A/N: Alex’s powers and new knowledge will make more sense if you go read the first story in this series: “The League of Extraordinary Women”. The disclaimer, spoilers, and other information are in chapter 1.
By the next morning, it seemed like she had settled back into the usual rut. It just seemed weird that she went off and saved the multiverse, and things were still ‘same old, same old’. But the morning scramble was the same. Classes were the same, with everyone eager to be done since it was Friday. Work was the same, although Gloria had a new version of her awesome cinnamon twists for her to try. It was great, but not really any better than Gloria’s classic version, and Gloria admitted the new version would cost her maybe forty percent more to make. So that meant Gloria’s hard work wasn’t going anywhere this time, except into Alex’s stomach.
Her mom and her dad both beat her home, so she was stuck with kitchen clean-up. Her dad cleaned up the home office, which kind of drove her mom crazy, because he kept coming into the kitchen and asking things like ‘is this yours?’ and ‘I thought we agreed to throw this stuff out’ and ‘where do you want me to file this?’
Okay, he really did get the home office way cleaner and way nicer to work in, but maybe it should have been a family task, because the desk and the file cabinet and the shelves looked great, but there were two big stacks of papers and stuff on the floor that they had to go through after dinner. Almost all of it was her mom’s, but there was some of her stuff too, and even some things that had to be Annie’s. Alex took her stuff and Annie’s stuff up to her room. Her stuff went into her bottom drawer in the notebook that held her school stuff, and Annie’s stuff went on top of the stack on Annie’s dresser, which was getting kind of high already.
Alex thought and thought, but she couldn’t figure out how she had managed to leave some of her stuff in the home office. She must’ve really not been paying attention a few times she went down there for the big dictionary or her dad’s set of old encyclopedias.
After she cleaned up the kitchen and got leftovers in the fridge, her dad took her into the back yard and showed her his latest invention. It was tiny. It was a little piece that slid into the clip on top of her cameras. Then there was a tiny metal rod sticking out sideways from that. It looked like her dad had welded the metal rod to the piece. The rod was maybe an eighth of an inch thick, and ended in a little cone that pointed away from the cylinder. There were eight dots of neon red plastic all around the base of the cone.
He took her video camera and slipped the invention into the clip atop it. Then he gave it back to her. He smiled, “Now try floating it and aiming it by looking at the tip of the pointer.”
She wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work, but she gave it a try. She held the camera in the air by the porch, where he could bend over and peek through the viewfinder if he wanted. Then she walked to the far end of the yard. She used her telekinesis to turn the camera on and trigger the auto-focus. And she realized that when the camera was exactly pointed at her, she could see all the dots on the base of the little cone, and if the camera was off-target, at least one of the dots would be impossible to see.
Wow. She could look back at the camera and adjust its aim without looking from the back of the camera. Her dad totally rocked.
She did several little ten-second shots, to check. She pretty much had to check the camera just before filming and then not move, or else keep looking over at the camera as she moved around. Either that, or she was going to have to practice a lot.
Then she flew over to her dad and gave him a hug for being so smart. When they checked the footage, she saw that she was right. She could take a lot of stills like this, or else she had to pretty much stand still while she did the filming. Otherwise, she drifted out of the center of the shot, or even drifted out of the shot entirely.
Shoot. This would work for some of the time, but she was definitely going to have to get Ray or Nicole to do some video filming with the telephoto lens so the footage would look right.
She said, “Dad, you’re the best. This is really clever.”
He gave her a big smile and said, “There’s a lot of things I can’t do for you anymore, but I can do this.”
She smiled while she practiced keeping the camera focused on her without really looking at the pointer all the time. And she smiled for like the rest of the evening, even while she was reading English and working on Spanish vocabulary.
The weekend was way better. She didn’t have to get up early, and she got lots of hours in at the donut store, and she got some pretty decent tips too. She had a date with Ray on Saturday night and he took her to see the action movie she was really hoping she’d get to see.
Even if the ‘action’ movie looked ridiculous to her after seeing how real guns looked and sounded, and after seeing how real heroes acted. Those ‘heroes’ were total dorks. And there was no way an ordinary man could fire those heavy machine guns one in each hand like that, much less hit anything. That was a Buffy-only thing. And whose idea was it to make the girl so totally useless? She really wanted to complain a lot about that, and she had a feeling Willow or Sam or Buffy would hit the roof. And when the bad guy threatened to shoot the girl if the heroes didn’t put down their weapons? She just wanted to stand up in the theater and scream “HE’S POINTING IT AWAY FROM HER! SHOOT HIM RIGHT NOW!” And then the villain put the heroes in a trap instead of killing them, and she knew how stupid that went for D’Lazza. And whose idea was it that getting shot with a .45 in the shoulder wasn’t too bad a wound for the hero? That was totally not what Sam said. Sam said getting shot or stabbed in the shoulder could kill you because of big arteries and stuff there, and even if you lived, getting shot in the shoulder would probably wreck your shoulder joint and cripple you for life.
Superheroing was a complete downer for movie watching. She wondered if Navy SEALs and career soldiers watched action movies and thought the exact same thing. And she was never ever going to look at a vampire movie the same again. Now that she’d seen real vampires, sparkly sexy vampires just seemed totally wrong. And stupid. And creepy.
As they walked out, Ray put his arm around her and asked, “You okay? You seemed pretty upset in there.”
She looked around to make sure no one else could hear. “Umm, just kinda frustrated. I mean, everything in that movie was just wrong. The guns, and the way they shot ‘em, the tactics they used, everything. The badguy was the dumbest boss on earth, and I’ve met bad bosses, and the minions were just embarrassing
they were so dumb. And the girl was such a whiny dork! Buffy would’ve tracked down the director and punched him.”
Ray asked, “She’s the strong one?”
Alex nodded. “She can fire two machine guns at the same time like that, but it takes superhuman strength to handle the recoil, and superhuman aim to hit anything smaller than a giant building like that.”
Ray kissed her and said, “Okay, next time maybe you better pick out the movie.”
She kissed him back and said, “And maybe next time, you and Louis and Jackson go see the action movie and leave the girlfriends behind.”
He laughed. “You know Jackson’s girlfriend would kick his ass if he did that.”
She just grinned. Because Jackson’s new girlfriend Bethesda did kickboxing and stuff, and would totally not put up with Jackson ditching her to go see an action movie she’d want to watch too. But there was no reason Alex couldn’t do the ‘ooh I don’t want to watch those violent explosion-fests’ routine that plenty of other girls did. Even if she’d really enjoyed seeing some awesome explosions and fights and stuff that were real. That bomb Sam and her boss set off? Utterly the most awesome thing ever. That giant magical battle in the hell dimension? Alex was never going to look at movie imitations the same way ever again.
So they went and had pizza and talked about friends when other people were around. Okay, they didn’t really talk much at all when they were alone, because they ended up necking for a while in Ray’s car.
For a long while in Ray’s car. She was almost late for her curfew. It seemed crazy to her that she had a curfew and she was also supposed to be doing superhero stuff, but she figured teen heroines had to put up with stuff like this. Willow and Buffy sure had told her plenty of stories about needing to sneak out at night, and about Buffy getting grounded all the time, and finally getting kicked out of the house, all because they couldn’t convince Buffy’s mom about vampires and stuff.
She was so glad she finally told her parents and everything was okay at home. She didn’t want to think about what could have happened when she told them, if they’d been different kinds of people.
And her dad was waiting up for her when she finally stepped inside. He said, “You just barely made your curfew, Alex.”
She nodded. “I know. We wasted hours watching that lame movie.”
He frowned in confusion. “I thought you were really looking forward to seeing it, and you were really excited when Ray said that was what he was taking you to.”
She nodded. “Well, yeah. But I didn’t realize… I learned too much stuff while I was gone.”
He looked worried. “You learned too much
? I don’t understand.”
She sighed, “I never thought about it before. I mean, movies have cars blowing up, and explosions, and guys firing guns, and firefights, and fistfights, and swordfights, and magical fights… And they’re all totally fake.”
“Well of course they are, they’re special effects and stuntwork.”
She nodded. “But what if you had just learned what all those things really look like? You know how movie swordfights have two guys slashing at each other’s swords with lots of clanging?” He nodded. “That’s not how real swordfights look. Real swordfights with two people trying to kill each other? Way nastier. Way more vicious. Same for guys shooting guns in movies. Sam taught most of us how to use a P-90, just in case. They have recoil. You can’t shoot ‘em the way heroes do in movies. I sat there and spent the whole two hours going ‘that’s fake’ and ‘that’s stupid’ and ‘he’s an idiot’ and ‘she’s useless’ and ‘what a moron’. I think I ruined the movie for Ray just by being so… frustrated. And the heroes were so stupid, and the heroine was such a whiny loser, and the villain was such a dork! Okay, our hellgoddess did something just as dumb, down to the whole ‘drop them into a deathtrap and sit around and enjoy it’ routine. But it was just stupid. And now I’m remembering tons of really stupid stuff out of action movies I’ve seen before. I may never be able to go see an action movie again.”
Her dad put his hands on her shoulders and said, “Alex, did I ever tell you about my friend Kyle MacGruder?”
“The one who went in the army and stayed, and became a Gunnery Sergeant?”
He nodded. “Well, the Marines. That one. Well, he had the same problem with war movies and action movies. He couldn’t watch them without complaining constantly. He knew too much about guns and warfare and what real battlefields are like. I don’t like it that you got that much experience in just a few days, and I don’t like that it’s hurting you in simple ways like going to movies, but you can be smarter than Kyle. He kept going to see war movies and not enjoying them. You can just not go see the movies you know will irritate you. And no one’s going to think it’s unusual for a teenaged girl to want to see comedies and dramas and things like that.”
She nodded, “I guess you’re right. I mean, if someone does something impossible with a rifle in a comedy, it’s just silly stuff. It’s not supposed to be real, or even realistic.”
He smiled, “Did I ever tell you about my friend Bill from grad school? The paleontologist?”
He said, “We couldn’t watch old sci-fi movies with fake dinosaurs or things like that, because he’d start yelling at the screen. ‘That’s not right! That’s not a stegosaurus! T-Rex’s didn’t live at the same time! CAVEMEN! There are no cavemen with dinosaurs!’ It got to be pretty funny after a while.”
She shrugged, “Maybe I’ll just give up and go watch re-runs of ‘The Fuzzy Family’.”
He smiled and teased her, “I thought you didn’t like that show anymore.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. She had loved that show when she was younger, and she would sit and watch it with him every time it was on. And he would stop whatever he was doing and watch it with her, because he was a great dad. Then she went through a phase where she didn’t like it, and he was the one who wanted to watch it. And then, either she got older, or the show got better, because they both watched it for every one of the episodes in its last season. And now they watched re-runs together, just a silly father-daughter thing they did. But he still teased her about the ‘I hate that show’ phase.
Boy, she used to do some really embarrassing stuff.
Sunday morning, she got up and went to church with her folks. She missed church last week because she was off helping people save the whole multiverse, and now she wasn’t sure how she felt about church. She’d seen that the supernatural was real, at least in some places, but it wasn’t making her feel more religious. She’d seen a real hell dimension and she’d seen portals into at least one other hell dimension. She’d seen a real hellgod, and she’d seen a woman who was probably as close to an earth goddess as anything Alex would ever see for the rest of her life. She believed that Buffy had died and gone to some sort of heaven, and had gone into several different hell dimensions and rescued people. But did all of that make religion true, or false, or something in between, or maybe none of the above?
And it wasn’t like she could talk to anyone about this stuff. Well, she could talk to Robyn and Nicole about it, but they wouldn’t have answers. And she couldn’t go talk to a priest or a minister about it, because he’d think she was making it up, and he’d just get mad at her. But if you lived in a world where magic was real, or people had superpowers, wasn’t it possible that everything in the Bible was from people with superhuman abilities? And if you lived in a world like that, wasn’t it just as likely that those kinds of abilities were bestowed on people by some kind of higher power? Buffy talked about The Powers That Be like they were really annoying relatives she had to put up with, and they weren’t around when she needed help, and when they were around all they did was boss her around and cause problems. But Willow said The Powers That Be weren’t anywhere near the level of a true god, much less God. After seeing what Willow could do, Alex figured Willow knew what she was talking about.
Boy, she was getting a headache from worrying about all this stuff. She decided that no matter what she saw, or did, or saw other people do, religion was always going to come down to believing in stuff she couldn’t
see. So all the stuff she learned over the past week didn’t count when she was in church. At least, that was what her head knew. Her heart was still really confused.
On the drive home, her mom asked, “Alex? You seemed… distracted today in church.”
She tried to explain. “It’s a lot to take in, you know? You know how your religion feels to you, and then you find out there are hell dimensions. Real ones. And you find out there really is at least one kind of heaven. And you see real demons, and a real hellgod, and a real… I guess you’d call her an earth goddess. And it’s just hard to put everything together so it all fits back where it’s supposed to in your head.”
Her mom gently said, “I don’t think there’s anything I can say that’ll help on that. But it’s like the astronauts. Just because you’ve been where no one else has ever gone, and seen things no one else has ever seen before, that doesn’t mean things have changed inside you.”
“Thanks, mom.” She didn’t say anything else, because everyone in the car knew things had
changed inside her, starting back the day the truck dumped gallons of GC-161 all over her. But that wasn’t what her mom meant.
But she was still their little girl, even if she wasn’t little anymore, and she was the sort of person who could fight supervillains and demons and stuff that no one should ever have to even think
about facing. She wondered if things were like this for any of the other women from her team. Sometimes she wondered how great it would have been if Willow could have enchanted some cell phones so they could still talk across all the dimensions, so she could just ask them questions like this, and know they would understand what she was going through.
Still, things were a hundred times better than they were back in seventh grade, when she was still changing from the GC-161, and she was scared people would find out, and she was terrified that the plant would capture her and use her in science experiments and chop her up and all that stuff.
Danielle Atron would totally have done all that stuff. And Danielle probably would have done awful things to her whole family too, just in case there was stuff to be learned about the effects of the drug. Danielle would have done anything that would let her get money. Danielle would have happily killed every man, woman, and child in Paradise Valley if it meant she had more money and more freedom to enjoy it.
After lunch, her mom went into the home office to work on her Masters thesis, and her dad went out in the yard to mow the lawn and stuff. So she went up to her room, turned on some music so she didn’t have to listen to the lawnmower, and did homework.
She spent a little while looking up quotes and names from “Romeo and Juliet” to put in her paper, and then she spent a while reading through her paper and fixing stupid grammar mistakes and stupid spelling mistakes and totally spastic wording. And then she wrote it out nicely, and she was done. As Willow said to her that time, “Both woo and hoo!”
So then she had a bunch of time to study Earth Sciences and read ahead in trig and work on Spanish vocab. The verb tenses were what gave her the most trouble, so she spent a bunch of time on that.
And once she was done with homework, she read some in the business books. It was either that or go out and help her dad in the yard. And raking up grass clippings was just a huge pain. Maybe she’d wait until dark and then sneak out when none of the neighbors could see her, and she’d use her telekinesis to get it all done in like a minute.
Hmm. First, she’d have to get her dad to stop working.
She went downstairs and walked outside. “Dad? Come in and take a break. I’ve got some lemonade made up.”
“Well thanks, Alex. But I’d just as soon get all this grass up first.”
Well, that didn’t work. So she glared at him. He still didn’t get it. So she took his hand like she was just leading him inside, and she used her telekinesis to push him into the house even though he didn’t want to go.
He waited impatiently until they were in the house and the door was closed. “Alex! You can’t just use your powers in public!”
She said, “But you wouldn’t listen! I wanted you to come inside so I could tell you not to spend an hour raking up all the grass clippings.”
He said, “I can’t just leave them on the lawn.”
She rolled her eyes. “Dad, I’ll get ‘em all tonight. When it’s really dark and no one can see.”
He thought it over for a bit, but finally said, “No, I’ll rake it all up by hand.” She opened her mouth to argue, and he held up a hand. “Wait, hear me out. I did pay attention when you were talking about being ordinary, and keeping your secret identity a secret. I think we ought to do more of the ordinary things, just so the neighbors don’t ever ask any questions we don’t want to answer. Like how we keep our gutters clean, or how that branch in the tree in the back yard got taken care of overnight, or this. Everybody else on the block is mowing their lawns and raking up the clippings, except Howard, who has a service come during the week, and Andy, who doesn’t take good care of his lawn. And if I notice things like that, I think it’s safe to assume other people on the street do too.”
She scowled. She had a great idea, and her dad was ruining it. Then she remembered what Sam had said about planning a strategy or a tactic. Don’t weld yourself to it. You’re using it, you’re not marrying it. If it doesn’t work, find something better. If someone points out the holes in your plan, don’t yell at them. It’s not their fault. Ask them for their ideas, integrate concepts, and make a better plan.
She said, “Okay. I’ll come out and help. After you drink some water or something.”
He gave her a smirk. “So you’re not really gonna make your poor old hard-working dad some lemonade?”
She stuck her tongue out at him. Then she yelled, “Hey mom! I know you’re busy, but I’m going outside to help dad in the yard. Can you make us a pitcher of lemonade? Your lemonade is really great!”
“Sure honey, I’ll do it as soon as I finish this paragraph!”
She gave her dad a bigger smirk. “See? Instant lemonade!” She looked down at her nice tee and her cargo pants. “And I need to go change clothes. It’ll only take a second.”
She nodded. “Maybe five seconds.”
He poured himself a glass of water, and she flew up the stairs to make a super-quick change. She used her telekinesis to grab from the top shelf of the closet her work jeans and one of her old shirts and her worst baseball cap. Then she dumped them on the floor while she folded her cargo pants and peeled off her t-shirt. She went silvery, puddled over to the work clothes, pulled them into the puddle, and went normal. Presto. She pulled on her old sneaks with the hole in one upper, and she flew back downstairs.
Her dad was only just putting his glass to the left of the sink. She grinned, “Okay, I’m all ready. What are you slowpokes doing?”
He laughed. “I remember when it took you an hour and a half to pick out the right outfit for your first date with Ray.”
“It still takes me an hour to pick out what to wear for dates with Ray, unless he tells me where we’re going and who we’re going to meet, and then if it’s a party where somebody like Libby or Kelly’s gonna be, it might take me even longer.”
He got that sneaky look in his eye and he said, “Have you ever considered wearing one outfit, but bringing three or four other outfits along in a gymbag, so you could do one of your fast changes when you saw you needed something different?”
She opened her mouth and pointed a finger to object, but then she stopped and thought about it. Ray would go along with that, especially if it meant he didn’t have to wait for her to get ready, and if it meant she didn’t fuss at him for not knowing what Libby or Donna or Hannah was going to wear. She finally admitted, “Not up until you said it.”
He said, “Let’s go rake grass clippings, honey.”
It was even kind of fun to be doing something normal with her dad. She made a little mental note to ask about going hiking in the woods together another time. After all, this time she wouldn’t have to worry about hiding her powers from him if something went wrong.
The best part was her mom had a big pitcher of her special lemonade all made up when they came in. Her mom made the most awesome lemonade in the world. She made it from a really good frozen lemonade, but changed the amount of water, and added a little lemon juice to it, and mixed in some honey. Mmmm. She and her dad drank almost the whole pitcher, except for one big glass they saved for her mom.
After she cleaned up, she went up to her room and looked some more in the business books. Ooh! Time management for meetings! She had to read all of that. And make notes. The yearbook guys were really bad about that. They got off on weird tangents, and they never made Jack or Greta shut up, and plenty of stuff didn’t get done, so then they had to have another meeting like two or three days later. Yuck. At the start of the year, they had a meeting that took an hour on Tuesday, then another hour on Thursday, then another hour on Friday, and then another hour on the following Monday before stuff got wrapped up. It was awful
She needed some post-it notes so she could mark that chapter. But the more she read in the introductory chapter, the more she figured she really did need to read most of the book, even if it would take like forever. Because planning out the year would make things run smoother, and knowing how to do meetings would make things go faster in the meetings, and knowing how to handle stuff when people started not getting their stuff in on time? Crucial. Maybe mega-crucial.
She stopped and looked at the Gantt chart stuff in the charting book. It looked pretty intimidating when she saw the really complicated charts at the end of the chapter, but the stuff at the start of the chapter was okay. And that stuff was a lot more like the yearbook stuff. And she was going to need to break a bunch of stuff down into pieces. Like sports photography and sports write-ups. Because the stuff for fall sports would be done months ahead of any deadline, while the stuff for spring sports would be the real time crunch. What she needed to do was go through the yearbook list and make a separate thing for all the stuff that had to be photographed and written up at the last minute.
But what about the stuff that was after everything had to go off to the printer? She looked through last year’s yearbook. Ooh, they did a pretty lousy job of covering the stuff at the very, very end of the school year. They just sort of waved their hands and said, “Oh, there’s other stuff we can’t get into the yearbook but you ought to remember it!” What would Willow do? What would Sam do?
Well, Willow would do a big spell instead of using a printshop. Sam would build her own printing system with a computer and a color copier and something to make the yearbook covers and a binding machine.
No, Sam would put the cool stuff and last-minute stuff on a DVD. Alex knew it. That was what she and Mina could do that no one had done before! DVDs. In a pocket of the yearbook. With slideshows of the pictures in the yearbook. Wait, they could even add in extra pictures that wouldn’t fit in the yearbook. And buying a couple thousand DVDs? Way cheaper than thousands of yearbooks. Ooh, and Jeff and his Wacky Video Gang probably had half a dozen cool videos they’d made this year. Next year, they could go on the yearbook DVD, and then she could get Jeff some school support, and Jeff could make even better videos!
Next year’s yearbook was going to rock
. She was going to make it the best yearbook in the history of yearbook editing. With the DVD thing, they could get in pictures from the track and field regionals. They could get in pictures of the prom. They could maybe get in pictures of the graduation rehearsal stuff, so it would look like they had graduation covered in the yearbook, even though the yearbooks had to go out before graduation.
She spent the next hour talking with Mina on the phone about her DVD idea and what they could do, and all that stuff. And how they would handle it if Brian was one of their assistant editors and he didn’t get his stuff in on time, like he was doing this year. Because Brian was great at writing about sports, but he was always, always, always
late at getting his stuff in. Alex really wondered what was going to happen with the school paper since Brian was supposed to be the sports editor next year. Would the sports stuff always be weeks late?
That gave her another idea, and after she finished talking with Mina, she called up Lindsay and talked with her for a long time about what people besides the ‘in’ cliques would want to be able to look at in the yearbook.
When she went to bed that night, she was really pleased at everything she got done. But then, she didn’t know what was going to happen the next day.