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.
After they got the makeup off her and let her get her own top back on, she met with Ms. Marsters and Mr. Winters again. Mr. Winters said, “Alex, I looked over your footage, and I think you’re going to be very pleased with how your interview runs tomorrow. Laura’s going to record a copy for you off the national feed, so you can have a copy to show people.”
“Gee, thanks. That’s really nice of you.”
Ms. Marsters said, “You’re making this station look really good. And trust me, the typical photog doesn’t look like a pretty teenaged girl. So you’re making our staffers look good too.”
Alex admitted, “I work some at Gloria’s Donuts, so I know what a lot of the camera crewmen look like. Especially the guys who live on donuts.”
Mr. Winters said, “And if you get another crack at Terawatt, ask her to call me here and set up an interview. We could really get phenomenal play from that.”
Alex said, “Umm, sure, I guess I could ask her. I don’t think she’d pay any attention to someone like me, but I could give it a shot.”
Mr. Winters said, “You’re the first person she’s interacted with who wasn’t a crook, a cop, or an innocent bystander she had to rescue.”
Alex said, “Maybe I’m just the first person dumb enough to run into a superbattle and take pictures of it, instead of running away and hiding.”
Mr. Winters patted her on the shoulder and said, “No, you’re the first real photographer lucky enough to be there on time and brave enough to go in and get the shots.”
Ms. Marsters said, “But next time, feel free to stay farther back and use a zoom. We’d rather have a good live cameraman than a superb dead one.”
Her folks took her and her friends out to Eddie’s Diner for some quick burgers and fries. That went great, too. Even if Louis had an ultra-burger, large fries, and a big-sized malt. She noticed that Eddie was there too, changing the menu.
Oh. He was just changing the names. The ultra-burger and the ultra-burger with cheese and the ultra-burger meal were now all ‘tera-burgers’ and everything like the ultra-sized shake and the ultra-sized french fries and the ultra-sized onion ring basket were now all ‘tera-sized’. As soon as Louis noticed, he started talking about a trademark on the name Terawatt and making money off people like Eddie.
Her dad said, “Louis, I don’t think that’s exactly safe. Don’t you think it might draw a lot of attention from the wrong sort of person?”
Her mom said, “No, I think it’s a great idea. Someone we trust ought to get the trademark and copyright on Terawatt and her look, just to keep someone incredibly sleazy from trying to make money off of her.”
Louis looked a little uncomfortable, but he admitted, “Well, I might have used some of Alex’s stills to file applications for a federal trademark and a copyright as soon as the Washington D.C. offices opened up Tuesday morning. And my dad might have helped. And dad and I might have applied for a bunch of website names based on Terawatt.”
Alex smiled, “Thanks, Louis. At least we can point at you and your dad as big-time entrepreneurs who do this sort of thing all the time, so it’s normal for you. And you knew about it Monday night because of me, so it’s all under control.”
Ray said, “Yeah, can you imagine if Libby and her dad got the rights to the Terawatt name or the Terawatt costume? Ugh.”
Louis said, “I was actually thinking about a Hollywood producer. Who would want to deal with some greasy jerk trying to sue Terawatt because he owned the copyright and was going to make an R-rated movie on the concept?”
“Eww,” she said. “Who’d want to have a costume that some jerk had used in a sleazy movie?”
Her dad said, “Yes. And it’s not like someone like Terawatt could sue, because then she’d have to reveal her secret identity.”
Her mom said, “So Danielle Atron could try to get a copyright or a trademark just to do something evil to Terawatt through the legal system?”
Louis said, “Or someone like Hugh Hefner could try to get the copyright so he could do something in a centerfold.”
“Eww!” Pretty much every girl at the table said that. Even her mom.
Louis stared at the menu board and said, “I think my dad and I need to go buy a bunch more Terawatt-related website domain names, so other people can’t.”
Her dad said, “Louis, that’s an excellent idea. I saw an article on all the website names the last Bush campaign bought up to keep other people from hosting them and doing inappropriate things, and if you can find that article, the list of names might give you a good start.”
After dinner, Alex drove home and tried to get some homework done. She just stared at her Spanish book for a long time. She really needed to do some more studying for tomorrow. But she wanted to go do something else.
“What’s the matter, Alex?” her mom asked from the doorway.
She sighed. “I really need to go fly over to Libby’s house and stand guard there for the night, just in case something bad happens.”
Her mom frowned and said, “You can’t give up your life to save everyone every second of every day. Even the comic book superheroes can’t do that. You’ve got to sleep, and eat, and have time for studying. And you’ve got to have time to be Alex. Even policemen and soldiers do that.”
She pursed her lips and insisted, “But Libby’s in danger right now. She’s too self-centered to see it, but if reporters are saying she’s Terawatt, Danielle Atron could send another team of supercreeps after her. Or just some nutcase might want to go kill a superheroine to be famous. This could be really bad.”
Her mom said, “I know. But you have to let the police do their job too. And they know how to protect a person better than you do.”
She tried to stop and think it over. Sam said you had to think through your plans and find where you were making mistakes, and being all emotional about something in your plan was one big mistake lots of people made all the time. She finally said, “All right. But I’m still going to fly over her house and look around the neighborhood and make sure things look okay.”
Her mom said, “Okay. But don’t be gone more than an hour and a half. It’s already late, and you haven’t done much homework yet, and you’re going to want to be up with me in the morning to watch the Today Show.”
“What if I’m not on before I have to go to school?”
Her mom insisted, “Then you go to school. The station’s cutting a recording for you, right?” She nodded. “So you can watch it any time.”
She sighed, “Ohhh-kay. If you say so.”
“I do say so,” her mom smiled. Then her mom stepped into the room and gave her a big hug. “You’re a good person, honey, but you can’t save everyone in the whole world. You can’t feel guilty for not being able to save every person everywhere, or not being able to stop every crime. There are thousands and thousands of policemen out there, and they can’t stop it all. You’re going to have to learn to say ‘I did all I can do and someone else has to step up and do the rest.’ You’re going to work yourself to death if you don’t.”
She nodded slowly. “I know. Well, I know it in my head, even if I haven’t convinced the rest of me. Buffy? She was one girl against an entire planet full of vampires and demons and zombies and werewolves and other creepy stuff. She couldn’t even protect everyone in her hometown no matter how late she stayed out at night and no matter how much trouble she got in at home. It really bothered her a ton. She told me I had to learn just what you said. And Selina said in her world there’s a superhero who’s invulnerable and can fly at nearly lightspeed and he has super-hearing so he can hear anyone yelling for help from miles away, and he has super-vision so he can see through walls and he can shoot heat beams out of his eyes too. And he can’t even stop all the crime in one large city.”
“Lightspeed?” her mom checked. “How could you fly at the speed of light and not… I don’t know… rip people apart just by touching them? Or maybe make the air radioactive when you flew through it? You should ask your father or your sister. It just doesn’t sound like something that’s possible.”
She nodded. “Sam sort of got bogged down on that. She did this quick physics analysis of a person-sized body flying across the sky over a city at… I think she said ‘point eight cee’. Which I’m pretty sure is eighty percent of the speed of light. And she said what it would do to the air molecules, so even if he didn’t hit anything, you’d still have like a nuclear explosion everywhere he went, and the entire city would be gone the first time he did it. And Willow said it would take some sort of high-powered magical field around him, or maybe some sort of high-energy field that made a sort of slipstream around him so he didn’t actually touch the air molecules, or maybe something so he went intangible and the molecules actually passed through him. And Selina said he didn’t go intangible, and in her world there was a ‘speed force’ that acted like Willow’s slipstream idea so superpeople could do stuff like that. And you’d pretty much have to be Stephen Hawking to figure out how that could work, even in a different universe. Well, Stephen Hawking or Sam Carter or Willow Rosenberg.”
“And this is the Willow we’re going to see Saturday morning?”
She nodded, “Yeah. Sort of. This is our world’s version. The other version of Willow was so awesome you’d never ever ever believe it. I mean, she had a fight with a three hundred foot tall hellgoddess, and she stomped D’Lazza bad. The other Willow is a super genius who learned about a ton of stuff besides computers. Our Willow’s a super genius too, but I don’t know if she knows anything except computers. And I don’t know if she can handle anything except being a science nerd. The other Willow was the nerdiest, geekiest girl in the world, with hardly any friends, until Buffy showed up and saved her from getting eaten by a vampire. And Willow’s friend Jesse did get eaten, and turned into a vampire too, and nearly killed Willow. So then Willow started studying everything that could help Buffy fight monsters. She learned like a dozen ancient languages, and taught herself magic, and learned all about every science she thought would matter, and that was all before she even graduated from high school. But I don’t think our world’s Willow ever had the ‘stressors’ it took to push the other Willow into becoming the most powerful mage in the world.”
Her mom said, “Well, we’ll just have to talk with her on Saturday and see.”
She said, “And I promise I’ll be back in an hour and half or sooner, unless I have to fight a supervillain.”
Her mom said, “Be careful anyway. Okay?”
She walked down to the front door. Her Terawatt costume was still hidden in the car. So she went silvery and puddled out underneath the front door. Then she puddled up into the spare tire compartment of the car and pulled in her Terawatt costume, leaving her clothes behind. Just in case, she grabbed the little fanny pack with her cameras. Then she puddled down her driveway and through one of the stormwater grates. She puddled all the way through the pipes down to the creek, and then she used her telekinesis to lift her silvery form three hundred feet up into the air. Once she was up where no one would notice, she went back to normal and checked that she had her whole Terawatt costume on, and the fanny pack was secure.
She flew off to the nicest part of town, where Danielle Atron’s mansion still sat empty. No one wanted to buy it. Not even the other Atrons who still lived in town. But the richest people in town lived in that part of Paradise Valley. And…
And it was really easy to find Libby’s house. It was the one surrounded by police cars and paparazzi and news trucks with massive lights shining on Libby’s house. It looked like there were a dozen cops keeping at least six dozen reporters and cameramen away from the house.
Wow. Gloria could have made a killing, selling coffee and donuts to everybody down there.
Alex made a slow circle all around Libby’s huge yard, looking for intruders hiding in the bushes or anything. All she found was one really creepy photographer up on a utility pole trying to get pictures into the upstairs windows, even if the curtains were all closed. She used her telekinesis to pull his ladder over, and she let it crash down on his rental truck. That way, the guy was going to be stuck up on the pole until the police found him, and then he was going to have to pay the rental car company for the damage.
She did several more circles, each time going wider and wider, until she felt sure there was no one sneaking up toward Libby’s house to do who knew what. Okay, she could have snuck up without anyone spotting her, but she had control of her shapeshifting powers, and the guys who were new to it seemed to be even worse than she was the first week she had her powers.
She flew home, just hoping that no one tried attacking Libby’s house with superpowers in the middle of the night. Or even attacking Libby’s house with a rocket launcher and stuff. She still didn’t know where those bank robbers got that stuff. Was Danielle Atron giving her superthugs weapons now too? Or were these guys just so dangerous to start with that they already had machine pistols and rocket launchers and stuff like that? It wasn’t like either option was exactly ‘better’.
She flew back until she was over her back yard, and then she went silvery again. She dropped down in the darkness, puddled out to her car in the driveway, and did the whole deal in reverse. She went up into the spare tire compartment to pick up her regular clothes and drop off her uniform, and then she puddled back out so she could sneak into the house.
“Mom? I’m back,” she said. Her mom was hard at work in the home office, working on research in some really thick books, and taking lots of notes on a big notepad. She thought it would be easier to take notes on a computer so you could access the notes easier and paste quotes into papers easier and all that. But her mom liked doing it that way.
Alex was pretty sure Sam would say to change to new techniques that would make things go easier in future, even if it meant some work up front to learn stuff and make stuff work right. Willow said it was ‘laziness’, one of the three great virtues of the programmer. But when Willow said ‘laziness’ she meant being willing to work so hard up front that you had computer programs that could do any of the stuff you might want later on, with so many options that you could even do stuff you hadn’t thought of yet. And documenting it so well that you didn’t have to answer tons of stupid questions later on.
Alex was still pretty embarrassed that she hadn’t figured out right away that calling it ‘laziness’ was a joke. Sam and Hermione and Selina all got it right away, and Buffy had already heard it from Willow before. Alex hadn’t ever asked Jaime if she got it right away, because Alex was embarrassed enough, and she didn’t want everyone to know she was the dumb one on the team. Even if everyone had to know she was the dumb one. Willow and Sam and Hermione were super-duper geniuses, and Selina and Jaime and Buffy all had college degrees, and Jaime even had a teaching degree, and Selina knew tons and tons about art and history and stuff, and Buffy could speak perfect Italian and read plenty of stuff in like eight dead languages. Alex was still in high school, and was still learning Spanish.
Okay, Buffy had told her that Alex was still way, way ahead of where Buffy was in high school. Willow said Buffy was terrible with French in high school, even if a lot of Buffy’s bad grades were from not having time to study or sleep or anything because of patrolling for vampires and demons pretty much every night for years on end. And Buffy even had to cut a lot of classes because of stuff that came up during the school day, like dead bodies around the school.
When Willow told all the places in school they’d had dead bodies in the three years Buffy had been at Sunnydale High, Alex just sort of wanted to gag. It seemed like there wasn’t a single place you could go in the whole school that hadn’t had a corpse. Or pieces of a corpse. Or a bunch of corpses. The library, the lunchroom, the auditorium, the gym, the locker rooms, lots of the classrooms, the hallways, the stairs, the A/V room, even the principal’s office. Alex was so glad her high school just had a bully and a couple mean girls. Sam couldn’t believe Willow’s entire school hadn’t been walking around with post-traumatic stress disorder, even after Willow explained about what Buffy called ‘Sunnydale Syndrome’.
Buffy and Willow’s world was not a place Alex wanted to go. Maybe not Selina’s world or Sam’s world either. Sam had all kinds of intergalactic threats trying to destroy Earth. Selina had that, plus supervillains who could destroy entire universes. That was so out of her weight class it wasn’t funny. Even if Selina and her boyfriend didn’t have any powers at all, and they still fought supervillains. Hermione’s world? At least they had tons of magical policemen like Harry who protected everybody. Maybe Jaime’s world was the safest. Just bionics. And fembots. And aliens. And superweapons. And… Okay, maybe Jaime’s world wasn’t safe either. Maybe nobody with a safe world was going to have been through enough to be picked for Hermione’s team. Alex kind of hoped that there wasn’t anywhere out there with a worse universe than what her teammates had seen.
She showered and changed into some comfy pajamas before she got in bed, and she reviewed Spanish until she was falling asleep.