|This is a nemyss. Now you know.|
“Well, this was unexpected.”
Commodore-cum-Second StarLord 2Hilna Lin found had been told the Prime Minister was in the stellarium with her former right-hand wo/man, Naval Chief 4Charl Itawa. Therefore, Hilna expected to see the pair, and to see stars and perhaps a view of Elsinore’s factory system.
What she did not expect was to be inside a living wall of hieroglyphic text.
Every surface save that of the transparent roof of the compartment was covered with column after column of pictograms, interrupted by the occasional image of a deity from Khemet’s pantheon. Hilna could recognize Geb, the Lord of Planets, prone upon the deck, and Nut, Mother Space, arched over Him. Where the two touched, fingertips and toes, there were graven images of habitats and starships. Sobek, the Crocodile, grinned menacingly from under his StarGate crest, warning Hilna never to take the transit between stars for granted.
But in the most august position, in the center of the stellarium, where Nut and Geb, Heaven and Earth, would meet to spawn the Universe, was Ma’at.
And at the foot of Ma’at, Prime 3Vonday Ginal floated in prayer.
At his right, Charl put hir finger to hir lips and motioned Hilna over. The StarLord kicked off the floor and coasted gently toward the pair. As she approached she could make out better the details of the two from surrounding images. Vonday, she noticed, wore the traditional leopard pattern nemyss.
“Welcome back, Hilna.” Vonday said. “Looks like you caught me.”
“You’re a Hema’at?” She said.
“Not what you expected from a diplomat, is it? I’m surprised myself sometimes.”
“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” Charl smiled and reached out a hand to steady Hilna. “It’s bad enough for him to be my boss, but now he can make me feel guilty for not saying the 42 Laws before bed every night.”
Hilna gave Charl a wry look. “What are you worried about? Herms are sacred.”
“Only the natural ones, Lin.”
“I never agreed with that interpretation.” Vonday said. “But that’s a debate for after the war. I tend to be long-winded on points canon law. To business.”
“Much as I’m loath to admit it, Morale has improved quite a bit since the...relaxation of certain regulations.” Hilna pulled her tablet from her pocket and thought the relevant stats onto the screen, where they would be easier to read in the light of the hieroglyphs.
“Performance has improved by eight percent, and incidence of disciplinary problems has dropped by forty. There have been five charges of sexual assault...which is down by half from one cycle prior.”
“Having to rewrite only five out of three thousand is definitely an improvement.” Charl said.
“Don’t rub it in.”
“Relax, Lord Hilna,” Vonday smiled, “I understand the difficulty in trying unorthodox solutions.”
“As you say, Hema’at.” Hilna cocked her head and smiled sardonically. “Did you think about requiring the 42 Laws be spoken by all hands, even once?”
“You’re thinking of my father. I’ve been focused on the Virtues of the Husia. ‘I will be free from resentment under the experience of persecution, I will be free from resentment under the experience of wrongdoing’.”
Hilna’s smile became more genuine. “That’s good advice.”
“I’ve also been reading the Ritual for the Opening of the Mouth.”
The three were quiet for a moment, as anyone would be.
“The coronation ritual?” Hilna asked, after clearing her throat.
“The only way to incarnate a legitimate fork of the King is to perform the Opening of the Mouth during the download. And it must be performed by a Hema’at.”
“Prime had a hunch,” Charl spoke up. “It turns out that the last eight diplomatic envoys sent out from Throne had Hema’atau either in the diplomatic party or as the Ambassador.”
Hilna frowned. “That seems excessive, sure, but you can’t think that the King actually planned for-”
“Hilna, all of us are here in this system, with these ships, because the King wanted us to be.” Vonday said. “The Pharaoh is the serial Ahk of twelve generations of the most intelligent and enhanced sophonts our civilization could produce. I’d be surprised if He left anything unplanned.”
There was silence once more.
“We seemed to have gotten far afield,” Vonday clapped his hands. “What news of your tour with the Third Division?”
Hilna assumed an official demeanor. “I'm pleased to report3Div was successul in capturing an enemy asset during our privateer raid in the Heru system.”
“Excellent! What’s the booty?”
Hilna remained perfectly still. “One O’Neil cylinder, seventy percent complete, with transit booster. We got it back to Jourdain yesterday.”
Charl’s face lit up. “Oh, thank you, Lin! I’ve been dying to see that look of shock on his face for a change!”