Story time is here again. This week I’ve got a short story (roughly 13800 words) that is set after the apocalypse and involves a group of augmented humans who are revered as Gods by what is left of humanity. Enjoy!
The four Olympians, technologically enhanced and augmented humans, stand within one of the vast spaces carved into the peak of Mount Olympus. Athena as always is calm as she stands with her arms folded across her chest, while her long straight blonde hair falls around her shoulders, her blue eyes fixed on Hades. The man stands there without saying a word. He cares little of what this meeting may be about, though he has noticed that Nemesis is not present, which is odd. He sneers at Ares, who is a towering hulk of a man. Standing at seven feet four inches Ares is the largest of the Olympians not just in height but also in width, weight and muscle mass. He personifies perfectly a man named after the God Of War, though he is remarkably calm, Hades notes as he casts his gaze to the last of their assembled number, Hecate. She presides over their technological and historical archives. Her black as night wavy hair falling just past her shoulders as she stares straight at Hades with her emerald green eyes. But Hades takes no notice of her, or Ares staring brown eyes.
“Why Hades?” Athena asks after a few more moments of silence are left to linger in the air awkwardly.
“Why what?” Hades fires back his yellow eyes locked with hers now that she seems to be challenging him.
He isn’t afraid of Athena or Ares or Hecate or even Nemesis. He knows they’re short sighted and lack the vision to see the threat that will return. Not an if, will.
“You know full well what?” Hecate spits disgusted.
“How can I know if there is no context?” Hades replies with a grin of superiority. He can guess what they’re getting at but he isn’t going to make it easy on them. They will have to say it because he knows it gives them discomfort to.
“The experimentation brother.” Ares replies candidly.
Hades hates when Ares calls him brother. They may have been created in the same place, born again as Olympians to fight against the AI Apocalypse that had tried to wipe humanity out, having deemed humanity the single greatest risk to the existence of Earth. But that didn’t make them brothers and sisters. Not one little bit.
“It was…necessary.” Hades says choosing his words carefully as he shifts his gaze between the three enhanced humans who are stood in a semi circle around him. The balcony that overlooks the irradiated wasteland laced with nuclear firestorms behind him.
Humanity had almost lost against Apocalypse and even though the Olympians defeated the AI they could not claim it as a victory. The sentient system had managed to exterminate more than ninety percent of the Earth’s population and scorched the surface to ash, killing anything that dared to remain above ground. It’s why humanity fled into Mount Olympus and constructed the last remaining human city here, shielded from the radiation and firestorms that would otherwise kill the species in minutes.
“How can you say that?” Hecate questions in disbelief after Hades cold response. She wonders if there is any humanity left in the man before her.
“You experimented on citizens, against their wills, Hades.” Athena accuses while still staying calm.
Hades can’t stand the woman’s diplomatic façade, as that is all it is. He saw her in battle and there had been no diplomacy then. She had been little more than a blood crazed psychopath when they’ve been at war. They all had. It’s just victory and the years of being regarded as Gods by the citizens of Olympus has made them pretend to be things they are not. He can remember them as they truly are, weapons, made for a single purpose and their attempts at being something they are not sickens him.
“And that’s without including your murder of Eris.” Hecate adds to the charges against him. Her tone filled with disdain for his actions as her emerald eyes try to bore holes through him.
Hades understands now why they are here. He is to be judged, by them, for what they perceive as crimes. He could care less of their opinions and judgements. They are weak. They have forgotten their purpose, the threat, which will return in the future.
“Why brother?” Ares asks with a solemn shake of his head, his red locks shaking madly.
“Because we…are stagnant. Our technology hasn’t evolved. We haven’t evolved!” Hades begins no longer willing to stay silent and listen to the prattling of his ilk. No, he will have his say and they will listen.
“Hecate you preside over our technology. You know it to be true. There are secrets lost to us, which we must regain. We must advance past the limits of what came before the war.” Hades continues his words dripping from his mouth with contempt.
“We were made to evolve. To advance. Not sit at the peak of some mountain waiting to die. We were warriors. And those…citizens down there will be little more than fodder when our enemy returns. And he will return! And when he does we must be ready! Humanity must be ready! Our number is too few to defeat him again! We must expand.” Hades roars lost in his rage as his eyes accuse each of his three fellow Olympians.
“Apocalypse is dead brother. Father ended him.” Ares states with a slow blink of his eyes, his head cocked slightly to the right as his hulking cybernetically enhanced shoulders drop low.
“Don’t call me brother! We are not brothers! Are we not family! We were created as part of the same program, but we are nothing more to each other than that. Zeus is not our father and we only have the old man’s word that Apocalypse is truly dead. We don’t know for sure.” Hades erupts unable to listen to Ares continued insistence that they are all somehow a part of one family.
“Zeus gave his body to defeat Apocalypse. You know this, you were there.” Athena offers still calm and diplomatic in her tone as she delivers her counter to his words. She can barely believe what Hades is saying. Of all the people she never expected Hades would question what he saw that day with his own two eyes.
“And that’s the problem…defeat. Defeat isn’t death. And we only saw the aftermath of their battle. The broken body of Zeus that clung so desperately to life as he lay amongst the shattered remnants of what we believed to be that AI.”
“So what was your plan?” Athena then asks as she shifts the conversation forward, unwilling to listen to Hades mad theories about the return of the AI Apocalypse and how Zeus failed.
She knows Hades is searching for purpose, for more than to be the one who presides over the recollection and integration of the dead’s DNA and memories once they have passed on. He longs to be a warrior again, to fight, and to have the purpose that he believes was their only purpose. But he’s wrong. They, the Olympians, were made for more than war. They were made to lead humanity and stand as a beacon of hope, the only light amongst the shattered world. It is why Olympus has endured, even expanded within the confines of this mountain, safe from the death that the world outside is consumed by.
“The enhancement of the entire human race.” Hades states proudly, his head high.
“You want to make all humans Olympians?” Hecate replies shocked.
“Yes…and no. All humans will need to be enhanced in preparation of the war that will come. But they will be lesser. He must hold our seats. He must lead, while they follow.” Hades explains arrogantly.
“And what if they don’t wish to brother?” Ares asks concerned as to what Hades reply might be even before he says the words. Though, Ares feels he must know.
Ares had never thought Hades mad, but he certainly sounds that way now. Should he have noticed? Should any of them? Had any of them? He doesn’t know. What he does know is that Hades is obsessed.
“This isn’t about wishing. They have to. For humanities survival.” Hades replies confirming Ares’ fears.
His brother, Ares concludes, really is mad. He wants only the advancement of technology for his own gains. He wants an army of slaves ready to do his bidding no matter the cost. It isn’t right and he can’t allow it. He had made the choice to be part of the Olympian Project, they all had. But that choice wasn’t for everyone and Ares knows and understands that.
“You’re mad!” Hecate exclaims in shock at Hades words.
She had thought that maybe he’d just got carried away, somehow. That his anger had got the better of him, but it’s clear now it hadn’t.
“And what about Eris?” Athena asks, her expression giving nothing of her thoughts or feelings away.
“She…didn’t agree.” Hades says simply before adding a smirk.
“We don’t kill our own!” Hecate rages with a snarl that twists her face into a visage of anger.
“Brother!” Ares exclaims with a sigh as he rubs his eyes with the middle finger and thumb of his right hand.
“You’ve gone too far Hades.” Athena proclaims her voice strong and stern, while her expression remains calm and serene.
“Too far. Too far!” Hades bellows as he laughs at the stupidity of Athena’s words.
He realises now that the other Olympians cause to feel nothing but contempt. It is clear they lack vision. That they lack commitment.
“Then do something Athena. Ares. Hecate. Or are we simply here to talk? I’m sure that is not what Nemesis would do. Speaking of the little one, where is she?” Hades spits from his grimaced face, tanned an olive colour.
Hades gets no reply and simply laughs because of the silence that he gets in response.
“Cat got your tongues? Is the little one mad?” Hades mocks with a wide grin on his pale lips.
“There has been enough bloodshed. Nemesis is being memory wiped.” Athena states still standing with her arms crossed across her chest.
“And was that her choice?” Hades asks already knowing the answer.
“I thought not.” Hades adds after a period of silence.
“We do what is best for the many, not the few, Hades.” Hecate offers.
“So do I.” Hades fires back locking eyes with Hecate who simply glares back at him with angry eyes.
“In light of your crimes and the lack of remorse you show for them Hades. I nearby call for a vote.” Athena announces.
“A vote for what? What is to be my punishment?” Hades responds with a cackle as he mocks his fellow Olympians.
“Exile.” Athena replies succinctly as she blinks slowly while looking at Hades.
“What? Exile! You would dare exile me!” Hades thunders outraged at their audacity.
“All in favour of exile.” Athena calls.
“I.” Hecate answers.
“The vote is done.” Athena concludes.
“Done. Done! How is it done? Three votes against me. But the votes of Zeus and Nemesis have not been cast.” Hades rails against this outrage.
He had always known that these three that he had once fought side by side with had always felt threatened by him. But to attempt something so brazen, so insulting, he had never considered the possibility of. He sneers and snarls at them ready for battle.
“Come brother, you must see Nemesis would not save you.” Ares remarks.
“No, but she would not see me banished. As weak as the little ones augments are, she is named after the Goddess of revenge, and there is reason for that.” Hades fires back.
“That may be, but Zeus votes in favour of your exile. That puts it at four votes, which is a majority Hades.” Athena says with disappointment in her voice as she speaks his name.
Hades knows that such emotion is rare, but knows better than to think it’s a slip or a mistake. No, Athena wants Hades to know she is disappointed. Ares and Hecate have already made it abundantly clear that they are. So Athena has decided it’s time for her too to make it obvious, even if it is in a quintessentially Athena manner.
“So that’s it. You pass judgement. Claim Zeus speaks in your favour and I’m exiled!” Hades boils with anger.
“And how will you remove me?” Hades questions before anyone can say anything.
“By force?” Hades adds sure he can take Athena and Hecate with little trouble. Ares on the other hand he isn’t sure. The man is a giant roughly nine inches taller and much stronger.
“Don’t brother.” Ares retorts with a slow slight shake of his head. He knows what Hades is thinking and how it will end.
Hades simply growls as he casts his gaze from one to another in the moments before he intends to attack. But before he can even move he is paralysed with a cone of light.
“Damn you ZEUS!” Hades roars as he looks to the high ceiling above him from where the cone of light is being emitted.
The visage of Zeus, as he had been when he had a body, appears white and ghostly directly in front of Hades. The holographic representation of Zeus’ long flowing white beard, orange eyes and shaved head stare back at him with an expression of seriousness.
“That is enough Hades.” Zeus’ electronic voice demands.
“You have brought this upon yourself.” The voice continues as the orange eyes stare deep into Hades, who sneers in response.
“Cowards! All of you!” Hades bellows as Zeus waves his hand and Hades is thrown backward through the open balcony doors and clear of the mountain. It marks the completion of his sentencing and the beginning of his exile. Though, it doesn’t stop him from screaming vengeance as he falls through the irradiated air toward the barren ground below.
Zeus lets out a long loud sigh as he hangs his head low.
“It had to be done Zeus.” Athena says as she stands at his side now.
“What about Nemesis?” Hecate asks concerned for the youngest of their ilk.
Zeus turns and waves his hand across his vision cone. The gesture pulls up the feed from the memory wiping chamber where Nemesis is strapped to an angled and reclined chair that holds her in mid-air. Her brow is deeply furrowed and her eyes are squeezed tight as her dark purple hair, which is some lights appears almost black in colour, tosses back and forth as she thrashes about screaming in pain.
“What is wrong with her father?” Ares asks deeply concerned for her.
“Unlike the rest of you Nemesis’ body still feels pain.” The holographic representation of Zeus replies.
“What?” Ares exclaims surprised. He didn’t know that before today.
“It’s because she isn’t cybernetically enhanced Ares.” Hecate offers.
“That’s right Hecate. Instead Nemesis is the only Olympian that was augmented with purely nanotechnology. She has no cybernetics. Like she has no metal grafted over her bones.” Zeus explains as Nemesis continues to thrash about.
“But why is it causing her so much pain?” Athena asks her voice filled with concern.
“In order for the memory wipe to work on Nemesis I had to disable the nanomachines in her body. If I didn’t they would repair the damage as fast as it is being done and the memory wipe would not take.”
“Will it work?” Hecate asks as Nemesis’ scream rips through her making her wince at the agony that it is clearly causing her.
“It should.” Zeus answers honestly. He can’t say it will as he can’t be entirely sure.
“Will there be any damage?” Athena queries.
“No. Once the procedure is done her nanotech will become active again and will repair and suppress any discomfort.” Zeus concludes as Nemesis howls in pain, baring her teeth as she does so.
Zeus thinks about how unique Nemesis is and how many of the true capabilities of the nanotech in her body have been lost. A great wave of guilt comes crashing against his still biological brain, which is integrated into every system that runs and oversees the continued existence of Olympus. To the citizens Zeus, the Olympian, leader of the army that defeated Apocalypse, God amongst men, is now better known as an acronym. ZEUS as he is now known to all but the few Olympians that remain is short for Zone Enforcement Utility Systems. It’s an awkward acronym he knows, but it’s better than being dead.