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“My pleasure.” Montana Rack took the love seat. A glass-top coffee table stood between them. She poured her own wine, and set the bottle on the coffee table.
“I guess you want to interview me, right?” Miss Siles asked. “There has to be a reason for this invite. The dinner was great and all, I just figured… you know.”
Montana laughed. “That’s not the reason. If you want to talk about anything, though, I’m all ears.”
“And tape recorder.”
Another laugh. “A good transcription starts with more than memory! No, I wondered if you’ve given much thought to who you wanted to have for your Recording Journalist. I think we’d be a good fit. I won’t get distracted by your, um, superpowers, and I do have experience. Now that Captain Heroic’s retired, I’m open. He’ll vouch for me.”
Miss Siles laughed herself. “I bet he would! Sure, why not?”
Montana nodded. “One drawback. I give it maybe ten more years before I’ll have to give up live reporting and move to the anchordesk. But that gives us plenty of time to find a replacement.”
Miss Siles shrugged, making the recliner shift. “Fair enough. I guess you want to hear my origin story, then.”
“Of course!” Montana rose, and returned with a recorder. “Just tell the story. Once I have it down, I’ll pass it to you and let you add or correct things as necessary. Then it goes into the archives until you’re no longer active.”
“When is Captain Heroic’s story coming out?”
“Not right away. He still might have to come out of retirement.”
“Oh. All right.” Miss Siles began:
I was born June Stiles, a corn-fed girl from small-town Nebraska. I’ve always been a big girl—I mean, not like this, more like you—and I learned early on how to make it work for me. But I mostly earned my school grades, and I was accepted into IU without a personal interview. I majored in biochemistry, with a minor in genetics, and Sontanmo hired me after graduation. Despite knowing how to work what I had, I have to admit I was still pretty naïve. I bought that whole line about Sontanmo wanting to work with nature, improve on it, and feed the world.
They know how to work the idealists, too. Keep up the happy-babble, and keep us busy on small corners of the Big Picture. Get us tied to that paycheck, so we’ll look the other way the first time we catch a glimpse of what’s really going on.
I’m sure that’s what caused the accident. After a couple peeks behind the curtain, I was having some—okay, a lot of misgivings about working for Sontanmo. So I was distracted, wondering what I should do. I’d not even worked for a year, yet, and already I couldn’t afford to just quit. I had an apartment, car payment… oh, you know the tune. Besides, I was gnawing at a technical problem. EG-12 was a genome we were trying to splice into corn. The goal was halving the time to harvest—which meant we’d get two harvests in a season! Being able to double production would have been a game-changer, you know?
Like I said, I was distracted. I usually put my lab coat on backwards, so everything up front got covered, but I didn’t that morning. And it was a hot day, so I was wearing something low-cut. Lucky I had my face shield down when the centrifuge came apart, but my upper torso wasn’t shielded nearly as well. The seniors designed EG-12 to be delivered as a bath, so we could soak the corn in it. For all my working my assets, I was kind of modest at heart, so I didn’t do the smart thing and get out of my clothes and jump in the shower right away.
“So the EG-12 soaked into you?” Montana looked shocked.
“Right,” said Miss Siles. “Next thing I knew, I was… growing. Then the men in black showed up. That’s how I always thought of them. They gave my family some line about Sontanmo sending me overseas on a special project, and brought me to Professor Zero. He helped me learn how I’d changed, helped me develop my new talents, and sent me here to Skyscraper City.”
Montana gave her a sympathetic nod, and refilled their wine glasses. New superheroes were always vulnerable, as they adjusted to their new lives. She remembered Professor Zero’s words: as a Recording Journalist, your job is to simply listen, at least as much as covering the exploits of your assigned superhero. Your careers are symbiotic. With no secret identity, this poor kid would never have a normal life to fall back on, so she’d be even more vulnerable. Zero should have addressed this before sending her out.
Well, she’d been Captain Heroic’s friend all those years, and more than a friend now that he was retired. She could be June’s—Miss Siles’s—friend, too. She turned off the recorder. “That’s enough for our first night,” she said. “How about a movie? I have Nextflick.”