Part of Endeavour: Where Angels Fear To Tread

Lingua franca?

Alpha Gruis I
Tuesday 17th May, 2157
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“I mean, it looks good, but damn is some of this get up a pain in the backside,” Shu complained as the three women climbed the small rise up to the road. She was tugging at various parts of her get-up, styled after what had been spotted and a bit of imagination from a few folks in the quartermaster’s office to give them a slightly exotic look.

Not locals at the least, to help sell any quirks or non-cultural normative behaviours they might express.

“Though I am loving the leather boots,” she continued, showing off the tan leather boots she was wearing.

“The boots are fantastic,” Deneva agreed, admiring them for a moment before resuming her wide-eyed scanning of their surroundings. She’d been on plenty of extrasolar planets in her life, but she’d never set foot on one uninvited before.

North of their present location and about half an hour’s walk away was a small village Shu and Deneva had spotted during their shuttle flyovers the previous day and night. It lay astride a seemingly well-used road that lead to a larger settlement a few hours away and its small size had made it an ideal target for a bit of intelligence gathering before any further actions were taken. They’d even identified a building frequented by those journeying up and down the road, stopping for an hour or two before continuing on their way.

A dropped transponder in a nearby copse of trees had provided a beam down site for the trio, out of sight, off the road and far, far more conspicuous than a shuttlepod parked somewhere relying on no one stumbling across it at some terribly inconvenient moment. But it had left them tramping through woods in not terribly versatile disguises for a quarter of an hour before the civility of a crushed road.

Gasset had found some of their outfit quite tight in places, compared to the standard Starfleet jumpsuit uniform they were used to. The armoury chief was constantly finding herself hovering her fingertips above the concealed weapon she had in the satchel by her side. Though they were unable to make a weapon that appeared native, the hidden phase pistol would hopefully not be needed. Turning to the chief engineer, Gasset asked if they were going in the right direction. “Are we almost there?” She added.

“So, the village should be that way,” Shu said, a confident flick of her head to the north along the road. “The plan is pretty simple – get in, have ourselves a bit of a quiet time, and let the UT pick up as much conversation as it can handle. Then ask a few questions, see what the local rumour mills have to say, or see if there are any newspapers or broadsheets we can scan and send back to the ship. We’re just trying to find out where the captain is and don’t need to start anything just yet.”

Gasset nodded with approval of the plan. Gathering intelligence about this species was vital to any rescue mission they may undertake to rescue the captain, the doctor and their linguist. “Let’s just hope the universal translator can work out their language quickly without us causing any issues.” She stated as her boots hit another lot of gravel. “I have to admit, I am curious to understand how a world developed where the females were the dominant gender.”

”Well, nature has female dominance all over the place on Earth.” Shu turned, confident enough to walk backwards for a bit while conversing. “Praying mantis, spiders, orcas – just to name a few. Just us humans had to go and get it backwards.”

“Could you imagine what Earth would have been like if women were the dominant gender?” Gasset asked with a brief chuckle. “The third world war may have not happened and it would have been Doctor Lily Sloane who invented the warp drive with Cochrane as her assistant.”

“So I would have learned the Sloane Deceleration Manoeuvre instead of the Cochrane Deceleration Manoeuvre in STC?” Deneva mused. “I like that, it’s catchier.”

Deneva had naturally found herself a few strides ahead of the others, but she slowed to nearly a stop when the first signs of the village and its inhabitants came into view, and awkwardly shuffled in place until both senior officers were several steps ahead of her once again.

”Okay…this is it.“ Shu took two deep breaths, bounced up on the balls of her feet three times, and then turned to the others. “Until the UT catches up we’re gonna have to play it by ear so remember we’re confident and capable Starfleet officers. And we’re clueless tourists, so play to that if you have to.“

“Confident and clueless: got it!” Deneva nodded curtly and wandered boldly forward. Immediately to her left, there was what sounded like a blacksmith shop that she drifted towards out of genuine curiosity, until she realised that a clanging hammer would not be particularly useful to the UT and she veered away.

Gasset could see from the village that those who were doing most of the hard labour work were the men, but they appeared a lot smaller than the average human man. Most of them were working in groups or pairs to accomplish their work. Several women, taller women that is, walked past them and gave them a curt nod. They wore similar attire as Gasset, Shu, and de Sousa. While she noticed de Sousa visit a nearby blacksmith, they passed what appeared to be a small market stall filled with freshly baked goods. Most of it appeared edible, but without Branson with them to identify if it was okay to eat or if it was poisonous, she wasn’t risking getting ill from some alien food. Several guards then made their way through the village, all women and all armed.

“They certainly know how to show a sense of power and force,” Gasset whispered to Shu.

“Testosterone-fuelled displays aren’t just limited to men,” Shu replied quietly while turning her head to watch a pair of guards as they went past, watching them for a moment longer than was strictly necessary. “And can we really say we’re above doing as such?”

Eventually, they approached the tavern and Gasset insisted she entered first to ensure it was safe. Stepping in, they found it busy but not jam-packed. In the corner, there was an empty booth with a table. She motioned for them to take it. Concealing their UTs, the team started to get to work in an attempt to understand the alien culture and language.

Taking a brief moment, Shu looked inside her jacket at the UT on her belt, studying the display. “Getting some good data here,” she said. “But could do better.”

Just as she was letting her jacket settle a man approached, in garb somewhat designed to draw attention at a physique verging on fit, though short of stature. He said something but the only word they caught, thanks to the wonders of modern technology was “Drink?”. The rest of it was quite literally garbled, a clear sign the UT was still playing catchup.

“Oh, um, water,” Shu answered, which seemed to satisfy the man, who nodded briefly before heading back for the bar. “Okay, first hurdle down. Just need, oh, the rest of the local dialect?”

Deneva nodded as she scanned the room, eyes passing over tables full of laughing, carousing women. A crackling fire on the other side of the tavern caught her eye. In front of it, a woman regaled the slowly-growing crowd with a raucous tale punctuated by sweeping gestures and pauses for laughter.

“I think I can squeeze in there without attracting much attention,” Deneva said as she got up from the booth. She carefully wound her way through the patrons and found a low stool near the fireplace to perch on as the woman continued her story. Deneva smiled at the antics, and her smile widened with each new word the UT picked out. “The people……………………….to sound. …………..to carry………………a horse……………eight………………manure!” Laughter from the crowd. Deneva followed suit.

With their pilot engaging with the local banter, Gasset looked at Shu. “I suppose our mission in setting up a listening post on this planet has gone out of the window,” She sighed. “And so close to the Romulan border too.”

“This planet for sure,” Shu agreed in a hushed tone. “The locals do make it a bit difficult to keep anything secret and we don’t want to kick off some sort of UFO craze with some secret mountain base or something.”

“I suppose we could put an automated sensor net on one of its moons, but it just didn’t have the same impact as operatives watching over them with a pair of real eyes,” Gasset grumbled. 

“Better than nothing though,” Shu agreed. “Or one of the outer planet moons, just in case the Romulans do come sneaking around.” She turned to look over the tavern and its assemblage of patrons. “I feel like this is the start of a really bad fantasy story, or a documentary about political, philosophical or scientific revolution starting in a pub and spreading outward. Guess it would be frowned upon if I laid the foundations for calculus or special relativity here yeah?”

On the other side of the tavern, it was suddenly Deneva’s voice that could be heard among the crowd. “Noooo no no no no!” She was smiling and laughing, but there was a desperate edge to it as she tried to wave away two patrons who were sitting so close they were almost on top of her. “Where I come from, we have a saying: every monkey on its branch!”

The patrons’ interest turned briefly to confusion. “Mun-kee?”

“BIRD! Bird. Every bird on its branch. It means to mind your own affairs and don’t concern yourself with me. I’m leaving town very soon, anyway. Very, very soon!” Deneva looked back towards Gasset and Shu and tried to catch their eyes with a big grin and thumbs up that meant “we got it!”, quickly followed by a grimace and a tug at her collar that probably meant something closer to “and now I’m choking under pressure”.

“On that note, I think we’re done here,” Gasset motioned towards their pilot, who appeared to have done what was needed. “Let’s get back to the beam in spot, so we can update the others. We might be able to coordinate our next move.”