Edward Willettis the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction for readers of all ages. Born in New Mexico, Willett moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan from Texas with his parents as a child, and began his career as a newspaper reporter for, and eventually editor of, the weeklyWeyburn Review. An actor and singer as well as an author, he now lives in Regina with his wife, Margaret Anne Hodges, P.Eng. They have one daughter.

Lost in Translation by Edward Willett

Kathryn was a human empath whose world and life were destroyed when, as a young child, she watched helplessly as the alien S'sinn slaughtered her parents before her very eyes. Only the Translators, an elite guild of empaths, were able to free her from the trauma and give her a new life.

Jarrikk was a young S'sinn, an unproven warrior who saw his flight mates slaughtered by the humans who sought to colonize his world. Crippled so that he could never fly again, he would have chosen death, but he wasn't allowed a choice. Instead, he too was trained to be a Translator.

As humans and S'sinn find themselves poised on the brink of a war that could not only destroy their own species, but also disrupt the delicate balance of the multiracial Commonwealth, these two Translators—who have every reason to hate one another—must work together to find a common ground and avert catastrophe. But whether their Translators' oath and training can overcome the enemies leagued against them remains to be seen.



  • "Thisin-depth look at an alien culturemakes for fascinating reading."

    – Midwest Book Review




Jarrikk watched the humans crossing the polished black basalt floor of the Great Hall of the Flock as closely as if they were prey, hearing their strange footsteps echoing back from the distant walls. Spidery red columns, studded with perches and platforms, soared to the haze-hidden roof, S'sinn clinging to them in dozens and hundreds. Jarrikk could feel his people's hatred of the humans beating down like desert sun, hot enough to turn the bitterness in his own hearts into bloodfury were he to allow it.

His crippled left wing ached, ached as it had not since the day of his injury, the pain throbbing in the withered flight muscles in his shoulder and chest and into his left arm. Humans! The plague of his childhood, the cancer that had eaten away the best parts of his life, the poison that now threatened the Commonwealth itself. He had first seen the ugly, flightless, four-limbed creatures twenty years past. War had followed. He would gladly have gone another twenty without seeing them again, but the Translators' Guild had called him to this duty.

These negotiations had almost not happened at all. Without Full Translation, they would be impossible. S'sinn Translators were few and far-flung among the Seven Races; at this time and this place, he was the only one available, though he had never Translated with humans before.

He wished that could have remained true, but his Oath bound him. He would do his duty.

If war came this time, it would not be his doing.

The giant hall whispered with the rustlings of the S'sinn, here stretching batlike wings, there yawning to display gleaming white fangs or grooming themselves with their ventral arms, but mostly just staring, staring with the blood-red eyes of a thousand nightmares.

The damp chill and near-choking scent of musk pervading the Hall of the Flock might have come from those same dark dreams, Kathryn Bircher thought, shivering in her sleeveless Translator's uniform. As might the sense of foreboding that gripped her. For a moment, she envied Ambassador Matthews and his aides, cut off from the seething sea of alien emotion she'd begun to feel the moment she stepped out of the shuttle. She knew the other five races of the Commonwealth considered humans and S'sinn primitive, almost barbaric, barely free of their animal pasts. Maybe that was why she could read the aliens so clearly, with very little effort, as clearly as she could read Matthews himself, his cold, passionless soul a spire of ice among the smoldering red fires of the aliens' hatred.

Or maybe it was because the last time she had been exposed to the raw emotions of the S'sinn, her world had shattered.

She stared ahead at the waiting S'sinn leaders on the small, circular dais, still impossibly far away. The fires of rage in this room could shatter a great deal more than just her world; they could shatter a thousand.

She wondered if anyone could stop them.

Jarrikk focused on the human Translator, sharpening his gaze to hunting mode. He could see every strand of her blond hair, every tiny imperfection in her pale skin, could even count the stitches that held the triangle-within-a-circle-within-a-square symbol of the Translators' Guild in place above the curve of her left breast. He raked his eyes over her figure from a distance of fifty spans, memorizing every claw's breadth of her within the space of five of her steps. Within that time he knew how she walked, how she breathed, which hand she favored, and where her uniform chafed her. Within minutes, he would know her interior landscape just as perfectly.

He didn't even notice his claws gouging splinters from the golden wood of the dais.

Feeling that she carried not only her small metal Translator's case but also the weight of a thousand S'sinn, and the lead ball and chain of her own nightmares, Kathryn stumbled as she mounted the platform. Ambassador Matthews steadied her with a strong hand. It was all she could do to keep from flinching; she could shut out much of the hatred beating down on her from the S'sinn, but touch strengthened empathy a hundredfold, and for that moment of contact, his little candle of hatred burned brighter than all the red eyes of the S'sinn—and he held the fate of negotiations in his hands as much as she did.

She pulled free, took a deep breath, straightened, and looked around. The dais bore a black, glass-topped table and metal chairs for the humans and, for the S'sinn, the padded resting racks called shikks, which to Kathryn looked more like torture devices than comfortable body supports, even for creatures with two wings in addition to the normal complement of arms and legs, and bizarre musculature to match. Matthews and his aides sat at the table; a female S'sinn, already reclining on one of the shikks, watched them in silence. Three others stood just behind her.

Each S'sinn wore only a broad metal collar, marked with a sign. The female on the shikk, on whose red-gold collar a sapphire-studded lightning bolt slashed across a spiral of rubies, would be Akkanndikk, the Supreme Flight Leader. The other two, male and female, would be her Left Wing and Right Wing, her aides and bodyguards. On their copper collars, dull red stones picked out the spiral, minus the lightning bolt. As Matthews sat down, they spread their arms and their wings, revealing the insignia repeated in metallic red on the black, leathery membrane.

The fourth S'sinn also unfolded his arms and wings in greeting, but though his arms moved normally, only his right wing extended fully; the left opened only halfway, and Kathryn glimpsed lurid purple scars zigzagging across it. On his silver collar and on his one goodwing gleamed a triangle inside a circle inside a square.


Kathryn felt him trying to read her empathically, and blocked frantically, instinctively, though the effort made her head throb. By Guild etiquette that was unforgivably rude, but she couldn't help it. Facing the S'sinn Translator, all she could think of was the first time she'd seen a S'sinn this close, and the memory threatened to send her screaming from the room.

Yet now she had to get even closer. Now, she had to Link.

As the human blocked his polite probe, Jarrikk growled deep in his throat. How dare she! What it had cost him to make the effort, she could never know . . .

Except she would know, in a moment. His anger dimmed slightly, damped by curiosity. Why block the initial contact when the deeper contact was heartbeats away? Did she fear it as much as he? Was fear the sharp smell that mingled with the humans' strange salty stench?

Fear or not, the Link could not be avoided. They were sworn to Translate, and that meant they must Link.

It seemed the human recognized that fact as well as he; she stepped to the center of the dais, set her case on the floor, opened it, and took out the injector, a small glass cylinder with an absurdly tiny needle. Is human skin really so thin? Jarrikk wondered. He stepped forward with his own case, removed the much larger metal injector, and without giving himself time to think, drove it into his left arm.

As the warm tingling of the Programming spread through his blood, he looked at the human. She still held her tiny syringe in trembling hands, staring at it as though it might explode, and the sharp scent was strong in the thin film of moisture that had suddenly covered her skin; but then her strange blue eyes came up to meet his gaze, and with a jerky, ungraceful motion, she stabbed the little needle into her arm. The syringe still shook in her hand as she returned it to her case.

Jarrikk reached into his own case, took out the warm silvery cord of the Link, and touched it to the contact patch behind his right ear. He proffered the other end to the human, but she didn't take it, staring instead at his polished black claws. Behind her the dominant male, the Ambassador, stirred and muttered something, but the human Translator didn't respond. Jarrikk wondered if even now she would refuse the Link, and felt shame at his half-born hope that she would; or, more accurately, shame at his lack of shame at the thought.

Confusion, he thought. Humans bring nothing but confusion. Confusion and pain.

But he had sworn an Oath, and so he kept the Link extended: and, at last, the human took it, careful not to touch his clawed hand, careful to the last, though it seemed she, too, would uphold her Oath, and all her care would mean nothing momentarily.

For the last time, the human hesitated, staring at her end of the Link. Then the Ambassador cleared his throat and said something, his voice deep and painfully harsh to Jarrikk's ears.

The human Translator snapped something even harsher and louder in return, and firmly touched the cord to the patch under her own ear.

As human and S'sinn memories, terrors, and anger melded and fused, a great many things became clear.