Chapter 25


                “I saw it on the news, but I couldn’t believe it until I confirmed it with my own eyes. Titan, the Titan, back in costume. And doing the work of the little people no less.”

                Owen felt his spine stiffen as soon as the voice reached him. He’d been bent over, grabbing a particularly large piece of rubble that required both hands to keep balanced, when those words had washed over him like a wave from the distant seas of his past. Slowly he rose, turning his body until the speaker was in view. It was an older man, one who actually showed his years, unlike Owen. He wore a costume fashions of red, gold, and white, with lots of burst and flare patterns woven throughout the fabric. A beaming smile was partly concealed by a bushy mustache as he stared across the partly cleaned up wreckage.

                “Topsy?” Owen jogged across the small gap between them. He towered over the mustached man, who would have been lucky to be counted as five-foot-three-inches tall. “Topsy, when the hell did you move to Brewster?”

                “Bout five years ago. After my gal passed, thank you for the flowers by the way, the city was too full of old memories. Besides, I wanted to be nearer to my kids. That’s a boring question though. I’m much more interested in what brings you here.”

                “It’s a long story, and not the sort you tell when there are reporters about,” Owen said. “The short version is I’m here as a Hero Liason.”

                “I already knew that part. Course I checked up on you as soon as I heard you here back.”

                “Titan, we need your help hauling the dumpster…” Galvanize trailed off as he jogged over, realizing that his team member was engaged in conversation. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

                “Nuttin to apologize for. Job always comes first, no matter what that job might be.”

                “Topsy, this is Galvanize, he leads the PEERS team I’m a Hero Liason for. Galvanize, this is Topsy. He was-”

                “Titan, please. A Hero like Topsy needs no introduction.” Galvanize stepped forward and took the older, shorter man’s hand. “It’s a real honor to meet you, sir. The Gentle Hammers were one of my favorite Hero teams growing up.”

                “Look at that, some of the young ones still know us old dogs,” Topsy said, giving Galvanize’s hand an enthusiastic shake. “And he even knows a Gentle Hammer other than Titan. Been a while since anyone bothered remembering that.”

                Owen winced inwardly at the remark, even though he knew Topsy hadn’t meant it to be painful. The Gentle Hammers had been his first Hero team, founded mostly from Sizemore graduates he’d kept in touch with through their intern years. In the beginning, they’d all been more or less unknowns, then when their prestige grew it grew as a team. Those were the golden days, when everyone had been working together and happy. Unfortunately, Titan’s reputation soon began to outpace, and eventually eclipse, the rest of the team’s. The Gentle Hammers were still around when his scandal broke, but he, Topsy, and Shock Lock were the last founding members. The team had officially dissolved a few years after he went into exile.

                “Topsy, I’m still not sure how I didn’t know you were here. I checked on all active Heroes assigned to this area before I ever moved to Brewster,” Owen said.

                “Ah, but I’m not active anymore, am I? No, I’m working as an advisor and trainer for one of the local Hero teams. I can still jump in if the need demands, though these bones don’t move as quick as they used to. Unlike you, some of us have to actually cope with getting older.”

                “If you try and tell me that a little thing like age has slowed you down then I’ll grab you by your ankles and shake you until you admit you’re a mimic,” Owen threatened.

                “Let’s say its half getting older and half getting less suicidal. I’d like to make it to see my grandkids one day. Plus, it’s nice to pass on some of the lessons we earned through blood and broken bones to the next generation. The ones I’m coaching are plenty powerful, but heaven almighty are they stubborn and impulsive.”

                It took all of his self-control for Owen to bite back the chuckle that wanted to escape his lips. Topsy had been the most easily provoked member of The Gentle Hammers, often barreling into fights without so much as basic recon. It was only an incredible ability, loads of skill, and a fair smattering of luck that kept him alive.

                “I’m sure you’re teaching them a lot about control,” Galvanize said. If there was even a hint of sarcasm in his words, he buried it under a mountain of sincerity. “May I ask which team you’re an advisor to?”

                “Please just don’t say it’s Elemental Fury,” Owen mumbled under his breath. The mumbling wasn’t quite as soft as he’d intended, since Topsy responded to him.

                “No, they’ve gotten plenty of retired members of their own to do the advising. I’m helping a newer team, Wild Bucks. Mostly offensive types, with a couple of Supers for doing defense. They’re getting better, but what I wouldn’t give to snag a Subtlety Hero for them.”

                “I’ve heard of Wild Bucks,” Galvanize said. “They came on the scene last year, lots of physically based abilities, not unlike The Gentle Hammers.”

                “Similar, I’ll give you, but composition can make a whole mess of difference in how a team performs. If you’re ever up to stopping by and giving them some pointers, Titan, I’m sure they’d be grateful for the tutelage.”

                “Much as I’d love to, I’m already in over my head with the local Hero teams,” Owen replied. “I’m supposed to do an ability assessment with Elemental Fury soon, unless Lenny can somehow talk them out if it.”

                “Talk them out of it? That doesn’t sound like the Lenny I used to know,” Topsy replied. “If anything I’d expect him to turn the whole production into a circus and a take a cut of everything from the clown make-up to the elephant shit.”

                “Damn it… that does sound a lot more like Lenny. Maybe I should call him.”

                “We’ll be done here soon, Titan,” Galvanize replied. “The rest of the evening is yours, barring any unforeseen crises, of course.”

                “Up for a drink, Topsy?” Owen asked.

                “Another time. I’ve got my team scheduled for some training drills tonight. After how they performed against today’s robot attack, they need to polish their skills.” Topsy nodded to Galvanize, then headed off down the street.

                “I didn’t see Wild Bucks on the news reports,” Galvanize said once he thought Topsy was out of earshot.

                “They were some of the first to respond,” Owen told him, hours of reading up on the incident finally paying off. “None got killed, but most were incapacitated within the first few minutes. The media leaving them out of the story was actually a pretty kind gesture, one I’m sure Topsy had a lot to do with.”

                “Sounds rough.” Galvanize turned back to the street, where things were slowly beginning to look less destroyed. “Speaking of rough, we still need your help with the dumpster. Given the size of it, none of our strongmen can get a grip on the whole thing, so we’re coordinating a team.”

                “No problem,” Owen said. “Just tell me where the team needs me. That’s what I’m here for.”