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Life of a Left Arm

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It was still early in fourth shift when Allura found herself slipping into her quarters as the day caught up with her. It still amazed her that the humans adjusted to having what Pidge called a thirty-two hour day, and often lasted longer than she or Coran could manage to do. Three-fourths of the ship’s cycle later, she found herself flagging on her work, but Pidge and Hunk both assured her that she lasted longer than Coran ever did.

Moving towards her bed, she smiled as she thought back on the progress they made today. Several systems were worked on, and the paladins were bonding further with their lions while the systems compiled all of the maintenance logs from the old Paladins into an easy to read format. Letting out a wide-mouthed yawn, she shuffled over to her drawers to pull out some sleeping clothes to change into.

Her mind wandered to her paladins again, wondering how they managed to have such long-standing stamina while being so physically weak. She had noticed that they outlasted both the Alteans and Galra over longer periods of time, but weren’t as strong. Their bodies seemed to have developed to withstand so much more punishment before a catastrophic failure would occur, such as entering shock or dying. Settling down on the edge of her bed, she let her body run on automatic to change her outfit while she wondered what about their physiology could allow for such great stamina.

Lying back on her pillow, her musing was interrupted by a crinkling sound as her head pressed against something that was firmly not a pillow. Sitting back up, she found a familiar looking object resting open on her pillow. The Journal Pidge had been working on seemed to have been deposited on her bed in an obvious attempt at getting her to read it. Hearing the familiar scratching of clawed feet in the vent over her bed, she looked up just in time to see a tail zip out of view. Shaking her head she set the Journal aside and returned to stretching on her bed. Touching the wall control, the lights in her room dimmed so she could get some sleep. However, in the back of her mind the image of her name came floating unbidden to the forefront every time she tried to close her eyes.

Letting out a vexed grunt, she reached out again to turn on the light after counting to one-hundred and twenty ticks. She wasn’t going to be able to rest until she did something about that Journal business. Grabbing the Journal, she walked swiftly over to her desk and dug out a datapad. With swift and precise stylus strokes, she copied over the English letters into the datapad, noticing that there were points where Pidge had scratched something off before rewriting it. Tilting her head, she wondered if there was some sort of significances to the scribbling.

After a moment’s thought, she copied the scratched out parts in a separate section, with lines to inject them where they had been on the source material. Reviewing the copied work, she nodded before closing the Journal and turning to the vent. “Could you return this to where Pidge keeps it? I copied down the words so you don’t have to keep bringing it to me.”

At first it was just the smallest one that she saw peeking over the edge, before the others came forward with shining eyes bright and curious. As one they scampered down the wall, across the access panel near her bed and along the molding to her desk. One paused to look at her datapad, while the other three stared at her with silent, expectant eyes. “I promise, I’ll work on finding out what you are trying to show me from the copy, but if Pidge finds out their Journal project is missing, I imagine they would be upset.”

A tiny conference was held before her eyes before the mice nodded in unison and snatched up the Journal, lugging it up to the vent with a good deal of effort on their part. Once they were gone, she sighed and leaned back in the chair to stare blankly at the mess of English on the datapad. Some were massive tangents, others short little blips. There were words she could recognize, other than her name, while others she were strange even for the native English speakers to read.

Finding the shortest one, she figured her mind would quiet down a little if she at least made an attempt at translating it out. All seven words of the sentence were even ones she knew. ‘Allura’ was her name, so she probably shouldn’t even count that one.

Would – that was one of those verb things… a past tense version of will if she remembered right; which meant that she was supposed to do something in this sentence.

Never – or maybe not? That seemed confusing, but that was essentially negating the previous word, so maybe it was something she wasn’t doing, instead of forbidding her from doing something.

Look – that was the word for the act of seeing or focusing on something, or several other variations, but those were the ones she could come up with off the top of her head in her tired state. Was she supposed to notice something and was failing to do so? This might be a worrisome trait in her role as a leader of the Paladins, especially if Pidge felt the need to write it down in her Journal.

Twice – that… that meant… something about a second time, a repetition of a previous event or occurrence. So she’d done it before at least once, which might help limit her attempts at figuring out what she had performed wrong the first time.

At – this was a simple one, it was to draw attention to something, probably the last word. Good the pieces were coming into place nicely.

Me – that was the one that meant the writer, as opposed to the reader. Though the speaker would use it in much the same manner, either way, this was to be read as if Pidge were talking to her, about herself? Before the confusion could spread in her mind further, she cut off the train of thought to focus on the sentence as a whole.

Pidge felt that she had to look at them a second time, but that couldn’t be right, as she had looked at Pidge multiples times, even today alone. Quiznak, this was making her head hurt. Lowering her notes down, she rubbed the sides of her head and let her mind drift for a bit as she realized that her tiredness was indeed hindering at this point. Perhaps she should go lay down and sleep on it instead of exhausting herself further.

Even as she returned to her bed, and sleep claimed her exhausted body, her mind continued churning the sentence over and over in her head, trying to decipher some meaning behind the words that she was missing after translating them. Had she insulted Pidge by not performing some cultural aspect of looking twice? What was it to even look twice?

Groaning into her palms, she forced herself to focus on anything else so she could get some sleep. She focused on the juniberries in the early morning breeze, how their fragrance would envelope her, and soothe her in her youth. How the summer berry festival would come around, and slowly her mind drifted to how the juice of the berries stained her favorite dress, and the soothing face of her mother trying to calm her, her voice sweet and gentle, with loving overtones. Even now the tone from her memory was calming her down enough to slowly drift to sleep. She always seemed to know what to say and do when dealing with people, even when her father faltered. She had a truly diplomatic nature that was highly sought after in Altean culture.

The tender look in her mother’s eyes seemed to quell Allura’s rebellious mind to focus on something other than the ninth entry she had just translated. She would seek out Shiro after her sleeping shift and see if he could help her with understanding the meaning behind the words before sending him to his quarters. He was very good at helping her understand the culture of the Humans, even though he kept pointing out that there were many different cultures on the planet.

How can a single planet have many different cultures? That would not make any sense with them gaining the ability to escape their planet and travel throughout their celestial system. That type of progress required many of the brightest minds working in tandem to reach for the stars.

Sleep claimed her shortly after, her mind finally quieting enough for her to sleep. Perhaps if she was lucky, she could have one of those dreams that Lance talked of. It sounded nice to have a private nightly vision that was not some premonition of doom or an omen of oncoming disaster. The corruption of her father’s memories had been the last time she’d had a vision in her sleep, and she would love it if her mind could have a different vision to remember sleep by.

A dream of her mother and fathers would be wonderful.

The rising of her lights many ticks later broke her free of the darkness of her sleep, bringing her back to the waking world. She hit the stop button before the light could get painful. It had been found that this method of waking Alteans was far more natural and less damaging than any other, however the Paladins seemed to have brought methods of countering it, if Lance was any indication. After all, the auditory alarms that the humans seemed to prefer were usually reserved for alerts on the ship’s systems. Though Allura had to admit the sound of the ‘birds’ chirping that Pidge said was their alarm wasn’t as jarring as the normal klaxons that the others used.

When Pidge had explained that there were more bird songs, which was a delightfully adorable way of naming the calls of the animals and oh so fitting, than the ones they used, Allura had been so tempted to confiscate any of their audio file players to listen to more of them, but then the conversation moved on and she lost her chance.

Lifting herself out of the bed, she staggered towards the restroom, feeling like taking a shower to finish waking up and clearing the blackness from her mind. That seemed to have been an excellent idea, until her mind woke up enough that it began cycling over the sentence from the before she slept. What could ‘look twice’ mean?

Groaning she finished up her cleaning and got dressed for duty shifts, which meant her battle armor. The gown was nice, but if she was to do more work with the others on the systems, then her armor was a better call. The emergency space suit of the armor was enough to make the decision for her.

Shiro was easy to find as always: he always spent the fourth shift in the Command Deck listening to distress calls, tracking their course, and generally ensuring things went smoothly while she and Coran were either sleeping or busy elsewhere. She had offered to set up the automated alert systems, but he mentioned that it helped him to deal with things if he was able to feel in control of a situation. She wasn’t entirely sure what he meant, but perhaps humans found command to be more comfortable than Alteans. It was not seen as a glorious position, but instead one of duty and responsibility.

She should learn more about humans; perhaps a union of their races could be fruitful and promising. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and strode across the deck to find Shiro studying a star chart with a pensive, distant expression on his face.

“Shiro?” she asked softly, approaching him carefully so he could see her the entire time. It was something that Hunk had suggested for her to do it this way, something about his time with the Galra making it hard for him to deal with people suddenly appearing. It was another difference with humans than Alteans or other races they met in this part of the universe. Her musing was interrupted by his face softening into a smile and a rising of his hand in greeting. “Do you mind waiting a few minutes before going to your quarters? I came across a phrase of English with one of the other paladins and I fear I cannot fully understand the translation. I wonder if it might be cultural.”

“Of course Princess, I’ll help as best I can, first which Paladin?” Shiro asked, his eyes sparkling slightly at the prospect of discussing cultural differences. “It might help me to narrow down the meaning you’re looking for.”

“It was not in conversation, but something written,” Allura explained as she stepped up to the counsel for the main ship’s control. She wanted to protect Pidge in case this was an insulting or controversial topic in their culture. “The phrase was ‘She would never look twice at me.’”

She didn’t know why she changed the phrase by one word, but she figured removing herself from the equation wouldn’t change the meaning at all. Watching Shiro out of the corner of her eye, she noticed his eyes focus on her for a moment before one of his eyebrows rose. “I can see where that would cause some difficulties, and this would be a part of the American culture, for future reference.”

“I’m guessing you translated the words themselves?” he asked, getting a nod from the princess before he continued. “The problem part is that we’re dealing with an alternative meaning of words when used like this. It is generally used when the person who is ‘speaking’ the phrase has feelings for the person they’re referring to.”

“Feelings for? Like… romantic interest?” Allura asked for clarification as she tried to figure out what Shiro was meaning in his explanation.

“Sometimes, others it means admiration or a great deal of respect. I would have to read more of the context to give you the details, sorry.”

Allura pursed her lips in thought as she wondered what that could mean between her and Pidge, did Pidge admire her? But they seemed to be annoyed with her most times they talked; then again they seemed annoyed whenever they talk to the other paladins as well. Was that Pidge’s method of telling others that they like them?

“But how does one look at someone twice? They see them every day, so it would be impossible to not look at them twice at the very least,” Allura asked, her eyes focused on the star map before her. As her attention was diverted between it, and the confusion, she missed Shiro’s expression of slowly dawning understanding.

“See them for who they really are, learning about their interests and hobbies. For example, did you know that Hunk loves to cook and experiment because his grandmother was the one that taught him? Or that Keith enjoys romantic comedies and romance novels?” Shiro asked while approaching her and watching her reactions to the various names he was listing off. “Lance spent years helping his sisters braid their hair and dress up.”

“What about you and Pidge?” Allura asked her eyes soft and curious as the new information was filed away. Perhaps she could ask Lance to assist her should they come upon one of the races in which the style of one’s hair was considered a mark of office or even a sign of respect for their deities or traditions. Hunk parents mother was a curious bit of information and one that might help her determine a good rest location should they come upon them. As for Keith, she could subtly nudge him towards some of the Altean romance novels in the library. It would be good for Coran to have someone else to talk to about them.

Shiro let out a soft laugh as he patted her on the shoulder. “Well I suppose that is something you have to find out for yourself, consider it homework,” he offered before turning away to head for the door. “Pidge was with their lion last I saw, I’ll go and send them to bed.”

A momentary pause, before her head lifted up and she called out to Shiro. “Why don’t I do that and let you go to sleep? I was the one that started them on working with their lion more.”

The smile he shot back at her was one she hadn’t seen before, but something told her that he knew something that she didn’t. “Let’s go together, it might take a bit of convincing to get them to come along,” he suggested with a chuckle to his voice. “We can talk more about the cultures of Earth on the way.”