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 watched as her mom babbled, “Oh no, that’s utterly ridiculous, Alex can’t be Terawatt, you must be mistaken!”
Gloria just looked at her and said, “Umm, Barbara, I didn’t say ‘Terawatt’. Where’d you hear that?”
Alex just cringed, while her mom got even more upset. Oh man, and she thought she was lousy at keeping secrets.
But her mom was almost panicking, so Alex took a deep breath and walked down the stairs, doing her best to look calm. “Mom, why don’t we invite Gloria in for coffee?”
“I… But… We…” Her mom looked so worried. For her. She just wanted to hug her mom and tell her it would be okay.
She really needed to hug her mom more often.
She was just thankful that Buffy had talked to her about this. And Selina did too. They both said that once you opened that can of worms, you could never get every worm back in, and you could never fit everything back in the can. Which was a really incredibly gross metaphor, and if she hadn’t gone fishing with her dad enough, she probably would have gagged when Buffy said it.
Gloria obviously knew about Alex, and obviously wanted to know if she was all banged up from her big fight. And her mom freaking out and saying the name Terawatt like that just made things worse. If her mom had been completely calm and had laughed it off, they might have been able to sell it. Maybe her mom could have fibbed that she heard it on the evening news. Selina said her boyfriend Batman had the whole secret identity thing down to an art form, and had managed to fool tons and tons of people who suspected him of being Batman. Okay, Alex didn’t see how you could fool anybody on that, because how many people were there who were built better than an NFL linebacker and had a chin like that?
But once the cat was out of the bag, you had to give it kitty treats and get it to want to sit in your lap. Selina’s metaphor was way nicer than Buffy’s. But Selina was pretty clear on this stuff. If it was your friend who found out, you needed to keep them as a friend. If it was your enemy who found out, you needed to bust your chops to make them think they were wrong. But you couldn’t do it the other way around. If you lied to your friend, they would be really ticked off at you when they found out later on. Alex didn’t wince, but she sure remembered how freaked Louis had been when he found out, and how mad Robyn had been when she found out, and how really, really upset her parents were when they found out.
So while her mom tried not to freak out, Alex put the coffee on. Finally, her mom looked at Gloria and asked, “…How?”
Gloria glanced at Alex and said, “Well, I saw her. Back last summer. She got a phone call, and she asked if she could take her break, and she took off. But the robbery was just a block away, and I could see it out the front window of the store when she battled the two guys with the powers. And it was Alex. I mean, she was wearing the outfit and the little mask, but it was Alex. I mean, I’d been looking at her for an hour in the shop. So that was when I got the police radio and put it in the back.”
Oh. That was why Gloria had done that weird look toward the back of the shop when Alex wanted to take that early break all of a sudden. How had she not noticed that before? She really needed to pay a lot more attention to what was going on around her.
Gloria explained, “So I just checked every time Alex asked for a break at the wrong time. And it was always for a police call about superpowered crooks robbing something here in town, and it was always when the super-girl showed up, and the cops always talked about her on the radio. Only this time, when I was listening, there was an ‘officer down’ and ‘shots fired’ and a call for SWAT, and a bunch of other stuff that sounded really bad. And then the footage on the news… Well, it looked like she got really knocked around, and she didn’t come back to the shop, and… I was worried.”
Alex patted her on the hand. “Thanks for caring.”
Her mom asked uncomfortably, “Alex, did you get hurt? You didn’t say anything about getting hurt.”
She shrugged. “Well, I got slammed around, and it hurt, but I really didn’t get bruised too much. I mean I’ve got a sore spot on my arm here, but that’s about it. I don’t even know if there’s gonna be much of a bruise.”
Her mom said, “Maybe we need to watch the eleven o’clock news.”
Alex stopped herself from wincing or anything, because she knew what the footage was going to look like. But she apologized to Gloria, “I’m really sorry about not coming back to the shop, but I finally got really good pictures of Terawatt in action, and Louis helped me sell them to the tv station and the Gazette.”
“Louis actually helped
on something?” her mom asked sarcastically.
“Oh come on, mom, Louis helps a lot. He tracks the news and the police bands for me. That takes a lot of effort and a lot of time, even if he does it while he’s in school or at work. And he’s been doing other stuff too.”
Gloria wondered, “You have your own support team? That’s sort of… sophisticated.”
Her mom said, “Alex found a summer camp for superheroines, and got some training.”
“What?” Gloria nearly choked on her coffee.
“Mom!” Alex complained. She turned to Gloria. “I got asked to go help some people, and I learned a bunch of stuff.”
Her mom gushed, “Alex was asked to be on a team of seven superheroines from other dimensions who fought a hellgod to save another world.”
Alex blushed and said, “And everyone else was really, really good, and really experienced, and knew about teamwork, and all kinds of stuff. I even learned how to be a better student, and about fighting guys bigger than me, and all kinds of cool stuff.”
Gloria looked like she was pretty shocked. “And you’re still working at my shop?”
“Sure!” Alex insisted. “I like working with you. And I like you. And you have the best donuts for about a zillion miles around.” She took the plunge. “It would be great if you’d let me keep working for you, and you wouldn’t mind if I ducked out for a few minutes once in a while. I’d just say that I needed to go take pictures, and you’d know what I really meant.”
Her mom asked, “So, Gloria, would you like to be part of Team Alex?”
“Team Terawatt,” Alex said.
Her mom grinned at her to show she was teasing. Then she said, “Actually, we’ve decided to call it ‘rummy night’ as our code phrase. Hardly anyone will be interested if you say you’re going over to rummy night with Barbara.”
Gloria said, “I suddenly feel like I’ve been invited to join a spy agency or something.”
Her mom admitted, “Well, we are a lot more organized than we were before Alex came back.”
Gloria paused and asked, “Wait. So those five days she was ‘out sick’, she was actually…”
“…in another dimension, saving the universe,” her mom said proudly.
Alex was pretty sure she was blushing again.
After Gloria left, Alex showed her dad the diagrams for the fake steadicam, and he started showing her how they could make one using the pvc pipes he already had in the garage for ringstands and stuff. Then he started looking up on the internet how steadicams worked, and he started talking about making her a really super-cool camera frame.
She got some more homework done after Gloria left, but then her dad called her downstairs as soon as the 11:00 news was about to start. And boy, did she wince when the news opened up.
“Tonight, a KPVC exclusive! You’ve heard the rumors! You’ve seen grainy snapshots that might or might not be real! Tonight, KPVC has footage of the Paradise Valley superheroine everyone’s talking about. For the first time anywhere, our superheroine breaks her silence and speaks to her public! Tonight, we present for the first time anywhere… TERAWATT!
And they used all the footage they had paid her for, and they really focused on her butt when she was ‘flying away’. Ugh. And they made a huge deal about how she stopped three superpowered crooks who tried to kill both those policemen. Then, they interviewed the two police officers too! Man, that was really embarrassing. That one officer made her sound like Wonder Woman or something. And then they used a close-up still of her for a background image while the news anchors talked about her.
So, when she called Robyn and Nicole, she found out Terawatt had been all over the 6:00 news too, and since KPVC was an NBC affiliate, Terawatt made the national news at 11:00. She couldn’t stop cringing.
The only good part was her dad promised to really build her a nice camera rig like she had claimed she already had. It wasn’t like she didn’t have plans off the internet and stuff like that, and it wasn’t impossible to make. And it wasn’t like you couldn’t get a minimal steadicam system for well under two hundred bucks now, even if it would only adjust for some side-to-side shake and not a ton of side-to-side motion or any serious vertical tremors. She just didn’t want to be stuck using one all the time. Even if she would probably have to use one whenever she was working as a photographer and people were watching her work.
Then Tuesday morning, she got up and found Terawatt was splashed all over the front page of the Paradise Valley Gazette too. And it was all her own fault for taking those pictures, but Sam and Willow had explained to her about ‘timed release of intelligence’ and all that, so it had to be better this way than getting ambushed by some sleazy guy with a telephoto lens and pictures of her butt in that outfit.
But it still didn’t stop. While she was eating breakfast and fixing her lunch, her mom told her that Terawatt got mentioned on the Today Show too.
Was it this bad for Batman and Catwoman and Wonder Woman and them, back in Selina’s universe? Okay, it might be even worse, since Selina had sort of outed herself as Catwoman because of horribly awful stuff the sleazy papers were just plain making up about Catwoman.
Then it turned out Terawatt was the big topic everyone was talking about at school. Louis had all the details, naturally. Terawatt got mentioned on every one of the morning shows, only the Today show played it straight with the ‘superheroine saves the day’ bit since it was their station that got the footage. Good Morning America brought in a professional debunker who said it could be a big hoax.
And CBS This Morning brought in some guy who said Terawatt was disrespectful to law enforcement officers and was probably a dangerous vigilante.
When Alex heard that part, she had to go into the closest girls’ bathroom and sit in a stall for like two minutes before she could calm down enough to stop glowing an angry yellow. And it took a couple more minutes before she was calm enough not to do something drastic. Ooh! That jerk! And it wasn’t like she could sue him or anything, and she sure couldn’t go fly off and find him and give him a big zap right in the keester.
So then she was late to homeroom, which just made things worse. Mrs. Finnegan said, “Alex, please come up here.” So she walked up, but she couldn’t help blushing. “Now can you tell me why you were late to homeroom this morning?”
She whispered, “I was in the bathroom.”
Kelly yelled from her spot, “She was on the toilet!” The whole room burst into laughter. Well, it felt like the whole room was laughing at her, even if she knew her friends wouldn’t laugh. Not even Louis. It was all she could do not to get so upset she would’ve started glowing again.
Mrs. Finnegan sternly said, “Kelly, you will see me after the bell rings.”
Alex was still blushing bright red when Mrs. Finnegan let her go sit down again. And even though Mrs. Finnegan gave Kelly a note to go see the principal, Kelly’s posse still gave her low fives when she sat back down. Jerk. Or whatever the female form of ‘jerk’ was. Jerk-ette, maybe.
Alex waited until Kelly was done taking notes in English, and when Kelly put her ink pen back in her backpack, Alex used her telekinesis to squeeze the ink out of the pen all over everything. She figured Kelly was going to have a lovely surprise in her next class when she put her hand in that backpack pocket and came out with blue ink everywhere.
She knew she wasn’t supposed to be using her powers for evil, but Kelly totally deserved it this time. And it wasn’t like the superheroines she knew never did stuff like that. Willow had told her about the time she tricked Cordelia into erasing all her computer science assignment. And Buffy had told her about the time she slammed Larry into the lockers. And Sam had told her about the time she changed all of the colonel’s ringtones to embarrassing girly songs and then arranged for him to get a phone call in the middle of a meeting, and his phone played “I’m a Barbie Girl” right in front of General Hammond. And Jaime had told her what she did one time when she was student teaching and there were these gangsta guys who were trying to cause trouble. And Selina had just a ton of stories about stuff she’d done, but Alex was pretty sure that didn’t count as a superheroine misusing her powers because Selina used to be a supervillainess before she started dating the Batman guy.
Okay, maybe she shouldn’t have done the thing with the pen. Annie said it was being vindictive with superpowers, and that it was a bad thing. Even if Annie had been vindictive with chemistry stuff a few times. Even if Annie had been pretty happy that time Alex used her powers to get even with that jerk intern guy who was taking advantage of Annie.
Still, the more people who knew about Terawatt and were looking for signs of Terawatt, the more dangers there were when Alex used her powers as plain old Alex. If she got spotted because she was using her powers for something as stupid as busting Kelly’s pen, it would be way bad.
History and trig were pretty much the same as always. Now that she was reading ahead in trig, she was understanding more of it first time, which was sort of a freaky feeling. After all, Annie was the smart sister in the family, not her.
Then at lunch, Robyn got into a loud talk with Hannah about how all the pictures of Terawatt looked like Libby hadn’t even changed her lipstick before she went off to go superheroing. Robyn said, “If she spent all that time doing her eye makeup like that, why didn’t she change her lipstick too?” Alex could see that a couple of Libby’s posse were acting like they didn’t know what to do about other people talking like that. Was Libby maybe really telling them she really was Terawatt? That would be a pretty risky thing to do, because what would happen when you needed to have superpowers and you couldn’t do anything? But Libby had done some dumb stuff over the years and just sort of skated by on it, like the time she got out of her math exam by pulling the fire alarm… and blaming Alex for it. Yeah, Libby had done some dumb and
jerky stuff over the years, without any thought to the consequences. Wow, maybe she would
go around telling people she was really Terawatt.
By study hall, Louis and Ray had found some brand new Terawatt websites using Louis’ smartphone. Every frame of the news footage was out there, especially zooms on her chest and butt. Eww!
Louis wasn’t all that bothered about that, but he was a guy. And the pictures weren’t him. No, he was all upset because everyone was ignoring the copyrights on the photos she took, and he was grouchy because he hadn’t bought those website domain names already. He already had a bunch of names like terawatt.org and terawatt.com and therealterawatt.com and stuff, and even some misspellings like terrawatt.com and tarawatt.com, but he had missed these sites: weluvterawatt.org and hotsexyterawatt.com and a couple others. Okay, some of them were kind of cool and fan-boy, but two of them were just icky. One of them was just super-icky: it was comparing naked porn stars to the pictures of Terawatt and guessing what Terawatt looked like under the uniform with no clothes on! EWW!
Some guys were so creepy they made Louis look like Xander Harris or Jack O’Neill. And not Xander Harris and Jack O’Neill as teenagers, because those guys were probably major trouble when they were young.
The Tuesday evening local news on both stations was all about the influx of reporters and camera crews and paparazzi into Paradise Valley, all in a big attempt to make money off pictures of Terawatt. It seemed like every hotel and motel and restaurant in the area was profiting from the big search for Terawatt pictures.
And then on Wednesday, when Alex was working at the donut shop, two camera crews were in there ordering tons of donuts and stuff. Alex made sure to tell them that Gloria’s shop had the best donuts for miles around. But they didn’t pay much attention to a waitress, even if they gave her those ‘wow you’re cute’ looks when they thought she wasn’t looking. They were busy arguing about whose ‘talent’ was the biggest pain in the you-know-what. It took Alex two trips to their tables to figure out that when they said ‘talent’ they meant the newscaster who was in front of the camera. So one camera crew had a super-handsome guy who was a complete jerk to everybody unless they were a super-hot babe or someone who could help him get promoted, and the other camera crew had a super-pretty lady who was totally obsessed with looking perfect in every shot, no matter how much extra work and re-shoots that meant for the cameramen. And neither was nice enough to come to a restaurant with the rest of the crew to get food, not even counting how the lady was totally obsessed with counting calories and watching what she ate. Boy, photojournalism sounded a lot less fun now.
When she got home Wednesday night, Louis was waiting for her with more news. Her mom even invited Louis to eat with them, which was pretty cool considering her parents were still grouchy at Louis some.
Louis said, “It’s Brad Winters. He got a call from national. They want to interview you on the Today Show for Friday morning.”
She asked, “They want to interview Terawatt?”
“No no no,” Louis said, shaking his head. “They want to interview you. A.L. Mack, the person who got those pictures.”
She squeaked, “The Today Show? But… I don’t know how to get interviewed! I’ll freeze up. And Friday morning? I have school!”
Her mom said, “You won’t freeze up. You’ve faced superpowered criminals with rocket launchers. This is just a camera.”
Louis said, “Anyway, the way they would do it is you’d go over to KPVC Thursday evening and answer some questions on camera. Then they’ll take the best footage and edit it, and have Natalie Morales or one of the other Today hosts ask questions at a wall Friday morning, and they play your responses back, so it seems like you’re talking to her.”
Her dad asked, “Isn’t that cheating?”
Louis shrugged. “It’s live tv. They have to have some control over things. They’re interviewing a teenager. What if the interviewee just freezes? Or runs off? Or starts screaming dirty words?”
Alex checked, “So if I totally mess up, I can just do it over again and they’ll take the good one?”
Louis nodded. “See? It’s better for you, too. And it’s better for the local station, because it makes them look more professional. Everybody’s happy.”
Alex suddenly choked. “Oh jeez, what am I gonna wear?”
Her dad said, “Well it’s definitely not going to be one of those sloppy t-shirts and a fishing hat.”
Louis held his hands like his fingers were making a picture frame in front of his head and shoulders. He said, “Brad Winters said the photography would be close-up. Head and shoulders, like a portrait photo. That’ll let the Today Show people zoom back as much as they need to.”
Her mom said, “So a nice top, and we’ll get your hair done first.”
Louis said, “We just get there an hour early, and let the station people handle it for her. They have makeup and hair people on staff every day, for the news anchors. And we’ll be working in between the evening news and the 11:00 news, so they’ll be all set up, but having a break in between newscasts, so it’s perfect for them. And they’ll have a choice of blouses for her.”
Her mom frowned, “Louis? How do you know Alex’s size?”
Louis said, “I texted Nicole.”
Based on her parents’ expressions, that was way more normal than whatever they were expecting. She really hoped they didn’t think it was something creepy, like Louis having a couple sets of her clothing hidden in his basement.
Come to think of it, she really ought to make sure she had some spare clothes in a few places like Louis’s house and Ray’s house and Robyn’s house and Nicole’s house, just in case Terawatt needed an emergency quick change someday. The back of Gloria’s store too.
So then Thursday, the big news around school was that the Today Show had interviewed the bank employees who got rescued by Terawatt, and they were going to interview the photographer Friday morning.
She rolled her eyes at Ray and Louis, and let Robyn and Nicole start quizzing her.
“Are they flying you out to the studios?”
“Do you get to skip school?”
“Do you get to meet Matt Lauer and them?”
“My mom loves Al Roker.”
“Are you going without your mom?”
“Do you have anything to wear?”
She smiled, “I don’t go any farther than KPVC, and the interview is really tonight, so no skipping school. And I’m sure
my mom will insist on going too, and checking my wardrobe, and fussing while the makeup people work, and everything.”
“Can I go along?”
She shrugged, “I guess so. No one said ‘no’ yet. I know my folks’ll be there, and Louis, and probably Ray.”
Robyn did a little imitation of Alex’s mom. “Raymond!”
Everybody laughed. It was a pretty good imitation.
But plenty of people at school had already figured out who ‘A.L. Mack’ had to be, since Alex went around with a camera all the time for school paper stuff and yearbook stuff. So that meant that lots of people she knew were stopping her and asking her about the big interview on national tv. The whole photography club wanted to talk to her about getting those pics and getting interviewed on tv. Even Mrs. McGurty stopped her as she was leaving trig class and whispered a quick ‘good luck with your interview’.
Libby caught her at lunch, which wasn’t hard, because Alex and her friends pretty much had their own official table and it wasn’t like it was hard to get to. Libby and her boyfriend and her posse swept over to be mean to her, because everyone knew Libby couldn’t stand it when she wasn’t the center of attention.
Libby started out, “So, you probably think you’re really big and important now you’re getting a big interview and all that-”
Alex interrupted her, “Oh don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone your secret.”
Robyn chipped in, “Yeah, she’ll never tell anyone you’re Terawatt.”
Nicole played along, “Robyn! We’re not supposed to talk about that in public!”
Libby’s boyfriend Bobby just sort of gaped at Libby, like ‘how come I didn’t know this’ gaping. But Bobby wasn’t the smartest guy in the school. Not by a long shot. He was pretty much the dumbest running back on the football team, even if he was the best running back on the team.
Alex smiled at Libby, “So don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Libby complained, “But you get to go to New York and meet Natalie Morales and everything!”
Alex told her, “No, I don’t. I go over to KPVC tonight and sit on a tiny little set and get interviewed by one of the local news people, and they take the film and cut it so it looks like someone is interviewing me live tomorrow morning. I’ll be in school tomorrow and everything.”
“But you still get interviewed!” fussed Carli.
Alex just shrugged. “Everybody there got interviewed. The policemen, and the people in the bank, and the people in the stores across the street. So now me. It’s not like I have anything new to say. I mean, it’s not like they’re gonna ask me about controlling the focus on a GoPro camera while making a smooth pan across a superbattle. Nobody but the photography club cares about that.”
Robyn looked right at Libby and said, “I don’t get it. If you’re so crabby about Alex getting an interview, why don’t you go put on your Terawatt costume and have a real press conference?”
Libby stood there, unable to figure out what to say.
Nicole double-teamed her. “Yeah, you could call all the networks and papers and everything, and have a press conference bigger than the President.”
Louis cut in, “I’d be happy to be your agent, once you go public. I could arrange interviews, photo ops, you name it. Standard rates. Fifteen percent of your gross, up to one hundred K per year, and ten percent over that.”
“That’s a lot of money!” Mandy fussed.
Louis calmly said, “Agents wouldn’t charge that much if they didn’t earn it. Check with any reputable agent you can find. It’s just that I’m the only one you won’t have to tell your secret identity to.”
Libby’s boyfriend finally said, “Uhh… Lib? You’re the superhero chick? How come you didn’t tell me?”
Libby dragged him off to have a private talk. Alex figured it would be extremely Libby-ish. But she also figured Libby wasn’t going to admit she wasn’t Terawatt. She obviously hadn’t told her posse the truth. So that meant Libby was either going to flat out lie, or else she was going to tell him she couldn’t talk about it, and just let him keep thinking she was a superheroine.
Alex just looked at Ray, and he gave her his ‘what can you do’ face. It was just a dumb idea to go walking around letting people think you were a real superhero. Sooner or later, it was going to go really wrong for Libby.
Alex decided it was probably really mean that she wasn’t stopping it now. Somehow. Even if everyone else on her team seemed to think it was a good idea to have someone else as the big suspect while all the newspeople and cameramen were flooding the town. Even her mom thought so.
So the problem really started up about the time Alex walked out of Spanish class. There were signs up. A big headshot of Libby, framed in a bright color, with the words ‘NEXT YEAR’S HOMECOMING QUEEN: TERAWATT!!!’