The God Wars

The God Wars

Chapter One:

Atlantic Lost

By Dwayne MacInnes

North Atlantic: July 23, 1944 0105 Hours
Cruiser USS Pima

General Gregory Crist stood on the deck of the Baltimore class heavy cruiser the USS Pima. He took in the night air, the stars twinkling in the clear sky. It was just the day before when the convoy had left New York Harbor on their way towards England. He had never been on the ocean before. However, he was relieved to find that unlike many of the recruits on the RMS Olympus, a converted British luxury liner, he did not experience the displeasure of seasickness.

Crist looked off the deck into the inky black ocean wondering if there was a U-boat out there waiting for them. The German's wolf pack strategies had not been doing them much good lately. However, there was no telling when they might take a shot at the fat convoy anyway.

The baby flattop, the escort carrier USS Kiska, was riding along with the Pima. Any u-boats patrolling the area had to stay low during the daytime so that the aircrew on the Kiska would not spot them. However, airplanes could not fly off carrier decks during the night. Therefore, the convoy could still face some brave German captain trying to halt some of the reinforcements destined for the European invasion.

"General Christ," a young seaman said behind the general, interrupting the army soldier's line of thinking.

"Crist, son. The 'I' is short. I am not the Lord," General Crist replied in his usual dry humor.

The sailor thinking the general had rebuked him quickly saluted. "Sorry, sir, I meant no offense."

"Relax," Crist said smiling to put the boy at ease before he returned the salute. "I assume you have a message for me."

"Yes sir, Captain Arnold wants to know if you would like to join him on the bridge."

General Crist followed the young seaman to the ship's bridge. He had not yet met the captain. He had spent most of his time in his quarters reading various reports about the Normandy invasion. It was either that or walking on the deck taking the salty sea air, or enjoying a cigarette. Sometimes he did all three.

A dim red light bathed the bridge in an eerie light which allowing the crew to work in the darkness and limited the light that any prospective underwater predator could see. All the sailors wore a lifejacket and a standard issued steel helmet, both painted blue. The captain was talking to a sailor wearing headphones. From the snatches of the low conversation, Crist reasoned that this was the sonar man.

Captain Arnold looked up from the sonar station towards General Crist as the general approached the helm. The helmsman kept his eyes forward in the dark night guiding the cruiser, and therefore the entire convoy, towards their destination.

"General," Captain Arnold said extending his hand. "I've been anxious to meet with you all day. I'm sorry my duties have kept from any pleasantries."

"Think nothing of it captain," Crist said returning the handshake. "I'm sure being in charge of a convoy can be challenging."

"Yes sir, it can," Arnold replied. "Would you like some coffee?"

"Yes, if it is no problem."

"None at all," Captain Arnold nodded towards the sailor who escorted Crist to the bridge. "Two cups please, ensign."

"Aye, captain," the ensign saluted and exited the bridge.

"Well, general would you be interested in knowing about the make-up of this little convoy?"

The general smiled and nodded his head.

Carrier USS Kiska

"You have our flagship, the Pima, which you are on. We also have two destroyer escorts the Blake and the Phillips. There is also a new Fletcher class destroyer John Reynolds and the escort carrier Kiska. That is the teeth of our little armada.

"Now we are riding herd on one LST, the hospital ship Respite, the British troop ship RMS Olympus, four cargo ships and one fat tanker. All bound for merry ol' England, where they will be divided up and sent on various missions.

"Our job is to get them there in one piece. The German's job is to sink as many as possible. We have all our sonar crew listening for any baddies that may be trying to stop us. They are on passive sonar, which is just fancy lingo for microphones in the water. If we need we have active sonar. It makes a lot of noise but it let us know where everything is underwater. The draw back is that it also lets anything that may be hunting us know exactly where we are as well." "That is pretty impressive captain," General Crist replied looking around the interior of the bridge. He noticed the usual array of equipment, like the compass and radio as well as the sonar station. He also noticed a large mechanical device that seemed shoehorned onto the deck. It normally would not have gathered his attention because he did not know what belonged on a bridge and what did not. However, several men in white lab-coats were operating this one.

"If I may ask captain, what is that?" Crist said pointing to the large machine.

"That my dear general is Washington's newest little toy. I don't even know what it exactly is supposed to do. But I am assured it is supposed to protect the entire convoy from u-boats."

The ensign soon arrived with the two tin cups of hot coffee. As the two senior officers drank the java, the captain continued to give the general a tour of the ship's bridge. Suddenly the sonar operator held up his hand and motioned for the captain.

"Sir, I have multiple contacts to the southeast," the sonar man stated.

"Alert the fleet," the captain replied. "Son, you have a count on the contacts."

"I am not sure, but it sound like three maybe four U-boats, sir."

Before Captain Arnold could issue any further orders, one of the men in a lab coat approached the ship's captain.

"Captain, let me use the device. I assure you it will work," said the man.

"Very well, Dr. Reno," Arnold said. "But we'll still prepare for battle."

Dr. Reno walked over to the machine. He started instructing his men and they in turn began flipping switches, turning knobs, and pulling levers. An ominous whirring noise began to emanate from the interior of the Pima. Soon a green fog started to envelop not only the cruiser but the other ships in the convoy as well. In an instant, the outside world disappeared.

Every person on the ship began to get weak as a strong sense of nausea hit them all. Crist knew it could not be seasickness for some of the seasoned crew were even grabbing their bellies. He somehow knew that every person in the convoy was experiencing the same sickening effect.

As suddenly as it began, the machine causing the ominous whirring and nausea began to spark. Smoke billowed out from behind its panels. Dr. Reno ran to the main shutoff switch. However, before he could activate it, a blue-white bolt of electricity shot from the machine and struck the doctor. The doctor fell forward and managed to land on the red lever of the shutoff switch. The whirring and nausea instantly ended.

The green fog also disappeared revealing the convoy in a blue sea bathed in the bright rays of the morning sun.

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The God Wars

Chapter Two:

Polar Opposite

By Dwayne MacInnes

Captain Arnold was the first to react after the device ceased to function. "Get that man to sickbay!" the captain ordered two of the sailors on the bridge. A black cloud filled the bridge and the doors were thrown open to help dissipate the smoke and acrid smell that accompanied it.

"Sir!" the sonar operator shouted. "The contacts are no longer there. I only hear the screws from our fleet."

Before the captain could acknowledge the helmsman broke in. "Captain, the instruments are wrong. According to my compass we are heading west!"

"Maybe that damn machine turned us around," the captain griped. "No, the sun is still rising and we are headed towards it so we must be going east."

"It's a little early for sunrise don't you think," General Crist offered.

"Machine must have ruined the compass as well as blacked us out or something to boot," the captain reasoned. He turned towards one of the lab-coated men.

"You, ah, Dr. Berger," the captain said a little loudly. "What in hell just happened?"

"We had tried to make the convoy invisible," Dr. Berger replied staring at the still smoldering machine in disappointment. "It worked last year on the Eldridge in Philadelphia."

"Stop your stammering man!" shouted the annoyed captain. "What happened?"

Dr. Berger cleared his voice. "Well, captain, sir, uh -- I don't suppose you are familiar with Project Rainbow?"

The stern look from the captain alerted the scientist that he was not. "Ah, well by applying the Unified Field Theory using electromagnetic radiation and gravity we were attempting to bend light. This would have made our fleet invisible to the enemy."

Dr. Berger noticed that instead of calming the captain he was actually agitating him further. "Sir, it is possible that we could have transported the fleet."

"What do you mean 'transported' the fleet? Through time? To a new location? What?"

"It is possible that both occurred." Dr. Berger replied.

"Sir, the fleet wants to know what is going on," the radioman said. "It sounds like everyone is okay, but every compass seems to be pointing in the wrong direction."

"Can you reach Liverpool, or New York?" the captain asked.

"No sir, the only signals I am receiving are coming from our own fleet."

"Dr. Berger," Captain Arnold said sternly. "I have about ten thousand soldiers and a few hundred military engineers on the Olympus as well as valuable replacement parts, ammunition and other stores on those cargo ships that are direly needed for our efforts in Europe. That is not to mention the oil on that tanker and that hospital ship and the vehicles on the LST....

"I will not have it on my record that we lost the war because your little toy did not work correctly.

"I will put this bluntly. Fix it!"

* * * * *

Because Dr. Reno's injuries were serious, the Pima sent him over to the Respite for care. The medical care needed was beyond that which the sick bay of the Pima could offer. Captain Arnold determined to keep the fleet moving east despite what the compass said. A compass could be wrong; the direction in which the sun rose would always be the same.

Arnold figured the time to be about 1000 hours. They could not be certain of the exact day. If they could move forward in time a few hours, it was also possible that they had moved forward a few days, weeks, months, or even years.

The sailors in the fleet also came to the realization that they were no longer in the North Atlantic. The temperature was too warm and the sea did not feel right. After years of crossing oceans, a seasoned seaman came to know the temperament of the various oceans.

Nonetheless, Captain Arnold figured that if they continued east eventually they would find land. So far, not even the radar picked up anything. The Kiska launched a few scout planes but the TBF Avenger torpedo bombers acting as scouts could not find anything within their flight range.

* * * * *

General Crist was feeling useless with the looming crisis facing the fleet. It was not his way to be inactive when something was going down. One only rose to the rank of general if he could quickly come to decisions and implement them into action.

Therefore, General Crist transported himself over to the hospital ship Respite. Crist figured that keeping the fleet together and calm occupied all of Captain Arnold's attention so he could not head over himself. So, Crist took it upon himself to be transported over to the Respite where he would, depending on the Reno's condition, interview the doctor.

General Crist was amazed once he stepped aboard the Respite. The large hospital ship reminded him a lot of a modern hospital. The ship boasted two operating rooms, had x-ray machines, dental care, plastic surgery, and psychiatric care. She could care for over 400 patients and had a crew of 516. Some were ship's crew and others were medical personnel. Doctors roamed the corridors, as did a number of nurses.

Crist had forgotten that there were women in the convoy. All were the nurses aboard Respite. They were all over the age of 20 and held the rank of lieutenant. Crist also noticed that most were chaperoned by a soldier. This was ship of mercy not of ill repute.

Finally, Crist found the doctor attending to Dr. Reno. The medical doctor assured Crist that Reno, though gravely injured, could answer a few questions. General Crist entered the sterile room and saw the scientist lying in a bed with bandages wrapping his upper torso. There was an IV-drip hanging from a metal stand that connected to Reno's arm.

Dr. Reno groggily looked over at the general as he entered the room. "You must have something important to ask if you came all the way over here to see me," Reno said in a tired voice.

"As a matter of fact I do. Please, let me know when you are too tired and we can pick it up later," Crist said as he pulled a chair up next to the bed.

"Just a little sore. Go ahead and ask your questions," Reno said.

General Crist explained all that happened since the machine shut down. He told the scientist about the compasses, the sun rising early, and the change in the ocean. When he finished Reno laid back and digested all this for a while before he addressed Crist.

"Do all the compasses point in the same direction?" Reno queried.

"As a matter of fact they all point directly south with about a 13 degree declination," Crist offered.

"I'm afraid that you may not like my answer," Reno strained the exhaustion finally overtaking him.

"Maybe you should rest," Crist stated. "I could come back in a few hours."

"No, you should let Captain Arnold know," Reno replied.

"Know what?"

"The compasses are working correctly. The magnetic pole on this world is to the south," Reno said fighting to stay conscious.

"What do you mean?" Crist asked hoping he did not hear correctly.

"Simply, that we are no longer on Earth. We have been transported to another world," with that final word Reno collapsed back into his pillow and lost consciousness.

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The God Wars

Chapter Three:

Castaway

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Do you actually believe this?" Captain Arnold asked Crist once the general returned to the Pima.

"It is a hard pill to swallow, but it does make sense," Crist said smoking a cigarette.

"What do you think we should do? You are the ranking officer."

"Captain," Crist said to the excited captain. "The fleet is under your command. You get me to land and I'll take over any landing operations. However, if you want my advice I say we keep going east. There must be some land out there somewhere."

"Maybe and maybe not. In any event, I only have a finite amount of fuel for the ships and aircraft. Hopefully, we'll catch something on the radar," Arnold responded.

"What about the two Kingfisher floatplanes on this ship? Their range is further than the Avengers," Crist offered.

"It takes a long time to retrieve a floatplane and secure it back onto its catapult. No the range of the TBFs will suffice," Captain Arnold countered.

The two men sat in silence as the bridge crew continued their work. The sun was out in full force and there was not a cloud in the bright blue sky. In another time and place, this would be a wonderful day. Today it was just another mystery as to what was going on.

Finally, Arnold went over to the radioman. "Sparky, have all senior officers of the fleet assemble in the wardroom in two hours." Arnold then turned towards Crist, "General I would like all your senior officers in attendance as well."

"You figure a briefing?" Crist asked the captain.

"Yes, preferably a joint one explaining the possibility that we are lost -- very lost," Arnold concluded.

The radio operator suddenly spun around to address Captain Arnold. "Sir, the John Reynolds has spotted some debris off her port side."

Arnold and Crist both rushed over to the radio. Sparky continued to listen on his end and finally relayed more information. "It appears sir to be from a wooden ship..."

"Maybe we are not so lost after all," Arnold proclaimed.

"Sir, they also say there is a survivor, and he is being sent over to the Respite."

"General, I know that you out rank me. But if you can spare someone to interview the survivor and report back to me I'd be very thankful," Arnold said to the waiting General.

"Not a problem. I can spare myself. I've got a few interpreters over on the Olympus I will take one of them along in case our survivor doesn't speak English."

Grumman TBF Avenger

It was the second time in a matter of hours that General Crist found himself on the Respite. This time he was ushered to the room with the survivor of the wooden boat. With the general was an interpreter Lieutenant Roger Greer. It was because of his extensive range of languages and expertise in linguistics that Crist chose Greer to accompany him.

The doctor showed the two military men the room with the survivor. Nurses were busy setting up an I.V. and taking vital signs. At first neither men could see the survivor because of the mass of medical personnel assemble around the bedside.

After a few minutes the nurses and the presiding doctor walked away to confer with each other. The survivor sat in the bed. A pillow obstructed the face so Crist could not see what the survivor looked like. Finally, the doctor walked over to the two officers.

"Gentlemen, it looks like she'll be all right," the doctor said. "She's conscious but is suffering a bit of shock. Please, do not over task her with too many questions."

"Her?" Crist exclaimed. "You mean it was woman on that boat."

"Obviously, the answer is yes," the doctor replied. "Here are her effects and this might help you out."

The doctor handed over the woman's tunic. It was white with golden scroll pattern on the hem that reminded Crist of Greece. The other object was a tattered fabric with some writing on it. It was writing Crist had never seen before.

"Lieutenant, what do you make of this?" the General asked the interpreter.

"Sir, I am fluent in five languages. But this does not look like any European script in design," Greer replied looking over the fabric. "I did once take some classical languages. If I am correct this looks a lot like Linear A."

"Son, you are speaking Greek to me," the General stated.

"In a sense that is correct, sir. Linear A is from the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. It has not yet been deciphered."

"Well, maybe we can get something from the girl," Crist said.

"Yes sir, I'll try," Greer responded.

"Lieutenant, I want to stress that this is very important. I need you to do more than try," Crist sternly ordered.

"Yes sir!" Greer said with a crisp salute.

"Good, I need to return to the Pima. I want you to alert us to any breakthroughs," Crist said. "Oh son, one more thing, time is not a luxury we can afford."

* * * * *

General Crist returned in time to join Captain Arnold in the wardroom. All the captains from the various ships in the fleet were in attendance as well as every colonel that accompanied the troops aboard the Olympus. The officers were all either smoking, drinking coffee or both.

"Gentlemen," Captain Arnold addressed the assembled men. Their conversations died down once the captain began to speak. "You may have guessed that we have experienced some rather unusual events today."

Several men nodded their heads. "The general," Arnold pointed to Crist who stood off to one side, "and I have done some investigation. It appears that some new device that was supposed to turn our fleet invisible malfunctioned."

"What do you mean by malfunctioned?" asked one of the captains with British accent. Arnold noted that he had to be Captain Bolger from the Olympus.

"Well, according to Dr. Reno we have been transported to another location," Arnold replied.

"Where exactly is that?" the British captain queried further.

"We do not precisely know where. It could be any where on Earth or, as Dr. Reno suggests, another planet," Arnold answered in a stoic voice.

The assembled officers broke out in questions, disbelief, and just general chaos. Captain Arnold tried several times to quiet down the group but to no avail.

"Attention!" screamed General Crist at the top of his lungs. His harsh commanding voice automatically brought the soldiers to their feet. The fleet captains quickly followed suit.

"Look here," Crist said sternly. "We need you to take this information and present it to your men. We need you to do it in a calm and controlled manner. Plus, we want you to be prepared to keep control of the situation."

"That is correct," Arnold added. "We also want you to assure the men that we are working on finding land and fixing the machine. We will either find out we are still on Earth or we will find a way to return."

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The God Wars

Chapter Four:

Revelations

By Dwayne MacInnes

Lt. Greer spent the entire day with the woman found in the ocean. He was quickly able to learn that her name was Mina. For someone who survived a shipwreck she was doing remarkably well. When Greer started to talk with her, she became alert and any signs of weariness instantly disappeared.

Greer was able to learn a few words, and he taught her a few words in turn. He could tell that she was very anxious to communicate with him. She would point to the tattered rag that contained the old Minoan script. She even tried writing a message to Greer, but it was still Linear A. Sadly, Greer did not know how to read that.

After hours of learning some basic words, Lt. Greer decided that Mina might want some fresh air. He checked with the doctor. He received the okay as long as she used a wheelchair. The strange device fascinated Mina. Nonetheless, she allowed Greer to push her along the corridors and out onto the deck of the Respite.

The sun had set and the stars were out. Greer was not an astronomer, but he could tell the Big and Little Dipper from the rest of the constellations. He could not find either. The moon also looked slightly different; a little larger in fact. The moon was full in the clear night sky, and it cast its silvery luminescence upon the deck of the hospital ship.

Mina also studied the sky. After a few minutes, she jumped out of the wheelchair and pointed towards the east. The same directions the fleet had been traveling all day.

"Ghie!" she cried as she grabbed Greer's arm and excitedly continued to point east. "Ghie!"

Greer watched bewildered for a couple of minutes. He did not know what 'ghie' meant. It was obviously something very important. Mina frowned at Greer when he shook his head that he did not understand.

Mina began to stamp her feet. With no reaction from Greer, She knelt down and pantomimed picking something up and letting it run through her fingers. She then stood up and pretended to be breaking the ground with some tool.

Greer smiled and asked, "Gaia?"

Mina clapped her hands and nodded. She then pointed east again saying, "Ghie."

Greer became excited. If he had guessed correctly that meant there was land to the east. He had to contact the Pima quickly.

* * * * *

General Crist had finally decided to head back to his quarters and catch some shut-eye. He had not slept since the incident with the machine. Therefore, it was no surprise that as soon as his head hit the pillow he was fast asleep.

"General Crist?" a voice asked in Crist's dream. The voice sounded familiar yet he could not place it. "General Crist?" it asked again a little louder. Crist's mind was slowly starting to coalesce around consciousness. "General Crist?" the voice said again and Crist sat up in bed.

In the doorway of his quarters stood the seaman he met on deck the night before. Crist cleared his throat and swung his legs over the bed planting his feet on the floor.

"Yes," the general finally choked out.

"General, Captain Arnold wants to see you immediately," the sailor stated.

The general climbed out of bed wondering if the captain ever slept himself. General Crist and the escort hurried down the hallway and up stairs until they were in the bridge. Arnold was looking out the window up at the heavens.

"Sorry to wake you general," Arnold said never taking his eyes off the night sky. "Well, it looks like Reno was correct. We are on another world. Those are not our stars," the captain said turning to look at Crist.

"I'm assuming you called me up here for something else," Crist replied. Without his coffee after waking up, he could tend to be a bit short.

"Sorry general, you are correct," Arnold said he looked at the escort. "Ensign, please two coffees." The sailor saluted and left the bridge.

"Your man, Lt. Greer just called," Arnold began. "According to what he has learned from our castaway, land should be somewhere to the east. We still haven't seen anything on radar, but I will make sure some scout planes are sent out in the morning."

Crist nodded his head. This was important and it looked like Greer was eager to learn ancient Minoan. "Did the lieutenant say anything else?"

"Not much. He said he is working on the rag -- whatever that may be. He hopes to have it solved by morning," Arnold said.

"Captain," Crist said. "It looks like morning will reveal many things to us. So if you don't mind I will take a rain check on that coffee."

* * * * *

Crist joined Arnold on the bridge as soon as the sun broke over the eastern horizon. There was hot coffee all ready waiting there with some cinnamon rolls. The general wasted no time and helped himself to both

"Morning, general," Arnold greeted.

"Good morning, do you ever sleep," Crist asked.

"I've been catching some catnaps here and there. My XO has been insisting that I hit my bunk, but I can't do that."

Crist would have sided with the executive officer. However, if he were in charge of the fleet on an unknown world, he too would be close to the bridge.

Before Crist could say anything, a man in an army uniform walked onto the bridge. His eyes were red with lack of sleep and his uniform wrinkled.

"Lieutenant Greer," General Crist said to Captain Arnold, "is our interpreter. I believe you both spoke to each other last night.

Greer saluted both men as Crist held out a steaming cup of Joe for his young officer to drink. Greer nodded his thanks and drained the coffee oblivious to the hot liquid burning down his throat.

"Thanks," Greer said. "You won't believe what I have learned."

"Well, son maybe you should let us in on it," Crist urged.

"I have broken Linear A. Well, at least as much as is on this fabric," Greer said holding up the tattered cloth. "This is a prophecy of some sort. It reads, From Olympus over the sea, men in iron boats shall set us free."

Arnold and Crist continued to stare at Greer. The young lieutenant began to squirm uncomfortably under the gaze of the senior officers.

"Well...well, sirs," Greer stammered. "I believe that is why Mina, that is the castaway's name, sailed out to find us. We must be the men in the iron boats; in addition one of those boats is called the Olympus."

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The God Wars

Chapter Five:

Scouting Mission

By Dwayne MacInnes

Grumman TBF Avenger

Captain Willy Hodgson was flying his TBF Avenger torpedo bomber on another scouting mission. His instructions were to fly as far east as fuel would allow and then head home. If he sighted any land or saw any vessel in the water, he was to alert the convoy as soon as possible.

For the most part the flight had been routine. There was just the blue sky above and the blue ocean below to keep him and his crew company. His crew (the radio operator and rear turret gunner) would occasionally crack a joke. But, for the most part, there was little to report.

Hodgson glanced down at his fuel gauge again. He still had three quarters of a tank of fuel left. There was still plenty of time to fly looking for anything of note to report. The morning sun still crept upward to its zenith. Hodgson did not know what to make of the report Captain Gracen of the Kiska gave. He wondered if it were true that they were on another planet. This did not look like any planet he ever read about in science fiction magazines. The sky was blue, the air breathable, and the ocean looked a lot like the Earth's.

"Captain," the bombardier said over the intercom. "Look down below us."

Hodgson looked at the sea below the plane. At first he did not see what Ericson, his radioman saw. But when he did, he had to do a double-take. There below him swam what looked like a giant sea serpent. Just like one he used to see on the borders of old maps.

"That can't be right," Hodgson said over the intercom.

"I see it too captain," Ericson replied. "That has to be one huge snake."

"You gotta be kidding me!" exclaimed Bobby James the turret gunner as he craned his neck to see the large monster moving in undulating motions through the ocean.

"Ericson, radio this in," Hodgson ordered. "I'm going in for a closer look."

Hodgson winged the Avenger over into a dive. The wind whistled past the canopy and over the wings as the plane dropped on the sea monster. If Hodgson had a bomb or torpedo he would have been tempted to drop it on the sea creature. However, to gain the maximum range from the torpedo bombers the scouts only flew with the .30 and .50 ammunition in their machineguns.

"My Lord, I hope that thing can't breathe fire," Ericson said casually.

Hodgson did not think about it twice. He pulled back the stick to level out the flight. If there were sea monsters, it was also possible that they could breathe fire. He just hoped that he was out of its range.

The sea serpent continued on its way without noticing the combat plane following it. It would dive its head under the sea only to bring it back to the surface several yards further on. The beast's body followed its head in the rhythmic movement.

"Cap, I've sent the message. They don't believe us, but they have it," Ericson broke in over the intercom.

Before Hodgson could reply, he noticed a shape growing larger on the horizon. As the sea serpent and the Avenger approached, the shape grew into an ancient wooden ship.

Unireme

"Look at that thing. It looks like something from the Iliad," Hodgson said over the intercom.

The wooden ship had a bank of rowers and a large sail on a single mast. On the white sail, there was a design of a double axe head. However, little of this mattered to Hodgson. The sea serpent headed straight for the wooden ship as the crew of the boat tried to change its course.

The unireme would not be fast enough to escape the charge of the monster bearing down on it. Hodgson lowered the Avenger and sighted up the .30 machinegun in the nose on the beast. As he depressed the trigger, the armor piercing bullets ripped into the flesh of the serpent.

The great sea snake halted its charge and lashed out towards the descending aircraft. Hodgson pulled back on the stick and managed to avoid the great jaws of the wounded monster. Ericson and James opened up with their machineguns as the Avenger climbed back into the sky. Ericson's gun was a .30 like Hodgson's, however, James had the .50 and the effects of his armor piercing rounds on the sea serpent were devastating.

The sea serpent writhed in agony as it painted the ocean red with its lifeblood pouring from great ragged holes up and down its long body. Captain Hodgson turned the Avenger back around for a second strafing run. This time he made sure to stay high enough to be out of range of the tortured beast's giant maw.

The second run was even more destructive than the first. The giant sea serpent's head nearly exploded as Hodgson filled it with the steel rounds from the nose machinegun. When he pulled up, it was useless for Ericson and James to add their lethal fire for the great monster all ready lay floating lifelessly upon the ocean's surface. After a few minutes, the dead body slid below the waves.

Hodgson flew the plane low over the boat that was now heading eastward. The crew worked frantically at the oars. A few men looked over their shoulders in wide-eyed fear as the Avenger roared overhead. Nonetheless, Hodgson banked the aircraft and waved at the frightened crew. Just before he flew off towards the east again, he thought he saw one of the men below return his wave.

The old unireme disappeared in the distance behind the Avenger as it flew off. Hodgson was still mentally trying to get a grasp on exactly what all had occurred. He did not dwell long on it as he noticed land stretching out on the horizon before him. What grabbed his attention more than that was the smoke billowing up into the sky from the land.

Hodgson aimed the Avenger towards the smoke on the horizon. In only of a few minutes, he found himself flying over an ancient looking city. There was a natural harbor teaming with uniremes, trading vessels and fishing boats on the western edge. People were crowding the piers to get on one of the boats. A few of the boats were all ready heading out to sea.

On the northeastern side, the city was burning in a blazing infernal. A large breach had been forced into the stone wall and enemy forces were pouring through it torching and killing everything in their way. Outside the thick stone walls in trampled and burning fields raged a violent battle. Hodgson could not make out the combatants too well at his current altitude so he flew the Avenger back over the dust and smoke-choked battlefield at a much lower level.

Cyclops

On one side, the crew on the torpedo bomber could see men in bronze armor and heavy spears with bright points combating what appeared to be giant half-human creatures. The crew had only encountered these figures in mythology textbooks. There were thousands of minotaurs and cyclopes. The humans were having the worse of it. The huge axes and clubs of the gigantic opponents easily brushed aside or snapped the spears of the human defenders. Nonetheless, the humans continued to fight and occasionally would score on one of the mythical foes.

Without a second thought, Hodgson drove his plane into the combat and opened up on the inhuman forces with his nose-mounted machinegun. As he pulled up the guns in the rear of the plane added their weight to the carnage below. The Avenger flew back and forth over the battlefield several times repeating the strafing run leaving hundreds of dead and dying creatures on the field. However, Hodgson had to reluctantly turn the plane back out to sea when the aircraft ran out of ammo. Captain Hodgson and his crew only hoped that they had been able to even the odds that favored the inhuman army.

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The God Wars

Chapter Six:

Sea Battle

By Dwayne MacInnes

Captain Arnold at first could not believe his ears on hearing the TBF Avenger's reports. In the back of his mind, he still had hoped that they were on earth. If the reports were true and sea monsters, minotaurs, and one-eyed giants existed, then there was no doubt that they were indeed on another world.

Captain Arnold also fumed about the fact that the pilot of the scout plane took it upon himself to initiate combat. Granted, Arnold would have authorized the use of weaponry when he heard about the various monsters assaulting the humans. Nonetheless, there were still rules of engagement and Hodgson did not follow the chain of command in this instance. When the plane returned and when time allowed, the pilot would get a good chewing out by the captain.

However, the scout plane's reports did urge Arnold to action. If an inhuman army was assaulting the humans, he had to do something to help them. Fortunately General Crist was always near at hand. The two men quickly formed a plan.

The remaining 11 torpedo bombers would be loaded with either bombs or torpedoes and head for the city. Six of the F6F Hellcat fighter planes would escort them. The remaining 10 Hellcats would stay with the fleet on Combat Air Patrol or CAP. The Pima would launch its two OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes to scout out the land for an ideal place for a beachhead.

The convoy would steam as fast as possible towards the city. The LST, Landing Ship Tanks, had 15 M4 Sherman medium tanks onboard that could land on shore. It also had 4 LCVPs, Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel. General Crist could use these to start offloading the combat troops on the Olympus.

First, however, they would need a report from one of the Kingfishers on the best place to land. It was a desperate and deadly mission and they were going into it blind. Unfortunately, if the Avenger's reports were true, the humans did not have much time. In fact, there was a good possibility that they may be too late.

F6F Hellcat

Lieutenant Dick Allen was the squadron leader for the Avengers. Half the planes in the flight group carried gravity bombs and the rest like his carried a torpedo. A flight of F6F Hellcats was above them acting as a protective screen against any possible threat from the air.

The aircrafts flew in the sky at cruising speed. They were on a constant look out for anything suspicious in the air or on water. Therefore, they could not fly too high or they might miss something important.

The flight could see the smoke on the horizon. They knew they were approaching land. So far, the flight had been uneventful, but everyone realized that that could change in a heartbeat.

Allen could see the dots of various boats on the horizon. As they grew larger as the distance between the flight of aircraft and the sea vessels rapidly dwindled, they could see that they were the uniremes, trading vessels and fishing boats reported by Hodgson's flight.

"Loot!" Bernie Davidson the radio operator and bombardier cried over the intercom. "Look to the starboard!"

Allen looked to his right to only become momentarily speechless. There in the ocean stood a man, or rather a giant. The giant stood bare-chested about twenty feet tall above the surface of the sea; his lower body submerged in the ocean. He wore a crown of polished pink coral on his gray head and held a huge trident in his right hand. The giant's long gray beard flowed in the air as he jerked his head towards the flight of aircraft.

"If that isn't King Neptune, I don't know who he could be," Bernie offered.

"Those ships look more Greek in design than Roman," Jack Harvey the tail gunner said. "I would bet that is Poseidon."

"I don't care if it is Abe Lincoln," Allen replied. "We'll keep a watch on him. Bernie radio the torpedo laden planes to stay with me. Have Ross take the rest of the flight to the mainland."

Poseidon

The giant did not give much notice to the flight of aircraft. He did not think it worth his time. His objective was to do something about the fleeing vessels arrayed before him. The giant raised his arm with the trident and gave a call that tore through the air in a deep bass.

The ocean began to bubble and boil around him when suddenly serpentine heads rose into the air. Sea serpents like that witnessed by Hodgson and his crew swam around the giant in writhing unholy dance.

The giant then pointed the trident at the disarrayed fleet of wooden boats ahead of him. The sea serpents charged like a cavalry of snakes towards the fleeing boats. The first wave of sea monsters quickly wrapped themselves around the helpless boats like a boa constrictor on its prey. The boats would then explode in a cloud of splinters. Any sailor that survived the crushing of their vessel the sea serpents quickly devoured in a ravenous feeding frenzy.

Allen and the rest of the flight crew watched in horror. "Pick your target and attack!" Allen cried as he put his Avenger into a dive towards the sea serpents. The rest of the flight did not need any further encouragement to follow suit.

Soon the sea was awash in blood as the Avengers opened up with their machineguns. Like with Hodgson's experience the sea monsters were vulnerable to the steel of the armor-piercing rounds that slammed into their bodies. Great cries ripped through the air as the serpents screamed in agony, their assault on the wooden fleet momentarily forgotten.

The giant now paid close attention to these steel birds wreaking havoc amongst his pets. The giant cried out a foreign command into the air as he again raised his trident this time aiming it at the flight of Avengers attacking the sea serpents.

A waterspout sprang into being and headed towards the aircraft. To avoid being caught up in the ocean born tornado the Avengers scattered. Allen ordered his flight crew to continue their assault on the sea serpents.

Allen aimed his torpedo bomber at the giant. When he was within range, he ordered Bernie to drop the Mark 16 torpedo. The lieutenant was glad that the fleet carried the new Mark 16 torpedo instead of the less reliable Mark 14, which was infamous for being a dud because of the detonator pin's tendency for bending when it came in contact with its target.

The giant watched curiously as the torpedo swam towards him. Confident that he was impervious to anything manmade the giant only smiled as he began to call another and larger waterspout into being.

The torpedo smashed into the giant's left leg; a huge splash erupted into the air as the torpedo exploded. To the giant's surprise, there was a lot of blood mixed in the spray. It took just a few seconds for the giant realized that the torpedo had utterly blown his left leg away.

The huge man fell backwards into the ocean. He floundered and struggled to stay above the water. His agonizing bellows filled the air. He had never experienced such pain before. The giant always believed that he was invulnerable to any manmade weapons, however the magnitude of the power belonging to a Mark 16 torpedo was much greater than a mere spear thrust or sword slash.

The remaining torpedo bombers dove onto the giant and released their torpedoes as well. Three of the four remaining Mark 16s found their mark. The giant who had never been wounded before, died as the three torpedoes detonated and tore off huge parts of his body.

As if by magic, the sea serpents halted their attack on the fleet and swam over to their king and master now lying face down in the ocean. There was not much left of the forty-foot long giant. He had lost both legs and an arm, his ribs lay exposed to the sun. The serpents swam in circles around their master mourning his death until his body finally sank below the waves leaving the ocean dyed red with his blood.

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The God Wars

Chapter Seven:

Flights of Death

By Dwayne MacInnes

Lieutenant Ross continued to lead the remaining six TBF Avengers with their payload of bombs towards the mainland. The protective flight of F6F Hellcats also escorted the torpedo bombers towards their destination.

Captain Ray Walsh was the squadron leader for the Hellcats. Although the planes could also carry a bomb under each wing, this flight was only armed with the ammunition for their six .50 machineguns mounted in their wings. This was done in order for the fighters to remain with the longer range Avengers for the maximum amount of time in the air. Thus, weight had to be restricted.

As the two flights of aircraft approached, in the city that Hodgson's torpedo bomber discovered, the crew could make out that things have not gone well for the humans. This was despite Hodgson's strafing runs. The entire city now appeared to be in flames, the remaining humans were fighting tenaciously near the docks and piers of the harbor as the few remaining boats loaded up with human cargo. The huge minotaurs and cyclopes continued in their annihilation of the citizens and soldiers of the city below. They showed no signs of mercy.

"Okay, boys," Ross said over his intercom. "Let's see if we can help those people down there."

Ross aimed his Avenger towards the lead group of monsters. The muzzle of his .30 machinegun flashed as the steel rounds stitched their way towards the giant creatures. Several of the half-bovine minotaurs fell backwards as the bullets ripped through their torso. Ross's bombardier then released the 500 pound bombs which were residing the in the belly of the aircraft.

The ground shook as the bombs detonated amongst the ruins of the city. Huge clouds of dust, debris, and smoke obscured the view below. The giant monsters halted their onslaught long enough to look towards the sky. They were stunned into inaction to see five more of the torpedo bombers dropping their payload all over the ruined city. The entire city shook as if in a terrible earthquake as the bombs detonated.

Captain Walsh ordered his half-dozen Hellcats to help support the attack on the monsters crowding the city. The six .50 machineguns in each of the Hellcats chewed up any monster that survived the initial bombing raid. This was proving too much for the monsters below.

The few remaining human defenders did not know what to make of the strange mechanical birds in the sky smiting their foes. But, they did not question the fact that maybe some new god had come to take mercy on them. They cheered as the army of minotaurs and cyclopes began to retreat. The humans took rest and tried to restore order to their pitiful army as the few remaining civilian refugees took to the boats.

Both Ross and Walsh continued to press their advantage with continual strafing runs on the inhuman army below them. The constant pressure caused the lead forces to fall back. However, what started as a mere retreat soon became a rout. Soon the forces trying to leave the city were colliding with those trying to enter it. This resulted in massive confusion that rapidly became fear.

The entangled masses of monsters offered too tempting a target for the Avengers and Hellcats. The planes continued to fly in from all directions unleashing their deadly strafing attacks into the creatures below. Several times the aircraft came within feet of colliding with each other.

As with Hodgson's attack, the two wings of aircraft ran out of ammunition all too soon. The torn and mangled bodies of the invading army of monsters now littered the ravaged and burning city. Sadly, there was still a countless horde that was willing to replenish the ranks of the fallen.

However, much of the invaders enthusiasm for blood dampened when they witnessed the broken and shredded bodies of their more unfortunate comrades lying about. Instead of pressing the attack to finish off the remnants of the city's army, the minotaurs and cyclopes started surveying the carnage for any survivors.

Minotaur

The convoy made the best speed possible towards land. The Kingfisher scouts relayed that the best landing for the city would actually be at the city docks. For the moment, the defenders still held that part of the city. Even though the convoy was warned to be careful for there were many boats carrying the fleeing citizenry.

With the report of sea monsters in the area, Captain Arnold ordered all capable ships to use active sonar. The loud pings not only alerted any potential threat to the fleet, but also warned those threats that they better move along or face the consequences.

As the fleet steamed east, the warships only had to drop depth charges twice. One of the attacks not only produced the huge explosive spray, but also brought up some blood and body parts of an unfortunate sea serpent that got too close to the fleet.

The convoy soon encountered the fleeing flotilla of boats from the city. Captain Arnold would have liked to stop and help them out. However, his business with landing troops in the city took precedence because he did not know how much longer the defenders could hold out.

Nonetheless, Arnold had the foresight to have Lt. Greer and Mina on board the bridge. Mina was fascinated with the workings of the ship. Greer tried his best to describe what was going on with his limited vocabulary of Minoan which is what he referred to Mina's language. Mina was mindful to stay out of the way of the working men, especially the men in white lab-coats furiously working on a huge machine near the rear of the bridge.

"Lieutenant," Captain Arnold said as the cruiser sailed towards the ragtag flotilla of uniremes and fishing boats. "I need you tell those people out there that we are going to rescue their home."

Greer repeated the best he could what the captain wanted to tell Mina. Mina nodded her head but only asked, "How?" Captain Arnold handed Greer the microphone for the public address system.

Mina began to speak into the odd instrument and balked when she heard her voice boom out of the speakers like some kind of goddess. Greer urged her to continue. After a few seconds of hesitancy, Mina relayed her message. Captain Arnold requested that she continue the message repeatedly which she did.

General Crist walked over to Arnold when he had finished with the interpreter and the girl. "Captain, I have only four LCVPs or Higgins boats for landing," Crist said. "Each Higgins can only hold 36 soldiers, meaning I can land only about a 144 men at a time."

Arnold frowned, acknowledging Crist's concern. With only about a 140 men landing at a time, they could have a hard time establishing a good beachhead. Arnold paced back and forth for a time. Then he walked over to his radioman and spoke a few minutes with him. After 'Sparky' sent off a message, they all waited for the response.

On hearing the response, Arnold walked back over to Crist. "We are in luck, according to my scouts the city piers are made of stone and should be capable of offloading the Olympus. Our only concern is whether the depth is deep enough. I will send the Blake ahead to get sonar readings."

"Let's hope we can get there before we lose sunlight," Crist said watching as the sun started lowering in the west nearly kissing the ocean.

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The God Wars

Chapter Eight:

Beachheads and Bullheads

By Dwayne MacInnes

PFC Daniels did not know what to think. The night before the officers told the soldiers that through some malfunction of a secret weapon, and the entire fleet might have ended up on another world. Most of the troopers figured it was just some sort of joke or initiation on the green troops.

The sun was dipping towards the ocean to the west when the Olympus docked next to a long stone pier. The Pima, still steaming back and forth in the harbor, kept broadcasting the same message in a strange tongue repeatedly. The fact that the speaker was a woman only added more mystery to the strange events.

The officers wasted no time assembling the soldiers and preparing them for combat. Daniels had his rucksack and M1 Garand in hand when Sergeant Jim "Jolly" Rogers barked out the command for his squad to disembark.

The sergeant led his men down the gangplank and over the pier towards a burning, rubble-laden city. The soldiers took quick glances around them as they ran up the stone pier. Daniels had never been to Greece, but from what he remembered in his old school textbooks, the buildings looked Grecian in construction.

Occasionally, the men would spot a human watching them curiously from behind some ruined building. The few people the soldiers saw looked like ancient Greek soldiers as well. They wore polished bronze armor and carried a thick ox-hide shield with various images on them, a short bronze sword, a long heavy hafted spear, and the telltale bronze helmet with a horsehair plume.

"Okay you dogfaces!" roared Sergeant Rogers as the men assembled on the main road on the edge of the city. "If you didn't believe the fairy tale you were told last night you can see for yourself that it is real."

Several soldiers looked around at the burning city and the endless stream of G.I.s issuing from the Olympus. The carcass of a minotaur lay not far from the soldiers. It was half buried in the debris from a collapsed building.

"Sarge, this can't be real," moaned one soldier.

"You better believe it is real or you may get a rude awakening," the sergeant stated pointing to the half-bovine corpse with the barrel of his Thompson submachine gun. "You ain't going to get any steaks from that. In fact, it'll probably have you for dinner if you aren't careful.

"Now, we are going to rid what's left of this town of creatures like these as well as those one-eyed beasts you guys read about in the Odyssey. We will push through this city and anything that is bigger than a man is a target. You will not harm any civvies, you will not harm any half-naked man in golden armor, and you will assist anyone of the above. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yessir!!" the soldiers replied in unison.

"All right let's head out," Rogers said as he led his men through the debris choked roads of the town.

M1 Garand

PFC Daniels held his M1 Garand at ready. He searched the surrounding area anxiously looking for some giant to assail him and his squad. They laboriously worked their way through the debris.

The fires were scattered and there were occasional house still standing. Daniels noted that there was not a house over three storeys tall. There were also many bodies; too many of them were human. He tried not to look at their faces. He was already feeling ill.

Suddenly Sergeant Rogers opened up with his Tommy gun. A giant with one-eye stood towering over the sergeant with a huge wooden club raised. The .45 bullets from the submachine gun ripped a series of bloody holes across the cyclops's naked chest.

Thomson Submachine Gun

The giant gave out a howl of pain before falling backwards into the debris of a burning building. His body writhed in the fire as it consumed the beast's flesh.

A bellow brought Daniels back to his own concerns. A minotaur raised itself out of a pile of broken stones and charged the private while swinging its giant double-headed axe. PFC Daniels took a few steps backwards and opened up with the semi-automatic Garand. Two .30 bullets hit the monster in the upper torso. The shaggy-headed beast shook off the effects and roared in a bull-like cry. The minotaur charged again and Daniels emptied the M1 into the beast's chest and head. He even shot off one of its huge horns.

The minotaur's eyes fell back into their sockets and its tongue lay limp out of its bloody mouth. However the dead carcass of the beast continued to charge towards the private in a lumbering stagger. It finally fell to the ground but its momentum caused the body to tumble onto the soldier. Daniels felt the heavy weight of the brute pin him to the ground.

Under the body of the foul smelling half-bull creature Daniels could hear the combat around him as his squad fought off an ambush. Haskill's BAR fired off small bursts, as did Roger's Tommy gun. The rest of the squad continued to fire their M1s. There was the sound of a couple of explosions resulting in the use of the hand grenades.

Daniels could not see anything and try as he might he could not move the carcass off his body. He had to take shallow breaths for his chest was compressed under the minotaur's weight. The battle raged around him and all he could hear were the screams and roars of men and beast fighting in desperate combat.

"Haskill bring that BAR to bear over there." Sergeant Roger's voice cried over the din of combat. "Jenkins, call up the Pima and see if we can get some support before we lose all the remaining day light.

"Everyone fall back!" Daniels did not like the sound of the sergeant calling the men to pull back. The private tried to call out for help, but he could not manage anything over a hoarse whisper.

Grunts and growls of the beasts radiated around where Daniels was pinned under the body. He no longer heard the voice of his squad mates. Although, he could still hear the sound of automatic and semi-automatic fire in the distance.

Within a few minutes of the squad pulling back, Daniels could hear the whistling of the incoming artillery from all nine of the Pima's 8 inch guns. Daniels said a silent prayer and braced for the inevitable explosions that were about to commence. Though he could not see them, Daniels could imagine the inhuman creatures gathered around looking to the sky at the whistling death about to land on them.

The ground shook in a violent quake as the 8 inch shells exploded around Daniels. The cries of wounded and dying monsters mingled with the crashing shells. By the amount of shells falling around the area, Daniels figured that the heavy cruiser had sent a second volley. Miraculously after a half minute of intense bombardment the explosions finally stopped. More miraculously, Daniels found that not only did he survive unscathed but also the body of the minotaur had been shaken off him.

Daniels picked himself up from the ground. Around him lay the remains of giant monsters. Most were dead, and the rest were dying. Daniels reloaded his M1 and commenced to put the dying beasts out of their misery. The sun now had dipped below the horizon and the only light came from the flickering flames of the fires spread about the ruined city.

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The God Wars

Chapter Nine:

Lost and Found

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Crist stood in a room of one of the more intact buildings still standing near the harbor of the city. It had been heavy work all morning. However, once the crew unloaded the artillery from one of the cargo ships, it was only a matter of a couple of hours before the soldiers were able to push the army of monsters out of the city.

The LST had to move further south to be outside the city walls in order unload its cargo of tanks, trucks and jeeps. Even if they could have unloaded the vehicles in the city, so much debris blocked the roads that the vehicles would not have been of much use.

Crist looked at the papers before him. He had 15 - M4 Sherman medium tanks, 20 - GMC CCKW 2 1/2-ton trucks and 10 - Willys Jeeps that all came off the LST. He also had 24 - 105mm Howitzer M2A1 artillery pieces, 75 - M1919 .30 machineguns, and 80 - M2 .50 machineguns. Not to mention a yet unspecified number of mortars, bazookas, landmines, and even crates of M1 Garand rifles. Plus, they had tools, metal detectors, some trailers and even bulldozer blades for the Shermans.

105mm Howitzer M2A1

However, even though they had plenty of munitions for the various weapons they did not have an unlimited supply. Nor did they have any fuel other than what they found in the barrels aboard the cargo ships and the oil in the tanker. They also did not have many spare parts for the ships or the vehicles.

General Crist stood looking over the papers with some of his more senior officers. There was a lively debate as to whether they should train the natives in the use of their modern weapons or, show them how to manufacture them on their own. What was the best when the crew left after the scientists repaired the machine? Should they leave any equipment behind from the Pima once they could return home?

Of course, one of the major problems was they did not know how long they would be here. General Crist was still awaiting word from either Dr. Reno or Dr. Berger on the progress of the machine. So far, the scientist's efforts to repair the machine had been undisclosed. With the recent battles, neither General Crist nor Captain Arnold had time to inquire.

As if conjured from Crist's mind, both Dr. Reno and Dr. Berger entered the room. The officers stopped their debate and watched as Berger pushed Reno into the room in a wheelchair. The head scientist was still pale; his torso still wrapped in clean bandages. However, his eyes were alert.

"Ah, doctors," Crist said to the men. "I was just thinking about you."

"Good day general," Reno spoke. "I apologize I have not been up to par lately. I will try to answer any questions you may have."

"As a matter of fact, we all would like to know how long it will take for you to repair the machine," Crist said to the nods of his senior officers.

Crist noticed Berger stare down at his feet. The scientist was obviously not comfortable. Finally, Reno answered, "I'm sorry general. The cloaking machine cannot be repaired."

The officers started to shout and asked questions of the scientists all at the same time. General Crist had to yell for everyone to calm down at the top of his voice. When the officers finally quieted down, Crist turned his intense gaze to the head scientist.

"What do you mean it cannot be repaired," the general said in forced even voice.

"Simply that we do not possess the parts to repair it, nor the means to manufacture those parts," Reno stated in a matter of fact voice.

Before the room could erupt into chaos again, the general looked over every officer in the room. Finally, he spoke, "Gentlemen, what we just heard does not leave this room. We must keep hope up in our men, so until we can think of a solution we keep telling the men the machine is being worked on."

"General," Reno interrupted. "I said we do not possess the means to manufacture the parts we need. However, we do possess the ability to construct the proper factories. It will take time, but I believe we can do it."

General Crist nodded his head in resignation. They would have to bring these Bronze Age people into the modern age rather quickly.

"Okay," the general finally said. "We'll have to look into this. I want you Dr. Reno to make a list of what we are going to need."

"Well, firstly we will need to establish schools. The first will have to deal with language. Others will have to be in physics, chemistry, construction, and even farming to name a few."

"That is a good start," General Crist acknowledged. "Men, I want you to go amongst your men and find anyone who has a background in any of these fields. I also want people with a background in law enforcement and other social programs; we are going to need those too."

The officers nodded and muttered some 'yes sirs', they were still disappointed to hear about the machine not being able to be repaired.

Suddenly, Lt. Greer and Mina entered the room led by one of Crist's aides. The general almost forgot that he had asked the two to meet with him as well. As the two walked in the general made room for the two to sit at the table. The officers looked at the general, the general only glared at the men to tell them to keep quiet about what they had just discussed.

"Well, lieutenant we have a few questions I hope you and the young lady can answer," the general said after the two sat down.

Greer translated the best he could to Mina. Mina nodded that she understood and looked to the general. General Crist noticed her dark brown hair and brown eyes in her smooth olive skin. The woman had to be in her early twenties at best. He noticed that she was wearing her native attire that consisted of a white tunic with a golden scroll-like design embroidered on the hem.

"My first question is: what is the name of the city we just liberated?" Crsit asked.

Mina understood what the general asked and promptly replied, "Zakrostas."

"Good, good," the general nodded. "My second question is: what is the name of the country we are in?"

Mina did not understand what country meant and looked towards Greer with a puzzled expression on her face. The interpreter said a few words in her native language before she smiled and answered, "Atlantis."

"General," Dr. Reno broke the silence. "You better find anyone with a background in history, archaeology, and anthropology as well."

Zakrostas Map

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The God Wars

Chapter Ten:

Council on Olympus

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zeus

An old man with wild white hair and a matching beard sat upon his gilded throne. He wore a simple white toga and a gold crown sat upon his head. He looked around the room at the assembly around him. He still had not heard any word yet about the war.

"What can be keeping my brother?" grumbled the old man.

"Relax, oh king," a beautiful woman lying across the lap of a bronzed skin man wearing armor said. "Your brother knows his job and has never failed you yet."

"Yes, father," the man in the armor added. "I am sure Uncle has performed his duties."

"What do you think daughter?" the king asked the woman sitting by herself wearing armor much like her brothers.

"From Olympus over the sea, men in iron boats shall set us free. The coming fight will split heaven, bringing against us the wrath of seven. In the end, those across the Styx will only number a paltry six. I think that you, Zeus might have much to fear," the woman said. "The prophecy will come true and men will rise against us gods.

"Gods!" spat the woman. "Only to the mortals are we gods. Just because we will not die of age or disease does not mean we are gods,"

"Athena, watch your tongue!" snapped Zeus. "We brought the mortals here to our world to worship us. To be our slaves, our breeding stock, our pawns, whatever we want from them."

"You fear a prophecy that men had made," the man in armor added. "We keep no men here on Olympus. So where are the men in iron boats supposed to come from?

"The mortals have not been giving us our due so we naturally need to remind them of who we are. Even now, Poseidon is leading his forces of sea serpents and cyclopes with father's minotaurs as reinforcements against Zakrostas. The city shall fall and the rest of Atlantis will respect and worship us. Plus, the female slaves from the city shall arrive any day now."

"Ares," Zeus said, "you are correct in many things. Nevertheless, Athena speaks wisdom in being concerned with the prophecy. Even Apollo has confirmed it as much as he can. Although he cannot give us anymore answers than we have now."

"I am sorry father," Apollo replied lightly plucking the strings of his lyre. "The vision is not clear. Even I cannot force things that are beyond my power."

The beautiful woman laughed, "You all sound like old women."

"Aphrodite do not mock father," a man wearing leg braces admonished.

"Sorry, husband," Aphrodite said with heavy sarcasm. "Too bad you are not half the man as your brother, Ares."

Ares smiled as he stroked Aphrodite's soft golden hair. "Hephaestus is only half a man," mocked the God of war.

The blacksmith scowled. It was bad enough his wife warmed Ares' bed instead of his, but having the two mock him made things worse.

"Enough!" roared Zeus, his voice rumbled through the hall like thunder.

"Look, husband," Hera, his queen said from her throne. "Even now I see Hermes returning on winged foot.

The messenger of the gods flew into the great hall. He carried a large bundle in his arms and as he landed lightly upon the floor, he gave Zeus a sorrowful look.

"Hermes, what troubles you?" the king asked.

"I do not know how, but Poseidon has been defeated," Hermes said in a dour voice.

"Defeated? How is that possible? What did you see?" Zeus urged excitedly standing up from his throne.

"I saw your army retreating, if you can call a rout -- a retreat in disarray," Hermes said. "Their numbers were only a third of what set out against Zakrostas."

"Surely my brother can still raise the waves and shake the earth against the city. His sea serpents can destroy their fleet," Zeus countered.

"I'm afraid he cannot," Hermes replied. He then opened the bundle in his arms. In the bundle, the mangled remains of Poseidon rolled to the floor. His legs were missing, as was his left arm. His ribs were exposed through the torn flesh in his side. Even half his face was gone, revealing his grinning skull.

"NO!" screamed the king. His sorrow thundered across mount Olympus. "How can this be? He was immortal."

"Father, we are only immortal against age and disease. We are also impervious to any spear, sword, or bow that can be wielded by man," Athena stated. "However, the humans must have discovered some great weapon that can harm us."

Fear spread through the room. The gods looked at each other seeking answers. If the humans could kill the gods, then their days were numbered.

Ares jumped to his feet, nearly dumping Aphrodite to the ground. "Father, I can lead an army against the humans. Give me Hermes' draco-lords, and his griffins, Hades' Necro-lords, and his dead. I will overwhelm the humans."

"I too can create an army of Talos, my bronze giants to march against the humans," Hephaestus added.

"Not so fast brother dear," Athena cautioned. "You need to plan this out."

"We need action and we need it now!" spat Ares.

"It will take time for me to assemble the Necro-lords and the dead," Hades said to Ares. "As I am sure it will take Hermes some time to assemble his Draco-lords and their mounts as well as the griffins."

"How much time?" scowled Zeus, his thirst for revenge growing ever more in his heart.

"I can have everything ready in three months," Hades replied.

"I too can be ready in that amount of time," Hermes stated.

"How long for your Talos to be ready, Hephaestus?" asked Zeus.

"It will take me much longer, father," the blacksmith said.

Ares

"We do not have the time, father," Ares cried. "We need action now!"

"If you want to move against the humans and be assured their destruction, you would be wise to wait for all components to be readied," Athena counseled.

"I do not need any help. I have my own army of cutthroats and mercenaries," Ares replied. "I will set out immediately and I will finish the job on Zakrostas that my dear uncle was not able to."

"Maybe you should send out spies and see what they are up to," Athena offered.

"Spies? I do not need spies. Am I not the god of war?" cried Ares.

"I will concede that you are the god of bloodlust and murder," Athena added.

"I have had enough of your words. You sound defeatist, sister," Ares said with scorn. "When action is called for, you want to think about it. Well, we don't have time for your precious thinking." Ares grabbed his spear, and shield, and then marched out of the room. As he left he called out, "Victory and glory shall be mine!"

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The God Wars

Chapter Eleven:

The Gift

By Dwayne MacInnes

The American soldiers and some of the British sailors, or Otherworlders as the locals called them, had done much in the last week to clean up the rubble of Zakrostas. The army cleared the streets of debris and rebuilding had begun. They also removed the huge numbers of corpses by either burning or burying them.

The citizens of Zakrostas were at first hesitant as to what to make of these strange people from the sea. Mina did much to help win them over. She quoted the old prophecy of men in iron boats and told them that one of the ship's names was the Olympus. After that, the people of Zakrostas welcomed their liberators as heroes, some even as gods.

With the lack of housing, due to the utter destruction of the city, tents were set up as temporary shelters for the citizens to live in. As more refugees returned to their city, housing was becoming a crisis. There were few buildings left undamaged from the recent battle.

The language barrier was a big obstacle at first. However, between Lt. Greer and Mina many of the Otherworlders and the people of Zakrostas learned the other's language well enough to get basic ideas across. The language schools that were established proved very popular.

General Crist wasted no time in repairing the breach in the wall and laying out the best defensive measures possible. Although, they had plenty of rifles they did not have enough ammunition to press an offensive. It would be some time before they would be able to manufacture their own bullets not to mention grenades and shells for the tanks, the artillery, and the ships.

Crist also strictly rationed the activities of all vehicles to conserve as much fuel as possible. The only oil they had was in the tanker and they did not have any refining facilities. Some of the engineers believed that they could convert some of the vehicles to burn alcohol.

The men were proving to be very ingenious. They already had a blacksmith shop with a Bessemer converter to make pig iron into steel. The introduction of the modern saddle, bridle, and stirrup proved extremely popular with the Atlanteans. Another group had already begun construction of a watermill on the Skalandos River south of the city. The mill would prove extremely valuable in powering the first factories planned for the city.

General Crist had no problem assuming control over the city. It appeared that the city's leaders were the first to evacuate and headed for the capital city of Atlantis. The remaining military forces of Zakrostas were eager to learn from the Otherworlders. The U.S. forces taught them how to fire the rifles and modern military tactics.

"We've been knocking over every latrine looking for saltpeter," one of the soldiers in charge of making gunpowder explained to the general. "Until we can get better facilities up and running we will be only able to make black powder. This I believe will be in conjunction with the introduction of the muskets planned to be manufactured."

Crist nodded his head. The muskets would be the easiest weapon manufactured at this time. Plus, the more weapons made and put into the hands of the local military the better off they were. He had already concluded that only the Otherworlders would use the M1s unless there was an invasion.

The removal of the latrines was also proving to be expedient in another matter. The medical staff on the Respite determined that the sanitation conditions of Zakrostas were deplorable. The construction of a modern sewage system was already in progress with the reconstruction of the city. With it was planned running water in every household.

Greek Phalanx

Corporal Manders kept watch on the south wall. The sun was high in the sky and its hot rays beat down on him relentlessly. The smell of human and animal waste permeated the air. The corporal mused that Homer never talked about the omni-present smell of sewage. He would rather be anywhere but on sentry duty. However, it was his turn and so he stood on the wall looking to the south.

At first, he thought it was just a cloud, but then the dust cloud grew larger as time moved on. Corporal Manders called for the officer on duty to confirm what he was looking at. Captain Miller took out his field glasses and focused on the gathering dust cloud.

Down the road marched about five hundred men wearing bronze armor and armed with the long spear. One man rode a horse in front of the small army. Behind him marched a standard-bearer with the symbol of a double-headed axe on the standard.

The captain quickly called his superior who then passed it on to General Crist. The general wasted no time in mounting the wall to observe the procession himself. By now, the army was within half an hours march to the city's southern gate.

The general quickly assembled some men to prepare to meet the delegation outside the gate. For a show of force, he would ride in one jeep, Greer and Mina would ride in another and two M4 Sherman tanks would drive along with them. The hastily assembled reception party drove out of the gate fifteen minutes after Crist noticed the delegation approaching the city.

As the quartet of vehicles approached, the advancing army stopped. The man riding the horse had a hard time retaining control over the terror-stricken animal. Even some of the soldiers hedged back waiting for the first chance to run.

Sergeant Maxwell the general's driver halted the jeep several yards in front of the Atlantean army. The tanks pulled up next to the jeep and halted as well. General Crist and the two guards riding along with him and the driver left the vehicle. The guards had their Garands ready in case they needed a show of force. Although the tanks would be much better at it than two men with .30 rifles.

Lt. Greer hopped down from his jeep which was parked behind the general's; as usual, Mina escorted him. They walked a few paces behind Crist and the guards. When the five people were a few paces away from the man on the horse they stopped. The well-muscled rider wore a kilt and a bronze breastplate, under his highly polished helmet with a long black horsehair plume the dark tan face of a man in his thirties looked down on them. His hair and short-cropped beard were black and his piercing eyes were brown.

The man on the horse said something to the Americans, and Greer quickly translated, "Greetings, God killers! I am King Podaistas and I welcome you to my kingdom."

General Crist spoke to the king through Greer and Mina, "Greetings king, I am General Crist and we come in peace and friendship."

"I hear that you and your metal monsters have defeated the army sent by the gods to punish us. I also hear that you have slain the mighty king of the seas, King Poseidon. My people have been spared and all owe you their lives," King Podaistas said in a mighty voice.

Crist smiled and said, "Your Greatness, it is our sworn duty to protect the innocent from oppressors. On our world, we were embarking on such a mission. We ended up in your kingdom by mistake. Yet our mission is still the same."

The king high on his wide-eyed mount looked down on the general and his men. Then in a loud voice for all to hear the king stated, "In payment for your deeds I grant you the city of Zakrostas and all the lands north of the Skalandos River and east of the city to the land of the Asgards of the kingdom of Ragnarok east of the Dragonspine Mountains."

Gifted Land

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The God Wars

Chapter Twelve:

Farmer Militia

By Dwayne MacInnes

Knopso and Thelos Map

The village behind Theena and her ragtag group of militia was burning. Thick gray smoke billowed up into the air. Ares and his bloodthirsty horde had just overrun the village. The farmers turned militia was no match for the god of war and his minions of cutthroat mercenaries. The attackers quickly overcame the village's defenses and the defenders fought tenaciously hoping to buy some time for the women and children to evacuate south.

Now all that remained of the village of Knopso's defenders was Theena and six militiamen. The tired warriors hurried south ahead of the ravishing army of Ares. It appeared that Ares was taking his time heading for Zakrostas torching every village and hamlet on his way. The war god's scorched-earth policy did not even spare the fields of ripening grain or the livestock.

It appeared that Ares chose this route over that used by the previous invasion by the minotaurs and cyclopes because the villages were untouched. He had deliberately gone out of his way in order to wreak as much destruction as possible.

Theena looked at the sky. The sun burned in an ominous blood red through the smoke obstructing its view. Black ravens and gangly-necked vultures were gathering across the countryside for the meal that the god of war was providing. It was no mere coincident that Ares and vultures were associated together. Because often where you found one, the other was not far behind.

"Teukros," Theena ordered. "Run ahead to the next village warn them that Ares is on the march and his bloodlust runs high. Ask if they have any militia that would help us to slow down Ares advance. Then make sure that all refugees head for Zakrostas or Atlantis itself."

The young teenager looked at Theena with a tired expression on his blood-smeared and soot-stained face. He still held the spear he had fought with in Knopso it was his only weapon. The youth nodded his head silently; he was too exhausted to speak -- let alone to run to the next village. Yet Teukros summoned the last reserves of his strength and began to lope down the trail to Thelos the next village.

Theena looked at the five men that remained. They too were all exhausted and more farmer than soldier. However, they knew if they failed in slowing Ares' advance, their family and loved ones would be put to the sword.

"There is a pass through the Tekos Hills further south of here. We may be able to slow them down there if we hurry," Theena said.

The farmers accepted Theena's authority. Even though it was not common, women sometimes fought next to the men in combat. With all the village leaders either dead or fleeing, Theena quickly took control of the strategy of the combat. Because of her able command, the farmers actually succeeded in slowing down the advancing horde long enough for the villagers to flee. However, it came at a high price. There were now only seven combatants left out of the 136 that began the fight.

Ares: The God of War

Pheidas rode along with his band of bandits that owed their allegiance to Ares. The war god was always good at providing valuable plunder when he set out for war. Even now, a horde as never seen on the continent before was marching southward to destroy the Atlantean city of Zakrostas. The rumor was that they might hit the Atlantean capital itself -- the city of Atlantis.

The pillaging and plundering would be great. For centuries to come, the poets would tell the story of Ares and his army of mercenaries, bandits, and renegades. Pheidas planned to earn himself a line or two in the epic poem that would inevitably result.

For the moment, Pheidas and his mounted men were to scout ahead of the main advance. The village of Knopso surprised everyone with how effective the farmers fought. The outcome was a forgone conclusion and all the farmers did was to prolong their agony.

Men trotted their horses along the dusty trail. Many of the bandits wore a mask over the face. It was not to hide their identities, but to filter out the smoke and dust that choked the air. If Pheidas pushed hard enough, his men could make Thelos in time to pillage it before they lost the sun. He had the numbers and the men were eager. Hence, he started to pick up the pace and kicked his horse into a gallop. The band following him did likewise, kicking up huge cloud of dust in their wake.

* * * * *

Theena looked to the northwest where the road turned from Knopso. She could spy the telltale cloud of dust of a cavalry unit on the gallop. She signaled to the three men on the opposite hill by raising her spear and waving it back and forth. Then she dove behind a boulder and looked towards the two men with her.

"Do you think this will work?" asked a burly farmer, he had a dirty and bloody bandage on his head.

"Iamenos," Theena said. "There is no guarantee. But, this should slow them down."

"If the gods are willing, we may actually survive," Oros a smaller and older farmer replied.

"Forget the gods," Theena spat, "they have forsaken us. We must look to our own devices."

There had not been as much time as Theena would have liked to prepare. Nevertheless, she put the men to work as soon as they reached the pass. The men surpassed themselves by working so hard and quickly. They had to be on their last reserves of strength. They had fought a pitched battle, undergone a forced march, and still were able to accomplish many of the tasks that Theena demanded of them at the pass.

* * * * *

Pheidas rode his mount hard. He had hoped that his men would be able to overcome a few straggling refugees from Knopso before they reached Thelos. Although, they did not have much time, they could still squeeze in a little fun before they sacked the village.

Pheidas smiled when he saw the pass for it marked the midway point between Knopso and Thelos. The men were making very good time and the horses were still strong enough to gallop even further.

The bandit leader raised his spear over his head and circled the tip before aiming it to the pass. The men gave a loud cheer and race after their leader. Their bloodlust was at its fever pitch, and the men could not wait to ransack another village.

The pass was only a quarter of a mile long and Pheidas was just coming out the other side when a rockslide tumbled down in front of him. Pheidas pulled his horse to a halt and nearly ended up unhorsing himself in the process. Dirt and rocks rained down between the bandits and the exit.

Pheidas wheeled his horse around; he scanned the hilltops for any partisans. What he saw was a spear flying towards him, and then striking him in the chest. His blackened bronze armor did little to halt the force from the spear. Before he tumbled from his horse, he witnessed a woman on the hill smiling to see her aim was good. Pheidas fell from his mount and spilled his lifeblood into the thirsty road.

The other bandits gave a cry and some tried to leave from the other end. However, another rockslide closed it off as well. The riders wheeled about on their horses, the hillsides of the pass were too steep to climb quickly and a few spears and arrows rained down on them.

Several men were unhorsed as the projectiles pierced their armor leaving them dying in the dirt road. The bandits were desperate and some dismounted and tried to scrabble up the rocky slopes. Logs, rocks, and few arrows fell upon them killing many. However, their numbers were too great and they were eventually able to reach the summits.

Both sides were exhausted from the efforts to either gain the top of the hill or the attempt to forestall the ascent of the bandits. A fierce hand-to-hand combat resulted when the two sides met. Even though they again fought tenaciously and gave better than they received, the militia was finally overwhelmed.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirteen:

Amazon of Knopso

By Dwayne MacInnes

"...the airfield is now 90% complete," Colonel Jenkins briefed General Crist inside the building that had now officially become the general's headquarters. "We have also started to address the need for paper. As you know, these people have not advanced that far. So, we are planning on another mill for lumber and then making a paper plant down river.

"We have also set up many of the outposts you wanted to the north and east. Some have radios and those that don't, we plan to set up telegraphs."

"That is good," the general replied looking over the report the colonel just presented to him.

"We have been hearing the locals referring to 'naphtha'. Our historians claim that is an ancient Greek word for petroleum or possibly even pitch. We have dispatched a field crew to look into it," Colonel Jenkins added.

"That is some of the best news I've heard all day," General Crist smiled. "Once we get the refinery going we will need to start producing various fuels."

"Well, sir," Jenkins replied. "We aren't sure for certain what it is yet. However, we have located a seam of coal and there is a small iron mine to the north as well."

"How are we doing with wiring this place up?" the general asked.

"The Olympus will be able to provide electricity once the wires are strung," the colonel said.

"Sir?" the colonel asked a bit uncomfortably.

"Yes, colonel," Crist looked up from the papers on his desk to Jenkins.

"It is damn strange is it not?"

"You will have to be more specific colonel," Crist responded.

"Well, the king...er, what's his name..."

"Podaistas," Crist offered.

"Yes, sir. King Podaistas just giving us a huge tract of his property," the colonel said. "It strikes me as strange. We liberated his people and his city; you'd think he'd just thank us and have us move along."

"He has actually made a rather shrewd move," General Crist explained. "Think about it. To the far north somewhere, there is Mount Olympus where the gods live. The same gods -- I remind you -- who sometimes just come south to slaughter his people. Now, he not only has given us land to make sure we are available to repel any future attacks. He has also established a buffer zone. The gods can't get to his realm without first passing through ours."

The colonel thought for a few seconds before breaking into a smile. "He sure loved those gifts you gave him."

The general smiled as well. The king loved the new horse gear including the stirrups. Not to mention that he also loved the M1 Garand, which after a few lessons, the king proved to actually be a decent marksman. The best gift though proved to be the case of brandy. Some men found the case in one of the cargo vessels and Crist reasoned it was bound for some European monarch anyway. Moreover, it helped establish the beginning of a trade route between the two.

Atlantis Map

Sokos was now the leader of the bandits after Pheidas died in the ambush a few days back. Many of his men were reluctant to continue the road south. Even Sokos remembered the carnage at the pass; the farmer militia killed 23 of his men. Worse still was when he and his men reached the crest of their hill and dispatched the three men there they could see the combat on the opposite hill.

The bandits had killed the two men on the hill but the woman fought like a seasoned warrior. Her sword and spear flashed and none of the bandits could touch her. She actually fought eleven men at once, the entire force of bandits on that hill. Sokos felt helpless like the other men with him when they watched their companions die one by one by either her sword or spear.

When the last bandit died with the spear through the throat, the woman looked over at the bandits on the hill opposite her. Sokos felt a chill run down his spine as he remembered staring into her blue eyes. Her face was smeared in gore and her brown hair was matted with blood. The militia woman glared at the bandits, and they could feel the hatred she bore them. In that one glance, they all felt like she would personally kill each one of them.

The woman then quickly retrieved her spear out of the hapless bandit whose throat it pierce and then retreated into the woods lining that side of the road. The bandits were hesitant to descend their hill and then climb the one the woman was just on. They had all seen how well she fought. The men heard stories of the Amazons and feared ever to cross one of the warrior women's path.

The story of the Amazon of Knopso, as the men dubbed the militia woman, spread through the army. Many of the men prayed to meet up with her and show her who the true masters of arms were. However, all the bandits who did witness her prowess with arms did not even joke about it. Even with Ares riding with them, they all feared to meet the woman again.

So, it was at first with great relief when the scouts reached Thelos to find it utterly abandoned. The livestock was gone, the villagers torched their own fields and even the village was in flames. The populace took everything they could, and what they could not carry, they burned.

However, as the army reached the next village and the one after that, they discovered that the inhabitants destroyed everything in the same manner as Thelos. At first, the army did not give this much thought until their supplies started to run low. The foragers were not finding anything on their forays. The stores the army brought with them would not last much longer.

Regardless, Ares drove his army south across the blackened plains. None dared to complain in front of the war god for fear of facing his wrath. Ares always found those few who tried to desert. He made sport with them in front of the army before he killed them.

Sokos was now learning that scorched earth could work both ways and he did not like the way in which it was going.

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The God Wars

Chapter Fourteen:

Cultural Exchange

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Crist was thankful that the soldiers and sailors that ended up trapped in this world with him were mostly draftees and volunteers with a wide range of backgrounds. It was like bringing almost every little piece of knowledge from the 20th century with him. There were machinists, carpenters, farmers, electricians, miners, bankers, etc. all making up the army and naval forces. Not to mention that there were several technical manuals and science books on the ships.

His diverse group was already making sweeping changes to Atlantis. A month ago, these people did not know anything about steel, now they were producing it. A banking system was also established, but the idea was still hard for the natives to grasp. The Americans and British built several churches and a Jewish synagogue. The Zakrostians were flocking to the services. Many of the natives were converting as well. It was not hard to believe seeing as how the gods they worshiped tended to kill and enslave them.

One of the biggest changes was the sense of democracy Crist introduced. The Atlanteans remembered their wars long ago with Athens and their democratic government. There, every man could vote on every issue. Further, the government tended to be large with an enormous ruling body. However, the system of a representative democracy or the republic seemed more manageable and acceptable to them. Therefore, the new country granted them by Podaistas was named the Republic of Atlantis.

One thing that Crist did not have to introduce was women's liberation. On Atlantis and as part of the Minoan civilization, women held the same rights as men. In fact, on this world, women could even participate in combat. This was something Crist had to acknowledge and respect for fear of alienating the locals.

That was not the only issue the Otherworlders had to accept. One of the most shocking was that women, on special ceremonial occasions, would wear robes that were open to the navel. This left the women's breasts exposed causing many a G.I. to blush, stare, or both.

The anthropologists argued with many of the more offended military personnel to keep an open mind. This was not their world and culture. They had to respect the Atlantean's customs.

Also on the education front, many of the locals were speaking passable English. In addition, many of the Otherworlders were speaking passable Minoan, which was a base of Greek. The language and trade schools were still very popular with everyone.

The general was also thankful that he had been able to establish a trade agreement with King Podaistas. With the fields burned outside Zakrostas's city wall, the people would be starving. Even the supplies on the cargo vessels would not be able to feed all the people until the next harvest.

General Crist had been musing on all of the above when an aide rushed into his office.

"General, sir," the soldier saluted.

"What is it son?" the general asked.

"There are refugees headed for the city sir," the youth said excitedly.

"Yes, we have been taking in the citizens ever since we drove out..."

"No, sir," the young soldier interrupted. "They are coming from the villages to the north. Some have traveled hundreds of miles. The northern outposts have reported thousands on foot, horse, or in wagons driving livestock."

General Crist instantly became alert. "What is driving them south?" the general asked.

"There is another army on the march, sir," the lad responded. "They say it is being led by Ares himself."

* * * * *

Theena figured she had about two hundred militia with her. They were destroying every bridge, blocking every mountain pass, and burning anything that Ares might use. She figured that their efforts must have slowed the army down significantly. The foragers would have to move further a field to find anything. This would mean that the army had to wait for their return often only to find that the foragers were empty-handed.

Ares's army was hungry and therefore, was now moving much slower. Even though Ares in his bloodlust drove the army hard, the men could only move so fast or so far on empty stomachs. The bodies of those who fell out of line and died in Ares horde littered the roads heading south.

Regardless, Ares still commanded an enormous army. It was also a desperate and merciless army. However, the few skirmishes that the various scouting units had with the militia learned to respect and fear the Amazon of Knopso.

The ragtag band of militia, exhausted from endless marching and destruction staggered to the first of the northern outposts set up by General Crist. Many of the militia was surprised to see the new army the prophecy foretold. They did not wear any armor save a strange looking helmet. The only blade they carried was smaller than even their bronze short swords.

The men all wore green shirts and pants and strange black boots with laces. They also carried a strange club with a metal tube over their shoulders. Theena did not know how effective a weapon that would be against the spears and arrows of the horde bearing down on them.

They also spoke a strange language that she could not understand. However, some men could speak a passable form of Theena's language. Theena was also amazed to see that many in the Zakrostian army carried the strange clubs, like these foreign men, instead of the heavy spears.

In front of the outpost were long lines of trenches where the men ran from one underground structure to another. Theena did not know how effective the trenches would be once Ares bore down on them. But, she concluded they were well constructed. There were sharpened wooden spikes pointing outward from the mounds in front of the trenches. Strung in parallel lines along the mounds were long lines of wire with spikes protruding from them. Many a foe would wind up entangled in the wires if they tried to storm the trenches.

Theena led her band of militia up to the man she assumed to be in charge. "We are a band of militia from the various villages to the north. We have been hampering the efforts of Ares drive south," she reported.

"Must talk slower," the man said in Theena's tongue, his accent was thick and she could hardly understand what he said.

Theena spoke again this time slower and using simple words. Eventually the man understood what she said and yelled something to another man. That man then ran off to one of the buildings in the outpost. The first man then waved over one of the soldiers from Zakrostas and said something to him.

"The major says you have done very well," the Zakrostian said. "You may head south to Zakrostas where you may join up with the army if you choose."

"My men may want to head south, but I would rather stay here and lend my services," Theena said. The Zakrostian turned to the man he called major and spoke to him. The soldier then turned back to Theena.

"The major says that will be fine. But, you will need to learn how to fight like one of them. He said he would like to ask you some more questions."

Theena nodded her assent.

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The God Wars

Chapter Fifteen:

March of Death

By Dwayne MacInnes

PFC Daniels stood watch looking over the lip of his trench. He and the men of the now famous "Jolly Rogers" were in control of this particular line of entrenchments. The blackened field was starting to sport sprouts of green vegetation. The once fruitful farm was now a burned and desolate wreck since the invasion of minotaurs and cyclopes. This sad scene played itself out all along the entrenchments ten miles north of Zakrostas.

Daniels looked down the barrel of his M1 Garand. There was not much to see except more blackened fields speckled with little sprouts of green. On the horizon, the blue cloudless sky spread in a monotonous vista. The only thing to break the view was the growing cloud of dust, as the approaching army of Ares grew nearer.

Sergeant Rogers walked up and down the line inspecting every soldier's weapon. The sergeant stepped into the redoubt on Daniel's left that housed the M2 .50 machinegun. This was the heaviest piece of weaponry on the front. Further back from the trenches were the mortars with their crews crouching behind sandbag embankments. Behind them, outside the gates of the city, were the artillery guns. With them, the M4 Shermans waited in reserve.

The telltale roar of a flight of aircraft flew overhead. Every plane was now in the air and headed for Ares army. Daniels swore that he had seen every plane off the Kiska as well as the Pima's two floatplanes head off towards the north.

"Sarge sure looks like they'll shake them up," Daniels said when Rogers stepped out of the redoubt again.

"With any luck the army will turn tail as soon as the planes drop those bombs and begin strafing them," the sergeant replied. "If not, the artillery should chew them up pretty good. If that still doesn't take the fight out of them, they'll have to cross that minefield and tangle up with us."

"That would be suicide," Private Wilson said next to Daniels.

"Those Japs in the Pacific wouldn't be deterred by such things," the sergeant added. "I have a feeling that those boys coming down on us will be just as fanatical."

Just to punctuate Sergeant "Jolly" Rogers point an explosion erupted just over the horizon.

Grumman TBF Avenger

Captain Hodgson was leading the 12 TBF Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers over the approaching army. The number of men marching south surprised Hodgson. There had to be thousands of men on foot, horse, and in chariot.

Regardless, Hodgson signaled his flight group and led them into a dive to drop their 500-pound bombs. Ericson released the bomb in their bay and watched it tumble into the marching army below. A huge spray of dirt and steel shot into the air mingled with blood and limbs. Even in the air as the Avenger pulled up, flew away form the explosion, the crew felt and heard rumble through their aircraft.

All over, the carpet of humanity below great bursts of steel and fire tore into the formations. Despite the onslaught, Ares drove his men forward. The mercenaries and brigands feared Ares more than the death raining down on them from the sky.

Even the 16 Hellcats and the 2 Kingfishers carried bombs. They added their weight to the bombing raid. As the army suffered unimaginable and instant carnage, it continued forward relentlessly.

The aircraft then began to strafe the long columns of Ares army. Men and horses screamed in pain and death as a mix of .50 and .30 rounds tore into them. Many fell, but more continued onward towards Zakrostas as if heedless to the death around them.

The planes buzzed the army as long as their ammunition allowed. However, it appeared that Ares had more men than the pilots had bullets. All too soon, the aircraft retreated to the airfield south of Zakrostas. The ground crew would rearm the aircraft, but because of the limitations of bombs and ammunition for the aircraft, General Crist ordered them held in reserve.

105mm Howitzer Artillery

Ares watched as the iron birds fell onto his men below. The war god smiled, he loved the war and carnage and this only whetted his appetite. After the planes finished their business, Ares barked an order and his army reformed themselves and pressed forward.

Then they heard a great rumble of thunder south of them. Many of the men gave up a yell, for surely Zeus had outflanked the defenders as was not pouring lightning bolts into the city. The men began to hasten their steps, the first hint of good news they had for days.

However, they were sadly disappointed as death rained down on them again. An ungodly whistling that grew louder until the ground beneath the soldier's feet exploded. Like with the iron birds the earth again erupted and shook. Men and beast fell with torn limbs flinging across the field.

Ares roared and ordered the men forward. Those few that tried to run Ares rode down on his fiery black steed. His red sword would flash shortly before a head flew into the air. The men reformed again and marched southward.

The thunder and explosions continued mercilessly. The men endured the best they could. Some were learning to take cover, as the whistling death grew closer. Nevertheless, they never stopped their forward progression.

Soon the thunder stopped. The mercenaries and brigands marched more carefully. Every time one attack ended, another began. These men from the sea had devilish tricks to play. In many respects, they were just a callous and cruel as the gods.

Ares sniffed the air. The blood and smoke, mixed with offal smelled like sweet ambrosia to the war god. The heady scent only made the god of war more determined to press the attack. His men were taking grievous losses, but he had called up every last one of his followers.

They only had to press onward and take the city, and then they could savor victory and spoils of war. The fact that it cost them dearly and that they fought harder to attain it, would make it that much more precious.

Ares' black steed snorted a burst of orange flame out its nostrils. The smell of brimstone washed back to Ares. The god of war again raised his sword high in the sky and urged his men forward. The army again surged towards the city.

Suddenly the men noticed that the ground itself started to explode whenever they set foot upon it. There was no telltale whistling or iron birds to alert them to the danger. The army again slowed and many were beginning to risk Ares wrath by retreating.

Again, Ares rode forward and started to hack the heads off anyone who tried to turn back. The speed of the black horse to run down the various groups trying to flee was remarkable. Not a single fleeing soldier escaped alive.

The exploding ground settled itself down. The army could see a long mound with a strange wire stretched across it. Behind the mound was the endless line of men in entrenchments defending the city.

Ares smiled. If he could surpass this obstacle, there was nothing between his army and Zakrostas. Victory was within his grasp.

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The God Wars

Chapter Sixteen:

Battle of the Trenches

By Dwayne MacInnes

Greek Phalanx

General Crist watched through his field glasses as Ares marched his army through the air attack, the artillery barrage, and even the minefield. The carnage was astronomical, yet the army continued forward. Whenever someone tried to desert, Ares on his blazing black horse was on top of the poor victim. With a swoop of his red sword, the deserter's head would fly through the air.

Now Ares's army was approaching the trenches. The artillery and the mortar teams started to fire into the oncoming horde. The air screamed with the cry of the incoming shells. The ground shook as the earth exploded in a geyser of dirt and smoke when the shells landed, tearing great holes in the ranks of men now rushing the trenches.

The blackened bronze armor did little to protect the army as it struggled through the rain of steel exploding around them. Men and horses cried out in fear and pain. Nonetheless, they came relentlessly onward.

Sergeant Rogers would have appreciated the bravery of his foe if he did not happen to be their target. When the attackers were within range, he put a whistle to his mouth and blew as loud as he could. Other officers and noncoms followed suit down the trench line. Every gun in the trench opened up adding their destruction and mayhem into the onrushing army. The M2 and M1919 machineguns fired off endless rounds into the mass of humanity charging them cutting men down like a scythe in a field.

The infantrymen's M1 Garand and the occasional Browning automatic rifle spat lead knocking down many a foe. The mercenaries and brigands still ran towards the line even though men were falling all around them. The initial pathetic few who made it to the trenches ended up getting themselves entangled in the barbed wire.

However, the men behind them were able to cross the wired obstacle over their dead comrade's bodies allowing them to enter the trenches. Soon, the fighting was going on all around. Men were shooting, stabbing, and grappling with each other.

General Crist watched closely, he had to marshal his precious resources closely. Yet, he still had to be able to repel the opposing forces. So far, his men were holding the trenches.

Ares' bloodlust was now at its peak. He yelled and screamed in ecstasy urging his men forward. The chariots rushed forward as did the cavalry. Ares raised his sword over his head and kicked his black fire-snorting mount forward. The unholy beast was fleet of hoof and outran all other steeds.

With explosions randomly kicking up dirt around him, Ares charged over the no-man's-land. Other riders were falling off their steeds or out of their shredded chariots. Horses pitched forward throwing their riders over their heads. The ground was becoming impossible to cross. It was because of the dead and dying, ragged smoke-filled holes created by the exploding shells, and broken chariots littered everywhere.

Blood ran freely turning the dry earth into a gory mud. Depressions and holes filled up to form red pools. Whole rivers of blood ran downhill to create blood-filled lakes.

When Ares joined the ranks of his men, the horde gave out an encouraging cry. Though they were starving, tired, and scared, they took heart on seeing Ares moving to the front. The war god's presence inspired the men to give one final and desperate push to take the line.

Ares searched for the optimal place for him to attack the enemy. He wanted the pleasure of laying his enemy down in piles like their ungodly weapons was doing to his army. The black steed reared up preparing to charge when an explosion tore its rear legs off. Thrown backwards into the blood-soaked earth, Ares landed on his backside, his dead mount on top of him.

The war god now maddened beyond belief, kicked his dead horse off his body. He jumped to his feet and charged the trenches himself. He cut through the barbed wire with his sword severing it as a sharp knife would a thread. Bullets ripped into his armor stinging his godly hide. He paid the pain little attention; his mind was in a berserker state. The god in a wrath called on his powers and grew in size to about twenty feet.

He swung his sword cutting great swathes into the defenders. Men flew in parts or whole through the air with each swing of his mighty blade.

The opposition was now flooding into the trenches. Crist knew his men could not withstand such a surge for long. He was about to call in his reserves when he saw a militia woman throw her farmers into the fray. The peasant army filled the already crowded trenches adding their strength to the infantrymen.

Hand-to-hand fighting and close quarter combat ensued. The Americans swung their rifles like clubs when they expended their ammunition. Bayonets either in hand or at the end of a rifle sparred with spear and short sword. Grenades would tear holes into groups of attackers.

Yet through this entire episode, Ares reveled. The war god was in his element. Ares covered from head to toe in gore, laughed and delighted in the carnage around him.

General Crist finally ordered in the reserves. He only hoped that he had not waited too long. The peasant militia may have bought him the time he needed for the reserves to turn the tide. He specifically wanted Ares removed from the picture.

M1 Garand

PFC Daniels loaded his Garand one last time. He was down to his last clip of ammunition and the fighting around him was fierce. The sergeant was firing away with his Tommy gun mowing down men around him. Although it would not be long before he too was out of ammunition.

Daniels watched in horror as a group of black armored attackers overwhelmed Rogers. The sergeant fell backwards under the press of men. The Tommy gun fell ominously quiet.

Without thinking, PFC Daniels emptied his M1 into the horde. Many of them fell stricken, the others turned to see the new threat. Daniels threw himself into the men armed only with his bayonet. This battle was going to be one-sided, yet the private did not bother to think about it.

In a rage, Daniels slashed and thrust at the enemy. His pure ferocity forced the men to give ground. Suddenly, a woman came up next to Daniels and started to attack the men. She easily parried and counter-attacked the men's attacks. Within a minute, the remaining men were on the ground either dead or dying.

Daniels located sergeant Rogers, he had a stab wound to his left shoulder but otherwise appeared okay. The private helped Rogers to his feet and then escorted him to the redoubt.

The trench was rapidly filling with Ares' horde. Daniels started calling his men back towards the redoubt. Those, who were able, climbed inside. Daniels watched as the lone militia woman continued to hold the attackers back while the men climbed into the trench's fortification.

When the last man climbed inside Daniels called out to the woman. At first, she did not respond. He was using English and the peasant woman did not speak it. So he cried out in Minoan and the woman looked over her shoulder to see the private waving her to the redoubt.

The woman retreated to the redoubt and when they were all inside Daniels secured the door. The horde of attackers started to beat on the door of the little fortress when suddenly the muzzle of the M2 protruded out of an embrasure. The machinegun spat fire and steel into the crowd. Soon that part of the trench works was empty of any standing men. Those on the ground were either dying in deep pools of blood or already dead.

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The God Wars

Chapter Seventeen:

Aftermath

By Dwayne MacInnes

Ares: The God of War

Ares looked around him; his forces were taking the trenches. It would only be a matter of time before his army took the trenches and then stormed the city. Sure, it was still ten miles south, but his men tasted victory and they would sack it this very night.

Ares at twenty feet tall looked over the devastated landscape. Most of the dead in the field were his own men, though he was able to even the score a little bit. The god of war started to order his men to hasten so that they could take the city. When he heard a thunderous boom followed by another. He then felt a terrible pain in his left hand. It was a sensation he had never experienced before. The war god looked down to see the bloody stump where his hand used to be.

Ares spun around to find the source of the wound. There on the ground charged 15 iron chariots. They had a long pipe that exploded and fired some projectile. In addition, they were charging after him. Occasionally one would stop and fire its pipe. Fortunately, they were still far off and missing, the wound to his hand was only a lucky shot.

Ares would normally welcome such a challenge. However, he had just lost a hand and his lifeblood was freely flowing from of his stump. The god of war turned and started to retreat across the battlefield.

Ares' army watched in horror as their god abandoned them. The reserve forces Crist ordered were now flooding the trenches. The black-armored army decided to follow their leader and started to climb out of the trenches.

As the army retreated across no-man's-land, the artillery and mortar teams opened up again. The men who had fought their way through the storm of steel now had to endure it again. The men threw their weapons and shields to the ground and fled as fast as they could.

The few chariots and cavalry, who were remaining, joined in the rout. However, many a horse broke a leg or a chariot lost a wheel trying to fly across the broken landscape. The men would have to continue on foot. Many fell never to rise again as a burst of a steel shell exploded over their heads.

Some of the peasant militia started to chase after the fleeing foes. Fortunately, their leaders reined them in before they ran into the artillery barrage. So instead, they climbed the trench mounds and taunted their foes.

When the last man disappeared over the horizon, Crist called a halt to the artillery barrage. Ares' army was broken and the vast majority of them now lay upon the field or in the trenches dead or dying.

* * * * *

General Crist surveyed the battlefield. Already there were large groups of people working to collect the wounded and to bury the dead. The work was grim and on the advice of the psychiatrist on the Respite, the people worked in shifts. Walking the fields littered with broken bodies, unattached limbs, and animal parts took nerves of steel.

The teams working the fields separated the bodies of the fallen defenders from those of Ares' army. The latter were buried in mass graves or burned much like the minotaurs and cyclopes before. The survivors either cremated or, in a cemetery established outside the city walls, buried the bodies of the defenders.

General Crist recalled the quote from Robert E. Lee, "It is well war is so terrible – lest we should grow too fond of it." Crist was pleased with how his army operated, they held the line and did not falter. The opposing army showed great fortitude born either by fear of Ares or bravery (probably a bit of both) on marching through a hail of steel and lead to reach the trenches.

Now that they won the battle and the enemy was in flight the grim task of cleaning up began. Not only did they need to dispose of dead bodies before disease spread amongst the survivors; they needed to locate and dispose of any unexploded shells buried in the blood soaked fields.

Colonel Jenkins walked up to Crist. He had a clipboard in hand and cleared his throat to gain the general's attention. Crist turned towards the colonel and smiled.

"You have those reports?" Crist asked.

"Yes sir," the colonel began. "We have expended a large portion of our munitions. We may be able to withstand one more -- maybe two more attacks like this -- if we use caution before we are dry."

The general nodded his head. He had tried to use restraint the day before; however, it nearly cost him the trenches. If it was not for the militia woman leading her forces into the trenches yesterday, it very well could have ended differently. Of course, the charge of the Sherman tanks against Ares helped a lot as well.

"Our casualty figures are pretty high. We suffered nearly 5000 casualties. Fortunately, only about 1700 are the dead and most of those were the militia and Zakrostian army.

"Unlike in those Douglas Fairbanks movies people generally do not die instantly from stab wounds. So, we were able to patch up many of our men…"

"And women," Crist interrupted. "These Atlanteans allow their women to fight, and I have to admit they can hold their own."

"Yes sir," Jenkins acquiesced. "However, a lot of those men and women will not be able to return to combat."

Colonel Jenkins lifted the first page of his report to look at the sheet beneath. He took a second to study it.

"The Respite reports," Jenkins continued, "that it has also exhausted much of its medical stores. The pharmacists have been working hard to find and manufacture replacement drugs, antiseptics, anesthesia, and other medical stores."

"That is as well as expected," General Crist replied. "How is the POW situation?"

Colonel Jenkins leafed through a few more sheets of paper on his clipboard until he found what he needed. He sighed and replied, "About 7340 prisoners of war. We have them in a hastily constructed prison camp right now."

"Fine," Crist replied. "I want you to set up some tribunals. The first I want you and Captain Arnold on."

"Yes sir," Jenkins responded. "But we need three officers."

"I want a local commander to sit with you," Crist offered. "This is not just our affair; in fact, it is more theirs than ours. So, I want two of our officers and one of theirs to sit on every tribunal court."

"But sir," Jenkins protested, "they don't hold ranks in their military like ours."

"That will change," Crist replied. "To start with I am promoting that woman that led the militia into the trenches to a general of the local forces. She will sit with you on the first tribunal."

Jenkins nodded his head. He did not know how well the locals would feel about a peasant being in charge of their army. But, all the aristocrats, the ones traditionally to lead the military, moved to the Kingdom of Atlantis after King Podaistas ceded Crist part of his realm.

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The God Wars

Chapter Eighteen:

Moving Forward

By Dwayne MacInnes

The city of Zakrostas was in full celebration after its victory over Ares' army. The locals amazed the Otherworlders with many their fantastic celebratory customs. The one that astounded the Otherworlders the most was the bull-leaping or as the locals called it -- taurokathapasia.

Inside the local stadium, which was packed with revelers, a group of teenage boys and girls stood on the field. The youths were clad in only a short kilt to leave their movements unhindered. Released from a pen, a large, long-horned bull would charge into the midst of the teens. One of the youths would then literally grab the bull by the horns and as the bull swung his head back, the youth was vaulted over the beast's back.

One of the other youths would position him or herself behind the animal to catch their vaulting comrade. The bravery and acrobatic skill amazed even the most stoic patron. This event went on for hours to the ecstatic cries of the audience. After it concluded, there was not even one injury amongst the young acrobats.

There was feasting all over the city. Bronze tripods and spits with roasting goats, mutton, and beef sat over blazing fires. The grease of the meats would sizzle as it fell into the flaming pits releasing a savory aroma into the air. On such occasions as the victory celebration, the vendors dispensed the food at no charge to anyone wanting it.

The alcohol flowed just as freely. The revelers enjoyed copious amounts of Atlantean beer, mead, and wine leaving many intoxicated. Remarkably enough there were few complaints of disorderly conduct.

Even if one did not want to enjoy the games, food, or drink, he or she could listen to the many songs played by the musicians around Zakrostas. The pleasant aroma of food and the sweet sounds of music filled the air all through the day and into the night. Never had the city been so alive with merriment.

Bull Leaping or Taurokathapasia

The partying lasted a full three days. After it finally died down, General Crist called a meeting of his top military leaders. He was happy to see Theena attending. The woman had adapted well into her role of general of the local forces.

Since the days of Ares's defeat, General Crist had gone on a program of promoting officers and awarding medals. The latter was new to this world. Historically, Napoleon awarded the first campaign medals to his soldiers during the Napoleonic wars on earth about 150 years ago.

The new Atlantean Gold Star and Atlantean Silver Star for service and the Zakrostian Campaign medal proved very popular amongst the American soldiers as it did amongst the Zakrostian. The Zakrostians awarded one of the new medals would proudly display it on their chest as they walked down the streets.

Theena was one of the few to receive both the Gold and Silver Star for valor and bravery for her actions in the trenches. Now the woman sat around a large polished oak table with the rest of the officers of the new army. General Crist shuffled some papers in front of him before he started the meeting.

"Okay, people," the general said. "We must start thinking about holding democratic elections.

"I want the offices held by both native Atlanteans and us Otherworlders. I want the government set up like our own in the U.S."

Captain Bolger of the Olympus raised his hand, "I say old chap have you considered our system of government back in England?"

"I have," Crist replied. "But the local aristocrats have left town so assembling a House of Lords will be rather difficult."

Many of the Otherworlder officers chuckled. Theena felt like she missed the joke and only watched the exchange between the two men. She wondered why the language that they spoke, which they called English, strangely did not have the same accent. Theena could understand a lot of the new language, but like most of the local officers at the meeting, she had an interpreter on hand.

"Point taken," Bolger said with a smile. "However, when we get back home, I plan on lodging a complaint with Eisenhower."

The chuckles now became full laughs amongst the Otherworlders. The locals sat quietly feeling a bit left out. General Crist nodded his head smiling before continuing with his agenda.

"We must also start rushing the construction of factories. We must have new ships for Admiral Arnolds's navy," General Crist stated looking towards the captain of the Pima. The general decided that as long as they were stuck on this world, they would at least temporarily promote the most able commanders. This would help build up the Atlantean naval and land forces.

"We also need ammunition and replacement parts for our weapons. Even though we can produce steel, we cannot refine aluminum at this time. Therefore, we are limited to the aircraft we have on hand."

Colonel Hodgson cleared his voice, "General Sir," the new air corps commander interrupted. "We can try to manufacture planes like the British Hawker Hurricane. The planes were constructed primarily from wood and fabric. Rubber for the tires and the construction of a good engine would be the main obstacle."

Bolger smiled with pride at Hodgson's proposal. The American pilot had obviously paid attention to the Battle of Britain. Nevertheless, the Spitfire received the lion's share of the glory for winning the battle. The smaller Hurricane's numbers finally wore the Germens down, primarily because it was easy to construct and repair.

"I never thought of that," General Crist replied writing the suggestion down on a pad of paper. "Speaking of construction, I want a fort built north of here near the village of Knopso." The general looked over at Theena.

"General Theena will lead a force of engineers and soldiers north as soon as possible."

Theena smiled. She was pleased when the general first proposed a fort to act as an advanced warning of another attack. Such a fortification could have delayed Ares long enough for reinforcements to arrive and the scorched earth policies that Theena employed would not need to have happened.

Crist handpicked Theena because she knew the area. Further, she had the respect from the people of the neighboring villages. The peasant militias would rally to her much more willingly than they would to a Zakrostian or Otherworlder commander.

Crist also charged her with training the militias. The Jolly Rogers would accompany her to help modernize the ancient forces. They would guide her in the best designs for a fort as well as its placement. They would also bring some artillery pieces along.

As they proceeded north, they would string telegraph lines; therefore, the frontier could communicate directly to Zakrostas. To minimize the chances of another surprise attack, General Crist ordered other small outposts to be constructed.

Such wisdom and strategy would have been worthy of Odysseus noted Theena.

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The God Wars

Chapter Nineteen:

New Arms

By Dwayne MacInnes

Corporal Daniels surveyed the construction of Fort Knopso. The fort was nearly complete. It had barracks, steep earthen and concrete walls dotted with towers and pillboxes, and a large parade ground inside its barricades. The village that provided the name for the fort laid abandoned and destroyed. The bodies of the villagers still lay charred and rotting in the ruined habitat when the small force led by General Theena returned.

By now, the name of the Amazon of Knopso was well known. The natives of Atlantis delighted in having one of their own as a general. Those, who were able, flocked to join her growing military command.

All recruits learned how to speak English, use modern weapons and tactics, and the use of military ranks. Officers even had to learn how to act around enlisted personnel. Initially, it was not uncommon to see an officer shaving the face of a private. However, the Otherworlders taught that enlisted personnel had to respect officers and those officers had to earn the respect of the enlisted personnel.

Daniels looked down at the two chevrons on his arm. He still could not believe he received a promotion for his act of bravery in the trenches. In addition, he also received the Atlantean Gold and Silver Star for valor and bravery. The only others to receive both were the sergeant, now Lieutenant Rogers and General Theena.

Lt. Rogers was now running the construction of the fort while the general rode off around the countryside gathering recruits. It now appeared that Fort Knopso was going to be an advanced fort as well as a training camp.

Now that some factories were up and running, muzzle loading-rifles were issued to the new local recruits and militia. Some ammunition for the M1 Garands and the artillery pieces were also starting to come into production. However, the new ammunition did not seem to arrive in enough quantities to please Lt. Rogers.

"We better get more factories on line before another army attacks us," groaned Lt. Rogers as he stepped up next to Daniels.

"Yes sir," Daniels said. "I think the recruits have been adapting pretty well. The first couple of weeks they nearly died of heart attacks when they heard the crack of a rifle. Now, most of them are fairly decent marksmen."

"We'll need more than decent marksmen if we are hit again. We barely held them off last time," the lieutenant said. "However, it is a good step."

Zeus

Ares walked into the throne room on Mount Olympus. Zeus sat on his throne frowning as the god of war entered the room. All the assembled gods noticed the missing member where Ares' left hand used to be.

"I have summoned you here," Zeus stated bluntly. "You have sulked enough. Tell us what went wrong."

Ares normally a proud person looked around the room. He could try to hide the details of his defeat, but the mere fact he was missing a hand would give lie to his story. He noticed the pity on many of his peers' faces. That angered him more than anything else did and Ares did not hide his anger well.

"I was defeated, father!" cried the god of war. "These Otherworlders have unholy weapons and strange machinations of war. Even I was harmed by them as your brother was killed by them," Ares shouted as he thrust his stump towards Zeus.

"Our time of dominion has passed," Hera said calmly. "The age of man is upon us and we must graciously step aside. Otherwise, we will either destroy each other or we will just be killed."

Ares looked at his queen. He could not believe what Hera had just said. Had the gods lost their minds while he was away and convalescing?

"These Otherworlders are the problem," Hermes said. "We must teach them to fear us or perish as we have taught the Atlanteans."

"Hera, queen and mother is correct," Athena countered. "We have done little to earn the love of men over the centuries. We taught them we are gods, yet we are not divine. We merely have powers that they little understand that is all."

"How dare you, sister!" spat Ares. "Goddess of wisdom? Goddess of fear mongering, maybe. Goddess of cut and run!"

"I will not tolerate your insults half-brother," Athena coolly replied.

Ares looked down at his hand unconsciously. Did she mean to goad him over the loss of his hand or was she merely reminding him that they were just half-siblings. In either account, Ares face turned red in anger and shame.

"Peace," Apollo said. "I have the gift of healing. However, even I cannot repair the loss of a hand. Your best bet would be to ask Hephaestus. A mechanical hand is better than no hand."

The god of the anvil gave Apollo a sour look. The idea of helping the man who stole his wife sickened him. Granted he too feared these Otherworlders and would love to see them annihilated, but to help the very person who was sleeping with his wife and throwing it in his face was beyond reason.

"Oh dear husband," Aphrodite said with a honey voice. "Can you see it in your heart to help out a fellow god in a time of our great distress? Ares is our best hope and only you can help him."

The seduction of Aphrodite would work on mortals and most other gods. In fact, it used to work on Hephaestus. However, that was eons ago and the millennia of torment hardened his heart like the metals and alloys he worked with. Hephaestus frowned and glared at his wife then turned his sour visage on the god of war.

"Fool!" the god of the anvil bellowed. "You stole my wife and now you beg for my services.

"I will not build you a new hand even though I can easily do it. But, you are our best hope to resist these Otherworlders so I give you this!"

With a flick of his wrist, Hephaestus flung a double serrated-edged blade at the god of war. Ares watched as the metal object tumbled end over end towards him. Without flinching, Ares followed the blade's trajectory until it ended with a vibrating shudder stuck in the ground between his feet.

"That is the least I will give you for I have already given you too much," Hephaestus said sadly briefly glancing at Aphrodite before turning his back and leaving the throne room.

Aphrodite usually did not care about her husband the cripple. She loved the well-toned body of the god of war instead. Yet even she felt a pang of regret and sadness as she watched her husband stagger from the room.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty:

War Plans

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zeus had listened to the counsel of the assembled gods. Their number used to be twelve, but with the death of his brother, Poseidon, it was now eleven. Of those eleven, three wanted to make peace with the humans. These were Hera his wife and queen, Athena, and Artemis. Dionysus did not advise either way. He was more concerned with his drink than in the affairs of gods and men. Apollo only tentatively gave his support to Ares' campaign against the humans.

Only Ares, Zeus, Hephaestus, Hades, Hermes and Aphrodite gave full support to the campaign effort. Therefore, by the end of the gathered council the vote was three to seven with one abstaining. Zeus being father and king gave his blessings to the effort against the humans. The campaign would continue for the cost of letting the mortals alone was too high. Moreover, they had killed his brother and maimed his son. The humans must learn that there were consequences for their actions.

"I will not and cannot sit here while you plan the annihilation of a race we brought here in the first place," Hera hotly replied. "I strongly urge anyone who feels some pity for the poor mortals to leave these premises as long as the idea of destroying the humans continues to be bantered about."

The queen regally stood up from her throne and without glancing behind her, she marched out of the throne room. Athena glared hard at Ares before she turned and followed the queen. Artemis was quick to join ranks behind Athena. Only Dionysus tarried a bit longer before taking one last gulp of wine and staggered out of the throne room.

Athena

Zeus surveyed the remaining gods situated around the room. Zeus was pleased about their makeup. He was sure, with the help of those that advocated the destruction of the humans, that he could devise the perfect plan to defeat the Otherworlders and their technology.

It was just as well that the dissenters left the room. Zeus did not want any of them to interfere with their plans or even to try to help the mortals. This was a war for survival and it would come down to either the gods or the humans.

"Well, my son," Zeus said to Ares after the dissenters vacated the throne room. "What are your plans?"

Ares looked down at his new left hand. It was the serrated blade forged by Hephaestus. The wicked looking weapon left no doubt as to its ultimate purpose. "Father," the god of war finally began. "I will take an even larger army next time."

"Where are you going to get the men?" Hermes asked with a smirk. "You lost about 75% percent of your last army. Those that would even dare to answer your summon will only be a pittance of those who survived."

"I will have Hades' dead, Hephaestus' Talos soldiers and Hermes' dragons and griffins. These will overcome those Otherworlders and their technological horrors!" Ares yelled hotly.

"I do not have that many dead assembled yet," Hades broke in. "We all underestimated the capabilities of the Otherworlders. I will need more time to animate the dead for this deed," Hades responded. "However, the bodies from Ares last campaign will make finding suitable recruits much easier."

"I too need more time," Hephaestus added. "The bronze men I have constructed will not suffice against the might of the Otherworlders and their unholy weapons. Their skill in constructing such arms even outmatches mine."

Ares frowned as he glared at the gods around him. "What am I doing sitting with old women who fear ghosts! We need to hit them hard and fast!"

Hermes

"Calm yourself," Hermes said softly. "Even I will require time to assemble the Draco-Lords. You must admit that you like to take an opponent on head to head. You never did quite master strategy like Athena."

Ares gave Hermes a look of rage. His jaw clenched and his brows furrowed. "What would you have me do? Sit here and draw arrows on parchment?"

"Another direct attack will fail," Hermes replied. "However, we can possibly use a little deceit."

"I do not have time for your games," Ares roared at Hermes.

"I think you do. Because another failure like your last one may leave you missing more than just a hand," Hermes replied coolly.

The barb stung Ares as the god of war glanced at the evil looking blade replacing his left hand. He felt pain and shame remembering how the Otherworlders bested him. Even the Atlanteans had seen a god bleed. Once that happened, there was only one course left and that was annihilation.

"Well, good messenger," Zeus started. "What do you propose?"

"Give me two months time and I will scout out the enemy. When I return our forces should be assembled and we can then plan our attack," Hermes smiled through thin lips.

Ares grumbled lowly. He did not like to wait and he did not like to make plans. However, what he hated more than anything was having another god convince him that his own plans were flawed.

"Calm yourself, love," Aphrodite said as she slid her hands around Ares massive chest. Hephaestus glared at the two, even now with their fates so close at hand, his wife and her lover continued to rub his nose in their affair.

The crippled god stood up. "I have a lot of work to do at my anvil."

Zeus nodded his head. He knew that the god of smithing would work harder at the anvil thinking about his wife in the arms of another god. However, even Zeus, one himself not know for fidelity, felt Aphrodite and Ares were too blatant with their affair.

Hades next stood up. "My lord, I must start assembling my army as well. I will need the Necro-lords to help gather the right material."

Hermes smiled as he stood up next. "Oh, great king. I too have work to do. I must be off, for I myself, proposed the timetable that I am to work against."

"I wish you well in your endeavor, Hermes," Zeus replied. "Be careful around these Otherworlders. They may have a device that can sniff out gods from mortals and I cannot afford to lose the least of us."

Hermes bowed, "My king, I will prove that I am not the least. Mark my time; you will see me in two full phases of the moon."

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-one:

Merchant of Hellekos

By Dwayne MacInnes

The people of Zakrostas over the last several months had seen great changes. These Otherworlders with strange titles like American or British brought wonderful and new ideas and technologies. These technologies could defeat the cruel and uncaring gods that for millennia toyed with the mortals like their own personal playthings.

The Otherworlders had constructed a power plant outside the city's walls. It consumed coal and heated water that in turn powered generators that produced the strange energy called electricity. Now great parts of Zakrostas had long lines stretching from building to building that brought the electricity. Lamps that worked off the electricity would illuminate the darkness. Strange machines called radio would bring voices and music from miles away to home. Most wonderful of all was the theater that played fantastic images on a screen.

The citizens knew the Otherworlders were men just like them, but their knowledge of science rivaled even the gods. Not even Hephaestus ever created metal boats that floated on the ocean or iron birds that could fly in the sky. The huge iron chariots that could produce instant death from the long tubes in their turrets were also a marvel to behold.

However, just as strange as these technologies another thought was new to the citizens of Zakrostas, the idea of a republic. Sure, the Atlanteans were familiar with the democracy used by the Athenians back on their old world. But, the idea of freedom for all and a president, congress, and supreme court to balance each other was entirely new.

Even now, an election was in progress to see who would be the new president of the Republic of Atlantis for the next four years. After that, they would hold another election to see if the current president should rule for another four years or a new one should take over. So far, the people of Zakrostas were firmly behind the idea of electing the Otherworlder called Roger Greer. His language schools proved immensely popular. Plus, the fact that he married a local girl called Mina helped endear him to the hearts of the locals.

General Crist sat behind his desk in the newly constructed military headquarters in Zakrostas. He rubbed his eyes as he placed the latest reports upon the desk next to the lamp.

The reports contained several pieces of good news and some bad. The field team discovered a petroleum field to the northeast near the Tekos Hills. Right now, they had drilled several wells and oil was stored in barrels. A small town grew up around the site now called Little Houston.

The engineers were proposing the construction of a railroad to the oil fields and back to Zakrostas. Steel production was up significantly and already steel girder manufacturing was considerable for the construction of the tall buildings popping up around Zakrostas.

Several of the surrounding towns as well as Zakrostas now boasted a radio station. Even the recently construction Fort Knopso, hundreds of miles to the north, could communicate with the capitol. Long strings of telephone lines connected key cities and villages. However, telephones and operator stations still were not a common occurrence.

Some scientists were successful in rediscovering synthetic rubber. Once cars and trucks became commonplace the rubber for tires, gaskets, hoses, etc. would prove extremely important.

However, the one thing that was bothering Crist the most right now was the lack of repairs on the machine on the Pima. Dr. Reno and his team worked feverishly to repair it. Yet, after all these months on the strange world, it still refused to work. Dr. Reno could not explain it. But, there was nothing he could do to get it to function.

General Crist slammed his fists down on the desk again in frustration. Already several men were experiencing deep depressions. The psych ward on the Respite could not handle all the cases. There was only one psychiatrist, and he was greatly overwhelmed. Fortunately, they had a good number of chaplains on hand to help him with his workload.

"Damn," Crist swore, he would love to have a cigarette. But, there was not any tobacco leaves found on this world yet and the last butt had been smoked months before. Fortunately, coffee, the general's next vice of choice was in ready supply. The beans grew in southern regions of the Kingdom of Atlantis.

"General?" a woman's voice with an accent spoke from the doorway. General Crist looked up to see the woman he had promoted to general of the local forces. It had totally slipped Crist's mind that he had invited her back to Zakrostas to meet with him.

General Crist stood up. "I'm sorry General Theena. I've been preoccupied. Please come in and have a seat."

General Theena also known as the Amazon of Knopso entered the office and sat in a wooden chair opposite the desk were Crist sat. She was wearing the new officer's uniform designed in much the same style as the Americans. Much like many of the local forces, she still carried a short sword belted around her waste. She wore the medals announcing the campaigns she fought in as well as her decorations of bravery on her chest.

"Your work on Fort Knopso and the recruitment of soldiers is astounding," Crist said looking at another set of reports. "I see Lieutenant Rogers is also impressed."

"Yes sir," Theena said. "I have followed your plans to the letter. I am very impressed with how you Otherworlders think out your battle plans so thoroughly. You anticipate the enemy's actions before they have even conceived of them."

"You can never prepare enough," Crist replied. "There is always a new plan that has never been thought of."

"That is true, sir," Theena said.

"Well, enough chit-chat," Crist said. "I had you summoned here so that I can instruct you in some of the more mundane tasks of being a general. For the next couple of months you will follow me around."

* * * * *

The sun was nearly down when the lone stranger approached the city gates. He led a donkey pulling a wooden cart behind him. He would make it inside the city just before the guards shut the gates for the night.

As the man approached the gate, a guard halted him. "What is your name and business?" the guard asked.

"I am Hyrtios of Hellekos, a simple merchant who thought he'd try his luck in the great city of Zakrostas."

"Very well you may enter," the guard waved the merchant through the gate.

It had only been two weeks since the conference on Mount Olympus and so far, Hermes' plan was working well. The god smiled to himself as he urged his donkey through the city gates. He had much work to do, and he needed to start as soon as possible.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-two:

Trinkets

By Dwayne MacInnes

Hermes was surprised how fast the Otherworlders were transforming the world. He saw devices that even his fellow gods never imagined. A thing called a projector could flash moving images with sound onto a screen. He found these extremely entertaining. It was a shame all the mortals would have to die.

It was also a shame Ares had sulked for months after his defeat. If he had admitted the nature and extremity of his defeat immediately, the gods could have moved faster. As it were, the Otherworlders had already swelled their ranks with local Atlanteans. They had even shared the knowledge of the use and construction of their weapons with the locals. It would now be extremely difficult and deadly to destroy the mortals.

Hermes had set up shop outside one of the larger building in Zakrostas. It was only ten stories tall yet it was taller than anything ever seen on this world. Even Hermes was astounded as he craned his neck to look up towards the long spire than transfixed the apex of the building.

Dr. Reno walked past the merchant selling trinkets outside the military building. He could make out the ancient script on the side of the man's cart proclaiming he was Hyrtios of Hellekos. A few people stopped to see the merchant's wares and a few more even purchased the odd trinket the salesman offered.

Reno paid him little notice. He had to see the general and he dreaded it. The anxiety of explaining that he could not get the machine to work was giving the scientist an ulcer. Sometimes the pain in his gut rivaled the old wound on his chest.

Part of the problem was that they still had not perfected some of the parts needed to repair the machine. Another was that he had not constructed the machine alone. The only scientists present that help build it were himself and Dr. Berger.

Reno briskly walked up the steps and entered the building. The guards were used to seeing Reno and let him pass without giving him much scrutiny. The scientist then entered the elevator that took him to the floor where General Crist's office resided.

Reno approached the wooden door with a frosted glass window that had the words ‘Gen. Crist' painted on it in bold black letters. He shortly halted and took a deep breath before he knocked.

"Enter," a voice said from inside the office.

Reno opened the door and entered the office. General Crist looked up from his daily paperwork and motioned for the scientist to have a chair.

"Good day," Reno said as he sat down.

"Good morning," Crist replied pushing a cup of hot coffee towards the scientist. "I'm hoping you have made some progress on the machine."

Reno sadly shook his head, "I'm sorry general. But, we still do not have some of the parts down right. Also, when we built the infernal device we had blueprints, but because of security we do not have those. Dr. Berger and I are working hard to rebuild it, but you have to remember we are only two of the hundreds of scientist who built it."

General Crist frowned; he did not actually expect an affirmative answer. Yet he still hoped there would be one. The worn and aged look on Reno's face told the general that the scientist had been working hard to fix the problems with the damaged machine. The general felt guilty for pushing the frail man hard, but he needed results and he needed them fast. Many of the stranded men's hope resided in the fact that they would return home.

The general stood up from behind his desk and walked around it so he could be closer to Reno. The general then sat on the corner of the desk pushing several piles of papers out of his way.

"Okay, I know I have been pushing you hard. But, we need to get that machine working. Everyday another of my men becomes depressed and despondent. We have already sent nearly a hundred people to the mental hospital built here in the city. I have even been given numbers showing that suicides are rising.

"Dr. Reno, I am becoming a desperate man. I really need you to get that damned," Crist slapped his hand on his desk, "machine working.

"Tell me what you need and I will get it for you."

Reno shook his head, "General, we need better vacuum tubes. The ones we are producing are fine for light bulbs but as a tube, they are not sufficient.

"I am trying to reverse engineer the machine so that I can understand the intricacies of its functions, but that is tedious work and will take time."

Crist nodded his head. "Fine, I understand what you are saying. Give me a timetable on the reverse engineering."

Reno thought for a few minutes, "I figure it could take a year maybe two."

That answer did not sit well with Crist, he frowned and stomped across the room to a window overlooking the city below.

"No, that will not do," the general flatly stated. "I will give you six months."

Dr. Reno stared at the general's back with his mouth wide open. The general did not understand that these things take time and that rushing them could prove disastrous.

"But...but..." stammered Reno.

"You are dismissed," Crist said still looking out the window. He knew he was pushing the scientist hard. But, he had to give his men hope and he needed it fast.

Hermes

Hermes watched as the man in a white long coat descended the steps from the building. The god had seen this man enter and leave the building several times. He knew from the discrete questions he asked the locals that his name was Reno, and he was a very important man. He was one of the ones responsible for the creation of the machines that threatened the gods.

"Pardon me sir," Hermes asked Reno in thick accented English, "would you care to see my wares?"

Reno started to push his way past the vendor when the man stuck a small trinket in his hand.

"Look at its craftsmanship," Hermes pressed.

Reno threw the trinket on the man's cart and stormed off. The scientist was in no mood for an annoying peddler. What he needed was a good stiff drink and he knew of a bar that served whiskey, another gift the Americans brought to this world.

As the scientist stomped down the road, Hermes quickly locked up his cart. He would return for it later. Right now, he did not want to lose sight of Reno. The messenger god, also the god of thieves rapidly wove his way through the crowded streets to follow the scientist.

Hermes observed Reno enter a local tavern. Hermes slipped inside and took a seat at a booth where he could observe the scientist sitting on a stool near the bar. When a woman approached to take his order, Hermes just asked for wine. He noticed that Reno was drinking something much harder and drinking it much faster.

Hermes smiled to himself. This would prove easier than he thought.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-three:

Of Whiskey and Spies

By Dwayne MacInnes

"I betcha dind't know that yer -- your planet has a .01% weaker gravity than ours," Reno said drunkenly to his friend Hyrtios. The two have been hitting the same bar every night for two weeks now. Usually it ended with Reno staggering home drunk with Hyrtios holding one arm to steady the inebriated scientist.

"It...it doesn't mean too much for weight, but it is impertinent -- um --important rather -- to long range ballistics," Reno continued to lecture his Atlantean friend. "Also your magnetic pole is in the south unlike ours in the north. Luckillily, we can just read our compasses upside-down now. You know, just read the white part instead of the red so it still points north to us."

Hermes in his disguise as Hyrtios a merchant from Hellekos had patiently listened to Reno's ramblings for a fortnight now. Some information was proving to be useful; most of it just sailed right over his head.

"Plus, did ya know that your days are .001 a second longer than ours?" the drunken scientist stated splashing some whiskey out of his glass and onto his friend. "Sho shorry," Reno apologized.

"Don't worry about it," Hyrtios said dabbing at his wet tunic with a cloth.

"We've been trying for months to get the Cloaking Device to work and it won't work," Reno said suddenly changing the subject, a subject that Reno brings up at least once a night. It was the same problem and Hermes knew it by heart, if even he did not understand it. "It is called the Rainbow Project by the bigwigs in Washington, we call it the Cloaking Device, and most of the uneducated call it ‘The Machine', including Gen'ral Crist."

"That is remarkable," Hyrtios comforted. "I am amazed by how many machines you build."

"Yesh, we can build a lot of different macheens," slurred Reno.

"How many of those iron chariots do you have?" Hyrtios/Hermes asked.

"Wha...wha are you talking about?" Reno said with an exaggerated puzzled expression on his face. "Oh, I know what you mean," the scientist smiled wagging an unsteady finger. "Tanks, we call ‘em tanks. The were first introduced in World War I and were shipped over to the continent in boxes marked ‘tanks' like in water tanks. Get it?"

Hermes did not get it other than the correct name. He decided to press the issue with the drunken man. "Okay, tanks. How many do you think you have?"

Reno motioned Hyrtios closer as if to divulge a secret. Hermes leaned in close to the inebriated scientist with his breath full of the stench of whiskey. Hermes promised to bring some back to Olympus for Dionysus to sample.

"You know what?" Reno looked at Hyrtios with bleary eyes. "I don't know."

* * * * *

Theena stood in Crist's office again. She usually arrived before the sunrise and left after it set. The two generals were becoming very close friends. General Crist was amazed to find a person so readily adaptable to the concept of modern warfare on this primitive world. He loved the fact that Theena drank it in and could sometimes offer her own insightful suggestions. Her enthusiasm and ability to soak in new material utterly astonished Crist.

Even though the Amazon of Knopso appeared to be in her late twenties and thirty years younger, Crist could not help starting to have feelings for the woman. It was obviously a mutual feeling. Theena found the man's ability to organize an entire primitive society and bring it millennia into the future simply amazing. His mind could quickly switch gears. He could go from planning the latest advancements in agriculture, such as steel plows or crop rotation, to strategizing a war. A campaign like the one he organized months before at the Battle of the Trenches

"We have currently constructed five Hercules fighters," Crist stated to Theena. "They are almost exact replicas of a fighter we have on earth that we called the Hawker Hurricane."

Theena smiled. These Otherworlders called it Hercules after the mortal son sired by Zeus thousands of years before on their world. His actual name was Heracles, the poor king of the gods thought he could diminish Hera's wrath for his infidelity if he named his son after her. According to legend, it did not work.

"I plan to add an airfield to Fort Knopso and when we have enough fighters and pilots available we'll ship them up there," Crist continued.

Theena nodded her head. It would help a lot to have an advanced airfield in order to keep a closer eye on Mount Olympus. General Crist sheepishly looked at Theena and cleared his throat. The woman knew that the general, a man always in control was nervous about something.

"I know this may not be proper, but maybe we could catch a movie sometime," Crist asked slightly turning red in the face. Theena smiled, a man who could strategize and organize entire armies, conduct wars, and fight pitched battles was ill at ease courting a woman.

"Yes, I would actually like that," Theena replied. She laughed to see the obvious relief on the general's face. "However, I would not think too much about what others may say. You are the general after all."

"Good perhaps tonight?"

"Yes, that would be nice."

Theena walked over to the large window overlooking the city. The building was ten stories tall and Crist's office was on the top floor. Looking down on the city below was a breathtaking experience.

Theena peered down onto the streets below the window and could see people walking up and down the steps to the building as well as the sidewalk. She could see that a vendor had parked his cart next to the steps and was hawking his wares.

"General," Theena said. "Do you have your field glasses?"

"Yes," the general said with a slightly puzzled frown on his face.

"May I borrow them," Theena said holding out her hand while never breaking her gaze below.

Crist slapped the binoculars into Theena's hand. The young general put them to her eyes and focused them. She studied the scene for a few seconds. She saw that most people walked by the merchant; however, the scientist called Reno stopped and exchanged words with the vendor.

"What is it?" Crist asked walking up next to the woman.

Theena handed the glasses to Crist and pointed down to the street. "Do you see that merchant there?"

"Yes," Crist said.

"Have you noticed that Reno appears to be on friendly terms with him?"

"Yes," Crist acknowledged.

"If you were a spy, where would you put your base of operation?" Theena asked.

Crist quickly looked up at Theena. He never thought about the gods having spies in his city. Mortals universally feared and loathed the gods. Even the mercenaries only served out of fear and when given an opportunity they would defect to the Atlanteans. He also never thought that King Podaistas would need spies. After all, he was sharing most of the technological advances with the Kingdom of Atlantis.

"My God!" Crist replied. "It never occurred to me."

In a flash, the general was at his desk screaming into his phone.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-four:

Thief

By Dwayne MacInnes

After two grueling days of interrogation, the military allowed Hyrtios to leave the city. Hermes smiled inwardly, they were not able to ascertain if he was indeed a spy or not. However, they still had doubts, and the military told him to leave and never return. It was sooner than he expected, but he believed he had some useful information to share with the other Olympians.

Nonetheless, Hermes still had one job to do. If he accomplished it, he could very well swing the balance of power overwhelmingly back towards the gods. He just needed to wait until nightfall then he could follow his plan.

* * * * *

Dr. Reno sat in General Crist's office. If he thought his previous visits were uncomfortable, it was nothing compared to today. The general was visibly angry and barely controlled his rage.

"Who was this man you've been seen with?" General Crist growled.

"His name is Hyrtios, he's a merchant from Hellekos," Reno replied.

"How do you know he is who he claims to be?" Crist countered.

"He said so, just as I believe that you are General Crist," Reno said getting a little hot.

"Don't give me any smart answers," yelled Crist. "You may be in a lot of hot water mister."

"I'm sorry I did not know I had to clear all my acquaintances with you first. How much time did you take in checking out your General Theena?" Reno fired back

General Crist calmed himself down before he continued. It is true he never did tell any of the men to do a clearance check on their Atlantean friends. Even if he did what could they do, other than ask other Atlanteans to vouch for them.

Reno also had a point about Theena. Although, the two had been dating for some days now, Crist had to ask himself how much did he know about her? He had seen her in combat, but other than that, he did not have anything concrete.

The general rubbed his temple. "Okay, fine," Crist acknowledged. "But you are a highly valuable person. You know things and you may say things."

Reno relaxed a bit. It appeared that he had scored against the general. A thing few could boast. Yet, the general did not stop pacing back and forth in front of the scientist.

"I also have it on good authority that you have been getting drunk lately," the general stated.

"I've been under a lot of stress. I like to unwind after a hard days work," Reno said, his face turning slightly red. He was not a drinking man and to have the general insinuate he was a drunkard, embarrassed the scientist.

"I also know that you have been drinking with your new friend, Hyrtios," the general continued. "In fact, I know that he tends to buy the drinks and you do the lion's share of drinking."

Reno could not deny it. It was true even though he never really realized it until now. Dr. Reno started to have his own doubts about the merchant. All Hyrtios ever drank was a glass of wine while he downed shot after shot of whiskey.

The scientist nodded his head in affirmation while he kept his eyes on the floor in shame.

"In addition, I have heard that you like to talk when you are drunk," the general further added. "What do you talk about?"

Reno shot his head up and stared at the grim looking general. Crist's face was stern and his eyes still flashed in rage.

"I...I don't remember everything," Reno started. "Maybe stuff about the machine."

The general's eyes narrowed in a tight slit as he approached the scientist in the chair. Crist lowered his face until he was just inches away from Reno's face.

"You are telling me that you shared classified information with a local?" the general said in a tight cold voice barely above a whisper. A chill ran down Reno's spine, there was no denying he messed up big time.

"Y...yeah," Reno stammered.

"I should have you shot," Crist continued in the same cold whisper. Cold sweat broke out on Reno's face. The general straightened his back and walked to the window overlooking the city. He stared out on the darkening city; many of the electric lights were beginning to shine.

"Relax," Crist finally said, "this is as much my fault as yours. I have been putting a lot of stress on you, and I did not issue any orders about fraternizing with the locals."

General Crist turned back towards Reno. He could see that he had put the fear of God into the scientist. That was good; it would be a long time before he accepted drinks from a stranger again.

"I tell you what," General Crist finally said in a friendly voice. "Take some time off. See a movie or a play. The locals have done well adapting Shakespeare into Minoan."

"But sir," Reno protested. "The work...your timetable. I can't just stop."

"Sure you can," Crist replied. "In fact, this is an order. You are to take two weeks off. You can go anywhere in the city, but you are not to discuss any of your work with the locals."

* * * * *

Reno returned home to his apartment. He unlocked the door and stepped into the black interior. He instinctively flicked the light switch but nothing happened.

"Damn, electricity is out again," Reno cursed. There were still some problems with the power grid. However, a quick glance out his window told him that from the lights in the neighboring buildings that it was not the electricity.

"Hello old friend," said a familiar voice in the darkness.

"Is that you Hyrtios?" Reno inquired. "I thought you were kicked out of the city."

"What are city walls," Hyritos said bringing his face into the ambient light emanating from outside. His face was familiar to Reno, but there were subtle changes, "to Hermes, the god of thieves?"

"What do you mean?" Reno began. "Are you here to rob me?"

"Not exactly," Hermes laughed, "I am here to rob you...."

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-five:

Information

By Dwayne MacInnes

The trip to Mount Olympus passed in a blur to Reno. His old friend Hyrtios -- he discovered -- was actually Hermes, messenger of the gods and god of thieves. The Olympian had no problem abducting the scientist and whisking him away to the jagged heights of Mount Olympus.

Hermes quickly tossed the poor mortal into a dark, hot, cavernous room. Sulfur and smoke filled the air. The only light came from the many red fires burning from the big pits scattered around the dark basalt floor.

Reno offered no resistance as Hermes shackled the scientist's hands and feet to a nearby rock wall. The god then stood back and stared at the poor man. Hermes smiled and crossed his arms.

"What are you going to do with me?" Reno asked for the hundredth time since his abduction.

"We are waiting for a friend," Hermes smiled.

Reno could tell from the sinister look on Hermes face that he did not want to meet this so-called friend. However, Reno did not have long to wait until a giant of a man walked into the cavern. His legs were in braces much like those Reno saw on kids who suffered the paralyzing effects of polio.

"Ah, Hephaestus," Hermes laughed. "I have a gift for you."

The god of the anvil stared at the shackled man. Hephaestus could see that this was no beefy hero or scrawny farmer. It could only be one of those Otherworlders. The god smiled.

"I need you to help Reno here, to remember some things," Hermes continued.

Reno watched in horror as Hephaestus wandered over to one of the flaming pits. He pulled out a long, red-hot iron and slowly approached the scientist. Reno's eyes focused on the smoking, yellow-white hot tip of the brand as it neared his flesh. The eyes of the gods sparkled malignantly on their smiling faces in the red light of the cavern.

Hephaestus

General Crist was in his office interviewing one of the local militia. It took some time searching but he was finally able to locate the only surviving militia member from Knopso other than Theena.

"Your name is Teukros?" General Crist asked the teenager.

"Yes sir," the youth replied. His English was actually pretty good. He could understand Crist with few explanations and Crist could understand him.

"You and Theena were the only survivors from the Knopso militia, is that correct?" Crist asked.

"No," Teukros replied to the utter shock of General Crist.

"I thought there weren't others. If there are please tell me," General Crist began.

"I'm sorry sir," Teukros corrected himself. "I meant to say that I am the only survivor from the Knopso militia."

General Crist was slightly confused and took a few seconds to ponder the puzzle before him before he asked his next question. "Are you saying Theena was not part of the militia?"

"I don't know, sir," Teukros said. "She may have been in a militia but she is not from Knopso."

"Please explain," Crist urged.

"There were several people fleeing south from the fringe villages. Theena arrived with some of them," Teukro began. "She instantly joined up and rallied the local farmers into the militia. We were armed with pitchforks, hunting bows, and rakes. Only a few actually had spears or swords.

"When Ares' horde attacked our village she fought hard and we were inspired by her gallantry. She said we had to slow them down to buy time for the villagers to flee south. We fought until there were only seven of us counting Theena.

"We fled southward as the army torched and plundered our village. I was sent to warn Thelos while Theena and my comrades remained to ambush Ares' scouts in the pass."

"So, before Ares raided your village you never saw Theena before?" Crist pressed.

"That is correct, sir," Teukros responded. "I figured she must have led another militia much like ours and was the sole survivor. She is a born leader."

General Crist smiled and nodded his head. "Thank you, son. You may return to duty."

The teenager stood up, saluted the general, and exited the room. General Crist walked over to his wooden chair behind his desk and sat down. He rubbed his temples in deep thought. The general did not like going behind Theena's back to gather information about her, but he found that it was as Reno stated, it would be difficult to vouch for the locals.

Before Crist could give further thought to the subject two military policemen burst into his office. Crist stood up quickly and glared at the men.

"Sorry sir," a sergeant said. "This is of dire importance. Reno has disappeared."

"What?" General Crist blurted.

"We looked all over," the private added. "But he has simply disappeared."

"Have you checked with the sentries at the gate?" Crist asked.

"Yes, sir," the sergeant continued. "They have not seen him. The night sentries have not seen him. In fact, the last people to see him say he entered his apartment last night and never left it."

General Crist frowned, this was not good, somehow Reno ran away or someone abducted him. There was always the possibility that he was murdered and his body hidden. Nevertheless, something told Crist that this was not the case.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-six:

Harsh Interrogations

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zeus could see that Hermes was very pleased with himself. The god of thieves not only returned with information, but with one of the men responsible for the creation of the machines the Otherworlders loved. Hephaestus was interrogating him now.

"So these iron chariots are called tanks?" Zeus asked.

"Yes," Hermes replied, "and their metal birds they call aircraft, or airplanes, or just planes for short."

"That is all well and good," Ares replied hotly. "But how does this help us out except to put proper names to the vehicles destroying us?"

"Calm, Ares," Hermes said. "These vehicles have limitations."

Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite and Hades all leaned closer to Hermes. Apollo and Hephaestus were busy with the prisoner. Just in case Hephaestus became too zealous, Apollo was on hand to heal any mortal wound Reno received.

"Ha!" laughed Hermes. "I thought that would gain your attention."

"Don't toy with us!" exclaimed Ares. "What are these limitations?"

"It appears that you, oh king are the key," Hermes replied.

"Enough with your games, Hermes," Zeus said with a thunderous voice.

"It has to do with the weather," Hermes smiled. "Their planes cannot operate in bad storms and deep mud will mire down their tanks."

"That is good, brother," Hades replied excitedly. "You can summon a storm the likes never seen and use it to our advantage."

"How will that help out," growled Ares. "Any troops I put in the field will also be adversely affected by such a storm."

"That is true," Hermes admitted. "However, what if we only hoped to keep those machines where they are?"

Zeus leaned even closer and glared at Hermes with a cunning look. "What do you propose?"

"We have attacked Zakrostas twice now with disastrous results," Hermes lectured. "So, if we can't get Zakrostas why not attack the next best target."

"What target would that be?" Hades asked.

"How about a target that does not benefit from all the gifts the Otherworlders brought," Hermes smiled. "What about attacking the city of Atlantis itself?"

Ares roared with laughter, "That will be a surprise! Those Otherworlders would be stuck in Zakrostas while we raze Atlantis. The Atlanteans would see that the Otherworlders cannot protect everyone at once and would begin to turn on them."

"Even if they did come out to attack," Zeus added, "their forces would be thinned out allowing us the choice of when and where to give battle."

The gods began to laugh.

"One question," Aphrodite interrupted the gods who had at this point forgotten that she was in the room. "Why did you not abduct their leader?"

The gods abruptly stopped laughing and stared at Hermes for an answer.

"My plans were not in readiness when the Otherworlders ejected me from Zakrostas," Hermes explained. "I did not even have a chance to meet their famed General Crist. However, I think I did quite well in nabbing the next best thing."

Hermes

Reno never felt such agony in his life. Not even the electrical jolt he received from the machine compared to the torture the capable hands of Hephaestus administered. The god of the anvil knew his business with hot iron and steely blade.

Twice Reno felt his soul begin to slip away as inky darkness started to envelop him. However, each time the healing touch of Apollo revived him. Unlike Hephaestus, the god of poetry looked with pity upon the tortured man.

"Tell me how you construct your vehicle called tanks!" Hephaestus roared.

"That is not my field of expertise," Reno began to protest before a hot brand again seared itself into Reno's exposed chest. The black smoke curled up and found its way into the nostrils of Reno who struggled briefly between screaming in agony and retching from the overwhelming stench of the sickly sweet smell of his own scorched flesh. The scientist's cries died as he lost consciousness again.

"Don't you think you have learned all you are going to learn?" Apollo asked Hephaestus.

"No, I think I can still persuade him to remember a few more things," Hephaestus grinned evilly.

Apollo again placed his hand upon the still smoldering wound on Reno's chest. Under his touch, the charred flesh disappeared replaced by whole and healthy skin. Reno shortly revived. The scientist could still remember the agony he felt just a moment ago. He did not have to look to see that Apollo had removed all traces of the hot brand's handiwork.

"I think it is time for the blade again," Hephaestus said to Reno when his eyes focused on the blacksmith. The god had several mean looking blades laid out on an anvil next to the scientist. Reno begged again for the gods to spare him when he witnessed the particular vile blade that Hephaestus enjoyed using to flay away the skin of his victims.

"You better start remembering some things," Hephaestus taunted. "Or you may find yourself skinned like a rabbit.

Apollo's stomach for the cruel treatment was full. He only tentatively agreed to the war out of survival. He also refused to believe that the gods should show respect to the mortals. However, after witnessing the endless torturing of a poor soul for what had to be days on end without stop was sickening him. Apollo was beginning to believe that maybe the mortals would be better off without the gods.

Reno cried out in pain as the god of the anvil sliced a huge swath of skin above his stomach. The god tossed it aside where a growing mound of rotting flesh was accumulating. The open wound with the muscle laid bare burned in the open air. Hephaestus laughed in glee as Reno cried again in agony. Reno's blood flowed over the open wound painting his lower body red.

Hephaestus grabbed a goatskin flask at his waist and raised it to his lips. Before he began to take a long pull at the liquid inside, he smiled down at Reno.

"This is such thirsty work, is it not?" the god taunted before he began to drink lustfully from the bottle. Before he swallowed the last of the fluid in his mouth, he spat it over Reno's exposed stomach. A sensation of fire now competed with pain as the alcohol burned the exposed nerve endings.

Apollo turned his eyes away. He could not stand to watch this endless and needless display any further.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-seven:

Feint

By Dwayne MacInnes

Lt. Rogers marched down the corridor towards General Theena’s office. Fort Knopso was complete and fully manned. There were soldiers from the United States Army as well as from the new Republic of Atlantis.

Things were finally looking like they should. After months of waiting for production to begin the fort was finally beginning to get some newly manufactured M1 Garands, artillery and ammunition. It appeared that the production plants around Zakrostas were finally working.

The muzzle-loading rifles once used to train the recruits were now part of the Kingdom of Atlantis’s arsenal. The new president Greer was sharing some vital secrets to their southern neighbors so that they could defend themselves. However, he was cautious never to give them the top of the line goods, just in case the kingdom wanted its lands back.

Rogers knocked on the general’s door. The comely woman inside promptly bid the lieutenant to enter. Rogers started to hand Theena some of the latest reports when a great thunderous boom exploded over the fort.

Greer instinctively reached for his sidearm before realizing it was only a thunderclap followed by the relentless torrent of a cloudburst.

"The weather certainly changes around here pretty quickly," Rogers observed.

However, Theena had jumped from her desk and was running towards the door. "Sound the alarm!" she ordered to the stunned officer. "We are under attack!"

* * * * *

Corporal Daniels was in the one of the concrete pillboxes lining the fort’s wall. The rain reminded the corporal of being under a waterfall by the sheer volume falling from the heavens. It would not be long before the parade ground was flooded and the soil turned to the clinging clay-like mud that tended to steal your boots when walked through.

"Hey, corporal?" a private sharing the defensive redoubt asked. "Do you see what I see?"

Daniels looked out through the embrasure to see dark silhouettes moving through the watery veil. He quickly grabbed a pair of nearby field glasses and put them to his eyes. After a couple of seconds of focusing, Daniels could make out an army of beasts marching towards the fort.

"Private!" Daniels ordered. "Alert the fort we are under attack!"

However, before the private could reach the phone to call headquarters, the alarms around the fort started to blare into the soggy air.

* * * * *

Weeks had passed and still there was no sign of Reno. No one had seen the scientist leave the city and many speculated that he either was at the bottom of the harbor or abducted by one of the gods. The mere thought that a god could walk into the city and collect a person without being notice bothered Crist very much.

The general watched as the rain poured heavily down around the city. Lightning danced across the skies and thunder boomed in the air. He was grateful he had the foresight of having the carrier planes returned to the Kiska.

The seven new Hercules fighters should be enough to protect the city from any invaders. Moreover, if they could not the Kiska was at anchor in the harbor. All it had to do was build up steam and turn into the wind to launch the carrier planes.

Before Crist could muse much further on this, his phone started to ring. Crist walked over to his desk and picked up the black telephone.

"This is General Crist," the general said in an official voice.

"Sir!" the anxious voice of a soldier quivered on the other end. By the sound of the accent, Crist could tell it was an Atlantean. "Fort Knopso is under attack!"

"Damn," Crist burst out. He had hoped that after his latest victory Ares and the other gods would leave them alone. "How bad is it?"

"Reports say it may be those minotaurs and the cyclopes again. There is also a report that there are some men mixed in," the youth reported.

"How is the fort holding out?" the general pressed.

"They are doing well so far," agitated young man reported. "However, reports state that they are outnumbered."

Crist cursed mildly to himself before hanging up. The only roads outside the city so far were only dirt and that meant mud right now. The railroad had just laid some tracks but they did not extend very far. Therefore, he would not be able to send any tanks to support nor could he send up his planes.

Crist quickly dialed some numbers and started to give orders, "Send the Kiska out to sea and get ten tanks loaded on the LST immediately!"

* * * * *

Brian Mills was at the top the latest rig constructed on the oilfields outside Little Houston. The sun blazed down on the oilman born in the real Houston back on earth. He could see a great dark cloud on the western horizon. It stretched hundreds of miles across and would occasionally light up in bright flashes.

"Hell of a storm," Mills said to himself. "A little rain would be welcomed right now."

Mills looked towards the east. He could see the dark and forbidding Dragonspine Mountains forming the backdrop. In front of the jagged slopes another cloud was rising. However, this one originated from the ground up.

Brian Mills quickly scrambled down the oilrig and ran to the wooden shack. Several of his fellow oilmen watched in amazement as Mills ran passed them and rushed into the shack.

Jeb Korsky the foreman stared in dumb silence as Mills grabbed the phone off his desk and started to dial. Before he could ask Mills what he was doing, he heard the oilman yell, "Alamo! There is an army on the move to your east!"

Jeb’s jaw fell open in surprise. If there were an enemy force out there, the incomplete fort they called the Alamo would not be able to withstand it.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-eight:

Observations

By Dwayne MacInnes

Ares was on the march again. This time he had a more formidable army. Hades in his chariot drawn by two jet-black horses joined the god of war. His Necro-lords were at the head of a long line of undead warriors. There was Charon the boatman holding the leash belonging to the three-headed dog Cerebus whose jaws snapped and drooled in anticipation of the coming fight. There also was Thanatos, or as many referred to him as Death. The skeletal Necro-lord rode an emaciated black horse and carried a scythe ready for his grim reaping.

The large army also contained Hephaestus' ten-foot tall bronze warriors the Talos. As their legs moved, their metal joints groaned and creaked. The god of the anvil did not march south with the army for he was intent on extracting more information from the abducted scientist.

Ares scanned the skies near the Dragonspine Mountains. He was still waiting for Hermes and his Draco-lords to join the army. The long serpentine dragons and their riders would join Ares as they neared the Skalandos River. The wild and terrible griffins would also be available. No one else could control the part eagle and part lion monstrosity except Hermes. He could speak to the untamed animals and more importantly, they would listen.

* * * * *

From the seclusion of a wooded hillside, Hunter Running-Deer observed the latest army marching south towards the Skalandos River. They were near the headwaters and many fords across the wild river were available for the huge army to cross.

Hunter was a Cherokee Indian who grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma. His family raised him to learn their traditional ways such as hunting and tracking. Naturally, he also was versed in their native language and other customs. Hunter learned English when he went to school and joined the military like many of his tribal brothers when the war broke out.

Right now, his skills, like those of the other few dozen American Indian soldiers, were in high demand. His commanding officers sent him ahead of Ares' latest army in order to observe the huge army without them noticing him

Even though there were small hamlets and villages around the area, Hunter‘s instructions were to bypass them. He would need to scout out the land without even friendly citizens knowing of his existence just in case Ares decided to interrogate a local. He could live off the land and move quickly and quietly with his horse that the Atlantean army issued him.

Hunter put the field glasses to his eyes again. He was careful not to let the sunlight reflect off the lenses. Even if Ares and his army did not know someone was observing them, a flash of light could still tell them that there was something or someone out there they may want to investigate.

When Hunter first started watching the army, he was shocked at its makeup. The giant metal statues moving across the land was one thing, and the shambling dead warriors were another. However, something about the Necro-lords really made shivers run up Hunter's spine.

Hunter had faithfully followed and observed the army for days. He made one report with his field radio each day. Even a tenderfoot back at the Alamo could tell that Ares latest army contained thousands and thousands of troops. However, what Ares' game was no one knew and that was where Hunter came in.

Hunter found it strange how it took the transportation to a strange world for people to treat him and the other minorities like equals. The Atlanteans did not seem to find that skin color mattered to one's status, as the white man did on earth. Even the Negro troops the Atlanteans regarded as equals despite the lingering racism still found amongst some of the Americans.

Hunter watched the army cross the river and was about to pack up and make his daily report when he saw a speck in the sky above the jagged tops of the Dragonspine Mountains grow into a large swarm as it neared Ares' army. Hunter took in a deep breath when he trained his glasses upon the flying horde.

Black scaled dragons with men in black armor flew towards the army. A strange half eagle/half lion beast flew alongside. Hunter remembered them from a textbook in one of his childhood schools as griffins. By the way the beast flew circles around the army below Hunter realized that Ares just added a new element to his forces.

* * * * *

Colonel Farnsworth at the Alamo listened as his scout reported in. On another world in another time, Colonel Farnsworth would have had the man brought up on report for drinking. However, nothing surprised the colonel anymore. Therefore, when Hunter reported in about the addition of dragons and griffins to Ares' forces Farnsworth merely wrote it down and passed it on back to headquarters back in Zakrostas.

According to General Crist, another army was currently attacking Fort Knopso and a heavy rainstorm was keeping Crist from sending reinforcements. The latter, Farnsworth had figured out himself. The dark thunderclouds to the west were visible even to those at the Alamo. The ground would instantly turn to a mire of mud and anyone or anything moving through it would become stuck.

The worst thing was that the heavy rains also kept the Hercules fighters grounded. Even though the USS Kiska with its compliment of aircraft headed for the open sea, the aircraft onboard still would not be able to penetrate the storm.

Therefore, Hunter was the best hope Farnsworth and Crist had of learning what Ares intended to do with his force.

* * * * *

Hunter rode his horse hard, it was night and the large silver half-moon provided the only light the Indian needed to navigate the landscape. He was surprised that Ares had turned his army southwest after crossing the Skalandos River. Hunter figured either that Ares was going to try to circle around and hit Zakrostas from the south in a surprise move, or that he may have another target in mind.

From the local map given him, Hunter knew that the only other object worth Ares' time and effort was the city of Atlantis. The god of war was already in the Kingdom of Atlantis so attacking the weaker and more primitive city would be a hard object to resist.

The only way Hunter could determine Ares' next move was for him to again race ahead of the army and try to ascertain what Ares had in mind. It was a decision that Hunter would have to make shortly so that General Crist could make the correct decision as to where to send the army. However, if Hunter guessed wrong the army would be in the wrong place and it would mean the destruction of both the Republic and Kingdom of Atlantis.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-nine:

March of the Dead

By Dwayne MacInnes

The residents of Kalos fled the town as the army of Ares approached. The refugees either turned north towards Zakrostas or south towards the city of Atlantis. The terrified populace burdened with carts and/or animals carrying their meager possessions moved as quickly as they could. Children cried and women screamed in terror, grim faced men tried their best to keep their families together as they continued their flight from danger.

Just outside the western outskirts of town, Ares halted his army. The endless columns of undead and bronze giants began to form up into an arc running roughly northwest to southeast. Ares supervised the arrangement of his troops riding his black chariot down the line. The army formed a half-circle that was miles long. The Necro-lords anchored both ends with Hades in the center.

Above in the sky circling menacing was the second arm consisting of Hermes and the Draco-lords and the wild griffins. When Ares pulled up next to Hades' black chariot, Hermes, with his ability to fly, soared down and landed lightly on his feet by the god of war's chariot. The two vehicles were similar in color and design. Even the animals pulling the chariots resembled each other. The only difference was that Ares' animals snorted fire.

"Is everything to your liking?" Hermes asked the god of war.

Ares smiled and raised his knife-hand into the air. The serrated blade reflected the sunlight as Ares studied his new appendage. "Yes," Ares responded never taking his eyes off the blade.

"That is good," Hades added. "My dead are ready to fight."

The half-rotted bodies of the decaying warriors from previous battles stretched across the horizon behind the gods. The stench was unbearable and flies buzzed constantly around the decaying soldiers.

Ares reached inside of his chariot and produced a long bull's horn. The black and white horn was five-feet long and had long leather strap that attached to each end. On the tip, a silver mouthpiece had been skillfully prepared which Ares now put to his lips.

As the god of war began to blow his deafening command, he swung it right to left so that all could hear. The call issuing from the instrument consisted of such a low bass that it shook the earth as it rent the air.

Animals hiding in the nearby hills and woods flew as fast as their feet could carry them in utter fear. Birds took to the air and beat wings away from the blast from the horn and any humans still around needed no further reason to take to their heels and run for their life.

* * * * *

In a copse on a hill outside of Kalos, Hunter observed the ordering of the army. He was thankful the wind did not blow the undead warriors' scent his way. The few times it did in the past it took everything for the Cherokee not to vomit and pass-out. The stench was so overpowering that animals fled long before the dead were within sight.

The scout noticed that Ares was positioning his army in such a way as to drive everything before to the southwest. This would put the city of Atlantis in the undead army's path. This was the key information that Hunter needed.

The Indian headed towards his horse on the far side of the hill when the unholy horn's call blasted through the air. The trees shook and the ground quaked. Hunter could even feel the horn's blast reverberate through his chest. Fear instantly welled-up in his soul and his first instinct was to flee.

However, military training took over and Hunter pushed the fear aside. He needed to get in touch with headquarters and tell them his discovery. Unfortunately, his horse did not have the ability to ignore its fear. The beast bolted like every other animal and fled in wild-eye terror as fast it could.

Hunter cursed. The horse carried the radio he needed to contact HQ. It also carried his carbine rifle still strapped beside the saddle. Now, the soldier abandoned just outside the arms of Ares forces did not even have a weapon save only his hunting knife to protect him.

Hunter realizing his situation was not good also started to run northward. He needed to get the message back to the army as soon as possible before Ares crushed the Kingdom of Atlantis.

High in the sky a single eagle-eyed griffin spotted the lone man running from the wooded hill. It gave cry before diving towards its prey. Hunter looked over his shoulder to see the half-eagle half-lion beast driving down towards him with its front talons extended in anticipation of rending his flesh.

* * * * *

The gods below paid the actions of the lone griffin little attention. They focused entirely on getting the army moving. In one motion, the entire semi-circle started to march. From the air, the black-scaled dragons swooped down upon the deserted town and spat fire upon the wooden structures. The griffins also circled in the air looking for prey on which to dive on.

The thundering advance of the undead army flushed all living life forms in front of it. The semi-circle nature of the formation corralled all the fleeing humans and animals funneling them. The ravenous griffins occasionally would dive upon a frightened animal or human, tearing the poor victim apart with its sharp beak and talons.

The Draco-lords introduced all fields and buildings to fiery breath of their mounts. As the army marched on into the night, the flames of the numerous abandoned farms and villages lighted the path of where the army had recently passed.

Ares did not have to worry about scorched earth policies working against him this time. He did not need to forage for his troops. The dragons and griffins could fly off in any direction for many miles and hunt for their prey and return within minutes. The gods did not need to concern themselves with mortal foods nor did their unnatural mounts. The automotive statues Hephaestus constructed did not subsist on food nor did the reanimated warriors.

In fact, if the fleeing humans torched their property in the face of the approaching army they only saved Ares from having his troops do it. From every angle that Ares studied the problem it was win for him. The god of war smiled, the pain of his latest defeat had passed. All Ares could feel was the anticipation of combat and the slaughter on the battleground as the gods annihilated the humans in their realm.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty:

Hopes and Frustrations

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zeus studied the terrain below him as he sat astride Pegasus his winged steed. The white horse born from the gorgon's decapitated body tirelessly beat its wings to hold the king of the gods aloft high above the earth. Zeus in his wrath unleashed a storm of the likes he had never released before. For days on end, the skies from Fort Knopso to the Skalandos River about a thousand miles south, Zeus darkened with heavy clouds. Rain poured to the ground in torrents swelling rivers and flooding fields.

Occasionally Zeus would try to strike down a building either in Zakrostas or in Fort Knopso with a lightning bolt. However, the electrical charges always changed course and would expel themselves on the metal rods attached to the rooftops of the largest buildings. The god had to satisfy himself with the odd farmhouse or animal running through the wet fields.

Zeus also had hopes of the rivers overflowing their banks and washing away the human dwellings. Again, the mortals who had already built up levees and were now reinforcing them with sandbags foiled his plans. Zeus's anger grew and as result, the fury of the storm grew. Tall trees that had withstood centuries of wind and rain were up heaved and tossed into the air.

Zeus

The army of beasts and mercenaries assaulted the thick concrete walls of Fort Knopso. The defenders easily repelled attack after attack; the forces of Ares could not force a breach and suffered heavy losses. The thick mud and lakes of rainwater also hindered the attack. Many a man and beast died drowning in the ubiquitous mud.

Theena watched the assaults. She was secure inside the concrete walls. She marveled at the wonder of the lightning rods the Otherworlders had constructed around the fort. The steel rods attracted the great blasts of static electricity and then dispersed the energy harmlessly to the ground.

Inside the fortification of Fort Knopso long tunnels ran from room to room so that the defenders could move about without exposing themselves to the enemy. There were pillboxes housing teams of machine gunners; as well as large rooms, where the artillery could open up on the exposed attackers. Many of the walls housed embrasures allowing the infantry to fire their rifles into the assaulting army below.

Fort Knopso had plenty of food, water, ammunition, and even fuel for the generators. Fortunately, the telegraph line to Zakrostas was still intact. General Crist would sometimes send off a message asking if the fort was still withstanding the assault. He alerted Theena that because of the storm, he would not be able to send reinforcements and that she had to hold the fort at all costs.

Theena reassured the general that everything was going well. It was just a diversionary force and that he should keep and eye on Ares' main army marching southward. This is exactly what General Crist was doing.

The Entire Map

General Crist did not like what was going on. The remnant forces from Ares first two armies tied down the troops inside Fort Knopso. Even if the assaulting forces did not attack, the weather prevented Theena from sending any troops southward to help garrison Zakrostas.

The Alamo also alerted Crist that they had lost contact with their scout outside of Kalos in the Kingdom of Atlantis. The scout's last message warned that the army was massing outside the town and preparing to march. However, no one knew if Ares was aiming the attack at the city of Atlantis or Zakrostas itself.

Nonetheless, Crist ordered ten tanks onto the LST, all his forces save the garrison of Zakrostas into the RMS Olympus, and all ships to sea. They only awaited orders to steam south or to return to port and begin offloading again.

* * * * *

Hunter staggered along the dirt road. His shirt was torn and deep bloody gashes covered his torso underneath filthy bandages. The Indian had successfully killed the griffin with his hunting knife. A few of the terrible beast's claws and feathers Hunter had stuffed in his pockets as trophies.

Hunter had to resist the urge to scratch his wounds. He knew that gangrene very well could be setting in. He was lucky to find an old rotted log. The Indian used his native skills to break apart the fibrous remains of a long dead tree and extract some maggots. These he put on his wounds, they could keep him from dying so that he could communicate to headquarters about the direction of Ares' assault.

The scout had also hoped that he would have been able to catch up to his horse. However, the beast was either long gone or eaten for he could not locate it. The only things that Hunter did come across were the broken remnants of personal belongings that the fleeing refugees tossed aside along the road.

He passed a few broken and abandoned wagons and carts. There were more than a few dead bodies of horses, cattle, sheep, and humans littering the sides of the dirt road. The latter Hunter tried to burn from his memory. He could not take the time to give them the proper funeral rites. There was a more important task at hand.

The scout moved from the thick black columns of smoke rising into the heavens in the south marking the presence and success of Ares' march, towards the thick black columns of rain pouring down in the north noting Zeus's success with tying down the army in Zakrostas. Hunter was tired and he was hungry, he was in pain and ran a fever. However, he never gave up the effort to continue his march.

The Indian was not surprised that he did not see a single living human on his journey north. Sheer fear had propelled the refugees northward and they would clog and prevent anyone from moving south.

Hunter placed one footsore boot in front of the other. Hunter kept telling himself that he had to keep moving or he would die. He used the pain to his advantage, using it to focus his mind on his task. He hobbled along the debris-strewn road using a broken broom handle as a staff to steady him.

The sunlight was starting to fade as the Cherokee proceeded northward. His reserves of strength were nearly exhausted. But, he could not risk stopping even to rest for fear that he would not be able to regain his momentum. Hunter kept pressing on, gasping for breath, and dying of thirst. He had emptied his canteen long ago. However, he reasoned that if he could reach the Skalandos River he would have plenty to drink.

Hunter looked up the road ahead of him. The sunlight was rapidly fading and the progress northward would become even more daunting. A small shack sat on one side of the road, great piles of long squared wood sat stacked next to it. The Indian only gave it a cursory glance. He had passed many a farm structure on his way north.

Suddenly, Hunter stopped. There next to the shack stood a tall pole. A pole that had lines connecting it to the shack. This was no farm building; this was the outpost for surveying out the new railroad line. The pile of wood was railroad ties and the line from the pole meant that the shack contained a telegraph.

Hunter's heart leaped in his chest. New hope grew as he realized that with luck, the telegraph line could still be intact and he would be able to reach Zakrostas.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-One:

Decisions

By Dwayne MacInnes

Hephaestus

Hephaestus never ceased tormenting the scientist shackled in his lair. For over a month, the god of the anvil tortured Reno day and night with hardly a break. Hephaestus always made sure that Apollo was nearby to heal the mortal in case the torture went too far.

Apollo had long sickened of Hephaestus' disgusting game. The poor man was no longer coherent. Even though Apollo could heal the poor wretch's body, he could not do anything for his mind. Reno succumbed to madness weeks before, and yet, Hephaestus continued his cruel game.

That was not all. Apollo could not regenerate limbs and organs so now Reno had only one eye that looked around the room unfocused. All of his fingers were gone as were his toes and one entire foot. Hephaestus always made sure that Reno's tongue remained intact. He relished the hellish screams that issued from the victims throat.

The incoherent ramblings also brought the god of the anvil great mirth. Hephaestus laughed whenever he could issue a particularly loud and anguished screech from Reno. The god of the anvil was becoming extremely good at rubbing salt, vinegar, and alcohol in open wounds. Or, just laying bare a nerve so that he could poke and prod it with one the of delicate instruments laid out next to the knives on the anvil near Reno.

"I think I could do this forever!" laughed Hephaestus. "I sure hope Ares spares some humans for me to toy with. It will easily make up for him sleeping with my whore of a wife."

Apollo turned his head away one more time as Hephaestus exposed Reno's ribs on his right side. The resulting scream echoed again through the huge dark cavern in which the god of the anvil worked. After screaming Reno again fainted and his breathing started to slow.

"You better fix him up again," Hephaestus ordered.

"Don't you think you have done enough?"

"NO!" roared Hephaestus. The god picked up a huge hammer threateningly staring at Apollo.

Apollo walked toward the shackled mortal and laid his hands on Reno's side. The skin started to recover the open wound and heal. The residual pain still flashed across Reno's face. Apollo fought back the tears again. He really wanted out of this. He really wanted to end the suffering.

Reno's breathing began to stabilize again. The comatose scientist returned to consciousness. His one good eye flickered open and focused on Apollo. The god of healing could see a glimpse of sanity behind the tormented orb.

"Please," was all that Reno whispered in a pleading tone. The look that the mortal gave the god held no blame -- just a simple request.

"Ha!" boomed Hephaestus' voice from behind Apollo. "It looks like I get to play with you some more."

Something inside Apollo snapped. Without further thought, Apollo grabbed the nearest knife from the anvil next to Reno. The god spun and thrust the long blade deep into Hephaestus' chest until it protruded out the back of the god.

Hephaestus' eyes looked at Apollo in surprise and disbelief. The god of the anvil coughed up foamy blood before his weak legs crumpled under his weight. Holding his chest with one hand, he held out the other towards Apollo.

"What? Why?" was all the stricken god could utter before he collapsed onto the ground dead.

Apollo turned back towards Reno. However, the scientist had also expired. But, the look of peace and pleasure on Reno's face told the god that at least the scientist got to witness the demise of his torturer.

"Forgive me," Apollo whispered to the dead mortal as he unshackled Reno's digitless hands. The god then dumped his body into one of the great pits of fire. The great inferno instantly consumed the body.

Apollo exited Hephaestus' lair with the blood of the dead god still splashed upon his blue tunic. Aphrodite watched the god silently and grim-faced storm out of the lair and across the hall. She knew something was not right.

Aphrodite ran down the long stone steps to the lair. She rarely visited it, but she felt compelled to now. There on the basalt floor with the hellish lights of the burning pits flickering around him, the body of Hephaestus lay with his dead eyes staring at the rough ceiling.

The goddess of love experienced a feeling she never had before, the sense of loss and shame. Aphrodite dropped to her knees next to her dead husband and let her grief completely consumer her.

Apollo

Zeus was near the end of his stamina. Even a god had limits and he had spent the last reserves of his strength on conjuring great winds and rain. His lightning bolts, once a thing feared, were impotent against the metal rods protruding from the tops of the buildings in Zakrostas and at Fort Knopso.

The king of the gods had to content himself with the toppled structures and flooded fields. The great mass of mud would hinder the movement over the roads so that much of his mission he accomplished. Zeus lightly kicked Pegasus' side and headed south towards Ares' army. He hoped to be of some help against the more primitive Kingdom of Atlantis.

The rage and fury of the army around Fort Knopso also dissipated. The combined army of man and beast was now a remnant of what it was before. They had fruitlessly assaulted the concrete walls suffering great losses while never inflicting a single casualty.

Defeated, exhausted and demoralized the various beasts and men separated and returned to their caves and camps near the base of Mount Olympus. It would take a number of generations for their numbers to replenish what they had lost over the year.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-two:

Illumination

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Crist had lost all communication with Fort Knopso. The great winds generated by Zeus had knocked down all the phone and telegraph lines to the north. Even the power lines were down so that even radio communication was out. To make it worse the atmospherics were so bad that even if a radio transmitter had a generator it could not broadcast for long ranges.

Crist fretted over the outcome of the battle. Even though Theena assured him that all was going well, the general did not like to be in the dark. Maybe the gods had found a weakness in the fort and exploited it.

The news from the south was just as frustrating. Alamo had lost contact with their scout and Crist feared that Ares could be moving north. If both armies of the gods were converging on Zakrostas, the general feared there was little he could do to stop them from destroying everything.

Regardless, Crist had the combat ships moved out to sea. From the ocean, they could maneuver quicker and react faster to whatever area Crist ordered them. It was just a good two-day steam south to the city of Atlantis if Ares assaulted there. Alternatively, Crist could have the ships offer support from where they were if Ares decided Zakrostas was a better target.

Crist shuffled the papers on his desk again. He leafed through them one more time even though he had looked everything over three times already. The general hoped to find something that he maybe had missed. Crist adjusted the desk lamp in the dim room. Although, it was noon, the overcast skies obstructed much of the sunlight.

The occasional thunderclap exploded in the sky. However, the lightning storm had greatly subsided over the last few days. It was no secret that Zeus himself was responsible for the foul weather. The rains continued to fall flooding rivers and fields. Military and civilian forces worked hard to contain the potential devastating floodwaters.

Crist picked up a status report on new weapons development. Crist knew the contents, an incendiary bomb that could spread its destruction with the aid of a petroleum-like jelly. He brought the papers closer to his eyes so that he could view them better. As if by demand, sunlight broke through the cloud cover and filtered in through his office window. The paper brightened in his hand.

It took a couple of seconds for Crist to understand the significance of this. The general shot up from his wooden office chair when the realization struck. The cloud cover was breaking up!

Not only that, but Crist also noticed that the steady thrum of rain he had become used to over the last week was now gone. General Crist ran over to the window and looked at the sky. The blue heavens above started to expand as the clouds quickly dissipated. Already, people were running into the waterlogged streets rejoicing.

The black phone on Crist's desk suddenly came to life, shattering the calm silence of the room. Crist picked up the receiver and put it to his ears.

"General Crist, sir?" a young voice asked on the other end.

"This is Crist," the general replied.

"Sir, we finally received word from Fort Knopso," the young man said excitedly. "Sir, the enemies have fallen back. General Theena will send us reinforcements as soon as she is able."

General Crist smiled dumbly holding the phone to his ear. He did not at first notice the young man speaking to him.

"Sir? Sir, did you hear?"

"Ah, yes," Crist brought himself back to reality. "That is good news. Congratulate the general for me."

Before the general could replace the hand unit in the cradle there was a knock on his door. Crist seated himself behind his desk before telling the person on the other side of door into his office to enter.

A military courier sharply stepped into the office and saluted the general. "We have a telegram for you, sir. It is marked urgent."

Crist walked over to the soldier, saluted and took the envelope out of his hand. The courier then about-faced and marched out of the room. The general did not pay much notice to the courier as he was already opening up the telegram.


To: Gen Crist HQ

scout from alamo reported in stop
says ares army headed for city of atlantis stop

For the second time in over a week, General Crist smiled. He would personally pin a medal on that scout's chest. The general again picked up the phone on his desk. He needed to act quickly if there was any hope of helping King Podaistas.

Ares The God of War

Ares slowly marched his army towards the capital of the Kingdom of Atlantis. His forces were deliberately driving the fleeing refugees ahead of them. The god of war's plan was to hinder any movement north by Podaistas army by blocking all roads with frightened humanity.

It also would serve his purpose of having the city of Atlantis packed full of refugees. It would shorten any siege and would lower the morale of the army within. Ares relished this stuff.

The god of war's chariot rolled along the ripening fields of grain, crushing their heavy heads underneath the wheels of his vehicle. What he did not destroy was finished off by the trampling feet of the bronze giants and the undead soldiers.

Hades rode over to Ares in his own black chariot. He pulled up even with Ares and leaned over to the god of war.

"Glorious," Hades shouted over the crunching wheels of his chariot.

Ares shot Hades a glance, the smile on his own face let the lord of the dead know he agreed.

Hermes floated down on winged foot and lighted next to the other gods. The god of thieves was also smiling.

"See what a little strategy can do?" Hermes asked.

Ares merely grunted as he flicked the reigns in his right hand making his unholy mounts snort fire into the air as their flint-like hooves sparked upon the ground. The chariot picked up its speed a notch.

"Look there," Hades broke in peering into the sky past the black dragons and ravenous feral griffins. The other gods followed Hades stare and saw what he noticed.

On a great white horse, sporting mighty wings rode Zeus. The king of the gods and lord of Olympus looked haggard and spent as he guided Pegasus down to join the other gods.

"We must make haste," Zeus stated as Pegasus landed next to the chariots. "The northern army is broken and I have exhausted my powers."

"We still have plenty of time," Ares smiled. "The mud and floods should keep any army from riding south. Plus, we should have the initiative. Any refugee fleeing north with a message of our march will arrive too late for the Otherworlders to organize any reinforcements."

"Zeus speaks truth," Hermes warned. "Remember these Otherworlders have proven to be very resourceful. We must not underestimate them again."

Ares snarled and flicked the reigns again. "Very well we will pick up the pace," the god of war bellowed.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-three:

Trumpets over Atlantis

By Dwayne MacInnes

Greek Unireme

King Podaistas was readying his forces. Thousands of refugees had been flooding into the city for days now. They were all bringing news of the approaching army of Ares. Podaistas regretted not following through with modernizing his kingdom as he at first wanted. However, many Atlanteans felt that their northern neighbors were forgetting their heritage by embracing the Otherworlders' technology.

The one telegraph line that ran into the city of Atlantis, which connected it to Zakrostas, was silent. Its lines obviously cut. Therefore, the only messages King Podaistas could send north to the Republic of Atlantis were either by boat or on foot. The land couriers were more than likely captured and killed by Ares' army and the uniremes came back reporting of a terrible storm raging over their northern neighbor prohibiting them from making landfall.

Nonetheless, Podaistas did have some muzzle loading rifles President Greer sent south. His troops trained with the new weapons and knew how to use them proficiently. He also had some artillery pieces called cannons or Napoleons. These large and noisy artillery pieces could fire an iron ball for many hundreds of yards.

Regardless, of these modern pieces of equipment Podaistas feared they would not suffice against the undead horde marching down towards his city. The king could see from the tower that he was perched upon the smoked clouded horizon to the northeast as Ares' forces burned everything in their way. It was evident that the gods wanted to erase all traces of humanity from their realm.

The city of Atlantis relied on the three rings of canals that surrounded parts of the kingdom's capital as its main defense. Fortunately, King Podaistas received some help by constructing a few fortresses outside the city with trench works connecting them together. The military forces of the king now manned these.

"A scout rides in, sire," one of the traditionally garbed soldiers informed the king. King Podaistas followed the man's finger to see a lightly dressed soldier in a modern uniform with a rifle slung on his back riding his horse hard back to the city. The people did adopt the Otherworlders' technology of a modern saddle and stirrup. These greatly improved horse handling and allowed the riders to fight more effectively.

"I will meet him at the gate," King Podaistas informed the soldier. The king swung around and his red cape flew in the air. He dressed in the bronze armor much like the soldier in the tower. The pair ran down the stairs to meet the scout.

Just as the king approached, the scout had just reigned in his sweaty mount, which was covered in foam. The soldier exhausted from hard riding swung out of the saddle and landed on the ground in front of the king. The scout put his right hand in a fist over his heart in a salute and bowed his head to his monarch.

"I bring grave news, sire," the scout announced.

"Out with it, man!" Podaistas exclaimed.

"Ares' army will be here in the morning," the soldier panted. "They are burning every village and field on their way south. The roads are clear of human traffic so it looks like all the refugees are here that are going to make it."

"Not enough time," King Podaistas grunted. His bodyguards stood at attention as the monarch paced in front of the scout. Even if he had a year, King Podaistas realized that he still would not have enough time. He needed to modernize his country, he had not, and now it was too late. In the morning, the trumpets on the eastern towers will announce the arrival of Ares' forces and the best he could hope for was that his men would fight valiantly enough that even the gods would remember them.

The king called for one of his aides. A man in armor ran over to the king. "Yes sire?" the aide asked.

"How many rifle units do we have?" the king asked. He knew the answer but he asked again anyway.

"Not enough I fear. The fortresses and trenches are manned with every rifle unit we have. We have also positioned our artillery on the nearby hills outside the city."

The king slapped his hands to his thigh in frustration. "We have plenty of reserves. How are they situated?"

"Sire, many of the reserve units are in the trenches and fortresses with the rifle units. We have pulled some back to fill holes where the enemy may break through and the remaining militia units will be in the city as a last ditch effort."

"That is the best we could hope for," Podaistas replied solemnly.

"Sire, when should we begin evacuating the citizens from the city?"

Podaistas frowned. There simply were not enough boats to carry everyone away, especially now that refugees packed the city. To start evacuating the city right now could lead to riots and Podaistas needed his troops on the front lines instead of quelling citizens fighting in the streets over who was going to leave on boat.

"I have sent the ships out to sea. There will be no evacuations. This shall be our last stand," Podaistas replied grimly.

"Sire?" the aide asked.

"Plus, it'll give our men more incentive to fight if they know that they cannot retreat. No, as I said we either win or die here!" the king exclaimed smacking his right fist into his open left hand.

The aide merely nodded and stepped back from his grim monarch. The king stroked his beard nervously. He did not like the straits he was in but there was little choice. His only ally the gods had trapped in the north. Podaistas did not even know if President Greer or General Crist knew that Ares was marching on Atlantis. He figured that they knew Ares was on the march. Surely some refugees had fled north despite the terrible rainstorm raging there. Perhaps, some of the fleeing villagers made it to Zakrostas. They would have brought the terrible news that Ares was again on the march and this time he had released the dead upon the land.

As Podaistas paced pondering these thoughts a loud trumpet call broke over the city. It was the call of warning. Podaistas cursed, the scout said that Ares would arrive in the morning. It appeared that the god of war must have picked up the pace of his march and now arrived early.

The trumpet continued the call and soldiers ran towards the city walls and trenches. Civilians cried out in fear and retreated to the central island on the city of Atlantis. They ironically gathered in the old temple established for Poseidon seeking sanctuary.

"Courage men!" cried the king. "We shall remind the gods that even mortal men can die well!"

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-four:

Race to the Harbor

By Dwayne MacInnes

As soldiers ran one way and civilians ran another, Podaistas realized that the trumpet calls were not coming from the wall towers facing east or north. Instead, these calls came from the west. There was someone trying to gain entrance to the harbor. The king felt a moment of anxiety. He had sent all the ships out to sea leaving none for the defense of Atlantis.

Podaistas ran towards the harbor cursing himself for his idiotic mistake. He figured that with Poseidon dead the armies of Ares would only use the land routes. Ares never fought battles from sea before. But, with the arrival of the Otherworlders nothing was the same. Gods now used new tactics, and men now had the capabilities to kill gods.

The king commandeered a horse from a courier and headed towards the harbor. Podaistas jumped on the back of the beast and spurred it forward. The horse leapt through the throng of people. Civilians and soldiers alike made a path for the king as he kicked the horse to faster speeds.

Instead of taking the bridges that would only lead him to the inner-center of the city where the civilians were trying to find sanctuary, King Podaistas instead took the long circular route so that he could be at the harbor's entrance. The monarch only slowed long enough to rally any soldier and militia member to follow him to the harbor. The king vowed that Ares would find Atlantis difficult to take no matter where he landed.

Once the harbor entrance came into view Podaistas noticed that the towers were busy trumpeting away. A strange call echoed back in response. The king had never heard these sounds before. Some were shrill and others deep and some even remotely sounded like someone banging on a very large pan.

The king jumped off the horse and ran to the stairs leading to the harbor wall. King Podaistas ran up the steps -- taking them by twos. As the king reached the top, he rushed to the crowded merlins of the wall and peered out to the sea. The soldiers on the wall were busy crying out and waving towards the ocean.

The sight nearly brought tears to Podaistas's eyes. There in front of him sailed the entire metal fleet of the Otherworlders. That was when the king noticed that the men were crying in exultation and not fear. Even the usually stoic monarch gave a great cry. There was now a chance that they could defend the city.

The Cruiser USS Pima

Admiral Arnold was again on his flagship the USS Pima, a Baltimore class heavy cruiser. He had spent the better part of the last few months restructuring the new Republic's fleet. Until the production of new steel ships began, Arnold had to make due with the uniremes and his precious destroyers, baby flattop, and this cruiser.

It was with great joy when General Crist ordered the entire fleet from the original convoy south to relieve Atlantis. There were soldiers onboard the RMS Olympus, the cargo ships, and even the tanker. They all headed south and carried important material for the defense of the city of Atlantis.

When the towers began trumpeting announcing their arrival Arnold ordered every ship in the fleet to return the call. Arnold's plan was to bring hope and raise moral among the defenders. It evidently worked, for men lined the harbor walls and towers waving and yelling in great joy at the approach of the fleet.

The heavy cruiser only entered the first circle of the harbor. The inner-circles proved to be too shallow to allow the ship to pass. However, the destroyers were able to make it further inside the inner-harbor. The escort carrier USS Kiska remained outside the harbor to allow her to maneuver so that she could launch her aircraft. The cargo ships, tanker, and the troop ship all docked and began unloading their supplies. The LST sailed further south and began to unload its shipment of tanks.

The Carrier USS Kiska

King Podaistas waited by the dock as the Republic of Atlantis troops began to disembark. The king recognized the tall gray-haired man approaching him.

"General Crist," Podaistas shouted taking the general's forearm into his hand. The king's smile shone upon his weary face. "This brings great joy to my heart."

"Your Highness," Crist replied. "I brought every available soldier I could muster to help with your defenses. When do you expect Ares to arrive?"

"My scouts say tomorrow at dawn," Podaistas frowned. "Maybe even sooner." The monarch waved to the smoke filled horizon to the northeast. The soot was already finding its way into the city and the sky was hazy.

"That does not leave us much time," the general responded. "We'll need to rush your defenses."

"My friend," Podaistas slapped General Crist on the back. "Your very presence has already given heart to my men. We will fight together tomorrow and Ares will at the very least know what it is to face true men."

"Sire, we have other matters to discuss," Crist returned the smile, but he would not be distracted from the tasks at hand. "After all the soldiers are unloaded from the Olympus," Crist pointed to the ship behind him, "we need to get the civilians aboard. This will clear the streets and remove obstacles and worries for concern for your people."

"You are a wizard," Podaistas replied. "You seem to think of everything. However, do you think your ship will hold everyone?"

"She can hold over 10,000 soldiers," Crist replied. "We can cram more aboard if they camp on the decks and in the halls. They cannot bring much with them, but the chance to escape wholesale slaughter may be enough incentive for them to board with the bare minimum."

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-five:

Fire from Heaven

By Dwayne MacInnes

Ares smiled as the sun rose above the Dragonspine Mountains and burned through the smoke-choked air in a blood-red hue. He could see the towers of Atlantis rise above the horizon before him. His army marched tirelessly on. Neither the dead nor the animated bronze giants needed any rest. The Draco-lords and the wild companions -- the griffins -- never seemed to tire. They would ravish and burn any village in their path. Furthermore, any unfortunate human, which did not escape in time, made an easy meal for the beasts.

"Prepare your men," Ares ordered Hades. The god of the underworld nodded and rode his chariot down the line of undead. He needed to confer with his Necro-lords, Thanatos and Charon.

"Hermes," Ares turned to the messenger god. "Have your forces prepare to attack the city. We'll march in after your forces have set everything ablaze."

Hermes smiled and took off flying into the air to lead his forces.

"What are your orders for me?" Zeus asked.

"You are my king," Ares responded. "I do not give you orders, but you have the choice of joining the attack wherever you wish."

Zeus nodded and kicked his heels into Pegasus's side. The winged white horse flew into the air to join the Draco-lords now forming up for their assault.

The god of war raised his bladed-hand into the air. The sun reflected off the blade covering the bright surface in bloody light. Ares smiled some more, soon the blade would be covered in real blood.

Grumman F6F Hellcat

Colonel Ray Walsh led his squadron of F6F Hellcats high in the sky. Each fighter plane carried two of the new incendiary bombs, one under each wing. His first mission was to unleash his payload upon the advancing army. His next objective would be to attack any opposition forces in the air in order to protect the TBF Avengers.

Walsh was the air commander for the fighters on the Kiska as well as the training officer for the fledgling Atlantean air corp. However, the nature of this mission allowed Walsh to request to fly against the army marching on the Kingdom of Atlantis personally. General Crist approved the request.

There were 16 F6F Grumman Hellcats as well as 12 TBF Avengers flying high in the sky towards Ares' forces. The dragons and griffins could not fly as high as the American aircraft nor could they fly as fast. Therefore, when the fighters spotted the large black cloud of dragons and griffins floating below them headed for Atlantis, the vast array of aircraft went unnoticed.

Map of Atlantis

Ares again became excited in anticipation of the bloodbath about to be unleashed on the king of Atlantis's forces. He flicked the reigns on his chariot and the black steeds reared up snorting fire into the sky. Their hooves sparked on the ground when they began to run forward carrying a laughing god of war in the chariot behind them.

Ares heard the telltale whine of the diving aircraft and quickly scanned the sky. High above him and over his marching forces dove over two-dozen enemy aircraft. They carried large metal cylinders under their wings that they released as they zoomed over the heads of the undead warriors.

The aircraft rose into the air as the cylinders tumbled through the air and fell upon his army. Instantly, the ground exploded and large rivers of flaming liquid poured around his forces. The undead soldiers instantly went up in flames. The bronze giants marched on undamaged by the fire. The attack left a huge hole in the ranks of his advancing troops. Fortunately, there were plenty more dead warriors to replace the fallen.

* * * * *

Colonel Wash pulled back on the stick, the Hellcat climbed into the air with ease. The plane now maneuvered a lot easier without the extra bulk of the incendiary bombs. Walsh looked down upon the carnage the air attack left after he leveled off high in the air. There was a great lake of fire where the large inferno consumed many of the undead soldiers. The bronze automatons just marched through the conflagration paying it no heed, as it did not damage them in the least.

Walsh watched as the torpedo bombers made their run. Like the Hellcats, the Avengers swooped down and dropped their bombs into the horde of undead. Fire burst amongst the soldiers and great fireballs rose into the air. Into the ranks of the dead warriors another huge breach formed. The infernal lakes of fire ran together forming a sea of flames. Any of Ares' undead troops caught in it instantly burned up. Only the Talos were able to withstand the heat and flames.

Walsh banked his fighter towards the black dragons and griffins winging towards the city of Atlantis. The 16 F6F Hellcats gained altitude as they sped towards their next target. Once they were sufficiently high enough the fighters dove onto the Draco-lords. The men in black armor on the back of their saurian mounts did not know what hit them. The Hellcats opened up with their .50 machineguns. The steel bullets slammed into the dragons' scaly hide. Not even the thick scales could protect the lizards from the onslaught meted out by the aircraft diving upon them.

Hundreds of dragons cried out in pain shooting flames high into the air in agony. The riders were often unseated and tumbled through the air on their way to the harsh ground below. The Hellcats were able to shoot past the dragons without the beasts being able to fight back.

The more nimble and wilder griffins also felt the sting of the bullets emanating form the Hellcats. They gave off a harsh avian scream before spiraling to the ground. However, a few of the wild monsters were able to strike at the assaulting aircraft. The griffins were able to knock only one of the Hellcats from the sky. A great gash from one of the griffin's talons rent a huge tear in the wing of a passing aircraft. The pilot was able to bale out before the plane smashed into the ground below.

The surviving Hellcats climbed into the air again. Walsh witnessing the destruction of one of his precious fighters spread the word for the rest of the fighters to keep their distance and to work the flying creatures over with their machineguns.

The Hellcats now joined by the Avengers did another diving run. This time the Draco-lords were prepared and the searing flames of the dragons downed three more aircraft. Walsh cursed seeing another Hellcat and two Avengers explode into flames in midair. There just were too many of the enemy forces and now they were nearing the city of Atlantis. The carrier planes would have to break off.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-six:

Death from Above and Below

By Dwayne MacInnes

Admiral Arnold watched as the huge black cloud started to spread over the city of Atlantis. This was Ares' air arm which was formed by dragons and griffins. Their intent was to attack the city from above and spread fire amongst the structures of the city. Arnold gave thanks that they had evacuated the civilians onto the Olympus, and it was now out to sea.

Arnold had positioned his taskforce carefully around the three circular harbors of Atlantis. As soon as the cloud of destruction was within range, every antiaircraft gun opened up. The five-inch shells and machinegun fire exploded in the air. At first, many of the Draco-lords ignored the black burst of fluffy clouds exploding around them. However, many found out soon enough that the clouds were not harmless.

Shrapnel from the antiaircraft guns tore through the thick hides of the dragons and griffins. Many of the beasts fell from the sky, some crying while others instantly killed. The giant reptiles and the eagle/lion hybrids crashed into the structures below or in the round harbors. The blood of the dead beasts formed great pools of crimson upon the ground.

Few dragons and their riders were able to dive towards the ground unscathed in order to torch the buildings. Most of the beasts the guns knocked from the air in bloody burst as steel tore through their bodies.

* * * * *

Hermes, high in the sky, witnessed the assault upon the city. The presence of the Otherworlders' aircraft was his first clue that things were not going to go as expected. The airplanes were able to do some damage to his forces. However, the ships below, firing their great guns into the air, devastated his forces.

Many of the surviving dragons, now a lot without riders, winged it back to the mountains as fast as they could. Even the fierce and unpredictable griffins lost their appetite for human blood and sought the security of the Dragonspine Mountains.

Hermes curse and yelled at the retreating troops. However, not even he could rally many of the terrified animals to continue their assault. Even those brave enough to continue soon fell out of the air only to die on the ground or in the blood filled harbor.

The Greek God Zeus

Zeus did not join the assault on the city of Atlantis; his eyes noticed something out at sea. He urged Pegasus to fly towards the distant spot on the horizon. In a matter of minutes, Zeus was overlooking a great ship. It did not have an escort and there were thousands of humans aboard it.

Zeus the father and king of the gods smiled to himself. He would avenge his brother, Poseidon's death on these mortals. They thought that they could flee from the city; well Zeus reasoned that he would soon prove them all wrong.

The king of the gods raised his hand towards the heavens. He had sufficiently recovered from his assault on the Republic of Atlantis. Zeus then summoned a huge lightning bolt.

The god took careful aim on the ship below. The unsuspecting ship did not know that it was the target of Zeus high above in the heavens. With a fling of his wrist, Zeus tossed the lightning bolt as an athlete would a javelin.

The charge of electricity struck the ship. Much to Zeus's chagrin the lightning bolt did not seem to damage the ship. Zeus figured that the humans had another of their ingenious devices aboard that could render his lightning useless.

In the heat of the moment, Zeus commanded Pegasus to dive towards the large ship. The winged horse complied and Zeus dove towards the deck. In a full rage, Zeus flung bolt after bolt of electricity at the ship. None did any damage.

Soon, the sky around Zeus started to form black exploding clouds fired from the transports ship's antiaircraft guns. The king of the gods laughed. These humans would need more than fluffy clouds to stop him. Suddenly, Pegasus reared back as a piece of shrapnel from an antiaircraft burst grazed his flank. The flying steed, in a panic, tore off back towards his pastures near Mount Olympus.

Zeus caught unawares by the sudden movement found himself unseated and tumbled from the horse. As the god king plummeted towards the ship, another cloud exploded near him and he felt hot metal rip into his godlike skin.

Zeus took a moment to look at his chest. A great gash was open over his chest. As he fell towards the ship, blood ran from his wound. The wind burned inside the torn and ragged wound bringing tears to his eyes.

Stunned by the sudden events Zeus fell and landed upon the deck of the Olympus without even changing his size from that of a man. There was a sickening thud as the god smacked into the wooden deck. His blood splashed into the air like a great geyser.

Zeus tried to pick himself up but he lacked the strength. All he felt was agonizing pain rip through his body. The taste of blood in his mouth told the god that he was suffering from internal injuries.

Several men with guns in their hands cautiously approached the god. Zeus was able to roll over onto his back. The pain in his sides also alerted him to the several broken ribs now in his torso.

A man with a gun walked over to the god and spoke in a heavily accented Minoan, "I say, do you need assistance?"

Zeus cringed at such a stupid question. Of course, he would need some form of help. However, even the god knew a mortal wound when he felt it. He only had a matter of moments before he too joined his brother in the great unknown. Zeus forced himself to sit upright.

"No, I am done for," Zeus finally replied.

"May I have your name?" the man asked.

Zeus laughed coughing up great bouts of blood. He spat it upon the deck that was already slick with his rapidly flowing lifeblood. "I am Zeus, King of Olympus!"

The man looked at Zeus with some pity, a look that hurt the god king more than his mortal wounds. Finally, the man removed his hat and held it too his chest.

"I am Captain Bolger," the man stated. "This is my ship the RMS Olympus."

Zeus looked at the captain incredulously. "The ship is called Olympus?"

Bolger simply nodded his head in the affirmative.

Zeus finally understood the prophecy that the gods feared for so long and started to laugh. He laughed until tears ran from his eyes. Suddenly, Zeus's eyes glazed over and the king of the gods fell onto his back. Zeus was dead.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-seven:

Wall of Fire

By Dwayne MacInnes

Ares' temper again started to flare. These Otherworlders always seemed to be able to guess his mind. Hermes' Draco-lords were only a remnant of what they were before. The griffins were long gone; however, Hermes was able to rally a few hundred of the remaining dragons. The gods scrapped their air assault on the city. Even though there were a few fires burning, it was not the great conflagration the gods wanted.

Hermes and his remaining air troops were in a heated exchange with the Otherworlders' aircraft. The numbers of the Draco-lords equaled out the advantage of speed, maneuverability and range of the aircrafts. As long as Hermes was able to sacrifice his precious air troops, Ares could march his forces unmolested by the planes. There was even the occasional downed plane as a dragon belched a lucky ball of fire into an attacking fighter or torpedo bomber.

The lakes of fire from the initial air assault were now behind the relentlessly advancing undead and bronze soldiers. Ares could now see the towers and the trenches before him. However, before he could reach the first trenches the army would have to cross a wide and shallow moat. The water was amber colored and had a tangy smell. When Ares looked closely at the water, he noticed that some kind of liquid floated on the surface that gave it the rainbow effect of mother-of-pearl.

The chariot easily rolled down the gentle slope into the moat. The water only reached to the marching troops' knees and it was only two yards wide. The opposite slope was just as gentle as the first and the black horses pulled the chariot up the incline. Ares noticed that he only had to cross another two-hundred yards to the first trenches and then he could mete out his own vengeance.

The undead army splashed through the moat and reached the opposite slope. Then they continued to march towards the trench works and towers ahead of them. They left a muddy trail behind them as they left the moat, their lower body still soaked from the crossing.

A thought nagged at Ares' mind. The last time he attacked the humans they opened up with their artillery making his forward progress difficult. However, this time no thunderous and whistling death rained down on him and his army. In addition, the ground before the trenches outside Zakrostas contained landmines that detonated every time one of his soldiers stepped on one. So far, with the exception of the air assault his army was unmolested in their advance on the city of Atlantis.

* * * * *

General Crist remembered the story he read about army ants in South America in a National Geographic journal. The insects would mindlessly march through plantations destroying all in their way. The plantation owners often resorted to desperate measures to protect their plantation.

The general was about to use one of those tactics now. When he noticed the seemingly endless mass of undead warriors advancing halfway between the moat and the first trenches the general nodded his head to one of his soldiers. The man then fired a flare into the air.

As the red glowing flare parachuted slowly back to earth, several soldiers standing near the mouth of the moat several hundred yards away threw their fiery torches into the ditch. Instantly the gasoline floating on the surface of the water flamed to life. The fire quickly raced down the moat and shot huge flames into the air. Any undead in the moat were suddenly cremated.

The flames also leapt out of the moat and trailed up the muddy banks towards the advancing army. Soon, even the undead on the far side of the trenches were catching on fire as the flames licked up their legs. Ares quickly jumped from his chariot before the inferno incinerated the vehicle and the black horse pulling it. The chariot blazed up into a bright inferno. The horses were unharmed by the flames but were spooked by the sudden fire burning all around them. They stampeded carrying off the burning chariot into the distance.

Ares stamped upon the ground in anger. A wall of flames separated the advanced troops from the rest of his army. The undead warriors that followed him were also burning and the foul stench of scorched rotted human flesh permeated the air. The thick black smoke billowed into the air before a slight breeze blew it towards Atlantis.

The smoke would shift upon the ground allowing Ares to catch a glimpse of the still undamaged Talos. The giant bronze statues not hindered by the fire continued forward through flaming moat towards the trench works.

* * * * *

General Crist ordered the artillery and mortar teams to fire at their prearranged distances. The black smoke milling around the battleground reminded Crist something one would expect to see in Hell. It was just as well that the distances for the great guns were already calculated.

The thunder of the artillery pieces added their weight to the chaos breaking out around them. Crist could hear the distant explosions of the shells. They were exploding behind the firewall. However, the lack of visibility did not allow Crist to ascertain the effectiveness of his guns.

Even the men in the towers connected by the trenches could not make out much in the choking black fog. Nonetheless, when the mighty fists of the bronze giants collided with the stone walls of the towers the men could feel it. As the mist swirled in the moving air, the defending soldiers could get a glimpse of the Talos.

Machineguns opened up as well as the M1 Garands and muzzle loading rifles of the men in the trenches. The bullets ricocheted harmlessly off the bronze bodies of the giants. A soldier with a bazooka fired it pointblank at the Talos assaulting a nearby tower. The body of the giant exploded simultaneously as the tower collapsed.

More bazookas fired and more bronze giants fell. However, the relentless giants also kept up their attacks on the towers and trenches. The defenders fought valiantly but many of them were crushed under the feet of the Talos. More were killed when the tower they were in collapsed in a heap of broken stones.

Men started to retreat towards the second line of trenches. Some stumbled and fell, for they could not see very well in the inky black fog created by the burning moat. The flames of the moat were also starting to die down. Soon the fire would consume the flammable liquid that the tanker had brought south.

General Crist ran up and down the second line of trenches ordering the men to stand firm. With the flames dying down, visibility started to improve. The general could see that another endless wave of undead marching mindlessly towards him. Bodies of the fallen covered the ground. Some were charred, others crushed and more than a few broken bronze giants littered the ground.

However, mixed amongst the dead marching towards the new trench works were more Talos advancing. Their numbers were still great and many of the valuable bazookas had already expended there rounds.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-eight:

Barrage

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Crist watched as the unrelenting army of undead marched towards the trenches. The men had to hold these trench works because after that there would only be the city walls and the three canals to hinder Ares' advance.

The defenders fired their weapons at the advancing troops lumbering towards them. The stench of the half-decayed men may have been one of the more effective weapons of the undead. Nonetheless, the defenders were determined not to give up.

The crack of the rifles and the constant thumping of the machineguns sounded down the trenches. Mortars and artillery pieces from behind the trenches fired round after round into the advancing army. Occasionally, a remaining wisp of smoke would obscure the approaching undead. However, once the wind shifted the army would be that much closer.

The reanimated warriors would fall as a bullet would tear a leg or head off. The explosions of the mortars and artillery shells flung rotted body parts through the air. Yet the undead marched steadily onward oblivious to the carnage.

* * * * *

Ares smiled, these troops would not run. The dead did not fear anything. Their only purpose was to obey Ares' commands and to kill the living. Ares figured that the sheer numbers of the undead would easily overwhelm the trenches.

Hades, still in his chariot, advanced towards the god of war. "What are your orders?"

"Have your Necro-lords prepare to enter the trenches once the warriors flood the defenders," Ares laughed. "We will be in Atlantis by nightfall."

Hades summoned his Necro-lords, Thanatos and Charon. Death still rode his sickly looking horse and the boatman still held a harnessed Cerberus at bay. Hades started to give his orders when suddenly a new sound exploded upon the landscape.

105mm Howitzer M2A1

General Crist hung up the field phone on the backpack of one of his soldiers. The order for a rolling artillery barrage started. The initial artillery assault would begin yards in front of the trenches and then advance towards Ares' army. The 105-mm Howitzer M2A1 artillery pieces and the mortars now had the added strength of the nine 8 inch guns onboard the Pima.

The ground outside the trench-works suddenly exploded in a shower of earth and shrapnel. The artillery shells continued to fall relentlessly. Even the undead warriors could not make much headway in this rain of steel.

Entire lines of warriors would suddenly disintegrate as multiple shells fell upon them. The burst of fire and steel would send body parts flying in all directions. The explosions continued to advance through the advancing undead.

The Talos mixed in with the undead army did not escape the wrath of the bursting shells. The steam stored inside them would rupture forth as shrapnel tore through their bronze hide. The hot red ichors that functioned as the giants' blood would splash onto the ravaged ground.

Crist then grabbed the field phone again and gave another order while the barrage continued. Instantly, the ten M4 Sherman tanks Crist had held back raced past the trenches and entered the combat. The tanks would stop only to fire their main guns.

* * * * *

Ares again caught unprepared by the latest tactic of the Otherworlders ordered Hades and his Necro-lords back before the barrage caught them in its deadly explosions. Ares looked across the broken landscape to see tanks fire their guns into the 10-foot bronze giants.

A few of the giants were able to overcome one of the Shermans flipping it onto its side. However, it cost them dearly for the other tanks quickly reduced their numbers. The giants and tanks jockeyed around the battlefield oblivious to the undead warriors still advancing towards the trenches or the artillery barrage still detonating around them.

To make matters worse the smoke had finally cleared enough that the remaining fighter planes and torpedo bombers were now strafing the field. The undead were being mowed down in such great numbers even Ares wondered if he had enough warriors to conquer Atlantis.

Ares did not like the fact that the aircraft were now able to assault his ground forces. For that meant that the Otherworlders' planes had finally destroyed Hermes' Draco-lords. The god of war did not have time to worry about whether Hermes himself had survived.

Ares also reasoned that the defenders could not continue such an intense counterattack indefinitely. Therefore, the god of war continued to feed his undead warriors into the battle. The ranks of undead fell before the onslaught of the combined arms of General Crist's forces.

White smoke, shattered bronze limbs, and random body parts filled the broken black field. However, the undead warriors continued to attempt to cross the no-man's-land. The artillery fire began to slacken and the aircraft finally retreated from the field, as did the tanks.

Ares army suffered greatly from the assault. However, he still possessed a huge army. The numbers of Ares forces were finally starting to tell. The defenders would not be able to last much longer.

"Hades!" Ares yelled. "Prepare to send out the Necro-lords. They are faltering."

"Nay, my lord," Hades sadly replied. "We have tarried too long and now the sun is sinking into the ocean. We cannot hope to fight in the dark."

Ares so caught up in the combat did not notice that the sun had started to dip into the western sea. With a mighty curse, Ares ordered his forces back to the first line of trenches. Tomorrow, Ares promised himself the mortals shall fall.

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The God Wars

Chapter Thirty-nine:

To the Wall

By Dwayne MacInnes

Just after the sunset, Hermes returned to the trenches where Ares set up camp. The chewed up ground contained bodies from both sides that lay strewn across the landscape. Jagged scraps of bronze and heaping piles of stone told of the combat that took place earlier in the day. The god of thieves looked the worse for wear. His tunic usually clean and white was now torn and dirty. His well kempt hair was in disarray.

"I hope you have faired better on ground than I did in the air," Hermes said.

"I fear not," Ares grumbled. "However, tomorrow we will gain the city. I am sure of it."

"I believe you have said that before," Hermes mumbled under his breath.

"What was that?" snapped the god of war.

"Nothing," Hermes lied. "I was wondering if you had seen Zeus."

Ares forgot about Zeus. The king of the gods was free to do as he pleased. However, Ares was certain that Zeus would have had a hand in the combat. But the god of war had not seen Zeus since that morning.

"I have not. Maybe he has returned to Olympus."

Hades now walked over to his companions. "I have not seen Zeus either. Perhaps the Otherworlders have killed him as well," Hades replied grimly.

"If that is so then it is imperative that we destroy these mortals before they kill the rest of us," Ares stated coldly.

After Ares thought for a bit, he finally spoke again, "Tomorrow when the sun rises we will hit them with everything we have. We must take the city tomorrow!"

M4 Sherman Tank

As the sun broke over the Dragonspine Mountains, the defenders in the trenches outside the city wall could see a sea of undead soldiers marching towards them in the dawn mist. Amongst the reanimated corpses of fallen warriors, the 10-foot tall bronze Talos towered over their companions.

General Crist had not spent the night in idleness. He knew that Ares would push for one major assault on the trenches. The sad realization is that Crist also knew that he could not prevent Ares from taking them. He only hoped he could make it as costly as possible.

The artillery pieces General Crist had ordered moved into Atlantis itself in order to keep them from falling into enemy hands. It was unlikely that Ares would be able to use them against the defenders but he could not afford to lose them. Crist also had to contend with the fact that he had used a lot of the ammunition for the guns in the previous day's rolling barrage.

King Podaistas came to the trenches in the night. The general and the monarch made plans and prepared defenses well into the early predawn hours. Now the king awaited back on the city walls. He would have to give a good account of himself once Ares took the trenches.

The advancing undead did cover half the distance between the two trench works when the familiar hum of aircraft broke the still air. General Crist was saddened to learn that the previous day's battle had cost him five of his fighters and seven of the torpedo bombers. The aircraft laden with bombs flew low towards the encroaching army. They did not worry about dragons or griffins anymore. The beasts of Hermes were vanquished the day before by the aircraft.

* * * * *

Ares was not surprised to see the planes fly towards his army, there was nothing he could do to prevent their attack. He had to rely on his numbers to withstand the air assault. There would be no retreats today, just the order to move onward and forward.

The bombs tumbled down through the air whistling on their descent. As the impacted with the earth, great geysers of dirt and body parts erupted into the air. The undead just closed ranks around the gaping holes created by the explosions.

Soon the artillery began to rain their ordinance upon the undead. The barrage was not as devastating as the day before. However, the damage was still considerable. But like with the bombing run the undead pushed onward heedless of the damage being inflicted on them.

The aircraft then began to dive and fire their machineguns into the oncoming army. The .30 and .50 rounds chewed up the warriors and left the Talos undamaged. When the undaunted dead were within range, the men in the trenches opened up with their guns. Bullets flew through the air and ripped into the reanimated soldiers.

Ares deliberately held Hermes and Hades with his Necro-lords back. He wanted to release them when the time was right. Plus, he did not want to risk losing another god to these humans.

The Sherman tanks fired the guns from outside the city walls. They aimed their shells specifically at the bronze giants. The Shermans were able to shoot many arms and legs off resulting in huge explosions of steam and hot ichor flying into the air. The stricken giants stopped in their tracks and would simply topple over often crushing some undead beneath them.

* * * * *

The defenders kept up a hail of fire as the undead army marched closer toward the trenches. The lead elements would fall only to have their companions trample them. The waves of reanimated warriors crept ever closer to the trenches.

General Crist knew that the holding the trenches any longer against Ares undead would be futile. The number of soldiers he had were nowhere near the numbers Ares had available. Therefore, as the advanced elements of Ares' soldiers reached the trenches Crist ordered a pull back to the city walls.

* * * * *

Ares smiled to see the defenders pulling out of the trenches. The god of war looked over at his fellow gods. He raised his bladed-left hand and pointed towards the trenches.

"Now!" Ares cried to his companions. "Now, we will take the city!"

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty:

Retreat

By Dwayne MacInnes

Charon released the three-headed dog, Cerberus. The giant canine ran towards the trenches and dove in. The ravenous dog started grabbing men by ones and twos, and tearing them apart. The bullets from the rifles did little to halt the dog's assault.

Ares was not far behind. The god in his bloodlust began ripping men apart with his left hand. He would drive the evil looking serrated blade deep into his adversary and then gut the poor victim. In his right hand, he wielded his red sword and hewed defenders right and left.

Thanatos, armed only with his scythe, slashed men down like one harvesting wheat. The skeletal embodiment of death kicked his horse urging it up and down the long trenches that were now embroiled in hand-to-hand combat.

Hades, still in his chariot, rode the vehicle back and forth in front of the trenches. Any soldier trying to escape through this route found it blocked by the god of death. Hades would strike down anyone with his cold-blue sword.

Hermes joined the fray as well. The god of thieves was well adept at hiding in shadows. The god would either stab a passing defender in the back or just cut his throat with his black dagger. As the defenders pulled back from the trenches to the city gates, the army of Ares pursued.

The Sherman tanks surged forward, their machineguns and the main cannons firing to halt or distract the advancing army. The giant bronze Talos again would try to overpower one of the tanks. For every tank a group of Talos turned over, the bronze giants would lose three to four of their numbers.

King Podaistas fired the cannons lining the city's walls into the approaching army of the dead. The iron balls would bounce across the ground rolling until it smashed into the onrushing dead. Body parts would fly in the air as the ball cleared a path through the ranks of undead. Again the dead did not take heed of the damage sustained in their ranks and marched ever onward. Any living mortal, who did not flee from the marching horde, the undead warriors put to the sword or spear that they wielded mechanically.

Cerberus

The organized retreat to the city soon became a rout as men ran for their lives. The one redeeming quality for many of them was that the undead were unable to run. The undead did not slow down either. Great numbers fell to bullets from rifle, aircraft, and machineguns or the blasts from the mortars, cannons, and howitzers. Nevertheless, there were always more undead to fill the ranks.

The M4 Shermans raced back and forth attacking Talos and running down undead. When the last defending foot soldier entered the city gates, the tanks rushed towards the entrance themselves. The M4s flew through the mighty oaken gates before the first advancing undead reached the walls.

The garrison of Atlantis slammed the great gates shut, bolted and barricaded them. The men on the walls opened up on Ares' army below them. The few soldiers with bazookas that still had ammo rushed up the steps to the walls.

Map of Atlantis

Ares was pleased; he had finally bested the mortals at their own game. They were now huddling behind their walls believing that they were safe. The god of war laughed at the fools who trapped themselves behind the stone walls of the city. He thought that soon the last resistance would be crushed.

"What do you find amusing Ares?" Hermes asked.

"We have them," the god laughed harder. "The fool mortals were so kind as to place all their remaining forces behind those walls. Those very walls I will soon have crashing down."

"There are still the forces in Zakrostas," Hades reminded Ares.

"Yes, I am aware of that. But, most of those Otherworlders' forces are now locked behind those walls. However, you are right in reminding me about them. Hades I want you and the Necro-lords to take one out of three of the warriors and head north. Zakrostas should fall easily now that we have the bulk of the Otherworlders penned in Atlantis."

Hades nodded his head and stepped into his chariot. He summoned Thanatos and Charon to his side. Cerberus obediently loped next to the god of the underworld's chartiot. One-third of the remaining undead started to trail Hades and his retinue north.

Ares did not watch Hades leave. Instead, once he gave his orders to the lord of death, Ares gave orders to the bronze giants. There were still a number of them left even though the defenders had greatly depleted their former numbers.

The army of the dead stopped yards outside of the city walls and parted to allow the 10-foot tall bronze Talos approach the gates. The defenders continued to fire their myriad of weapons. The bullets from the rifles would down a warrior but would bounce harmlessly off the metal skin of the giants. The arrows fired from the bows of the royal archers did nothing to either until they were set on fire. Then a few undead went up in flames.

Bazookas fired and destroyed several Talos, however, there were more giants than ammo for the bazookas. When the bronze giants approached the gates, the soldiers started dropping grenades on them. Most of the exploding grenades just cracked the skin allowing wisps of steam to rise into the air and thin trickles of ichor to flow to the earth.

The Talos continued to pound on the stout oaken gate with their heavy fists. The doors started to crack under the constant assault. It would not be long before the giants forced their way into the city.

General Crist ordered the defenders to retreat over the first canal to the first ring of the city. Tanks, men and horses rushed over the huge bridge spanning the wide canal. The Pima was on hand to offer any covering support.

As the last of the defenders crossed the bridge, the gates finally splintered inward with a shower of wood. The giants pushed their way into the city, followed by the undead. Ares and Hermes rushed into the city of Atlantis. The god of war ordered his warriors to capture the bridge.

Hundreds of the undead soldiers of Ares were on the bridge and marching to the first ring when suddenly the bridge exploded and collapsed into the canal. General Crist had the bridge rigged for demolition and now ordered it destroyed. The undead toppled with the broken stones into the canal where the bloated bodies of dead griffins and dragons already bobbed. The Pima fired every weapon she had into the thousands of undead overwhelming the city.

Ares quickly sent his giants to the harbor entrance. The destroyers in the canals fired upon the bronze giants. The ships destroyed several of the giants with their big guns and the shattered fragments of bronze flew through the air. However, the remaining Talos were in sufficient numbers that they were able to carry out Ares bidding and topple the towers guarding the entrance into the canal blocking it so no ships could enter or leave the city.

It had cost the last of his bronze giants but Ares laughed. Ares had now trapped the remnants of the Otherworlders' army along with the bulk of King Podaistas forces. It was now only a matter of time before they were destroyed leaving the rest of the realm exposed to the genocide Ares had planned for all mortals.

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-one:

Stalemate

By Dwayne MacInnes

The next day General Crist had the Respite dock near the inner-island of Atlantis. The hospital ship did not have any more room to take on patients. So, the abandoned and ancient temple of Poseidon acted as a makeshift hospital. The hospital staff ran out of sutures. Thus, to close the wounds on the soldiers, the doctors and nurses used any type of thread or even fishing line.

General Crist also had the artillery pieces positioned near the temple that sat upon a hill in the center of the island. A spotter on the roof of the temple would relay coordinates to the gun crews below and the crews would fire the occasional shot, which exploded on the outer parts of the city.

The Kiska, still positioned outside the city, continued to launch her remaining aircraft to run sorties against Ares forces inside Atlantis. The planes would drop bombs knocking over any structure and destroying more of Ares undead warriors. Whenever Ares forces exposed themselves to the cruiser and destroyers, the ships would fire their guns destroying more.

Many of the structures on the out edge of Atlantis were now burning or destroyed. Ares and Hermes made sure that they did not reveal themselves to the air or naval forces attacking the outer edge of the city. They remembered what these weapons did to Poseidon.

General Crist also made sure to conserve his ammunition. Only visual contact with the enemy warranted an attack. Although they rationed the ammunition, the defenders did not have to worry about food. There was plenty of livestock left behind by the fleeing villagers when they boarded the Olympus.

The general worried about the lack of communication from the Olympus. The ships in Atlantis could still use their radios but whenever they broadcasted a message to the Olympus they never got a response. Crist worried that Ares forces attacked the ship and sunk her leading to the death of thousands of civilians.

* * * * *

The moon was full in the clear night air. Only the flickering flames from some of the burning surrounding buildings gave off any competing light. The entire day Ares' forces weathered the assault of the combined arms of the defenders of Atlantis. Fortunately, Ares thought for the hundredth time, his forces were composed of dead warriors. They did not know fear nor did they have any sort of morale to keep up. If these forces were the mercenaries that Ares led against Zakrostas, he would have had to put down some rebellions.

"Well, Lord Ares," Hermes said breaking the silent night air. "You have them at last in your clutches. What do you propose to do now?"

"We wait," Ares responded. He knew Hermes was getting anxious hiding in the rubble of outer Atlantis.

"How long do we wait?" Hermes persisted. "We cannot cross the canal to get to them and they are well provisioned."

"Until they die!" Ares yelled losing his temper. The god of war paused and held up a hand. "Or at the very least until Hades and Zeus return. We may even get Hephaestus to come down and give us hand. But one thing I will tell you, we have them bottled up. I will not lose this opportunity. Once Hades has destroyed the mortals in the north, he will assist us here. Until then we wait."

Hermes smiled, "You know maybe we have all underestimated you after all. You seem to share some of the wisdom of your half-sister."

Ares snorted and smiled, "These damned Otherworlders have me thinking. I cannot wait until things get back to normal."

Hermes and Ares both laughed for a long time. Their voices echoed across the city to where even the defenders could hear. Podaistas and Crist did not know if the gods were laughing at them or not. Either way it did not sound encouraging.

* * * * *

With the rise of the sun, a few artillery shells slammed into the ground of outer Atlantis. The earth shook and great columns of smoke and debris filled the air. It was not the usual wake-up call Ares and Hermes awakened to but it worked just well as a cock's crow.

Hermes was tempted to fly back to Olympus and bring Hephaestus back to Atlantis. He also wanted to head north to see if Zeus was sitting on his throne. It was three days since anyone had seen the king of the gods.

However, Hermes resisted the desire. Firstly, because the Otherworlders' aircraft still buzzed overhead and he knew what they could do even to a god. Secondly, Hermes did not want to leave Ares alone. The two gods had become closer over the campaign; it was ironic that it had taken millennia for the two gods really to get to know each other.

Hermes instead decided to climb the city wall. It still stood and many of the towers were undamaged. The god of thieves ascended the stone stairs and reached the top of the wall. Through the early morning mist that swirled upon the ground outside the city, Hermes could see the bodies of the two forces littering the sodden field. Broken bronze men lay amongst the wreckage of crumpled aircraft. The decaying bodies of dragons and griffins were scattered amongst the gaping holes in the earth.

There was also the smell. The scent of decay mixed with blood and sewage wafted up from the ground. There was also the strange smell of cordite and newly upturned earth mingled with burning wood -- and flesh.

This scent was like ambrosia to Ares. He drank it in deeply as one would a good wine. However, Hermes found it repulsive and tried his best to keep it from his mind.

Disrupting Hermes mental musings was the sound of thundering hooves emanating from the north. The god of the thieves looked towards the sounds recognized Hades' chariot racing towards the city's gate.

"Ares!" Hermes called over the city. "Come quick. Hades returns."

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-two:

In the Vice

By Dwayne MacInnes

When Hermes called his name Ares became instantly alert. The god of war ran towards the city's gates. By the time Ares arrived Hermes was already there awaiting the racing chariot of Hades.

"It must have been a great victory," Hermes said. "He did not even bring his army with him. They must be coming behind him."

Ares frowned; he did not like the look of one chariot racing towards the city. Ares also noticed that Hades was not steady inside the rocking vehicle.

"This is not good," Ares said under his breath.

"What was that?" Hermes asked looking at the god of war.

"Look," Ares pointed towards the chariot now almost at the city's broken gate.

Hades pulled his black chariot up to the two gods. He strained to rein in the horses to a halt and nearly fell into Ares arms once the chariot stopped.

Hermes and Ares both noticed a javelin sticking out of the god of the underworlds shoulder. With a great wrench, Ares pulled it free and blood shot into the air as Hades screamed out in pain.

Hermes quickly started to bind Hades' wound with a dirty cloth. Hades stood up unsteadily on his feet. The god then walked over to the steps of the nearby tower and seated himself upon the stone steps.

"It was horrible," Hades gasped.

"Wine, quick," Ares ordered Hermes. The god of thieves quickly ran towards their supplies and retrieved a leather flask full of wine. He returned to Hades and thrust the bottle between the stricken god's lips. Hades took a few long pulls before finally pushing the flask away.

"What happened?" Ares asked once Hades seemed to strengthen.

"We were ambushed," Hades choked. "My forces were utterly destroyed. I think the Necro-lords escaped, but I cannot be sure. My warriors were felled to a man."

"Damn," Ares cursed.

"It's worse," Hades continued. "They are marching towards Atlantis in great numbers. You cannot hope to fight both forces once they are here."

"Maybe we can return to Olympus and you and Hephaestus could raise an even larger army," Hermes offered lamely.

Hades laughed weakly. "You do not understand. I am close to dying and once I expire my forces will cease to exist."

"How is that?" Ares pressed.

"Hephaestus was able to give his creation true life through his art with the hammer and anvil. He used his sacred steam and gave the Talos the life giving ichor that acts as blood does in a mortal.

"My creations cannot live and therefore can only be reanimated as long as I live. For they borrow life from me"

"Perhaps you are mistaken," Hermes said hopefully. "You may recover."

"No, my friend," Hades said calmly. "None knows death and dying as intimately as I do. I know that I have only a few hours left. You best make the most of it."

Ares slammed his fist into the stone tower knocking huge chips off the side. Ares calmed himself down and looked over to Hermes. The god to the thieves was deep in thought.

"Do you have a plan?" Ares asked.

"Perhaps it would be wise to call a truce," Hermes smiled.

"What?" Ares said. "You must be jesting. I will never surrender!"

Hades coughed up blood as the two gods looked at each other. Hermes sported a smirk and Ares frowned even deeper than before.

"Sometimes," Hermes explained. "You need to entice the snake out of the rock pile before you can cut its head off."

* * * * *

General Crist did not know what to make of Hermes on the far side of the canal. The god stripped of all arms held his hands aloft in surrender. He walked cautiously towards the canal.

"It appears that you have us beaten," Hermes called across the canal.

"How is that?" Crist asked. He knew that Theena was bringing the remainder of the Republic's forces southward. He still had radio contact with Zakrostas and already knew of Hades defeat. After all it was Crist who had warned President Greer that he noticed Hades marching north with a third of Ares' army.

"Please do not play me for a fool, general," Hermes replied. "You must know that your army marches south and will be here within the day."

"If we parley how do we know that you will entreat us honorably?" Crist asked.

"Even we gods have some notion of honor," Hermes replied. "It would be better for both of us if we established borders and respected each other's sovereignty. As proof of our good intentions we will withdraw from the city. We will establish a tent in the field where you and King Podaistas can speak with Ares, Hades, and me. We will give you three hours to consider this. I urge you to not waste this opportunity for another war may lead to mutual destruction."

Hermes retreated slowly by walking backwards. He never took his eyes off Crist as the god of thieves disappeared amongst the stone ruins of the outer city.

"What do you make of it, sir?" a soldier asked.

"I don't know," Crist responded. "There is only one way to find out. I will confer with King Podaistas, and if he agrees, we will meet with the gods to establish a truce."

"Sir, don't you think it could be a trap?"

"That is a risk," the general conceded. "But if it is not we could be squandering a great opportunity if we refuse. If it is a trap the gods better beware, for nothing motivates us humans than a couple of good martyrs."

The soldier nodded, "Or better yet, a sneak attack. I suppose these guys never heard of Pearl Harbor."

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-three:

The New Arrivals

By Dwayne MacInnes

With the assistance from the ships, the forces of Atlantis again possessed the outer city. Soldiers lined the wall and overlooked the broken battlefield that they had crossed just days before. Several hundred yards away stood a large tent.

A small squad of soldiers escorted King Podaistas and General Crist halfway towards the tent. The king agreed with Crist about the benefits outweighing the risks. He also agreed that if the gods tried something underhanded, they did not truly understand the mortals.

King Podaistas and General Crist finally left the escort behind. They would cross the rest of the way alone across the devastated land. The men sometimes had to cover their noses due to the stench of rotting corpses. Crist noted that they would have to do something soon about the dead or there could be an outbreak of disease amongst the soldiers.

"You say my people are safe?" Podaistas asked as the two men continued towards the tent.

"Yes, Olympus made port in Zakrostas this morning," Crist replied. "They had a fight with Zeus in which they killed the god, and in the exchange, his lightning bolts fried their radio. But no one was harmed."

The king smiled, "It looks like the prophecy was correct. If we can negotiate a treaty with the gods we may truly be free."

General Crist nodded solemnly, "The gods are only one problem. But, from where I come from sometimes humans can be worse. I'll have to tell you about this guy called Hitler sometime."

The men neared the tent. They pulled back the flaps to see Ares and Hermes sitting at a table. Hades with his mortal wound lay further inside the tent on a cot. He did not even raise his head when the two men entered. Hades just lay there staring at the ceiling oblivious to all around him.

"Gentlemen, welcome," Hermes greeted. "I am sorry, but Hades is grievously wounded. You will forgive him if he does not rise."

Both King Podaistas and General Crist nodded their assent. Ares rose and pointed at two chairs opposite him at the table with his bladed left hand. The two men seated themselves as Hermes and Ares retook their chairs.

"Well, shall we begin?" Hermes asked.

* * * * *

Theena and her army marched to Atlantis. The Amazon of Knopso noticed that the fighting had been fierce. The bodies of men, Ares warriors, Talos, griffins, dragons, and horses littered the broken ground around the city. The city itself did not look much better. Smoke still rose from many places to fill the cloud-laden sky.

The general had brought with her every available soldier and militia member as well as the remaining tanks, trucks and jeeps. A long train of horses followed bringing much needed supplies. Overhead, the seven new Hercules fighters circled, joining the remaining Hellcats and Avengers.

General Theena marched up to the city wall. "Where are the general and King Podaistas?"

A soldier on the wall shouted down, "They are negotiating with the gods in yonder tent."

Theena followed the soldier's finger to the large tent hundreds of yards off. The Amazon of Knopso felt a gnawing distrust in her stomach. Without further word, she took off towards the tent at a run. Without even thinking, she grabbed the sword at her waist.

* * * * *

Ares smiled as the two men seated themselves at the table. Hermes shuffled some parchments and was about to place them on the table when without notice Ares flung the table at the men.

King Podaistas rolled out of the way of the table and drew his sword. General Crist was just a fraction of a second slower in dodging to one side drawing his Colt .45 automatic pistol. The table broke in several large pieces as it crashed into the ground.

Tossing the table was just the diversion Ares needed. Utilizing the surprise Ares drew his own sword and leaped towards the two men. Even though they were now on opposite sides of the tent, the god wasted no time.

Before the king could swing his sword, Ares lashed out with his bladed hand. He slashed Podaistas across the stomach giving the monarch a mortal wound. Podaistas fell backwards holding his stomach, blood seeped between his fingers as he landed on the ground.

Crist emptied his .45 into the god as he turned towards the general. Ares smiled noticing the bullets merely stung him but nothing more. With his sword, Ares plunged his tip deep into Crist's body.

* * * * *

The soldiers around Atlantis were surprised to hear the repeated report of a pistol firing from inside the tent. As they watched, they could see General Theena disappear inside the tent. Off in the distance also approaching were two people in a bright gold chariot pulled by two blindingly white horses. The driver was a man and alongside him was a woman whose head a deep green cloak covered.

Most of the men stood stunned in silence not truly understanding what was going on. However, a few started to sprint across the broken ground towards the tent. These few men spurred the rest into action. Soon the entire armies of Atlantis and Zakrostas were running towards the tent.

* * * * *

Crist fell into a seated position on the ground as Ares pulled the blade from his gut. A great bout of blood flew into the air. Ares smiled as he raised the sword for the finishing stroke.

However, before the killing stroke fell another blade blocked it. Ares turned to see his new assailant. Hermes who up to now kept to the back of the tent gave off a stifled yelp. There standing before the gods stood a woman wearing the traditional armor of the Greeks. Her face was in a frown and a deep rage burned in her blue eyes beneath her helmet.

"I figured you snakes would try something like this!" the woman spat.

Ares jumped back to give himself room to fight. He smiled a malicious grin as he glared at the woman, "Well, sister it looks like we will now see who is truly the better warrior. Prepare to die Athena!"

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-four:

Fight of the Gods

By Dwayne MacInnes

Greek God Athena

Both King Podaistas and General Crist from opposite sides of the tent held their bleeding stomachs as they witnessed a fight like no one had ever seen before. Ares sneered and attacked Athena. The goddess stepped back and parried every attack. Even though rage burned across her face, she never once let it affect her fight.

Sparks flew from the blades as they connected and the smell of ozone soon filled the large tent. Ares' attacks were full of fury and strength; whereas Athena dodged and parried the onslaught waiting for the right moment, the right opening. Ares used both sword and his bladed hand in his attacks and Athena used only her sword.

"Your boyfriend lays dying dear sister," Ares taunted.

Athena merely narrowed her eyes, but she never responded. She would not let Ares bait her. She would not allow her anger to cloud her judgment. In fact, if Ares continued to talk he could very well give her an opening.

From the back of the tent, Hades started to cough. Blood spilled from his mouth as he looked towards the combat. His eyes narrowed on the goddess and then widened in anger.

"The javelin that pierced my torso came from your hand!" Hades cried hoarsely. "You betrayed the gods for these mortals."

Hermes sat next to Hades as the god of the underworld began a coughing fit. More blood poured from his mouth and flew across the tent. Hermes tunic became soaked with Hades blood as Hermes tried to comfort the dying god. However, in mid-cough Hades' eyes glazed over and the god went limp.

* * * * *

The running soldiers halted as the huge army of undead warriors began to advance towards them. The warriors positioned themselves between the soldiers and the tent. Even with the combined armies, it would still be a costly and lengthy fight to force their way past the undead.

Suddenly, without warning the undead warriors fell limply to the ground. Their bodies began to decay at an accelerated rate until only the bones mingled with armor remained. The soldiers stared in bewilderment hardly noticing the golden chariot pull up to the tent and its occupants enter the structure.

* * * * *

Athena and Ares paid the passing of Hades little notice as they continued to circle each other. Ares launched another series of forceful attacks. Athena turned his blade utilizing the god's strength against him. As Ares sword was pushed to the side, Athena reposted and scored a hit upon Ares' torso. The god roared in rage and shot his bladed hand out towards Athena's mid-section. However, Athena's blade was there to deflect the hand as she twisted her body out of its path.

Hermes laid Hades back down on the cot. This was not what was supposed to happen. These humans were killing off the gods. For millennia after millennia, mortals had never killed the gods. The gods killed mortals. These Otherworlders had disrupted the balance of power.

Hermes' mind started to seethe in anger. He pulled out his black dagger and maneuvered himself into the shadows. If Athena wanted to join the humans, very well she could join them in death.

Athena's concentration was solely on Ares. The god was so wild in his attacks that she could not spare any attention to anything other than her fight. Therefore, she did not notice Hermes sneaking up behind her in the shadows of the tent.

Hermes smiled as he raised the dagger. He was right behind Athena and she did not notice him because she was too intent on Ares. Hermes was about to bring the blade down between Athena's shoulder blades when he heard two distinct hisses.

Before Hermes could commence his attack, he felt a sudden pain spread from his back to his chest. Hermes looked down and noticed two hunter's arrows protruding from his chest. The feathered shafts stuck out his back. Hermes dropped his dagger and turned around to see who had killed him.

The god of thieves noticed Apollo standing next to a woman. The woman wore a green hunter's cloak and she still held the bow that had released the arrows. On her back was a quiver full of more arrows. However, she only pulled back the hood revealing her golden hair pulled back into a ponytail.

Hermes dropped to his knees. "Artemis, you bitch," was all he could say before he fell forward onto his face dead.

* * * * *

Ares thrust his left-hand composed of a serrated blade at Athena again. However, this time Ares overextended and Athena chopped the metal appendage off at the arm. The blade crashed to the ground and Ares momentarily paused in disbelief.

That was all Athena needed as she drove her sword through Ares' armor and into his chest. The sword pierced Ares heart and before the god realized that anything had happened, he too fell to the ground dead.

Athena spun around and noticed Apollo. "You have to save the general!" she cried.

Apollo knelt down next to Crist. The general waved him off and stated, "I'm not important. Save the king."

"I may not have time to come back to save you," Apollo protested.

"Damn it," Crist grunted as a wave of pain flashed across his midsection. "You are wasting time. Just do it!"

Apollo quickly crossed the tent and laid his hands upon the unconscious monarch. At his touch, the king's stomach instantly healed. The king remained unconscious as Apollo crossed the tent again towards the general.

General Crist's head now rested in Athena's lap. Crist looked up at the goddess, "I knew it was you. It figures I'd fall in love with a goddess."

Athena sniffed fighting back the tears, "Who would have ever thought I'd fall in love with a mortal."

Crist smiled weakly before he went limp. Apollo laid his hands upon the general's belly as Athena gave out a mournful scream.

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-five:

Legends (The End)

By Dwayne MacInnes

Greek Goddess Artemis

The three gods looked down at the general. His pale face was at peace and his body lay limp upon the lap of Athena. The goddess's tears splashed upon General Crist's motionless face.

Apollo and his twin sister Artemis watched in silence. Neither god wanted to interfere with the goddess of wisdom. She would have to come to reason on her own. However, Apollo realized that not even Aphrodite could have witnessed such love as between this mortal and this goddess.

Athena wiped the tears from her eyes as she gently removed Crist's head from her lap. She stood up and looked at Apollo and his sister, Artemis maiden of the hunt.

"Take him to Mount Olympus," Athena said softly.

"Such a thing has never been done before," Apollo stated in mild shock. "Father would be upset if we brought a mortal, no matter how great, to his palace."

"Zeus is dead," Athena said matter-of-factly. "He was killed trying to slay innocent civilians fleeing for their lives. He listened to the wrong counsel and now he too is dead."

Apollo swallowed hard. The news Athena just told him did not surprise him as much as the lack of emotion over the loss of their father. Finally, Apollo put a hand to his forehead covering his eyes. "If we are taking roll, then I must confess that Hephaestus too is dead."

Artemis and Athena both looked at Apollo. The mortals never reached Mount Olympus and as far as they knew, Hephaestus never had ventured from the realm of the gods.

"How, dear brother, did it come to pass," Artemis said gently. She put a supporting arm around her twin brother.

Apollo stared into Artemis's eyes as he spoke, "Something changed him. He took great delight in the torment and torture of the humans."

The god stopped and tears came to his eyes in the remembrance of the long ordeal with Hephaestus and Reno. "He had this mortal, Reno," Apollo choked. "He would do... unspeakable things to this poor mortal. If the man came close to dying, he would have me heal him. I did this for him at first because I too feared the prophecy. Then, after the man's mind broke and Hephaestus continued his cruel treatment, I could barely stand it.

"Finally, Reno became lucid enough to beg me to end it. He did not blame me; it was like he forgave me for my part in his torment!" Apollo sobbed uncontrollably for a few seconds before continuing. "Hephaestus wanted to continue his ghastly game, I snapped and killed him. Now Aphrodite has finally found that she had always loved her husband. She too has come to terms with coexisting with the humans and is now waiting at Olympus for our return."

Athena and Artemis looked at each other for a brief second before returning to Apollo. The god wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. "I will never cause the death of a mortal again. I have dedicated myself to their betterment. So, Athena, sword maiden, I will take Crist to Olympus."

"In the end, those across the Styx will only number a paltry six," the goddess of the hunt quoted. "That leaves just us six gods from the twelve." Artemis grabbed Apollo's arm as the god reached for Crist's body lying peacefully upon the ground. "Brother, let me carry him. But, Athena, what do we tell the mortals. Their wrath could easily turn against us."

Athena stood up straight and transformed herself back into General Theena the Amazon of Knopso. "I will tell them. They will listen to me for to them I am one of them. Artemis you will have to pretend to be me when we leave."

Greek God Apollo

The entire combined army stood stunned as the scream full of sadness tore through the air. None of the soldiers had ever heard such a mournful and terrible cry. Many of the soldiers felt tears run down their face as they started to cry themselves for the feeling of loss filled them.

The men watched from a distance for some time when they noticed two figures leave the tent. It was the chariot driver and the woman in the green cloak. In her hands, she bore the limp body of General Crist. The two entered the bright golden chariot with the dazzling white horses. The man picked up the reigns and snapped them across the horses' backs. The chariot sped off at speed that even amazed the Otherworlders.

Next out of the tent came General Theena supporting the weakened King Podaistas. Tears ran down both of their dirty faces as they approached the men. The soldiers stood transfixed not daring to move as the two neared.

"What happened?" Lieutenant Rogers of the Jolly Rogers asked.

"We have won," King Podaistas answered weakly. "However, we have also lost. We lost the greatest man amongst us, General Crist."

The soldiers all now started to sob. The weight of the cost of battle was already too great, but now it was even greater.

"No!" Theena cried. "General Crist has been taken up by the gods Apollo and Athena. He will dwell in the halls of Mount Olympus with the six compassionate gods as a champion and will return to Atlantis when her need is greatest."

The men felt hope return to their hearts when Theena spoke. If any man could rise to dwell amongst the gods, it would be General Crist. Even the king looked up at the general and stared into her eyes.

"If I didn't know any better," King Podaistas said. "I'd say you could dwell with the gods."

"Your highness," Theena replied. "You are still weak from your injuries."

"Your highness, begging your pardon," Corporal Daniels spoke up. "What did you see?"

King Podaistas shook his head, "I don't remember much before I lost consciousness. However, I think Athena defeated Ares and Hermes. I believe that the gods were truly of two minds as to how to relate to us. Some wanted to eradicate us, and the others to live with us.

"It appears that the good gods won out. We should send emissaries to speak with them and establish formal communication."

Theena gently placed the king onto the ground. "Your highness, from what I saw the gods who wish peace with us mortals won the day. Being that I have the outpost closest to Mount Olympus I will personally make sure that we send emissaries to the gods.

"However, while you were unconscious I spoke to Apollo. He is of the mind that the gods and humans can coexist. It was he and Athena who after witnessing the valor of General Crist decided to take him to Mount Olympus to dwell with the gods. For great heroes deserve a special place of honor. What can be a greater honor than being allowed to dwell with the gods?"

The soldiers on the field smiled, nodded, and remembered a new prophecy spoken that day: A champion will return to Atlantis when her need is greatest.

The End

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the The God Wars category.

The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar is the previous category.

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