Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, morning
Nasty paced behind the dividers. Eric watched as she made the turn for the return trip. "Tash, you'll be okay, really." He pulled out a chair. "You should relax."
"I hate public speaking."
"I know, Tash. Just remember all the stuff I told you for all those speeches in English. You're going to be fine."
Nasty stopped short. "I don't know what I'm going to say. I'm not prepared." She tried to wave her left arm in the air, prevented by the sling it was in.
"Don't get agitated. You're going to hurt your arm."
"Maybe I can get someone to wear this uniform and go out there for me." Nasty plopped into the offered chair. "Eric?"
"It's not going to fit me. I don't have your build." He laughed.
Nasty looked up. "Go break my double out of jail so I have an excuse to leave."
"Tash." Eric fixed her with a stern look. "Relax. You're just answering questions. Nothing's going to happen to you." He knelt down and hugged the distraught teen. "I know you'll do well. You're brave and stubborn and cute." Eric kissed Nasty's cheek.
Nasty blushed. "I'm cute?"
"No one's ever called me cute before."
"They should have. You are."
Charles came around the edge of the divider. "Peregrine, are you ready?"
Nasty stood up. "As ready as I'll ever be." She picked up her headgear with her good hand.
"Want me to moderate?"
"Sure. Please. It's my first time doing anything like this."
"No problem. Let me introduce you and get things going." Charles left to go on the main stage.
Eric gave Nasty another hug. "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and if anything does go wrong, I'll be there. Okay?"
"Okay." Nasty followed Eric's instructions. Some of the tension she felt drained out of her.
Unseen on stage, Charles used the microphone for his introduction. "As you may or may not know, our special guest had to respond to a problem yesterday. That's the risk with having a hero as a guest. But, she's back and she's here to answer your questions. Let's give a round of applause for the American Eagle's former assistant, Peregrine!"
As the crowd cheered, Eric said, "Knock 'em dead, Tash!"
Nasty gave a smile to her new boyfriend, then walked out on stage. The main spotlight blinded her, preventing her from seeing the crowd. Charles motioned for her to join him. Not sure of what to do, Nasty waved to the crowd as she walked over to the con executive. "Hi."
Charles handed her a microphone. "Here."
"Thanks." Nasty held the mike up to her mouth. "Thanks." Her voice boomed, startling her. "Wow! I could have used this in Rochester." The crowd laughed.
"If I may, I'd like to ask the first question." Charles turned to face Nasty. "I'm sure that everyone here has seen the news reports and heard all the rumours. However, since you're were there, what happened last night?"
Nasty smiled weakly. "Officially, it's still being investigated. The police and the Eagle Foundation will release a press release once they're done."
"And what about unofficially?"
"There was a few altereds that started something that had to be stopped. They wanted to take over the city. I was there to stop them. Well, me and a couple of others. Pixie and Prototype Alpha. All three of us kicked some butt last night."
"And that's where you got the sling?"
"That was at the hospital." The crowd laughed. "I got injured in the fight, yes. It's not so bad. I've been hurt worse."
"Then I'll turn things over to the audience." The house lights came up. Charles pointed at two microphone stands set up on each aisle. "For those who haven't done this before, if you have a question, line up at the stands. I'll switch from one side to the other. Keep in mind that Peregrine might not be able to answer all of your questions." A few members of the audience started lining up. "I'll start on my right. You, there." Charles pointed to a young man.
"Hi, Peregrine." The man cleared his voice. "First, welcome to Cleveland." He paused to let the applause die down. "Second, you're not wearing your helmet. Is there a reason?"
Nasty looked down at her headgear. "There is a reason. It's uncomfortable." She waited for the laughter to stop. "I got hit hard last night. My face is a little swollen, so," she held up the helmet, "not wearing it."
Charles switched to his left. "And you."
Another young man stepped up to the other mike. "I saw your interview where you unmasked. How did your parents react to it?"
"You guys don't ask easy questions." Nasty sighed. "Mom was happy to see me. She didn't even lecture me until two days later."
"Two days?" Charles walked back over to join Nasty. "That's a bit of a delayed reaction."
Nasty shrugged. "I had been kidnapped by this group collecting alties like me and had fed her a line of--" The redhead cut off the expletive. "Er, a line of BS about where I went. Meanwhile, I had escaped and wound up in Rochester. Er, Rochester, New York. Where I became Eagle's sidekick."
"What about your father?"
"He was shocked." Nasty gave a nervous laugh. "First, from Mom introducing me to him and then from me being Peregrine. It was a weird week. My aunt reacted badly, but my cousins thought it was cool."
"Takes all kinds in the world." Charles pointed to a teenaged girl Nasty recognized.
"Hi, Peregrine," Vicki said. "Are you planning on returning to the Eagle Foundation in any capacity, like becoming Peregrine again regularly, or do you have something else in mind?"
"I'm not planning on going back, but, like this weekend, I don't mind filling in for anything." Nasty started pacing on stage. "Right now, I just want to graduate high school, go to college, and leave the heroing to people who are more than one-trick ponies." The red-haired girl smirked. "Like Pixie and her group back in New York."
Vicki returned the smirk. "But don't you think you can make a difference?"
"I don't need a costume for that. Before the entire mess with me getting powers started, I got a call from the principal and a note put in my permanent record congratulating me on helping a kid not get bullied. I think I made a difference for him that day. No costume, no powers. So, yeah, I can make a difference, but I think I want my own life back, too. Pixie can have all the glory."
Charles pointed to an older woman on the other side. "Peregrine, the news reports from last night had a lot of language that had to be bleeped out," she started. "Do you consider yourself a role model and do you believe heroes should use coarse language?"
"I'm not a role model. I don't think any one should follow my lead. There are better people out there."
"Then why all the swearing?"
"That's how I fight. That's who I am. I'm trying to clean my language. Kind of have to where I go to school. But kids shouldn't be looking up to me. I'm not a nice person. Eagle, there's someone to look up to. The Global Vanguard. Me, I've never seen myself as being admirable, even as Peregrine. I do one thing well and that's hit people. Don't look at me as a role model."
Charles stepped between the two women. "But doesn't putting on a costume elevate you to being one?"
"It shouldn't. Not until the hero has proven himself or herself. I was just a temp. Eagle's the real hero."
"Next question. You in the green."
A teenaged boy stepped up to the microphone. "Who was the worst person to fight and why?"
Nasty brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face. "Famine. I saw most of the fight between her and Eagle. I might not have been in it, but just keeping her wannabes from getting involved was hard enough."
On the other side of the ballroom, a middle-aged man asked, "How did you get your powers?"
"No idea. They showed up one night after a fight with Mom and another fight with four creeps. It wasn't a fun night."
"Do you have a role model?" a young teen girl asked.
Nasty stopped to think. "Can't make it easy, huh?"
"Okay, what's your favourite colour and do you have a role model?"
"Green and yes." Nasty paused to gather her thoughts. "There are a few people who I admire. My mom, though that's recent. A few people I know at school. Micki Sinisis, who was my liaison at the Foundation when I was Peregrine, though she doesn't know."
From the back of the room, Micki yelled, "I do now!"
"My handler." Nasty waved for Micki to join her. Seeing Micki shake her head no, Nasty said, "Let's encourage her." The audience broke into applause. Micki pushed off the back wall and made her way up on stage. "Micki, everyone!"
Micki blushed. "I'm going to get you for this," she muttered in a low tone." Charles handed her his mike. "Hi!" Micki waved to the crowd. "Thanks, Peregrine."
"Oh, anytime." Nasty grinned.
Charles retrieved another microphone from offstage. "If I may ask something before we go back to the floor, what was it like working with Peregrine?"
"It was interesting. Really interesting." Micki turned her attention to the audience. "I was made Peregrine's assistant slash liaison slash PR woman shortly after she stopped the Pyro Twins, Cinder and Ember. Part of the concern the Foundation had was that Peregrine was still working on her brain to mouth filter." Micki faced Nasty. "The swearing, mainly, and you weren't really prepared to speak to the press. No offense meant."
Nasty shrugged. "None taken. I didn't like being out in front of all those cameras."
"To be fair, they had more experience than you at controlling press conferences. You learned fast, though." Micki went back to the audience. "Here, everyone's far more friendly, right?" The crowd roared back, cheering.
"Next question, the young lady over here." Charles pointed to a girl dressed up as Feral from the Global Vanguard.
"This is a question for Peregrine." She cleared her voice. "Peregrine, is there a reason you weren't in costume last night for the fight?"
"There was, yes. What I did I felt I needed to do as me, not as Peregrine. If that makes any sense at all."
The next question came from a woman in her mid-twenties. "Do you see yourself as a model for feminism?"
Nasty looked over at Micki. "Um, I have no idea. I've already said I'm not a role model. Does that help?"
Micki stepped forward. "Peregrine may feel that she isn't a role model, and that's her right to say so. However, there are many girls, pre-teen, teenaged, even adult women, who can find something to admire in her. Peregrine is a very strong, very responsible person, someone I am proud to have worked with, and I would like my future daughters and sons to be like her. With less swearing, of course."
Nasty lowered her mike. "How do you do that?"
Micki moved hers away from her mouth. "A lot of practice."
A teenaged boy dressed as the fictional Major Flagg, complete with a star-spangled shield, stepped up to the microphone. "Peregrine, is there anything that you regret doing?"
"Yes." Nasty paced around the stage. "Yes, there are things I regret doing. I don't want to talk about them, though."
Charles looked at his watch. "We have time for one more question, then Peregrine will be getting set up to sign autographs." He pointed at someone dressed as Q-Ball of the Global Vanguard, complete with helmet and cape.
"Hi, Peregrine. My question is, would you be interested in joining a super group once you're done with college?"
Nasty shrugged with her good arm. "I don't know. I really couldn't tell you. That's so far down the road right now that I haven't thought about it. Probably not, because getting hit freaking hurts like hell, but, who knows? Things change over time. I used to want to get my own place and live on my own. Now, well, I still want my own place, but I'm not so eager to leave home yet. But when I'm done college, most likely."
Charles took centre stage. "Thank you, Peregrine and Ms Sinisis, for coming out this morning and answering all the questions, and thank all of you in the audience for coming out and asking. Peregrine will be at her booth in the Dealers' Room in a half-hour if you want her autograph." He and Micki helped Peregrine off the stage and behind the dividers.
"I don't believe I just did that!" Nasty paced, working off nervous energy. "Ohmigod!"
Eric tried to keep up with her. "I knew you could do it, Tash."
"A little jumpy today, I see."
"Can you see Peregrine? How is she doing?"
Vicki turned on her cuteness factor. "We'd be so very thankful."