I slammed the phone down. Zeus was on the rampage again, something about filling the coffers of the Pantheon. He’s been calling me day and night, barking orders and making demands. I may be the god of commerce, but that didn’t mean, as mortal lawyers like to say, I was going to make it rain up in here (bring in a lot of money, for those of you unaware of the phrase).
You’d think with the number of deities that had responded to Zeus’ “invitation” (and I use that term loosely; it had been more like an order), the money would just be pouring in. But some of them seemed to be keeping a tight rein on their funds. Frankly, I thought Zeus needed to start zapping some butts with lightning bolts to remind them who was boss. He’s gotten soft. Too touchy-feely with his kids. But what do I know? I’m just Hermes.
A few of them couldn’t adjust to being in the mortal world and split for their private lives again. Can’t say as I blame them. I’d do the same damn thing, but the big guy would be lost without me, so here I sit. The one I missed the most is Hephaestus. Sure, he could be a bit crabby, stubborn, insistent that things be a certain way or else, but he was also pretty down to earth. Rumor had it he was in Crete, trying to decide what to do about his marriage. I knew what his mother’s vote was: “Drop the harlot!” Although, if that did happen, I’m not sure what Aphrodite would do. Ares even walked away from her. Is the Goddess of Love losing her touch? Maybe she’ll finally set her sights on me. One can only hope.
Getting up from my desk, I made my way to the lobby for some coffee from Dark Sparks, Hades’ coffee company. Speaking of the man himself, there he was. Out of all of them, he had been the most successful. I wondered why that is. If he was here, then that means…but no, I really shouldn’t. The repercussions would be severe if he caught me. On the other hand, a little spying never hurt anyone, and it might give me an idea of what Hades was doing to rake in so much money.
In the blink of an eye, I was standing in Hades’ office. Good Lord, the man was so OCD. I’d never seen a place look so tidy! Who was his cleaning lady? Knowing him, no one. He would never let anyone in here where he kept all his darkest secrets.
Glancing around the office, I wondered where would he keep his financial records. I looked around at the walls, which were covered with tasteful paintings. A quick check behind the frames revealed no safes. I figured that would have been too easy. Sitting down at his desk, I quickly looked through the files on his desk. One caught my eye: C.E. Robb. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I’m not sure why. I pulled the file out of the pile and started to flip through it. Why, that sneaky Underworld rat! This was low, even for him!
I heard a noise in the hallway, and with a snap of my fingers, everything on the desk went back to the way it was. Then I popped out of the office just before the door opened. I landed in another hallway, where I heard the hum of machines. I followed the noise until the hall dead ended in front of a door, a faint glow emanating from under the bottom. As quietly as possible, I opened the door…
A man sat in front of a desk with three monitors on it. He feverishly clicked away on a keyboard, muttering under his breath. I slipped inside and closed the door behind me, but quietly enough. The man jumped and spun around in his chair, his eyes widening in surprise. “Who are you?” he asked.
“My name is Hermes, C.E.,” I replied, walking across the room to him. I held out my hand. “Please to meet the man behind the curtain.”
He shook my hand. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” he said, releasing my hand and pushing his chair away from me.
“Of course you do. You’re the reason that Hades is doing so well. You’re the one who has made the resort and all of his businesses such a success.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head, “I’m just a simple computer man.”
“Come on now, I read the file. I know the truth.” I looked around at the room full of monitors, computer towers and servers. “Why?”
C.E. slumped in his chair and sighed. “It started out as a simple job: be a scribe for Hades. I thought it would be cool to write as the Lord of the Underworld. So I applied, and low and behold, it was Hades himself who was doing the hiring. We hit it off, he liked what I wrote, and offered me the job on the spot. Then, one day, I ran into at Dark Sparks, and we started talking. I mentioned that I had some computer skills. Hades asked me what kind of website I thought would work best for…his line of work. The next day, he asked me if I would be willing to create the website we had discussed for him. The bonus he offered was very attractive, so I agreed. Programming is what I do for a living. I love creating new sites, bringing them to life. I didn’t expect it to take very long; the things he asked for were pretty basic. The site was an instant success, so he asked me if I would mind creating a site for Dark Sparks. When that was a success as well, he decided I had some magic touch.”
I glanced around the room, and spotted a dog bed and two bowls off to one side. “You have a dog down here?” I asked, surprised. I couldn’t picture Hades allowing any pet down here besides Cerberus.
“I never go anywhere without my dog,” C.E. smiled.
“So how did all this success translate into…this?” I waved my arm to indicate the whole room.
“Zeus got wind of my talents, and got me to start working on a site for the Pantheon. Hades didn’t like that much, so he moved me down here where he could keep a closer eye on me. But Zeus still has me working for him, too. Every once in a while, a lightning bolt comes out of nowhere and slams into the wall.” He pointed to the scorch marks on the wall. “The other part of the deal was that I got to bring my dog. If I’m busy, Charon takes him out for a walk.”
“Nice touch,” I laughed, trying to picture Charon walking a dog on a leash.
“Moxie keeps me in a steady supply of Dark Sparks and beignets…”
“You mean it’s not a perk of working for Hades?”
“Have you even met him? He did offer a 10% discount if I joined the Coffee Club.”
“Well, damn it, that’s not fair! I have to pay full price and I’m family! Still, it can’t be good for you, being trapped in here all the time.”
“It’s not too bad,” C.E. admitted, “although I would like a vacation away from the resort. I’m tired of staring at these monitors all the time.”
I glanced at the middle monitor. “What do you have there?”
He got a big smile on his face. “I love creating worlds, and the Underworld gives me a lot of material to work with. I asked Hades to take me on a tour one day, and he agreed. What you’re seeing is what I saw on that day.” He slid his chair over to the desk. “See here?” He pointed to the map. “This is a general overview of the Underworld. I never realized how big it was until he gave me the tour. It’s amazing! I’ve been working on giving an overview of each area. My favorite place is Elysium; so much beauty in one place! I like to go there when I have a little time off.” He points to another spot on the map. “I stay away from Oneiroi and Tartarus. Soul sucking areas.” He shudders.
“You have a fine eye for detail,” I tell him.
“Thank you,” he said, a bit embarrassed by the praise.
“What else is on the site?”
“Well, there are things here about Olympus,” he replied, grabbing the mouse and clicking it a few times. “I only know what Hades tells me, so I’m not sure how accurate this is.”
I looked at the screen, and I was amazed. He had a map of Olympus that showed the location of the OA building and a directory of which deity occupied which floor (figures he’d label my floor a mail distribution center. It is so much more than that!). “Why does he have information on here about each god?”
“He said it was just a directory, but I don’t believe him. He keeps an eye on what goes on up there, what you all do. I’m not sure if he has tapped into your security system or what. I suggest you do some serious upgrading.”
“I’ll be sure to tell our security people to work on that,” I replied. “What’s this?” I pointed to a spot that says “Creature Catalogue”.
He looked a bit nervous. “I’ve seen things down here,” he said quietly, “things that no human – no mortal, as you gods like to say – should see. I put that there as a way to warn them.” He glanced up at me. “Some of them have escaped. Hades either doesn’t know yet, or doesn’t want you all to know. Those nightgoyles are truly frightening, and they are seriously pissed off.”
“This sounds like something I should talk to Zeus about,” I replied. If the nightgoyles were on the loose again, then that could cause a whole new set of problems that my brother doesn’t want to deal with right now. “I am very impressed by what you have done, C.E. But I don’t think it’s right that Hades is holding you down here indefinitely.”
“It’s not too bad,” he shrugged. “I get the latest equipment before it’s even released to the public, he takes care of my needs, and I do get some time off. I have my own suite here that has all the comforts of home.”
“Except it’s not home,” I reminded him.
He sighed. “No, it isn’t. But the alternative is…” he left the rest unsaid.
I pulled out my business card and handed it to him. “If you ever need anything, call me. I’ll figure out a way to get you out of here if you want me to. But make sure you hide that where Hades won’t find it. He will be furious if he finds out I’ve been here.”
C.E. grinned. “It might be amusing if he does find out.”
“Or he could lock you away in a room in Tartarus.”
The grin fell from his face and he looked terrified. “I’ll erase any trace of your visit from the security cameras,” he said, facing the monitor again. “You should go now.” His fingers flew across the keyboard.
It didn’t feel right leaving him there, but at the moment, there was nothing else I could do. But you could damn well guarantee that I would be having a chat with Zeus in the future about the secret behind Hades’ success.
As I popped back into my office, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that Hades was not as good at all things as he liked to have people believe. Pompous ass. I laughed as I sat down at my desk, formulating a new plan on how to get some serious money out of Hades’ greedy hands.
It would serve him right to get a dose of his own medicine.
Editor’s Note: This was a collaborative effort from many of us who wanted to show our appreciation for C.E. Robb, who has put so much time and effort into making our creations come to life. Happy birthday from all of us!
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