Chapter 23

                Despite Galvanize’s warnings, there wasn’t an enormous media presence when the giant SUV pulled to a stop on a slightly cracked downtown street. In fact, the number of reporters was less than the number of people in costumes, many of whom had trash cans and brooms positioned near them. Owen recognized a couple from the research he’d done about Brewster’s current line-up and was surprised to realize there were actual Heroes out there, not just other corpies. He wondered if Chicago had been worked by better cleaners who handled the little stuff, or if he’d just been too caught up in the action part of the job to realize there were people in need even after the fighting was done.

                Though there were fewer reporters than Owen had been expecting, it seemed that those who were present really had been waiting for him. No sooner had his giant boots touched down on the broken pavement than a flurry of people with inhumanly perfect skin and professionally tailored outfits descended on him. It was like being attacked by department store mannequins. Owen held up a single hand and they halted their charge, though it didn’t keep their voices from ringing out.

                “Titan! Is it true you’re really the original Titan and not a legacy?”

                “What Hero team are you looking to work with?”

                “Have you come here to be a solo Hero?”

                “Is there any truth to rumors that you’re still involved with Tower?”

                Owen’s fist tightened at that last one, a gesture he purposely hid by shifting his hand down to his side. Things hadn’t gone well for Kyle, or Tower as the world knew him, after they’d been caught. To hear his name come out of the mouths of one of the same sort of media vultures that had helped tear him down… it was a good thing Owen had learned a lot about self-control in his time away the life.

                “I’m the real Titan, the one and only, with all the good and bad that brings with it,” he told them. “I’ve decided to come out of retirement, and Brewster seemed like a great town to work in. As for Hero teams, I won’t be needing one of those, nor I am truly working solo. I’m proud to be working as the Hero Liason for the fine young PEERS team you see around me. Now, if that settled everyone’s questions, we really should start helping clean all this broken glass up.”

                One of the reporters, the same one who’d asked about Tower, broke away from the group, getting in so close that Owen could smell the recently chewed mints on the man’s breath.

                “Titan, what about the rumors that you and Tower have-”

                “You’re new to this job, right?” Owen stared down at him, doing his best to keep his face impassive.

                “That’s right! I’m Kip Sterling of the Brewster Evening Edition, the hardest hitting-”

                “Uh huh. I guess either your production team doesn’t like you, or they thought it would be a good initiation prank to keep you in the dark.” Owen gently spun the man around and pointed to the other reporters, who were maintaining a safe distance from everyone in a costume. “See how none of them kept pressing things once I told them we were done, or even kept coming forward when I held up my hand? Why do you think you were the only one to rush over?”

                “Because Brewster Evening-”

                “Wrong, because when a Hero is on any kind of duty, the press is only allowed to be as close as we say they can be. Just like cops don’t let you into active crime scenes or dangerous situations, Heroes have to be able to work without worrying about innocent people getting hurt.”

                “But that’s only for when there’s an actual fight going on,” Kip Sterling said, finally losing some of the naïve luster in his piercing blue eyes.

                “Or for when we’re doing heavy lifting, or suspect a threat isn’t entirely neutralized, or that an area is unsafe for those without proper training or abilities. I can keep going, but you get the point. Yes, this area doesn’t have any robots terrorizing it that we know of; that doesn’t negate the broken glass, uneven concrete, and various bits of debris; not to mention Supers using their abilities. We all have skills and clearance that let us walk around in these sorts of places safely. You being here puts your safety at risk, and as a Hero I can’t very well have that.”

                Owen patted him very gently on the back, the last thing he needed was to accidentally bruise this little asshole and have that be a headline story. “Now, go back to the sidelines with the others. I’ll overlook the mistake this time, since I believe that’s what it was, but next time be more cautious. On scenes like this, unless a Hero specifically gives you permission, going where you aren’t supposed to is a serious crime that will get your station heavily fined. I’ve seen it happen before, and they are never happy about it.”

                Kip Sterling seemed like he was about to voice another objection, but a glance to his fellow reporters quelled his resolve. They were all shuffling about, avoiding eye contact and refusing to come any closer. He wasn’t nearly secure enough in this job to risk bringing down a fine on his station. The truth of the matter was that Brewster Evening Edition was a relatively new show, which was why he was trying so hard to get a sound bite for it. This also meant that if the program caused the network too much trouble, they’d have no issue canning it. Kip slunk back to the sidelines with the others, leaving Owen alone with his team.

                Galvanize approached as soon as the reporter was gone. “I thought you said you knew how to handle reporters. That one looks like someone stole his teeth-whitening trays.”

                “You’re one to talk, smiley. Besides, I think it went pretty well. I could have slapped that guy with enough fines that his stations wouldn’t let him mop the floors, let alone hold a microphone. Instead I let him off with a warning and explained the situation to him. Yeah I took no bullshit, but I did one of their own a kindness. That sort of thing shows itself in the way they write up the stories.”

                “And you didn’t think you needed to answer more than three questions? Even we usually do full five-minutes interviews after big rescues,” Galvanize said.

                “Of which I’m guessing maybe three seconds end up being used, if that.” Owen grabbed a trash can from the back of the vehicle, all too aware of the numerous pictures being snapped at such a mundane action. “Dealing with the press is like being a performer; you leave them wanting more. The less they know, the more they’ll speculate, and the more they speculate the more coverage they’ll devote to that speculation. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s bad, but either way it’s coverage, so I think Greene will be happy.”

                Galvanize thought it over for a moment. “I don’t know if Mr. Greene is ever actually happy. Hopefully he’ll be ambivalent. I think that’s his version of happy.”