Agnes Joubert was having an absolutely wonderful morning. She woke up exactly one minute before her alarm, got a free extra shot of expresso in her cup of coffee, arrived to work to see bumbling technician on Camera C was out sick for the day, and all the paperwork for Hero TV appeared to be caught up. It was absolutely amazing, and she was able to relish in it for a whole five minutes before there came a timid knock on her office door.
A young intern made his way in, cowering like a faun before a wolf. “Miss Joubert…?” he began slowly.
“What?” she snapped. “Hurry up, I have things to do.”
“Well, er, there’s been a bit of a P.R. thing… we’re kinda slammed… there’s a lot of reporters outside…”
“What?” Agnes stood up. “What happened? Who did what? Who needs to be fired?”
The intern just scrambled up to her desk and dropped the morning paper down, and then scurried back a safe number of meters.
BARNABY BROOKS, JR. COMES OUT AS GAY
“Intern!” She snapped her fingers, and he about fell over in fear. “I’m going to need another expresso. Right now!”
The thing about Barnaby Brooks, Jr. is that he is a decently private person. He makes up whatever personality traits and quirks he needs to in order to create a likeable, beloved persona seen by the citizens of Stern Bild every day, with a new interview spread in every magazine. But behind that all, there did hide an actual person, with actual traits and habits and characteristics, but those weren’t nearly as marketable as the ones he professed on television. Barnaby Brooks, Jr. was a carefully crafted character on Hero TV, his image tightly controlled by a team of professional P.R. people.
Professional P.R. people who apparently had no idea he was going to do this.
“What do you mean you had no idea?” Agnes snapped.
The woman at the desk, dressed in plain clothes with a headset around her neck, was still staring down at the paper Agnes had thrown down at her. “We did not know about this,” she said again. “He didn’t tell us he was going to do this.”
The last sentence left her mouth as a man in a sweater walked in, nursing a cup of tea. “Oh. Did Brooks try to kiss Tiger with the mask on again? Do you think we could use the 'he slipped' excuse again?”
She showed him the paper.
They had to call the janitor up about the tea. And the “Best P.R. Guy” mug.
“This is so depressing,” Mary sighed as they got to work with the broadcast. Agnes shot her a look, but Mary wasn’t looking at her.
“What? About Brooks?” Cain said. “Why do you care? Thought you were pretty chill with stuff like that.”
“I don’t have a chance,” bemoaned Mary. “He doesn’t like girls.”
“Oh my god,” Cain said.
“I agree!” Agnes said. “Now, can we focus on the broadcast now?”
“Oh my god,” Cain said again. “I actually have a chance with Barnaby Brooks, Jr.”
Nathan was ecstatic. He clung to Barnaby all day, in the field and in the Apollon Media building and the training center. Agnes couldn’t find him alone to talk about how to handle this situation in his opinion because going near him meant going near Barnaby and she was not ready to deal with that yet.
Pao-Lin was dismissive about the whole thing. She couldn’t care less.
Antonio just sort of cocked an eyebrow and said, “Yeah. So?”
“So?” Agnes said. “So? So, he’s our biggest profit! Thousands of girls follow our show religiously because they dream of getting princess-carried down the aisle by him!”
“You mean… like he carries Kotetsu?”
“You’re useless, Lopez!”
Keith was just as helpful. “I’m proud of him for accepting himself! Proud, and proud again!”
Ivan was nowhere to be found.
Karina wouldn’t even meet Agnes’s gaze. She picked at her lunch with her fork and muttered, “So what? I thought everybody knew.”
“Yeah,” agreed Agnes. “There’s a difference between everyone” – she gestured to the training room they sat in – “and everyone knowing!”
That left one person.
“KOTETSU TIM KABURAGI, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!”
She heard an exclamation of “shit!” come from his desk, and before he could flee the floor, she arrived at the base of the staircase and stared him dead in the eyes, daring him to make a move for the elevator.
“My office. Now,” she said, and Kotetsu raised his hands in defeat.
“I love your make-up today, Agnes,” Kotetsu mentioned as they walked in. “Makes you look very cut-throat-y.”
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Agnes snapped.
Kotetsu’s face went blank. “Me?” he said. “I haven’t done anything. Have I?”
She shoved the newspaper at him, now thoroughly wrinkled after having traversed through the grasps of probably half the population of the Apollon Media building in Agnes’s quest for destruction.
“Oh, yeah.” Kotetsu rubbed the back of his head in a nervous gesture. “Bunny said he was going to do that.”
“He said he was going to?”
Kotetsu frowned. “I dunno,” he said. “He’s been saying it for a while now.”
Agnes slammed the newspaper down on the desk. “Do you have any idea what this is going to do to Hero TV?” she asked. “So many of his fans were girls deeply in love with him! What are we going to do when we lose that profit demographic?”
“It wasn’t really about profits,” Kotetsu said. “It was more… well, the other articles. They were starting to get to Barnaby.”
“What other articles?” Agnes asked.
Kotetsu shifted uneasily. “Are you familiar with Heart Focus Hero Magazine?”
Agnes’s smile was wolfish. “Very.”
Agnes knocked three times on the office door in quick succession, and it opened not long after. She found herself facing a petite brunette in a blouse. A familiar woman.
“Hello,” said Agnes.
“Oh no,” said the woman. “Not you again.”
“Oh, good, you remember. So we can skip the introductions.” Agnes slipped past her and stepped into the office. “Don’t worry, this will just take a moment.”
The woman approached her cautiously. “What do you want with Heart Focus Hero Magazine? I thought you didn’t want anything to do with us.”
“I don’t,” agreed Agnes. “I think you’re absolute leeches who make fire out of some smoke. Unfortunately, it seems that some of your baseless escapades have brought discomfort to my biggest profit-maker, and do you have any idea how much it upsets me when my biggest profit-maker can’t smile his best million-dollar smile?”
“Very,” guessed the woman. “Very upset.”
“Very upset,” Agnes echoed. “And now you’ve pushed my biggest profit-maker into what could have been a P.R. disaster and broken the hearts of thousands of young girls who buy our merchandise.”
“Sorry,” murmured the woman. “But… we can’t just shut this all down.”
Agnes replied, “Oh, I don’t want you to. That would look suspicious. Instead, I thought of a way this could be beneficial for both of us.” She handed her a packet.
“…this is an article you wrote and a course description for a journalism class at the local college.”
“Yes! Please feel free to use both.”
TWELVE TIMES WILD TIGER AND BARNABY BROOKS JR.’S RELATIONSHIP WAS #GOALS
By Heart Focus Magazine