Notes: Lux Æterna is a fanfic AU based upon characters from Jean Anouilh's "Antigone". This, in particular, is based upon the 1972 Broadway play that is now on DVD, starring Genevieve Bujold, Stacy Keach, and Fritz Weaver. All three of them blew me away, Fritz Weaver especially, and this is my humble little attempt at a kind of Thank-you note.
The idea here is that someone persuades Creon to bury Polynices along with Eotocles. But for reasons that will become apparent in the story, the Gods take violent exception to this…
Some of the scenes in the Prologue incorporate the last scene in the play "Antigone". They are quoted practically verbatim from the Broadway Play.
Rated R for Language and Violence
I hope y'all enjoy this…
Charlie Marsh was a Time Traveler.
One of a team of historians and archeologists from 2023 AD, the mission was to study the world as it was in the year 14000 BCE. Everyone had expected to find some kind of Bronze Age seafaring culture; the historical record had proven that much, at least, what with various examples of "Prehistoric" monuments scattered over the entire world.
The man in charge of this mission, Arnold Evans, had a bit of a reputation. He believed in Atlantis, and in the reality of "Alien Visitations". Most of the scientific community disagreed, thought he was…eccentric. Evans had been given the moniker, Mad Arnie
But not anymore…
When Evans and his team went through the D-Door, going back in time roughly sixteen thousand years, they didn't find the Bronze Age culture they had been expecting to find. What they found instead appeared to be an Industrial age culture, roughly mid-to-late Twentieth Century, with most of the technological trappings of that era, with the exception of computers and airplanes. They had guns, cars, boats, and tanks. But they didn't have planes, not even a zeppelin or a blimp…
That bothered the time travelers, until Evans made the big discovery…
It hovered over an uninhabited chain of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, a floating pyramid…
That it was operated by sentient beings was undeniable. That they were of extra-terrestrial origin was equally undeniable; once the time travelers had learned enough of the local native language to understand. The Pyramid dwellers apparently looked human enough; but with important differences. Even the shortest of them towered over the tallest human.
The Pyramid, itself, was a mystery. It just floated there, seemingly indifferent to the rest of the world. But, occasionally, small shuttlecraft could be seen, departing from the Pyramid to head for destinations unknown.
The natives had a name for the Pyramid, a name that was a never-ending source of speculation for the time travelers.
The natives called it Olympos…
As the team settled down to the task of observing-very carefully-all that was happening, a few facts became clear. Although human society appeared to be free, comprised of several small nations ruled by kings and tyrants, ultimate authority actually resided in the hands of the Gods-those who lived on Olympos-and no king with even a gram of common sense did anything without the approval of the Gods. Even the names of the Gods were known, and-with a few phonetic variances-they would continue to be known even in 2023 AD…
Zeus, Apollo, Hera, and all the rest, all the names came straight out of Greek Mythology. This, more than anything, un-nerved the time travelers.
The nations, mostly City-States, were known through Mythology as well, their names enduring through the millennia. Athens, Corinth, Thebes…
These weren'tthe cities from History. These were the originals, the places the historical sites had been named after, and they weren't in what would later be known as Greece.
They were situated closer to Eurasia…
Right now, Thebes was presenting the most exciting opportunities for study. Charlie Marsh was the person assigned to study this place, and his reports indicated that certain legends associated with Thebes were actually as true as the Gods.
The man had existed. Charlie Marsh had been extremely busy, hopping around in a twenty-year span of time. His videotaped recording of Oedipus confronting the creature called the Sphinx was all the rage back in 2023 AD, and with good reason. The creature looked like a sentient giant lion with a humanoid face. The sound track had even managed to capture its purr…
The Theban Cycle, Evans thought to himself as he got a coffee at HQ, an island that lay a few miles away from Olympos. It's all true, Oedipus, Jocasta, Creon, and Antigone. Charlie isn't going to enjoy recording this…
Actually, Charlie Marsh had a plan, an illegal plan, an utterly insane plan. It revolved around Creon, presently Chief Advisor to Eotocles, King of Thebes. Marsh knew how closely Oedipus' story had conformed to the myths-or, rather, the other way around-was certain the fates of Creon, Antigone, and Haemon, would conform to the myths just as closely.
If I can change things…
Marsh had managed to steal a Dreamcast Device-a new invention used primarily for treatment of mental trauma, brought it with him into Thebes.
Now, he was ready to use it.
Thebes was now embroiled in civil war. Marsh knew how that would end.
Soon, Creon will be King of Thebes, and he will make a terrible mistake.
But I can prevent him from making that mistake.
I'll scare the ever-living crap out of him…
Marsh stood in Creon's office, staring down at him. The man, tall, rail-thin, with a crown of silver hair, had fallen asleep at his desk, head pillowed on his forearms, at peace with himself, even if only for a little while.
That final battle was going to happen on the morning of the next day, and Creon was going to end up the next King of Thebes. Marsh knew what the new King was going to do with the bodies of the dead brothers.
Well… Here we are… Marsh thought to himself as he set up two Neural Cones to keep Creon safely asleep while Marsh did what he was doing. Taking the Dreamcast Device out, he attached one lead to his right temple, attaching the other lead to Creon's left temple. Creon didn't even stir; the Neural Cones kept him asleep, but receptive…
Taking a deep breath, Marsh initiated the dream…
He enteres the Palace, feeling battered in body, mind, and soul.
Antigone and Haemon…
But Creon knew why. He had left the body of Polynices out to rot, a warning to any who might wish to foment civil disorder.
Antigone…his little sister…
She tried to bury him, with my guards standing there; and Haemon…
Creon's jaw hurt from the blow Haemon had given him; just before he had stabbed himself right through the heart…
The stairs to the upper floors-where the Royal family lived-lay just in front of him. Wanting only to be alone, Creon began to walk up the stairs, a handkerchief clenched between bloody and bruised fingers. The young man with the intense dark eyes was there, smoking a cigarette, observing everything with those dark eyes of his. Creon turned to look at him.
"I've laid them out. Side by side," he said to that man. "They're together at last, two lovers on the morrow of their Bridal. Their work is done."
"But not yours," the young man looked up at him, a dark kind of compassion in his gaze. "You still have one thing to learn. Eurydice, the Queen, your wife…"
"Oh…The Queen…" with everything that had happened, Creon had actually forgotten about her. Well…He would have to tell her that her only son was dead, wouldn't he? Dreading the responsibility, fearing what the news might do to her, the King slowly began to walk up the stairs. The other man's words stopped him dead in his tracks.
"When she heard the news of her son's death, she waited carefully until she had finished her sewing, then laid it out carefully, as she did everything. Then, she went up to her room; her lavender-scented room with its embroidered doilies, the pictures framed and plush. And there, Creon, she cut her throat."
The words were a bolt through Creon's heart.
The man continued to speak calmly, his voice dragging Creon into this new, and terrible, world.
"She's laid out now, exactly as she was the moment you came to see her when she was still a maiden. Her smile is still the same. And, were it not for that great red blot by the bed-linen next to her neck, one might think she was asleep."
"Ah… she too…" Creon crushed the handkerchief between his fingers, almost shredding it. "They're all asleep. It must be good to sleep."
"Tomorrow…Tomorrow, they will sleep soundly in the earth, Creon," the young man replied, the compassion in his voice and eyes so at odds with the words he spoke. "And you will bury them. He who would not bury Polynices today will bury Eurydice and Haemon tomorrow, and Antigone too. The Gods take a hand in every game, Creon. Even politics."
The man's word lit a brief blaze of anger in Creon.
"The task was there to be done," he said bitterly. "They say its dirty work. But, if I didn't do it, who would do it?"
"Why must dirty work be done?" The words stripped the anger from Creon, leaving him cold and numb. "Now you are alone, Creon."
"Ah yes… Alone…" Creon turned to see his Page, the lad's stance indicating he'd rather be anywhere but here…
"Boy?" Creon gestured him over.
"What time is it?"
"Five O'clock, sir."
"What have we got on at five o'clock?"
"Cabinet Meeting, sir."
Creon repeated the boy's words, trying to find a point where his mind would stop spinning in circles. Tucking the torn handkerchief into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, he took a trembling breath.
"Well, we'd better get to it."
Creon headed up the stairs. He had lost everything that mattered most to him. All that was left was the work. If there were enough work for him, enough work to fill up his days and nights, then, perhaps, he wouldn't hear the beats of his own heart pulsing inside his skull…
Back in Creon's Office
The dream was done. Working slowly, Charlie Marsh detached the Dreamcast Device leads, and put the thing back into one of his pockets. He turned off the Neural Cones and put those into another pocket.
Staring down at the still-sleeping Creon, Marsh stepped away from the desk. Then, raising both hands, he clapped them together twice, as loudly as he could. The explosive sound brought Creon awake immediately, sitting bolt upright…
Creon looked wildly about himself, not exactly certain where he was. It took a few moments for him to re-anchor himself. When he did, he found himself almost in tears, the relief was that strong…
They're not dead. It didn't happen.
I'm not alone…
Shivering, he lifted his head, seeing the familiar surroundings of his office. Then, he saw a young man standing right in front of him. Trembling, Creon came to his feet.
"You!" he hissed, torn between terror and rage.
"Yes," the young man stood there calmly, hands folded together in front of him. "It's me."
Creon almost summoned a guard; he could have been an assassin. But his calm demeanor suggested otherwise…
If he were an assassin, I'd be dead now.
Creon stepped around his desk, approaching the man.
"Who are you? What are you doing in my office?"
"Do you remember the dream?" the young man asked him.
"Yes," Creon's mouth went dry. "Was it a dream?"
"Yes, Creon. It really was just a dream."
"What are you, then?" Creon asked. Never entirely certain about the reality of the Gods, Creon wondered about the young man. "Are you one of them?"
"Them? Oh, those…" the young man shook his head, laughing a little. "No. I'm as human as you are. I just wanted to keep you from making a terrible mistake."
Creon thought that one over for a bit.
"If only you had done this to King Laius," he said, a wistful tone in his voice. "If you had, Jocasta and Oedipus might still be alive today. Why me and not Laius?"
Marsh shrugged uncomfortably. How could he explain the mechanics of temporal travel, the unexpected limits of it, to Creon?
"You were the only one I could reach," he said finally.
Creon nodded, thinking he understood. Brushing the imponderables aside, he asked the question most important to him.
"What were you trying to do with me?"
"Well…" Marsh chose his next words carefully. "You know your two Nephews are going to fight each other tomorrow morning."
"They're both going to die, Creon. There's nothing you can do about that."
"Why would I want to?" Creon stepped into a small kitchenette just off his office. There would be no going back to sleep for him this night. He heard the young man follow him into the kitchenette.
"I was going to brew some coffee," Creon said. "Would you like some?"
"Yes," the other man smiled. "I think I would."
"Then tell me your name," Creon busied himself, measuring out ground coffee and water. "If we are to have coffee together on the eve of a battle that would be the least you could do."
"Yes. My name is Charlie Marsh."
"Charlie," Creon repeated the name. "What kind of name is that?"
"Where I come from, it's a fairly common one."
"Where are you from, then?"
"Hmm…" Creon mused. "Never heard of it."
When the coffee was ready, the two men took their coffee back to Creon's office.
"Tell me about Eotocles and Polynices," Marsh sipped his coffee as he spoke. "Are they really as bad as all that?"
"They're even worse, if such a thing is possible," Creon replied. "When Oedipus was still alive, they each tried to have him killed. I can't count the number of assassins we caught. Every one of them confessed that it was one of the brothers who had hired him. A more murderous pair of louts you will never see in all of your travels."
"You detest them both. Don't you, Creon?"
"Indeed I do," Creon looked over a paper he had been working on just before he had fallen asleep. "What of it?"
"Don't let it get the better of you," Marsh cautioned. "You don't want to do anything…stupid."
"Was that what that nightmare was about?"
"Yes," Marsh leaned forward, eyes intense. "What does Thebes need most of all?"
"Peace!" the older man answered immediately. "The merchants need to go back to their business, the farmers need to go back to their farms. That is what Thebes needs."
"Then that is what you need to work on, Creon. Bury Eotocles and Polynices. Bury them both, so Thebes can forget them both. Focus on healing Thebes, and everything will be all right."
Arnold Evans steered his motorboat, purchased from a Corinthian merchant with good gold, in an aimless path, seemingly just another fisherman in search of good waters.
Olympos floated nearby, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, sublimely indifferent to all the small boats plying the waters nearby. Occasionally, a shuttlecraft would detach from the Pyramid, hurtling off on some mission or other…
Where do they come from? Evans stared up at Olympos. What do they look like?
As he sat there, staring up at the thing, another shuttlecraft detached from the Pyramid. Instead of hurtling off, it slowly banked until it hovered just in front of his position.
Must have gotten too close…
Slowly steering the boat away, Evans began to head back to HQ, his heart in his throat. Fortunately, the shuttlecraft didn't follow. Finally, he reached his destination, hopefully out of the Pyramid's scanning-range. Heaving a sigh of relief, Evans stepped off the boat. One of his assistants-Jon Adams-was already there. Adams had found a father-and-son team of shipwrights; the father's name was Daedalus…
"Did you have good sailing?" Adams asked him.
"Yes, until I passed an invisible boundary. They sent one of their shuttlecraft out, and I decided that fishing was over for the day."
"They didn't fire at you, did they?"
"No," only now was Evans beginning to get the shakes. "They just scared the crap out of me."
"Good," Adams relaxed slightly. "They killed Icarus, Daedalus'' son yesterday."
"Arnie, it would've been Kitty Hawk sixteen thousand years early. Their plane looked exactly like the Orville Brothers. Icarus actually got it into the air. One of those shuttlecraft turned up. It fired some sort of blaster-bolt at the plane, blew it to smithereens. It seems the Gods don't want humans to fly."
"Of course not!" Evans responded. "It's all about power, power and control. Whoever controls the skies controls everything, and everyone."
"Well…" Adams hesitated. "How does it feel to be vindicated, Arnie? You're not Mad Arnie anymore. How does it feel to be right in every particular?"
"As creepy as hell," Evans picked up a mug of spice tea, the heat and taste of it soothing his nerves. "Any other news?"
"Yeah", Adams sipped his coffee. "Thebes is back in the news. The final battle in the Civil War is going to take place tomorrow morning. The two sons of Oedipus are slated to get themselves killed. Charlie Marsh is covering the situation there. You know, the experts back home are still going bonkers over that Sphinx. Did you see it, or the footage Charlie shot of it?"
"Yes, I saw it…" Evan had gone to Thebes himself, ready to pull Marsh out if things got too dangerous. But Oedipus had killed the Sphinx, and Evans-thinking quickly-had snatched the corpse, sending it back, packed in ice, to 2023 AD, to be examined by experts.
Talk about Alien Autopsies…
Well… In 2023 AD, the whole world now knew that "Mad Arnie" Evans had been right all along. The Gods, and their chariots, were no longer a fantasy to be dreamed about, but a reality to be studied. The stories of their ruling humanity were equally true, and it was clear that the Gods ruled with an iron fist, showing a near-perfect grasp of the carrot-and-stick approach. Yes, humans seemed to have all the benefits of modernity; medicine was freely available to all, and travel-with the obvious exception of flight-was just as easy as it was in 2023. But progress-technological advances of any kind-was ruthlessly suppressed, and the inventor almost always killed for his sins…
Two things worried Evans.
The first worry, a major one, was whether the Gods realized time travel was being utilized right under their godly noses.
If they ever find out, we could all be killed…
Evans had no doubt about that.
The second worry might've seemed rather trivial in light of the first worry…
Where did they go? They're here, now, in 14,000 BCE. But they're not here in 2023 AD…
Where did they go?
"So what's going on in Thebes right now?" he asked Adams, more to take his mind off those other worries than anything else.
"Well, as I said, Eotocles and Polynices are both going to die tomorrow," Adams replied. "According to Charlie, the next King of Thebes is going to be Creon."
"I wish him well," Evans began to walk away.
"Sorry, it isn't going to be that way. Creon is going to refuse to bury Polynices, and-"
"I know," Evans held up a hand. "Still, have you ever seen something where you knew how it was going to end, but you found yourself wishing for a different ending anyway?"
"Yeah, Arnie. I think we all have."
The battle raged on just outside Thebes. Creon waited in his office, not at all confident of Charlie Marsh's abilities at predicting the future. Either brother surviving would be a disaster for Thebes, and a disaster for Creon as well…
Polynices had all but promised Creon a horrible death if he survived to become King. But Creon was fairly certain that Eotocles was also planning to have him executed on trumped-up charges as soon as he possibly could.
Either way, I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't…
Charlie Marsh was fine, drinking strong coffee and smoking Corinthian cigarettes. Creon had long since given up on the coffee. All it did was burn a hole in his gut. Finally, there came a knock on the door, and the Messenger, a serious-looking man in his late thirties, entered the office. Creon stared up at him.
"Well?" he demanded.
"The battle is over," the Messenger replied. "Eotocles and Polynices are both dead, their armies in disarray."
Creon bowed his head for a few brief seconds. Then, he came to his feet, sensing Charlie Marsh stubbing out his cigarette and rising too. Walking out of his office, Creon felt the eyes of all those who lived and worked at the Palace focus on him. It wasn't a pleasant experience; he knew they were all staring at their new King. They knew it too…
Minutes later, he found himself standing on the field of battle, staring at the sight of all the dead and dying soldiers. The worst sight of all was his nephews. Eotocles and Polynices had been impaled on each other's swords, locked in an eternal embrace of death. Crushed by tanks, it was impossible to tell which brother was which…
Staring down at the two bodies, Creon knew what he wanted to do with the bodies.
No, he told himself. I can't do that…
He saw the man wearing the uniform of the Palace Guard standing nearby.
"You," Creon motioned him over. "What's your name?"
"Private Jonas, Chief!"
"At ease, Private Jonas," Creon glanced around the field. "Clean the field up, take the wounded to the hospitals, and bury the dead. As for Eotocles and Polynices…Get them prettied up, and made ready for burial. They go into the earth tomorrow."
"Yes, sir!" Jonas sped off to do Creon's bidding.
Early the next morning, the Royal Family-what was left of it-assembled in the Great Temple of Olympos. Two coffins lay before the altar. The coffins, and the altar too, had been wreathed in a great profusion of flowers.
Who ordered all these flowers?
Creon swept his gaze over the remaining members of his family. His wife, Eurydice, stoic and mouse-quiet, perhaps the most truly sweet person Creon had ever known, stood there, grieving for the two worthless sons of Oedipus. With her stood Haemon, her only son. He was a good-hearted lad, prone to see only the good in his fellow man, and sometimes Creon worried over him, knowing the day would come when he would die, and his son be forced to take his place as King of Thebes. The lad was just too gentle and kindly for some of the nastier business of being a King.
Then there were the daughters of Oedipus…
Ismene was beautiful and golden. She was possibly the only one who understood just how nasty her two brothers could be. Certainly, she didn't mourn as deeply as everyone else did.
As always, however, it was Antigone who caught Creon's attention. The Wild Child wore her hair loose about her face and shoulders, and Creon suddenly realized that it was she who had ordered all the flowers. She grieved deeply for her brothers, the tears plainly visible on her cheeks.
At least she's safe now. Both of her brothers will be buried. There shall be no edict for her to disobey, no reason for me to have her put to death. We're all safe from that for now…
Glancing around, Creon tried to locate Charlie Marsh, found him keeping Antigone's Nanny company. Marsh lifted his head to catch Creon's eye, giving him a nod and a conspiratorial wink…
It's all done, and rightly this time. Now I can concentrate on healing Thebes…
Elsewhere, an old blind man sat by his fireplace, utterly consumed by the vision filling his mind…
He sits, as usual, by the fireplace. The Armband, on its silken cushion, lies nearby. It is night, thunder, wind, and rain outside, and HE is coming…
The one the old blind man has SEEN in his dreams ever since he received the Armband from the Dying God, he is coming, bearing the promise of retribution brought upon the heads of the Gods themselves. The door swings open, letting in wind and rain. Then HE enters, drenched by the night's rain…
The old man opened his eyes, filmed over with milky whiteness as they were.
"Soon," he murmured softly. "Very soon now…"
After decades of tragedy and grief, Thebes was beginning to throw off its cloak of despair. With Creon's steady hand on the wheel, the ship, blown off course for so long, was finally in sight of a safe port. The farmers were going back to their farms, the merchants back to their businesses, and the people were looking forward to a life of peace once again.
Then, it was announced that there was to be a Royal Wedding…
Antigone, the oldest daughter of Oedipus, was to marry Haemon, Creon's only son. This was a very popular subject among the Theban people. They, who had been divided in their love for either Eotocles, or Polynices, became united in their wholehearted love of Antigone.
What made it even more perfect was the fact that the two young people loved each other very much. The people sensed this, and loved the soon-to-be-married couple too.
This meant that Creon could turn his attention to the actual governance of Thebes. It wasn't glamorous work, being mostly concerned with revenues, public works, and the daily grind of running a monarchy…
In Creon, the Theban people were more blessed than they realized. Although an artist by temperament, he was a calmer, steadier presence than Oedipus, or his two sons; and he was not averse to hard work, or putting in long hours at the office. Further, he had no real hankering after glory, no real desire for his name to live on centuries after his death. All he wanted was civil order and a sound coinage.
With Charlie Marsh at his side, it looked as though he might actually be able to achieve his aims. Both of his nephews had been buried, Thebes was slowly, but certainly, coming out of its shell, and Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, were all going to live…
And I can look forward to a wedding…
The Wedding Day was finally here, and the entire Royal Household was in an uproar. Antigone was in a tizzy, all of her attendants in a frenzy of activity. Haemon, the young groom, was in a more or less permanent state of anxiety, and Eurydice started weeping well in advance of the Wedding, prompting Creon to jokingly say that she ran a very real risk of running dry before the two young people got around to tying the knot.
Creon, himself, had gone to hide in his office for a bit. The over-emotionality of the day left him gritting his teeth. Nonetheless, he was as happy, on this day, as he had ever been in his life. His son was getting married today…
Finally, it was time for him to get ready for the Wedding. Creon shrugged into his tuxedo jacket, settling his shoulders more comfortably. The tailor had done an excellent job…
Charlie Marsh's voice brought Creon around. He, too, was clad in formal attire. Standing just inside the doorway, he shared a conspiratorial smile with the King.
"Well," Marsh asked him. "Are you ready?"
"Yes," Creon turned from the mirror. Striding out of his private office, Charlie Marsh in tow, the King walked down to Haemon's rooms. All of the young men were there, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. Haemon, as nervous as Creon had ever seen him, walked up to greet his father, relief writ plain on his features.
The young men left the room at a glance from the King. Then, alone with his son, Creon looked the young man over.
"Did you get any sleep last night?" he asked Haemon.
"No, but not for lack of trying," Haemon was dithering a little, his fingers trembling as he tried to do a presentable bow tie. "I just couldn't sleep."
"Don't worry," Creon took over tying his son's bow tie. "I was just as nervous the day I married your mother."
Stepping back, the King inspected his son. Haemon was a fine, upstanding young man, and would make a fine husband for Antigone.
Even now, Creon wasn't sure of the origin of the nightmare he'd had about putting Antigone to death. But it didn't really matter anymore. The nightmare was only a dream now; it had no basis in reality now that both Eotocles and Polynices were safely buried.
"Will you be looking in on Antigone?" Haemon wouldn't be able to see her until he met her at the altar, and he was afraid that something might rear up, at the last minute, to prevent the wedding.
"Relax, Haemon," Creon tried to reassure his son. "I'll be looking in on her."
"I guess I'm being an ass," Haemon wore a sheepish-looking smile. Impulsively, Creon hugged him.
"You're no different from any other bridegroom," he said. "You and Antigone aren't going to your deaths. You're getting married, and-jokes notwithstanding-it's not the same thing."
Leaving his son, Creon entered the hall, finding it mostly deserted. Charlie Marsh was there, leaning against a wall, looking totally at ease.
"It's almost time to give the Bride away," he said. "Are you ready, Creon?"
"Yes," Creon hesitated, a momentary sadness overtaking him. "It should've been Oedipus giving his daughter away."
"There's nothing we can do about that," Marsh laid a hand upon the other man's shoulder. "Not all sadness can be evaded."
True… Creon nodded and put the past out of his mind. Walking down to Antigone's rooms, he found them full of dithering servants, Maids-of-Honor, a weeping Nanny, and a tearful Bride…
Although he had given no order, the rooms emptied almost immediately, leaving Creon alone with his Niece. Even now, in her Wedding gown and veil, her hair hung free to her shoulders. Creon, remembering his nightmare, how he had been forced to put her to death, felt a lump in his throat. When she lifted her gaze to meet his eyes, he was relieved to find nothing of enmity in her eyes.
Our relationship has always been rather problematic, he thought ruefully as he held out his arms, enfolding Antigone in a gentle hug.
"How are you feeling, my dear?" he asked.
"I had nightmares," Antigone spoke matter-of-factly. "I kept on dreaming that you had me killed because I buried Polynices."
Her words were a shock to Creon.
That was my nightmare. Not hers…
"Uncle Creon? It was a nightmare, wasn't it?"
"Yes!" instinctively, Creon pulled her into another hug. "A damned silly little nightmare! Both of your brothers lie safely in their graves."
Taking a deep breath, unwilling to let Antigone know how badly she had shaken him with her dreams, he held out his right arm.
"It's time," he said. "Are you ready?"
"Yes," she took the proffered arm, and they walked out of her room.
Elsewhere, plying the sea in his small motorboat, Arnold Evans took special care not to cross any boundaries imposed by the Gods of Olympos. In return, the Olympians ignored him. It was really quite frustrating; there they were, hovering in plain sight, seemingly indifferent to the rest of the world.
I wish I could see them, Evans thought irritably. All we ever see is their shuttlecraft. What are they doing?
In a way, Evans didn't want to know. He'd seen the short videotape of the death of Icarus.
All of our myths will need to be re-evaluated in light of our new knowledge. Who would've thought the Gods were ET tyrants?
As he sat there in his boat, another shuttlecraft left Olympos, heading for destinations unknown. Evans followed it with his eyes, hoping it wouldn't be serious, whatever it was…
Well…not all of the news is bad or sad, he consoled himself. Charlie Marsh, in Thebes, had passed along the information concerning the Wedding of Antigone to Haemon, promising to send tapes and photos as soon as possible. Evans smiled crookedly, wishing the new couple the best of luck…
Charlie Marsh was sitting in a pew, staring around at the Temple. It looked like any church from 2023 AD, except for the lack of a crucifix. But, where the crucifix would've been, there was a graphic representation of a gigantic pyramid. He had to admit that the thought of Gods, as a physical reality had him somewhat un-nerved. It was one thing to have them in the background-out of sight, out of mind-but quite another to have to face the prospect of meeting one face-to-face one day…
And, there was the great unanswered question…
They're here, in 14000 BCE; and they're not here in 2023 AD. What happened to them?
Marsh ran his gaze over the assembled multitude. The Royal Family sat in the front rows, along with their most trusted servants and retainers. Haemon stood at the altar, along with the High Priest. The High Priest was calm enough. Haemon was a nervous wreck, fiddling with something in his pocket, most likely the ring…
When the music started, everyone came to his or her feet, turning to look back down the aisle. After the children scattering flowers, after the Maidens, came the Bride, on the King's arm.
Creon felt a rare contentment as he led his Niece to the altar. It was all going very well now, and Creon knew just how rarely that happened in a man's life.
Now, the next generation will get its start…
As he and Antigone walked down the aisle, he prayed-to whoever-that there would be peace for Thebes now, after all those years of strife and woe.
Maybe we will be allowed to escape the notice of the Gods this time…
He was beginning to realize that true safety was only gained by those whom the Gods ignored.
Then, they reached the altar. Creon surrendered Antigone into Haemon's hands with a smile, then turned to find a place to sit. That was when the door to the Temple flew open, hurled off its hinges, stunning everyone into frozen stillness…
It was one of them…
A God of Olympos…
He was over nine feet tall, glowing as though clad in the rays of the sun itself. But, robes and hair of seeming flame couldn't disguise the fact that it was male.
As the God strode down the aisle, he unslung his bow from impossibly wide shoulders. Everyone went still with terror as the God-indisputably Apollo-approached the altar. Creon watched, as terrified as all the rest, as the God armed his bow…
Why is he here? Creon asked himself. What have we done?
He stepped forward to formerly greet the God on this festive occasion. That was when he saw that Apollo was arming his bow, when he saw whom the God was aiming at. Antigone…
Moving as quickly as possible, he moved to place himself in the line of fire, to shield Antigone with his own body….
Charlie Marsh was as stunned as everyone else by this unexpected visitation. He had, of course, known it was Apollo right from the start; only Apollo would use such a weapon…
He watched as the God drew and set his bow, feeling a moment of blind panic.
Marsh watched helplessly as Creon stepped forward to greet the God, focusing Apollo's attention on him; a very brave thing to do, Marsh decided. But, it became clear to everyone that the God's attention was on the Bride; and-as he set and armed his bow, Creon rushed back to Antigone's side, his intent to protect her, to sacrifice his own life if necessary, clear in every line of his body.
Apollo raised his bow, and fired. It wasn't an arrow. It looked more like a blaster-bolt from classic Sci-Fi movies of the late Twentieth Century. Creon and Antigone both went down as Haemon cried out.
"Antigone! Father! No!"
Marsh couldn't tell which of the two had been hit by that deadly blaster-bolt. Ignoring the screams of the other witnesses, Marsh ran over to the downed pair. Creon pulled himself to his knees, a dazed look in his eyes, and all Marsh could feel was relief that the King was alive…
Creon clutched Antigone's body to his chest. He looked down at her, seeing the terrible truth.
She's dead. I wasn't fast enough…
Looking up, he saw all the faces of those who had come to see a wedding, shock and terror plain on every face. Looking back down, he set her gently down upon the floor. Then, he lifted his head again to stare at the God who had done this.
"Why?" he asked Apollo. "What did she ever do to deserve this?"
"Not her," the God's voice boomed out. "You."
"Me?" Creon came to his feet, soaked from head to foot in Antigone's blood, something very akin to rage kindling deep within. "What did I do?"
"You tried to evade your Moira."
"You know, Creon of Thebes. You refused to do that which Fate decreed you should do. No man may evade his Moira, lest the universe be undone, and celestial order be overthrown."
Creon stared up at the God, shock numbing his senses.
"Why, then, did you kill her?" he asked. "If I was the one who broke your laws, why kill her?"
"Because you were supposed to kill her."
I was supposed to…
Even in his thoughts, he couldn't complete the sentence.
Stunned by Apollo's pronouncement, he watched as the God disappeared in a great blaze of light. When Apollo was gone, everyone began to move at once, most of them immediately fleeing the Temple grounds, the High Priest in the lead. Creon was aware of Charlie Marsh, standing just behind him. But his eyes, and mind, were on Haemon. The young man had fallen to his knees before the girl's body, gathering her into his arms-heedless of the blood-weeping tears of the deepest kind of grief…
Scant hours later, Charlie Marsh found himself back at the Palace, the whole area muted by bleak grief. Marsh couldn't understand why Apollo had killed Antigone. It simply didn't make any sense at all.
Apollo said that Creon had refused to accept his Moira. What was his Moira? Was he actually supposed to kill Antigone? Was that his Moira?
Recent communications from Arnold Evans indicated that the Gods of Olympos were the real rulers of Humanity. Moira was a term used by the Gods when they spoke of a man's fate.
Apparently a man's Fate is supposed to be written in stone and immutable. And avoiding that fate can be the greatest crime of all. It looks like the Gods have found a way to keep people in their place all right. And they can even use Moira to justify punishing a man for doing the right thing, if they say his Moira was for him to do a wrong thing…
Leaning against a wall, Marsh lit a cigarette, praying the Gods never discovered him, Arnold Evans, or the rest of the Time Traveling Team.
If they're capable of killing a person for doing right, then I don't want to know what they would do to people who can travel back and forth in time…
Creon was with his son right now. Haemon was in a state of near-total collapse, and rumor had it that the House Doctor had had him put on Suicide Watch. Marsh knew just how necessary this was. The young man was fully capable of ending his life over this. Creon knew this too…
Marsh lifted his head, seeing the King walk down the hall. His thin features were grim, pinched with weariness. He had long since exchanged the blood-soaked tuxedo for a somber suit and tie. Stopping a few paces away from Marsh, he, too, leaned against the wall, a betrayed look in his eyes.
"Why?" he asked Marsh. "What was my crime?"
Marsh couldn't answer this. He was too afraid to. Only one thing was clear now. The Gods had Creon firmly in their cross hairs…
And I helped put him there…
"I'm sorry," that was all he could think of to say to the King.
Creon rubbed his eyes tiredly. Then, dropping his hands, he looked at his friend.
"What was this Moira I supposedly evaded? Do you know?"
"I think so," Marsh replied. "I thinks the Gods decided you were supposed to bury Eotocles, and leave Polynices out to rot, so Antigone would bury Polynices, and-"
"I would kill her, so my son and wife could kill themselves." Creon growled. "Just like that nightmare I had. But why?"
"I guess they were trying to trap you just like they trapped Oedipus. Only it would've been worse for you, because Oedipus was never expected to play the villain's role. It's fairly clear to me now that they did want you to be the villain of the piece so they could deliver a Morality Play to the people of Thebes."
"They wanted me to be a villain for them? They wanted me to do evil just so they could punish me?" Creon was aghast at the notion.
"It sure looks that way."
"Why?" now Creon was furious. "If I do evil, then, yes, I can expect the Gods to exact vengeance upon me. That would be fair, and just. But, when they punish me because I didn't do evil…Where is Rightness and Justice then?"
"Creon, the Gods might not see it that way. They're not like us, so their moral values may be different from ours. Also, they are our rulers. Yes, we have Kings and such, but all the Kings-you included-only rule with the consent of the Gods. Moira may very well be one of their ways of keeping Kings in their place. You know, say a King is fated to do a bad thing, and make certain he does what he is fated to do, then punish him for doing that thing; all the while, making certain that everyone knows that, no matter how evil that Moira is, actually evading one's Moira is a much more evil act than doing the evil deed you were fated to do."
"Then we are actually slaves of the lowest sort," Creon muttered just loudly enough for Marsh to hear. "We don't even have the right to choose between doing right or wrong. Do we? No, don't answer that. I know the answer. Just tell me this, if you can. How much danger have I put Thebes in?"
Marsh shrugged helplessly. Now that he had helped to change the history of Thebes, all was terra incognita. The sound of racing footsteps diverted Creon's attention from him, and Marsh felt brief gratitude for that. Then, recognizing the Messenger, seeing the worry and fear in those gentle eyes, his gratitude turned into a vague sense of dread…
Creon turned to the younger man.
"Well, out with it!" he barked.
The Messenger flinched a little at the harsh tone, but, collecting himself, began to speak.
"Haemon is missing from his chambers. We're looking for him, but-"
"They left him alone?" Marsh was as horrified as Creon. "Don't you have any idea what he could do in his current state of mind?"
"Enough, Charlie!" Creon snapped. Then, visibly calming himself, he said. "He's probably in Antigone's rooms."
All three set off at a dead run. A terrified scream just ahead only made them run all the faster. Ismene was standing just in front of the open door to Antigone's rooms, screaming hysterically, her Nanny trying ineffectually to calm her. Trembling, Creon stepped through the open door, entering Antigone's rooms. He didn't have far to seek…
At first, his mind refused to process the visual input. The body dangling from the chandelier, hanged by the neck, couldn't be Haemon. It simply couldn't be…
Marsh entered quietly, just behind Creon, saw Haemon's body hanging from the chandelier. Creon was just standing there, possibly in shock…
Marsh hesitated. Someone had to be there to help the King through this. But, just then, a thought occurred to him.
He grabbed the Messenger's wrist.
"Help the King with his son."
"W-where are you going?" the Messenger was trembling.
"I've got to see to the Queen," Marsh replied. "Please help Creon!"
With that, he ran off, heading for the Queen's Private Chambers, hoping he wasn't too late…
The door was ajar. Marsh entered, his heart thudding in his ears. Eurydice was in her bedroom. She lay on her bed, and it was exactly as he had described it to Creon in the dream.
She looked asleep, but for the blood soaking the pillow…
Marsh closed his eyes for a few brief seconds. Then, a sigh escaping him, he opened his eyes and made his way back to the hall, meeting Creon just at the door. He tried to bar the way.
"No, Creon. You don't want to see this. Trust me."
The King didn't seem to hear him. He stood there, staring blindly at Marsh. Then, he moved, and Marsh felt stars explode inside his skull. Rather detachedly, he thought: I'm lying on the floor. How the hell did that happen?
Creon rather regretted punching the one man he knew he could trust. He understood that Marsh's only intent had been to try to spare him the agony…
But there are some things that have to be faced; Creon stepped over his semi-conscious friend. I owe Eurydice that much, at least. It is, after all, my sin that caused this…
Walking into the bedroom, he came to a halt by the bed. She lay there, upon her bed, smiling a secret smile, seemingly asleep. But Creon saw the blood upon the coverlet…
He felt numb, the world contracting around him, going gray and sparkly, everything growing dim. Then, there was nothing at all…
The Messenger helped Charlie Marsh back to his feet. Marsh rubbed his jaw ruefully.
He actually slugged me.
"Are you all right?" the Messenger asked him.
"Yeah…" Marsh turned back to the door. Squaring his shoulders, he entered Eurydice's chambers again, followed by the Messenger.
"Creon?" Marsh called the King's name softly. It was quiet in here, far too quiet. Fearing the worst, he made his way back to the bedroom. There, he found Creon…
The King lay face down upon the carpeted floor near the bed. Ignoring the Messenger's sharp intake of breath, Marsh knelt by the King, checking him for a pulse. Finding a pulse, he gently turned the unconscious man's body until he lay on his back. As he loosened the man's tie, undoing the first two buttons of his shirt, he spoke to the King…
"Creon? Can you hear me? Are you all right?"
Creon didn't respond. Marsh took off his own jacket, draping it over the unconscious man. Then, he looked up, seeing the Messenger rooted to the ground in terror.
"Is he all right?" the Messenger asked.
"I think so," Marsh was gently slapping the King's face, trying to rouse him. "Get the Doctor here anyway."
In the end, there wasn't much anyone could do. The House Doctor ordered the Palace staff to put the King to bed, uttering the sagacious words, "He'll wake up when he's ready."
Charlie Marsh watch the staff do their job; stripping off the King's plain suit, exchanging that for an old-fashioned pair of pajamas, and a warm green dressing-robe. Within minutes, Creon was safely tucked into his bed, warm blankets drawn up to his chin.
Marsh found that someone had put a fresh pot of tea on a table by an armchair. He settled himself into the armchair, sipping tea, keeping watch over the comatose King, prepared to wait however long it took until Creon opened his eyes again. Not a doctor, himself, he was, nonetheless, quite certain Creon's condition had been caused by emotional trauma, not anything physical in nature.
In the meantime, Marsh saw scores of servants poke their heads into the bedroom, using chores as a pretext. He knew all they wanted was to know how the King was doing, but this wasn't doing Creon any good. He ordered everyone out of the room, promising to let them know, immediately, of any change in the King's condition.
Sitting there, Marsh stretched his legs out, feeling a sudden wave of fatigue rear up. Maybe it was the fact that he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before; or maybe it was the stress of seeing someone get killed right in front of him. Whatever the cause, his head began to nod. Then, in just a few minutes, he fell asleep…
Creon was dreaming…
He finds himself standing in one of his council-rooms. Feeling uneasy, he glances around, wondering why he is here in this room.
"You're trying to save my life," Antigone's voice spins him around, seized by blind terror. "You had two chances and you botched both of them."
Antigone stands there, clad in her dark red gown, hair wild-as usual-about her face and shoulders. She looks almost exactly the way she did in the dream, where Creon was forced to have her put to death…
But it didn't happen! I buried Polynices!
"Antigone," he fights off the stammer. "What's going on?"
"I don't know, Uncle Creon. It's your nightmare, not mine. So…what is going on?"
"They killed you," Creon takes a seat. "I tried to save you, but I wasn't fast enough."
Antigone shakes her head a little.
"Why would you want to save me?"
"You're my Niece, Antigone. Why wouldn't I want to save you?"
"In your nightmare, you had me killed."
"But that's not real. It didn't happen."
"It was supposed to happen. The Gods killed me because you refused to kill me for burying Polynices."
"I buried Polynices. Was I supposed to kill you for what I did?"
Antigone glares at him.
"You were supposed to leave his body out to rot," she says. "I was supposed to bury him. Then you were supposed to kill me. So, why did you bury both of my brothers anyway?"
"Because someone had the kindness to show me the possible consequences of not burying Polynices. I saw that I would end by killing you. That I would lose my wife and son too."
"It looks like it didn't help much," Antigone comments as she sits right next to him. "What were you trying to prove? That you were better than the Gods? Can you truly be that arrogant?"
"No!" Creon leaned forward. "I only wanted to do what was right."
"So why did it all go so wrong?" Antigone asks him.
Creon can only shake his head. He has no answers to give her…
The girl, however, has answers of her own.
"I'll tell you why," she says to Creon. "You were supposed to leave Polynices out to rot. You were supposed to kill me. That was your Moira. But you refused it. You disobeyed the Gods, and Thebes will be made to suffer for you sins."
"What else could I have done? Where is the moral rightness of such an act? How could my putting you to death be anything other than murder?"
"They wanted me to die," Antigone glares at him. "As they wanted my mother and father to suffer, as they want you to suffer for the sin of killing me."
"Well, I didn't kill you!" Creon snarls. "But Eurydice and Haemon are both dead nonetheless. What else can they do to me?"
"They could kill Ismene. Or worse…"
Creon opened his eyes, suddenly wide-awake.
No, he promised himself. They'll not have Ismene…
Looking around, he found himself in his bed, with absolutely no idea how he got there. I'm in my pajamas. How did I get here?
Then, he remembered, and it was all he could do to keep from crying aloud.
They're all dead…
Pulling himself back together, he glanced to his right, seeing Charlie Marsh, sound asleep in the armchair.
Let him sleep, Creon decided. I need some time to myself.
Getting up quietly, so as not to disturb the sleeping man, Creon found an old pair of jeans and a ratty-looking shirt. He needed to get out, to get away, even if only for a little while. Dressing quickly, he left his rooms and found the nearest exit.
It was raining now, a steady downpour that very quickly had Creon soaked to the skin. Not sure what he was looking for, what he needed, the King wandered aimlessly through the poorer sections of Thebes. Nobody took any notice of him, clad as he was in jeans and plain shirt. He felt like a ghost. Creon couldn't explain it, but something drew him here, to this neighborhood where even the rats needed armed escorts. Oddly enough, the King felt safe here. He wasn't here to be attacked, or killed. He was here to find answers…
The wind rose up as the rain fell even harder. Standing there, almost blinded by the rain, Creon noticed the little shack at the end of the cul-de-sac. It was tiny; just large enough to contain one room, and Creon could feel this small house pulling at him.
This is the place…
Walking up to the house, Creon was just about to knock. The occupant's voice-deep and rich-stopped him.
"The door is open, Creon, King of Thebes. Enter and be welcome."
Hesitantly, the King pushed the door open, entering the shack. The interior belied the outward shabby appearance; scores of candles, cushions, and carpets imparting a soft, warm glow to the place. An old man sat in front of a cheery fire in the fireplace. He lifted his head to look at the visitor, revealing eyes of milky white; Creon felt a shiver rise up his spine.
"Come," the old man said. "Sit by the fire. You must be cold."
Creon stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He settled himself on the carpeted floor, eyes never leaving the old man's face. The fire was warm, thawing the chill that had settled into the King's blood and bones.
Why am I here? He wondered
"You are here because you need answers."
The old man's words startled Creon into total stillness. This smelled too much of mind-reading…
"What do you know of it?" he asked the old man.
"I know you have been ill-used, as Oedipus had been ill-used, as all of humanity has been, and is still being, ill-used by the Gods of Olympos. At best, they see us as pets. At worst, we are toys to them, toys for them to play with. They manipulate us, they torture us, and they kill us, for no other reason but their pleasure."
True, Creon thought. They tormented Oedipus. They set him up to be their victim, Oedipus and my sister too. Now they want to play with me and mine. What do they get out of it?
"They get their pleasure from the pain of others," the old man said. "But you know that now."
"What benefit is there in knowing?" Creon's voice was bitter. "What else can I do with this knowledge but lay down and die? Would my death please them enough that they would pass over what's left of my family?"
"Do you want to die so badly?"
"No," Creon shook his head. "But I truly don't know what else I can do. Except to bow to their will. Or die. And I don't want to be a pawn; I don't want to be a toy for them to play with. I am a man, and I will die as a man before I lower myself like that."
"We are all pawns," the old man said. "Each and every single one of us. Yes, you could slit your wrists, put a bullet through your brain, stab yourself, or do any of the other million things people have found to bow themselves off the stage of life. But, in the end, the Gods would simply shrug, and find a new victim. It's certain that Ismene would be one of their choices."
"Is there nothing?" Creon was very nearly in tears. "Is there anything that can be done?"
"There is a chance." The old man's voice was gentle. "If you are willing to pay the price. It will cost you dear…"
"What is it?" Creon asked.
"That," the old man pointed to a heavy-looking armband that lay on a silken cushion. Creon stared at the thing, wondering why such an odd-looking bauble should be held in such high esteem.
"What is that thing?" he asked the old man.
"It used to belong to Prometheus," the old man explained. "The God who taught us how to be Human in the dim days of antiquity. The Gods, his own brothers and sisters, killed him for it, for the crime of caring about us. It was he who gave us fire, taught us how to farm the land, and gave us our very first Moral Codes. Without him, we wouldn't even be human."
Creon stared at the armband. He knew the story of Prometheus, had never even once considered the possibility that it could be true…
"This belonged to a God? To Prometheus?" he looked up at the old man. "How did you end up with such a thing?"
"I was there when Zeus had him executed."
"The Gods are immortal," Creon began. They can't die-"
"Oh yes, they can," the old man replied. "Creon, I watched them do it. Zeus ordered Prometheus to be crucified upon a rock. I watched, hidden under a large thicket. They stripped him naked, and they crucified him upon that rock. Then, they left him to die, and he was alone, but for me."
"If you were there, why didn't you try to save him?"
"He told me not to. Even as I moved up, ready to free him. He wanted to die, even if it meant suffering the agony of crucifixion. All he wanted from me was that I stay with him until the end, and do his final bidding. Although he was dying, he kept his powers until the very end. Thus, he changed me, giving me length of days, giving me the sight, even as he made my eyes go blind."
The old man fell silent for a minute. Then, he began to speak again, his words chilling Creon…
"There was no eagle that fed on his liver. That was just a poet using artistic license. But his death was no less terrible for all that. He suffocated to death, slowly but surely, over the course of many days. Perhaps an eagle might've been a mercy. But there was no mercy for Prometheus. Then, just before the end, this armband slowly appeared upon his right wrist, as if it were a plant growing in his flesh. He bade me take it off his wrist, that he might die, and, in dying, remain among the dead. I obeyed him, and-with his last strength-he lifted his head and smiled upon me, said thank you. Then, he died. And I began my long wait…"
"For what?" Creon wasn't really sure he wanted to hear the answer.
"For you, Creon," the old man said, looking into the flames dancing in the fireplace. "I saw you, when Prometheus bowed his head and died, that was when I saw you, when I knew you were the One…"
"What have you…seen?"
"I have seen you take up this armband, Creon. I have seen you execute vengeance upon the Gods."
Creon shook his head.
Ridiculous. Utterly insane…
"I'm no hysterical young romantic," he said. "If that's what you're looking for, search elsewhere."
"No, Creon. We don't need-or want-a romantic young twit. Whoever does this will need to understand what he is doing, appreciate why he is doing it, and whom he is doing it for."
"Oedipus would've leaped at the chance," Creon murmured to himself.
"Yes. But he's dead. And, even were he still alive, you would still be the better choice."
"Because you're stronger than he was, Creon."
"How do you know?" Creon challenged him. "You didn't know Oedipus, and you don't know me. He was the one who killed the Sphinx. Not I."
"But we're not trying to kill a Sphinx. We're talking about bringing the Gods to justice, and that is something he would never be able to do. As for my knowledge of you…"
The old man laughed a little.
"I saw you," he said. "Thousands of years before your birth, I saw you. I can trust you to keep your feet firmly upon the ground, to keep a steady head, no matter what happens. That particular strength of yours will be important. This armband will to strange things to the man who puts it on."
"What will it do?"
"It will make you like them, Creon. You will be immortal and ageless; you will be gifted as no Mortal has ever been gifted before. My Sight tells me this. But it tells me other things too, terrible things…"
"So it's not going to be all beer and skittles, eh?"
"No, Creon. If you put this armband on, you will know only grief and madness. Yet, I must ask you to do this. There is no one else who can."
Creon sat there, deep in thought. After a minute, he looked up at the old man.
"What of them?" he raised his eyes skyward. "If I do this, what will the fate of the Gods be?"
"You shall destroy them, setting all of us humans free for the first time in our history. But the destruction of the Gods shall wound the Earth, sending humanity back into the savagery from whence the Gods lifted us."
What a choice! Creon thought. Abject slavery or complete destruction. Is there no other path?
"No, Creon," the old man replied. "There is no other path. So…are you strong enough for this?"
"I don't know," the King stared into the fire.
He said I would know only grief and madness…
"Are you afraid?" the old man asked.
"Yes!" Creon retorted. "Wouldn't you be frightened?"
"Yes. I would. Creon, there is no choice. Either we bring the Gods down, or we allow them to continue tormenting us."
The King sat there, listening to the old man's words.
"We have but one path to freedom," the old man continued. "But it requires one man to take the plunge, one man to dare what no man has ever dared before."
Creon stared at the fire in the fireplace, chilled to the bone.
"I'll be immortal?" he asked.
Creon shivered at the notion. The idea of living thousands of years was strangely repellant.
"If I do this," Creon spoke. "How long will I live?"
"Maybe eight or ten thousand years," the old man's words stunned the King into silence.
Dear God…eight or ten thousand years?
Creon shivered at the thought of it. Then, abruptly, he found himself thinking of Antigone, what she would've done in this situation…
How can I refuse? He thought. Oh, but I do not want to do this…
Brushing still-damp hair out of his eyes, he stared at the armband lying innocently on its silken cushion.
"All right," he said. "What do you want me to do?"
"Roll up your right sleeve," the old man instructed, lifting the armband reverently from its silken resting-place. "Bear in mind that I have no idea what doing this will do to you. It could hurt like all the fires of hell for all I know."
"Then, let's get it over with!" Creon rolled his right sleeve up. The old man caught the King's right hand in a firm grip, slipping the armband onto Creon's wrist. It snapped onto the King's wrist as if it had been made expressly for him. Then, right in front of Creon's eyes, the armband seemed to morph, as it…melted…melted into his flesh, into his blood and bones.
Creon stared at his arm, more than a little frightened. A burning sensation began in his hand, slowly coursing up and down his arm, moving ever onward until he felt the burning all through his body. Then, as the shivering began, he felt the old man's arms go around him, gently easing him to the carpeted floor…
A timeless interval later, Creon's head cleared and he found himself lying on the floor. The old man was leaning over him, taking his pulse, concern plain on his features.
"You okay?" the old man asked him
Creon sat up slowly. He felt okay. Except for the buzzing in his head…
It's done now. There's no turning back…
"I'm fine," he reassured the old man as he got to his feet. "I'd better go back now. I'm sure everyone must be looking for me by now."
Yes," the old man said. "They are; and they're getting rather frantic about it."
"If we don't meet again," he said. "My thanks to you."
"And mine to you," the old man, likewise, clambered to his feet. He spoke again, just before Creon stepped out into the wind and rain.
"In the end, Creon, whatever we lose in the coming destruction, we will gain back. All that we have now, we will take back, and more as well. We will earn it all, by the sweat and labor of our hands and minds. In the end, we shall own this world. When things are darkest for you, remember my words and be comforted by them. Because of you, Man will fly on a far distant day."
Walking back in the rain, getting drenched all over again, Creon made his way back to the Palace. His right arm hurt a little, hot flashes that shot down to his fingers. The pain was fading even as he walked to the Palace. The buzzing in his head was another matter entirely. He could almost detect voices in that buzzing noise…
What have I done to myself?
"Chief! Where the hell have you been?"
Creon stopped, recognizing Private Jonas of the Palace Guard.
"Ah…Private Jonas. What are you doing out in this rain?"
"We're all looking for you, Chief. What're you doing out here? An assassin could've killed you real quick out here."
Creon waved the thought aside, having more important matters to discuss.
"Could you do a special favor for me, Private Jonas?"
"Sure, Chief! Anything you want, just ask me!"
"I want some explosives. Grenades, I think. And a handgun, too…"
Jonas stared at his King, puzzlement clear on his features.
"What for, Chief?"
"Never you mind, Jonas. Can you get what I asked for?"
"Sure, Chief. But people are gonna to start asking questions. What do I tell them?"
"I've discovered a threat to all of Thebes," Creon replied. It was true, in a way…
"Uh…" Jonas was obviously trying to understand.
"Never mind, Jonas," Creon spoke gently. "Just get what I ordered, and leave the rest to me."
Jonas escorted him back to the Palace. Once there, Creon was greeted with a frenzy of activity he had only ever seen once before; on the day Oedipus had put out his eyes…
People milled around him, asking him how he felt, stepping around him as if he were made of porcelain, and might shatter at the slightest touch…
Finally, Creon had enough of it…
"I'm fine!" he roared at all the servants. "Now get out!"
"Does that include me?" Charlie Marsh stood just inside the door, arms folded across his chest.
Marsh looked Creon over, feeling alarmed somehow. The King looked very bedraggled indeed, wet hair dripping into his eyes, soaked to the skin, as he was, by the night's rain. He was rubbing his right wrist in an absent-minded sort of way…
"You know, Creon, if you wanted to take a walk, you could've let me know."
"You were asleep."
"You could've woken me up," Marsh lit a cigarette. "The whole Palace was in an uproar. What have you done?"
"I?" Creon gazed back at him blandly. "What makes you think I've done anything?
"No games, Creon. You're not the kind of guy to go out tramping in a rainstorm. What did you do?"
"All I did was get wet," the King's voice was infuriatingly reasonable. "I needed to be by myself for a while."
"Creon, I know you're grieving, but-"
"Yes. I'm grieving," Creon cut him off. "But I'm also King of Thebes. I can't simply surrender to my feelings."
"Why not?" Marsh demanded. "If anyone has the right to weep now, it's you. Why not allow yourself some time to grieve? You're a King; not a robot."
"But there are things I must do first," Creon spoke quietly enough that Marsh could barely hear him.
Just then, there was a knock on the door to the King's office, announcing the presence of Jonas, carrying a duffel bag. Creon glanced once at Marsh. The meaning behind that glance was clear. Creon wanted to be alone with Jonas. Feeling profoundly uneasy, Marsh stepped out into the hall and closed the door.
"Did you get it all? Creon turned to Jonas.
"Yes, Chief," Jonas held up the duffel bag. "And a fine dance I had to do just to get it all. Are you sure you're right, Chief?"
"Yes," Creon took the duffel bag. "You may go now. Don't tell anyone. Not even Charlie."
"Is he the one, Chief? If he is, I'll-"
"No," Creon spoke reassuringly. "He's as loyal as you are, and a good friend as well. But neither of you can do what needs to be done…"
He fell silent, clutching the duffel bag. The buzzing in his head had finally become understandable words, and they terrified him.
Does this respected individual wish for anything? Does this respected individual require transport?
"You okay, Chief?" Jonas's voice brought him back to himself.
"Ah…Yes," Creon collected his scattered wits. "You may go back to your duties. Remember; say nothing of this to anyone."
Jonas saluted, then left. Creon took the duffel bag into his bedroom, shivering as the buzzing voice inside his head continued to speak.
Please identify yourself to Central Control. Do you wish to return to Home Base?
Ignoring the voice in his head, Creon quickly changed into another pair of jeans, a dry shirt, and a denim jacket. Whatever was coming was probably already on its way, and he wanted to be ready for it, whatever it was. Opening the duffel bag, he found that Jonas had packed everything he had asked for. The handgun lay on top of a pile of grenades.
Thank you, Jonas…
Creon picked up the loaded gun, carefully putting it into one of his jacket pockets. He dealt similarly with the grenades.
Please identify yourself to Central Control…
Creon looked up at the ceiling. They'd be here soon. He knew it…
"Creon?" Marsh stood in the doorway, concern in his eyes. "What did you do?"
Creon sighed ruefully. This was going to take some explaining…
Arnold Evans returned to HQ in a rather unsettled frame of mind. Something had disturbed Olympos a scant hour ago. Several shuttlecraft had set out; there had been something in their movements that strongly suggested that Olympos had gone into Red Alert…
Having already seen what the Olympians were capable of, Evan decided that he really didn't need, or want, to know what might actually frighten the Gods of Olympos.
"Did you see them?" Catherine Marsh, Charlie's sister, ran up to Evans as he stepped off the boat.
"Yes," he wrapped his arms around her, grateful to have someone to hold on to while he shivered...
"Does anyone know what set them off?"
"No," Catherine's eyes were filled with worry. "I've been trying to raise Charlie on the Comm. He hasn't reported in since…that day."
It was supposed to be a wedding. Now, Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice are all dead. Why doesn't Charlie answer his Comm? Did the Gods kill him too?
"Try again," he said to Catherine. "If Charlie doesn't respond, we'll go to Thebes ourselves, and drag him out by an ear if we have to."
"You think the Gods are angry at Thebes?"
"They must be," Evans was at a loss to explain why, but the fact of their anger seemed to be plain enough.
"Just keep on trying to get Charlie on the Comm. If he answers, tell him to go to Corinth. I don't think it's safe to be in Thebes anymore."
He turned to go back to the boat. Catherine grabbed his arm.
"Where are you going?"
"Back to the Pyramid," he replied. "I'll be keeping my Comm open. Any news at all, you report it to me immediately. Got it?"
"Yes," Catherine watched as Evans climbed back into the boat.
Evans started the motor again, overwhelmed by a feeling of impending doom.
"You did…what?" Charlie Marsh stared at Creon in amazement. "You put that thing on your wrist?"
As he spoke, he grabbed Creon's right hand, pushing the sleeve back to inspect the wrist for anything out of the ordinary. Creon's wrist seemed unharmed, maybe a little warmer than normal, but fine otherwise…
"This blind guy told you it used to belong to Prometheus?"
"Yes" Creon pulled his sleeve back down. "That's what he said. So, I put it on, and it sort of…melted…into my skin."
"It…melted…into you?" Marsh was utterly horrified.
Creon has biotech in his blood now…
"Creon," he said. "Do you have any idea what you've done to yourself?"
"I didn't have any choice," Creon began, but Marsh cut him off.
"Of course you had a choice! Creon, this could kill you!"
"I know what the risks are," Creon said stiffly. "Someone had to do this. Someone had to take the risk."
Creon closed his eyes, sighed deeply.
"Charlie," he spoke quietly. "I need to ask a favor of you."
"What is it?" Marsh felt an almost frantic sense of worry over Creon. This was completely suicidal…
"Ismene," Creon replied. "If anything does happen to me, take her away from here. Take her to your America, if you can. Don't let the Gods hurt her. Please do that for me."
Marsh sighed, closing his eyes. Then, he opened his eyes again.
"All right, Creon," he said. "If anything happens to you, I promise I'll take care of Ismene to the best of my abilities. Happy now?"
Presently, both men became aware of a low rumbling sound. Creon turned to a window, listening, as the sound grew louder. People began screaming in terror outside. The King ran out of his office, followed by Marsh. They both ran down halls and stairs, until they came to the Palace Courtyard…
Oh, shit… Marsh thought as he looked up at the sky. It was full of hovering shuttlecraft. They hung there, between earth and sky, and Marsh knew they were all in deadly danger.
Just one of those could reduce Thebes to smoking rubble without raising a sweat…
The King, alone among the Thebans, remained calm and unafraid, staring up at the shuttlecraft with an almost serene expression. When a figure appeared, in a great blaze of light, not ten feet away from Creon, he seemed unsurprised.
Marsh, however, felt more than a touch of fear. It was Apollo. Again…
Marsh began to move forward, ready to stand next to Creon in the face of this new threat, but the King's voice stopped him.
"No, Charlie. Remain where you are."
Creon turned to face the God.
"Well, Apollo," he said. "We're all here. What do you wish of us?"
"You," the God stepped forward, taking the King's arm in a firm grip. As he moved, there was another flare of light. When it faded away, Apollo was gone, along with Creon. The shuttlecraft began to move, floating upward, hurtling off into the distance…
Marsh stood there, staring up at the sky. Then, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Recollecting himself, he found himself staring into the Messenger's pale eyes.
"What do we do?" the Messenger asked, terror in his voice.
"We wait," Marsh turned to head back inside the Palace. Remembering the promise he'd made to Creon, he added. "In the meantime, please get Ismene. Bring her to the King's office."
Creon found himself in one of the shuttlecraft, shoved, none too gently, into a padded seat, and firmly strapped down. Of course, he had no idea that the straps were seat belts. The whole experience was like nothing he had ever experienced before.
Sitting there, feeling just a touch queasy, he looked out a window, watching as the ground sped away below. Keeping his fear hidden was more difficult than usual this time. He'd never been up in the air like this before. Flight was a thing that belonged to the Gods alone…
This is what it feels like to fly. The old man said we would fly like this one day. I'll never see it…
He turned his gaze from the window; the speed with which the ground was passing underneath was beginning to make him feel faintly nauseous. He concentrated on the buzzing in his head, hoping to keep the Gods from realizing that he had done what he had done. If the Gods found out, all would be lost.
If they don't know, I can't let carelessness betray me…
The shuttlecraft hurtled on, the ocean a blur below. Something, a mere dot at first, appeared in the front windshield. The dot expanded, resolved itself into a gigantic floating pyramid. Larger than mountains, there was no mistaking its identity…
Olympos…Creon's mouth went dry. They're taking me to Olympos…
This is Central Control…
That was the buzzing voice in his head. Keeping his features still, Creon listened to the exchange…
Please come in, Celestial One. What is your wish?
When the craft have berthed, here it was unmistakably Apollo's voice; I will want matter transport for my prisoner and myself.
As you wish, Most Noble One.
The shuttlecraft approached Olympos, heading for an entry that was opening up, as if to receive the incoming vehicle. As the shuttlecraft began to enter the space, Creon could see that the space within was huge, larger than the entire Palace and all its grounds.
That's just the Shuttle Bay, Creon thought, beginning to feel despair. How could anyone fight the Gods? Was there even a slim chance of winning?
Then, he heard Apollo's voice in his head, speaking to Central Control.
Transport us now.
At once, Most Noble One.
Just an eye blink later, Creon found himself in a room the size of the Palace Courtyard. Apollo took the King's arm in a painful grip.
"This way, Mortal Man," the God guided Creon off the transport platform, the King wincing as Apollo's fingers bit into his shoulder.
"Where are we going?" he asked Apollo.
"You are to be judged by the Father."
Zeus himself, Creon thought. I must really have upset the applecart…
"What have I done?" he asked.
"The Father will tell you, Mortal Man. Were it up to me, I would kill you now, and have done with it. Your guilt is self-evident to all. But the Father wishes to speak with you before he orders your death. Be honored, Mortal. Few are the mortal men he has spoken to."
Unlike mortal women…
The stories about Zeus and his women were legion, but something told Creon it would be very unwise to bring that up…
Then, they were there; in what was undeniably the Throne Room. Done all in white, with accents of gold, with a diamond for the throne, it was incredibly vast. The Royal Palace could've been tucked into a corner without any inconvenience. Creon felt like a gnat, until he reminded himself that this was obviously the intention in the Throne Room's design. Realizing that, oddly enough, made him feel more immune to any attempts to overawe him. Instead, he focused his attention on the inhabitants, thronging in their thousands, to witness their King pass judgment on one lowly mortal.
It was more difficult not to feel awe at the sight of them. Even the least among them towered over Creon, and he was accounted a tall man among his people. Male and female, they all glowed with the radiance of the sun, making it impossible for him to tell what they really looked like; making it impossible to see anything clearly at all…
If only I had been able to bring a pair of sun glasses with me…
Apollo continued to lead him to the diamond throne, and Creon tried to peer through the radiance, tried to see the entity hidden in that blaze of light.
Then, Apollo stepping behind Creon slammed him to the ground, knocking the breath out of his lungs.
"Kneel, Mortal Man! You are here, before the King of heaven and Earth. This is HE who summons the Storm and the Lightning. He holds your life in his hands, and you will obey him."
Creon tried to pull himself back together. As he climbed to his knees, he heard another voice, far deeper than Apollo's.
"Don't be offended, Beloved Son. Let him stand, if he wishes. You, Creon of Thebes, you may face me if you desire."
Creon slowly pulled himself back to his feet, rubbing his right arm thoughtfully. Warily, he stared at Zeus.
"You wanted to see me?" he asked.
"I summoned you," Zeus agreed. "Now, Creon of Thebes, what's the matter with you?"
"Antigone," Creon replied immediately. "Haemon and Eurydice. That's what's wrong with me."
"Ah… your Moira. Tell me, why is it so hard to obey your Moira?"
"If I had obeyed my Moira, I would've been guilty of a great crime."
"So?" Zeus didn't get the problem. "It was your Moira."
"And what of my responsibility as King? If I am to enjoy the power of Kingship, then I must also accept the responsibility that goes with it. In all that I do, I have the duty of setting a proper example for the people of Thebes. Refusing to bury Polynices would've been a grave sin against your laws. Killing Antigone because of her burying Polynices would've been yet another violation of your laws. If I had done either of those things, I would've been deserving of any punishment you could think of, because I would've been in violation of your most basic Moral Laws. Am I not right?
Zeus clapped his hands in something akin to glee.
"Beware," he rumbled to his companions. "We have brought a little lawyer into our midst. Well, Little Lawyer, say that I agree with you; say that leaving Polynices out to rot, and killing Antigone for disobeying you, would've been a grave crime. What of it? That was your Moira, your Fate. No man may ever be allowed to evade his Moira."
"Why?" Creon fought to keep the trembling out of his voice. "Where are the laws of Morality that you have given us? Where is Right and Wrong? How may a man be expected to live a moral life under these conditions?"
"Morality," Zeus scoffed. "The only LAW is to obey us. Without hesitation, without reservation. If I tell you to strangle Ismene, then it is moral for you to do so, and a crime for you to refuse."
Creon stared up at Zeus, finally understanding everything.
"It's all politics," he said. "You predict these terrible things, try to make certain that the things you predicted come true, so you can point at us and say, See? I told you so! You turn it all into a Morality Play intended to keep the people in their places. And you must never be wrong, unless the people stop fearing you. That's why you're judging me. Because I didn't do what you said I would; because you were wrong about-"
Something struck Creon then, flinging him to the floor. He lay where he had fallen, head reeling, ears ringing…
Zeus struck me…
It didn't really matter anymore. He was going to die soon; he knew that now. But, now, he knew what he had to do. Pulling himself to his hands and knees, he paid careful attention to the buzzing voice in his head…
What does this respected individual require?
A map of this place would be nice, Creon thought.
Where do you wish to go?
A schematic of Olympos flashed upon Creon's inner eye at lightning fast speed. In seconds, he knew where everything was.
Take me to Engineering.
At once, Most Noble One.
It hadn't occurred to the Gods that Creon had their technology in his blood, until now. Zeus rose from his throne, raising a hand. Creon, still kneeling, smiled at them. Then, he disappeared.
Engineering was a vast complex, but the schematic had shown him everything; including something called a reactor core, and-now-Creon knew what he had to do. As the alarms went off, the King carefully made his way to the reactor core, grateful for all the grenades in his pockets. Luck was still with him, although he knew it couldn't last. Judging by the voices in his head-like radio, he decided-they knew where he had gone…
Let there be enough time, he prayed.
There was the vent! If he dropped the grenades into the vent, when they exploded, they would trigger something called a chain reaction.
That sounded promising. Working quickly, he emptied his pockets, dropping each grenade, properly primed, into the vent.
There! They can kill me now if they wish…
Getting back to his feet, the handgun clenched between his fingers, Creon began to move away from the vent. Turning a corner, he almost walked right into Apollo. They simply stared at each other for a stunned second. Then, Apollo moved, raising a hand. Creon didn't bother with the gun. Death was a certainty now, and he had no wish to evade it. The energy-bolt that flew from Apollo's fingers struck him squarely in the chest.
Creon had had the time to look Death in the face, to prepare for it, for the agony that was sure to accompany it. There wasn't much pain after the initial blast of agony. There was some pain, and it was hard to breathe, but not the rending agony he had been expecting. He knew he lay sprawled, face down on the floor, gun still clenched between his fingers, but he could scarcely feel his arms and legs. Tasting coppery redness at the back of his throat, he knew he was dying, and there was a measure of relief in this knowledge…
He sensed someone standing over him. Apollo…
He felt the God's hand take the gun from his fingers, and he felt Apollo's hands shove him over onto his back, sending shivers of agony coursing through his body. Blinking, trying to focus his eyes, he saw the God glaring down upon him.
"Whatever you were trying to do, Creon of Thebes," Apollo said. "You have failed. You shall die knowing this."
That was when the grenades exploded, causing everything around them to shudder. Creon smiled. Now, it was beginning to hurt…
"No," he whispered. "I will die knowing I have succeeded…"
They both could hear it in their heads.
Attention! The Reactor Core has been breached. Chain reaction is imminent, occurring in thirty seconds…twenty-nine seconds…twenty-eight seconds…
Muttering curses, Apollo leapt away, leaving Creon to die alone. He rather regretted dying on Olympos.
Thebes is my home.
Does this respected individual require transport?
Yes. I want to die in Thebes…
Creon didn't hear the response. The darkness that descended upon him was too swift, too final…
Charlie Marsh was alone in Creon's office. He knew the King was in mortal peril, but there wasn't anything he could do to help.
Except for keeping my promise to Creon.
Of course, that would carry its own measure of complications.
Arnie is going to kill me…
The sound of approaching footsteps brought him around to see the Messenger enter the office, accompanied by Ismene.
"What happened to Creon?" Ismene asked Marsh.
"It looks like the Gods took him for a ride," Marsh spoke gently.
"Could they kill him?"
Marsh wanted to say no, to keep her from worrying needlessly. But he was fairly certain that death was what the Gods had in mind for the King. Before he could answer, there was a knock at the office door; Private Jonas peered around the door, a questioning expression in his eyes. He entered at Marsh's nod, closing the door quietly behind him.
"What happened to the Chief?" he asked Marsh.
"The Gods took him to Olympos. It doesn't look good right now."
"So they could kill him?" Ismene asked again.
"Yes, I'm sorry, Ismene. That's probably why they took him."
"But why?" Ismene was horrified. "What reason could they have?"
That armband, Marsh thought. That might be reason enough…
Jonas snorted, causing all eyes to focus on him.
"It looks like the Chief was right all along," he said.
"Right?" the Messenger tilted his head. "Right about what?"
"About them," Jonas explained. "That's why he wanted those grenades, and the gun too."
"Grenades?" Marsh was stunned. "He wanted grenades?"
This was so totally out of character that Marsh couldn't believe it. Creon, armed with explosives… If the idea hadn't been so terrifying, it would've been hysterically funny. But, now Marsh knew what Creon had intended to do, and it filled him with grief for the life he now knew was lost, one way or another…
"Why would my Uncle want grenades?" Ismene was curious.
Marsh raised his head, eyes filled with grief.
"To destroy Olympos," he spoke quietly. "To bring the Gods down."
Arnold Evans sat there in his boat, the waves gently lapping all about him. Catherine Marsh had Commed Charlie one more time, getting nothing in the way of a response.
I'll go down to Thebes tomorrow, and bring him out myself, Evans thought to himself. Then, I'll kick his ass all the way home for making his sister worry…
The shuttlecraft had all returned to Olympos, and careful triangulation confirmed that they had returned from Thebes. That was rather worrying…
Charlie could be dead…
His Comm beeped. Sighing, Evans picked it up, spoke into it.
"Evans here. What's up?"
"Adams here. Get out of there, Arnie. Now!"
"What's wrong?" Evans was puzzled. "Everything seems fine."
"Long range scanners have picked up internal explosions inside the Pyramid. The reactor core's been breached; she's going to blow."
Internal explosions? How? Why?
Evans looked up at Olympos. It was listing off slightly to one side…
"Oh, my god…" Evans started the motor, sent his boat racing away, keeping a careful eye behind him on the Pyramid. Scores of small vessels broke away from Olympos, but it was already too late. The topmost spire exploded, swallowing the fleeing vessels in an incredible flash of heat, light, and sound. Now, Olympos was tilting in deadly earnest, ready to crash into the uninhabited island. Wind roaring in his ears, Evans Commed HQ…
"Olympos is going to crash into that island," he reported.
"Oh, crap…" Adams cursed. "You'd better listen to Dr. Raczil."
A few seconds later, another man's voice came over the Comm…
"Olympos is going to explode, with the force of a hundred Hiroshimas, over a site that is the critical juncture of one of the most extensive fault-line nexii I have ever seen. This will be an event with major geological repercussions for the whole world. As a further incitement for you to leave this area ASAP, I would also like to add that all life in your immediate vicinity is certain to be eradicated. Get out now."
Arnold Evans, Catherine Marsh, Jon Adams, and all the rest of the team, made it out barely in time, fleeing to an emergency base in Corinth. Thus, nobody was there to witness the final destruction…
When Olympos hit the island, all matter in the area was immediately vaporized, the ocean roiling; shock waves, and fire, flashing ever outward, to destroy everything that lay in its path. Further away, Mother Earth screamed in agony, venting her rage through earthquake, and volcanic eruption. Whole lands sank beneath the sea, even as mountains reared up, heaving cities off, like dogs shaking fleas off their backs, while other civilizations were choked by ash and fume.
The lucky ones, of course, were those nations who were closest, in distance, to Olympos. Those were destroyed instantly, rendered into bone and ash without even feeling a second of pain…
Thebes and Corinth, further away yet, had yet to feel the effects of the destruction. But it would come…
They all were sitting in Creon's office, Ismene, the Messenger, Private Jonas, and Charlie Marsh. A feeling of waiting lay over them all, and Marsh was beginning to dread what would come what the waiting was over. He got to his feet.
"Where are you going?" Jonas demanded.
"Out to the Courtyard," Marsh replied. "Want to keep me company?"
"Uh…sure," the two men walk outside to the Courtyard. Normally, there were at least a few people outside, even at this time of the night. The Courtyard was a famous trysting place, but not tonight. Everyone was at the Temple, praying the Gods would spare Creon. Jonas lit a cigarette, passed the pack to Marsh. He accepted one, lit it. Then, leaning against a wall, he closed his eyes.
"Creon's dead, isn't he?" he asked Jonas.
"Yep," Jonas exhaled a cloud of smoke. "He's dead."
Well…It's over for Creon, Marsh thought sadly. Now, I must keep my promise to him…
Marsh looked up then, just in time to see a brilliant light flare up. Ignoring Jonas' cry, he ran toward it, reaching the spot seconds after the light died away. A body lay where the light had been. Creon…
Marsh knelt by Creon's side. The other man was alive, barely. The right half of his shirt was sodden with blood, his chest scarcely moving.
Marsh glance up to see Jonas there, body stiff with shock.
"Come on!" he snapped at Jonas. "Help me!"
They gently lifted the unconscious man, carrying him, as quickly as they could, back into the Royal Palace, collecting scores of panicked servants in their wake. Carrying Creon to the nearest bedroom, Marsh left Private Jonas with the King, and the hastily summoned Doctor. He ran all the way back to the office. There, he had to stop, out of breath as he was. When the Messenger and Ismene saw him, leaning against a wall, they knew the news wasn't going to be good…
"How bad is it?" Ismene asked. "Is he alive?"
"It's bad, Ismene," Marsh took her hand. "He's in a downstairs bedroom."
"I want to see him!" Ismene was terrified; Marsh could see that.
If Creon dies, that'll be…what…eight family members lost in little over a year? No wonder she's scared. But I'll take care of her. I promised Creon I would.
It's all my fault anyway…
Holding her hand, Marsh escorted Ismene to the bedroom, followed by the Messenger. He found Jonas just outside the door.
"What happened?" Marsh strode forward. "Is he dead?"
"No," Jonas replied. "The doc said I was in the way."
The door opened just then, and a vigorous-looking man with salt-and-pepper hair and beard stepped out into the hall.
"The King's condition is critical," he said. "He has suffered a massive traumatic wound to the chest."
"Is he going to live?" Ismene asked the Doctor.
"No, Lady" the Doctor replied. "I will be very surprised if he survives the night."
"May I see him?"
"Yes, Lady; but only for a minute. He won't be aware of you anyway."
Ismene clutched Marsh's arm in a painful grip as he walked with her into the bedroom. Creon lay very still on the bed. He had been wrapped up in a plain dressing-robe that quite effectively hid all the gauze and bandages covering his torso. Marsh watched as Ismene approached the dying King, laying the gentlest of hands upon the man's forehead.
"Uncle Creon, it's me, Ismene. Can you hear me?"
Creon didn't respond, of course. Only the slight motions of his chest indicated he was alive at all. Ismene bent, kissing the unconscious man's forehead. Then, she gently pulled up the blankets, tucking them around Creon's shoulders. Then, she left the bedroom, the Messenger taking her back to her rooms. Marsh stayed behind, staring down at Creon. Finally, he bent down, taking Creon's right hand in his
"Be okay, Creon," he whispered into the King's ear. "Thebes still needs you; especially now. Come back to us."
There was nothing; not even the slightest fluttering of eyelashes…
He really is dying, then…
Creon found himself back in the Council-room, with no memory of how he got there…
Looking down at himself, he was rather surprised to find himself wearing jeans and a bloodstained shirt.
Whose blood is it? He wondered, remembering Antigone's death, how Apollo had struck her down…
"No, Uncle Creon," Antigone's voice brought him around. There she was, wearing her dark red gown. "It's not my blood. Don't you remember?"
"Ah… No…" Creon stared down at the monstrous bloodstain, then back up to Antigone.
"You don't remember being taken to Olympos?" Antigone asked him.
"Yes," Creon nodded. "That, I remember."
"Good. Whatever possessed you to do that anyway?"
Creon closed his eyes, feeling profoundly disoriented.
It's my blood, he realized. Am I dead?
"Well?" Antigone wanted an answer. "Why did you do it? Surely not for me…"
"Why not for you?" Creon demanded. "I did love you; even though you drove me crazy sometimes."
"But if Charlie hadn't given you that nightmare-"
"Yes!" Creon grabbed her by the shoulders. "If Charlie hadn't given me that dream, I would've done something terrible. I will always be grateful to him for that. But, now, I wonder if it would've made any difference. You're dead, Haemon is dead, and Eurydice is dead. The Gods saw to it that Good and Evil have the same reward. The Gods never wanted Justice. That's why I did it. For you, my son, my wife, even your mother and father. I feel so sorry for Oedipus now that I know how the Gods set him up to take the fall. And I did it for myself too… I'm not like Oedipus, able to take abuse and bless his tormentors. And Thebes…"
He fell silent, unable to continue.
I don't even know that I succeeded. If I didn't…
He shivered as he thought of how the Gods might punish Thebes for his failure.
Maybe it's a good thing to die now.
"Why is it good to die now?" Antigone asked him. "Are you afraid of the future?"
"Antigone…" the King replied."I tried to destroy Olympos. If I failed…"
"You're afraid of what they might do to Thebes in retaliation."
"When I became King, I took a solemn oath to look after the welfare of the Theban people. I gave my word."
"Yes. You did. You swore to die for Thebes, if necessary. But I never expected you to take that vow so literally."
"Am I dead?"
"I don't know," Antigone shrugged. "If that old blind man is right, I'd say no. Didn't he say you'd live about eight to ten thousand years?"
"Dear God," Creon muttered. "I hope not."
"Why not?" Antigone was curious. "What's wrong with long life?"
"This isn't long life. Long life is living past seventy. This is immortality, and that's an entirely different kettle of fish. I don't want to live that long. It's too long for a human being to live. All my family and friends will be dead, and I will be alone. I don't want to be alone like that."
"You won't be alone," Antigone assured him. "I won't let you be alone in the dark like that. I promise you that."
Arnold Evans hadn't gotten any sleep the night of the destruction of Olympos. After the explosion, they had sent a remote-operated scan-droid into the area. The island was gone; totally annihilated. New minted volcanoes were busy sending ash into the sky, spewing lava out in all directions…
Soon, Corinth and Thebes will start feeling the effects of this…
Downing the last of his cold coffee, Evans made his way to the D-Door Gate. Catherine Marsh was already there, getting ready to go to Thebes. The D-Door stood open, ready to be used. Catherine, standing before the Gate, heaved a sigh of relief when she saw Evans was going with her.
"Charlie's very stubborn," she said. "He might not want to leave; if he's alive, that is…"
"Relax," Evens hugged her, holding her tightly. "Charlie's fine. The only threat in his future is the ass-kicking he's going to get from me for not reporting in regularly."
In spite of herself, Catherine smiled. She was beginning to realize she loved Arnold Evans very much.
"Let's go get my brother," she said.
Minutes later, they found themselves just outside Thebes. It was strangely silent there, as if the entire City was holding its collective breath.
"What happened here?" Evans wondered.
"I don't know," Catherine replied. "Something bad, I'd say."
Seemingly the entire population of Thebes was gathered in front of the Royal Palace, and Evans realized he and Catherine would never make it inside. Then, he noticed one of the Palace Guards walking away from the crowd. The two visitors followed him to a secluded spot, walking up to him as he lit a cigarette. The Guard looked up as they approached him, blunt features filled with suspicion.
"What are you two doing here?" he asked
"Well…" Evans kept his tone polite. "We're looking for a friend who might live here. His name is Charlie Marsh."
The Guard stared at him, and Evans could see how haggard the other man looked.
What happened here?
"Look," the Guard said. "I'm Private Jonas. Who the hell are you guys?"
"I'm Arnold Evans, and this is Catherine Marsh, Charlie's sister. Is Charlie here? Is he all right?"
"Yeah, he's fine" Jonas replied. "He's at the Palace, sitting Vigil for the King."
"That would be Creon, right?" Evans asked. "What happened to him?"
"The Gods struck him down yesterday afternoon."
Evans and Catherine exchanged glances; the timing was entirely too coincidental…
"Please, Private Jonas!" Catherine implored him. "Would you please take me to my brother?"
"All right," Jonas grumbled. "No need to bat those baby blues at me. Come on."
After stubbing out his cigarette, Jonas led them back to the Palace, pushing through the mob. As they walked, Evans and Catherine spoke quietly.
"Kate," Evans was worried. "Yesterday was when the Pyramid was destroyed."
"Yes," Catherine's voice was thoughtful. "I wonder if Creon was involved."
"Creon? What makes you think he had anything to do with it?"
"The myths, Arnie. How they were supposed to turn out, as opposed to how they actually did turn out. Put yourself in Creon's place. How would you feel if it happened to you? Wouldn't you be tempted to do something…crazy?"
Yes," Evans objected. "But our history is vastly different from Creon's history. We have our histories of empires and democracies to inform us. We have had hundreds, if not thousands, of years of relative freedom, and hundreds of examples of successful rebellions to let us know how to steer clear of tyranny. Even so, we're not always as successful as we'd like to believe we are."
He sighed, and then continued.
"The people of Creon's era have probably never known freedom of that kind. These Gods very likely were the very ones who raised humanity to sentience. Certainly, they were there from the very beginning of our sentience, so even if they weren't the ones who made us sentient, they definitely were the ones who gave us our first laws. You don't just rebel under conditions like that. It would take a truly exceptional individual to do that."
"And Creon might just be as exceptional as that." Catherine replied. "Charlie's reports certainly indicated that Creon was a man far ahead of his time. For one thing, he has proven that he has strong beliefs in the Rule of Law. He was one of the first Kings ever to emphasize morality and rightness of actions. This in an era where most Kings ruled by force of arms, from a position of strength. Creon also took the exceptional step of binding himself to his own laws. It was absolutely unheard of that a King should do so; a given that Kings were a step above everyone else. But Creon obviously felt that everyone should obey the Law. What if Creon expected the Gods to obey the laws too?"
"He'd be in for one hell of a disappointment," Evans commented. "Zeus committed adultery with I don't know how many women. And some of those incidences were probably closer to rape than anything else…"
"Yes," Catherine said. "So we come to that Wedding Day. Apollo struts into the Temple, kills the Bride, and then walks out again, as pretty as you please. Make no mistake about it; that was murder, plain and simple. Maybe, with the deaths of his wife and son following so quickly, Creon had a breakdown. Whatever the cause, the Gods had pushed Creon into a corner, and he struck back in the only way he could. I would like to meet him, I think."
"Me, too," Evans put an arm around her shoulders as they entered the Palace. Eventually, they made their way to the bedroom where the King lay. Evans watched as Catherine passed her gaze over the man in the bed. He was still in a coma, his breathing shallow. Then, she turned her head to look at the man sitting by the bed, head bowed in exhaustion.
"Charlie?" she said.
The man lifted his head, staring at her blankly. Then his eyes widened…
"Cathy?" Marsh turned his head to see Evans.
"Arnie? What are you doing here?"
"We're here to take you home," Evans said.
"Why? What happened?"
"Olympos had a reactor core breach, causing a nuclear explosion over a site of major geological instability. Civilization as these people know it is going to go down the tubes."
Before Marsh could respond, his sister approached the King's bed.
"Is that Creon?" she asked.
"Yes," Marsh nodded.
"What happened to him?" Catherine bent over the comatose man.
"A God apparently struck him down. I think it was a beam weapon of some type."
"Apparently? You think? Where, exactly did this happen?" Evans put in.
"They took him to Olympos."
"He was there when it happened?"
"He smuggled some grenades aboard," Marsh looked a little shame-faced about it, as if it were all his fault somehow…
"Oh god…" as Evans tried to think, Catherine checked Creon out carefully, opening the bandages to peer at the wound.
"He was wounded yesterday afternoon?" she asked her brother.
"Yes. What are his chances, Cathy?"
"I don't know. The wound looks like it happened about a week ago, not yesterday. But, even if he doesn't die of this, his days are numbered anyway. Thebes, and Corinth too, should be experiencing the effects of Olympos' destruction in only a very few days. We have to go now."
Marsh got to his feet, walked to the door, and spoke to Private Jonas for a moment or two. Then, he turned back to his friends, an uncomfortable look in his eyes.
"Arnie," he said. "I've done something incredibly stupid."
His words triggered a feeling of immense unease in the two visitors.
"Okay, Charlie," Evans fixed him with an intense gaze. "What have you done?"
"Just before I came here, I stole a Dreamcast Device."
"You did what?" collecting himself, Evans continued. "Did you…use…it?"
"Yes," Marsh nodded toward the King. "On him. I made him dream what would've happened if he hadn't buried Polynices."
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the Dreamcast Device, handed it to Evans.
"I just wanted to change things," Marsh sighed. "Creon's a good man, and he would've made a great King. But the Gods…"
Marsh stopped, nearly in tears over it all, and Evans couldn't blame him.
The road to hell is paved with intentions such as this, he thought as he pocketed the Dreamcast Device. We can't help Thebes now, or Creon. Oh Charlie…
The bedroom door opened, and Private Jonas entered, followed by two women. Evans glanced at them, and then turned back to Marsh.
"What is this, Charlie?" he asked.
Marsh had the grace to look embarrassed.
"That's Ismene and her Nanny. They're going with us when we leave."
"I made Creon a promise, Arnie. I said that I would take care of Ismene if anything happened to him. I promised to take her away from here."
"Oh, crap…" Evans muttered. The possibility of temporal contamination had never occurred to any of them. It should have; they should have set up procedures…
But we didn't…
Well…The Change, however it had been brought about, had already occurred.
In for a Penny, in for a Pound…
"All right, Charlie," he spoke gently. Just Ismene and her Nanny, and we go now. Get your gear."
Late in the evening, Creon opened his eyes, vaguely surprised to find himself still alive. His chest burned with every breath he took, but he knew, now, that he wasn't going to die just yet. Someone was sitting by his bed…
"Charlie?" his voice came out a harsh croak.
"No, Chief," It was Private Jonas who leaned over him. "Charlie's friends came to take him home. They took Ismene and her Nanny too. How're you feeling?"
"Yeah, it would" Jonas paused. "Do you want anything? An extra pillow or something?"
"An extra pillow would be nice," Creon replied. A more upright position would probably make it less painful to breathe…
Jonas piled all the pillows behind the King's back.
"This okay, Chief?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you," it hurt a little more, but it was easier to breathe, and his head was clearing a little.
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Jonas went to answer it. The Messenger entered, his eyes on the King.
"You're awake!" he blurted.
"Yes," Creon looked up at the Messenger. "What's going on?"
"There's an old blind man here. He wants to see you. I told him I didn't know if you were awake yet, but-"
"Bring him here now," Creon commanded, pulling himself into a sitting position, wincing with every movement.
"Are you sure?" the Messenger hesitated.
"Yes. Bring him in."
The Messenger bowed himself out, returning a few minutes later with the visitor. The old man sat in the chair by the bed, laying a bony hand on the King's shoulder.
"How do you feel?" he asked Creon.
"I…" Creon paused. "It's done. I did it."
"I know," the old man replied. "Now, there is more you must do. You must lead your people out of Thebes, any who will follow you. The destruction is come upon us all, and you must leave now."
"Here now!" Jonas was outraged. "He almost died! He needs time to recover before he-"
"There is no time," the old man was firm. "Those who stay behind will die."
"It's all right, Jonas," Creon tried to find the strength to get out of bed. "It's time to pay the piper. Help me."
The trip back to 2023 AD was uneventful. Upon arrival, the first thing Arnold Evans did was check World History, to see if there were any changes…
To his surprise, he found it was completely unchanged; in every particular…
Charlie's acts, Creon's destruction of Olympos, were all part of History, as it was supposed to happen…
That had been a terrifying realization.
What if Charlie hadn't done what he did? Would we still be slaves to ET tyrants? Is Charlie a hero? Is Creon a messiah?
Those were questions he couldn't answer. There was only one thing he knew for certain…
The myths, and the realities behind them, would have to be reevaluated most carefully.
The next several months had been spent in helping Ismene and her Nanny acclimate themselves to the new order of things. It was easier than it might have been. The care Charlie took in helping Ismene accommodate herself to her new situation was very touching to see.
In the end, nobody was really all that surprised when they got married about two years later.
All in all, Evans thought Creon would've been very happy to know of that…
Creon stood there, shivering in the cold. In the weeks after the destruction of Olympos, there had come a fall of ash, drifting into Thebes just like snow. Then, a few days after, the true snow had fallen. In high summer, it had fallen to cover seemingly the entire world.
Even as the snow had started to fall, Thebes had erupted, destroying itself from within, as the old blind man had said it would happen. Creon, obeying the old man's commands, had gathered those who were loyal to him, fleeing the destruction. It had galled him to do so; he had wanted to stay, to face the coming darkness on his own terms. But the old man had insisted…
"You must take care of those who need protection," he had said. "The King must tend to the living."
So, Creon forsook the City of his birth, leading any who would follow him away from death, away from destruction. Along the way, they picked up other survivors fleeing the destruction of their homes. It was happening exactly as the old man had said it would, and Creon was beginning to wonder if he would ever be able to bear the burden of guilt.
I caused this…
He stood there, at the edge of camp, standing ankle-deep in new-fallen snow, staring at nothing. People were dying out there, by the thousands, if not more, and it was all because of him…
He turned to see the Messenger running up to him, slipping a little on the snow and ice.
"The old blind man is ill," he said to the King. "The Doctor says he's dying."
Creon nodded, briefly envying the old man.
It's over for him, at least…
Shivering, Creon followed the Messenger back into the camp, they walked past rows of tents and campfires, coming finally to the tent set aside for the ill…
It was warm inside, braziers imparting much-needed heat. Creon made his way to one particular bed, his heart aching. The old man lay there, warmly wrapped in blankets, asleep, so it seemed. Jonas was sitting nearby, keeping watch over the old man as he slept. He got to his feet as the King approached.
"I think he's asleep, Chief," Jonas whispered.
Creon nodded, turned to Jonas and the Messenger.
"Leave us alone," he ordered the pair.
Sitting down, Creon bent over the old man, laying a hand atop the other's gnarled one.
"Is that you, Creon?" the old man's voice was scarcely a whisper.
"Yes," Creon fought to keep the trembling out of his voice. The old man looked so frail! "What's this I hear about you falling ill?"
"I'm dying, Creon."
"That's what the Doctor said. But he's been wrong before."
"Not this time. All that lives must eventually die. Someday, even you shall die."
"After eight to ten thousand years," Creon's voice was bitter. "I don't want to live that long, to be alone like that."
"We are always alone. That is the curse of being human," the old man caught the King's hand. "Do you regret what you did? Don't. Certainly people will suffer and die. But they suffered and died under the Gods, and for far less reason. From now on, whatever happens to us, for good or for ill, it will be that which we have done to ourselves. What good or evil there is shall be because of us. Not because of some entity wanting to make a point, or-even worse-suffering from boredom and wanting to play. And we will gain back everything we have lost. Charlie Marsh is living proof of that."
"Where do you think he comes from?"
"America," Creon replied. "That's what he called it."
"America lies in your future," the old man's words stunned Creon into silence. "Your friend came to you from the future, and he has taken Ismene into that future. She is safe from the Gods now, and shall always be safe from them. Is that not worth the price you have paid?"
Creon bowed his head for a moment. Then, he lifted his head.
"Have you seen my death?" he asked. "Do you know where it will happen?"
The old man patted the King's hand.
"I have seen nothing," he sighed.
Creon closed his eyes, feeling tears squeeze out beneath the eyelids.
"Am I never to die?" he whispered. "Am I never to have peace?"
"You must Live," The old blind man's gaze was affectionate. "Be strong, and patient. In the end, you will have only your own strength to carry you through."
"I'm not that strong," Creon protested. "Nobody is."
"You will be. Creon, you will follow many crafts, many trades. But your greatest calling will be that of Teacher. You will keep the cause of learning alive in this terrible Age. And, you will be loved…"
The old man's voice faded into silence as he fell asleep. Creon sat there, holding the old man's hand. An hour passed. Then, the King became aware of a new stillness in the other man. Creon bent over him, checking his breathing. He wasn't breathing…
The King lifted one of the blankets, drawing it over the old man, hiding his friend's face from sight.
Goodbye, old friend. I will miss you.
Bowing his head, Creon wept silently…