Of Thorns and Lightning

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The Compound

“There had to be some kind of mistake. She couldn’t be Thor.”

♦️

Maize and Meaghan were just settling into their new rooms for the first night they would be spending at the compound. They still had a few questions about the logistics and permanency of it all, but it was made absolutely clear that this is where they would be living, and those roles are the roles they would be assuming. Their rooms were spacious and completely furnished but minimalist, the color scheme was black, gray and white. It looked cold; it had never been lived in before. Meaghan looked at the bright side of that and made sure she and Maize would decorate a little bit to add their own personal flair to the rooms and a little bit of color. Meaghan didn’t want anything else but to be Dike; she was rattled from the day but stoked to be there. Maize would definitely need some more time to settle in and get used to everything.

They knew that William and Artemis were already with them, but later that week each initiate was asked to introduce themselves to the current Gods individually, then they would start working with their God in personal sessions. Meaghan was second to last, then Maize was last. Thor was not yet at the compound, leaving her a little further behind the curve than everyone else.

After her meet-and-greet, Meaghan seemed cheerful. Maize knew that later that night, Meaghan would come into her room and talk about every detail of Dike, the legendary Dike. Maize didn’t feel the same. Her way of adjusting wasn’t doing her any favors, and she had to get used to her new environment before she started enjoying any part of this experience. Maize also knew that she couldn’t postpone her meeting time with the Gods, but she was terrified and nervous to meet the actual people that saved Manhattan not too long ago and are international heroes.

She didn’t feel like she belonged with them yet, or even like she would ever belong with them.

She took the elevator up to the common room where she met all the other initiates and paused before swiping her key card and entering. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and straightened her clothes, gathering her thoughts and preparing herself as much as she could before she had faced Dike, Menoetius, Diana, Hecate, all the Gods she had not yet met. She walked into the room and their quiet conversations stopped, their eyes turning to her.

“This is our new Thor! I like her already, you know.” Diana said, her tone light and friendly. She cracked a little bit of a smile. “She already seems right for it,” Diana added.

“Hi, I’m Maize, and as Diana just said, I am Thor’s eventual replacement.” She greeted generally.

“Say your full name, Maize.” Dike requested, not sure where he had heard that name before.

“Uh, Maize Grace Leto.” She responded. The room went silent. It seemed like every God that didn’t know her profile stopped what they were doing and turned towards each other, whispering about her.

She’s a Leto?! Yeah. No one ever was allowed to talk about her. We didn’t know why.

“Leto, Leto...... let me see.... and you’re not Jared’s kid?” William said as if he were thinking his thoughts out loud. He had previously asked her if he knew her from somewhere, he was searching his brain for something. He too was piecing the bits of the puzzle together.

“Positive.” She answered. “I get that a lot.” She also wondered why he was asking this just now when he was with her when she signed the mountains of paper. How did he not know her full name and her entire history already?

Jason then chimed in.

“Leto, the Titan goddess and lover to Zeus. She gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on the island Delos after all the lands had rejected her.”

“Thank you, Jason, but not the Leto I’m looking for.” William said, and when it clicked, he kicked himself that it took him this long to make the connection. Maize stood still during this time. William seemed to analyze her just with a gaze, until Thor broke it with a question.

“You do know why we picked you, right?”

“Absolutely not. That’s why I’m having such a hard time with this.” She answered truthfully.

“Oh, okay.” He said before turning to Dike and quietly asking to the side, “is this like telling a kid they’re adopted, or...?”

“What? What’s going on?” She asked, now on edge.

“Okay, we didn’t want to have to do this right now but, Maize, do you know both of your parents were part of the Assembly?” William asked, more confident in her identity.

“Um, no! That’s not possible! Nobody knows if the Assembly even exists. It’s a myth.”

“I said were.” William corrected. “And they’re more real than ever, albeit exclusive and secluded.”

Maize rebutted.

“My dad lives in Washington Heights and I live with my mom in Flushing, nice and peacefully. They’re not members of anything. Listen, I promise you, you’ve got the wrong girl. I’m not who you’re looking for. Sorry for the trouble-” Maize denied, turning around towards the door.

“Maize, wait!” William said, jogging after her. “I didn’t mean to scare you off. But believe it or not, this is real. We didn’t make any mistakes in choosing you. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you’re comfortable here, okay? I promise. You’ve already signed the papers so whatever you need, I can get it for you.”

“This is all happening so fast, there’s just too much information I’m being fed here, I just don’t understand.” She said, completely flustered.

“Meaghan is your perfect hero, there’s no doubt about that there; she saves puppies in thunderstorms. Me? I don’t think I’m as noble as you cut me out to be. I don’t have any special powers and I can’t rule a planet. I’m not the number one in the nation of anything, I’m just a regular human that can’t possibly be the prophetic replacement for Thor. I don’t think I can give you what you expect from me. I’m sorry.” She explained, walking out the doors. It was only a matter of seconds before she walked back in looking frustrated and upset.

“I was going to leave but this place is really complicated, and I don’t know where I’m going, and I already got lost.”

“Alright, I’ll help you make a dramatic exit.” William offered, leading her out and back to her room. He let her alone to process all of the information she had already taken on.

“If you need anything, just call.”

Later that evening, Maize didn’t come down for dinner. She didn’t talk to anybody and she didn’t even bother doing any research on her own yet. Just in a matter of hours she had been completely relocated to a new home with new people and she felt like it was all way above her pay grade. William understood this and wanted to help her understand what was going on, realizing she was upset, and he tried his best to be sensitive. It wasn’t ever his best strength; not in his life, not with his daughter, but he always tried.. He knocked on her bedroom door at about nine that night. She groaned him permission to come in and he stood in the doorway.

“Hey. If you’re up to it, I want to show you something.” He said quietly. She hesitantly got up and gathered herself. It was time she went and stretched her legs, anyway. She couldn’t even bother to ask where they were going, she just followed William and hoped for the best. The first thing he spoke to be the Artificial Intelligence system he had designed for his mansion and the compound.

“Jason, give Ms. Leto unrestricted access on her security card. Not all-around, no-questions-asked access like mine, just assign her top-tier clearance that the Gods get.” William instructed. Jason complied.

“Why did you do that?” Maize asked as they continued down the hallway.

“Well if you’re anything like your parents, I know you’ll like to wander and explore the compound as well as give you some quiet places to hide that only you have access to and none of the other trainees do. Sometimes your room just isn’t enough when you need to be alone.” He started.

“The entire library and files room are open to you to read what you’d like. Anything you can ever imagine about us is in there and if you can’t find it, Jason can. Some of the files are confidential and you won’t have access to those, but I learned from working alongside your mom- and with the flash drive incident a little while ago- that if you have access to something instead of locking it behind walls, you’ll be less likely to cause trouble trying to break in and get it.”

“Why me? Those other kids have connections, too. It’s not just me. And I don’t understand why you keep talking about my parents like you know them, I barely even do!”

“Your parents are legends. Long story short, okay? They saved my life a couple times, and I know them and trust them. I don’t have a shred of doubt in my mind they raised you right, which is why you’re best fitted to be Thor. But I trust you just as much as I trust Anne and David, Maize. I don’t want you to feel like you’re trapped here, either. What’s mine is yours, Ms. Leto.” He concluded as they finally approached an unmarked room with a keycard swipe plate. He swiped her newly updated card and opened the door for her.

“What is all this?”

“This is part of the Gods library. I had Jason organize everything about your parents on the MacBook in the middle. I figured you’d want to know since we all do, you’re clueless and it’s killing you. Take your time, don’t try to soak it all up at once. If you need anything, ask Jason to bring it to you, but don’t be afraid to get me. Have fun.” He said, handing her key card to her and letting the door close behind him as he walked away.

Maize slowly walked further into the room. It couldn’t have been the entire library, that had to be huge. This must have been the annex, the old records room off the library. Yet, nothing looked old. Even so, everything was new and modern. She slowly approached the laptop sitting on the table in the middle of the room, just like William said it would be.

“Hi Jason. It’s Maize Leto.” She greeted softly, not sure where to talk. She copied William and spoke into thin air as if she was having a conversation with herself.

“Hello, Ms. Leto. No need to introduce yourself, I’ve already committed you to my memory. What can I help you with?”

“Turn down the lights a little, please?” She requested and Jason made the lighting dimmer and warmer. Maize took the laptop off the table and sat with it on her lap in one of the large chairs as she opened it. The screen glowed to life and her keycard granted her access to the files listed on the computer. She took a deep breath and opened the first document, preparing herself for whatever she might see.

She saw everything.

Some things startled her and hurt her and made her angry, but she couldn’t find it in herself to tear herself away. She couldn’t bring herself to stop. She was sucked in and reading as if this was the only chance she would get to find out about herself, her parents and the past. This was her time machine and she didn’t know how long she would have to use it. Time flew by and it turned out that she didn’t know the parents she grew up with anymore, but she better understood herself by the time the sun rose.

Every file had been read.
She shut down the laptop and got off the couch. She opened the door and found herself in the hallway, but she stopped walking as it felt like the journey grew longer with every passing step.

She had lost her direction once again.
William was there to help her.

“Did you get any sleep?” William asked.

“No. I didn’t listen to you and tried to soak up all the files all at once.”

“Why doesn’t anybody ever listen to me?! I say relevant and smart things most of the time!”

“But I’ve heard that you needlessly jabber a lot, and no one can ever tell if you’re talking to your computer lovechild, to yourself or us. Sometimes we zone you out until we hear some key words.”

“You know, you look just like your mom but you’re as much of an honest smartass as your dad.”

“I don’t want to hear about my parents anymore, William!” She exclaimed, his comment hitting a nerve. ”I don’t know my dad!”

He backed off. Maize knew she needed to ask the question that was itching at the back of her mind, no matter how much it could potentially hurt her. It was her fatal flaw.

“William, I need to ask you something.”

“Okay, go ahead. I don’t know if I’ll have the answer, but try me.”

“Did I ever have any other choice for my life, or was I meant to be a God since the day I was born?”

“No. You didn’t ever have any other choice.” He admitted softly, knowing she needed a straight answer. She nodded, trying to accept it.

“I know it’s every kid’s dream to be Dike or Thor, but William, I don’t want this. I don’t think I ever wanted this. And I think it’s wrong I never had a choice.” She said, walking off in tears.

“I’m sorry I made it worse. I thought I was doing the right thing.” William apologized, not sure if she could hear him or would even want to listen. She did and turned back around to face him. This wasn’t on William. This was on her.

“You did the right thing, William. I’m not angry at you. I just can’t do this.”

“If you really, really don’t want this, I can arrange to get you out. Even though you’re the chosen one and all, you fulfill the prophecy to save the world, we can get somebody else.”

“Thank you! Take your keycard back, and I’ll get my things and go.”

Maize went up to her room in a sudden and unexpected storm, alarming Meaghan. She set her book aside and perked up, knowing something was wrong. Maize was already packing her bags.

“Maize, what are you doing?!”

“I’m going home!” She exclaimed. “I can’t do this, Meaghan!”

“Okay, slow down. Explain!” She said, jumping off the bed and approaching Maize.

“This, this is all I was ever born to be! I’m part of a project made exactly for this, solely to be the next generation of gods. I didn’t ever have a choice to be who I wanted to be, Meaghan! I don’t want this!”

“Slow down, girl! Let’s think this through and not do anything crazy while you’re upset, okay!”

“I know who I am and what I want, and I know I don’t want this. Trust me; now more than ever, I need you to trust me.” Maize explained once again, grabbing her bag of things and getting ready to leave. Meaghan knew that there was nothing stopping her from leaving. She had made up her mind, and there was no place for her to try and stand in her way.

William escorted her out, getting her settled into the backseat of his Mercedes S-Class and sending the car off with his personal driver back to her home. Artemis stood by him in the doorway, watching the car roll down the long path down to the main road.

“Are you going to just let her walk away like that?” Artemis asked.

“Yep. This is what she wanted. She needed to go home. I should have known this approach wouldn’t have worked on everybody. She just needs some time. But I know she’ll have to come back. She’s about to change immensely, and the only safe place for her is here.”

“But you told her you would find somebody else.”

“Everybody lies, Artemis.”

There was a pause before either one of them spoke again.

“Hundred bucks, she’s back within a week.” Artemis proposed a bet.

“Nah, it’ll be longer than that, Artemis. It’s on.” William responded.

“It’s a bet, William. I want a single, crisp hundred-dollar bill, with the shiny gold detailing on the numbers. I’m making it easy, I could ask for it in consecutive, untouched one-dollar bills.”

“Don’t get cocky yet, Artemis. This is only just the beginning.”

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