That's A Boy's Name
‘Zeus, eh? Suits you.’
Zeus smiled at the compliment. Anemoi had suited him fine, but his new name marked him as the leader of Olympus Squad.
Zeus, along with Apollo and Dionysus, were sitting in the My Lady Elizabeth’s Agent lounge. There was no bartender, as each agent was expected to serve themselves. There were two others in the lounge. Agent Pisces, the medic of Zodiac Squad, who was currently behind the bar making herself a daiquiri. And Agent Beretta, the only woman of Bullet Squad, was making conversation with the Olympus members.
‘So, got a new name, you getting your ship soon?’
Zeus rose his eyebrows.
‘In a moment,’ Beretta said with a smirk, earning a roll of the eyes from Pisces. ’Every squad gets their own cruiser. Arthur got the Excalibur, Aquarius got the Capricorn... Running theme with ship names, really. It should be on Titan right now.′
In response to the blank look from Apollo, Zeus explained.
‘Titan is the capital of humanity since we lost Earth.’
‘We lost Earth!?’
‘Oh, for God’s sake,’ Pisces said behind the bar. ‘Do your required reading, you moron!’
Zeus stood up, which Dionysus and Apollo mimicked. Almost on cue, the purple holographic woman appeared beside Beretta. She was in the same clothing Belle wore, with her hair tied back into a ponytail.
‘Agents Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo, please report to the hangar bay.’
‘Thank you, Scarlet,’ Zeus said. The hologram disappeared.
‘Have you ever noticed all the A.Is are women?’ Beretta said quietly.
Zeus led the way to the hangar bay.
Olympus lined up in the hangar bay in front of Zeus. The hangar bay had several Wyvern-class shuttles, and engineering personnel running back and forth to keep systems active. The ramp extended from one shuttle, and a young man walked down with a data-pad in his hand.
‘Everything’s in order, Agent Zeus, but I’m concerned about letting you fly it. You flew the last shuttle the entire trip in first gear.’
‘There were gears?’ Zeus said.
The engineer chuckled darkly, then walked over to Zeus.
‘The ship is at Titan Yard, an Anubis-class cruiser. It’s armed and armored with the basic package, which you can change on your credit. I’m worried you’re going to break the flight controls, so I recommend finding personnel on the planet. Would you like some recommendations?’
Zeus shook his head, and took the data-pad off the engineer. Four Alcine blasters, like the shuttle, and simple titanium plating. Most of the ship’s functions were offline without personnel, so he looked at his squad.
‘Alright, there are a few things we need. A pilot, a doctor, a scientist, an engineer and a comm officer. Bare minimum, and a few of us can fill out those roles.’
‘I wouldn’t,’ the engineer said. ‘Your squad will be off the ship on missions, and the more people you get, the better you ship will operate, especially when you aren’t there.’
Zeus considered the words of the engineer, then smiled and held out his hand. The engineer flinched, then tentatively took Zeus’s hand and shook it.
‘What’s your name, sir?’ Zeus asked with a smile.
‘It’s Engineer Sigma, sir.’
Zeus released Sigma’s hand. ‘Thank you for the advice, Sigma. I’ll try not to fly the shuttle to Titan is first gear.’
Sigma laughed lightly, then stepped away to continue his job. Most aboard the My Lady Elizabeth were not used to being spoken to in a kind way by any of the Agents. Fewer expected handshakes and “thank you”s.
‘Alright, Olympus, listen up!’ Zeus commanded. Tartarus and Apollo straightened on cue, but the rest of the squad took a few moments to realize the command structure.
‘Today, we’ll be going to Titan, the capital of humanity and the Alliance of Three. No Klisk to fight this time, it’s a recruiting mission,’ Tartarus slumped a little. ‘Epione, you and I will be searching for a pilot.’
Epione furrowed her brow. ‘Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to find a doctor, Ane-... Zeus?’
‘You could, but a doctor will be useless on a ship with no pilot. Help me find a pilot, and I’ll help find a doctor. Enyo, Dionysus, you two are searching for an engineer and a scientist.’
‘Preposterous!’ Enyo said, shaking her hair into her eyes. ‘I can do anything any scientist can do. Give me time, Zeus.’
‘Negative, Enyo, we need a scientist who understands the climate of this century. You are from the 20th, this is the 23rd. Even you can’t learn three centuries worth of information in a day.’
Enyo fell silent, retracting her objection.
‘Apollo, Thanatos, Tartarus, you three have no specific person to find. Be on the look out for useful talent, anyone you think could help us.’
Apollo nodded dutifully, which was followed by the less-than-eager nods of Tartarus and Thanatos.
‘We’ll meet at Titan Yard 12 hours after landing. Sync?’
No one spoke or moved, except Apollo, who set his watch at the word.
‘When I say “sync”, we synchronize our watches.’
Understanding washed over Olympus Squad, and Zeus suddenly realised. Apart from Apollo, he was the only one with actual military experience. Tartarus seemed little more than a killer and Thanatos just seemed crazy. Enyo may have seen battle, but that was not a fact Zeus could confirm. That left Epione, whose actions on Set Station told him that she was not built for alien warfare, and Dionysus, who seemed little more than a kid. This was the elite team known as Olympus Squad, a deniable asset of the Agency.
Everyone set their watches, and boarded the shuttle after Zeus. Zeus sat in the pilot’s chair, and tried to relax. If anything went wrong on Titan, everyone knew where to go. Everyone had a partner. And more importantly, everyone was armed.
‘Buckle up back there,’ Zeus said with fake confidence. ‘Still not sure how to change gears.’
The shuttle landed without incident in Titan’s military port. Several attendants in blue uniforms with hi-res stickers on their chests and shoulders guided Zeus in, and the only damage down was the drink can he crushed with a strut.
Now the team was separated, pursuing the missions assigned to them. Most of them, anyway. Zeus and Epione were walking down Washington Drive, the main road of Titan’s business center. Zeus was attempting to get his data-pad to function as a map, and all he was getting for his trouble was flashes of foreign languages he would never recognize.
‘If you get frustrated at the gadgets in the future,’ Epione mused to herself. ‘Do you still blame the Chinese?’
Zeus turned the data-pad and read the words at the bottom. “Made on Ganymede”.
‘Ganymede... Ganymedians?’ Zeus offered, then turned his data-pad back around. He kept typing, until finally a map came up, albeit in French.
‘Good enough. I wonder where we could find a pilot.’
‘Airport?’ Epione offered, looking at the fast food restaurant across the street. ’God, they still exist?′
Zeus smirked at Epione’s disgust at fast food. He was so enthralled with his map, that he walked straight into a woman on the street. In the collision, Zeus was bigger, so the woman fell to the ground.
‘Hey, watch it, jughead!’ she shouted, pushing Zeus and standing up, rubbing her behind.
‘I’m sorry, ma’am,’ Zeus said, bowing his head. ‘I was attempting to read a French map with no knowledge of the language. How can I make it up to you?’
The woman blinked, brushing strands of straw-coloured hair out of her face.
‘I, uh... what?’ she said, glancing at Epione for help. Epione shook her head.
‘Allow me to offer you lunch as an apology.’
Epione rolled her eyes. Just like the Zeus in legend, her commander seemed to be entranced by pretty faces.
‘Fine. I hope you have enough money.’
Thankfully, the woman was not picky, so the three sat in a booth at the fast food restaurant. However, Zeus soon learned this was a double edged sword, when she ordered the following:
‘I would like a large double bacon cheeseburger meal, with a vanilla shake as a drink, a large BLT meal with a chocolate shake, and four extra servings of large fries.’
Epione sputtered at the size of the order. ‘Is that just... for you?’
‘Yes. I’m very hungry.’
The food was handed over almost instantly, and the three sat down with their food. Quick as the food was prepared, the woman started wolfing down the fries like they were the cure for cancer.
‘My name is Zeus, what’s yours?’
The woman looked up from her meal, her mouth full of crispy potato. Zeus patiently waited for her to chew and swallow.
‘Phil. Cheers for this, by the way. If I knew I got free food by getting knocked over by a stranger, I’d do it more often.’
‘Phil is a boy’s name,’ Epione pointed out.
Phil rolled her eyes.
‘It’s short for Philicia. I have one of those names that sounds right, but spelt wrong. Like Sean.’
Zeus nodded in thought, eating his own fries slowly. Now that the conversation had a break, Phil picked up one of her burgers and forced the entire thing into her mouth, chewed a few times, then swallowed it. Epione’s nose wrinkled at the sight.
‘Phil, can I ask for your help?’ Zeus said, waiting for her to drain an entire milkshake.
‘Sure. What’s up?’
‘I’m in the market for a skilled pilot, for some Alliance missions. Do you know where I might find one?’
Phil considered this as she inhaled her second burger.
‘There’s a race the working class does. Some good pilots there. But they’d only consider working for you if you won.’
’What is the point of winning a pilot’s race to hire a pilot!?′ Epione said incredulously.
‘Respect,’ Phil said before emptying her third container of fries into her mouth.
‘Alright, Phil, can you take us there?’ Zeus said.
‘I can do better than that. I’ll lend you a ride.’
Phil led the two Agents into the grotto of Titan. This area was underdeveloped, damaged and rife with crime. Most avoided the two armored Agents following Phil, except a few stupidly confident con men, who were ignored. Finally, Phil stopped outside a run-down garage, and she tapped the door.
‘Hey, little brother, open the door,’ she whispered through one of the holes in the metal.
On cue, the metal rose and revealed a young boy, seven years old, dressed in dirty clothes. He had greasy, orange hair.
‘Philly!’ he cried. ‘You came home!’
‘I live here, Rat,’ Phil replied with a sigh, holding the door open for Zeus and Epione. Once the Agents were inside, she dropped the door behind her. Rat ran into the next room, calling out to an unknown number of people.
‘We’ll be gone in a few. I need the starter chips.’
Phil started digging around the room’s cabinets and drawers. Zeus looked around the room as he waited. It was run-down, like most of the neighborhood, with splats of oil and what looked suspiciously like bullet holes decorating the walls and furniture. There was a half-built motorcycle in the corner, held up on blocks of bright white concrete.
‘You live here?’ Zeus asked, touching a picture on the wall. It had two adults that looked nothing like Phil in it.
‘Not all of us have the backing of the government, Zeus,’ Phil replied, then held up a small bag with a drawstring. She looked inside, and grinned. ‘Starter chips. Who’s racing? You or the bitch?’
‘Oh, you did not call me a-’
Zeus cut over Epione. ‘I will, Phil. Now let’s go. Daylight’s burning’
‘This is insane.’
Epione was standing next to Phil above the “racetrack”. What it actually was was tight alleyways, ramps over weirs, an open section of skate park, a straight barrel up the freeway, a flight of stairs in an abandoned building, and finally a ramp to the building over.
‘You people are insane,’ Epione said in disbelief. ‘How many people die on this track?’
‘Er...’ Phil said unhelpfully.
Epione glanced down at the start line. Zeus was on Phil’s cycle. Motorcycles had come a long way in the three centuries Zeus had missed, but the basic idea was the same. After a quick course (five minutes) on how the cycle worked, Zeus left his armor with Epione and took his position.
‘What’s the prize if you win?’ Epione asked.
‘Respect,’ Phil informed her. ‘Oh, and a million points of credit. So, there’s that.’
Epione kept her eyes locked on Zeus and gripped the railing of the building tightly.
Zeus was not one for cycles, but if he was going to impress any of these people, he needed to win. Phil’s cycle was painted red with what appeared to be a hand-drawn Klisk on the side. The words “Acid Splash” were emblazoned underneath.
‘You have no idea,’ Zeus muttered to himself, putting his helmet on. Despite the tinting of the visor, he could see clearly. Another wonder of the future he found himself in.
‘I wonder what else will impress me.’
A woman walked out ahead of the cycles to hooting and whistles. Phil picked up a bottle and threw it at the nearest hooligan, silencing the majority of the catcalling.
‘Sorry, Phil, your mom’s just so hot.’
‘That’s your mother!’ Epione cried.
Phil’s mother looked barely old enough to be Phil’s older sister. She had brown hair tied back in braids, and the same dirty clothes everyone else seemed to have. Despite her raggedness, the woman was stunning in her presence, and when she held up her hand, everyone leaned in to listen to her.
Zeus understood. She was in charge.
‘I’m going to count off from five, boys and girls,’ she said clearly, her voice echoing over the cycle engines. ‘You all know the signal. No screwing around, no killing and no guns.’
Three of the cycle riders dropped their guns on the ground, which were picked up by attendants. Zeus silently wished he knew what the signal was.
‘Start your engines!’
The simultaneous roar of sixteen cycles deafened the spectators, who cheered when Phil’s mother stepped aside, climbed the fire escape, and stood above the line-up.
Zeus’s grip tightened on the handlebars. In all honesty, he had never driven a motorcycle before, and his first time would be through one of the most dangerous courses he could come up with.
Epione blinked as the roar of approval came from the audience. ‘You’re all insane.’
Phil laughed at Epione’s comment and slapped her on the back. ‘Lighten up! This is supposed to be fun!’
Zeus gritted his teeth, his eyes glancing at the people around him. He was severely out of place with his standards of grooming. The bike next to him had tally marks upon it, driven by a man with a full beard and a pot belly. Zeus closed his eyes, and imagined himself in his Spitfire.
Phil’s mother pulled out her own handgun, which no one questioned where she was keeping it, and aimed at the streetlight above the racers. She fired and the light exploded, signalling the start of the race.
The cycles sped up the alleyway, including Zeus. He had had the idea to put earplugs in before the race, which saved his hearing from the roar. The alleyway tightened, but offered interesting ways to proceed. One racer decided to smash through a shop-front and come out on the street on the other side, avoiding the alley. Many of the riders were fighting to be in the lead when the alley would choke them into single-file.
Zeus noticed he was too far behind to have any chance of coming first, so he turned sharply, and followed the rider through the store. His tires squealed over the tiles inside, until he burst into the street. Zeus shook his head, then accelerated ahead.
‘Nicely done, Zeus,’ Phil said, now following the action on her bootleg camera in the cycle. ‘Avoiding the alley might get you ahead.’
’Does this race actually have any rules?′ Epione asked.
‘Uh...’ Phil said unhelpfully.
Ahead of Zeus was the weir, but because he and the other racer had avoided the alleyway, there was no ramp to take. Instead, Zeus opted to go over the pedestrian bridge, following the racer ahead of him and hoping anyone in the way was quick enough to avoid getting hit. The tires met the two stairs with a shattering bump, inflicting enormous pain upon Zeus.
‘Cup,’ Zeus grunted to himself, setting himself a mental reminder for the future.
He turned the cycle at the end of the bridge, then looked over his shoulder. He was second! He sped ahead of the others, over the final ramp, and landed the cycle into the skate park. Zeus chose the safest route, much to the annoyance of Phil, and came out ahead in first.
‘Well, your boy is first, if that helps.’ Phil said quietly.
Epione was startled, then looked at Phil’s phone. Zeus had no cycles in front of him.
‘Come on, Zeus.’
Next came the freeway, the easiest part in Zeus’s head. All he had to do was avoid the other drivers. He pushed ahead on Phil’s cycle in the correct lane, again to the annoyance of Phil, and after the stretch, he smashed through the window of the building and started driving up the stairs.
Every stair made Zeus regret not wearing all the correct gear.
At the end, Zeus allowed himself a moment to breathe, then heard the cycles behind him. All the was left was the ramp. He revved his engine.
‘Oh, here we go!’ Phil exclaimed.
‘Come on, Zeus!’ Epione cried, losing herself in the moment.
Zeus released the brake and sped as fast as he could towards the ramp. However, doubt clouded Zeus’s mind at the worst possible moment, and he tried braking on the ramp. The result was going off the ramp at a high enough speed to make the jump, but miss the roof. Zeus crashed through the window three levels down, getting thrown from the cycle, breaking his arm, his crash cushioned by concrete. Phil’s bike was ruined.
‘Dammit! That’s going to cost me a lot of money.’ Phil said angrily.
Zeus heard the cycles above him land on the roof. All of them. He was last.
Epione and Phil drove over to the finish line in Phil’s car, then ran up the stairs to get to Zeus. When they arrived, they found Zeus propped up against the concrete he crashed into. Epione immediately ran over, placed her medical kit down, and examined Zeus’s arm with the medical scanner.
‘You’re lucky, Zeus, you only have one break. And, thanks to Pisces, I have this.’
Epione pulled out a syringe and a pot of fluorescent orange liquid. She readied a shot, flicked the side, then shot a little out to empty the air with the hypodermic. She pushed the metal into Zeus’s forearm, then injected the liquid.
Zeus’s arm will engulfed in fiery pain as the bone where the break was liquefied and reformed. After the intense pain, he flexed his arm and fingers to test they functioned.
‘Whoa, what was that?’
Epione read the label on the pot. ‘It’s in another language. Phil?’
Phil glanced at the label. ‘That is indeed another language.’
Epione sighed and put the pot back into the bag, and checked Zeus’s other injuries.
‘You’ll be fine. The grazes on your elbow and knee need disinfecting and bandaging, though.’
Epione sprayed something on Zeus’s knee, and he gritted his teeth, then swore loudly.
‘Oh, calm down, you big baby.’ Epione said with a smile.
Once Zeus’s wounds were tended to, he stood up on shaky legs. Phil kicked the remains of her cycle, then looked at Zeus with a flash of annoyance.
‘You’re useless,’ she said darkly. ‘No wonder you need a pilot, you can barely drive a cycle. My brother can drive this!’
Zeus smiled meekly. ‘I’m sorry, Phil. I’m used to pla- er, ships. So, after this... do you think anyone will be my pilot?’
‘The only chance for you is for me to join you,’ Phil said, shaking her head at her ruined cycle. ‘Anyone else and you’d get them killed.’
The offer was there, but Epione wanted more.
‘Do you have references? Because all we know is you eat enough for five people, and you participate in illegal races.’
Phil rolled her eyes, then smirked. She pulled her phone out and scrolled through her photo album, then showed the two Agents the picture. It was Phil in an Alliance flight suit, with four other pilots posing in front of their fighters.
‘Every ship was streamlined with the same controls since Selene Corp. started building them about thirty years ago. And in case you want to test me again, doc, the cockpit is where you fly the ship.’
Epione gritted her teeth and growled in her throat, but Zeus was impressed. He extended his hand to Phil.
‘Consider yourself hired, Phil. I’ll pay for your cycle, too.’
‘Did you just get a job?’ the voice came from the stairway, where Phil’s mother stood with her arms crossed. Phil grinned.
‘Yes, Melissa, I got a job to pay for your habits.’
Melissa’s eyebrow rose. ‘My habits? What about your little cycle addiction? And all the food you eat?’
Phil smiled sheepishly, then tilted her head towards Zeus and Epione. ‘Can we feed them tonight? Like a consolation prize for sucking at the race so bad?’
‘Or a bribe to take you far away?’
Zeus grinned at the exchange. It was nice to see family was still strong in this time. His memory flashed to his wife and son, and although he’d never see them again, the memory made him happier.
‘If it’s too much, ma’am, we can find dinner elsewhere.’
Melissa looked at Zeus with a suggestive smile. ’Oh, don’t be silly. I’d love to have you for-over for dinner.′
‘Thank you, ma’am.’
The obvious flirtation went over Zeus’s head. Epione stared at Zeus in surprise. Melissa couldn’t be more obvious unless she undressed in front of him. Maybe he wasn’t like his namesake.
Zeus and Epione had been sat at a table in Melissa’s home. The table was big enough to seat fifteen people, and was nailed together from smaller tables. Phil sat across from Zeus, trying to work out the cost to repair her cycle. Around the table were Phil’s siblings, the youngest being the child Phil had referred to as Rat, the oldest being Phil. The noise at the table was easily louder than the race. Four conversations overlapped each other with the banging of cutlery, the crying of a young girl and the sounds from the kitchen. Epione seemed overwhelmed, so Zeus nudged her.
‘Are you alright?’
Epione looked at Zeus. ‘I don’t know. I’m still adjusting to the future. I wish I could do what you and the others do and just accept it. But I miss my fiancée. I miss my job. I even miss my neighbors yappy dog. I remember everything and I can never have any of it back.’
Zeus nodded, and placed his hand on Epione’s shoulder. ‘I get it. I was married, and I had a son. I was part of a squadron flying over France when I died. I keep wondering if any of them made it out. Who told my family I was dead. I’m curious, but what year did you die?’
‘I think it was 2009. You?’
‘Wow. 1942 for me.’
Zeus and Epione fell silent, listening to Phil berate her brothers, who seemed to be playing a game involving slapping.
‘You know what helps me when I get overwhelmed?’ Zeus said.
Epione smiled and waited for the answer. Zeus pulled out his data-pad and showed Epione the family tree he had looked up. His bloodline was still alive to this day.
‘Even though I died, a piece of me lived on in my family. I’m sure a piece of you lived on in your fiancée.’
Epione’s eyes shone with held-back tears. She didn’t have any children in her previous life, but because Eddie was still alive when she died, a part of her did survive.
The moment was cut short, however, when there was a thundering knock at the garage door. The entire family went silent, and Melissa peeked out from the kitchen.
Phil walked over to the window and looked through the cracks in the curtains.
‘Oh no. Melissa, it’s Callaghan’s men.’
Zeus didn’t know the name, but he knew the tone. It was the same tone someone took when they said “Nazi” in the war. He immediately reached for his sidearm, and waited.
‘Phil! Your payment’s late!’ a voice from outside called. ’And you didn’t race today, so we know you got something better lined up. Open the door! Let’s... discuss it.′
Epione shivered, and used her hands to signal to the children in the room to follow her into the back. Most followed Epione, except Phil, Melissa and Zeus. Zeus stood, his hand still on his holster. Melissa walked out and stood next to Zeus.
‘Not with the kids in the house. Please.’
Zeus was torn. On the one hand, he knew he may need to defend Phil from these debt collectors. On the other, Melissa’s children could be collateral damage in a firefight. Zeus did the math in his head and made a decision.
His hand dropped from his holster.