Part 5 of JSA: A Thunder God Among Us
When the Huntress brings Thor to an orphanage, she shows the god of thunder that there’s more to being a hero than merely vanquishing one’s foes!
The shadow of the bat loomed high in Gotham City’s nighttime air. Frankie ran with all his might. His heart pounded in his chest like Mick Fleetwood himself was beating his drums inside Frankie’s soul. It was not supposed to be this way.
It had started as a dare. “Let’s rip off the jewelry store,” Stevie had said. “No one pays attention to the little guys anymore. Robin and Batwing are too busy with all the super-freaks to worry about small-timers like us. Besides, no one cares about this side of town.”
That night, after a few beers and some crack, Frankie and Stevie found enough chemical courage to go through with it. They didn’t use any high-tech equipment; it was just a quick smash and grab. The brick shattered the front door into pieces. Frankie and Stevie rushed in as the alarum blared into the darkness. Each grabbed as much as their drunken hands could carry. They heard the sound of a cop car heading toward them, but they were in no hurry — not until they turned the corner and saw the Bat.
Stevie and Frankie had run off in opposite directions, dropping most of their haul in the process. Please please please please go after Stevie, not me. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Bat swoop after Stevie. Frankie kept running. He turned one corner and then another, and then finally collided with something big.
Picking himself up off the sidewalk, Frankie wasn’t quite sure what to make of what he saw. The man was enormous. He wore some kind of medieval-looking clothes and had a shock of red hair and a red beard. In his enormous hand, the enormous man held a hammer that was tiny by comparison.
“And where dost thou think that thee art going, little one?” the giant asked with a sinister smile.
The giant reached out and tapped his hammer ever so lightly on Frankie’s head. The boy crumpled to the ground. A hearty laugh erupted from the giant.
“If this is all thee hast to offer, daughter of the Bat, then methinks my time here is for naught.”
The Huntress landed near Thor, dropping Stevie’s trussed-up form next to Frankie’s unconscious body. “You’re just here to help me finish up patrol tonight, Thor. The real lesson happens tomorrow.”
“Then prithee let us continue on yon patrol.” And at the top of his voice, Thor yelled into the crisp night air, “A warning to all ye knaves and varlets! The mighty Thor and his lovely assistant are about this eve! Thou shalt tremble before us!”
The Huntress put her hand to her forehead and sighed. It was going to be a long night.
The next day, Thor awoke from his slumber and thought perhaps that he was once again home in beautiful Asgard. As the sleep cleared from his eyes, he realized that the palace before him was not Asgard, but stately Wayne Manor. Even so, it made him feel as though he were home. Just then the door opened.
“Master Thor, good afternoon. I have brought you your breakfast.”
Alfred Beagle wheeled in a cart adorned with a veritable feast: a whole ham, fruit, loaves of bread — enough to feed ten people, or at least one hungry thunder god. Thor grabbed a loaf of bread and the flagon on the cart. He took a hearty swig from it, and instantly a smile came across his face.
“This beverage is most extraordinary! I know it is of Midgard, but its bouquet and taste rivals anything that the golden realm has to offer. Pray tell, what is this drink of the gods?”
Alfred smiled. “It is called Clamato, Master Thor.”
“Clamato? I shall carry this drink back to Asgard, where it will sit upon the great table of Lord Odin himself. Well met, friend Jarvis.”
“Sir?” Alfred queried with a puzzled look.
Thor looked startled for a moment, then laughed, “My apologies, friend Alfred. You reminded me of a great and loyal manservant I once knew, but that was another lifetime.”
“Very strange, indeed, sir, for Jarvis was my father’s name,” said Alfred.
“Is that so?” Thor said, too busy eating to hear anything further.
An hour later, after Thor had devoured his feast, he called for Alfred once more. Alfred began clearing the dishes.
“Where is the fair Helena?”
“Ah, yes. Miss Helena has asked me to drive you to meet her today. She also provided less… conspicuous attire for you to wear in the armoire.”
Thor opened it to find a rather large set of sweat pants and a Gotham University sweatshirt. He wrinkled his face. “Art thou sure this is what I am to wear, friend Alfred? It seems attire unbefitting a warrior and hero.”
Alfred nodded. “I am, Master Thor. Miss Helena was quite specific.”
Thor grumbled something under his breath as he began to get dressed.
One hour later, Thor entered the rather nondescript building that Alfred had driven him to. As he pushed open the door, he saw a rather plain-looking woman sitting at a desk. She smiled as he lumbered toward her.
“You must be Mr. Odinson. Please come in. Miss Wayne is waiting for you in the common room with the children,” the woman said as she led Thor down the hallway.
The hallway opened up into a room full of color and life. In the midst of a group of children, Thor saw Helena Wayne playing chess with a young girl. He started walking toward her, when the room became uncomfortably silent. Thor noticed this and stopped where he was. The children were no longer playing. They were just standing there, eyes wide, staring at Thor.
Helena got up and came over to Thor. “I’m glad you could make it. Children, this my friend, Mr. Odinson. Thor, these are the kids of the Wayne Home for Children.”
Thor stood uncomfortably. He began to sweat a little. “Uh, hello, children…”
Helena laughed, “They’re just kids, Thor. Nothing to be afraid of. They’ve just never seen anyone as… imposing… as you.”
“Is there some menace which threatens these fair tykes? Is that why thou hast brought me here?”
Helena sat back down at her chess board. The children began to play again. “You’ll see.”
Just then, Thor felt a tugging on his sweat pants. He looked down to see a small boy. He knelt down, but Thor still seemed to tower over the child. “And who might thee be?”
“I’m Jamal. I heard Miz Wayne call you Thor. Are you the real Thor? I always thought the real Thor had long blond hair and looked like a movie star. That’s how Thor looks in the comic-books.”
A twinkle came to Thor’s eye. He held a finger to his lips. “Friend Jamal, I am indeed the Thor of legend, but thou must not tell a soul.”
Jamal looked at Thor skeptically. “If you’re Thor, where’s your hammer? Thor is supposed to have a magic hammer called Mjolnir. If you’re Thor, why don’t you have your hammer?”
Reaching into the pockets of his sweats, Thor retrieved his enchanted hammer. “It is called Mjolnir, young Jamal,” Thor said as he set the hammer upon the table next to him. “If thou knowest about Mjolnir, then thou also knowest that only a special few can lift the hammer of Thor. Wouldst thou care to try?”
Jamal reached for the hammer with a single hand, but Mjolnir would not budge. He then tried two hands, and yet it would not move. He tugged and tugged, then finally looked at Thor.
“You’re real! Hey guys, come here! Come here! Try to lift this hammer. You can’t do it!”
The children began to gather around Thor. Looking up from her chess game, Helena Wayne smiled as the big kid began playing with the little kids. As the boys all tried to pick up Mjolnir, Thor spied a little girl sitting by herself over in the corner. He walked over to her.
“What be thy name, fair lass?”
The little girl looked up and smiled, her blue eyes as big as saucers. She said in a barely audible voice, “Ashley.”
Thor picked the little girl up and brushed her hair away from her face. “Why dost thou not come and play with the other babes?”
“Hmmm. Perhaps Thor could play a game with thee? What wouldst thou like to do?”
“Could you read me a book?”
“Of course, little one, but better yet, perhaps Thor could regale thee with a tale of his own — a story of Loki the evil and the good Lord Odin.”
“Really? Does the story have a princess in it?”
“Aye, that it does. The Lady Sif doth figure prominently in my tale.”
“Oh. My daddy used to tell me stories about a princess named Ashley. Before he got dead.”
“Fret not, little one, for this tale is how the mighty Odin and the Lady Sif saved fair Princess Ashley from the clutches of the evil gnome Loki.” Ashley giggled as some of the other children gathered around to listen to Thor’s story.
As the nine o’clock hour approached, the children were carted off to bed by the staff. Jamal shook hands with Thor in one of those complicated handshakes that only kids really understood. Little Ashley came up to Thor and tapped his leg.
“What is it, little one?” Thor said, picking up the waif in his tree-trunk arms.
She quickly kissed him on the cheek and threw her little arms around his neck. “I love you Mr. Thor.”
Thor set the girl down, and she scampered off to her room. Thor wiped his cheek and looked around. It would be unseemly for anyone to see tears on a thunder god’s face.
“What magnificent young ones, fair Helena!” Thor said once they were outside. “Thou hast gladdened Thor’s soul, and his spirit soars anew. Yet I remain confused. Thou were supposed to provide me a lesson in heroics, not in child-rearing. Whilst we were with yon striplings, crime is afoot in the city.”
Helena slugged Thor in his arm. “You moron. That was your lesson today! You were a hero to those children, Thor. They have no one. No parents. No family. That’s why they live in a home. It’s why I spend as many Saturday afternoons here as I can. Being a hero isn’t just about fighting the villains and the glory of the battle. It’s about caring for people and making sure the good guys are OK as much as it is about fighting the bad guys. It doesn’t take a magic hammer or a magic ring — or even a batarang — to make a hero. All it takes is a little bit of time and a little bit of love.”
Thor stopped walking and stared at Helena for a moment. Perhaps there was something to what she was saying. Just then, Thor smelled something that didn’t seem right. “Dost thou smelleth that?”
Over in the distance, Helena could see a fire blazing. “Let’s go!”
Moments later, the Huntress and Thor arrived at the scene of a four-alarm blaze. The old Sprang Arms Hotel had gone up in flames. The Huntress spotted Fire Marshal Bills near the lead truck.
“Bills, is there anything we can do? Is everyone out?” the Huntress asked as the building continued to burn.
Bills shook his head. “Yes, thank God. My boys were able to get the last of the tenants out before the fire got real bad. That’s the problem with some of these old buildings. They’re just fire traps waiting to go.”
Thor spoke up. “Thou hast great warriors, then, who didst save the townsfolk from the blaze?”
Bills looked up at Thor. “Great warriors? No. Just ordinary Joes who put their lives on the line every day. C’mere. Let me show you something.”
The fire marshal took Thor and the Huntress over to a nearby ambulance. Two of his firefighters were wearing oxygen masks. They had suffered from some smoke inhalation, but they would recover. “Those are your heroes. They pulled an old lady out of her room just before the first floor collapsed. They almost didn’t make it. Those guys are real heroes. Um, no offense, Huntress, big guy.”
“So these ordinary mortals risked their very lives to save others? They must be awash in gold and jewels!” Thor said.
“No, Thor. They get a pay check, and that’s it. Some of them struggle to make ends meet. There are no riches to be had.”
“But why do they risk their lives, then, if there is nothing to gain?”
The Huntress looked Thor straight in the eye. “Because that’s what heroes do.”
Thor shook his head and smiled. “I believe I am beginning to understand, fair Huntress. Mayhap there are no other lives to save this night, but there is one thing that Thor may do.”
Thor looked skyward and spread his arms. Thunder boomed through the city, and then the rain came. The fire would be put out in short order.
“I have learned much this night, Huntress. Thor is in your debt.”
“In that case, how about buying a girl some dinner? I’m starved!”
“Very well. I have heard tales of a dining hall where one can buy seared cow’s flesh and drinks made from the richest cream. I wouldst like to visit this Steak and Shake.”
“Lead the way,” the Huntress said. Maybe Thor was going to get the point after all.