Another ten minute prompt. This one took me rather longer than ten minutes to write, if I'm honest, but the game had stalled, probably because the word specified wasn't exactly common. I had to look it up. Caitiff is an archaic synonym for scoundrel.


"Chief Anderson? I'm Callan James. I'm a specialist linguist with ISO Communications."

Anderson bit back his initial response. Linguistics? Someone else should be dealing with this, shouldn't they? But normally someone else would be: Grant, who still wasn't at all well.

He blanked his computer screen and swung round in his seat. One of the new Academy graduates stood in the doorway to his office, looking far too young to be out of education at all, immaculate uniform, and clearly very nervous.

"What can I do for you, Lieutenant?"

"Sir, I'm assigned to monitor the ISO public relations forums. The brief is to pay particular attention to people posting in the recruitment sections, and look for oddities."

I really don't care. He looked over his glasses at her, willing her to get to the point. Hoping there even was one. He hated being the martinet, but he didn't have time for this.

She gulped visibly. "Sir, there's someone posting in there at the moment, several times over the past few days, asking about how to get into, well, my job. And it's odd." She handed him a single sheet of paper.

He read it, frustration growing. So someone who didn't speak English very well was applying for a job they were totally unsuited for. So what?

"Lieutenant, I don't understand why you think this needs my personal attention." He allowed some of the frustration to show in his voice.

"I...sir, it's the words they use. I'm not an expert - I don't think there is an expert - but my senior year year project was on the language choices which people make, and how they relate to what their native language is."

That's more interesting. "Keep going."

"Arcturans tend to sound very formal. Sigma Minori sound aggressive." She met his eyes, standard body language to indicate the most important part of a message. "Spectrans can often speak very good English, but they use archaic terms where we never would. Their own language doesn't have the concept of words going out of use." She pointed at a paragraph about half way down the page. "Sir, I think this post was written by a Spectran. My supervisor said black section should know, in case it was useful."

Anderson looked again. Caitiff. He'd read it, he'd understood it, he even rather liked it as a description of Zoltar. But no, he'd never have used it. He couldn't imagine anyone using it. Not even someone using a dictionary or thesaurus to try to impress. Not someone human.

He stood up. "Let's see what Computing have to say about the source of these messages." And, when she made no move to follow, he gestured her to the door. "You are now the expert in this area. After you."