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Aaron Stewart-Ahn & Yoon Ha Lee
THE INFINITE COSMOS
The rainbow shimmer of the Bifrost Bridge faded around Thor, depositing him on the asteroid. He had not come here in some time and was only here now because of a summons from an old friend. The last he had seen her, she had expressed a desire to spend some time in contemplation. He had honored her wishes, but something had changed, and the only way to find out what she needed was to talk to her in person.
An endless snowstorm skirled around him, obscuring the mountain that comprised the bulk of the asteroid. Her mood must be worse than usual, for the snow to be this bad. By habit, Thor curled his fist around his hammer, Mjolnir. Together, they were the danger out here. The thought gave him confidence.
Mjolnir . . . a weapon even older than he. Two cubic feet of molten Uru, tempered and shaped by Dwarven blacksmiths into a hammer in a blazing forge that consumed the energy of a star. Endless battles had chipped the hammer’s precise edges, but it retained its solidity. The haft of the hammer was wound in plain leather that had worn over centuries to Thor’s grip to become an extension of his own hands. At each corner were braided enchantments. Centered in between was a valknut, three interlocked triangles, the symbol of his father, Odin. But Odin had made the triangles curved, bending into each other with mercy, a counter to Mjolnir’s brutal strength. And that was the source of the hammer’s enchantment: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
And Thor was worthy.
Part of the measure of his worth was his willingness to help those in need. And today his friend had called on him, and he had come.
Thor took comfort from the snowflakes brushing his skin. The asteroid might be out in the middle of the galaxy, but Thor felt at home wherever there was a storm. The bizarre sight of this desolate mountaintop and its enchantments was a sign that he had arrived at the right place.
The snow was powdery yet dense. He took a deep breath. Snow fell thickly, and the clouds clung to the ground. Although he could not see well, a path led up the mountaintop, so he began a brisk hike. Soon he had to hang Mjolnir from his belt to keep his hands free as he scrambled up treacherous rock shelves, and the hike became more of a climb. He had to keep wiping snow from his brow and beard to maintain his sight. One rock ledge was just tall enough that he had to pull himself up and over, and he ascended onto a broad platform, dragging his bulk with him.
Just as he gained his footing, Thor raised an open hand. With a keen sound of whistling metal, Mjolnir jumped the short distance from his belt into his waiting fist. Thor instantly crouched in a defensive position, struggling to assess the danger he knew was out there. But he saw only snow and darkness.
Then the first blow came, from behind.
It blasted him off his feet and he flew forward. Impressive, he thought as the wind was knocked out of him. He landed deftly, his boots sliding across snow, and he turned, Mjolnir already swinging.
The hammer connected with a dull thud. He pulled back again and swung, deflecting more sharp bony points larger than his hammer, curved like scimitars. Each one razor-sharp.