SPOILERS: Um, well, 'Grace', I suppose. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. ::falls over laughing::
AUTHOR'S NOTES: "If you drink this coffee then your brain will go crazy..." I blame the lack of sleep. And the coffee. And Nic, 'just because.' And the fact that I have no work. I think I managed to keep all the terms straight - after the umpteenth typing of the word 'nktidda' you're not sure whether your kglffi is dtlnddi svdrnna. Seriously.

The Zplknmni That Got Away

The call came through on the grrletikki – a tiny voice from the tiny ship that had eluded us out in space, only to be trapped wtihin the ioaffn cloud. The Mntrevvi glared my way.

"Did I not order that all crew of the nktidda be rounded up and put in the sblippk?"

I bobbed my twenty-second antennae, in abject apology to my superior. "You did, honoured Trvvikki."

"Then why do we receive communication from the nktidda still?"

"We collected the domes-of-escape, honoured Revvikki," I answered humbly. "However this cloud of ioaffn inhibits our scans. We were unable to determine if life remained on the nktidda."

The tiny noises continued through the grrletikki, painfully flat, with no harmonies or chordalities to soften the tones to the swnbbe. My grrletikki-officer leaned over to close off the painful sounds. I cut him off with a gesture of my vxiggo – painful it might be, but ignoring it might bring worse consequences than mere aching swnbbe.

"Bring the leader of the nktidda here," intoned the Mntrevvi. "And the qrllitkl also. I cannot understand this zplknmni and it is far too early in the cycle for me to make the effort to learn their language."

The leader was brought – a carbon-based biped with a stance that looked like a two-antennaed lsewwi trying to defy a senior split. He gaped at us, looking like an aquandrian frrgl trying to catch an insectoid. Then his attention was taken by the noises coming from the grrletikki and his optics grew wide.

His words, flat-toned and without beauty, were translated by the rather nervous twelve-antennaed qrllitkl. It appeared a single nktidda crewmember had been left behind, and, in the interim hours, believed she had found a way out of the cloud. This crewmember offered us safe passage out of here if we would return her crew.

I could tell the Mntrevvi was impressed. Our own xdagge had been working on the problems of the drives systems for the last several cycles, to no avail. In the last two cycles, the leader of the xdagge had begun to sound less like a thirty-four antennae being and more like a whining lsewwi.

"Do you think these zplknmni have honour?" The Mntrevvi asked me.

"Honoured Trvvikki, I do not know," I replied, waving several of my antenna in acknowledgement of my ignorance.

"Your rtfkki does you credit," said the Mntrevvi gesturing impatiently with his forty-seventh antenna, "But answer me."

My antenna drooped in sigh, "As the Mntrevvi wishes." I considered. "The nktidda crewmember did not need to hail us. No bargain need have been offered. And our xdagge have learned nothing of how to brings us from this ioaffn cloud.

"Yet a bargain has been offered."

I could see the Mntrevvi was torn by the prospect of losing such valuable zplknmni . It has been many thousands of cycles since we came across zplknmni so advanced. But at last his antenna drooped.

"I promised my lsewwi I should be home to celebrate the fourth antennae," he said, regretfully. "Very well. We shall exchange the zplknmni for our freedom. Send them back to their nktidda."

And so we sent them back.

The zplknmni on the nktidda was as good as her words – however untonal they might be. She guided us out of the ioaffn cloud and the xdagge went into esctacies of song and joyous antenna-writhes when the drives worked once more.

We could have, once again, taken the zplknmni; however the Mntrevvi is an honourable split and kept his word.

Obviously, there was no way to give gratitude to the zplknmni who helped us escape, but we were grateful nevertheless. One of the minor splits suggested a song in honour of the zplknmni xdagge - and while the waving of the antenna at such an idea was quite against it, there will doubtless be quiet songs about this adventure.

At the least, it will make another song to sing when we return to our kvcca and lsewwi - the song of the zplknmni that got away.

- fin -