To fill square one-one on my card for trope_bingo. Story one of a new series. No Ao3 standard warnings apply.
“I need to claim this criminal as my lawful catch and bounty.” Jahnan repeated the phrase three times – once in Standard to the clerk, then again in Standard to the translation machine, and then in the local language – all while trying to maintain her hold on the criminal in question.
“Your Tod’cxeckz’ret is awful.” Her captive jerked, trying to pull away from her grip. Jahnan held on for life and profit. Not only did Yira Trembane outmass her considerably and have at least a decimeter in height on her, but he was slippery as all space and had gotten out of his bonds three times since she’d caught him. “Here, let me.” He looked at the clerk and spat out a line of Tod’cxeckz’ret, then translated into Standard. “She’s here to collect the bounty on me.”
“You’re awfully helpful all of a sudden.” Jahnan regained her grip on Yira’s forearm. She wasn’t losing this one, not again.
“Prisons are easier to get away from than you. Sooner I’m in custody-”
“The sooner you’re out and earning me another bounty. Fine.” She looked up at the clerk. “Claim?” She tried the Tod’cxeckz’ret word again, “Get’geld?”
“Yes, yes.” The clerk churred and clicked at the translator, which responded in a brusque tone in Standard. “Here, then, standard form, both of you thumbprint, sign, here.”
Jahnan expected Yira to balk, but once again, he cooperated. From the way he pricked his thumb and smeared the blood on the paper, he’d done this as many times as Jahnan herself had.
“Very good.” The clerk filed the paper away behind the desk. “If Yira Trembane would kneel to facilitate process, please?”
“Slip that to a black hole sideways.” Yira took a step back, pulling against Jahnan’s arm. “I don’t kneel.”
“If hon Trembane would kneel, process will be completed quickly.” The clerk stepped out from behind the desk; he was nearly as short as Jahnan, only coming up to Yira’s chin.
“You want to get out of here as much as I do,” Jahnan pointed out. “I want my wages, Trembane.”
“And I want my nice cozy prison cell,” he growled. “But I don’t do kneeling.”
The clerk produced a hand-held Taser. “Hon Trembane will kneel or hon Trembane will be helped to kneel. The process must be done properly.”
“Starcrud, I got it, I got it.” Yira’s hands were handcuffed behind his back, but he knelt gracefully anyway. “Next time you catch me, hunter, let’s skip Tod’cxeckza, all right?”
“Next time I catch you, I’m gonna put you in a coldsleep canister and tow you behind my ship.”
“Hon Trembane will not have to worry about that again.” The clerk set his hands around Yira’s neck, so quickly that the thief didn’t have a chance to pull away, and just as quickly removed them.
Where his hands had been, a solid circle of metal now sat.
“If hon Nehanani would sit, please?”
Jahnan pulled up a chair. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Yira twisting and turning, trying to see what had been done to him. “You’re not doing that to me.”
“Of course not. Hon Nehanani has laid the claim.” The clerk showed her what he was holding – a bracelet of the same silvery metal as the collar Yira was wearing and a complicated earring.
She’d never said no to jewelry from strange men before. Jahnan sat down and allowed the clerk to apply the earring and bracelet: earring to right side, bracelet to left.
“There.” The clerk stepped back. “Hons Nehanani and Trembane are now bound and joined in Tod’cxeckz’ri Kozel-kiczka marriage. That is, ah.” The clerk gave the matter a moment of thought, “the closest approximation in Standard would be… master and servant?
“Wait, what?” Yira bounced to his feet faster than he thought possible. “No, no, no, get this thing off of me.”
“Marriage?” Jahnan shook her head. The earring jingled and jangled against her head. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“You claimed hon Trembane as yours and he agreed. Formal marriage ceremony has taken place, and you have thumb-printed the contract.”
That’s what she got for not reading the small print. “Okay, okay. But we didn’t want to get – damnit, Trambane, I think the translator is getting it mangled, you try.”
He clicked and churred through the Tod’cxeckz’ret phrases. “We don’t want to be bound together. This was a mistake. How do we undo it?”
“Tod’cxeckz’ri Kozel-kiczka marriages cannot be divorced, but they can be annulled.” The clerk passed Jahnan a list, written in Standard, Tod’cxeckz’ret, and five other languages. “To obtain an annulment, you must have a notarized document from one of these relations, stating that Hon Trembane is unfit for marriage.”
“Me? What about her?”
“You are the kiczka. The fault must lie in you.” The clerk nodded at them. “You have thirty days.”
Jahnan read over the paper again. “Well, shit. Come on, kiczka -husband. Let’s get searching.”
Next:The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part II
Tod’cxeckz’ret is pronounced with glottal stops in the apostrophes; the syllables rhyme with Todd, check, and whet.
Jahnan is pronounced with a hard J (John) and stress on the second syllable with a breathy sound on the H. Her full name is Nehanani Jahnan.
Yira is pronounced Yee-ruh.
Hon is pronounced on
The IPA for the above, courtesy of thnidu:
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