A lone woman stands on a hill overlooking a small city. She focuses on a church, where various citizens are attending a ritual. The young woman thinks to herself that four hundred and fifty years ago, the Church of Rome came to this land - but it didn’t matter that those who lived here already had beliefs, as old if not older. The friars brought the word of God, and woe to any who would not listen, for by their side rode the conquistadores to enforce it. If you converted, you lived, albeit a slave, to the Spaniards and Portuguese. Hold to your old beliefs and you went the way of the bullet, the sword and the flame.
The young woman wonders why so many had to die in the name of the “God of Love”, why must it be a sin to hold another faith? Why one church, one supreme being, to the absolute exclusion of all others? ‘Why are they right in their faith…and I wrong?’ she wonders. The young woman notes that in her own way, she is as much a child of Rome as this “holy mother church”. She recalls how her ancestors fled that eternal city in the days of Gaius Julius Caesar, with the death of the old republic, sailing westward through the pillars of Hercules to the Americas.
The girl exclaims that her father is the first senator of Nova Roma, the city her ancestors founded in the Andean highlands, near the headwaters of the Amazon. ‘I am Amara Juliana Olivans Aquilla - but I am also Magma!’ she exclaims as she transforms from a young girl to a girl of flaming power, for hers is the will to command the molten substance of the heart of this world. Amara is a mutant, as is her friend, who she turns to over on a nearby rock. His name is Manuel Alfonso Rodrigo De La Rocha, better known as Empath. While Magma shapes living rock, so does Empath, descendant of those who seized this land - the emotions of those around him.
Empath tells Amara that it was a lovely service, and that she should have been there. Amara folds her arms and turns away from Empath, reminding him that he scoffs at the rituals of her people. Manuel replies that they are pagan, heathen, to which Amara asks ‘In whose eyes?’. ‘God’s!’ Manuel replies. Amara begins walking away, asking Empath how he knows that his God is real. Manuel tells Amara not to be blasphemous, ‘Of course he’s real!’ he exclaims. Amara tells him to prove it, to which Manuel, following her, asks what that means. Magma tells him that it is a simple enough request, to prove his God is real. Manuel asks Amara to prove that hers are real, to which Amara replies ‘That’s easy…I’ve met mine!’
(Flashback, takes place between New Mutants (1st series) #44 and #45)
‘Have at thee, recreant! You and your fellows will harm not a hair of this fair damsel’s head! So speaks the Prince of Power…Hercules!’ exclaims Hercules as he swings a troll high over his head. A scantily clad woman hangs off Hercules, and several more trolls try to get to them. Hercules lifts the woman up over his shoulders and smacks one of the trolls on the head…all which is being watched by a movie theater full of people.
Including, the New Mutants, who are spending a rare Saturday evening at the local movies, currently showing the latest Barbarian epic “Prince of Power”. ‘What a guy!’ exclaims the alien Warlock in admiration of Hercules. ‘What a gal!’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie exclaims as he checks out the female actress. ‘What a waste!’ his best friend Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta adds, before shouting out ‘Way to go - Jerkules!’ Sam sips a soda and exclaims that Hercules’ chest size is bigger than his IQ, while his teammates Xian Coy Mahn a.k.a. Karma and Doug Ramsey a.k.a. Cypher are more interested in each other than the movie. Karma declares that it is terrible, while Doug remarks ‘Celluloid’s died to make this bomb?’
The New Mutants’ co-leader Dani “Mirage” Moonstar mutters ‘We paid money to see this?’ while her best friend Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair clings to her and exclaims ‘Yon lady has no clothes!’ Amara “Magma” Aquilla jokes that the lady was robbed, ‘And so were we!’ while Warlock declares that he finds human interpersonal relationships fascinating, to which Illyana “Magik” Rasputin tells him to give her a break, ‘Unregenerate alien mutant techno-organic sex fiend!’
Eighty minutes pass, like so many days, until at long last, the movie is over, and the New Mutants and the other movie goers leave the cinema. ‘What a bimbo!’ Bobby exclaims, to which Dani asks him if he means Hercules or his girls. ‘Does it matter?’ asks Cypher laughing, and Karma points out that Hercules had so many of them. ‘And none of them could act!’ Cypher exclaims. Cannonball adds that the screen writer couldn’t write, nor could the director direct, and Bobby asks his friends if they could believe the “lamo” playing Pluto.
Amara declares that Hippolyta was impressive, to which Sunspot asks her if she is kidding, ‘Rahne makes her look like a wimp!’ he exclaims. Rahne tells Bobby to keep his rude opinions to himself - and his grabby hands as well. The New Mutants all stroll on ahead, while Amara hangs back, ‘They laugh, no less than I did’ she thinks to herself, Amara recalls that when she was younger, Hercules and Hippolyta were her heroes, and that in her home of Nova Roma, the Prince of Power is revered as a God - but here in America, he is the butt of jokes.
Later, back at Xavier’s School, the New Mutants home, Amara sits in her room, recalling that her father sent her to America to learn of the modern world, beyond their ancient, hidden land of Nova Roma. Amara wonders if her father would have done so if he had known that one of her lessons would be how to mock her deepest beliefs. Amara realizes that she has not prayed in such a long time, nor done her proper duty to the lords of Olympus, so kneels before the altar in her room, ‘Forgive me, father Jove!’ she begins, declaring that she suddenly feels so alone, for all she thought she knew, and held most dear, no longer has meaning.
‘Blessed Gods, I am afraid!’ Amara exclaims, declaring that she loves her friends and adds that their world is, in so many places, the most wondrous of places. ‘But to be a part of it…must I sacrifice myself?’ Suddenly, there is a mighty gust of wind, and Amara hears a rumble of thunder gather in a clear sky. Looking out the window, she sees a shooting star and wonders if it is coincidence, or a sign.
Suddenly, the window bursts open and Amara crouches back, as Hercules himself enters her room! He stands before Amara and bids her greetings, in the old way, the classic tongue as he puts it. Hercules declares that from father Jove through his son, to the gracious lady Amara Juliana Olivans Aquilla, daughter of Nova Roma, ‘Thy prayer has been answered!’ ‘Can it be?’ Amara wonders, before realizing that he does speak the Latin of her tutors, which she has not heard since she left home.
Joy lights Amara’s heart and soul like a spring sunrise, and she exclaims to Hercules that she never dreamed, or dared not even hope. ‘Faith, child, that is why I was sent to thee!’ Hercules replies. Amara goes over to the light-switch on the wall and asks Hercules if she may turn a lamp on so that she may see him better. But Amara’s disposition changes very quickly when the light shines upon Hercules - ‘YOU!’ she exclaims frowning, ‘I should have known! Deceiver, you are not Hercules!’
Hercules smiles, ‘You prefer the English speech? As you will’ he remarks, before assuring Amara that he is Hercules, and asks her how she can doubt him. ‘Easily, you were the star of that film we saw tonight!’ Amara exclaims. ‘One of my finer thespic moments, not to mention my most glorious of adventures!’ Hercules replies. Amara declares that she knew it, that he’s a fake, a lousy actor, before asking him if the others put him up to this, to make fun of her. ‘Dear child -’ Hercules begins, until Amara interrupts, telling him to shut up, before storming out into the corridor and banging on all of her teammates doors, as she tells Hercules that she wouldn’t believe a word he says.
‘Everybody up out of bed you toads!’ Amara exclaims. ‘I’m angry, I’m good and angry! I’m steaming!’ she shouts, demanding answers - or else! Sam asks Amara what is up, while Hercules comes and stands beside Amara, and Dani asks ‘Who’s the hunk?’ Cypher and Sunspot begin to suspect who he is, before Hercules introduces himself, as Hercules. ‘It is him! The jerk from the movie!’ Sunspot exclaims. Hercules clears his throat, before telling the New Mutants that their most fair comrade is suffering a crisis of faith and prayed to the father of Olympus, Jove, who chose to reply by sending his favorite son.
‘Talk about method acting’ Bobby mutters, ‘And over-identifying with your part!’ ‘Not to mention the ugliest of costumes!’ Cypher adds. Mirage tells Amara that she doesn’t understand why she got them out of bed for this, to which Amara replies ‘Jokes over, Dani!’ Amara turns away from her teammates, telling them that have had their sun so can all laugh now. Bobby asks Amara if she thinks they are responsible for this, to which Amara asks what other explanation there could be. Cannonball tells Amara that they are honestly as mystified about this as she is, before everyone follows Hercules - or as they suspect, “Hercules” outside.
Hercules exclaims that it is incredible that they do not believe he is who he says, and declares that he shall prove himself, and does so by lifting up a car that is parked outside. Amara remarks that it proves nothing, and tells Hercules that Sunspot can lift the car just as easily with his solar infused strength, and bobby demonstrates that ability. Hercules exclaims that it is a true challenge to convince the doubters of the truth, but declares that, as ever, Hercules will rise to the challenge, and tells the children to watch as his mace shatters the boulder up ahead to powder.
Hercules tosses his mace, while Cannonball blasts alongside it, informing Hercules that he can bust up the boulder before the mace gets to it - and indeed, Cannonball does, as his invulnerable form smashes into the boulder. Sam then grabs the mace and returns it to Hercules before he has even realized what has happened. Hercules asks if any mortal can leap so high, and jumps way above the mansion, only to be greeted by Warlock who has transformed himself into a helicopter. Warlock grins and exclaims that he can achieve any altitude desired and maintain it indefinitely.
Amara shifts to her lava form and addressing Hercules as a braggart, asks if he can wield the fires of mother Earth herself, demonstrating her own abilities by causing a burst of molten lava to erupt near them and shapes it into what she calls an image of the true Hercules. ‘Warrior and hero worth the name!’ Amara exclaims. Hercules remarks that he was portrayed that way in ancient days, before Amara informs him that they are mutants, born with their special powers, little different, she suspects, from he, a super-being who has borrowed Hercules’ name, and should be ashamed of himself for doing so.
Hercules holds his mace up in the air and declares that he has had enough. ‘You will sing a different tune, girl, when you behold the marble halls of Olympus!’ However, when nothing happens, Hercules is rather surprised. He holds his mace up again and cries out ‘Father, hear your son’s call - carry me and these unbelievers to your palace!’ Nothing happens, and the New Mutants all begin to laugh and snigger at him.
That laughter is echoed far from Salem Center, far from the Earthly plane of reality, high atop the mountain of legend, home of fabled Olympus…where Zeus remarks that no matter how loudly his son calls, he shall not answer him. Other Olympians look through a scrying pool down upon Hercules and Pluto declares that he has never witnessed so rich a jest, so delightful a moment. ‘To see that arrogant knave brought low - the look on his face alone is beyond price!’ Pluto exclaims. Apollo asks Zeus why he mocks Hercules, to which Zeus replies that it is better to ask Hercules why he mocks they on Olympus, with that travesty of an entertainment.
Zeus remarks that it is past time Hercules learned that Gods have need of the faith in mortals, as much as mortals do of Gods. Zeus adds that such a responsibility cannot be taken lightly, and exclaims that if the lady Amara - who truly believes in them - has lost that faith, then in part it is because of Hercules’ own foolishness. ‘All Olympus will pay the price…’.
Back on Earth, Hercules hangs his head, ‘Father, I came here at your will - why now have you forsaken me?’ Hercules asks. Mirage tells everyone that the show is over, and orders her teammates back to their bedrooms. Amara hangs back and looks over at Hercules, thinking that he looks so sad and confused, just like she did earlier. Hercules calls back to Amara, telling her to fear not, as he swears that he will find some means, a task, a trial, the greatest and most impossible of deeds to prove himself to her. Amara looks at him and realizes that he means, but that is not what she wants - is it? She decides that she better go with him to keep him out of trouble.
Arriving shortly after at Salem Center railroad station, Amara realizes that this is the last train, so she will be stuck in Manhattan until the morning. Hercules tells her to fear not, as the best of accommodations shall be provided for her at Avengers Mansion. Amara asks Hercules if he is a super hero, then why not use a super hero name? Entering the train carriage, Hercules asks Amara what better name there is than his own? ‘Am I ashamed of who I am, that I must choose another?’ he asks. Amara notices the people around them, and thinks to herself that considering the way he dresses and the looks these other people are giving them, shame is not his problem.
Taking their seats, Hercules asks Amara to tell him if she has these same doubts about his fellow Avenger, Thor? ‘Of course not’ Amara replies, exclaiming that she knows he is the Norse God of Thunder, and adding that she has been to Asgard.
Soon, they arrive at Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, Hercules thinks to himself that Amara poses a problem to rival the Gordian Knot, yet unlike that fabled Macedonian Alexander, Hercules knows he cannot resolve it by slicing it in two. ‘She doubts nothing about me but my mantle of Godhood’ Hercules thinks, ‘Yet without that, Hercules is less than nothing’. Amara hails a taxi, but it drives past them without slowing. Amara remarks that even the witch-goddess, Hecate is no so hard-hearted as some New York cab drivers.
Glancing around, Amara does not see a bus either, and remarks that it appears that they shall have to walk the rest of the way. Hercules tells her that it doesn’t matter as it is a fine night, when suddenly they hear gun shots nearby. ‘We got the loot’ one of the robbers cries, before declaring that they should get out of here. There is more gun fire, and Hercules’ face lights up, ‘A robbery!’ he exclaims. The car full of thieves drives towards Hercules and Magma, who is now in her lava-like form, and one of the men in the car exclaims ‘Catch a look at those freakos!’ another of the men points out that they are blocking the main road, ‘Tough luck, floor it!’ one of the men tells the driver.
Suddenly, pillars of lava burst through the road, taking the men by surprise and as Magma points out, slows the vehicle down, slow enough that it crashes into Hercules, who is not moved or damaged by the crash, and the men come falling out of the vehicle. Hercules grabs two of the men and exclaims that there is nothing like a bout of action to stir the blood and clear confusion’s cobwebs from the head, even against such paltry foes as these. Hercules then wraps the four men up in strips that he tore off their car. Hercules turns to the approaching police cars, ‘Here arrives the local civic watch to incarcerate the rascals!’ he exclaims.
A little later, back at the crime scene, people in a bar swoon over Hercules, while Amara watches him, ‘Look at him - drinking this inn dry, letting people, especially those hussies fawn all over him, growing more outrageously boastful by the minute!’ Amara thinks to herself, adding that the crowd loves it, and “Hercules” knows it, as he is giving them what they want, playing his role to the hilt. Hercules asks Amara what ails her, ‘We are heroes!’ he exclaims, pointing out that it is a title, and this moment, that are meant to be enjoyed. Amara tells him to celebrate for the both of them, as he is much better at it, and far more practiced than she.
Amara reminds Hercules how he said he would find a way to prove his true identity and nature, and exclaims that she wishes to thank him for doing precisely that. Hercules gets to his feet and tells Amara that despite what she says, he senses there is much left unsaid and unresolved between the two of them. Amara replies ‘Nothing worth the bother’ before bidding him farewell. Hercules attempts to go after her, but the two woman fawning all over him pull him back, ‘You heard the baby, sweet-heart’ one of them says, ‘She’s history! Forget her!’ the other exclaims. ‘You’ve got more important things on tap!’ Hercules exclaims that he was never one to refuse a lady’s invitation, and tells them to lead on, ‘Let the revels begin!’ he shouts.
Walking along the street, Magma thinks to herself that this stinks, and so does Hercules, for she was actually starting to like him. ‘Silly me’ she thinks, before deciding that she has lived and learnt, before thinking that perhaps if she rings the school, someone can come and get her, when suddenly a mighty explosion from a nearby building knocks her to the ground. People around her begin running and screaming while Amara checks herself and detects that she has nothing broken, though she was hurt badly.
Amara wonders what struck her, when she sees the building ahead of her, shattered by an explosion and set ablaze, she can see residents trapped up in the higher floors. Amara shifts to her Magma form once again and creates a molten lava ramp for her to run up, enabling her to reach the stranded civilians. Fire and rescue units begin to arrive, filling the streets below, while Amara reaches a stranded family, telling them not to worry, as she is here to help. Magma encases the family in a sphere of rock which will protect them from the fire, while thinking to herself that lava was cooled the instant it formed so the people within will feel no discomfort, and the living stone remains subject to her will, enabling her to hurl it to the ground - which she does, right towards Hercules. ‘Avenger! Catch! But gently!’ Amara exclaims. Hercules replies that there is no need to worry, before opening the bauble, and freeing the elderly woman, two children and a cat. ‘Wow! What a ride!’ one of the kids exclaims. ‘Can we do it again?’ the other asks.
Back up in the apartment, Amara wonders if they were the only people trapped, when she sees a teenage boy holding a baby behind her. The exhausted teen is telling the baby to hold on, that they will make it, when Amara tells him to quickly follow her, as she will show him the way. The boy is confused, ‘You’re burning all over, but you’re alive?’ he exclaims, ‘What the heck are you?’ Before Amara can answer though, the floor collapses, and they begin to fall.
The boy and the baby land safely, but Amara has sustained some injuries and reverts back to her human form. The boy grabs her as he ascertains that all the exits are blocked, he then calls out for help. Hercules hears the cries for help and tells the fire fighters to stand back, before running into the burning building. ‘Your courage is without equal’ he tells the brave fire fighters, ‘But this is a task only the Prince of Power can accomplish!’ he exclaims.
Rushing through the flaming building, Hercules tears back brick, concrete, steel and wood as if they were made of tissue paper, ignoring the sting of the flames. In hardly anytime at all, he finds Amara, the teen and the baby, and carries them to safety. Handing them to a fire fighter, Hercules announces that the lass and child are lightly hurt, but the boy - his voice trails off. The fire fighter remarks that the boy’s injuries look pretty bad and exclaims that they need the paramedics on the double.
Hercules leaps into the air, towards another building which has a water tank on top of it and exclaims that this conflagration has done enough harm. Lifting the water tank above his head, Hercules exclaims that now the building has been emptied of people, it is past time, he put and end to it, and the fire fighters watch in amazement as he empties the water tank over the flaming building. ‘Where do we sign him up?’ one of the fire fighters asks, while another exclaims that the man has style.
House later, at Bellevue Hospital, a doctor tells Hercules that they have done all they can, to which Magma exclaims that she doesn’t understand. ‘With all your medicines, your miracle machines, why can’t you save him?’ she asks. The doctor replies that he is truly sorry, but with all the calling out that the teen did, he breathed flame, and his bronchial membranes are almost destroyed. The doctor explains that there is no way for the oxygen the teen breaths to reach his bloodstream.
‘So he’s suffocating!’ the doctor exclaims, before informing Amara and Hercules that the boys parents are on vacation, and although the hospital has notified them, they will not be back in time - the boy wont last the night. The doctor remarks that it is a fearsome thing to die alone, and tells the heroes that they can both stay with the boy if they wish to. Amara and Hercules watch the boy, whose name is Jaime Suarez, through a window, and Amara remarks that it isn’t fair. ‘We have such power - I to make mountains and you to level them - there must be something we can do!’
Hercules goes over to Jaime’s bedside and agrees with Amara, before suggesting she try and make the inevitable a little easier. Hercules speaks to Jaime Suarez, remarking that perhaps his flesh is beyond hearing these words, before stating that it is the special province of immortals to speak to the spirit. ‘As yours was noble, let my tales be the same, in hope they bring you comfort on your final journey’. Hercules exclaims, before beginning to tell Jaime a story of when the world was young, and Gods walked with heroes upon the Earth. ‘Once, I knew a man who was the equal of any God, his name was Jason, his ship, the Argo, and in the ways that matter, you two are much alike…’
The stories last till dawn, as does Jaime Suarez’s life. Hercules lifts the lifeless body out of the bed, and remarks ‘I am an immortal’. He declares that three thousand years and more has he walked this Earth, and in that time he has seen and done so much - yet the one thing he has never learned is how to endure the death of a friend. ‘You mortals are so frail, live so short a time, how do you stand it?’ he remarks, before declaring that this boy was as brave as any warrior he has ever known. ‘And compared to him…I am nothing’.
Amara realizes that Hercules is crying, and thinks to herself that she has the feeling that crying is the rarest of experiences for him. Amara takes Hercules hand and remarks that if not for he, then the baby and she would have perished. ‘Weigh those lives in the balance as well’. Hercules lays the boy back on the bed and tells Amara that she speaks rational words, but that they are of little meet in the face of such grief as Jaime’s parents will feel. Hercules pulls a sheet over Jaime’s face, assuring him that for as long as he lives, he will remember him. ‘I shall draw courage from your example…and honor from the privilege of having met you. Sleep well, hero, and may the roads you walk ever be gentle ones’.
Amara falls to her knees, ‘My lord, Hercules, it is you - please forgive me!’ she exclaims urgently. Hercules pulls her up, ‘No, lass, no’ he exclaims, before declaring that it is he who should bow to her, and asks which is the more deserving - ‘The eternal Godling who is virtually impervious to death…who lives forever yet has learned so little from the experience - or you mortals, whose very existence is a never-ending duel with the reaper, a contest whose outcome is pre-ordained?’
Hercules exclaims that bravery and heroics come naturally to him, for the risks he takes are small. He tells Amara that it is she who gambles all with every breath, who embodies the true miracle. He tells Amara that she should not acclaim him as a God, or venerate his name, until he has proven himself worthy. They smile, and Amara replies ‘As you wish, but at least - may we be friends?’ she asks. Hercules hugs Amara and lifts her, ‘Aye, lass!’ he exclaims.
Leaving the ward, Hercules tells Amara that friendship is of more value to him, and does him more honor, than her worship. He suggests they go and make themselves presentable, then return to this place of healing where they can tell the boy’s parents how their son lived and died.
Back in the ward, an image of Zeus appears over Jaime’s body, and Zeus remarks that his son has learned well, and that Jaime Suarez has taught well. Zeus points out that although Jaime is not of his faith, his spirit shall be ever welcome on the Fields of Elysium, for he has well and truly earned his place among the heroes!
Amara informs Empath that she has also met the Gods of ancient Norsemen, and visited their home, fabled Asgard. ‘They exist, Manuel’ she declares, before asking him how he can say that his are the true beliefs? ‘They just are’ Manuel snaps back, before telling Amara that perhaps that is the difference - and the answer to her question. ‘You speak of faith, Amara’ Empath begins, pointing out that as she says, she has met her Gods, so she has proof of their being, and even their so-called divinity, so how easy it is then for her to believe in them. ‘I however, have nothing but my belief. My faith’. Empath concludes by asking ‘Which then, I wonder…is truly the stronger?’
‘Curse him!’ Amara thinks to herself, before wondering if she suddenly doubts herself because of what Empath said - or did he just use his powers to affect her judgement? Amara wonders why one belief must stand triumphant over another, why the existence of one somehow threatens or diminishes the other. ‘If I could answer that…but I cannot. If Manuel has never doubted, I envy him. But I have. And in that hour of need, I was answered. Even if I’m never so blessed again…that once was enough. Manuel has his faith…and I have mine’.