Dressing in mundane clothes with a minor glamour hiding Storm Witch’s appearance allowed her to move relatively easily for the short periods she needed for a lunch break. It was after she’d purchased a hot dog from a street vendor that she’d seen Channel Two’s advertisement on a TV perched in the window of an electronics store.
The ad featured an image of herself about to engage in combat with one of the women from Necro’s gang. It was dramatic, but a little fuzzy since it had been taken at a distance and then enlarged. Closed Captioning read, “Storm Witch, if you are out there and willing to answer questions that have been burning in the minds of citizens throughout the city, please call Channel Two.”
Betty ended up simply taking a cab to the news building and making the appointment in person. She revealed herself in order to prove her identity to them of course, and just like that she was “booked” to appear on the morning show. It helped that the interview was paid, too, in cash. While Electra could easily provide for people on the team, it felt good to have a little cash she could call her own.
The next morning she arrived, sat through an hour of advice on how to relax in front of cameras and a pair of makeup artists buzzing around her face and hair. She even made small adjustments to her “costume” based on their advice, much to their amazement and surprise. Before she knew it, she had a cup of coffee put in her hand and she was guided to a stage with a comfortable chair next to her host.
The theme for Sunrise over Hero City with Deborah Chase rose and they were on air.
“Good morning, Hero City,” Deborah, “today we have a special guest with us. Storm Witch, member of the newest superhero group to call Hero City home is here with me today and in the latter half of the program you can call in to have a chance to get your questions answered, too.”
Off-camera, Storm Witch threw a surprised look at Deborah. She hadn’t guessed that might happen, but she shrugged and smiled. Why not?
The camera panned back to include both Storm Witch and Deborah.
“Good morning, Storm Witch, and thanks for coming on the show,” Deborah said by way of greeting.
“Thank you for having me Miss Chase.”
The anchorwoman laughed. “Please, you can just call me Deborah.”
Storm Witch smiled and sipped the coffee.
“People are dying to know a little more about the heroes that stopped a bank robbery, saved hostages, and took down a very dangerous group of super-powered criminals. There are rumors of sightings of your team all over the city, really the first time a super-powered team of heroes have been seen in action in years. Can you tell us why now, and why you?”
Storm Witch paused, then presented a quiet, somber smile. “I want to answer your questions as thoroughly and unambiguously as I can, Miss Chase, so if you will forgive me, I will answer just one at a time.”
Deborah Chase nodded. “Of course.”
“As to why now, the answer is simple. It was time. My team has arrived. We are here.”
“Why you? In other words, what motivates a group of people to risk their lives doing what you do?”
“We have gifts. All of us have worked very hard to sharpen our skills, control our powers, and learned to protect ourselves and others. I won’t speak for my teammates, but as to my own motivation there are a lot of reasons. Someone helped me when I needed it and so I want to help others in return. There was a time in my life when I was unable to help people I cared about the most. I lost them. All of them. So I worked very hard to control my powers so that I could use them to help others avoid that kind of loss.”
Deborah sensed the Storm Witch’s honesty and long-healed sorrow but chose not to dig. “By now everyone has noticed that you are the only member of your team that doesn’t wear a mask. Isn’t that dangerous?”
Storm Witch looked at her in silence for a moment before answering. “Miss Chase, Deborah, I don’t wear a mask because I have no one close to me that could possibly be harmed by a villain seeking leverage. Other members of my team wear masks for reasons of their own, which may be very different than what you think. Again, I will not speak for them, all my answers apply only to me.”
“Speaking of your team, have you decided upon a name?”
Deborah seemed to consider that, then nodded. “That’s a pretty good name.” Looking into the camera she said, “You heard for the first time right here on Sunrise over Hero City. A new team of superheroes has arisen and their name is Genetix!”
Turning back to her guest, the host continued. “I understand there was a Storm Witch that appeared here and there some… ten years?” She glanced at a card. “Yes ten years ago. Are you related to that Storm Witch in some way?”
“Yes. I am she.”
Deborah stared in surprise for a moment. She recovered and said, “Yet you seem very young…”
“Thank you.” Storm Witch smiled. “I was born in 1925.”
Deborah had recovered quickly and was fascinated. “That would make you ninety years old now.”
“It would had I lived all those years. There was an accident, as often happens in the beginning, with people like me. In my case, a number of extremely unusual circumstances aligned that caused me to miss nearly all those years.”
Storm Witch, for a moment looked so sad and alone, Deborah sensed it wasn’t an act. She reached out and squeezed Storm Witch’s hand before catching herself and withdrawing. “That’s why, isn’t it? Why you don’t have anyone close to you anymore.”
Storm Witch nodded. “Yes. They are all long gone.” The camera zoomed in on Storm Witch’s face, but she was composed, her face calm and her eyes deep pools of green.
The camera was directed to the host. “After the commercial break, we’ll have more questions and and answers from Storm Witch. Stay tuned!”
People swarmed the stage and bustled about refreshing makeup and coffee mugs. Fresh cards were given to Deborah Chase and the old ones taken away. During this brief flurry of activity, Deborah said, “Listen, Storm Witch, I’m sorry about those last questions. I didn’t mean to dig up painful memories.”
“It’s okay, Miss Chase,” Storm Witch said. “If I couldn’t handle it, I wouldn’t be here.”
“You really don’t need to call me that. Deborah is just fine.”
“It seems rude to call you that when you have to call me Storm Witch all the time.” She thought about it, then added, “If you call me Betty, I’ll call you Deborah.”
“Is that short for Elizabeth?”
Betty smiled, amused. “No. Everyone asks that, but it’s not. It’s just Betty.”
Someone from the crew announced they’d be live in ten seconds and gave them a count-down.
Deborah told the camera, “And we are back with Storm Witch of the new hero team, Genetix. Now we’re just about ready to take your calls.” She turned to Betty. “Ten years ago, you were active, appearing here and there all over the world, but you never spent much time speaking to the media. What changed?”
“Ten years ago I was shot and left for dead, Deborah. I guess I just want the world to know who I am should it ever happen again and I can’t recover. You know, I’ve been very, very lucky. I realize that. I also know that the work I do can be deadly dangerous to me.”
The camera zoomed in on Betty again. “Beneath the makeup and the silly costume, I’m just a person like you and everyone else. I breathe and eat and sleep. I live and I can die just like everyone else. I want the same things, too. I want to be remembered.
“Almost dying changes a person, you know? It really messed me up for a long time. My memories are a mess, but I know who I am and I remember who my best friend was. She’s still out there and I know she’s hurting. I hope she knows that I’m here now. I’m back and I miss her.”
Deborah asked, “Do you need a moment before we go to calls?”
Betty’s smile was sad but controlled. “No, I’m fine Deborah. If the callers are ready, so am I.”
“Okay, first caller is Tom from Hero City. Tom, do you have a question for Storm Witch?”
“Yes, thanks for taking my call. Love your program. Storm Witch, are you dating anyone right now?”
Deborah laughed. “I guess we should have seen that one coming.”
Storm Witch answered, “No…”
Deborah broke in. “And that’s your one question Tom, thanks for calling. Next caller is Anne from — is this right? — Central Elementary School. Anne, go right ahead and ask your question.”
“Yes. Um. Hi Miss Storm Witch?”
“Hi, um. I’m doing a report for class on what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a superhero. How can… can you say how someone gets to be a superhero?”
“Well, Anne, I’m not entirely sure I agree there is any such thing. I think there are just heroes. Anyone can be a hero by trying to help another person. Firemen, nurses, doctors and any other profession where someone tries to help another person, all these people can be heroes. I think there are superhumans, people with special abilities and powers, but they can be either good or bad and they aren’t necessarily heroes.”
Deborah said, “Thanks for calling Anne, and good luck with that report. Next we have Dwayne from Pine Bank. Dwayne you are on the air.”
“Oh. Hi! Love the show Miss Chase, and Storm Witch, thanks for doing this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone, like superheroes, be this forthcoming before. So my question is what can you do? I mean, with your teammates, it’s not too hard to see. You have a pair of martial art experts, a tough guy that can take on aspects of ferocious creatures, and someone who seems to be able to deal with technology really well. But we haven’t been able to figure out what you do. Is it some kind of electricity based power? Thanks and I’ll listen to your answer off the air.”
That made Storm Witch laugh a little. “Well Dwayne, no. My powers are not based in some kind of command over electricity. That’s just a side effect. Someone once explained to me, and I think it’s as good an explanation as any, that I am able to tap into a field of energy that’s the building blocks of reality. I’m able to tap into that energy to make small, temporary changes in reality around me, relatively speaking. A side effect of that often changes what’s called electrical potential. Mostly it’s just static electricity, but I can actually make use of that as well. I had to learn to do that in order to prevent damaging delicate electronic devices like cell phones — and television cameras — from being damaged when I’m nearby.”
Deborah said, “I’m going to guess you don’t carry a cell phone then.”
Storm Witch laughed. “No, that wouldn’t work out.”
“Next we have Tamara on the line. Tamara, do you have a question for our guest?”
“Hi! Thanks for taking my call. Storm Witch, will your team be doing any publicity stuff, soon? Like pictures and autographs and things like that?”
“Well, we don’t have plans like that at the moment,” Storm Witch replied. “Right now we mostly just want to focus on the job we’ve chosen to undertake. That said, please don’t ask for autographs and pictures at the scene of any crime or ongoing investigation. If the police find our presence disruptive they will — and should — ask us to leave. If we have fans out there, then the very best thing you can do is to give the police, and Genetix, space to do our jobs. That would be a huge help. In return, I will try to convince my teammates to come out and do signings or pictures and things, but I can’t make any promises right now.”
“Okay,” Deborah said, “we have time for one last call. Ben? You are on the air with Storm Witch.”
“Hello, Betty,” a voice rang out. Low and rumbling it possessed strength and power of its own, even over the phone line.
Betty looked shocked. “Ben?”
“So you do remember me. It’s been a long time, Storm Witch.”
Betty swallowed hard. She looked pale. “Ben. Are you here in Hero City?”
“Not yet. I was hoping you might drop in for a visit at my home in Costa Hondura.”
Deborah broke in. “Excuse me, is this Ben Gunnerson, President of Costa Hondura?”
“Your viewers may better know me as Iron Annihilator.”
The studio fell silent for a shocked moment. Then people behind cameras started making calls and running about. The producer made motions to continue the cameras rolling.
Storm Witch said, “You… you rule that country now?”
The Iron Annihilator ignored the question. “I believe I am the one entitled to ask a question, am I not?”
“Yes, President Gunnerson. Please ask your question,” said Deborah Chase.
“Ten years ago Storm Witch and I made an agreement. Things ended… poorly as a result of interference by the American government. Since then, I’ve held up my end of the bargain. Will you uphold yours?”
Storm Witch was confused. “I… what? I don’t recall. What bargain?”
There was no answer. Deborah looked off camera. “Okay, I’m being told the caller hung up after he asked his question.” Seeing her producer making chopping motions, she continued, “And I’m afraid we are out of time. Storm Witch, thank you so much for visiting with us today.”
“And that wraps up this edition of Sunrise over Hero City. Tune in tomorrow…” Deborah went on to describe the agenda for the next day, but Storm Witch was no longer listening.
When they went off the air and the camera’s shut down, cheers went up around the stage. Storm Witch vaguely heard well-wishes and thanks and comments about what a fantastic end it had been to a great show while she sat rooted to her chair desperately trying to recall what Ben Gunnerson had been talking about.
She made her way out of the building, while forcing herself to put aside what the Iron Annihilator had said for now. Whatever he wanted, it was clear Ben Gunnerson would make it known when he was ready. She just hoped he wouldn’t burn down or crush the city in the process.