Skyrocket drabble/extended version

by 'rith

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were just making excuses to see me now," John said, smiling and hefting a hundred pounds of Argo Harness easily in one hand.

"Good thing you don't know better, then," Celia shot back, but she felt herself blushing, dammit, because he wasn't wrong. She could have fixed the fried circuits but had made the trip to Metropolis anyway, claiming that the harness's repairs needed an expert's touch. John's skills really *were* vastly superior to her jury-rigging, and--

"Well, that's a shame," he said, and she knew she hadn't fooled him one bit.

[Skyrocket/Steel, 100 words]


Extended version. I still think it's better off as a drabble, since it's typically unnecessary "and now I will explicate this character's entire history for you!" -- but Chi asked.

Brain-dump, unbeta'd.

She'd always been a career-minded woman.

Celia had known, quite early on, what she wanted to be. Seeing planes fly overhead, watching the fireworks with her grandfather and hearing him talk about his love of America, there hadn't been any question that she was destined for the military, and for flight. After their initial questions her parents hadn't even tried to dissuade her, even though they'd doubtless rather have seen her follow in their scientific footsteps. But Celia knew that she belonged in the sky.

So she'd signed on, and given the Navy all of her heart and some of the best years of her life, and eventually became one of its top flight instructors. But she wanted to do more than *teach,* noble as the profession was, and when she was refused--*again*--the chance to join a combat squadron, she went back to where she always did when she needed comfort and advice. Back to her parents' home in St. Louis, where her dilemma quickly became the *last* thing in the world she needed to worry about.

Her parents showed off their latest creation, the Argo Harness, and encouraged her to explore its capabilities. It was an amazing invention, a true breakthrough in technology, and she wasn't the only one who thought so. Within hours of her arrival, mercenaries looking for the harness ruthlessly attacked their home. Within moments of their appearance, Celia found herself in the ruins of her childhood home, and her parents....

Even now, nearly eight years later, the memory of that day still had the power to shake her to the core. She'd been galvanized, nearly *possessed* by grief and rage, when she took up the harness and went after her parents' murderers. The rest passed in a blur: tracking them down, meeting Green Lantern, finding what justice there was to be found for an unspeakable crime. And in the aftermath, discovering that if she really wanted to fly, she now possessed the means...without any overseeing body to tell her when, or how.

At first it'd been strange to think of superheroing as a career, but St. Louis needed heroes as much as anywhere--maybe even a little more. She'd had her parents' considerable resources to draw on for the first few years, and enough technical skill to keep the harness running from their notes. Later she'd had to find basic employment to keep herself in "business," as it were, and by the time Josiah Power made his invitation to join his fledgling company she'd nearly been running on empty. But seven years on her own as a solo hero had earned her a solid reputation, and enough status that Josiah didn't just want her as an associate, but a cornerstone of his venture.

Sometimes Celia wondered where she might have ended up otherwise. During his brief stint with the Power Company, Firestorm had invited her to join the Justice League, saying she was "tailor-made" to fit in among them. He hadn't had the authority to make that kind of offer, maybe not even the judgment, but was a flattering thought. But irrelevant at this point, really.

Despite all the initial (ongoing) hiccups, the Power Company had finally found its groove. She still occasionally clashed with her fellow partners Manhunter and Witchfire over their client choices, but DePaul had thawed considerably from his mercenary beginnings, and Becca...was quieter, these days, since she'd discovered she was a homunculus instead of a real person. Celia didn't know the whole story there, but didn't let that matter--Becca seemed real enough to *her.*

As for the associates, Bork was as stalwart a cohort as she could have wished, despite his criminal background; Danny was coming along quite nicely with his control over his powers and gadgets, even if he still didn't know where to focus his enthusiasm and kept being swept up into his agent's hair-brained popularity schemes; and Candy had turned out to be a sweet kid, once she'd finally confided in them about the origins of her bonded power-gem and they, in return, had sworn to protect her against Kobra if he ever tried to reclaim it. They'd become, despite all Celia's reservations and doubts, a good team.

Somehow Josiah Power kept it all together, kept *them* all together. She had no doubts that it all would have fallen apart without him, the way it almost had when he'd nearly been killed early in the team's history. S.T.A.R.'s Garrison Slate had generously stepped in to administrate while Josiah was recuperating, but to him the Power Company was just another corporation; to Josiah, it was a *mission.* He'd formed the group as a business venture, true, and grown it into a prosperous one, but Celia knew that they were of a similar mind: The paying clients were a legitimate way of funding what Celia thought of as her "true" work, the pro bono cases that deserved attention regardless of financial status, allowing her to use her parents' legacy as a tool for justice. Green Lantern had been right to set her on the path, years ago. And it was, she had to admit, far easier to keep the Argo Harness updated and repaired with the resources of a corporation behind it, rather than the menial wages of a burger franchise manager.

So she was settled now, finally happy again in her career and financially stable, and she could begin to look around at the rest of her life.

The truth was--

The truth was, as well as being "career minded" Celia had always been self-sufficient, determined to make her life on her own terms. So her accidental solitude, her accidental *celibacy,* wasn't a matter of choice but of circumstance. In the Navy she'd learned painful lessons about fraternization within the ranks, and she considered her business partners in the same light...not that any of them particularly appealed to her on a personal level. DePaul was handsome enough, she supposed, but the ethical gap between them was simply too wide to bridge...and what she knew about his private life didn't make him any more attractive.

And she already knew about the difficulties of trying to maintain a relationship with a civilian. After she'd left the Navy and moved back to St. Louis, her old friend Dave--now a successful lawyer with his own firm--had wanted to pick up where they'd left off years ago, before he'd left for D.C. to make his reputation and she'd gone into the service. So they had, for awhile, and it'd been good...for awhile. He'd even been supportive of her heroic career, when she revealed her identity as Skyrocket; once they were involved, she'd never considered keeping the most important part of her life from him. "My girlfriend, the superhero," he'd joked, and never belittled her decisions. But eventually he'd begun to hint at marriage, at having a family, and with that went the unspoken assumption that she'd put away the Argo Harness for good.

She *wanted* those things someday, she truly did, but she hadn't been ready to give up the heroing yet...and Dave hadn't been able to see why. Josiah's offer hadn't just rescued her from a dead-end job and inevitable equipment failure; it'd also given both her and Dave an excuse to part ways gracefully, rather than fall into a pattern of anger and resentment that would have led to an ugly break up.

As to why she was thinking about all of this *now*....

Oh, she knew exactly why. Danny's buddy Charlie Lau kept the Argo Harness running brilliantly, upgrading it so often that by now it worked--and it was no shame to say it--far better than the prototype her parents had built. But a couple of months ago Charlie had been away, back in Hong Kong dealing with some family business, when the Power Company ran into a couple of techno-thieves who'd fried the circuits with a powerful EMP burst. Charlie's upgrades had long surpassed her talent for jury-rigging, and despite Josiah's assurances she wasn't quite ready to entrust the source of her livelihood to anonymous S.T.A.R. techies.

So Celia had called up Firestorm, and asked him who the JLA used when they had technology that needed fixing. Good contacts, she'd learned long before she'd ever seen Witchfire's aggressive networking skills in action, were a woman's best friend.

She'd almost reconsidered after Firestorm provided a number. Calling on a respected member of the Justice League out of the blue seemed...forward, maybe even a little crass. Worse, she knew what the rest of the heroic community thought about the Power Company: that its members were mercenaries, selling their abilities to the highest bidders. Like any commonly held belief, it stung all the more for having some truth in it. But Celia had made her peace with the essential discordance between her own ideals and the demands of the business she'd committed to months ago.

To her astonishment, the man Firestorm recommended didn't seem at all put off or even surprised to hear from her, and readily agreed to look at the harness. Josiah, for his part, hadn't blinked when she'd asked to use a company jet to make the trip. "Necessary expenses," he said, and it wasn't even a question; he'd simply assumed that if she needed to go, it wasn't a frivolous request. Josiah's trust in her still humbled her, sometimes, and as usual, she found herself mentally promising never to give him cause to regret it.

So Celia flew from San Francisco to Metropolis and found the address, and found herself fact-to-face with a man who had the integrity and ability to take on the responsibility of defending Metropolis after Superman's death. She found herself stammering while showing him the harness and pointing out the damage.

"I think we can do something about this," Dr. Irons said, brown eyes smiling, and from that moment she was pretty well lost.

Her instant crush was silly, definitely, and more than a little juvenile. Only it hadn't faded even with distance, so when the Power Company happened to find itself in Philly on a standard security contract, she took the opportunity to dash down to Metropolis for a tune-up. "Of the *harness,*" she'd told DePaul when he started to tease. Although....

John seemed pleased to see her again, readily attending to the (not-really necessary) maintenance and asking about her work and her team. She found herself explaining very earnestly how she resolved the dichotomy between "mercenary work" and superheroing, because she wanted him to *understand.*

And, well. Eventually there was another battle, this one in Chicago, and while Charlie was available in San Francisco this time Metropolis was still *closer,* and--

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were just making excuses to see me now," John said, smiling and hefting a hundred pounds of Argo Harness easily in one hand.

"Good thing you don't know better, then," Celia shot back, but she felt herself blushing, dammit, because he wasn't wrong. She could have fixed the fried circuits but had made the trip to Metropolis anyway, claiming that the harness's repairs needed an expert's touch. John's skills really *were* vastly superior to her jury-rigging, and--

"Well, that's a shame," he said, and she knew she hadn't fooled him one bit.


[Random comment: In the Fearsome Symmetry 'verse, Skyrocket *is* a member of the Justice League...and does fit in among them very well. She is, in essence, the Iron Man of the DCU. *reconsiders* Okay, Steel is Iron Man. But she'd be Warbird/Ms. Marvel--one of the best flyers, mobile and versatile.]

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