Unlike the night of the fire, Galvanize kept the SUV at a low speed as they wove their way through the streets of downtown. This was as much out of a concern for safety as it was for appearance. In truth, the building they were heading to was in walking distance from the Mordent Holdings building, but that would have meant several members of the team showing up sweaty and tussled. It was fine to look that way on the job, especially after particularly impressive rescues, however today they needed to show up looking their best.
He pulled the SUV into a conspicuously open spot on the street outside several large brick buildings. From how close it was to the small cluster of reporters waiting nearby, Owen suspected it had been saved especially for them. It would provide a great shot, all of them stepping out of their vehicle with skyscrapers jutting into the sky at their back. The media wanted a crack at him, and they were playing ball with his team to get it. Owen would have to be careful how he handled them; he might be used to getting savaged by the press, but he’d rather not see his people go through it.
“Out of curiosity, what charity are we helping with this anyway?” Owen asked, staring out the window as cameras flashed and microphones emerged.
“Proceeds will be split up,” Galvanize told him. “Some will go to Dream Granters, the company that organizes Hero visits to terminal children, and some will go to Shelby’s House. They help Powereds whose abilities make it hard for them to find work or housing, and provide services like counseling.”
Bubble Bubble let out a small sigh. “Sick kids I can of course see helping, but it seems like they could have found a better cause than Powereds.”
Owen felt a familiar anger start to burn in his stomach, but before he could decide whether it was worth the blowback to speak, Hexcellent took her own action. From her position in the back seat, she leaned forward and flicked Bubble Bubble forcefully on the ear.
“You deserved it. Don’t be a bitch.”
“I was not ‘being a bitch.’ I was just saying that there are other causes out there that might need the money more.”
“Doesn’t matter, we’re not the ones doling it out,” Galvanize told her, unbuckling his seatbelt. “Our job is just to participate and help raise as much as we can. It also wouldn’t hurt us to look good doing it.”
Everyone but Owen paused to a do a last minute mirror check, some using ones in the SUV’s visors while other pulled out stowed compacts. Only after each member was certain they looked their best did the team finally pop open the doors and emerge.
Immediately, the press members surged forward, the clacking sound of shutters filling the air. Owen noted the reporter from yesterday, Kip Sterling, staying right in the center of the pack. Clearly he was determined not to slip up and make another rookie mistake. Good for him, Owen had given that same speech to a lot of other ambitious media hounds only to see them keep right on breaking rules. That strategy never ended well.
It was less intense than Owen had feared. No one peppered him with questions or shouted accusation like back in his Hero days. Of course, during those times they were trying to get information about wanted criminals or destroyed buildings. Now they were just getting some shots of him with his new PEERS team going in to sign up for a charity event. The stakes weren’t exactly the same.
The questions did still come, just without the aggression he was accustomed to. Owen smiled, made eye contact, and kept his damn mouth shut. If Greene wanted them to be good, then Owen couldn’t hand over any ammunition. A well-edited sound bite was a PR mortar shell when put into skilled hands. Until he caught up with Lenny and got a sense of where he wanted the story to go, it was best to give them nothing. Owen knew that if he wanted the right outcome, then he needed to be the one to create the narrative of his story.
Galvanize was getting a few questions as well, mostly about which events Titan would be signing up for, though a few were about the team as a whole. He answered several, always polite and deferential, while herding his team toward a large wooden door in the front of one of the larger brick buildings. It took some doing, but eventually they made it and Owen easily pushed the barrier open. He expected the press to pour through it, like water through a funnel, however they remained stationary as his team began to enter. Clearly whatever deal Greene had struck ended at the door.
Before Owen could make his way through, an unfortunately familiar face popped up in front of him, microphone clutched in a sweaty hand. Kip Sterling had put himself ever-so-slightly between Owen and the door, just enough mass so that he was noticeable without seeming as though he intended to physically bar Owen’s way. It was a ballsy move, and from the nervous fear he was trying to keep off his face Kip clearly knew that. Still, he stood his ground as the larger man stared down at him, refusing to yield. Owen was tempted to brush him aside, but he had been thinking about the importance of keeping on the media’s good side. Besides, he respected this little guy’s guts.
“I was just wondering what you’re hoping to accomplish at the charity event,” Kip said. Beads of sweat were on his forehead and the microphone shook just a touch. He really was desperate for something to bring back to the station. He’d even lobbed a big softball of a question, open-ended and with a positive connotation.
“Obviously our biggest, most important goal is to help raise as much money as possible for these wonderful organizations,” Owen replied. He knew he should cut it off there; it was a great line that couldn’t possibly be misinterpreted. Owen knew that because he’d played this game so well for so long back in his original Hero days. It was why he’d distinguished himself from his first team, why his star had risen so high. He always had a good gut sense for what the right things to say were. Yet now, staring down as Kip’s shaky microphone, Owen realized for the first time that he didn’t want to be a media darling again.
He wanted to be Titan, on his own terms.
“But as a secondary goal, I hope for the chance to kick some serious ass.” Owen slid past Kip, whose eyes were lighting up like flickering fluorescents, and stepped into the building. Greene wasn’t going to like that, and Lenny might not either, but Owen didn’t really care. He’d only told the truth, after all.