The war of 1812 had begun.
Just my bad luck, he thought, eyes flickering over the jumble of what had been a luxurious room, that it started when I was visiting Olympus. Or maybe Loki is behind it?
The imp he used as a nitelite whimpered with each blast, so he snapped his fingers and released it as Cal's Spell of Protection didn't extend to the imp, or to anything beyond Cal's physical body. It was a mighty Spell and had once protected him in the middle of a nuclear blast, but he wasn't certain it could protect against the combined might of the eighteen thousand and twelve known gods and goddesses.
"Guys," he said into his spaceband, "could you get me outta this?"
Captain Orla, on a ship waiting half a light-year away, said: "You don't really think a rescue capsule could make it through all that, do you?" While none of the ship's crew were True Believers, they couldn't deny what their eyes and scientific instruments showed them.
Cal thought, "I should have had the imp take me with him, but this is too late to think of that. Snapping my fingers released the Binding Spell."
Even the fabric of reality itself seemed to rumble in the next blast.
+ + +
Cal's knowledge of the power of True Belief and the mythical ancient gods originated, by strange contrast, in his scientific studies at Space University.
"You're studying what?" Professor Absolym said in shocked disbelief.
The professor was only five years older than Cal and, more important, she was an attractive blonde. "Honest," Cal told himself, "that isn't why I signed up for her class on the mind!"
"Hidden mental powers," he told her. "Psionics, paranormal, that kind of thing. I'm looking for the seed of the supernatural."
"I don't teach superstition," she said, glaring at him.
"You don't understand!" Cal protested. "I think superstition, psionics, even the belief in ancient gods, is all tied together in some misunderstood portion of our minds."
The professor looked doubtful. "Still, it sounds like you're trying to explain the success of witch doctors."
Cal bent forward. "But that's exactly my point!" he said, intensely. "Witch doctors cured people by so-called magic herbs, but they were really using plants they had tested as cures! Remember, alchemists were the forerunners of scientists. They kept records of their experiments, leading the way to scientific principles!"
Professor Absolym leaned back, tented her fingertips and studied her scarlet nails. Then she shifted the gaze of those marvelous green eyes to look at Cal. Her eyebrows lifted. "Ah!" she said in understanding. Was that bad or good? Tilting her head, she remained silent, apparently in contemplation. Placing the palms of her hands on the arms of her chair, she sighed. At last, she relieved his worry and nodded acceptance. "I see," she murmured. Her look brightened. "You've sold me. It might be an interesting premise to investigate."
Sighing with relief, Cal decided now was the time to press for something necessary. "I want to have permission to use the brain analyzer in my pursuit of answers." The University scanner didn't just give a detailed three-dimensional model of the brain, it included a map of the neurons, traced energy fluctuations, and did many things Cal never understood.
Before she could change her mind, Cal took her permission to the lab and started. It took seven ten-minute scans scattered over three days. The results were printed, as well as stored on his study cube, where everything he investigated would come together.
Space U is nothing if not thorough, Cal thought.
During those three days, Cal pursued his studies. The library on his floor was enormous. There were seemingly endless rows of shelves containing real books, thin to thick, short to tall. At least one hundred comm-tables were there, giving access to every kind of electronic book. Another student, skinny and red-haired, peered over Cal's shoulders. "Ancient gods?" he asked, doubtfully. "How does that fit with science?"
Ready for a break, Cal looked up at the newcomer. "My name's Cal," he said, extending a hand. "There is a connection, honestly."
The other student shook hands, then sat beside Cal. "I'm Rafe," he said. "So what's your story?"
Cal stared at the shelves. Rafe seemed certain it wasn't books Cal was contemplating. "There's part of our minds we don't understand," Cal began. "Telepathy, telekinesis, fortune telling, that sort of thing."
"Hey, that's been studied long ago. Couldn't prove a thing," Rafe objected.
Cal shook his head. "What if that was because True Belief defies testing? Those tested would feel the doubt that was there, preventing them from operating at full efficiency."
Rafe chuckled. "That's like the old saw that there could be a law of physics requiring ghosts to disappear before they were seen, explaining why no one has seen a ghost."
Again, Cal shook his head. "There must be something else. That's part of what I've exploring."
"Let's pursue that," Rafe said. "If this ‘True Belief' is so important, how does that lead us to gods?"
Cal leaned back, resting his head on entwined fingers. "In the beginning, there were some who had better control than others. They attracted followers. The True Belief of their followers fed their control, and their power increased until they became gods. In those simpler days," Cal added, "True Belief was easier to attain."
"Interesting concept," Rafe acknowledged. "But why aren't there new gods these days?"
"Because doubt increased with the proliferation of mankind. Look at today: Even that great hero, Captain Helliot of Sirius, has doubters in his ranks. People look for feet of clay in their idols, and that sort of thing can be traced back almost forever."
"Yeah, but what about all those sacrifices the ancients did?" Rafe objected with a shudder.
"I think that was a misunderstanding by the followers," Cal said. "But," he quickly added, "it worked! Gods told worshippers sacrifices were needed to gain their favor. I truly believe they meant sacrifices in time and effort as well as financial sacrifices to exhibit faith and True Belief. But human sacrifices expressed True Belief more strongly, and had greater results."
Rafe shook his head and stood. "Really an intriguing theory, but too ‘out there' for my tastes. Still, let me know if you make headway."
Next, Cal got permission to put his mother's brain through the same procedure -- partly to have a comparison, but mainly for a genetic study, looking for similarities between brains, as well as differences.
The results were astonishing.
There had been something not even a specialist could identify in Cal's brain -- and the same thing was in his mother's brain!
He didn't know it, but it was the first indication he had an imp in his future.
+ + +
nother blast of power destroyed his building, leaving Cal floating amid sparkling debris that exploded like a scattering of fireworks as atoms died.
He couldn't call on Odin for more help, because the jealous Brunhilda would cancel any attempt Odin might make. Anyway, he still wasn't sure Loki wasn't at the heart of all this, and Loki was known to interfere with his father's wishes. Yes, Loki was, to an unwilling degree, Cal's half-brother – but that would make him hate him all the more. He doubted if Loki knew Odin had slipped him the Spell of Protection some months ago.
+ + +
t Space U, Professor Absolym said, "Those unusual readings prove nothing. The rules of science insist that, for a theory to become a fact, it must be repeatable."
Frustrated, Cal had to agree. "Still, there must be some explanation. That's what I'm looking for." The professor nodded her approval. This made her blonde hair ripple, and seemed to cause a distraction for Cal. Then he sighed and left the professor's office.
His next step was to obtain a test of his father's brain.
"I have no idea where he is, son," his mother said. "He disappeared when you were only a year old. Left a note saying 'Goodbye', but that was all." She shook her head. "I decided to let it slide; things had faded between us. I can't help you."
It took a little over one week to locate him, and to receive two shocks.
The first one was that his father said, "I have no idea what you're talking about. Except for two years, I've lived here all my life -- and those two years were off-world."
The second shock was when his voice changed and he said, "Hello, my son."
"I am Odin. Your mother attracted me, and I spent many lovely months with her. Like many other gods, I find some women irresistible. This man will not remember it, as I have cleared it from his brain. I will leave a desire in him to cooperate with you, but I shall remove everything concerning it from his mind, so it will not show up. I am now returning him to you."
That lure of attraction Odin referred to wasn't as strong with the male of the species; there were few examples of men attracting goddesses. Oh, there were many times goddesses found one or another male so alluring that she would protect him, but only rare times when the lure worked to create a sexual bond.
Odin was right. Cal's father agreed to the scan, but the results were perfectly normal -- and there was no way he could tell anyone about Odin, as there was no proof.
At Space U, Cal decided to bounce his ideas off a doubtful Rafe, who seemed always in the library. Seated at a comm.-table, Cal said: "My studies have convinced me the existence of gods was fulfilled by human brains and their True Belief was fueled by dark energy."
Rafe frowned, but nodded. "Dark energy is like electricity; known to exist, but what's behind it is not understood that well. So?"
"The more I studied it, the more I became convinced it should be called ‘the god-force'. I'm convinced it was at the heart of creation and supplied the energy behind humanity's sporadic mental powers; more importantly, the source of the power used by gods."
"So where are the gods?" Rafe asked.
Cal leaned back. "I'm positive a home of the gods exists. Olympus seems a good name for it."
Rafe laughed. "Why not?"
+ + +
n Olympus, something strange was happening; without sound, a chant began, a chant that vibrated with unimaginable power. It presaged an ominous occurrence. "Doom. Doom. Doom," echoed direly to a sibilant flowing murmur. Cal realized that must be the sound of the river Styx. He knew he must do something; the Spell of Protection might keep him alive, but he would be rowed across the river by Charon if he didn't –
The grinning face of Loki filled his vision. "You are doomed, puny mortal," Loki said, and then laughed. "You will curse the Spell of Protection, for you are about to enter eternal torture in Hades! Whatever power you possess is now worthless!"
Something was stirring in Cal's mind, in his brain. Inspiration? Or did he detect the imp? No knowledge was added; instead, existing knowledge was coalesced, organized. There came a blinding flash of understanding even more brilliant than the initial lightning. In that instant, everything became clear.
"NO!" he shouted. His connection to the god-force was established. After all, he was a demi-god; more, because he suddenly understood what was behind it. He didn't need True Belief; he had Knowledge! "Believe it or not, it is my power that made the myth ofOlympus real!" He realized if he had never thought of Olympus, it wouldn't be here. "You know that to be true. I created it, and its creation brought you here! I know more about your source of power than most of you. You fight me because you fear me! You know I have found your secret. To demonstrate –" he waved a hand, restoring the destroyed buildings and the destroyed world, "—so you can see! I choose Odin to speak for all the gods. Send him forth."
Distorted with hatred, Loki's face disappeared.
Cal found himself back in his elaborate room and a shimmering, glowing figure of power that was Odin stood before him. "I care not to destroy gods or goddesses," Cal said, assuming a tone that indicated nobility. "Olympus will remain for you, but will never be found again. When I return, the ship's instruments and the thoughts of the crew will reveal Olympus as totally obliterated. Your power will remain unchanged, relying on Belief."
A thrumming sound told him, "You realize your Spell of Protection will not last." He didn't know if that was a threat, but didn't care.
"Have it back," he said, peeling it off like a sheet as he replaced it with one of his own. "Are we in agreement?"
"Agreed," Odin said. Was there a touch of parental pride in his tone?
The ship's crew, surprised and pleased at his survival, took him home.
"So I'm a demi-god," Cal thought.
"So I'm learning to handle the greatest power in the universe.
"I've spent my life being human, and I'm used to it. I'm sure I'll do something with this power, but I choose to remain normal."
Back in his dorm room at Space U, Cal detected a whimper. Smiling, he said, "Welcome back, little imp. I realize your presence was not desired on Olympus."
So he had the strangest nitelite in the University.
…Maybe Professor Absolym would like to see his nitelite?
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