In humans, it’s called the Terrible Twos. In pure-blooded Witannen, it happens right around age seven. Otra D’Angelo, being half and half, more or less split the difference, and so this particular episode occurred when she was four.
She had been, up to that point, by all accounts, a lovely, precocious and happy child. She mostly looked like her mother, Chefra. They both had, in lieu of hair, what looked like almost a bouquet of flowers growing out of their scalps, which changed color, depending upon mood. The flowers – called chavecoi – were not sentient. There were more like symbiotic hitchhikers, and moved independently. They were useful in the event of a drought, for they could photosynthesize. About the only thing that proved that Otra was Marco D’Angelo’s little girl was that she didn’t have the vestigial wings sported by pure Witannen like Chefra.
At age four, Marco and Chefra’s one and only came to a stage in her life that all truly sentient species come to. It is described by a two-word phrase that can make grown men weep and adult women, human or Witannen, beg for mercy.
Otra liked being her mother’s little baby, so appeals to maturity did not work. She could sense, in a way, that Chefra was itching to go back to work. This was, perhaps, a foreshadowing of Otra’s very real gift, developed later in her life, for seeing alternate timelines. But at age four, she was attuned to Mommy and Daddy, and so her visions were of someone leaving for some reason or another and so her overactive preschool mind conjured up the best way to assure that these leave-takings would not happen too frequently, if at all.
Her parents had met at a trade show for starship engine parts, as they were both in the business. Her father had swept her mother off her feet by being able to name all of the parts of a starship engine in formal Witannen speech, complete with more or less correct pronunciation – including clicks – and a proven mastery of that language’s tortured syntax.
Such devotion to detail and desire to impress her had sealed the deal for Chefra, and so she had fallen, hopelessly. Otra arrived on the scene about two years later, as Chefra had gotten pregnant quickly, and gestation for Witannen women was about as exquisitely long as that of elephants on Earth – a good two years.
At home, four languages were spoken, and the three of them switched among them, more or less effortlessly – formal Witannen for between the adults, conversational Witannen for speaking to Otra, English and, in Marco’s most intimate or exasperated moments, Italian.
Marco began that day, in 3069, speaking a little Italian sprinkled with English to the little one. “Oh, Otra! You are Sinatra, but without the sin!” That made her laugh. “Let us see how you have done this morning.”
There was a product, of course, but it was in the wrong place, her swaddling. He sighed, and switched to full English. “Little garden, we need for you to do this.”
“Will you do it for Mommy?”
“For Daddy?” He looked at her with pleading eyes.
“Otra, now, bella, don’t you want to go to the big day care with all of your friends?”
“Huh.” He thought for a moment. “Don’t you remember that big book we read? You know, how Arisian children go to the potty. And Bajoran children go. And Calafan children go to the potty. And Daranaean children go. And, and Imvari children and Klingon children and human children and Ocampan children and Vilusun children and Enolian children and Xindi Reptilian children and Witannen children do, too! Remember, Otra?”
“Big purple book!”
“Yes, yes, it was purple, cara.” He made his eyes big again. “Can’t you go like the pretty Betazoid children and the Ferengi and the Andorian children? Please?”
She shook her head, little chavecoi bouncing and changing to a peach color and then to a kind of aubergine.
“Here, let’s try this, giardino piccolo. And, uh, bring Talking Talla with you.” Talking Talla was a lifelike Andorian baby doll. “Maybe Talla wants to go in the potty.”
“Talla doesn’t go potty, Daddy. Don’t be silly!”
“Oh? But what does Otra do?”
The little one heard something and ran to the window, chavecoi bouncing and flying behind her and turning shades of lavender. “There’s a shuttle.” She pointed.
“Ah, my ride.”
“Can I go, too, Daddy?”
“No, no, sweetheart.” He got an idea. A little white lie. “Little girls who do not go in the potty cannot go on the big shuttle.” He straightened up. “Chefra! I have to go.”
Chefra came out of their home office. “Anything yet?” she asked, in formal Witannen speech, her tongue clicking and popping.
“Nothing,” he sighed. “I wish you could come to the convention with me.”
“Me, too.” She looked down at Otra and tried not to become annoyed with her daughter’s obstinacy. Her own chavecoi swooped around and paled and turned yellow and then golden. “I’m going to miss you. I love you.” They kissed. “Come say bye-bye to Daddy.”
Otra put her little arms out and Marco picked her up. “Will you be a good girl for Mommy?” he asked in conversational Witannen, humming and clicking to get the syntax just right.
“Yes!” The little chavecoi dipped and dived and turned blue.
“And will you go in the potty for Mommy? Please?”