“We’d better wear linen and gold to impress these rubes,” said Seth. “They seem like the linen and gold type.”
“How can you tell?” asked Hathor, rearranging the beads in her luxuriant fall of black hair.
“I can just tell,” said Seth, leaning forward to look at the holo-viewer. On it were scenes of the local population at their chores, utterly unaware that these members of the Ahn were watching them.
Somewhere, far below, a small drone was buzzing around the dusty landscape, pretending to be a local beetle. So far, none of the primitives had noticed that the iridescent scarab was actually made of metal and plastics. Nor had they seen that its tiny, faceted eyes concealed cameras. The feed was visible on the bridge of Nighthawk, Osiris’s ship.
“I’ll forward my analysis to the Captain,” Seth stated, after another long look at the natives in their primitive daily life. He’d rapidly tired of watching people building bricks of mud and tilling the soil by the side of a big, wide river. At least the scenery was halfway interesting, and the girls were pretty in a common sort of way.
Nighthawk and her sister ships had arrived at this system just a few tendays ago. Initial surveys had revealed a lush, imminently exploitable world, as well as two worlds and several moons that could potentially be made so. There was also a large population of sapients, but that was really no bar. The exploration group had more than enough firepower to wipe out the locals, it was true, but that was expensive and left them without servants. Long ago, the Ahn explorers had learned that it was far better to perpetuate the idea of godhood, with themselves in that exalted position. One planet usually had many groups of natives, so the different crews divided themselves up, each taking a territory and creating a different “pantheon.” Nighthawk specialized in desert regions. By now, it was like performing an old, well remembered play.
“I hope these locals at least have some decent offerings,” said Hathor derisively.
“Remember the last place, where the greatest delicacy was a particularly spicy breed of worm?” She shuddered. “Eugh.”
“For myself, I’m hoping for a better standard of beauty,” said Seth. “In case they offer me maidens.”
Hathor stretched, cracking her spine and displaying her lithe beauty. “Well, on with the linen, I suppose. Hope you washed that kilt.” She walked off the bridge, finding her way down long familiar corridors to her personal cabin.
Hathor palmed open the hatch, relaxing into the scent of incense and smiling as she entered the opulent chamber decorated with the riches of a hundred worlds. Fine silks and furs covered her bed and other furniture, jeweled silks enrobed the cold bulkheads. Over the years the prosaic quarters had gradually taken on the form of a lavish queen’s pavilion.
Hathor stripped off her shipsuit, tossing it aside. The server robots would take care of it. Fully nude, she walked to her wardrobe, regarding the variety of costumes inside it. Finally, she chose a fine linen sheath dress with jeweled clasps and selected a gold pectoral collar to go with it. She smiled as she slid a gold serpent bracelet up one slender arm. She slipped the dress on, twirling in it, admiring herself in a full length mirror. Moving to the head, she stroked the light panel to full brightness and began applying her make up.
Perhaps I’ll go with something dramatic, she thought. Triangles on the cheeks, perhaps? A nice brow band? No, I’ll do cat eyes. That’ll be perfect. Besides, they have felines here, they’ll recognize the symbolism. Perhaps I can talk Horus and Seth into it, maybe even Re. They’re such sticks. I just know Bast will be interested in the idea. Humming, she carefully brushed on the eyeliner and the accent colors, finishing with a sprinkle of gold body powder. A bit of ruby lipstick and she was done. She smiled at herself in the mirror and blew herself a kiss.
“I do make a proper goddess, don’t I?” She made a final adjustment to her gold collar and swept out of the head, and her quarters, with all the style of a Queen.
“It’s too bloody drafty,” said Seth, looking morosely down at his short linen kilt, which was flapping gently in front of one of the conference room’s many ventilation ducts.
“Aren’t you glad you work out?” asked Bast, secretly wanting to giggle at his discomfiture. He was so silly. The last population they’d Indoctrinated had lived in a frigid region, and Seth had only been too happy to wear the rich furs of his godly station. As for Bast, she was looking forward to warm breezes and palm trees.
“Yeah, that’s good at least,” said Seth. “Nobody wants a potbellied god. I wonder how old Ganesh is going to fare? He’s put on a lot of weight since the last world.”
“I know what you mean,” said Bast, and this time she did laugh. “Hey, where’s Hathor?”
“Hathor’s right here,” said she, lounging against the wall, near the entrance to the room.
“Would you stop that?” asked Seth, feigning anger.
A melodious laugh was his only answer.
“Anyway,” continued Seth, “the others will be here soon and we’ll hear the traditional speech from Osiris.”
“As if we haven’t heard it a thousand times before,” said Hathor.
“It’s tradition,” said Bast.
More Ahn entered the room, most dressed in linens, gold, and newly bronzed bodies. Most wore the same eye makeup that Hathor had suggested. Chattering animatedly, they seemed cheerful at the prospect of this new world and posting. The servant robots moved to and fro, carrying trays of sweetmeats, juicy bits of fruit and goblets of nectar. Soft, enlivening music played and the room was filled with the buzz of conversation. As the Ahn mingled, there was no end of discussion as they admired each others’ varying costumes, speculated about the planet, and made bets about how many fine things they could collect before missions end.
At long last, the Captain arrived. A tall man, Osiris was wearing a new helmet with a solar motif, a spreading golden collar heavy on his shoulders. An orb-headed staff completed the outfit. His first officer, Horus, paced half a step behind. He had a cunning hawk’s helmet on his head.
“I, Osiris, Captain of Nighthawk, greet you,” he intoned.
“I think godhood has gone to his head,” whispered Bast to her best friend Nuit, but the other woman hushed her.
Osiris stepped up on a low stage at one end of the conference room. He looked at his crew and smiled, his perfect teeth bright in his tanned face. His muscles rippled as he spread his arms.
“Crew of the mighty Nighthawk!” He paused a moment for effect, and to let the conversation die down.
“Once again, we make landfall on a virgin world. Once again, we stand ready to fulfill our duties as loyal citizens of the Ahn Imperium. And once again, we educate and Indoctrinate a planetary population and make them fit to serve the Ahn, bringing greater glory to the Empire!”
The cheer was slightly less rousing than it might have been, considering that everyone had this speech memorized.
“As you all know, Indoctrination is the very soul of creating a good slave population. Properly Indoctrinated slaves rarely rebel, they work hard, they breed rapidly, they make good janissaries, and best of all, they serve out of love intermixed with fear! We few have been entrusted to complete Phase One of Indoctrination. We will gently but firmly inculcate the native population with religious ideals. We will establish ourselves as gods. We will inspire fear and bless them with order. We will shape their thoughts, their wills, their hearts. We will show them that they do not need arms, but only the benevolent protection of their gods. We will teach them to feel instead of thinking, so that they will not plot. Then they can never stand against us.” The Captain looked around the room, meeting everyone’s eye, and even the most jaded crewmember felt a little of the old magic.
“As you know, this is a temporary process. Later, others will come to administer Indoctrination Phase Two, which is instilling the concept of OneTrue, and they are depending on your good work to ensure their success. Your hard work brings life, health, and eternal domination of the Ahn Empire!”
The crew cheered then, and even Bast lost her smirk as she clapped with the rest.
Osiris stood still for a moment, basking in their approval, then spoke again once they had settled a bit. “I, Osiris, Captain of Nighthawk, am proud to serve with you.” He bowed, humbly, and got even more applause. Once this had faded, Osiris turned and headed out the main hatchway from the room. Everyone knew where he was headed. They quickly finished drinks, gulped the last of various snacks, set the dishes in the server robot’s hands, and went after him.
A strange, large man stood on the sandal-beaten square at the center of a little village made of mud brick. He spread his arms wide, making his golden jewelry gleam in the midday sunlight The curious residents came out from their huts and from under the shade of palm trees, braving the merciless heat so they could see this newcomer who had descended in the heavens in a shining sky boat. They felt no desire to worship, being only curious and more than a little wary. Some of the men kept their hands on their copper daggers, wondering if he was something real, or a dream. A dog barked in the distance. They all wondered the same thing. Who is this stranger? Why is he here? Where did he get those bright garments? And where did he come from, in that strange craft? They looked at him and his companions.
“I am Osiris,” he said, “and I am your god.”