Chapter 11

           It took a good ten minutes of submerging in the apartment complex’s pool, now partially filled with ash, before Alexandria’s cloak of flames started to dissipate. Titan spent that time talking with her, asking her about life and school, pretending he wasn’t gently holding her face above water while the rest of her sent steam billowing into the late-morning air. Before taking her out of the building, he’d wrapped in his fire-resistant over-shirt, illustrating one of the many reasons that Heroes always dressed in layers. It had held up well, which was a stroke of good fortune because he was relatively certain she’d have torched through anything else he could have used. Having fathered a Powered, Titan was more familiar with their condition than most. Their abilities were triggered involuntarily. Sometimes this was purely physical, like a nervous tic. Sometimes it happened from other stimulus, like sneezing. And for many, their ability was tied to their emotions. So while the water was keeping Alexandria from burning anything else, Titan had a firm suspicion that it was the act of calming her down that finally banished the flames.

                The rest of the team had finished checking the building and reported there were no more people left inside. Only Alexandria’s family had stayed behind, too scared to move her and perhaps set something else aflame. With the coast clear, the firefighters had pulled out and focused on getting the blaze under control. Galvanize, Hexcellent, Bubble Bubble, and Zone had all gathered out in front of the smoking building to catch the eye of various reporters and news crews that were gathering on the scene. Technically, Titan should be with them, but he felt he was doing better work standing waist deep in dirty water, getting a little girl down from her emotional rollercoaster.

                “Titan, the Powered girl’s transport is in route, estimate arrival in five point two minutes.” Dispatch’s voice hummed in his ear, nearly startling him. He’d forgotten about the earpiece already. It would take some time for the Hero habits to kick back in. At least he’d remembered to call the incident in. A person with her ability and no control needed some serious help.

                “Understood.” Titan tapped the side of his mask covering his ear as Alexandria looked on curiously. He stuck out his thumb and pinky, making an “I’m on the phone” gesture to explain his seeming discussion with no one. “The secondary transport as well?”

                “Yes, another car for the girl’s family is paired with the one for her. They will not be able to ride in the same vehicle, however.”

                Titan smiled down at the girl, but inwardly winced. If he threw her into a mysterious van without so much as a friendly face, it was highly likely she could flare up again. The team getting her would have things to control her fire, but it wouldn’t be a great first impression.

                “I can accompany. There shouldn’t be any danger for me.”

                “It was never an issue of danger. We have equipment to completely neutralize a fire-conjurer of the level you described; however that equipment occupies a large amount of space. We cannot fit anyone in the van aside from the driver and the Powered.”

                Damn, there went that idea. If a normal person couldn’t fit, then Titan had no chance of squeezing in. He was still trying to think of another way to help when Dispatch's voice grabbed his attention again.

                “Titan, another Hero has flagged your location as a destination. Gale is currently en route.”

                “Make that, arrived.” The new voice came from a source high above the pool: a woman floating forty feet in the air. She wore a green and black outfit, standard pants and top paired with a matching coat that ran down to her ankles. It fluttered out behind her, billowing in the breeze as she began to descend.

                She was halfway down when Titan realized there was no breeze. That probably meant air-elementalist, and if she had enough oomph to fly herself without riding on something as ostentatious as a hurricane then she must be a pretty good one. Her brunette hair fluttered about as she descended, coming to rest a few inches below her shoulders when she finally landed.

                “Gale, I presume?”

                The woman, Gale, nodded, and then flashed a warm smile at Alexandria. She turned her attention back to the man in the soot-covered outfit a moment later. “And you’re Titan, or so I’m told.”

                “That I am.”

                “From what I heard, Titan left the business years ago. So that leaves me with a question: original, or legacy?” Her tone was cheerful, and the smile she’d shown Alexandria had only faded a bit, yet Titan could still sense the tension in her body as she quizzed him. He didn’t blame her, the return of someone as legendarily infamous as himself was bound to stir up a lot of something. Maybe it would be bad, maybe it would be good, but it would be something.

                “Original,” Titan replied. “Just reinstated, actually. You caught me on my first job.”

                “A burning building? Interesting choice for a strongman.”

                “Long story,” Titan said with a sigh.

                “Are you really Gale?” This question came from neither of the registered Heroes, but rather from the small girl who had finally stopped burning a few minutes prior. Both adults looked at her, realizing they had something more important on their hands than a pissing contest.

                “I really am,” Gale told her. She took a step off the edge of the concrete and began to hover over the water, making a small ripple below her feet as she glided across the water’s surface. “See? I can fly and everything.”

                Seeing her interact kindly with Alexandria, it struck Titan that Gale was quite pretty, evident even through the mask that concealed all of her face save for her eyes, a bit of nose, and everything at or below the mouth. Dark skin, full lips, and likely a fit body beneath all the armored clothing she wore. If his inclinations had lain in that direction, he’d have been a bit tempted to ask for her number.

                “You came to speak at our school last year,” Alexandria said. “You talked about how being a Hero meant making good choices, even for young people like us.”

                “And I meant every word,” Gale assured her.

                Alexandria nodded, even though nothing had been asked of her. The girl was clearly star-struck. Titan would have bet dollars to donuts that somewhere in the cinders of her now-charred room were the remains of a Gale poster. That thought, sad as it was, gave him an idea.

                “Gale, maybe you can help me, us, out,” he said carefully. “I’ve got friends who are coming to take Alexandria and her family somewhere secure, where she won’t have to worry about setting things on fire. Unfortunately, her car will be too small for anyone else to ride with her, but I want her to know she’s still got people watching over her. Are you free to fly alongside her car and make sure she arrives safely?”

                “Of course I can,” Gale said, giving the young girl another comforting smile. “That works out well, actually. I wanted to see if you had some free time later on to chat, so now we can meet up and I can tell you she got there.”

                Titan had known he was handing out a favor by asking her to do escort duty, but he didn’t expect her to cash it in immediately. Clearly she wanted to know about his return as soon as possible. From the way Alexandria had recognized her and her skill at diplomacy, it seemed a fair guess that she was one of the better known Heroes in the city, which meant she likely also belonged to one of the top teams. He’d hoped to avoid getting too mixed up in the Hero world before he settled in here, but it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.

                Oh well, at least he was going to get something out of it.

                “Sounds like a great idea,” Titan agreed.