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A Voice for America

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"That's what we want," the casting director said to the uniformed man Angie assumed was some kind of army liaison, "a real American girl."

"Can you sound more like Ed Murrow?" the army man asked.

"I can try." Angie picked up her script and started in the not quite Upstate clip she'd used before, but also let a bit of a West-Coast roll in the vowels this time. "Every bond is a bullet in your best man's gun."

The army man looked at the casting director, and Angie knew she had the job. She looked at her hands, playing modest when what she really wanted to do was jump up and down and cheer. So maybe propaganda voice-overs weren't Broadway, but they weren't waitressing either.

She'd never worked for the army before, so she'd expected to be different than a regular gig, but she hadn't expected the pile of documents with "SECRET" stamped on them in red ink, or the list of things she would have to sign before she could look at them.

"So what is this job, exactly?" she asked after she'd finished signing away her life, her right to speak to another human about anything ever again, and maybe her firstborn to boot. "Seems awfully close for a couple of newreels about Victory Bonds."

The army man looked at the casting director again, who said, "It's not going to be voice-overs; we need you to dub."

"Oh?" Angie said, and couldn't keep a resounding lack of enthusiasm out of her voice. Certainly, the pay was good, but that wasn't acting so much as copying. Where was the art? "Like Russian pictures or something?"

Did the Russians make talkies? She assumed they must, or maybe it would be the Chinese, one of the allies, surely. But why was that a secret?

The army man coughed and looked down, and now that she got a proper look at him, she realised that he was a full-bird colonel. "It's Captain America."

"That crazy dame?" Peggy asked. Everyone knew about her: how she'd volunteered for an experiment to make stronger soldiers, and how it turned out only to work on women. Now she fought Nazis with the men, and she looked pretty swell doing it. "What does she need me for? She have a Jersey accent or something?"

"Should we be so lucky," the colonel said, voice drier than dust. "No. Captain America is English."

♪♫♪♪

"'Now you have to remember,'" Angie said, carefully matching her timing to Cap's lips as the film rolled in front of her booth, "'that tittle- tattle will lose the battle.'"

On the screen, Cap had raised one of her gorgeous black brows, just slightly, but Angie, who had watched her speak and move over and over again for hours, spotted it right away. Angie was literally a pro at watching Cap by now, and she knew an ironic brow when she saw one. She'd also noticed that Cap lifted her chin a little when she thought someone was being an idiot, and that her nostrils flared when she was unhappy. Sometimes, Cap had to tighten her lips to keep from laughing, and very rarely her cheeks darkened in a blush. Angie liked when she smiled best. She didn't do that enough.

Angie had quickly learned that she'd been wrong about there being no art in this. In fact, she had to really get inside Cap's head to make her words sound convincing. First she watched the clip a couple times, listening to Cap's polished British accent and studying her every expression, then she shut her eyes and got Juan to run it again, picking out subtleties of inflection; after that, she could make herself feel what Cap was feeling and get every pitch of her voice just so. When she was done, she didn't think even the best lip readers could tell the difference.

♪♫♪♪

"Run it again," Angie said, trying to keep the shake out of her voice.

Juan fussed with the film, giving Angie a few minutes to steady herself before the screen flickered. The films so far had been short interviews and press releases, occasionally bits of what were clearly re-enactments of action. This was something else.

The picture shook as dirt sprayed across the frame from what Angie realised must be a shell dropping left of the cameraman. A woman entered the picture, brief skirt and leather trousers doing little to conceal her muscled thighs as she ran. More dirt sprayed across the picture, and men followed Cap towards one of those giant hedges they seemed to grow in Europe. Cap was screaming something, but the picture didn't come with sound past the thump of shells. The company ran forward out of the shot and was gone. The film ran to its end.

Angie screamed herself hoarse that day, commanding men into battle, then lay awake all night hoping Cap had got through the fight.

♪♫♪♪

The letter was in a precise, angular handwriting, that was both easy to read and a little exotic to Angie's eye. She wondered why they hadn't typed it up like they usually did for Cap's radio addresses–no time, maybe, or a mistake. She liked the signature: the sweeping curve at the start of the capital A and the little flick up at the end: a definite stopping place. A definite woman.

Angie brought the paper to her nose, but it just smelled like paper to her.

After the broadcast, done as always with Angie alone in her booth pretending to be transmitting all the way from France, she did something she'd never even considered before. Something that was in clear violation of at least three agreements she'd signed. Angie folded Cap's script into a small square and tucked it into her bra.

She was tense as a rabbit on her way out of the studio, but they'd stopped checking her months ago. When she got back to the Griffith, she tucked the note under her pillow and slept with it there every night.

♪♫♪♪

"I don't see why I have to go down to D.C.," Angie complained, not for the first time that morning. "What's in D.C. that I can't cover up here?"

"I keep telling you, Martinelli," Juansaid, hoisting a crate of sound equipment to his shoulder, "I can't tell you what I don't know."

With war traffic taking priority on the lines, their train didn't pull in until well after lunch time, not that Angie had gotten anything to eat, and then a junior officer hustled her off into one car and Juan and Mark into another before she had time to blink.

"Where are we–" Angie started to say, then she saw who else was in the car. "Holy..." she clapped both hands over her mouth before she took the Lord's Name in vain in front of Captain America.

Cap was wearing her full costume, red white and blue from head to toe, but had her cowl pushed back, letting her hair fall messily around her face. "I know you," she said, tone fond and warm.

"I guess you would," Angie blurted, "I'm you, ain't I?"

"I suppose you are," Cap said, and she smiled at Angie. "I'll need to borrow you again this evening, if you don't mind."

So that was why the trip to D.C., Angie realised. Cap must be doing some public event, a speech she couldn't pipe in, and Angie would be reading over her.

"I... I'll need to run the script with you, Captain," Angie said, remarkably calmly, she thought, but then she always had been able to fall back on professionalism. "A couple times, if you can, so we're on the same timing."

"Of course," Cap replied, because obviously that had to have been the plan, and Angie was in fact making an idiot of herself. "Over a meal?"

"Anything you like," Angie said, then blushed, realising how much stress she'd put on anything. As an actor, she knew how to get her meaning across, sometimes even when she didn't intend to.

"Perfect," Cap said, but even with her face unmasked, Angie couldn't tell if she'd caught Angie's invitation, at least she couldn't until Cap leaned across the car to put a hand on Angie's knee, and said, "I'm glad we'll have a chance to get to know each other. I've always wanted to tell you how much I love your voice."

♪♫♪♪