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A Problem of Phonetics

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It was lunch, it was lovely, Bashir was beautiful--and then the lights went out.

Garak felt like he was floating, and it was dark enough that the edges of his vision created their own flickers from neurons wanting stimulus and not getting any. Everything was off. The artificial gravity. The communicators. The lights. The emergency lights. Everything.

People chattered all around. Unfortunately, Garak had never had reason to learn Bajoran. He'd had other jobs during the Occupation, and the Universal Translator took care of the rest. He was aware of the phonemes in it and just what the average sounds of it were: chittering, rather high pitched, not innately unpleasant, just "different".

He heard someone speaking nearby and realized with considerable culture shock that that was probably Bashir. The language was almost -flat-, missing many sounds and the ones that remained were sharp and hard-edged. This would require considerable study to figure out.

Bashir couldn't understand him. He couldn't understand Bashir. No one could see him smile in the dark, and no one would ever know what he was talking about.

With the intonation of "this is an interesting situation, I wonder how we'll get ourselves out of here?" what Garak -said- was a famous line from an old Cardassian love poem.

" Do I call it a good argument,
If I only speak so you'll smile at me? "

The lights flicked back on at the tail end of that, and everyone in the entire room tumbled back down and hit the ground, missing chairs and making a royal mess of of themselves.

"Oh dear, I seem to have torn my hem," Garak said, even though he hadn't. "And it appears you've got considerable calamities to attend to unfortunately."

Many of the people had bumped tables or each other when the artificial gravity kicked back on. "I'll get out of your way for awhile."

He dodged out of the replimat, hoping the power wouldn't go out again, and staying very close to the wall in case it did. Floating in the Promenade with the whole two floors of area would be very, very dangerous.

What -was- that language? When Garak got back to the tailoring shop, he pulled it up in the database.

Kardasi was a massive conglomerate language, built up through history starting in Cardassia's pre-Industrial era and growing from there. Conquered on-planet kingdoms lent their vocabularies and phoneme variances. It had many sounds, many words, a million subtle layers and versions of words that didn't all quite mean the same thing.

He'd always known he talked to his beloved Doctor through a translator, but had never imagined the language under it had been "missing" sounds. The rhythm was different, the sounds were different, the whole thing was different.

People weren't able to just get in and out and change their translators. It was supposed to be off limits for a reason, but Garak hacked his anyway and played back as many little clips of everyone speaking as possible, borrowed off the semi-public record systems.

It was... the phrase "eye opening" was the wrong sense, and "ear opening" wasn't the right thing to say at the moment, but still--this was amazing.

Ferengi was tonal, picking up meaning from pitch, and Quark, Rom, and Nog spoke a slightly different dialect than some of the waiters and would be mutually unintelligible without the Translators there to convey Quarks' orders.

Dax and Sisko weren't speaking the same languages, but the audio qualities of both were similar. Fluid sounds, one on top of each other, words threading into each other and backout again, with the pitch of the language carrying punctuation instead of meaning in each word, starting sentences, ending sentences, phrasing.

Flicking the translator on and off between the translator's version of Bajoran and the actual sounds of Bajoran was interesting. It seemed to be a "headvoice" language, with most people speaking at a higher pitch than the translator rendered it in Kardasi. If at all possible, Kira sounded angrier with the translator off, and Odo'd never quite mastered the "head" part of this language's "headvoice", making his grouchiness about ten times more grouchy in context.

Thumbing through random recording clips caught in hallways-- whatever Keiko was speaking, it wasn't what OBrien was speaking, he had no idea what either of them were saying, and Molly would be unintelligible to both her parents without the translators merrily making sense of whatever she said.

What a mess.

Officially, the Federation had "Standard". Unofficially, their "Standard" seemed to be hodgepodge mess of whatever the translators seemed to be conveying at the time.

And Worf did -not- speak Klingon.

Or at least, not most of the time. After considerable poking around, motivated by sheer curiosity and a need to know, it turned out to be an Earth dialect called Russian.

And Bashir?

It was called "Arabic" and the original calligraphy was lovely. Less different from written Cardassian in appearance than say, whatever Keiko was speaking.

Six vowels.

That was all.

An entire language built around six vowels.

No wonder the language had such a unique sound.

And it went back for millennia. A language built up in a desert, through conquests, through wars, wars on wars, a million stories all tangled up together. Common themes of liquids in the desert, religion, travelways, threading in and out and in and out through the area, through the language with just six vowels.

Reading it was a bit like reading a new-found Cardassian fantasy series, written by someone who had the right literary skills and none of the culture references, something that hadn't become popular simply because it had fallen by the wayside in the marketing, not for lack of a good story.

People warring in the desert, searching for something to bind them together, searching for survival.

That was a story that made -sense-.

Even if the language did still only have six vowels.

Eventually, Bashir's family had moved to a different location, but with the translators, they'd just spoken their same language even through an area that didn't quite always share it, and, like Molly's whatever-Molly-was-saying, nobody'd ever bothered to change it.

Listening to, studying, thumbing through the history was like finding a whole new "fandom". Something to -do-. No matter how far into the "story" that was "the Middle East" Garak dug, there was always more to find.

It was center stage for the Eugenics Wars. It was center stage for the Oil Wars right before that. "World Wars" Ottoman Empires. Crusades. Religion founding. On and on and on and on. While unrelated to Arabic, Earth's earliest written language, "Sumerian", was from that area.

Listening to it enough, he got used to the Culture Shock that came from hearing it for the first time. And he'd accidentally learned to understand a decent portion of it. Humans apparently found memorizing very difficult and had to put a lot of effort into it. Cardassians memorized by default--and he'd had training on fine-tuning that skill.

The hardest part of learning it was going back and forth between the translations. An rote-memorized phrase of strung together sounds is useless when they don't line up with anything, and the most common set of strung together sounds was taken very, very, very seriously by people of the Oil World era and the wouldn't take too kindly to an "alien" memorizing it. Oops.

Culture Shock abated, Garak now had a new toy to play with in their lunch conversations. Lots of practice, and the broader range of Kardasi sounds made Arabic pronounceable, and he had fun with it. Dropping words, dropping phrases, language swapping, crisscrossing puns that shouldn't have otherwise worked, and watching it go completely over the Doctor's head.

Several weeks later, around the exact same time of day, the power flicked out again and they were hovering in complete darkness.

"Not again!" Bashir said in untranslated Arabic. "I thought OBrien fixed this."

"You'd think they'd have the wherewithal to figure out what's doing it and fix it, wouldn't you?" Garak responded in Arabic.

"Well the translators seem to be working this time," Bashir said.

"That's what you think," Garak said.

"Wait, -what-?"

And the power went back on and the lights turned on and they thunked back into their seats.

"Are you all right?" Garak asked, back Kardasi, back with the translator and pretending this was normal. He did have one of the Arabic chants stuck in his head on repeat though.

Bashir stood up, looking him up and down. "I could have sworn they said the translators were broken, but for some reason I could understand -you- just fine,"

Just like last time, Bashir was now swamped with medical crises and the day went on just like any other.

The power kept flicking on and off and on and off and was becoming more frequent, but not much longer in duration at any given time. They were usually very brief, but growing in frequency and becoming a bother. OBrien and the other workers were busy running systems so people wouldn't fall as hard when the power went out and shut off the gravity.

They grew more and more frequent, weekly, then daily now, around lunch time, sometimes slightly before, sometimes slightly after, and finally started flicking on and off multiple times in the middle of the day and also in the middle of the night. It was getting to be a severe problem when Sisko called Garak into the officers' meeting about it.

It was Sisko, Jadzia, Kira, Odo, OBrien, and Bashir all looking at him rather expectantly, surrounded by charts and graphs and diagrams all across the walls in both paper and electronic formats.

"Um, hello." Garak said. The whole situation seemed a bit more awkward than it otherwise should be. "Is someone in need of a fitting?" It had happened before when they needed him to covertly convey information to Cardassia about the Klingons.

Sisko just had him sit down at the end of the table.

OBrien started first. "Here's the situation," He pointed at one of the electronic diagrams. "We've gone through all the options troubleshooting the station and it's not the station.

"First off, people think that Warp is the big key to space civilization, but there's another factor: artificial gravity. There's about 4 or 5 known physics innovations that generate it, and most warp-compatible societies eventually discover one or more of them.

"For example, if you turn off enough power systems on a Klingon ship, their artificial gravity shuts right off with it because of which physics principle it runs on. Federation technology and Cardassian technology --shouldn't be able to be shut off-- even if every last power system goes down because it's based on a different physics innovation.

Bashir was starting to get excited now, flicking happy looks at Garak and Garak flicked a confused glance at him, wondering why they'd brought him in on this.

OBrien continued. "And the problem isn't unique to the station. Bajor's having power outages, and any ships in the area are having power outages. Scientists on Bajor are working on triangulating on it, but basically, for brief, three to five minute periods, everything shuts down and we have no electronics, no weapons, no translators, no anything, and luckily, neither does anybody else, so it can't be used aggressively."

"Even if we were on a Klingon gravity system And the entire ship's power AND the backup power all shut off simultaneously, it should have no effect on everyone's translators, but that's shutting off too. Except--"

Everyone looked right at Garak expectantly. Bashir was practically beaming at him now and it was a little disconcerting.

"Except what?" Garak said.

"The only translator that seems to be working is yours." Sisko ended OBrien's explanation.


"What -ever- gave you that idea?" Garak said.

Bashir had been bouncing in his seat with excitement the entire time, and now he was so happy about it he got up out of the seat and came over to him, grinning like he'd made the greatest discovery of the century. He plopped down in the chair next to Garak and turned it so they were facing each other.

"Think about it, Garak!" Bashir said. "The first time the power went out, you randomly quoted Kelles Takun's poem, not sure -why-,"

Garak would have facepalmed in embarrassment if he wasn't frozen in place trying to decide whether to confess, hide, or bluff his way through this. The first line, but not the second, was also the title to a book and Bashir would have known it -phonetically-. Oops.

"--And then every time since then, we've had no problems whatsoever."

Yes because we're speaking YOUR particular dialect and you've misremembered your knowing the sound of the book title for knowing the meaning, Garak thought.

Bashir misread his squelched embarrassment as something else, paranoia maybe, and went as far as taking his hands in his and pulling him close enough to talk so no one else could hear.

"Look," he said, "I don't know what -you're- thinking, but I'm not going to let anyone do anything with the translator itself. OBrien kind of wanted to see if we could replicate it or something and find out what electrical principle it was running on and I put a stop to that one in a hurry--"

Oh dear THAT was morbid.

"--and it's classified technology anyway. We'd be in major trouble with the Cardassian Government--"

You wouldn't find anything useful either, Garak thought. It's just a translator... a low security hackable, one at that which is how I got myself into this whole mess in the first place.

"--but," Bashir was right there, only inches from his face. They hadn't been that close in a long time and this was far better circumstances than last time. With the lovely, oh-so-Cardassian eyes in his delicate lovely humanny face, Bashir said "We really do need a translator on call when the power goes out."

There was no way around this one. Bashir looked practically proud of him. Bashir was counting on him. Garak was going to have to figure out how to speak EVERYTHING.

"Well," Garak said, back in the realm of comfortable bluffing. "Apparently Cardassian technology can get through anything!"

Time to hit the books!

Bajoran first. Every time the power had gone out, they'd been surrounded by Bajorans and he'd need it. He should have bothered to learn this language a long time ago and had never quite gotten around to it.

Learning Arabic had been semi-accidental, something done for the mystery, the intrigue, and the story. "Read what felt like a grand "sci fi" epic history set in a very normal environment, while listening to the unique lilt of Six Vowels and have fun doing it." Also, there's no pressure, and every little piece of knowledge feels like a treasure hunt.



Bajoran grammar was overcomplicated and hard to figure out. While there were more vowels than Arabic (not hard to do), it was all headvoice, high pitched, and the sounds tangled in on top of each other with unclear word spaces.

He finally found a semi-recent fiction author with a tolerably snarky writing style to make slogging through the Non-Plot and the deus ex machina "endings" somewhat bearable, and then played Bajoran audio over Kardasi phonetic text and translations and played it over and over again until he had the whole book uncomfortably memorized and still had no idea whodunit.

But he was learning the darn thing, and not a moment too soon, because the power outages were becoming more frequent and were starting to jam together.

A whole 40 minutes or so before he was going to go to lunch, Chalan Aroya was in the shop for a fitting and chattering on about problems with one of her restaurant employees when the power snapped off and everything floated in black.

There was a wire system in place to hold onto now to cut down on injuries. Messy looking, but he was quite glad it was there.

"Eeek I hate the dark!" She squeaked. She likely meant it rhetorically.

Aroya was a nice safe person to practice with. She didn't know he was supposed to have the one working translator on the station. "Well, don't worry, the lights will be back on in a few minutes," Garak said, or mostly, hoped that's what was communicated, anyway. With their mismatched grammar, it could very well have been something else entirely.

"EEK!" Aroya said, and then in a hoarse, weirdly high pitched whisper, "You sound scary in Bajoran."

Bajoran had about 6 variants on apologies and Garak was pretty sure this was the wrong one, but "I am sorry about that," he said. "I really could use any and all suggestions for getting better at it."

Aroya sounded like she was talking through her sleeve. "First off," she squeaked, and dropped to a tiny tiny whisper, "Ya kinda sound like the scary..." She sounded mortified, and dropped in volume down to where the last word was too quiet to hear.

The power flicked back on and with the wiring cable to hold onto, Garak only thunked down an inch or so. Aroya looked down apologetically, "Sorry...," she said, blushing and not quite looking at him.

"No need to apologize," Garak said, back with the translators, and Aroya visibly relaxed at the sound. "Obviously, my Bajoran needs work. I'm learning it as a surprise for someone, so if you wouldn't mind, don't tell anyone I'm learning it."

Her face crinkled up all the way to a grin and spread to twinkly eyes. He'd tried setting her up on a date with Odo once and other unfortunate things got in the way, and it was pretty obvious what she thought he was up to.

"Well in that case," she said, beaming, "We've got a lot of work to do. You sound like a cross between the uh, well, the scary guards..." Her eyes flicked up to the chufa and back down-- and then she named the Snark Author he'd picked specifically because said Snark Author snarked.

He didn't have lunch with Bashir planned that day, and Aroya took the day off to walk him through as much as possible. Yes the grammar was as complicated as it looked, but what was "wrong" with the headvoice and accent turned out to be an easy fix.

"When we're all done," she declared, "When the power goes out, nobody will be able to tell that your translator's not working,"

"That was the general idea," he said in Bajoran.

She pursed her lips and swallowed a giggle. "Without the past-tense verb marker, that sentence could be read as there being a garden plant with generic ideas and no verb, but you -pronounced- it just fine."

As a conglomerate language, Kardasi had a vast plethora of vocabulary and sounds, and bare bones grammar from all the languages pouring into it through the centuries. Grammar was confusing.

There was another little wrench in all of this that would have to get dealt with eventually.

There was no one "Bajoran" any more than there was one "Earth".

During the Occupation, there weren't many translators, and Chalan Aroya was bilingual. This dialect, the one most common on the station because of where it was placed and who'd pissed off who where in the Occupation, was mostly Dahkuric from the Dahkur Province, but there was Rokantha, Kendra, Lonar, Tozhat, Musilla... there were a lot of languages.

Major Kira spoke Dahkuric. Odo spoke Dahkuric. He'd get around to the others, well, hopefully never, because hopefully they'd fix it before then!

Talking with Aroya about the most necessary phrases to know in Mevvit from the Mevvit province did give him a shortcut though:

Memorizing whole sound-strings without knowing what they broke down into was easy. It happened almost by default. Getting culturally-sensitive Arabic prayer chants stuck in his head was the whole reason he'd really started to have to learn the language.

Armed with that idea, the really hard part of this whole facade started: being the translator between Gaelic OBrien, Nog's specific (tonal!) Ferengi dialect, Ensign Rodriguez's Spanish, and Ensign Mallard's English while they all worked on figuring out what was happening.

If Nog said "Vo yop toe pah?" to Rodriguez, the "translation" was "Puedo tener eso?" without having any idea what words meant what, but it got things passed around.

Memorization and phonetic pronunciation to the rescue!

He ended up having to put a lot of old spytricks to work, spying on the repair team when it wasn't lunch hours to find strung together phrases, then playing it back with or without the translators until the whole thing was a giant ball of memorized gibberish that worked. In a pinch, accidentally, he'd even be able to pass along basic MollySpeak requests despite her speaking homogenized gibberish.

Every waking moment was practice somehow. The little Cardassian translator got an on-off button and Morn's ramblings during the fitting were now great practice figuring out enough Lurian to speak -Morn-, if not Actual Conversant Lurian.

The repair crew took up the whole afternoon now.

Fire (tine... fuego... nan...) worked in the non-gravity dark, if a bit weirdly, doming up around the wick because there wasn't gravity for the heat to rise against. Whatever was shutting off all the electricity everywhere didn't stop chemical matches being lit by friction. There were days where the whole now 20-30 minute periods of weightless dark didn't require much translation at all, where the repair team wandering around the Space Station with a lantern, holding on to the weightlessness strings, looking for things in silence.

Other times it was one technical phrase after another bounced back and forth all around. The part where what should be happening if he actually had an ACTUAL working translator was that he should be able to repeat what they said and then everyone would be able to understand required a handwave and pretending that somehow it had to do with intent or some such nonsense.

But they accepted it, and were back to work.

The oddest adventure was getting on the turbolift to go down to the promenade to meet with the repair crew.

Kira Nerys got on.

Then Dukat got on.

Dukat smirked at Kira.

And then the lights went off.

"Oh great," Kira muttered. "I don't know if the best thing about this is that I'm stuck here for three to five minutes with two people who understand me or if it's that I never have to hear your dreadful little language again since you've updated the translators.

Garak's first thought was "DREADFUL??!" and then "oh dear she's gone and caught me" when Dukat started bickering with her in a sneering, wicked voice that was half Dukat's basic personality and half him not having lessons from one such as Chalan Aroya about how to successfully use the headvoice. Kira responded and the two of them fought in Dahkaric all the way until the lights turned back on.

Of course Dukat knew how to speak Dahkaric Bajoran. He'd worked here for years. And what Aroya said about "scary guards"? "Scary Guards" didn't even begin to describe it.

Garak went from "the tailor everybody doesn't know what to do with" to being the one person EVERYBODY wanted to have on hand right there all the time. Lying about where he was at any given time came in very handy. Tell person 1 he was with person 2 tell person 2 something came up with person 3 and then go hide in the back of the tailor shop and study!

Lunches with Bashir turned into Dinner because "lunch" now consisted of a big half hour to hour long sessions of floating in the dark and made the concept of social eating through that a bit ridiculous. The best bit was it now wasn't too much of a faux pas to invite Bashir to his house and serve it there outside the noise of the station.

"I don't know what you're hearing," Bashir said over dinner, "Probably everything the way it always was, but finding out what people sound like without the translators can sometimes be a bit jarring."

That particular day had been a rather taxing one. Ensign Mallard had been sent to Bajor with some of the info the repair crew had gathered, replaced by Ensign Brady, who luckily still spoke English--a different regional variant. The whole lunch blackout consisted of trying to figure out which soundstrings correlated with which things Mallard used to say, and then dodging rephrasing things back the "wrong" way.

It was convoluted enough to give him a bit of a headache. He took a drink, metaphorically swallowing the stress along with the kanar, and chipperly said "Oh? I wouldn't know."

Bashir then proceeded to dump -his- opinion on all the sounds of the Station. The Dahkaric Bajoran. Sisko's English vs Mallard's English. OBrien's Gaelic. Keiko's Japanese. Whatever Molly was speaking.

"On Cardassia, we had the wherewithal to set up -one- language, and then everything else goes from -there-.' Garak said, trying to squelch the annoyance at the entire situation.

"Yes, but that ruins creativity!" Bashir leaned forward, getting into this argument. Arabic needed a word for "I am flirting this is an argument" and didn't quite have one that matched. "I mean, if everyone goes around speaking all the exact same language, you never get all the little nuances of culture."

He poked his food with a fork and looked embarrassed. "I hate to admit it, but watching OBrien's reaction to the time we had a blackout around 2:00 in the afternoon was rather entertaining. The sounds -fit- with him. They make sense."

"Don't the translators suppress that nuance anyway?" Garak said. "Everyone sounds like they're speaking Kardasi to me. (Well, they -used- to anyway.)

Bashir mulled this over. "I suppose? It's interesting seeing what does come through the translators and what doesn't. As much as I will never want admit this, Bajoran's not exactly easy on the ears." He then went on a bit of a tirade, trying to figure out what the difference between "all those vowels" was and it was cute enough to mitigate at least -some- of the stress of this project.

He leaned forward. "I do wonder what Kardasi sounds like. I mean, the part where your translator's working means I have no idea what sounds I'm missing!"

You -did- hear the Kellus Takun poem line, you just misunderstood it.

"You know, I wonder," Garak said, pretending this was a brand new idea. "If Cardassian translation devices are that unique, if they might be able to be turned on and off."

Bashir looked horrified. "If we turn it off and then it doesn't turn back on, I don't think the Cardassian government would be all that willing to just ship out a new one! You'd be wandering around the station with as little communication as the rest of us have when the power goes out!"

"Oh come on now, it wouldn't be -that- bad, and you did mention being curious about the sounds of Kardasi."

"This -can't- be a good idea." Bashir said.

Garak flicked off the translator with the button in his pocket, and in Arabic "I don't think it would be any more difficult than putting in programming to the sewing machine for a new dress design."

Bashir had no idea, as usual. "Oh it's probably much more difficult than that," he chided, "But knowing you, you've got the skills to at least turn it -off-, if not back -on-, and we can't risk it being broken now! The power goes on and off more and more every day!"

He sighed and took a drink, then stayed hiding behind the cup for awhile. "Besides, after OBrien's reaction to hearing my language, I'm not sure I -want- you to know what it sounds like."

"Oh?" Garak tilted his head and switched out the facial expression of "I'm happy this conversation's going where it's going" for a mask of curiosity.

Bashir sighed and went into "confession time" mode. "Apparently he thought I spoke British English, but while I did grow up there, my family started out in a different area of the planet, and we speak Arabic. He's still sort of teasing me about that."

Oh dear now English was growing dialects! Shoving that problem aside for now, Garak prodded through Bashir's embarrassment until it was a full on description of Bashir's perspective on "The Middle East".

As hellish as this translator job was, the result was he got to watch Bashir tell -stories-.

They got to the parts of the Ottoman Empire most like stories out of Cardassian Epic Adventures and Garak had to sit on adding details and clarifying all the parts Bashir got wrong because he'd never studied it in any depth.

"I didn't think you'd be this fascinated," Bashir said, a whole two hours later. The other nice thing about dinner was they weren't on a time crunch.

"It's stories of people fighting for survival in a desert," Garak said. "It reads like it belongs as a series on a shelf in a Cardassian Library."

Watching the happiness creep up around the corners of Bashir's face, Garak was reminded of exactly why he'd volunteered to put up with all the translation stress. It was like Garak had given him a space to accept a tiny portion of himself Bashir'd never quite liked before. "But it's one war after another for most of it!" he said.

"I didn't say the children's section." Garak said, smiling.

Bashir leaned back in the chair, looking like he was thinking about something, then started listing which of the Cardassian Novels he'd read that actually would fit in the Middle East and which were more like other places on Earth. "Russia" came up a few times. All Garak knew about Russia was that Worf sort of called it home. Others were "Roman". Others were "Chinese". Most didn't fit in anywhere.

"In 'The Good Argument', the whole plot wouldn't have happened without the desert," Bashir said. "Although given those characters, you could drop them in a world with nothing in it and they'd argue about whether or not the non-walls were white or offwhite."

Before Garak could get him off the topic of that specific novel, Bashir walked right where it wasn't a good place to go.

"That book did have phonetic Kardasi on the cover." he said. "Kelles Takun's poem," he rattled it off in what only passed as intelligible pronunciation because Garak already knew what he was saying, and he tried not to cringe on it.

Bashir leaned forward on the table. "Why -did- you end up quoting it the first time, when the power went... out..." he blinked. "That was phonetic."

The words dropped out and hung there, with Bashir going from a face of realization to a long slow jaw drop, then morphing into disbelief. "HOW ARE YOU DOING THAT?"

"Doing what?" Garak asked as innocently as possible. In Arabic. Which they'd been speaking for the last two hours.

The power snapped out. They were in Garak's quarters, with the window on the outside, so it wasn't as dark here as it was on the interior of the station with the starlight coming through, but it was just stars.

"Garak," Bashir said. "Be honest, er, for once... Are you actually still speaking though a translator?"

"Of course,"

"I'm not sure I believe you," Bashir said, "On the one hand, I'm a doctor, and even I can't do what I think you just did, which is memorize -everything-. On the other hand, I distinctly remember hearing the -first- line as phonetic and I still have no idea what the second line is."

He continued. "On the other hand, Kira said Dukat had a nasty accent, but you sound just fine."

"Military versus tailoring model differences on the translators maybe?" Garak said. He couldn't see Bashir in the power out, just a very tiny outline from the starlight through the window, but he knew which exasperated facial expression Bashir was probably making at him.

"On the other hand, you were able to speak "Molly", and she has a mark on her file that she's speaking her own combination, which is typical of bilingual houses with the Translators running." He snapped his fingers in the dark. "ON THE OTHER HAND--"

How many hands did this thing have?

"--That did only happen once, and there's only so many requests a child that age can make, and when they got back to the house, it turned out she'd forgotten her backpack, not that she'd forgotten her shoes. We all thought it was just Molly, but you might have been guesstimating anyway."

Glad for the dark, Garak sighed. Time for "It's always the Tailor Shop's Fault" technique.

"It turns out that there's a plethora of little culture-bound specifications on Lurian outfits, and with Morn being such a darling to work with, I got frustrated enough with it to just hack the translator." He figured he owed Morn a new pair of pants for that one.

Continuing, "One thing led to another, and then this whole disaster happened and you were so convincing about my being useful as a translator I figured it would be better to oblige."

"If I would have known you were doing it manually, I wouldn't have put you through all!" Bashir said. "I'm use to being objectively the smartest person in the room, but I think I--"

The lights flicked back on and they thunked back in their chairs.

"--may have underestimated you. Again."

Blinking away the brightness, that "again" was part of what made all of this worth it.


Given that they were, well, a Doctor and a "Tailor", and wayward electrons require neither medical attention nor pants, the problem did eventually end up being solved by someone else. Some malfunctioning device on a moon from some blase ancient civilization or other, as ancient civilizations are wont to do.