Don't Write What You Know;
Write What You Care About -- Passionately!
- S.D. Matley
Veronica Zeta, youngest child of Zeus and Hera, is at last CEO of the immortal owned and operated corporation, Olympus, Inc. The biggest project on her agenda is creating world peace, but first she must depose her bloodthirsty brother Ares, God of War. To do so, she must deploy a supernatural force called The Power, which can demand a terrible price.
Zeus, former CEO and Ex-Lord of the Universe, struggles with identity issues after his retirement. The bright spot in his life is babysitting his toddler granddaughter, but his marriage with Hera is foundering and he longs for someone to confide in.
Hera's new campaign, a mortal lifestyle series of books and seminars called Marvelous Marriage, is a huge success. The face of this project, small-g goddess Candy Smith, has become a media celebrity. Hera, Goddess of Marriage, revels in the market share she's stealing from the "adult" industries owned by her rival, Aphrodite.
But Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, is ready to fight back! Employing a photo-shopped tabloid cover photo and a box of enchanted chocolates, she disrupts the personal life of Candy Smith and goads Hera into executing her own sabotage plan.
The lives of these Olympians collide when Veronica succeeds in deposing Ares, and pays for deploying a large dose The Power with blindness, anguish and, possibly, death. But how can an immortal die? The answer lies in an old family secret, daringly unearthed by Zeus in the eleventh hour.
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Week One – Monday
David Bernstein and Clifford Essex descended the steep slope of Seattle’s Madison Street, bound for the waterfront. Young Bernstein spoke with increasing frustration, his head tilted upward to address his companion, who was six-foot-nine.
“They’ve totally screwed it up,” David said, shouting to be heard over the rumble of rush-hour traffic. “Thank Zeus they didn’t tear down the whole Alaskan Way Viaduct. The traffic jams would be ten times worse.”
The State Department of Transportation had finally agreed to replace Seattle’s elderly raised highway (that many considered an eyesore) with an underground tunnel. The construction project had stalled early on and the result was far from scenic. David shook his head in disgust just thinking about it.
David had changed little in the five years since he’d discovered he was half immortal. His dark curls were still an untamed mop, his brown eyes still framed by thick-lensed eyeglasses, his body still wiry and slightly undernourished. But now David knew he was not twenty years old—he was something over 2,000, and his mother was not social worker Thelma Bernstein of Salt Lake City, Utah, but Hera, Goddess of Marriage.
“See?” David pointed downhill to the two-level raised highway, framed by office towers that loomed on both sides of the street. “That’s the section where I first spotted Ralph.”
Ralph was another immortal, a god of small-g status who’d been the one and only structureling assigned to disseminate his molecules throughout the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Structureling support was a technology Zeus had invented millennia ago to reinforce under-engineered buildings, bridges and the like, designed and constructed by mortals. The transition from molecular dissemination to computerized support, as led by Clifford, had recently been completed world-wide.
“So Ralph said,” replied Clifford after a pause.
David wondered at the edginess in Clifford’s tone. The same day David had discovered he was Hera’s illegitimate son, Clifford had learned Ralph was his own father.
“Do you guys see much of each other, now that he’s retired?” David ventured.
“Rarely,” said Clifford, his lip barely curled in what looked like a sneer. “He and Mum are stopping at Mount Olympus next week before they start their cruise.”
Clifford and his mother, Briana, had also worked as structurelings, he in Seattle’s Space Needle and she (most recently) in Big Ben. Briana, too, had retired. Ralph’s rekindled romance with Briana was the talk of Seattle’s immortals.
“Sounds nice,” David said. He tried not to think of Hera, his own biological mother who had the nurturing qualities of an iceberg. Veronica Zeta, David’s half-sister and new CEO of Olympus, Inc., had assured him Mom could be quite caring, but he had his doubts. Not for the first time David wondered if Hera treated him coolly because he was the fruit of her only known infidelity to Zeus.
“Ms. Zeta mentioned you’d be coming to Mount Olympus soon?” Clifford said, his voice eased to its usual British clip.
“This week,” said David.
“Splendid. Your first time?”
David had recently completed his double-major in architecture and engineering at the University of Washington, and he’d just been accepted to the master’s program at Athens U! It was weird, though, because the program was keyed to immortal time and took two hundred years to complete. Veronica had told him to come to the City of Mount Olympus well before classes started, to adjust to life in an all-immortal setting.
They reached the bottom of the incline and stood on flat pavement.
“That way,” David said, pointing left.
Clifford stepped into the street in front of oncoming traffic.
David lunged forward as horns blared, grabbed Clifford’s elbow and tugged him back to the curb. His heart, swamped with adrenaline, thudded in his chest.
“Sorry,” Clifford said. “I’ve been at corporate so long I’ve forgotten mortal customs.”
“No problem,” said David reflexively, then flinched. Veronica had repeatedly asked him to drop the phrase from his vocabulary but it was a hard habit to break, especially when he was stressed.
The red hand on the crosswalk light changed to the white stick figure of a forward-tilted man. They crossed the street and strolled down the east side of Alaskan Way, under the still-intact section of the Viaduct. Speeding vehicles thumped and growled above. The damp summer air was gritty with Elliott Bay salt and the dust of ripped pavement. Ahead, beyond the raised highway’s on-ramp, it looked as if a bomb had gone off. A large section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct had been demolished. A vast ditch yawned where the street used to be. Inside the ditch lay a monstrous, round machine, dubbed Bertha by the local press.
“Great Zeus!” Clifford said under his breath.
The underground tunneling device had been custom-built by a Japanese company for the “tunnel option” project—the relocation of State Highway 99 from the Alaskan Way Viaduct to a two-mile long tunnel underneath Seattle’s waterfront.
Clifford removed a digital device from his tweed blazer’s pocket and snapped some pictures.
“Incredible!” he exclaimed, sounding less than pleased.
“It’s broken down—again,” David said. “The project managers don’t expect to start drilling again for six months, at least.”
“How far did she make it?” Clifford asked as he clicked.
“Less than a thousand feet—of two miles!” David said.
“I don’t wish to blaspheme,” said Clifford, “but perhaps even the Big-G Gods won’t be able to repair this situation.” He turned and studied the brick buildings just east of the infant tunnel. “Clearly we’ll need to deploy additional staff to reinforce these,” he said with a wave of his hand, “and if the seawall fails I fear we’ll have to call in Poseidon. Ms. Zeta will not be pleased with my report.”
“How is Veronica?” She hadn’t been in contact with David much since she’d taken over as CEO. Last month she’d sent a congratulatory e-mail and a one-way plane ticket to Athens International Airport for graduation, but he hadn’t seen her face-to-face in a year.
“Ms. Zeta is—” Clifford paused, no doubt phrasing a business-appropriate response in his thoughts before speaking. “I believe Ms. Zeta is progressing well with every project but may be feeling the strain of full responsibility for Heaven and Earth.”
David looked up and studied his friend’s brooding, grey eyes. Five years ago Clifford and Veronica had been an “item.” David had heard rumors (through other gods assigned to Seattle) that Veronica was now too busy for personal relationships. Clifford, though a small-g god who carried none of the blood of Zeus, Hera or their siblings, had been named head of the Architectural and Computer Services Department. He reported directly to Veronica. Their work relationship was close, but if he still carried the torch for her…
“I guess I’ll see her when I get there,” David said.
“If she has time, mate,” Clifford said, his use of slang taking David by surprise. “If she has time.”
Suddenly going to Mount Olympus didn’t sound like much fun. If Veronica was too busy to see him and Clifford was overworked and mooning, who would show him the ropes? His only backup was a heavily used copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, tucked into his backpack. He’d read it on his flight to Athens and learn enough, hopefully, not to make a fool of himself. But he was even more worried about getting there. Veronica had sent instructions for finding the portal to Mount Olympus, not the Mount Olympus mortals knew but a city that existed behind-the-scenes. Was he god enough pass the test?
“C’mon,” David said to Clifford. He nodded in the direction from which they’d come. “Let’s do Ivar’s for fish and chips. My treat, and you can tell me what it’s like at Athens U.”