PYRAMID POWER – snippet 51:
A little later Jerry sat with Liz, on the cliff-top, their fingers entwined.
“I need to work on Sigyn,” said Jerry.
“Well, Sigyn and Odin are similar in a way.”
Liz snorted. “What? Is one of her eyes false?”
Jerry grinned. “No, Odin would destroy everything rather than give up power and accept punishment. And Sigyn is just as implacable in her quest for revenge. She would destroy the entire universe rather than let Odin go unpunished. Loki wants vengeance. But if all the people in the world begged him… well, he might compromise. Sigyn, never. Odin must die. She might compromise on Heimdall, and she was prepared to let Skadi off the hook to a large extent. But Odin is non-negotiable. If the universe must die to kill him, so be it. So: Their reasons are vastly different, but the end result will be the same.”
Liz grimaced. “Classic African dictatorship dilemma. Compromise isn’t possible, Jerry. Even if you could talk Sigyn into it, Odin would never agree. By the sounds of it, he’s made so many enemies that if he stopped being top dog everyone would come hunting for a piece of his hide. Just like Mengistu or Mugabe or Charles Taylor, Odin either has to flee somewhere he can enjoy his ill-gotten gains in safety—or stay in absolute power. People like that will only flee if it is that or die, and they’ll only go just before the absolute end with lots of dead bodies around them—if you manage to convince them that their precious selves will be safe and comfortable. Otherwise they’d destroy the universe rather than lose. They are the universe as far as they’re concerned.”
“I suppose so,” Jerry chewed his lip. “Megalomania’s not exactly limited to Africa, for sure. No other lives have any value to Odin at all.”
“So what are you going to do?” she asked.
Jerry shrugged. “Rattle some very large sabers. And then offer him a safe out.”
“You’re going to find him a safe haven?” Liz shook her head. “Honey, this universe isn’t big enough for him and Sigyn.”
“Offer him a way out of this universe, is what I meant.”
Home! Well, the US. Funny, since she’d recovered Jerry she hadn’t thought much about it. Coffee, toilet paper and deodorant would be nice. But home for her was really where the heart was, and the trial by ordeal had given her a good idea just where hers was located. “Have you thought of a way?”
“No,” said Jerry grimly. “But he doesn’t have to know that. He just has to know we’ve come from outside.”
“I suppose so. So now we need to raise recruits. Lots of them.”
Jerry raised his eyebrows. “Well, ‘raise’ is the right word. We’re due to leave for a visit to Loki’s youngest daughter. The responsible member of the family.”
Liz snorted. “Compared to Loki or Fenrir, that’s not hard.”
Jerry gave her a wry grin. “Jörmungand and Fenrir refuse to go along because little Hel always preaches at them.”
“Jörgy is just misunderstood,” said Liz defensively. “She’s still very young, and having trouble with her emotions and her hormones.”
“Hel is younger. But she has both of them, and Loki too, doing avoidance. Fortunately, she likes Sigyn.”
“And is she a really yummy recruiting poster?” asked Liz.
“In a morbid sense, yes,” answered Jerry. “She is queen of the dead that do not die in battle.”
“Oh. So we’re getting all the grannies armed with their zimmer-frames are we? Odin, quiver in your boots.”
Jerry shook his head. “Liz, you’re the best proof I could ever find of the need to teach real history at schools.”
She reached over and gave him a one-armed squeeze. “We only ever did SA history. And there wasn’t all that much of it, so we did the Great Trek many times. All right. Tell me what obvious thing I have missed.”
“That most people in history died young of things we now consider treatable. And that during wars a lot of warriors died from everything from septic wounds to diarrhea—far more than ever died in actual fighting. Hel’s warriors alone outnumber those in Vallhöll by five to one, at least. And Hel is a ministering angel, laboring without the advantages of Odin and Asgard. She treats as well as she can.”
“I do remember someone telling me that it needs a multiple of people to the defenders number… could have been three, could have been five, to take a fortified position.”
“I imagine it depends on the fortifications and what you’ve got to throw at them,” said Jerry. “Artillery, and the like, you know. And we have one thing that Odin fears most, by the way he was trying to find out.”
“Yes. Well, knowledge. We have knowledge that a Norse god could not have acquired.”
She pulled him closer. “Balloons again?”
“Maybe. I must talk to those agent types. I wish they were as useful as Cruz and Mac were. Anyway, right now I’m finding hard to concentrate on such distant matters.” He pushed back an errant curl from her forehead.
She kissed him. “Good. Come and concentrate on something closer at hand. And don’t get distracted!”
“I wouldn’t dare. You might spike my food with jelly beans.”
She pulled him closer, wrapping him in her cloak. “I’m not quite that cruel.”
“Airborne?” Bott shook his head. The man was looking a little sickly, probably from his vegetarian diet. How the Scandinavians hadn’t died of malnutrition, let alone had the strength to go off on Viking raids was something of a puzzle to Liz. Still, this presumably was their winter diet, and the fact that they ate whole-grain cereals and a lot of fish probably helped. In spring and summer some fruit and green things must have found their way into the meals, surely? But even here in a sheltered cove next to the moderating sea, this “Fimbulwinter” was robbing people of any other harvest. It was supposed to be summer. Global warming was a problem, but global cooling like this was a much faster disaster. It was supposed to continue, from what Thor said, for three years.
“But tell us about your plans,” said Stephens. “We are experienced men. We can probably help.”
“Yes,” nodded Bott, like a mechanical doll. “Fill us in on the details. You are the experts at all this mythology stuff.”
“Unfortunately, my knowledge of Scandinavian myth is a little scanty,” said Jerry. “Basically, we need to capture Odin. I wanted to find a way in past Asgard’s walls. Last time we used hot air balloons as a feint. This time I thought we might just be able to do it for real.”
“Do you really think you could make a balloon?” asked Stephens.
Jerry nodded. “We’ve got a secret weapon. Lamont Jackson. He’s got more practical skill and obscure knowledge than is fair to have in the possession of any one man. And we’ve done it before. Asgard has pretty solid walls, which are certainly high enough to hold off most siege attacks, but a balloon doesn’t have to fly that high to get over them. It’s silent. It’s an unknown concept here.”
Stephens looked thoughtful. “But what are you going to do when you’re on the other side of the wall? A balloon is very visible, and it can’t carry many people.”
“We’ll do it at night. Paint it black,” said Liz. “On a cloudy night, it would be easy. No one would have a clue we’d arrived.”
“Yes, but what are you going to do once you have arrived?”
“I thought you were going to advise us instead of just asking questions,” said Liz, irritably. “What do you think we should do?”
Someone bellowed off down the passage. “That’s Thor,” said Liz. “We have to go, Jerry.”
“That’s it,” said Stephens, when the door was closed. “All we have to do is get it all set up. They’ll walk right into it.”
Bott nodded. “Now we know what they’re planning and who they’re in bed with, yes.”
“Do you know something I don’t?” asked Stephens, for the millionth time fiddling with his helmet radio.
“Well, I know enough to know that Odin was the main god of this Norse stuff. And this Loki they’ve sided with was the bad guy.”
Stephens nodded. “The sort that has no respect for authority.”
“Now we just need to get this information through to Harkness,” said Bott.
“And start arranging for a bolt-hole if this bunch gets wind of it all.”