You know, it's bad enough to have a meal interrupted; it's much worse to be insulted by a person without spines.

I was just settling down to a nice bowl of !scuv!aba! with my wives and c!glosmat when there was a horrible rumbling noise.  The entire lair began to shake.  My poor left-wife M!spa!na, always the skittish one, melted dead away into the !scuv!aba!. My right-wife M!fzth!pa ran to quiet the hatchlings, peeping from their crevices.  And C!glos!phtrgh, the useless puddle, threw a tantrum and oozed into a crack in the floor.

So it was me left to investigate, although I did get M!fzth!pa to go set up the distillation column to separate M!spa!na from the !scuv!aba! once again.

The noise had definitely come from the surface. So I oozed up through the rock interstices and came out on top.   And there was a sight to behold.   A large metal h!m!shtlpa stood upright on the surface like an advertisement for some obscene city entertainment.  The ground was charred for a great distance around, and C!glos!phtrgh's poor garden had been destroyed.   It was going to be sulking in that fissure for a week. I bristled with anger.

Then a noise came from the h!m!shtlpa and this thing lowered itself onto the ground.  Most of it was in the air; these two pseudopods supported it; its sensory organs were in a cluster on top, surrounded by a transparent globe.  Worst of all, it had absolutely no spines whatsoever.  I bristled in disgust.

"How dare you land on my garden, you bloody mutant trespasser!" I screamed.   The thing pulled something from its waist and pointed it at me.  A sickening *BZZT!* came and my vision blurred.  The idiot had burned a hole right through me! I oozed back into the ground and frantically worked to metabolize the oxidation toxins before they contaminated something vital.

I worked my way around to a fissure right next to the base of the h!m!shtlpa and extended an eyespine or two just above the surface.   There were several of the things now, unloading equipment from the h!m!shtlpa.  They were making odd grunting noises as they built some sort of structure out of triangles.   They had all removed their transparent globes. Sadly, the first thing was not a mutant; the rest of them were disgustingly smooth.  Speaking of which, I was startled to see the first thing lying motionless on the ground, its upper pseudopods restrained.

I was considering oozing over to its position and giving it a taste of oxidation toxins when I felt something touch my basal sdrm!bldiay.  It was C!glos!phtrgh, surprisingly, undoubtedly come to investigate its garden.  I spoke to it through the sdrm!bldiay:

"I'm sorry c!glos-i, the things have utterly ruined your garden", I said.

"My rare pr!fthneh!" it wailed.  Then, in sudden c!glosmat concern: "You're hurt!"

"Yes, dear, but I've metabolized the toxins. See if you can make sense of the monsters' grunts. You're so talented."

The sdrm!bldiay contact suddenly turned auditory as C!glos!phtrgh complied.

"Urgh murgh grunt grunt urgh sqwawk phbbbtyou  know, Dawson, I'd flay you alive and leave you for the crows to eat if there were any crows on this useless rock."

I bristled in anger again. "Ow!" said  C!glos!phtrgh, and I forced myself to calm down.

"But Captain, it attacked me! It oozed threateningly in my direction!"

"That's not what the recorders show, and that's not what I'm going to testify to at your court-martial. Now shut up. You are in a world of shit."

"My garden!" wailed C!glos!phtrgh, reminded of its beautiful pr!fthneh.

"Hush", I said. "We're going to have to talk to them. Relay what I say to the Captain-thing."

So, interstitiated, C!glos!phtrgh and I lifted ourselves partially out of the fissure.  I had most of my eyespines and the Big Eye, C!glos!phtrgh had its tympanos.

"I would like to know how you think you're going to get away with filming your disgusting entertainments on my front doorstep", I said, relayed by C!glos. "I'm going to sue you for every last st!ltylth!pt you have."

All of the things suddenly turned their attention towards C!glos and me.  Several of them pulled the BZZT-thing from their waists. It was a quite painful effort to keep C!glos from de-interstitiating and oozing back into the ground.

"Holster you arms!" yelled the Captain-thing. "I'm sorry if we caused you any inconvenience. We come in peace. I am captain Amelia Grepmurgh urgh grunt squeal urgh sqwawk murgh urhg...

"Hey!" I sdrm!bld-ed to C!glos.

"It's reading a prepared speech.  Earth wants to be your friends, take us to your leader, all the usual pr!fthneh."

"Oh, God, Earth, that bunch of insane cretins. Just re-initiate the contact."

"urgh squeal murgh sqwawk blaaat gruntand you have my sincerest apologies. We'll make restitution."

"You destroyed a three-millenium-old pr!fthneh! It's going to be very expensive! Anyway, I've already called the authorities.  and GET THAT OBSCENE THING OFF MY PROPERTY!" I was getting really angry; the static field was making the  h!m!shtlpa's lights flicker.  "I will personally order a rock accelerated to three-quarters lightspeed and wormholed to Earth if you don't have it off my property in one day!  I don't mind the expense!"

The static field built up to its maximum as C!glos and I oozed back into the ground.  Then my eyespines caught sight of something quite amazing: Thousands of tiny spines suddenly stood straight out from the sensory clusters of the Captain-thing and all but one of the other things.  So they weren't entirely spineless, after all.  And gesture of appeasement; how touching.  They were still going to pay through the h!m!shtlpa.

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