8

“…I thought you were delirious! Those random mutterings about mythological women, controlling humankind with magical needles and thread —”

“Of course, Frank. What else were you to think?” Pavlos held the microphone of the small transceiver close to his mouth. He rested with one elbow on the top step of the broad temple stylobate. He was relieved to find his American friend relatively calm. Only a small tremor in the voice from the tiny speaker gave clue to the shock he had experienced.

“Well, Pav, what was I to do? I was just about to call the police to get some search-and-rescue started when I realized it was sunrise, down there. So I took a chance and warmed up the spyscope to take a look.”

“And saw—”

“And saw a tapestry fifty feet or longer… with colors I’d never seen before! Shit. You were sitting there, those women standing around, then you touched that damned loom thing and something happened to me!”

Pavlos nodded. “So you decided to take a chance.”

“Yeah. I mean, what the hell, right? Everyone else up here was asleep. I figured, what would it hurt to burn a thread?”

“I had no idea your experimental weapons were that good, Frank.”

“Nor I! I wish to heaven I could remember what I did to keep the beam tight and steady like that! Speaking of which, you did some pretty fine fire control, helping me get that second witch. I almost had heart failure when the first one exploded like that!”

Pavlos laughed. It was good to know that Frank was going to be all right. An awful burden had fallen upon Pavlos, and he would need a friend with whom he could share it.

“Okay, Frank. Then there won’t be any trouble at your end?”

“Trouble? What, me worry?” There was only a slight touch of hysteria in Frank’s laughter. “Look, Pav, I gotta go. Talk to you later. The commander’s up and he’ll be wondering what I’ve been up to all night!” The carrier wave cut off with a subdued “click,” but the astronaut’s tinny laughter seemed to hang in the air.

Pavlos put down the microphone. He stretched back to rest his elbows on the granite platform and allowed the sunshine to do its work on him.

The loom was a few feet away. Lachesis sat in her accustomed chair, once again making a blur of her hands as she shuttled five billion bobbins in intricate patterns through the warp of the tapestry. The rhythmic pumping of the foot pedal sounded like a heartbeat. There was a hint of smile on her parched, ancient face, and once again she seemed oblivious to everything but her art.

Out on the lawn two seared brown patches stood out against the green. Beyond them he saw Moira leaving the Gateway shrine, carrying a covered basket.

She mounted the wide steps of the portico, a distant expression of bemusement on her face.

“They are still coming through,” she said. “I’m not as nimble as Clotho was, so a fair number of the newborn threads escaped. That was what we had agreed to allow soon, anyway.

Pavlos nodded. “I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come to believe you’re right. Starting off by letting a few percent run wild—that would be a fair experiment. If we humans have learned to use the Spark properly—maybe even well enough to dispense with the threads altogether—then those children will show it soon enough.

“And if not?”

Pavlos shrugged. He could not help glancing at Lachesis.

The crone had dropped her bobbins and now held Atropos’ shears. The clicking sound of lifelines parting went on for a moment, then she sat back and examined. The ghost of a smile returned. She went back to work, weaving.

“We could have taken this thing no further if we tried,” Moira assured him. “Lachesis is less fragile than Atropos and Clotho. I doubt it is within the realm of man or god to thwart her. Indeed, this whole affair probably came about because she finally tired of Clotho’s garish, unnatural colors, and Atropos’s meddling. In the last fifty years she has been forcing Atropos to allow the average lifespan to increase. This may be what she was leading up to.

“I doubt very much if she’ll let me wash Clotho’s dyes out of the bobbins already in place. There will have to be a transition, or the tapestry will look disjointed—something she will never allow.

“But I will try to clean a few of the uglier threads, or snip them. She won’t mind that. And from this day forth the new threads will wear their natural colors… for well or ill.”

Moira looked Pavlos in the eyes.

“You know how hard this is, to forswear all but the smallest interference. I am an old goddess, and I will find it hard to change. Even you may find yourself tempted to go too far, when you start feeling more and more of your power as a god.”

Pavlos felt a moment’s irritation. They had disagreed about this earlier. “I’m not a god, I tell you. Stop saying that!”

She smiled, and touched his arm lightly.

“Not a hero, then not a god? Pavlos Apropoulos, you did not hear yourself, perhaps, when you cursed my sisters and called down thunderbolts?”

“I told you, those were—”

“ ‘Laser’ bolts instead, yes. And your friend, who is also only a man, managed to overcome all of the safeguards on that secret weapon in his sky tower, and his doubts on hearing your weird tale through that talking box—”

“Radio.”

“And you do not think these are the acts of gods?”

Pavlos shrugged. Moira made him uncomfortable. There were too many things to think about… things that would take time and open air to consider… a desert somewhere, or a mountaintop.

“By the way,” Moira interrupted his train of thought. Her tone was no longer imperious, but that of an experienced elder speaking to a younger peer. “You should know that your presence will be required here in a year’s time, when the summer solstice comes.”

Pavlos looked at her. Somehow she had made her appearance softer. She must have taken the time to comb and braid her hair properly. In her hand, the basket throbbed with the healthy kicking of a hundred thousand newly sparked, undyed threads. She cradled the basket, smiling happily.

“Why that day, in particular?” Pavlos asked.

Her smile widened.

“Because today’s events made it clear to me that the One still exists, and has finally intervened again. I decided, therefore, to make peace.

“On that day, an emissary will come through the Gateway. It will be only for a visit,” she soothed. “So you needn’t fear any more meddling.

“I merely want you here so that Prometheus can see how big, strong, and handsome his many times grandson has grown.

Pavlos was astonished to find himself blushing. He looked down at his feet while, a few meters away, Lachesis worked her pedals and wove her bobbins. The fresh air carried sounds of a new pattern forming.

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