When the security guard at the door motioned for her to wave her wrist in front of the sensor, Grace Grayson’s heartbeat sped up. What if she somehow had a faulty band? Or the one they mailed was a prank of some sort to embarrass her?

But her wristband made the console beep, the light turned green, and a nearby volunteer in a neon tee shirt ushered her into the Salt Lake Fan Experience. She let the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding out in a subtle, steady stream of hot air.

Of course the wristband worked — she was there on official business for The Tribune, reporting from a place all her coworkers had begged to avoid. She knew her editor, Jane, saw this assignment as a punishment, and Grace had let her think that she agreed with some eyerolls and a couple of “kill me” pantomimes to coworkers whenever Jane was in sight.

Even though it was early in the day, the crowds of fans were already milling around. Recognizing each other’s cosplay, preparing to sit next to each other in panels and laugh at the same jokes, standing at an artist’s booth with jaws dropped. Applying hand sanitizer. Sitting anywhere they could find — usually the ground. People were smiling, laughing, jumping up and down with delight. Opportunities like this came rarely, so everyone wanted to be sure they maximized their personal experience — and they’d managed to collectively agree to work together to that end. Even if people were tired or hungry, there was an unmatched feeling of joy. Nobody was bickering.

Grace Grayson felt it too. She was a self-identified fangirl, a lover of shows about magic, movies about ambitious technology, books about vampires and any combination of those three. She had even been named for a comic book character — her mom was a big fan of the laundry-sponsored Starchie series you could buy at the supermarket checkout and was thrilled when she married a Grayson. Although Grace had little in common with the cartoon Grace Grayson, everyone always made the connection. Lots of people called her Grace-Grays, the nickname of the character in the comics. And she loved it. But today, Grace was there to work, so she was trying to keep her squeals and hand claps to a minimum.

Grace had agonized over her outfit for so long that her roommate had closed and locked their bedroom door and drowned her out by playing the Harry Potter score. She had finally chosen what she thought was a good compromise — floral trousers with a simple Wonder logo tee and a solid blazer. She wore her hair natural, its curls bouncing around her face. Still colorful, still professional, still fangirl and most importantly — still Grace.

All of this concerted effort to appear together was being foiled thanks to her sidekick for the day, Irrfan Patel. He had chosen to go the opposite route in his attire, and was decked out in a full-on Pillars of Creation costume. He was dressed as a Star Sentinel, the all-black suit sprinkled with bright badges and other honors. She watched him come through security with an expression that betrayed his own trepidation at being allowed in. When he discovered there would be no incident, he bounded over with a huge grin on his face and his camera raised.

“I am a proud South Asian man,” Irrfan said, “but you are welcome to call me by the white boy name of Jimmy Olsen as we embark on this journalistic assignment together. Lois.”

He snapped a photo of the soft pretzel line.

She grinned at him. He may have been a spaz, but she was glad for his company so she had something to distract her from counting down the seconds until 2:15. Because at 2:15, she had an interview with Augusta Geraldine Sparks.

“Do you think she will want to talk about Alpha 12, or Pillars of Creation at all? Do you think she would prefer to discuss her work on stage? I mean I love Pillars of Creation, obviously, but sometimes actors get annoyed when you pigeonhole them. That’s their whole thing — versatility — and I wouldn’t want to call her out on anything,” Irrfan had babbled on their car ride.

“Where’s your journalistic integrity, Patel? I’ll ask her whatever suits the story. We’re not there to make her feel comfortable. We’re not her friends.”

But Grace did want to be her friend. She wanted them to have an instant bond and laugh at each other’s jokes and exchange personal contact information. After a disastrous attempt last semester at securing a face-to-face with the lead singer of Imagine Dragons — one that involved many false promises, sneaking into the stadium and nearly getting arrested — she had plenty to prove. Her position as a reporter for the Arts and Entertainment section of The Tribune was currently a trial situation.

Irfan turned to her after snapping a few more photos of some volunteers and what looked to Grace like just a picture of a blank brick well, his grin still shining. She had the thought that she had no idea if he was a good photographer or not.

“You ready?”

They were surging with energy. Comics conventions, comic cons, or just cons for the initiated, have grown in not only popularity but also mainstream acceptance, and the place was getting crowded with people who wanted to find fellow fans to freak out with about the things they loved. Grace and Irrfan roamed around for an hour or so, asking patrons and artists for quotes and taking pictures to accompany them. When they felt good about the volume for their on-the-scene piece, they still had time to kill before the next assignment, and agreed to meet up again in an hour.

This was not Grace’s first convention. She knew the parlance, the tricks, the floor map of the sometimes confusing building it was held in. She wandered for a few minutes among the replicas and cleverly drawn cartoons, appreciating the ingenuity and talent on display in the artist’s alley. Then she saw it.

Running over, unable to remind herself about professionalism now, she approached the brightly colored painting with such wide, sparkly eyes that she felt a bit crazed. She clasped her hands together and sighed. It was perfect, and she had to have it.

The poster-sized painting featured Alpha 12 in her heyday — thick red hair, black bodysuit lined with neon lights which lit up in different colors according to her feelings. The painting depicted her in pink — a rare emotional connection was being made. In her arms was the handsome Captain Gold, helmet off, looking at her like she was the only woman in the world. It looked like they were about to kiss.

“I always wanted them to get together,” a disembodied voice said from behind the table.

Grace looked for the source, and the artist peeked out from behind her work. She was sleek and polished in a tank top Grace would’ve been freezing in.

“Me too!” she said, giving her squeakiness a pass on behalf of shipping. “I have written … so much fanfic about them. This is just … wow. You are so talented!”

The artist introduced herself as Sam, and gave her a card. She also leaned in to let Grace know she sold prints of the painting, and she’d give her a discount if she wanted one.

“A reward for enthusiasm,” Sam said.

“I have so many crushes right now,” Grace said in return, and felt her cheeks get hot. But she grinned. “On this painting, on you, on the con.”

Then she leaned in, herself.

“I’m interviewing Augusta Geraldine Sparks for the paper,” she said. “I have ten minutes with her this afternoon. I’ve been trying not to act like a fan all day so this is a good outlet before I have to be professional.”

Sam was laughing. She said she was honored to be the subject of the gushing, when really they owed it all to Gus. Grace grinned at her familiar use of the actress’ nickname.

“I knew this was where the action would be,” Grace said. “Sure the celebrities are fun, but I always have the best time in and among the creators. In fact, could I talk to you for the article? It might give you some good exposure.”

Sam’s face lit up and she reached across her table and grabbed Grace’s hand.

“That would be excellent. I am local, or local-ish, so people knowing who I am around here is a big part of my goal today.”

Grace was about to make an official interview appointment when Irrfan came careening into her, sweaty and panting. Sam let go of her hand, looking bewildered that she had been holding it in the first place. Grace saw a blush rise on her face, too, and felt better.

“Missed it!” Irrfan was wheezing. “Took forever … to find you.”

Grace introduced Sam to her partner, and Sam rustled around to find a bottle of water under her table, handing it to the grateful Irrfan. He took a couple of gulps, then an exaggerated super-deep breath and steadied himself.

“It’s in five minutes. The Augusta panel.”

“What?!” Grace shrieked, her voice hitting its highest possible pitch.

Irrfan explained that the updated schedule was on the con’s clunky app, and the printed one was subject to change, which it apparently had today when they moved the Sparks panel up.

Grace swore magnificently, and Sam raised an impressed eyebrow. She frantically checked her email, hoping she hadn’t missed anything that might mean their interview was rescheduled too, but the only thing there was the confirmation from “Gus’s” people.

“Well you still have time to prep for that,” Sam said. She was a part of this now, and all three of them reassured each other it was all fine and good and nothing cataclysmic would come from this minor oversight. “You know her career, you didn’t even need to sit in on the panel for a recap.”

“I know, I just thought …” Grace started to say, but cut herself off. Was she being too familiar with this beautiful artist she just met? “I guess I wanted to get my bearings by being in the same room with her before I had to do the interview, and converse with her in a professional and sane manner.”

“Is this going to be a problem?” Irrfan said, folding his arms over his costume. “I don’t want to be embarrassed. Or embarrassed for you. Pillars of Creation is my favorite show and I really don’t want to let it down.”

She assured him she was perfectly capable, biting her tongue about his fanboy getup, then checked her watch and quickly excused them both, with a promise to Sam to swing back by for the interview and to make a purchase. Sam’s gaze lingered on her eyes, a soft smile accompanying the sparkle in her expression.

“You better come back,” was all Sam said.

Yanking Irrfan behind her while he protested, Grace screeched to a halt in front of the main doors of the big hall, flashing her press pass and forcing Irrfan to do the same, and the frazzled volunteer asked them to wait.

“There might still be press seats available, but the panel is just about to start,” they said disdainfully.

Grace rolled her eyes at the volunteer’s back.

“This is kind of exciting. I thought we’d be more prepared, though,” Irrfan said.

Grace pointed at the backpack on her shoulders.

“Two phone chargers, a backup recorder, a notebook, six pens, my iPad, notecards with pre-written questions,” she rattled off. “How much more prepared do you want me to be?”

He shook his phone with the schedule still open in her face.

“This prepared,” he said with a laugh.

She had to laugh back.

“This is a big deal for me, you know,” he told her while they waited to be let in. “Calvin is the regular A&E photographer, but his sister is getting married this weekend. He was so mad at her for scheduling it this weekend. I was so happy I sent her a gift off her registry.”

“You did not,” Grace was astonished.

He shrugged, refusing to confirm or deny.

“My favorite show growing up was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” Irrfan said. “It was one of the only shows that didn’t have ten white teenagers in it. Nobody looked like me, but nobody looked like anyone. At least, I don’t know any humanoid turtles.”

Grace nodded. She knew this problem well.

“I got lucky because in the nineties they always had a token black girl. The Craft, The Spice Girls … even Pillars of Creation has Selene. But then, if I didn’t like the character, I had to identify with her.”

He asked her why she had continued to be a fangirl, then.

Grace considered.

She wasn’t exactly popular, and she’d spent enough of her childhood (okay, and teen, and young adult) years at home with her friends in books, movies and TV shows. She had spent her tweenhood discovering things that were new for her, and embarrassing her friends. They would say it was her parents’ fault for naming her after a comic. It didn’t matter that Star Trek, Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings had been out long before their time, were beloved by many, and starting to make their way into the conversation of the average-everyday-person. They associated it only with Grace. The more she clung to it, the more they distanced themselves from her.

She was 14 when Pillars of Creation ended its run. So when she downloaded an episode from BearShare, it was already entering into its cult classic phase. Grace was alone again, not invited to any parties (and actually uninvited from one), no costume, no candy. Her dad offered to watch something scary with her, and her mom said she’d make caramel popcorn, but she told them she was going to spend some time with her “real friends,” and retreated.

When it finally booted up, she knew right away, from the opening scene, that the show was going to be up her alley. It was funny, serious, had a diverse cast of characters whose relationships she was prepared to get way too invested in. She downloaded four more episodes and watched as her slow internet connection struggled to comply with her demands.

Augusta Geraldine Sparks as Alpha 12 made her first appearance in episode five — “The Rift” — and nothing had prepared Grace for it. No chatrooms, no grainy screengrabs, no amount of other people assuring her she would love A-12 more than anyone else on the show or possibly in the universe.

Alpha-12 had a grand entrance, saved the day, threw some quips around and generally created an environment that seemed to gravitate toward her. She got to have sizzling sexual tension with Captain Gold, but also Yarina, the ship’s cook. As a cyborg, obviously, she didn’t have impulses or a desire to be in a relationship. But as an actress, Augusta Geraldine Sparks seemed to have chemistry with everyone.

“Living in reality means there are limitations,” Grace told Irrfan, the two of them still waiting outside the door. “But living in fandoms means everything is possible. The good guys always win.”

The volunteer returned, a finger over their lips, and waved them into the hall.

They sat quickly, Irrfan looking around and taking in the sights of the packed room, lined with chairs . But Grace could only see one thing. Red hair, casual outfit, easy posture in the tall director’s chair, holding the microphone like a practiced veteran. She felt my breath catch. She was in the same room as Alpha-motherfucking-12.

Augusta was grinning, her eyes wide and sparkly like a benevolent fairy godmother. She looked into the audience with affection, a practiced comfortable grin on her face as the bumbling local moderator asked her inane questions about her short, cult-favorite career.

Pillars of Creation was a sci-fi classic, but it hadn’t done much for its cast. Neither had its sister show, a fantasy series called The Mysteries of Udolpho, that ran on the same network at the same time. For some reason, though the shows had a huge following and vocal online fanbase, neither one had survived network merging in the early 2000s, and their stars had disappeared largely from the acting scene.

Still, Augusta seemed practiced at this type of thing. Appearing at cons was probably her main job. And Grace got to be a part of it. The big screens switched to a sizzle reel of Augusta’s career — mostly as Alpha 12, but a couple guest spots on Supernatural and a memorable turn on the Vampire Diaries spinoff’s spinoff. Grace had seen every performance, obviously. Gus was a great actress, and a beautiful woman. Celebrity crushes were, however, supposed to stay dreams. Not become people you have to interview. Grace forced herself to rein in her pining.

Audience questions were next, and Grace smugly pitied the fans who had to line up and hope to ask their question, a brief interaction that would have to suffice as their one-on-one with Augusta. A nervous young man approached the microphone in cosplay as Captain Gold — Grace nudged Irrfan — and shakily asked what it was like to shoot a certain scene that was the culmination of an emotional arc for Alpha 12.

On the big screen, Grace watched Augusta’s face flicker with something. Disgust was the first word that came to mind. It was a flash, maybe imagined, but it took her aback. She wondered if anybody else had noticed, and was tempted to whisper to Irrfan, but didn’t want to miss a moment. It was probably nothing.

A young girl wearing Augusta’s face on her tee shirt went up to the mic and asked if she had heard any of the rumors about Augusta being cast in the new Wonder movie, in the coveted role of Commander Callisto.

We knew about these rumors, obviously. They were swirling around Tumblr and Reddit and there were plenty of opinions about the possibility of Alpha 12 stepping into another iconic sci-fi role. Was she too old? Was she too inexperienced, since she hadn’t worked that steadily for ten years? Did it matter? Augusta Geraldine Sparks, in a Wonder movie. Grace suddenly became very aware of the shirt she had chosen for the interview, wondering if she had time to go buy something else in the hall and change.

That’s when she realized it had been silent for an uncomfortable amount of time. Augusta’s smile looked frozen on her face. The moderator was holding her microphone close to her mouth, which opened and closed a few times as she attempted to fill the silence. There was a faint pop as her lips smacked, which filled the silence, but turned it even more uncomfortable.

Grace looked around to see how anyone else was reacting. It seemed like the room had switched into slow motion, or she had suddenly gotten super-speed powers. A guy a few rows over had a chip halfway to his mouth, and had stopped attempting to eat it. Some people with their phones up, recording the panel, had dropped them slightly so they were only capturing the backs of the audience’s heads while their actual eyes bored into Augusta. Grace imagined a fly beating its wings somewhere in the room, visibly slowed down while they all waited to hear about this casting rumor. She had a weird instinct to reach out and take Irrfan’s hand, but didn’t do it.

None of them could have anticipated Augusta’s reaction. She started to cry. In the same otherworldly slow motion, a tear rolled down her cheek, followed by another and then another. She sniffed into the microphone, and the noise seemed to break the spell of the room.

“I’m sorry,” she shook her head. “I’m so sorry. It’s just … that role was something my sister really wanted me to get. And it reminds me of her.”

Grace dug into her bag to check her notes. Augusta Geraldine Sparks was, as everybody knew, a twin. Her sister looked just like her, but more natural — gray hair and a notable lack of botox. She had been Augusta’s publicist slash assistant slash agent at various stages in her career until she’d died of cancer only four months ago. Four months, that’s what Grace had in her notes. As in: don’t bring it up. But Irrfan and Grace didn’t know the Commander Callisto rumors would technically count as “bringing it up.”

They all watched, horrified, as the moderator motioned for someone backstage to bring out some tissues. The fan at the microphone looked like she wanted to melt into a puddle and be absorbed into the floor. Grace wasn’t great at estimating numbers, but there were at least 700 people in that room all holding their breath.

Irrfan was frantically Googling, and held his phone between he and Grace so they could both read.

This big movie, part of the monolith Wonder franchise, would cement Augusta’s place in the fandom universe. According to a recent interview, she had hesitated to take the meetings or go to the auditions, but her sister had pushed her to explore the possibility and, to quote: “invest in her future as an actor.”

The character of Commander Callisto was tough, strong, inspiring. She also had a twin sister, Amalthea, who commanded forces of evil. They were bitter rivals. It seemed too cosmic that the character would also be a twin, and her sister had often wittily cited this connection as lifelong research for the part. In the interview, anything positive about Callisto came from Augusta’s sister, while Augusta herself seemed very interested in taking a once-in-a-lifetime role that would become the reboot her career needed.

“It would be amazing to be part of another beloved science fiction story. The Wonder universe is so detailed and contains such depth of character — I am honored my name is even being rumored.”

Grace and Irrfan shared a look. It was a diplomatic non-answer. It was also a lie. Because Augusta Geraldine Sparks was a notorious anti-fan capital H Hater.

Half the reason Augusta hadn’t been in a big role for a long time was her vocal disdain for fan culture and the types of people she had been slumming it to entertain. She had only started appearing at cons lately as a move to rehabilitate her image, and it had kind of worked. She said she hadn’t understood the true emotional connection her fans felt. She apologized, said she wanted to learn.

Grace made a mental note of all of this, to bring it up gently, and watched the moderator try to get things back on track with some more silly audience questions, none of which made Augusta cry. The panel ended with a fizzle, and left Grace sitting in her seat feeling unable to move.

“Grace,” Irrfan said from a distance, and Grace looked up to see him at the end of the aisle. “We have to get up to the green room.”

They had strict instructions to approach the interview with space with caution and stealth. The email Grace had gotten said three times, in bold letters, not to tell anyone else the location of the holding space.

“Will it be green?” Irrfan said as they waded through cosplayers and backpacks.

Grace shook her head, but she actually didn’t know. Maybe it would be green.

Her palms were sweating by the time she walked into the small interview space, and she heard her voice squeak a little when she introduced herself. Grace Grayson, The Tribune. She knew her tongue was about to let loose and gush about her connection to Alpha-12, when she felt a small squeeze of her hand.

It was Irrfan, who shook his head a little and held out his other hand to Augusta Geraldine Sparks, in his stupid Star Sentinal costume. She stood and took it, and they chit chatted while she posed.

“Big, big fan,” he said. “I’m Grace’s photographer and couldn’t resist totally fanboying over you today!”

Grace felt like kissing him. She took the moment as Irrfan got a few simple portraits of Augusta to set up her things at the tiny table between herself and her idol.

It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Grace said when Augusta sat back down. A pleasure was an understatement, but she couldn’t pack Alpa-12’s impact into a ten-minute interview so she ought not to try.

Augusta flashed Grace a huge, crinkly-nosed smile that hit her eyes in a way that instantly made her comfortable. Whether she was a great actress or genuinely looking forward to their conversation suddenly became irrelevant in the creases of that smile.

Grace mentally slapped herself. Focus, Grace-Grays. She knew she was shaking a little, and determined not to let it show. She only had ten minutes.

Irrfan politely excused himself, he wasn’t really invited to the interview, and went to stand outside. Grace internally promised to buy him something gaudy and expensive from the artists downstairs, and started her interview.

Her first five questions were a retrospective all about Pillars of Creation. Grace pulled Augusta’s answers apart like taffy in her mind. Would the angle be that a washed-up actress was on the circuit to celebrate her glory days?

Augusta seemed very comfortable, sitting in her crappy plastic folding chair with one leg thrown over the other, her light sweater giving her a barrier against the convention center’s incessant air conditioning. Her hair was down, her jewelry was simple. She was effortless in her appearance and her conversation alike. Grace realized she was being drawn in by a very experienced professional who had talked to hundreds like her over the course of decades, but she couldn’t help feeling like she was making a new friend, exactly as she’d dreamed.

Augusta’s phone suddenly buzzed, an un-subtle vibration against the plastic table. It was sitting face up, and a text notification appeared with a preview. It buzzed again, then again and again. It was positively roaring by the time she apologetically picked it up to silence it. Grace watched her eyes scan the messages, her jaw drop a little, and then she put the phone back down. Still face up, and this time closer to Grace’s recorder than it had been before, the temptation was too great.

So she looked.

“Congrats, Captain Callisto!”

“You’re officially a Wonder woman now, Gus.”

“Thanks for signing this morning, all docs are in order. Drinks when you’re back from the slog!”

And on and on.

Grace faltered, her pen that had been frantically scribbling as she listened, drawing a fat line off into the rest of her notes. She looked at the paper, at her questions that now seemed a lot less pressing. Looked up at Augusta, who was staring at her.

Augusta scrambled for her phone, accidentally hitting the Siri button. It shouted in its toneless robotic voice.

“Text from Ken Forsythe wow we did it baby you’re the next Callisto and Wonder will be the next phase of your career I knew you could do it and those nerds will lose their minds once they find out.”

The volume was up so loud they probably heard it outside the green room, but the thing that had certainly captured the message was Grace’s audio recorder, sitting half an inch from the phone.

It all happened in an instant, but it felt like an hour while Grace decided what to do.

The next question she had written down said “do you still talk to your costars from Pillars of Creation,” but what she said instead was:

“Can you confirm that you will be playing Captain Callisto in the next Wonder movie?”

They looked at each other. Augusta’s eyes were no longer sparkling, and her lips were not parted to reveal those fantastic teeth. She was calculating, doing visible math behind her eyes. Grace waited, and realized she wasn’t shaking anymore.

“I’m sure you can imagine I have a team of people waiting to make this announcement officially,” Augusta said. “I guess that was off the record. Sorry. Let’s call that a moment between friends?”

Grace remembered Irrfan’s admonishment in the car. Grace Grayson and Augusta Geraldine Sparks were not friends.

“Let’s talk about it in the hypothetical,” Grace said as if talking to a child. “Since we’re at a comics convention and all. What are you a fan of?”

“Well,” Augusta said. She spoke slowly too, like she was really considering. Weighing her options. “I have to admit, I wouldn’t have been aware of the property if the movies hadn’t been so successful. You know, when I was growing up we had a lot stricter social expectations — about what you were supposed to do. That’s why you get movies like High School Musical — written by someone who grew up in the eighties when it really was a big deal to sing in musicals and play sports. I mean, nowadays, who cares? I have a neighbor who is in high school. She is constantly telling me how fake that movie is, and things like Mean Girls. Your generation is much nicer …”

She was rambling, and nervous, and dropping titles of very odd movies into this conversation. Grace kept her face blank, taking notes and trying not to giggle. Who was the actress now?

“My sister, she was a comic book fan. She loved all this stuff — and she would be so jealous to be in your position. Attending a convention like this, being among other fans, talking to people she admired. I guess in some ways she has always influenced my choices. Alpha 12 was a leap for me, someone who didn’t grow up on sci-fi and was a little more concerned with Shakespeare and Mamet and Chekhov and Beckett … I thought to be a serious actress you had a certain canon to respect. But I got to do serious acting on Pillars.”

She continued talking, spinning the story around and into a childhood summer where she made fun of her sister’s Wonder comics and action figures, and lives with the regret of her cruelty every day.

“I was initially only motivated to try for the part thanks to her,” Augusta said, her voice becoming higher pitched and a little strained. “But now, I feel my own connection to it. I guess that’s the power of fandom — it can create new fans even out of people who had counted themselves out a long time ago.”

Grace had to hand it to her. That was smooth as silk. She watched some more tears fall from Augusta’s mascaraed eyes, the same as before in the panel. Maybe Gus really was emotional about her sister, but Grace wasn’t about to lose her scoop. Their time was almost up.

“Do you want a picture with me?” Augusta held out both hands to Grace. “I feel like we really bonded in here.”

It was the actress’s final attempt. They took a selfie on Grace’s phone, but Auguata’s was tucked safely into her purse, presumably on silent. The secret was locked away.

They exchanged niceties, and Grace took the time to pack up her stuff, then left the room stiffly as she attempted to stop herself from dashing off as fast as she possibly could. But when she saw Irrfan waiting outside, she grabbed him again and pulled him toward the press room with a shout.

“I have to hurry!”

He ran after her as she explained. “Email Jane immediately and tell her I have the scoop of the century. I will send her all my notes and recordings.”

He pulled his phone out of a cleverly disguised pocket in his Star Sentinel costume and followed her instructions.

Sitting down, she simply dumped her backpack onto the table and found her tablet. She could type quickly on the touchscreen keyboard, but not as quickly as she wanted.

“Jane said she can hold print space if you file in 20 minutes,” Irrfan read off of his phone. “Is it print worthy?”

“It’s a whole magazine worthy,” Grace assured him. “This will be no trailer react or listicle about the best shows to watch about horses, let me tell you.”

All the years Grace had spent working in news prepared her to be quick, but she had to be one hundred percent accurate and extremely thorough in putting together this story. After downing two cans of Coke and inhaling a packet of peanut butter M&Ms, it was done. She sent it to Jane, then turned her tablet toward Irrfan. “You deserve to be the next person to know.”

He scanned, shouted, and several other journalists looked over. Grace and Irrfan waved, then put their heads together.

“This is massive,” he said. “We have to push it.”

The story went live at 4:22 pm, Mountain Standard Time. The headline read: Augusta Geraldine Sparks suits up for Wonder; Fangirl at heart. It was an incredibly positive piece, putting the actress in the position of an interesting subject who just happened to get an important piece of news in the middle of an interview in a flyover state with a young reporter. It also made it sound like Augusta had liked Grace so much she wanted her to get the exclusive.

They sat back to admire themselves for a moment, Irrfan’s beautiful portrait of Augusta accompanying Grace’s piece. He was talented, after all. They watched as the news spread through the press room, creating yelps and shouts similar to Irrfan’s reaction.

“Let’s go watch it catch fire,” Irrfan said, and they went back out into the crowd.

It was like an episode of Gossip Girl. Someone’s phone would ding, and they’d show it to their friends. People would react. It would happen in another pocket. The buzz became a frantic thrum as people started celebrating. The news had broken at their little con. In their little paper.

They wandered through, invisible to the crowd even though they were the reason for all the hubbub. Without meaning to, they found themselves back at Sam’s booth.

The poster of Alpha-12 and Captain Gold was gone.

“Oh hi,” Grace said to Sam, casually leaning on the table.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Sam said breathlessly. “Something insane happened.”

She held out her phone. On the screen was a photo of Sam, the poster, and Augusta Geraldine Sparks herself.

Grace screamed out loud.

“Grace,” Sam said. “She signed it.”

Sam pulled the poster out from behind her table.

In gold letters, it said To Grace: A formidable force to be reckoned with. With love, Augusta Geraldine Sparks aka Alpha-12.

writer and actress