- Dr. Zeus Inc.
According to the stories, Dr. Zeus operates from the 24th century, using technologies of time travel and immortality to exploit the past for commercial gain. The immortality technology is limited to taking young children and turning them into cyborgs. The time travel technology only allows journeys into the past, and returns to the present. No artifacts or people can be brought forward from their own times. In addition, the technology is expensive and dangerous for normal humans to use.
History, or at least recorded history, cannot be changed. Dr. Zeus cannot save Lincoln, warn the Titanic, prevent the sack of Rome, or stop the burning of the Library at Alexandria. It can take valuable artifacts thought to be lost in these and other events, hide them and 'rediscover' them in the future. However, even without the dangers of time travel, Dr. Zeus' employees hate the past. By their time, all stimulants and narcotics are illegal, vegetarianism is compulsory, and they are disease- and dirt-phobic. They find the past's inhabitants disgusting.
To carry out its mission, Dr. Zeus sends its employees far into human prehistory, where they take children from Neanderthal and modern human families and give them the immortality treatment. These individuals are then promised a bright future in the 24th century, in exchange for working for the Company till then. Their job is to preserve cultural artifacts, valuable plants, and endangered species, hiding them in safe places till the Company can 'recover' them in the future. The cyborgs will get to the 24th century the old-fashioned way, by living through the intervening millennia. Along the way they can create others to help them, using children who would otherwise die and not affect history. They are also provided with many recordings of future culture, entertainment, and a carefully edited view of history. Dr. Zeus alone knows everything that will happen up till the 24th century.
As the series progresses, it becomes apparent that the Dr. Zeus story is itself a fiction. How they came by their technology, and how long the Company has really existed, is an unfolding mystery. Furthermore, not even Dr. Zeus knows what happens after July 9, 2355; although it is possible to send messages to the past, there is nothing from beyond that date. This is known as the Silence, and is a source of dread to both Company people and cyborgs.
- 1 Origin of Dr. Zeus Inc.
- 2 Major characters
- 3 Cabals and conspiracies
- 4 Homo umbratilis
- 5 The Great Goat Cult
- 6 Company locations
- 7 Cyborg anatomy
- 8 Paradoxes
- 9 Theobromos
- 10 Names
- 11 Events the Company caused or exploited
- 12 Notes
Origin of Dr. Zeus Inc.
The story of the Company's origin evolves through the sequence of novels and short stories. As told in the introductions to In The Garden of Iden and Sky Coyote, the Company was founded in the 24th century by scientists and businessmen who developed both the immortality process and time travel. This theory is backed up by the mortal Bugleg who, in Sky Coyote, claims to have developed "Pineal Tribrantine 3", an artificial hormone which keeps the cyborgs youthful.
Towards the end of Mendoza in Hollywood, Mendoza gleans enough from historical records to realize that the Company has, operating under various names, been active on Santa Catalina Island for some time in history. Exiled to that island in the distant past, she is instructed to await the arrival of technologically advanced humanoids and inform the Company when their technology reaches a certain level. At this point, she believes, Company operatives will arrive from the future, kill all the humanoids and hide their technology to be "discovered" later.
Further clues appear in The Graveyard Game when Lewis, attempting to discover Mendoza's location after her disappearance, stumbles across a secret society in Victorian England called "The Gentlemen's Speculative Society". This is the most recent in a series of secret societies, apparently dating back to ancient Egypt, dedicated to discovering advanced technology and exploiting it for profit. The successor to the Society is a company known to be an early cover for Dr. Zeus Inc. The first incarnation of these societies, in Egypt, was started by none other than the Facilitator Joseph, Lewis's friend and partner in the search for Mendoza.
At the beginning of The Life of the World to Come it is revealed that Sir Francis Drake discovered a cache of secret documents and mysterious potions and gadgets on Santa Catalina in the 16th century. He then gave the discovery to the alchemist John Dee, a member of one of the secret societies.
In the final book, the artificial intelligence known as "Zeus" is created in the 24th century, in an attempt to counter the powerful AI owned by Alec Checkerfield. Since "Zeus" has access to all the Company's information and the time travel technology, it effectively existed before its creation. This fact is underscored by the delivery, minutes after the activation of the AI, of a communications terminal in the shape of the god Zeus, ordered a few years previously. At this point, it can be argued, the Zeus AI intervened in history to ensure its own creation in the 24th century, instructing its operatives to carry out those activities which produce the history already known to have happened.
The immortality process, taking place as it does in early childhood, results in an individual who matures into a young adult and remains that way forever. "Facilitators" resort to makeup and prosthetics in order to appear to be older for their roles, but others appear as they always have. The Botanist Mendoza, for instance, appears to be approximately 19 years old despite having lived for thousands of years during her life and exile in the distant past. Joseph is described as "seeming to be about 35" (The Graveyard Game), indicating that Facilitators may have their "natural" ages set higher for their roles.
Preservers are the main agents of the Company, specialists in different types of artifacts.
- Mendoza: a female cyborg, a botanist recruited from the dungeons of the Inquisition in 16th century Spain.
- Lewis : a male cyborg, a literature specialist taken as a baby in Roman times.
- Kalugin : a male cyborg, tasked with preserving the contents of shipwrecks by accompanying them to the bottom of the ocean, dropping into fugue state, and awaiting eventual rescue. Husband of fellow immortal Nan d'Araignee.
Facilitators and Security Techs
These operatives lay the groundwork for the Preservers and keep them in line. They are masters of disguise and deceit.
- Joseph : 20,000 years old as a cyborg, he is from what is now the Basque region of Spain. He recruited Mendoza and is, in his own mind, her father.
- Porfirio : a first-generation mestizo, his mother having been an Aztec, and his father a Conquistador. In exchange for doing the Company's dirty work, he is allowed to maintain contact with the descendants of his brother, who was not suitable for recruitment.
Executives run secret Company facilities and implement policy. Some have become intoxicated with power and regard ordinary mortals as a disease to be wiped out.
- Labienus : about 15,000 years old, originally from the location of Jericho in what is now Palestine.
- Aegeus : of unknown age, he runs Eurobase One for millennia. He is Labienus' major rival.
- Suleyman : runs a base in Fez, Morocco. Opposes attempts by other executives to exploit or eradicate mortals.
Enforcers are specially bred cyborgs, created in pre-History from Neanderthal and even stranger hominid stock. They were created as warriors to destroy the prehistoric Great Goat Cult which threatened to prevent History from happening at all.
- Budu : recruited Joseph while killing the Great Goat Cult fanatics who killed Joseph's parents. He also recruited Labienus in prehistory and Victor in Anglo-Saxon Britain.
- Marco : rebels, is captured, and is sent back in time to 300,000 BCE to operate Options Research.
Trying to replace the Enforcers with a breed of mortal who will be easy to control, and not inclined to hang around forever, the Company genetically engineers a series of identical individuals under the project name Adonai.
- Nicholas Harpole in Elizabethan times, Mendoza's doomed first love.
- Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, a Victorian adventurer and secret agent who encounters Mendoza in California, suffering the same fate as Nicholas.
- Alec Checkerfield, a 24th century rich kid who is able to hijack high-tech data systems, including Company data and a time machine. He also finds Mendoza and she falls for him all over again.
Cabals and conspiracies
With centuries to think about the future, and an unknown fate awaiting them in 2355, it is not surprising that various groups of cyborgs have been conspiring to make sure they come out ahead.
The Plague Club
Since he went rogue in 1099 Budu has apparently been gathering disciples. He was disgusted by the religious wars of medieval times and wished to return humanity to a state where it could be ruled by the Enforcers, who simply kill anyone who makes war on others. This would mean drastically reducing the population. His recruits included Labienus, who with Nennius began researching plagues as a means of carrying out Budu's vision. Budu objected to this, but Labienus may have engineered his downfall and gone ahead anyway, beginning with the Spanish flu epidemic.
The Imperial faction
Cyborgs such as Aegeus enjoy a rich lifestyle, propped up by many mortal servants. They aim to be at the top of the pile with humanity as their slaves. They see themselves as being the real masters of the Company, with mortals such as Bugleg as mere puppets.
Suleyman and his allies aim to frustrate the Plague Club, but also protect the interests of cyborgs against any attempt by the Company to get rid of them, or to place them all in storage.
In the 2350s mortals such as Bugleg, the cowardly, introverted leader of the Company expedition recounted in Sky Coyote, become increasingly concerned that the cyborgs outnumber them and will take over. They attempt to find ways of disposing of the cyborgs, trying poisons etc. In the Eos (Harper Collins) edition of Sky Coyote an epilogue of sorts shows Bugleg's frantic memo to a colleague, followed by Aegeus' sarcastic comments, and Labienus' comment on Aegeus.
Both Joseph and Budu are beyond the Company's control. Joseph revives Budu, but may not like what Budu wants him to do. Meanwhile Alec is a different kind of rogue, with his own time machine.
Homo umbratilis, meaning Man of the Shadows, is the name of a third species of human, after Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. Small, pale and furtive, they hide from all contact with humans and cyborgs. They have racial memory, being born with full recollection of the knowledge of their ancestors. There are hints that they are in fact a hive species, like bees, ants and naked mole rats, except for some hybrids from raids by humans. The hybrids are mechanical and scientific geniuses, and may be the source of the technology that the Company uses. They are not very creative, but can focus intensely on developing something, such as a disrupter field that paralyzes the cyborgs, whom they regard as enemies. Attempts to exploit these creatures, once they come to the attention of the Company, is an important element in the series' plot.
An example of their monomania is that, having originally disabled and captured Lewis in medieval Ireland, after he escapes with mortal help they concentrate on recapturing him until the 23rd century, even though there are other cyborgs around for them to capture and study. It is Lewis' encounter with them that lets Aegeus take advantage of their abilities.
In the final novel, The Sons of Heaven, we learn more about these humans, but their origins and final fate remain obscure. A group headed by a queen female (given the title Quean in the novel) occupies tunnels in an artificial mound known as a "Hill". The Quean is attended by "stupids", the idiot savant workers who can produce technological marvels but are incapable of original thought and have limited communication skills. One of the talents of the Quean is a power of persuasion which can even be used on ordinary humans to compel them to do her bidding. Occasionally a homo sapiens male is kidnapped to become the Quean's consort. The children of this union are hybrids known in the Hill as "Uncles". The Quean can also mate with Uncles, to produce more "stupids". The Uncles, while waiting their turn for her favors, fetch her luxuries from the outside world. Eventually the Quean produces a daughter, who, if she is not killed by her mother first, will grow up to overthrow her with the help of some of the Uncles. The Uncles, like the "stupids", live short lives, a few decades at most. The Quean and her daughters seem to live much longer. All have inbred knowledge called Memory which tells them who they are, and what their role in the Hill is.
Thanks to the Company's own breeding program, mortals such as Bugleg, descended in part from captured Queans, have many of the abilities, and shortcomings, of the Homo umbratilis males.
The Great Goat Cult
This cultural movement is referred to frequently within the novels. The main points that can be gleaned about it are that it was a cult among humans, the main object of which was to wipe out unbelievers. Cult members covered their bodies in tattoos. Unbelievers consisted of anyone who refused to be tattooed, anyone who created any other kind of art (like Joseph's father, a cave painter), and anyone unwilling to join in the killing. The cult seems to have existed for thousands of years across Eurasia and possibly Africa. Joseph's tribe in the Basque region of Spain was wiped out by it circa 18,000 BCE, as was Labienus's village in the Middle East 5000 years later.
From the point of view of the Company in the 24th century, the Cult was impeding the start of civilization. The Enforcers were created to destroy the Cult. Possibly because of their small numbers, a few thousand at most, this seems to have taken them thousands of years.
Despite relatively low numbers, in their many thousands of years of existence the cyborgs build several elaborate facilities which serve as starting points for missions, and gathering points for new recruits. Preservers deliver their findings to these locations for storage. Incidentally, these facilities also serve as power bases for high-ranking cyborgs, known as Executive Facilitators.
Possibly the oldest facility, this is remembered by some, including Joseph, as once being nothing more than a stockade. By the third century CE it is an elaborate and luxurious facility run by Aegeus, where he experiments with hybrids of humans and Homo umbratilis. It is located in the Cevennes mountains of France.
In contrast, this appears to be nothing more than a large house in Holland, run for centuries by Executive Facilitator Van Drouten, serving as a collection point for Dutch art and artifacts. The house is located on the Herengracht canal in Amsterdam.
Located somewhere in the Canadian Arctic, this is Labienus' power base. In Sky Coyote the Chumash tribe were transplanted to this base where they worked for the Company doing menial jobs.
New World One
This base existed in the jungle of the Yucatan for hundreds of years before being dismantled in 1701. Its human servants were rescued sacrifices from the Mayan culture. Having been sacrificed, they believed themselves to be in Heaven, serving the gods. The head of New World One styled himself as the god Kukulcan. The last such was the fey and feckless Houbert, who seemed to prefer elaborate social events to the business of running a base.
This was an underground training base somewhere in the Australian desert, where Mendoza received her immortality treatment and education.
Located on an island in 500,000 BCE, this is a storehouse for all the genetic material used by the Company in creating its servants and Project Adonai, according to The Machine's Child. Since the Company could not trust a cyborg with the store, it is overseen by a 24th century mortal, David Reed. To protect his sanity, he has been "cyborged" so that he lives in a Virtual Reality world which duplicates an office in London, complete with virtual colleagues. An Artificial Intelligence looks after his needs, but the AI has developed an emotional attachment to David. The virtual office may be a projection of a real office located on a hidden floor of a building in 24th century London.
The island of Santa Catalina is the hub around which all of the mysteries of the Company revolve. Settled by strange, pale humanoids in about 150,000 BCE, it seems to be the repository of the secrets which make the Company's activities possible. In the 24th century it is the home of the Company's main database, which Alec and his AI companion The Captain raid, stealing both data and a time shuttle, setting them off on their career as time-traveling pirates sworn to destroy the Company.
The discovery of artifacts on the island by Sir Francis Drake's crew serves as the critical event that a secret society, based in England, uses to transform itself into the cabal which eventually reveals itself as Dr. Zeus, Inc. in the 24th century. Naturally the Company goes to great effort to maintain possession of the island as much as recorded history allows. Actual history records that in the 19th century much of the island was owned by a syndicate which included the Banning family and the father of General George S. Patton. In the stories the Company buys up their holdings to protect its hidden resources in the island's interior.
Mount Olympus HQ
Appearing in Mendoza in Hollywood and The Graveyard Game, this is a house on Zeus Drive off Mount Olympus Drive above Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Los Angeles. The location described corresponds to a real cul-de-sac. The house is equipped with a "time transcendence" chamber to send people and objects through time.
The stated reason for the existence of this facility is "monitoring the Lookout Mountain Avenue anomaly", apparently a source of paranormal phenomena located nearby. The area has a history, real and imagined, of attracting unusual people, as well as artists, musicians etc.
Mentioned in passing in the stories are Edobase (old Tokyo), Greenland Base, Antioch (as an underground way station in 1099 CE), London Station etc. In the novel In The Garden of Iden, Joseph, Mendoza and the rest of the team ride a Company-built subway system which "connects all parts of England" during the Tudor period. The ride is safe but uncomfortable, the carriages being small and boxlike. The maximum speed is about that of a fast stagecoach, but without the risk of being robbed, or in the case of cyborgs pretending to be Spaniards, attacked by enraged mobs. The method of propulsion is not revealed.
All the bones in the human skeleton are replaced by "ferroceramic steel" in the cyborgs. Joints are replaced by "linkages", such as ball joints. The remaining tissues are pervaded by "nanobots" which use the original DNA of the human to regenerate any damaged organs. This is one of the reasons only young children can receive the treatment, since (according to the stories) DNA degrades beginning at birth.
Cybernetic implants in the brain give the cyborgs advanced abilities and senses, such as perfect memory, encyclopedic knowledge, instant learning, enhanced vision and hearing, multi-spectral scanning, and radio communication. Other implants tap into their senses and broadcast them to monitoring stations, so that Security Techs can always know what their charges are doing. The cyborgs can recognize, understand, and speak any known human language instantly, including local variants and dialects. Their lingua franca is called "Cinema Standard", presumably the English spoken in 20th century movies, with which most Company operatives are obsessed.
Special organs release chemicals such as "Pineal Tribrantine 3" or PT3, which confers youth and vigor. Cyborg muscles are much stronger than the human equivalent. Their bodies are also capable of "hyperfunction" which allows them to carry out actions at many times normal speed.
Unknown to most cyborgs, their bodies are also equipped to go into a "fight mode" where their hands become claws, their eyes gain protective covers, and their mouths sprout fangs. The skin drains of color in this mode, and they resemble a white demon. Normally psychological conditioning prevents them from entering a fight, but several stories, such as "The Hotel at Harlan's Landing" involve high-speed fights between rival cyborgs.
As is revealed in The Machine's Child the final line of defense for the Company's immortal agents is a "time-transcendence" field in the brain-case. With the brain "a split-second out of phase" with real time the brain case is, in effect, impenetrable. In addition the time field seems to be able to bend reality in order to preserve the brain, as Marco finds out when he tries to destroy some heads in a white-hot fire-pit, only to have them re-appear in the stores where he had previously kept them. This "time field" is probably also necessary for the cyborgs to perform their outrageous feats of speed.
Described as a blue glow occurring around certain places and persons, this is supposedly the source of paranormal abilities in humans and cyborgs. The tendency to emit Crome's radiation can be measured, according to the novel Sky Coyote, and the Company's standards forbid recruiting individuals with more than minimal Crome potential. Joseph, confronted with Mendoza's measured potential several hundred times the maximum, persuaded the technician making the measurement to fudge the number so she could be recruited, rather than send her back into the dungeons of the Inquisition to be tortured and killed.
According to Mendoza in Hollywood, materials such as quartz can accumulate Crome's radiation little by little, from the tiny amount emitted by all living things, until their entire charge is suddenly released, resulting in visions, time distortions, messages from the dead etc. It is a large body of quartz beneath the intersection of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Lookout Mountain Avenue which causes so much abnormality in that location, up to and including sending Mendoza and her companion forward in time from 1863 to 1996. This body of quartz is supposedly also tied to old Native American folk tales about the trickster god Coyote stealing the moon and burying it in Laurel Canyon.
The origin of the name is not explained in the stories.
These are endemic in time-travel stories, and usually provide the main plot twist. From the beginning of the Company stories, it is apparent even to Dr. Zeus that, in exploiting so-called recorded history, they may be responsible for history turning out the way it did, beginning with annihilating the Great Goat Cult so History as we know it could begin. As character after character turns against the Company, they are still unable to break free, their actions only making events turn to Dr. Zeus' advantage. But did the Company engineer their rebellion, or simply benefit from it? Is Dr. Zeus manipulating events, or just making sure that what is known to have happened does happen, to safeguard its own destiny? Only the things Dr. Zeus doesn't already know about can hurt it, but what does Dr. Zeus not know?
Throughout the stories, the cyborgs mention "theobromos" as their narcotic of choice. In fact this is simply chocolate. Having been rendered immune to all known human diseases, and being largely unaffected by alcohol and other drugs, since their bodies quickly reprocess such chemicals into harmless forms, the cyborgs react to theobromos as humans might to alcohol or marijuana. The name is derived from theobromine, one of the stimulants found in the seeds of the cacao plant, although that itself takes its name from the Greek words for "food of the gods". Naturally the cyborgs have developed their own varieties of the plant which are especially intoxicating.
Over-indulgence brings on a hangover which has to be treated with large amounts of complex carbohydrates, such as pizza or fettuccine alfredo. The humans who run the Company do not like their servants intoxicating themselves, but are powerless to prevent them from doing so.
Theobromos provides a thread of humor, sometimes ironic, which runs through the stories. Examples include:
- Joseph and Lewis go on a binge at Ghirardelli's in San Francisco, Joseph at one point snorting cocoa powder like cocaine (The Graveyard Game). In The Machine's Child Alec and Mendoza visit the same place shortly after Joseph and Lewis have left. The staff are still cleaning up.
- Later in The Graveyard Game, Joseph and Lewis go on a buying spree at Rowntrees in York, England.
- Suleyman's protege Latif secretly runs a highly profitable black-market in theobromos out of Eurobase Five, until operatives from Central America come to complain about him undercutting them. (The Children of the Company)
- Mendoza's tragic confession in Mendoza in Hollywood is obtained with the help of 5 kilograms of "finest Guatemalan" theobromos.
- In the same novel, Mendoza's companion Einar eats "cakes of theobromos" one after the other in order to stay calm as they explore Laurel Canyon, where time distortions surround them with visions of past and future events.
- Security Tech Porfirio is armed with a tranquilizer, "based on theobromos", to help him subdue rogue cyborgs (Gods and Pawns).
Events the Company caused or exploited
This list only includes events in known history, or myth. Future exploits by the Company are described in the books.
- The disappearance of the Ninth Legion in Roman England. In The Graveyard Game it was revealed that the Ninth was wiped out by Brigantes, who were in turn killed by Enforcers travelling with the Legion. Joseph was there as coordinator. Nennius supervised the cleanup. No trace of the battle was left.
- The expedition of Sir Francis Drake. Part of the temporal paradox that creates the Company involves a discovery of artifacts by Drake's men on the island of Santa Catalina. In fact it is not known exactly where, or indeed if, Drake landed in California. Accounts that have him landing at the location known as Drake's Bay may be false. It is possible he landed in what is now Oregon. Drake, in the stories, is working partly for John Dee, who already has some artifacts in his possession. One of Drake's men happens to have been a witness to Nicholas Harpole's martyrdom.
- The San Francisco earthquake. As recounted in The Children of the Company, this was a major operation to coordinate snatching many different items immediately before the earthquake and the subsequent fires. There was also a "Dance on the Eve of Destruction" party set up by the cyborgs, partly to say goodbye to the vibrant 19th century city that was about to be destroyed.
- In The Children of the Company Labienus is present when Carthage is destroyed and its population enslaved, fulfilling recorded history and ensuring the dominance of Rome. Part of the Roman justification for the conquest is that Ba'al Hammon, the Carthaginian deity, is Kronos, whom Zeus defeated.
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