EPISODE 2 The Pranquay
What an agent, what a squirrelHe's got the country in a whirl.What's his name?Shhh...Secret Squirrel.He's got tricks, up his sleeve,Most bad guys, won't believe.A bullet proof coat, a cannon hat,A machine gun cane with a rat tat tat tat.
Fights foreign spiesIn his disguise,Takes him many places,He's a squirrel of many faces,Who's that?Who's that?Who's that?Shhh...Secret Squirrel.
Title: "Secret Squirrel" Theme SongArtist: Television/TV Show Soundtrack
"You know, the only difference between a throne room and a barn is that the occupants of the latter are a lot more humble."
That observation came from Washu Masaki Jurai, whispered into the ear of her sister-wife Ayeka, who nodded in agreement. The comment could very well have been transmitted telepathically, but Washu had a sneaking suspicion that someone in the crowd of official guests and palace flunkies had smuggled a remote microphone into the palace — so why not give the perpetrator a little rope to hang himself/herself with?
Washu and the other members of the Imperial Serail — wives Ayeka, Ryoko, and Mihoshi, fiancées Sasami and Noike — were dressed in the splendid robes and tasteful jewelry expected of such august personages, and arrayed like so many trophies around the throne. Their husband, His Imperial Majesty Tenchi Masaki Jurai, occupied the high seat at the very center of the raised dais.
Tenchi wore the uniform of a Grand Admiral of the Juraian Navy, resplendent in gold filigree, an assortment of ribbons and decorations, and the Emblem of his knighthood. He appeared calm and confidant, nodding to familiar faces and smiling for the invited guests — the scions of the peerage, the high-ranking military officers, the representatives of the media, and the cognoscenti of the interstellar corporations — who packed the chamber.
Tenchi - How much longer do we have to stay up here?
Ayeka - Now, Beloved, the guest of honor hasn't even arrived yet, so just be patient
Ryoko - I'm with Tenchi: let's bail and go drink in the onsen
Washu - You aren't helping matters, Little Ryoko
Sasami - I'm getting tired of standing up here
Mihoshi - Why don't we get chairs like Tenchi?
Noike - Because we aren't the guiding light for hundreds of planets and thousands of habitats
Washu - Besides, the true powers behind the throne should actually stand behind the throne
Sasami - I'm beside the throne, not behind it. And my feet are starting to hurt in these shoes
Mihoshi - Tenchi, you're the Emperor — order the steward to bring some chairs up here
Tenchi - Sounds good to me
Ayeka - Really, Sisters, that is so non-traditional
Ryoko - Tradition be hanged
Sasami - At least Ryoko can hover when she gets tired...
Noike - And the Minister of Protocol always grumbles about that
Ryoko - Maybe he should be hanged, too
Ayeka - Ryoko!
Tenchi - I may be the only one sitting, but I'm also the only one wearing a dog collar — dang, this thing is tight
Washu, Ayeka, Ryoko, Mihoshi, Sasami, Noike - Stop fidgeting!
Tenchi - I'll make you ladies a deal: if I can I ditch the collar, then you can have some chairs. Sound reasonable?
Ayeka - No
Sasami - Speak for yourself
Mihoshi - Noike, what are you looking at?
Noike - I was examining that silver gown along the wall, back by the third pillar on the left
Sasami - The one Baroness Rohfsett is wearing?
Noike - Yes
Mihoshi - Wow, that thing is tight
Sasami - It looks sprayed on
Ayeka - Is that a custom-tailored gown? If so, she should get her money back
Mihoshi - That material is so shiny it looks like she's wearing a thousand mirrors
Ryoko - Yeah, I couldn't decide if the men around her are dazzled by her reflections or her figure
Sasami - They do seem a bit goggle-eyed...
Noike - Then the good baroness did get her money's worth
Ayeka - She's quite attractive, wouldn't you agree, Beloved?
Tenchi - Really? I hadn't noticed
Ryoko - Which is why you're still in one piece
Washu - Let him look, Ryoko — the day he loses interest in that subject is the day he'll be of no further use to us
Ryoko - Good point
Tenchi - Ouch!
Sasami - Something wrong, Tenchi?
Tenchi - Erm...I'm strangling in this collar...and none of you look good in black
Ryoko - Actually, I look terrific in black
Mihoshi - Now I'm starting to get tired
Washu - Cheer up, everyone, the monitor just announced the arrival of the Pranquay delegation
Ryoko - It's about time
Ayeka - Beloved, what are you doing?
Tenchi - Trying to loosen this dog collar
Washu, Ayeka, Ryoko, Mihoshi, Sasami, Noike - STOP FIDGETING!
Tenchi didn't get a chance to talk to many non-human sapients; an occasional Wau now and then, and the galaxy-spanning Voudrathi just the previous year (his other experience had been less than pleasant: killing thousands of K'Vimm warriors during their recent Incursion). The memory of his briefing on the Pranquay was still very vivid: while his wives had been teasing their friend Kiyone Qualston about her very pregnant girth ("Just shut up, all of you!"), her husband, Sir Trinnard Qualston (Tenchi's friend, advisor, and sometime bodyguard), had provided Tenchi's first overview of the Pranquay:
"Don't underestimate them, Sire," Trinnard had warned.
"Why is that?" Tenchi asked. His eyes were focused upon the graphic being projected above the datapad in his hands.
"They look harmless enough," Ayeka said, looking over Tenchi's shoulder.
The ghostly image they watched was an animation of two non-human sentients, male and female, with accompanying statistics. Each figure was approximately mammalian in origin and humanoid in structure. Each was just under a meter in height, with a stout body, a large head, short legs and a bushy tail. Each was covered in short black fur with light gray highlights — particularly the tail, which floated behind the trunk like an immense question mark. Each was heavily decked with jewelry, wound around the hips with a kilt-like garment of wild colors and patterns, and wore a matching veil that covered the lower half of the face. The audio track filled the air with their chipmunk-like warbles, heads swiveling every which way, large soft eyes full of expression, and limbs a blur of exaggerated theatrical gestures. Overall, they seemed quite graceful and curious.
"Not very impressive looking...like squirrels or raccoons," Ryoko said, looking over Tenchi's other shoulder.
"Oh, I dunno, I think they're kinda cute!" Sasami added, peering over Ayeka's shoulder.
"Though they appear cute, they are extremely sly and dangerous. The Pranquay were a bronze-age culture when they were discovered — who promptly enslaved their benefactors, stole their space-faring technology, and embarked upon a wave of expansion and conquest that only ended when they ran into neighbors too large and too well-organized to defeat. The Pranquay Collective and the Juraian Empire have fought three wars in the last 1,800 years."
"Can they be trusted?" Noike asked, studying the graphic from vantage point above Sasami's shoulder.
"To honor agreements, yes...to a point."
"What point is that?" Ayeka asked.
"Their empire is divided up among dozens of clans, who defend their turf ferociously. They have learned to survive by cooperating, negotiating treaties, and abiding by them — but they will exploit any loopholes just as ferociously. They are unparalleled opportunists."
"What were the wars like?" Mihoshi asked, peeking around Ryoko's shoulder.
"Though both sides possessed technologies and numbers at parity, we alone possessed certain strategic assets."
"The Royal Trees," Washu said, giving the datapad a brief glance.
"Aye. The trees allowed the Juraian fleets to coordinate and concentrate their forces beyond anything the Pranquay could manage, even letting them outrun the news of successive Pranquay defeats. Also, the Juraian forces were composed of one fully-integrated race, while the Pranquayan armadas were composed of several barely-amalgamated slave races, sacrificed in waves designed to overwhelm all opposition."
"'Quantity has a quality all its own,'" Tenchi said.
"Joseph Stalin," Washu added, identifying the author of the quote. She gave Tenchi an approving grin.
"'Slave races'?" Noike asked. "How can something so innocuous-looking be able to enslave multiple sentient species?"
"It's not as hard as you think," Ryoko muttered.
Trinnard nodded. "Their ancestors evolved from ground-dwelling omnivores whose primary defensive weapon was a pressurized spray of musk from two scent glands located at the base of the tail."
"You mean, like a skunk?" Tenchi asked. "What do you know, a race of Pepé Le Pew clones."
"Excuse me, Beloved, but I don't recognize that reference," Ayeka said.
"I do," Washu smirked, which faded rapidly. "And you'll know you're in deep trouble when one of them turns its back on you and points its tail directly at your face."
"E-w-w-w," Mihoshi said, wrinkling her nose.
"That doesn't sounds so bad...a bit disgusting, maybe," Sasami said.
"By itself, no," Trinnard continued. "However, as they evolved, they learned how to tailor the mix of the payload, so that the musk is fine-tuned to the target's biochemistry. In fact, the higher the intelligence level, the more effective the attack."
"How do they do they manage that feat?"
"By sniffing the fog of molecules that surrounds each and every living creature, and analyzing the contents. That's why they wear those veils — those are filters, and are worn as a courtesy and a sign of peaceful intent. If they remove the veils, then all hell is about to break loose." Trinnard studied his friend and emperor. "As I said, do not underestimate them."
"'Size matters not,'" Tenchi replied.
"Jedi Master Yoda," Washu added, once more identifying the author of the quote. She gave Tenchi another approving grin.
"And we're going to give them the Masaki Drive?" Sasami asked, voice bordering on incredulity.
"No," Ayeka replied, "we are going to negotiate an alliance with them, and offer them the Masaki Drive as an incentive."
"Whose brilliant idea was that?" Ryoko sneered.
"Lady Seto and Lady Funaho."
A softening of the background noise from a dull roar to a curious murmur roused Tenchi from his reverie. He could discern movement near the back of the audience hall, and the crowd started to part down the center of the room. He heard the steward announce a new arrival, somewhat muffled by the distance, the echo, and the lowing of the room's occupants.
Ryoko - Tell me again why we're making a fuss over these critters? They've lost three wars, that should be enough leverage to convince them to cooperate
Noike - We need willing allies, not cowed neighbors
Mihoshi - Even the Galaxy Police doesn't know the full extent of their military capabilities. They may have a few nasty surprises tucked away
Ryoko - Speaking of the GP: do they know all of our capabilities?
Sasami - Yeah, like the Royal Trees?
Mihoshi - Well, the trees are mentioned in the archives, but not their full potentials
Ryoko - Gee, do you suppose that's what got the K'Vimm interested...?
Ayeka - Be still, Sisters, and pay attention
There were three aliens approaching the dais. In the center was the Pranquay ambassador, very dignified and proper in its carriage and decorum. Much of its fur was tinged in gray, turning a beautiful silver color along its spine. Its movements were slower, less embellished, and more refined than the examples in the graphic. The patterns on its clothing were softer and subtler, its jewelry simpler but more elegant.
Behind the ambassador shuffled two 'attendants' that looked like artist's renditions of goblins: heavily-muscled bodies shaped like gorilla/bear amalgams with massive frog-like heads, and dressed in body armor. Tenchi guessed that they had probably been armed, too — which would have been promptly confiscated by Palace Security (and which might explain the irritated expressions on their faces...or not).
Ryoko - What species are those bodyguards?
Mihoshi - Those are Prolevians; males, from the looks of them
Ayeka - A slave race?
Mihoshi - I hadn't heard that they had been conquered, but the archives aren't kept current, and some of the information is just plain wrong
Ayeka - We should discuss those archives some time...
The entourage was escorted by a senior member of the Juraian diplomatic service, a career bureaucrat who towered over the alien ambassador (but was a full head shorter than the attendants). The human's attire was very austere, his decorations sparse and sumptuous. He, too, affected a very stately pace to keep abreast of his counterpart. (Interestingly enough, both sentients had jowly faces and a wave-like crest of hair that hung precipitously over the forehead. Tenchi wondered idly if the effect was deliberate.) "Your Majesty, allow me to introduce the Pranquay Ambassador, His Excellency Count Azouv-suqos Mishipishu."
Ryoko - So, the alien is male
Ayeka - And an aristocrat
Washu - Careful, folks, the title is a translation, and an approximation at that
Mihoshi - How long has it been since the last Pranquay delegation visited Jurai?
Washu - 684 years ago — and judging by his fur color, it might have even been this guy
Ayeka - Yes, he does appear rather mature...
Mihoshi - That was right after Ryoko's attack, wasn't it?
Ryoko - Yeah...
Noike - Nice timing, especially if you're evaluating the extent of the damage and the state of the remaining defenses
Sasami - Noike, you have a suspicious mind
Noike - I'm ex-GP, Sasami, and some habits run deep — and notice that it was Mihoshi who asked about the timing
Mihoshi - Well, it does seem rather convenient, considering they lost three wars to Jurai
Sasami - Maybe it was just a coincidence
Washu - Is there any such thing as a 'real coincidence'?
The ambassador bowed with an impressive flourish. "In the name of the Grand Council of the Pranquay Collective, I bring Greetings to the Emperor of Jurai." His speech had a very pleasant brogue, rolling his 'r's and 's's and modulating his voice in a unique rhythm (which, to Tenchi, sounded amazingly like Jamaican English...spoken by a cartoon character). He smiled, his bushy eyebrows wiggling mischievously.
Ryoko - Arrogant little gint, isn't he? Look at him swagger
Noike - Interesting that he speaks our language
Ayeka - Look at the crowd: they seem quite taken with him
Washu - I must say, he seems to have found the right formula to charm the locals with only a few words and gestures
Sasami - I'm getting a bad feeling about this
Ayeka - Oh? What in particular has made you uneasy?
Sasami - Well...
Ryoko - Could it be that the Pranquay have a long-standing grudge against Jurai?
Mihoshi - Or their apparent sudden enslavement of the Prolevians?
Noike - Or their ambassador's apparently effortless rapport with our assemblage?
Ayeka - Sisters, please. Wouldn't you be gracious and grateful, too, if you were about to receive advanced military technology?
Washu - And, you run the risk of assigning anthropomorphic behavior to a non-human sentient
Sasami - I dunno...too bad Tenchi can't just scan his mind
Tenchi - Actually, I did try
Sasami - And...?
Tenchi - The structure is just too foreign, too unrecognizable
Ayeka - It's just as well; think of the diplomatic consequences if he was able to sense the intrusion
Sasami - I tell you, something just doesn't feel right...
Tenchi - I'll tell you what doesn't feel right — this stupid dog collar
Washu, Ayeka, Ryoko, Mihoshi, Sasami, Noike - STOP FIDGETING!
############ AUTHOR'S NOTES ############
The Pranquay are not a new idea. Their existence was actually posited by Katherine MacLean, in an essay entitled "An Alien Sort of War", which I found in a collection of stories and essays entitled The Future at War, Vol III: Orion's Sword, edited by Reginald Bretnor, Copyright 1980 by Ace Science Fiction. She didn't call them 'the Pranquay', of course; but the idea stuck with me for many years, until I finally got a chance to use it. Here is the relevant excerpt from her essay:
Imagine a planet on which the future master race, the creature with the creative, flexible mind, is at this primitive point in time a small, smelly, skunk-like creature which has learned to analyze and control its own hormone secretions. It is being followed by a giant carnivore, sniffing the scented footsteps.
The small genius skunk lays a trail of a substance used in those animal brains to generate sleep.
The giant carnivore sleeps. After the many descendents of the small genius skunk have sprayed each other into permanent glandular arousal as father, mother, kitten, and in heat, they have learned to cooperate. The giant carnivores, drooling, attracted by the delightful arousals, find that half the trees in forest are sprayed to smell like their own giant carnivore females in heat. They spend their energies and have no descendents. The skunks are safe, multiply and evolve.
Overpopulating, the skunks must develop social warfare to a fine art and become their own predators. They play dominance submission games, and build civilizations, traveling the same paths of political gigantism, passing through motie cycles, and developing technology from war machines. But every war is biological and non-violent, and the only overt machines are wagons pulled by tamed lions and great tame birds.
The transmission of smells is the transmission of organic molecules. RNA and plasmid, self-replicating DNA are organic molecules, and in suitably nourishing environments such as brain cells of a sniffer, they can generate moods and trigger instincts. Our exploring navy finds a new inhabited planet.
We have found a civilized planet with no signs of destructive wars, no layers of radioactive ruins. Peaceniks! Pacifists!
At last we have found a cooperative well-organized civilization, a submissive orderly population without any threat of violence!
On the advice of delighted ethnologists we land without obvious weapons or threat, take no hostages, study their languages and conform to their customs.
One of their customs is the standard costume, including a white filter worn tightly over the nose like a surgeon operating. Our human ambassadors wear these also, for fear of being thought immodest in exposing the nose.
Our ambassadors are ignored at first, and then, when they have learned the language, they are approached by a representative of the king, who demands that he be sent the human of greatest command, power and authority among the humans.
The ambassadors choose the one among them who was a strategist and gave advice that was accepted by the Terran Empire strategic computer. He presents himself alone at the palace of the king, and wonders at the great place of political power in a non-violent community, while he is led into the royal presence.
The alien king, descendent of a long line of conquerors by power of scent, has, after much thought, decided to accept Earthmen as an equal race.
He has decided to challenge their king to a friendly duel.
Explaining that he has been impressed by Earth ship technology, the king ostentatiously and slowly takes off his white nose-filter mask, lays it aside and inhales deeply, taking a breath over each of the ambassador's shoulders in a gesture which resembles a French ceremonial kiss.
The human representative, startled by his gesture, but trying to follow strange standards of politeness, slowly removes his own nose-filter, and inhales on either side of the alien aristocrat's neck. The alien aristocrat steps back, sampling the human scents he has inhaled. Most of them are merely the scents of clothing and plastic, but there are the smells of oxidized foods, and a few proteins which seem too large to be food, possibly hormones of emotion or instinct, some in tiny peptide traces, perhaps left over from suppressed cries of childhood.
The king smiles and releases a barrage of duplicated hormones and peptides. The Earthman inhales a stink of familiar scents which smell like his own armpit after a week without showering.
He is overwhelmed by nausea, then by a barrage of conflicting emotions. Slowly he slips to his knees, feeling that he is in the presence of someone terrifying, huge, fatherly, motherly, deadly, reassuring, and stunningly attractive. A hand tries to lift him to his feet and a voice murmurs apologies in tones that send chills of delight through his body. He clasps the legs that stand before him and refuses to be raised, weeping with delight.
"I'm sorry. You people must be pacifists. Please stand up," says the incredibly attractive voice, in worried tones.
The hand pulls at his shoulder and the Earthman looks up, weeping tears of gratitude and wonder for such undeserved kindness.
"I'm sorry," says the godlike figure. "I didn't know you were unarmed."
As always, the characters of Tenchi Muyo! were created by Masaki Kajashima, and brought to North America by Pioneer LDC. The attached story, while incorporating names and situations held under copyright by others, is copyright 2005 by Jeffery L. Harris. Said story came entirely from my imagination, and is not, nor intended to be, canon. Please do not send the legions of lawyers after me...it's not worth their time, or mine.
Any questions or comments should be directed to:
Jeffery L HarrisSubject: "The Harem Saga Sequel - The Pranquay"