Characters: Ianto, Jack, OCs.
Word Count: 1333
Summary: Ianto has learned several languages since venturing out into space with Jack, but it takes him a while to recognise the one being used here for trade negotiations.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 230: Language at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Set in my ‘Ghost of a Chance’ ‘Verse.
Despite already having told Ianto that the goods the natives would be offering in trade for the supplies they’d bought with them should bring in a healthy profit, Jack haggled. It was expected; apparently the natives wouldn’t feel like they’d got a good deal unless there was haggling involved.
The people now living on this desolate, ancient world were more or less humanoid, but seemed as weathered as the planet’s surface, their skin creased and burnished to the colour of polished mahogany. They had the requisite two arms, two legs, and one head in approximately the expected configuration, but they were completely hairless and their limbs seemed oddly jointed, though it was impossible to see the reason for that impression since they were all dressed in loose trousers, and long-sleeved, belted tunics that came down below where their knees would be. If indeed they had anything resembling knees, which was open to speculation. Whatever their physiological differences to humans might be, it meant they walked with a strange loping, gliding gait that was oddly graceful, and almost hypnotic to watch.
The way they spoke was the same, rhythmic and flowing, like water over pebbles, and accompanied by sweeping gestures of their over-long arms and hands. As Jack talked with them, Ianto gradually became aware that they seemed to have rather more fingers than he was used to, although it took him several minutes of watching before he finally worked out that they had six fingers and two opposable thumbs on each hand. It took him even longer to work out that they were speaking Galactic Standard, the main language used for trading and the first one he’d learned since leaving earth a little over a year ago. Their odd inflections and lilting rhythm of speech made words that should have been almost as familiar to him as their English counterparts into something that sounded completely different from what he was used to, and he had to concentrate hard to make sense of what he was hearing. Good thing he’d left this trade to Jack; it wouldn’t do for misunderstandings to crop up during such an important transaction.
The more Ianto listened, however, the easier it became for him to understand at least most of what was being said as Jack and the being carrying out most of the negotiating on behalf of his people went back and forth with offers and counter-offers. On trades like this one, no actual money would change hands; it was barter, pure and simple. He and Jack had supplies the natives needed, while they had goods that could be sold on the more heavily populated central worlds for a healthy profit.
Eventually, the two parties came to an agreement; Jack and Ianto would take everything the natives had to trade in exchange for the supplies Ianto had offloaded and stacked neatly near the rear of their cargo ship, and Jack would throw in a bolt of lightweight canvas they’d taken in trade at another port of call, which would make good sails for the natives’ fishing boats, along with fifty reels of unbreakable sewing thread to sweeten the deal. Jack and the natives’ spokesperson touched the backs of their left hands together and bowed low; Ianto took that to mean the deal was completed to the satisfaction of both parties.
All that was left was for Jack to fetch the extra goods from the smaller of the Happy Wanderer’s cargo holds while Ianto took charge of what was now theirs. Unloading the anti-grav trolleys was done by hand since what they held was fairly light, and the task was accomplished mostly by the natives, who knew what they were doing better than Ianto did. While some of them carried everything they’d just unloaded up into the ship’s hold, Ianto used the Wanderer’s sturdy little loader to help the other members of the trading party get the heavy crates onto the trolleys for transportation to the underground caverns where they made their homes. Once that was done and the loader returned to the shuttle bay, Ianto and Jack helped strap the crates down securely, so they’d stay put as the trolleys were manhandled back the way they’d come.
Though the native people spoke to each other in their own language, which sounded more like rushing, bubbling water to Ianto’s ears, they used their unique version of Galactic Standard to communicate with him and Jack, issuing instructions, most of which Ianto managed to figure out, although once or twice Jack had to correct him. For Ianto, it was as if he was having to translate what was being said to him first back into GS and then into English, a bit confusing but not impossible as long as he listened carefully.
Securing the load was carried out efficiently and much faster than Ianto would have thought possible, perhaps due to this race’s incredibly dextrous fingers; the four trolleys were ready to go in hardly more than fifteen minutes. He stepped back as teams of people got into position around them, twelve to a trolley, five at each side and two behind, pushing and pulling to get each one moving in the right direction, then gently guiding them along with minimal effort, relying mainly on momentum to keep them moving. Now they had some weight on them they were less inclined to drift off at the whim of the ceaseless wind.
“Well, I guess that’s it,” Ianto sighed. “Deal done. Where are we off to next?”
“Nowhere, at least not right away,” Jack replied, using his wrist strap to raise the shuttle bay ramp again and activate the ship’s security safeguards. “I had a word with Geeschon, the spokesman, the one I was negotiating the trade with, and we’re invited below to see where they live, meet the people, and visit the markets.”
It was only then that Ianto noticed Jack had a backpack slung over one shoulder, full to the brim with small trade items by the looks of its bulging sides. He held out an empty pack to Ianto, presumably for carrying any purchases they might make. Ianto slung it over his shoulder.
“Thanks. So when was this sightseeing trip decided?”
“While Geeschon and I were fetching the roll of cloth from the small hold. I told him we’d be interested in seeing more if that was permitted and he was delighted. Apparently most traders just want to trade and run, they have no interest in the people, which is a shame because they enjoy meeting other races and learning about the universe beyond their world. They’re planet-bound, except on the rare occasions small groups are able to negotiate passage on trading ships to one of the sector’s major trading venues. They have no spaceships of their own and no way of building any; most of the planet’s accessible resources have long since been used up. It means they’re kind of isolated; trading ships only come by two or three times a year.”
“That must make for a hard life.”
“I imagine so,” Jack agreed. “Shall we go? We don’t want to keep our host waiting too long.”
“Yes, of course.” Ianto started forward, towards the waiting Geeschon, Jack falling into step beside him. “Jack?”
“I just realised you never told me what this world is called, just that it’s the oldest planet in the galaxy, or the oldest that’s been discovered.”
“The people here call it Vissenaar in their language, which translates to Dibbari Loesh in Galactic Standard.”
Ianto looked around him and quirked a little smile. “Most ancient rock; very fitting.”
“Isn’t it?” Jack grinned, taking Ianto’s hand. Joining their host they set off in the wake of the anti-grav trolleys and their escorts, down the faintly discernible path worn into the windswept rock and towards a distant patch of shadow that marked the entrance to the Vissenaarians’ underground complex, both of them eager to learn more about the people and culture of this extraordinary planet.
TBC in ‘The Caverns’