It was a first true Golden Age. It was a time when gods were commonplace, striding down from Eternolympus and dwelling in the houses of men.

Old Man Zeus, he sought to reign in the amorous goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, by marrying her to Hephaestus, the lame and ugly god of the forge. But Aphrodite would not be so easily controlled and she continued unimpeded, notably becoming involved with Ares, the god of war. Hephaestus knew better than to trust his wife alone, and spied on her. When he angrily confronted Aphrodite with his observations, he found he could not dissuade her from her affair. So he sought his revenge.

He waited until the couple was abed, then released a net onto them. It was a cunningly designed artifice, structured so that the more the couple moved and writhed in their attempts to escape, the closer they were pressed together. Hephaestus summoned the other Eternolympians to witness his wife's adultery, but they only laughed and mocked him for displaying himself as a cuckold, and so blatantly advertising his shame in such a graceless manner.

It was fifteen years ago.

It was First Elmond Bank. A hold-up was in progress ... a crook with a stocking pulled over his head, people lying on the floor with their hands braced behind their heads, worried-looking clerks.

The man with the gun eyed the crowd, nervously. His attention particularly focused on the petite blonde woman dressed in white. She smiled at him, her expression sympathetic, which only seemed to make him more nervous.

The blonde woman stood poised, ready for any sort of movement. Her right hand glowed white. "Look," she continued, "you can see the costume, you can see I'm a superhero, it never works to shoot at super heroes, you know we're all bulletproof like ... Super Soldier."

The man emitted a short laugh, half nervousness and half bravado. "Yeah yeah ... maybe I'll hit a soft spot ... why don't you just give me the money and we'll call it even?"

The woman shook her head as the man narrowed his aim in her direction, "Shooting at me is only going to hurt someone accidentally, and I'm still going to take you in. So why not make it easier on yourself?"

The man with the gun steadied his hand. "It's not me that needs it easy, bitch."

Damn, she thought, diving to one side as his gun went off in her direction. She had spent most of their conversation slowly shifting her position away from the other hostages, making herself the obvious target and drawing fire away from the noncombatants. But she had hoped it wouldn't come down to combat at all.

Her hand moves quickly, a dagger-shaped burst of brilliant white light burst from it, striking the man's gun. He howled in shock, dropping it. Someone screamed.

One of the security guards who had been hanging back in the crowd too advantage of the situation, and grabbed the gunman from behind, forcing him down with his truncheon. "Good job, Miss ... ?"

She blonde woman shook her head, "Dagger ... if you have to call me anything. And no, it was a very bad job actually."

The security guard slapped cuffs on the gunman. "But why ... you captured the bad guy, you stopped him from robbing the bank." He hoisted the gunman to his feet roughly. "Looks like a blazing success to me."

"No," the blonde woman said. "I failed ... I hurt him."

The forces of love and war could not be held back indefinitely, and an Eternolympian's life is long. After a period of time ... was it centuries? Who knows how time passes for legends? Aphrodite and Ares recommenced the affair, trysting again in secret.

Aphrodite and Ares smiled at the intricately designed baubles that appeared on their doorsteps, metal armbands carved with symbols of love and war. How could they not feel their passions enflamed by such a gift? How could they not make plans to meet within the hour?

It was only then they found they could not touch, could not get within a foot of each other. For the god of the forge had grown more canny over the years and his eyes had been everywhere. His canniness was not limited to the technology he had formed; he had grown cleverer still in his dealings with the other gods. It was to their despair that the lovers found they could not even remove the tokens, which had bound to their flesh.

Ares cursed the fates that denied him and his lover satisfaction. But the goddess of love was undeterred, familiar as she was with the many expressions of passion. The gods, she reminded him, have always found satisfaction in living vicariously through the lives of mortals.

Tandy Bowan walked slowly back to her apartment. Despite the chill in the air she was dressed relatively lightly, as if she were warmed by an internal source. Her face was troubled, as she reflected on the past day and on another day, months past.

She was on the run from her family, again. She had met some boy, Tyrone, at the bus stop. He had been kind to her, and seemed even more desperate than she, so she bought herself and Tyrone dinner. She had had more street smarts than to have offered Tyrone money for a place to stay right there in public, but she had felt foolishly safe, being on her own. It didn't take them long after leaving the restaurant to get mugged, her money stolen, and the pair of them kidnapped ... sold like meat to the gangster, Boss Dargo.

He and some scientist were trying to create a new, highly addictive, designer drug that the scientist had developed. Poor Tyrone had died under the drug's effects, along with a lot of other kids. She remembered Hank Hall, alone in the cell with her, weeping over his dead brother, Don. Their dad was some local judge who had tried to oppose Dargo, and the brothers had tried to track down a man who had thrown a bomb into the judge's chambers, and then been captured along with the others. Hank was able to break them out (the window bars were pretty much rusted), and he swam her and himself to safety.

She remembers still the pain coursing through their bodies from the drug as they tried to make their way through the grounds surrounding Dargo's estate. The two of them covered in mud, despair and exhaustion weighing down their every step.

And then that silvery light ... and the woman's voice, more beautiful than any she had ever heard. It offered her healing, and strength to right her wrongs, and love to shield the world. As the light filled her, she looked again at Hank, who looked into the distance, listening intently to his own inner voice, his body illuminated by silver and crimson. She saw for the first time his hawk-like masculine beauty, and marveled at the interplay of the powerful muscles beneath the skintight garment he now wore. Hands trembling, fear and pain gone, she reached out to touch him ...

And in Eternolympus, the gods of love and war looked at each other from across the room, their souls thrilling with the actions of the avatars they created, their hands touching their own bodies as their lovers' could not.