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.
The next morning, she could already hear the tv going when the alarm clock got her up. She figured her interview hadn’t come on yet, or her mom would have dragged her out of bed in a hurry. She did her makeup and hair, and then picked out her favorite fishing hat with the quilted pieces all around it. She went downstairs and found her mom making lunch while keeping an eye on the tv.
Her mom smiled, “Honey, they keep hinting you’re coming up soon, but so far nothing but teasers.”
She shrugged, “Well, I guess they’ve got to drag it out as long as they can, for more viewers.” She looked at the bologna sandwich her mom was making, and she asked, “Do we have any leftovers from last night?”
Her mom said, “We ate out last night, and you ate the rest of my burger while we were sitting there, and your dad finished off all his French fries, so… no. Your father already cleaned us out of your spaghetti, and I tossed the chicken casserole.”
“Wasn’t that from like two weeks ago?”
Her mom nodded. “Yeah, and no one’s eaten it since.”
She said, “Well, I’ll do better next time.”
Her mom said, “It was just fine. It’s just easier to take sandwiches for lunches.”
Alex made herself two peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, grabbed two bananas, and shoved two energy bars into her food bag too. She was just about to load the bag into her backpack when her interview finally started.
She stood there and watched it with her mom. Wow, she was sort of surprised. She really looked pretty good, and not in a skanky way.
Her mom said, “Oh honey, you look terrific. All professional and… I’m so proud of you.”
She hugged her mom and said thank you and tried not to cry any, because she didn’t want to ruin her mascara. But then she was pretty much running late by the time the interview was finally over. She ran out to the car and got to school a little later than usual, so she had to park farther out. She ended up getting to homeroom late. Again. Ugh.
She went right up to Mrs. Finnegan and quietly said, “Sorry I was late. I… I was watching my interview on tv. Sorry.”
Mrs. Finnegan said, “I watched it in the teacher’s lounge. You looked very nice. Very well-spoken.”
She said, “Thank you. But it was on at just the wrong time. If it was any earlier, I could’ve watched it and not been late. And if it was on any later, I would’ve just gone on to school and watched a recording.”
Mrs. Finnegan said, “So you pre-recorded it yesterday or last night?”
“Last night. Here at KPVC. On a set with Maria McClellan. So I never even talked with anybody on the Today Show for real.”
Mrs. Finnegan asked, “This isn’t going to be a recurring problem, is it?”
“Oh gee, I hope not,” Alex groaned. “Last night was a huge pain, and I nearly missed dinner.”
Mrs. Finnegan said, “I’ll let it go just this one time, but you really need to be more conscientious. And that paper you turned in early? Very good. You’ll get it back when I return everyone’s papers.”
She didn’t notice until she left English class, but all of Libby’s posters were down. She hoped that meant Libby was going around telling people she wasn’t really a superheroine, but she was kind of worried it meant Libby was doing something else just as dumb.
It turned out that a lot of kids managed to see part of her interview, or at least heard about it. Louis said Bill in the A/V club already had it up on YouTube. She was pretty sure she didn’t like that, even if tons of people put all kinds of stuff up on the internet. Bill was probably trying to be nice – he was a nice guy, but he wasn’t really any good at the socializing thing.
Libby looked really tired when Alex saw her. She looked like she hadn’t slept much. Alex had a good idea why, but she still went over and asked, “Hey Libby, are you okay? You look really tired.”
Libby wouldn’t look her in the eye, but she said, “Why wouldn’t I be okay? It was just… something I had to deal with.”
Alex figured she had to do something. Maybe she could start fixing things. “Umm… Libby? All those reporters at the end of school yesterday? You’re not really Terawatt, are you? The cameramen when I was working at Gloria’s said you were a fake, and people knew you were doing cheers at a school thing when Terawatt was stopping a robbery a couple months ago.”
Libby stared at the floor. “I don’t wanna talk about it. And I sure don’t wanna talk about it to someone who’s gonna want to take pictures of me and sell ‘em to the tv stations!”
“Yeah!” agreed a couple of her posse.
Libby walked off, and Robyn murmured, “Hey Alex, do you think she’s in trouble?”
Alex said, “I think her house was surrounded all night long by police and news crews and lights and paparazzi and who knows what. And if I was her folks, I’d be really mad about it.”
Nicole said, “Hannah said Laurie told her Libby had to come to school with a police escort.”
Robyn said, “It’s her own fault. Nobody made her put up all those flyers yesterday. Hank said her posse used up like three hundred bucks of school supplies on those flyers, without permission, and they have to pay the school back, because those ink cartridges are super expensive.”
Alex said, “As long as supergoons don’t try to kill her because they think she’s Terawatt, things might not be too awful.”
Nicole said, “All she has to do is admit she’s not really Terawatt, and she did it because she was mad someone else was getting some attention! This is stupid!”
Robyn said, “Oh, come on. This is Libby we’re talking about. There’s no way she’s ever gonna admit she made a mistake or did something stupid.”
But at lunch there was something else. Louis sat down and said, “Hey Alex, you were talking about going to see the head of Red Tree Software, right?”
“Right. Willow Rosenberg.”
He slid his smartphone across the table to her. And there was a big news article on the little screen. Red Tree Software just released a big press announcement. Its board was firing their CEO Willow Rosenberg and replacing her with a new CEO, who was the deputy head of R & D for Oracle.
“Oh crud,” she muttered. “This is super, super bad.” She called her mom as soon as she could fish her phone out of her purse, which was tucked away safe in her backpack.
“Alex, I hope this is really important. I’m just grabbing a fast lunch in between classes.”
She said, “It is. Willow Rosenberg just got fired.”
Her mom said, “She can’t get fired, she’s the CEO!”
She explained, “The board of directors fired her and replaced her with a guy from Oracle.” Louis scrolled around on the page he had on his screen and showed her some more of the article. “It says here they decided the company need to move in more profitable directions, and Ms. Rosenberg has shown she is not up to the job. Wow, they really dissed her.”
Her mom said, “Okay. I’ll wait until near five today and call and check on the appointment. By then they ought to know whether it’s still on.”
She said, “Okay. Thanks. I didn’t know what to do.”
Ray asked, “So is the thing tomorrow in Silicon Valley still on?”
She shrugged, “We don’t know yet. Mom’s gonna find out later. I can tell you tonight.”
Louis took his phone back and looked up more stuff. “Hmm. It looks like Oracle’s been trying a hostile takeover of Red Tree for months now, and there were enough poison pills in the company’s contracts that they did an end run around things. Almost all of Red Tree’s board of directors are venture capitalists Rosenberg went to for the start-up funds to move from shareware up to the big stuff they’ve been putting out lately. Especially this database thingy.”
“Sounds like she got totally screwed over,” Nicole said.
Alex said, “Even if they don’t cancel the appointment, I don’t think Willow’s gonna be in the mood to be chatty.”
Louis said, “I don’t think complete strangers get to call her Willow, either, you know.”
“Right,” she muttered. She sure couldn’t explain how she knew a different Willow Rosenberg. Not in front of a whole caff full of gossipy teenagers.
But Kelly and her gang had to come by and be crabby before Alex even got to finish all her lunch. Kelly scowled, “So I talked to Donna about your big plan, and she doesn’t want to run against Terawatt either. So you can do it. And you can get creamed in the vote.”
Alex winced, “But I wasn’t even gonna run for Homecoming Queen.”
Kelly said, “Tough, you’re it now.”
“Yeah,” agreed all of Kelly’s posse.
Alex tried, “So what if Libby drops out of school because of the whole Terawatt thing? Am I supposed to be the only girl running for Homecoming Queen? How’s that supposed to work? Look, you’re getting carried away on this.”
“Like Libby would drop out of school and leave all this attention?” Kelly griped. “No way.”
D complained, “So, like how’d you do an interview in the Today Show and be back here in time for homeroom, anyway?”
Kelly asked, “Yeah. Did you do it from the tv station here?”
Alex admitted, “Yeah. I did my part last night. I never left a tiny set. I never even saw any of the Today Show people. It was like being interviewed by the A/V club.”
“Wow, that sounds lame,” Kelly sniped.
Alex ignored the insult and just said, “Definitely not as cool as someone getting flown to New York and actually getting to be on the show. But I’m just a girl with a camera. If they had Terawatt, I bet they’d fly her out to be on the show live.”
“And what kind of name is Terawatt anyway?” Mandy griped.
But Alex remembered Selina’s lessons. Getting upset about Terawatt’s name couldn’t be helpful, and might even make people think she was connected with the name. That would be bad. Of the bad, as Buffy and Willow liked to say. So she just said, “That’s nothing. The tv station people called her ‘ultra-chick’ before they knew what her name was. How’d you like to be Ultrachick?”
“Eww,” said Tylea.
“Ultrachick. That’s so stupid,” muttered Kelly as she walked off, her posse in tow.
Ray said, “Ultrachick would be pretty bad.”
Robyn said, “Yeah, why not just call yourself Superbimbo?”
After school, Ray had more bad news for her. He told her as they walked out to their cars. “Still no more luck tracking anybody down. There’s a ton of Alexander Harris guys out there with no picture or anything. No one named Batman, naturally. We can’t get into stuff like armed forced databases to look for your Colonel O’Neill either. I found a match on a Jaime Sommers who’s a pro tennis player, but it may not be her. And I got a big hit on a Buffy Summers, but she’s a former ice skater and cheerleader who’s engaged to a pro football quarterback and trying to land a reality show. So maybe that’s not her.”
Alex didn’t say anything, but the whole ‘ice skater and cheerleader’ bit made her worry that this really was her world’s version of Buffy. The real Buffy would be humiliated.
The donut shop was even busier than before, and a couple of the camera guys she talked to yesterday were back, and Gary and Keller even brought friends.
“Hey Gary,” she smiled.
“Hi Alex, this is Pete Richards and Morey Weinstein. They’re on their own crews, but they love good food too.”
Morey said, “Gary put the word out last night, so most of the cameramen in the area watched you this morning. Nice work. They videotape your part early?”
She nodded, “Yeah. Last night.” She rolled her eyes, “I mean, you wouldn’t want some teenager going nuts and throwing a tantrum and cursing like crazy.”
Pete grinned but explained, “The Today Show’s trying to be real careful. They’re in a huge ratings war with GMA and they can’t afford a slip, especially when Terawatt’s the biggest news in the country this week.”
She knew that ‘GMA’ was Good Morning America, so she didn’t embarrass herself in front of these guys who were being nice to her. But she still said, “Come on. Seriously? One flying woman’s bigger than Congress? Hollywood? National poverty rates and teen suicides?”
Morey said, “Slow news week, maybe. No big scandals. No pics of Buffy Summers or Britney Spears having a wardrobe malfunction in public. Kim Kardashian hasn’t been able to top Terawatt, even if she just posted a bunch of pictures of her in a Terawatt outfit. No Congressmen have schtupped little interns this month. Nobody took a rifle to their high school. So it’s all Terawatt, all the time. That footage you got? Biggest thing in video footage since Carl Lindley got those live shots of a street battle in Iraq.”
Pete said, “Face it, kid. You pulled a royal flush. What makes for big news? Hot babes, sexy outfits, big crimes, flashy battles, dramas with big sound bites, cops in crisis, heroic rescues. Your Terawatt pulled off all of ‘em at once. The only thing she could have done better would be rescuing a baby and a kitten too. Face it. She brought a cop back to life. On camera! She flies, which is better than walking on water. If she figures out how to turn a jug of Ripple and a box of fishsticks into a feast for forty, she’s gonna have her own worshippers.”
Eww. Alex was really unhappy with that thought. “She’s just someone with flashy powers. She’s not a god. Or a goddess.” And Alex had seen a real hellgod and a real Earth goddess, so she knew. Not that she could ever say so in public.
After the guys ordered – and ordered dozens of donuts to go, for their crews – Gary said, “Look Alex, you opened up a can of worms no one even knew was there. This is huge.”
Alex decided it was time to tell them part of the truth. She said, “Everyone around here thinks Terawatt is one of us in town who got exposed to some weird chemicals. But if that can happen once, and Danielle Atron can make supervillains whenever she feels like it… then how long is it before there are more superheroes running around loose all over the country? Maybe all over the world? I figure it’s only a matter of time before there are superheroes fighting supervillains all over the place. Then Terawatt’s just gonna be one more person in a funny costume.”
Pete shook his head slowly. “Alex, I think this is maybe a guy thing that you don’t get, but no one who looks like Terawatt is ever going to be just one more person. We’ve only seen a few square inches of skin on her, and she’s already getting more internet searches than anyone. There are already Terawatt websites going up. So far this week, there have been over a hundred Terawatt-related URLs that have been bought, and there are already eleven lawsuits over sitenames. That I know of. By Monday, it may be more than that.”
Gary said, “Look Alex, I don’t know if you’ve thought about it, but your footage is eligible for a Pulitzer.”
“Me?” she squeaked. “I just… got some footage.”
Morey shook his head, “Nope. You went into a situation as dangerous as any warzone, and you got the best footage in months. And your footage looks top-notch, and you got the sound bite of the year. I figure you’re eligible for at least three Pulitzer categories. Breaking News Photography, Feature Photography, and Breaking News Reporting.”
“Maybe Local Reporting too,” Gary said. “But you can only enter in two categories at most. So stick to the two photography categories.”
Pete said, “You need to talk to your station about putting you up for these awards. You have to enter on your own; they don’t pick people first. It’s fifty bucks per category, which is nothing. But I bet your station is already putting itself up for this. Just making the list of nominees in even one category is a big, big deal. If the station’s screwing you over on this stuff, you can do your own entries. Two entries? A hundred bucks and a day or two of typing. Well worth it, if your station’s giving you the shaft. And if they do, find a better station. After this, you’ll have a rep. You can sell to the big national outlets. Just make sure you have a solid agent.”
She decided not to tell them she had an agent already.
She also talked them into trying Gloria’s apple fritters and cinnamon twists and Bavarian creams, and they bought three dozen more donuts after they tried stuff. Pete and Morey also teased Gary about how he ought to tease his talent, Carol Montree, who was one of those newswomen who obsessed about their weight and their looks. They thought Gary ought to sit around while Carol was nearby and eat a few of Gloria’s donuts and talk to the other crew about how delicious they were. Alex thought of how Libby would react, and she couldn’t help giggling.
When she got home that night, her mom already had dinner on, and her dad was already cleaning the upstairs toilets. That used to be her very, very least favorite job before she figured out how to do it using her telekinesis. At dinner, she told her folks about the Pulitzer Prize thing, and about the Terawatt website thing.
Her dad said, “Just let Louis buy up a ton of these website names, like he said he was going to. It’s not supposed to cost that much to get one.”
Alex said, “I think he already has. I just hope he got the good ones.”
Her mom said, “Oh, and the interview with Ms. Rosenberg is still on. I checked at a quarter to five, and the receptionist said we’re still on for eleven o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“So how early do we have to leave?” she checked.
Her mom said, “Well, we need to pack the SUV tonight. I think we want your supersuit in the car.”
“Plus snacks and drinks,” her mom added.
Her dad said, “It’s only a few hours up I-5 and 101. It’s not like you’re driving to Wisconsin.”
And her mom said, “I checked MapQuest and got detailed directions, so we should be set.”
Alex said, “Okay. I’ll pack the car tonight. I just hope we don’t get there and find out Willow is too upset to talk to us.”
Her dad said, “You have to consider that. Just think about it. Her whole life’s been yanked out from underneath her. I’m amazed she’s talking to complete strangers on a weekend.”
Her mom said, “Now George, Ms. Rosenberg has been doing this every Saturday morning since she started her company. She talks to young people, especially young women, who are interested in computers and software. I think it’s like a public service announcement. ‘You can be a computer programmer and run your own company and contribute to the community, just like me.’ I think it’s a very good thing.”
Alex said, “It’s just a good thing those jerks didn’t try this with my Willow Rosenberg. She could’ve turned all of ‘em into pigs.”
Her mom said, “I don’t think that would be much of a transformation, considering.”
A/N: Stay tuned for the next chapter: 'The Tree of Red'