Peter and the team couldn’t quite believe what they were hearing. Peter checked the meaning of the Centaurian terms before translating. The older Centaurian said,
“We apologize for that youngster with the scarlet tentacles. Scarlet Tentacles was out of order. He hacked into our computer system. There was never any truth in anything he said. Scarlet Tentacles is now in prison and will pay for what he’s done.”
The older Centaurian continues saying how far Centaurians respected Terrans. Many Terran ideas were revolutionizing the social structure of Porrila and revolutionizing astronomy there. As the Terrans knew one side of Porrila faced its sun continuously. Centaurian astronomy was limited to what could be done with probes sent to the night side of the planet and space probes. Certainly Porrilans were disappointed because the Terrans hadn’t seen that the two starship mechanisms could be combined. This would quite likely delay starship development by about four years. There was no big problem. Peter translated and wrote further,
“The impudent young Centaurian is due to be sentenced soon. It’s expected that he will stay in prison for forty of your years. The latest report is that he is crying for a mudbath. However prison warders say most prisoners settle down later and finally become resigned to bathing in clean water.”
The first Terran reaction was overwhelming relief. Then despite what happened some Terrans felt sorry for that young Centaurian. Forty years seemed so long for a youngster who had done something very silly. “How long do Centaurians live? Would he die in prison?” Liberal minded Terrans wondered what their society would become if harsh Centaurian ideas spread to Earth. Some compassionate Terrans even sent radio messages to Proxima Centauri begging the Centaurians to reconsider that harsh sentence or at least to give the poor young Centaurian whatever he needed for bathing. Governments urged this to stop. If we tried to interfere in Centaurian affairs they might interfere in ours.
Back at work Peter Bliggs clicked onto an email from a leading translation facility in another part of the world. The email read,
“We respect your organisation as translators. Unfortunately we have to disagree with your last translation.”
Translating the alien language was always a struggle. Differences in the sound of something that a human could hardly hear could make all the difference to the meaning of an alien sentence. The Bliggs team replayed the alien transmission. They analysed the sounds spectrographically. If they hadn’t been so emotional before they’d already have done that. Finally the team were sure what the Centaurian had said. The Centaurian said,
“It’s expected that he will stay in prison for forty of OUR years.” Astronomers knew very precisely how long Porrila took to orbit Proxima Centauri. Astronomers confirmed what Centaurians had told them by analysing slight changes in the frequency of radio transmissions at different stages in Porrila’s orbit. Porrila orbited it’s sun in just under a week. So that young troublemaker would spend less than one Terran year in prison.
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