To my nephews: Drew and, when he is old enough to be subverted by it, Luke.
Moses was a spotty boy with reedy legs and a reedy voice, who dwelt in the ancient land of Egypt. But he never really felt at home there. “I don’t see the point of all these angular buildings” he said to himself, “and there’s never enough milk and honey to go around. Perhaps I should leave and see the world?” So he climbed to the top of the tallest pyramid to plead his case to Pharaoh.
He huffed and he puffed, but he did not fall down. Pharaoh sat atop a pyramidal throne of gold under the blazing sun, an uncomfortable yet traditional arrangement. Three score slaves and six fanned him steadily with palm leaves, to steady the ship of state and keep it from the shoals of capriciousness. No-one wanted a repeat of the infamous ‘bricks without straw’ edict, handed down on the hottest day of the year. Moses paused to catch his breath and gather his thoughts, borrowing a palm leaf to cool himself. The movement caught Pharaoh’s eye. “What are you doing here, boy?” thundered the tetchy ruler from his lofty perch. In accordance with protocol, Moses fell to his knees and gave voice to his dilemma through the medium of song, giving a spirited performance despite his weak voice.
"…and if my mates could come too, that would be grand” added Moses as an afterthought. Pharaoh was not unmoved, he sipped from a vial of chilled date juice while the slaves beat faster, considering his response. While impressed by the lad’s rhyming of ‘double’ with ‘trouble’ he could not ignore the disrespectful form of address and somewhat ominous, bullying tone – that was no way to talk to the son of Ra! He took a bite of a McPharaoh burger and hardened his heart.
“No, I will not let you go!” proclaimed Pharaoh with finality, spitting a spray of pharonic crumbs.
Moses was outraged, he turned his back and stamped and stomped his way to the base of the pyramid. “There’ll be trouble all right” he wheezed. First he borrowed his mate Aaron's best poking stick. Then he took an enormous bottle of dye from the scribes' hall and the biggest bucket he could find and went down to the river Nile, life of the land. He poured the dye into the river, turning its waters red. With the stick he parted the reeds and parted the waters, searching up and down the bank for his warriors of justice, until the bucket was full to the brim.
How does an alien go about casting a horoscope?
On a typical day this would be a trivial task for the experienced astrologer. She would ask the client for their place and date of hatching, feed the answer into her Crystal Procrastination Unit and interpret the resulting star-chart using her exceptionally well-honed sense of intuition, guided by the recorded wisdom of the sages and the ages. A Quorzok that emerged from the hatching pool while the pale light of the Stalker glitters behind the head of the Great Ruminant is surely destined to become a famous bantha-hunter – although perhaps metaphorically, especially if they happen to work in administration.
But today our astrologer has a problem. Perhaps, she reflects, if she had the foresight to consult her own horoscope this morning she would have been forewarned. For some decades ago now the Quorzoks discovered the secret of interstellar flight; the expectant client now before her hatched – not under star and sighing wind – but under blinking lights and whirring of fan blades. He is the first Quorzok to be birthed in the depths of space, far from their home world, or indeed any other. She scribbles a few words to hide her surprise.
Returning to her CPU, she enters the co-ordinates of his hatching and is dismayed. From that distant vantage many of the familiar constellations are unrecognisable. Even the mighty Great Ruminant slouches unsteadily, unwell or intoxicated. Worse still, all the home planets descend as one through the Ruminant’s bowels, indistinguishable from each other in their orbits around a dim, unremarkable star.
Troubled and adrift, the astrologer considers the problem anxiously. She turns to a familiar guide and comfort - an anthology titled The Wisdom of the Seven and a Half Sages - yet the words seem strangely empty. Perhaps, she muses, the client experienced a spiritual hatching upon his return to the Quorzok homeworld. Her enquiry meets with a discouraging response: his homecoming was a mere six seasons ago. How could he have lived the balance of his years with no destiny? Is he somehow beyond destiny? Yet she judges - by the quiver of his lower mandible and the piping of his voice - that this client would not welcome that news. An uncomfortable pressure builds in her gas bladder, brought on by stress and uncertainty.
With a deep inhalation the astrologer begins to speak, drawing upon intuition rather more than usual. The client departs eight pizeks poorer but reassured: it seems that now is an opportune time to reorganise the office filing system.
The astrologer, pressure released, relaxes and congratulates herself on a difficult job well done. Her gaze sweeps the artfully precise chamber and she rises to reward herself with lunch. On the desk lie unheeded the words of the half-sage, obscured by her discarded notes: “A seed of doubt, once planted...”