Welcome Back, Miss Starr

September 15, 2018:

Caitlin Fairchild is pleased to discover that her old boss, Karen Starr, is back!

Starr Labs

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Sometime in Early September

"I think that's about it for the tech presentation for today." There's a murmur of noise and the beeping of cameras as the press conference starts to wrap up. A half-dozen reporters spread out in the media room of Starr Technologies, taking notes as a wall display runs through some new products for the upcoming fiscal quarter. Reltaively mundane stuff, and not remotely noteworthy except among the tech circles.

The speaker, wearing a smart periwinkle business skirtsuit, rests her hands on the podium. Her blonde hair's worn back in a bun, and conservative but well-curated jewelry sparkles at her wrist and ears. "I've got time for one more question," she says. Her tone is brisk, professional, and businesslike.

Thus far, in the dozen or so times that Caitlin Fairchild has played decoy for Karen Starr, no one's suspected anything else except that Ms. Starr is still helming the corporation that bears her name.

"Yes, Miss Starr— Bill Cogsworth, Metropolis Mailer," someone calls, his voice overrulling the others. He must have been clinging to the back wall, because he rushes forward amidst a series of groaning eyerolls from the other journalists.

"Mr. Cogswo—" Caitlin's cut off by the 'reporter', who is surprisingly loud and obtrusive for how short and dumpy he is.

"Miss Starr, my readers demand to know the truth!" he yells. "You've been out of the public eye for months! Where have you been? Did you elect for cosmetic surgery? Are you still—"

'Karen' folds her arms across her stomach and addresses the yellow journalist with a scowl. "Security," she says, shortly, and points at the man. "I'm tired of him showing up and speculating about my… personal life. If he sneaks in here again, have him arrested for trespassing."

Cogsworth is led away with a strong set of hands on his arms, burly security manhandling him out while he yells about truth and free press.

"Ladies and gentlemen, that's it for me, I think. I'll be looking forward to seeing you are our annual pre-Christmas press event." With a wave, Karen strides off the stage and heads to the private elevators, taking her up to her offices.

Once inside, Caitlin closes and locks the door, the rests her shoulderblades against it and exhales a giant lungful of stressed air. She pulls off the wig and starts unbinding the tight braiding holding her ginger hair back, and looks at her reflection in the mirror while doing so.

"Golly, Karen, when are you comign /back/?" she mutters, to herself.

*

And conveniently, with super-hearing, she can even make her arrival in a timely fashion. Oh, sure, it wouldn't work from space, and part of this is pure dumb luck…she happened to make it into Earth's atmosphere to catch the last few lines of the conference. So, there's nothing but a red, white, and blue blur that streaks across the sky, a certain section of the Starrware building irising open as she approaches it, with a precision that takes the kind of advanced tech that…well, Starrware makes…to time it correctly.

Power Girl drops down from ludicrous speeds to slow hover, and floats through the concealed passage to make it to her office. A quick glance with X-Ray Vision confirms there's only people she trusts in there, and so when she opens the door, she's able to offer over to Caitlin a pithy entrance comment.

"How about now?"

*

Karen gets hit with three hundred-plus pounds of screaming excitement as the ginger launches herself almost twenty linear feet to tackle the other woman. Caitlin hugs Karen around the shoulders, squealing happily to see the blonde Kryptonian again.

"Aaaaaaaaah! You'rebackyou'rebackyou'reback!" she says repeatedly, and squeezes Karen until her ribs start to creak.

"Oh you -timed- that, I know you did!" she says, scolding Karen through a million-watt grin as she steps back, holding Karen at arm's length to look at her. "Wow, you look great! Space must have been good— did you just get back this moment, or have you been here a while? Have you seen Superman yet? I mean, I'm glad to see you, of course, I'm just— golly, it's so good you're here, I have SO MUCH to tell you!" Caitlin's fairly babbling, talking a million words a minute with no letup in sight.

*

Karen actually braces…most people she can ignore, but Cait's strong enough to make her have to prepare for that impact. And then she actually winces a little at the uber-hug. The blonde coughs a little as she's put down and looks to her ginger counterpart. "So do you! Reminds me of a successful businesswoman!" She quips, as she looks over to Caitlin too.

"Just got back, haven't seen Kal yet. And glad to be back. So go ahead, get comfy! Bring me up to speed." Karen moves around behind the desk to get herself into the chair, and smiles. "Good to be back."

*

"Oh, gosh," Caitlin laughs at the compliment and pinks self-consciously. But she's still smiling, and nods at the invitation to sit. She peels out of her jacket, hanging it up carefully and revealing a demi-sleeved white dress shirt in pale ivory underneath it. "Uh, okay, where to start," Caitlin says.

She sits in the chair across the desk and crosses her legs, hands clasped and forearm resting on her knee as she puts her thoughts together. "Business wise, things are going pretty well. The CFO and the Chairman have both been super helpful keeping your trip away under wraps." Karen's keen ears would definitely pick out something odd about Caitlin's voice— a strange acoustic interference, along with the grating tone everyone experiences when hearing recordings of themself. "I did a few press events, two ribbon cuttings, and a walkthrough of the Thailand factory floor. Stock is up three percent in the last fiscal quarter and sales of the Factory are going gangbusters," she says. "Big seller in India right now, and there hasn't been a slowdown in sales at all."

Caitlin gets to her feet and gets a wetwipe from Karen's vanity, and starts wiping away the makeup that subtly changes the contours of her features to match Karen's a little more closely. With the foundation and shadow coming off, Caitlin starts to look more like herself. "I thiiiink that's all the big stuff around here lately," she says, looking at Karen in the mirror. She finishes cleaning her face and turns back to face her mentor. "Just kept the chair warm and the fires lit until you got home. I'm glad you're here," she says, cheeks dimpling in a grin.

"So— how was space?" she inquires. "Cool adventures? Strange aliens? How far out did you get?"

*

"That's incredible, Caitlin. Remind me to give you one hell of a raise. You handled things above and beyond anything I could ever hoped for." She groans and stretches. "Nice to be back in gravity. And atmosphere. And everything. Missed Earth. Missed my friends. And you make one heck of a me."

*

Caitlin winces, torn between embarassment and pride, and moves to pour Karen a glass of water while Karen stretches and marinates in being back home. Old habits of being Karen's right-hand lady die hard. "Well… that's the good/bad news," Caitlin tells Karen, tone a little apologetic. She sits on the corner of the desk, hands clasped and resting on her lap.

"I really appreciate your offer to come back after the furlough was over. And this—" she waves vaguely at the desk, as if it encompasses the totality of Pretending To Be Karen. "I mean, this was fun, but it wasn't work. Just a favor to a friend."

She's stalling a bit, and tugs a coil of red hair through her fist with a stressed expression. Realizing she's still wearing the necklace, she removes it and sets it carefully aside. "But, uh, we said I should keep my options open, and if another offer came along while you were gone, I should take it?" she reminds Karen. Her voice now sounds normal again, the vox modulator no longer mimicking Karen's voice. "So there was this whole -thing- going on at the League, dead god come back to life, blah blah, and uh…"

She twists fingernails together, face screwing up in a wince. "I took a job at Stark Industries. Assistant Head of R&D. They want me to eventually take over their entire skunkworks."

*

Karen looks back. "And I appreciate the favor. But…wow." She looks a little stunned at the news. "I mean, it's a great position. And I'd be a hypocrite if I said not to go. But right off to the competition." She runs a hand through her short blonde locks. "Don't guess I could woo you back with a counter-offer?" Her tone is a little hopeful, but she's not willing to press it too far. "If anything doesn't pan out, of course, you're always welcome back here."

*

"Thanks, Karen," Caitlin mumbles, looking guilty. "And I told Pep— Miss Potts, and Mister Stark, I told them both that my NDAs with Starr Labs are still in full force. I won't bring over any of the designs we made here, especially the latest chipsets," she adds, hurridly.

"So I promise, this isn't like, some kind of corporate espionage," she clarifies. Which is a laughable notion, because Caitlin's about as secretive as a first grader playing Go Fish. "But I'm kinda committed at this point. It wouldn't be fair for me to leave just after starting, as much as I missed working here."

"Which, by the way, me getting the job? Kiiinda your fault," she says, her index finger making a little circle in Karen's direction, a wry smile crossing her face. "I was at the interview and they asked me to describe what I was doing here as your 'assistant'." Her fingers describe quotes in the air. "Apparently, all that time running meetings and the project managers and the board presentations is exactly what *she* used to do for Mr. Stark, back in the day, which is why she's now in charge over there," she says.

"So you really have no one to blame but yourself," she says with a feigned attempt at casual resignation, tossing her hair a little theatrically back over one shoulder.

*

"I wouldn't expect you to." In reference to corporate espionage and all that. "And my loss is Stark's gain. It's a real shame, Cait. I'm gonna miss the hell out of you." Karen looks a little sad, but she's doing her best to keep it back. "I'll have to take you out for a celebration dinner."

*

Caitlin reaches over and gives Karen's hand a sympathetic squeeze. "Hey, c'mon— it's not like I moved to LA," she remarks, reassuringly, and folds her hands in her lap again. "Heck I'll see you at the League two or three times a week at a minimum, and I'm keeping my apartment in Metropolis," she adds. "Actually, I'm totally thinking about going condo and just buying it. Maybe even my neighbor's apartment, too! I could knock the walls out and actually have a spare bedroom again."

"Dinner, though— that'd be swell," she agrees. "And to celebrate you coming home again!"

*

"Good!" Karen squeezes Cait's hand back. "I really can't thank you enough for subbing in for me, Caitlin. I'll be a while thinking up something to pay you back for that. But right now, I think I want to soak in a warm tub for about…oh, eighteen hours or so. Being in space really makes you miss the creature comforts." She smiles back.

*

"Say no more," Caitlin says, nodding vigorously. "I can get behind soaking in the tub. If I buy my apartment— definitely putting in a full bath. With a showerhead I can actually /stand/ under," she laughs.

She gets to her feet and walks across the room, picking up a garment bag, and ducks into the attached bathroom, leaving the door open a crack so she can be heard. "Hey, do you want me to tell anyone you're here, or should I keep it to myself?" Cait inquires, sticking her head around the door amidst a ruffling of clothes. "I don't mind sitting on it for a bit, 'specially if you wanna hold off some kind of a 'welcome back' party."

"Which… I totally just spoiled as a possible surprise party, golly, Caitlin," she grumbles, disappearing into the bathroom. She emerges in yoga pants and low sneakers, wearing a much-loved pink hoodie. 'Go Lions' can be barely read under a washed out Columbia University logo. She puts her formal clothes in her garment bag with a careful attentiveness, and shoulders the bundle's strap. "I'm gonna grab a towncar and head home, but— I'll see you later this week?"

*

"Feel free to pass it on. If anyone gets me for less than an omega-level crisis in the next 24 hours, I'm going to read them the riot act. But I don't mind being social." She lets Cait finish changing, and nods. "Sounds great. I look forward to being able to catch up with you. You're the best, Cait."

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