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February 2021 

DuTemps Building 

 

"She's a great kid, really," Richard was commenting to David Longfellow as they waited for the arrival of their interview subject. Richard was standing, leaning against the wall and occasionally tossing a tennis ball across the room to himself and back again, trusting the crew to do their jobs and do them well. "She and Will were in the same class back in high school. Which means...she must be, what, almost thirty now? Jeez." He zipped over when his intern Terry arrived with coffee and gave him a million-dollar grin. "Thanks Ter!" A quick sip and "Triple sugar, niiice. " 

 

He had learned, a long time ago, under very different circumstances, that you were always, always nice to the people who worked for you, because they were the ones who watched your ass. He zipped back to the windows, looking out from their thirty-story height, and said, "I remember when this place was under construction, back in the day. They tore down a whole block that was mostly these little TV repair shops, but the...jeez." He shook his head. "Damn, I sound like an old fart. Sure, sound check," he said as Kelsey approached with the boom mike. "Let's do this." 

 

He was dressed for work, hair slicked back with just a few streaks of grey showing, sunglasses in his hand, wearing a safari vest over a black dress shirt and jeans. "You're not that old," Kelsey commented with a cheeky smile once they were done, "not as long as you sign my paychecks anyway!" He laughed as a ripple of laughter ran through the crew, and watched as the crew finished setting up, trusting them to do their jobs - and sure enough, with the windows behind him shaded enough that he wouldn't be backlit, he waited for Mali's arrival. 

 

 

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Mali, in costume, stepped out just in time. When they contacted her for an interview, she was more than willing. That day had been quite a day for her, and, in many ways, had helped change her life. She had spent years getting past the trauma of seeing the Headmaster get killed and watching that Nazi boy die and...well, now she was older, more mature, and in a better place mentally and emotionally.

 

She walked with better certainty, poise and purpose than she had when she was a teenager. She still wasn't fond of 'schmoozing', but she intended to have this conversation as an adult.

 

"Hello. I look forward to this." She said. "I'm fascinated to see what you guys do with this information! I love the show, by the way. Seriously. After finding out that the parents of someone I knew were the hosts, I started watching it and got hooked." She nodded. "I'm Crimson Tiger. Nice to meet you all." 

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"Hello there Crimson Tiger!" said Richard, popping up to shake the martial artist's hand and make introductions to the crew. David Kennedy, the bearded guy behind the camera, Kelsey Walsh with the boom mike and the tattoos, and Terry Hugh, the slim young guy with the tray of coffee and box of doughnuts. "Glad to see you again. Damn, have you gotten stronger?" He laughed and slapped her on the back. For his part, Richard very much enjoyed schmoozing. "All right, now you said you didn't want a lot of makeup for this, but Terry doubles as our makeup guy if you're interested. You'd be surprised what TV brings out in you." He moved back to his seat with a quick zip of motion, twirling his sunglasses in one hand. "How are you feeling?" 

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"I'm feeling good. I get it if I need a little makeup so I don't, you know, look dead. We're here interviewing Crimson Tiger, a zombie that wandered onto the set. How are the brains?" She laughed. "Yeah I don't wear too much makeup, but I know how tv works with that. I'm a bit stronger, yeah, I keep up my training." She looked around. "So, anything I should know before you start asking questions?"

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"Just that any time you want out, say something, and we're done," said Richard seriously. "This isn't a puff piece, but we're not here to hurt you or your team. You already saved the world before you were old enough to drink legally, you don't need some old guy with a TV show making your life harder." He looked at her, held the look, then grinned as the crew around them went into action. "We'll start with the softball stuff - you prefer Crimson Tiger for the show, right?" 

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"Oh I've managed to get past all that." She said. "It was a while ago and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with my role in what happened that day. If I wasn't comfortable with this, I wouldn't have agreed. Ask me anything. Other than secret ID stuff, of course, yes, I prefer Crimson Tiger." She smiled. "How's Will doing? We weren't exactly close, but we were somewhat familiar with one another, you know?"

 

She started walking towards the interview area.

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Once they were settled in for their interview, Richard leaned back in his chair like a man relating to his old friend. They were sitting around a conference table and seemed perfectly at ease, at least on Richard's end, the cameras rolling and the boom mike overhead as if he'd been born to be here. "Thanks again for having us here, Crimson Tiger. Now I am sure most of our viewers know Crimson Tiger, heir to a legacy as old as time, the deadliest woman on two continents, but why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?" 

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"Well, I've been a superhero for quite a while now. I practice the martial art of Muay Thai, which started in my ancestral home of Thailand. I'm not from Thailand, but my family is from there. Muay Thai is different from other styles because it involves a lot of knee and elbow strikes, body parts that aren't emphasized in other martial arts styles. I try to keep a lot of stuff under my secret identity otherwise."

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"Oh yeah, I've known some Muay Thai guys," said Richard earnestly as he gestured with his sunglasses. "Tough customers, really knew their business. Back in the early 90s there was some kind of big martial arts competition in Freedom City, so the streets were crawling with, uh, martial artists for quite some time." The crew smiled faintly, evidently at some private joke, before Richard said, "Okay, okay, moving on. Crimson Tiger, Muay Thai champion...you were in high school eleven years ago. What were you doing about the time everything went down?" 

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"So that day was absolutely insane for me. I was a member of the teen superhero team Young Freedom. They went through several versions over the years and, as far as I know, the name was retired. Anyway, so we ended up in a universe where the Nazis won on a secret mission. Then we popped back in to this universe and we were pretty much right on top of the north pole. I don't understand regular science that well, let alone whatever caused that!"

 

She took a deep breath. "We had no idea what was going on on Earth, our Earth, at the time. When we got back and started getting communications in, everything was in chaos and we realized we were the only notable heroes from around Freedom City that were in any position to do anything. That's when we spotted the Curator. It was at the Centurion's place up there. We didn't know what it wanted, but we knew we had to stop it. I can't imagine it wanted anything good if it felt it needed to do all that stuff to accomplish it's goals. We broke into it's ship, beat up a ton of robots, and drove it off."

 

She was a bit stressed, and that was obvious. However, everything that happened that day, all the bad stuff, ended up evening out more or less. At least, for her. She took a deep breath.

 

"And that's where I was when the Curator attacked, fighting it with the team I was on."

 

 

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"Oh yeah," said Richard as easily as if he'd listened to Mali describe hitting a home run in Little League, "that'll happen." He turned to the camera and declared, "Long-time fans will remember Erde and all its creepy little variants from Secrets of the Multiverse in Season 10, don't miss it!" He winked at the camera, then turned back to Mali. Better make sure we clear that stuff about the Sanctum with the League before we broadcast, he thought. He'd been there himself but that was back when he was fifteen and trying to steal the Centurion's costume with his mom. "Now, before all this happened, what had you heard about the Curator?" 

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"That the Curator was an old Centurion foe, honestly. I'm not the best student of superhero history. I know, I know, I should know more, but, eh, I was a good student because I'm a hard worker, not because I'm extra smart. Honestly I'm still not sure what was going on that day, what the plan was." 

 

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"Yeah," said Richard, "those cosmic entities and masterminds, they say they're too advanced for us primitive meatheads to understand what they're talking about or how their ancient plans unfurled, but you ask me, they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you and me. Except the ones who don't wear pants, I guess." He stroked his chin for a moment, then added, "So when it all happened, what did you do, specifically?" 

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"I punched robots, mostly. The team split up. Two of us went in to confront the Curator directly while the rest of us cleaned up the robots to make sure they couldn't take out the other two. I can't count how many robots we destroyed. I remember tearing the arm off of one. I don't have the kind of technical skills that would have been helpful there, anyway. I did what I do best, I hit things."

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Richard laughed and slapped his knee. "Yeah, I've been there! Sometimes whether it's robots, or demons, or your own evil twin, sometimes all you can do is punch the guy in the face." Richard frowned - he really hated that guy. "How did you feel when you found what had happened when you were gone - that so many people have been replaced by robots, and then they'd attacked the city?" 

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"It honestly scared the heck out of me. I mean, did I help one of the robots? Did I know someone who got replaced?  Luckily most of the action was over by the time we got back to town, because we had to process what happened. It's amazing it didn't go so much worse. The hero community really stepped up to stop something that could have been a lot worse." 

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"What if the Curator wanted something that was more insidious? What if one of the fake heroes got their hands on some really important information? I thought of all sorts of ways things could have gone south. Like, the Freedom League Headquarters. What if someone got in there and got something dangerous? What if they assassinated people? I mean...what if the people who were kidnapped were killed instead?

 

She took a deep breath. "Luckily they didn't seem to be the Curator's goal. That turned out to be something completely unrelated to the fake heroes. Almost as if the Curator figured it could sew chaos and get what it wanted while everyone was busy dealing with the robots."

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"That...does sound bad," said Richard, looking worried himself for a moment. "Usually when superpeople are taken their captors keep them around, but...yeah. Woof, that really makes you think. What do you think the Curator's goal was?" asked Richard, who'd heard a lot of possibilities among the people he'd interviewed - and the interviews of other people he'd seen over the years. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"I'm honestly not sure? I think it had something to do with some kind of weapon, or something. I dunno, but after all that crazy stuff that happened, I doubt it was to borrow a cup of milk. You don't create robot duplicates of heroes and villains to distract them all from something mundane, simple, or good. I can't even imagine the kind of investment it must have been in resources to arrange all that.  Those were convincing duplicates, with abilities and powers and personalities and all of that, not just 'robots'.  So, no, I'm not sure what the Curator's goals were, but I'm pretty confident that we did the right thing by stopping it."

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"Hah-hah, well, evil space robots usually are the sort of thing you want to stop," agreed Richard. He considered a moment, shifted nervously in his seat, then said "We spoke with the hero Citizen over in Vancouver about the events of the Day of Wrath and he told us you and the rest of Young Freedom were better choices than he was if we wanted interviews. Do you have any idea why that might be?" 

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