The furnishings belied the rough exterior of the building as the two young women stepped into a thick, luxurious green carpet. Alex ignored the paintings on the white walls as she walked toward her apartment door. Buffy evaluated the paintings she passed and came up with an impressive figure in her head.
“Those are genuine paintings hanging on the walls. I recognize a Murphy Anderson, a Jack Kirby, a Martin Nodell, and a Mike Sekowsky from just looking from here. All of these are valuable artworks. You must have some really impressive connections to be in this apartment complex.” Buffy admired a Curt Swan painting as Alex looked around at the paintings as if seeing them for the first time.
“You mean these are the genuine articles? I always thought that they were reproductions.” Alex gave Buffy a skeptical look before asking, “How can you tell?”
Buffy visible started, aware that once again she was acting out of her civilian identity’s character in front of an extremely intelligent, curious reporter as she considered a reasonable explanation. The honest answer that one of her father’s tutors was an art thief who had taught her all about recognizing the genuine from the fake would lead to enormous complications, so she came up with something else. “I spent some time overseas taking art classes which were about telling copies from originals. The instructor said I had a natural talent at it.”
Alex looked satisfied by the answer as she slid her card through the reader. A slight chime was heard, and the apartment door opened. Alex waved Buffy into the apartment with a ‘come in and be welcome’ gesture. “Excuse the mess, but I don’t have a lot of time to put into cleaning up. Would you like some sort of refreshment? I’ve got Diet Cola and orange juice.” Alex headed to the refrigerator after putting her purse on a table.
The apartment was a tasteful blend of generic furniture, with a scattering of pictures reflecting the occupant’s personality. Most of the pictures seemed to be of people, including several famous personalities. A few were of Alex with a dark-haired young man that sat on the mantle above the artificial fireplace. Buffy sat gracefully down on one of the chairs and looked at the portrait of Alex that hung above the fireplace. Buffy made the connection almost immediately that the dark-haired man who died in an accident painted the portrait. Alex brought in a can of Diet Cola to give to Buffy. Buffy popped the top open with her left hand and sipped from the can.
“I just noticed something about you, Buffy.” Alex started toward her bedroom while Buffy looked puzzled.
“‘Noticed’?” Buffy said, putting the can down.
“You are one of those rare people who are ambidextrous. Excuse me while I check my messages. The machine is in my bedroom. Feel free to make yourself at home.” Alex entered her bedroom carefully, locking the door behind her before punching the button on her answering machine. The voice of Alan Scott played as Alex stepped toward her mirror. She touched the left side in a certain pattern, then repeated the pattern on the right side of the mirror.
“I’m going to be out of town on a family vacation for a week or two, so there’s no need for you to come by until I come back.” The message ended as a panel opened up two feet away from the mirror, revealing an apparently empty hidden closet.
Alex placed her left hand into the closet as a yellow ring became visible. A yellow power battery slowly became visible as well as Alex placed her ring into it, though the yellow glow wasn’t visible outside the closet as Alex recharged her ring. The battery and ring both became invisible again as Alex closed the panel by reversing the pattern on the mirror. The ring she wore was not merely a piece of jewelry. It was a yellow power ring from the antimatter universe of Qward that had been mistakenly delivered to her boyfriend, Kyle Rayner, who gave her the ring without realizing its power. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: Emerald Renaissance.]
She flashed back to the moment her peculiar yellow ring ran out of energy, and she had to be rescued by Alan Scott, alias Green Lantern. They learned that her unique power ring, which had originally been intended for Sinestro of the Earth-One universe, was capable of tapping other energy sources besides that of the Earth-One Green Lantern Corps. Alan’s generous efforts enabled her to fashion a power battery from a broken piece off of his own power battery. It took several days before the yellow ring would accept a charge from the new power battery, as if the energy was different somehow from what the ring would normally accept, but eventually she had returned to her career as Corona. The battery also changed to the color yellow, as if the ring and battery had become synchronized to each other from constant exposure. Alex now diligently charged her power ring every twenty-four hours.
Her reverie was broken as she remembered her guest in the living room. Alex exited her bedroom after unlocking the door to find Buffy wandering around the room, examining the pictures. “I hope you weren’t bored while you were waiting,” Alex said as she closed the bedroom door behind her. Buffy looked up from the picture of Red Robin and Power Girl battling an out-of-focus figure.
“I was just admiring your work. You must be very brave to get close enough to take these kind of shots,” Buffy said with a touch of admiration in her voice.
Alex waved off the compliment as she sat down on the couch. “Most of my work is taking pictures of far less exciting subjects. So tell me more about your life in the corporation. I’ve read the brochures and company history, but a first-person account helps any story be more accessible to the readers.”
“Talk about my experiences with the company? My boss did say to cooperate with you, so I will start at the beginning.” Buffy put her hands behind her back, where she crossed her fingers.
“My mother died when I was still a baby, and my father was a man of mystery — as in he had vanished — so I was adopted into the Winter Academy. The Winter Academy was founded to raise abandoned children to be productive members of society.” Buffy’s story was interrupted by Alex.
“You mean you were raised in an orphanage? That’s such a terrible thing, but you seem well-adjusted to the fact.” A look of sympathy crossed Alex’s face.
“I never considered it an orphanage, since there were always interesting new things to learn and play with. The Winter Academy is not like the places shown in those pathetic orphan movies, but more like a private school geared toward creating creative and intelligent people.” Buffy uncrossed her fingers to sit down on the couch.
“I excelled at the physical and mental training that I was taught, which brought me to the attention of the vice president of Bishamon Technologies. He became my mentor and gave me the choice of working for him if I also excelled at a broader-based set of studies that would allow me to operate in a variety of different environments, from Japan to America. I had to work a lot harder at that than the physical training, because parts of it were boring, to me at least. Tea ceremonies and the more obscure social niceties practiced around the world nearly made me quit several times, but I persevered until finally I became the vice president’s executive assistant.” Buffy controlled the urge to laugh as she presented a skewed version of her history to Alex.
“It’s too bad this is a business-oriented story, because your history and this Winter Academy would make a great personal interest story. I do, however, wonder why I have never heard of this school of yours.” Alex was busy writing down the details to what Buffy had just said while it was still fresh in her mind.
“The Winter Academy is a very low-key sort of organization, more interested in unlocking the potential every person has than in publicity. It’s just a coincidence that my last name and the academy are the same as well,” Buffy explained.
Elsewhere in Gotham City, Jack Sorason was busy doing his own sinister work. Garbed in the sand-colored high-tech armor, he was using his control over magnetism to arrange a seeming accident for one of the smaller research labs.
“It’s a pity my dear sister decided to sample this urban sprawl’s decadent pleasures, since I would rather be doing that instead of this.”
Jack reached out to touch the main computer panel controlling all of the fire alarm systems inside the laboratory. He smiled behind the armored helmet as he concentrated on creating a very specific glitch in the system before removing his gauntlet from the panel.
He then left the same way he entered, resetting the magnetic locks behind him before flying to a hidden alcove and removing his armor. A pleased smile crossed his face as he walked back out onto the street, carrying a briefcase.
“I just need to call the fire inspection department and report that place as a fire hazard. When their inspection team comes to test the place, the computer controlling the system will unfortunately activate all of the sprinklers in the whole building. I wonder what the papers will say about this terrible accident.”
A young, attractive woman walked by, glancing at the man talking to himself before she noticed how good-looking he was. She sped up her pace when he stopped to give her an encouraging smile, not wanting to become a victim of Gotham crime.
“I keep forgetting Jill isn’t here,” Jack said to himself as he continued his stroll. Jack decided to stop at a corner bar to plan out his next accident. He walked right into the next place he saw, which turned out to be the off-duty hangout for the Gotham Police Department.
Not even missing a stride, he walked confidently up to the bar and asked for a Foster’s beer. He winked at the pretty, redheaded barmaid as he gave her a generous tip. “My name is Jack Sorason, and I think I am in love with ya, lass. Now tell me your first name so I can say it with a great deal of pleasure.”
The redheaded barmaid gave Jack a judging smile as she slipped the money off the bar. “You can call me Babs.”
“It’s a right pleasure to meet a pretty lady such as yourself, Babs.” Jack sipped on his Foster’s as he put the briefcase on the floor.
The barmaid moved off to serve another customer as Jack coolly looked around the half-filled bar. A genuine smile of pure pleasure was on his face as he considered that, if any of these people knew who he was, they would be trying to put handcuffs on him.
Meanwhile, Jill Sorason was burning up the dance floor in one of Gotham’s most popular nightclubs — Rogues Gallery. Her figure moved with a wild and energetic abandon as she twisted and turned feverishly with the music. Several of the men gathered watch her with lust in their eyes as she spiraled around the hard-tile floor alone.
When the music stopped, she moved to a corner table to rest a bit as the waiter brought her several drinks sent over by the various admiring men in the club. Jill gave the waiter a tip and sent all of the drinks back to the bar.
“Hey, baby. I noticed you dancing on the floor and just had to tell you that you are one fine figure of a female,” a blond musclebound man said with a cocky arrogance as he leaned over the table to leer at Jill. “Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll show you how I like to dance.”
“Why don’t you get lost before I embarrass you in front of all these people,” Jill said as she looked around the room.
The man slammed his fist down on the table as his features distorted with rage. “Nobody talks that way to Jabio!”
“Just call me nobody, then, pretty boy.” Jill backed away from the table as Jabio smashed it with his fist. He swung at her with more rage than precision as she ducked underneath the blow.
She dodged and ducked the increasingly angry Jabio’s blows as they moved out onto the dance floor. Jill moved with the same wild abandon as she danced a grim martial ballet with the powerful Jabio.
Jill made her move, sending one of her steel-toed white boots into the privates of Jabio, causing him to bend over screaming in agony as Jill then kicked the bent-over Jabio in the head with her other boot.
Jabio collapsed to the dance floor, unconscious, as Jill smiled ruthlessly. “Thanks for the dance, pretty boy. I enjoyed it, but it’s too bad the same can’t be said for you.”
Jill went to another table as Jabio was picked up and removed from the club. Several of the young women in the club came over to the table and started talking with Jill about how she dealt with Jabio. Jill laughed and flirted with one of the more admiring women.