A young slave girl knelt before Zeus. “O father of gods,” she whispered, “your servants from Faraway have sent me to your august presence. They wish to inform you that they are ready to show you wonders.” She remained silent in that position.
A pretty piece they sent, he thought. Next to him, Hera scowled, watching him watching her. “Inform my servants that I will visit them shortly. That is all. Depart now, with my blessing.” She clambered to her feet and sprang away, graceful as a gazelle. His blessing marked her; when his meddling wife was elsewhere, he’d perhaps summon her to him.
“These new servants trouble me,” said Hera, still scowling. “They depend far too much on their machines. What virtue is there in work not borne of honest labor?”
Zeus shrugged. “They do things no other men, Greek or barbarian, can do. Certainly, I could call forth wonders with a word — but as you say, where is the virtue in that? These servants do labor with their hands, as well as their machines, and so there is at least some virtue in the fruits of their labor.”
“Mark my words, husband: no good will come of this, neither to gods nor men.” Hera walked a few steps, then turned, fixing her stony glare upon him anew. “And think not that I missed the import of your blessing… upon a slave, no less. Your indiscretions grow ever more flagrant.”
Zeus glowered as Hera departed. Had he one of Vulcan’s thunderbolts at hand…
As was their wont, the visitors from Faraway wore their usual garb: white cloaks with sleeves and pockets. All three gave their usual perfunctory bow when he walked into their presence — paying him no more respect than would a godling, but did not their work make them near godlings? Besides, all the bowing and scraping had its place, but it could get boring. “So,” he said, “you have something to show me?”
“Indeed we do, sir!” said one of them. They had told him their names when he brought them through Time, but he promptly forgot them. And “Faraway” was easier than “Twenty-fourth Century Pacifica,” whatever that might mean. “Right this way, uh, if you please.” They went through an open door and down a hallway. Anywhere else, this would be dimly lit by torches, but the servants brought their own wonders with them. They had a use for old Heron’s steam device, making the kind of power needed for their lighting and other machines — at least slaves cut the wood, brought water, and fed the fire. Thus was an interior corridor near as bright as day.
They came to a door on the right, and one of the servants opened it. “This is the result of a lot of hard work,” he said. “We had issues with tissue rejection and blood types, of course, but getting the neural pathways right was the real bugger.” He chattered on, but Zeus quickly grew bored.
“Is it alive?” he asked, looking at the creature lying its side.
“It’s sedated,” another servant said. “Surgery, bone grafts, muscle connections, all that… it would be in a lot of pain right now. It’ll be up and around in a week or so.”
“Check this out!” the third one said, pushing an extensible pole through the bars. He slipped it around the back side of the creature and slid the tail out.
“It’s mostly a lion…”
“Yessir. But you see the goat head on its spine. Growing the support for that was a bugger.”
“And the tail’s a snake!” said the one with the pole. “Is this not the coolest thing ever?”
“Amazing, simply amazing,” the god assured them. “Have you named it?”
“Oh, no sir. We wanted to let you name it.”
“Very well: its name is… Chimera.”
The servants grinned and slapped each others’ hands over their heads, a gesture Zeus understood as celebrating an accomplishment. “Very well,” he said. “Your slave said wonders. There are more?”
They quickly subdued themselves. “Yessir,” said one, “but this one’s farthest along.” He turned to his comrades, and they whispered among themselves for a moment. “There’s two others. This way?”
The next wonder had Zeus nodding, both in agreement with its “coolness factor” and in need of a nap for their endless meaningless exposition. “Same issues as, uh, Chimera, with weight as an added wrinkle,” he said before Zeus stopped listening. “We had to do a ton of genemod on the horse to get the weight down. The wings are a real bugger, sir. They have to hold him up, plus anything he’s got on his back —“
“It will carry a man?”
They whispered again. “Probably not,” one admitted at last. “A woman, maybe, or a kid.”
“Sorry. A child.”
Zeus thought a moment. “It will do. I name it Pegasus.” Again, the celebratory hand-slapping. “Anything else?”
“One more, sir. Not as complete, but I think you’ll get the idea.”
They stood looking at the misshapen thing. “We wanted to use human hips and legs for this one, but… well, they wouldn’t carry the weight. The gorilla in your menagerie —“
“The big hairy man-like creature you brought from Egypt.”
“Right. Well, we needed the whole body. You can see how we’re grafting the bull’s head onto it. But we’re giving it a human brain.”
“That’s really tricky,” another one cut in. “We had to modify the head to make the brain fit. That wasn’t a big deal, but the neural connections — even to a gorilla’s body — are a real bear.”
“Bear? This is part bear too?”
“Oh, no sir. That’s just an expression.”
“Well, when you finish it, I name it Minotaur. Return to your labors. I am pleased.” Zeus departed, leaving the three celebrating in his wake. And he was pleased. These monsters would strike terror into the hearts of men, and they would sing of Zeus forever.