I held my eyes and mouth closed while Cassie smacked me in the face with her furry pink… not sure what it was called. After a minute or so of this she stopped and I opened my eyes again. “So, why am I wearing makeup?”
Cassie sighed and shook her head. “It’s not makeup. It’s just foundation. Without it, the lights will make your pasty ass look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Besides,” she leaned in and whispered in my ear. “I think guys in makeup look hot.”
Well, when you put it that way. “This is where body image disorders are born.” I still had to get at least one good grumble in.
“You should see the stuff professional media personalities get slathered in,” Kayla added. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her moving chairs and setting everything up. “Mimes go through less product.”
“And that, ladies, is why superheroes don’t show their faces.” I closed my mouth and waited for Cassie to finish covering my face in even more gunk. “Actually, there’s an idea. How about if I go get my costume, make it more authentic.”
“Nope.” Kayla popped her lips on the ‘p’. “That barely even works for those who have secret identities. Hiding behind a mask gets people asking if you have something to hide, and that goes double when your identity’s public.”
“What about Sapphire?” Complete bitch or no, she was nationally famous.
“The exception that proves the rule,” Kayla said. “The stats don’t lie, public Imbued have better PR, get more sponsorships, and are far less likely to get in trouble with the authorities. It even works for villains, believe it or not.”
“Huh, I didn’t know that.” It wasn’t too bad, then. Pity none of those benefits really did me much good.
Cassie stepped back and looked at me for a minute. “My masterpiece is complete!”
She handed me a mirror off the table, and I examined her work without knowing what I was looking for. “Umm, I don’t look that different.”
Cassie smirked at me and shook her head. “Well, duh. The whole point of makeup is no one’s supposed to know you’re wearing it. Now bask in my brilliance.” She stretched her arms out and grinned.
Kayla didn’t argue with Cassie, and I figured I’d just trust the experts to know what they were talking about. “Yes ma’am,” I said while coming up with something. “You are beautiful and talented and I am not worthy. Also, I’m totally sucking up right now so I don’t have to pay you for overtime.”
She clasped her hands together and bowed. “Then your training is complete, grasshopper.” Her Miyagi impression was nowhere near as good as her makep skills.
Kayla walked up and put her hands on her sister’s shoulders from behind. “Okay, Cass, I’m set up, now get your ass out of the room.” Kayla pushed Cassie gently toward the door.
Cassie tried to turn her head and protest. “But-”
“That leaves, too,” Kayla interrupted, giving another push. “I can’t have you distracting the subject during the interview. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t take too long.”
“Fine,” Cassie huffed. “I’ll just do some homework while I wait.”
“Alright,” I said. “See you soon.”
Kayla waited until the door closed before turning to me. “So, what do you think of my sister?”
Oh fuck every last one of my lives. “I didn’t know it was gonna be that sort of interview.” Kayla didn’t say anything, which meant talking my way out wasn’t going to happen. Okay, whatever you do, don’t focus on her looks. “She’s great, she’s been so much help.”
Kayla’s smile seemed sad, or tired. “That bad, huh?” She sat down in the seat across from me.
“I’m sorry, I just…” I wasn’t going to tell her about Erica. “I really like having her around.”
“I’m not blaming you,” Kayla said. “I know you’re too young to worry about that sort of thing, and Cassie’s got a bit of a reputation. She’s made a few mistakes and… I guess I’m just asking you to be patient with her.”
“I can do that.” I was just grateful she wasn’t going to press it. “I don’t pay attention to rumors anyways. You should see some of the speculation about me on the net.”
“Actually, that’s a great place to start, could you hold that thought for a second?” She started fiddling with her laptop for a moment. “Okay. This is Kayla Banks, here with the local independent superhero Respawn. First let me just thank you for being here.”
“Umm, yeah, thanks. Or you’re welcome.” Smooth as a pile of gravel.
“Before we started recording, you mentioned something about online rumors. Would you care to share or address any of them?”
“Sure.” I glanced over at the camera and decided I sucked at this. “Well, I guess we’ll go with the true one first; that I was keeping some of my powers a secret. I am able to do some short range teleportation.” More detail than that seemed like a bad idea. “I was hoping to keep it a secret, maybe use it to surprise a supervillain. After what happened on Thanksgiving, that cat’s out of the bag.”
“I won’t bother asking if you’re hiding any other tricks,” Kayla said. I could see where Cassie got her stage presence from, the sisters were naturals at this. “When you said ‘the true one’, did you mean to imply all the others are false?”
“Far as I’ve read,” I answered. “It’s not like I’ve combed through every last post on the internet.” Not for lack of trying. I picked the worst name for search engines.
“What’s the most outlandish one you’ve found so far?” Kayla asked.
“Oh, that’s easy. Some people got it in their head that I’m a time traveller. All the teleport tricks and everything are just me jumping back and forth in time or something. There are some really elaborate theories about it. All I can say is if I could rewrite time, I’d still have a secret identity.”
Kayla nodded along. “Does that mean you regret your identity being revealed?”
Every time I think of it. “Well, it’s really not that bad, but…” I trailed off, then shrugged. “I can’t remember who it was, but someone said the double life was so you could take a break. I’d like to go from being a hero to just pretending to be ordinary or something, I dunno. I know I would have liked to have a choice in the matter.”
“I’ve read a few rumors about you, myself,” Kayla replied. “Many of them also include your relationship with White Lady. A lot of speculation that she’s a relative, romantic partner, or even one of your classmates. Care to set that record straight?”
What are the odds Cassie asked her to ferret that one out? “There’s nothing to say, really. She’s a great teammate, but that’s as far as our relationship goes. I honestly have no idea who she is under the mask. She could be the Queen of England.” I paused for a comedic beat. “I don’t know, all I’m saying is I’ve never seen them in the same room together.”
Kayla didn’t take that bait. “And what of the woman who helped you after the fire?”
Ah, right, that. Through some miracle, Laura hadn’t been identified yet. “A civilian. I’m not going to say anything more, except to ask everyone to respect her privacy.”
“So she’s not another member of your team, such as the precog you’re speculated to be working with?”
“She’s not a part of the team, and doesn’t have any powers that I know about. I know a lot of people think it takes superpowers to make a difference, but she’s living proof that’s not true.”
“Sounds pretty definitive. Speaking of your team, do you have any members beyond you, White Lady, and that precog?”
How much do I want to share? “So far, only White Lady and I are on the team. We’ve had help from a few indies and some silent partners, but so far it’s a two man band. There’s a couple potential members, but everyone else seems to think working for the cops sounds better.”
Kayla leaned forward. “Does that bother you?”
“Nah, I get it,” I said. “They can do things that I can’t. Paying their employees, for example.”
“I imagine that would make a difference,” Kayla agreed. “Have you considered signing up with the official heroes, yourself?”
What I have to do makes that impossible. “Well, I’ve thought about it,” I said. “But I feel like I’d rather do it this way. Nothing against those who would rather be cops,” unless you’re allowing serial killers to run free “but it’s just not for me.”
“And you’ve managed to do a remarkable job for someone working as an independent hero. A total of nineteen criminals apprehended, including two supervillains, all in under two months.”
I shrugged. “Well, I have the power, I may as well use it.”
The interview after that went without much of a hitch, I even managed to drop Alex’s name as setting up my training program. After we finished up, Kayla actually shook my hand. “Thank you so much. I know you only did it because Cassie asked, but it means the world to me.”
I followed the map my power gave me. The blurs I sensed in Kayla let me know she had a tattoo on her ankle, but was otherwise as natural as Cassie was. “No big deal, I’d have to do it for someone pretty soon. So, what are you going to do with the tape?”
“Well, it’ll go on the school website of course,” Kayla said. “I’m betting I can send copies to actual stations that would air it. Would that be alright with you?
I really didn’t like it, but it’s not like I could avoid attention. “Sure, I don’t have a problem with it.” The only thing that mattered was dealing with Kitten. If this helped Kayla and Alex out, then that was fine by me.
“Thank you,” Kayla said again. “By the way, if you need any help with Cassie, I’ve got your back.”
“I appreciate it,” I surprised myself by meaning it. “Speaking of, we’d better let her know we’re done before she thinks we snuck off without her.”
Kayla laughed. “That would be pretty funny.” Still, she went straight for the door.