“…If we cannot learn to actually enjoy…small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.” Gene Roddenberry
A million years ago, they found her.
Her people, whatever they’d been called, were almost extinct, their past as creatures of flesh and blood, forgotten. Their culture, their history, erased by time and political upheavals, was lost. Evolution, natural selection stopped in its tracks by technology, natural birth made obsolete by eugenics.
Even then, their decline continued.
In ancient times, renowned for erudition and artistry, they continued on the path they had set, becoming dreary, programmed creatures, more machine than animal.
Synthetic organs pumped oils, volatile fuels, and coolants through cybernetic tissues. Artificial hormones prescribed by governments and laws of nations long forgotten, dictated thoughts and feelings. The transposition of corporeal systems was almost complete.
Even their home world, the watery moon where they evolved, was abandoned, a neglected orb circling a red giant. In previous ages, their home had given birth to billions of creatures. But, by the time her ancestors departed, the oceans were dead, the atmosphere poisoned, glaciers all melted. The faint organic life remaining, migrated to polar regions to escape blasts of heat and radiation.
Genetic diversity had been ruthlessly oppressed. Conformity ruled all. The oppression of ethnic differences, holocausts, genocides, philosophies of racial purity, had diminished creativity and inspiration. But, that was all in ancient times.
It was only then, in the final death throes of her race, did they realize the enormity of their sin. Only then, did they see how sterile, what self-serving creatures they had become. Only then, with no hope for rescue, no miracle drugs, no other life from which to draw sustenance, only then did they realize they had sealed their fate.
Self-destruction, extinction - genetic variance gone, the death of their entire species at hand, a self-fulfilling prophecy, a horror – a foretold nightmare become real.
She didn’t remember who she had been, where she had lived, or how long she’d been alive. She only remembered being here, on this lifeless rock, in a system her people conquered centuries ago. She didn’t remember she lived in a palace, that she was rich beyond measure.
She could have stood and walked to the window to view vistas of rocky valleys far below, cool gases rising from the surface, enormous green and violet crystals exposed by storms, glittered in diffuse starlight.
To look upon such an alien scene with wonder would have required curiosity, the ability to feel awe. But she, along with her entire species, were crippled by cynicism.
Unknown to her, she had become he last of her race. She sat there, numb.
It was finished.
She was aware her right hand rested against the side of her head. She had hair once, hair she would brush aside, away from her face with her fingers, a faint memory.
In earlier times, she could have contacted another on this dwarf planet, tumbling around a dead star in a trinary system. But, she no longer remembered them. She was alone.
Not remembering who she had been, she saw a sudden vision of herself as she was now, a cyborg danse-macabre, a partially organic brain sitting atop tubes, carbon fibers, filaments and articulated mechanisms, a marionette suspended by strands of exotic metals, hanging from a weakening set of cybernetic processors.
Soon, her species would be gone, all dead, a people of corrupted brains, a collection of dying machines, bred, created, and educated to one end, existing for one purpose - to accumulate wealth.
Their empire crumbled, not from external forces, not from war, but from within, from emotional sickness, from psychological disease, from a plague of apathy.
It was then, sick from riches, suffocating under plundered wealth, it was only then that she questioned, “Who am I?”
She must have sat in sustaining technology, bathed in soups of chemicals, a regenerating throne sparkling with glowing energy, for decades. Having no need for organic food, for fuel, for another’s company, she sat there, not asleep, but not awake.
Apathetic, she didn’t stir when planetary systems alerted to an unknown ship landing above the crumbling edifice where she retreated to die.
Even when The Ennead, or the Nine, as they were called, arrived, when they lifted her face and looked into her eyes, even then, she did not awaken.
They called her, “Berenib,” the last of her people, the Queen.
Had she been awake, she would have heard them whisper, “…she is the last one.” She would have seen them go about their work, taking her into their ship, gathering the corpses of her people still viable.
Chanting, murmuring ancient spells, they burned sacred incense, placing desiccated remains into containers, organic envelopes, bristling with instrumentation and energy, technology beyond understanding. Through scientific and spiritual marvels, her people would be transfigured.
She looked down on her wasted cyborg body from above. But, where was she? Who was she? Why could she not remember?
One of The Nine spoke, “You have been transformed. This is your Ka,” she said. “You can exist, but you cannot feel The Power. You are a lattice of radiated photons. But we will give you flesh.”
Then she awakened again. One moment, she had floated beside one called Hathor, the life giver, and the next moment, she opened her eyes, breathing sweet oxygen. Her lungs filled, her breast heaved. Fresh air, like electric currents slid along her naked body, her heart fluttered. The wetet opened, the lid of the sarcophagus slid away, and she saw, standing above her, the one called Hathor, smiling.
“You are in your Ba. Your spirit, your Ka, is housed, as it should be, in your body once more. We have given you the same bodies as us. Your DNA is spliced with ours. You can understand our thoughts, hear unspoken words, feel what is in our hearts.
“You can sense The Power, the greatest power that exists, the only power that can save your people, The Power of Love.”
It was in this manner that she was born, or, born again. From an ancient, withering race of cyborg creatures, she was given new life. Her people, the few that remained, were given physical bodies. The Nine, the Ennead, the First Ones, coming from a Universe away, through a portal, came here, to her. They came to save her people.
In subsequent generations, her people, the Tayamni, would do the same, bring back creatures on the brink of annihilation. Connected to The Power, they would search out species to save.
The Nine gave them a new name, the Tayamni, meaning animal. They were living, breathing, loving, organic creatures, once again.
The Nine gave them a new name and a new language, their own language. With holy words, as if by magic, as if with spells and incantations, her people would think differently. The sacred language of the ancients, of the Ennead, oriented them towards The Power, changing them.
They had metamorphosed.
The Nine took her, and others they awakened, back to their original home world, back to Mussara, to the watery moon where they had evolved. Orbiting within a binary system, circling a red giant and white dwarf. The Nine took them home. The red star, enormously large Inanna, the head of the system, would be, in their new language, Tayamni-Pa, the Head of the Animal.
But, that was a million years ago – a million years.
It was to such worlds that the Tayamni, in turn, came to save species on the brink of extinction, splicing their own DNA, teaching the sacred language.
They came to Earth.
It was in the year some would call, Berenib IV-528, or the 528th year of the reign of Berenib IV, that a scout, sent towards the Galactic center, located the species that would become humanity.
The creatures fit The Beru perfectly. The Beru, a set of criteria, having taken on sacred significance, were devised by The Nine, to select candidate species. The Beru required the following:
·The candidate species must be developing intelligence
·The candidate species would become extinct if no action were taken
·The candidate species could survive on their own home planet, if assistance were given
·The species must have been reduced in number to such a degree that genetic viability was lost
·The species’ DNA could be spliced with Tayamni DNA, to reëstablish viability
This particular planet, mostly covered with water, was in a period of eccentric orbit that, according to sensors, changed every hundred thousand years or so. The current period of eccentricity reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the candidate species by 30%. The effects of orbital change, combined with a shift in axial direction, nudged the world towards a cooler, dryer climate.
The planet, not being a perfect sphere, wobbled. Its mass being irregularly dispersed, was pulled by its star and moon, centrifugal force causing it to sway from side to side. Habitable regions turned to deserts, grasslands to forests. Cold, polar winds dipped southwards, bringing frigid winds to rain forests. Oases dried up. Rain pools evaporated. Fruit trees, grains, fishes, disappeared. Grassy plains, home to the target-group, turned to oceans of sand.
The Tayamni arrived at this system with one star, a yellow dwarf, halfway through its lifespan. They found the remains of a space faring race on one planet, abandoned and lifeless, while the candidate species emerged on another.
They would be extinct within a generation.
Implementing a strategy used repeatedly, the Tayamni built a base on a moon, a temporal portal near the star, and docked the mothership in orbit. Temporal portals, powered by gravity, would be used to look into the future, to verify and assure the success of their efforts.
As the Nine had done with them, they would remain with the species until they, in turn, launched similar missions, missions to save others from extinction, missions to spread the Power of Love.
With the help of the Tayamni and genetic splicing, humanity not only thrived, but spread across the planet. It was then that the Tayamni gave them another gentle push, nudging them, directing them towards Genetic Compatibility.
During these years of exploration, the Tayamni became aware of other peoples on far flung systems, who had likewise, undergone genetic modifications, made to enhance survivability. These species, like the Tayamni themselves, were all connected by the DNA of The Nine. Genetically compatible, these species, saved by The Nine, were numerous, and scattered not only throughout the Orion Spur, the broken-off spiral arm connecting the Perseus and Sagittarius Arms, but on the Arms as well.
They referred to themselves, simply, as Genetically Compatible races. Humans, after undergoing almost 200,000 years of genetic splicing, had, unknown to them, also reached Genetic Compatibility.
The Tayamni sent missions to Earth; teachers, farmers, builders, and priests, led by Matriarchs, arrived at key populations. They settled among humanity. These missions were dotted across the planet, some half-way across the world.
One, led by the Matriarch of the House of Uanna, the Kemetic Mission, was settled along a great river flowing north through shifting storms of sand.
The candidate species were taught to farm, to make use of the seasons, to build shelters, grain stores, and temples. The Tayamni hid advanced technology from them, or tried to. The candidate species would be taught basic skills, but further advancements, they would make on their own. Their progress depended on their ability to learn, to advance culturally, technologically, and spiritually.
After a time, the Mission would come to an end. Humanity would be expected to take what they had learned and forge their own future. It was at this time of ending, after thousands of millennia, that the mission at Kemet underwent unsettling change. Their Matriarch chose to leave, to travel across time. She, and other Tayamni were needed at a future era to deal with a new threat. The day of her departure brought fear and celebration.
She would leave during the season of Peret, the planting.
The waters of the Great River had receded. Shorn fields, under water since The Inundation, covered themselves with black earth.
Replenished, fertile lands promised harvests of wheat, barley, melons, and flax. Successful crops were more treasured than gold in this treacherous environment. Surrounded by dry sands, the strip of fertile land along the river shone like oil in the sun, still wet.
The ribbon of rich, black earth was the land of the living, the black land of Kemet.
Along each side of the River, the land climbed higher, black earth giving way to red cliffs and sand. Parched in burning light, where sun and wind stripped flesh from bone, there, in the lifeless desert lay Deshret, the land of the dead.
The target-group, native candidates spliced with Tayamni DNA, connected to the Power eagerly. All things were filled with Devine energy - the Great River, the Desert Wind, the Seasons, Dust Storms, Mountains, all were alive, charged with the power of the Gods. The people looked around, seeing signs of the sacred everywhere.
Even in Deshret, it was the Gods who brought death. Gods and demi-Gods, spiritual helpers and tricksters granted survival, luring some to the water’s edge to be devoured, and leading the foolhardy to the desert. Only the brave ventured to sands of Deshret. At the border, lions roamed, hyenas crushed human bones, and jackals devoured corpses.
There, the Di’jin, twisting whirls of wind, spun roughly, throwing dust in your eyes, laughing at anyone foolish enough to approach.
It was here, close to the river, on a low bluff between the land of the living and the sands of the dead, the Tayamni built the city of the Gods. More a small settlement than a city, for hunter-gatherers living in caves, it was a miracle. No matter how frequently the Matriarch told them they were not Gods, the target-group, knew better. Here, the Tayamni taught agriculture, building, writing, music, and inadvertently, religion. They built monuments to the Nine. Stories about the First Ones, the Ennead, abounded, spreading through human communities like wild fire.
Tayamni revered the Ennead. In shrines dedicated to them, the Matriarch explained they were creatures of flesh and bone, like humans. At night, she pointed to the skies, towards the constellation from which the Tayamni themselves came, hoping to explain, with reason, they were not holy.
But, for humans, it was instead, confirmation. At Kemet, humans called the constellation, The Seven Hathors. At other missions, it was The Seven Sisters, or The Seven Doves. At only one Mission, one across the oceans, had humans kept the name the Tayamni gave them, Tayamni-Pa, the Head of the Animal.
But here, at Kemet, humans had seen Tayamni come from the stars. Their home in the constellation, now confirmed by the Matriarch, only proved their teachers were Gods.
On the day of the Matriarch’s departure, the palace, on elevated ground near the river, teamed with activity. Behind tall, tapered walls, painted columns and silent doors, blessed ones gathered. Nobles from distant missions, jeweled and perfumed - scribes, cooks, even lowly farmers gathered to pay homage to the Queen, the Matriarch of Kemet.
Cooks prepared funereal feasts. Stewards brought amphorae of wine from seasons past, and all spoke of the Matriarch’s departure.
A musician sat in a garden near the kitchens, resting her fingers. She’d been playing all day. At her feet sat a holy animal, wearing a jeweled collar of precious metals. These animals, declared sacred by priests, were manifestations of Bastet, the Goddess of domestic happiness, of sensuality. Bastet had been one of the Nine, in whose shrines men and women expressed and sought out sacred, physical pleasure, as an expression of the Power. Humans would one day call these holy animals, domestic house cats.
Mau, the Matriarch’s favorite, sat on her haunches, looking up at the musician.
Pentu, a laborer, sat next to her. “She gives you a sacrifice,” he said.
Nebt pulled away, as Mau dropped the corpse of a mouse at her feet.
“You will insult the Goddess,” Pentu teased, placing his rough hand on hers.
Nebt swallowed hard, and looked at the bejeweled feline, “Thank you, holy one.” She nodded.
Looking at Pentu, she drew her brows together. “Do not laugh,” she whispered loudly. “Even now, the Matriarch walks among the reeds.” She moved further from the grisly gift.
Ignoring Nebt’s caution, he chuckled. “You are clearly NOT her favorite,” he gestured, standing, knowing he must get back to the quarry. “Otherwise, she would have given you the head.”
“Today we mourn!” Nebt scolded, wondering that he was not more respectful.
Mau turned her feline gaze towards the great hall. Lowering herself to the ground so not to be seen, she snaked across the sand, freezing stock-still with one paw lifted, her ears flicked back and forth.
With the stealth of a thief, she made her way towards a potted bush where a bird fluttered hopelessly in thick branches. Flapping its wings, its tail feathers caught on a thorn.
Two men, covered in flour, walked from the kitchens carrying metal disks. Leaning towards each other, whispering, one man struck his toe against a door frame, dropping disks onto the step. The metal plates, used to spread dough into circular forms, made a loud clang. Two rolled from the slab into the garden.
Mau froze. Lowering herself against the ground, she saw disks rolling towards her. Digging her paws in sand, she turned quickly, running in the opposite direction. Entering a doorway, she sprinted down a darkened hall. She ran between the legs of servants and nobles.
Turning right, then left, she entered a wing normally closed off. She heard voices from the end of the hall. Daintily, she made her way towards them. The aroma of incense stopped her. Looking from behind a column, her eyes reflecting lamplight like brass mirrors, she saw a woman standing at a bedpost.
In her early 20s, the woman wore a sheer toga and braided wig. She stood, cold, sullen, aloof. The ancient bed was stuffed with straw.
Lamplight cast trembling shadows against thin drapes, the air was heavy with perfume. Hathors, Tayamni life-givers, wearing golden masks stood around the bed, hunched over the old woman. She lay still, wheezing. Wisps of white hair, tangled, brushed away from her forehead, framed an aged face. Her arthritic hands, curved and knotted, grasped linen blankets covering her thin body.
The Hathors stood in silence, transmitting thoughts.
Gasping, the old woman called out, “Batresh.”
The Hathors acted quickly. Technology in the jewelry they wore, medallions hanging from their foreheads, activated, casting light towards the aged Queen. Closing their eyes, they whispered rhythmic spells, their bodies swaying.
Acolytes shook sistrums, accompanying their chants with metallic shimmering.
Batresh’s head swam. The walls curved, bending around her. She held onto the bedpost, incense burned her nostrils. Her heart pounded. She closed her eyes. A blinding flash of light accompanied by the sizzle of heated elements burst forth from the bed, as a matrix, lattices of radiated yellow light materialized above them. A pungent odor of burning filaments filled the room. And, just as quickly, the light vanished, shot across time and space to the distant future.
As if waking from a dream, the dizziness diminished and Batresh regained her footing.
The chanting stopped.
The Hathors stood back from the bed, staring at the lifeless body.
The Matriarch was dead.