Here’s a little “shaggy dog” story I wrote one afternoon. The term “crottled greeps” is a creation of faanish lore and you can read more about that here. This one is merely my take on the term. Enjoy.
by John Teehan
The crowded marketplace was mercifully cool, for which Under-Minister Tiffin was extremely grateful. His feathered head bobbed up and down as he made his was toward the Grand Council ampitheater, his tail tucked discretely between his long legs which he bent backwards to disguise his height. Around him, hundreds of species of galactic citizenry mingled, and Tiffin wished that Bureaucrat City was a little less diverse.
This was the Ghillie homeworld, after all–and despite it also being one of several centers of galactic bureaucratic activity, it nevertheless surprised Tiffin how few fellow Ghillies there were on the streets. He saw low-slung Bohoszi by the dozen, and six-legged Heffelkis by the score. Polians swooped overhead–always on important business, and scattered here and there Tiffin spied the occasional Basla holding court. It would be easier to blend in and go unnoticed if there were more Ghillies around–or, at least, taller species.
He was understandably worried. This morning featured a meeting of the Minor Council for Extragalactic Affairs. Although he wasn’t looking forward to tallying the vote, this was not the cause of Tiffin’s dread. It was a shame that this was the only route to the ampitheater. For once, Tiffin would like to get to a meeting without–
“If it isn’t Under-Minister Tiffin!” called a boisterous voice. “Come! Join me for a tosh, why don’t you?”
–running into Over-Minister of Galactic Affairs Baslazar. Tiffin sighed and turned toward the voice. Sure enough, the cheerfully corpulent frame of Baslazar lounged outside one of Bureaucrat City’s numerous food stalls, the morning sun glinting off his slick scales. The Over-Minister waved a fat appendage at an empty seat beside a steaming array of bowls, plates, and cups.
There was no getting out of it, Tiffin realized. One does not turn down an invitation for breakfast with Baslazar.
“Ah, Tiffin, my dear fellow,” said Baslazar through a mouthful of crottled greeps, “do sit down. Here, try some of this–you’ve been looking a little pale lately.” He pushed a bowl of wriggling green things at Tiffin who gave it a sniff and suppressed a shudder.
“Good morning, Over-Minister,” Tiffin greeted.
“Good morning, indeed!” sniffed Baslazar. ”I suppose you’ve heard about the species that recently arrived from that backwater, Uglion 3? Uglions! Who could have guessed?”
Right down to business, thought Tiffin. Maybe he could get this encounter over with quickly. “Policy dictates we call them by their local name,” he said, “Earthlings, I belie–”
“Pah! They’ll get used to being called Uglions.” Baslazar waved a dismissive hand. “So you’ve heard of them.”
“Yes,” said Tiffin, “I was just on my way to the voting ses–”
“You know what should be done with them, of course,” said Baslazar. He snapped a tube of spiced meat open with his beak. “They should be assimilated into civilized culture as quickly as possible. It won’t be easy, mind you. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a more backward sort of people.”
“Well, that’s as may be,” said Tiffin, “but you know, they did make it out of their galaxy under their own power, and–”
“Pish posh. Have you seen that bucket they arrived in? It’s a wonder that it didn’t shake apart when they hit lightspeed. And that nav computer of theirs. Laughable! Made of sand, rocks, and simple polymers. Can you believe they are still using binary code? A dowsing rod would have worked as well.”
“An intrepid sort of species, I thought,” said Tiffin. “In fact–”
“My dear fellow,” Baslazar said around a steaming mug of huzzle. “It’s not bravery, it’s sheer stupidity with a dash of blind luck. Natural selection should have wiped them out millennia ago. That so-called vessel of theirs wasn’t even equipped with shipboard weapons. All they had were a few handheld chemically-based projectile weapons. They may as well throw rocks.”
“Still, a civilized race of beings should be given the benef–”
“Ha!” roared Baslazar. “Civilized? Did you know that on their planet, there are several thousand different languages spoken, and they have over one hundred distinct religions? Those are among the first things we’re going to change for them.”
“Well,” said Tiffin as he took a cautionary sniff of his crottled greeps, “they’re a little backwards, I’ll admit. But do we have the right to intrud–”
“Don’t be ridiculous, my dear fellow. Converting them to the worship of Holy Bazhia will be the first thing the Matriarchy wishes us to address. Unify them under the one true religion—get them all speaking standard galactic. We’ll erect education camps on Uglion 3’s natural satellite–for their own good, of course.”
“Their own good?” asked Tiffin.
Baslazar popped a handful of boiled freppers into his mouth. “We would be remiss in our responsibilities as a civilized society not to do so. Trust me on this, my dear Tiffin. As soon as your department clears from quarantine the Uglions we have in protective custody, we’ll send a quarter-fleet to Uglion 3 to begin a course of assimilation.”
Tiffin frowned. This was why he dreaded these morning run-ins with Baslazar. “I don’t know if we’re going to do that,” Tiffin said. “Some of us wonder if assimilation would be the best thing. The Minor Council is considering quarantining the entire sector–”
“Nonsense!” Baslazar banged a meaty fist against the table, overturning bowls and plates. “Why my dear Tiffin. I have heard from some of the other Under-Ministers that these Uglions would make wonderful servants once trained. Simple tasks, obviously, but a resource that should be encouraged. How can the Under-Ministry be so shortsighted?”
Tiffin sighed and tugged on his feathered chin. “I admit that we’re not all one voice, as of yet. I just do not think that anyone would benefit from introducing them into galactic society at this point of time. Personally, I think the Uglions may push themselves into extinction anyway before long; and do we really want that sort of species around? Plus, you have to pity them a little–”
“No, my dear Tiffin,” said Baslazar, righting a bowl of pickled digglies and scooping some into his mouth. “It’s our duty to save these poor creatures from themselves. I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to consider your position.”
Once again, Tiffin sighed. He slumped his shoulders and knew that Baslazar would have his way–and he wasn’t entirely incorrect, either. Maybe not for the reasons that Baslazar thought, but perhaps it would be best to bring the Uglions into the fold sooner rather than later. What would happen if the Uglion technology advanced beyond their so-called civilization? “Very well, Over-Minister. I will carefully reconsider my position.”
“Excellent! Excellent!” boomed Baslazar. “Now… let us finish breakfast, and I’ll walk with you to the ampitheater. Hmm… you’ve not touched your greeps.”
Tiffin poked at the bowl suspiciously. “Well, Over-Minister. I think perhaps they might not have been prepared properly.”
“They’re moving,” answered Tiffin.
“Well of course!” laughed Baslazar. “They’re crottled!”