Getting fired, while not the worst thing that could have happened to Kara today, comes pretty darn close—and it isn’t even ten in the morning.
She’s been holding back tears ever since she walked out of J’onn’s office after he told her he had to let her go. She finally gives in and starts crying as soon as she’s out of the parking lot, pulling over just down the block from the TV station with her wiper blades going full tilt to combat the downpour outside. Kara has spent the last nine years on the local early news broadcast, ‘Morning Midvale, starting out as an intern between semesters at National City University, then working her way up to Junior Producer. And now, it feels like it’s all down the toilet just because Corporate wants someone with “more business experience.”
Like that even means anything when it comes to producing a television show.
The squeak of the wipers as they drag across the windshield pulls Kara back to the present. Her hatchback is a mess. She looks around, but there aren’t any clean tissues, just cheeseburger wrappers, so she takes her glasses off for a moment and wipes at her face with her bare hand. She really needs to clean the car out. Or better yet, drive it directly to the junkyard. With her luck, it’ll break down on the way.
When J’onn asked her to stop by his office after they wrapped this morning, Kara was excited. The show has been without a senior producer in the top spot for the last two years, meaning Kara was doing the job, but without the benefits of title and pay.
She’s done everything right; worked harder than anyone she knows. Always in first and out last—she goes to bed by six every work night so she can wake up at two in the morning because they’re on air at four. Kara doesn’t date, heck, she barely sees her family. When the rumor started going around the station that they’d finally budgeted for a senior producer, Kara had the nerve to think it might be going to her.
And then J’onn told her that the station needed to downsize and he couldn’t keep her at all.
To J’onn’s credit, he did seem to feel awful about the whole thing. J’onn is the guy who gave her the first break she had in the business, he’s the one who accepted her internship application, who hired her, who promoted her.
And today, he’s the one who fired her.
Breathing somewhat easier now that she’s let the worst of it out, Kara merges back into traffic and pulls up to a red light. Fudge, she thinks, dialing Alex as the light turns green, and putting her phone on speaker.
Alex picks up after two rings. “Hey Kara, I’m about to murder one of my R2s, can I call you back tonight, or I might have a lunch break in like four hours?”
Kara sniffles. “I got fired, Alex.”
“What?! No!” Alex sounds full of the righteous indignation Kara can’t quite muster. “That’s horsesh—crap. You’re the only thing holding that stupid news show together!”
“That’s not true, our staff is great!” Kara can’t help defending her colleagues—well, former colleagues. She wipes at her nose again and throws on her blinker. “It’s Corporate. The station wants someone with more business experience and an Ivy League degree.” Kara sighs as she goes through the roundabout to get on the highway. “Can I drive down tonight? I don’t want to wallow alone.”
“Of course! I won’t be home till about seven—the residents are a handful today, but Kelly will be there after work. Her four o’clock therapy client cancelled on her, so she’ll be home by five.” Kara can hear Alex shuffling something around, she’s probably in between patients at the hospital right now, cleaning up a mess made by one of her residents from the sounds of things. “Head over whenever and just use your key. We’ll help you figure it out.”
“Thanks, Alex. Love you.”
“Love you, too. I’ll see you tonight.”
Kara hangs up, feeling marginally better. She heads home and brings the boxes with her work stuff into the small apartment. She’d moved back in with Eliza for the first year after she graduated, but, as soon as she could, she found a place of her own. It’s 60 miles from Metropolis, so Alex is less than an hour and a half away with a little traffic. It’s been a great apartment, even has a high ceiling with a great big window where she has her easel set up. On a really clear day (and standing on her tiptoes), Kara can just make out the beach through the pine trees. She looks around, missing the view already.
Midvale only has the one local station, so moving is going to be inevitable. No sense in dwelling on things she can’t change.
Kara texts Eliza the bad news, saying she doesn’t want to talk about it just yet. Eliza sends back a heart and asks if she wants to come over for dinner, but Kara tells her she’s planning on driving down to see Alex.
She wanders over to her couch and sits down feeling a little aimless. She needs to find a job.
Kara yawns as she pulls out her laptop. Maybe she’ll start looking after a nap.
The nap is, unequivocally, the only good part of Kara’s day. There are a grand total of fifteen producer level openings of any kind posted online in the tri-state area, so she’d had to expand her search to the entire East Coast. The only spots she’s really qualified for are in Empire City (way further down the coast), or up in Amnesty Bay (who even knew they had their own station?). To top it off, she sleeps longer than she means to, and starts the drive up to Metropolis midafternoon. Leaving late means she gets stuck in awful traffic and, by the time she’s found parking on the street outside Alex’s and Kelly’s apartment, it’s a little after six thirty. Kara’s car gives a shudder as she puts it into park and she sighs, glancing up at the little service sticker on her windshield and then down at the odometer. Four thousand miles past due for an oil change. Her ‘check engine’ light twinkles ominously. That’s probably not good.
Kelly greets her at the door with potstickers. “Alex texted, she’s going to be late—something about the attending on shift after her. Do you wanna talk about it, or do you just wanna eat these and watch Hercules with me until your sister gets home?”
“Do you know you’re my favorite person in the whole world?” Kara throws her arms around Kelly and then relieves her of the potstickers. “Does Alex know we’re eating without her?”
“I picked these up for you on the way home, we’ll order dinner when she gets out of the hospital. Grab what you want to drink from the fridge” Kelly smiles. “Now come on, it’s sing-along time.”
Kara drops her bag by the door and stops by the refrigerator to grab a seltzer, while Kelly grabs napkins.
Alex gets home with the food while they’re still belting out “Zero to Hero” and she joins them for the rest of the film, sitting on the floor between Kelly’s legs. Over lo mein and sweet and sour pork, Kara takes them through her initial job search. She doesn’t want to move that far away from Alex and being driving distance to Eliza is important, but most of the producer positions in and around Metropolis are senior (which she doesn’t have the resume experience for) or entry-level (which she has too much experience for). There is a senior position in Happy Harbor at a small enough station that she might be considered, but who even knows how long the station itself will be around.
“The stupid economy is killing everything good in broadcasting right now,” Kara looks down dejectedly at the box of sesame chicken she’s holding, scoops the last of it onto her plate. “All the smaller stations are being snapped up by private equity firms and their parts are being sold for scrap. It’s all about profit these days instead of journalism.” She huffs and sets the box down, takes a bite.
“Basically,” Kara continues, swallowing, “unless you’re in Metropolis and at one of the four major networks they’re cutting everything. Even the big guys are transitioning away from their news programming in favor of syndication or dumb soap operas and tv re-runs because they make more money that way. Everyone just runs the same stuff all the time. It’s terrible.”
“That is terrible.” Alex frowns, setting her own plate back on the coffee table. “How long can you handle unemployment for? You know we have a guest bedroom. If you don’t want to move back in with Mom, I mean. You’re welcome to it if you need to crash here until you’re back on your feet.”
Kelly nods in agreement. Alex stands up and starts collecting their utensils and glasses.
“Thanks, you guys.” Kara smiles at them, feeling a new swell of gratefulness for her sister and Kelly. She sets her empty plate down, too, and picks up a pillow to hug, collapsing sideways on the couch. “I just, I’ve wanted to do this job since I was eight. I always thought by now I’d have made it somewhere big, you know, like The Today Show or Good Morning America. I’m starting to think I’m never going to make it to a real network. I couldn’t even keep a local junior producer gig.”
“Kara,” Kelly says, sounding thoughtful, “you know my brother James still works for Luthor Broadcasting Corporation here in Metropolis. He’s the lead director for their morning show.”
Kara nods and brings her legs up onto the couch, clutching the pillow to her chest and stretching out.
“Do you want me to give him a call, let him know you’re looking?” Kelly continues as she stacks the empty containers from dinner and hands them to Alex to take into the kitchen.
“Gosh, yes! LBC is one of the big four!” Kara practically yells and sits up. “I forgot he works on that. I already looked this afternoon, though,” she says, tempering her enthusiasm. “They’ve got a spot open, but it’s the Executive Producer position—I’m not even remotely qualified for it.”
“Hey, don’t sell yourself short,” Alex calls out as she loads the dishwasher, “you basically ran the entire early news show at Midvale!”
“Maybe,” Kara says, “but it doesn’t look that way on my resume. My job title never changed.”
“Well, I think you should consider applying anyway,” says Kelly. “James has been complaining for months that they’ve been having a lot of trouble filling the position. They might be willing to take a chance on you.”
“You know, you’re both right.” Kara puts the pillow down. She grabs their empty glasses from the coffee table. “I’ve been unemployed for less than twelve hours. No sense in giving up hope. Don’t call James just yet, but I appreciate the offer.”
“That’s the spirit,” Alex says, taking the glasses from her. “Now, I will graciously allow you to pick the next movie because you’ve had the worst day out of the three of us, but I reserve the right to veto if you pick—”
“The Goonies!” Kara shouts out as Alex groans.
Kelly is already queuing it up.
Maybe it’s been a terrible, no good, very bad day, but as long as she’s got family, Kara can’t help feeling like things will turn around. They have to.
It’s three weeks later when Kara starts feeling less sure that things are going to turn around.
If her life were a movie, this is where the depression montage would play. She wears sweatpants every day and barely bothers to brush her hair. In a fit of frustration at the tangles one morning, she gives herself bangs, and immediately regrets her choice. Alex flinches when they facetime, but Kelly’s really nice about it. Mostly, Kara spends every day sitting on her couch checking countless job websites and updating her LinkedIn profile with everything she’s ever done.
She’s applied to every entry-level and junior producer position out there, plus a few of the senior ones, and gotten exactly zero calls back. She’s out of flour and her kitchen is a disaster from all the grief baking. Eliza has also very gently started refusing to take any more cookies or brownies or cupcakes into work, so now Kara is out of tupperware, too, having filled all of hers with the extras she can’t pawn off on her neighbors.
She looks around her Midvale apartment and frowns. Kara can probably manage another month’s rent or so if she eats nothing but ramen. Eliza says her old bedroom is always open to her, but that smacks of a desperation Kara isn’t ready to embrace yet. It’s one thing when you’re fresh out of school. But now, at 30? She considers branching out to production assistant jobs, but finally decides that Kelly’s offer to reach out to James for her is worth a shot.
James calls Kara back on a Tuesday afternoon.
He lets her know that there’s actually a junior producer position that’s about to open up on his show, since their current guy is leaving for cable. When he offers to put in a good word for her with HR, Kara thanks him, but doesn’t feel particularly hopeful—there are going to be a million people applying for this job. Her resume still is what it is; even with someone helping to smooth the way, it’s unlikely she’ll get noticed.
Still, she clicks ‘submit’ in the online portal when the posting goes live on Thursday, then goes to bed, fully expecting to never hear from anyone at LBC again.
Kara wakes up on Friday morning, not to the sound of her alarm, but to the sound of her phone ringing. It takes her a moment to identify the sound, and then to remember where she put her phone last night. Finally seeing it on the floor several feet away, Kara squints blearily at the screen to see if it’s worth getting up to answer.
It’s a Metropolis area code.
Still wrapped up in her sheets, she falls off the bed in her haste to answer and nearly declines the call, picking up on what must be the final ring. “Yes, hello? This is Kara Danvers, hello?”
“Kara Danvers, hi,” a smooth voice comes through the line. “This is Lex Luthor over at Luthor Broadcasting Corporation. Have I caught you at a bad time?”
Kara tries not to squeal audibly, untangling herself from the comforter. “No, no bad time, I’m free as a bird. What’s up?”
What’s up? Kara hits herself in the forehead and bites on her fist, cringing. She gets off the floor and sits back on her bed, dragging the blankets with her.
“Terrific.” Lex laughs. “Listen, I'm calling because I received your resume, and it just so happens we’re looking for somebody at the moment.”
“I’ll take it!” Kara can’t help it, this is the first chance she’s gotten. He could be offering her a craft services job at this point, for all she cares.
“Well, wait,” Lex says. “I haven’t told you what it is yet."
“Sorry.” Kara puts her fist back in her mouth.
“Our morning show has a vacancy and—“
“I’ll take it!” Kara shouts again. It’s the junior producer job. She can’t believe it.
“And we’re interviewing a bunch of people,” Lex continues, undeterred by her interruption this time. “If you’re interested, I'd love to have you in so we can talk about it.”
“Sure, yes, absolutely.” Kara is practically bouncing in bed now. She’s great in interviews, and she’s been sketching out segment ideas and potential news stories for weeks (she’s had nothing better to do). “Just tell me where to go and who to talk to!”
“Let’s say three today, if you can?” Lex sounds like he might be typing in the background. “I’ll send you an e-mail shortly with the details.”
“Thank you, thank you!” Kara can’t believe her luck. “I’m looking forward to it!”
“Good, I wasn’t sure, you’re a little hard to read,” Lex says, chuckling. “We’ll see you at three.”
As soon as she gets off the phone with him, Kara calls Alex to tell her the news. “I mean, it's a little crazy to get a call from Mr. Luthor himself, normally don't they have minions to do that kind of this? But it’s the junior producer position James told me about, can you believe it? I can’t believe it!”
“Kara, that’s phenomenal!” Alex sounds just as excited as she is. “Hey, if you get the job, just move in with us until you figure something else out. No way can you commute from Midvale every day.”
“That would be perfect, thank you, Alex!” Kara’s phone vibrates with an e-mail—it’s from Lex Luthor with the details on the interview. “Okay, I gotta get ready, wish me luck!”
Rather than risk traffic and face the certain impossibility of finding an open spot in midtown Metropolis, Kara drives to Alex and Kelly’s apartment and leaves her car there. She takes a bus the rest of the way, watching out the window as the squat warehouse buildings and small bars of Alex’s hipster neighborhood give way to taller buildings, and then sleek skyscrapers when she reaches the center of the city.
She makes it to the LBC Tower in the heart of midtown with more than two hours to spare before her interview. LBC is the tallest building in a four block radius and, from this perspective, it’s inspiring and imposing at the same time. Stepping off the bus and cheerfully thanking the driver, Kara looks around the open plaza at the base of the limestone skyscraper. The space is dominated by two large fountains set on clean concrete pavers alongside tasteful, manicured planters. There’s a steady flow of important looking people in suits streaming in and out of the central revolving doors.
I look like I belong at this network, Kara thinks, adjusting her glasses and catching her reflection in a window as she wanders around the plaza. The tweed blazer and slim chinos she chose make her feel confident, her cross-body bag swung over a shoulder. She decides she’s going to kill time going over her show ideas. And maybe grabbing a bite to eat, she amends, eyeing the stands of food vendors on both sides of the busy crosstown street in front, separating LBC from a municipal park across the way.
Waiting in line at a hot dog cart on the corner where she got off the bus, Kara thinks about how cool this job would be. LBC has one of the oldest news departments in network television; they’ve won more journalism and broadcasting awards over the years than any of the other big networks—even ABC and NBC. Sure, the show she’s interviewing for, Daybreak, hasn’t won any awards lately, but it’s a real morning show on a real network. Who cares if it’s struggling a little bit? Not every network can have Good Morning America. A junior producer position here could be the start of great things.
She takes her food across the street to the beautiful park that takes up the whole block directly across from the plaza. The lush spring foliage makes a pleasant green barrier capable of absorbing all but the most enthusiastic honking and yelling from the nearby avenues. Surrounded on all sides by gleaming buildings and the bustle of the city, and ringed by a low stone wall with regular entryways, the tree canopy makes it feel like an oasis in the concrete desert.
Kara decides to eat her first hot dog at a bench midway down the block, looking back across the street at LBC. A pigeon lands on the bench next to her, cooing hopefully at the crumpled foil. Kara tries shooing it away. “Get your own hot dog,” she says. The pigeon just cocks a grey head at her, fluffs the iridescent feathers on its neck.
“Fine.” Kara sighs. She's always been susceptible to a good pout, even on a bird face. She breaks off a tiny corner of the bun and throws it on the ground. “The internet says bread isn’t very nutritional for you, you know.”
The pigeon hops down, grabs the scrap, and bobs away. “What, no thank you?” Kara can’t help laughing.
She finishes eating, people-watches for a few minutes, and then pulls out her notes to review.
After flipping through her notebook for a couple of hours (and making one return trip to the cart for a third hotdog), Kara finally glances at her watch and carefully wipes the ketchup off her fingers. She chucks the wax paper and foil into a trash can, and jogs across the street, then checks her outfit again in the windows just across the plaza from LBC’s main entrance. After adjusting her shirt collar, she wipes down her glasses before tucking her hem in straight. Lex Luthor isn’t going to know what hit him.
Kara walks into the cavernous lobby at ten minutes to three and makes her way across the dark marble floor, looking around and feeling like a kid on their first trip to DisneyLand. The enormity of the overall space is emphasized by the presence of evenly spaced structural columns with Art Deco motifs, and there are gorgeous pieces of art on the cream colored walls, above matching marble benches. The lobby is bisected about thirty feet in by a security desk with a line of turnstiles on either side, two banks of elevators and a double pair of escalators another twenty feet behind the barrier. Along the left wall is an exhibit of all the current show posters and stills from some of their famous broadcasts going back to the fifties.
She heads straight to the main desk, per Lex’s instructions.
“Hi,” Kara squints at the woman’s badge, holding out her own drivers license,” Vasquez! I’m Kara Danvers, I’m here for—“
“Danvers, Danvers,” says the woman behind the desk, scanning a list in front of her. “Oh, here you are. Daybreak, huh?”
“Yes ma’am!” Kara smiles.
“Sure.” The security guard looks at her license dubiously. “Okay, well, here’s your badge. Scan it at the turnstile to my left. Then head over to the right bank of elevators and scan it again at the kiosk. Check in at the desk once you’re on the right floor.”
“Thank you!” Kara flashes the woman a big smile.
“Good luck, Kara Danvers.” The woman gives Kara a distracted smile in return, already looking at the person who came in behind her, and waves her towards the elevators.
She follows Vasquez’s directions and is whisked up to the forty-fifth floor. As soon as she exits the elevator, an assistant seated at a massive desk greets her and directs her past a sitting area and through large double doors into an office labeled, Lex Luthor, President, Television & Streaming Programming.
Where the lobby is ornate, Lex’s office is minimalistic. To the left of the doors, there’s a modern couch in supple-looking light brown leather on a shiny steel frame and two matching chairs arranged around a low glass table, a tall set of identical glass shelves with more trophies and award plaques on them than books against the far wall, and a giant desk clearly from the same catalogue is in front of floor-to-ceiling windows on the right side of the office. It’s a little cold and impersonal for Kara’s taste, but maybe, when you’re an executive, warm and fuzzy isn’t the vibe you go for.
“Kara Danvers!” Lex gets up from behind the desk, the windows behind him affording Kara the best view of the Metropolis skyline that she’s ever had. “It’s great to meet you. No trouble finding us?”
“Nope!” Kara shakes his hand and Lex gestures for her to take a seat on the couch along the wall. It’s even softer than it looks. “It’s such a pleasure, Mr. Luthor.”
“Please, call me Lex.” He sinks into a chair opposite her and crosses one leg, balancing his right ankle on his left knee, and smoothing out his pants.
“Thank you for having me in, Lex.” She can't entirely contain her curiosity about getting a call from the man himself. "I'm so honored you called, I expected to schedule with a secretary or someone."
Lex chuckles. "Normally you would have. Let's just say I'm particularly invested in finding the perfect person for this position." He smiles. “So, I just got off the phone with one of your references, J’onn J’onzz. He says you’re very talented and an incredibly hard worker; the most promising producer he’s ever fired, in fact.”
“J’onn’s great!” Kara makes a note to send J’onn a thank you fruit basket. “I’ve worked for him for the last eight years. Couldn’t ask for a better boss.”
“That’s great, that’s great,” says Lex, nodding. “So, you’re a fan of our morning program?”
“Yes!” Kara smiles. “I think it has so much potential and—“
“Yeah, yeah, we know it's terrible.” Lex laughs as if this doesn’t matter to him. “Perpetually in fourth place behind The Today Show, Good Morning America, and that thing on CBS, whatever it’s called.”
“Well,” Kara hedges, “sure, it’s got room—“
“It’s a source of constant humiliation.” Lex interrupts her. “Last year, in the network softball league, the CBS team wore hats that said, ‘At least we're not Daybreak.’ Most of our small regional affiliates don’t even run the show after their own morning news program—they run infomercials instead. The anchors of the show are,” Lex spreads the fingers on his right hand and raises it a couple of inches from where it had been resting on his leg, tilts it back and forth, “semi-talented.”
“I think Andrea Rojas is a pro,” Kara tries.
“Heinous,” Lex counters.
“And Morgan Edge, he’s, ah, a solid reporter.” Kara knows she’s reaching. Edge is a notorious moron.
“He’s foul, and also a lawsuit waiting to happen.” Lex settles back in his chair, eyes on Kara. It feels a little like he’s trying to see how she’ll react.
“Okay,” Kara says, sitting up straighter on the couch and summoning as much enthusiasm as she can, “is Daybreak a crappy show right now? Yes, but it’s on a network.” Lex’s eyebrows go up, but he doesn’t stop her so Kara continues. “And not just any network. This is one of the most legendary news divisions in the entire history of television! Daybreak just needs someone who believes in it, who understands that a national platform is an invaluable resource, that no story is too low or too high to reach for!”
Lex is looking at her with his mouth slightly open, forehead wrinkled by how high his eyebrows still are. He waits for a second to see she’s done and, when Kara doesn’t continue, he asks, “Are you going to break out into song?”
“No,” Kara says, regretting a little of her energy. “Look, Mr. Luthor, Lex—“
Lex interrupts her again. “Daybreak's facilities are antiquated. It's understaffed, underfunded. And the pay. God. It's awful, about half of what you made at Hey, How The Hell Are You, Midvale.” He starts ticking the points off on his fingers. “You've never been an executive producer. You're too young. Nobody's ever heard of you.”
“Executive producer?” Kara asks, suddenly confused, she slouches back a tiny bit. “I’m not here for that job, I’m applying for the junior position.”
Lex waves his hand dismissively. “We’ve already filled that internally.”
Shoot. Kara can feel her heart sinking. She might as well make her case since she’s here, even though Lex doesn’t seem remotely impressed with her.
“Did J’onn tell you that I’ve basically been running ‘Morning Midvale for the last two years, that I’ve had experience directing, being the lead producer—that I’ve worked basically every position there is to work on a morning show?” Kara takes a breath, inching forward on the couch as she straightens again. Lex frowns slightly, but Kara’s just warming up. Impassioned speeches are what she does. “Daybreak needs what I need, Mr. Luthor, someone who believes that it can succeed. Trust me, I know you don't have any reason to believe in me, but I work harder than anyone else. I'm in first, I'm out last. I devote myself completely to my job. It's what I do. It's all I am. I...You can ask anyone—“
Kara doesn’t realize that she’s moved all the way to the edge of the couch until she almost falls off it. She immediately sits back, but she can see the small moue of displeasure on Lex’s face, and she already knows she’s come on too strong. The damage is done.
“Well, that’s embarrassing,” he says.
He’s giving her the same dubious look that the security guard had given her license—like maybe she’s counterfeit. Kara can’t help feeling a little angry. Why did he even call her in if he thinks she’s so unqualified? It’s just mean. Kara looks at her lap and decides to cut her losses. She stands up before Lex can tell her to leave, grabs her messenger bag from the floor, and heads to the door.
“Thanks for the opportunity,” she says, turning back to Lex, who’s still sitting in the chair, his brows just barely furrowed in confusion. She pulls the door open. “I’ll see myself out.”
As she walks back to the elevator bank, past the assistant, and then into an elevator in a daze, Kara wonders how exactly that went so wrong. How could she blow a chance like that? Now LBC probably won’t even consider her for a junior position, if one does ever open up again. Why can’t she ever just keep her mouth shut, just be normal, and not be too much?
Kara stands motionless in the middle of the elevator and stares, unseeing, at the back wall, then drops her shoulders and sighs. She hears the clip of heels as someone enters behind her, but she’s distracted, still replaying the disastrous final moments with Lex. She startles when the person behind her clears their throat.
“You know, the buttons are on the front wall, right?” a voice offers. It’s a lovely voice, a little amused but not mean.
“What?” Kara turns around.
Kara feels her mouth open again but no sound comes out. There’s a woman in the elevator with her, pointing towards the floor selection panel, and, normally, that wouldn’t be enough to make Kara’s brain white out like this, but this woman might be the most beautiful person that Kara has ever seen. Dark hair, perfect cheekbones, a jaw to die for...Kara looks down the woman’s body, tries processing the black skirt suit and red blouse (it matches her lipstick, her brain supplies unhelpfully), but then gets stuck on high heels that look like they could double as weaponry.
The woman clears her throat again and Kara looks back at her face. The woman’s eyes are laughing, Kara can’t decide if they’re green or blue, and she’s clearly resisting a smirk.
Kara feels herself kick back into gear. “Oh. Oh gosh. I’m sorry. I’m just. Yes. Lobby. I’m going to the lobby.” Kara closes her mouth as the woman hits the lobby button.
Great, apparently word vomit is just going to be a thing that happens to her today. First the job interview and now Kara’s making a fool of herself in front of someone too pretty to be real.
“Good day?” The woman asks.
Kara leans against the opposite wall and closes her eyes. “I don’t think so, no.”
The elevator doors start to close.
“Shame,” the woman offers and Kara opens her eyes again. The woman looks like she might be about to add something else when the movement of the doors is arrested by an enormous handbag being shoved violently between them at the last possible moment.
Kara looks at the small blonde woman struggling to pry the doors apart from the outside and feels her jaw drop open. It’s Cat Grant, quite possibly the most celebrated television journalist of the last two decades. Sure, there was that whole on-air breakdown a couple years ago where she cursed out some poor radio jock—now that Kara thinks about it, Ms. Grant hasn’t been on the air since. But, gosh. Cat Grant is stepping into an elevator with her and, honestly, it doesn’t matter that this day has been so crappy, because Ms. Grant is one of her heroes and now she’s here, standing in practically the same space.
Cat finally succeeds in getting the doors open and she steps into the elevator with a huff, smoothing down the front of her dress. Kara’s next thought is that she’s so much tinier in person than she appears on TV. Cat reaches past the other woman to press the ‘lobby’ button, in spite of the fact that it’s already illuminated.
Kara chews on the inside of her cheek for a moment. She has to say something, she’ll never forgive herself if she doesn’t.
“Ms. Grant,” she starts, breaking into a huge grin. Cat turns to Kara as if she’s just noticed there’s another person in the elevator. Kara barrels on. “I am such a huge admirer of yours. My whole family watched you growing up.” Kara takes a step closer as the elevator starts to descend. “Of all the anchors, you were, by far, the greatest reporter. I mean, when you were in Kosovo, it was like I was in Kosovo.”
Cat turns away from Kara, to the other woman in the elevator. “Should I assume you’re responsible for her?” Her voice is dripping with disdain.
“No,” the woman says, putting her hands up. “I’m just here to work the elevator.”
Cat turns back to Kara. “Are you done?” She couldn’t look any grumpier if she were actually trying.
“Yes,” Kara says, smile fading a bit. “Yes, sorry.”
They ride in silence for the next twenty floors, Cat furiously tapping away at her phone and Kara looking down at her shoes and tugging on the strap of her bag. The elevator dings as they arrive in the lobby.
“You’re in my way.” Cat gestures at where Kara had moved in her excitement: she’s standing directly in front of the doors.
“Right,” Kara says, shifting to the side. “Sorry about that.”
Cat sweeps out of the elevator and Kara hears a chuckle from the woman standing across from her. The woman offers a small smile and shakes her head in what might be commiseration, then moves to leave the elevator, too.
“Wait!” Kara says. “You know her!"
“Yes, I do.” The woman grimaces, one foot out of the elevator, glancing after Cat. “She’s the third worst person in the world.” She looks at Kara for a second, her expression softening. “I hope your day gets better,” she offers and then walks into the lobby.
The elevator doors close before Kara realizes that she needs to get out.
Kara leaves LBC in the beginnings of a funk. As she makes her way back through the lobby and then out the doors onto the plaza, she doesn’t even appreciate the warm afternoon sunshine—the hopeful mood she spent most of the day in is now firmly soured. Kara mentally ticks through everything that went wrong in the last hour. First, the interview itself, then Kara made a total fool of herself in front of a woman so gorgeous she should probably be in front of a camera instead of behind it, and, finally, it turns out Cat Grant is a real stick in the mud in real life.
Eliza always says bad things come in threes, so, with any luck, maybe that means the weekend will turn things around for her.
Kara is heading back to the bus stop, walking past an especially large planter near the edge of the plaza and absentmindedly admiring the meticulous pruning on the trees, but mostly thinking about how many potstickers it’s going to take to salvage this day, when her phone rings. She picks it up without even bothering to look at the caller ID.
“Kara Danvers?” Lex Luthor’s voice comes through.
“Yes?” Kara answers, putting on her best customer service voice. Kara’s not sure why he’s calling. She doesn’t need him to tell her it didn’t go well.
“Do you really think you can do this job?”
“I know I can do it,” Kara says firmly, hope rising in her chest. “I promise.”
“You start on Monday after the show. Be here by 10:30.” Lex hangs up.
The whoop of joy Kara lets out startles every single pigeon in earshot.
Kelly and Alex take her out for pizza to celebrate.
With Eliza’s help, they move all of Kara’s stuff into their spare room the next day. Before she leaves Midvale, Kara sells her car to the 16 year old daughter of her downstairs neighbors for $200, and throws in a bottle of automotive oil with a warning that the kid should “probably add the oil soon, like today.” She won’t be needing a car in Metropolis and she can always borrow Alex’s or rent one if she wants to drive to Eliza’s for dinner.
As Kara looks around on Sunday night at their guest bedroom—now her bedroom, she supposes—crammed to the ceiling with everything she owns, she can’t help the enormous smile on her face. If everything goes well, she’ll be able to find a place of her own soon, but for now, this is pretty much perfect.
She’s about to be the Executive Producer of a major morning show, on one of the most celebrated neworks of all time. Gosh, if only her parents could see her: working for the same network they all watched together when Kara was growing up. It’s almost too good to be true.
She spends forever deciding on the right outfit, finally settling on a navy blazer with a light blue oxford shirt, deep grey slacks, and dark brown loafers. There, Kara thinks, standing back to admire the outfit draped over her desk chair, that’ll tell everyone she’s ready to do this job right.
Laying in the dark, starfished on her bed and too excited to go to sleep, Kara plays through how her first day might go. She’s got so many ideas already. Daybreak has just gotten stale, and with a little effort and some encouragement, Kara has no doubt they can start turning things around.
Almost all of the show segments are done in the studio, which gets visually monotonous after too long, and they aren’t very imaginative with their bookings. It’s gotten boring to watch. Maybe she can get the anchors out for some fun ‘on the street’ style stories, broaden the entertainment they bring in, and inject some life back into everything. I mean, thinks Kara as she turns over underneath her sheets and tries to get comfortable, who wants to bake brownies with Celine Dion’s personal chef? Nobody’s heard of him.
So what if she’s never been an executive producer before? She’s going to be the best executive producer Daybreak has ever had.
Alex must have been needed at the hospital and Kelly has already left for an early morning client when Kara gets up on Monday morning. There’s a post it note on the fridge confirming that Alex was paged in and telling her to “eat whatever.”
Kara takes her time making coffee, then watches Daybreak when it comes on at seven as she eats cereal, grimacing at the programming during the intro package. The special guest teased in the first hour is some hockey mascot and the news coverage is fairly dismal—Andrea Rojas is making an honest effort as the main anchor, but her co-anchor, Morgan Edge, seems more interested in leering at the neckline of Andrea’s pinstripe shirt than he is in reading from his prompter.
This is exactly the kind of programming Kara will put a stop to—Andrea needs something to work with and Morgan could do with some better material to hold his attention.
She opens her e-mail on her laptop, puts the TV on mute in the background, and pulls up the budgets and general programming documents that Lex had his assistant send her on Friday night. Kara reviews everything one last time and jots down a couple of line item questions in her notebook.
At eight thirty, Kara shuts the TV off, throws everything she’ll need into her messenger bag, and heads to the bathroom to shower.
It’s a gorgeous morning when she steps outside, still cool but with the same hint of warmth in the air from Friday. Kara catches the bus at 9:15 and makes her way to midtown, pulling her notes out again and adding another segment idea as the buildings fly by. She’s still got about forty minutes to kill when she gets to LBC, so she drinks a second cup of coffee sitting at the same bench in the park and scopes out the falafel stand ten yards away.
At just after ten, Kara walks into the building and up to the same security guard from the previous week.
”It’s Daybreak, right?” Vasquez asks her. “You a new intern?”
“Uh, no!” replies Kara, a little startled. “I’m the new Executive Producer!”
“Huh,” Vasquez says, looking at Kara with the same skeptical expression as she had on Friday and handing her an ID. “Don’t unpack.”
Kara frowns. She’s about to ask why Vasquez would say such a thing, and whether that’s a first or last name, when a deep voice calls out from behind her.
Kara turns around to see two people making their way toward her across the marble floor. The first, a tall man dressed in a violet button down and grey slacks she recognizes immediately as Kelly’s brother James. They’ve met a few times—Kelly had even tried to set them up at one point, but it hadn’t gone anywhere. He’s flanked by a slim young woman in a loose, light blue linen dress.
“Hi James, it’s great to see you again. It’s been too long!” Kara says as they approach, smile stretching across her face.
“Agreed.“ James smiles back. “Well, I’m your—“
“Lead director for Daybreak !” Kara pumps his outstretched hand. “I’m so excited we’re going to be working together.”
“Likewise, Kara.” He turns to the women next to him. “And this is Nia Nal, she’s your junior producer.”
“Hi Ms. Danvers. It is so great to meet you!” Kara shakes her hand, too. “James has already told me all about you and I looked up old tapes from ‘Morning Midvale and I just have to say, the show really got so much better when you were bumped to producer four years ago, I mean, the breadth of stories really makes a local show, you know? Your segments were always the best—”
James clears his throat, and Nia turns bright red and lets go of Kara’s hand.
“Follow me,” says James. “They're just cleaning up the set, so we came up to grab you. We’ll give you a tour, introduce you to the anchors, and then you can join us for the post-show meeting and Monday round table.”
“So, Nia, right?” Nia nods at Kara as they start walking back through the lobby, scanning their badges at the security gates. “How long have you been with Daybreak?”
“Just under a year,” Nia says. “I was a production assistant until six days ago, but after William left us two weeks ago, and our senior producer quit, I got moved up! It’s so great to have you, I had to do the whole show by myself yesterday; at least they’d already planned it out.”
Nia sounds so excited that it takes Kara a moment to process the fact that she’s just revealed several worrying things, a major piece of which is that apparently Daybreak can’t keep a producer in any position for long. Kara swallows hard. She’s been hoping that there would be experienced staff to help her manage the transition; now she’s just worried about there being any staff. At least Nia hadn’t chosen the hockey mascot.
“Well, congratulations on your promotion,” she manages. Nia’s energetic and the fact that she’d searched out Kara’s old tapes sometime in the last two days probably means she’s pretty driven—Kara can work with that. James eyes her like he’s wondering how Kara’s taking the news and Kara turns to him. “James, if I’m remembering right, you’ve been at LBC for five years?”
“Sure have,” he says, nodding. The three of them make their way over to a set of down escalators hidden behind the elevator bank. “I was a director in the online media division for The Daily Planet for seven before that. That’s how I know your cousin.”
Kara hopes her sigh of relief is internal. At least James has some solid experience. She’s going to need the inside track on the show if she’s going to get up to speed quickly enough not to get fired her first week out. “You never entertained the idea of moving over the production side for Daybreak?” she finds herself asking. “Surely given your experience you’d be a good fit.”
“Oh, no,” James says, laughing. “No way.” He stops laughing. “It’s a great job, though, I’m sure you’ll love it.” The slightly pained expression his face when he says that does not inspire confidence.
On the escalator down to the basement where Daybreak is housed, James explains that the tech and off-camera side of the operation is mostly older hands like him, production being the exception.
As they get deeper into the tower, Kara can’t help noticing that the hallways and rooms they pass are a mess compared to the art-deco beauty of the lobby or the glass-corporate chic of the executive floor. Maybe industrial-apocalypse is a decorating style?
The ceiling is a mishmash of exposed ductwork and bundles of cords, the sporadically placed fluorescent lights buzz and flicker rather ominously. Stepping under a massive polyester palm tree that’s been shoved next to a styrofoam Santa, Kara almost trips over what looks like a human skeleton. She desperately hopes it’s a halloween decoration.
“Sorry about that,” Nia says, kicking a femur out of the way and under a filing cabinet. “The writers got forced out of their room when it flooded a month ago, and we had to move them into the prop room for a few weeks. Nobody’s had time to move anything back. The leak is fixed now, sort of? But, honestly, I kinda don’t want to tempt fate, you know?”
Kara nods and clutches the strap of her messenger bag tightly across her chest. She doesn’t want to ask what sort of means.
“Through here is the nerve center for Daybreak, ” James says, waving his hand at a massive fire door with a flourish as they approach it. “The entire team, more or less, has their desks on the other side of this door; and the writers room, producer offices, and the dressing rooms are also through here.”
“Damn,” he grimaces when the handle pops off as Nia tries to pull open the door, “that was one of our good doorknobs.”
Kara looks at James to see if he’s joking, but he’s just rubbing the back of his head in frustration.
So, not joking, then. Great.
As Nia tries to reattach the knob, James starts telling Kara about the on-air talent.
Of the two anchors, Andrea Rojas has been around for the last eight years, while Morgan Edge was hired last year (“To be honest, the second chair is kind of a revolving door,” James adds “the powers that be keep insisting that it be a man, but I’m not sure that’s worked out for them”). Kara catches some sarcasm in his tone at that, but before she can ask him what that’s about, James is already talking about the weather guy, Querl “Brainy” Dox (“Weird but great, pretty sure that’s a job requirement for weather guys, you know?”), and the color story reporter, Siobhan Smythe. She can’t miss Nia’s eye roll at Siobhan’s name and Kara finally interrupts James when he pauses for breath.
“What’s wrong with Siobhan?” She asks. Nia and James look at each other. The doorknob chooses that moment to pop back on with a satisfying click and Nia pulls the door open as if it’s made of broken glass.
“Well,” Nia starts, but James puts up his hand to stop her as they finally walk into the open bullpen of the Daybreak offices.
The space reminds Kara of every backstage area she’s ever seen—only somehow more crowded and chaotic. The room is actually two stories tall and the extra vertical is a relief to Kara after the claustrophobic, sub-basement hallways that preceded it. There’s a metal catwalk about twelve feet up which circles the entire room along the walls, providing access to half a dozen second floor offices and accessed by ladder-like staircases breaking up the corners on either side. The main floor is filled with tables, cubicles, clothing racks, and shelving placed so randomly that the overall effect is more like a horizontal anthill than anything conducive to work. Dozens of people are milling about, or sitting at desks and talking, and, somehow, absolutely none of them look like they’re doing anything productive.
“Kara, we want to give you a chance to form your own first impressions, okay?” James smiles at her when she finishes taking in the scene. “We’ll be happy to help you get a feel for anyone once you’ve met them.”
That sounds...exceedingly fair. It’s what Kara would hope for herself if she were a current employee. She nods. “Okay, who should I meet first?”
“Andrea Rojas, for sure,” Nia says. “She’ll be upset if she’s not your first stop.”
James nods in agreement, then clears his throat. “Find me before you see Edge, though, okay? I’ll go with you. And we’ve got the morning post-meeting in twenty. I’ll introduce you to the staff then and we can get rolling on the week.”
“Why would you go with me?” Kara furrows her brow, but someone is calling for James’s attention from across the room.
“Just find me, okay?” He flashes her another smile and jogs away.
“Andrea’s dressing room is right in that corner, past all the weird band instruments,” Nia says brightly. “That reminds me, I need to call that high school and see if they’re coming back for any of it. One of our writers almost broke his ankle on the tuba last week.” She smiles at Kara. “I’ll be in my cubicle if you need me. Just shout!”
And with that, Nia disappears into the warren of desks, leaving Kara to walk across to Andrea’s door by herself.
Kara steps over a pile of trumpets and pauses in front of the door, decorated with a framed glamour shot of Andrea competing in Miss Universe for Argentina. She tugs on her sleeves, then glances down at her front to make sure she hasn’t somehow spilled coffee on her shirt or gotten breakfast on her pants. Satisfied, she knocks once.
“Come in,” Kara hears from inside.
She opens the door, remembering what Nia had said about being gentle with the knob, and steps over the threshold into a cramped dressing room.
Andrea Rojas is sitting, back to the door, at a theater-style vanity, the rectangular mirror surrounded by round bulbs. She’s still in her outfit from the broadcast—a pinstripe button up with a wide collar and black slacks—and she’s perched on a low stool taking off makeup. She looks at Kara in the mirror.
“You’re not my postmates.” Andrea frowns.
“No, sorry, I’m not.” Kara offers a big smile to soften the blow and closes the door gently behind her, before extending her hand to Andrea. She spares a second to think that Andrea is even prettier in person, but reminds herself that she’s here in a professional capacity. “I’m Kara Danvers, the new Executive Producer! It’s great to meet you.”
Andrea rolls her eyes and makes no move to get up.
Kara lets her hand drop back to her side, feeling a little nervous now for reasons that have nothing to do with Andrea’s bone structure. She looks around the room quickly. The only other seating is a couch on the far side of the dressing room, but it’s covered in shopping bags. Kara decides to stay put by the door.
Andrea hums. “Do you know how many EP's I've had in the past eight years?” She goes back to looking at her own reflection in the mirror, tucks her long hair behind her ears, and continues taking off her mascara methodically as if Kara isn’t even there.
“Eleven.” Andrea interrupts her, without so much as a glance. “If they're stupid, they get fired, and if they're smart, they quit.” She gestures back at Kara. “And now look what I get.”
“Well,” Kara tries again, fiddling with the strap on her bag, “I can imagine it’s been a little rough with the ratings, but I’m confident that—“
“That’s cute.” Andrea tosses the wipe she’s using into a small trash can next to her stool and turns around. “You think we just need a little confidence to get us out of last place?“ She stands up and brushes past Kara as she walks over to a clothing rack set next to the door. “Do you think I enjoy working for a network that spends more on one episode of a dating show about zoo animals than it does on our entire weekly budget?”
“No,” Kara says, “But—“
“And I’ve never had a decent co-anchor, ever,” Andrea continues, steamrolling over Kara, and starting to unbutton her shirt. Kara averts her eyes. “It’s just a revolving door of cretinous morons, of which Morgan is simply the latest iteration. Our ratings are in the shitter. I mean, how long can the show even limp along like this?”
Kara risks a glance back down but Andrea is now in only her bra and underwear with her back to Kara. Kara feels her entire body blush. She covers her eyes and flounders for a moment, tries to remember what it was she was saying. She can hear Andrea moving hangers around.
“I know that everyone's been through a lot,” Kara starts, ”and I know that there's been so many challenges along the way. But, I really think—“
“Jesus Christ you can look now,” Andrea says, grumpy, as if she’d been hoping Kara was looking the whole time. She’s changed into jeans and a sleeveless black blouse. “Look, nothing against you, but you’re going to fail like everyone else and then you'll be gone, like everyone else.” Andrea adjusts the hem of her shirt, tucks in the front, and then gives Kara a withering glare. “And me? I will still be here, pulling the train up the hill with my teeth.” She looks Kara up and down. “I mean, come on, you’re what, fifteen?”
“We’re the same age!” Kara says, indignantly. “I looked you up on wikipedia.”
“Right, whatever.” Andrea rolls her eyes, walking past Kara to the door. “Welcome to Daybreak. Enjoy the pain, Gidget.”
Andrea grabs for the doorknob and lets out a cry of frustration when it pops off in her hand. Kara reaches over to help, but Andrea ignores her. “I’ve done this a thousand times,” she says, smacking Kara’s hand away.
“I’m going to fix that,” Kara calls after her, but Andrea is already down the hall, muttering something about a postmates delivery and vodka.
Kara sighs and steps back into the hall, pulling Andrea’s door closed behind her. Heading down the narrow path between cabinets of god knows what and a set of enormous shelves with old tapes, she spots the salt and pepper hair of Morgan Edge.
Kara looks at her watch, the morning meeting is in about ten minutes and she doesn’t have time to track down James in order to talk to Morgan. She’s sure it’ll be fine.
“Mr. Edge? Morgan?” Kara walks quickly to catch up with him as he reaches his own dressing room, an absolutely absurd life-size poster of him in a three piece suit affixed to the door. It’s been photoshopped in a couple areas that Kara would rather not think about. She looks away quickly and meets Morgan’s leer in person, instead.
“Yes?” He’s not even looking at her face right now.
“Hi! I’m Kara Danvers, your new EP.” Kara sticks out her hand and Morgan takes it. He doesn’t shake it, though, just holds it and runs his thumb over the back of her hand.
“Thrilled to meet you,” he says, still not letting go of her hand. Kara is getting the heebie jeebies.
“I was just thinking,” Kara says, disengaging awkwardly and figuring that what went wrong with Andrea was that she didn’t take initiative quickly enough, “maybe we could go over a few ideas. I’m hoping maybe we could get you on the street and do some remotes.”
“Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me,” Morgan says, shaking his head. “I don't like to leave the studio. I like climate control.” Morgan is still looking somewhere in the vicinity of her chest. He reaches up and loosens his tie. “But, if you want, we could discuss this further privately. What size are your feet?”
“I’m sorry?” Kara says. She must have misheard him. Feet?
“You wear about an eight? Eight and a half?” He’s looking down at her loafers now. Kara wishes she’d waited for James. “How do you feel about having them photographed?”
“What?” Kara must have missed something.
“Good?” Morgan finally looks at her face, he seems hopeful. “Feel good about that? You should, I keep them very classy.”
“I...I don’t…” She’s is at a complete loss now.
“Can I show you my blog? ‘Sexy Feet?’” Morgan asks, gesturing to his dressing room. There is no way in heck Kara is entering that space.
“Um, no...” she says, laughing nervously, and taking a small step back. Maybe he’s joking. Her back hits the shelf with the tapes.
“Yes?” He asks, leaning toward her just a bit, his innocent smile completely at odds with this whole conversation.
“No!” Kara says firmly, straightening her spine and trying to make herself as physically imposing as possible.
“Fine. Your loss.” Morgan makes a face like she’s just kicked him, then turns and walks into his dressing room, slamming the door.
Kara stares at the door for a moment, wondering exactly how Morgan still has a job in broadcasting and thinking back to Lex’s comment about lawsuits. That’s going to be a problem she’ll have to deal with eventually—possibly sooner rather than later, if he’s like this with everyone.
She looks down at her watch. She’s got five minutes to find James or Nia to make sure she’s in the right place for the morning meeting. Remembering what Nia had said about just shouting for her, Kara takes another look around and then cups her hand to her mouth.
“Nia?!” She tries.
There’s a loud crash from somewhere across the space and Kara sees what appear to be books falling from a high shelf as Nia’s voice calls “Timber!” before she suddenly pops up in front of Kara like she’d been there the whole time.
“Ah, morning meeting? Where is it?” Kara is really struggling to keep her face neutral. Don’t look alarmed, project calm, she thinks to herself.
“Follow me!” Nia turns and leads Kara through the maze at the center of the room, weaving around cubicles and narrowly avoiding the piles of tapes and random props that are piled precariously on nearly every available surface. Kara is pleased to note that Nia seems to know everyone as they walk through, greeting folks and asking about family or weekends. If Nia is a little green in terms of experience, it’s nice to see that she clearly has the people skills Kara is going to need once they start changing the show around.
Nia leads her into a large room just off the bullpen. There’s an enormous rectangular table, with what must be fifteen chairs around it, and another twenty lining the walls. James pops in behind them.
“Sorry to disappear on you, Kara, I was going over layouts for tomorrow’s fourth segment. I’ll go with you to meet Edge after this.”
“Too late,” Kara says, rolling her eyes and not even bothering to hide her disgust. Normally she’s all about giving people more than one chance to show who they are, but sometimes you can just tell right off the bat.
“You okay?” James asks, looking a little concerned.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” Kara says, then smiles and brings her hands together. “Okay, how does this generally work?”
People are filtering in around them, clearly taking their usual seats and chit-chatting idly, and the room is filling up quickly.
Nia pipes up. “Usually, we do a round robin of issues in the upcoming week, plus a segment pitch from writers and talent. Any equipment issues or budget concerns, too.”
“Great,” Kara says. James gestures to a seat for her and she takes her bag off, pulls out a notebook and a pen, and tucks it under her chair. “Who normally attends?”
“Pretty much everyone—this is the one time of day for folks across the staff to be able to bring things up and troubleshoot, since our early meeting is just production and direction,” Nia answers. “You’ll have someone from every department for sure, the on-air talent, the writers, us, and occasionally an exec from upstairs will sit in, but that’s generally only during sweeps when they’re trying to pitch spots or guests related to other LBC shows.”
That’s perfect, Kara thinks. She’ll get to meet almost all the staff at once and start to get a sense for where the strengths and weaknesses at Daybreak are across the show.
The weather guy, Brainy Dox says hello to Nia as he comes in and then sits down across the table, rolling up the sleeves on his button down with precision. Kara doesn’t miss the blush on either of their faces, but this is clearly not the time to bring it up. Nia and James take the seats on either side of her. Siobhan Smythe is already seated halfway around the table, still wearing the tight, dark grey shift dress she’d had on during the show. Andrea is the last one to walk into the room. She’s holding a large coffee mug, but Kara doesn’t smell any coffee. Morgan remains conspicuously absent.
“Hi everyone!” Kara starts brightly, looking around. Half the staff are on their phones or still talking to each other. “If I could just have your attention? Hi!”
It seems to work. Everyone finally looks at Kara.
“I’m Kara Danvers, your new EP. It’s so great to meet you all!” She smiles and looks around. The room doesn’t really seem to know how to react. “Since I’m new, can someone tell me if we’re waiting on anyone besides Morgan?”
Andrea snorts. “Edge, not here? So shocking.” Everyone laughs.
James leans over to Kara. “Forgot to mention, Morgan doesn’t usually attend these things. It’s generally better for everyone that way.”
Kara pauses for a moment. There are two options here. She can go with the flow, keep things as they are, and try not to be too disruptive while she gets up to speed. Or she can rock the boat.
Deciding that rocking the boat is what she’s here for, Kara looks at Nia. “Can you tell someone to go get Morgan? It’s important we’re all on the same page.”
Nia’s eyes go wide, but she scoots back and tells someone near the door to find Edge and bring him down. Kara sees Andrea looking at her, her eyes narrowed slightly.
“Thanks,” Kara says looking around the room. “Okay, well, let’s just dive in shall we? If we could start by going around the room, just give me your name, department, and whether you have any issues that need to be dealt with today, that would be great.”
“Hi, Winn Schott,” a young guy in a green sweater vest to Nia’s right says. “I’m with booking. Tomorrow Emeril wants to make lasagna. I told him we did that last week with the Barefoot Contessa, but he's insisting. What do I do?”
Kara starts writing down Lasagna? But, before she’s even gotten to the punctuation, the next person starts and, from there, it’s a veritable free-for-all.
“Gayle Marsh, wardrobe, for the segment on miniskirts, do you want all size models?”
“Next week, I want to do a piece on juice cleanses,” Siobhan interrupts. “All the celebs are doing them and they have amazing powers of rejuvenization.” Powers of what?, Kara thinks, but Siobhan continues. “My idea is that I get a juice cleanse and then we can, like, measure my toxins…”
“Kenny, set design. For the Carville interview, do you want the living room set or the stools?”
“Vicki, I’m with Winn, ABC says we can't have Brie Larson until two weeks after she does G.M.A. What do we do?”
They’re all talking over each other now. Kara puts her left hand up as she tries to get all of this down, but it’s starting to feel like a losing battle and no one even seems to notice. She gives up trying to write down more than one word from each person. Their food guy asks about cooking squash inside or out on the plaza, but then Vicki is back, asking whether Kara wants to accept the third lead in the new Wonder Woman movie, and someone who hasn’t even introduced themselves is breaking in to talk about a story out of Florida on retirement accounts and does Kara want to send a team or use local talent.
Kara feels like she’s in the middle of a shiver of sharks, and they’re all scenting for blood.
Someone (Jim? Jonathan?) asks about a psychic animals segment and whether she wants to go with a parakeet or an iguana, and then Brainy is chiming in, asking if he can do a segment on weather vanes.
“Did you know the word ‘vane’ comes from the Old English ‘fana,’ which means flag or weathercock?” He asks and Kara winces. She’s about to say absolutely not, but already another person is speaking, introducing herself as M’gann and talking about a sound board that’s on the fritz and how it’s going to cost ten grand to fix. Kara starts to answer (going over the budget this morning was a good idea) but Winn breaks in about a piece on baby food scheduled for Wednesday.
“Do we want an actual baby, and if so, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, blonde hair, brown hair, teeth, or no teeth?”
“I have a black baby at home,” someone offers from the back of the room, but Kara can barely hear them over the din.
“I'm sorry,” she tries, “I can't hear what you're saying. I…”
And that’s when Morgan makes his entrance.
“Hello! Hi, hi,” he says, and could he sound any less sincere? “Does someone wanna tell me why I had to log off BangingGrannies.com for this?”
“Asshole,” someone coughs. The room falls silent, everyone swiveling to look at Kara and how she’s going to handle him.
First things first. Kara puts both of her hands flat on the table, closes her eyes and takes a breath. She opens them, looks down at her notes, and starts talking quickly so that no one can interrupt her.
“Tell Emeril,” she starts, looking at Winn, “that if he insists on making lasagna, he will be bumped.” She turns to Gayle. “Yes, all size models, but skirts not too short. Toxins?” Kara looks around. “Who said that?”
Siobhan raises her hand.
“They can't be measured,” Kara says, narrowing her eyes. “And ‘rejuvenization?’ Not a word.” She glances down at her notebook and starts to run down the list. “Tell Larson’s people that she can't plug her next film unless we get her within a week of G.M.A. The plaza for squash. I want Gal Gadot—tell her people we'll run her in the first hour and she can talk about whatever her thing is. Definitely local talent. Parakeet.”
Kara can see each person writing down her answers. She keeps going, picking up steam.
“Brainy, weathercock? Seriously?” Kara raises an eyebrow and Brainy’s face shifts to one of realization, he nods. Kara continues. “We've got to fix that sound board. Find ten grand in the budget somewhere—the hair and makeup numbers, those were too high—so, Andrea, could you share your hair person with Siobhan?” Kara can see Andrea blanche but she can deal with that later. “That'd be great. Asian baby, no teeth, lesbian parents.”
Kara looks back down at her list, crossing everything off. “Did I miss anything?” She looks up smiling.
The room looks like a bunch of bobble heads, everyone shaking their heads and looking fairly impressed. Kara hears someone say, “Finally,” with no small measure of relief in their voice.
“Oh! One more thing,” Kara says, turning to where Morgan is already trying to leave. “Morgan?” He stops and looks back at Kara. She squares her shoulders. “You’re fired.”
The room is suddenly absolutely frozen.
“You’re adorable,” Morgan says, clearly not taking her seriously.
“F. I. R. E. D. Fired, Morgan.” Kara says and turns back to her notes to write it down. She can feel the room reacting around her, people are pulling their phones out and taking pictures of Morgan as he slams the door. She glances up, suddenly wondering if that was too much. “I’m sorry,” she starts, “that was unprofessional…”
But almost everyone in the room is now clapping, Winn is mock-genuflecting, and Andrea’s expression has gone from apoplexy to something that might be grudging respect. James actually guffaws.
“You know, when Clark told me your nickname was Supergirl, I didn’t know what to think. But I gotta say, I can see it now,” he laughs out, clapping Kara on the shoulder. “I think you might be just what Daybreak needs.
Kara turns to Nia. “Let’s pull some tapes, see if we can’t find a new anchor, okay?”
Nia nods enthusiastically. “I can do that! What’s next?”
Two hours later, Kara is exhausted and starving. She tells James and Nia that she’s going out to grab food and asks Nia to meet her in the EP’s office at two o’clock to start talking about replacements for Edge.
Making her way out of LBC Tower and into the sunlight, Kara almost wishes she’d left her jacket inside. It’s only gotten nicer since this morning, turning into one of those gorgeous spring days with a hint of early summer to come. The sky is a beautiful blue and, flush with the success of her first half day, Kara decides to reward herself with hot dogs in the park.
She stops at the stand just off the plaza and grabs two loaded dogs and a coke, then dashes across traffic to find a place to sit and soak up the sunshine.
When she crosses the street, Kara stops short at the edge of a running path into the park. The brunette from the elevator on Friday is sitting on a nearby bench about ten feet away—the bench Kara had occupied on Friday afternoon, actually.
The woman is dressed impeccably again and Kara can’t help the way her eyes wander, even as she tries to focus on the outfit instead of the skin on display—those sharp heels, another black skirt, but no blazer this time, and a sleeveless green silk shirt. Kara finds herself suddenly grateful that it’s unseasonably warm for mid April. She’s contemplating whether or not she should risk introducing herself, when the woman looks up and sees her.
“Get stuck in any elevators lately?” She’s smirking at Kara, but there’s something a little unsure on her face, like maybe she thinks Kara won’t remember seeing her three days before. As if. Kara had assumed it would be the other way around if they ever ran into each other.
“Oh no, you remember me.” Kara feels her face heat up as she clutches the hot dogs in her hands, trying not to squeeze the ketchup out of the foil. She nearly fumbles the food struggling to keep the can of soda tucked under her arm.
The woman smiles. “Even without a performance like that, you’d be hard to forget.” Kara watches as the woman starts to blush, it makes her look even prettier. “I’m almost done here, you’re welcome to my bench.”
“ Your bench?” Kara walks closer, spins once trying to figure out how she’s going to sit down without dropping everything and making a mess.
“I eat lunch here practically every day; a friend of mine has bribed my assistant to lock me out of the office for at least fifteen minutes to make sure I get some fresh air.” The woman rolls her eyes, but it seems more fond to Kara than anything else. She sets her nearly empty salad container aside and motions for Kara to hand over the hot dogs. “Here, let me.”
“Thanks,” Kara says, and it’s just in time because the can drops as soon as she’s relinquished the hot dogs. Kara catches it and sets it on the bench between them as she takes a seat, spreading a napkin over her slacks. “Better not open that while you’re still here.”
The woman laughs; it’s a wonderful sound, rich and bright—it matches her voice. “Better not.” She returns the hog dogs to Kara.
“I’m Kara, by the way. Kara Danvers. I just started at LBC today.” Kara looks down at the two foil wrapped hot dogs. She sets one down next to the can and starts to peel back the wrapper on the other.
“You’re the Kara Danvers?” Kara looks back up. The woman has one eyebrow raised and it's...distracting. Kara feels ketchup drop onto the napkin.
“Yes?” Kara says, taking a bite. “I mean, I think so,” she mumbles through the food. It’s rude to eat and talk, but she’s starving. “I’ve never met anyone else with my name.”
The woman laughs again. It makes Kara feel warm. “I mean, from Daybreak. You fired Morgan Edge about an hour ago?”
When Kara nods, the woman looks impressed and a little amused. It’s a good look on her.
“Already a hero on your first day,” she says, and Kara feels like glowing.
Kara swallows and shrugs. “Anyone in my position would have done it. I’m surprised he was still working here at all.” She smiles and takes another bite as the woman looks back at the remains of her own food.
“Same. It’s about time someone shook things up down there…” The woman trails off as she glances back at Kara. “You have a bit of—” She gestures to her own mouth and, if Kara thought the raised eyebrow was distracting, it’s got nothing on being given permission to stare at the woman’s mouth.
Even clearly having finished lunch, her lipstick application is practically perfect. Kara can see where it’s starting to wear a bit at the corners, the creases as the color thins, but the deep red looks so good on her.
The woman clears her throat. Kara’s eyes snap up. “Ketchup,” she says to Kara. “You have a little ketchup at the corner.”
“Oh. Oh! Thank you.” Kara wipes hastily at her own mouth, laughing a little nervously as she licks the ketchup off her fingers. “I’m a messy eater, always have been.”
Kara wants to smack herself. Seriously, why would she share that with someone? Kara can hear Alex cackling at her in her head.
The woman laughs a third time and, gosh, Kara wants to get ketchup all over herself if it’ll mean hearing that sound again.
The woman picks up a small strapless purse and then her salad container, closes the lid, and moves to stand up. “I’ll see you around Kara Danvers,” she says, smiling and starting to walk over to a nearby trash receptacle.
The woman stops and looks back at Kara, wearing a startled frown.
“Sorry. What’s your name?” Kara lowers the last bite of her hot dog. “You know mine, it’s only fair.”
The woman shifts her weight, pursing her lips and seeming to think about it. “I’m Lena,” she offers at last, watching Kara’s face.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Lena.” Kara gives her an enormous smile.
“Likewise.” Lena smiles back, then takes a breath. “I hope this isn’t the last time we talk.”
Kara watches Lena go, sees her pause at the street, then dart across awkwardly in her heels.
“Lena,” Kara says to herself, trying it out. She goes to take another bite of her hot dog and feels the ketchup drip from her thumb, dropping into her lap. Kara looks down at it; the blob has completely missed her napkin.
“Shoot!” She sets the hot dog in the wrapper on the bench next to her and dabs at her pants with a clean napkin. “Shoot shoot shoot.”
By the time she looks back, Lena has disappeared into the LBC Tower.
Kara sighs and leans back on the bench, looking up at the dappled greenery above her. Another five minutes in the fresh air, and she’ll go back to work, but she’s in such a good mood that not even a little ketchup stain can get in her way today.
Things are definitely looking up.
Lena stops by the bathroom on her way back from lunch, washes her hands and checks her makeup—she always wants an extra bit of armour presenting to the board like she has to this afternoon. Even after three years in the position, she still feels like they have a hard time responding to a 29 year old Chief of Advertising & Revenue. She smiles to herself as she touches up her lipstick, thinking about the way Kara Danvers stared at her mouth at the park. Lena knows she looks good in red, but she’d been surprised to find herself enjoying the attention so much. Kara is... intriguing might be the right word, though Lena can’t for the life of her figure out why. Maybe it’s that she can’t imagine the eager, excited woman from the elevator mustering up enough steel to take down Morgan Edge after thirty minutes on the job.
Lena caps the tube and tucks it back in her clutch. She glances down at her watch, surprised to see that it’s nearly two—well that’s more than enough daydreaming for one day. She’s just crossing in front of the desk by the elevators on her way back to her office when she hears her brother call out her name.
“Lena! There you are.” He’s walking out of his office. “I dropped by your desk a few minutes ago, but your assistant wasn’t there and Jess said you’d stepped out. Do you have a sec?” He looks distracted, both hands on his phone tapping away, his tie loose and tugged slightly off-center.
Lena sighs. “Sure, Lex. Walk with me?”
Lex nods without looking up. “So, this is the make or break quarter for some of our programming decisions.” He falls into step beside her, frowning at the device in his hands.
“Are you telling me this because you think I don’t know or are you telling me this because you’re still pushing for us to cut the rest of our news-related programs in favor of another zoo animal dating spin-off?” Lena asks, rolling her eyes. It’s like slipping into a well worn groove these days, having the same argument over and over with Lex.
“I’m telling you this,” Lex says, slipping his phone into his pants pocket and finally glancing over at Lena, “because I need you to start thinking with our checkbook instead of your heart.”
“Lex, don’t you think we have a duty to maintain programming that—“
“No, Lena, I think we have a duty to our shareholders and that duty is to maximize profits.”
They’ve reached the open door to her office, Hector’s desk still vacant outside. Lena can see Jess inside on the couch, going through last month’s metrics, papers spread out all over Lena’s coffee table.
“Look, Lena,” Lex starts, pausing and pulling his phone out again when it chimes, but looking back at her almost as quickly. “I know we just announced the Fall cancellations and renewals, but we need to be looking ahead already. We’ve got about ten weeks until the quarter ends and, then, by the time we’re midway through Q3, the board will be expecting final calls for our Spring schedule. You know I don’t like making decisions when we disagree.”
“You mean you don’t like recommending changes unless you can defend them to Mother.” Lena looks at her brother, feeling, not for the first time, like he doesn’t particularly care one way or the other what runs on LBC as long as it makes him money. Their mother, Lillian, may be CEO, but she’s been letting Lex take on more and more responsibility as she heads for retirement, and Lena is starting to dread what LBC might look like with her brother at the top.
“Po-tay-to, po-tah-to,” Lex hums, winking at her. “I just need to know you’ll play ball.”
“You know, there’s more than one way to think about corporate governance, Lex, and, given that you’re in charge of running our current programming, you’re actually in a position to do something about this that doesn’t involve trading quality content—” Lena cuts herself off with a sigh, trying to quell the urge to return to this familiar rant. “But you also know I understand we’re vulnerable to a buy-out if we can’t get our advertising revenue up.”
“That’s the sister I know and love!” Lex claps her on the shoulder. “Gotta run, I won’t be in the four o’clock, but that’s all you on the numbers anyway. I need to deal with the fallout of Daybreak ’s new EP losing her mind and making the sudden decision to fire one of her anchors.” He gives her a mock salute then hurries away to god knows where.
“Of course you won’t be in the meeting,” Lena mutters as she walks into her office. Jess looks up as Lena crosses the threshold, and scoots over on the white leather couch to make room, smoothing her black slacks and rolling her white cuffs up over the sleeves of her purple cardigan. The most recent metrics for all of their seven day programming are spread out on the low table, stacked by day, and then hour slot.
Lena walks over to the sideboard and pours herself a glass of water, gesturing at it to Jess to see if she’d like some, as well, but Jess shakes her head.
“How much would you judge me if I had scotch instead, or is early afternoon drinking something you’ll frown upon today?” Lena asks, no real intent to start day drinking, as she walks back over. She sets the glass on the table and sits down next to Jess, smoothing her skirt out as she does so.
“Judging isn’t something I do.” Jess glances over and raises an eyebrow. “But in the spirit of being honest, I thought you’d be in a better mood right now.”
“Why’s that? Our numbers have been shit all day, surely that hasn’t changed just because I took your mandatory lunch break.” Lena reaches out and picks up the breakdown from their evening news program—it’s strong, generally number two in the slot, and she knows they lead NBC in several of the key demos so the fact that it isn’t number one doesn’t worry her. Advertisers seem to love it and their affiliates always run it. It’s a nice reminder that not everything at LBC is crap right now.
She flips to look at the demographic breakdowns. They’re slipping a little, to her surprise—no doubt a cascading effect based on their general programming woes right now. She places it back on the table with a frown and picks up the numbers for Daybreak. If anything, the numbers problem can probably be traced back to their morning programming: once people change the channel, they don’t change it back. Lena frowns.
“Maybe I thought the smile your lunch companion put on your face would last longer.”
Lena’s gaze snaps up and she narrows her eyes at Jess, who at least has the sense to temper her smirk a bit. “My lunch companion?”
“Blonde, earnest, ketchup everywhere.” Jess puts her hands up defensively. “I was grabbing falafel; I tried waving, but you didn’t even see me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lena can feel the blush spreading down her neck.
“Sure,” Jess says, laughing. “Tell that to your face right now.”
“Another two affiliates have dropped Daybreak,” Lena notes, changing the subject. She can practically feel Jess rolling her eyes, but continuing to talk about how, apparently, Lena’s attraction to Kara Danvers can be seen from thirty paces is just going to make her feel itchy. It’s ridiculous, Lena shouldn’t be reacting at all—she’s met Kara twice and both times Kara has appeared bumbling and a little awkward, neither of which normally does anything for Lena. Sure, maybe Kara looks really good in a blazer (and maybe Lena is specifically weak for that), and clearly she’s got enough confidence to fire Edge her first day out, but...
Lena cuts off her internal monologue and silently flips to the third page of the metrics.
Jess sighs audibly, but accepts Lena’s deflection. “I saw that. Apparently infomercials are generating more revenue than our morning programming right now.” Jess pauses, then continues, glancing at a report Lena knows she already has memorized. “A friend of mine called from Good Morning America last week to ask when we were just going to ax the show already.”
Lena grimaces. This is exactly the kind of news Lex is looking for. It’s no secret that he’d just as soon cancel everything that wasn’t straight entertainment. The evening news gets a pass because revenue is strong, but affiliates have always run their own local early morning news followed by a network morning show. Lately, however, fewer and fewer of them are choosing to run Daybreak in the 7am to 10am slot.
Morning shows are full of their own challenges—not quite information-saturated news, but not altogether vapid-entertainment, they have to thread the needle for folks looking for a wide range of programming to fill the so-called breakfast hour.
“I know, I know,” Lena says to Jess. “I worry we’re getting close to that decision. Lex has been pushing me to make the recommendation to kill Daybreak for the last two quarters.”
“Look, you pay me to do metric and financial analysis, not programming, but the numbers are getting kind of hard to ignore here. Why don’t you just cut it?” Jess asks.
“I’ve been asking myself that question a lot.” Lena sighs and sets the packet back on the table, thinking.
“It’s one of the more dynamic spaces for programming—a good morning show is all things to all people,” she begins. She takes a sip of her water and then leans against the back of the couch shifting her body toward Jess. “The first hour is aimed at the commuting-set: it’s the best place to break emerging stories that happen overnight, it’s business and political reports, and, with a good producer, it provides solid analysis that may not yet have been possible the night before. The second hour is a little more of a mix as people transition, and the last hour is aimed at folks who stay home—think soft news, like entertainment, celebrity interviews, those concerts we have on the plaza every now and then.”
Jess nods, taking it in. “Okay, so a morning show is info-tainment, to be reductive.”
“Exactly” Lena’s smile is rueful. “And, done well, it brings important information into people’s homes and lives.” She reaches forward for her water, takes a sip. “I feel like, right now, that’s more necessary than ever. I don’t want to just give that up because Daybreak is having a bad moment.”
“More like a bad three years,” Jess says looking down at the numbers again. “An expensive, bad three years.”
“Well, maybe less expensive at the moment,” Lena says, a half smile on her face. “The new EP just fired Morgan Edge, so we can cross his bloated contract off the budget. And his absence might give us a lift with advertisers and partners.”
Jess gasps. “Oh my god, did he try feeling someone up on the air?”
“Not that I’ve heard.” Lena pauses, thinking back to Kara. “I think Lex might have finally hired someone with a backbone.”
“Lord knows that show needs it,” says Jess. “Okay, well, I’ve got the reports we’re going to use for the four o’clock. Do you want me to make sure that Lex’s assistant gets him a copy prior to the meeting?” She starts to gather the papers up, separating them into folders so that Lena can find them easily.
“Get him the copies, but no rush. He isn’t going to make it, apparently.”
“Of course not.” Jess snorts as she stands up. “We’re still on for drinks with Jack and Sam, right?”
“We better be, I’m going to need it.” Lena makes her way over to her desk. Her inbox is sure to be murder this afternoon, she might as well start sifting through it now. “I might be running a little behind, but Sam texted earlier that she should be there right at eight.”
Jess hums in response.
At the door, Jess turns back. “You know, I saw your lunch companion walk out of LBC before she got all those hot dogs.” Lena knows she’s being baited. The way Jess says ‘lunch companion’ makes it sound like some sort of terrible euphemism, the kind she’s more used to from Jack.
She refuses to look up at Jess. “Did you now,” she says, concentrating on her keyboard as she logs in, and trying to sound as disinterested as possible. She’s not going to admit to Jess that she already knows who Kara Danvers is. To do so is to ensure that it will be the only thing they talk about over cocktails.
“I’m just saying: for once your refusal to leave the building, except when I make Hector lock you out of your office, might work to your advantage.”
Lena looks up to defend herself, but Jess has already closed the door on her way out.
Opening her e-mail application, Lena briefly contemplates Jess’s point before dismissing it. It’s not like Lena ever has any contact with anyone on the creative or show teams anyway—that’s Lex’s domain. She can daydream about Kara in that blazer in peace.
Nobody has to know.