A Kind of Reveal
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 woke up Sunday morning to find there were new files on her computer, which she’d left hooked up to the house internet connection on Willow’s orders. How Willow could do all that was beyond her, but that was why Willow was Willow.
Although it was pretty scary that someone could do all that to your computer without needing magical powers.
Each file was compressed and encrypted, with the encryption keys random strings of letters and numbers that Willow sent her on her Terawatt phone. No one was going to guess those, and Alex was guessing it would take the entire NSA to crack those encryption codes.
She unencrypted and decompressed each file. One was a computer graphic of the city runoff system, complete with grates marked wherever. She zoomed in around her school and found over a dozen grates, plus some markings that were probably where the gutters for the school roofs drained into the runoff system. Wow. She totally needed to check all this out some night.
The next was information on Selina Kyle, who was no longer a Kyle, and pretty much not a candidate for joining any list of helpers for anyone. It looked like Selina spent her days pampering herself and staying in shape, and her nights partying among the European elite.
The next was information on Jack O’Neill, along with all the stuff Willow was guessing. Or in Willow’s case that was really deducing.
The next was information on Hermione Granger, who was working on a Ph.D. at Cambridge, and not looking for jobs even though she was going to wrap up about the time Alex graduated from high school. Wow, that was pretty impressive, even for Hermione. Willow’s searches said Hermione started taking college courses while she was still in public school (which Willow said meant ‘private school’ if you were American, which was so totally weird), finished college early, and was zooming through her graduate degree.
Alex totally didn’t get why ‘public school’ would mean one thing in America and the complete opposite in England. Could that be right? Well, it wasn’t like Willow would make a mistake like that.
The next was a list of instructions for Alex and her team for computer security, along with half a dozen programs to run on everyone’s computers to provide secret protection. And the last was a list of instructions for phone security, including details on how Willow was going to hack their phones for better security. So she needed to get all of Team Terawatt together and make sure they knew what to do, so no one had weak security for email or Facebook or texting or phone calls. The burner phones would help on the last bits.
Alex made sure everything was on her thumbdrive, and she went silvery with it so she could slip through a crack under her baseboard to hide the thumbdrive behind the wall behind her desk. Then she ran one of Willow’s programs to clean up all the deleted files so no one could recover them. Alex knew you could un-erase files, but knowing that there was a way to keep anyone from doing that? Pretty cool.
Unless Willow had an even more secret way to un-un-erase what her un-erasing software did, which would be kind of… frightening. Alex wondered if Larry Ellison and those venture capitalists had any idea of what Willow could have done to them and that software if they had really made her angry. Willow could have just waited five or ten years until every database on the planet was incorporating her database hyperlinking software, and then… If there were any tiny holes or backdoors in it, Willow would know how to exploit them. Instant drastic worldwide badness. There were a lot of really awful things someone like S4l1x680 could do to you if you made her mad enough. If Willow could re-write the city police records and the school records whenever she wanted to, without getting caught, then this Cordelia Chase was probably lucky she left town when she did.
She whispered to herself, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
She knew a lot of people that was true for, now that she’d been in Hermione’s dimension. And that covered everything from what Selina or Jaime could do, all the way up to other-Willow and other-Sam. Sam had once blown up a sun and destroyed an entire solar system. It was tough to top something like that.
Willow was way more impressive than Acid Burn in that movie. Alex and her mom had watched ‘Hackers’ last night. It wasn’t really that great, even if Johnny Lee Miller was really cute. And wasn’t that other guy the same actor who played Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo movies with that actress who looked kind of like Buffy? Still, Alex thought it was kind of interesting that shy, introverted Willow picked a codename that went with one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, because there was no mistaking that Acid Burn was Angelina Jolie.
She told her folks about the computer presents from Willow, as they ate breakfast and got ready for church. But she wasn’t expecting anything else for a while. She should have known better. And she turned her phone off before she went into church. She really should have known better.
On the way home, she turned her phone back on. There were three text messages. All of them were from a restricted number. All of them said ‘turn on yr fone’.
But that wouldn’t be helpful at all, since her phone was now on. Except she now had another phone. Her Terawatt phone. And she didn’t have it with her. Crud. She had left it hidden inside her wall with that thumbdrive.
She REALLY should have known better.
As soon as she walked into the house, she flew up to her bedroom, went silvery so she could puddle through the crack under her baseboard, grabbed her Terawatt phone, and took it back out of the wall. As soon as she went normal, she turned on the thing. And there were two messages from Acid Burn. Alex knew automatically that this was going to be bad.
The first message was a female voice that had gone through AutoTune so you couldn’t tell it was Willow. It said, “You were right. Libby is setting up a photo shoot with paparazzi for some time today. I don’t have a location.”
The second message was the same digitized voice. “Photo shoot time is one this afternoon. I still don’t have a locale. Her calls were all made from her house phone or her cell, and her cell calls were made from within her house or very close by, based on cell tower triangulation.”
Jeez! How could someone like Willow get into cell tower information like that, when she wasn’t the police or the feds or anything?
Alex flew over to her parents’ room. “Mom. Dad. I… may have a problem. Libby’s setting up a photo shoot. And it has to be an ‘I am Terawatt’ photo shoot if it’s with paparazzi. And if she does that, she may be doing something skanky. Or even worse, someone may think she really is Terawatt and try to kill her.”
She changed out of her church dress and into jeans, and grabbed some lunch while she made phone calls.
He said, “Alex! Hi. And how may I help you? Do you perhaps have some more photos to sell?”
She told him, “Nope, but there may be a problem. Are you Libby’s agent?”
“No. She hinted around a bit, but wouldn’t sign a contract first, so I said no way. Why? Does she have some kind of deal already?”
She said, “She’s doing a photo shoot this afternoon at one. We need to find out where.”
Louis gasped, “A photo shoot? How could she swing that? She’d have to be Terawatt to pull that off, and… Oh crap. That’s it, isn’t it? She sold a bunch of sleazy photographers on it, and she’s going to show up dressed like Terawatt and let them take photos.”
She complained, “Or she’ll show up in a lot less, and let ‘em take photos, and people all over the world will think Terawatt’s all skanky!”
Louis said, “Okay, I’ll ask around. Robyn and Nicole might be able to get something out of Mandy or Tylea.”
Alex suddenly remembered her new resource. “Great. Once you alert them, have them call me and get me phone numbers for Mandy and Tylea and Carli’s cell phones. I’ve got to call Ray.”
She hit one of her speed dial buttons and got Ray right away. “Ray, it’s me. Have you heard anything about Libby and a photo shoot?”
“Nope. I would’ve let you know right off if I did. Is she really trying something else, after what already happened?”
Alex said, “I think she’s not thinking this through.” Her Terawatt phone buzzed. “Okay, I gotta go.”
Danielle Atron pressed the speaker button when her phone finally rang. “What?”
Lars said, “Your photographer came through. Terawatt’s doing a big photo shoot at one, and now we know where. We’ve got Cready ready to go. The new doses of GC-161 really made his problem a lot worse.”
“Like I care,” she sneered.
He said, “Well, it’s a good thing we did this at one of the backup sites, because it’s not gonna be standing when he’s done with it.”
She said, “We just broke into it. It’s not our problem.”
He muttered, “We should have taken the time to study him more. We haven’t seen this power combination before.”
She fumed, “Lars, I’m not paying you to be a research chemist anymore!”
“Sure you are,” he said. “Who analyzed the antidote and synthesized more of it? Me. If you’re paying me to be a researcher, I’m going to research what makes the most sense.”
“No,” she insisted. “You’re going to research what makes the most sense to me
“Oh crap!” he swore. “Doesn’t matter now. He just flew off. He’s Paradise Valley’s problem now.”
She smiled cruelly and spoke in a voice of pretended concern. “Oh gosh, that’s too bad. Once he kills Terawatt, who’s going to stop him from destroying the whole town?” She grinned as she thought about what was going to happen. She knew that creep Cready would do anything she wanted, if it would get him the antidote.
Alex heard the ringtone, and had to make a mental check to make sure it was her Alex phone and that she was answering it with her Alex voice. “Hey, Nicole.”
“Alex? I got the phone numbers, but I don’t know what good they’ll do you. They wouldn’t talk to me, and they acted like you were why.”
Alex said, “The other day, I tried to give Libby an out, and they all acted like I was doing it just to get a story I could sell to the news.”
Nicole pointed out, “Well, you are the most famous camera person we know. And you got interviewed. Maybe they just thought you’d do the sort of thing Libby would do.”
Alex took down the phone numbers and thanked Nicole for trying. Then she grabbed her Terawatt phone, and she pressed the speed dial for Acid Burn. Just in case the phone ever ended up in the wrong hands, she had ‘Acid Burn’ stored in the phone’s memory as ‘AB’. That was plenty vague. The phone made a weird sort-of-connecting noise, and then made a slow, really bizarre ‘ring’ noise. Then there was a couple seconds of nothing. She looked at the screen, but it showed the little ‘trying to connect’ symbol, so she waited. It took maybe fifteen seconds before she finally got a normal ring. On the second ring, Willow picked up. It was the same AutoTuned voice, but Alex knew it was Willow.
Alex said in her Terawatt voice, “I’ve got three more cell phones you probably need to track. They’re all in Libby’s posse.” She gave Willow the numbers and said, “If Libby isn’t calling them, they’ll be calling her. Or they’ll be hanging with Libby and calling other people for stuff.”
Willow said, “We may have a bigger problem.” Even through the AutoTuned voice, the worry came through. The hairs on the back of Alex’s neck stood up.