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Call me Zeus," said the Director.
"Zeus?" said his wife, a beautiful woman not over a thousand years old. "What an egomaniac! Comparing yourself to a god, even if he is the god of those--those savages!"
She gestured at the huge screen on the wall. It showed, far below, the blue sea, the black ships on the yellow beach, the purple tents of the Greek army, the broad brown plain, and the white towers of Troy.
The Director glared at her through hexagonal dark glasses and puffed on his cigar until angry green clouds rolled from it. His round bald head was covered by a cerise beret, his porpoise frame by a canary yellow tunic, and his chubby legs by iridescent green fourpluses.
"I may not look like a god, but as far as my power over the natives on this planet goes, I could well be their deity," he replied.
He spoke sharply to a tall handsome blond youth who wore a crooked smile and a bright blue and yellow tattoo spiraling around his legs and trunk. "Apollo, hand me the script!"
"Surely you're not going to change the script?" said his wife. She rose from her chair, and the scarlet web she was wearing translated the shifting micro-voltages on the surface of her skin into musical tones.
"I never change the Script," said the Director. "I just make the slight revisions required for dramatic effects."
"I don't care what you do to it, just so you don't allow the Trojans to win. I hate those despicable brutes."
Apollo laughed loudly, and he said, "Ever since she and Athena and Aphrodite thought of that goofy stunt of asking Paris to choose the most beautiful of the three, and he gave the prize to Aphrodite, Hera's hated the Trojans. Really, Hera, whyblame those simple, likeable people for the actions of only one of them? I think Paris showed excellent judgment. Aphrodite was so grateful she contrived to get that lovely Helen for Paris and--"
"Enough of this private feud," snapped the Director. "Apollo, I told you once to hand me the script."
Achilles at midnight paced back and forth before his tent. Finally, in the agony of his spirit, he called to Thetis. The radio which had been installed in his shield, unknown to him, transmitted his voice to a cabin in the great spaceship hanging over the Trojan plain.
Thetis, hearing it, said to Apollo, "Get out of my cabin, you heel, or I'll have you thrown out."
"Leave?" he said. "Why? So you can be with your barbarian lover?"
"He is not my lover," she said angrily. "But I'd take even a barbarian as a lover before I'd have anything to do with you. Now, get out. And don't speak to me again unless it's in the line of business."
"Any time I speak to you, I mean business," he said, grinning.
"Get out or I'll tell my father!"
"I hear and obey. But I'll have you, one way or another."
Thetis shoved him out. Then she quickly put on the suit that could bend light around her to make her invisible and transport her through the air and do many other things. Out of a port she shot, straight toward the tent of her protégé. She did not decelerate until she saw him standing tall in the moonlight, his hands still raised in entreaty. She landed and cut the power off so he could see her.
"Mother, Mother!" cried Achilles. "How long must I put up with Agamemnon's high-handedness?"
Thetis took him by the hand and led him into the tent. "Is Patroclos around?" she asked.
"No, he is having some fun with Iphis, that buxom beauty I gave him after I conquered the city of Scyros."
"There's a sensible fellow," said Thetis. "Why don't you forget this fuss with King Agamemnon and have fun with some rosy-cheeked darling?" But a painful expression crossed her face as she said it.
Achilles did not notice the look. "I am too sick with humiliation and disgust to take pleasure in anything. I am full up to here with being a lion in the fighting and yet having to give that jackal Agamemnon the lion's share of the loot, just because he has been chosen to be our leader. Am I not a king in Thessaly? I wish--I wish--"
"Yes?" said Thetis eagerly. "Do you want to go home?"
"I should go home. Then the Greeks would wish they'd not allowed Agamemnon to insult the best man among them."
"Oh, Achilles, say the word and I'll have you across the sea and in your palace in an hour!" she said excitedly. She was thinking, The Director will be furious if Achilles disappears, but he won't be able to do anything about it. And the Script can be revised. Hector or Odysseus or Paris can play the lead role.
"No, Achilles said. "I can't leave my men here. They'd say I had run out on them, that I was a coward. And the Greeks would call me a yellow dog. No, I'll allow no man to say that."
Thetis sighed and answered sadly, "Very well. What do you want me to do?"
"Go ask Zeus if he will give Agamemnon so much trouble he'll come crawling to me, begging for forgiveness and pleading for my help."
Thetis had to smile. The enormous egotism of the beautiful brute! Taking it for granted that the Lord of Creation would bend the course of events so Achilles could salvage his pride. Yet, she told herself, she need not be surprised. He had taken it calmly enough the night she'd appeared to him and told him that she was a goddess and his true mother. He had always been convinced divine blood ran in his veins. Was he not superior to all men? Was he not Achilles?
"I will go to Zeus," she said. "But what he will do, only he knows."
She reached up and pulled his head down to kiss him on the forehead. She did not trust herself to touch the lips of this man who was far more a man than those he supposed to be gods. The lips she longed for ... the lips soon to grow cold. She could not bear to think of it.
She flicked the switch to make her invisible and, after leaving the tent, rose toward the ship. As always, it hung at four thousand feet above the plain, hidden in the inflated plastic folds that simulated a cloud. To the Greeks and Trojans the cloud was the home of Zeus, anchored there so he could keep a close eye on the struggle below.
It was he who would decide whether the walls of Troy would stand or fall. It was to him that both sides prayed.