“Char is that you?” Natalie called, as Charlotte began to strip out of her costume. Charlotte pulled a tee shirt over her head and entered the living room, oddly missed matched with her tight bottoms still on her.
“What are you doing up? It’s past three.”
“Yeah, well, I guess I couldn’t sleep anymore,” Natalie said, digging into a container of frozen yogurt. “So are you going to stay like that all night, or are you trying to start a new fashion statement, because looking like you just went to the gym went out with the eighties, you know.” Charlotte snorted.
“Very funny, Natalie,” she said as she went to finish changing. When she had stripped off her combat boots, the rest of her body suit, and peeled her mask from her face, Charlotte slumped into the couch next to Natalie wearing a pair of shorts and the same tee shirt.
“So, what happened tonight?” Natalie asked. “Seeing as you are back moderately early, I would say nothing too big happened.”
“Actually something kind of huge happened,” Charlotte admitted.
“Did you and Strike make up?” Natalie inquired, taking another bite of her yogurt.
“Yes, but that’s not the something big I am imagining,” Charlotte replied. “How do you feel about, oh say and nine hero team, well, ten, with of course, their technical support guiding them along a straight and narrow path?”
“…You found the Superhero Collective, already?” Natalie asked, the spoon hovering in the air.
“No…but some other supers found us.” Charlotte explained about the notes, who sent them, and how the seven others circled around her (and Strike too), and how they would be joined by these others during missions and their quest to find the Superhero Collective.
“Are you sure you’re ready to be the leader of a whole team?” Natalie asked. “And why exactly did I get called ‘IT.’”
“Well, something got lost in translation, and then it kind of stuck,” Charlotte explained. “But I don’t really know, I mean they say that some roles in life are just thrust upon you. And I have a feeling that Ameretat and Strike will be helping with the leadership thing a lot more than you think.”
“Well, even if they do, it seems that these other supers seem to idolize the superwoman, and I hate to be the one who breaks this to you, Char, but you have this thing you do when you get into a group, for all your introversion.”
“What?” Charlotte asked.
“You kind of take over,” Natalie told her. “I mean, it’s not like you do it hostilely. It’s not like you march into Poland and say, this is ours now, try and take it from us. You make peace treaties and establish small powers. You have this sort of aura that says, ‘let me do this.’ Maybe you’re one of those natural leaders you read about in the text books. I can’t explain it, but in every group I’ve seen you in, you have always taken a leadership role. Sometimes when push came to shove, you might give it up for the betterment of the group, but mostly, you take that role, and take it very seriously.”
“All right, do you have a point to go with your long winded rant/analogy?” Charlotte asked, snatching away the spoon full of frozen yogurt.
“I’m saying, be careful,” Natalie said, taking back the spoon. “You don’t know these people all that well, and you might be their superwoman now, but what happens when a mission goes wrong, or we go weeks or months without getting word on the Collective? What then? I will stand behind you, and I think Strike would too, because he’s been looking on his own, and he sees the big picture too. Hakim’s hard to say, but I think she would have your back. But you don’t know about the others, Char and how they would react to something like that.”
“Okay, I see your point,” Charlotte admitted. “So then what would you recommend I do, counselor?”
“I would recommend that you build up your team as a team. During those weekly meetings you all train together. Not just for emergencies, but to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, to get to know one another and try to learn a little but more about why we are all doing this. And help them to see that bigger picture.”
“Thanks for the advice, Nat,” Charlotte replied. “And speaking of the bigger picture, do you have anything for me?” Natalie pulled the spoon from her mouth with a pop and stood.
“And what if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll have to feed you to the newbies who are all dying for information,” Charlotte told her.
“Well then, I am very happy to report that I managed to hack beyond his fire walls, however, I have not managed to figure out that nasty little bug that deletes everything if you try to move it.”
“Couldn’t we just do what we did last time, and move the files onto the computers as HQ before you de-encrypted them, or whatever the terminology is,” Charlotte suggested.
“Well, I can think of two problems with that,” Natalie said. “One: I have already hacked around most anything that would count as encryption, save for the bug. Two: what is this HQ you left out of your story?”
“Oh,” Charlotte said. “Strike… built it, I guess in case we ever needed it for something like this.” She flushed a little. “Sorry for leaving that part out. Well, we do have most of the files on an external hard drive; couldn’t you plug that into the computers there and transfer the data like that?”
“As far as I can guess, I think it would still be deleted,” Natalie said. “And that doesn’t change the fact that you left a very vital detail out of your description of the evening.”
“Well, I didn’t mean to, Nat, I guess I just got excited about the idea of the team,” Charlotte said. “I mean, you were right I’ve never been put in charge of anything like this at all. And—”
“You were excited at the idea of other supers, yeah I get it.” Natalie walked into the kitchen, and slid her frozen yogurt into the freezer, while letting her spoon drop into the sink.
“What was that tone for?” Charlotte asked. “Yes, okay, maybe the idea of eight people looking up to me is kind of an exciting prospect. And yeah, I have never really been around another super before. I wasn’t intentionally leaving you out of anything.”
“That’s my greatest fear, Charlotte,” Natalie said. “That I won’t be intentionally left out of anything, but that it will just kind of happen. Like a rock band when the lead singer gets too famous. You being the superwoman is getting too famous for the normal lot.” Charlotte took Natalie’s hand from where she was fidgeting with a sticker on one of their containers.
“You are my best friend, Natalie, and I would never, intentionally or not forget about you. Maybe there will be moments when it seems like I do, and if they last too long, knock me upside the head, because you are the best friend I could have ever asked for. If anything, I am the drain on this relationship, with my constant need of advice and break downs about who I am. You are a wonderful woman and I am proud to call you my friend.” Natalie reached forward pulling her into a hug. Charlotte embraced her tightly, adding; “Besides you are going to be way too much of an asset to this team to even worry about getting left behind.” Natalie snorted.
“I knew you were just using me,” she hummed.
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Charlotte exclaimed, pulling away and gripping Natalie by the shoulders, as if that would somehow prove she was not lying.
“Don’t worry, I know what you mean,” Natalie said waving it off. “And actually, it feels really good to know that I can make a real difference on this team, even if it occasionally gets me kidnapped. And you know, shoved into icy cold meat lockers.”
“Well, let’s see what we can’t do to keep that from happening,” Charlotte replied.
“Meh, it’s in the job description.” She paused looking off into no place particular, a grin twisting its way onto her face. “I wonder how long it would take for the boys to get captured.”
“Natalie! We are trying to avoid anyone getting captured, not envision what it would be like for it to happen to the others,” Charlotte scolded.
“All right, all right, I know, but am I contacting Strike about some data transfers? I mean, when I’m not working I could do some of it by manual entry,” Natalie said. “After all if I am your IT gal I should be able to do it no problem. Besides I doubt we can use all of the data he has there.”
“If you think that is what’s best I will defer to your expertise,” Charlotte said. “Let me get my communicator, and yours for that matter!” She had left them in her supply bag, which was still attached to her belt, currently sprawled across her floor. She put hers in her ear as she walked back toward the living area of the apartment, and pressed the on button, before pressing talk. “Atalanta to Strike?” she said, unsure of how her voice sounded on the other end.
“Yes, darling? I was about to get an early night for the first time in two months,” Strike told her.
“IT would like the keys to your fortress,” Charlotte said as she handed Natalie her communicator.
“And why would IT want those?”
“Let’s just say it involves a certain hard drive that was saved from the frying pan today,” Natalie said into the tiny MIC. Both girls grinned like they could hear Strike bolt up in bed.
“You cracked it?”
“Not totally, but I’m up for a little data entry,” Natalie replied.
“Swing by tomorrow, both of you, I meant to do this tonight, but I suppose it’s better if I do it gradually, and well if we can’t trust any of the newbies, it’s better if they can’t get into the…what did you call it, a fortress? Yeah, I like that better than, Olympus or something like that.”
“And what exactly will we be doing tomorrow?” Charlotte asked.
“It involved every cool lock you’ve ever seen in a spy film,” Strike said. “Now as excited as I am to see what Maestro had for me, may I sleep, fearless leader and fearless data enterer?”
“Go for it,” Natalie said. Both of them pressed the standby buttons on their communicators and left them in their ears. “So, I have a question for you, before we both head off into dream land ourselves,” she said as Charlotte led them towards the bedrooms.
“And what might this question entail?” Charlotte asked, leaning on her door way.
“You remember how, before I got kidnapped and nearly frozen to death, how when we met Strike, he asked you on a date?”
“Yes, I do remember that quite vividly,” Charlotte replied. “Your point?”
“Well, did you ever go on that date?”
“Natalie, you think I did that while you were still in the hospital?” Charlotte asked.
“Well, I don’t take offense to it I mean, you had to cope somehow,” Natalie replied with a shrug. “Is that a no?”
“A very big no,” Charlotte said.
“So, do you think you’re going to press for a rain check or something?”
“I don’t think so actually.”
“I just don’t think it would be a good idea, that’s all,” Charlotte said, kicking the clothes on her floor into a pile in the corner as she navigated her room to her bed.
“And why is that, exactly?” Natalie asked. Charlotte made a show of biting her tongue.
“You swear not to say anything to him?”
“Pinky promise, cross my heart and hope to die, now spill.” Charlotte mixed a grimace with a grin, as she bit her lip finally letting the words spill out of her.