Death in the Family
TJ stood on the deck of his personal cruiser. He was the only person on the deck. In fact, he was the only one on the whole ship. The rest of the crew had died years ago, all shortly after he had joined them. He hadn’t done it on purpose, but… well, these things happened around him.
The vessel he had been following for the past 30 light years was stalled in front of him, as he had expected it to. He hadn’t done it. These things just happened around him and when these things happened, TJ helped himself to their stuff. He would have tried to help, but he knew from experience that his help only caused them to die faster.
The things that happened around TJ were strange, but then, TJ lived in a strange universe. You could walk down the street, get sucked into a random wormhole, and end up across the galaxy. You could enter light speed the wrong way and go back in time. You could even meet gods. It had only been about 70 years since the Greek gods had come down from Olympus, declaring that they were tired of hiding. Asgard followed suit shortly after, then Takama-ga-hara and Mount Meru. Soon all the pantheons were doing it, even places like Tartarus, Xibalba, and Hel.
A chime from the dash panel surprised TJ. He was being hailed? He tapped the screen to respond. “This is TJ,” he said, “captain of Death’s Chariot. Um… why are you calling?”
“My name is Doctor Jameson,” was the reply. “I am the resident physician on The Atet. We have suffered critical failure of most systems, including life support. I am here with a patient and I believe we are the only survivors. I don’t think we have more than an hour of breathable air left.”
“OK, I’m docking,” TJ said. “Which port should I pull into?”
Soon, TJ was pulling up alongside the Atet. It was a massive vessel, especially compared to TJ’s little cruiser, but he managed to find the port. When the airlock opened, TJ found himself looking down a long, white corridor. A prematurely grey-haired man stood at the door, looking anxious.
“Thank you for coming,” Jameson said. “Excuse me for not shaking your hand. I’m a germaphobe.”
TJ was happy to not shake the man’s hand. Things often happened around TJ and shaking hands was one of the surest way to make them happen.
“My name is TJ,” TJ said. “I’m kind of a scavenger.”
Jameson led TJ a short way down the corridor before opening a door into what must have once been the medical bay. Many of the beds had fallen over and medical instruments had been strewn about the room. However, on one of the upright beds sat a girl. She was very pregnant but was surprisingly beautiful. She looked to be around her early twenties. TJ groaned on the inside, knowing that this girl would be dead soon. Things happened around him, even when he really didn’t want them to.
“Hi, I’m TJ,” he told her. He made no mention of her imminent death. Why ruin the last moments of her life with that knowledge?
“Iduna,” she replied, stretching out a hand to shake his.
Why would she do that?
TJ reached out and took her hand. He didn’t want to do it, but he wasn’t going to fight it. If it wasn’t the handshake, it would be something else. He shook her hand firmly and waited for the inevitable.
“Hello?” Iduna said. “Are you still here?”
“What?” TJ said, looking at Iduna’s hand. There was no glove but… “How are you still alive?”
“Just lucky, I guess,” she said, though looking away quickly.
“Did you say your name was Iduna?” TJ asked.
“That’s another name for Idunn, right? You know, uh…”
“The Norse goddess of Life,” she said interrupting him. “Yeah. It is.”
“Now, I know it’s very common to be named after gods and goddesses ever since all the pantheons came out into the open…” TJ started but trailed off. He was not good at talking. To be fair, his conversations never lasted this long. Usually people died by this point. Jameson looked like he was about to. He was sitting on one of the few upright beds and was looking extremely pale. Iduna seemed to notice this too because she stood up, waddled over to Jameson, and put her hand on his forehead. Though he immediately passed out, the color returned to his skin.
“I’m sorry, I believe you were quoting an encyclopedia entry,” Iduna said. Was she really going to make him ask it?
“It’s, well, you know… there are a few reasons to be named after someone.” TJ paused for a response that didn’t come. “So, my name is TJ. That’s short for Thanatos Jr.”
“Oh!” she said with her eyes suddenly wider. “That’s the Greek god of death, right? I’ve never actually met another demigod.”
“So, you’re saying you are a demigoddess?” TJ finally asked.
“Yeah, Idunn is my mom,” she admitted sheepishly.
A demigoddess! She was immune to his power! No matter how much time TJ spent around her, she wouldn’t die. That was great because TJ thought he might like to spend a lot of time around her.
“I’m going to ask you a question,” TJ said hesitantly. “I don’t know if it’s rude. People normally die before we have much of a conversation so I’m not really clear on what’s allowed.”
“Go ahead,” she shrugged.
“Where’s your baby’s father?”
Iduna rolled her eyes at this. “I left him on Alpha Centauri b,” she said bitterly. “He was a mistake. I never intended to have his baby but when you’re a demigoddess of life and fertility, abstinence really is the best policy. If just one sperm gets by…” she gestured at her pregnant belly.
“Well,” TJ exclaimed, “I think you and I should start our own pantheon.”
Iduna grinned. “Somehow, that is both the best and worst pickup line I’ve ever heard.”