In a place beyond places, where the gods of Olympus dwell, the adopted outsider was not happy. Traveling without moving, she came to the Cloud-Gatherer to vent her frustration.
“How can you call this fair? Where is your sense of justice?”
Zeus regarded Sekhmet. “Justice,” he said, “is a human concept. Is it fair, when an electron absorbs a passing photon and abandons its orbit to fly free? Is it justice, when a free electron emits such a piece of light, and falls into orbit around a proton? Is it unfair for the pressure inside a star to crush hydrogen into helium?”
If she had a body with eyes, they would have flashed angrily at that. “We are not particles, and neither is my son. My son of a few weeks experience will do battle against the champion of a million wars. I ask you again, if that fair?”
“I cannot overrule Ouranos, a Fifth Quantum. You know that, Lady of Dread. And this situation is partly your own doing. If you and Machaon had followed orders...” There was no need to state the obvious.
Yes, she thought. We were supposed to be enemies. “If I had followed orders your own great-grandson might have died. Is that what you really wanted?”
He shook his head, amused. “Of course not. Humanity deserves better than to be turned into mere servants of your Children of Nuit. I won't pretend that I want that. I merely point out that if you had followed the course Atum set for you, no matter what the outcome, you would have had no Alexanor to worry about.”
“I fell in love,” she muttered. “I won't apologize for that.” But what was so special about Machaon? she asked herself. I've fought Covenant matches before, and I never flinched from doing what was needed to ensure the victory of Atum's faction.
But something was different this time. From the first time she had seen him, hammering away at that sword in the forge in Damascus, she had felt strangely drawn to the son of Asklepios and Darla Kaplan. As if I had known him before. Her reaction had surprised her. It had been a long time since she had felt anything comparable to it. It had reminded her of the bond she had shared with Goras, her mate, he who had died before their species Transcended. Goras, who had died defending her and the eggs from the Eater of Trees.
The gods exist as pure Mind. They need no bodies such as ours, though they can appear as such if they wish. If she had shoulders, Zeus would have laid his hands on them. “I don't want you to apologize for love,” he said gently. “Ever. If there is anything the gods need to remember from their mortal lives, it's love. Without that, we're nothing but soulless ghosts.”
He gazed out and “down” at the world of mortals, that spinning blue marble that was the place of his own birth. “I think Atum has forgotten that,” he said. “But I won't. I can't. Cronus made me to protect a world he loved. Without love…I would not even exist.”
He turned back to regard her. “And he gave up everything for it. I am not going to let his sacrifice be in vain.”
“But how can Alexanor win? Set is older, stronger, and smarter than him. He has millions of times more experience. How can my son hope to defeat him?”
If a god can have eyes, his eyes held hers. “Do you trust me?”
Yes, I do. How does he do that? “Yes. But what do you know that I do not? Can a Second Quantum see the future?” Impossible! If that were true, then Atum would see it too. And he never would have agreed to this match being winner-take-all if he saw that his champion Set would lose.
“No,” he admitted. “We can see possible scenarios, likely outcomes. Not certainties. But I believe that your son will defeat the god of Chaos.”
“How?” she begged. “How can you be so sure? Help me believe, too. Please!”
“He will win,” Zeus told her, “because I still believe in love.”
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