Of Thorns and Lightning

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Mission Possible, Though Terrifying

“The trainee Gods were finally starting to find their rhythm together.”

♦️

Maize came back later that afternoon with the four pizza boxes belted into the passenger’s seat. All the victorious Gods were awaiting her return, practically drooling over the pizzas as Maize got out of the car and carried them inside. Maize put down the pizzas on the counter and William approached Maize, a slight smile on his face and eager to hear her update on the car.

“So, how was it?” He asked. “Do you like it? Does it drive well?” He asked.

“Oh, my God. Let me tell you, there was a bit of a learning curve because I’ve never really driven anything that expensive, powerful and finely tuned. Speed was a slight issue because the gas is so sensitive, and I had started off driving like I would with my old, old car. I was caught off guard for a little bit with the flappy-paddle gearbox, but I got over that pretty quickly. It’s just so nimble, it really reacts. It almost feels alive, but that’s probably because I’m so excited.” Maize explained.

“Perfect. Hey, grab some pizza. You deserve it, our own personal delivery girl.” He said, gesturing over to the boxes of pizza. She grabbed a slice of chicken and broccoli pizza before heading back to her room and finishing up the massive amount of homework that was due at the end of the week. She worked on AP Biology, Psychology and English before attacking AP Calculus BC, which she remembered that Peter had looked at yesterday. She worked through the problems and felt confident, but she still had this inkling of a feeling that she should ask him if he wanted to help her and make sure she got them all right.

After a long period of deliberation, she decided against it. She didn’t want to bother him, he was probably working on other things and didn’t have time to work with her on her homework. He had his own mountain of schoolwork to deal with, and she’d ask him to review the problems with her tomorrow.

It was a long night for Maize, but she didn’t completely confine herself to her room. She walked around the halls reading The Catcher in the Rye so she could stretch her legs and get out of her bedroom, and she settled in the lounge with her MacBook so she could finish and fine-tune her essay that was due at midnight. She pushed her glasses up into her hair as she rubbed her eyes, the sun setting around her as the minutes passed. There was a slow but steady influx of people entering the lounge, getting a snack or watching the sunset, but she didn’t mind them. She diligently kept working, taking the occasional coffee break. As William was walking, he passed the lounge and saw her reading with one hand and typing with the other. He entered the lounge and brewed another cup of coffee for her, putting it down on the table, replacing her empty mug. She noticed but she didn’t break her trance, reminding herself to thank him later.

She finished her English essay and downed the rest of the coffee in the mug that William brought her before she moved on to doing some yoga while reviewing her flashcards for psych. Once her brain had had enough, she returned to her room and put her school things away, nearly done with it all. She took a refreshing shower and changed into a striped crop top, mom jeans and her black high-top Vans before she grabbed her keyring and her journal and made her way down to the basement garage. She thought she would have some relaxing alone-time where she could write in her journal about her feelings, especially those of her father. It was his car, after all, and that struck a chord in her heart, bringing him up again.

She didn’t know how to feel, exactly, mainly because she was feeling everything. She was off the wall’s ecstatic at her new car and grateful to William for giving it to her since it was an extremely generous gift, but even though it came from William in a positive way, it still had so much negativity attached to it. She wanted to work that out, because she wasn’t going to let her dad ruin something that she loved- again, and he kept finding ways to make things hard for her even when he wasn’t around.

She had a lot to think about. She just needed some quiet.

The elevator dropped her off in the basement and she swiped her card to gain access to the garage. The glass doors edged with chrome-finished steel slid open and she stepped inside, the rows of cars laying neatly and quietly. She saw William’s workbench, he had a few pieces and parts laying around but not as many as in his lab in Malibu, California, where it all started. She spotted her car and began walking towards it, but was startled by a loud metallic clang on the table behind her. She jumped a little and turned around to identify where the noise was coming from and why, only to be face to face Talia, who was at one of the workbenches and was tinkering around with parts of her own Thoth suit. She had a screwdriver in one hand, and she had her suit glove on the other, and she was making some adjustments.

“What the hell are you doing down here?! None of this is yours.” Talia asked defensively. Maize held up her keyring, jingling the Maserati fob.

“I’m just going to my car, I’m not bothering you.” Maize answered, clicking the unlock button and the Maserati beeped open, the lights flashing for a brief moment as well. Talia’s face sank in an odd mix between disappointment, shock and even anger.

“You’re kidding right?! My father gave YOU the Maserati?!” She exclaimed in disbelief.

“Well it was my dad’s first, but yeah. It’s mine now.”

“Whatever don’t even think about getting near my Ferrari. If you do, I’m going to kill you.” She responded before looking back down at her suit glove on her lap and Maize knew that Talia was making a real threat. Maize had no doubt in her mind that Talia would kill her, and she would have no remorse over it. Maize kept walking and got into her car, changing her original plan of sitting in it and writing. Instead she started the engine and drove out of the garage.

Suddenly, she had an idea.

She drove around the driveway until she was on the side where Peter’s window was. She got out of the car and tossed pebbles at his window until he came to the window to see her, and then she got in the driver’s seat, rolled down her windows and began driving in slow circles and reciting the lines from the bike scene in Butch Cassidy.

“Your soft, white flesh. All mine, ALL MINE!” She laughed. Peter rolled his eyes.

“What is this, are you insinuating that we’re Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?”

“Hell yeah! Come down, let’s go for a drive!”

“I have homework to finish!”

“So, do I! I just finished most of mine and I need to do something else! Screw it, Peter! Let’s go for a ride.”

He smiled, saying he would be right down. He ducked back inside his window and grabbed his phone and put on some sneakers before using his webs to belay down the side of the building to where Maize and her Maserati were. He hit the ground softly and severed the web, walking around and getting into the passenger’s seat.

“Okay, so if we’re going to do this we’ve got to clarify who’s Butch and who’s the Sundance Kid.” He said, buckling his seatbelt and getting settled.

“Easy, you’re the kid and I’m Butch Cassidy!” Maize responded.

“Alright, I won’t argue on that. Where are we going?”

“Anywhere you want to go, Peter.” Maize smiled, looking over at him.

“Well, we better get going before William catches us.”

“We’re not doing anything wrong! At least not yet.” Maize answered with a devious smirk as she drove out to meet the main road. Peter’s mind could only imagine what Maize meant by that, but he would just have to wait and see what it was as it came his way.

They drove on the quiet residential roads before Maize decided to turn onto the highway where they’d really have some fun. She merged onto I-78 and headed towards the city, not knowing where they would go from there once they reached it. Maize was fortunate enough that she had an E-Zaps to get through the toll booth without having to pay cash or be fined.

“Maize, if you don’t mind me asking, where are we going? I know we started out being destination-less, but do you have any kind of plan now that we’re on the highway?”

“We’re going to the Holland Tunnel, get ready Peter!”

“Ready for what, exactly?” He asked nervously.

“I have a sports car and we’re going through a tunnel, what do you think, Peter?” Maize responded as she rolled down all the windows. The wind rushed through the car and blew everything around, their hair, their clothes.

Peter laughed, the adrenaline flowing through them. Maize downshifted and then accelerated again when she had more space, gunning it so she got to the top of the rev range before she shifted up. His grip on the seat and the door handle loosened as he felt so compelled as to stick his head out the window and really feel it. His shoulders made it out of the car too, but that was as far as he was willing to go in the right lane of the tunnel. He didn’t want to get any closer to the wall, but just feeling the exhilaration of the wind in his hair and cheering into the tunnel as they drove was enough for him.

The tunnel dropped them into lower Manhattan, and Maize was faced with a decision being the driver. They could take a few different routes depending on if they had a specific place in mind, or if they would pick one and drive with it.

“Okay, Peter, where do we go from here?”

“You know, why don’t we go visit my aunt Malorie and your mom?”

“Yeah, I’d like that. Let’s go visit Malorie first!” Maize suggested, knowing the route by heart. Even though she usually took public transportation to get around Queens and Manhattan, she still knew her routes backwards and forwards. May always insisted that she knew how to get to her apartment from everywhere, so she always knew how to come home. Finally, it paid off.

They drove through the city, admiring the lights of the city at night. Even though she had all the power in the world at her fingertips, she drove slowly and purposefully as they made their way to May’s house. Maize parked in their designated apartment space in the garage before the two of them got out of the car. Maize locked up the Maserati and they took the elevator upstairs.

“If I knew we were coming, I would have brought my keys! But it’s okay. Malorie should still be up, if not I know where the spare is.” Peter spoke, realizing he didn’t have his house key on him as they were walking down the hall to the apartment. They stood side by side and Peter knocked on the door, may coming to the door and opening it until the security chain stopped it, displeased that anyone would come knocking at her door at this time of night. That, of course, was before she realized it was Peter and Maize.

“Oh, my God! Come in! My baby, oh my- come here!” Malorie rejoiced, opening the door for them and pulling Peter into a tight embrace. Peter hugged her just as hard in return. Malorie turned to Maize and clasped her face in her hands.

“My, my, Maize! You’ve grown so much in these past few months, you’re just stunning. Wow, it’s so good to see you again! What a pleasant surprise! I did not expect this visit at all. What brings you kids here?”

“Well, we sort of snuck out of the compound and went for a drive in Maize’s Maserati and then I suggested we visit you, and here we are!”

“I’m so glad you’re here! Does William keep you locked up in there like a prison?! I never see you kids anymore. You would think he would let you visit your friends and family.”

“He says it’s a security thing. And if it’s like a prison, then it’s not a bad prison to be locked up in. Townsend makes sure we have everything we could ever want and need.”

“There is that.” Maize agreed.

“Wait, since when does Maize have a Maserati?” Malorie asked, confused, looking at the key fob laying on the counter.

“It was my dad’s, but William won it in a poker game, and he gave it to me.” Maize answered.

“Well isn’t that a lovely gift. Let’s get you kids some home cooked food!” Malorie offered, heading to the kitchen to whip up some late-night munchies for them, despite Peter telling her she didn’t need to go through all the trouble. She insisted.

The kids snacked on some eggs and waffles, since Malorie knew there was nothing more comforting than breakfast food. They stayed up even later, talking about what was new in their lives and what they were doing at the Compound. After weeks of practically no-contact, may deserved to know what was going on. But soon it got late, and the kids could tell that Malorie needed sleep.

“Hey, it’s getting pretty late, so I’ll head out. Peter, you stay with Malorie, I’m going to stay at my mom’s house. Thank you so much-” Maize began, grabbing her keys. Malorie didn’t want her to go.

“Kids, stay the night. I don’t want you driving back at this hour, and I doubt you’ll be needed for any super important mission first thing in the morning. Get some rest, then we’ll go out to breakfast and then I’ll send you on your way.”

“Malorie, are you sure? I easily could get into my car and go to my own house, I don’t want to be any trouble.”

“HA! You? Any trouble to me? That’s absurd. Never, Maize. Stay!” May laughed, convincing Maize to stay. Malorie went to bed first, leaving Maize and Peter to work the sleeping arrangements out by themselves.

“You can sleep in my room and I’ll take the couch, I only have a twin bed in my room.” Peter announced.

“No, Peter, this is your house, you should sleep in your own bed.”

“But I don’t want you sleeping on the couch!”

“Well, that settles it then. We both sleep in your room, then.” Maize answered.

“But you won’t have enough room,” He commented.

“Then we’ll just have to snuggle.” Maize answered, not giving it a second thought. Peter’s heart jumped, but he agreed. He could tell that Maize wasn’t going to take no for an answer in this situation, and he would just have to go along with it. When they fell asleep together in her room a few days ago, somehow it felt different. Peter was comforting her, but now, this was an option they both agreed to and was happening under a different set of circumstances. Peter was just afraid that the closer he got to Maize, the more and more he would feel about her. And not in the friendship-type of way.

Peter got changed into a gray shirt and his plaid pajama pants and offered Maize the same. Maize was tired and she got into bed first, getting comfortable. She saw how Peter was a little hesitant, and she promised that she wouldn’t bite him. Peter settled into his bed next to her and stared at the ceiling until Maize was asleep, then he relaxed just a little bit, admiring her peaceful state. He soon fell asleep himself, and even though he was nervous about sleeping in a confined bed space with her, he couldn’t imagine it any other way. He didn’t want to. He couldn’t think of anything better than falling asleep and then waking up to Maize next to him.

The next morning, Maize’s phone was buzzing underneath her pillow. She felt around and grabbed it, still mostly asleep as she picked up her phone and looked at the screen, only to reveal that William wanted to FaceTime her. She reluctantly swiped and answered, Peter still fast asleep behind her, clutching the pillow.

“Morning, Townsend.” She greeted, her throat sounding a little froggy first thing in the morning.

“Listen, I don’t know where you are or wh- Oh, am I interrupting something? Is this a bad time?” He asked, starting off scolding her but then processing what he was seeing on his screen. Then he was reluctant to continue since he didn’t know what exactly he was looking at. Next time he would just call.

“No, this isn’t a bad time. What’s up?” She asked, sitting up and causing Peter to groan.

“You just brought all the cold air in, Maize!” He mumbled, turning and pulling the blanket closer to him. William paused, trying to process, then he continued.

“I don’t know where you and Lannigan are and at this point, with what I’m seeing I don’t think I want to know, but you two better get your asses back to the compound in fourteen seconds or less because we’ve got a situation to handle. It’s all on you kids now, you’re all going out together to fight a robot monster in New York. You need to get back here, ASAP.” He explained.

“We’re at Malorie’s house, where’s the monster?”

“It’s on the Roosevelt Island Bridge. Actually, you two stay there since you’re closer than we are, and we’ll bring everything to you and Peter. You’re going to have to summon your hammer, though, because we can’t grab that for you. Sound good? We’ll meet you there in a few.”

She hung up the phone and jostled Peter awake, telling him what was going on.

“Peter, we’ve got to get up. There’s some evil robot monster terrorizing New York again, and William needs us. He’s bringing your suit, we’ve got to go to Roosevelt Island.”

“What about breakfast with Malorie?”

“We’ll be hungry after the fight. She’ll understand.” Maize answered before opening Peter’s window and reaching out of it, the ground shaking a little bit as the hammer traveled all the way from the compound to the palm of Maize’s hand in a matter of seconds. She grasped the hammer and closed the window, seeing Peter sitting on the edge of the bed and yawning. He got his shoes on and it wasn’t long before the two kids headed out the door, but not before running into Malorie.

“Wait, where are you going! Aren’t we going out to breakfast?” She asked, alarmed that the kids were just running out.

“William called, we’ve got an emergency. You jinxed it, May!” Peter laughed. “We’ll be back, then we can go get breakfast together. See you soon!” He explained, Maize grabbing her keys from the table beside the door.

“Roosevelt Island, here we come.” Maize said as they got into her car and programmed the GPS to take them to the heart of the conflict. On the way, Peter was reviewing that morning’s headlines, mostly about the threat to New York. Just then, both of them got the emergency code on their phones, just like they would if it were a severe thunderstorm or a flood.

“They better be there by the time we get there. I’m not showing up to the fight first, that’s for sure. I’m not even sure if we can all do this together, Maize. We’re just learning how to work together, and maybe this isn’t the best way to learn, either.”

“Maybe it is, you know? Field experience. Maybe, by some miracle, it’ll come together, and we’ll figure it out, find our rhythm as Gods. After this, we should be Gods, anyway.” Maize answered as they approached the scene. They were the first to arrive, but the Jet wasn’t far behind them, arriving just moments later. William tossed Peter his suit and he got into it quickly, Maize had never seen him do it and was amazed at the efficiency of him donning the spandex. Maize then suited up, getting her armor on and tightening it up, accompanied by her hammer.

“What’s the plan, William?” Maize asked, wondering if they had gone over a specific procedure for fighting this monster on their way there that Maize needed to be aware of.

“Well, the plan is win and don’t die. We’ll be right here as your backup if things go largely astray.” He answered honestly. They decided amongst themselves to split half and half; one group goes high and the other goes low.

The bona fide Gods helped direct the civilians away while the trainees headed for the heart of the battle.

“God, this guy looks like a deformed Transformer! Whatever he’s trying to do, we’re going to stop him.” Meaghan observed as they closed in on him.

Maize was part of the group that would go and attack from the top. She was never scared of heights, rather, she was scared of falling. But in that moment as she was perched on the top of the bridge, she was terrified of both.

Maize had used the handle of her hammer to zipline down the cables of the bridge and she then threw the hammer to attack the robot monster. Maize was effectively fighting and working with Meaghan who was on the ground. Peter was on the other side of the bridge, swinging from his web on one hand that was anchored on the cable while he used the other to tie the robot’s limbs together, if only for a few moments. Ariel was perched up top, using her arrows that hit in all the right places to hurt the monster. Talia was with Meaghan, front and center, making way for Angelina and her various weapons that she had been strapped with.

Then, Maize moved down to the bridge’s railing so she could be closer to the ground for that part of the fight, but she never got a chance since she fell over the side before she could generate an attack.

Talia didn’t do it with bad intentions. She didn’t premeditate the plan, and for once she didn’t mean to hurt Maize on purpose. This was sheer accident, fight or flight response, Maize liked to have thought. As Talia was fighting and Maize swooped in, Talia accidentally pushed Maize over the side of the bridge with her forearm and elbow, sending her plunging down into the water below. Talia was pulling back to then strike, but as she was pulling back she contacted Maize’s body and she was surprised at how easy it was to move Thor. Maybe because she got caught off-guard.

Maize fell suddenly and fast, but it felt soft to her; as if she was gliding. She didn’t have enough time to try and fly, but she knew she wasn’t going to die when she hit the water. She did her best to enter as safely as possible so it wouldn’t feel like she was hitting sheer concrete, and all she had to do was hold her breath and wait for the right moment to surface. There were two mighty splashes, the first was the hammer and the second was Maize’s body.

Maize sank with the initial shock of hitting the water. She did everything she could to make it an easier entry, but from the height she happened to fall, she could only hope for the best. The wind was knocked out of her and the hammer was falling fast, and she used the last of her energy to summon it into her hand. The current carried her for a distance before she woke up as if she had just regenerated in a video game, and she flew up to the surface of the water, throwing the hammer to dry land and swimming the rest of the way to the shore. She used the hammer that was already on the soil and sand as her anchor, using it to pull herself up the steep bank where all the Gods were waiting for her.

“Maize! Maize, are you alright?!” William asked.

“William, she just dredged herself from the East River, what do you think?!” Artemis asked, seeing that it was pretty obvious.

“Actually, I’m alright. I’m going back up.” Maize answered, just needing to get herself together for a moment before rejoining the fight.

“Hold on a second. Jason, do the honors.” William instructed, wanting Jason to assess her condition to see if she was really fine like she said. Jason concluded that she was.

“She seems to be in perfect health, sir. A little bit soggy, but she is fit for combat.”

“Alright, kid. Do your thing.” William cleared and instantly Maize shot up into the sky towards the center of the bridge. It wasn’t much longer until the evil Transformer wannabe was defeated, and he crumbled into pieces and parts that fell into the river below them. The asphalt on the deck of the bridge was cracked and damaged, as well as some of the support beams and cables. None of them wanted to stay and find out what would happen when the structure gave way to the damages done to it.

There were already news vans, cameras, reporters and a growing crowd of civilians gathering behind police barriers. Bridge entry had been blocked off to all traffic, and it wasn’t long before there were more police and even helicopters surrounding the area, as well as Emergency Management and Damage Control. The kids had already had enough and were told by William not to give any interviews now, but he stopped Peter and Maize as they were diverting their course from the rest of the Gods who were loading up onto the Jet.

“Wait, where are you two going so fast?” William asked as Maize and Peter walked over to Maize’s car, Maize attempting to find her keys from inside her armor.

“We’ve got a breakfast date with Malorie. See you later!” Peter answered, getting in the car and they began driving away. They felt like they were in shock, but they also felt amazingly free. They saved New York, and it wasn’t even ten in the morning.

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