The island of Thera was just beginning to take shape on the horizon as the Aegean Star plowed through the waves. After the events on Mykonos, I decided to take a cruise of the southern islands to gather my thoughts, especially after Ixion’s warning to stay out of the upcoming troubles between his master, Polybotes, and Poseidon, my successor.
To be honest, I had no clue what was driving Polybotes. Oh, I can understand his rage at his defeat all those millennia ago, and I suspected having an island dropped on you didn’t do much for your disposition either. However, Poseidon had thrashed him rather handily the first time they fought. I had no reason to believe the outcome would be any different this time, and nor should he.
The fact that he was warning others to stay out of the fight meant he thought he had an edge, though. No one, outside of a complete madman, went into a fight knowing they were going to lose. From the dim memories I had of Polybotes, he wasn’t a madman. Although, being stuck underground with an island on your back could possibly drive someone insane.
The crew of the Aegean Star knew to leave me well alone when I was in a contemplative mood. So when a shadow appeared next to my deck chair, I spun around, ready to give someone a piece of my mind.
“Hermes? What the…?”
He motioned around. “Do not fear. You’re the only one who can see me, but I do not understand your insistence on being regarded as a mere mortal. You are a Primordial, ancient even among the gods. Why do you not revel in this?”
I turned back in my chair and faced the bow. There was no sense in drawing the crew’s attention to the fact that I was speaking to someone who wasn’t there. “What part of I’m retired do you not understand, trickster? I am content to live my life here upon the ocean and let you younger gods do what you will as long as you leave me alone.” A few crewmen’s heads turned, and I realized I might have emphasized those last few words a bit much to be ignored. I motioned for one to bring me a fresh pitcher of lemonade, and once I’d refreshed my glass, I settled back down to speak with Hermes in a slightly calmer voice.
That was a waste of time.
“I have something here for you.”
“I want nothing from you. I’m retired.”
“You were retired.”
I kept my voice soft, but there was no mistaking the malice I was sending toward the Messenger of Olympus. “Would you care to repeat that and make yourself clear?”
He didn’t say anything but simply handed me a card. There was no mistaking the monogrammed initial, nor the slight ozone smell when I cracked the seal.
As the gods have returned visibly to the lands (and seas) of Earth, it is time you made your presence known again and receive the recognition you deserve.
Henceforth, you are hereby summoned to the Olympus Annex. Your accommodations have been prepared. We look forward to seeing what new business the Old Man of the Sea will develop to join with the business adventures of the others who have returned.
Your welcome package waits at the front desk.
Hope you enjoyed your retirement. It’s time to get back into the game.
It was unsigned, but there was no question who’d dictated this message. I casually crumpled the card and tossed it over the side of the boat before pouring myself another lemonade. I swung back in my seat, but the shadow stretching along the deck beside me didn’t move.
There was an amused tone in Hermes’s voice. “You understand, that was not a suggestion.”
“You understand that when I handed Poseidon my trident, I retired. As in, I quit. As in, I don’t get involved in the affairs of the gods any longer. As in, they agreed to leave me alone, and I stayed out of their way. I have not changed my mind. Besides, Doris is due home from her vacation in a few weeks, and we have some things planned. Tell the big guy, thanks but no thanks.”
“Again, I must state, there has been a change of plans. Your presence is required at the Olympus Annex. They have set an entire floor of the building aside for you and Doris. And, he’s not kidding about getting a job.”
“I have a job, damn you. I’ve been a fisherman for thousands of years. I have a fishing fleet that feeds half of the Mediterranean these days and a successful canning operation. We’re also completely sustainable. Let’s see his high-and-mightiness match that.”
Hermes’s voice softened, and for a moment, I recalled him as a youth coming to play pranks on me. “Be that as it may, Great-Uncle Nereus, that is a business under your mortal nom de plume. He’s focused on raising the stature and awareness of the Greek gods to the world at large. That means he needs Nereus, not Alexander Korias, to step up and establish a business…a profitable one would be even better.”
“Oh, he does, does he?”
I heard a cry from one of the lookouts and realized I was letting my emotions get the better of me. The clouds were rolling in, and the water was getting choppy. If I wasn’t careful, I could wind up swamping the Aegean Star in my fit of pique. I methodically counted from 100 to one in Minoan, and the sea began settling down and the clouds dispersed. I could feel the headache coming on—raising storms was normally something I only did as a last resort. To so casually summon one meant I was more stressed than I realized.
“As you like to point out, Great-Uncle, I’m only the messenger. Don’t get mad at me. If you have an issue, you can bring it up with him, but you will need to make a personal appearance at the God Complex, as we like to call it.”
Several thoughts crossed my mind, but none worth repeating. I mulled it over and decided running away from the issue would be more trouble than it was worth. Besides, only the heavens knew who he’d send next. At least Hermes was a good kid, even if he was a tad mischievous.
“Fine, I’ll be there, but on my schedule. I don’t serve at his beck and call.”
“As you wish, Great-Uncle.”
# # #
A week later, I tied the Aegean Star off at a marina near Letokaria and rented a car to take me to the city of Olympos. Per the instructions Hermes had left me, I found the complex. To be honest, even if I were blind, it would have been obvious. Over 100 stories tall, it dwarfed everything else in the city. Hermes had told me some of the gods maintained living spaces on the mountain like in the old days, but most at least had living quarters in the complex itself.
Just one big happy family, or at least that’s how they’ll portray it to the mortals.
Gia got out of the car first and checked the area over. She had insisted on accompanying me to the Olympus Annex and, to be honest, I didn’t mind. Not that I was worried about having a bad encounter with a mortal between the sea and here. Although I did get a twinge of nervousness from how some of these mortals drove, her job was to keep me from getting in trouble once I got inside.
I double-checked my appearance in the car’s side mirror before I went inside. Hawaiian shirt, shorts, flip-flops, Panama hat, and sunglasses, check. All I needed was a Pina Colada or a Mai Tai to have the entire beach bum look down pat. I think the only way I could have looked more retired was to show up in my bathrobe and bedroom slippers. Gia noted that would probably get me arrested, so I decided to humor her for the sake of my lawyers. Entering the lobby, I walked over to the receptionist’s desk and dropped off the somewhat waterlogged summoning card. “I believe I’m expected?”
A very attractive young woman looked up at me and smiled. Apparently unfazed by my approach or appearance, she methodically went through her ledger. “Lord Nereus. So glad you made it. The staff has reserved the 41stfloor of the complex for you. We have some temporary furniture and kitchenware you may use until you have a chance to settle on how you want to remodel your living and workspace.”
“Any chance I can get a direct link from that floor to Letokaria put in?”
Her expression softened a bit before she answered, “Unfortunately not, sir. After the unpleasantness with the Titans, all teleportation has been blocked above the first floor. However, there are no restrictions here in the lobby area.”
“Titans? This building isn’t old enough to have been around for that.”
“Oh, sir, you have been out of the loop. No, a group of Titans escaped from Tartarus not that long ago. The lords and ladies had the worst time getting them rounded up and returned. After that, all teleportation was cut off to the upper floors.”
“I see. Well, that probably makes sense then.” I didn’t actually see. There was no way the Titans could have just gotten out of Tartarus, but now probably wasn’t the best time to discuss it. I saw a number of fauns, satyrs, nymphs, sylphs, and others wandering about the lobby and going to the elevators along with several humans. Suddenly, there was a flash, and a microphone was stuck in my face.
“Good evening, I’m Helen Stacopolis with Hellenic News Network. I see you’re signing in to the God Complex, but we’ve never met you before. Can you tell our viewers who you are and what…”
The receptionist quickly stepped around her station, shoving a hand over the front of the camera while motioning off to the side. “We’ve had this discussion before. You will not ambush anyone coming to the complex. This is private property, Helen.”
“The people have a right to know. These so-called gods could be charlatans or worse. Why are they so afraid to be interviewed?”
Four large men appeared, two to either side of the reporter and her cameraman. For a split second, I could almost see an image of Corinthian armor surrounding them as they very gently but firmly escorted the two out of the building. Helen screeched all the way out about suppressing the truth and freedom of the press.
“I’m sorry for that interruption, Lord Nereus. Occupational hazard. Luckily, the building’s designed to ensure no unauthorized transmissions can leave and digitized images are distorted. Once you establish your business, if you want to give interviews, just coordinate with me. We’ll ensure things are processed properly.”
“So this happens often?”
“Too often for my taste, but no, not that often. Helen is one of the more aggressive of the bunch. Now, would you like a tour of your floor, or perhaps you and your companion would care to check out the cafeteria? Many of the gods-in-residence like to hang out at Dark Sparks when they’re here. Unfortunately, you’ve arrived while most are out.”
“Oh, what new world-shattering event has drawn so many away?”
“Lady Amphitrite’s new resort, Nympheum, is having its grand opening in a few days.”
“Amphitrite has a resort?” The scamp hadn’t mentioned anything about it to me, although we hadn’t exactly been close over the past few thousand years.
“Yes. It’s in Monterey, California.”
“There is a standing invitation to attend if you’d like me to print one out for you.”
A smile split my face. I imagined Amphi’s face if her father just crashed the party, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. If it was her grand opening, then even if she hadn’t gotten over whatever she was mad at me about, she wasn’t likely to stab me in front of everyone. It was a chance to talk to her and maybe work out whatever had been bothering her all these years. I knew, for Doris’s sake, I had to try.
“All right, young lady, I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee. The tour can wait. Can you book me a flight to Monterey, leaving tonight?”
“Of course, sir. After all, Olympus Air’s offices are located on the 88th floor. They’re used to these sudden flight bookings. Commercial or private?”
“Private. And, thanks. Maybe I won’t mind being here too badly after all.”