Chapter 14

                The powerful knocking on his door roused Lenny from a pleasant dream. In it, he’s been just about to sign three coordinated Hero teams under a group contract, with a percentage that was so high he’d have never allowed himself to indulge it in real life. The caped leader had been putting his signature on the contract when he jerked, slamming his knee into the desk. Then he did it again, and again, over and over until Lenny tore free of his dream world and realized someone very strong was knocking on his door. It took him exactly one guess to figure out who. Truthfully, he’d expected this visit to come earlier.

                “Gimme a damn minute!” Lenny rolled out of bed and put on his orthopedic slippers. Other men might have been embarrassed to greet a visitor comparable to the gods while wearing grey slippers. Other men lacked the brass-balled confidence of Lenny.

                He trudged through his home, a one bedroom apartment next door to his office, heading toward the door. Lenny could certainly afford better, one didn’t get to be as renowned as he was without squirreling away a good nest egg, but that was for when he retired. Lenny lived and breathed the job, you had to if you wanted to be good at it. The closest thing he’d had to a vacation in the last decade was when he went to the coast to bail one of his client’s out of a drunken indecent exposure charge.

                The knocking ceased as Lenny pulled open the door, revealing the mountainous form of Owen holding a twelve-pack.

                “Can I come in?”

                “Wipe your feet.” Lenny trudged back in, heading for the kitchen. He heard the door close behind him as he reached into the fridge and pulled out one of the frozen coffee drinks his doctor said was bad for his stomach lining. “Tough shit, Doc,” he muttered as he downed the frosty concoction. That done, Lenny walked back into the living room.

                “So, I take it things are bad.” He’d known Owen long enough to skip the preamble. The big lug was bothered about something, and Lenny was the only person he felt he could talk to. That in itself pretty much spoke to the problem: he wasn’t getting on well with his new team, else he’d have been talking to them.

                “They’re not great.” Owen cracked open a beer and took a lengthy sip. His body had long ago lost the ability to be affected by alcohol; that didn’t mean he didn’t find enjoyment in the flavor though. “Looks like I’ve alienated my team by acting like I’m better than them, one member seems to have hated me before I walked in the door, and I managed to catch the eye of Elemental Fury’s leader: Gale. She seems to think I’m here to cause waves and might just make it her goal to be a pain in my ass.”

                “That is pretty damned not great,” Lenny agreed. He reached over and pulled a beer free from the case. If the man was going to barge into his home at almost midnight, the least he could do was share his drinks. “Not great, but not unmanageable either. Gale is a righteous bitch if she suspects someone of making trouble, however, she’s one of the best people to have in your corner if she trusts you.”

                “One of your clients?”

                “No, I manage The Birdsman and Granite, two people on her team. I’m involved enough to get a sense of her. Lady’s got a lot of pressure on her to perform, and Brewster has been growing more active with criminal Supers over the last few years. Once she sees you’re genuinely trying to help she’ll back off. Till then, just keep your temper in check and try to keep the dick-measuring to a minimum.”

                “Might be tough, she invited me over to do an ability assessment.”

                Lenny held in the exasperated sigh that might have escaped from a less-tenured individual in his role. Ability assessments were officially used by Heroes when they were looking to work with someone and needed to know exactly what that person was capable of. Unofficially, they were a great way to put rookies in their place or settle grudges of which Super was more powerful. Heroes were good folk, but that much power and training definitely resulted in equally super-human egos.

                “Did you agree?”

                “Sort of. I said I would do it when schedules aligned, so I bought some time at least.” Owen gave a wide-shouldered shrug.

                “It’ll have to be enough. Let me try and finagle a few things. Until you hear from me, focus on your real problem: the team.”

                “That’s the one I’m most clueless about,” Owen admitted. “I know I’m pissing them off by acting like I’m better than them, but the thing is that I am better. I’ve got more power, more training, and more experience, even with my time away from the life. They’re good kids, and I respect Galvanize’s attitude, but at the end of the day we exist on totally different levels. I have no idea how to make that gap disappear, and if I try to fake it I’m pretty certain they’ll hate me even more.”

                “No, don’t fake it,” Lenny advised. “These folks already get shit on by Heroes who see them as sell-out wannabes, if you start acting fake they’ll think it means you’ve decided to placate them like children.”

                “Then what’s my other option?”

                “Tell them the truth,” Lenny replied. “Meet it head-on like you would any other challenge. Let them know you’re having trouble fitting in like you told me, except maybe don’t be quite such a dick about it. Then, and this is key, realize what a fucking schmuck you’re being.”


                “Titan, you’re a great Hero and an all-around unstoppable guy. No one could do your job like you,” Lenny said. He ran his hand through the wisps of hair that remaining on his bald head; this part would require careful wording.


                “But, do you think you could do my job?”

                “Be an agent?”

                “Yes, be an agent. Handle PR disasters, coach rookies how to deal with the spotlight, wake up to console grown men who show up with beer in the middle of the night. Do you think you could do my job better than me?” Lenny was wide-awake now, locking eyes with the man who could kill him in a single motion and refusing to blink.

                “Of course not. I mean, you’re Lenny.”

                “Good, there is a bit of humility left in that skull of yours.” Lenny let the staring contest lapse and leaned back into his chair. “Titan, you’re a fucking beast of a Hero, never let anyone tell you different. Thing is, you’re not working as a Hero, not while you’re out with this team, and you kind of suck at that job. Being a good Hero is a wonderful achievement, but it doesn’t automatically make you the best at everything. It just means when a Super needs putting down, you’re the guy we call. If you need an agent you call me, and if your toilet won’t flush you call a plumber. None of us is inherently better; some jobs are just more prestigious.”

                “I get it, just because I’m good at my job doesn’t mean I’m better at theirs.” Owen had the sense to look at least somewhat ashamed.

                “You’re damn right. So, my advice to you is to get to know these people, find out all the things they can smoke you at. Learn to respect them, because they deserve it, and the rest of your problems will solve themselves.”

                “Thanks Lenny, I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Owen stood up to go, reaching for his beer.

                “Leave the case,” Lenny instructed. “That’s quality stuff and I have some new clients coming by tomorrow that I’d like to woo.”

                “Your midnight consultation rates have gone up,” Owen said.

                “Economy is a bitch,” Lenny replied. “Now go home and sleep. You’re going to need your rest, because you’ve got a lot of crow to eat in the morning.