, Lieutenant. Let's get this show on the road." Archer exchanged smiles with Travis and followed the helmsman into the shuttlepod.
Malcolm bowed slightly and offered his arm to Hoshi. "Allons-y, Mademoiselle?" (Shall we go, my lady?)
She slipped her arm within his and let help her into the shuttlepod. T'Pol raised an eyebrow, but Trip only chuckled and whispered, "I'll explain once we're on our way."
"I would be grateful." T'Pol inclined her head at him as they were the last to board.
"Isn't that a pretty sight," Trip breathed. "It's like a painting."
"Yeah, I've never seen anything quite like it," Travis agreed, as he made a course correction. The beads on his tunic made a pleasant jingling sound as he moved.
"Even though you've been to more places than the rest of us put together?"
"Even though, Commander." Travis nodded at the dying rays of the sun and activated the shuttlepod's lights. "The nebulae of Illihara are pretty, but nothing compares to a real sunset over real clouds in a real sky."
Hoshi nodded, mesmerized by the beauty of the clouds. She murmured, "Ek-kah-(click)hak-ka-(cluck)bwa-kah."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "Ensign?"
"'The glowing light sinks into the fabric of the sky, dying now, but renewing again,'" she quoted. "The words to their evening invocation, at the end of each day."
"Sounds poetic," Malcolm remarked.
"It is. They sing more than they speak. The First Henn sent some of the physiological information to Phlox. You should have heard him try to imitate their squawks and birdcalls in Sickbay. I think he even scared his menagerie."
Everyone laughed at the thought of Phlox squawking and cavorting about Sickbay, all but T'Pol, whose eyebrow shot up to her hairline. Malcolm gave a mock shudder and said, "That might give me nightmares for the rest of my life."
Trip groaned. "Thanks, Hoshi. Now I won't be able to get that image out of my head."
Captain Archer sighed and shook his head. "So that was what Crewman Thandoori was complaining to Crewman Cunningham about."
"Cunningham? Your steward?"
Archer chuckled, "Don't underestimate the galley crew, Trip. They hear everything."
Malcolm smirked at the captain's remark and murmured so only Hoshi could hear, "They do indeed."
She gave him a look of complete understanding mixed with amusement. Being the Tactical officer meant keeping tabs on the ship's grapevine, and Chef was one of its ringleaders. Of course, she might have mentioned a few things to Malcolm and Travis...
Travis angled the shuttlepod on a landing vector for the High Court. The protective bubble slowly dissolved in a shimmer similar to a transporter beam. The vast expanse of the courtyard was the size of several football fields and covered with some sort of green moss.
"I could land Enterprise here and still have room left over," Travis marveled. "This place is huge."
"Giant chickens," Trip muttered.
"Trip," Hoshi admonished him. "They're not chickens."
T'Pol nodded in agreement. "Their physical structure resemble more like ancient Terran pterodactyls."
"Great. Giant flying dinosaur chickens."
Archer stifled his laughter and Malcolm shook his head. The captain said, "Trip. Let's not cause an interstellar incident, okay?"
"I'll be on my best behavior, Cap'n. I promise-" The sound of buzzing reverberated through the shuttlepod walls and interrupted Trip's words. "What the hell?"
Hoshi gasped and pointed out the viewing portal. "Look! Out there!"
"Fascinating," T'Pol murmured. "It appears they have decided to escort us to their High Court."
Their hosts didn't look like chickens, or pterodactyls. Super-sized peregrine falcons, Hoshi thought. Eagles, cranes, super-sized nightingales, robins, kestrels...each one was unique in color and shading, and the setting sun threw sparkles of color on their wings. They flew in groups of nine, in a diamond formation rivaling anything a stunt aeronautical team could do. The squadrons (Hoshi couldn't think of another name for them) swooped in intricate maneuvers next to Shuttlepod One. Barrel rolls, high-gravity turns...they criss-crossed each other's paths without a single collision.
Cries of joy rose all around them, echoing on the speakers. It wasn't the chaotic mess of a flock of ravens, but a multi-part accompaniment to their flight. Hoshi exchanged stunned expressions with the rest of the away team.
"Flight of the Valkyries," Captain Archer murmured.
"Someone's happy to see us," Trip remarked.
"I want to know how they pull that off!" Travis exclaimed. His gaze was riveted to the skies, his features set in childlike wonder.
"Yes," Malcolm murmured, also mesmerized by the impromptu show around them.
"Uh...Travis, I thought you were drivin'."
"I'm keeping an eye out, don't worry, Commander."
Hoshi saw Trip and Malcolm exchange worried expression at the helmsman's reassurance. There was a mischievious undertone to his voice that immediately made Hoshi suspicious. Those suspicions were confirmed when Travis glanced sideways at Captain Archer and asked, "Permission to show our appreciation?"
"Permission granted, Ensign," Archer replied with a twinkle in his eye.
Malcolm muttered an oath and gripped the edge of his console as Shuttlepod One responded with some acrobatics of its own. Hoshi squeezed her eyes shut as her surroundings rocked from side to side, then inverted upside down for several seconds before easing back to normal. She opened her eyes and tried not to be sick right there in the shuttlepod.
"Sorry," Travis apologized, though he didn't sound the least bit sorry.
"Right," Malcolm muttered. His cheeks had a distinctly greenish tinge to them. Hoshi leaned forward and put a reassuring hand on his arm. He managed a smile, despite the motion sickness.
A clicking sound on Hoshi's view portal distracted her from her churning stomach. She turned her head and squeaked in surprise. Malcolm's head snapped in her direction. "Hoshi, what's wrong?"
She blinked as a pair of golden-brown eyes gazed back at her through the duraglass. A fiery plume of red feathers fell across the Iz(cluck)Yeen's forehead like an errant lock of hair, blown this way and that in the air currents. Hoshi was stunned at the sheer magnetism behind those eyes, the force of character in that one glance. Then she swore she saw the Iz(cluck)Yeen wink at her before it passed the shuttlepod and arced downwards toward the High Court.
"Did I just see that Iz-Clucky thing wink at you, Hoshi?" Trip asked, his tone both awed and disturbed. "I didn't think birds could wink one eye."
"Earth varieties of fowl cannot," T'Pol put in, "but obviously, we cannot judge the Iz(Cluck)Yeen by Terran standards."
"Obviously," Malcolm murmured. He looked about as stunned as Hoshi felt. She gave him a curious look, but he only shook his head in response. Had he also felt the force behind the Iz(Cluck)Yeen's presence? None of the others seemed adversely affected by it.
Travis set the shuttlepod down in the middle of the pentagon-shaped structure. Captain Archer nodded in approval as he removed his safety straps. "Good flying, Travis."
"Thank you, sir." The helmsman secured the engines, then cracked the hatch open. Malcolm and Trip helped the others out of the shuttlepod. Hoshi stumbled a little as she realized the "moss" was less stable than she first thought. It took a few moments to adjust to the slight springyness of the ground, but once she did, it gave her no more problems.
She looked around to see a tight knot of Iz(cluck)Yeen all around them, their wings folded back and heads held high. The smallest of them was still about five centimeters taller than Captain Archer, with flame colored wings and golden eyes. It approached with a jaunty bounce, then stopped several meters away from Hoshi. She recognized it as the same avian who had winked at her!
They gazed at each other for a few moments, then the Iz(cluck)Yeen dropped down into a graceful curtsey, spreading its wings around itself like a full skirt. Hoshi felt the ripple of air at the movement and realized why it had stopped so far away. Any closer and it might have knocked her off her feet. A wave of spicy cinnamon and sandalwood came over her, along with a sense of comfort, of reassurance.
Pheromones? Hoshi wondered, as she felt all the nervousness leave her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Malcolm's posture relax somewhat and T'Pol's controlled expression soften a little. The captain seemed more eager, Travis more cheerful, and Trip more amused.
Hoshi brought her gaze back to the Iz(Cluck)Yeen. With a graceful sweep, she returned the curtsy as best as she could. Years of dance lessons made it easier to do a proper one and she thanked her mother who insisted on those lessons.
"Cla-cla(click)aaw-clu-aww(click)?" Can you understand me if I speak this?
Hoshi nodded and replied in kind, "Yes, I can, as long as the cadence of the words is not too fast."
The Iz(cluck)Yeen nearly smiled at her answer. "You speak our language well, though I am aware it is difficult on your vocal cords."
"You're the First Henn."
"Yes." Hoshi swore she heard a distinct note of humor in its-no, her-voice. "You may use your translation device to communicate."
"Thank you." Hoshi nearly sighed in relief. She could already feel the strain in her throat and it had only been a few minutes! She wished she had brought some of Chef's tea and honey with her.
The Iz(cluck)Yeen extended its hands and gently guided Hoshi back to her feet. She felt the prick of sharp talons through the sleeve of her gown, but the claws left no signs on her skin. Hoshi was impressed at fine-motor control; there was no doubt that those talons could do plenty of damage to an enemy.
"Will you introduce me to your companions, so I might be known to them?"
Hoshi reached over and turned on the universal translator on her belt, then introduced Captain Archer. The First Henn bobbed her head in welcome, and bared her teeth when Hoshi explained that both Archer and Travis were pilots by training. There was a definite stir among the rest of the Iz(cluck)Yeen at this piece of news as well. When Hoshi introduced Trip and Malcolm, there were several high-pitched caws from the lighter-colored avians around them.
"I believe you both meet their standards for approval," T'Pol remarked, completely deadpan. Malcolm flushed a little and Trip rolled his eyes.
"I am looking forward to exchanging words and songs with you, Star-singer. My name is-"And here, the First Henn made a high-pitched note that swooped down several octaves to a low hum. Hoshi's eyes widened again at the sound; it was almost as if there were two voices vibrating in perfect counterpoint to one another, both coming from the same throat.
"Harmonic resonance," T'Pol murmured. "Two vibrations an exact octave apart-"
The Iz(Cluck)Yeen nodded at the Vulcan. "It is a pleasant blessing of our physiology, Soul-searcher. Our singing tones are unique to each individual, like your own voices."
"Soul-searcher?" Trip asked.
"It is tradition that we bestow names that speak to the soul, Heart-warmer. Unique, like the Universe made us."
"It's your indoubitable charm, Mister Tucker," Malcolm said with a smirk.
The First Henn gave Malcolm another one of its sideways glances and murmured to Hoshi, "He is one who dances in the shadows, Star-singer. Be wary of him."
"Of Malcolm? Why?" The solemn tone jarred Hoshi out of her sense of security. He-"
"The Shadow-dancer has the power to hurt as well as heal." The Iz(Cluck)Yeen nodded at Hoshi, then went on before Hoshi could ask what that meant. "Go on, Star-singer, try to say my name."
Hoshi took a deep breath and tried to duplicate the sound as best as she could. The First Henn bobbed her head in approval. "That is very close to my name. Eee-yannia, the Chosen One.I speak for my people, just like you do. I am honored to welcome your people to my world."
"And we are honored to accept your invitation," Archer replied with a smile.
"You must regale me with stories of your time in the skies, Friend-bonder," Eee-yania said. "And you, Joyous Heart, have much experience for one so young. Perhaps you might teach the little ki-(cluck)lets the maneuvers you made in your steel-winged craft."
Travis blushed and replied, "It would be my pleasure, ma'am."
Eee-yania bared her teeth again and inclined her head ninety degrees to regard Hoshi again. "Come, Star-singer. We promised a celebration and we will have one." She swept around with outstretched wings and began to cross the mossy glade with bouncy struts. It reminded Hoshi of a proud rooster in its coop and she stifled a laugh.
This is going to be very interesting, she thought. Her smile faded as she thought about Malcolm. The Shadow-dancer has the power to hurt as well as heal. That does describe him. But why would Eee-yania warn me about him? He would never hurt me.
Hoshi shook off a sudden chill and concentrated on what she did best, getting to know new people.