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.
Alex flew back to the police car. The second officer was performing CPR on the first guy. Uh-oh, that wasn’t good. She glanced out of the corner of her eye and checked that her video camera was on them.
She landed beside him and asked in her best Terawatt voice, “Are units on the way?”
He nodded with exhaustion. “Yeah, but I dunno if they’ll get here in time. I think Chuck’s gone into v-fib from that lightning bolt, and the emergency defibrillator in the trunk is fried
. Hell, the whole car is fried.”
She knew what ‘v. fib.’ meant, because her dad had made sure everyone in the family had serious first aid training, along with swimming lessons and wilderness hiking lessons and CPR training. The man’s heart wasn’t beating in a normal rhythm, it was beating like a flutter that wouldn’t move blood through his veins. And it suddenly dawned on her that there was
something she could do.
She just said, “Clear.” The officer immediately jerked his hands off his partner and scooted back.
The officer already had Chuck’s bulletproof vest off and his uniform shirt open, and she used her telekinesis to yank the undershirt apart. Then she knelt down and put one index finger each on the two spots where you placed the paddles of a defibrillator. She had to be careful, because not enough electricity wouldn’t do the trick, and too much would be really, really bad. But the guy was dying right in front of her if she didn’t do anything...
She concentrated and sent a careful jolt of electricity through him. His body twitched under her fingers. She put her palm on his chest, and felt it. ba-bum ba-bum ba-bum
. She had gotten it exactly right on her very first try. It was all she could do not to leap into the air and shriek.
‘Chuck’ drew a ragged breath, and another. She turned to the kneeling officer and peeked at his shirt so she could read his badge. Then she made sure she was still using her Terawatt voice. “Officer Winslow, your partner needs immediate medical attention and transport. Do you need me to call for paramedics?”
He slowly shook his head. “Nope, I got it called in already. The car is toast, but my mike is still working.”
“I dropped the shifter into the mailbox on the corner. You’ll need proper containment before you let him out. And more GC-161 antidote.”
He nodded. “Gotcha.” He looked up at her face. “Thanks. I mean, thanks a ton. And Chuck’s gonna want to thank you when he’s up and around. What do I call you? Mystery Superhero Girl?”
She smiled slightly. It was a good thing she had already made a choice. “Call me… Terawatt.”
Then she strode toward the video camera, making sure it was pointed properly at her. She let the auto-focus do its job. Then she put her fists on her hips and talked to the camera. “You’re recording for the news, right? Then take this down. My name is… Terawatt
. And this city is under my protection. Any supervillains who try to attack Paradise Valley will do so at their own risk.”
She lifted off into the air, making sure to get some ‘flying away’ shots with the video camera before she turned it off and tucked both cameras into the fanny pack. She pulled the fanny pack to her hip and flew off into the sky.
It didn’t take her any time to get back to that apartment building and land on the roof. Still no one around. Good. She went silvery and slid down the side of the building into that storm drain she came out of.
It only took her a minute or so to re-trace her route and come back up in the right place. For a change. She slid up over the closest tire into her car, and puddled into the gymbag in her spare tire compartment. Then she pulled her regular clothes into the puddle, dropped off her superhero outfit, and slid into the driver’s seat to return to normal.
She had both her cameras in her fannypack, so she checked the footage. Wow, some of it was really good. Some of it was shaky, and some of it was unusable, but she could easily explain that as her hiding around the corner while holding the camera out to try to catch the action. After all, those guys had a machine pistol and a sawed-off shotgun and a rocket launcher
. And superpowers.
Then it dawned on her. She had to get this stuff over to the news station right away. She couldn’t wait three hours until her shift was over. And she was leaving Gloria in the lurch. Rats.
She hastily called Gloria. “Hi, it’s me. Alex.”
“Alex, I know it’s you. Is everything okay?” Gloria sounded kind of worried. Alex didn’t know quite why.
“Umm, yeah, but I can’t come back right away. I’ve got to run a couple errands. I’m really sorry, and I know I left you with a ton of customers, but this is pretty important.”
Gloria asked, “Are you okay?” She sounded even more worried.
Alex could have lied and said she was coming down with the flu again, but then Gloria would probably have to call the hospital and tell them her employee might have given a hundred people the flu, and then the hospital would want to run some tests on Alex, and that would all be bad. So she said, “I’m fine. Really. I just have to take care of this right away.”
Gloria checked, “And you’re sure you’re okay? You’re not just saying it?”
“Really Gloria, I’m okay.”
Gloria didn’t sound like she believed Alex. “Well, okay… I’ll just assume you’re off the clock for the rest of your shift, unless you show up.”
She grabbed her cell phone and sent Louis a text: mt me @ kpvc asap
This was one of those things that were going to be a Louis kind of job. She was lousy at things like selling stuff, even if she could do simple waitressing things, like for Gloria. But there was no way she could do what Gloria did, and make something and then figure out what to sell it for, and then get out there and sell it. But that was what she needed to do next. And Louis was the best man for that
Since she was driving and not flying, Louis beat her to the tv station. Okay, maybe Louis drove a lot faster than she did. She didn’t have even one ticket yet, and she knew Louis had maybe three or four. Maybe more than four. And she really didn’t want to get her car dinged up.
As soon as she drove up and parked, Louis was already looking in her window and asking, “Did you get pics? Hot photos? Great videos?”
She nodded and told what he would know was a lie. “I was hiding in the little brick alcove into the Sterling Building, and I got some video and some stills.” But she was telling the lie so Louis would know what to tell other people. He knew exactly how she really got those pictures.
“On separate cameras?” She nodded. He smirked, “Well, we’re not telling ‘em about the stills unless they make it worth our while. So we sell them the video footage, and then we sell the stills to the Gazette. And maybe AP and UPI! Or the entire European market through Reuters!”
“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, Louis,” she reminded him.
He hurried her inside and took over. He marched up to the receptionist and said, “We need to talk to a producer ASAP. We have video footage of the city’s superheroine.”
The receptionist looked like she wanted to ignore him and get back to serious work, like buffing her nails some more. Alex seriously wondered how you could operate a phone and a computer with nails like that. They had to be two inches long! But finally the receptionist picked up the phone and poked some buttons with the eraser end of a pencil. “Mister Winters? I have two kids who claim they have video footage of ‘Ultra-chick’…”
Alex looked at Louis and winced. Ultra-chick? Eww. That was so much worse than anything she’d thought of. About the only thing worse than that would have been Pikachu. Or one of those names that would get her sued, like Megawatt.
A couple minutes later, a thirty-ish woman walked out to meet them. “Hi, I’m Laura Marsters, Brad Winters’ assistant. And you are…”
“Alex Mack,” she said. “I got the shots. This is my business manager.”
Louis quickly put his hand out to shake hands. Then he gave her one of his big smiles and said, “Driscoll. Louis Otto Driscoll, at your service.”
Ms. Marsters gave him a look that pretty much said ‘I’m sorry I let you touch my hand’. She said, “So. You two kids got a shot or two on your cell phone?”
Louis said, “Au contraire mon frère! Alex here is an expert photographer. She’s been taking still photographs and movies for years, for the school paper, the yearbook, you name it.”
Alex said, “I managed to get some really good quality pictures with this.” She pulled the GoPro out of her fanny pack.
Ms. Marsters’ eyes lit up when she saw that Alex had a nearly professional-quality camera. “Ohhh. How far away were you? A couple blocks?”
Alex said, “I got as close as I could. I guess it was about eighty feet. Except for the part where Terawatt walked over and talked to me. I got her from about ten feet.”
Ms. Marsters gasped, “You got her in close-up? And she gave you a name?” She grabbed Alex by the arm and hustled her through the door into the hallways.
As they went, Ms. Marsters pulled out her cell phone and pressed a speed dial button. “It’s Laura… No, this may be the real thing… She got a close-up and a sound bite
! But I haven’t seen the quality of the footage… On our way.”
Ms. Marsters dragged them into a room labeled ‘Video Editing’.
A guy who looked sort of like her uncle, but with a hair transplant and a pointy little beard, stuck out his hand. “Brad Winters. I hear you two might have something unique?”
Louis looked at her, so she said, “I got some pretty good footage with my GoPro and a steadicam rig I made myself, but some of it won’t be good because I was just holding the camera out while I hid behind a wall.”
“And where were you?” he asked.
She said, “You know how next door to the credit union, the Sterling Building has that brick archway before you go up the stairs into the shops? That’s how close I got.”
A friendly guy who looked like he ought to be a frycook was sitting in front of a really fancy computer system. He looked up at Alex and said, “Well, let’s hook that puppy up and see what you got.”
Louis put a hand out. “First, I want to talk money.”
Mister Winters gave Louis a stiff look. “How much money?”
Louis said, “I looked up rates for special footage of key events. Because this is the FIRST real footage of… what’s her name?”
“Terawatt. She walked over to me and told me her name was Terawatt, and she was protecting the city against supercrooks,” Alex played along.
Louis said, “We want top dollar for this. Everything she filmed is verifiable, because there are two cops who saw it, and a bank full of witnesses. And we’ll even sign a contract that all monies are forfeit if any of this has been faked.” Alex nodded. “If you don’t want to pay that kind of money, we’ll go across town to KDRA. And if they won’t pay top dollar, we can drive a few hours and hit up any one of a dozen Bay Area tv stations, who will pay. Because whoever gets this first is going to be famous. The first real footage of a real superheroine in a real superbattle, anywhere in the world? This could earn your station some major recognition. Major awards. And the networks will go wild for her.”
Mister Winters wrote down a figure so huge Alex nearly choked.
Louis looked at it and said, “I was expecting about twenty percent higher, but this is really fair. That’s way more than I was expecting you would offer. Since you’re being fair with us, we’ll take it.” The thing was that Alex couldn’t tell if Louis was being honest or not. So maybe he was just tricking Mister Winters. But either way, Louis was doing great. Way better than she could have done.
Mister Winters said, “Laura, get the contracts typed up ASAP. I don’t care what else you need to do, this takes top priority. If we can get this on the evening news, we’ll scoop the entire planet!” He turned to the guy sitting down. “Okay Mark, let’s see what we’ve got.”
Alex handed Mark the GoPro, and he set it in a fancy cradle while he popped off the protective cover on the USB connector. Then he plugged in a cable that was already sitting there, just waiting to be used for stuff like this. He typed on his keyboard, and they watched the footage.
Alex said, “Check the last bit first.”
Mark played that footage. Terawatt strode over to the camera and spoke to it. Then she turned and flew up into the sky while the camera panned up to follow her.
Mark and Mister Winters just stared at each other. Mark turned to Alex and said, “Kid, that was pro quality. Not even a little shake. What kind of steadicam are we talkin’ here?”
She lied, “Well I saw it on the internet, and made it with help from my dad. It’s PVC pipe made into a circle a little more than a foot across, with a crosspiece that has a mount to hold the camera. When I hold the camera by the frame, the jiggle is pretty much gone, and the pans come out really smooth.”
Mark said, “I’ve seen cameras on tripods that didn’t come out this well. This is great.”
Mister Winters said, “Nice framing. And Terawatt is going to be an internet celebrity by tomorrow. With those looks, and in that outfit, she’s going to have a fan club bigger than Kim Kardashian.”
Alex tried not to react, but she really didn’t like the way that sounded.
Mark said, “Let’s see what else you’ve got.”
She lied, “Some of the footage is lousy, but when they were firing off weapons and lightning blasts and stuff, I kind of chickened out.”
Mark asked, “What sort of weapons?”
She said, “One guy had a machine pistol and lightning blasts. One guy had telekinesis and a sawed off shotgun. And the third guy had the shapeshifting, and a grenade launcher.”
“WHAT?!?” squawked Mister Winters. “A real grenade launcher?” She nodded. “You got this kind of footage in a war zone?”
Mark said, “She’s either the bravest photog in the state, or the looniest.”
She watched as Mark expertly clipped out seven different bits of film to use, discarding the bits where her cameras weren’t pointing in the right direction. As he worked, he muttered to Mister Winters about the footage quality. “Good here… nice pan… uh-oh, that loon is firing everywhere… oh sweet… jeezus Christ… can’t use that bit, too bad… oh, this is beauty… man, did she just knock that guy fifty feet across the street… ooh, great, helping the cops, people love shots like this… and the money shot, with sound bite. They’re gonna be playing that clip on every tv news program in the country tomorrow!”
She said, “Sorry I couldn’t get better footage on those parts he had to clip out.”
Mister Winters said kindly, “Honey, even seasoned war photographers have to dive for cover. You did the right thing. No footage is worth getting killed over.”
Mark said, “Kid, I’m gonna make you look like Annie Lebowitz.”
“Umm, thanks. I guess.” Alex made a mental note to go look up who Annie Lebowitz was as soon as she got home.
Mark was really good. He already had the video footage clipped out and prepped before Ms. Marsters came back with the contracts. Louis made Alex wait while he went through the entire document, which she figured was a really good thing, because she had no idea what to look for in a legal document like this one. Louis finally said, “Okay, this states that you have all our video footage. That’s true. But she got a couple stills too, and we’re going to let the Gazette have them. We just wanted to give you a heads-up.”
Mark shrugged. “Stills? With no sound? Pfft. No sweat.”
Louis said, “Stills only. No sound, no video.”
Mister Winters said, “Even if you get them to the Gazette in time, and Ed decides to run with them, they won’t hit the street until tomorrow. We’ll scoop ‘em easily. We’ve got the evening news, the eleven o’clock news, and we ought to be able to get this on the national news by then. Maybe even the morning show before people read their papers.”
Louis looked over everything and said, “We want the copyright, and we want the standard if you sell this to the national news, AP, UPI, or Reuters.”
Mister Winters rolled his eyes. “Fine. Laura, go update the contracts. But kid, as soon as this is on the wires, no one’s going to respect your copyright. Every hotdog on the internet will be showing your pics without even mentioning it’s from somewhere else. I’ve seen it a hundred times.”
Louis nodded. “We’ll risk it. I still want it in print.”
Mark had the footage off to another producer to get set up for the news before Laura was back with the contracts. Louis carefully read them over once again. Alex figured he knew what he was doing, so she stood still and let him do his thing.
Louis nodded, “This is great. We’ll sign, and then either you’ll need to cut her a check, or you’ll need Alex’s bank account information. The latter will be a lot easier if the images sell.”
Mister Winters said, “Oh, they’ll sell, all right. Don’t worry about that. The hottest babe since Scarlett Johansson, in a skintight outfit, fighting a real superhero battle? People would pay ten bucks a pop to see this in a movie theater. As soon as these hit the air, paparazzi will be driving up here to try and catch her, and the national news will put some teams up here to try and get footage of their own.”
Alex said, “But I just got lucky. As far as I know, she only does this like once a month or something, when there’s some super badguys committing another robbery. Are they really gonna want to hang around here for a month or two, waiting to catch her in action?”
He grimaced. “They’ll do whatever it takes to get a story. Well, for some of ‘em, it’s enough if they can make up a story.”
“Eww.” She totally didn’t want to live her life afraid to be outside as Terawatt. Still, if paparazzi came after her, she could just fly away. And if paparazzi came after her in a news helicopter, she could dive into a storm drain and vanish. It wasn’t like she was stuck trying to drive off in the Batmobile, like Selina’s boyfriend.
Now she really had to make sure no one else found out her secret identity, because now she had creepy photographers to worry about, on top of Danielle Atron.
As soon as they left the station, Louis rushed her over to the Paradise Valley Gazette. That meant that he rushed over, and she stuck to the speed limit. By the time she got there, Louis had a thin beanpole of a guy talking to him in the lobby.
“Alex? This is Ed Schmidt. Ed, this is A.L. Mack, the woman who’s going to get your paper a freaking Pulitzer!”
Ed rolled his eyes, just like a lot of people did when Louis got going.
She said, “Mister Schmidt, I’m Alex. Although I’d like to use A.L. Mack on my copyright, like Louis said. And I have photos of the superheroine. KPVC has the video, but I know what she said to the camera. So you can be the first paper in the country to have real stills, and the actual thing she said.”
Louis grinned, “And Alex heard her announce her name! No one else has that, except KPVC.”
Alex pretended, “And she might have told one policeman her name while she was saving the other one’s life. I’m not sure. I wasn’t all that close.”
Mister Schmidt pulled out a pen and notepad. “So. What’s her name, and what did she say to you?”
Alex said, “Terawatt. And she said… let me think, ‘My name is Terawatt. And this city is under my protection. Any supervillains who try to attack Paradise Valley will do so at their own risk.’ That’s as close as I can recall.”
“Sounds good. Do you know how she spells that?”
She said, “She’s got electrical powers, so I figure it’s got to be like the electrical units. T-E-R-A-W-A-T-T.”
“Sounds good. Now let’s see these stills.”
She pulled out her camera, and Mister Schmidt whistled softly. “I was figuring you were talking a cell phone. But this is a nice camera! Let’s see the pics.”
She showed him using the viewfinder. He stared, “Hmm, most of these look pretty darn good.”
She fibbed, “Some of them are junk, because I had to duck out of the way. Those guys were shooting everywhere.”
He nodded. “Well, let’s get your camera hooked up to the image editing gear, and I’ll have Marda print up a standard contract for stringers.”
Louis said, “We’re going to need a little more than that. We both know these photos are good, and they’re unique. No one else has pics like this, except the video footage we just sold to KPVC, and here’s what they paid us.” He showed Mister Schmidt the contract.
Mister Schmidt shook his head. “We don’t have the kind of money tv stations have. It’s not like we get the advertising dollars they do. I can’t pay anything like that.”
Louis said, “I know that. I did some research. But I know you can pay us more than common pictures from a stringer.”
Alex watched as the two of them bargained for like ten minutes. This was way different than the deal with Mister Winters, and she knew there was no way she could have done all this haggling.
But Louis finally got a contract he was happy with, and Mister Schmidt finally got Alex’s photos onto the paper’s computers. They really did look good. She had to tell him the fib about the plastic steadicam rig that she told Mister Winters.
Oh rats, she was going to have to get her dad to help her make one, for the time when sooner or later someone asked to see the thing! Not that she was going to use it for real. She could always hold her cameras with her telekinesis, even when she was pretending to hold it in her hands, and get some really clear, really non-shaky images.
On the way out of the newspaper, Louis said, “And remember Alex, as your agent, I’ll be getting fifteen percent of your gross, up to a hundred thousand dollars in a fiscal year, after which I get ten percent.”
She opened her mouth to complain, and then she remembered something Selina had said about agents and guys like that. Without Louis’s help, she would have ended up with maybe a tenth of what she was going to get. That meant Louis’s work was really worth like ninety percent of their gross. Fifteen percent sounded pretty great when she thought of it that way. She said, “You got a deal.”
He nodded, “I’ll have a contract ready for you to go over by tomorrow.”
Naturally. That was so
She groaned when she checked her watch. Even if she hurried, she wasn’t going to get back to the donut shop in time to do anything except help Gloria close up. So she just called Gloria and apologized a ton. As it was, she was nearly late for dinner.
As she sat down, her mom served her two big slices of meatloaf and said, “Good news. I was able to arrange a meeting with Willow Rosenberg at her company. And it’s this coming Saturday morning, so you don’t have to miss any school.”
“Mom! That’s great!” she grinned. She so wanted to meet this world’s Willow. The one she knew was so amazingly awesome.
Her dad said, “But there’s some bad news, too. The chief of police called me. It turns out that someone slipped into the police station this evening during the attempted credit union robbery, went right around a couple locked doors without leaving any sign of forced entry, swiped a box of vials of the GC-161 antidote, and got away with no one even getting a look at him. They need us to brew up more for them on the double.”
She tried not to react. But it sure could have been another one of those shapeshifters working for Danielle Atron. And she wasn’t forgetting that Sam and Willow and Hermione had come up with five things Danielle Atron might possibly do with GC-161 antidote.
And then, while she was studying after dinner, the doorbell rang with the sharp ding-dong that meant it was the front door instead of the back door. She flew to the top of the stairs to listen, while her mom opened the door.
“Oh, hi Gloria! What can I do for you? Is this about Alex?”
Gloria said, “Well, yes. I… I wanted to make sure she was okay.”
Her mom checked, “Why?”
Gloria cautiously asked, “Umm, she hasn’t told you she’s the city’s superheroine?”
Alex gulped. “Uh-oh.” So much for the secret identity.