The yellow, brick-like ships hummed slowly away, into the blackness. The constructor fleet had finally completed their task; the Earth was gone. All the Earths. Every Earth in every alternative dimension had been boiled away into the ether, each leaving behind just the faintest whiff of ozone and nitrogen. If there had been any people around to see the explosion they would have called it ‘beautiful’. But there weren’t, so they couldn’t.
It was silent.
A few seconds passed.
Then a few more.
And then, with a tiny squeak and small flash, She popped back into existence. She was small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe.
The babel fish’s natural shifting abilities made them incredibly hard to kill; they just phase from one dimension to another until finding somewhere less hostile, or with a Jacuzzi. Dimensional jumping tires Babel Fish and leaves them rather peckish, but it keeps them alive so they very rarely complain. What this means in practices is that the delicate Babelfish is one of the most difficult life-forms to kill. They are more cunning than the fox-race of Babbage VIII, who only spoke in clever riddles whenever strangers were around, more evolutionary advanced than amoeba aren’t, and more evasive than a free slot with Eccentrica Gallumbits, triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six.
This particular Babel Fish was special. She had travelled across the universe, through time, and even through Yeovil, all in the ear of one very extraordinary, ape-descended Earth creature called Arthur Dent, who, despite all the odds, had somehow become one of the most important beings in the universe. He was also dead. For the first time in decades, this small Babel Fish was alone. And She was mourning.
She had never felt this way before. An empty chasm had yawned open in her heart, whilst boiling rage percolated her mind. Her time had always been spent quietly translating for Arthur, feeding off his brainwave energies and transmitting them out to the galaxy, She’d never had time to experience such depth of emotion before. She had helped him for so long; helping him understand Altarian, Viltvodle, French, and even Vogon.
Vogon, She thought. The word kept running around her massively complicated brain. Vogon. There it was again. She looked up and saw the silent yellow ships in the distance, and remembered it all. The energiser beam, the sudden heat as the planet burned beneath Her, the desperate act of preservation, and leaving Arthur behind.
Vogon. Every time the 5 letters ran through her mind she winced in pain. She’d been translating for Arthur for long enough to know the word and know that it wasn’t pleasant. She scanned her memories, trying to piece together everything she could recall about Vogons. Vogshpere, Constructor Fleets, terrible hygiene, obsessive bureaucrats, anger issues, airlocks, and iron mallets.
She started to swim away through the emptiness of space, her small tail gently flicking left and right, following in the wake of the vast Vogon Constructor fleet. She had a plan.
Revenge, She thought, Revenge.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz smiled at a job well done. He caught his smile in the reflection on the vidiscreen and stopped. It just didn’t look right when a Vogon smiled, more like someone had hit an over-ripe watermelon with an axe, so they tried their hardest not to. He looked around the bridge to make sure that no one had caught him in the act, and went back to being smug. Decades of work and frustration, a disciplinary hearing, a court case even, were all put behind him. Jeltz had finally completed the clearing work for the greatest civil works project this arm of the galaxy had ever seen, and the hyperspace bypass could now be constructed.
It’s just a shame, Jeltz thought, that no one will use it. But orders are orders, and they can’t be countermanded.
Jeltz leaned back, went to put his bloated feet up on the dark green control panel that looked more like it was congealed than manufactured in front of him. He struggled to lift his legs high enough and after a few moments grunting slammed them back down to the floor. He sighed heavily, and closed his eyes to take a well deserved rest. As much as the universe wanted this Vogon to have a bad day he would simply be too stubborn to allow it. Just when his eyes closed, a small red light began to flicker on the console, unseen.
Being but a few centimetres long, it wasn’t hard for the Babel fish to swim onto the Vogon ship. Auxiliary exhaust ports rarely run hot and had a very good knack of leading directly into the most delicate workings of any spacecraft. She happily bobbed through air vents and maintenance ducts, setting off unanswered proximity alarms and intruder sirens as She went. The crew were relaxing and celebrating in traditional Vogon manner, beating beautiful, scuttling jewelled crabs with iron mallets, and were too busy to answer the calls.
She pushed on, until She found herself at a steel grate. Through the slats, she saw the squalid interior of the Vogon bridge, gleaming with all the pearlescence of a damp toad, and the rising and heaving bulk of the sleeping Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz. She forced her head through the gaps in the vent and slid her little yellow form through, stopping once in the middle to catch her tiny breath. It was a tight squeeze, but for a creature that finds it’s natural home in ear canals, it was nothing She’d not done before.
Like a bullet from a very odd rifle, She flew across the room at speed before colliding with a vidiscreen with a gentle thud. She waggled her head, trying to shake the daze out of her mind, and quickly relocated her bearings. Jeltz’ massive, snoring shape loomed in the low green lighting, rising and falling with every breath. The little Babel Fish darted out of sight, fearing that she’d been spotted and would soon be on the receiving end of a fatal smack from a half dazed Vogon. But no such thing came. And as She snuck back out of the shadows, Jeltz slept ever deeper.
For any other creature it would just have been easy enough to force their way into the computer banks, sweet talk the AI into being your friend simply by talking to it in a soft voice and announcing yourself as anything but Vogon, ask it nicely to set the self-destruct circuits going, and get the hell out of there before you’re blown to pieces or forced to listen to some Vogon Poetry. But She had a distinct disadvantage, notably her lack of fingers, inability to talk, and desire to be extremely cruel.
Instead, the little Babel Fish, the Universe’s greatest organism and most advanced translator ever conceived, slipped her way deep inside Jeltz’ ear canal.
‘Foul,’ she muttered in her mind, ‘but this is for Arthur.’ If her mouth could smile, it would have. Wide, toothy, and smug. ‘I wonder how much fun I can have with it?’ And she nestled down for a long ride.
“Captain?” A voice sheepishly broke the silence. “Caaaaptain?” Jeltz laboured with the opening of his eyes. There stood in front of him a very young Vogon, barely grown into his green battle armour, stood firmly to attention. “Captain,” he repeated for a third time, “the Vice Admiral for you Sir, to congratulate you on the job well done…” He trailed off, perturbed. The captain had paid extremely close attention to every word the young private had said with a growing level of hatred, because what the young Vogon has said wasn’t quite what Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz heard;
“Captain, the vice admiral for you sir, to punch you in the throat for being a arcturan mega-slug with breath like dead wildebeest…”
Jeltz roared out of his seat, startling the ever shrinking private and making him back away at pace. “Tell that snivelling toad of an Admiral that when he comes in here I’ll punch him so hard on his massive nose you could use the impression as a birthing pool!” He reared up to full height, arms failing in anger, snot and bile flung from his nose.
The private was now all but cowering in a corner, “Y-yes Sir,” he whimpered, “of course right away”. He scuttled out, worried how the Vice Admiral would take the news, but very sure he wouldn’t get a word of it wrong.
“If that poxy desk-handle thinks he could best me in a fight then so be it! Take my rank away, lock me in a Dentrassi Prison prism, I don’t care! No one speaks to Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz like that!”
And as the vast Vogon roared and ranted, in his ear sat a very smug, contented Babel Fish, happy in the knowledge She was about to have the most fun of Her life.