EPISODE 5 The Calm Before The Storm
This could very well beThe calm before the stormThat brings disruption to our livesAnd hardships seen like none beforeSO BE PREPARED
This could be the calm before the stormThis could be the calm before the stormAlways thinking that tomorrow's like todayNever knowing what the future holdsBut never thinking much will change
This could be the calm before the stormThis could be the calm before the stormWhen they all cry peace you know destruction comesYou've seen terror around the worldNever thinking it could hit homeThis could be the calm before DEVASTATION
Title: "Calm Before The Storm"Artist: No Innocent Victim
Lady Seto Kamiki strolled through one of her gardens aboard the Treeship Mikagami. She maintained several discreet little nooks scattered about the grounds, each tailored to a different mood. On this particular occasion, she was headed for one of those alcoves with the heaviest screening of shrubbery and landscaping (she didn't want to be disturbed or distracted). She was not alone; beside her walked one of her most promising protégés, Hakuren Yamada. And behind them floated a servbot, which was essentially just a hovering preservator and wet bar. A very useful appliance for private conversations...that, and it had a state-of-the-art sensor and recording system built into it (Seto never left anything to chance).
Seto led them to a stone table with matching benches, nestled deep in a hedge of exotic bushes and blossoms. The fragrance was relaxing, the shadows soft and soothing. She sat on one bench, indicating that Hakuren should sit across from her. A gesture to the servbot with her ever-present folding fan produced two chilled drinks. The automaton slipped quietly into the background.
"Although I was pleased to get your call, I was a bit surprised," Hakuren said.
"Surprised? Why?" Seto asked.
"Because of your concern about my divided loyalties." A citizen of the Remza Union by birth, a citizen of Jurai by marriage, Hakuren's only real loyalty was to her husband, Captain Seina Yamada.
"Well, it may not be much of an issue in the future, if recent activities are any indicator." Seto considered the young lady to be exceptionally bright, and a quick study, and was ready to begin grooming her for future work in her private intelligence network. As far as she was concerned, Hakuren's loyalty was moot — Seto controlled Seina. "If it's any consolation, humanity is already rallying under the Juraian Flag."
"I assume that's by choice, since I hadn't heard of any hostilities."
"Absolutely. Do you want an example?"
"How about Airai?"
"Airai? The animosity between Airai and Jurai runs deep. How do you propose to reconcile them?"
Seto's smug smile was half-hidden behind her fan. "Tenchi is not only a descendent of Juraian nobility, he is also a descendent of Airaian nobility."
"Tenchi's grandmother, Lady Airi, is the daughter of the King of Airai. A foreign princess who met our own Prince Yosho while attending Galaxy Academy. As I recall, she was already betrothed to a member of House Amaki at the time. Her subsequent termination of their engagement caused quite a scandal."
"Was that romance just a 'serendipitous event', or was it given an added nudge here and there?" Hakuren asked ruefully.
Seto's answer was a noncommittal wave of her fan. "Tenchi has recently claimed his birthright, and since both of his grandparents have abdicated in his favor..."
"Impressive. The Airaian Parliament certainly has their work cut out for them."
"Also, your family's exploits among the Remza Union and its neighbors will be instrumental in bringing them to the negotiating table. Your husband is highly admired for his valor and accomplishments. Who would have thought he was also a nascent diplomat?"
"Seina has a gift for surprising us all," Hakuren admitted, grinning.
"More to the point, we were conducting joint Naval maneuvers with the Balta, the Iridani, and the Woltai when Z attacked. He obliterated them all — right under the eyes of the invited Voudrathi, Pranquay, Bemz'tol, and Dlokatil observers. That action made quite an impression, and added credence to our warnings."
"My condolences to the families of those sailors," Hakuren said quietly.
"We are doing our best to ensure that they didn't die in vain," Seto replied, with that steely tone in her voice generally reserved for pirates.
Hakuren said nothing, waiting for her teacher to continue.
"Before his death, Z confessed to having been living amongst humanity for several years, studying us as a species. Since he is dead, there is no way to assess his observations, his conclusions — or what he reported to his superiors. Therefore, we have to assume the worst."
"How did this 'Z' die?"
"Tenchi killed him in combat."
Seto heard the admiration in Hakuren's voice, and allowed a smile to creep onto her lips. "The details are classified, but it was an impressive duel."
Hakuren nodded silently, weighing facts against conjecture.
"Which raises one more point of caution."
"It would not be prudent to assume that Z was acting alone. There may well have been other agents inserted amongst us. And since Z was not human — but capable of masquerading as one — there may well be other agents among our allies. We have released the autopsy details to all of our neighbors, who have promised to begin searching among their populations."
"I still do not understand the nature of this threat we are preparing for. Didn't it die with Z?"
"Not at all; he was merely the herald for a much bigger problem."
"What problem could be bigger than a rogue Super Class Adept?"
"A billion-year-old entity with an animosity against two other billion-year-old entities."
Hakuren's eyebrows spoke eloquently of her surprise. "Could you be a little more definitive?"
"Two members of the Imperial Family have been assimilated by these life forms. And Tenchi is determined to protect them from the third."
Hakuren's jaw now mirrored her eyebrows. "Which family members?"
"Washu and Sasami."
"What was the extent of the 'assimilation'?"
"Complete merger of the human and alien minds. For now, it appears that the human element remains the dominant personality."
Hakuren said nothing for several moments, digesting the information.
Seto calmly sipped her drink and studied her apprentice.
"And there's no mistake?"
"None. I was present when those events transpired. In fact, those events triggered the empathic song that we all experienced. Washu and Sasami had just manifested their ten Lighthawk Wings for the first time — "
"TEN Lighthawk Wings? Each?"
"Yes. Ryoko and Tsunami joined them, followed by all the Treeships in the Corral."
"By the gods..."
"And it was Tenchi who engineered the Song."
"Washu and Sasami, Super Class Adepts...both assimilated by aliens...and Tenchi's growing abilities. This just gets better and better." Hakuren sipped her drink, eyes full of contemplation. "What are the aliens like?"
"Mostly abstract quantum patterns, to hear Tenchi describe them. As such, they can see across all spatial dimensions at once, not just our 4-D space-time."
"Pure thought? Pure energy?"
Seto shrugged. "I don't know. Possibly. They can interact with us, even if we can't fully interact with them. Apparently, they have been among us for millennia."
"I find it difficult to visualize such creatures."
"Oh, I don't know. Look around, Hakuren; this habitat is filled to capacity with an entire ecology, from insects to mammals. They are born, procreate, and die, in a blindingly swift cycle that we barely notice. From their perspective, we must look like gods, considering us immortal and all-powerful. From our perspective, we are largely indifferent to their efforts, considering them to be insignificant."
"A useful analogy," Hakuren replied. "But still: billions of years...?"
"They must have gotten their start the same we did. Our ancestors needed longer life spans due to our replacing instinct with acquired knowledge — and the penalty of a longer learning curve — so Mother Nature complied. Now extend that same paradigm upwards, to a creature whose information capacities are many orders of magnitude greater than ours."
"Conceivably, if such a life form may live for billions of years, then its childhood may very well be millions of years in length."
"Once again, the universe shows its preference for fractal patterns." Hakuren sipped her drink, formulating her next question. "Do these creatures have names?"
"Washu didn't say. For now, they prefer Washu and Sasami."
"Why is this Tokimi hunting for the other creatures?"
"There has not been an official explanation as yet, but I did discuss the issue with Washu privately."
"Once upon a time (a very long time ago), the early universe was filled with these sapients. How and when they appeared is a question for Washu, but there were considerable numbers of them. Then something happened."
"A war? A plague?"
"An idea. They experienced a Singularity."
"A black hole?" Hakuren asked, obviously confused.
"No, a Toposophic Singularity," Seto replied. "A Technological-toposophic Singularity, the point at which sentient beings ascend from their previous state of existence to a higher, vastly enhanced state."
"Ah, another term for Transcendence. But...what state could be higher than pure thought?"
"Parallel universes, perhaps?" Seto waved her fan in a gesture of dismissal. "The Singularity represents a quantum leap of intelligence. Washu said that all members of the species were ordered to comply with some Grand Plan. Most did...but there was a minority who refused, and a cadre who were sent to enforce the order. Those entities now merged with Washu and Sasami were among the former, Tokimi was among the latter."
"I said much the same thing. Washu warned me not to foist my 'anthropomorphic attitudes' upon alien species — that non-humans cannot be treated as 'foreigners in funny costumes'. Alien cultures and psychologies are going to be radically different from our own (hence the term 'alien'). In this case, we cannot fully appreciate the circumstances, and can only guess at the consequences...but our entities have been on the run for a very long time."
Hakuren stirred her drink with a fingertip.
"What makes matters even more interesting is that all three entities are sisters."
"Sisters in the human sense?"
"That's the term Washu used."
"A family feud; better and better..."
"You would do well to heed Washu's warning, Hakuren. Humanity is about to take a lead — and perhaps pivotal — role in galactic affairs. We are going to be dealing with a wide variety of non-human dignitaries in the foreseeable future, much more so than we have seen for the last few thousand years. We cannot afford to be blind-sided by ignorance or preconceived notions."
Hakuren did not fail to notice the nature of her mentor's 'suggestion'. She mentally adjusted its priority upwards.
Seto did not fail to notice her pupil's response. She masked her satisfaction with a wave of her fan.
"So, these...entities...are refugees or rebels of some sort, and Tokimi has come to collect them. Are these the only three members of their species left, or can we expect more visits in the future?"
"Impossible to say."
Hakuren raised her glass, drawing its chilled surface across her forehead. "No doubt she will be bring a few of Z's peers with her."
"That's a certainty."
A shadow appeared across the table, and both women looked up. Funaho was just approaching the table. Without a word, she slid into the empty seat beside Hakuren.
"Sorry I'm late," Funaho apologized.
"That's not like you, old friend. Is something wrong?" She gestured with her fan and the servbot deposited a drink in front of Funaho before quietly withdrawing.
"Very much so," Funaho replied, sampling the drink.
"Care to elaborate?"
"Ever since the empathic song two weeks ago, we have been getting inundated with requests by alien ambassadors, all of them seeking an explanation for the event, and all of them asking for an audience with the emperor." Funaho ran her finger over the edge of her glass. "The Galaxy Police is getting deluged with inquiries for cultural information about us, some seeking translation services, and even requests to arrange diplomatic convoys here. We have almost thirty diplomatic couriers in-system at the moment, and the Navy is escorting at least a dozen more in from the frontiers. Juraian Space Traffic Control is spending more and more of its time routing traffic around the sky harbors and into the corridor we've reserved for them."
"Well away from Homeworld, I trust?" Seto asked.
"Definitely. My security units are pouring over the archives trying to learn what they can about our visitors. And I fear it is only going to get worse."
"What other tales do you have to tell?" Seto asked.
"Tenchi is getting spread pretty thin these days."
"He's been thrown into the deep end of the diplomatic pool, as he has alien dignitaries lining-up for audiences. Ayeka (acting as his liaison to the Juraian Diplomatic Corps) and Mihoshi (acting as his liaison to the Galaxy Police) are actively involved, coaching him through the process. My office is releasing packets of information, detailing the threat with Z — and hints about Tokimi — and how it prompted the Empathy Wave."
"That does sound tiring."
"Well, that's just part of his schedule. He's also been choreographing a lot more of those Lighthawk wing dimensional doorways of late, shuffling ships and material around the empire, as well as gateways for some of our visitors."
"I hear he's getting pretty good at it," Hakuren added.
"Practice makes perfect," Seto said.
"Speaking of dimensional doorways, Prince Yosho has been dispatched by Tenchi to survey the Juraian frontier, with an eye towards strategic placement of doorways for immediate military use (and later commercial use). The intention is for faster repositioning of Naval units."
"Why haven't we done that before?" Hakuren asked. "It's not new technology. Even the K'vimm made more extensive use of them."
"Previous use of doorways was not cost-effective," Funaho replied, "but that priority is rapidly changing."
"As it is, Washu is busy building as many doorways as she can, but a doorway big enough to pass a large ship is an expensive, complicated structure."
"Washu is building them?" Hakuren asked.
"She has extensive facilities in her labs, but is negotiating with contractors to continue the schedule."
"I didn't realize she could do that."
"She did most of the initial research on the Masaki Drive in her labs, only giving the Navy the final prototype when it was finished. I guess her labs are pretty extensive."
"She's 20,000 years old, Hakuren," Seto said. "An individual can amass extensive wealth and property during that time. I don't think anyone knows the full scale of her holdings."
"My office has been beefing-up internal security," Funaho continued, "as this would be a bad time for any sort of civil unrest. Known troublemakers are getting squeezed extra hard, or are being made a public example of."
"The media will be all over that one," Hakuren whispered.
Seto made a dismissive gesture with her fan. "It's their job. Most people recognize that we will sink or swim together; the others can be reminded with a few patriotic speeches."
"How rapidly is information being disseminated around human space?" Hakuren asked.
"Rumors always outrun facts," Funaho replied. "My organization has yet to give a news conference at a local office that hasn't already gotten part of the story."
"How is that possible?"
"Z's attack on the Naval squadron was the culmination of a string of depredations. However, since he had confined his activities to the frontier, he didn't make waves at the capitol until the very end. Many of the garrison commanders had been tracking him for quite a while — and they receive considerable assistance from the merchant guilds."
"The after-action report of that incident was widely circulated, as was Tenchi and Ryoko's first confrontation with him."
"What about Tenchi's second fight with him?"
"As I said, that report is classified," Seto interrupted. "But some of the highlights have been leaked to the media, and photographs of Z's remains have been officially released. That news was widely hailed in the provinces."
"Events are moving very rapidly," Funaho warned, "and we may not be able to stay ahead of things for much longer."
Seto grinned wolfishly. "My, these are exciting times. Tenchi has only been on the throne for what...three years?...and he's shaken things up more than your late husband did in a thousand years." She raised her glass in salute.
Funaho groaned a response, raising her own glass.
Hakuren joined the toast, silently remembering an old curse about 'living in interesting times'.
############ AUTHOR'S NOTES ############
On transgalactic entities:
"Imagining Other Dimensions" by Rick GroleauNova — The Elegant Universe, PBS Television series
"Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions"by Edwin A. Abbott (1884)
As mentioned elsewhere, 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 2006 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 Calm Before The Storm"