The unknown life-form manning the vessels had loud, somewhat bellicose voices, but spoke a language with sound-forms curiously akin to Terran speech. To Leeming?s ears it came as a stream of cross-talk that his mind instinctively framed in Terran words. It went like this:
First voice: ?Mayor Snorkum will lay the cake.?
Second voice: ?What for will the cake be laid by Snorkum??
First voice: ?He will starch his moustache.?
Second voice: ?That is night-gab. How can he starch a tepid mouse?
They spent the next ten minutes in what sounded like an acrimonious argument about what one repeatedly called a tepid mouse, while the other insisted that it was a torpid moose. Leeming found that trying to follow the point and counterpoint of this debate put quite a strain upon the cerebellum. He suffered it until something snapped. Tuning his transmitter to the same frequency he bawled. ?Mouse or moose, make up your goddam minds.?
This produced a moment of dumbfounded silence before the first voice grated, ?Gnof, can you lap a pie-chain??
?No he can?t,? shouted Leeming, giving the unfortunate Gnof no chance to brag of his ability as a pie-chain lapper.
There came another pause, then Gnof resentfully told all and sundry, ?I shall lambast my mother.?
?Dirty dog,? said Leeming, ?shame on you.?
The other voice now informed mysteriously, ?Mine is a fat one.? ?I can imagine,? Leeming agreed.
?Clam-shack?? demanded Gnof in tones clearly translatable as, ?Who is that??
?Mayor Snorkum,? Leeming told him.