The following is an excerpt of an idea from a manuscript that might not actually be written.
“That’s not a Prophecy. That’s a plan.”
Such a simple statement. Straight forward. Elegant in it’s forthright bluntness and clarity. Without nuance.
As the briefing unfolded, it also turned out to be the last thing any of the senior staff had expected.
In hindsight, they should have.
From a rational point of view, their confusion was… Understandable, even. If misplaced. No one had asked the right questions. Even thought to ask questions. The report had been submitted and cataloged over one hundred and fifty turns ago.
Operators, the central nerve of the Matriarch and, thus, the Elite intelligence operation, were deigned and designed interpreters of information, exactly such as the information they’d just reviewed. No one, it seemed, had done that. Or, more precisely, understood what they were looking at.
Someone, no one is quite sure who because as things are classified at all sorts of levels with the appropriate—often inappropriate—redactions in place, mistranslated the context and the nuance of the text.
Elite Operators, as it turns out, had come across the data some time ago in a routine scouring of Islander communications.
The problem, it seems, originated in the origin of the Islander language, which found roots in both the Ancient and Neverending. Their reverence might have bordered on obsessive, amounting to inclusion of cultural pillar stones.
Sovereign, for all their circumstance, had no such agency with the languages. They avoided them studiously, instinctually, for it set a tingle down their souls and a shudder through their Flames. Thus, it was this lack of familiarity that brought upon them this unfortunate circumstances.
They had mistranslated the tense in a the short paragraph in a game of essentially human whisper-down-the-line, lost a few more words to generalizations and literal meaning, not to mention the improper application of grammar. Coupled with the fact that in Ancient, there simply didn’t exist a descent way to distinguish “them” from “him” or “her” or “us” without a larger context. Singular and plurality interchanged quite often. As it was reported, a contextual error.
Here was a decent example:
Original Text: Patience. The coming of the end is nearing. We, the ones who Know, are prepared. Within ten generations, we will be prepared for to move.
Translated Text: Serenity in the face of the approaching future. The One who knows All has prepared the world for you for [untranslatable] generations.
The Sovereign, it turns out, could be forgiven for not understanding time. The idea of active consciousness when you live for half a thousand turns of the seasons is vastly detached from that of the Islanders, who live for a tenth that span. So, having marked up this idea and stored it away in alpha stage for filing and forgetting, they moved on to more pressing issues.
So, how they have a war on their hands. War was the kind of word that the Sovereign didn’t have. The kind that hadn’t existed for so long no one remembered what it meant; the Islanders certain hadn’t forgotten or let it slip from their lexicon. Scouter had once told Four Corners it meant “unending struggle” or “the never ending battle”, whichever occurred to him as most appropriate on the day. Thus their present condition, waging real war for the first time in seven thousand years.
All of which could have been averted if they’d had properly translated the in intelligence data in the first place. And they might have avoided being in a state of complete War.
Of course, all that said, they hadn’t and they were.