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 just stared at the flyers. Every one had a different frame color. Well, really, there were only seven frame colors in the usual rainbow tones, but when you walked along, it looked like the colors were all different. Somebody must’ve run a ton of stuff off the school’s color printer, which you really weren’t supposed to do without permission.
She ran into Kelly on her way to Earth Sciences. Kelly complained, “I can’t run for Homecoming Queen against that! There’s no way I can win!”
Alex didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t say she knew Libby was lying. She couldn’t say she knew the Homecoming Queen thing would work out sooner or later, because Libby couldn’t get away with it for like six months.
Kelly glared at her and said, “Thanks! For nothing! You can be the one who runs against Libby!”
D said, “Yeah, thanks… for throwing Kelly under the bus!”
Alex insisted, “I didn’t! How was I supposed to know…?”
Louis and Hannah were in Earth Sciences with her, and they were right there, so they supported her. Louis said, “It’s not your fault. Kelly’s just… being Kelly.”
Hannah said, “You ought to run for Homecoming Queen anyway. There’s no way it’s Libby. Libby wouldn’t risk her neck fighting bank robbers unless it was her money they were taking.”
Louis said, “She wouldn’t do it then, either. She’d call her daddy and insist he come right over…” He switched to a Tweety Bird voice. “…and stop all dose mean old bank wobbers.”
Hannah laughed, but Alex didn’t. She really felt like it was all getting out of hand. How did things get so weird in one stupid school day?
And it didn’t stop. By the time she was walking into homeroom again for study hall, there were two SUVs in the visitors’ lot that had signs on the sides that identified them as newspeople. Which meant Libby’s big bluff was already going to be news. And as soon as the newspeople interviewed Libby and she couldn’t do any power stuff, everyone would know she was a fake.
At least, that was what Alex was hoping. Alex really didn’t want to think how awful she would feel if Danielle Atron thought Libby was Terawatt and sent a bunch of supercreeps to kill Libby and her whole family.
Alex decided what she needed to do later, even if it wouldn’t be any fun. She drove over to Gloria’s shop to work her shift, hoping nothing else would go wrong. She hurried to get her apron on in the back room. “Hi Gloria!”
Gloria couldn’t keep from doing that ‘I know a secret’ smile she kept having when she talked to Alex this week. “Hi Alex. Two apple fritters and two plain glazed for table two, three plain glazed, three bearclaws, and three apple fritters for table four, and two Bavarian creams plus three standard assorted dozens to go for the guy at seat C.”
“Wow, sounds like it’s a good thing I got here on time.”
Gloria said, “Yeah, turns out news crews run on donuts. I’ve been going non-stop since I opened.”
Four more guys she didn’t know came in, and Alex said, “Looks like I better get moving.”
She got the new guys seated at two more tables, and she got donuts delivered to the other tables. Just as she was taking the orders from the guys at table five and telling them they were really missing out by not trying Gloria’s cinnamon twists, one guy answered his phone.
“Keller here. What? They found her already? At the high school? And they got a name and everything?”
Alex interrupted, “Libby.”
‘Keller’ looked up at her. “Kid? You know her?”
Alex shrugged, “Yeah. I go to school with her. She’s not Terawatt. But she’s got posters up all over school claiming she is. She thinks it’s gonna win her fall Homecoming Queen next year.”
‘Keller’ said, “So how do ya know it’s not her?”
Alex rolled her eyes. She remembered Selina’s lessons on lying about your secret identity. She said, “Look, you remember the bitchy girl who ran your high school? The one who always had to be the center of attention? The one who wouldn’t do anything for anybody else unless there was something in it for her? That’s Libby. She wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire. There’s no way she’s a superhero. Now supervillain? I could see that.”
Keller’s partner said, “You really don’t like her, do you?”
Alex said, “She’s been one of the biggest pains in my neck for years. When I was in junior high, she skipped on a math test by pulling the fire alarm. And she blamed me! She’s always been like that. Scrapes by in school by being cutesy-pie with the teachers or getting someone else to do her work. That kind of stuff. I bet you could look at the last couple Terawatt things and find out just where Libby was at the time, and prove it’s not her. Big news prize for you!”
“Thanks, kid,” Keller said. He slapped down some money even though he hadn’t even ordered, and he and his partner scrambled for the door. The guys at table seven, who had been eavesdropping, did the same thing.
She was looking at two tables with two big tips, and she hadn’t done anything except diss Libby. But maybe that was all she needed to do. Wow. A twenty from Keller, and a ten from the other table. Just for being a tipster.
And maybe she was having a hard time not breaking into a huge smile as she walked back to Gloria.
Gloria hissed, “What was that?”
Alex said, “Gee, it turns out this girl I know at school just announced she’s Terawatt. I would never’ve guessed.”
Gloria asked, “And those guys?”
She smiled, “I just told them the truth about Libby. There’s no way someone as self-centered as her is gonna be a superheroine.”
And another news guy stuck his nose in. He looked like a camera crew guy. He definitely wasn’t one of the ‘talent’. But he asked, “You know this girl? And you know she’s a fraud?”
Alex said, “Oh sure. She’s just acting out because someone else got a ton of attention today.”
“And who would that be?”
Alex admitted, “Me. I’m the one who got the film of Terawatt the other day, and it’s killing Libby that someone other than her is the center of attention for even one day. She’s no more a superhero than… Who was the mean girl at your high school or junior high? The one who liked to run everything and didn’t lift a finger unless there was something big in it for her?”
The guy grimaced. “So, she’s another… Gotcha. Yeah, I can’t see that type playing superheroine for a couple years before going public.”
Alex said, “I don’t think the real Terawatt would’ve gone public this time, but I had a camera on her from about eighty feet away, even less some of the time, and she couldn’t miss me.”
The guy said, “Riiight. You’re the photog who’s gonna be on the Today Show tomorrow morning.” She just nodded. He grinned, “Great. You’re way more photogenic than the usual cameraman. It’ll be good for us.”
She blushed some and said, “Umm, thank you, I guess.”
The guy asked, “So how’d you find her?”
Alex said, “Dumb luck. A couple friends and I have been listening to the police band for her, pretty much constantly for a long time now, and we’ve been trying to catch her. This was the first time I could get there fast enough.”
“How long is ‘a long time’?”
She pretended to think about it. “Umm, maybe ever since Danielle Atron started sending supercrooks after the town banks and stuff. It’s pretty tough when she only shows up once a month or maybe even not that often.”
He said, “Well, you managed to scoop two tv stations and a newspaper, plus every stringer in town, so good work. I’m Gary Blaylock.”
“Alex Mack. And like I told Mr. Keller a few minutes ago, I bet Libby was doing something with a lot of witnesses at least half the times Terawatt showed up, because Libby’s all about the attention. School, cheer practice, cheering at school events, shopping with her whole posse in tow, all that kind of stuff.”
Gary said, “And you don’t like her.”
Alex said, “Everyone in the whole school knows that. In junior high, she skipped on a math test by pulling the fire alarm. And then she blamed me for it. I got in a ton of trouble before everyone found out it wasn’t me. And that’s not the only thing she’s ever done. So yeah, she’s not my BFF. And nobody who fakes a fire alarm to ditch a math test is gonna turn into a superhero. Plus, I’ve seen both of ‘em close up, and they’re not the same person. Libby can wear the same lipstick and dye her hair the same color as Terawatt, but they’re not the same person.”
Garry thought for a second and said, “You know, you may be the only person around who’s seen the two of them and can compare. Everyone else? It’s the hair and the makeup. And the curves.”
Alex said, “Well, maybe. I don’t like Libby, but I sure don’t want her to get killed because she’s doing something stupid like this. Danielle Atron is crazy enough to send a supercreep over to kill her if she thinks it’s her.”
Gary said, “That’s a damn good point.” He tossed down a lot more money than he owed, and took off.
Gloria teased, “You’re making a lot of money today. Gonna become a full-time informant?”
Alex smiled back. “Ha-ha. If enough of these guys figure out Libby’s a fake, one of ‘em will be able to prove it pretty quick. She may not be safe until then.”
Gloria glanced around to make sure no one was listening in. “This… It’s a lot harder than it looks, isn’t it?”
Alex nodded. “It can be… way harder. But we need to… umm… go to rummy night to talk about it.”
She tried not to think about it during the rest of her shift. Fortunately, they were swamped, so she had a lot to do besides stew about stuff. It seemed like word had gotten out, and a lot of camera crews wanted the best donuts in the area while they were buying stuff on an expense account. The shop was packed, and Gloria actually ran out of five different kinds of her biggest selling donuts, which never happened, especially with Alex waitressing so Gloria had time to make more doughnuts in the back.
Mmmm. Delicious donuts still piping hot so the glaze is all melty…
Alex had to leave before the shop closed so she could meet everyone at the tv station, but as she parked her car in the station’s lot, Gloria called her on the phone. “Alex, you’ll never believe this, but I just had one of the camera crew guys come in and basically buy everything I still had in stock! I’m going to be making donuts all morning long.”
Alex said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t come in and help before school gets out.”
“Oh honey, don’t be sorry. This is great. Exhausting, but great. I’ll just come in an hour earlier than usual and make a lot of extras.”
Her mom and dad walked up. “What’s going on?”
She explained, “It’s Gloria. We’re getting a ton of extra business at the shop. She pretty much ended up with zero stock at closing, even with making a whole bunch of extra batches.”
Louis wheeled up at his usual high speed, and braked hard as soon as he saw parents. He parked and then ran around to the passenger side of the car like he could trick her folks into thinking Ray was driving, if maybe he could make it look like he was the passenger.
When Louis and Ray walked over, Louis even said, “Ray, don’t you think you were driving a little fast?” Ray just grinned and messed up Louis’s hair.
Her folks just looked at each other and did that ‘old married people looking at each other’ thing they did sometimes where they had a whole conversation without talking any. She was pretty sure they were saying ‘Louis is such a dork’ to each other.
Robyn and Nicole drove up too, just before they all went inside. She felt like she really did have a posse. She liked it, too. She felt safer knowing she had all these great people who were there for her. Not safer physically, because not one of them could stop one of Danielle Atron’s supergoons, but safer inside, where it maybe counted a lot more.
Laura Marsters was waiting in the lobby when they walked in. She checked her watch, even though Alex knew they were a couple minutes early.
Alex smiled at her, hoping that might make her smile back some. “Ms. Marsters? This is my mom and dad, and you met Louis already, and this is Ray and Nicole and Robyn. They’re here to lend me moral support so I don’t freeze up too bad while we do the interview. Everybody? This is Laura Marsters. She helped me a bunch when I came here with Louis.”
Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but Selina had told her that this was an easy way to get people on your side. Act like you’re impressed with them, or with their work, and they’ll automatically feel more sympathetic to you.
Ms. Marsters shook hands with her mom and dad, and ushered everybody in. She said, “Now we can have maybe one or two people in with you during makeup, but no one during the interview work. We’ll let everyone watch from our green room.”
Alex said, “Okay. Just my mom, then. She wants to talk to your wardrobe person about the blouse. I think she’s afraid you’re gonna dress me like Demi Lovato.”
Ms. Marsters grinned and said, “Okay, I don’t think you have to worry about that.”
Alex’s mom said, “I’d still feel better if I could keep an eye on my… daughter.”
Alex wondered if she’d been about to say ‘my little girl’. That would’ve been really embarrassing.
Ms. Marsters showed her and her mom to a makeup room, while someone else took the gang and her dad to the green room. She could just imagine her dad trying to be cool with them. Oh brother. Well, her dad would be okay with Ray.
The makeup room was a lot more ordinary than she thought it would be. Just a couple barber chairs facing a giganto mirror with special lightbulbs all around it. And a ton of makeup and hair stuff. Wow, Libby would probably give away one of her posse to get to play with all this stuff.
Ms. Marsters introduced Alex to Marci and Tina. Marci was a thirty-something who was using a lot of makeup to hide what was not an attractive face. Tina was maybe fifty, and was over by a rack of a dozen blouses.
Alex watched as her mom made a beeline to the blouses. She went through the whole rack in like thirty seconds. Then she turned back and said, “All of these are nice, honey.”
Tina said, “Sure they are. We want our photographer to look stylish. Smart. Professional. Not cheap and sleazy. Alex looking bad will make us look bad.”
Alex looked at the two blouses her mom was holding up. “Can I wear the teal one? It’s pretty.”
Okay, so she liked teal. A lot. What was wrong with that?
So they let her slip on the teal blouse, which buttoned up to a cute jewel neck collar. Then she had to sit in the makeup chair and let Marci drape a cape all the way around her to protect the blouse and her pants.
Alex said, “I don’t know what you need to do, but I like not a lot of foundation, a nude lipcolor, some dark brown mascara, some taupe eyeshadow or something close, and not much else.”
Marci looked her over. “I could really make you look a lot sexier with a different style of makeup, but then you wouldn’t look like you. Okay, we’ll stick to your preferences, but we’ll need to do it with studio makeup so you look right under our lighting.”
“Okay.” She didn’t know what else to say. She was just mainly concerned about not ending up looking too much like Terawatt. But it didn’t look like Marci was going to get carried away and do that. Especially not with Alex’s mom standing there.
She hadn’t known that studio makeup was like this. She had to wear a heavier makeup, thicker mascara, deeper browns around her eyes, and a shiny pale lipcolor. Then Marci worked with her hair some, spraying it a bit and giving it a bit more body, but not doing anything weird. She could see that under the lights they had, she looked okay from a distance. She figured that was how the whole thing worked.
She looked over the script that Ms. Marsters brought. It wasn’t like the whole thing was going to be scripted, but the start and finish were, and she got to think about the questions a bit first. Cool.
So then she got led to a small studio with two giant cameras and cameramen and soundmen and guys moving cables and all that stuff. There were three guys behind glass back behind the cameras, and she couldn’t hear what they were saying.
She recognized Maria McClellan, one of the KPVC news anchors. Maria was part Hispanic and part white, for one of those ‘everyone in your town but prettier’ kind of looks a lot of the California female news anchors seemed to have. She liked Maria. She thought Maria was a much better anchor than Debbie Costalokis over at KDRA.
KDRA. She wondered if the people who worked there ever thought about the fact that the station’s call letters were named for Danielle Atron’s dad or granddad or great-uncle, and Danielle Atron herself. Well, it wasn’t like you could change your station’s name. They were kind of stuck. But she didn’t want to do anything that would help something still connected with the Atron family.
Maria asked, “Are you ready to give it a whirl?”
Alex nodded yes.
“Okay, whoever it is will say, ‘Welcome to the Today Show.’ You say…”
Alex smiled and said, “Thank you for having me on.”
“Next, they’ll ask, ‘Your copyright is A.L. Mack. Is that your real name?’ You say…”
Alex said, “Yes. My real name is Alexandra Louise Mack. I usually go by Alex, but I wanted the copyright to look more mature. I am still in high school.”
“And how long have you been taking photos and doing filming?”
Alex said, “I started when I was a little kid on vacation. My dad isn’t really great with a camera, and I found out I was okay. With some help, I got a lot better. I’ve been taking stills for the school paper and the yearbook since I was in junior high, and I’ve been working up from a cell phone to a GoPro that I bought with money I earned myself.” She wanted to put in a plug for Gloria’s store, but the sheet said not to. Okay, it had a ton of other instructions for her, but that was one of them.
“Your pans look very professional, with hardly any shake, and your close-up of Terawatt had almost no wiggle. Did you use a steadicam like a professional?”
Alex had paid attention to the scripted questions, so she knew what to say, and where to stop. “No, I used something I built myself.”
“You built your own steadicam? Is that possible?”
Alex went on, “It’s not a true steadicam. It’s a frame for a camera. Think of it like a steering wheel you hold on the sides, with the camera mounted in the center. That really controls the horizontal jitter, and lets you make really smooth pans. You can find instructions to make one on the internet. Mine’s made out of ordinary pvc pipe. I probably couldn’t have made it without my dad’s help, though.”
She went on through a couple more of the questions without much of a stumble. She said she was a junior in high school, and looking at universities that had journalism programs that could teach her to be a better videographer and photographer. She said she and her friends had been listening to police bands and watching the local news for a long time, trying to get even one photo of Terawatt. She said she had no idea what was going to happen when Terawatt spotted her and walked right up to her. She said she never expected to get a sound bite. She said she was really scared filming while superpowered badguys shot off machine guns and rocket launchers, but she had a brick wall to hide behind, and some of the time she was hiding while holding the camera out just past the brickwork, which was why a lot of her footage was junk. She only had to re-do two of her answers, so it just didn’t take long.
And then it was time for the finish. Maria read, “Thank you for appearing with us this morning, Alex.”
And Alex smiled, “Thank you. It’s been really nice.”
The producers up in the booth had her re-do the opening and the closing three different ways, and then they let her stop.
Maria McClellan said, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
Alex said, “No ma’am. I just don’t know how you put up with all the makeup and hair stuff every single newscast.”
Maria laughed and said, “That’s not usually what interviewees complain about. They usually complain about being nervous in front of a camera.”
Alex admitted, “I thought I would be, but I guess after filming a guy trying to shoot a woman with a real rocket launcher, this just isn’t as scary.”
Maria asked, “A woman? You think Terawatt is an adult?”
Alex fibbed, “Well, I’m guessing, but I think she’s probably around twenty-five. It’s not like I saw a lot of her skin. But she didn’t move like a teenager.”
Maria asked, “So you don’t think this high schooler-”
“Libby,” Alex interrupted. “I go to school with her. It’s not her. She just has to be the center of attention no matter what. And she does things – like this deal – without thinking about the consequences. Ask her junior high principal about the time Libby ditched a math test by pulling a fire alarm… and blaming me for it. That’s not a superhero.”
Maria smiled, “So we’d pretty much have another exclusive if we could prove she’s a fraud, right?”
Alex nodded. “She’s always got to have a big posse around her, and the current boyfriend, and adoring fans. So I figure if you look up the times when Terawatt was stopping supercrooks and checked, you’d find something big that Libby was at. Maybe even cheering in front of a crowd at a school sports event. Maybe a pool party at her folks’ house. And when she gets caught, she’ll fib her way out of it, like always.”
Maria asked, “So I take it you’re not her biggest fan?”
Alex said, “I don’t like her. I don’t want to be quoted on that, but I have a lot of friends at school, and she’s not one of them. And she never thinks things through. I think if she had superpowers, she’d be a supervillain just because she’d think it was easy. Being a superheroine like Terawatt? That’s hard. As hard as being a police officer or a fireman. Did you see the supergoons she had to fight? I’d never have that kind of guts.”
Maria said, “You went out in a really dangerous setting and got really great footage. I think you already have that kind of guts.”
“Gee. Thanks.” Alex found it was hard not to blush.