(First posted August 20, 2003)
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit.
Spoilers: A small one for John Quixote.
Beta-readers: Written rather hastily, posted even faster. No beta this time. Errors, typos, poor grammar, or
redundant use of words are all mine.
Note to the reader: After reading someone’s fic using the idea of an unusual acronym (wish I could
remember the title or who wrote it), I posted an Acronym Challenge. Only requirement was to work a favorite
acronym into the story, excluding ASAP -- because it seemed too common and too easy. Little did I know how
difficult it was going to be to write a response myself. This was a tougher assignment than I ever would have
* * * * *
It was a toy. It was a small, useless bit of alien technology that performed nothing useful aboard Moya, and
John Crichton found himself frustrated to the point of physical violence when his latest attempt to repair it was
every bit as futile as his last twenty or thirty tries.
“Crichton, it is broken. Will you put that fultakgo piece of dren down and give me a hand!” The un-translated
portion of D’Argo’s angry snarl meant that he had another piece of Luxan profanity to add to the growing list of
terms he’d collected over the past ten solar days.
"Fultakgo", John repeated under his breath. He made an assumption about its meaning from its placement in
the sentence, and committed it to memory. Even after four cycles on this end of the universe, his translator
microbes steadfastly refused to convert swear words into their English counterparts -- assuming there was an
English version of the word he’d just learned. Learning to swear in more than five languages wasn’t just a
hobby; it was handy to know when he was been cussed out by a merchant or berated by something that looked
more like an upright vacuum cleaner than a sentient being.
Crichton turned the toy over in his hands one more time, wondering what damage he’d missed, then set it down
on the workbench and went to help D’Argo.
* * * * *
He’d found it in a marketplace on the last Commerce Planet they’d visited. Ever since his introduction to the
Uncharted Territories version of video games, courtesy of the colored blobs Chiana had purchased, he’d
veered away from anything resembling a toy. This had caught his eye because of it looked so much like a Palm
Pilot. The merchant had drifted over within microts, waiting silently as he’d examined the gleaming silvery
casing, recessed control surfaces, absence of anything resembling a screen, and the pair of thin leads running
from the top of the unit.
First Aeryn, then Chiana, and finally D’Argo had drifted up while the merchant had explained what it was and
he'd insisted that the seller try it himself to prove that the gadget wasn’t harmful or addictive. His three
crewmates had looked on with a mixture of amusement and tolerant boredom when he finally fastened the small
sticky pads into place against his temples, and switched it on. A quarter of an arn later, he’d pushed across
several currency chips, and walked away with what seemed to be an entire video arcade packed into something
barely larger than a deck of cards.
A neural interface fed the signal directly into his visual cortex, allowing him to see and play a video game while
watching what was going on around him. The controls were “think-and-shoot”, requiring nothing more than the
desire to move an object for it to respond. One hard blink shut the entire device off. It was a toy, and it had
over two hundred different games, including ones that looked like Space Invaders, Pac Man, old-fashioned
Pong, and one that looked suspiciously like Donkey Kong. It brought back the old sickening pang of
homesickness, and was a relaxing reminder of what he’d chosen to leave behind.
He’d owned it less than five solar days when Rygel had tried to steal it, he’d made a fast grab to retrieve his
property, and it had gone spinning across his quarters to land with an ominous crack.
“John!” The impatient summons over his comms drew him out of his depressed reverie.
“Yeah, Aeryn. What?”
“We’re ready to leave. Are you coming, or do you want to stay on Moya and grieve for that frelling, clapegtick
This time the untranslatable term came right after ‘frelling’. Aeryn seldom felt the need to pile more than one
piece of profanity into a sentence.
“Clapegtick?” he asked. “That one didn’t come through.”
“More than broken. It’s something that’s unrepairable. I don’t know; it doesn’t exactly mean that.” The
impatient tone was getting more noticeable. “I told you there’s a tech's version of a Diagnosan on this planet.
Are you coming or not? Everyone is in the hangar and ready to go!”
Aeryn called it clapegtick, Chiana had referred to it as fremdrol blez, Rygel had used the word probgelbo.
Crichton couldn’t remember the multi-syllabic tangle D’Argo had used. Noranti had offered to make a very
delectable sauce out of the neural transfer fibers, which was a better description of her opinion whether it could
be repaired, but no more helpful than the untranslatable variations. Each time he asked for a clarification, he
was told that the unconverted words meant something ‘more than broken’.
Aeryn’s impatience had progressed to the point that he figured she would be ready to shoot him by the time he
got to the maintenance bay. Crichton grabbed the toy and headed for the hangar at a run.
* * * * *
“What do you call this critter again?” John hadn’t felt this overwhelmed by the sight of an alien in nearly two
“He’s known as a --” Aeryn stopped and considered for a microt, then chose a different description than the
one that had just defeated his translator microbes. “Just call him a repair tech, John.”
“That’s not a repairman, that’s a pureed jellyfish.” The irritated snort from Aeryn provided a small sense of
triumph. At least he wasn’t the only one having trouble converting alien terms today.
The ‘repairman’ was an amorphous mass of dark green fibers floating in a spherical tank nearly two motras in
diameter. Looking more like a fish tank long overdue for cleaning than a sentient being, various portions of the
creature’s anatomy occasionally wafted through the murky fluid to the surface, only to sink out of sight again.
What might have been an eye drifted to the top, gazed serenely at the two visitors, and then began a gradual
migration down the front of the tank.
The entire mass surged, rippling wavelets creating a rhythmic slopping as the gelatinous form threatened to
overflow from the open hatch at the top. Bubbles wandered to the surface in regimented sequence, each one
releasing a syllable as it broke free from the liquefied body.
blip “Greet--” pop “--ings” slurp “Please” smack “that” burp “I” glurp “help” drip “you?”
John got a tight grip on his stomach, which was threatening to eject its contents in response to the sloppy, foul-
smelling method of communication, and held up the toy. “What am I supposed to do with this?” he asked
“In there!” she ordered, gesturing at a box attached to the tank.
Made of the same clear material as the repairman’s enclosure, it had a hinged lid and was clean and dry
inside. Crichton laid the damaged unit inside and closed the top.
“Waste of time,” Aeryn snapped in a half-whisper. “It’s clapegtick.”
“You told me that several times on the way down here. I still don’t know what it means. It’s not coming through
any clearer this time than every other time you’ve used the word.”
John crouched down to peer into the box. The toy was disappearing from sight, hidden by what he at first
thought was some sort of mist. He leaned closer, his nose almost touching the exterior, and saw that the
creature was exuding some sort of nearly invisible tendrils. Thousands, perhaps millions of the superfine
strands had extruded through the wall of the tank and were cramming the box, surrounding and penetrating the
video unit. A soft jolt of surprise ran up his spine as he realized that the ‘repairman’ was linking its physiology
to the mechanism, truly intuiting damage in a manner similar to a Diagnosian.
The examination was over in microts.
“No,” emerged on a bubble.
“I told you!” Aeryn exclaimed triumphantly. “Now will you give up trying to fix that frelling thing? You’ve spent
arns moping over it.”
“No hope?” John asked the algae-creature.
A string of bubbles rose in quick succession. “Pheuoobahgrrrr,” it proclaimed in a fast series of burps.
“Why didn’t someone just say that to begin with?”
“Say what?” Aeryn demanded, the last of her patience evaporating. “I couldn’t make any sense out of what it
John tossed the irrevocably damaged bit of technology into what appeared to be a scrap bin and turned to
leave. “It’s the first clear explanation anyone’s given me. He said it was beyond broken and couldn’t be
repaired,” he explained, deliberately mimicking Aeryn’s own definition of the Sebacean term she’d used. “It’s
For the first time in over four cycles, he saw the pantak jab coming and managed to duck in time.
* * * * *
FUBAR: “Frelled Up Beyond All Recovery”
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *