Chapter 22

                Owen had barely finished filling out the incident report when he heard a soft knock on his bedroom door. After no one immediately came through, he realized the person on the other side was waiting for permission, not announcing their entry. These kids were a lot better about personal space than his first Hero team had been, though given the way some of them got along that might have been out of necessity.

                “Come in.”

                The door opened and Galvanize stepped through, already suited up in full costume. “Titan, we’ve got some work to do.”

                “No voice over the speaker this time?”

                “Mr. Greene only uses the emergency alert system when we have assignments of a time sensitive nature,” Galvanize explained. “Today we’re going downtown to help with the clean-up efforts. No one is in immediate danger.”

                “Why would we go help with cleanup? There’s already people for that.” Collateral damage from fights between Supers was a constant issue in any major city, even with Heroes doing their best to keep situations contained. Decades ago, some enterprising people with useful abilities had recognized the potential for profit this posed and founded companies specifically to handle the cleanup. With a few Supers whose talents lent themselves to quickly moving or fixing rubble, and a teleporter who had decent range, anyone could land contracts with a city to fix what the Supers broke.

                “They handle the large-scale issues: clearing streets and making sure no buildings come crashing down. There’s still a lot left to do after a conflict like what we saw today. Streets to sweep, glass to clear, small repairs to be made; that sort of thing. The cleaners are there to make sure the city stays up and running, they’re far less concerned with helping everyone impacted by a battle.”

                “Well, that seems a lot like bullshit to me,” Owen said. “I thought the city paid them to take care of everyone.”

                “Some services do exactly that, but they also charge more for it. Brewster’s mayor and city council decided to use companies that get the bulk of the work done and let the citizens handle the small stuff on their own.”

                Owen let out a sigh and got up from his chair. Once upon a time that sort of thing would have set him off on a tirade, but he was too old and too jaded to get worked up over it. Government officials were always going to find ways to move money from essential services to things they thought were more worthwhile, usually their own pockets. Heroes might be able to lift buildings and defy gravity, but no one could keep greedy, self-serving shitheads out of government. Some things were simply too impossible.

                “How long do I have to change?”

                “Fifteen minutes. We’re meeting in the garage again.”

                “Gotcha. I can be there in five.” Owen grabbed the papers off his small desk and walked over to Galvanize, sticking them toward the younger man. “Here’s my report about the robots. I think it’ll get Greene off my ass.”

                “Mr. Greene is just worried about the team,” Galvanize assured him. He took the papers from Owen and gave them a quick scan. “But speaking of Mr. Greene, I feel it only appropriate to warn you that there will be a very large media presence when we get to downtown. He wants you out in the limelight under the company’s approved plan.”

                “Of course he does.” Owen shook his head, it was becoming more and more apparent that Greene was going to be a problem. It wasn’t an issue when he pulled this crap in regards to Owen’s Hero Liaison duties, but if he got uppity about every time Titan was seen doing Hero work then they were going to quickly come to an impasse. “Don’t worry about me and the cameras; I used to deal with them all the time. Are you guys going to be okay though? There’s going to some people mighty pissed off that your Hero Liason is me.”

                Galvanize smiled, a perfect row of bleached-white teeth that was both impressive and unnatural. “Oh no, you mean people might not think that highly of us? We might become the butt of people in the Super community’s jokes, or treated like a bunch of loser wannabes? How on earth would we ever handle something like that? Personally I can’t even get out of bed in the morning unless I’m roused by screaming fans outside my window.”

                “Okay, smartass, you made your point. I guess being associated with me won’t be that bad.”

                “I’m sure we’ll still catch a fair amount of crap,” Galvanize said, tucking Owen’s report under his arm. “We’re just used to muddling through it. Being a corpie isn’t a glamorous life, despite what the companies are hoping for, but at the end of the day we make the world a better place. No amount of people being jerks or looking down on us can take that away. But I’m sure I don’t have to explain that to a Hero.”

                “I’ve known a few who could have benefited from hearing that,” Owen replied. “I’ll be down at the garage in a few minutes, just need to change into a shirt that doesn’t have robot laser scorch marks.”

                “And here I didn’t take you for the vain type.”

                “Like I said, I used to do this a lot. What we have today is an unveiling, and you always go into those looking your best,” Owen said. “As my agent told me back when I started: you want to look clean, put-together, and ready for anything. You want to make the regular people fall in love and the criminals shit their pants. Always be bigger than life.”

                “Sounds as though your agent and Mr. Greene would get along.”

                “Yeah, I sort of doubt that,” Owen replied.

                “Well, do what you need to do, just be ready to go soon. All media attention aside, there really is work to be done.” Galvanize took Owen’s report and headed out of the door, leaving the large man to change.

                Owen walked over to his closet and pulled it open. He still had four unmarred Titan shirts left. The things were durable as all hell, but no one doing Hero work could keep an outfit clean for long. One of the first things a Hero learned to budget for was all the new costumes they would need. He’d thought six would be enough to last him a while, but between Alexandria’s flames and the robot’s lasers his shirts were dropping fast. Tonight he’d call Lenny and see about getting hooked up with a new distributor.  

                In the meantime, he had rubble to clear and cameras to greet.