Rosetta Stone

Harold adjusted his tie, and gritted his teeth at the futility of the situation. “This is preposterous. I can’t be the embassy envoy to this–have you heard them talk?”

Harold’s short, somewhat fastidious companion, Maud, was reading a magazine as they both walked down the aquatic corridor. The walls were thick and layered, but transparent, revealing the ocean around the facility.

Maud glanced up with that crude lifting of his right eyebrow. “The chief of Interstellar Affairs has assured me that communication with the Achidae will be taken care of, sir.”

Harold’s grimaced. He didn’t agree. “But have you heard their language? It’s… it’s not even words! I can’t talk to an alien embassy if I can’t understand a goddamned thing they say, now can I?” Harold’s irritation only made his nervousness more obvious.

They stood silently as the hull door began to depressurize. Maud stuffed the magazine underneath his left arm and waited while holding half a breath. Harold finally decided to straighten up, arms flat to his sides. But he displayed a genial look, one fitting of the Republic of Interstellar Affairs.

The room on the other side seemed to be used more science than politics; both men wondered why they had been sent down in the first place. This was not how they expected to meet the envoys for the Achidae. A man in a long lab coat walked up to the two bewildered men from the surface and smiled behind his round glasses.

“Gentlemen, glad you could make it. I am Dr. Philandro. The envoys will be here momentarily. Allow me to show you how this is going to work.”

Dr. Philandro escorted them towards the main viewing port. He put his hand on a younger researcher’s shoulder, gently telling him to back away from the console. The good doctor smiled towards the thick glass and spoke in a soft tone, one that resembled shrieking or whining at a somewhat low pitch.

Maud and Harold exchanged awkward glances. They were beginning to doubt the authenticity of this meeting. Yet, as they watched, a shadowy form came over the view. A pod of dolphins swam and stopped before the portal. His smile growing, the doctor pushed his hand towards the glass and raised the volume of his shrieking.

“Doctor…” Harold said.

Philandro shrieked again, in a more rapid fluctuation of tones then cleared his throat and oddly came back to a human voice, “They will translate.” His hand came up to adjust his glasses as he turned back to the pair staring in amazement at the scene.

It was Harold who spoke first. His skeptical nature was still present, working furiously behind his speechless manner. “But… that isn’t the Achidaen language, Doctor. The Achidea don’t sound like dolphins.”

The doctor, still smiling, took his glasses off to polish them. “I know. Their language is entirely different than ours, or the dolphins. Are you ready for the kicker? But they understand the Achidae, and they tell me in their language what is said. In essence, we will both be translating for you.”

It was then that a bubbling and cracking came from behind, as a huge figure lifted up on three slimy tentacles with sockets pocked throughout its half-gas, half-flesh body. Harold’s eyes went wide as he stepped back and looked to Philandro, this time a more desperate look for understanding.

The sounds of the dolphins began, chirping and squeaking, entirely opposite of the creature standing before the human ambassadors. The doctor laughed and then looked to Harold, “He says… he likes your suit.”

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