Mount of Olympus
1817 – Winter Solstice
Hermes threw open the doors to the throne room of the gods, his face split with a wide beam of excitement that the other Olympians had learned to beware.
The king of the gods, Zeus, the lightning bearer, looked upon his divine progeny and scowled. “You are late, Hermes. Where have you been?”
Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, was quick to leap to her father’s side. “The meeting began an hour ago, brother,” she reminded coldly. “It is unseemly of you to shirk your responsibility as one of the Olympians.”
Hermes spared her a look, his disinterested gaze casually assessing her cold, stormy eyes and regal figure before he turned away. “I was away in Germany, father,” he replied. “Delivering a package on your behest,” he added pointedly.
Zeus bristled, his beard crackling with energy. “Child-”
Hermes shook his head. He was a god himself. What did he have to fear from his father’s wrath? “That is beside the point,” he insisted, and a smile found its way back to his face.
“Then, pray, tell, what is the point?” Hera raised an eyebrow, her icy words slicing through the air with the venom she reserved for the products of her husband’s affairs.
Hermes did not budge. “Something brilliant and utterly ingenious!”
Apollo tilted his head with a smirk. “Is it a new prank?” he inquired eagerly.
“A new love?” Aphrodite asked. Her eyes were sparkling, and her painted red lips pulled into a faint, fashionable pout.
Ares grinned ferally. “Finally! War is coming, right?”
Hermes shook his head. “Something infinitely better. An invention!”
Ares deflated. “Wake me up when there’s actually some fun around here,” he growled. “You lot are boring.”
“An invention?” For the first time since the beginning of the meeting, Hephaestus looked away from his latest tinkering, sitting up in his metal throne to stare in interest at the god who had stormed the room mere minutes ago.
Hermes nodded. “A brilliant one, too,” he repeated. “The German who informed me of this spoke of it being called ‘Laufmaschine,’ but I feel the civilian used word ‘bicycle’ will catch on more easily.” He laughed. “But truly, the invention is incredible! No longer do humans have to use wagons dependent on animals to travel across the lands! They can use bicycles to travel at their own pace and with their own effort.” He shook his head. “Simply ingenious.”
“Why do you care?” Artemis asked, her attention wavering. “It is a human affair. Besides,” She drawled. “You’re capable of using the winds to travel faster than any mortal will ever be able.”
Athena reluctantly pulled forward as the other gods began to talk amongst themselves, ignoring the news Hermes had brought. “Do elaborate,” She ordered. “These… bicycles seem fascinating. And they spell human evolution in a way few other inventions have, recently.”
Hephaestus was quick to follow, and the three pressed toward the majestic doors that bespoke the entrance to divinity, stopping ten steps in front of it. “Yes,” the god of forges agreed. “I haven’t heard of them yet, but inventions have always been interesting.” He frowned. “Why were you made aware of it before I was?”
Hermes laughed. “Inventions may be your calling, brother, but travel and messages were always mine. And this new invention is the pinnacle of progression for both messengers and travelers.”
Athena pressed her lips together. “I believe if what you describe is correct, it will be useful in many cases, and not just for travel or messages. Recreation, competition, exercise… the options are boundless.”
Hermes rolled his eyes. “And yet, the uses I am interested in remain for messengers and travelers.”
Athena shot him a glare.
Hermes smiled back sweetly.
Hephaestus cleared his throat. “What of its mechanics?” he demanded, cutting in. “I can power my creations with various energy and ore, but which method has humanity chosen to move these contraptions, without animal power?”
“Oh!” Hermes chortled. “It was amazingly simple, once Von Drais explained it to me. They used an equivalent exchange of chains and pedals to propel the wheels’ circulation, and once it begins, it rolls on until it slows, whence the pedals must again be rotated.”
“So, it has two wheels, then? Rather than the wagon’s four?”
“One version has two, but another has three,” Hermes hummed. “I assume the bicycle is for speed while the three-wheeled one is more to secure the rider’s balance.” He raised an eyebrow. “I just got the most brilliant idea! Why do we not call the three-wheeled machine a ‘tricycle’? In the spirit of the theme, of course.”
Athena mulled it about in her head. “It isn’t bad, Hermes,” she admitted. “There may be hope for you yet.”
Before she and Hermes could once again descend into madness or argumentative complacency, Hephaestus, once again, mediated. And of course, it remained an unintentional phenomenon. “I assume the body of the creation holds a suitable seat for the humans?”
“Of course. And handlebars as well,” Hermes added proudly. “Ah, my days of hopping around with messages even for mortals are over!”
Athena giggled. “Is that why you were so excited about this innovation? Because humans can now send their own messages, and you don’t have to do it for them?”
Hermes reddened. “Errr. I am very proud of their creation, of course,” he blustered. “But the mortals have to learn to do their own work at some point…”
Hephaestus blinked. “Bringing this inane conversation back to the bicycles, how do you think they-”
“Hephaestus!” Zeus barked. “Hermes! Athena! Stop worrying over pointless human instances and return at once! The meeting must resume.”
Hera sniffed. “Why you must always be interested in mortals escapes me.”
Athena folded her hands over her chest with a glare. “If you must know,” she replied tartly, “mortals are curious and incredible creatures. Just look at how far they have come from their plebeian origins in caves and underground!”
Zeus scoffed. “And they’d never have done a single thing had Prometheus not stupidly thought to give them our fire!” he roared. “Now, some believe themselves to be greater than us. Us, the immortal, mighty gods of Olympus!”
The room exploded with sound, gods and goddesses vying for a chance to speak and voice their opinions.
Hermes groaned, receding toward the only relatively quiet corner of the meeting hall – Hades’s throne. “And we were supposed to be talking about bicycles, not arguing,” he complained.
Hades, situated gracefully in his black throne of death, smiled an expression dark enough to draw shivers from the staunchest of warriors. “Oh, child,” he drawled. “These are the immortal gods. What else do they have left but to argue?”