Original Content Transcripts 2: Chapter 8.1


Written by Squiggle Story Studios (Michelle Hodgson), edited by Steeveeo (Steve Green)

Jasmine took a deep breath.
Her heart was pounding inside her chest, but this time it was not because of overwhelming anxiety.
This was exciting!
For a brief moment, it wasn’t about following protocols or trying to make the best impression of humanity that she could.
She was about to step aboard an alien spaceship!
Would it be the same as the research facility, all sterile with white walls? Would it be more like the soldiers with their decorated and battle-scarred steel? Or all fancy, like the parading Commander? Or something completely different? Would she get to see the FTL engines, or the super computer that ran it all? How big was this thing?!-

It was Xant who brought her mind out of the whirlwind of questions with a light tap on her shoulder. Jasmine chuckled softly, it was hard to read his expressions now that they were covered by a six-camera’d faceplate, but she assumed her thoughts were once again bleeding into the atmosphere.
Nako didn’t seem deterred, however, as he lead their merry band aboard the ship. The docking-tube thingy was wide enough for two rangers to stand side by side. The walls were squared, but had polished, overlapping steel plates, just like the military mech suits. One thing that Jasmine did notice when she stepped out was how warm it all felt under her feet, even through her plastic armour.
The smell of hot steel and fresh plastic flushed her senses. Loud metallic clanging mixed in with deep growls and snapping clicks. On the far side of the gantry, Jasmine could see soldiers moving gigantic crates, chatting with each other, working on their massive suits of armour, and toiling on unidentifiable heavy equipment. Jasmine put her hands up to her ears instinctively, but internally she welcomed the noise. It had been so quiet on board the research station, hearing the bustle of activity helped bring the REFINED to life.

“COMMANDER ON BOARD!” Tifera’s booming voice announced their arrival to the crew as they stepped through the docking collar. Everyone on the deck dropped what they were doing immediately to salute their Lieutenant Commander. Jasmine couldn’t help but wonder if this was a regular occurrence, or if perhaps Nako was just showing off now.
“While it is not the most impressive part of the ship, you can see that the Galactic Council Rangers pride themselves on being prepared at all times to resolve conflict within and beyond its borders,” the Lieutenant stated.
“Uh-huh...” Jasmine muttered as her eyes drank in every small detail of the ship’s design.
The REFINED looked like it was built in sections, rhombic tiles fitted between tube-like segments; a squashed honeycomb would have been a good comparison. The dock was divided into layers on top of layers, open elevator platforms spread out evenly between for the Sulin soldiers, while the Arvas simply flew between the sections of the open layout. There were a few other aliens she didn’t quite recognize running drills in power armour, but they all seemed to follow the lead of either another Sulin like Rynard, or an Arvas in a cape like Nako. An elevator was cleared for them, and Nako continued the tour as Jasmine and Xant gawked at the military complex.
“The REFINED takes its design from the graceful (<Aerodynamic, native prey, animal/fungus, small>) Chkat’an: hollow on the inside so that communications and personnel can move freely, whilst reinforced backbones ensure that no strength is sacrificed for speed.”

The elevator took them beyond the docks to a doored hallway, a main artery of foot traffic. The crowd within parted immediately as Nako and Tifera strode down the middle. More strange looking aliens stopped and bowed their heads as they walked past. White furred bipeds with void-black eyes and lanky arms clutched dataslates and shivered as Jasmine and Xant followed. Four legged aquatic cicadas lugged their wide bodies to the sides of the hall and chirped like crickets. Tentacle mouthed, million eyed mammals flattened their upstanding cat-like ears.
Jasmine suddenly became very self-conscious.

“The bridge is up this way, my quarters and privacy are just beyond,” Nako informed them, a slight chuckle in his voice. “The crew will be used to your presence soon enough.” Jasmine was once again reminded of the invisible impact she had upon this world, myriad eyes upon her without even needing to draw attention to herself. There were already so many wonderfully different types of aliens and yet she stood out like a beacon. She raised her hand in an Elizabeth II style wave and smiled cordially. The beeps and the shivers stopped, replaced with a chorus of hushed, awed whispers.
“That's all well and good, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be used to everyone else’s presence,” Jasmine responded.
“Patience and time are great teachers, provided you are an obedient student,” Nako countered, casually.
The bridge was the brains of the ship and the warmest room by far. Jasmine could almost feel the sweat beading on her skin as they crossed the threshold of the door. It was quieter than the other halls, the subtle rapid taps of fingers against glass control panels and the droning hum of computers replaced the power-armoured stomping of pedestrian traffic. Holographic lights glowed in the dimness, while the familiar tang of cleaning alcohol tickled more unpleasant memories.
“The entirety of the REFINED’s operations are conducted here, the bridge sits right above the ship’s brain server for the quickest reaction times. We can out-maneuver even a model from the Painful Dynasty’s production line.”
Jasmine peered down into the bridge’s operation cavity and furrowed her brow.
“Is something wrong, Jasmine?” The intuitive Xant enquired.
“No, it’s just, I wasn’t expecting the bridge of a warship to look like a cubicle farm…”
The crew all sat within neat ergonomic rows, staring into holographic and glass terminals. Six armed Arvas and Qzetillian aliens all fervently working at their tasks, while others moved up and down the divided spaces, running hands and tools over the hundreds of cables that linked into the open-standing servers and the floor.
“Do you run things differently aboard your own ships?”
“Kinda. Not that I’ve ever been aboard an active battleship to dispute it, but human ships are a bit more...Open plan, I guess.”
As with all the other rooms before it, the crew was quick to acknowledge Nako’s presence, but this time he raised a hand, signalling for them to continue their work without pause. The quiet bustling continued as though there had never been an interruption.
“My quarters are off-limits to everyone, bar my superior Knight Commander and guests. Please enjoy the privilege of the bestowed title, Miss Howe.” The Lieutenant then turned to Captain Rynard, “I’m afraid the honour does not extend to you, Captain. Active officers only.”
“Understood, sir,” Rynard nodded, standing on guard to the side. “I’ll await the Doctor’s and Subject’s return.”
“Please, feel free to enjoy the mess hall.”
Rynard saluted happily, “Yessir!”

Nako’s quarters were in stark contrast to the rest of the ship. It was humid, bright, and a faint twinge of dried grass permeated the air. Much like Xant’s or Laandi’s office, it was more personable. But while the Doctor and Director kept their belongings to a minimum, Nako’s tastes were not so understated. The Lieutenant seemed like he could afford more luxury than most. The whole room was comfortable and welcoming. The walls and floor seemed to be covered in soft, sandy coloured leather. Long, draped curtains lined one side of the wall, banners and wall hangings decorated the rest. It was more like a bedroom than what she expected of an officer’s quarters on a warship.
“Please, look around, I will hold no offence,” Nako extended.
“If that's alright?” Jasmine asked. The Commander nodded, and the human quickly crossed the room to see the decorations.
There was an entire shelf dedicated to small tchotchkes; cubes and pyramids, a red and blue buttoned tube. They were interesting to look at, like a collection of novelty paperweights. The wall hangings were long, taking up almost the entire height of the wall. The material was thin like silk, threads as thin as a hair that shimmered in the light. What intrigued her more, though, was this was the first piece of alien art she had seen. Abstract moons and swords arranged in colours of reds and purples; it could have made a great rock album cover. Jasmine wondered if there were any details she couldn't see, hidden by ultraviolet or infrared.
She didn’t dare touch it.

“It was a gift,” Nako explained, stepping behind her, “A Knight Commander bestowed it upon me after a skirmish.” He pointed to the asymmetric moons, “It tells the tale of an ancient battle. The twin planets Palo and Polo, brought under the rule of Ahnakikia. The first conquest outside our home planet and moon,” Nako made a thrusting motion with his hands very much like he was skewering the moons with his blade.
“The sword represents Ahnakikia?” Jasmine inferred, looking over the placement of the banner.
“Very astute of you. I can see why the scientists enjoy your company, Miss Howe. Now then, I have told you enough of my ship, now I need to hear what you think of these...”

A long table was set to the left of the room, a giant grey case waiting for them. Jasmine took one of the soft seats beside Xant and sat formally, ankles together and hands in her lap. Xant rested in his suit, the rigid metal skeleton taking most of his weight. It was relaxing for Xant to let the machine hold the weight of his own muscles. Captain Tifera unlatched the crate’s clasps and opened it for her lord. Nako reached in with three arms and presented three different knives side by side in front of Jasmine. The human stared at the table for a moment before jumping up, her wide eyes locked onto the tools.
“Where did you get these?” Jasmine’s voice was tense with worry. Did she really want to know the answer?
“The Rajavan ship we salvaged your pod from had quite a number of these fine objects,” the Lieutenant answered, “And like you, they are quite the well-crafted anomaly.”
Jasmine returned her attention to the knives, appraising them carefully. As Nako suspected, the handles all fit perfectly into her palm.
“This one,” she stated, “Is a camping knife. It folds in on itself, so you can slide it into your pocket.” Jasmine demonstrated for the aliens, flicking the blade out with her thumb. “It’s an outdoor general purpose tool, used for cutting fishing line, tinder for fires, opening packets of marshmallows. Anything that needs to be cut, really.”
“And the pattern?” Nako inquired, “I’ve seen it on numerous items.”
“Green forest camouflage,” Jasmine explained cautiously, wondering where these supposed ‘other items’ were. “It’s a common decorative pattern. Military field uniforms have this print, but it’s not uncommon for commercial items to have it, too. But I think it’s safe to say it’s just a regular knife,” Jasmine set down the folding knife and snatched up the favourite of Nako’s collection, “Because this is a combat knife.”
Nako chuckled as she held the much larger blade, it always felt good when his suspicions were correct. “Not a sword, then?”
“No, swords are ceremonial and basically just look nice on the formal uniforms. This is an active combat knife and what soldiers would take into battle.” She ran her thumb over the scratch marks on the leather, unbuttoning the K-bar and holding it tightly in her hand. Xant watched as Jasmine repeated the same motions with the human knife as she had done with the Segmenter Sword, before putting it back into its case.
“And the runes? What does the emblem stand for?”
“U.S.M.C,” Jasmine recited solemnly, “United States Marine Corp, a renowned branch of the United States military. The eagle represents the country’s freedom and dignity. The globe is a map of the Earth’s continents,” her finger pointed at the top landmass, “The United States is about here. The anchor is because they specialised in amphibious warfare when founded. An anchor is a giant hunk of metal that kept aquatic ships from drifting off with the tide.”
“A renowned branch of military,” Nako repeated, happy with the answer.
“Yeah, my country and theirs are great allies,” she added before moving onto the final blade. “And this…” The last knife was almost bland in comparison, but Jasmine seemed to be the most excited about it, “Is a Japanese filleting knife.” Jasmine gently ran her thumb over the edge, smiling at the subtle noise over her skin, “They usually come in a set, but this is the kind of knife you use on a fish worth its weight in gold. It’s high-carbon steel, like the combat knife, but polished and sharpened to the extent you could cut meat in see-through slivers!” She pointed out the carved seal on its side. “That’s the maker's mark. Unfortunately, I can't read Kanji, but it certainly does feel expensive (<I wish I could try it out!>).” She held the blade differently from the others, with more confidence and primarily gripping the handle with the tips of her fingers, keeping the edge pointed down.
“What is the difference between this knife and the soldier's blade?” Nako enquired aloud.
“Oh, this one is used in food preparation,” Jasmine clarified.
“Jasmine has explained to us that she was studying to become a nutritionist,” Xant further elaborated to the Lieutenant when he did not immediately understand. “Humans still prepare food by hand.”
“Well, we do have manufactured foods, but nothing compares to cooking with fresh ingredients.”
“It is considered an art form,” Xant added, and Jasmine wholeheartedly agreed.
“It’s one of the many things I miss about my old life. I’m afraid the human palette is used to more sophisticated flavours than what your mealboxes provide.”
Nako looked to Tifera, both amused and unconvinced.
“Food? An art form? Now I believe a demonstration would be in order…”
“Well,” Jasmine laughed, “I’m not sure how I would go with raw alien ingredients, but at the very least I can show you some cutting techniques; a bit of julienning, Mirepoix-”
“You said that knife was for meat,” Nako interrupted. “The knife is used to cut flesh for food?”
“Yeah,” Jasmine nodded, still focused on the steel’s sharp edge, “This one is specifically for fish, though.” She turned the blade at her wrist and ran it through an imaginary tuna. “You run it down the spine, so you don't get any of the bones, that's after you’ve scaled and gutted it, of course.”
There was a brief pause in conversation as the civilized alien maiden just openly admitted to have gutted and de-spined another living creature with just a sharp piece of steel and her bare hands.
“Dr. Xant,” Nako asked, “wasn’t one of the specimens I brought aboard the station an aquatic fauna? A fish?”
“Technically,” Xant hesitated in his reply, “There were five of the aquatic samples, yes.”
“Surely we can organise for Miss Howe to prepare one for us… Or have a substitute found?”
The Lieutenant clicked his beak excitedly, outdoing the confession’s morbidness with his own enthusiastic interest on the matter.
“I will, see what I can do…” Xant was unwilling to sacrifice one of the few untainted specimens they had purely for the sake of curiosity. It would be far simpler to clone the parts of the specimen they needed, although the thought of Jasmine gleefully harming another creature for sustenance was…unsettling.
The line between sophisticated and savage seemed to be a blur with Humans.

Jasmine went to put the sashimi knife away, but Nako stopped her.
“Consider that one a gift,” he offered, reaching into the crate to pull another curiosity out.
Jasmine looked at the knife, smiling.
“Thank you, but I have nowhere to keep it.”
“I’ll arrange a case to be made. Or would you prefer a sheath like the combat blade?”
“A sheath would be cool,” Jasmine murmured, imagining keeping it on her hip, “For now, at least.” She’d ask for a chef’s carry case later.
Nako then pulled out, with great flourish, two large pieces of coloured cloth, one held aloft in each pair of arms.
“These have been the only tapestries we’ve recovered so far,” he explained. “I would love to hear what meanings they represent.”
Jasmine’s brow furrowed in thought. The Lieutenant was trying to cover common ground, just as Xant had done with his interviews. Clearly the Lieutenant knew about swords, but she was about to burst his bubble with the ‘tapestries’.
“Well, it’s not a tapestry like the one on your wall.” Jasmine pulled the bottom cloth, trying not to sound dismissive as she explained, “It’s a beach sarong, cheap clothing. It ties around the hips like this...”
As she held the thin cotton, a whiff of a familiar scent filled her nostrils and her nerves shivered. She immediately brought it to her face and breathed deeply, sighing happily.
“Coconut…” she whispered, unwilling to admit how much she missed the feel of cotton against her skin. The whole thing was permeated with the odor of coconut sunscreen. She remembered the beach, the sand, the fresh ocean breeze and cool waters...
“Jasmine?” Xant rested a gentle metal hand on her shoulder, snapping her out of the brief trance.
“Oh, sorry.” She then returned to tie the sarong around her hips. “It doesn’t look quite as nice over the armour though.”
“But what about the colours? The pattern?” Nako insisted.
Jasmine shrugged. “I’m not sure what to tell you, it’s a pink and green tie-dye sarong, there is no meaning to the pattern. It's just pretty.”
The Lieutenant was mildly disappointed.
“The top one is a country flag.” She reached out and unfurled the flag, spreading it out for everyone to see. “Brazil,” she said as she looked over the flag. While she could recognise it in an instant, it wasn’t something she gave a lot of thought too. “Well, the only thing I know for certain is that the stars are those in the southern hemisphere, a small map of our part of the galaxy. The green I think is for the rainforests, the gold could be for actual gold or sunshine.”
She then pointed to the motto written across the blue orb, “Ordem e Progresso... Well, I don’t speak Latin, but my best guess is that ‘Progresso’ means progress, ‘Ordem’ could be order, so ‘Order of Progress?’.” Again, she was ashamed at how little of her own world she took for granted, she should have known more about Brazil than Mardi Gras, football, and beef exports.
Nako was silent for a moment. “What do you mean you dont ‘speak Latin’?”
“Ah, Humans don’t have a universal translator like you guys. We have multiple languages with hundreds, if not thousands of dialects. To translate we have either computer programmes or linguists and even then, it’s never as accurate as this one.” She pointed to the device sticking out the side of her skull.
“But you read the words? How do you not understand them?”
“Well I can read the alphabet, but it’s not my native language.” She looked to Xant who was, as usual, enthralled when she explained the more intricate nuances of human culture, so she decided Nako probably would like to know as well. “Latin is a ‘dead’ language, no one speaks it natively, but it’s used in a lot of academic and scientific works. My language, English, uses the Latin alphabet, so I can read what the letters say and can kinda guess what some of the words mean, but I wouldn’t be able to recite anything or tell you the meaning of more complex words. Oh! Fun fact: ‘Marine’ is derived from the Latin word for water, so... It’s a big mess really.”
Nako turned suddenly and whipped out a rather well worn book. “So the meaning of this is lost to you?”
Jasmine stared at the cover.
“Où observer les oiseaux en France…” She read aloud and, much to everyone’s surprise, it sounded like nonsense. “Well, the only thing I understood here was France. But from the front cover, I think this book is about birds.”
“Could you read more?” Xant asked, enjoying the pleasant, yet untranslatable sounds. It wasn’t like the unknown concepts that were completely untranslatable without explanation. It was unusual sounds, but without meaning applied to them. It was fascinating.
“Ce livre est dédié à ma femme Claire. Puissiez-vous voler librement avec vos amis à plumes.”
As Jasmine read, Xant peered over her shoulder at the strange tome. Alongside the unmoving words were vivid and detailed graphics. It was all very similar to how she had arranged the images in the dataslate during their first contact interviews.
“Ah!” The Doctor exclaimed, “Primary communication is visual!” It had lingered in the back of his mind why Jasmine had not tried more vocal communication until the translator was provided. The numerous songs she had sung in captivity had stopped completely once they were on speaking terms. Other species had tried to communicate through a series of clicks and grunts, but Jasmine turned straight to visual cues. The small factual breakthrough had the doctor pulsing pleasantly.
“So what is it?” Nako asked, seemingly growing impatient with them. “What is the connection between the physical data collection and the combat blade?”
“The combat...? Oh, the eagle? There is no connection, other than they both have birds.”
Jasmine flicked through a few more pictures, trying to find an example for the aliens. Xant stopped her once she reached the birds of prey, his ears nearly bounced off the top of his head.
“Are all of these the same genus?” He asked in awe.
“Sort of,” she shrugged trying to remember high school biology, “They’re in the same ‘family’, but I don’t think you can cross breed a falcon and a kite.” Jasmine pointed to an imposing looking bird, “An American bald eagle is kinda like this one, except it’s got white feathers on its head.”
But the explanation had fallen on deaf ears. Xant was too busy staring at the dozens of further documented species presented to him.
“So it’s simply a physical, visual, audichive entry?” Nako tried to understand.
“I think so? We do have digital media, but the vast majority of information for hundreds of years was printed like this. It’s only in the last [30-40 years] or so that we’ve shifted to other media.”
Nako was once again bewildered, understanding less than what he had thought of the alien maiden’s explanations. It was at this point in time that Jasmine’s stomach decided to introduce itself. A large gurgling groan escaped her midriff and announced itself to the room.

The human was mortified. “Sorry,” she excused the noise. It had been hours since she had eaten anything. More than a day, if she counted what she lost on her drunken bender.
Nako cast an expectant gaze over to Xant.
“Doctor, is it not your responsibility to remedy that?”
Xant took a step back, startled.
“I, yes. May we have access to use your ration dispenser?”
“Captain, please escort the Doctor to the dispensaries,”
Xant and Jasmine exchanged a worried look.
“Don’t be too long okay?” Jasmine told Xant, “I can’t afford to slip up and explode again.”
The doctor nodded his head and replied with his own strange colloquialism. “I shall return as swift as rest quarter finishes,” his ears bobbed up and down, before following the giant Tifera out of the Lieutenant Commander's quarters.

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