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 disclaimers, spoilers, and other information are all in previous chapters.
IMPORTANT AUTHOR’S NOTE: I like seeing fanfics based off this story. But it is a site rule that such fanfics need to be run past the original story author (me!) first, and also need a note at the top of their story that I okayed it. So a tiny ‘Diane okayed this already, honest!’ at the start would be sufficient. This will prevent lots of grief on all sides. And now we return to your regularly scheduled program…
Alex followed the GPS information on her tPhone and flew straight to the hospital building. She dropped Hanna off around the corner from the emergency room entrance, and she flew in alone, so the hospital people wouldn’t realize that Hanna was part of the SRI.
She flew in upright, her feet a foot off the floor. “Pardon me. I am-”
“Oh my god, it’s Terawatt! Here!”
“Can I have your autograph?”
A doctor scowled at everyone else and strode forward. “I’m Doctor Miller. Are you injured?”
“No doctor, but I was told that some DHS people were being rushed here.”
He nodded carefully. “Right. They should be here at any moment.”
Well crud. She hadn’t expected that. Okay, she really should have. She didn’t spend all that long doing search and rescue, or talking to Andrew. And then she had flown way faster than a car could go on those roads, and she had gone in a straight line. She said, “Have you been briefed on the problems in treating Klar?”
He nodded again, “Yup. We got a long call from a DHS doc who’s on her way here right now, and we’ve got two infrared imagers we’re setting up in ER 2.”
“Good,” she managed. “If there’s anything I can do to help, you can just ask.”
But just then, Sergeant Walters stomped in. “Terawatt! I wasn’t expecting you to get here first.” He turned to Dr. Miller. “I’ve got Klar in my car. We need to get him moved-”
Alex interrupted, “Sergeant, I’ll move him to ER 2 right now, if you could provide information to the doctors. I expect Lieutenant Lupo will walk in under her own power.”
“Damn straight,” Jo insisted. She walked over with a slight limp. “It’s just a sore knee and ankle.”
Alex ratted her out. “Doctor, if a Medal of Honor winner is having to limp from the injury, you may assume it’s serious enough to need a doctor to at least examine it.”
Jo glared at her but didn’t say anything.
Hanna slipped in to stand next to Jo. She smiled, “Look at the bright side. You can get someone to give you one of those sets of surgical scrubs so you don’t have to keep walking around in a torn dress.”
Alex noticed Jo had ditched the heels. She figured Jo was really glad it was just a ripped sleeve and a torn hem, and not one of those Hollywood-movie dress tears, which would be showing off more of her cleavage or more of her legs. Or both.
Jo insisted, “This is minor. It can wait, while some of your other patients probably can’t.”
While Jo argued with the ER staff, Alex flew out to the car, scooped up Klar in her morph, and flew him to the bed in ER 2. There were a couple lightbulbs that were obviously on but weren’t putting out any light that she could see except a really dim red glow, so she figured they were infrared lights, and someone would wear infrared goggles or look at a screen on an infrared imager to see what they needed to see.
She let Klar out of her morph, but she hung onto most of his clothes. She didn’t know how many sets of invisible clothes he had, so she didn’t know if they could afford to have the doctors cut the stuff off him. She hung onto his wool shirt and his wool pants and his wool socks and his felted boots, but left him in his undershorts because she so didn’t need to handle invisible boy-junk.
She carefully laid Klar out on his side on the bed, because she didn’t know how bad the whack on the back of his head was. The doctor and intern in the room looked at the hospital bed as Klar’s weight made a distinct dent on the mattress and pillow.
The doctor swung some weird-looking goggles onto his face and told her, “I’m sorry, but you’re going to need to leave the room.”
She tried to sound responsible. “I understand. I need to check on some other DHS personnel.” And she flew out. She had no trouble finding Jo. All she had to do was listen.
An angry female lieutenant was insisting in another treatment room, “I’m telling you, I’m fine!”
But Jo wasn’t fine. The doctor found a sprained knee, a swollen ankle, one badly sprained wrist and one slightly sprained wrist, bruised ribs, a ton of bruises and cuts, and about twenty good-sized splinters that needed to come out. Plus a big bruise on the back of Jo’s head, even if there wasn’t any sign of concussion that the doctor could find.
Jo was totally the worst patient Alex had ever seen.
By then, some of the injuries from the Chamberlain disaster were coming in too. There were other hospitals who were taking people who just had smoke inhalation or broken bones, but the serious stuff was coming into Maine Medical and another Portland hospital.
Fortunately, before long, Klar woke up. A nurse walked over to them and gave them the heads-up. “Klar is awake. He has a concussion and a scalp wound and a couple cracked ribs, plus a lot of bruising. He’s asking for someone named ‘Cindy’. And he wants to make a ‘report’ to some ‘general’. Is that delusional?”
Jo snapped, “No, that’s a sign that he’s lucid.”
Alex explained, “He really does work with us, and he really does need to give General Jack O’Neill a situation report. He may be one of the few people who can accurately describe what happened in the gym up in Chamberlain. We need to talk to him as soon as the doctors will let us.”
When the nurse walked out, Jo grumbled, “Next undercover assignment, I want armor. Or at least some decent clothes.”
Alex carefully told her, “I thought you looked really pretty. That dark red is totally you.”
Hanna wasn’t as careful, but that was just Hanna. “You should do that with your eye makeup all the time. You looked really beautiful. Even Andrew couldn’t stop looking at you.”
Jo frowned, “Just what I want. Sixteen year olds drooling over me. Look, just because you know how to apply makeup really well doesn’t mean you have to, or that you need to, or even that you should want to.”
Hanna missed some of Jo’s point. “Oh, Cindy did this for me, I am still learning. Grover calls us ‘Master Cindy and her padawan’. Charlie thought that was very funny. Cindy thought it was very appropriate.”
Sergeant Walters walked back into the room. “Tera, you ought to go over to Klar’s room and talk with him. And Lieutenant? The SRI chopper is thirty minutes out, so you might want to look for some scrubs to put on before the general gets here with Dr. Fraiser and starts making… quips.”
Jo grimaced but agreed, “Right, sergeant. Tera? Get into Klar’s treatment room and talk with him. Daughter? Get me a set of nurse’s scrubs in my size, and footwear if you can find it. Dad? Give Grandpa and Grandma a report on everything we haven’t told them yet. Daughter’s findings around the battlezone. Terawatt’s deductions. And get me a current status on the butcher’s bill there.” The sergeant started to walk out. “Oh, and tell Grandpa to help ‘our new neighbor’ with a cover story for the evening.”
Ooh, good idea! Alex was totally glad Jo thought about that, because she figured Andrew was even worse at cover stories than she used to be.
So Alex flew into Klar’s treatment room, where based on the shape of the dent on the bed, and where the doctor was standing, Klar was sitting upright and getting the back of his head sewn closed.
The doctor didn’t turn his head, but he complained, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait outside until-”
Alex insisted, “I’m sorry too, but I need to talk to Klar. Now. We were dealing with a superpowered threat in Chamberlain, and Klar may have crucial information.”
Klar apologized, “I don’t remember all of it…”
The doctor explained, “Concussion. That’s natural.”
Klar went on, “It took longer than I expected, but I finally got to where we talked about, but the earjack and the tape were gone. I even found the sticky spot where the tape had been. The tables for the prom ballots were blocking me, and there were a lot of people there counting ballots, and one of them probably cleaned up the place and tossed the duct tape. Then these two prom girls backed up and I had to squeeze into the space under the bleachers so they wouldn’t bump into me, and I was stuck there. They were two of the people counting ballots. And they knew what was going to happen. They couldn’t stop giggling and watching the stage. I think most of the room just seemed pretty surprised that Carrie White got picked as prom queen, even if she looked pretty good. Then the buckets dropped. You could smell the blood all the way over where I was. And the two girls knew it would happen. The rest of the gym was just kind of shocked. And I saw one of the buckets fall and hit the guy in the head. Then Carrie’s head snapped over to glare at the two girls, who were still laughing it up and weren’t even trying to be quiet about it. And… that’s all I remember.”
The doctor said, “It’s unlikely he’ll ever recall anything more. Some short-term memory is usually lost when the concussion occurs.”
Alex nodded. She knew that part already. You learned a lot of really cruddy stuff like that when you were a superheroine. She replied, “But that’s really helpful, and based on what we observed, there was probably only at most one or two seconds between his last memory and when he was knocked out.”
Klar asked, “What about the girls? Did you arrest ‘em?”
Alex admitted, “We believe Carrie used a tk blast on that whole section of the gym. The tables were crushed. The two girls were crushed into the wall. The edge of the bleachers was mangled. If you had been closer to the girls, you probably would’ve been killed.”
“Oh shit. What happened after that?”
Alex glanced at the doctor and the nurse, who were paying a lot of attention to her. She figured she’d better not talk about stuff Jack wouldn’t want her to blab. Like the stuff she had just blabbed about the tk blast. She told him, “After that… things got worse.”
“But you stopped the threat, right?” Klar asked.
Alex nodded unhappily. “Yeah. We stopped her.”
Klar sounded like he was smiling. “I knew you would. You always do.”
Alex flew out of the room. She didn’t feel like smiling. No, she felt like bursting into tears, but Terawatt couldn’t cry in public. If only some jerkheads hadn’t done that to Carrie. If only those jerkheads in the car hadn’t tried to run her over. If only her own mother hadn’t stabbed her in the chest with a big kitchen knife.
If only they had gotten there one stupid day earlier. Even a couple hours earlier. It wasn’t fair. Carrie White was going to be branded a murderer. A monstrous psychotic murdering supervillainess. And if anyone was the victim in this whole mess, it was probably her.
There were more injured people from Chamberlain in treatment rooms, so Jo was out of her room and an unconscious lady was in it. A husband with his arm in a sling and a daughter with her head bandaged up were sitting with her. They looked up and saw Alex, and then they couldn’t stop thanking her for rescuing all of them and saving the woman, who would have died if she’d been buried under that rubble a lot longer.
Alex smiled, and told them she was glad they would be okay, and let them shake her hand. But she didn’t feel like a hero. She felt like she should have done a better job. And maybe their house got blasted to pieces because Alex was fighting Carrie in the street.
It only took a few seconds to find where Jo was. Sergeant Walters was standing just outside a room. It wasn’t a treatment room. It was a small room set up like you’d have one hospital person sitting behind a desk and dealing with paperwork while up to four people sat in front of the desk and filled out forms.
Jo was sitting behind the desk, looking uncomfortable. Alex didn’t say anything, but the doctors had needed to pull some splinters out of Jo’s back and thighs and butt, so she was probably sitting on bandaged spots. Hanna was sitting on the desk, just swinging her legs and chatting away. Only she was chatting about the battle against Carrie, while Jo listened. And there was a sat phone on the table, so Alex figured Jack and Willow were listening too.
“So, you know how someone we know always says she cannot talk people into doing what she wants? Well, she was awesome! She got our threat to stop, and she was just a couple seconds from getting her to surrender, but two problems tried to run Carrie down in a car, and then Carrie thought Tera tried to trick her, and so it all went to hell. And I am very sure the two people in the car are the ones who set up the attack at the prom, so they are really the ones to blame.”
Well, that was pretty embarrassing. Alex could feel her cheeks getting hot while Hanna went through the rest of the battle and the aftermath. Alex hadn’t heard the part about what Hanna found in the wrecked car, so that was good to know. But then Alex had to give her report too, and she really wasn’t happy about the way the battle with Carrie had gone. And some of the stuff with Andrew was embarrassing to tell, like when he was asking if they had boyfriends and stuff. And she gave Klar’s intel too. When she checked, Sergeant Walters had already given his report, and she’d missed it.
She ended up having to wait for the SRI helicopter. And she didn’t even have her tablet, so she couldn’t do her official reports and paperwork, which she was going to have to do even if she already gave a verbal report.
At least she got to see Janet for a second, before Janet rushed in to take over the medical treatment for Klar. But it only took about twenty minutes before Janet was scooting all of them off to the helipad. Then Captain Eddings flew everyone home, except he just dropped her off where the Blackbird was waiting. It turned out that Maine didn’t have a single runway long enough for an SR-71, so he had to fly her over Massachusetts, let her dive out near the Blackbird, and then he flew everyone else back to Jack’s base.
She was home an hour later. It was hardly past nine when she flew into her garage. Shar was still up, and she was playing Forbidden Island in the kitchen with Alex’s mom and dad.
Her dad was frowning in contemplation. “But if I just let those guys sink, then I can swim across them in one move and get all the way back and forth. And we don’t need any of those squares anymore.”
Shar grinned, “Okay, ‘cause then I can give you my cards when you’re over here, and we can get the last treasure.”
Her mom nodded, “Let’s do that. I’m shoring up the landing site so we can get off the isl… Alex! You’re home!”
Shar ran over and gave her a big hug. “I’m glad you’re back and you’re okay, ‘cause you can watch us win! The stupid island got us last time.”
Her dad said, “The tv’s full of news about the Chamberlain prom disaster. It looked pretty ugly.”
Alex nodded a little. “Yeah, if Hanna and Grover and Jo and Sergeant Walters had gotten there even fifteen minutes later, most of the people in the gym would’ve died. Hanna and Jo ended up tracking down a super-threat in just nice dresses because they didn’t have BDUs to change into, and they didn’t have time either. Jo was really grouchy about it, but she looked gorgeous.”
Alex’s mom glanced over at Shar and said, “I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
Instead, Alex changed out of her uniform and played a game of Forbidden Island with her family and they played on ‘elite’ and they just barely won, because the next card would have flooded them out and they would have lost in two different ways at the same time. Shar was so excited it took almost another hour to get her to go to sleep.
On Saturday, Alex got to have a normal day. She wasn’t all beaten up, and she didn’t have homework to do, except some more of the ‘unix tools’ course. She was really liking the way that course was set up, because everything you learned got used later on in the course and made the next chapters easier. She figured if you didn’t really learn the stuff in the first chapters, the later chapters would be a huge headache.
Then on Sunday after church and lunch, she had a conference call with Jack and Willow and the IT guys and Jo and Hanna and Klar and Sergeant Walters and Graham.
Jack apparently knew exactly what she had been stewing about. She wondered how many times the same thing had happened to him in the field. “Okay, nobody was ‘just a day late’ or ‘just a few hours late’ no matter what people feel. We were days early. We got a ridiculously early headstart because of great IT work. We moved as soon as we had enough intel to classify it as an SRI tasking and get DHS permission. We moved in a heck of a lot more force than we ought to need for a new telekinetic who hadn’t managed more than a blown lightbulb yet. And we called in for heavy backup well before we had official justification. We did this right. We just got hit with a perfect storm. Stupidly bad luck, a planned attack against the red team that we couldn’t see, and a vulnerable super who got pushed over the edge before we could get to her. This was bad, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse. FEMA’s already extrapolated what would have happened without us. There were ten deaths and thirty-one seriously injured. The ten dead include Carrie White, her mother who probably put that carving knife in her, and three of the people involved in the assault on her. FEMA analysts figure you five and Ultraman saved over four hundred people just at the prom, plus everything else in her future path, which probably included two gas stations and the town’s police station. Their estimate is eight hundred to two thousand dead, and more than that injured.”
Oh crud. Two thousand dead and more than that hurt? Alex didn’t want to believe that poor Carrie would do that, but she’d seen what Carrie could do, and she’d seen that Carrie was not in her right mind. She complained, “We’re not gonna let people think Carrie’s the badguy here, are we? It wasn’t really her fault! I mean what if Shar’s school didn’t do anything to stop that little jerk Petey Johnson and his friends from bullying her? Bad stuff would happen!”
Willow insisted, “Yeah, and bullying is wrong. And schools that don’t stop it are asking for this kind of trouble, so we need to make it clear that it was really the bullies’ fault and anybody who bullies other kids is asking to get superstomped if they pick the wrong person!”
Jo pointed out, “Yeah, that Hargensen bitch is gonna be Exhibit A on that one for the rest of her life. She definitely chose the wrong girl to bully.”
Willow agreed, “Totally. She used to be the pretty one who got to lead the important clique, and now she’s a cripple with a horribly scarred face who’s probably gonna be facing two counts of felony assault, maybe one count of manslaughter because Tommy Ross died due to her actions, and dozens of civil suits from prom kids who know it’s her fault. And probably a massive lawsuit from Susan Snell’s family: Tommy Ross was Susan’s boyfriend, and apparently she got him to take Carrie to the prom as a way of making amends, even though she was a month or two pregnant. When she was informed, she fainted and had a miscarriage.”
Jack added, “And police interrogations got some of Billy Nolan’s gang to cough up some interesting tidbits. The two girls involved, Tina Blake and Norma Watson, stuffed the ballot box so Carrie would be up there. They may have dumped the buckets, or they may have been working with co-conspirators. And Billy killed two pigs when they did some trespass and B & E the night before to get that blood, and all of his gang knew about it. They were a little too stupid to figure out that telling the cops at this stage makes them accessory before the fact in multiple felonies.”
Alex asked, “What else do we need to do?”
Jack sounded like he was grinning as he replied, “Tomorrow nine ack emma, six your time, we have a conference call with the Prez. Sound only, no webcams. I want you on it. He likes you. We’ll also get the Secretary of Education if we can swing it. Plus someone like General Jackson.”
She asked, “And did you do anything to help Ultraman out?”
Jack smirked, “Well… maybe…”
Andrew looked up as Craig walked over with Mr. Bowers, one of the Outward Bound bigshots who did all the administrative stuff in an office instead of the fun stuff outside. He hoped this wasn’t more trouble. Craig had yelled at him just a ton yesterday and Friday night, even after he claimed he hitchhiked into Chamberlain and helped with the disaster. That wasn’t even lying much.
“Hi Craig! Hi, Mr. Bowers.”
Okay, Mr. Bowers was smiling. That had to be a good sign.
Mr. Bowers shook Andrew’s hand and grinned, “Andrew! Nice to finally meet you. Craig said you weren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves and do some of the dirty jobs we have to do around here. And you sure showed that on Friday night. I just wanted to let you know you may get a thank-you of some kind from the city of Chamberlain. The mayor called me to tell me Principal Grayle personally wanted to thank you for dropping what you were doing and rushing to the rescue. We may not be superheroes like Terawatt, but we can sure show the Outward Bound spirit!”
Andrew tried not to blush. “I saw the news, and I had to do something. I just took off running toward Chamberlain, and I was lucky enough to hitch a ride with a guy in an old pickup who drove me right into town when I told him what I was doing. And it was pretty bad. Fortunately, my neighbor’s a big believer in first aid training and things like that, so I could help.”
Mr. Bowers hiked off. Craig waited until the guy was gone. “Okay, you’re off the hook on this one. But next time? Don’t do something stupid like trying to run all the way to some town miles away. Come find me. I’ve got a car. And Mitch and Robin will want to help too.”
Whew. That went better than he’d expected. And there was no way Principal Grayle would know his name, which meant Terawatt and Action Girl must have thrown their weight around to get him that alibi. Maybe he needed to work with them just for stuff like a decent uniform, and an alibi when he needed to rush to the rescue, and all kinds of stuff he hadn’t even thought about.
But if there was a next time while he was still at Outward Bound, and he went with Craig and Mitch and Robin, how was he going to manage to be Ultraman with three witnesses?
And he still had to explain stuff to Dr. Jeffcoate. And tell his mom and little sister he’d had superpowers for three years and he’d been lying about it. Man, he was gonna be in so much trouble. Maybe Terawatt would fly over and help him out on that.
Alex had to hurry after the conference call, because she had to be at the graduation ceremony an hour early, like everyone else, so they could practice one more time and then get lectured by the principal about not messing around or else. And really, there were only about a dozen people that would pull anything at graduation, and Alex could have pointed them out without thinking about it.
So graduation went just fine. The valedictorians had to get up and give a joint presentation. The salutatorians did too. And so did the class president and vice-president. And then there was the big ‘speech from someone important’ they all had to listen to. And the principal announced a couple dozen awards that they just stood up for, although Alex was surprised she won the school Citizenship Award. And then the ‘walking in line to get your diploma’ part took like forever, and it wasn’t even a real diploma. It was an empty holder so no one got the wrong diploma, and your real diploma was getting mailed to your house unless you made the principal mad or something.
And afterward, her dad took her and her mom and Shar and their relatives who came in to see her graduate out to her favorite all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner. Even if she couldn’t get all she could eat with her relatives watching her.
She had to get up way before six the next morning. Even though she had showered the night before and she didn’t need to shower before the call, she still felt funny not cleaning up and putting on her uniform to talk to the President. Of the whole United States.
Still, she wanted to be done eating breakfast before the call. And sometimes she took a long time to eat. Which was totally not her fault. And she wanted waffles for some reason, so she had to make up the waffle batter while she preheated the waffle iron, and then she ate waffles while she made new waffles. She ate three whole waffles with butter and fruit sauce, while she made an extra nine more waffles that went into the Dutch oven she stuck in the oven to stay warm for everyone else. And she made a sign she taped on the oven door so everyone would know there were yummy waffles for breakfast when they got up.
Then she went into the home office and dialed into Jack’s conference call system. She wasn’t the first one on.
“Stop it Will, Harriman’s gonna be on any second now…” And that was followed by slurpy kissing noises.
Willow murmured, “Oh don’t be an old poop, I’m sure Walter knows what-”
Alex cleared her throat and went into her most pompous Terawatt voice. “Excuse me, Ms. Rosenberg, but I think you should put your old poop down before the President joins this forum.”
Willow squeaked a little in surprise, and Jack laughed. But that was the last fun part of the call, because General Jackson was really concerned about bugging the President for ‘small stuff’ when they might need to bug him for really major stuff down the line. And she really could have lived without hearing how much it had cost to fly Terawatt to India and then pick her up in Moscow and fly her home again. Crud, no wonder they had mothballed all those other Blackbirds, if it cost that much to maintain them and fuel them and get them turned around for a re-flight.
And then the Secretary of Education came on and was crabby about being bothered about something ‘minor’ when there were supervillain problems in schools. And then the President’s staffers came on to complain about the President’s valuable time. And then the President finally came on and said he was sorry but he only had a few minutes.
Willow said, “This is Willow Rosenberg, Mister President, and this is not a small matter. We have reason to believe the Chamberlain disaster was caused by high school bullying. We as a country need to put our collective foot down and stop bullying.”
Well, it was still one of Willow’s hot buttons. And Alex thought there was a totally good reason why.
Jack took over and explained about the bullying, and the detentions given by the gym teacher, and the mean stuff Christine Hargensen and her pals did to Carrie White, and how they did something totally evil at the prom, and then it turned out they ‘awoke’ someone’s superpowers by making them go crazy. And the FEMA analysts thought things could have been a hundred times worse – literally – and if people didn’t clamp down on bullying, then the next time the death toll might be in the hundreds or the thousands, and that would give this administration a massive black eye because everyone would point back at the Chamberlain disaster and ask ‘why didn’t they fix things way back there?’
Alex added, “I was there, Mister President, and it could have been drastically worse. And I would be utterly surprised if there are not a dozen videos on the internet as of this weekend of what happened to Carrie White, and I doubt that very many people will say that her attackers did not have it coming. You need to have your interns find several such videos and you need to look at them, because it is the most vicious, cruel ‘prank’ I have ever heard of. Once you see it, you’ll be appalled. And once you find out that Carrie White was probably an abused child who was already emotionally fragile, you will be revolted at what was done to her. I had to fight her to the death, and I still feel sympathetic to her plight. You have all summer to put forth legislation on bullying, start committees to study the problem, make mandates for principals all over the country, whatever you need to do. But you need to do something.”
But bullying was just way down the list for the Secretary of Education, who was making a big deal about kids not graduating from high school, and whether some kids were getting unfair advantages in schools, and on and on. The guy just did not sound like he cared at all about bullying. And Willow was getting really upset.
And then the President had to leave the call, and the Secretary of Education got crabbier without the President listening to him so it was obvious that any anti-bully stuff was going to go nowhere fast. And Willow was getting more upset. And General Jackson needed the Secretary not to backstab them on DHS budgets or anything.
Finally, the Secretary hung up, and General Jackson apologized to Jack and hung up, and then Walter hung up. And it sounded like it was just Alex and Willow and Jack, only Jack was holding Willow while she cried.
This was so not fair! Alex asked, “Can’t we do anything?”
Jack growled, “Well, I can’t. And I can’t let Willow do anything. But you sure as hell can.”
“Me?” She didn’t squeak. She was sure she didn’t squeak.
Jack insisted, “Damn right. You’re the most powerful superheroine in the world, and you saved the asses of every single person in Chamberlain. All we have to do is call a press conference in Chamberlain and have you fly in and talk about what happened, and announce that you are challenging every school administrator from kindergarten on up to stop bullying completely before the next disaster.”
“You. Can you do it?”
Alex gulped a little, but she thought about Willow, who was still sniffling. “Heck yeah I can do this. When do you want me there?”
And that was why Alex ended up flying back to Chamberlain on Wednesday morning. There were still tons of photographers and reporters in and around Chamberlain, and every person at the prom had probably been interviewed a half a dozen times. But they were still hunting for more stories, because it was a ‘supervillain attack’ and super-stories racked up really big audience numbers.
She didn’t like public speaking, and she really didn’t like dealing with reporters, who maybe were great one-on-one but in a crowd there was always that one guy who asked something that made you want to use your tk to give him a mega-wedgie or something.
She knew there was something weird about being a photojournalist and not wanting to talk to journalists.
She took a Blackbird to Maine and hovered a couple miles in the air until it was time. Then she flew in, arcing lightning all around her, and aimed for the podium where Sergeant Scott and Sergeant Walters were waiting for her. And Sergeant Scott had a parabolic mike, so she didn’t even have to go down to the podium.
The podium was on what was left of the sidewalk in front of what was left of the Whites’ house. She floated down until she was about fifty feet above what was left of the house, and she waited until Sergeant Scott gave her a little thumbs-up.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press. I wanted to make a short statement about Chamberlain and the crisis which just occurred. Some of you are standing where I fought Carrie White. Some of you are even standing where she died. This was a tragic situation which need not have occurred. And why did it happen in the first place? School bullies. Bullies who were not stopped for years, and when Ms. Desjardin the gym teacher stepped in to help Carrie, the bullies felt that she was in the wrong. They felt entitled to torture a helpless, fragile girl. Some of them then perpetrated the most sickening, revolting act that I have ever heard called a prank. Make no mistake, this was not a prank. It was a felony assault, done in a public place, and done in a way to hurt Carrie White the most, when she thought people were actually being kind to her. It is little wonder that Carrie had an emotional breakdown. The only difference between this and countless other acts of bullying and cruelty is that Carrie’s powers suddenly erupted. She killed eight other people. FEMA has estimated that if the SRI and I had not intervened, the death toll might have been in the hundreds… or the thousands. And when I faced her, she was still willing to stop, until two of these bullies tried to run her down with a car. Bullying is wrong, and we now face a world where any act of bullying could unleash powers that no ordinary person is prepared for. We must stop bullying today. I challenge every school of every level to take steps to stop all bullying, and to implement those steps before school starts again in the fall. Any school that fails to do so may unearth another Carrie White, at which point they will be responsible for the deaths of untold schoolchildren. That is all I have to say. Thank you.”
“Terawatt! Terawatt!” It seemed like every single reporter was yelling her name, trying to get her to focus on them so they could ask her a question. A bunch of them were also yelling out questions all at the same time.
Hey, there was no reason she couldn’t cheat and just pick the questions she wanted to answer. That didn’t make her a bad person, did it? So that was what she did.
“Is Sue Snell going to be arrested? I have no way of knowing what the city and state police plan to do. However, I do know that Department of Homeland Security investigators do not currently believe she was a part of this assault, even though she was a part of the bullying that led to the detentions and Christine Hargensen being banned from the prom. I personally think that Ms. Snell was trying to make amends to Carrie White by getting her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom, which is an act more considerate than we usually give high schoolers credit for.
“Do I feel guilty for killing Carrie White? I did not kill Carrie. I tried very hard not to kill her, and to talk her into surrendering. Our current working theory is that when a very traumatized Carrie went home for comfort, her mother stabbed her in the chest with a large carving knife. That knife was still lodged in her when she faced me. At one point, she used so much telekinesis that she created a rock pillar out of the remains of the street, and she was standing on it. When she attempted to crush me with tons of asphalt ripped from the street, she accidentally knocked herself off the pillar. The impact drove the knife not only through a large section of her heart, but all the way through her body. She was dead before I could get to her.
“Do I think this tragedy could have been averted? Definitely. If the bullying had been addressed a long time ago, this would not have happened. I have no idea how many more tragedies like this will have to happen before teachers and school administrators clamp down on bullying, and school bullies come to realize that they will always be one victim away from being crushed to a pulp, or being electrocuted, or being burned alive, or being shredded with broken glass, or something even worse. And don’t forget. Bullies aren’t acting in a vacuum. They are being bullies because of their own pain and anger, combined with the thoughtlessness of youth.
“Do I personally have any experience with bullying? Yes. I know Azure Crush. When she was younger, she was a very unhappy girl who struck back by being a bully. She needed help and support, and she didn’t get it. Her mother was killed when she was little. Her father spent most of her early years in and out of prisons. She has been homeless. She was undoubtedly bullied herself, since she didn’t have money and she didn’t have new clothes and she didn’t have protectors. She is currently trying to turn her life around. Many people in her position would currently be misusing her powers. The last I heard, she was using her powers to help rebuild Larry Flynt’s mansion.”
She didn’t want to answer some of the really rude questions some people were yelling, so she just said, “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. But I have to leave now. There may be another problem I need to look into. Good day.” And she went silvery and darted away southward as fast as she could, staying just above the houses and trees so she would quickly vanish from the sight of the reporters.
She flew, following the GPS beacon on her tPhone, until she met up with an SRI helicopter that then flew her down to an airstrip long enough for an SR-71 to use. As she waited for the maintenance stuff to get finished on the Blackbird, she called Jack.
“Terawatt here. Any news?”
Jack laughed, “Yeah, you could say that. Willow’s so happy she’s crying. The President just let General Jackson know he is not happy with your little announcement, and he wants Jackson to let you know he doesn’t appreciate being backed into a corner even if you didn’t do it publicly. And the Secretary of Education was so mad at you he was about to explode. Man, you’d think the guy in charge of education would be better with, you know, words. I’m giving 5-2 odds that he was a bully in junior high and high school.” Jack pulled away from the phone. “What? Okay, give it your best shot.” He came back, “Willow thinks I had a great idea, and she’s searching through the guy’s educational records to see if she can find evidence he was a bully, in which case anything he says publicly about Terawatt and bullies is going to get him hoist with his own petard.”
“Jack, what’s a petard, and how do you hoist yourself on one?”
He snorted with amusement. “And once again, we come back to one of my areas of expertise: explosives. The ‘petar’ or ‘petard’ was a huge bomb. Sappers would dig a tunnel until they were under the walls of a castle or fortress or town, and plant the petar to take down a big section of the wall, and then scramble like hell to get away before the fuse set off the bomb. Being hoist with your own petard meant being blown up by your own bomb. Oh, and Will says if there’s any evidence against Mister Secretary, it’s all hardcopy files, but she now knows his old schools and maybe she can get someone to go investigate him if need be.” He turned away from the phone again. “Honey, have I ever told you that you can be really vindictive sometimes… and that’s one of the things I love about you?”
Willow grabbed Jack’s phone and said, “Tera, Jack’s not gonna be available for the next… umm… half hour. Maybe longer.” The phone clicked off.
Alex winced a little bit. That wasn’t TMI, but it was still maybe more than she wanted to know.
But there was yet more aftermath. A couple days after the press conference, Willow called her up. “Alex, have you been following the threads on the Terawatt forums?”
Alex had to admit, “Well, I keep telling myself I need to, but I just never seem to have the time.”
“Well, go right now and look in the ‘I Have Superpowers’ forum.” Alex did check that forum about twice a week hoping to find someone who was just getting powers and needed her help, but no, it was always joke posts with trolls claiming they had superstrength or cyberwarfare powers and they were going to crush anyone who talked back to them, or guys claiming their farts were super-strong, or people saying someone else was super-stupid, or that kind of stuff. Willow went on, “There’s a new thread titled ‘My Daughter Annie’. Read the first post.”
Alex grabbed her tablet and pulled up her browser and was in the forums in seconds, since she had the top level bookmarked. And there it was. A Tennessee woman named Amelia Jenks was asking if having telekinesis could be harmful to your health, because her daughter had it.
Her two year old daughter.
Her two year old Annie could already move marbles around just by looking at them.
Mrs. Jenks ended her post by saying, “I bet she'll be a worldbeeter someday.”
Alex just cringed.
A/N: In the book ‘Carrie’, neither Tina Blake nor Norma Watson is in on Chris’ evil ‘prank’, but that was changed in both movie versions. In the 1976 version, director Brian de Palma was so impressed with Tina’s actress’s performance that he enlarged Tina’s role.
A/N2: The book really ends with a letter from Amelia Jenks talking about her two year old daughter Annie. I used an exact quote from the book to end the chapter.
A/N3: The book and the movie created or codified several horror tropes. One is the last scene of the movie, where Brian de Palma invented the ‘last-second scare’ trope that is endemic in horror movies now: at the end, Sue Snell puts flowers on Carrie’s grave… and Carrie’s hand suddenly erupts out of the ground and grabs her… at which point Sue wakes up screaming and her mother holds her like Sue has been having nightmares regularly for a very long time. But the book did something creative with the ‘…or is it?’ type of ending we know and love in cheesy monster movies: it ended with a letter from Amelia Jenks about her telekinetic two year old (just so we’d realize that this problem would never, ever stop).