Olympus Group Physical Plant, yesterday:
A pact is formed between Delphyne Gorgon, current queen of the Amazons, and the crippled inventor and smith of the Greek gods, Hephaestus. Delphyne explains that Hera wants her to put her Amazon guard on high alert. She expects an attack by Hercules and whatever allies he’s gathered in a matter of days – if not hours. Accursed Athena will no doubt be among them.
Of course, Hephaestus agrees, but… What? Delphyne asks. Hephaestus reminds her that the boy genius Amadeus Cho will be among Hercules’ allies as well. Every tongue in New Olympus wags that Delphyne Gorgon, merciless queen of the Amazons, lost her heart to a mortal… The affairs of her heart are her business, she replies coldly. She will uphold her end of the bargain. Is he sure this will work?
Will it work? he repeats. Is he not Hephaestus, patron of fire and forge? Author of the enchanted Aegis breastplate and Hercules’ own adamantine mace? He has used all his arts in crafting this weapon for her, he points at a golden helmet. Athena Parthenos will soon be theirs!
All over the world. In boardrooms in New York, on the streets of Tokyo, in front of a shop is Sao Paolo, in the internet; everyone is talking about and waiting for the release of Continuum ®. – billed as everything you need.
In the meantime, at the HQ of the Olympus Group, now Hercules and the allies he has gathered are fighting those troops loyal to Hera. Among the heroes is Hercules’ friend, Amadeus Cho. In the time he has known Hercules, he has used his hypercomputer mind to beat the odds while fighting gods, monsters, villains, heroes, Eternals, Skrulls, even the occasional gun-toting goon, and has come up aces every time. But now he’s taking his biggest gamble yet, trying to outsmart death himself as personified by Greek god Thanatos, who is waiting in the wings since he first appeared a few seconds ago.
Typhon beats down Hercules, about to kill him. Amadeus fears that Thanatos is here for Hercules who – according to Athena - is destined to die this day. But even though he’s been trained to take over for Herc when he falls, no, if he falls, Amadeus corrects himself, he is going to beat fortune at her own game!
He calculates, then grabs a stick and throws it at Spider-Woman, throwing off the aim of her venom blast which hits Typhon in the back. Hercules will live! Amadeus vows. What the hell?! Spider-Woman swears at Amadeus, reminding him they are on the same side. He apologizes to her, calling her Spider-Girl, much to her annoyance, he has no time to explain to non-geniuses! A moment later, Spider-Woman is attacked by Lamia, meaning she has other problems.
Hercules has gotten up and hits Typhon in the face. At the same time, he shouts at Amadeus that he knows what he is trying to do and he wants him to stop! What? Amadeus asks. He’s just—
Getting in his way! Hercules shouts. He had a mother. Her name was Alcmene. She died in 139 B.C.- he is not in the market for another!
But—Amadeus begins to protest before Athena pulls him away and Typhon gets in another blow. What does he think he is doing? Athena demands to know. Proving her wrong, Amadeus retorts, by running interference for Herc. He’s interfering all right, she tells him, by distracting Hercules and increasing the change of his demise… and Amadeus’ own!
And hers, Hera remarks as she hits Athena with one of the thunderbolts she inherited from Zeus. Laughing, she tells Athena she wants her to watch as her precious “marvels” are slain one by one, by the gods they so insultingly pretend to emulate.
Argus wrestles the giant Wasp, telling Pym he should not be surprised that he knows his name. Through her alliance with Norman Osborn, Hera received files on all of Hercules’ comrades in his “Mighty Avengers.” Unimpressed, Pym replies he knows Argus from Bullfinch. Argus is kind of a one trick pony with his giant shtick while he’s multifaceted. He shrinks to wasp size and hits him with his sting in the eyes in his face.
Argh, his eyes! Argus shouts, only to grab Pym and point out he still has ninety-eight all over his body! Shrink as small as he likes, –each enchanted orb could peer into the Microverse to find him. And each wants him to die! He grabs Pym in his fist and squeezes.
Elsewhere, in the building’s botanical garden, the Huntsman is looking for his prey, while remarking he’s going to tell a story - it’s one of the older tales. Therefore one of the truest. Once, a very long time ago, the people of Phocis said a man named Cephalus was the greatest hunter in all the world…
The Huntsman’s story:
As Cephalus hunted in the gloom near sunrise Eos, goddess of the dawn, became bewitched by his beauty. But Cephalus was a faithful husband to his wife, Procris, and rejected her advances, though he held onto one of Eos’ gifts, a javelin of light that never missed.
But Procris heard Cephalus talking about a “dawn” in his sleep and, fearful he had taken a lover, shadowed him into the wood early one morn. He heard a rustling in the bushes. He assumed it was game. His javelin’s aim was perfect as always. But, once he saw what he had slain, Cephalus threw himself into the sea.
Addressing Wolverine directly, he asks if this tale sounds familiar to him. Kinda, sorta, Wolverine replies as he attacks him from behind, claws unsheathed. He gets what Athena was saying about them costumed types being modern versions of mythological archetypes, ‘cept he got seduced by a government, not a goddess and the weapons they gave him were an unbreakable skeleton and claws.
He fends off the javelin and kicks the Huntsman in the stomach. His girl, Silver Fox, got killed by accident too.
He dodges the thrown javelin. But there’s a big difference between his story and ol’ Cephalus, he continues. It doesn’t end with his death, but the Hunter’s. He gets ready to slice him open. The Huntsman asks forgiveness. He was not making a comparison. Though his visage was twisted in Tartarus as a punishment for suicide before Zeus took pity on him and raised him up to be his personal huntsman, he is Cephalus. And his javelin doesn’t miss! The javelin turns around and impales Wolverine through the back.
Meanwhile, USAgent holds off a sword-fighting goddess with black wings, informing her that, while he has no clue who she is, he does know she’s not a god and he doesn’t get off smacking chicks around. But he will if she doesn’t show him some courtesy. She sneers that he may fancy himself some agent of union. But she is Eris, sister of Ares and goddess of discord! She slashes him across the face, telling him she savors belief systems as rigid as his… they are the most easily shattered. His “freedom” was built on slavery. His “peace” from terror“, his prosperity from theft! And he sees the dark side of the American dream. The slaughter of the Native Americans, the horror of slavery, the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the atom bomb.
Get out of his head! he moans and runs away.
Elsewhere, Spider-Man avoids the webs of a woman who is half woman half spider - Arachne. He informs her that the name is already taken by a member of Omega Flight. Might he suggest Spider-Woman? Wait, that’s no good. How about Spider-Girl? No… Arana? Scratch that! All the ladies just want to be him, he guesses. Makes him wonder why his love life is such a mess!
He thinks that’s funny? she snarls. He prefers to think of himself as an irreverent commentator on the mundane foibles of everyday existence! Like a Thurber… or a Keillor. Except he does it while kicking people in the face!
He uses his own web-shooters to try and tie her up. Instead, she pulls him downward by his net and covers him with her web. Angrily, she tells him Athena cursed her with this form for daring to claim she was a better weaver than the goddess and for being right! Death to Athena and her vassals! she shouts.
Delphyne Gorgon agrees while firing her guns. Amadeus asks her to wait, asking her for help. His guys are getting their butts handed to them. Good, she replies, they stand between her and Athena. He refuses to believe that is her. She helped Athena and the rest of them defeat Artume and save the world! Doesn’t she realize Hera is a bigger threat than Artume ever was?
The enemy of her enemy is her friend, she reminds him. Amadeus offers to figure out a way to lift the Gorgon curse scientifically. Doesn’t he think they tried dozens of times in the past millennia? she asks. Killing Athena is the only way!
But he loves Delphyne, he admits, the way she is. And if she succeeds in becoming a murderer, he won’t… he can’t… not anymore! Doesn’t that mean anything to her? It does, she replies. More than he knows, but generations of her people have wasted their lives in the world’s darkest havens, hiding their faces even from each other. Their pain and shame can only be redeemed when she who cursed them finally dies! She runs toward Athene.
Two other warriors are not content with the battle for obvious reasons. Weak, Zeus scoffs at his foes. Slow, Quicksilver at his. If only he could find opponents worthy of him, Zeus complains. He’s been saying that for years, Quicksilver agrees. They decide they like each other.
Hera for the first time is distracted, as she begins to understand that the boy is really Zeus. She blasts Hercules in the back and orders Typhon to secure the boy in the green cape. Typhon obeys and slams Quicksilver aside. Calling him Titan scum, Zeus orders him to unhand him.
Hera and Typhon run toward an elevator. Athena shouts it is impenetrable and orders the Avengers not to let them enter. It leads to the chamber where they are holding Continuum ®!
A moment later, Delphyne Gorgon hits her in the face and orders Athena to face her in mortal combat. The day of reckoning for her many crimes has come at last. Athena orders her to step aside. She may be queen of the Amazons, but Athena is goddess of war. To her Delphyne is nothing but a spiteful little girl.
She is mistaken, Delphyne replies and puts on the helmet Hephaistos created for her. Right now, she is the hand of retribution and by her filthy works Athena shall be undone! No! Athena exclaims, scared.
Hercules tries to stop Hera but the elevator doors close right before him. Father! he calls out.
He realizes that the lift is constructed out of impenetrable adamantine like his mace. He can barely dent it. Amadeus tells him they’ll figure it out. Figure quickly then! Hercules orders, or all they have fought for will be for naught!
In the lift, Hera examines the boy and recalls that Hercules called him “father.” But how can he be her husband? The boy replies that he is told a draught from the river Lethe wiped his memories and reduced him to the age of a child.
Hera tells him to come and shows him the Continuum ® chamber. In a way, she built it for him. This is the weapon his daughter fears so? he asks. Weapon? Hera scoffs. Are these the lies mortals spread about faithful Hera? What is it? Zeus asks confused. It looks like nothing more than an exact duplicate of this room. An exact duplicate of this universe, she corrects him. Her thrall, Pythagoras Dupree, built it for her. He began to tell her about bubble universes, artificial duplicates of this reality. Artificial because they were created by his hypercomputers and observed only by mere mortals. But this universe shall be observed by a god. Her. And that shall make it real.
She is channeling the faith of her believers, which she has reclaimed, not due to a church or an enlightenment but through product. The only thing anyone worships in this weak and witless world. Pure faith. That’s all Continuum ® is. It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s whatever you lack. It’s nothing, therefore everything.
As soon as Continuum ® is fully activated, Hera will lead her family and followers into a glorious new creation, one of her own making where the strife and the sorrow of her past will be wiped away. Dupree tries to explain his quantum magic, though she confesses they never made complete sense to her but she believes as soon as her universe is fully formed it will be related to this universe as matter is to anti-matter and, alas, this universe will be instantly annihilated. Zeus stares at her in speechless horror.
Still in front of the elevator, Amadeus warns Hercules to stay put. Thanatos is on the move, He pushes a pretty redhead aside who is trying to get his attention. He has no time for their Amazon B.S now, he announces. Taking off her helmet, she asks if he doesn’t recognize her. She supposes, he wouldn’t. Good. It’s Delphyne. She… permits him to love her now. Amadeus realizes that if Delphyne is human, then this time Thanatos was really after… Oh no, Delphyne! he exclaims, what has she done? He stares at Athena frozen to stone in a posture of horror while Thanatos stalks toward her.
Who would approach the realm beneath New Olympus? asks one of the monsters. A cyclops, a lion as well as several armed skeletons. The Agents suddenly appear in antique armor as Namora haughtily orders them to be silent. And not to impede the Olympian procession. Clear the path for the goddess of love, Aphrodite!
Why does Aphrodite come through the underworld? the cyclops demands. She never enters this domain. Using her powers, Venus assures them she has neglected her faithful too long. She shall start entering through this passage more often, if the guards permit. Of course, goddess, the Cyclops assures her. The others let them pass and Jimmy telepathically informs the Uranian that his projections are working. Venus sits on Gorilla Man and Ken mutters he doesn’t remember the myth where the goddess rides a gorilla a like a horse. It’s exactly the kind of odd thing gods do, Venus assures him.
The chimera sniffs and suddenly angrily announces none of them smell like Olympians. There is on Aphrodite a trace of the sea…
Arrogantly, Venus explains she was born of foam, now move! True enough of the goddess in the shell, the chimera replies, but it senses another creature still! More of a Naiad… or a dryad. No… a siren perhaps.… There is an easy enough test, for no Olympian can be destroyed, even by flame, though it may hurt a bit…. Its goat’s head begins to emit fire. She shall certainly lose her ape…
The jig is up, Ken warns as he swats the chimera’s goat head aside. The skeleton army attacks. Jimmy tells his team they’ve got to get through there fast!
A Faun tries to warn the real Aphrodite. The cyclops tries to kill Venus, only to be blasted by M-11. As she topples him, Namora remarks the last Cyclops they fought was more handsome.
The Uranian finds that he can’t affect the skeletons mentally which are about to overwhelm him. Well, he can! Gorilla Man replies and tells him to hang on.
The Faun contacts the real Aphrodite, still in bed with a sleeping Ares, and tells her the impostor is down in the tunnels battling the cavern guard!