Odd fragment of a Greek myth science fantasy, originally written for a prompt of ‘immanence’. To warn, I’m working almost entirely off Wikipedia for the mythology and the Greek terminology, so apologies in advance.

Title: Talaris
Rating: PG-13
Universe: Talaris
Characters/Pairings: Hermes, Helios, humanity
Summary: At the dawn of a new era, beyond what even gods know, Hermes and Helios stand on a space station to watch humanity's first FTL spaceship prepare for her maiden voyage. And Hermes, at least, prepares to join her
Wordcount: 1800
Warnings/Notes: Science fantasy, mythology, gods, humanity, outer space, FTL travel, experimentation, exploration, hope, fear, future
Disclaimer: the gods aren't mine

Talaris

She was an odd, graceless looking thing, the EAS Talaris. She had none of the sleekness and elegance of her namesake, the famous winged sandals, looking instead like something cobbled together out of scraps scavenged from Hephaestus' reject pile. Then again, to be fair, she was an experimental ship. Her builders had been going more for function than form. Still. It was probably to be hoped that she didn't bump into anyone new and interesting out there in the void. She was hardly likely to make the best of initial impressions.

Not that it mattered. Not that any lack of beauty could hope to matter here. Her purpose was greater than that, vaster and infinitely more terrifying, and in the face of it she could look like anything she damn well pleased, couldn't she?

Oh, but he loved her. Every inch, every moment. Looking out at her now, seeing her readied for her fateful, maiden voyage at last, Hermes honestly thought he had never loved anything more.

"... I see you went for vanity in the end," a deep, sombre voice said from behind him, and Hermes stifled the worst of his grin to turn and face the other god. Well. Titan. Helios crossed the observation deck with studied calm to stand beside him, and Hermes so very carefully tamped down the wildness of his joy.

"You're one to talk," was all he said, after a thoughtful moment. Restraining himself to only a tiny smirk. "What's this space station called again? At least mine is at one remove."

The titan slanted him a speaking look. "That was hardly my doing," he noted mildly. "The station was named long before I came here. Mortals have been fond of such things since the beginning. I could hardly help that." He said it sombrely, with every seriousness, and held it for a long, long moment beneath Hermes' stare before he unbent, a little, and allowed himself a small smile of his own. "Though, if they will name it for me, I suppose no one should be much surprised that I might take mortal guise to walk upon my namesake, hmm?"

No. No they shouldn't. Nor Hermes either. The joy bubbled up in his chest once more, a wild, effervescent sort of feeling, and he turned from the titan to look back at his namesake once more. His ship. His talaris. Named for him, not by him, but no less fitting for that. He hadn't even prompted them. They had named her all on their own, and a better tribute he had never received in a hundred thousand lifetimes.

"It wasn't me, you know," he said, his fingers fluttering at his chest and his passion vibrating through him. "It was never me. The crew don't get to name her. We talked about it, of course. All the hopefuls. We named her a thousand things. We weren't the ones to decide, though. And oddly I never thought of this."

Helios hummed thoughtfully, watching him. "Do I want to know what you did think of?" he asked, with a certain edge of old suspicion. Mischief sparked, and malice, and Hermes flashed a toothy grin at the titan's reflection.

"Oh, any number of things," he said, with airy wickedness, and stiffness filtered back into his companion's features. Knowledge. Wariness. Hermes laughed, and followed through. "There were some who wanted 'Icarus'. Well, there's always one. I had to top that, didn't I? And for a ship like this, there's really only one name more ill-fated, isn't there?"

He didn't say it. He didn't have to say it. The titan's face went hard and forbidding as stone. Because there only was one name, one story of flight more disastrous than that poor, unlucky Athenian boy. Icarus, after all, had only killed himself. There was another who had nearly taken an entire world with him. A demigod, well known to the titan at his side, who had played with things so far beyond his control, and been slain by Zeus to save everything in his path.

What need to say the name? What need to say 'Phaethon'? It wasn't as though Helios would forget his own son.

"... Why do we forget your cruelty?" the titan said at last. Not angrily. Not really. His voice was cold and weary instead. "For days, for weeks, for years at a time. We forget, and then you speak, and we are reminded."

Hermes shrugged. "We are a collection of old cruelties, are we not?" he asked mildly, his fingertips playing across the glass, the image of the ship beyond it. The future, while his words with hung with the echoes of the past. He turned his head, knowing his own expression to be oddly open, oddly empty. Helios only watched him. "Besides. I thought it fitting. Not the name, exactly. The act of naming. For me, I mean. I thumbed my nose at the gods of the sun while still in my cradle. It seemed fitting enough that at perhaps my demise I should do the same."

Though the name had seemed fitting too. A flight beyond control, beyond known bounds. A flight beyond Helios, beyond the sun, beyond light itself. Yes. There had been more than one reason to think of calling it Phaethon. What had the mortal, Ovid, said?

Here Phaethon lies who in the sun-god's chariot fared. And though greatly he failed, more greatly he dared.

He had to love them. Mortals. With every fibre of his being, he had to adore them. What was their name for it? FTL. Faster-than-light. An experimental ship, a manned flight, into the void, into infinity, beyond all known bounds. Out into the great beyond, to whatever gods and monsters there did dwell. Oh, they dared. More greatly than any, they dared. His heart adored them for it. And then they'd named it for him. They'd named her Talaris, not Phaethon. They'd named their ship for his sake. Had he ever had any other choice but to join them? It might destroy him. They threw themselves beyond what even gods knew now. That hideous, magnificent ship might be his end in truth. He hardly cared.

Indeed, if anything, it only made him want her more. They were little more than a collection of old cruelties now. It had been a long eternity.

"... I am not Apollo," Helios said finally, after long enough that Hermes startled to hear it. He'd honestly forgotten what they were talking about. "It would take more than a lyre to soothe me. Is it wise to offend me, within my power, so close to what you desire?"

Hermes blinked, and grimaced faintly. Ah. A point, that. They did, after all, stand within Helios' namesake. Helios Station, the headquarters of the EAS, to whom, ultimately, Hermes' answered. Under this guise, at least, the mortal identity he had assumed to be part of this venture. They were his employers, and Helios held greater rank among them. On both mortal and Olympian levels, it was within the titan's power to deny him this. To deny him her, his Talaris, her hope and her terror. His heart had never been set more firmly upon anything, and it was within Helios' power to deny him.

And yet. Yet. There was neither fury nor vengeance on the titan's face. Neither glee nor determination. Instead, while Hermes frowned at him, there was ... something odd. Something open and empty. Something strange.

"It's all right," Helios said softly. "It's all right, it wasn't a threat. I won't keep you, Hermes. Not from this. It is ... something worthy of you, at last." He paused, and smiled faintly, oddly. "You were always our messenger. Who better than you to venture into the unknown, the mysteries beyond even my sight?" He shook his head. "It is time to go beyond ourselves, I think. We have become old. Calcified. A collection of old cruelties. Even mortals outstrip us now. It's time. It has to be time. Let us go beyond the bounds. Let us see what's waiting there."

His voice shook. Echoed, boomed, something vibrating at the bottom of it. Passion. Terror. Hope. Hermes stared at him. Helios stared back, his true self bleeding through his guise, a watchful, waiting, burning figure. An ancient thing, shining and desperate. Hermes felt his heart leap in his chest. He felt his grin stretch wild and laughing across his face.

"Go on, thief," the titan whispered, standing fierce and firm upon his namesake. "Go, messenger. Go, traveller. Go see what is to be seen. Go carry the mortals there. Witness them. Watch over them. And then, when it is done ... however it ends, conductor of souls, bring them home to us again. Hermes Hodios Psychopompos. By whatever means are necessary, return to us when it is done. I will watch for you. I will wait."

By whatever means necessary. By whatever paths must be travelled. Yes. Yes it had to be him. Alone of all of them, it had to be him. He alone might venture and return, might bring his crew back where all others might fail. It might be Helios who greeted them, or Hades, but it would be Hermes' aegis under which they flew, and Hermes' hand by which they might be guided back. None other. None better. It was always meant to be him.

He turned, then. Turned back to her, to his ship, his ugly, ungraceful collection of fears and hopes and terrors. To the EAS Talaris, his cradle and his demise. His smile was soft upon his face. His heart was fully and happy in his chest.

"Though greatly we fail," he murmured, laughing softly to himself. "Though greatly we fail, more greatly we dare. Oh yes. Yes. Watch us, please, Panoptes. Watch us until the last. And then wait, and wait, and watch us again."

"Until the last," agreed the titan at his back, warm and wild and eternal. "To the last and beyond. Never fear, thief. You have my word. I shall have my eye upon you."

Hermes laughed, nodded. "Well then," he said. "Well. I shall endeavour to make us a sight worth seeing, old friend. You have my word in turn."

It was time, Helios had said. It was time to go beyond themselves. It was time to venture where no one had ventured before, to wander paths untravelled and witness sights unseen. It was time to put wings upon their feet and pitch themselves blindly into the void. Yes. Yes, all of that. It was time to be something new, and mighty, and terrified. It was time to be gods once more, hand in hand with mortal venturers.

It was time ... to be a sight worth seeing, once again. His word on it. His promise.

His hope.


A/N: For reference, the wikipedia pages for Talaria, Hermes, Helios, Phaethon.
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