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  • End of Summer
     

    Belief

    Maxie Zeus encounters ????

    by Nicolas Juzda

    Maxie stood in the rain, cursing. He was not swearing, but rather cursing in the literal sense, wishing plagues and pestilence unto the tenth generation in the way that only gods can.

    The subject of his ire was whoever had taken such miserable care of the automobile he had exercised his divine right to appropriate. It had gotten him barely three hours away from Gotham before finally giving up the ghost.

    After a while, a passing car slowed to a stop, and a man got out. He was in his late thirties, wore glasses, and had a pipe stuck in his mouth. It was an absurdly stereotypical image of an intellectual, and if Maxie allowed himself to accept the twentieth century in anything beyond the most cursory fashion he might have found it funny.

    "Need a hand?" the stranger asked Maxie.

    "Verily, mortal, for mine chariot hath betrayed me," Maxie replied.

    The man blinked. After a pause, he asked, "Are you okay? I think you may have hit your head." After another second, he added, "I'm a doctor."

    Maxie glowered at the man. "I am beyond mortal wounds."

    The rain beat down on them.

    The doctor sighed and gestured towards his car. "Well, if you're not beyond mortal weather, maybe you'd like a lift?"

    Maxie swept by the man into the car, carrying himself with the dignity that befitted him. The stranger got in as well, and started the car.

    "Where are you headed?" the doctor asked.

    "I have heard that in the city of Keystone, I may find my son Mercury. With his aid, I may return to Mount Olympus, and defeat Hades' bat demon, though laughing Pan argues against it."

    "Keystone? I can take you as far as Midway, but then you're on your own."

    Maxie nodded. "That is as I ordained it. This is a battle for gods, not men. For the bat demon would surely slay any mortal it encountered."

    The doctor looked at Maxie. "Demon, you say? I've met a few demons in my time. None of them were real, of course."

    "Not real? I have seen Hades' spawn many times, and it is as real as my own divine power."

    The doctor smiled slightly to himself. "I'm sure it is." After a second, he spoke again. "While I can't say for certain, someone may have been taking advantage of your… of you. I've found that often the inexplicable is so precisely because it conforms to people's wishes until they no longer want to find an explanation."

    "Do you question a god?!?" Maxie thundered, in a manner that suggested such things ended in an unpleasant bit of smiting for the questioner.

    In the driver's seat, the man shifted slightly. "Uh… no, of course not."

    Maxie smiled, his composure returning. "Ah, mortal. I apologize. My wars with the bat demon have so wearied me."

    They rode in silence for a few minutes.

    "Mortal, I have been thinking," declared Maxie. "Your meeting me was a sign. You shall indeed join me, as the first of a legion of worshippers."

    The doctor's eyes never left the rode as he replied casually, "and who is it I shall be worshipping?"

    "Do you not recognize your lord Zeus?" Maxie asked.

    "You don't look much like the pictures I've seen."

    Maxie waved a hand dismissively. "I lack my familiar raiments. No, when you see me in my godly splendour, you shall have no doubts."

    "I can usually find doubt. It's what I'm best at, actually."

    "Would you not believe your eyes?"

    The doctor shook his head. "Of course not. Eyes are the easiest thing there is to deceive. Smoke and mirrors, my good Zeus, render the eyes all but helpless. It is only logic that shows the way, and logic always denies the impossible."

    "And if you saw me hurl lightning from my hands?"

    The driver took one hand off he wheel to rub his chin thoughtfully. "I'd verify that there actually was an electrical discharge, first. If there wasn't, I'd attempt to figure out how you achieved the appearance of one. If there was, I'd guess you had some sort of electrical device designed to emit voltage from an apparatus on your arm. At any rate, I'd find an explanation."

    "And if I roared my fury with a voice like the thunders I command?"

    The doctor chuckled. "Easy as pie. Electronic amplifier on your throat."

    Maxie reddened, possibly from fury, and possibly because, on some deep level, he needed to know the truth of how his miracles came about, in order to create them.

    But the doctor was not finished. "Now, a real pro would have gotten me surrounded by assistants by that point, each of whom would have a concealed speaker. That gives it a very nice surround sound effect."

    Maxie nodded, making a mental note. This man was sent by an Oracle, surely, for in his divine wisdom Maxie had coincidentally just decided to do that very thing. It was not that Maxie believed he lacked divine power, of course, merely that it needed a bit of help on occasion.

    A few minutes more passed in silence. Again, Maxie broke it first. "Can nothing convince you, physician, that there are powers and forces beyond your ken?"

    The doctor's face softened. "In my travels, I knew a man once. He was a… 'friend' seems the wrong word to describe him, somehow. An associate, perhaps. I never knew how he did the things he did, and I still believe that it was all some trick, but if anyone ever came close to converting me, it was him."

    Maxie looked at him, and laughed heartily. "What, some mortal fool could convince you, but I in my godlike presence cannot even make you believe the awesome evidence before your very eyes?"

    The doctor smiled wanly. "I suppose I'm just a non-believer at heart." As he spoke, he pulled onto an off-ramp that led into Midway City.

    "I like you, mortal. Too often my mere presence causes such awe that I find my divine works hampered. Are you certain you cannot accompany me on my great crusade against Hades' agent?"

    The driver turned his attention back from street signs to face Maxie, keeping only one eye on the road. He adopted a solemn expression, but even to Maxie his faintly sardonic tone belied it. "No. Your divine quest must proceed without me. My place is with the mundane world. I venture out of it only to drag things back into rationality with me."

    "I pity you."

    The car pulled up in front of a hospital, and the doctor got out and headed for the entrance. Maxie followed. "Is this where you operate, physician?"

    The doctor shook his head. "I'm not that sort of doctor." He walked away from Maxie and spoke softly with a woman at the hospital's front desk. Maxie looked around, amused at what these mortals had wrought.

    After a moment, howver, he found himself surrounded by several burly orderlies.

    "What is happening here? I demand to know!"

    The orderlies began to drag him away, murmuring soothing words that had no effect upon the enraged, yet oddly impotent, god.

    As Maxie struggled in vain to free himself, he turned his head and shouted at his erstwhile companion. "Mortal! Have you betrayed me? Do you not understand the supernatural forces you have angered? Do you not fear them?"

    "Please, it's for the best," the doctor called.

    And the last thing Maxie heard as he was dragged away was the nurse reassuringly saying, "we'll give him our best care, Dr. Thirteen."

     
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