Mere Mortals as Victims of History: Maxwell Zeus
by David J. LoTempio
Gateway City had known the footfalls of gods before and therefore was neither shocked nor embarrassed by the presence of Maxwell Zeus. Clearly, this deluded mortal bemused the city with his godly carriage and aloofness. Gateway City was a jaded city and knew how humans liked to cover themselves with masks and identities. But a city is truly indifferent to the individual fates of most mortals and Gateway City, true to this lineage, accepted Maxwell Zeus for face value. Plus, he had the stink of Gotham City about him - a place reserved only for sinners and devils and long considered the Hades of cities. Surely, Maxwell Zeus must be a god, either that or a demon.
Dirty streets tried their hardest to make their homeless denizens and junk appear presentable. The galleries and universities stuck out their chests like ruffled birds, proud of their architecture and treasures. All except one. One museum tried its hardest to slink back behind the monotony of Gateway City life. Perhaps the rest of the city didnt know why Maxwell Zeus had come to town, but the museum did. It could sense the bloody future sewn by the Fates picturing Zeus with his foot on the heart of the Gateway City Museum of Cultural Antiquities.
Cassandra Sandsmark was blessed with a wondrous childhood. While other young girls were pining after heartthrobs like Superboy or Robin, she was having adventures alongside them as the new Wonder Girl. Although most would consider this unusual, it was a quite typical occurrence for people associated with superheroes. Cassie and her mother Helena Sandsmark had befriended the Princess Diana, commonly known as Wonder Woman, and that friendship entangled them in the machinations of gods. As a reward for her courage, Zeus, the patriarch of the Greek Pantheon, had given Cassie special powers of strength, flight, and endurance. She took the name Wonder Girl and had joined the ranks of Young Justice, a junior Justice League of America.
Unfortunately, superheroes also engendered unpleasant things like revenge and envy, and Cassie, being too young to appreciate such things, was wholly unprepared for the events about to occur. On the afternoon of March 1, Cassie returned home from school at the usual hour. Her mother was not home which pleased Cassie since she intended to skip her homework hour to go flying in the warm afternoon air. But first she had some school business to take care of.
Her backpack hardly had time to hit the floor before Cassie was on the phone with Teri, a close friend from school. "Okay Teri, now finish telling me about that dress you bought for the dance." Cassie looked up to Teri who seemed to command the attention of her peers with charm and frivolity. She was definitely cooler than the other girls, most notably leading a school protest against 98 Degrees in favor of Limp Biskit. It didnt hurt that she was a little stuck up.
"What till you see it. Its silver with black roses rising from the hem. The back is completely open with two little ties, almost like an empress. It is so incredible. And did I tell you that my mother got it for a steal at Lords and Taylors?"
"Like for the eleventh time. So does it open all the way down to your butt?"
"My mother would flip if I tried to pull a Rosie Perez at the dance."
"I think you mean Jennifer Lopez."
"Same difference, right? I mean if my mother thought I was showing any cleavage shed have me locked up in a heartbeat."
As Cassie turned the corner into her living room, she was startled to see six unknown men in the living room standing around as if expecting her. One man in particular caught her attention. His hawkish nose and chin stood impious in the air. He wore a trim ensemble of Prada clothes that complimented his saturnine atmosphere. Gold rings flashed on his fingers and a dainty, but stylish, earring of a bull hung from his left lobe.
"Teri, Im going to have to call you back. Ive got a Home Alone scenario to take care off." She placed the portable in the arms of a small cherub statue by the hallway. "Listen, I dont know who you are buddy, but Im friends with Wonder Woman and a bunch of other heroes. Unless you have a real attraction to broken bones, I wouldnt lay a finger on me or my mother."
"I am Zeus, Cassandra Sandsmark. You may kneel if you like."
"Look, Im getting a psycho feel from your goons over here. Could you ask them to keep their eyes in their sockets or maybe take their medication? Furthermore, where do you get off calling yourself Zeus? Ive met Zeus and no way are you him."
"I see that sarcasm is endemic in your family. A trait you obviously acquired from your mother. She should have reconsidered her words before ruining the noble patina of venerable Greece. Your mother seems to think that this history is invalid that my subjects paid more attention to cheap magic than to me. I can not stand by and let her cast my heritage into darkness. Bromius, please restrain the girl."
Five of the men closed in on Cassie but she betrayed no fear. Instead she casually tossed her backpack to the side and lightly stepped into the air. Her punches were swift but deft, surprising coming from a girl not far in her teens. But her gift from the real Zeus gave her the strength of ten men, more than enough to handle half that number. She casually lifted the coach and tossed it at them. She made short work of the intruders and then turned her attention to the imposter Zeus. "You are so dead. My mother loved that couch. Im blaming you if they ruined it."
Maxwell Zeus calmly stepped back and tilted his cane slightly into the air. A bolt of lighting, 50,000 volts, leapt from the end of the cane and arced into Cassie. The jolt harshly threw her back into a brick fireplace, upon which her body helplessly slumped. Maxwell Zeus walked over to his aide, Bromius, and awakened him with a mild jolt from the cane. "Do you have the Menead serum," he asked.
Bromius nodded and procured a small case containing a syringe and vial of green fluid. "Im a little nervous about using a drug made by the Joker. Can we be sure it wont kill her outright?"
"True. He is untrustworthy, but in matters of torture and madness, I have no doubt that it will work." Maxwell Zeus filled the syringe with the fluid and injected it into Cassies arm. He lightly touched her smooth face with his fingers. "Such stories as this should always begin with the abduction of a girl. Or her sacrifice. Let us take Theseus lessons to heart, Bromius. A woman is useful, but not enough to keep."
He gathered his men, directing them to take Cassandras body back to their car. The men were frightened at first. They could see the drug color her veins, changing her skin a bright red. Zeus was more fearful than any drug, though, and Bromius quickly directed the crooks to place her into the trunk. They calmed down once the girl was out of sight. But as they drove off, a thunderous beating filled the automobile. Bromius and his men anxious looked at each other in fear. All except Zeus, who smiled for he knew that Cassandras body had began to jerk and twist to the rhythms of a madmans drug.
Donna Troy always liked visiting the Gateway City Museum of Cultural Antiquities but rarely had the opportunity because of her work as the superhero Troya. Her own life was so closely entwined with the threads of Classical Greece that the museum made Donna feel more peaceful and whole. It was an uncommon feeling for her.
Depending on whom you asked, Donna Troy was either the former protégé of Wonder Woman, an officer in an intergalactic police force, a divorcee and widower, the mother of a god, the daughter of Greek deities, or a past and current member of the superhero group, the Titans. All were true at one time or another, and Donna usually didnt mind if people couldnt get her history straight. She could barely comprehend it herself.
Here in the museum, the ancient artifacts were evidence of historys veracity - undeniable proof of the progression from action to record. Donna wished she could rely on such testimony for her own life. The history of Donna Troy was a tempest with no clear direction of past or future. She had hoped her children would have carried her legacy forward, but they were taken from her only a year ago. She found herself in the queer position of being an archeologist of her own life; digging for bits of factual truth. It was one of the primary sacrifices of being a superhero - little continuity in your own life.
Her chaotic life was just beginning to weave itself into a workable frame, and Helena Sandsmark and her daughter Cassie had played a large part in helping Donna. Helenas message sounded urgent, so Donna quickly left the Titans headquarters to respond to the emergency. She nearly gasped at the sight of Helena - all haggard and drawn by too many nights absorbing the radiation from computer monitors. Her hair hung like a funeral veil. The office was haphazardly strewn with papers, tapestries, relics, and old Styrofoam coffee cups.
"Your office told me you werent feeling well, Helena," Donna exclaimed, "but I didnt expect this. You look like youre at deaths door. What happened?" She carefully drew Sandsmarks hair away from her face and placed a palm on her check - looking for some signs of life.
Sandsmark took off her glasses and massaged her temples. "I might as well be. The Board of Directors is breathing down my neck to get this National Geographic grant finished but all parties that insist on cooperation are refusing to cooperate. Plus, Im still trying to finish a report on the findings from the last Euboean dig." She indistinctly waved her hand in the direction of the far wall, neatly covered with piles of archival boxes in various sizes and shapes.
"My aide, Keith, has been indispensable, and I would never have been able to spare any time putting this proposal together if not for him, but" She paused to mentally review the landscape before her. "There are too many things going on at once. Its all slipping away from me. Im an archeologist and a mother of a superheroine. You try juggling both careers. Sometimes, I think I should concentrate more on the present rather than trying to fathom the past. I dont need to tell you about Cassies extra-curricular activities as a junior super hero."
"Is that why you called me Helena? Did you want me to talk to Cassie about being Wonder Girl? I dont know if I could talk her out of it or if I even want too. Shes done an awful lot of good, and the experience has really matured her. Plus, Cassie has inherited my legacy as Wonder Girl. Maybe this is selfish, but shes keeping part of me alive. Thats an important luxury to me."
"No, Donna," Helena said. "I wanted you to talk with me about it. No ones prouder of Cassie than me. Dont tell her I said that though. Shed never let me forget it. I need support Donna. Cassies gone for days some times and, when shes not off with Young Justice, shes at school. Shes growing up and saving the world, while Im stuck in this office trying to figure out whether some old Greek doll is either a voodoo fetish or a childs toy. I should be out there cheering my daughter on and watching her moon over boys."
She stepped away from her desk and walked over to a stack of archival boxes along the outside wall. She reached into one and brought out the fragments of a large bowl. Along its sides were painted a diorama of fishermen rolling dice. "You see this," Helena asked. "I feel like my relationship with Cassie is like this bowl. These pictures tell the story of a previously unknown Greek ritual. The fishermen of Cyme would cast bone dice to curry favor with the spirits of the sea. I dont want my relationship with Cassie to become some kind of superstition lost to time. Can you imagine me trying to excavate my love for Cassie when Im 70? They pay therapists for that, not anthropologists."
"Helena, I think youre right to be concerned about managing your time better. Should you spend less time worrying about grants? Yes. Should you spend time worrying about Cassie? No. Cassie knows how much you love her. You dont know how lucky Cassie is to have a loving mother like you. I had no one when I was Cassies age. I didnt even know who my family was. The only thing I had was the Teen Titans, with friends like Garth, Wally and Dick. I slept on a couch in our headquarters during that first year while the boys went back to their homes. Helena, youve made something special for Cassie. You may think shes slipping away, but she would sooner kill you than leave your side. What do you think she fights for when shes Wonder Girl. She fights for her mother and her family."
Helenas shoulders relaxed a bit as she listened to Donnas words. "I have one concern." Sandsmark pulled a Fed Ex package from her IN box. It was stamped with a return address of Arkham Asylum in Gotham City. "This package arrived this morning with a copy of my last Archeology Today article and this note." She handed the items to Donna who read the note.
When mind runs mad, dishonours God,
"Maxwell Zeus," Donna wondered, "who is that?" A name like that cant be real. Do you know what this quote is from?"
"Unfortunately I do. Its taken from Euripedes play, The Bachae, in which the god Dionysus takes his revenge on the royal house of Thebes for insulting his heritage. Pentheus the King gets his head ripped off by his own mother. The moral of the story is that mortals should be mindful of tradition and gods."
"And have you been mindful of tradition and gods?"
"Well, that may be where the magazine comes in. An article of mine was just published about our last excavation in Greece. That bowl was one of several amazing things we found that altered the general image of the Greeks. Traditionally, the Greeks are thought of as a pantheistic society governed by reason and democratic rules, but we discovered evidence that runs contrary to the later. There were fetishes that appeared similar to voodoo dolls; evidence of regular animal sacrifices to nature spirits, and we even found the names of gods hitherto unmentioned. We now have a picture of a Greek society far more diverse than previously thought. Magic or superstition than may have ruled classical Greek society more by constitutional law. "
"And would this anger someone?"
"It shouldnt. This information only expands our view of the Greeks. Its not surprising really. Our image of the Greeks is colored by the Renaissance and our own democratic tradition, which focused on philosophical ideals. For a long time, we ignored the everyday life of the Greeks - their habits, narcotics, favorite dentists, etc."
"Sounds like my life. I keep hoping someone finds my old golden lasso from when I was Wonder Girl - just to prove that part of my life wasnt the figment of a teenage boys imagination."
Before she could continue, Helenas office phone rang. She excused herself to Donna and picked up the receiver.
"Greetings Helena Sandsmark. I trust you have received my package."
"Yes, I received a package. Who is this?"
"If you received the package than you know who I am. I have read the aspersions thrown against me and my faithful society in your magazine. Do you really think that the great Greek minds clung to magic tricks? The purpose of these lies is pathetically transparent - you seek to distort the image of Zeus and all his works."
"What I seek is truth and understanding - something an individual with delusions of godhood cant grasp. Why dont you surrender yourself before I call Wonder Woman or somebody to cart you back."
"We each have a history we are beholden too. Unwelcome relative that it is, we do receive something from it in return. Some derive comfort, others guilt, while I obtain immortality. The gods killed mortals for stealing immortality. I have decided to take a lesson from my son Dionysus and the pain he inflicted upon Pentheus family.
"This is absurd. Youre threatening me over an argument about Greek society. You can disagree with my findings as much as you like Mr. Zeus but it wont alter the truth about the artifacts. Maybe you can come up with a better idea how that evidence fits into Greek society?"
"I can think of far, finer things to say about them then your drivel. Allow me to read a passage. Zeus was a new god, a weak god, in those early days. True authority was still held by the beasts, the nature spirits, and the old witch down by the sea. The white bull of Zeus, the symbol of classicism, was still far off in the distance - penned behind barbarisms ruddy gates."
"For justice - the Greeks made small dolls, effigies, in the image of their enemy and placed curses upon it. Sailors did not turn to Poseidon for safety. Instead, our evidence indicates they cast bones and sacrifices to the briny fiends lurking under the Mediterranean Sea. The cold hard perfection of Zeuss Greece, that our society imagines, is nothing but a fabrication - a willful delusion grafted onto history by the Renaissance first and Romanticism second. Aristotle, Plato, Homer, their laws, ethics, sciences, and arts are magnificent testaments to that ancient society, but we must not let that eclipse our view. For in reality, their civilization was not built on Zeuss campus of reason, but rather Fears province of ignorance, superstition, and darkness."
"I am not a weak god, Helena Sandsmark. I am the father of civilization. Without me, you would not have your precious Constitution, your grand architectural treasures, or the beautiful Carravaggio prints hanging in your living room."
"How did you know that? How did you know that I have paintings by Carravaggio in my home?"
"Ive visited with Cassandra, Helena."
Helenas heart fell from her at the sound of her daughters name. Never had she thought her work would brink her daughter into danger. She had inadvertently committed the greatest treason for a parent. "No."
"Oh yes. My men and I met her inside your home as she returned from school. She is a fine and strong daughter, Helena. She reminded me of the maidens from Carthage who would wrestle bears to prove their womanhood. Unfortunately, she could not stop the will of Zeus - as so many maidens have learned over the centuries."
"What have you done with Cassie? Where is she you madman? Tell me now. Whatever crime you think Ive committed gives you no right to attack her."
"Being a scholar, you should know that gods have every right to take their vengeance upon whole families. We do not experience history in lifetimes, but in generations. I do not have your daughter, but you will be seeing her shortly. She will be like the Maenads - mad, slavering, and bloodthirsty. I recommend caution though. Her embrace may prove deadly." With that, Maxwell Zeus hung up.
"Id better call Nightwing in Bludhaven," Donna said. "He keeps up on all the supervillains." Donna reached into her jacket and pulled out her cellphone. Dick Grayson, Nightwing, was an old and dear friend. They had both served in the Teen Titans as the original Robin and Wonder Girl, and those experiences had created a familial bond that had kept them close for many years. Dick was, in many ways, a brother that she never knew but had always wanted. And even though that relationship had been strained because of imbalances in the Titans, it would always remain strong and vital.
Nightwing picked up the call on the second ring. "Arkham Asylum Recovery Service - One mans outpatient is anothers homicidal maniac."
"Hi Dick, its Donna. I need some information on a character called Maxwell Zeus?"
"I was wondering who would be calling about Maxie. Hes a former Gotham City ganglord, Donna - a gangster with delusions of godhood. Hes a tactical and organizational genius as well as definitely insane. Hes been quietly living in a cell at Arkham Asylum for several years now, but he escaped along with several other inmates. In fact, Im in Chicago trying to track down Scarface and the Ventriloquist. Batman and I have been trying to extrapolate the destinations for some of the escapees, but Maxie Zeus was difficult because hes been inactive for some time. Listen, I have to go but you should be all right. Maxwell Zeus isnt anything you cant handle." And with a hastily said good bye, Dick Grayson, Nightwing, re-entered his own hunt for villainy.
"Apparently, Zeus is an old enemy of Batmans. There was a big break out at Arkham Asylum and several of the inmates are on the loose." Donna said to Helena. "Nightwing didnt think Zeus was anything I couldnt deal with."
One more crisis was not the break Helena Sandsmark needed right now. The threat of a raving madman coveting her Museum filled her psyche with rank humidity. She gathered and placed her grant papers into a haphazard pile. Her eyes glazed past a picture of her daughter, which Helena touched, hoping to gain some small ounce of strength.
A shadow swept across the room, cutting the silence with menace. Through the window, they could see a large unnatural object was rising in the air towards the Museum. Donna leapt across the room and covered Helena with her invulnerable body. It was a marble statue that fell through the window, casting glass in frenzy about the room. Donna and Helena turned to the window and looked out.
Sandsmark could hardly recognize her daughter behind the tortured face. Every vein and muscle throbbed as if filled to the bursting point with fury. Her blond, boyish head dripped with feverish sweat and foam. She struggled to hold back the tears.
"Dont worry, Helena," Donna said. "Ive been through this routine before. Remind me to tell you about the time I was devolved by the Brotherhood of Evil." Donna Troy leapt and joined Cassie in the air.
Cassie took a shattered marbled column from the museum and threw it at Donna with effortless malice. Donna deftly dodged the projectile and grabbed it before it landed on any witnesses. Cassie watched Donna carefully lower the marble and saw her chance for attack. She tore into Donna Troy with an animals ferocity, tossing her like a rabbit caught in the jaws of a dog.
Donnas mighty strength was tested as she fought for control. It was unimaginable how a sweet, young girl like Cassie had been transformed into an unforgiving monster. She was not alone in marveling at the transformation. Maxwell Zeus sat in his limousine, parked opposite the Museum, and watched his revenge unfold with gusto.
"I am pleased with myself, Bromius," he said to his aide. "Not only with my revenge, but with the ferocious spectacle played out before us. It reminds me of Ulysses whom so bravely fought against the machinations of gods. Is there no finer thing than to test mettle and mind against the divine?"
"Perhaps, not for you Lord Zeus, but some mortals are occupied by more temporal things - like money. I hope you have not forgotten the money your men desire to steal in Gateway?" Bromius guarded his words as best he could, hoping not to anger his Lord.
"Yes," he sighed. "I have not forgotten about the money." Zeus reached into his coat pocket and procured a manuscript sealed with wax. "You will find sufficient plans to rob three of the larger banks here in Gateway City. Im sure Cassandra Sandsmarks display will divert police attention away from your actions."
The henchmens eyes widened in delight as he looked over the plans - little risk with big payoffs. Bromius tapped the driver on the shoulder and told him to go immediately to the First Gateway Bank. A slight electric charge shocked Bromius and he looked with fear into Zeus gaze. "Give me the materials I requested."
The men handed Maxwell Zeus a gray satchel. He quickly inspected the contents and was pleased with it. He left the car and proceeded towards the Museum. Bromius looked out the window. "But sir, why dont you stay with us? How will we find you later? This isnt necessary."
"I go to battle gods, Bromius. This woman has dared to breathe new life into long forgotten stories. Zeus will not skulk and steal while they taunt him. It is a far more prideful thing to wage war on myths than commit common thievery. Please, do not expect Zeus to stoop as low as stealing. Take comfort when you hear my thunder, Bromius. It will mean Lord Zeus has won his revenge."
As he slipped out of the car, Bromius reached out and slightly touched Zeuss hand. It was the only form of affection allowed to them among their gang of thieves. Zeus paused for a moment, taking the time to settle the bag on his shoulder. Bromius and his men watched as Zeus slipped into the gathering crowd.
"Crazy fool," someone cursed.
Bromius swallowed the feeling of finality in the air. He forced his face to take on the hard look that commanded respect in their group. "Alright," he said." "Lets go make a withdrawal. Im thinking of several large ones." The limousine eased into traffic, abandoning Zeus to his fate.
Donna Troy was oblivious to these events and was far more concerned with surviving Cassies terrible attacks. The outer foyer of the Museum had become a pitted hulk with broken marble and bronze limbs littering the ground like the refuse of some great war. Guile and experience had keep Donna alive, but she didnt know how much more she could take before inflicting permanent harm to Cassie. Furthermore, she could tell that Cassies fury was building towards a climax that could only prove fatal to the young girl.
The battle had quickly become personal for Donna Troy. Cassies life was overridden by the dreams of a schizoid mind. Donna had felt that cruel fate too often in her life. It held no rewards and no triumphs, and she would sooner damn her own soul than let Cassie become a victim to Zeus mad decree.
Cassie had Donna pinned against a marble pillar with mere inches separating her teeth from Donnas neck. But strength was not the last of Donnas powers; she leapt into the air and twisted Cassie from her. Cassie landed with a crack that frightened her mother until she fumbled upright. Now that she had the advantage, Donna grabbed Cassie from behind and attempted to block her supply of oxygen. The two women locked like gladiators fighting for the rulers of Athens.
Cassie reached for Donnas long black hair and used it to throw her into the Museums wall. The air came rushing out of her lungs, turning the world a sharp-angled blur. Seeing her prey weakened, Cassie grabbed a broken statue of Cyrus Whitman, Gateways founder, for a weapon. Donna recovered her sight just in time to find Cyrus beak nose slamming into her forehead. Finally, Donna Troy was down.
Helena Sandsmark grabbed a fallen marble arm and battered her daughter from behind. Her slight strength was nothing compared to the fever worming its way through Cassies veins. She felt her right leg break as old Cyrus bowled her over, crushing her beneath his memorial weight. Several policemen ran up to subdue Cassie, but they would never defeat the enraged girl superhero. "Cassandra, Stop," Helena yelled.
Cassie lurched towards her mother. She reached down towards her mother, as if to pillow her head from the cold and harsh marble floor, but Helena quickly felt the dreadful tug of Cassies strength. In a minute, her head would pop off nice and clean, and the daughter would be the killer of the mother. Helena looked pleafully into her daughters eye, but there was neither empathy nor tenderness hidden in those furious depths. Murder only lived in those pools.
Donna Troy looked up in time to witness not a tragedy but, instead, a miracle. Tears began to flow from Cassies eyes and their sweet wave washed over her, softening the fury which beat within her frame.
Cassie dropped to her knees. She softly kissed her mothers head. "Oh mom," she sobbed. "Im sorry. So sorry. I would never harm you. Never. Im so ashamed." Her tears dripped down and joined those gathering in the lobes of her mother.
Donna Troy went to Helenas side and easily lifted the statue off of the woman. "What happened?"
Helena Sandsmark cradled her daughter in her arms. "Zeus," she said. "The real Zeus, when he gave Cassie her powers, also made a stipulation - that my touch would cancel her powers and make her normal. That way I could always control her until she learned to be responsible with her powers. Who knew it would save my life?"
The medics came and took Helena and Cassie away. Time would heal the wounds caused today, and for that, Donna Troy was glad. Unfortunately, the days problems had not ended. Reports from the Gateway Police indicated that Zeus gang was on a citywide attack of the major banks. They were currently holed up across town in the First National, surrounded by police. Donna went with the officers to deal with the problem.
Inside the Museum, Maxwell Zeus was busy finishing his revenge. He carefully applied the C4 explosives throughout the Hall of Antiquities. He knew it wasnt enough to destroy the Museum but the blast would scour the insides of all offending relics. Nothing must remain to plague him. It was a pity that sweet Bromius couldnt be here, but Zeus needed him and those rats to scurry for their money and riches. Anyway, they mattered little in historys game.
He was surprised by how simple it was to set up the explosives, and was glad he could perform the act himself. Sometimes it was better when gods revealed themselves. He looked through the artifacts in Helenas office, finding the pieces mentioned in her article. These were his enemies - rags, parchment, and flaking statues. They told stories best left forgotten; tales of traditions and myths that sullied the reputation of Greeks everywhere. He placed a pound of explosive with them, hoping it would demolish the whole office. Finally, he took out the radio primer device and set it.
A blur cut through the air and yanked his arm with a powerful stroke. The phantom force moved with unerring precision, like a falcon charging down upon its prey. Suddenly, the primer disappeared from his grasp, appearing at lassos end by Donna Troy.
"Im impressed," he said. "I thought that the antics of my men would provide sufficient entertainment for both the police and any errant heroes. Is Sandsmark and her daughter alive?"
"A pity, but then there will be other times. How did you know to look in here?"
"I remembered what started this whole sorry day," Donna said, "Your insane fixation with the past. You might have been able to kill Helena, but evidence would always exist to back up her theories. If you really wanted revenge, you would have to steal or destroy them. It seemed obvious after I realized were a little alike, Zeus. We both have an interest in old things."
"So I can see, Troya. You appear to have found your old lasso from when you were the Wonder Girl. You were the first Wonder Girl werent you? I kept careful track of the Batmans allies and acquaintances."
"Now, Im the one impressed. Yes, I was Wonder Girl before the current one, but this isnt my lasso. Its just a normal lariat of rope. Being around the Museum made me a little nostalgic." Donna crushed the primer in her hands ending its threat.
"Indeed, history binds us all," Zeus added. He looked at the lasso around him. "Some more than others."
"Was this really necessary? You were prepared to kill a young girl and her mother, and destroy a museum filled with millions of dollars of relics. What for?
"I had a dream the night after reading Helena Sandsmarks article. I was seated on my marble throne looking out from the vista of Mt. Olympus. The veranda was deserted and silent. Absent were the bawdy laughter of Bacchus and the constant nagging of Hera. All gods and avatars were gone. In their place stood a legion of mirrors with my visage filling their reflections. It pleased me. It was as it should be, each facet of Olympus honoring the lord Zeus. I filled my goblet with ambrosia, but as I lifted its nectar to my lips I saw the horror in its depths. I threw the goblet from me and leapt from my seat. I turned to each of the mirrors but they too contained the dreadful sight. I raced over them, cracking each in turn, and left a bloody trail as they lacerated my feet. I ran until I found the Well of Apollo through which we screed the events of the mortal world. And there also, in those fateful depths, I saw the horrible visage stare back upon me."
Donna spoke in near whisper, her voice captured by the story, "What was it?"
Mists of fear loomed in Zeus eyes as he stared into the comforting face of Donna Troy. "Oblivion. Nothing. There was no reflection. It was as if Zeus didnt exist - replaced by the Fates with some other imperfect thread."
"Upon awaking, I knew that the dream was a vision sent to me of the threat lurking in Sandsmark work. I read the article again and then I saw the truth. Myths and stories are the blood of gods. Sandsmark was reviving tales that would obfuscate Zeus and his pantheon. Perhaps, even replace us. Certainly, drain us our precious fecundity. I could never let that happen."
Donna Troy looked up at the massive sandstone reliefs standing about them. Proud Apollo stared with impious eyes upon this world. She had always felt comfort here, but in those blank, sandy eyes she saw how little history cared for the present. It carried nothing less than disdain for those living past its borders. It used the power of tradition and fact to subdivide the world. Pity the poor fool unable to adjust to the difference.
She turned to Maxwell Zeus. "I know youre unbalanced. They dont send you to Arkham unless youre 52 cards short of a deck. But this is not the way. Im guessing its not even youre real motivation."
"If youre a god," she continued, "than you know how myths work. Theyre passed down and altered and stretched and fabricated till theyre separated as much by words as by time. But they are the blood of gods, and through them the gods survive. Zeus myth will continue to shine far longer than Helenas work."
"This isnt about your myth. This is about you - whomever you are underneath this guise of Maxwell Zeus. Do you know that youre deluded? Youre dream - its telling you that you dont belong in Olympus - not that Helenas work is eclipsing it."
Maxwell Zeus pondered Donna Troys words. She spoke with the clarity of Athena and in soothing words to make Apollo weep. Perhaps she was right, but to admit that would mean Zeus would have to admit many other things. That he wasnt a god. That he wasnt Zeus. That he was crazy.
"Do you have any idea what it is like losing seven years of your life in an insane asylum?" Zeus said. "Has your checkered history ever afforded you that opportunity? Youre wrong, Donna Troy. This IS about history. This is about being the punchline for the Joker or the rimshot for the Riddler. Should any being, man or mortal, long endure that indignity?"
Maxwell Zeus locked his jaw in famous Greek stubbornness. "Im more than a joke. Im Maximus Zeus - Father of Olympus, Lord of the Sky and Air. Wielder of Thunder and Lightning. And I will not be belittled by villain or woman." Maxwell Zeus lifted his cane again and struck an explosive with his lightning bolt.
Donna had no time to react as the Museum thundered about her. Maxwell Zeus disappeared from her eyes, enveloped by a cloud of debris and fire. Directions lost their meaning in the inferno. Something hard and heavy fell on her, knocking her to the floor, but offering her some comfort from the storm. She lay there until the explosion was replaced by incessant ringing in her ears.
The stone face, which covered her, was no match for her strength and she easily lifted herself out from under its weight. The Museum proper still stood, but the Hall of Antiquities was now rubble. Zeus electrical bolt only detonated one of the explosives, sparing the Museum and most of its contents a terrible fate. That itself would have been enough of a miracle, but there was more.
Standing before her was Maxwell Zeus. Whether by the grace of Fates or gods, the blast had left him untouched but all was not well. Tears cracked the dust upon his face like scars. There was no question now - the man had come unhinged, lost to whatever pandemonium is reserved for the mad. Donna Troy approached him and saw he was staring at something. She followed his gaze towards the ground.
At their feet lay a shattered sandstone relief and along its broken length was the visage of Zeus lording over Mount Olympus. An image that had survived centuries of war and decay had been desecrated by the very man who honored its virtues. No longer would it stand as testament to the nobility of Greece, bower of civilization. Zeus was nothing more than rubble - the victim of willful pride and the strange dice cast by time.
Donna Troy sat in the hospital chair gently stroking Cassies hair while they waited for Helena Sandsmark to awaken from her sleep. Motherhood, daughterhood, sisterhood - they were joined by those female things unknown to men. It was a power that would sustain them long into the new century.
Time would heal Helenas wounds and time would salve Cassandras violent escapade. Even for Donna Troy, the cycle of years would allow her to piece together a new life from fragments of the old. These moments will become nothing more than an event of change for them. But for Zeus - poor, pitiful madman that he is and ever shall be - time would hold no solace and only pain. History and the future owed no fidelity towards him. And so, he returned to the eternal present of Arkham Asylum, a strict and stagnate world that allowed no growth, no stability, and no sanity.
is an aspiring writer with a wife, child and dog. He is a closet libertine and thinks he can sing like Marvin Gaye...on his good days. Wishes he could write like Nelson Algren. He is also a contributor to our first comic book, "Fanzing Presents: Job Wanted", which can be purchased at Too Many Longboxes.com!
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This piece is © 2002 by David J. LoTempio
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