Thusla Altman. That’s his name now. He has had many in his long life. It’s a play on the name Methuselah and the German word for “old man.” His birth name sounds so odd in the 21st Century. It sounded odd in the Victorian Age. Ah, those were good times. So was the Renaissance.
He is an art professor at Parthenon State University. That’s his occupation now. If he actually wrote out his full resume, the job titles would include pirate, general, explorer, industrialist, mercenary, spy, and king. He was arguably the world’s first superhero, unless one counts Herakles, Samson, and Gilgamesh. Then, he called himself the Shadow. If he had known that name would be used for a popular radio character 100 years later, he would have trademarked it. His exploits inspired the creation of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Another mistake on his part. He should have engaged in shameless self-aggrandizement, but he’s wealthy enough as it is.
Professor Altman once believed humanity would change. Would get better. He was wrong. He sees now that people just don’t want to change. He’s given up on them. People are beneath his notice. Art is the only thing that matters. It’s the only thing that lasts and has any truth or beauty.
Except for one person. She was his prize student. A little sick girl who spent her time painting fantasy scenes and drawing comics. There was something special about her. A drive for something beyond mere avarice. He told her, “You keep following your passion. Passion is the core to art. Don’t let the department beat the passion out of you. If some professor tries, you tell him I said to go to hell.”
He ran into that girl not too long ago. Literally. They collided on the street. Had she ever changed! She recognized him and called him by name. When he asked how they knew each other, she stammered “I saw you on TV.” Except Professor Altman had never been on television.
As the girl walked away, Altman thought, “I’m an artist, young lady. I never forget a pair of eyes. Miss Catherine Ashe. Now, where did you get that new face and body?”
It didn’t take him long to associate Katie Ashe’s new face and body with the new heroine Valkyria. He had painted so many women’s bodies, clothed and unclothed, and so many faces, he saw right through her costume.
“So, you’re another fool who thinks she can change the world,” he said to himself. “You poor, demented little girl. I shall have to keep my eye on you.”
Thusla Altman. Is he friend? Is he foe? Or is he something else?