Timing is everything. A century earlier and it would have been considered the wonder of the age but now, when the atmospheric barrier had been breached more than a generation ago, the wonder was not in, “What?” but in, “Whose?”
It descended slowly through the atmosphere, its shape and size reminiscent of an airship designed for the cruise trade. Its journey to the surface was watched by the entire planet and dissected in minute detail. Its original heading was the southern Atlantic Ocean and everyone wondered if the crew were aquatic, then it changed course and landed on the western coastal strip of Africa.
It came to rest, in fact, near the shore in the lightly inhabited southern reaches of the Kongo Empire. The Mwene, being a sensible and experienced man, sent a diplomatic party backed by the military to greet the arrivals. The University of Kinshasa archaeologists already at the site hurriedly taped off the interesting areas in the hope of dissuading people from parking anywhere they wanted.
The diplomatic delegation, including a number of foreign diplomats such as Archduke Josef the Terrencian Ambassador, and their supporting military contingent arrived five minutes after the space vessel landed. The leader, a kinsman of the Mwene, used the half an hour before any further sign of life to compose himself. His attendants and the foreign diplomats did the same. Much further away the Kongoese Airforces were using the same time preparing to sortie if required.
Finally the largest, most ornate portal on the vessel opened and a ramp descended from underneath it to the ground. From inside a group of five beings descended the ramp, carefully aligned in a V-formation with the most richly dressed of them in the centre and at the front. That being carried a staff with a coloured crystal globe set in its head. The military looked at that globe and narrowed their eyes in recognition.
The new arrivals were humans with skin the colour of darkest honey when you look at it in a glass jar. Their hair was black and shorn short on all of them except for one of the two women whose head was covered in tiny, tight plaits. They were all six feet tall or more and their clothing was richly coloured, although at this distance it was impossible to tell what the fabric was.
The leader spoke and only training prevented a visible reaction from the diplomats. They all had some grounding in classical languages and so recognised Atlantean when they heard it. Those who’d had a Classical education, like Archduke Josef and the Mwene’s kinsman, understood exactly what he said, “Bow down, you servile scum, before your betters of the master race. We, the flower of the Atlantean people, await the attendance of your governor.”