[Some adult content.]
Reporters milled around the small auditorium, trying to find the best spot to view the upcoming press conference and to upstage each other. Camera crews from the three local television stations set up lights. A woman dressed in a grey skirt suit appeared at the dais.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for your patience and thank you for coming out this afternoon," she said. "For those of you who are new here, my name is Kathryn McCall, spokesperson for the American Eagle Foundation of Rochester." She paused while photographers took pictures. "American Eagle will be out shortly. We will have transcripts available at the end of the press conference if you want one. We will also have the official announcement then."
"Miss McCall," one reporter called. "Can you tell us what Eagle's announcement will be?"
"I am not at liberty to say."
"Is Eagle retiring from being a super-hero?" another reporter asked.
"Again, I am not at liberty to say." Kathryn glanced off-stage. "Ladies and gentlemen, American Eagle."
Eagle strode out on stage, his cape billowing him behind him. Cameras flashed as he shook Kathryn's hand before she stood aside. Eagle turned to the reporters. "Thanks for coming out," he said. "I'm sure you have many questions. I request that you hold on to them until after I'm finished. By then, you should have all new questions to ask." Polite laughter rippled through the throng of reporters.
"Thank you. As you may know, I have been working by myself since Peregrine retired to pursue his own goals. Crime, despite the falling rates, still occurs, and I'm finding myself spread thin. Before you ask, no, I am not retiring. Far from it. Instead, allow me to introduce the new Peregrine!"
Nasty adjusted her costume yet again. Why did I ever agree to this? Look at this. Blue with red stripes? And this mask itches.
Anne stepped up in front of her. "Ready?"
"Not really, no," Nasty said. "Does this costume have to be so tight?"
"Having troubles breathing? I'm sure we got your measurements correct."
"I can breathe. Everyone can see me breathe. That's the problem."
"I don't understand."
Nasty covered her breasts with her arms. "I'm practically naked!" Several people turned to look at her. Nasty blushed. "Damnit," she whispered.
"Don't worry about it, Peregrine," Anne said. Think of it as another way to hide your identity. No one is going to be looking at your face."
Nasty scowled. "Great. Just what I need, to be some perv's fantasy."
Anne wrapped an arm around Nasty's shoulder. "You look fine, Peregrine. Eagle's almost done with his intro. You better get ready to go out there. And remember, don't let the reporters draw you into any question that could reveal who you are."
"Trust me, I'll remember."
Kathryn dashed over to the women. "Peregrine, you're on. Let's go." She lead Nasty towards the press conference. "I hope you don't have stage fright," she whispered.
Nasty eyed Kathryn. "I don't know. I've never been on stage before," Nasty said through her clenched jaw.
"Relax. Eagle will handle everything. Now go." Kathryn pushed Nasty on to the stage.
Lights flashed as photographers took pictures Nasty in her new costume. Nasty blinked, trying to clear the spots from her eyes.
"Peregrine assisted me recently in stopping a robbery, and has kindly consented to help me keep the streets of Rochester safe," Eagle said. "I am sure that not only will she uphold the name Peregrine, but will be able to enhance the name on her own." He held his hand out to Nasty. She walked over to join him, her cheeks starting to redden. "I'm sure you're all full of questions. I'll open the floor now."
"Eagle, what are Peregrine's powers?"
"Peregrine's abilities are confidential right now," Eagle said. "Wouldn't want to give the villains a sneak preview of what's in store for them."
"Peregrine, how do you feel about the history of being Eagle's sidekick?"
Huh? "It's, um, different, sorta," Nasty stammered.
"It's a little overwhelming, as you can see," Eagle said. "Peregrine will fit in well with the American Eagle family."
"Peregrine, how long have you been a super-hero?"
"Er, not long," Nasty said. Get a grip, Natasha!
"Not long? How long is that?" the reporter persisted.
"Peregrine's experience as a hero is not going to be an issue," Eagle said.
Say something, Natasha! "Well, it depends on, um, how you look at it," Nasty said. "Even when I wasn't wearing this costume, I was helping people when needed. You don't need a costume to be a hero." Where the fuck did that come from?
"Did you use your powers out of costume?" the same reporter asked.
"Don't need powers to be a hero either. I was in the right place at the right time."
"So, you can see the future?" a different report asked.
Yes, I see a reporter getting his head punched in. "No. I've helped where I can, when I've seen someone needing help. Nothing special about that."
"Peregrine," the first reporter said, "have you killed anyone?"
"No," Nasty said. Not yet. Want to be first?
"How does it feel to be the first woman to be Peregrine?" a fourth reporter asked.
The hell? How the hell should I know? "I'm sure it's an honour."
"Do you see becoming the first woman as Peregrine as a step forward or backward for women as superheroes?"
Huh? "I don't under stand the question."
"As a woman, do you feel that becoming a sidekick is demeaning?" the same reporter said.
What is her problem? "I really have no idea."
"Do you think that you're being used as a sex symbol in that costume?"
"A what?" What is her basic problem? Nasty felt herself blush. She stopped herself from covering herself with her arms. Hold it together, Giuliano.
"Peregrine's costume is based on the original costume worn by my first partner, with the obvious alterations to take into account Peregrine's gender," Eagle said. "Turning Peregrine into a sex object was the last thing on everyone's mind. The costume was designed to protect Peregrine while still giving her a wide range of movement. A lot of work went into designing and making the costume, and calling Peregrine a 'sex object' ignores her abilities and potential."
What he said. Sheesh. Nasty couldn't help but blush. She clenched her fist, trying to hide it behind her back.
"Eagle, what prompted you to find a new Peregrine?" the second reporter asked.
"As I said earlier, crime rates are falling," Eagle said. "However, as excellent as our fine police department is, they are not equipped to handle threats from metahuman criminals. Even yesterday, when I first met Peregrine, the criminal had assistants. Without help, at least one, maybe all, would have gotten away. One man cannot do everything, and I know Peregrine will be able to help me."
"Peregrine, how do you feel about that?"
Nasty shrugged. "I hope that I can live up to Eagle's expectations," she said.
"Unfortunately, Peregrine and I must return to the Foundation," Eagle said. "Ms McCall can answer any other questions you may have. Thank you for coming out." He ushered Nasty off-stage as photographers took more photos of the duo. Once in the wings of the auditorium, Eagle stopped. "Well done, Peregrine," he said.
Nasty shuddered. "That wasn't painless," she said.
"You did well. We should leave, before the reporters figure out where we've gone. Besides, I have one more thing to show you."
"Can I take off this costume first?"
"This is something that Peregrine needs to be there for."
Great. I'm going to get a split personality after this. How am I going to remember what to answer to? "Can't wait."
Eagle led Nasty through the halls to a private elevator, where Anne held the door open. "Press conference go well?"
"Peregrine was splendid," Eagle said, "even when one of them tried to score a point off her."
Nasty entered the elevator. "I kinda agree with the point she was making, though. The costume shows off my, uh, my, um, shows off my, um, --"
"Figure?" Anne supplied. Nasty couldn't see which floor she pressed. The elevator started moving.
"Yeah." Nasty sighed. "I'm used to wearing something a lot less revealing."
"There's very little skin showing," Eagle said.
"But it shows off everything." Nasty crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm not even this, uh, this, uh, well, like this naturally."
"I think Peregrine is saying that her costume has a little extra padding," Anne said.
"She does?" Eagle said.
"Trust me, Eagle, there's extra padding."
Nasty blushed. Great. Just great. My chest is out there for everyone to see and now you're telling me it's mostly padding?
"The padding is there to protect you, Peregrine. The material is lighter but is more resistant to damage," Eagle explained.
"And that's why it's this tight?" Nasty asked.
"Loose clothes can be caught during a fight, whether on a snag or by an opponent. This way, it's harder to hold you."
"I see." The elevator came to a smooth halt. Nasty subdued panic rising in her. What the hell was that about? She followed Eagle and Anne out of the elevator and down a long hall. Nasty fought to control her breathing. Control yourself, Giuliano. It's just a fucking hallway. What is with you?
At the end of the hallway, Eagle held the door open for the women. Nasty blinked in the darkness. "Peregrine, since your powers don't let you fly, I had the Foundation work on a way to get you around town quickly." Eagle flipped a switch, turning on a spotlight lighting an object covered by a tarp and spinning on a large turntable. "Go ahead."
Warily, Nasty approached the turntable. She grabbed a loose end that came within her reach. The tarp slipped off one end of the object, revealing a shiny metallic bar. Curious, Nasty yanked the tarp off completely. "Eagle, this . . . this . . . "
"Of course, you'll have to demonstrate you can ride."
Nasty smiled. "Trust me, I can ride. I've just haven't seen anything like this."
"It's based on the Harley-Davidson frame, but the engine has been rebuilt from scratch, and the suspension's been beefed up to handle much more abuse. The windscreen and front panels are bulletproof, to give you some protection from the front."
"So don't run away." Nasty ran her hand along the red and blue paint at the front, then over the leather seat. "Really nice."
"It'll need a mechanic," Anne said. "We need to find someone who is familiar with motorcycles that can be trusted."
Oh, now there's an opening, Nasty thought. She must've noticed me looking over those bikes at the mall. Okay, play along for now. "I can think of someone. That new girl I saw the other day. She might know something about motorcycles."
"You mean Jessica?" Eagle asked.
I think I see why Eagle is the way he is. I'm going to go crazy if I have to refer to myself in the third person much longer. "Yeah, her. I'm sure she'll say yes. What else does she have to do right now?"
[End Issue 19]
Next Issue: Peregrine's first day on the job.