Chapter 1: "Worthy-ish"
"I wish someone had told me we were making a five mile trek into the woods tonight. I would have worn sneakers or something." My best friend, Vallory Austin whispers to me as we lag behind the rest of our friends. I grin at her as I look to Britt Thomas and Tim Jones who are walking just ahead of us. I've known Tim every since elementary school and we've been really close friends for the past couple of years. Britt is his girlfriend. Our other friend Mike Angelini is the one leading us on this so called adventure. He said something about finding a giant metal block with a handle sitting in a small crater while he was out here with his dad the other day. Apparently it's something we need to see. "Ok it's just a little bit further up this way." Mike states as we walk deeper into the woods and further and further away from the path. Did I mention its 10:00 at night and pitch black outside? The only light guiding us is the one from each of our phones. "Come on guys. I really think we should go back." I say just loud enough for all of them to hear. It's really creepy out here and I never had any interest in seeing this stupid hunk of metal from outer space anyway. Especially in the middle of the woods at night.
"Brooke, calm down. I promise nothing's gonna eat you out here. Plus were almost there anyway." Mike looks back at me while he says this. I can't really see his face too well but from the parts of it the light from his phone illuminates I can see his expression is trying to be reassuring. I scoff at this as Tim decides to interject. "Mike, we all know Brooke just wasn't built for the outdoors." Even though what Tim says is true I still can't help but glare at him. Everyone laughs a little except for me and we continue to walk on in silence for another minute or two. I focus the light from my phone on my feet and concentrate where my feet are going as I stumble along through the underbrush next too Val. It's starting to get really windy out here and I keep having to brush my hair out of my face. Just as I'm struggling to get my hair into place for what feels like the 9 millionth time in the last 5 minutes Mike stops abruptly. "Ah, here it is!" Mike shouts.
I look up from my feet and realize we all stand in a small almost perfectly circular clearing. The moon has come out from behind the clouds just enough for me to see what's in the center of the clearing without any help from a flashlight. In the center of the clearing sitting in a small crater is a large block of iron with a long pole sticking out of its center. Hm, so Mike wasn't lying. There it is, the question is what exactly is it though? We all move closer to the object and continue to stare at it. "What the fuck is that?" Val asks no one in particular. Mike looks at her and laughs loudly. "I was hoping you guys could tell me!" He says. "Yea Mike, Cuz were all experts on galactic contraptions. What the fuck were you and your dad doing out here anyway?!" Tim says jokingly while walking over to the carter the object sits in. "Don't be rude Timmy, and I already told you he was showing me some nice paths for off roading in the Jeep." Mike replies sourly. Tim just shakes his head and turns his bright flashlight onto the thing in the crater. The entirety of the object is now illuminated and we can all see it clearly. Now that it's not shrouded in darkness anymore I realize I recognize this object. I carry on staring at it as the others talk. I'm not paying attention to anything their saying as I try to figure out where I remember it from. The familiarity of the not so foreign object really nettles me. I rack my brain. I know I've seen it before but where?
Val makes the connection just as I do.
"Mjolnir." I whisper to myself just as she yells "Thor's hammer!" Val immediately turns to me to see if I've also realized the striking resemblance between this hunk of metal and everyone's favorite Norse God's weapon. I shake my head and start laughing. Val and the other's join me. Yes, it does look just like Mjolnir but it's not. First of all Thor is a mythical deity. Second of all even if he wasn't why on earth would his famous hammer be sitting in the middle of the woods in Taunton? It wouldn't be. So clearly someone has decided to leave this admittedly very authentic looking replica of Mjolnir here for some unsuspecting idiot to stumble upon. And here we are having fallen right into the trap.
"Dude, that is so Mjolnir." Val jokes. We are all laughing pretty openly at this point. Tim walks over to the hammer and places his hand on the handle. "If this was really Thor's hammer…" He says, "Then no one but him would be able to lift it." He grasps the handle with both hands and yanks. Nothing happens. We all fall silent. Tim laughs nervously and gets a better grip of the Mjolnir replica. He squares out his shoulders and pulls with all his might. His cheeks puff up and his face contorts with all the effort he's putting into it. Still nothing happens. "Tim, stop it. Your gonna hurt yourself." Britt says from beside me. "Here let me try." Mike says as he walks forward and takes Tim's place beside the crater. He yanks clearly as hard as he can. It's as if the hammer is forged to the ground. It does not move an inch. "Move out of the way weakling, I've got this!" Val says cockily as she pushes Mike's hands of the handle. If anyone of us is going to make that hammer move it's Val. She is definitely the strongest one of all of us. Yes, I know she's a girl and no she's not built like a man or anything. It's just Mike and Tim aren't exactly known for their brute strength. In fact none of us are, not even in the slightest. Tim is the tallest by a lot at 6'4 but he's built like a pipe cleaner with a mop of curly brown hair and blue eyes. Mike is just about as skinny and scrawny as you can get without being malnourished, and he certainly doesn't look intimidating with his pale skin, dark brown hair that's always hiding under a worn baseball cap and overly long eyelashes that are totally wasted on a boy by the way. Britt is on the short side for a girl with olive skin and chestnut hair that's always in a pony tail and she's very curvy, decidedly not athletic. And I may be taller than Val and Britt but I'm by far the weakest and least daunting one in our group of friends with little to no muscle mass, long gangly limbs, almost platinum blonde hair and a tendency to wear dresses. Val on the other hand is built like an Olympian. She stands at about 5'4 and has thick bands of muscle in her arms and legs yet she is still very much feminine with curves that counteract the strength in her limbs. Her dark brown skin and almost black hair add too her femininity as well. Regardless of how girly Val may look she still could take all of us down at the same time in a fight with ease. Yes she is that strong. And yes we are that pathetic.
I watch intently as Val gets a firm and solid grip on the hammer and pulls hard. It doesn't budge. Mike and Tim both step in and they all agree to yank as hard as they can at the same time. Even with all this effort the hammer still makes no indication of ever moving. "Ok, seriously what the fuck?" Britt shouts and she steps forward to help. I don't even offer my assistance. It's no use given the fact that if all four of them together can't make it move I'm certainly not going to make a difference. And to be honest I'm pretty shocked right now. It's like a scene straight of Thor. The whole no one but Thor being able to move or get a reaction out of the hammer is the entire basis for more than half of the movie's plot line.
The corners of my lips quirk up into a smile as I remember King Odin's famous line. "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of THOR!"
"Well if this really is Mjolnir no one but Thor or someone his dad deems worthy is gonna be able to move it guys, so id stop trying." I joke. Once it starts to sink in with everyone that no one is going to be able to move it they all take a few steps back from the crater. "This is so weird. I don't like this." Val says warily all the while not taking her eyes if the hammer. "I agree!" I say as I move closer to them. "It just looks so real." Tim says as he steps in closer again to get a better look. "It feels real too! Like legit heavy duty metal." Mike adds. I take the last few steps between me and the hammer quickly and place my hand at the top of the handle. The very instant I do this the base of the hammer starts glowing and humming and a light blue insignia of some sort appears on the side of the hammer. They all jump back at the same time my hand jerks away from it. The second my hand is no longer touching it the strange reaction stops. "Whatttttttttttttt?!" Mike yells moving further away. We all stand speechless for a moment until Tim turns to me. "Try it again!" he says excitedly. "Tim! She could get hurt! Let's just go home!" Britt yells at him as she smacks him upside the head. "No Britt, wait let's just try it again and if nothing happens then we'll leave I promise." Tim says to Britt but he's looking at me. Seeing if I'm going to argue with him. I don't because I honestly want to see if it happens again. I step forward again and place both hands around the handle this time. The hammer hums loudly and lights up instantly. "That is so fucking cool." Tim says taking out his phone once again as he starts to video tape what's happening. "Why does it only light up for you?! I wanna make Mjolnir glow!" Val yells in a fake whiney voice. We all start laughing again. Whoever left this here must have a hidden camera to watch people's reactions around here somewhere. Pretty clever prank if you ask me. We spend a few minutes joking around and testing how long I can keep the hammer glowing. After awhile we discover that if I keep my hand on it for more than 30 seconds the hammer will glow for about 5 minutes before slowly fading out. We are in the middle of testing what happens if me and one of them are touching it at the same time when we hear what sounds like helicopter's over head. They appear out of nowhere, the wind they cause bending the trees at unnatural angles. There's so many of them. All five of us freeze in our actions. The helicopter's hover about 20 feet above the ground for a moment and then they're on us. Not five not ten but scores of men in black vests and helmets. I see Mike and Britt try to run but it's useless. Each one of us is handcuffed and shoved into the nearest helicopter that has just landed. I've never been in a helicopter before and trust me. This model is not for beginners. A couple of the men sit with their feet dangling off the edges of the open sides as we sit in the seats in the middle. A couple of them are yelling at us but I can tell none of us know what they are saying. It's far too loud for us to hear them and even if it wasn't I'm not sure any of us would have the ability to form a coherent response. We are all in a daze. Not 20 minutes ago we were walking through the woods joking about how I would never survive a camping trip and now we are being taken into custody by scary government officials for playing with what we thought was a toy hammer.
The next thing I know we are landing on the roof of large concrete building in what appears to be the absolute middle of nowhere. Each of us are escorted off the helicopter where we are told to "Wait here and don't move a muscle." Very harshly by one of the men in a vest and helmet. My wrists ache badly because of how tight these handcuffs are and I can't help but strain against them. I see Val doing the same from her spot next to me. A short balding man in a dark suit and tie approaches us. "Welcome to the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division head quarters. I'm Agent Coulson." He addresses all of us. He puts his hand out for Tim to shake since he's the closest to him and that's when he realizes all of our hands are cuffed. "Why are these kids in handcuff's?" Agent Couslon asks in bewilderment to what seems to be the head officer of the helicopter we were in. "I, Ah, We were just following S.H.I.E.L.D protocol sir." He stutters. "I understand you were just doing your job Sergeant Willows but these are just children. Surely you know they are not a threat." Coulson states calmly. "Yes sir, I'll un apprehend them at once sir!" Sergeant Willows barks quickly as him and a couple of his men uncuff us. Another man nudges me forward. "This girl is the one who activated the homing device." He states gruffly. Coulson eyes me skeptically. "Are you sure?" he says warily. "Positive" The man replies. Coulson nods to himself and then turns to Sergeant Willows. "Take these four down to the dining hall and get some food in them. I'll deal with them later." Sergeant Willows nods and ushers Val, Tim, Britt and Mike to follow him when Coulson turns to me and says "You, will be coming with me." He turns on his heel and starts walking off in the opposite direction that Sergeant Willows took my friends. They all look back at me nervously as he leads them to a door on the edge of the roof. I watch them disappear behind the automatic doors and my heart beat quickens to the point where it it's thundering in my chest. I'm terrified. Why me? Why does it always have to be me?
Coulson looks back over his shoulder and calls to me. "Come on, this way." He says it patiently and I finally look towards him and decide to follow him. It's really the only choice I have and yes of course I wish I was with my friends and not isolated and alone like this but Couslon actually seems much nicer than Sergeant Willows did. First impressions are everything. And it doesn't really sit well with me when you meet someone for the first time and they shove you into a helicopter and handcuff you. He starts walking again once I've caught up to him. All is silent except for the whir of the helicopter's engine shutting down as we cross to the other side of the roof. We stop at what looks like elevator doors and Couslon pulls out an I.D badge and swipes it across a red light on the side of the doors. The red light turns green and the doors open. We step inside and the doors shut. I was right in my assumption about the doors leading to an elevator. The elevator is all white and starkly lit. There are only 6 buttons and an emergency stop button. Each button has something written next to it.
Training Center, Intelligence, Armory, Lab, Interrogation, and Course of Action Center.
Coulson jabs the button with Interrogation written next to it with his middle finger and a shiver runs up my spine. Interrogation? What are they going to interrogate me about? How I touched what I thought was a movie prop and it lit up? This seems ridiculously overboard for something so trivial. If the hammer was so important to them why was it sitting out in a crater in the middle of the woods? That man had said that I was the one to activate the homing device. Whatever that means. That must be what they are going to interrogate me about. Well it's not like I knew I was doing anything special when I touched it. In fact I still can't figure out why it had a reaction to me and none of my other friends. They all touched it too. Just as much as I did, if not more. Whoever is about to interrogate me will see very soon that I know nothing. And then they'll have to let me go home and leave me alone. Right?
My palms are sweating and I can't stop shaking as the elevator makes its descent. As the seconds tick by I get closer and closer to the floor labeled interrogation. Why couldn't the buttons just have numbers by them? It would have been so much easier to stand here and be somewhat calm if we were just going to plain old floor number 3 or something. But no, they have to have the title of the floor as their label. And I have to be going to the one with the scariest name out of them all.
This elevator ride seems to be achingly slow. And I keep trying to find something to preoccupy my mind with other than what awaits me at Interrogation. Coulson surprises me by speaking. "What's your name?" he asks me politely. I stare at him for a few shakey breaths before answering. "Brooke Ardini" I say meekly. He smiles kindly and continues "It's a pleasure meeting you Miss Ardini. Our team leader just has a few questions for you. Nothing to worry about just standard procedure."
Just as he finishes the elevator comes to a halt and the doors slide open. I don't even have time to register what he just said because he immediately leads me down a long hallway with metal walls and concrete floors. Oh this is not good. Metal walls? What do they need metal walls for? We stop at another door that has no handle or knob and he swipes his card by another red light. The door slides open with a whoosh as the light turns green. The room is just like the elevator. Completely white. Even down to the table and two chairs. The only exception is a long mirror covering one wall. I'm guessing it's a two way mirror. I stand awkwardly and he clears his throat. "Why don't you have a seat Miss Ardini? Director Fury will be with you in just a moment." I do as he says and he leaves the room with a parting smile that almost seems sympathetic. My foot starts shaking vigorously and I go back to hyperventilating. Director Fury? What kind of name is that?! Just as my mind almost beings a downward spiral into a mental break down the door slides open.
In walks a tall bald black man. An eye patch covers his right eye and seems too only highlight his menacing features and dark beard. He's wearing a floor length black leather trench coat and is dressed completely in black. I swear to god I must have been a terrible person in my past life. I can't even begin to fathom how stuff this ridiculously unfair could happen to someone without it being some sort of karmic revenge. I mean come on. A fucking eye patch? A leather trench coat? Shit like this doesn't happen to normal people. I've finally come to the conclusion that I was probably affiliated with Hitler or maybe even was Hitler in my past life when Director Fury stops in front of me and speaks. "You are certainly not what I expected." He states. I gulp in response. He rounds the side of the table and sits in the chair opposite me. I eye the mirror nervously. Wondering just how many people are watching and taking notes on this conversation. "Now, Miss Ardini is it? Why don't you start by telling me what you know about the hammer?" He says leaning backward against the chair and crossing his arms across his broad chest. After a moment of me not answering. It's not that I don't' want to. It's just that I seem to have lost the ability to communicate at this moment. He makes a gesture with his hand that tells me to come forward with any information I know. He looks at me impatiently and raises a dark eyebrow. "Um I don't really know anything about the hammer, sir. Except that it looks a lot like Thor's hammer Mjolnir and it lit up when I touched it." I manage to croak out. He leans forward and places his elbows on the table. "Thor's hammer? How do you know about Thor?" He demands. I don't understand what he's so insistent about. Thor is just a movie based on some silly comic. "I ah, I know that um, He is the God of Thunder. From Norse legends. There's the comic books that are based on him and then the movie. And that he's going to be in The Avenger's which is coming out in May." I say quietly. Even though I'm trying my voice barely manages to go above a whisper. What I say seems to utterly shock him. He stands up abruptly and closes the distance between us in two strides. "What do you know about the Avenger's initiative?!" He snarls at me. I gasp and shrink back into my chair as he towers over me. "I only know what's in the comic books and movie's sir! I swear! I don't know what you're so worried about!" I whimper. This seems to confuse him even more. "Comic books? Movies? What are you talking about?" he asks incredulously. "The Thor stuff. It's all from the creators at Marvel. They made the super heroes like Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, The Hulk, Hawkeye, Captain America…They form the group The Avenger's like Marvel's version of the Justice League and fight off all the bad guys and stuff. They're making a movie about it and it comes out in May. It's fairly popular…" I trail off not really knowing what to say. I don't understand how this man can clearly know about Thor and his infamous hammer but not know about the comics and movies. It seems pretty impossible to me. One does not learn about those Norse legends and not know about the pop culture parts of it. Especially when this man is clearly around the age that would put him at prime exposure to the comics when he was a kid. I briefly wonder if my friends are getting interrogated about fictional super heroes when Fury speaks again. "I know what the Justice League is. I grew up with those comics and the movies. And obviously you would know about Iron Man, since that's all anyone has been able to talk about since he came into existence. Especially with him being technology god Tony Stark and all. But what I do not comprehend Miss Ardini. Is how you know about top secret agents that some member's here at S.H.E.I.L.D don't even know exist. And why on earth you are saying that they originate from comics. I for one have never heard of this Marvel company you speak of." He is growing less angry and more confused as this conversation goes on. And I don't blame him. I'm extremely confused too. I'm trying to figure out what to say when the door slides open and Couslon enters the room. "Fury, we have had the same result's with each of the girl's friends. They all seem to be convinced that our agents are from comic books." He says to Fury. Both of them look ridiculously confused.
"You talked to Val? She knows about this just as much as I do! See I'm not crazy. Just look it up on the internet and you'll see it! You can even watch the trailer for the movie." I say hopefully to them. They both look at me confused. "We have been running several researches on what you and your friends have been saying and I'm afraid nothing comes up. There is not company called Marvel and there are no comic books or movies based on any of these things you speak of. The only thing that comes up in the research is Iron man and that's not surprising since that is common knowledge worldwide." Coulson says to me with a concerned look on his face and then he turns to Fury. "We have run the diagnostics on their voices, body language and heart rates like you asked and there is no trace of deception in any of their confessions. We ran the diagnostic's two dozen times and it all comes up positive." He says to a frustrated looking Fury. There must me some kind of sensor close to me because I don't really understand how they could evaluate my heart rate without me knowing. Fury heaves a sigh. "Very well then, take her and her friends to Intelligence and we'll go from there." He casts one last glance at me before leaving the room.
Coulson nods and lifts his hand to his ear. "Willows? Bring those kids to Intelligence for me will you?" He says clearly speaking into some sort of earpiece he has. "Alright I'll be down there with the girl in a moment." He turns to me and clasps his hands behind his back. "Miss Ardini, If you would follow me please." He says with a kind smile. I get up shakily and follow him from the room and down the hallway into the same elevator we took to get here. He presses the button for Intelligence and we ride up in silence.
We arrive in a circular room that's designed the same way the hallways here are. Metal walls and concrete floors. A table with a dozen chairs forms an arc around a large screen. I'm just taking in my surroundings when door on the opposite side of the room slides open and Sergeant Willows enters with my four best friends in tow. They all look as relieved to see me as I am to see them. Willows and Couslon let us greet each other for a moment before Fury enters the room. "Why don't all of you sit down? We've got some….talking to do. This might take awhile." He says calmly as he watches us sit down and he stands at a podium in front of the large screen. "Before we begin talking…" he says as he picks up a tablet and starts typing away on it. The Avenger's 'A' appears on the screen behind him as he does this. "I think we should show you a bit of what's going on so we are all the same page." The lights dim and the screen starts to play a slide show of images and video clips of war and fighting. I recognize glimpses of every single one of The Avenger's in each of these. The video shows how The Avenger's came to be and where they are today. Fury's voice narrates in the background in a monotone voice. "There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could...And there came a day, a day unlike any other... when Earth's mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat... to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand... on that day, The Avengers were born." The video ends with a flourish of The Avenger's symbol.
I look to my friends and realize there in the same state of shock as I am. The Avenger's are real. S.H.I.E.L.D is real. The comic books and movies about them don't exist. We have somehow stepped into some crazy universe where everything but the idea of The Avenger's being fictional is exactly the same. The president is still Obama. Our country is still struggling in a recession. I'm still 18 years old and sitting here with my friends.
I'm the first one to speak. "Ok so, The Avenger's are real. Which means Thor and his hammer are real. So when I touched Thor's hammer and it lit up…Well, isn't Thor the only one who can get any sort of reaction out of it? His dad deemed it that way. And what was it doing out in the middle of the woods anyway?" I'm so confused my head won't stop spinning. Coulson looks to me "Firstly it was out in the woods because the bifrost is greatly damaged. Thor returned from Asgard months ago but his hammer was nowhere to be found. We have been searching for it ever since and I guess it landed in those woods where you found it. And we have no inclination as to why Mjolnir had a reaction to you. But it did. Thor has told us that his father is the only one who can control who gets to wield it or activate its homing device. His father is currently unreachable though since he is in Odin Sleep." He answers.
I look around the room and realize everyone is staring intently at me. I clear my throat….well this is awkward. I don't really know what to think about any of this or how to respond to that. So I just say the first thing that comes to mind. "So….does this mean Thor's dad likes me?"