– Famke Tillman – ‘Famke’ –
– Two Weeks Later – Saturday – 13:22 Eastern Time –
Famke drew in a deep breath that filled her lungs to the brim and caused her chest to rise. She looked judgmentally at herself in the mirror before letting it go slowly. It didn’t help her stress levels.
This was huge.
As mornings went, this one was probably the biggest of her hero career so far. Not just for her – what she was about to do had huge ramifications for the Femme Fatales. Once she did this, the SuperGroup would never be the same again. She hadn’t faced a moment this big since she announced the creation of the Femme Fatales eleven short years ago. Back then, they had had a membership of four people and their base of operations was a rented apartment in Steel Canyon.
Over time, the SuperGroup membership had grown and when they had hit twenty people, they realized that they couldn’t operate out of the apartment anymore, they needed a proper base. So, they had looked into buying a building in Atlas Park. It was a bit of a fixer-upper, but it was relatively cheap for the location. Buying it had been like getting a mortgage. They walked into the bank and walked out the owners of a building. There had been risk, sure, but it was a small one in the grand scheme of things. If things didn’t work out, they could always sell it.
The Femme Fatales had gone from strength to strength, growing organically by accepting or recruiting new members. Now they had grown to a size where they needed a new home.
Which was a huge step for them. This time they weren’t buying an existing building, they were actually constructing one.
This was by far the most money they had ever spent in one venture and was to be the biggest change to the SuperGroup that they had ever undertaken.
She took another deep breath and exhaled it through pursed lips.
She hated facing audiences like this. Maybe she could get Ecstatica to do this instead of her? She was a founding member and she loved the spotlight…
A pair of arms slipped around her waist, embracing her from behind, while a soft pair of lips kissed the gentle slope where her neck met her shoulder. Not a kiss of passion, but the loving gesture of someone trying to defuse some of the tension in her partner. Famke closed her eyes, smiled and lost herself in the sensation for a moment. It worked, all the stress she had been storing up evaporated. She felt Elektra’s long, soft hair brush against her and she sighed happily.
“Thanks, I needed that.”
Elektra Rains smiled back at her and hugged her tightly.
“That’s what good girlfriends do, they look out for their partners. But honestly, you shouldn’t be feeling so stressed about this. What you’re doing…it’s amazing. It’s truly a fantastic thing that you are about to announce.”
“That’s what is stressing me out.” Famke placed her hands-on Elektra’s, holding them tightly, feeling their soft skin beneath her touch. “It’s such a huge thing. What I announce today sets the future for the SuperGroup.”
“Just think of all the other young women you can help when this is built. Women who need this environment,” Elektra hugged her girlfriend harder as she spoke. “Like I did.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about it. But…”
“I know,” Elektra said quietly. “You really hate being the center of attention.”
Famke sighed and chuckled wryly.
“Yup. Tell me again why we couldn’t just have sent out a press release?”
“Well, as a relatively recent member of the Femmes, I don’t get a say in the matter…” Elektra started.
“Maybe not, but you do have some influence over one of the leaders of the SuperGroup,” Famke interrupted.
“That is true,” Elektra laughed. “But I would never use that influence for evil. But I believe it was Knightingale who said it would be great exposure for the SuperGroup. And, of course, Lady DarkForce and Ecstatica both thought it would be a great excuse for a party…”
“Alexa and Eleanor will always do anything for a good party. I really should have known better than to ask. And Harv always goes along with the other two. Tell me again why I have them on the SuperGroup Council…”
“Because they’re your founding members. You could always get Gale to do the announcement?” Elektra suggested.
“I would not be that cruel,” Famke laughed. “That girl is as smart as anyone I know, and one of the best team-leaders I’ve ever worked with… Honestly she’s better at running this SG than I am! But barking orders to a team in a combat situation is one thing, running a press conference is another entirely. She is borderline phobic about public speaking, I wouldn’t put her through that.”
“Really?” Alexa said puzzled. “I’d have thought she would be great at it…”
“I think,” Famke mused, “that it’s something about her telepathy that makes her uncomfortable in those situations. Also, with her background, she is a little…repressed. Large groups of people are her worst nightmare. Have you not noticed she never comes to parties or goes clubbing with the girls?”
“I’d never noticed, but now that you mention it…”
“I think she’s afraid of losing control of her telepathy when there’s a large group involved,” Famke shrugged. “Too many thoughts…”
Elektra extricated herself from her lover’s embrace and turned the Femmes leader around to face her. She looked her up and down checking out her appearance. Sharp looking black suit jacket, pencil skirt, and heels. Her blouse was a bright hot pink that matched the Femme Fatales signature color. Attached to her lapel was a small enamel pin of the SuperGroup logo. A pink heart with a black outline.
“And what are you afraid of, my love?” Elektra asked.
“Losing you,” Famke responded without hesitation. “Apart from that, nothing much. Except spiders maybe… Nobody in their right mind likes spiders.”
“Okay, you look great. Very professional and good to go.”
“What about the hair?” Famke asked. “Up or down?”
“Leave it down,” Elektra said firmly. “You ready?”
Famke took another deep breath. The nerves and stress started returning, though not as badly as before Elektra had distracted her. She nodded briefly and then turned to the door.
“Wish me luck!”
“You don’t need it,” Elektra said confidently. “But good luck. “
Elektra followed her to the door and the two women walked out of the Portacabin that she had been getting ready in. There were no permanent buildings on site as yet, but that was all to change over the coming months. They descended the wooden steps to the ground and walked to where the masses were gathered.
Almost all the members of the Femmes were gathered there already, seated in the rows of chairs facing the podium. Mixed in amongst them were various officials from Paragon City, the media and a multitude of other heroes from some of their coalition members. Standing next to the podium waiting for her to arrive were Kyle Jordan and Gale Knightley. Both were suited and looking smart, Gale in a similar outfit to Famke, but with trousers instead of a skirt, her high heels adding a good few inches to her already tall, slender frame.
Just behind them stood the other founding members of the Femme Fatales, each of them looking smart and presentable. She smiled to them as she approached the podium, Ecstatica mouthing the words ‘go get ‘em’ silently to her as she passed. Abruptly her nerves vanished, and a clarity took her. She recognized the feeling of a clear-mind application from their resident Empath and glanced in Gale’s direction. The young woman simply winked and smiled.
She took the podium and looked out on the crowd. After a few moments, a silence fell over the gathering and Famke spoke into the microphone.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming here today, to this site in Founders Falls.
“Our City has been rebuilding itself for years. From the destruction wrought at the hands of the Rikti, there has come a rebirth. Five weeks after the end of the Rikti War, the Femme Fatales became a part of that rebirth.
“In the beginning, there were just four of us. Myself, Lady Darkforce, Ecstatica, Harvest Moon. Four female heroes who saw a need in the system to create a place for superpowered women of all types and all ages to come together in security and safety. A haven.
“Years passed and we have seen members come and go. We have seen this city change. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Through it all we have continued to grow. Our current active roster sits at thirty-eight heroes. We have twenty-four members in a retired or reserve capacity. But most importantly, we have forty-seven heroes in training. Young women of various ages, from thirteen upwards who are learning to control their powers in a safe and controlled environment. Learning to use their powers responsibly and for the good of all.
“A hero never knows when they will get their powers or how they will manifest, but we can guarantee that we can provide a place for them to belong and to learn.
“Over eleven years, three hundred and sixty-four heroes have passed through our doors. Some stayed with us. Many went on to join other SuperGroups, many even went on to found SuperGroups of their own. Some have retired or…been lost in the good fight.
“Regardless of where they are now, all of them will always be Femme Fatales, and if they need a home, they have to look no further. We are proud of how much we have done and accomplished over the last eleven years.
“However, we recognize that there is still a huge job that needs to be done. There are many other young women out there who need help. Our help.
“The Femme Fatales reached capacity as a SuperGroup nearly three months ago. This has made it difficult to provide the level of help we have grown accustomed to. This was not an acceptable situation for us. In order to be able to provide help to more people, we needed to change and to grow.
“Thus, the Femme Fatales are very very proud to announce the expansion of the SuperGroup. An expansion that will allow us to increase our ability to help those that need it.
“The first step of this expansion will be to rebrand the current SuperGroup head-quarters in Atlas Park. That site is being split into two distinct sub-units.
“The Femme Academy will accept young women in need of training to use their abilities up to the Security level of twenty. Ace-of-Diamonds, Deborah Harding, will be acting as the Head Mistress in charge of that facility. I personally can’t think of a better teacher for our new recruits.
“Level twenty has always been something of a coming of age for heroes in this City. For a long time, we used to celebrate this achievement by having ‘Cape-Day’. Whether they wanted to wear one or not, the newly minted level twenty hero would be given a ceremonial cape and be declared ‘Keeper of the Peace’. This practice has fallen by the wayside… but we at the Femme Fatales still think that level twenty is a watershed level in the progress of a hero.
“Thus, when our members reach this level, they will graduate to the Femme Sorority which will be headed up by Lady DarkForce, Alexa Darke. Alexa will expand the horizons of these heroes and get them taking part in missions citywide assisting the Paragon City law enforcement agencies. They will get valuable experience and advanced education as they progress up towards Security level forty-five. Once they reach Security level forty-five, they will finally graduate to the Femme Fatales, the parent SuperGroup.
“At this point, they will be tutored by Ecstatica, Eleanor deMontford, and Knightingale, Gale Knightley. At this level, they will be tackling the most difficult missions both here in Paragon City and in hazardous areas like the Rogue Islands.
“We believe this structure will provide the best education and support system for new heroes to find their path to become a valued and respected member of the superhuman community.
“In order for all this to happen, we have commissioned a brand new Headquarters for the Femme Fatales. We are standing on the site of that building. Work will commence today on the building of a state-of-the-art facility that will hold the Femme Fatales and provide them with a base that will support them going forwards for many decades to come.
“I thank Kyle Jordan from InfiniTech on behalf of the Femme Fatales for designing for us a spectacular facility that will do our SuperGroup proud. Thank you, Kyle.”
There was a round of applause from the crowd as Kyle Jordan nodded his acknowledgement.
“And so, without further ado… Thank you all for coming here as I officially break ground on this site.”
She walked from the podium and descended to the ground where Gale handed her a shovel. Famke braced the shovel against the soft earth and pushed. The blade of the shovel moved easily through the dirt by a good eight inches or so. The crowd cheered and clapped as she lifted the first excavated dirt from the site and dumped it to the side.
The construction of the new Femme Fatales Headquarters had officially begun.