Most of us have seen her before. Some of us only in pictures, but if you look up to the skies you can often see her familiar silhouette framed against the clouds, her coming often heralded by the thunderous boom of the sonic wall shattering.
The Goddess of Valor City, as the tabloid rags once named her.
As a founding member of The Valors, Amarynthia is perhaps the most recognized heroine in the world, and the only Extra-Human besides Vitruvian Man with a designation of Prime. That brings us to the obvious question;
“Amarynthia – which of you two is stronger?”
She lets out a carefree chuckle.
“Christina, does it matter?”
Maybe it doesn’t, not to her; but it’s the question the media seems to ponder most often. One can hurl nuclear reactors into space, the other can fly at speeds of at least Mach 12. When you say those words out loud, does it really matter who is more powerful? They are like ancient gods walking on a playground of insects.
While the name is still in the air, I try to ask her about Vitruvian Man’s many foot-in-mouth ‘mis-steps’ on social media, but she carefully deflects the matter, perhaps to give her teammate the opportunity to save his own grace.
She moves to talk about the most recent crisis to hit the city, and it’s not what you might expect.
“The biggest threat to Valor City right now is not an Extra gone rogue. It’s not a villain, not in the common sense. It’s inequality. It’s poverty. It’s the unemployment of men and women in The Trench. It’s children going hungry. It’s homelessness. And it’s a matter we need to address, before it’s too late.”
I can’t help it, but the jaded cynicist in me raises her ugly head. Is Amarynthia putting on a show? Is this just a way to keep her image squeaky clean?
“Last week there were nineteen murders in The Trench. Nineteen. Is it any wonder people look up to men like The Crowbar? A man more violent than the perpetrators he doles out justice to? We can do better, Christina. We need to do better.”
She comes off as genuine. Maybe she is. But more than a champion of social change, Amarynthia is most known for her heroism on the streets of Valor City. Her battle with Deathstalker is already the stuff of legends; a man regarded by most as virtually indestructible, and she sent him to the hospital with a cracked chest-plate and a fractured skull.
But she doesn’t want to talk about it. What is it that makes her shy away from glory? Why does she defy the attention most heroes would give their capes for? Is it shyness? Or is it true altruism?
“Altruism is its own reward,” she finally says. “We do not seek glory or fame – we seek to prevent injustice wherever it is found, and to right the wrongs done unto others.”
She speaks like a Greek heroine ripped from the pages of mythology, but her words ring hollow, considering how often Vitruvian Man graces social media with his fumbling presence or how often Iron Raven is seen giving autographs after his heroic deeds.
Perhaps there is the reason. They are, after all, only men. She is something else entirely. She is a hero. Not just to every girl who ever dreamed of becoming a hero, but to every man, woman, and child in Valor City.
Before she left, most likely to save yet another life, I asked Amarynthia the question everyone wants an answer to. What does it take to be a Valor? She stared out the window, craning her neck a little as if listening to some distant voice.
“Three blocks from us, a woman was just almost run over by a car. A young man stepped into the traffic – stepped into the traffic – and pushed her to safety just in time. A car clipped him and shattered his ankle. That’s all it takes. That’s all it’s ever taken. The decision. To act, or to not act. You don’t have to do anything – you can stand by, let things happen, be safe. But if you do decide to act… If you take that step, you are a Valor.”
Amarynthia has left, soaring to the skies, a visage of gold and blue. I am left sitting with only one thought in my mind. A realization. This woman is no mere hero. She is the one who stands between the darkness and the light, the one who draws a line in the sand, who stands at the gates and says “Never again”.
I have not stood next to a god before. I hadn’t thought one would be so… Human.