Owen stared up at the building, admiring the way it jutted into the sky, as though it were trying to spear clouds. On days with the right weather, it probably succeeded. He adjusted the duffel bag on his shoulder more out of habit than necessity. Even as fully as it was packed, the bag was nowhere near heavy enough to actually cause him discomfort. Most of his possessions had been stored back at his place in Colorado, though some had been sent ahead to this building via courier. The things in the bag he never trusted to anyone else. They were too important to be risked.
The voice snapped Owen out of his marveling and brought him back to reality. He wasn’t dressed as Titan currently, instead he wore simple clothes and a generic grey mask. It was standard practice for Heroes who didn’t want to be “in character” but still needed to go places without showing their face to wear such types of mask. It was inconvenient, however it beat the hell out of having one’s identity get blown. Since he wasn’t wearing his Titan costume, though, it meant this was the man who had known he was coming. Or someone who was a really good guesser.
The man who was spoken was tall and lean, wearing a suit that said corporate but was expensive enough to show he was high on the food chain. His glasses and watch were designer, and his hair had been expertly styled. Owen suspected he was not going to like this fellow.
“Mr. Greene, if you don’t mind,” the man replied.
“Whatever you say.” Owen hefted his bag again. “We going inside?”
“Of course,” Mr. Greene said. “If you’d be so kind as to follow me.”
Mr. Greene and Owen walked through the front doors, large glass ones that opened into a sprawling lobby that seemed to be made of marble. All around them other people in suits and business appropriate outfits scuttled about, doing things that they no doubt believed were of the utmost importance. In the center of the lobby, just ahead of a long row of elevators, was a circular station where a pair of guards sat. Mr. Greene stopped at this station and handed them a card extracted from his breast pocket.
“We’ll get your keycard and I.D. done this afternoon,” Mr. Greene informed him. “You’ll need them at all times while on premises, otherwise you won’t be permitted access.”
“That so?” Owen said the words casually, however as he spoke his eyes swept the room, years of experience alerting him to the bits and bobbles of security a casual observer wasn’t supposed to see. “Have to say, the tazing system built into the floor wouldn’t really slow me down, and the knockout gas dispensers you’ve got disguised as fire alarms would only tickle my throat. Now the pulse cannon you’ve made to look like a potted plant, that might set me back a few steps.”
“Impressive,” Mr. Greene commented. “I suppose there is more to you than size and reputation.”
“I aim to please.”
Once they passed the security guards, Mr. Greene flashed his card in front of an elevator near the end of the line. It whooshed open and the two men stepped inside.
“All this for one team?” Owen asked as the elevator began to rise.
“Don’t be silly. This building houses offices for multiple companies all owned, at least partially, by Morent Holdings. Each member of the team is sponsored by at least one of our companies, so we made a few floors into facilities for them. We find it best if our representatives stay on site.”
“You mean where you can keep an eye on them,” Owen said.
“We provide housing, food, facilities, and entertainment, all at no deduction from their salaries. I’d say that’s quite a generous situation for them,” Mr. Greene shot back.
“Because we all know corporations love doing things from the goodness of their hearts.” Owen fiddled with his duffle bag once more. “Look, I’m not telling you how to run your company or your team, just calling it like I see it.”
“I’d suggest you call it more quietly,” Mr. Greene said, his eyes never wavering from the climbing numbers on the elevator’s display. “We approved taking you on as the Hero Liason because it was deemed to be an overall net gain. Should that equation change, we may need to revisit your position’s feasibility.”
“Yeah yeah, tow the line like a good boy or I’m out on my ass. If you don’t mind me asking, what made you decide to take me on, anyway? I’m not exactly the best PR magnet these days.”
“Morent Holdings has recently received negative publicity at the hands of discrimination lawsuits alleging we create a hostile working environment for women and homosexuals. Some of the recordings played in court and leaked online were particularly damning. As part of our efforts to assure the public such culture will not be tolerated, we’re making strides to earn back the trust of the female and LGBT communities. Hiring you was one of many examples of our new corporate culture.”
The elevator dinged and slid open, revealed a carpeted hallway leading to a single door at the end. Owen peered down its depths, counting at least four more security measures designed to take down anything from humans to rhinos to Supers with enhanced durability. These people didn’t skimp on security, at least.
“So you give me a second chance and hope the public will give you one. Not bad. What about the rest of the team? They picked to smooth out scandals too?”
“No, they were chosen for their abilities, appeal, marketability, and talents,” Mr. Greene told him. “There are four, aside from yourself: Galvinize, Hexcellent, Bubble Bubble, and Zone. Galvinize is their leader, since he has the most training and experience.” As he spoke, Mr. Greene stepped out of the elevator and began walking down the hall. “Don’t worry, the system recognizes biometrics, and anyone accompanied by me is considered friendly. We’ll get you programmed in when we do your keycard.”
Owen contemplated telling this man that he hadn’t been worried for himself, he was more afraid of breaking something if the system went after him. He decided to stay quiet, however. No need to rock the boat too much on the first day. Besides, there was zero doubt Mr. Greene was the kind of man who’d read up on Titan. He knew it would take more than standard safeguards to bring down this near-giant of a man.
“Anything else I should know before we go in?” Owen followed off the elevator, noting that it closed swiftly as soon as he exited.
“Only that even though you are not sponsored by any of our companies, by aligning with people who are you become a de facto representative of us. We expect you to take that seriously and behave appropriately.”
“Me? I’m always appropriate,” Owen said, making a face as innocent as he could through the grey mask.
“Glad to hear it.”
“Glad to say it. Now let’s go on in, fuckwad.”
The look on Mr. Greene’s face was worth the earful Owen knew he’d be getting later. With a slight chuckle and a genuine smile he crossed the last several steps and opened the door.