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omicronia
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I woke up from a dream. I didn't really remember what it had been about from the start, but the final part was clear enough. I had been down in Athens back in its foundation days. Poseidon had been there too with his trident, challenging me over the city.
"I'll teach you who's in charge here! he had said and hurled the trident at the rock of the Acropolis plateau, where my main temple is located."
"What are you doing!" I yelled at him.

"Draining the magma, girl! Isn't this the energy cross you've been so preoccupied with? Isn't this the place where magic energies come together? Isn't this where everything can change? Behold!"

Poseidon had lifted the trident in the sky and the magma had obeyed him, fountaining up like if it had been water from a broken pipe.
"Chaos! You're killing Athens!" I screamed.

I woke up, entangled in my sweaty sheets, still hearing the sound of streaming magma in my ears, until I realised it was only rain splashing upon the leaves outside my open window. The wind had picked up too and I closed the window kinetically while trying to find a better position in bed and going back to sleep. But sleep failed me, too many thoughts began to assault my brain, and after almost an hour I went up and started to work on this idea that was slowly starting to form inside my mind. The energy crosses...

O0O0O

"You think it can be done?" Poseidon asked the next morning.
"If we work together on this," I told him. "I know how to locate those crosses. Then we'll go there and use the forces located around them to open up a quantum flow and tap the energy of the magma that way."
"And where do we redirect it?" Aietes wanted to know. "I mean we can't just let it out in the aether. It can blow all kinds of things to smithereens."

"We'll create a 6D flux," I replied.
"Not even a 6D flux can last forever," said Aietes. "And it takes a divine mind to keep it from disrupting. Who will volunteer to do that, you think? Will you?"
"No, we can bind the flux. Not forever, that is true. But we can use it to harvest energy from. Letting it return to the 3D in slow doses and heat up water for running turbines."

"Something similar to a nuclear reactor, you mean?" Poseidon asked.
"Yes. We'll have to get help from Hephaistos again of course. He's after all the one behind the nuclear technology."
"Then I think we have to let him in on the truth."
"You're right, Poseidon. We will. But my brother can handle it, I trust him on that. Plus he'll need something to distract his mind on. He's been pouting quite a bit too much over the fact that Ares and Aphrodite had Eros together."

"He has all the right in the world to be mad at them for that," Poseidon said. "It was a rotten thing to do."
"Of course he has," I said. "But it benefits no one to continuing being mad. Life must go on."
"Come on. Poseidon," Aietes was saying at the same time. "You did the same once. Remember Herophilos."

At those words the sea god got something dark in his eyes. Anger. And sadness. A lost child, it probably still hurt to be reminded of the dead son."  
"Yeah, I did do that," he answered with a harsh, strained voice, while clutching his fists. "But don't tell me you haven't done the same, Aietes! Or at least enjoyed Aphrodite."
"That's not true!" Aietes sounded unjustly accused. "I've..."
"Oh, shut up, I cut him off. We're not here to discuss Aphrodite's appeal."
"You started it," Aietes said.
"That means I can stop it too," I returned. "Let's get back to work!"

Ares wasn't the only love-sick brother of mine. Apollon had directed his charm at Selene, and they were seen together more and more. One night at Hestia's, Astraea dared to guess that Selene would be the one who finally made the music god settle down. Selene was shaking her head:
"No, I'm still not over the loss of my husband and pantheon. Apollon gives me comfort, but we're not in love. And it's too early for little Pandia too."
"Too early for what?" I asked.
"Getting a stepfather."

"Selene, I hope you have made Apollon aware of that," I told the other goddess. "I'd hate to see him hurt by yet another woman who dumps him. Chaos knows that he's not easy to live with, the way he demands affection and can't stay faithful. But But that's his father's blood. And I love every bit of him, and I care!"
"Don't worry, Athena. We've been talking about it. We're having a good time, that's all."

O0O0O

A few days later Poseidon, Aietes and I flew to Eraganathea in Atlantis. Eraganathea is a city of five million mortals and capital of the Atlantic province Kiruakiun. Just as Athens and most other great cities, it's located upon an energy line intersection. About 50 kilometres away from the energy cross was what Poseidon called "bold 9" one of the smaller of those pressure points that ran like a necklace of horror across the leaf-shaped continent. A reasonable place to start our first drainage-test. Hephaistos together with Caeros and Alatheia were ready to do their part in a closed-down coal power plant back in Sparta.  

We had selected the divine core of one of Poseidon's temple to work from. A non-enter spell directed at both mortals and immortals and Aietes as guard should keep our secrecy from curious eyes. Poseidon was the first one to go into trance, with the seismic activity in focus. Next went I, concentrating on the energy of the earth power line intersection. Its forces weren't hard to find, on the contrary, they shone like white beacons in the sub 3D, making the city resting on top of it almost transparent, like it was floating in the air, surrounded by the energies of the sun as well as the earth.

Sunlight in sub 3D is very different from the one we see in normal state. Here you see almost the complete spectra, from radio infra to crackling epsilon waves, turning the normal white into something almost liquid waving between red, blue and the ultraviolets of radioactivity. On the other hand the earth power is nearly white, which gives you a feeling of being upside down and under water, creating an almost nausea vertigo.

But I had done this often enough to soon get my bearings and start interpreting the flux of earth power. There was the point I was looking for, the point where the energies came together in a multi-dimensional whirlpool. That one was what we were going to use to tap the energies of the earth core, releasing the pressure upon the continent.

"Poseidon? You're out there?" I asked.
"Yes!"
"You have the seismic energy under control for harvesting?"
"I have. Catch, Athi. And be careful with it, it's strong, hot and fast."
"I will. Heph, Alli, Cae, are you ready over in the power plant."

I got an affirmative answer from Alatheia and then I counted down to Go! Soon energies were streaming from Poseidon through me and over into the hands of Caeros in Sparta.
"Not so fast," my little brother was calling back. "The steam pressure builds up too fast, the turbines might explode."
"I'm adjusting," Poseidon told. "How many strikes do you want me to go down?"

We worked a bit like that until we had created a steady flow that went from the Atlantic 'bold 9' and over to the power plant. At that time Alatheia powered down one of the Spartan nuclear plants and connected the flux plant to the electricity grid instead. It was working!  

O0O0O

The Hyp delegate Ephialtes of Aload is one of those little unreliable-looking men that give me shivers. His assistant Otus is just as creepy. Now Cleopatra had learned that they were plotting against dad. I had just left my Atlantic report when she knocked on the door to dads office and let us know of Ephialtes' plans.

Dad was thinking it over and said:
"If I'm correct in my assumptions of Ephialtes of Aload, he will probably use the Chair Office election as a backdrop for his attempt at a coup d'etat."

"By trying to claim that too much power is held within Olympos with both the Divine King and the Nexus Chair Officiant being one of us?" Cleopatra asked.
"That's old news," Alatheia said. "If he don't have anything new to come up with, no-one's going to listen."

"I hope Auroanos is prepared," Hera said."He can lose the Chair Office if you get challenged. It might focus on the Olympic power concentration and while people want to keep Zeus they might vote for one of Auroanos' competitors instead. "

But Ephialtes may have though he was smart. He waited until the election was over and Auroanos had defeated a handful of deities. Auro had hardly sat down in Mimi's old chair before Ephialtes challenged the Divine King. His excuse was rigged elections.

Ephialtes claimed that since the election of Hera back in '17 Olympos had rigged all the Chair Office elections. He said that this behaviour proved that the Divine King office was corrupt, and the rule of the Union really a family affair. A dictator-ship, since no-one dared to oppose Zeus and his family these days. So to give back the power to the elected delegates and fulfil the Union Constitution, Zeus would have to go.

Dad answered back, sounding like these accusations were exactly what he had expected to hear from the Aloadian delegate.
"Do the maths, Ephialtes, if you don't believe me. If I exclude the mortals, six percent of the politicians are of the House of Olympos. Our pantheon consists of 32 adult members. That's a bit more than 8 percent of the Ekarantannian immortal population. This means that the House of Olympos is actually under represented. But what's a daddy to do when his children don't want to work for him?"

The last sentence provoked some laughter, dad smiled back and went on:
"It's true that the election which put Hera in office was rigged. But not by Olympos. It was staged by a libertarian/radical group who wanted anyone but the candidate favoured by Olympos in office. The four elections which placed and kept Artemis in office, were in the hands of the citizens of the Union. Immortals as well as mortals. These are hard to rig. But if you think they are rigged, Ephialtes of Aload, you are welcome to count the votes. They are all being stored in The Vault of the Nexus. Yes, it's a nightmare of a job. Nevertheless that's the only way for you to be confirmed of the truth if you don't trust the ladies and gentlemen who were performing the vote-counts."

Ephialtes seemed to hesitate by the prospect of counting all the votes, but before he got the chance to say anything, the goddess Mnemosyne of West Arcadia rose for a question:
"Great Zeus, how do we know that Ephialtes of Aload will not lie about the results if he finds out that the elections have been performed justly?"
"He will be surveyed of course," dad said from the platform.

Some more questions were asked and answered while I was watching from my place at the spectator's balcony. Most of the times the debates down in the Golden Hall are rather dull, but this event woke some real discussions. Not about dad, it was only Ephialtes and Eneis of Midgård who seemed interested in challenging him. But about the possibility to rig a general election.

The Golden Hall - named after its gold-mosaic walls - was filled almost to the brim with deities, who in their colourful, and glittering dresses and sparkling auras made this large room shimmer with energies. Energies that even paled the sunlight shining in from the high windows. I understood why this large room was considered too small. The Divine Assembly 'The Hyperpantheon' was supposed to move over to the Great Hall "the present hall of the Mortal Assembly, as soon as their new Union Hall was finished.

At last Ephialtes caved in, to some applauds and provocative comments. Dad thanked for an interesting debate and left the podium. One quick glance up at the spectators balcony and a smile. And another, filled with contempt and directed at Ephialtes of Aload who had sat down again together with Otus.

O0O0O

"And you don't think anyone will notice when you start shutting down nuclear plants?" Cleopatra asked. "It was the weekly meeting and we had just informed the Olympians of the seismic activities beneath Atlantis and how we were working on saving it from impending disaster."
"No, it's our own plants," Caeros told. "The ones I run. My mortals are perfectly loyal and don't question why we are switching plants as long as they get paid for their work. And besides they don't notice the difference between a nuclear reactor and a flux ditto."

"So what you guys are doing is saving Atlantis by turning off nuclear reactors and employing the needed amount of flux reactors instead," Apollon asked.
"True," I replied.
"But how do you know how much energy is needed?" Artemis asked.
"By computer calculation."
"Isn't there a risk you drain too much of the seismic energies?" Artemis again.
"No, it's not," Poseidon said. "If we drain enough the pressure simply stops and we will have a minor earthquake as a warning. And by minor I mean something only sensitive immortals like yours truly can sense."

"And how about the electricity?" Leto wanted to know. "What's the difference between electricity coming from this flux setup of yours compared to regular electricity?"
"Nothing of importance," dad answered. "It's true that the energy to produce this electricity flows through the sub 3D...."
"Sub 6D" I corrected him. He shrugged and went on:
"But there's only a minor difference in the energy signature. Nothing that affects tools run by electricity. This actually means that Poseidon and Athena's group have not only saved Atlantis for us, they have managed to find the embryo for a new energy source."

Then  dad called for a break. I got some chance to harvest fresh gossip from Iris while we were collecting nectar and ambrosia from the buffet table.

"What's with Ares and Aphrodite? They seem to avoid each other like plague these days."
"Ares has given Enyo a son. Enyalos," Iris told.
"I thought it was over between those two since years."
"I guess all of us did. But who can tell with Ares."

O0O0O

So came the scary event with Asklepios. I was sitting with dad, Eos and Apollon in dads office discussing something semi-important when suddenly Persephone bursted through the doors with a pale face and Apollon's unconscious son in her arms. The tall and slender doc looked badly in need of healing himself. His aura was dull and week and his chakras had slowed down to a dangerously low pace, almost only skidding.
"Apollon, help your son! He's dying and I can't hold him anymore! Persephone cried."

My brother rose fast and ran over and grabbed Asklepios, sat down on the floor with the lifeless body. Tears started to flow down his cheeks, not since his teens had I seen him crying like that before.
"What happened, what did he do?" I asked my cousin while Apollon started to work on his son. Zeus came to his help.
"Get Eleithya!" he ordered Eos, who closed her eyes, started to mind-search for my sister.

"He wanted to trip," Persephone started. "Asked me to ward him. First I was kind of surprised, thinking why would he need me, since he was only running around in the sub-3D. Then we encountered what he apparently was looking for. A traffic accident. A mortal on one of these big, powerful motorbikes. The biker was hit by a truck, and the poor mans back snapped like a stick. It still surprises me how fragile mortals really are."

"He died instantly," Persephone went on. "Then I understood what Ask wanted to do. He entered 6D mode fast, started to go after the mortal's soul, tried to pull him back again."
"Saving his life?" I asked.
"How far ir was he?" Dad wanted to know.

"39/648:th curve," my cousin said.
"That's way too long. Beyond 20:th it's too late. Even for one of us. You know that, Peri, didn't you tell Ask?"
"He wasn't listening. He wanted to save that man's life so bad."

"Why? Who was he?" I asked.
"No one! That wasn't the point, Ask wanted to show that he could wake up a dead man. But he began to be pulled down with the mortal and I lost my grip on him. Couldn't hold him. I'm sorry, Apollon." Peri started to cry even more and I took my cousin in my arms, pulled her close to me, feeling my own eyes wet.

"Chaos!" Dad said. "Was he out of his mind? Haven't I told him, haven't I told everybody that such a thing can't be done? Not beyond the 20:th! Metis' cousin Inarnana tried, and she died. And so did Inarnana's daughter Isigi. Metis showed me why it was impossible. The pull becomes too strong, you can't stop it. Not even the mightiest immortal can. It's beyond the laws we function by."        

After a while and with the help of dad and Apollon, Ask started to come around again, and then there was  Eleithya ready to help him mend his tormented soul. Dad had Asklepios swearing by his heart to not do such a thing again. That wasn't really hard – Asklepios was too scared to try bringing back another dead. He knew, that hadn't Peri been so fast and hadn't both dad and Apollon been around to fetch him, he would have died for sure.

"Not even Hades can do these things," Persephone told. "He tried once, with a mortal named Eurydice. Just out of curiosity. Got her as far as 618/1489/2528. Then the pull became too strong and Eurydice fell again. The only way to return someone is normal reincarnation. It has to work that way. We can't change everything."
"Not yet," I said.
"Don't you start anything, Athena!" dad warned me.  

"Not after what I've seen here today," I assured the gathered group. "Besides, I have other things to do. Seismic energy for instance. By the way, dad  you owe me and Hera 1000 credits each!"
The goddess Dike is one of the lawyers in dads office. She's a daughter of his ex-wife Themis, little sister to the healers Aeirene and Eumonia, and she works mostly with relations between the provinces and people-groups of the union. Unlike her rather flamboyant sisters she's of the steady, down to earth kind, so I was a bit surprised when she told me it was a matter of life and death on that hot summer's day.  

"This is Ianidra," Dike said as a tall, candid-looking goddess rose from her chair. "She's the most revered oracle on the Atlantean continent. And she has bad news. "
"For whom?" I asked while touching hands with the oracle.
"For 365 millions," Ianidra stated without moving as much as a brow. Atlantis is doomed.

"What?" I felt my jaw drop. She had delivered the news like she had been telling that it would rain tomorrow.
"Yes, within a year Atlantis will seize to exist, Ianidra went on. The whole continent will disappear beneath the waves of the surrounding ocean."

My eyes went from the oracle to Dike and then back. I took a breath and collected my thoughts.
"Who knows this?" I asked.
"Only the three of us in this room, Dike said."
"Not Zeus? "
"No," Dike told. "Ianidra was visiting me, she was to help me with the outcome for an ongoing  negotiation between two battling tribes in the Atlantean province Narimiarig. Make some forecasts of possible outcomes. Instead she got this revelation... Well, perhaps it's better you tell, Ianidra. "

Ianidra looked at me and started:
"Daughter of Zeus. It was yesterday evening. I was looking into the future but saw only void where there should be the deep forests of Narimiarig. Void and then ocean. First I thought I had made a mistake with the coordinates and tried again. Same result. So I started to research and then I saw the disaster. The Atlantic continent will disappear. Nothing but a few islands in the east will remain. The whole area between the Central Continent and the Americas will be turned into ocean. An ocean almost as large as the Endless on the other side of the globe. "

"Chaos! Why? What will cause it?"
"Seismic disturbances. Apparently there has been some rather heavy build-up beneath the continental plateau, and this is going to result in a collapse, where the whole plateau falls down in the core. Combined with earthquakes and volcano eruptions this will not only affect our continent but the whole planet. We are looking at a grand scale disaster here, Athena, probably the worst in modern times. "

I uttered some curses, and then I asked why they had contacted me instead of Zeus or Poseidon who after all was one of the most skilled deities when it came to forecasting and controlling seismic activity.
"We don't want a panic," Dike said. "We want the news to stay in the smallest possible circle while we think of something to do. And you're the most reasonable person I know, Athena. You if any would be able to deal with this kind of information, I reckoned."

"So what are your plans? Mass evacuations?"
"Yeah, that's obvious," Dike nodded. "And not only of the Atlantean people. But most people living in coastal areas. Since this will cause tsunamis that will go several times around the globe and ravaging all coasts. "
"Then we are talking a disaster in level with the Giant war here," I pointed out. "If not worse. We will have to inform Zeus."

"Not even he can stop it," Ianidra told.
"No, but we will have to involve him nevertheless. He is after all Divine King. He has the ultimate responsibility over all Union territory, so we cannot keep him out. Besides he will be able to add valuable knowledge."
"No one is talking about excluding Zeus," Dike said. "I only said I involved you first, Athena. Since I know you and trust that you keep your head cold and not do anything stupid."
"Thanks! I couldn't keep my sarcasm out of my voice. Shall I inform Zeus or will you do it?"
"I think we should go all together," Dike suggested.  

O0O0O

Dad was silent for an unnervingly long time after Ianidra's repetition of her prophecy. He leaned back in his chair, which creaked beneath his weight and then he drummed his fingers against the armrest.
"365 millions of Atlanteans," he pondered. "And almost three times as many people living in coastal areas around the globe. Where are we going to move them? And how will we prevent a panic from breaking out? "

"Would we come to you if we had known?" Dike whispered, looking at the Divine King sitting behind his desk in his Nexus office.
"Is there anything we can do?" I asked. "Besides moving all these people?"
"Which we really should be starting with as soon as possible," Dike urged.

"My ladies," dad said. "You're right about us having to keep this knowledge in a small circle. Still there are a few more gods we need to involve.  Dike, you and I will start sketching on this mass evacuation together with the security head Kandrios of Elesios and the Atlantean delegate Mira. Athena, you will work with Poseidon and Aietes to see if there's any chance to stop this from happening. What is your percentage for a disaster, lady Ianidra?"

"It's definite," the goddess said. "It cannot be stopped."
"I'd like to know what Apollo has to say about that," dad commented.
"He cannot stop it," Ianidra stated. "Nor can Poseidon. I'm sorry, Olympians, this is definite. "
"There's no such thing as definite when it comes to the future," dad said. "You as an oracle should know that. There are probability estimates based upon heavy 10-dimensional maths, but nothing is ever certain. "

"Wishful thinking," Ianidra said.
"It's not," dad said. "I have never been inclined to do wishful speculations. I wouldn't remain in this office if I had. Now I will inform those others. Including Hera. Our group will meet first thing in the morning tomorrow.  One hour after sunrise, this will give us an hour before the regular Nexus activities begin. "

O0O0O

Closing the door on the summer heat I was thinking about this impending doom. Atlantis to go under! I got some nectar and strolled into my workshop, looking at the half-finished desk computer standing at the large table.

When inventing the microchip five years ago I had only thought of smaller radio-and TV-sets. It had been Caeros who hinted at the computers. He was using them for weather forecast and controlling work. Better computers could also be used to launch a satellite, something we had been struggling with for years. (Our last attempt crashed in the arms of an annoyed Helios).

Now I was working with a tiny little computer  like a fancy calculator, upon which you could store information, process texts and so on. I had really no idea what these machines could be used for back then, it was just something to keep my mind occupied with when I was waiting for co-workers to finish their parts of various projects.

I tinkered a bit with the DP (Desk Computer) prototype, and suddenly it was almost dinner time. My mind skipped back to Atlantis and I shivered in spite of the heat. But Atlantis wasn't what was making news at Olympos.
"We love you all, Sakura was saying. But Irdonan and I have been talking about this for quite some time. We're leaving Olympos and moving to Bithynia to start our own pantheon.

First came silence, then people started to beg them to reconsider, asking them if they were upset or sad over something occurring here, but Kuri and Irdo told that it wasn't the reason. They were simply longing for a life of their own, a family of their own. And to see some new horizons.
"And with Valhalla gone and Nementon dissolved there are only seven grand pantheons left. If we could start the seed of number eight, we would also deliver what is needed in the world," my brother said.

"But what about security?" Helios asked. "You are head over that organisation. If you're moving to Bithynia, it would be hard for you to run that business. And Sakura's position at the Education Council?"
"We're leaving both, that's no secret," Kuri said.
"But I have asked Ares," Irdo went on. "He wants to take over the position after me." Irdo nodded at Ares who opened his month, but he could hardly utter a vowel before Aietes cut him off:

"Ares? That hothead! Only thing he can do is beating up gangsters. I don't really think..."
"You're far from updated then, Aietes," Irdo said. "Ares has been helping me with my duties for years now. And he's fully responsible for certain important parts. Hercules and Cleopatra have been taking over some of Ares' old work in turn. Then I'm promoting this new girl – Nemesis. She's good. "

"And it's not like we're disappearing forever," Kuri went on. "We will of course come visit now and then. When Dionysos throws a party or something. "
"Then I guess I have to increase the party frequency up here," Dionysos said, which somehow lightened up the gloom a bit.

O0O0O

"Yes, this is quite a build-up," Poseidon said after returning from analyzing trance. "A huge, bulging pressure of lava and magma which has nowhere to go but upwards trough several cracks in the ground. It will blast trough, tear the continent apart and sink it. I'll show you."

With fast draws he sketched up a quite accurate map over the Atlantic continent and then he took another pen, a red one this time and started to draw lines running across the paper.
"Pressure lines. Here is where the continent will break apart. "
"And this is certain?" Aietes asked and studied the map while biting his lower lip.
"Nothing is ever certain," Poseidon said. "It's a probability estimation. Athena, you who do this with maths, can you calculate the risks in certain places? "
"Yes, I can, just give me some data to work with. "

'Some data' turned out to be quite a lot of information. I would never be able to solve this, there simply was no time. If only I had had that desk computer ready. Sure, I could have borrowed one of the computers down at the university, but then I would have to explain what I was going to use it for. Xanthus was very accurate with who was using his machines and what for. Since dad had pointed out that it was too early to spread the news about the endangered Atlantis outside our limited group, even telling a serious god like Xanthus was out of the question. On the other hand I knew someone who could help me with the desc computer.

O0O0O

Hephaistos' office was, as always, full of trinkets, gizmos and gadgets of all kinds, most of them in various states of disassembly.
"Have a seat, Athi, if you can find one," my brother called from inside his workshop. "I'll be right with you." I moved some manuals, transistors, newspaper-clips, batteries, a broken lamp, a likewise broken food processor and an electric drill machine from an armchair and sat down, putting my feet upon something that had once been a TV set.

After a while my brother came out in the office, looking like trash as usual. People tend to describe him as ugly, but that's mostly because he don't bother. I have met few people caring less about their looks than Hephaistos. All right, he has a too big noose and is all bulky and angular, but he could at least shave more than twice a week and do something to his hair. Like washing it. And his clothes had seen way better days.

I wonder what Aphrodite really sees in this man - a lot of time on her own perhaps, since one can't say that he's demanding. Nevertheless he's one of my favourite brothers. Always in a good mood, interesting to talk with, full of ideas and one of the few persons taking interest in my projects.

This time he threw me something silvery and round, like a little discus.
"See this? Now listen here." He started to push some buttons and suddenly the familiar voice of Ericlea filled the room, singing one of her usual tragic ballads.
"Like it?" Hephaistos asked.
"Not really my style... But the sound is oddly clear. No noise."

"That's what I mean. This silver-disk, it's the new record. Forget those plastic discs that get all scratchy and dusty! This is the digitalized sound. The music for the new century."
"Heph, is this a digital recording? How did you...?"
"First I cleared up the sound then I digitalized it and burned it down on a similar disc to the one you are holding. Then I had to have a player. I tried several things, and settled for a laser reader." Hephaistos lost himself in technical descriptions and this is where other people often tire and ask him to shut up. But I think these things are amazing and we went on talking about digital medias and laser readers for hours and I almost forgot my original errand.

"Heph, I said when I realised that the weekly meeting was due in less than an hour. I want you to help me with something. "
"What?" Hephaistos lowered his music (he had traded Ericlea for Tired Tigers rather soon) and came over to me. I used that TV-wreck for table and put my blue-prints on it.
"This is something I call a desk computer. It's a compressed form of those biggies down at the Ekarantanni University. Something for everyone. For minor calculations. Although it's not ready. I wonder if you could give me a hand with it."
"Sure," my brother said. "Let me have a look."
"I want it to be easy to work with. A guy like Poseidon should be able to fill it with data without having too much trouble."
"User-friendly you mean," Heph said. "Yeah, I can do it, sis!"

O0O0O

Hephaistos sure is amazing. Only days later he had the desk computer ready for our calculations and showed me and Poseidon how to fill it with data.
"What is this about, what are all those figures?" my brother wanted to know.
"Earthquake estimations," Poseidon said. By that he didn't lie, just omitted a bit of the truth. He also managed to make it sound as dry and boring as possible, and Hephaistos immediately lost interest and started to talk about new applications for the computer instead.

Soon we were calculating, Poseidon and I – and growling at Aietes who kept questioning the results the computer came up with.
"Do it yourself," I snapped at him in the end. And Aietes tried, but was soon left behind by the electronic miracle. Even Poseidon became impressed by its prestanda, and he sure is a man hard to amaze.  He had seen too much been to too many places.

As the work kept progressing in a steady pace I was glad that Seidy and I had buried the hatchet between us since long. At least something good that came out of the Giant wars, it brought us Olympians together. Of course we can fight and rave and sound really nasty if we like, but most of us feel that our pantheon has grown tighter by the danger we faced back then.

"Athena, we're getting somewhere," Poseidon said one morning and showed me some sketches he had done the night before, when I had been too tired to stay up.
"Like where?" I asked the sea god.
"I know where the main pressure points lie now. If we could think of a way to drain them we might actually be able to lessen the risk for a total disaster. There's going to be quakes all right. And volcano eruptions. Still... I really hope we can save Atlantis. It has a special place in my heart."

"I know. Seidy, don't hope for too much. First of all, how are we going to drain the pressure from those points?"
"By opening them," Aietes suggested.
"How?" I asked. Drilling a hole?
"Too risky," Poseidon warned. "The earth is fragile. Any mistake and we'll make it worse instead."

"So we just have to be careful," Aietes said.
"No, we have to think of something else," I told the men. "Perhaps if we could drain the magma trough the sub-dimensions. Pump it into the 5D or 6D and have it come out somewhere else."
"That sounds even more risky," Aietes returned.
"I'm not willing to rule out any idea yet," Poseidon told. "Let's calculate the risks for your solutions. And then we'll talk to Apollon. See if he can make a prophecy. "

I gulped. Apollon's prophecy regarding Atlantis had almost been as depressing as Ianidra's.

O0O0O

Then dad was approaching me with an impossible request.
"You want me to take over after Artemis? The Chair Office of the Hyperpantheon?" I stared at dad where he sat in the sofa with hands resting on spread knees and the late afternoon sun shining off the hair he had kept short since the war. He was also still clean shaven, looking more boyish then ever. Such was the fashion these days. Even if you weren't a YUGI you were supposed to look like one.

"Yes, that's what I want you to, Athena."
"But I can't... I know nothing about politics. I know that you have always held great confidence in me and what I do, but I'm not a politician. I don't know that trade. Neither am I interested in learning it. "
"Mimi's a good teacher. "
"Then she can teach anybody. How about Auroanos? Or Alatheia? "

"They are both good material. But I want the best. I want you, Athena. "
"Sorry, but no. Why is Mimi resigning by the way? Is it because of Orion?"
"She has held the position for 170 years next year. And defeated several challengers in three elections. It's only natural she wants a release. Wants to try something new. Athena, think of yourself, fluttering like a butterfly from project to project. "

"That's because I chose projects I can finish. Like Athens. And researches. Being a Chair Lady is not connected to any visible goal. That's one reason I don't want the position. "
"Athena... Well, at least Artemis isn't leaving like Irdo and Kuri. She's staying at Olympos with Orion. He actually likes it here, especially since he buried the hatchet with Apollon, what that now was all about. "

"Ollie overprotecting his sister, I guess. Why do you think I would make a good Chair Lady in spite of not being a politician?"
"In spite? No, it's because you're not a politician. You have fresh eyes, you talk to people in a new way and you aren't drowned in loyalty fights and old favours owed by everyone and her nymph. Not to mention that you're clever and a great tactician. I'm convinced that you're the kind of person the Nexus needs. "

"And you need one of yours in the Nexus, right? Instead of one of Atle's, Akaraia's or Izanagi's people? "
"Partly yes - and partly because everyone know that you're independent in spite of being my daughter. No-one wants a Cybele or an Aestarion who try to kiss my butt all the time. In fact the talk goes like 'Zeus's children don't need his approval, so they are the real independent ones'. "

"Dad, all and everything you have said here and now do apply to Auro as well. Ask him! Or Alli!"
"As much as I love Alatheia, she won't get elected. She's too blunt, and has stepped on too many toes down in the Nexus. "
"How about Hermes?"
"He doesn't want the position either. I haven't asked him but I know that his answer will be no. "

"And you weren't expecting my answer to be no?"
"I was. Still I hoped it to be different. Anyhow, I've been thinking of Auroanos too. I'm going to ask him."
"Great. Don't be sad, daddy! Poseidon, Aetes and I might save Atlantis. "

Then I told him about our drainage plan. He was thrilled but skeptic.
"It won't work. "
"What won't work?" someone said behind me. It was Hera who came in, kicked of her sandals and walked up and sat down together with dad and put her arms around him. So I had to retell everything while dad hugged Hera back and started toying with her braids. Hera put her hand inside dads turquoise toga and stated:
"If Athena says it's going to work it will. Remember the aeroplanes! And recording the farsightings! And the x-ray! "

Zeus laughed:
"What am I going to do with two stubborn women?"
"Find a third who shares your opinion, Hera smiled. I bet Selene'd volunteer. It wasn't hard to understand why you were so quick with saying yes to Helios' request to have his sister becoming Olympian. "

Dad blushed and I looked upon them:
"Now what was that about?"
"Pandia," Hera said and made a face.
"What has she got to do with... Hey wait a moment! "

"We're not going anywhere," Hera said, cuddling even tighter to dad.
"So Pandia is your daughter?" I asked dad. "Honestly, I don't think I'm surprised. I feel like I have sisters and brothers in every corner of the Immortal Nation these days. I'm more surprised that you're not tearing up heaven and earth like you used to, Hera. "

"I guess I got tired of doing that when it led nowhere, my stepmum answered. Of course I still care, I have only changed my tactics a bit. "
"Yeah, Pandia's mine," dad sighed. "I ended up comforting a newly divorced friend a bit too much. "
"Then you had to comfort me double up, poor fool!" Hera said.
"Oh, I didn't mind that at all."

When I rose Hera said:
"1000 credits on success for Athena's project!"
"Ladies, the seismic forces are no toys. "
"Poseidon has done these things before," I replied and sat down again.
"Yes, that's true. But not on this magnitude."
"So how is the evacuation plans going?"

"Slow," dad said. "We are looking at it from the other end. Where to relocate all those people. There's hardly any place. Those uninhibited areas are uninhibited for a reason after all. They are too cold and desolate, like Antarctica and Isibiria. We won't get people to move there."
"But if dying is the alternative?" I asked.
"We hope to not have to let the seriousness of the situation be revealed. But it seems impossible," dad sighed and pushed his fingers through his golden locks.

"Honey," Hera said. "People trust you. Especially the mortals. They will move if you tell them to. But if Athena and Poseidon succeed no one has to move."
"I don't think we'll get this lucky," dad said. "Remember that Apollon's prophecy showed the same as Ianidra's."
 
"Dad, you have confidence in me enough to wanting to promote me as Chair Lady of the Nexus. Even if I almost totally lack political skills. This is something I believe can be done. Trust us, dad! "
"What if I don't?"
"You'll lose 1000," Hera said.

"My ladies. If you're in for a deal, I'll give you 1000 each if Athena and Poseidon can present me with a working solution before the start of the next Nexus session. Because then we will have to inform at least the Hyperpantheon of what's going to happen to Atlantis and what we will do to save lives and property."
"That's almost three months," I smiled. "Consider yourself 2000 credits poorer, daddy!"

000000

That night I took a closer look at little Pandia, who was playing with Hermes, climbing on his back while holding on to his light brown, long hair. First I didn't see any obvious resemblances to dad. Pandia was pale-looking like her mother and her uncle Helios. Whitish blond and frizzy hair, gray-blue eyes and porcelain skin. Then I saw that she had dads cheek-line, his (and my) nose and the same kind of large, almond-shaped eyes shadowed by long lashes as Hermes and a lot of others here.
These days rebuilding the Union kept almost everyone's attention. About 250 immortals had died, including almost the whole Valhalla pantheon, consisting of 22 deities. The ones surviving had been Scade and her daughter and assistant Emdia. Plenitaa had lost 12 deities and the rest of the grand pantheons had lost about 6-8 members each. A lot of them had held positions in need to be replaced.

Then there was the Gaia hearing. Helios, Hestia and Poseidon did most of the questionings. A lot of us were farsighting the event, until Hestia told us to stop, because there was too much disturbances in the chi.
"You know you will get all the information in the end. In a compressed and more interesting form than those hearings usually are."
"But they are interesting already," Astraea protested.

At the same time Ares was pouting since my group got celebrated as heroes because of our prisoner. I told him:
"Who got all the attention during the years when you killed Giants in hundreds? Who was it Apollon wrote heroic epics about back then? Come on Ares, your group has been heroes for almost three years, while no-one hardly remembered us. Now we get it all. The tomato-sauce bottle effect, you know. It's only fair. "

So came the day when the final result of the hearings with Gaia was presented to Olympos. It was oddly thin. Really nothing more than what I had told the Open Forum more than a fortnight ago. Gaia claimed that she was the original Gaia. That she had survived Uranos' attempted murder, and remained in a coma for millennia, only to wake up in a world she didn't recognise, and where she was the only Gaiane left.

She had tried to recreate her race from her own egg cells, fertilising them with each other or with other cells of hers. The outcome was hordes of freaks, most of them unable to even survive outside the womb. And the rest with disturbed minds. Only her last attempts had succeeded, producing a bit more intelligent beings, like Porphyrion and Echidna.

(I can still hear Hercules making fun about Porphyrion being labelled "bit more intelligent")

Then Gaia had gone back to sleep, with one single thing in mind: regenerating new egg cells. She had placed Echidna as her life guard and Porphyrion as leader of the Giants. That was her last conscious memories before being waken up by me and my team of searchers.

"This means Gaia knew nothing about the war?" dad asked.
"It appears so," Helios replied. "As soon as Gaia had gone to sleep Porphyrion took command and sent Giants out to attack the Homo Sapiens mortals. Most attacks were performed by Giants from the large strongholds in Outgard and Isibiria and aimed at the sparse populated provinces in the north, like Valhalla and Alfhem. There the late Thor encountered them, learned of the danger and informed the Union leaders. "

"After a lot of damage being done already," Astraea filled in.
"Yes, but it won't happen again," Hercules assured. "We've learned from that mistake. Now we have a guard system that will warn us if something like this comes against Union borders once again. "
"That was said after the Titan wars too," Astraea scolded.

"That system was weak and unreliable, depending on mortal humans who slacked after years and years of status quo," Hercules answered. "Now we have employed an electronic warning system, thanks to the research and developement Athena and Hephaistos have been in charge of. But we're digressing here."
"What will happen to Gaia now?" Artemis asked.

"That will have to be taken under consideration," dad answered. "I'm planning a visit to this old immortal to gather more information about her. "
"Zeus, there's nothing possible that you can learn from her that we haven't already got," Poseidon said. "Let's kill this abnormity now and get over it. I'm sick of these ugly Giants and their tries to damage our realm. I want to put this to an end and get on with real and important things instead. "

"Like defending us from the Giants wasn't important?" I turned to Poseidon.
"Of course it was. But let's not drag on with this longer than necessary. "
"No risk of that, Seidy," dad said. "I'm only seeing Gaia once. Then lets finish this as you said."

"Killing her you mean, Zeus?"
"We'll see," dad said.
"Of course we're going to kill her!" Ares shouted. "She can't be let to live..."
"Why not?" Sakura asked. "Isn't it obvious that she didn't know a thing of this war. She was asleep for Faith's sake. "

"That's obviously a lie," Demeter stated. "Porphyrion must've been ordered to initiate these attacks against us. "
"What makes you think so?" Leto asked.
"Because Porphyrion wasn't intelligent enough to start such a scheme. "
"You don't have to be that intelligent to start a war," Ares stated.

"Of course not, you're the perfect proof to that," Sakura mocked her brother.
"That's enough," dad said. "I will go see Gaia. I think it's absolutely necessary. At least for me to make up my mind."
"Zeus, you're not the only one to decide what to do with Gaia, the sea god said. The rest of us..."
"I know what you want, Poseidon," dad snapped. An irritated look upon his face. "You have stated that clearly enough now. Nevertheless I want to get an impression of this woman. So I'm seeing her. End of discussion."

With those words dad turned and left, togas flowing. Now people started talking. Some were agreeing with Sakura, others with Poseidon, Demeter and Ares. And some, like me, couldn't make up our minds, although I was leaning on agreeing with my brother. I looked at Ares next to me; he was standing with knuckles resting on the conference table arguing fiercely with Apollon. This war had made him smart and self-assured in a way I had never seen him before. For once my older brother wasn't winning the argument against my younger, and for once Ares was not enhancing his words with his fists.

Another poignant change was his hair, Ares had taken the "war-cut" to the extreme, gone was the flying dark locks and replaced by shaved sides and not a centimetre long crop at the top of his head.

"I want to know what takes place in that meeting between dad and Gaia," I told Ares when he finally sat down.
"So do I," Ares said. "Let's farsee!"
"No, dad might notice and get mad at us. Remember how chi-sensitive Gaia seems to be. I have another idea... "

O0O0O


Ares and I hid ourselves in the lamp, disguised as light spectra. Then it didn't take long before dad entered the room. Gaia looked up at him, a proud look upon her alien face in spite of the chains that held her.
"She's..." Ares started but I hushed him. I didn't want dad to notice that we had sneaked into Gaia's prison.

"So you have come to see me, Zeus? To triumph over a fallen enemy before killing her, is that so?"
"No, I want to know why you and your kind attacked my realm."
"Isn't that obvious?" Gaia spat. "Because it's mine and I wanted it back."

"You 'wanted it back'?" dad said. "How come?"
"The power was mine once. Why should I not take back what once was mine?"
"Why should you? Why did you want all that power back after all these years? What was your purpose, what did you intend to do with it?"

"I..." Gaia stopped. Then she changed subject:
"You killed my children," she screamed.
"And you sought to kill mine," dad stated, seemingly unbothered by Gaia's outcry. "Now answer my question instead and this will all be done and over with quicker. "
"Done and over with..." Gaia started.

"Answer me!" dad commanded. "Why did you attack my realm? What was the reason for you to deny my people the rulers they had chosen? And what did you want to do with that power if you had acquired it?"
"I wanted..." Gaia stopped looking at dad and chose to stare down at the floor instead.
"Isn't it the case that you wanted the power just for the power itself, just like back in the early days when you really held it? dad was asking. Isn't it the case that you didn't care what you did with your power and those affected by it as long as you could bask in the glory of being ruler of the realms?"

Gaia made a slight move with her head and her right hand. An affirmation? I don't know. Dad went on:
"You as well as the Titan Uranos who disposed of you but failed to kill you, and Chronos who finished off Uranos were all of the same kind. You wanted the power and the glory. You wanted luxury and bliss but you had no real clue about what you really wanted to do with all that power. Your kind wanted to be worshipped but you gave your subjects no reason why. You offered them no protection "on the contrary, you threatened them and scared them into subjugation. You took their sacrifices but gave nothing in return. That was what your kind did. And that's why your time is up."

"This is the new era," dad went on. "This is the era of Zeus. I offer people "mortals as well as immortals "a new world. A safe and benign world. A world of liberty and justice. The era of Zeus is about democracy, equality, security and progress. The era of Zeus is open doors and freedom of will and of speech. That's why my rule is resting on safer ground than yours ever did. I'm here because people want me to be here. Because I offer people hope. I'm giving them a reason for having me ruling their realm. That's the difference between me and you, Uranos and Chronos."

"I don't remember Uranos' or Chronos' rule," Gaia was spitting. "I was in a coma. Struck down by Uranos' nerve poison. For millennias and millennias I slept. Until I woke up to find my world gone and all my children dead. My race was annihilated and the only way to get it back was impregnating myself. But I failed. All that came out were monsters. And all of them fed on my hatred for those who had taken over my world. All of them were the purpose for me wanting to take it back. To get rid of the germs populating it now. Yes, germs! You and your kind are nothing but germs to me, Zeus! You have no right to my world! "

"Uranos killed your kind. We didn't. We weren't even around. Then Chronos castrated Uranos and poisoned his land. The Homo Sapiens race back then was purely mortal. They didn't develop immortals until much later. Immortals that Chronos was trying to exterminate. "

"I wish he had succeed. His Titans would have been easier for my Giants to beat."
"Perhaps," mused dad. "Well, Gaia, you are burned out now. Your regeneration cells are all gone and you have destroyed the ability to create new. You pose no threat to us anymore. But I don't wish see you around here. You scare people with your mere appearance. So I'm having you expelled. You are to go back to your caves in Antarctica and stay there. "

"So you're not killing me, Zeus?" Gaia sounded more surprised than relieved.
"No, I have no reason why. I don't kill sentient beings if I don't have a very good reason. And you being conquered and beaten isn't reason enough. Poseidon will be here soon and he'll take you back to Antarctica and release you there. Then you will stay there. Coming here again will mean your end though. "

Like on a cue Poseidon arrived. Dad told him what to do and the sea god threw an odd look at dad before obeying. When he had left with Gaia, dad looked up in the lamp and straight at us where we were hiding.
"All right, Ares and Athena, you can came down now. I guess your curiosity has been stilled."

Reluctantly Ares and I assumed our normal appearances and with humble looking faces we came down in front of dad.
"How did you spot us?" my brother was asking.
"Oh, I saw you right from the start, children. That was a good trick, disguising yourselves as light. But I sensed your auras anyhow. "
"We..." I started.
"Don't worry, that's a trait of mine that few if any share. No one else would have spotted you. Poseidon didn't and Gaia definitely did not."

Ares, who had regained some of his confidence, asked:
"Why did you let that monster live. Surely..."
"Just as I told her, I had no reason to kill her. "
"No reason? But she said she wanted to clear our realm of humans, she actually confessed to those crimes she has been denying all the time earlier."

"Ares, that was only snake venom she wanted to spit in my eyes. To provoke me. She was so sure I was going to kill her that she didn't think she had anything to lose by insulting and provoking me. Yet she's harmless now with all her Giants dead."
"I think that is a mistake," Ares went on. "You don't know what that woman is up to, and she's probably filled with the thoughts of revenge right at the very moment."

"You're right, she is," said dad. "But that means little now, because she has no means of revenge. Ares, Athena, you were both among the bravest ones in this war we've just won but now  there are other things that need to be done. We need to get this Union back on track again after this long interruption."

"Dad," I said. I agree with Ares. "I believe your mercy was uncalled for and that it will serve us no good in the end. I think it had been best for us all if you had killed Gaia."
"Athena, mercy is one of the major things that differ our kind from the tyrants we replaced. They knew nothing of mercy and chose to kill their defeated enemies wherever there was a good reason or not. Some even took joy in these killings. We have to show that we are better."
"Show whom?" Ares asked. "That freak Gaia?"
"She among others."

"I still think it's wrong," I insisted.
"I know that now," dad answered. "Let's leave this question and move on!" By those words dad dismissed us and left. Ares was looking at me with worry in his fudge brown eyes:
"I have a bad feeling about this. I see trouble as a result of this mercy. Poseidon didn't like it either. I'll have a word with mum. Maybe she can make dad change his mind. "

O0O0O

I went home to Chrysandros in Dodona to get second opinion. He was not clogged with Olympic loyalties and could see things from an outer perspective I found refreshing and valuable. He got to hear the fate of Gaia while we sat down in the shadow at his patio with glasses of wine. When I had finished Chrysandros looked out over the lake that was glittering in the heat of the late afternoon sun.
"Your father did the right thing," he said after a while.

"You think so?"
"Yes. He could have killed Gaia. That was the easy decision. It would have benefited him in the short term, showing people that he's a leader who means business and doesn't tolerate oppression. On the other hand "in long terms it would have ended up looking bad, like he was scaring people in subjucation the way Chronos once did. People would end up not daring to even question him."

"Chrys, there's a canyon of a difference between questioning a leaders decisions and trying to kill his realm. "
"Yes, we know that. We who were around for the event. But what do you think will happen in about a hundred years time when all the mortals around are gone and replaced by new ones?"
"How do you mean?"

"To the mortals it already looks like Gaia was prisoner of war. A Giant not involved in the killings. If Zeus would have had her killed, the mortals would have seen it as he was killing an innocent bystander to show example. That's why I think you father did the right thing by letting Gaia go. He proved that he doesn't think unnecessary kills and vendettas solve any problems. "
"I guess... ...it makes some sense," I told Chrysandros. But I was still not sure.

O0O0O

Ares, Hera, Poseidon and I met in Poseidon and Amphitrite's Olympic home that night. As usual Poseidon's wife wasn't around.
"No," said Hera. "He won't change his mind about Gaia. "
"Too bad," said Poseidon. "Old Eagle has gone soft. He's too scared of loosing his reputation as a benign god these days. I've seen it several times before. "
"He had no problems killing Giants," I defended dad.
"No, but I'm not referring to this war. I'm referring to other enemies of Olympos and the Union who Zeus has been letting get away with their plotting before. "

"Like?" Hera was asking.
"Like these Discordians who threatened to force several northern regions to leave the Union. And the Black-Masques in Atlantis."
"Zeus had them put on trial and imprisoned," Hera said.
"That wasn't enough. The Atlanteans were crying for blood. They asked me to help them impose capital punishment upon the Black-Masques. But Zeus denied me and the Atlanteans that right. "

"That's beside the point, Poseidon," I said. "We have to deal with here and now." Poseidon glared silently at me. Instead it was Hera who spoke:
"There's still a chance to change this development. Tomorrow is the weekly meeting. I'm going to call for a vote on the Gaia case. If we can get a majority against Zeus we can still finish Gaia. But then I believe it will be you, Poseidon, who have to hold the executing weapon. Zeus will surely refuse."

"I can take care of it if Poseidon will not," Ares started but Poseidon cut him off:
"Don't worry, I'll deal with that monster," he confirmed. "Then I believe that Zeus is not fit for leading neither the Union nor this pantheon anymore if... "
"And who to replace him? You?" I scorned.
"Why not, Athena? You've always been defending him, but time has come to..."

"You? Poseidon, god of the waves as Divine King? Now, get real, will you! Do you think you could handle the political work better than dad? The budget, the legislation, the endless debates? Crazy mortal ideas? The political year is nine months long. Nine months when you can't spend time in your palace among the waves. Amphitrite will be even more angered with you for such a long absence. "
"I don't intend to be a politician," Poseidon started, "I could delegate and bother with the big questions..."

"Enough!" Hera said. "This is not a question of Zeus's leadership. If you want to challenge Zeus you won't get my support. And definitely not Athena's or Ares' either. They're after all his children. Anything more need to be said?"

Without telling I'd been talking to Chrysandros I presented his points, but Hera said:
"That sounds like a luxury opinion from someone who doesn't have to make the hard decisions him- or herself. Who doesn't become affected by what happens to Gaia. Have you talked to someone from the outside, Athena?"
"Well... "
"You have all the rights to do so. I just want to point out that an outsider's opinion matters little in a case like this. It costs them nothing. But we have to make the decisions. And eat them raw if they are wrong."
"Hera, I think..." Poseidon started, but dads wife silenced him with a glare and then she stood up.

"Good night now. Tomorrow I'll bring up the Gaia question. 'Till then I will not hear a word about this. Because if you talk about it Zeus will know and then he'll be able to take precautions. The best way to win this case is surprising him."

Ares and I left too. I had never felt so miserable and confused. I hated going against dad in such an important matter, I also hated the thought of excessive killing. On the other hand I also had this bad feeling Ares had been talking about. I felt that this Gaia business was far from over with.

O0O0O

Dad was adressing his wife:
"So you're still scared of Gaia, Hera?" he asked. "And you, Poseidon? Do you still believe that a broken woman, an artifact, the last remnant of a dead specie still poses a threat to our society? It was Hera who answered dad:
"I'm not sure if she still poses a threat, but I think I'm better off safe than sorry in this case. I'm going to sleep much better in the nights to come with Gaia gone. Think about our children, Zeus! It's them you're risking by letting Gaia run. We lost Oreynadan and Herophilos in this war. Who will be the next sacrifice on your altar of mercy, Zeus? Whom are you choosing Gaia instead of? "

"I'm not choosing Gaia instead of any of us. Nor Olympians neither anyone else in the Union. Gaia poses no threat anymore. She's neutralised. She can't fight anymore and her reproduction abilities are damaged beyond healing by this parthenogenesis she inflicted upon herself. There's nothing she can do anymore, so I chose to let her go rather than ending this war with another pointless kill."
"We don't agree, Zeus, and this is why we are calling for this vote," Hera stated. "If we win, Poseidon will head for Antarctica and finish Gaia off. If we lose you will hear nothing of this anymore. "

"But Poseidon has questioned my leadership," dad said. I rose:
"That's only him. No one else is questioning that. Only your decision to let Gaia go. "
"So let's vote then," Zeus said, "and get it done." He was staring at the gathered Olympians, challenging us, and I could feel the energies of uncomfortable minds all around me.

"How many are voting against my decision of showing Gaia mercy? Hands up, Olympians!" our pantheon head thundered. I watched Poseidon and Hera's hands come up followed by Ares and Astraea. Slowly I rose mine.

Then others were following. Some firmly and other more reluctantly. Demeter had her hand up, no doubt with Oreynadan in mind and Aietes, Caeros, Iris, Zephyros, Helios, Persephone, Hephaistos and Aphrodite were also rising their hands. After a while came the hands of Ersa and Hebe. When all seemed to have made up their mind Hera was counting the votes. At the same time the big wall clock started to strike midnight.
"We're winning this, Zeus", she said. "We're 16 in favour of a termination of Gaia. You have 15 votes. Poseidon, go to Antarctica and do your duty! The sea god started to rise with a stern look upon his face."

"No!" someone was suddenly saying down to my left. It was Cleopatra, that teenage little sister of mine. "No, you are not, Hera! The clock has stroke midnight, this means that it's the 23:rd in New Years Month. My birthday. I'm 16 today and of age to vote at Olympos. And I'm voting Nay. "
"This changes everything," said Leto who had been sitting with her hands firmly down. "Now the result is a draw. So Zeus has the right of using the pantheon head's decisive vote and thus change the decision from Aye to Nay. "

I met Hera's look across the room. She held the same mixed feelings in her large brown eyes as I felt. Poseidon swore fiercely and Demeter looked sour but nothing could change the fact that the youngest daughter of Zeus had saved the life of that ancient monster. And "as it turned out "it became the wrong decision.
The following years were far from the most exciting ones in my life. They were spent with endless searches, both in the 3D world and in the dimensions beyond, to find this 'veiled queen'. I could tell about my struggles with the older god Dernigal, who had a real problem with accepting that I was the one in charge. Or I could tell about the few Giant battles we were involved in. But it was mostly boring and tedious work, tracing through 5D sightings as well as the desolate mountains of Outgard where even an encounter with wild beasts or outlaws was seen as an entertaining interruption.

I couldn't help feeling that I have drawn the shorter straw when I heard about the successes of Ares and his troops in slaughtering Giants. All right, they took some losses, like Cleopatra's mother Diophaessa and Hermes' brother Esrendan. On the other hand, when they returned to 'Tanni from time to time they had stories of glory to tell, and they were always regarded as heroes, while no-one paid any attention to us.

Finally after more than two years of struggles our luck turned. We had followed a trace to the southernmost continent, the uninhabited Antarctica. After a fierce battle, where we lost poor Loria and almost Chrysandros "Hermes barely managing to heal him "we backtracked our attackers through a landscape of eternal winter and found a secret gate closed by a spell which only Dernigal was able to break. Behind the gate was an opening to a tunnel leading us through some obstacles and right into the lions den. Or, rather, the Giant's den.

They were strange, these Giants. In battle they appeared like beasts with the intelligence of a 4 year old, relying on strength, number and size to acquire success.  Yet someone must have been able to construct these fortresses the Giants dwelt within. Strongholds of iron, bronze and cupper that hid them well from attackers and with every convenience available.

We guessed these were built by the 'original' Giants, the Gaianes. Still they were so well preserved. Perhaps we had yet to meet these engineers that might've constructed the Giants' strongholds.

This fortress we entered now was no exception. It was only bigger. Probably designed to hold tenfolds of more Giants than those who came at us while we blasted through the iron front doors. They were screaming, swinging their iron maidens and flaunting their fangs, trying to scare us as so many times before.

Another fierce fight, but without losses this time, although Philotes was wounded and had to get help with healing. Britomartis had to hide together with him behind an Aegis while they took care of his blood filled belly, spilled guts and injured inner organs.

Then we had her "the 'veiled queen'. We found her hiding behind large and locked copper doors. She was trembling with fear, but still able to defend herself with some kind of pyrotechnical powers. Auroanos ducked them all and ran up to her and ripped off her veils. Beneath them she was almost naked. Only a tiny leather skirt covered her private zone. And she was a terrible sight indeed.

All the titans we had encountered so far had been leathery in context, but at the same time fish-like and with some kind of mother-of-pearl iridescence. This "queen "was no exception. She also had these reptile-like yellow eyes and pointed ears. But while the rest of the Giants had been more or less covered in thick, green-black hair, this creature was completely hairless. She was thin but not skinny, it seemed like her bone structure was diminutive, giving her an insect-like appearance.
"Ugly thing," Akiko wispered behind me and Chrysandros hummed in agrement.

When Hercules and Auroanos had gripped her she seemed to sway and then she fell down on legs refusing to carry her anymore. My brothers forced her upright, simply by holding her that way. She almost paid them no attention. Instead she was looking at me, she understood I was the leader.

"Stranger woman of the Usurping Race," she hissed. "If you have come so far to kill me, why don't you go ahead and do it now?"
"Because we want something more," I said.
"You can have my name," she answered. "It's Echidna. Content?"
"No, Echidna, we are not. We want the one you are protecting."

I wouldn't have thought it possible for this white woman to pale, but it was. Echidna's yellow eyes widened with fear and she became notable paler in the dim light from the oozing firebrands and our  plasma balls.
"Where's that one?" I insisted.
"The Great Mother," Echidna whispered. "Noooo...."

"I know where she is now," Astraea said, pointing ahead. "Behind those doors."
"Which doors?" Hercules asked. But at the same time we all saw them. Another pair of these huge, gothic double doors which had been hidden by Echidna.
"Pleeeaz..." Echidna whispered, clearly terrified. She was drooling as she did that. Auroanos, who had always been a bit wimpy about these things, looked like he was going to puke when she spilled her greenish saliva on his bare, muscular arm.

Hermes went up and opened the doors, to Echidna's terrified screams. And there she was - asleep on a cross between an altar and a stretcher. The Great Mother of the Giants. The instant I saw her I knew who she was. The one who had given birth to all these thousands and thousands of monsters. But in spite of these creatures terrible appearances this being was in fact beautiful.

0O0O0

"So we brought both this Great Mother and the Veiled Queen with us," I told the gathered deities. "Unfortunately Echidna didn't survive the trip. We believe she died out of fear. Her heart stopped. Her body is being studied right as I speak. Along with other Giant bodies. The Great Mother, who calls herself Gaia, is being held imprisoned at a safe place at the northern foothills of Olympos. A thorough medical research has showed among other things that she's without eggs in her ovaries and in a hearing she told that she used them all to create her race of Giants through parthenogenesis. The hibernation she put herself into was to regenerate her egg cells. Echidna, her daughter, was supposed to guard her sleep. I'll take the first round of questions now."

"Is she the real Gaia?" Neyta of Kergandar asked.
"Is it true that all the Giants were sterile?" Saretos of Aswee wanted to know.
"And that this Gaia was in a coma all the time and knew nothing about this war?" was the question of Chrysandros' father Kanaton.
"How many of those cursed Giants are still out there?" Marpessa was wondering.

"By 'the real Gaia' I presume Neyta is referring to the old Gaiane immortal who ruled the world before she was brought down by Uranos, precursor of Chronos in that position. We don't know yet if she is the one she claims. We have only held shallow hearing with her so far. She claims to have been in a kind of regenerative hibernation for more than 30 years, and thus unaware of the war. To answer Saretos of Aswee's question, the Giants we have caught and examined were all sterile. But it's too early to say if all Giants are. Last but not least, Marpessa, the number of remaining Giants is a bit uncertain. Ares' last approximation was a figure of 2000 remaining Giants."

"Come on, Athena!" Eurytiar of Senartheda let up his thundering voice, "isn't there any question you can answer with a clear yes or no?"
"Not yet. It's still to early in the process to..."
"Where's Hermes, the real spokesperson of the Divine King's office?" Eurytiar went on.

"He's busy elsewhere. I'm not really representing the Divine King. I'm representing the Defence Project, the organisation started to defend the Union against the Giants. And I'm not a politician. I don't give straightforward but erroneous answers to please someone who is supposed to vote for me. I give the answers I have and consider true. I will get back with more information when I have it. It only happens to be that the last Open Forum of 223 takes part less than a week after our return with the prisoner calling herself Gaia."

Apollon's son Asklepios was next with a request:
"Athena, I've a wish to see and examine genetic material of Gaia and Echidna. To compare it to other Giants. Should that be possible?"
"I can't see any reason why not. The more talented people studying these material the more we can learn."

I answered some more Gaia questions which were all variations of the first ones. Finally the gods and goddesses in the Open Forum seemed content and went on to pester Artemis' secretary of treasure Maera. Maera is one of those people who never forget a number and she's really talented in maths. Artemis inherited her from Hera, so she has been in her office for almost two centuries now. She's nice enough, the tall, auburn-haired semi-amphibian, but there's something with her voice that makes at least me want to fall asleep.

Soon I found myself with my head resting on Chrysandros' shoulder and looking up at the murals in the ceiling. Once there had been nothing but abstract patterns, but after the doom was rebuilt the artist selected for the decoration had chose to make a representation of us defenders of Ekarantanni instead.

I had to turn my head to see myself, almost right over the entrance. It was the event with me attacking Giants with the spire I had prayed loose from 'Spear of Tomorrow'. But instead of my burgundies I was wearing a long, white evening gown and an ancient parade-helmet. How can anyone even think of fighting in such an outfit? In fact we all had odd dresses. Dad fought dressed up in his formal Divine King wear, Auroanos had a long cape and an actor's masque and Nike had seagull wings! Then there were Hercules in a lions hide and Sakura in a long, turquoise gown with an enormous belt. Not to mention Hera in peacock feathers. On the other hand Chrysandros looked quite good in a tight fitting black-and silver armour.

"Looking at 'us' again?" Chrysandros asked while I was stretching my neck.
"Uhu…"
"Yup, it's fun. Especially on boring exchanges like the one going on right now. I always see something or someone new. Who's that guy behind Zeus by the way?"
"That's... That must be... That's Ganymedes!"
"The catering guy?"

"The very one. With a tray of food of course. He was never on the battlefield."
"No. He's too much of a YUGI. Neither was Maera. Yet she's right there at the end of the rainbow. With a horn of plenty. Very fitting."
"Oh, right! That's her. Wonder what Iris is doing on top of the rainbow by the way?"
"Colour coordinating her hair. Only thing I can think of. "

We had become really close Chrysandros and I after these years in search for Echidna and her mother. Even so close that people regarded us as lovers. All right, we had sex, but that was a mere pleasure thing. Buddy sex "just like it had been with Nardalon. Or perhaps we were in love. I don't really know. What I do know is that we had a great time together. But hardly ever just the two of us. There were always me, Chrysandros, Nike and Aeolus. And most of the time Nardalon, Donin, Melia, Philotes and Akiko too as well as various constellations of sisters and brothers of mine, including non-Olympians like Britomartis and Arcas.

Artemis and Orion on the other hand "they were a couple for real now. After their first failed try ages ago, they had in a way left each other alone. Up until the attack against Ekarantanni. Artemis and Orion had fought side by side, and had fallen for each other a second time. This time it seemed more steady. We were all happy for Mimi "except for Apollon, who for some reason couldn't stand the large Attic.

To be true several things were going on among my closest kins and friends. It was something with the way Nike was shuffling around her feet and pulling at her fashionably straightened out strands of hair that made me understand that something had happened. I leaned closer, looking at my friend, and she breathed in, started to say something, but then she stopped, avoided eye-contact.

"What?"
"Well..."
"Nike, come on! You know that there's no reason for not telling me."

She still didn't say anything, just pulled and pulled at her hair and I insisted:
"It's me! Athena! Your best friend. We've been talking about everything for two centuries!"
"I guess... I just had to find out..."
"What? Lay off your hair and tell me! Now you've have me cracking up with curiosity."

"Athi, curiosity won the upper hand for me too. I just had to find out if he was as good as everybody was saying."
"Who? Who've you been having?"
"Your dad..."

My friend went totally tomato and I had to swallow all the giggles that started to bubble inside of me.
"You've been having Zeus?"
"Yeah. In fact... yes. Well, it's not like... Well, he's been trying before, but I've always been... But even you know how talk goes. How fabulous he is at these things, and... I wanted to know if he was, if they all were right."
"And were they?"

More blushing, and a moment of silence before Nike nodded slowly.
"I'm sorry..." she started, but I lay my hand on top of hers:
"Sorry for what? As long as any feelings didn't get hurt – what do I care? He can't stay away from women. It's a kind of an addiction of his. Not even Hera bothers anymore. I guess it's rather – well not really harmless, but nothing to fuzz over."  
How did it all start?
How did Zeus and Hera meet?
What happened during the Titan war?
How was the Titan leader Chronus defeated?
How did Zeus become divine king
Where did all the other gods and goddesses come from and how did they congregate around Zeus and Hera?

This and a lot more in my very own steampunk styled take on the early life of the Queen of the gods - Hera!

STORY COMPLETE!

_________________________________________________

I am also starting now to publish the sequel - Athena - My life as a goddess - I hope you will enjoy that one as well!

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