“Gooooooood morning Metropolis! It’s Im Yeojin with your traffic watch updates. Those driving downtown by route 63 should take note - there will be a slight delay, with a likelihood of falling cat fur as Beast Girl chases down some bank robbers.
“Over by Metropolis Park, be prepared to stay indoors while Miss Incredible hurls some police cars at our favourite psychedelic supervillain: D-Dragon.
“And all’s well at the junction by East Square as Choerry chases away a spot of bad weather to help a little old lady cross the road. Can you say best girl?
“And that’s all for your morning update - oh, wait, wait. Hang on. I’m getting something. There’s a plane! Headed straight for the Daily Planet! It’s about to crash! And -
“Bam! The plane stops! Who could it be? Is it Miss Incredible, defeating D-Dragon just in time to save our journalists from disaster? Harpy, using her shrieks to stop the plane?
“No! It’s the newest superhero on the block - our yet unnamed super! Whoooo could she be? We still don’t have a name yet so - hush, Susan, I’m trying to give the news - so we’re counting on ace reporter Jung Jinsol to name her just like she named our past two supers!
“And now, that’s all for our morning update folks. Remember to give our favourite supers a shoutout if you do see them! This is Im Yeojin, signing out.”
“Again! We missed her by seconds!” Vivi stormed around the bullpen, waving her phone in the air. “Are you telling me we had three reporters on scene and we didn’t even get a single shot?”
“She was too fast! Before we even knew it, she had already set the plane down on the ground and disappeared,” protested Heejin.
“Well, I don’t care. There is a new superhero, and I’ll be damned if I let the Morning Star get an exclusive with her before we can! Where’s Jung Jinsol?”
Over by her desk, Jinsol growled as she held her phone up to her ear.
Five calls and yet she wasn’t picking up.
“Jinso - ”
“Sh!” Jinsol held a finger up to Chaewon. “I swear to god, if she doesn’t pick - hello?”
Jinsol furrowed her eyebrows at the faint sound of panting on the other end. “You were running?”
“Uh… Yeah. Bank robbery. Beast Girl got to them before we could though.”
“Oh. Um right. Should you even be on the phone?”
“It’s fine - I have a minute. You wanted something?”
Oh, yes. Jinsol nearly forgot. “I wanted to remind you - we have that awards ceremony tonight, at 7. I’ll pick our dresses up from the dry cleaner, but don’t forget your heels.”
Jinsol bristled. “Yes, Sooyoung. The Story of the Year award that I’m getting for my exposé on the League of Extraordinary Ladies. Don’t tell me you forgot again.”
“Forgot? Me? Definitely not. I just wanted to confirm. Don’t worry, I’ll be there. I’ll pick you up at 6.”
A pause. Then: “I love you.”
“…I love you too. Stay safe.” With a sigh, Jinsol put her phone back down on her table. Her eyes drifted up - and she jumped at the sight of a red-faced Vivi, standing in front of her desk with her arms crossed. “Jesus, Chief! Make some noise, will you?”
Vivi glared at her. “Done with your social call?”
“Good.” Vivi thrust a picture into her hand. Jinsol examined the grey pixels that seemed to form the vague shape of a flying human. “Here. It’s that new superhero. I want an exclusive.”
“Wait,” Jinsol called after Vivi’s retreating back. “No leads? No oh-I-know-someone-who-might-know-someone-who-might-know-something? Really? Ugh.” She groaned and sank into her seat, throwing the printed photo on her table. Seriously, who had cameras this bad nowadays?
“Bad day?” Jungeun hovered over her desk, her steaming mug of coffee drawing spirals in the air. She held out a chocolate bar and winked.
Jinsol ripped it open immediately, moaning as she crammed the squares into her mouth. “You’re the best. A lifesaver. Love you. I would kiss you if I weren’t married.”
Jungeun turned pink, the corners of her mouth curving up. Jinsol felt Chaewon’s eyes on them.
“Why the hell would you lead the poor girl on like that?” Chaewon demanded, as soon as Jungeun was out of earshot. “You know she likes you.”
“No, she doesn’t. She’s just sweet. Anyway,” Jinsol said, throwing items into her handbag - her notebook, her pen, a swiss army knife - and carrying it over her shoulder. “I’m off. Gonna get my dress. If Vivi asks where I am, tell her I’m dead.”
With a tall, double-eaved roof, and golden dragons on its four tips, the Gold Standard Hotel was the place of choice for the rich and well-connected to rub shoulders, its tackiness notwithstanding.
It was also a place that Jinsol was intimately familiar with.
As the chauffeur drove their rented limo off, Jinsol placed her hand in Sooyoung’s, allowing her wife to lead her to where the contingent of photographers waited by the red carpet, bright lights flashing.
“You look good today,” Sooyoung murmured, her low voice sending a pleasant hum through Jinsol’s body.
They turned as the photographers on the other end yelled at them, Jinsol raising her hand in a wave. Beside her, Sooyoung stood stiffly, her arm locking Jinsol’s hand in an iron hold.
“Relax,” Jinsol breathed. “Just smile.”
“Hard to when I feel like a clown in this getup.”
Jinsol sighed. “It’s just for three hours, Sooyoung.”
She was almost glad when Sooyoung chose to respond with only a grunt; she wasn’t sure if she could handle an argument right at this moment, with all eyes on her.
“Miss Jung! How does it feel to be on the shortlist for Story of the Year? How confident are you?” yelled the photographers.
Jinsol merely smiled and waved, fully playing the part of the unsuspecting winner. To the public, if there was anything worse than a sore loser, it was an overeager winner. Jinsol would know. She’s written far too many stories on internet backlash to let that happen to her.
Photo time over, Jinsol and Sooyoung swept their way along the red carpet, and into the ballroom itself. The decor inside was even more opulent. Giant silver and gold chandeliers hung low from the ceiling, the golden bannisters polished till it shined, and rows and rows of waiters stood at attention at the sides of the hall, ready to serve at a moment’s notice.
“Fancy huh?” Vivi sidled up to them, glass half-empty, cheeks red. “That’s what happens when you’re a charity supported by the Blue House itself.” She then noticed Sooyoung. “Oh. The wife?”
“Vivi, this is Sooyoung. Sooyoung, my boss, Vivi.”
“Yes, I’ve heard all about you,” slurred Vivi, as she grabbed Sooyoung’s wrist and shook it. “The last time you bailed on Jinsol - was it Valentine’s Day? - she spent the rest of the evening writing and taking shots of whiskey from the office stash. Good day for me; I got two stories out of it.”
Jinsol froze. Seriously? “Vivi!” she hissed. To Sooyoung, she said, “She’s exaggerating. Ignore her. I stayed because I had work to do.”
Sooyoung was frowning. “I thought you said you were going to stop drinking,” she said, as Jinsol hooked her hand around Sooyoung’s arm and dragged her away.
“It was just a glass.” She took a plate, stuffed it into Sooyoung’s hands, and began loading it high with lobster and crab.
But Sooyoung wasn’t one of the best officers in the precinct for nothing. She ignored Jinsol’s attempts to distract her, and said, “She said shots. How wasted did you get?”
“Just a little tipsy.” And because Sooyoung was looking at her like an unruly child, Jinsol whirled on her, annoyance rising in her chest. “Look, I don’t even know why you’re getting up on your high horse about this. You were the one who bailed on me last minute.”
“Because I had to work!” said Sooyoung, her cheeks turning pink.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s always about work, isn’t it?”
“Jinsol - ”
“Okay, stop.” Jinsol held up a hand. “I’m not doing this with you now. I’m supposed to be celebrating an achievement here tonight. This is my night.”
Sooyoung clenched her jaw, the muscles in her cheek jumping. But she nodded anyway, a short jerk of her head, before snatching a glass of champagne off a passing waiter.
Plates full of food, they made their way to the tables by the front, set aside for the nominees of night.
“Irene.” Jinsol smiled sweetly at her. “What a pleasure.”
“Hm. Can’t say the same.” Irene turned away.
Sooyoung quickly wrestled Jinsol into her seat before she could punch Irene. Jinsol snatched her hand out of Sooyoung’s grasp just as the lights dimmed, and a woman in a sparkly red dress made her way to the podium.
“Good evening - Madam Mayor, nominees, distinguished guests. I’m Kim Jiwoo and I’ll be your host for today.”
There was a sharp whoop from the back of the hall, and Jinsol turned round to see a group of fans holding a giant pink banner that read: WE LOVE YOU KIM JIWOO.
“I’ve interviewed her before,” Irene was saying in a low murmur to her companion. “Sweet girl. Little airheaded. But such a fantastic voice - she sang a little for me.” Her eyes slid left towards Jinsol. “Pity you didn’t get that interview, huh, Jinsol?”
“Yeah, the same way it would be a pity if I were to punch your - ow!” She whipped around to glare at Sooyoung. “That hurt!”
“Come on, babe, it’s not worth it,” whispered Sooyoung.
“Yeah, Jinsol,” said Irene, smirking. “Better tuck into your lobster. God knows the next time you’ll get to eat properly. I hear they’re giving out food stamps instead of paychecks over at the Daily Planet now.”
Fuming, Jinsol folded her hands in her lap, her gaze burning holes into the beautifully designed backdrop on the stage. Journalism Year in Review. Year in Review. Year in Review, Jinsol reminded herself. She was here for an award. An award which was definitely going to her, an award which she was going to rub into Irene’s smug, smug face.
Pure spite gave Jinsol the strength to sit through the mayor’s opening address, through the first round of awards, until finally, Kim Jiwoo took the stage for the final award.
“This is it!” she said, her voice shaking the ballroom. “This is the award we’ve all been on the edge of our seats for - story of the year! We have… Irene Bae, for her story on anti-fans; Jung Jinsol, for her exposé on the League of Extraordinary Ladies; Do Kyungsoo, for his work on the world’s most famous runaway cat; aaaand Kim Seokjin, for his story on assault of front-line medical workers!
“But first, let’s welcome Metropolis’s youngest mayor, Jo Haseul, to give the award out!”
A round of thunderous applause. Haseul stood and waved to the crowd as she walked to the podium, her electric blue pantsuit a sharp contrast to the pearl white backdrop. She was definitely going to come out well on camera, Jinsol thought, with a raised eyebrow.
“Thank you, thank you,” said Haseul. “It’s an honour to be here with you tonight, with all the distinguished members of the media, many of whom have risked their lives writing the stories that we see here tonight. But without further ado…” She took the red envelope from Jiwoo. “The winner for Story of the Year is…”
Jinsol sucked in a deep breath, her heart pounding furiously in her ears. This was it. She squeezed her hands in her lap. This was the award she had been waiting for all her life. The award she had sacrificed relationships, sleep, and her personal life for. This was -
“Irene Bae! Congratulations!”
The entire ballroom erupted into a standing ovation. Stunned, Jinsol could only sit and stare at Irene clasped her hands over her mouth, her eyes filling with tears as she gathered the train of her dress and walked slowly towards the stage.
“Jinsol…” said Sooyoung.
But Jinsol only had eyes for Irene, walking up the stage with careful steps as photographers rushed to the front to jostle for the best position. Jinsol had been so confident, so sure, that it would be hers. Her source at the Association even told her that she had been the favourite.
Yet now, as the only one seated at the table - apart from Sooyoung - Jinsol just felt small.
Irene tapped the mic. “Thank you,” she said, her voice still hoarse from tears. “This is such a great honour. There are just so many great journalists here tonight, and I want to honour them too. All the other nominees have written such fantastic, moving stories. I can’t believe - !”
Whatever pretentious speech Irene had rehearsed never got to be complete. The ceiling shattered, rained debris over screaming audiences.
Jinsol shrieked. Someone knocked her over. Irene and Haseul froze on stage, eyes wide.
Then, she saw them.
Four masked men hung from the broken ceiling, guns firing at random into the crowd. But there! There was one more person, swooping in from above. Flying.
Immediately, someone grabbed her and shoved her under the table.
“Stay here,” Sooyoung said, voice low and urgent. Before Jinsol could say anything, or drag her under the table, to keep her safe, she drew her handgun and ran off.
“Sooyoung!” screamed Jinsol, but Sooyoung was gone, eaten up by the crowd.
She waited under the table, palms sweating, heart racing. Where did Sooyoung go? She had to go after her. The thought of Sooyoung anywhere near the gunfire - of getting hurt - pushed her into a kneeling position.
All around her - chaos. She peeked out from the table. There were bodies lying around. Everyone else had found a place under a table or behind a pillar. And on the stage, the mayor backed against the wall by her bodyguards.
The four gunmen had stationed themselves at each corner of the stage. Meanwhile, the flying woman floated her way towards the platform. Jinsol whipped her head in all directions. No Sooyoung in sight.
Instead, she spotted her purse a few feet away. Creeping close to the floor, she crawled towards her purse and ripped it open. Her phone fell out. There was nothing on her phone either. A silly thought, she realised. Sooyoung could hardly be texting her at this time, could she?
By now, the flying woman was incredibly close to the mayor.
“Jo Haseul,” she said, her calm voice reverberating around the room. “You should have known better than to turn up. I think we gave you fair warning.”
This was… a disaster.
Jinsol immediately scrambled to her feet, pointing her phone’s camera at the two women as she went live on twitter. A direct report, straight to her 1.2 million followers. She could see the comments scrolling, the reactions flying, the closer she got to the stage. She just needed to angle her camera… to get the best view of the flying woman’s face, and -
“THERE!” One gunman pointed at her. “GRAB THE CAMERA!”
Almost as if in slow motion, Jinsol saw the man’s mouth open again, three guns rising up to point at her. She watched their fingers twitch, squeezing the trigger, and before she could react, there was a gust of wind, and then - a shadow.
The guns exploded in a growing staccato ratatata as Jinsol looked up and met the hard brown eyes of a masked woman. She barely flinched as the bullets bounced off her back, falling to the ground with a hollow rattle.
Jinsol blinked. And then the masked woman was on the stage, taking down the gunmen with nothing but a flick of a finger (just how many powers did this woman have?). Her hands shook as she watched the super approach the would-be assassin through the stream on her phone.
“Let her go,” said the super, voice distorted.
Smart, Jinsol allowed. Anyone who knew Metropolis well enough would know that there were enough recorders around to run a quick match on anyone’s voice in the city.
That meant she was definitely someone who lived in the city.
The supervillain merely drew her blade closer to the mayor’s throat in response. Jinsol could hear Haseul choking even half a room away.
“Who sent you? ” the super said again, hands on her hips. Both hovered slightly above ground, circling each other like a bull and his matador.
Jinsol watched as the villain smiled, the edge of her blade biting into the mayor’s neck, a thin line of blood welling up. But before either of them could react, a supersonic screech shattered what was left of the ceiling, sending shards raining.
Jinsol’s phone fizzled and died.
The Justice Union landed in a circle around the villain.
“You’re surrounded!” said Harpy. “Drop the mayor! We can do this nicely or… not very nicely!”
The villain looked around, appearing to calculate her chances, before she slowly lowered her blade. In a blink, she threw the mayor towards the Union. Then she exploded in a flash of smoke and light. Jinsol was left reeling.
All around her, people were starting to crawl out from their hiding spots. Jinsol watched the four supers go around till one of them stopped in front of her.
“Oh. It’s you.” Miss Incredible crossed her arms. “Couldn’t stick your nose out of this one too, could you?”
“Excuse you.” Jinsol drew herself up to her tallest height - dismayed to find that she was still that bit smaller than Miss Incredible. “I am a guest.”
“Right. Of an award ceremony to celebrate the fact that you single-handedly ruined the lives of five women? Amazing.”
“The public needed to know - ”
“Their secret identities? Get off your high horse, Jung Jinsol.”
“Hey.” Choerry threw out an arm. “Stop it. Don’t let her get to you. We’ve done what we came here for. Let’s go.”
None of them spared Jinsol a second look as they started to disperse - while Harpy and Choerry flew off, Beast Girl turned into a giant vulture and picked Miss Incredible up by her claws. Jinsol watched them disappear, four fading spots in the night.
“Hey Miss,” said a waiter, tapping her shoulder. “Your phone has been ringing for a while.”
She glanced down, jumped as she saw Sooyoung’s name flash on her revived phone.
“Where the hell did you go?” she said, as she soon as she picked up.
“Hello to you too,” joked Sooyoung. She sounded winded.
“Sooyoung! You can’t run off like that! Do you know how worried I was?”
There was a short pause. “Sorry,” said Sooyoung. “I had to go help out. We’re trying to lock the city down now so she can’t escape. I’ll be back late.”
“But - ” began Jinsol, then stopped. What was the point anyway? Nothing she said would make a difference. “Alright,” she finally said. “I guess I’ll see you home.”
“Jinso - ”
She tucked her phone in her pocket, picked up her things, and trudged to the hotel’s entrance where taxis waited to ferry her straight home.
That night, in their cramped apartment, Jinsol looked out over the city of Metropolis. Her laptop screen flashed a blinding white in the darkness, but still, Jinsol couldn’t bring herself to switch on the lights.
She preferred it like this. To write under the red, blue and yellow glow of the city, it made her feel a little less alone.
Her phone buzzed. Jinsol frowned as she saw another message from Sooyoung.
going to be really late tonight… dont wait up
Of course. Jinsol sighed, snapped her laptop screen shut. Whatever, she thought, despite the aching in her chest. It better to decompress alone anyway.
“Dude… you okay?”
“Huh?” Jinsol shot up in her seat, rubbing her eyes. Outside, the sky was dark; she had fallen asleep at her desk.
Chaewon clicked her tongue. “Wow. That fight really did a number on you, huh.”
Ever since Jinsol live-streamed the fight, all people wanted to talk to her about was the new superhero and supervillain. It was all her parents could talk about from their vacation in Greece, all Vivi and her colleagues could discuss during their daily pitch meetings, and all her friends would ever ask about when she met them for cocktails.
The only person who never asked was Sooyoung, but that was mostly because she was barely around anyway.
“No, but seriously.” Chaewon leaned over the partition. “You okay? You’ve been out of sorts since you lost that award to Irene.”
The reminder stabbed at her. “Thanks, Chaewon… But yes, I am - ” Defeated. Furious. Cheated out of what I deserve. “ - fine. She deserves it.” She smiled.
“You know you’re not fooling anyone with that, right?”
“Ugh fine.” Jinsol crumpled in her seat. “I’m so bitter. Her piece was terrible. It was basically a fluff piece with some great pictures. If anything, the award should have gone to Seulgi for taking the photos!”
“I know, I know.” Chaewon stroked her hair.
“This is so unfair. She probably bribed them - I know she did. They probably just gave it to her because they're gross old men and she’s absurdly beautiful. No one even cares about substance anymore!”
“Oh honey… What does Sooyoung think?”
“What does Sooyoung thi - pfft. Yeah, I’d love to know too. She’s spending so much time trying to track down this villain I don’t even see her anymore. We’ve probably spoken three times over the past two weeks.”
Chaewon frowned. “Still? I thought things got better over your birthday.”
“Yeah. She stayed for the entirety of one dinner. I guess that’s an improvement.”
“Well,” said Chaewon. “We all tried to warn you. I never really thought she was good enough for you.”
“No,” said Jinsol, hackles rising. “None of you liked her because she came from the wrong side of town. Just because she wasn’t educated at Metropolis U, because she can’t tell the difference between a Porsche and a Ferrari!”
Chaewon stared at her.
Jinsol sighed and rubbed her temples. “Sorry,” she muttered, after a pause. “It’s been a long day. Maybe I should just go home.” She packed up and heaved her bag over her shoulder.
“Hey.” Chaewon held her arm before she could leave. “For the record, I don’t like her not because she doesn’t know the difference between a Porsche and a Ferrari or her Austen and her Bronte. I don’t like her because I think she treats you like trash and you deserve better.”
“You should rest, Jinsol,” said Chaewon firmly. “Goodnight.”
Biting her lip, Jinsol draped her coat over her shoulder and emerged into the night. Rogue winds churned up bits of newspaper and cans, sending them rattling across the pavement. Jinsol shivered.
A line of taxis waited at the steps of the Daily Planet. But today, Jinsol wanted to walk. She needed some fresh air to process her argument with Chaewon.
It’s been a year since she met Sooyoung, Jinsol thought, fingering her wedding band. Six months of marriage. A little hasty, she had to admit. Her parents had been downright angry, her friends concerned, and even Jinsol’s colleagues couldn’t help but comment on how out-of-character this was for her.
But what was time when you met someone whom you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? It was something she firmly believed at the time.
Now? She wondered if she should have waited.
She barely knew what Sooyoung did in her day-to-day job, much less visited her at the station. Did Sooyoung’s colleagues even know she had a wife? And Jinsol had only met Sooyoung’s adoptive parents twice - once when Sooyoung brought her home to the country, where she had proposed; and a brief greeting when they came for the wedding.
Lost in her thoughts, Jinsol only noticed the solid footsteps behind her when she was already halfway home. Goosebumps ran down her arm.
They were in a narrow, dimly-lighted street. Jinsol usually walked down this route on the way to work, but now, in the dead of the night, the familiar brick houses took on a forbidding, almost menacing aura. The footsteps followed at a steady pace.
Jinsol’s mind raced.
There were alleyways around that she could duck into, but she knew as well as anyone else that they all led to dead ends. She lengthened her strides, sped up her steps, only to hear the person behind her speed up too.
Overhead, a crow cried.
Jinsol fumbled with her phone, dialling Sooyoung’s number, only to curse under her breath when it went unanswered. Fuck. She reached into the bag, fumbling for her swiss army knife, only to hear the would-be mugger gaining on her.
Cold sweat broke out on Jinsol’s forehead.
Fuck it, she thought, and began sprinting. The man started running too. Frantic, Jinsol ducked down another the nearest alleyway, hoping to use the cover of the night to lose her pursuer. Except -
A hand grasped Jinsol’s shoulder.
Jinsol shrieked and kicked at the man, only to miss. His fingers tightened around her and she felt the barrel of a gun dig into her back.
“If you leave quietly, I’ll pretend this didn’t happen.”
Jinsol and her attacker froze. Slowly, they turned. A floating silhouette blocked the entrance to the alleyway, stark against the low yellow light.
Oh god. It was her. The new super.
Jinsol knees buckled in relief.
The man seemed to be considering his options. Then, faster than Jinsol could blink, he held her in a vice-grip, gun to her temple.
“Don’t come any closer!” he screamed, the sharp tang of burnt plastic filling the air.
Jinsol tugged at his arm, choking. She felt her ankle twist as the man strangled her.
“Put her down,” said the super, calm as ever.
The man dragged Jinsol further into the shadows as the silhouette floated closer. Jinsol forced herself to breath through her mouth. Blood pounding in her ears, sweat matting her forehead, hair stuck to her neck.
“Leave!” shouted the man. “Leave and I’ll let her go safely!”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Back off!” The man swung his gun wildly before pressing it to Jinsol’s temple again. “I’ll shoot, I swear to god!”
But the superhero continued coming closer. The man clenched the trigger and Jinsol felt the chamber click.
“Oh my god, back off! He’s going to fucking shoot me!” Jinsol screamed.
The superhero paused.
The man relaxed his grip. “Good… Turn around. Leave the alley. I’ll - argh!”
His shot went flying, the bullet shooting upwards, his grip on her slackening. Jinsol collapsed and gasped. Beside her, the gun clattered on the pavement.
Turning, Jinsol’s eyes widened as the sight of the hero holding the purpling man in a chokehold, high above the ground.
“I told you to release her.”
The man coughed, eyes widening, hands scrabbling desperately at the hero’s hand.
Then, just as quick as she had picked him up, the super dropped him, knocking him out cold. She wrapped his hands together with a coil of rope before walking over to Jinsol.
A hand hovered in Jinsol’s line of sight. “You okay?”
Jinsol rubbed her neck, glared as she pushed herself to her feet. “Never better. Are you fucking insane? He could have shot me.”
The hero chuckled. Offended, Jinsol scoffed.
“Trust me,” said the hero, warm. “I wouldn’t have let anything happen to you.”
“Yeah, yeah, all you supers are the same. I’m not going to thank you for saving me.” She snatched her handbag off the ground, dusted her coat off, and limped her way out.
“What’s the rush?” The hero trailed after her - out of the alleyway and into the wide street. “Got somewhere to be? Not going to get into trouble like last time, are you?”
Jinsol stopped short and squinted at the woman under the dim glow of the streetlamps. They were of a similar height, although Jinsol couldn’t be sure, not with the way the woman was hovering in mid-air. But she was built surprisingly small, Jinsol noted, all narrow shoulders and thin limbs, made all the more stark with her loose pants and fitted jacket.
If she hadn’t seen her take down a giant man in the blink of an eye, she would scarcely believe the woman to be a superhero herself.
The woman adjusted the mask on the upper face of her face. “Like what you see?”
A beat. Jinsol blinked.
“What? Sorry, are you… flirting with me right now?”
“...no?” The woman shifted.
Jinsol scoffed again. Unbelievable. This was just turning out to be another nightmare in a series of nightmares. She rested her back against the cool brick wall, feeling her ankle throb. There was no way she was going to be able to walk home like this.
“You sprained your ankle,” said the hero. She was still hovering around Jinsol.
At this point, Jinsol was starting to get annoyed. “Don’t you take a hint? Just drop that guy off at a police station and leave me alone.”
“He’ll be out cold for a few hours. I can do one kind deed and come back and get him.”
“Kind dee - ? Ah!” Jinsol screeched as the hero looped her arm around her neck and lifted her straight off the ground in a bridal hold. “Wait! I didn’t say you could pick me up!”
The hero paused. “Do you want me to put you down?” she asked, uncertain. “I mean… I thought I would just fly you home.”
“Fly… fly me home?”
“You… live nearby, don’t you?”
“Uh…” She considered her options. She could insist on walking home herself, which would mean hobbling the entire way. There was no way any taxi was coming for her here. And she didn’t know whether she could even count on Sooyoung to pick her up at this point.
“You can drop me off at the roof of the Daily Planet,” she said instead. At the hero’s puzzled look, she raised her eyebrow. “What, like I’m about to tell a stranger where I live?”
There was a short pause. Then the hero laughed. “Fair enough. Daily Planet it is then.”
Jinsol circled the hero’s neck with her arms as the hero leapt into the air, her mind racing, trying to take in the full reality of the moment. She was flying above the city. God.
She buried her head in the hero’s neck as the icy wind hit them.
“Cold?” The hero's arms tightened. “Hold on. I’ll get you there in a minute.”
They shot past the tall buildings, through the skyline, and into the night. Metropolis splayed out below her in all its moving lights. Jinsol had never really had the chance to see the city like this - unfettered, free - the grand sweep of its roads and buildings leaving her breathless.
“Amazing, right?” There was a softness to the hero’s voice that Jinsol couldn’t quite place. Tenderness? Wistfulness? “Sometimes I wish I could take others up here, to see the world like how I see it.”
“Why don’t you?” asked Jinsol, mesmerised. Under the bright, full moon, Jinsol could make out her eyes - a warm, honeyed brown. It felt achingly familiar, so familiar.
“No one else knows who I am.”
“Not even your family?”
“I didn’t tell her.”
So she wasn’t alone in the city then. A girlfriend? A wife?
The superhero looked at her, a smile playing on her lips. “Anyone ever told you that you ask too many questions?”
“Yeah. Loads of times. Don’t change the topic.”
The woman laughed. “You really are a reporter, through and through.” She paused, looking at a point over Jinsol’s shoulder. Then, after a silence: “I don’t want her to get hurt. My enemies would use her against me.”
“Your enemies.” Jinsol snorted. “There you lot go again. You’re not as great as you make yourselves out to be, you know? You can’t do everything. Can’t save everyone…” She swallowed.
The hero merely hummed. They flew in silence until they started to descend sharply. Jinsol looked out and recognised the ever-bright globe on the Daily Planet building.
“Here’s where I leave you,” said the hero as she landed on the roof. “You can get home safely?”
Jinsol tested her weight on her right ankle, pleased to note that it held up well. “Don’t worry. I’ll live.”
“Good.” The corners of the woman’s lips quirked up. “Get home safe, Miss Jung Jinsol.”
“Wait - how do you - ”
But the woman was gone, stolen off like a thief into the night. Jinsol shook her head, scoffed.
By Jung Jinsol
METROPOLIS - You know her, I know her, we know her. Two months ago, a new superhero arrived in town. But who is she? That is the question that continues to boggle observers, even as Metropolis watches her perform save after save.
Just two weeks ago, she was the first on site after a new supervillain attempted to assassinate incumbent Mayor Jo Haseul. She managed to thwart the villain, which earned her the city’s gold Medal for Super-bravery, an award given out - effectively monthly - to superheroes for extraordinary acts of heroism.
Ms Jo was quoted as saying: “Brilliant. Spectacular. Show-stopping. I have never seen a more heroic act of bravery. And I don’t know why I was being targeted. It’s just absurd that anyone would want to disrupt Government like this. I am very thankful to this… this uh, wonderful lady for her help.”
And Wonder Girl’s heroism does not stop there. Even before rescuing Ms Jo, Wonder Girl saved the city from a crashing plane, foiled two bank robberies, and stopped a jumping man seconds after he leapt off the top of Government House. All in the same day.
Pictures by the Daily Planet and several other outlets suggest that the new hero may be a part of the Justice Union, a superhero group comprising Beast Girl, Miss Incredible, Harpy and Choerry.
The group stepped up in the vacuum of the dissolution of League of Extraordinary Ladies, after media reports revealed corruption and collusion...
this was an idea that i've wanted to write for the longest time. i love superhero secret identity things.
i've made it pretty obvious, but anyone want to guess who is which superhero/villain?
On the rare occasions when the Daily Planet’s stolid news service invited celebrities over, the entire office would be awash with excitement, intelligent journalists twittering like overexcited birds.
“For god’s sake, sit down and focus, Johnny.”
The man in question - 30-year-old business reporter John Suh - bounced on the balls of his feet. “It’s Kim Jiwoo, Jinsol! It’s Kim Jiwoo!”
Jinsol rolled her eyes. Sooyoung had a poster of Kim Jiwoo in the back of their cupboard somewhere too. As much as Sooyoung tried to protest that it was a gift from a friend, Jinsol always caught her throwing lingering looks at the life-sized standee at Spin Musik.
Kim Jiwoo was cute, yes, but Jinsol just never quite got it. She would have been content never to ponder Kim Jiwoo’s appeal, ever, except that the powers-that-be had decided their 24/7 news channel needed some ‘jazzing up’.
Hence, the entertainment corner.
Jinsol raised her phone and snapped a picture of the back of Kim Jiwoo’s head, seated as she was in the studio.
Look, it’s your girlfriend. She attached the picture and sent it to Sooyoung.
Sooyoung replied almost immediately. don’t tell my wife though
I could be persuaded. What are you offering?
lunch? we can go to that greek place you like
Jinsol paused. Don’t you have a case to work?
hyejoo’s handling it, she can spare me for an hour or so
She didn’t even have to think. I’ll be ready in half an hour, she typed.
perfect i’ll see u then
“Wait, where are you going?” asked Johnny, as Jinsol rolled her chair and stood. His eyes were wide. “Vivi wants this by lunch.”
“Yeah, I’ve given Vivi the best of my youth. She can wait another couple hours. Or you know, you can write it instead of freaking out over some teeny-bopper idol.”
“She’s an artist, Jinsol! An artist!” Johnny called, his voice fading as Jinsol flapped her hand at him and turned the corner.
She stared at her reflection in the plexiglass lift. She looked tired, worn. Bags under her eyes. It had been a while since she had slept properly, haunted by the recurring dreams of gunmen bursting in on her - at her office, in her home, even in her bathroom. Sooyoung suggested mild PTSD; Jinsol only laughed - she didn’t have time for PTSD.
Striding out into the lobby, Jinsol spotted Sooyoung’s battered car turning into the driveway.
“Hey.” Sooyoung stepped out. Jinsol eyed the suit appreciatively. It was the new one they had bought together, she noted, with its crisp tailoring and sharp lines. They bought it after Sooyoung ripped one of her old ones while working late. Apparently, she had taken a fall while questioning a suspect.
A commotion drew her attention back to the building. A small group had gathered around the reception. As Jinsol squinted, she made out the vague shape of Kim Jiwoo, flanked by two hulking bodyguards. Her eyes flitted over to Sooyoung.
There was a little furrow in her eyebrows as she watched, but otherwise, her face remained impassive.
“You want an autograph or something?”
Startled, Sooyoung glanced at her. “Of course not.” She ducked under the hood.
When Jinsol continued to stare at her through the window, frowning, Sooyoung rolled the window down. “I’m driving off without you.”
“Don’t you dare!”
Just by the doors of the Daily Planet, Jinsol kissed Sooyoung goodbye under the shade of a tiny alcove, hidden behind two giant potted plants.
“Did I ever tell you how much I like you in a suit?” murmured Jinsol. She pressed up against Sooyoung, hand tangled in her tie as she leaned in close.
“Mm.” Sooyoung smiled, their lips a hair’s breadth apart. “I could stand to hear it more.”
Jinsol leaned in and kissed Sooyoung’s bottom lip with practised ease, humming at the sensation of Sooyoung’s ghosting her hands up her sides.
After a long moment, Sooyoung detached herself. “I should go,” she said, “before Hyejoo starts getting on my case about being late again.”
“She’s your deputy. You shouldn’t be scared of her.”
“You haven’t met her. Hyejoo is terrifying. There is no one in that building that isn’t afraid of her.” Sooyoung gave her a final kiss, brushing her nose against hers. “I’ll see you tonight,” she said, smiling, before she clambered into her car and drove off.
Smiling to herself, Jinsol took light, floating steps back up to her floor, caught almost in a dreamy haze.
Then Vivi accosted her somewhere between the entrance and the copy editors’ desk.
“Jung Jinsol!” she bellowed.
“Where is my story?” Vivi loomed over her like a ghoul.
“I gave you a story! You ran it! It was most read story in a week!”
“I didn’t ask for a Wikipedia entry on Wonder Girl. I said I want an exclusive. An interview! I want her on tape!”
Before Jinsol could protest, Vivi stormed away, and Chaewon appeared by her side with a cup of tea and a comforting pat on her shoulder. “Don’t worry about her. She’s been in a bad mood since her ex-wife called. They were arguing in her office for an hour.”
“Please tell me you heard everything.”
Chaewon’s eyes twinkled. “Of course, dumbass. We’re journalists. Jaehyun’s got it all on tape.”
As she was wont to do on Thursdays, Jinsol made her rounds around the city. First, the seven district police stations, shaking down some unsuspecting rookies for information with a charming smile and some honeyed words. That was usually enough to net her a lead or two.
Then, the fire stations. They knew her well enough there. All Jinsol had to do was buy some coffee and snacks, and they would be sitting her down at the lunch table with them, regaling her with stories of their heroics. Those didn’t turn into leads often, but when they did, they were always solid ones.
Then the markets, and the town halls. Those were always good places to find out what people were talking about. It helped her keep her ears to the ground, tapped into the heartbeat of the city. This yielded stories more often than not.
She took the time after dinner to meet contacts privately. Most of the time, they were fairly respectable, clean, corporate types. But occasionally, she would have to venture into the shadier parts of the city, where the men stared at you a little too long for comfort, and the women looked at you like they couldn’t decide whether to ignore you or rob you.
It was one of these street corners that Jinsol stood tonight, arms wrapped around herself, shivering each time the wind picked up. There was the pungent odour of rotting food from the dumpster nearby, and sometimes, the sound of an argument would pick up and carry itself on the wind to her.
Where the hell are you?
Bruh chill out im almost there
This was part of Old Metropolis, where the old city used to stand until the great expansion of the 1970s. Instead of transforming its interior, the city travelled eastwards, towards the sea, each new wave building taller, shinier towers. Now, Metropolis spilled out into the beach, the piers and docks encroaching onto the sapphire seas.
Jinsol exhaled. Finally. She felt the curious eyes on her shrink away. Doah scuffed his way over to her, hood drawn tight around his face.
“Took you long enough. You said 11!”
“Yeah, yeah, I had some woman problem to deal with, okay? You get it.”
“Your tip, Doah. I’ve been standing here for over 20 minutes.”
“Touchy. Hmm, let’s see. I heard that someone’s been going around offering a lot of money to some goons lately. Says he’ll pay them a million won if they commit a crime and turn themselves in. Payment will scale up the more serious the crime.”
What the hell?
Jinsol stared at him, but there was no sign of a joke on Doah’s face. He met her gaze. “And people are taking this up?”
“Hey, a million goes a long way if you’ve got mouths to feed. Not that you can relate, Princess.” He raised an eyebrow and smiled, as though daring her to challenge him.
She thought back to their first meeting in a police cell - Jinsol locked up for trespassing while trying to get a picture, Doah for several drug-related offences.
“Shut up, idiot,” she said, the memory twisting in her gut. “What’s in it for you?”
“Sharp as ever.” Doah chuckled. “I want them gone, of course. No one’s going to be a runner if someone else is offering way more money than I am.”
“Maybe you should consider raising wages.”
“No thank you. Capitalism works very well for me - why change what ain’t broke?”
“Your workers should unionise.”
Doah made an impatient sound. “I’m not here to discuss unionising with you here, Princess. Just help me get that guy. There’s more tip-offs waiting for you if you help me with this.”
Jinsol paused and studied Doah’s face. As much as she hated being manipulated by Doah, she had to admit - this was a pretty good tip he was sitting on.
She grunted. “Fine. So where can I find this guy?”
“Here.” Doah handed her a card. “It’s an exclusive club down by 67th. He’s usually there on Monday nights. Knock on the door, tell them Doah sent you. They’ll let you in.”
“You’re not going to be there?”
Doah laughed. “Darling, it’s night time. Business beckons. I don’t have time to take you around a club.”
Fine. Fine. This wasn’t her first rodeo in a shady places. She could handle it just fine, she told herself.
Doah checked his watch and swore. “I’d like to stay and extend this chat, but I have to go. A shipment’s coming in tonight.”
“Wait, but you - ” Before she could protest, Doah had slipped out by the back alley, disappearing into the night. “Ugh. Idiot.”
More than 50% of open criminal cases solved, first in seven years
By Park Chaewon
METROPOLIS - Fifty-four percent of open cases were solved in 2024, a seven-year high for the Metropolis Police Department.
Police doubled the number of solved cases from 2023, even as reports revealed a spike in crime over the past several months, coinciding with nationwide austerity measures announced by the central government.
President Ju Jihoon said in August last year that the central government would be “taking the necessary step” to cut back social safety net spending as the nation’s deficit ballooned to an all-time high. This includes lowering the income ceiling for food stamps and unemployment benefits and reducing cash payouts for low-income families.
Despite almost a three-fold increase in crime rate, an injection of funds by the city government has helped the police to solve more cases, said Police Commissioner Seo Juhyun on Friday.
“We have hired more officers, lab technicians, installed more cameras around the city. All this goes a long way to prevent crime and resolve more cases. Rest assured that our officers are working round-the-clock to bring these criminals to justice,” she said.
When the Daily Planet reached out with queries, the Mayor's office did not respond. However, they later sent out a press statement noting that reducing crime was Mayor Jo Haseul's foremost priority.
“We have seen an alarming increase in crime over the years. This is something I fully intend to tackle - now, and in the future, should I be re-elected,” said Ms Jo in the release.
Metropolis has, in recent years, been known as the ‘criminal capital’ of the country, with the highest rates of crime per 1,000 people. Its rate of crime is more than double the number of the second highest city, Gotham City.
If there was one thing that Jinsol hated about covering any sort of election, it was the outdoor rallies. Not only were the audience sweaty and loud, there was always some sort of technical difficulty, which meant having to stay far longer than was actually needed.
“Got a good position?”
“The best.” Heejin’s voice came over her earpiece. “I’m perched up on a tree. All these other photographers got nothing on me.”
Jinsol turned, squinting at the sight of Heejin, nothing more than a black speck on a tree, that damn bucket hair drawn down over her eyes.
“Heejin,” said Jinsol. “You look like an assassin. Please take the hat off and get down from the tree. I really don’t want to have to bail you out from jail later. I’m busy.”
“Ugh, crabby.” Over the earpiece, Jinsol heard some shuffling and a grunt. “Fine, I’m down. And completely blocked, by the way.”
“Just go to the front with the other photographers,” said Jinsol tiredly. It had been far too long a day for her to be dealing with this crap.
Around them were ardent Yeri supporters, their shirts white striped with red, blown up pictures of roses emblazoned across their banners. These were college students, Jinsol reminded herself, young activists enamoured with Yeri’s progressive platform, even further left than Haseul’s.
The lights in the park dimmed. A booming voice echoed across the small green square. “Ladies and gentlemen… The moment you’ve all been waiting for… Kim Yeri!”
Kim Jiwoo’s latest single rocked the crowd. The students went wild. Yeri ascended the stage, dressed in a white power suit.
“Thank you, thank you.” She tapped the microphone. “It’s such an honour to be here with all of you, knowing that you have chosen me to represent your interests in this city…”
One moment Jinsol had been writing, pen cap between her teeth, nib flying across the paper; the next, there was a tiny explosion, collapsing the stage into itself.
The crowd screamed and ducked for cover.
Someone started shooting. Two gunmen emerged from the crowd.
Her first instinct had been to duck. Flat against the ground, the wet soil against her hands, breathing quick and shallow.
Heejin was still snapping pictures, her shutter with its frantic clicking, and Jinsol ran over, pulling her down on the ground, away from the gunmen's line of sight. What the hell was she thinking, this idiot?
Looking up to survey the scene, Jinsol spotted a speck in the air - and instantly recognised the supervillain. But it was different this time. The supervillain wasn’t doing anything. Just watching.
The gunmen seemed to have dispensed with the theatrics today. A red dot appeared on Yeri’s chest. Even from Jinsol’s position on the ground, it stood out, stark against the white jacket. A singular shot rang out.
Jinsol gasped, her cry lodged in her throat.
Yeri’s bodyguard stiffened and fell to the ground. Blood bloomed on his chest.
And Miss Incredible slammed body-first into the gunmen.
The crowd released their collective breath. Screams pierced the air, the sounds of wailing and crying punctuating the beating that Miss Incredible was giving to the gunmen.
But Jinsol’s eyes were trained at the figure arcing through the air, hurtling towards the flying supervillain. Amid the screams, Wonder Girl knocked the supervillain off-balance and threw her to the ground, crushing the last standing prop from the stage - the podium.
For a brief moment, they tussled. Jinsol watched them, heart in her throat. Yeri had found her way to her bodyguard, hands pressed over his wound, eyes wide and unseeing.
The supervillain kicked Wonder Girl off herself. Before Wonder Girl could somersault back around, the supervillain thrust her hand aloft into the air - and Wonder Girl froze, fell backwards, hands clutching her chest.
Jinsol shot to her feet.
Miss Incredible caught Wonder Girl. In that split second, the supervillain launched herself into the air and vanished.
There was a long silence. And then the scene erupted.
Later, when the ambulances arrived, Jinsol hid in a corner of the park, hands shaking as she lit up a cigarette.
“You shouldn’t smoke, you know.”
Jinsol took a long drag, wincing at the ashy taste. It had been too long, far too long. “Right. Thanks, Mom.”
But Wonder Girl only blinked at her. “It’s bad for you.”
“I’m well-aware. I read the warning labels on the packs.” She whirled around, only to see Wonder Girl standing before her in that same jacket and loose pants, mask bunched tight round her face.
“You really shouldn’t smoke,” the superhero said again. In the hazy aftermath, adrenalin still pumping her veins, Wonder Girl took on a hazy, familiar edge.
Sooyoung would be upset if she knew she was smoking again. Groaning, Jinsol rubbed her eyes with the heels of her palms, before stubbing her cigarette out.
“Don’t suppose you have any perfume on you?”
Wonder Girl shrugged.
Great. Now she’d probably have to find some way to sneak into the shower before Sooyoung could smell the cigarettes on her. By any luck, Sooyoung would still be working in the office.
She sniffed herself. Though she couldn’t smell it, she knew it was merely a false sense of security. Cigarette smoke had a way of clinging to her in the most innocuous of places, like a deep dark stain. Like death.
Jinsol sucked in a long breath. Images of blood flashed through her mind. The bullet piercing flesh. The groan. The fall. The red-stained shirt.
“It gets easier,” said Wonder Girl. “Watching people die, I mean. Time helps.” When Jinsol stared at her, she continued. “My first time was an accident. Some people going too fast, slammed right into a tree. They died on impact. There was so much blood everywhere that I vomited.”
The thought of someone like Wonder Girl, a superhero, retching from blood was a sobering thought. Jinsol blinked at her, mind blank.
“Sorry,” said Wonder Girl, sounding shy. “I’m not very good at comforting people.”
“You’re terrible at it.”
Jinsol cleared her throat. “But thanks, I mean. For the effort.”
Wonder Girl gave her a faint smile.
Then, Jinsol remembered the fight. “What happened to you?”
“What do you mean?”
“What did she do to you? It was that thing in her hand, right? Whatever it was. It hurt you.”
“Nothing hurts me.” It came out breezy, but Jinsol caught the guarded flicker in Wonder Girl’s eyes.
She rolled her eyes. “Fine, whatever. Keep your secrets. I don’t care. Be as brooding and mysterious as you want. I’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.”
The superhero remained silent. Jinsol spat out the stale taste in her mouth. Yeah, Sooyoung was definitely going to kill her. Jinsol tossed the half-empty pack into the bin, left her lighter standing on its head, and slung her satchel over her shoulder.
Wonder Girl stepped up and deposited a scrap of paper in her hands. Jinsol stared at it.
“If you ever need to talk,” the superhero said softly.
Unfurling the paper, Jinsol stared at the string of numbers. The next time she looked up, Wonder Girl was gone.
Since that day, she started seeing Wonder Girl all over the city. Soaring overheard to reach a burning building, stopping a robbery at the corner store just by Jinsol’s apartment. Once, she had even driven round a street corner to see the superhero uproot an entire tree, shake a cat off, before putting it back into place with a thunk.
But each time, the superhero made no sign of having noticed her. Thankfully. The idea of asking for an interview did cross her mind several times, but Jinsol had conducted enough interviews to know when to push and when to take a step back.
The scrap of paper remained in her pocket the entire time, transported from location to location in the pocket of her jacket. It had been folded and unfolded so many times that the ink faded. But she didn’t need the paper anymore; the numbers were seared into her mind at this point.
An attempt to trace the number only led her to an old payphone. They still stood at most street corners of Metropolis, a relic from an older time, those forgotten archaic things. It had been more than two decades since Jinsol last used a payphone; she barely even thought of them now.
That one payphone in particular was an odd one. It was the only one standing in that cluster of streets, somehow having survived the modernising zeal of several mayors. But there was nothing of note nearby, save some beauty parlours, and somehow, Jinsol didn’t think that she would find Wonder Girl hiding among them, clipping and buffing nails.
But it was a couple streets away from the Daily Planet, she noted. If it was a joke, it was a particularly well-placed one.
Jinsol stared at the mottled plastic covering, mood souring. Dead end. Again.
The shit icing on top of the shit cake.
And ever since lunch last week, Sooyoung had practically disappeared, each time claiming that she had cases to look into. Jinsol trudged back to the office, defeated.
“Sorry,” Sooyoung sighed over the phone later. Jinsol heard the static of wind picking up. “I know we said dinner, but Hyejoo’s mom got sick, and we have all these reports…”
Jinsol had heard it all before. “You don’t have to explain it me,” she said, cutting Sooyoung off. “I understand.”
“I have some things to look at. I’ll see you at home. Bye.” She ended the call and tossed her phone on her table.
It wasn’t like Sooyoung was the only one looking into the attempted assassinations. So was Jinsol, but she didn't blow people off all the time to work on her leads. Since that day, Jinsol had channelled all her energy into her investigations, pursuing the case with a single-minded intensity. She had rustled up police contacts, criminal contacts, government contacts - but still. Nothing.
Fighting the urge to brood, Jinsol checked her emails. There was one from Heejin.
sent u the magnified pic, read her email. Jinsol clicked the attachment, staring at a blown-up image, which had pretty much dissolved into a mass of pixels. Heejin's money shot.
There was that cluster of grey pixels that was probably Wonder Girl staggering backward, the red that was the supervillain with her hand aloft, and then… Jinsol narrowed her eyes. What was that patch of green there?
She tried to zoom in further.
It emanated from the villain’s fist. This was probably what had knocked Wonder Girl off-balance, but… a green glow? What in the world would glow like this - especially under a bright spotlight?
Her finger traced what seemed to be an irregular shape - almost… rock-like? Was it a rock? Did rocks even glow? Again, she tried to zoom and sharpen the picture, only for it to blur beyond recognition.
“Ugh. Stupid cameras. We should have been able to take a picture of the moon’s surface by now,” she grumbled.
Maybe this was a sign that she should go home. But the thought of returning to an empty apartment made her stomach turn.
Instead, she drew out a piece of paper and started sketching some preliminary thoughts.
Jo Haseul - Kim Yeri
- political candidates
- frontrunners for mayor's office
- well-liked (maybe??)
- clean image
The rest of her notes were just scrawls, scraps of family information she had gathered from Haseul’s many interviews - her missing father, her single mother, her working-class background.
Then there was Yeri: political dark horse, the scion of a long line of politicians, running an oddly progressive platform considering her family.
Jinsol spun her pen round her fingers. None of these explained why they were targeted, though.
Of course, there was the obvious third party explanation; but Jackson was falling so far behind that even if Yeri and Haseul had actually died, Jinsol still doubted his ability to win. It couldn’t be him. Besides, he seemed a little too kooky to be capable of something like this.
After a long pause, Jinsol groaned and tossed the list.
The clock on the wall ticked past midnight.
Maybe she needed to take a walk. Clear her mind. Get some fresh perspective.
She made her way to the roof, using her stolen key to open the chain looped round the door handles, pushing her way out into the freezing night air.
She breathed the air in, took in the sweep of illuminated buildings for miles and miles around - only to freeze at the sight of the dark silhouette perched on the edge of the roof. The silhouette turned at the sound of her footsteps.
“What are you doing here? This is private property.”
“I could say the same for you,” said Wonder Girl. “The doors were locked.”
“This is my office.”
“And it has a great vantage point over the city.” Her tone was teasing, playful, and Jinsol ground her teeth, not quite in the mood.
“You can’t just sit on random buildings,” she said. The nerve. The audacity.
But the super merely smiled. “I read your story, by the way,” she said, hopping off the parapet. Under the bronze glint from the Daily Planet's globe, her eyes seemed to glow. “A lot more flattering than I expected.”
“I called you a phony hobbit vigilante.”
“Yes.” Wonder Girl grinned, flashing teeth. “But at least you didn't name me Beast Girl or Harpy. Should I be glad that you hate me that little less?”
Jinsol furrowed her brows. “I don’t hate you.”
“Really?” Wonder Girl inched closer. “You call us things like phony hobbit vigilante, and give us names like Harpy and Beast Girl, and you don’t hate us?”
“And expose your identities?” Jinsol said in an arch tone. “You can say it, you know. I know that’s what all of you are thinking.”
“That wasn’t what I meant.”
But with the floodgates flung wide open, there was no holding back. Jinsol pushed up into Wonder Girl’s space - forcing her back against the parapet - and jabbed a finger into the super’s chest.
“Seems like you forgot that they were criminals. I don’t believe in giving any sort of anonymity to criminals, super or not. It’s like you expect special treatment just because you were born with some strange superpower. Well, let me tell you - it doesn’t work like that.”
Jinsol glared at Wonder Girl, faces only inches apart. The superhero was staring at her with wide eyes, mouth open, breath hitching, and Jinsol drew back, all at once conscious of how close they were.
Wonder Girl cleared her throat. “Regular criminals aren’t going to be scrutinised the way they are," she said. "You know they’ll never be able to live a normal life after this. This isn’t rehabilitation. It’s punishment. Forever.”
“Did you know that some of their families had to change their identities?” said Wonder Girl, seeming to grow taller before her very eyes. “You have people harassing them about their families, about their own superpowers. Some of them just want to live like normal people.”
“What do you mean live like normal people?”
“I mean that they don’t want to use their superpowers.”
There were people with superpowers who didn’t use them?
“We don’t care about the League itself, you know,” said Wonder Girl gently. “You’re right. They’re criminals. You don’t owe them anything. But when it feels like one journalist’s discretion can mean the difference between living a regular life and complete exposure… Don’t you see how terrifying that is?”
“Is that it then? Are you scared of me?”
“Me?” The corners of Wonder Girl’s lips tugged up. “No.”
“You’re not afraid of me?”
Wonder Girl grinned. “Well. I think you kind of like me, don’t you?”
“What? You’re delusional.” But from the way the superhero laughed, Jinsol knew she had lost the argument.
Wonder Girl stepped off the parapet and into nothing. “For what it’s worth,” she said, slowly. “I'm glad you're here. You do the work in the light that we can’t do as vigilantes.”
Then she flew off.
Jinsol leaned on the parapet, reeling.
Fifteen minutes. Jinsol checked her watch again and again, her phone ringing without connecting.
Sooyoung, she typed, where the hell are you? You were supposed to be here at 7.30!
Five more minutes, she told herself. Five more minutes, then she would enter, with or without Sooyoung.
A minute later, her phone rang.
“Sooyoung, where are you?”
“Hey,” Sooyoung voice sounded muffled. “Honey, I am really sorry.”
Her stomach sank. “No. You promised.”
“I know. I am so sorry. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
“Sooyoung, you always do this! You couldn’t have given me a heads-up? You know much I hate meeting her alone. I would have cancelled if I knew you weren’t coming.”
“Jinsol, I'm really sorry… I’ll try to come right after, okay? It’s just there’s a fire and someone called in saying it was arson and I have to - ”
“You know, I don’t know why they always need you to be there for everything that goes wrong in Metropolis. But fine. I’m not interested in listening to excuses.” She ended the call before Sooyoung could say anything else.
“Ugh!” Jinsol threw her phone into her bag. FIne. Fine. She didn’t need Sooyoung anyway. Putting her best face on, she strode into the restaurant.
“Jinsol. You’ve gained weight.”
“Wonderful to see you as always, Mom.”
“Don’t give me that.” Her mother looked around. “Where’s Sooyoung?”
“Ah. Of course.” There was a knowing edge to her mother’s tone that had Jinsol bristling.
Looking at home among the finely-dressed patrons of the city’s top Italian restaurant, Jinsol’s mother settled into the plush velvet seats. An ornate wooden table, topped with a sheet of white marble, sat between them, the spread of main dishes, bread, and soup forming an insurmountable barrier.
More out of politeness than interest, Jinsol asked, “How was your trip?”
Her mother's eyes lit up. “Wonderful. Jiseok and I went all over - London, Paris, Barcelona, Munich, Milan… Just a delight. I managed to buy out the limited edition Yves Saint Laurent that I wanted.”
Great. Jinsol kept her polite smile on her face, already tuning her out. The one good thing about having dinner with Mom was the free food- that was the only reason that kept Jinsol coming back.
She gave her pasta a particularly vicious stab as her mother launched into a detailed explanation of the frescoes at the Sistine Chapel. Like she wasn't the one with the minor in Art History. Finally, at the 45 minute mark - 45 minutes too long, in Jinsol's opinion - her mother said, “Well, that’s enough from me. Tell me, how has work been? And… Sooyoung.”
“We’re fine. Work has been fine.”
“Fine enough that she ditched you today?” Her mother looked at her over the rim of her cup. “I did tell you, didn’t I? I told you that you were making a mistake.”
At this point, the last thing Jinsol wanted to hear was her mother lecturing her on her marriage. She inhaled deeply, tamping down the burning in her chest. “Mom. Stop.”
“I will not. I’m sick of watching you mope around like this. Your marriage isn’t going to last if she isn’t even going to bother with these things. I told you it was a bad idea. And I heard about the failed assassinations, you know. I told you, didn’t I? I said you were going to get yourself killed one day. You should have joined Jiseok’s company when I told you to.”
Jinsol growled. “Right, of course. Because we should all be as calculating as you. Snag a rich man, marry him, never have to work another day in your life. Ever considered that some of us want more out of life?”
“What did you say?”
“I said, I’m not interested in selling my own principles and happiness for money. Not like you.”
The slap echoed across the restaurant. The chatter died. Heads swivelled to stare at them. But her mother, usually so conscious of what people were saying about her, didn't even bat an eyelid. Her mouth curled. “I told you not to speak to me like that.”
Tears welling, Jinsol jumped to her feet. “Fuck you,” she spat, and fled the restaurant.
Curtains of mist shrouded the city when Jinsol stepped out. She sucked in the thick smell of humidity, cut her way through the haze, the events of the past week weighing on her. Ever so often, the image of a blood-stained shirt would flash in her mind, sending her gasping for breath.
By the time she reached her apartment, it was long past dinnertime. Even then, the interior was still dark - not that Jinsol had expected anything else anyway.
She ventured straight into the study. Heaps and heaps of folders littered the space - some Sooyoung’s, some hers. Though they had tried to divide the room into their respective spheres, the contents spilled over anyway, mingling like paint in a cup of water.
From the recesses of her filing cabinet, Jinsol pulled out a small cardboard box. The one thing she managed to save from her mother’s cleaning rampage 15 years ago.
She opened the lid, laid out the photo albums on the floor. The covers had long faded, its inner pages yellowing from age.
Jinsol cracked open the first album and stared into the youthful face of her father.
It was a picture from the time her parents visited Star City, one of their first dates out of Metropolis, and they had gone to a farm just on the outskirts. There was her father by the fields, posing with a cow, trying to climb a tree - all captured with a loving eye.
It was followed shortly by honeymoon pictures. This time, her mother appeared too, laughing among the flowers, asleep on a train, playing with a dog. Her parents had been too poor to travel then, with her father’s income as a uniformed officer; so they settled for a round-the-country tour.
There was one of her father’s promotions, beaming as the commissioner placed a new badge on him.
He would have liked Sooyoung, Jinsol thought then. They shared the same fierce streak, the desire to always do the right, the difficult thing.
More of her parents. Then her. As a baby, as a toddler, as a child. Her in the park, her at her first day of kindergarten, her at a friend’s party, her studying, her graduating elementary school, her first day of middle school.
Her eyelids grew heavy. In that space between sleep and consciousness, she heard the door click open, soft footsteps making their way into the study. The smell of her childhood, of chimney smoke and roasted apples, washed over her, the memories of her father, joyful and young, and then the faint smell of Sooyoung’s shampoo.
Sooyoung lifted her into the air, light as paper, and deposited her onto the bed. Jinsol felt the warm embrace of the blankets, then a gentle kiss on her forehead before an empty gust of air took her place
“Wait - ” Jinsol reached blindly for her sleeve. “Don’t go.”
“I’m just going to take a shower,” Sooyoung murmured, but she made no move to leave.
“Okay,” said Sooyoung, after a pause. “I’m here.” She lifted the covers and crawled in with Jinsol. Within seconds, Jinsol had drifted off to sleep.
Five rescued from burning apartments, man apprehended
By Kim Jungeun
METROPOLIS - A 26-year-old man was apprehended for arson on Wednesday night, after he was caught running away from the scene.
The fire had started at an apartment block along 21st Avenue at about 8.05pm. Based on eyewitness accounts, two unknown superheroes arrived on the scene ten minutes after the fire started, rescuing five people from the apartments. No injuries were reported.
Confirming the arrest of the suspected arsonist, deputy investigating officer Son Hyejoo said it was too early in the investigation to jump to conclusions.
This latest act of arson comes after it was reported that 54 per cent of criminal cases have been solved by the Metropolis police, a seven-year high for the city, even as crime rates reached a new high for the country’s financial capital this year.
for whoever still reading: sorry! i know it’s been a decade and a half,, i've been massively stuck on this chapter did NOT enjoy writing 12 drafts for this but it's all good now,,, (crying)
The rain poured that day. It fell in torrents, forming a thick grey curtain that sectioned the city into parts. It had been like this for days - oddly fitting, Jinsol thought, given the way things had turned out in the ‘great Metropolis’ over the past weeks.
From afar, Jinsol tightened her gloved hand around the hook of her umbrella and watched as two men lowered the gleaming wooden coffin into the earth. A crying woman nudged a small, ashen girl to the front, where she picked up a handful of dirt and threw in into the hole in the ground.
The girl couldn’t have been older than twelve. She was right around the age she would have been too, Jinsol thought, jaw tightening.
It had also rained then. Not like this, a light drizzle. Jinsol had stuck by her mother’s side the entire time, playing the part of the dutiful daughter as groups after groups of mourners came and passed. Your father was a hero, they all said. He would have been happy to know that he saved them.
They, on the other hand, came as a family. Father, mother, twin boys. They said a lot of things to them, but Jinsol didn’t remember any of it. All she remembered was staring at the giant pink scar across her father’s face, shrapnel scars from the bomb.
Startled, Jinsol turned.
Wonder Girl stepped into view, sheets of rain sliding off the sides of her solid black umbrella. And somehow, Jinsol wasn’t surprised at all. At the top of the grassy hill, they looked out at the small party, watching as four men packed the hole with earth. Yeri was there too, standing a little away from her bodyguard’s grieving widow and their daughter, head bowed and hands clasped. If rumours were to be believed, she was starting to lose her grip - but Jinsol knew better. This was guilt.
And she, too…
“You know, I always thought being a journalist was a public service,” said Jinsol, chest burning. Her free hand closed in a fist. “Exposing corruption, giving a voice to the underprivileged - it felt like a mission.”
Wonder Girl hummed. “And now?”
“I don’t know. What’s the point of reporting things after it’s happened? What’s the point of reporting things when you can’t control what people do with that information?”
Gawkers. Spectators. Revellers. That’s what they were. Fire surged in her veins. Fuck this.
“Wait, where are you going?” Wonder Girl hurried after her as she turned on her heel.
Blinking back furious tears, Jinsol growled: “I’m going to do something about it.”
The Metropolis National Laboratory stood at the periphery of the city’s central business district, its long rectangular shape an oddity among the slim skyscrapers. Jinsol tapped her feet by the receptionist’s counter, trying her best to ignore the superhero next to her, who had trailed her the entire way from the funeral back to the city - in silence.
While it stormed in drab grey outside, the clinical white light in the lobby gave the entire building a strange, timeless feel; it was almost as though they had been transported to another dimension, beyond the reach of the elements.
“They’re staring at me,” mumbled Wonder Girl.
Jinsol sighed. The super in question had a black surgical mask stretched over most of her face and a bucket hat covering her eyes, appearing for all intents and purposes like a knock-off Darth Vader. Thankfully, Hyunjin appeared, saving her the trouble of responding to the inane comment. Then Hyunjin did a double-take at the sight of the super.
“What?” asked Jinsol, as the both of them stared at each other. Do they know each other? Jinsol glanced at Wonder Girl. The super shook her head subtly, while still maintaining eye contact with Hyunjin.
“You didn't tell me you were bringing someone.”
“She's our new intern.”
Hyunjin raised her eyebrows. “Seems a little too old to be an intern to me.”
“Oh no, she’s actually 17. She just looks really, really old.” Jinsol bit back a smirk as Hyunjin choked. Wonder Girl’s expression, meanwhile, was unreadable behind the mask.
Hyunjin let them through the sliding gates and took them up to the materials’ research lab, located near the top floor of the building. Where sunlight would normally filter in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, today, heavy water droplets streaked past the glass, clouding their view of the exterior.
Hyunjin let them into her office and nodded at the chairs in front of her desk.
“So. What’s up?”
Jinsol slid Heejin’s picture across the table. From the corner of her vision, she saw Wonder Girl stiffen as the super recognised the object. “This was what the supervillain used against Wonder Girl when she attempted to assassinate Jo Haseul. Do you know what this is?”
Hyunjin took the picture and stared at it. “What do you know of this?”
“Nothing much, just that it seems to affect Wonder Girl.”
Wonder Girl shifted and cleared her throat; Jinsol ignored her. “So?”
“I can’t go off with much here,” said Hyunjin. “My best guess is that it’s some kind of radioactive compound. Uranium or phosphorus maybe?”
Great. Jinsol had been counting very much on Hyunjin knowing this, so she could continue her investigations into the supervillain as quickly as possible. She sighed. “Okay, well. I need to know what this is. And also where it might be found.”
Hyunjin tapped her finger on the table. “This is a huge favour I’m doing you.”
“I know. Thank you.”
Hyunjin sighed. “No, thank you. I’ll do it.” As she sent Jinsol and Wonder Girl to the door, she asked, “How is Jungeun doing, by the way? Is she keeping up?”
Jinsol thought of how easily Jungeun had adapted, how she had already made inroads with the Mayor’s office, getting quotes from Jo Haseul where no one else had been able to. “She’s doing great, actually. Better than most.”
“Good,” said Hyunjin. “We were all a little surprised when she told us she wanted to become a reporter, but I’m glad it’s working out well.”
Later, when Jinsol and Wonder Girl found themselves back out on the streets, Wonder Girl asked, “How do you know Hyunjin?”
“I gave her a reference which gave her a place at the university a long time ago,” said Jinsol. “It wasn’t an easy time for her.”
Jinsol blinked. “Jungeun’s a colleague. I don’t know what happened between her and Hyunjin, but they were old classmates, I think.” She felt Wonder Girl’s eyes on her, heavy and curious. “What?”
“Nothing.” The super snapped her head forward. “Where to now?”
When she came home, the cats were caterwauling outside their building; and in the darkened space, the sound seemed to take on a universe-wide significance, amplifying the gap between their walls. Jinsol tossed her bag into the corner and sank into their sofa with a groan.
She had parted from Wonder Girl strangely. There was something in the super’s eyes as she dropped Jinsol off at the Daily Planet, as though on the verge of saying something. But then she shook her head and left Jinsol alone on the roof, flying off without another word.
Staring up into the ceiling, Jinsol sighed. When she checked her phone, she found her unread texts to Sooyoung, and slung her arm over her eyes. God. She was exhausted, but her head buzzed nonetheless, unidentifiable feelings flowing into each other.
The cats stopped wailing.
Feeling the silence weighing on her with each passing minute, Jinsol sat up and clutched her phone, fingers flying across the keypad involuntarily. It was only when the line connected that she froze. What was she doing? She nearly cut the call when -
“Jinsol?” Wonder Girl sounded puzzled. “Is everything okay?”
She swallowed. “Just having a quiet night. I, um…” I what? She suddenly found herself at a loss for words.
For a long moment, she heard the superhero breathing on the other end. Then, Wonder Girl said: “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with R.”
Jinsol blinked. Then laughed. “Sorry, what?”
“You’re not guessing.”
Okay. Jinsol leaned back and closed her eyes, conjuring up the image of the intersection - the beauty parlours with their colourful signs, the dirty yellow light from the street lamps, the boxing gym, the florist in the corner…
“Is it a rose?”
“Give me a clue. You know I haven’t been there before.”
“Lying to win an I Spy game? That’s a new low, Jung Jinsol.”
“Fine. A rocket? A rock? A radio?”
“A rat? A road?”
“Try something smaller.”
Smaller? Jinsol looked around her house. A racquet? A rake? A rash? Her eyes travelled - around the room, on the floor, her hand resting loosely on the seat…
A beat. “Bingo.”
“Okay, and where the hell are you seeing a ring from?”
“There’s a boxing ring right here.”
Jinsol rolled her eyes. “You’re full of shit, has anyone ever told you that?”
Wonder Girl laughed. “It’s late,” she said finally. “Don’t stay up too long; you’ll be exhausted at work tomorrow.”
Jinsol groaned. “You’re so naggy. But fine. Goodnight.” She held the phone to her ear, waiting till Wonder Girl breathed out her own greeting before ending the call.
She found herself smiling as she stared at her phone. “Don’t be stupid,” she muttered to herself, putting her phone away. And as she lay sideways on her side of the bed, blankets drawn up to her chin, she stared at the crumpled ball of paper, sitting lopsided on the corner of her bedside cabinet.
Sitting in front of Vivi’s desk, Jinsol felt a little bit an unruly child, dragged kicking and screaming into the principal’s office. In truth, it went a little more like this:
“Jinsol.” Vivi’s heels clicked as she walked up to Jinsol’s desk, tapping her clipped nails on the corner. “Come. Let’s have a chat.” Jinsol exchanged a wary look with Chaewon, but picked up her notebook and followed, her flat shoes squeaking behind Vivi’s killer stilettos.
Jinsol sat. Vivi rested her chin atop intertwined fingers and stared at Jinsol.
“So, how is it going?”
Vivi… asking about her day? Jinsol glanced around, looking for the hidden camera. “Um, great? How are you doing?”
“No, not that.” Vivi rolled her eyes. “I meant your interview. With Wonder Girl. You remember that, right?”
Oh. Okay, that made more sense. “It’s… going.”
“Good, because you remember the deadline, right? I told you I wanted it by the end of this month?”
Um. If she was going to be honest, she had completely forgotten about Vivi’s deadline.
“Of course, of course! But you know, I thought I would interest you in another story. A bigger story.”
Vivi levelled her gaze at her. “I’m listening.”
“I got a tip-off the other day about some guy who’s apparently been going around hiring criminals, and a club that’s a front for criminal activity. I’m looking into it, but my hunch is that there’s something big there.” Jinsol leaned forward and said, in a low voice, hooking Vivi with a tantalising flash of information, “I think this has something to do with the rising crime rates this year. It’s gotta be linked.”
“How sure are you of this information?”
“99 percent sure. My source is reliable.”
“But you’re still going to work on that Wonder Girl interview, right? I don’t want anyone to scoop us on that.”
Jinsol thought of Wonder Girl and the way she sounded over the phone last night. “Don’t worry,” she said. “No one’s going to be scooping us on that.”
Vivi stared at her over the top of her wire-rimmed glasses. “Fine,” she said finally, waving a dismissive hand. “Do what you have to do.”
Jinsol jumped to her feet. “I won’t disappoint you!”
Monday night. Jinsol shivered as the icy wind pierced her wool coat. It had started to snow only a few hours ago - the first snow of the winter - and already, Jinsol felt like death. She had figured, long ago, that snow was only something she liked in the movies; snow in reality was more of an inconvenience than a fairytale.
But try telling that to Sooyoung, who seemed forever warm, and constantly enchanted by the magic of ‘true winter’. Moving up north from the balmy countryside would do that to you, Jinsol supposed.
Then she spotted the person she had been waiting for.
Wonder Girl was walking slowly towards her, hands in her pockets, the superhero mask on her face. But she wasn’t looking at Jinsol; she was pressing her feet into the ground, forming deep, deliberate boot prints into the snow.
“Are you five?”
Wonder Girl looked up at her, cheeks flushed red, the barest hint of a grin on her face. “Hey,” she huffed out.
“I’m only five minutes late.” The super kicked up a flurry of snow at Jinsol. “Live a little.”
Jinsol scoffed and stalked off. The super hurried to catch up, and they fell into a comfortable silence, footsteps matching each other in stride. They passed the old defunct subway station where she had met Doah the other night, and then beyond that. Once again, as they entered Old Metropolis, the atmosphere shifted to something a bit more unsettling.
Thank god she had the foresight to bring some - very solid - muscle.
Two men passed them. They seemed to consider the both of them before making a sudden about-turn, as though startled. Jinsol glanced at the super beside her, who only smiled at her in response.
As they got deeper into the heart of the district, the sloping stone houses started to solidify into jagged grey buildings, creating a concrete jungle that had long-defied the city government’s best efforts to tame it. The empty roads yawned wide between graffitied warehouses. At one narrow alley, Jinsol followed her map and turned into a side road.
“Creepy,” commented Wonder Girl, as a few unbroken street lamps threw orange shards of light over the paved roads.
Two streets down, they finally found their destination. Jinsol stared at the brick warehouse, the steps carved into its side, the giant neon sign half-broken. But it was unmistakably -
“A PC Bang?”
“Hold on...” Jinsol rounded the building, refreshing her phone again and again. “It’s supposed to be a club. Club Luna.” She frowned at the door. At a complete loss and unwilling to admit defeat, Jinsol squared her shoulders. “I’m going in to ask.”
“Wait!” Wonder Girl grabbed her arm. “It’s dangerous. What if we interrupt something?”
The disapproval was so uncanny that Jinsol had to pause. “You…” Then the moment passed as the super straightened, the emotion fading away. Jinsol shook her head. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
She shrugged off the super’s grip and raised an eyebrow. Wonder Girl sighed - “Fine...” - and pulled her hood over her head. The fabric threw deep shadows that hid the top half of her face.
Jinsol took the lead as she pushed the glass doors to the PC Bang open - and recoiled at the smell of stale cheese balls and popcorn. The inside was dark, though bright coloured strips ran along the walls, keeping the space dim enough to be comfortable, but bright enough that people wouldn’t fall over.
The PC Bang was half full, noted Jinsol, her eyes sweeping the area quickly. Most of them were teens, young men - no one out of the ordinary.
“It’s 1,000 won for an hour, 1,800 for two,” said a bored voice. The both of them turned to see a brightly-dressed girl sitting behind the dirty counter, snapping her gum. “You here to play games?”
“Um… I’m actually looking for a club. It’s supposed to be somewhere around here?”
The girl stopped in the midst of blowing a bubble. “No clubs here,” she said, too casually.
“Here.” Jinsol slid the card across the table. “I got this from Doah.” The name didn’t seem to register, but the girl flipped the card around, eyed Jinsol and Wonder Girl again, before she nodded at the computers all the way at the end. Then she picked up a file and began buffing her nails.
Huh? Bewildered, Jinsol and Wonder Girl wandered to the seats at the end, away from the crowd of gamers who looked like they had been sitting there all day. Two computers down, a scruffy man peered at the glowing screen. He flicked a curious eye at them before turning back, but it was enough to make Jinsol flinch.
“We’re probably in the right place,” Wonder Girl murmured, her breath sending waves of goosebumps down Jinsol’s neck. “Looks like this guy just got out of prison.”
“How do you know?”
“Prison tattoo. Five dots and a four-point star.”
Jinsol snuck a glance over the super’s shoulder, only to see the tattoos under the corner of the man’s eye, invisible unless you knew where to look. Huh. Interesting. The man yawned and stretched and Jinsol jerked to face the screen.
The computer booted up, revealing the array of icons as Jinsol began scanning the desktop. There were the usual suite of apps - word processors, spreadsheets, slides, games, browsers, photo editing tools, even music composing programmes.
Wonder Girl hovered the cursor over a yellow crescent on a black background. A moon? Luna? She right-clicked the icon and called up the application’s properties.
“It’s a small file,” said Wonder Girl. “Looks pretty basic. No file name.”
Wonder Girl hesitated, but she eventually opened the programme. A small loading screen popped up.
Jinsol felt Wonder Girl’s eyes on her. “I… I don’t know. Um… Try Club Luna?”
Error. Two tries left.
Fuck. Jinsol craned her neck, hoping to find something around the room that could give her a clue. But save for the poster on the wall advertising the hourly rates, there was nothing else.
“Your source must have given you a clue,” said Wonder Girl. “If this is it.”
The card! Jinsol fumbled in her pocket and drew out the - now crumpled - card. “Try this.”
Wonder Girl keyed in the only other piece of information on the card - its address - only to get locked out again. The super cursed under her breath.
Damn it. Jinsol grabbed her forehead. What did Doah tell her that night? She could feel Wonder Girl’s eyes on her.
“Hey,” said the super, bumping her shoulder. “It’s fine if we can’t crack it. I’ll just find some other way… Maybe scare that girl into giving us some answers.”
Jinsol shook her head. The answer was there, she was sure. The moon icon - this had to be it. And if this was it, Doah wouldn’t send her places without telling her how to get in. It just didn’t make sense.
Tell them Doah sent you.
Wait. Doah sent you. Could it be? She pushed Wonder Girl aside and typed Doah into the blank space, praying. Please be right, please be right - she held her breath as the page loaded.
Welcome, Anonymous User.
“Fuck yeah!” Jinsol threw her arms around Wonder Girl in a giant hug and shook her. “I got it!”
She drew back, only to find Wonder Girl watching her with a smile, eyes warm and fond. Jinsol jerked her arms back and coughed; Wonder Girl rubbed her nose.
The site they entered was fairly simple, twelve animal icons scrolling over a black background - a rabbit, a cat, a bird, a frog… Weird… Wonder Girl clicked one at random, only for a white chat log to pop out.
Club Luna was a chatroom.
Jinsol and Wonder Girl exchanged glances, wide-eyed. Then they looked back at the screen, jumped, and closed it. “I’m going to have to tip off Violent Crimes once this is over…” muttered Wonder Girl.
“So it’s a criminal marketplace,” whispered Jinsol, still reeling at the revelation. “This is where the guy is hiring people.”
They checked the other rooms. The second was filled with pictures of military-grade weapons, long rifles capped with scopes, assault rifles, and mountains and mountains of bullets. All the messages flew past, sellers and buyers pairing off instantly.
The third, on the other hand, was filled with people selling personal data. Wonder Girl’s finger stopped over a listing that offered to sell Kim Jiwoo’s personal data.
“Looking to buy?” Jinsol quirked an eyebrow at her.
“Huh? No.” Wonder Girl scrolled past. Although Jinsol did hear her mutter, “...really needs to be careful with the people around her.”
There were credit card numbers on sale, celebrities’ phone numbers, and resident registration numbers. They moved through the various rooms until they found a room with ‘for hire’ listings. It ran slow, but there was still a sizable pool of people in the chatroom.
Looking for a cannibal… Looking for an assassin… Looking for a getaway driver… Money making opportunity 1mil+, contact me for more info…
“Try that one.”
Wonder Girl opened a private chat. Hi.
You prepared to do time?
They exchanged looks. Yeah.
Will need you to commit a crime and turn yourself in. What can you do?
Aha. Got him. Jinsol tapped her finger on the table. “We could murder Irene Bae.”
“Burn her home.”
“Burn the Morning Star?”
“Are you insane?”
“Fine,” Jinsol huffed. “You think of it then!”
“What about a robbery? We could do that easily enough.”
Jinsol flapped her hand at Wonder Girl. “Fine, put it in.”
The man seemed to take forever to type. Bring video proof. As many as possible. Dec 20. 92nd Cross Street, Metropolis 120-543.
Later, as Wonder Girl dropped her off at the Daily Planet, Jinsol stopped her with a hand over her forearm. “Thank you,” she said, “for going with me.”
The super grinned. “Of course. I can’t let Metropolis’s best reporter get into trouble herself, can I?” For a moment, she hesitated. Then: “Are you… going home?”
Jinsol thought about the empty apartment, the space that echoed Sooyoung’s presence but not the person herself, and shook her head. “I’m going to get some work done here.”
“What about your wife? She’ll be worried.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” said Jinsol flatly. “If she even knows that I’m out.” She brushed the topic off with a shake of her head. “I’ll see you next week. Same place?”
“Okay.” Wonder Girl seemed oddly quiet, although Jinsol couldn’t quite put a finger on why. She frowned as the super took off without another word, battling the distinct feeling that she had said something wrong.
Something was up with Sooyoung. This, Jinsol realised soon enough, when for the third day in a row, she woke up to find her wife sitting at the kitchen table, sipping on coffee as she read the papers.
“Um, what’s going on?”
“Huh?” Sooyoung folded the papers into half, only for Jinsol to realise that she had been reading Jungeun’s little profile piece on Jo Haseul.
“You’re never this late for work. What’s going on?” And not to mention the odd, sad silence that seemed to follow Sooyoung around, especially whenever she thought Jinsol wasn’t looking.
“Nothing,” Sooyoung said casually. Too casual. Jinsol eyed the bread in the toaster, still warm, and the extra mug of coffee on the table. As Jinsol took a seat, Sooyoung drummed her fingers on the wooden surface and said, “Do you want to go out tonight? I thought we could do dinner and a movie.”
Oh. “I can’t. I have to work.” Her heart tugged as Sooyoung’s expression fell. “Sorry.”
And there again was that odd silence. Jinsol bit her lip, wondering if she should just tell Vivi she wanted to hand off the election work to someone else, spend more time at home. But this is what you wanted to do, a voice in her head insisted. You’ll have to wait another four years if you skip this. And if Sooyoung was planning to work as much as she was now… Instead, Jinsol said nothing, cramming the toast and coffee into her mouth as fast as she could.
When they were done, and Jinsol was putting on her coat to leave, Sooyoung offered to drop her off.
“Ah… Jungeun’s picking me up. We’re carpooling.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
“It’s a recent thing.” She shifted on her feet.
“Right then.” Sooyoung hesitated as she looked at her, before landing a quick kiss on her forehead. “I’ll see you tonight, maybe.”
She watched Sooyoung leave, uneasiness welling up in her chest.
“Something wrong?” Jungeun asked her later in the car. “You seem stressed.”
Jinsol thought of Sooyoung and the way she had left, all that worry bunched up in her slight frame. Was there something wrong at work? But Sooyoung was, by all accounts, a star employee. The department wouldn’t give her any trouble, not if they could help it.
Could it be her parents? Jinsol frowned. But she had called Sooyoung’s parents a week ago, if nothing more than to check up on them while Sooyoung was busy, and they seemed well. Happy, even.
“Jinsol?” Jungeun cocked her head at her.
Startled out of her thoughts, she shook her head. “It’s nothing. Doesn’t matter.”
The Morning Star was an ostentatious, Greco-Roman style building, standing out like a sore thumb among its modest neighbours. It was built in the 70s by the network’s owner, who wanted a ‘recognisable’ front for its TV - and later newspaper - operations. A bit too recognisable, in most people’s opinions.
In the marbled lobby, Jinsol dropped her bag and coat into a plastic tray, sliding it onto the humming conveyor belt. A muscled officer chewed gum, barely acknowledging the visitors with a nod. Past the belt, another officer waited to scan her with a metal detector before waving her through.
It seemed that with the two attempted assassinations weighing heavily on the city’s minds, the police had finally decided to step up security for all political events. And with the final mayoral debate tonight, Jinsol supposed it was as good a time as any for them to actually start doing their jobs.
She made her way to the network’s giant studio, shimmying her way through the seats till she found one labelled specifically for the media. She recognised some of the others sitting around - Taeyong from the Press Telegraphic Agency, Jihyo from the Business Daily, Bona from the Journal Weekly, and of course… Irene.
And naturally, Cthulhu herself had to wave Jinsol over, pointing to the seat labelled Daily Planet with a large grin.
“Isn’t this nice?” asked Irene, wiggling in her seat. “You, me, beside each other. It’s like the award show all over again.”
Jinsol ignored her.
“You’re not mad I won, are you? It’s a fair competition after all. I would hate for this to ruin our… friendship.”
In her mind’s eye, Jinsol visualised herself slapping Irene with her notebook. In reality, she settled for a polite smile. “Do you mind? It’s just that I have really sensitive ears and if I have to listen to you shrieking any longer, I might actually go deaf.”
Irene's jaw fell open, offended, and finally - finally - shut up. They sat in frigid silence, Jinsol doing her best to ignore Irene’s angry breathing.
Crew members shifted props onstage. Two mics, two podiums, two placards for Haseul and Yeri… Jinsol furrowed her brows. Where was Jackson? She raised her phone to take a picture, using the chance to send a quick tweet before the debate started.
Finally, after twenty minutes of waiting, there was some movement. Looking up from where she was doodling little boxing gloves, Jinsoul saw Haseul and Yeri emerge from backstage, as their stylists straightened their collars and fixed their make-up.
Meanwhile, Park Jinyoung and VIvi took their seats at the moderators’ table. Then the crew brought out a side projector for the audience. Jinsol frowned. What?
“Final test,” said the crew. “Feed working?”
The screen blinked on. Jinsol’s mouth hung open at the sight of Jackson peering into the camera from what seemed like his bedroom.
“Feed’s live. Transmitting. Rolling.”
The lights dimmed. Two spotlights shone on the stage, the crew adjusted Jackson’s feed on the screen so everyone could see him.
As the chief moderator, Park Jinyoung started the debate with a question to Haseul about the rising crime rates in the city. Jinsol took out her recorder and began taking notes as both candidates fielded questions from the panel - and they were doing a pretty good job of it too, Jinsol thought, until Jackson decided to open his mouth somewhere around the ten-minute mark.
“Excuse me,” he said, his voice coming in patchy. “You didn’t ask me a question yet.”
“We’ll get to you in time, Mr Wang,” said Park Jinyoung.
Where most people would have been appeased, Jackson was not. His eyes narrowed as he tapped the microphone on his earpiece, sending a shrill screech around the studio. “I’m sorry, my friends, for the interruption, but you see - this is the sort of dirty tactics the mainstream media is using to silence us.”
Haseul and Yeri’s eyes widened. A loud murmur rippled through the audience.
“Mr Wang, please - ”
“This is their ploy. They invite me on to boost their ratings, but they don’t want to let me speak because they know that I’m speaking the truth. They don’t care about the truth; they only care about ratings!”
The audience started murmuring among themselves. Park Jinyoung’s lips had thinned into a firm line. There was, however, a faint smile on Vivi’s face - some sadistic glee at the sight of their rival network crashing and burning on live television, no doubt. Jinsol could relate.
“This is just like how they benefited from the assassinations! Their ratings have never been higher! And now they’re leaving me for the grand finale, but they’re dragging it out to sabotage my campaign. My staffers and I have been working around the clock to ensure that they can’t get me.
“Have you bugged my office? My residence? You think I don’t know that you tried to poison me the other day, Haseul? Huh? And you, Yeri! You think I didn’t notice, but my home has never had pigeons before. And since your assassination attempt, I’ve seen flocks and flocks of pigeons - you’ve bugged them all haven’t you?
“You’re just trying to take me out! Scare me so I’ll drop out! Well, you’re not going to look better no matter how many assassins you send, so forget it!”
There was a long silence. Jinsol blinked. Park Jinyoung’s expression was thunderous.
“I think,” said Vivi, her tone calm and measured. “That maybe it’s a good time to take a break.”
And with that, the moderators dissolved the debate. Jinsol hurried out the back to find Vivi leaning against the building, a cigarette dangling from her lips. “Want one?” she offered.
“I’m staying clean.”
“Suit yourself.” Vivi shrugged. “So what did you think?”
“A mess. But maybe there is something weird here.”
Vivi eyed her.
“I just think there’s something strange about it - we don’t even know what the supervillain’s motive is. I don’t think she’s working alone.”
“It could very well be Jackson lying to protect himself. All the evidence points to him.” Vivi hummed as she flicked cigarette ash on the ground. “What do you have so far?”
“On the assassinations? Nothing much. The police are still keeping their mouths sealed.”
“Well, just ask your wife.” For a moment, Jinsol didn’t quite know what to say. Vivi eyed her expression, then clicked her tongue, snorting out several puffs of smoke. “Trouble in paradise, huh,” she said. “You know, the day I realised my marriage was over was when my wife prepared a surprise for my big 3-0, and all I did was stay in the office so I could finish writing my copy.”
Jinsol raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, that, and the affair with the receptionist, but that’s an entirely different matter.”
“So what’s the moral here?”
“Nothing. My ex-wife just won custody of the beanie babies so I’m pissed. I’m going to get smashed tonight.” She tossed the butt of her cigarette into the bin. Jinsol watched her go, carving a confident path through the gates, not quite sure if she wanted to know what Vivi meant.
Heading out to the street to hail a taxi, Jinsol’s phone buzzed.
Thinking of you xx, read Sooyoung’s message, and Jinsol opened the attached picture to see a bunch of fresh flowers on their dining table, springing up from the neglected vase they had long put away in storage.
“Where to, miss?” interrupted the driver.
Jinsol locked her phone, casting the thought aside. “Daily Planet please.”
Wonder Girl descended on the roof fifteen minutes after Jinsol called, slightly ruffled, and more than a little annoyed.
“What happened?” she asked, as soon as her feet touched ground. “You bombarded me with five calls.”
Jinsol flushed. “Sorry, I just had this idea in my head that I couldn’t shake.” She didn’t wait for Wonder Girl to react before she barrelled on, tripping over her own words with excitement: “I can’t help but think that the Luna guy is connected to the assassinations. Wouldn’t it make sense for him to hire gunmen through that chatroom too?”
Wonder Girl sighed. “You stayed in the office for this?” There was an edge to her voice.
What was she getting mad at her for? Annoyed, Jinsol snapped. “Does it matter? I thought the ‘Saviour of Justice’ would actually be interested in the things that go on in her city. Or am I wrong?”
For a moment, they glared at each other. A muscle in the super’s jaw twitched. Then she exhaled and said, in a conciliatory tone, “Fine. You’re right. That makes sense. Please go on.”
Damping down her irritation, Jinsol continued: “I have a hunch that this guy is working for the supervillain, and he knows what the supervillain’s plan is.”
“So how do you plan to get him to admit it?”
“Well… we have to follow him, I guess.”
“Fine. We’ll do that on Friday.” Wonder Girl drummed her fingers on her crossed arms, and then said, with a pointed look, “If there’s nothing else, I’m going to go home.”
What the hell was wrong with her? Jinsol crossed her arms, losing patience with the super’s little passive-aggressive stunts. “Jesus, you didn’t have to come if you didn't want to. Sorry to interrupt your date or whatever.”
Wonder Girl’s mouth open and closed, before she made a short, sharp sound in the back of her throat. And for the second time, Jinsol watched the super fly away, stuck with the strange sense that she had done something wrong.
The next time they met up, it was like their little argument - big argument? - never happened. Wonder Girl seemed back to her usual good cheer as she greeted Jinsol with a faint smile.
“Any sight of him?” asked the super, adjusting her mask. She had, once again, opted for the bucket hat-surgical mask combination, drawing some curious glances from bystanders. Must be a celebrity, she heard some of them whisper.
Jinsol nodded at the alley on the opposite side of the street. There had been several people walking in and out of it in the fifteen minutes she had been waiting, so it had to be here. No question about it.
“You got the videos?”
Jinsol showed the super the collection of four videos she had filmed in various places, with the help of some very talented actors - Jaehyun, Johnny, Chaewon and Heejin. The super snorted at the sight of Chaewon screaming like a banshee as she ran down a shadowed alleyway.
Together, they crossed the street, heading into the alley, where they found their man right at the end. A few people were slouching around under a broken street lamp, clearly waiting for their turn. Once the group left, the man turned his eyes on Jinsol, his stare sending a chill down her back. Wonder Girl took a step forward as Jinsol played the video compilation.
“Fine. Here’s half the money.” He handed Jinsol a small brown envelope. “I’ll transfer the other half to you once I’ve confirmed that you’ve been charged.”
Now dismissed, they moved out of sight, and onto another building. From this vantage point, they watched the man for another ten minutes as he conversed with one more person before moving on.
As it turned out, buying crime was quite a lucrative gig. Five times they followed the man, only for him to stop at a new spot, fielding another group of people before going to the next location. Jinsol was about to give up when Wonder Girl nudged her.
“He’s on the move.”
Clinging to Wonder Girl as they flew through the night sky, they trailed the man through buildings and side streets. The cold wind whipped at Jinsol, buffeting her with the same - oddly comforting - scent of soap and citrus shampoo. And again, that sense of familiarity.
“Your heart is beating really fast,” murmured Wonder Girl.
“Adrenalin rush,” said Jinsol, feeling her cheeks heat up. She could feel the super’s eyes on her, hot and searing like a brand.
Past the central business district, the touristy areas, the art galleries, they flew out east till Jinsol could see the ocean. It spilled over the horizon like black ink, the brilliant lights of docked ships punching holes in its solid weight.
Wonder Girl descended sharply, landing amidst the fortress of faded red and blue containers. The three-metre tall crates draped them in shadows - the perfect place for an illegal rendezvous, Jinsol thought. She only hoped it wasn’t going to turn out to be a wild goose chase.
“You’re late,” said a voice, echoing around the edges. A woman’s voice. Jinsol and Wonder Girl crept close, pressing up against the corners to catch a glimpse of the man. But from her position, Jinsol couldn’t see anything but the man, silhouetted against the moonlight.
“Got nearly 30 people today,” said the man, as he handed a bag off to the other person. “Your new supplies. How is the research going?”
“I’m making progress.”
“You’ve said that for the past five weeks. My boss is getting impatient.”
“Well,” said the woman, “you can tell your boss that research takes time. It doesn’t just happen when you want it to.”
The man hissed. Jinsol held her breath. “Let’s be clear here,” he snarled. “The only reason why you’re still around is because my boss is protecting you. Don’t get too cocky. You better get it ready before the elections; I want everything to run smoothly.”
There was a brief silence. A snort. Then the growing echo of footsteps as the man stalked off in the other direction, spitting as he went.
The woman growled and cursed under her breath. There was the sound of some metal being snapped shut, the clink of a lock, and - finally - the woman came into view. Wonder Girl jerked them back into the shadows. Jinsol clasped her hand over her mouth.
No fucking way. She was right.
It was the supervillain.
remember when i said i was going to update faster than i did with chapter 2? hahahaha yeah me neither
anyway this was very self-indulgent and i apologise
Though she registered the biting cold wind at the back of her mind, Jinsol felt a warm flush spreading outwards from her chest and creeping up into her cheeks. Wonder Girl leaned over her, pressing a rigid Jinsol against the rust-red container, acutely aware of the gentle brushes of air against her ear.
A few metres away, they could hear the supervillain moving about. There was a solid thump and a sigh, before a long procession of footsteps that faded into the night.
Jinsol exhaled slowly.
Wonder Girl pulled back. Their eyes locked - and Jinsol froze, the feeling of familiarity crashing over her like a wave.
Something flashed across Wonder Girl’s face. “Come on,” she said quickly, and that thought, which Jinsol had so nearly formed, dissipated. She stumbled as Wonder Girl took a step back.
“Hey - ” She blindly grabbed her bag - when had it fallen to the ground? - and hurried after the super. “Wait up.”
They rounded the stack of containers they had been leaning on, and stopped in front of a locked manhole cover a few paces away from where they had been standing. Jinsol watched Wonder Girl give the lock a light tug.
“You’re going to have to pick it.”
“What? No. No, no, no.” Jinsol shook her head. “I am not going in there.”
Wonder Girl raised an eyebrow.
“No. Seriously? Ugh, fine.” Grumbling under her breath, Jinsol stomped over to the cover with her knife and twisted it a few times until the lock fell open. She stepped back and allowed Wonder Girl to lift the cover.
The strong stench slapped her in the face. Gagging, Jinsol covered her nose and turned away. “I’m gonna puke.”
“It’s not that bad,” said Wonder Girl. The corners of her lips twitched. “Although you can stay here if you’re too scared, I guess.”
“Scared? Me?” Jinsol scoffed, hiked her coat up, and held her breath as she lowered herself into the sewer.
Inside, the stench was even worse. Jinsol closed her eyes as she stood on the hard metal. Don’t vomit, don’t vomit. The pipe was short, descending only a few feet before tunneling straight ahead, and Jinsol had to crawl on her hands and knees to continue.
Behind, she could hear Wonder Girl clambering in, before dragging the cover back over them with a long, grating sound. Then it went black.
Well, not completely. She noticed a faint green light ahead as her eyes grew used to the dark. In the enclosed space, all she could hear was their breaths, echoing endlessly through the long, freezing tube. Her hands were already growing numb from the chill of the metal.
But at least the pipe was clean. Someone clearly used this frequently, thought Jinsol, as she crawled forwards, Wonder Girl hot on her heels. The super was infinitely patient, waiting soundlessly each time Jinsol paused to take a break.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the green expanded, lighting the path in front of them. Jinsol emerged into a large, rectangular cavern, gasping for breath. She descended a short ladder at the mouth of the pipe and landed on solid concrete.
Wonder Girl hopped down next to her.
The green glow was coming from the centre of the room, giving the place an eerie, otherworldly feeling. It felt even colder inside, and the low hum of what felt like a thousand machines sent shivers down Jinsol’s spine.
Wonder Girl took a step towards the light. It was almost she had been caught in trance, her eyes trained on the source of the glow as she took one careful step after the other. The canister in the middle of the room sloshed.
“Hey, wait - ” began Jinsol, as she felt around the wall for the light switch. There was a small plastic piece set into the wall, and she flicked it, praying it wouldn’t turn out to be some kind of alarm. Clinical, white light flooded the chamber, flushing all the other colours out of the shadows.
Jinsol’s eyes widened as she took in the workbenches, the gleaming machines, and the freakishly neat row of labelled chemicals.
This was a full-on villain lair.
Wow. Jinsol exhaled in wonder as she wandered over to the workbench against the wall. A dizzying array of shiny lab instruments littered the table. Jinsol ran a finger along the tongs, the calipers, and the giant microscope screwed tight to the desk.
The shelf on top of the desk held little labelled containers - RA, TH, RN, PO… Chemical elements, maybe? But if they were, there was no indication what they were used for. (Or if they were even used at all.) There was something else on the highest shelf - and Jinsol grabbed the nearest chair, only to start when she realised that it was stuck to the ground
What the - ?
She shook it. But the chair was bolted fast to the ground. Puzzled, Jinsol looked around. There was something like a hairdresser’s hair steamer shunted to the side. There were a few velcro straps hanging off the top. Huh. Weird.
A desk stood to the right of the chair, framed by two sets of filing cabinets. A rolling chair had been pushed in. Other than some stationary, there was nothing much of interest - at least, until Jinsol pulled out of the bottom drawer of the desk.
A faded green notebook lay right in the middle, having been thumbed through so often that its cover was dog-earned. Jinsol removed it and opened the pages carefully, pinching the spine so that the book didn’t fall apart.
God, It must have been at least a few decades old.
Most of the pages were filled with chemical equations - all incomprehensible to Jinsol’s journalist brain. But at the last page…
Properties: Radioactive, alloy, inert
Composition: 15.08% plutonium, 18.06% tantalum, 27.71% xenon, 24.02% promethium, 10.62% dialium, 3.94% mercury, 0.57% unknown
Kryptonite? Jinsol blinked. She flipped back to the previous pages in realisation. So the supervillain was researching Kryptonite, whatever the hell that was. She took a quick picture of the pages and made a mental note to show it to Hyunjin.
With nothing else of interest at the desk, she walked back to where Wonder Girl stood, still frozen in front of the black canister.
Jinsol had her suspicions, but as she neared, certainty settled in the pit of her stomach. A fist-sized green rock floated in the middle of some dark grey liquid - unmistakably that same green rock which the supervillain had pulled on Wonder Girl. It seemed like whatever that liquid was, it was neutralising the effects of it for now.
“So what is that?” asked Jinsol. She realised, from the way Wonder Girl was staring at the rock, that she knew exactly what it was. (And she still let her run around half the city chasing down the answer that she already had.)
“You mean this?” Jinsol held out her phone. Wonder Girl tore her gaze away from the rock and squinted at the picture.
“I got it from a notebook under her desk. So this is that?”
Wonder Girl looked rattled. “She wrote this?”
“I don’t know… It seems pretty old...” Jinsol frowned. But still. How did she get hold of this? How did she know how to use it? “What is kryptonite anyway?”
She watched a muscle in Wonder Girl’s jaw twitch. But if there was anything Jinsol learned from her time as a reporter, it was patience, and as the silence lengthened, the super started to twitch.
Jinsol took the chance to study her. She had grown used to how slight Wonder Girl was in the weeks that they had known each other, but now, staring at her bony shoulders and thin limbs, she remembered how she struck she had been by the super’s small stature. She could even press her down, if she wanted to.
Finally, Wonder Girl sighed. “It’s my home,” she said, her throat bobbing as she swallowed. “What’s left of it anyway.”
“What’s left of it?”
Wonder Girl gave her a faint smile. “Krypton. My home planet.”
“I’ve never heard of it…”
“The scientists call it Alpha-554b. A planet that exploded 21 years ago, although no one knew why. Everyone just brushed it off as another one of those unexplainable space things.”
Jinsol sucked in a sharp breath. “So everyone else is…”
“Gone, yes. My parents sent me here to keep me safe.”
Jinsol found herself at a loss for words. What did you say to someone who had survived her entire planet, her entire people? “I’m sorry,” she settled for saying, sounding weak even to her own ears.
“Don’t be,” said Wonder Girl. There was a softness in her voice that made Jinsol look up. Her breath caught. “I don’t remember anything. Earth is my home now.” She blinked, and her stare seemed to bore right through Jinsol. “You’re not… afraid of me?”
Afraid? The idea was so ridiculous that Jinsol nearly laughed. Wonder Girl seemed to read the answer in her eyes, the ghost of a smile on her face. “You’re not going to write this into your next story, are you? I mean, not that it matters.”
Jinsol grabbed her arm. “It matters to me.”
The super started. She stared at Jinsol with her mouth open, and Jinsol held her breath as she realised how close they were. Wonder Girl’s eyes flicked downwards. Jinsol’s heart thudded in her ear. And then Wonder Girl’s hand was on her hip, pulling her closer.
Jinsol’s eyelids fluttered shut.
The kiss was soft - barely there, even. Wonder Girl’s lips brushed hers, so lightly and delicately that Jinsol’s heart skipped, and it was just like their first time over again -
Jinsol’s eyes flew open, as she tore herself away, hand cupping over her mouth as she stared at Wonder Girl in horror.
They had just -
She had just -
“Jinsol - ” The super began, but Jinsol threw her hands up between them as a barrier.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
“Hey… Hey, don’t panic.” Wonder Girl was eyeing her, arms outstretched as though she wanted to hold her.
But the idea only made Jinsol even more sick to her stomach.
“I want to go home,” she blurted, looking everywhere but at the super.
Wonder Girl coughed awkwardly. Then, with a sharp nod, she turned and went back through the pipes, leaving Jinsol to trail after her.
Back out in the open, the wind snapped at them, cold and biting and punishing, and Jinsol hated herself. She imagined Sooyoung back home right now, curled up in their warm blankets and reading, waiting faithfully for her to come back.
“I’ll take you home,” murmured Wonder Girl, after she had replaced and locked the cover.
“I’ll make my own way,” insisted Jinsol, and began to walk.
Wonder Girl caught up with her and sighed. “It’s way past midnight, Jinsol. Are you going to walk home?”
“If I have to.”
“Look, I’ll just take you home, okay? Nothing else. Can you just - stop being so pig-headed for a moment?”
“Pig-headed?” Jinsol whirled on her. “I wasn’t the one who insistently tried to worm my way into being friends with someone else. I didn’t even want to have anything to do with you people!”
She regretted it the moment she said it. Wonder Girl recoiled at her words, the open expression on her face clouding over.
“Let me take you home,” she said, frighteningly calm. “It’s not safe.”
Jinsol swallowed. She nodded. They didn’t speak the entire way back, the atmosphere between them more frigid than the air surrounding them.
Soon, the flat roof of Jinsol’s apartment block became visible over the horizon. They landed on the darkened roof, Wonder Girl letting Jinsol off the moment her feet touched ground.
“Thanks,” murmured Jinsol.
Wonder Girl nodded stiffly.
“I…” Jinsol began, but Wonder Girl interrupted her with a cough.
“I should be going home,” she said. She didn’t wait for Jinsol to respond as she soared into the sky.
And then Jinsol was alone.
She sank to the ground, her heart heavy with the knowledge of what she had done.
Sooyoung got busy again. She came home only after Jinsol had fallen asleep and left the house before Jinsol woke up. In a way, it came as a sort of relief - but the thought made her feel awful, as though she had betrayed Sooyoung for the second time.
Wonder Girl kept her distance. There were no more calls, no more impromptu drop-bys, but she seemed to be fighting crime with even more of a vengeance. Just this week, she had apprehended a record high of fifty criminals, putting her at the top of the Daily Planet’s unofficial leaderboard.
“Alright. What’s going on with you?”
Jinsol jumped and dropped her pen. Chaewon narrowed her eyes at her from across their desks.
“You’ve been catatonic for the whole week. Your eyeliner is crazy uneven. What’s going on?”
Jinsol quickly took out her pocket mirror. Even her make-up was patchy, the fat, uneven eyeliner, and dark circles under her eyes making her look like an enormous raccoon. Shit. How long had she been walking around like this?
“Is it Sooyoung again? I’m going to beat her ass if she - oh Jinsol.” Chaewon rushed to her, as Jinsol broke out into silent tears at the mention of Sooyoung’s name.
“Oh god, I’m a mess,” Jinsol choked out as she grabbed her make-up pouch and dashed to the bathroom.
Behind her, Chaewon stuck an out-of-order sign on the door, before pulling Jinsol into a hug. “There there.”
“I’m so - ” Jinsol sobbed, “ - stupid…”
Chaewon stroked her head until Jinsol’s cries started to peter out. “What happened?” she asked gently, as she patted Jinsol’s back.
Jinsol sniffled. “I fucked up, Chaewon,” she mumbled into her shoulder. “I fucked up so bad.”
She sucked in a deep breath. Shame constricted her throat. But she couldn’t - “I kissed someone else,” she cried. “Last Friday.”
Chaewon’s hand stopped. “Oh, Jinsol…”
“I know, I’m awful.”
“Does Sooyoung know?”
“No… I haven’t seen her all week…”
“How did it even happen?”
Jinsol groaned. “I don’t know. We had a moment, and then she just went for it - and I… I think I was going to kiss her back, if I wasn’t reminded of - ”
Jinsol stared at Chaewon.
“Shit,” said Chaewon.
“Yeah…” Jinsol furrowed her brow.
“Are you going to talk to her about it?”
“I don’t know…”
Chaewon sighed. “Oh, Jinsol,” she said again. “You really messed up this time…” Jinsol felt Chaewon’s eyes on her. “But,” she continued, and this time, she sounded almost hesitant. “I think it’s hard to keep up a marriage when neither of you are honest and open with each other… And I don’t just mean you.”
Jinsol sighed and scrubbed at her face. “I know.” She felt Chaewon pat her back as she stared into the mirror, her make-up now smudged beyond repair. Her hands were stained too, black and grey under the running water. “What should I do now?”
Chaewon nodded at her make-up pouch. “You start again,” she said simply. “You do it right this time.” She handed Jinsol a wad of tissues.
There was a sharp rap on the door. “Hey…” Jungeun’s voice travelled through the wood. “You guys in there? Vivi’s looking for us.”
Oh no. Jinsol and Chaewon exchanged glances. “We’ll be there in a minute!” Chaewon called. “Ate something bad at lunch.”
There was a pause at the door. “Okay, but hurry,” said Jungeun. “Think it’s important.”
Five minutes later, they emerged to find the entire newsroom in a flurry. Jinsol grabbed a passing intern by the arm. “What’s going on?”
“Someone attacked Star City,” she said nervously, eyes darting between her and Chaewon. Jinsol vaguely recalled her name - Jihan? “Vivi’s been looking for both of you for twenty minutes.”
Well. Shit. Alarmed, Jinsol and Chaewon made a mad dash to Vivi’s office, only to find everyone already there. Shiiiit.
“I thought I was going to have to send out a second search party for you,” said Vivi, as Jinsol and Chaewon settled into their seats. “Given that the first one seemed to have gotten lost as well. Maybe next time let’s not volunteer if we can’t get the job done.” She gave Jungeun a pointed look.
All three of them coughed.
“Anyway,” said Vivi, narrowing her eyes. “Now that we’re all here. I’m sure you’ve heard about the attack. I got the whole newsroom working on this, but I want the five of you here to continue working the elections. Jinsol, Jungeun - Jo Haseul is having a press conference at 8 tonight where she says she will release concrete details of her proposed policies. I want both of you to handle this. Take Heejin with you for pictures.
“Johnny, I want you to look into Jackson. I heard he’s pretty much barricaded himself in his home. I’m guessing he’s still paranoid about getting assassinated, not that anyone would want to do that, but let’s see if you can get him to tell you why. Also get a comment from him about how he feels about the elections.
“Jaehyun, you try to get a comment from Yeri about Haseul’s improved poll numbers and her thoughts on whatever Haseul is going to announce tonight. You can do this tomorrow.
“Chaewon, you head down to Star City now. I need eyes on the ground. Wendy will be your point person.” Her gaze swept the room. “Got it?”
“Got it,” they chimed.
“Good.” Vivi dismissed them with a flap of her hand, before picking up her phone. As the door swung shut behind them, they could distantly hear the sound of Vivi yelling.
An hour before Haseul’s press conference, Heejin sidled up to their desks.
“Sooo it’s us again, huh.” She grinned and nudged Jinsol as she packed her bag. “Heejinsol. Best team.”
“Wow,” said Jungeun. “It’s like I don’t even exist.”
“Oh, I mean, of course. There’s you too,” replied Heejin absently, before she turned back to Jinsol. “So what do you reckon? You think she’ll announce that they found the supervillain?”
“If that’s the case, it’d be the police having a press conference, not her,” said Jinsol tiredly.
“Oh.” Heejin deflated. “Maybe she has a lead?”
Ever since she had gotten personally involved in Yeri’s attempted assassination, Heejin had been very eager to speculate on the identity of the supervillain. Was the supervillain Jackson’s agent? A foreign enemy determined to topple Metropolis? A jilted lover determined to cause as much chaos as she could? Usually she would be more than help to discuss - but between the emotional exhaustion of the week and her own guilt eating away at her, Jinsol could find scant patience for Heejin’s wild theories.
Her thoughts drifted back to Sooyoung. She had mustered up the courage to text her once, early this afternoon, only for the message to be left unread. In fact - Jinsol checked her phone again - Sooyoung’s phone hadn’t even received the message.
They clambered into Jungeun’s car. Jinsol fiddled with her phone in her lap as Jungeun turned up the radio.
“Gooooood evening, Metropolis! It’s Im Yeojin here with the 7 o’clock news. Top of the line today - Star City’s superheroes decimate half the city. At slightly past 12, reports trickled into from Star City that one of its superhero teams, The Titans, has destroyed half the city.
“The attacks continued for over an hour as the city’s second team of superheroes, Young Legion, tried to stop them in vain, until reinforcements - including Metropolis’s own Wonder Girl, Choerry, and Harpy - arrived from other cities around the country.
“Reports say that most of the city’s infrastructure has been down since half past 12. Cellular network and internet is still unavailable, and we’ve only just managed to get our first reports from the city now.”
Jinsol straightened. “Wait.. Turn it up.”
Jungeun cast her a curious look, but complied. Yeojin’s voice filled the interior of the car.
“Until today, Star City had been known as a peaceful city, well-protected by its two teams of superheroes. While some cities have started to regulate their own superhero presence, Star City has - so far - stood staunchly on the side of deregulation.
“‘We believe that it is in the city’s best interest to let the superhero community regulate themselves,’ said Mayor Kim Yubin just last week. And now, a break. Stay tuned for more updates for Star City.”
Jinsol stared at the radio on the dash, a peculiar feeling rushing up in her. Star City, huh.
At the mayor’s office, they were ushered into a small meeting room, already packed full with rows of journalists. A small board had been set up behind Haseul’s seat, where her smiling face beamed at them, her campaign slogan splashed out across the top.
Jinsol’s hands went back to her phone, sitting up straight as she realised that Sooyoung had finally read her message. She began tapping out another message when her phone buzzed.
Her heart leapt in her chest. Ignoring Jungeun and Heejin’s curious looks. Jinsol hurried out of the room, cupping her hand over the side of her phone.
“Hey,” Sooyoung sounded tired.
“Hey,” Jinsol breathed. Her confession, the flood of words she had prepared, stopped on the tip of her tongue. Somehow, hearing Sooyoung’s crackly voice, the static distorting the background noises, it only made her lose her nerve.
“Sorry I didn- text - lier.” Sooyoung was barely comprehensible over the static. “ - busy.”
Jinsol pressed the phone to her ear. “Where are you? I can barely hear you.”
“Out - pa - trol….”
There was an indistinct noise on the other end, as though Sooyoung was trying to say something. Then she paused, and Jinsol heard a scream on the other end.
She frowned. “What’s going on?”
“ - can’t talk - later - ” And before Jinsol could interject, Sooyoung had ended the call, leaving her listening to the dial tone.
Jinsol sighed and pocketed her phone. When she turned around, she jumped at the sight of Jungeun behind her - when had she come out of the room?
“Hey,” said Jungeun calmly. “I came out to call you. It’s about to start.”
Haseul came out just as they found their seats, looking breezy in a light green pantsuit. She greeted the journalists in the front row by name, and Jinsol felt her gaze fall on her for a moment as she scanned the rest of the room.
Taking her seat in front of the microphones on the table, Haseul smiled, her face illuminated a pale white from the countless camera flashes. Jinsol absently switched her recorder on, her mind still on Sooyoung’s weird call.
What the hell was that all about? She tapped her pen against the corner of her notebook. The static… The explosions…
She had completely forgotten about Haseul until the words ‘superhero registration’ snapped her out of her reverie.
She locked eyes with Haseul.
“Superheroes have done a wonderful job of protecting the city,” she said, as her gaze jumped to the next person in the room. “But what happened in Star City today is proof that we don’t know these people. We can’t depend on them to regulate themselves. At least 50 lives have been lost in Star City today. We don’t know if, or when, this will happen in Metropolis. We need a way to regulate these people, whom we are the mercy of every day.”
The journalists started to murmur. Jinsol sat up.
“Which is why I propose forming a superhero register. Anyone born with superpowers will be registered and monitored, so we won’t have supervillains operating with impunity. We will know who these supervillains are. We will bring them to justice.
“Even now! We have a supervillain at large. Our superheroes have failed to identify her. With the register, this will no longer be a problem! We will have records of every person with superpowers in our city - ”
“You can’t!” Everyone turned to Jinsol, now on her feet. “This is an invasion of personal autonomy!”
“Ms Jung,” said her aide, “you’ll have to wait till the end to ask questions.”
“Kyubin, that’s fine. I’ll take Ms Jung’s question.” There was a wide smile on Haseul’s face. “We don’t want to control these supers, Ms Jung. What’s the difference between this and registering other people when they’re born? We just want assurance that they won’t endanger our people.”
“But they’re our people too! And you know this can be exploited in so many different ways - ”
“I didn’t know you were such an ardent supporter of superhero rights, Ms Jung.” There was a gleam in Haseul’s eyes as she leaned forward. “As I recall, didn’t you write an article exposing the identities of the League of Extraordinary Ladies? You weren’t so concerned about personal autonomy and privacy then.”
Jinsol opened her mouth, then closed it.
Haseul gave her a satisfied smile. “Nonetheless, I appreciate your concern very much.” She looked straight into the TV camera. “It’s very good to know that we have dogged journalists such as yourself asking the tough questions. Now, if I may continue?”
Jinsol felt the gazes of the whole room on her. Slowly, she sat back down, fingers tight around her notebook.
“I have a question.” Jungeun raised her hand. “When do you plan to roll out this superhero register, if elected?”
“It will be the first order of the day. With a strong mandate from Metropolis, I will no longer let this supervillain continue to terrorise our city.”
Which means it was five days away. Jinsol’s heart stopped.
The moment the conference ended, Jinsol hid herself in the bathroom and called Wonder Girl’s payphone. It rang for a full minute before Jinsol let her hand drop - was she still in Star City?
Then her phone began to vibrate again.
“How is it?” asked Vivi, as soon as Jinsol answered.
She quickly gave Vivi a rundown. Once she was done, Vivi sighed. Jinsol could almost imagine pinching her nose bridge, the way she did whenever she got annoyed. “Alright,” said Vivi. “Change of plans. Tell Jungeun to write up that press conference. Meanwhile, I want that Wonder Girl interview - and a statement from the Justice Union if you can - asap. We need to run this before Haseul gets into office.”
As Jinsol rejoined Jungeun and Heejin in the car, she relayed Vivi’s instructions word for word, cracking a smile at Jungeun’s and Heejin’s sighs.
On the way back, they turned on the radio again.
“It’s the nine o’clock news with Rosé, and we have updates coming in from Star City. Here with us is Lisa, reporting live on location. Evening, Lisa.”
“Ev - ning, Ros - ” Lisa’s voice trickled in, distorted by static. “It’s har - to get a read - situation now. Cellu - data - internet are intermit- tent.”
“And how is the situation on the ground, Lisa?”
“Destruc - mostly stopped. It seems the supers - subdued the rogue ele - many have gone back - rubble everywh - ”
“Wake up, sleeping beauty.” Heejin nudged her with an elbow. “We’re at your place.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Jinsol shook her head. She stumbled out of the car in a daze, too many thoughts crowding her mind. On her way up, she dashed off a quick email to the Justice Union, before she stopped at their front door.
Sooyoung’s pair of black hiking boots, which had always been in the back of their shoe closet, had been left lying on their doorstep, covered in some kind of white dust. Jinsol peeled off her shoes and entered the dark apartment.
On her way in, she poked her head into the bathroom, only to find a pile of black clothes soaking in a basin of soapy water. The water sloshed and spilled over as she fished out a pair of dark track pants and a black jacket.
She switched the lights off and made their way to the bedroom, only to find Sooyoung sound asleep.
Though it was dark, Jinsol could see the band-aids on her face, some on her cheek and forehead and another over her nose bridge. She sat on the edge of the bed and watched her snore, sighing as she tucked a curl of Sooyoung’s hair behind her ear.
There a drawer hanging out from their closet, and Jinsol went over to put it back in - only to pause and pull out a bunched up wad of cloth that had been stuffed into the back. The strip of cloth looked homemade, the stitches on the end rough, and the elastic band already fraying.
For a long moment, Jinsol stood there, thinking. She grabbed a few outfits of her own, and stuffed it into an overnight bag.
Then, as silently as she had entered the apartment, Jinsol slipped out.
What is behind Jo Haseul’s sudden lead in the polls?
Opinion by Choi Yerim
[Choi Yerim is a political scientist with the University of Metropolis studying grass-roots level politics. She is also published in the Morning Star and the Business Daily.]
METROPOLIS - It has been a good two weeks for Ms Jo Haseul. After trailing political dark horse Kim Yeri for the better part of the election campaign, she has finally achieved a resurgence, polling at 65 percent in the latest surveys.
One of Ms Jo’s election promises was to get tough on crime in the city, and it seems like that has struck a chord with voters, who have consistently named crime as their top priority in surveys. And it seems like the police’s recent effectiveness in solving crimes - a seven-year high for the department - has cemented Ms Jo as the candidate who is working hard to eradicate crime in the city.
Even in the last week of her current tenure, Ms Jo has been seen around the various police precincts, speaking to officers and demonstrating her commitment to fighting crime.
She has also suggested, in the past few weeks, that she will be introducing a slew of new policies that she plans to have in place, should she be elected as mayor again.
Rising crime rates in the city have aided Ms Jo’s re-election efforts. After all, it was the rising crime in Metropolis in recent months that have sparked this outcry, with Ms Jo’s tough-on-crime policies taking centre stage, leaving Ms Kim’s wealth redistribution policies trailing in the dust.
Many surveys have shown that people tend to favour the status quo in times of crisis, and that is exactly what is happening now. Where the fight might have centred on the city’s large inequalities at the start of this campaign, it is now an issue of crime. It remains to be seen if Metropolis will be better off for it.
Jungeun’s eyes widened as Jinsol hauled herself into the office, dragging her giant bag behind her.
“Wha - ?”
Jinsol only shook her head. Jungeun fell silent.
“We got quite a response on Jo Haseul’s superhero registration,” said Jungeun, after a beat. “It seems pretty mixed. Some virulently anti-superhero rhetoric, some staunch superhero supporters in the comments.”
Jinsol hummed. She rested her head on her desk and sighed. There hadn’t been anywhere for her to go. Chaewon was in Star City, Hyunjin’s apartment was way out of the way, and the thought of dragging herself back to her mother’s and listening to her crow about how she never approved of her marriage anyway made her stomach turn.
Besides, her leaving didn’t mean anything. She just needed some time to think.
“How’s the Wonder Girl interview going?” asked Jungeun, and bless her - she was trying her best to distract her.
Oh wait, yeah. The Wonder Girl interview. Jinsol let out a weak laugh. “I don’t know, honestly.”
“You could say that.”
She could feel Jungeun’s eyes on her. “You’re not planning to sleep here tonight, are you?”
Jinsol sighed. She wondered how pathetic she must look right now, half-asleep on her desk in the office, clearly having just run away from home.
“Come on,” said Jungeun, standing. “I have a pull-out sofa in my home. You can sleep there tonight.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, I can’t leave you to sleep here, can I? The office runs overnight - you’re not going to fall asleep with this zoo here.”
Jinsol’s heart swelled. “Thank you,” she said. Jungeun merely quirked a corner of her lips.
For the third time that day, Jinsol clambered into Jungeun’s car. This late at night, traffic was smooth. Jinsol’s phone began buzzing in her lap.
She could feel Jungeun’s curious glance. Jinsol dropped her phone into her bag. But the buzzing filled the car, a continuous hum in the background in the twenty minute drive back to Jungeun’s place. Finally, as they entered Jungeun’s apartment, the calls stopped.
Jungeun pulled out the sofa for Jinsol. “Bathroom’s that way, kitchen’s there if you need anything. I’m going to wash up. Make yourself at home.”
Whispering another thank you, Jinsol sat on the sofa and stared at the missed calls on her phone. With Jungeun gone, she felt the fatigue setting in heavily; she wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and sleep for the next week, and maybe when she woke up, the election would be over, and this entire business with Wonder Girl would have just been a bad, bad dream.
She was about to turn off her phone - with its 25 messages from Sooyoung - to take a shower when it buzzed again. This time, from a number Jinsol was intimately familiar with.
She paused, torn - but her curiosity finally won out, and she answered the call, breathing in a deep, steadying breath.
“Where are you?” Wonder Girl’s tone was sharp. Oddly enough, the panic in Wonder Girl’s voice grounded Jinsol. An overbearing calm overtook her.
“Nothing, just - I - ”
Jinsol imagined her struggling for words. After a long minute, she finally said, “Let me interview you.”
“Let me interview you. For the paper.”
“We can do it tomorrow evening, if you’re free.”
“Jinsol… where are you now?”
“I’m home, of course. It’s late.” Jinsol snorted as Wonder Girl stammered at her answer. “So?”
“You - I - ” There was a long pause. “Fine,” the super gritted out finally. “What time and where?”
“Daily Planet roof. 11pm tomorrow.”
She was about to put the phone down, when Wonder Girl said, softly, “Wait. Are you… are you safe?”
Jinsol bit her lip. She thought of ending the call, of putting the phone down, but ultimately, she hummed. “Yeah. Don’t worry.”
“Okay.” She ended the call with a sigh, before opening the door - only to bowl right into Jungeun. “Shit, sorry! I didn’t see you there.”
Jungeun dusted herself off. “It’s fine. I just wanted to see if you were hungry. I was going to order pizza?”
Mm. Pizza. It had been a while since she had eaten properly, after all. “That sounds amazing.”
“Perfect.” Jungeun grinned. “We’ll have a nice night in, then.”
It was a Saturday, which meant that Jinsol would usually be doing chores and running errands all over the neighbourhood. But well… With no house to do chores in and no one to run errands for, she settled for working.
That morning, Jungeun had, very graciously, offered to let her stay for a few days, as Jinsol sorted out her plans for the next few days. That was before she went out to meet a friend… more than twelve hours ago. Dimly, Jinsol wondered if she had interrupted Jungeun’s Friday night plans. Oops.
She spent the day cleaning out her email inbox with its 49,501 unread messages. With an hour to go, Jinsol dressed quickly and got a taxi to bring her back to the office. She stared out of the misty windows as the driver turned the evening’s programme up.
“Come ye, come ye, all those lost and heartbroken. It’s time for dinner with Metropolis’s favourite Agony Aunt Amber.”
“Today, we have a story from… Sooyeon! She’s a chef and she has recently ran into some problems with her sister. But first, let’s hear it from Sooyeon herself!”
There was a burst of carnival music, and then a second female voice came on.
“Hi Sooyeon. Let’s hear what happened, shall we?”
As it turned out, three years ago, a food critic gave Sooyeon’s fledgling restaurant a negative review, causing it to collapse.
Cut to last month. Sooyeon found her sister’s old laptop and uncovered the fact that she had been the food critic. When she confronted her, her sister said that she didn’t expect that Sooyeon’s restaurant would actually collapse, which is why she had hidden the truth until now.
“What do I do, Amber?”
In spite of her scepticism, Jinsol found herself leaning forward as she listened.
“Ahh,” Amber sighed. “Fear. That’s always a powerful impediment. Your sister was afraid of the consequences of her actions and so she hid it for three years. Many people do strange things when they’re afrai - ”
“...miss? Miss? Your stop’s here.”
Jinsol jolted in her seat. Outside, she could see the tall gleaming Daily Planet building, illuminated by the golden light of the streetlamps and the giant brass globe on its roof.
She waved to the night guard and the others on the night shift as she tapped the button in the lift for the top floor. At this time, the office was mostly empty, save for the skeleton crew that kept the Daily Planet running overnight.
As soon as she stepped out onto the roof, the chill seeped through her clothes. Jinsol shivered. The sky was a pitch black, hundreds of city lights winking like stars in the sky. She took a seat on the freezing ground.
She didn’t have to wait long. Wonder Girl landed on the roof five minutes later, dishevelled and panting, and made a beeline for her.
“Jinsol - ” she began, but Jinsol held up a hand.
Wonder Girl frowned. Jinsol kept her expression even. “Or stand,” she said, “if you prefer.”
Wonder Girl pursed her lips, and for a long moment, she seemed to be struggling with whether to sit or stand, before taking a seat on the small circuit box behind her. Jinsol flipped her notebook to the first page.
“So,” she said, cocking her head. “Wonder Girl. Superhero. Woman of Steel.”
Wonder Girl looked visibly uncomfortable.
“How old are you this year?”
“Jinsol, is this really - ”
Wonder Girl frowned. “Twenty-seven.”
“Is that your human or alien age?”
“They’re the same. Jinsol, I - ”
“And where are you from? On Earth, I mean.”
There was a brief pause. A muscle twitched in Wonder Girl’s jaw. “The countryside.”
“Mysterious. And your home planet is Krypton?” She waited for Wonder Girl’s stiff nod before she continued, “And how does someone from another planet come all the way to Earth?”
“My planet was dying,” said Wonder Girl, as though she hadn’t just told Jinsol the entire story recently. “I was a baby when my parents put me on a spaceship to Earth, because they wanted to make sure that I would live.”
“And you’ve always had powers.”
Wonder Girl nodded.
“When did you come to Metropolis?”
She hesitated, looked nervous, even. “A… a few years ago?”
“How long ago?”
Wonder Girl frowned. “Do we have to talk about this?” she said. There was an edge to her tone, and that fired Jinsol up.
“Fine,” she said, standing. “Let’s talk about something else then. Let’s talk about the first day we met. When I was in that alley and you arrived almost as soon as the mugger did. How?”
“I was there, I was by the rooftops - ”
“Okay, and what about the award ceremony? You appeared less than ten minutes after the supervillain. How did you do that?”
“I… I saw it on Twitter…”
“You were already here when I started streaming. And I was the one to break the news.” Jinsol took a step closer. “And that day, when you gave me your number. Do you make it a habit of giving every reporter your number? Or is it just me?”
Another step. “And at the PC Bang. You said that man had prison tattoos. How did you even know what they looked like?”
Wonder Girl stared at her, wide-eyed, almost frantic in the way she could barely respond to Jinsol’s questions.
“And,” said Jinsol. “I’ve never mentioned a wife, so how did you know to ask if my wife was going to be worried?” Now standing right in front of her, Jinsol crossed her arms.
“Your… twitter page…” Wonder Girl stammered.
Jinsol leaned over her. “And how do you know where I live?” she whispered, her voice razor thin. She looked down at Wonder Girl, and breathed, “How did you know where to drop me off last week?”
Their faces were only inches apart. Wonder Girl’s eyelids fluttered.
She looked down at Wonder Girl, with her wide-eyed and parted lips, her breath coming out in short pants.
“You lied to me,” Jinsol snarled, and ripped her mask off.
Wonder Girl’s hands flew up to cover her face. But it was too late. Jinsol’s expression twisted.
“Inspector Ha Sooyoung. Of course. I should have guessed.”
Jinsol jumped as Sooyoung crumpled to the ground, gasping desperately as she clutched her chest. Two sets of footsteps echoed in the wide, empty space. Jinsol looked up and froze.
“And Jung Jinsol,” said Haseul, her lips curving into a smile. “Why am I not surprised that you were the one who broke into Jungeun’s lab?”
whoever said Haseul and Jungeun... HOW DID YOU KNOW??