Chapter 3

Owen’s first headquarters hadn’t been much. Whether it’s a Hero, a doctor, an MBA, or a guy who bartends, a recent college grad is a recent college grad. True, Owen had made a little money during his internship under Citadel, his Hero mentor, however he’d likely have made better cash waiting tables during that time. The end result was that when his first team formed, their financial resources were limited. Their headquarters/living area had been a near condemned old mattress store that they’d erected half-assed partitions in. It had been derelict, dirty, and largely unsafe. Still, he carried fond memories of that time in his life, if only because both he and the people he worked with were still young and idealistic enough that the future looked like a bright and wonderful thing.

His first thought upon walking into this new team’s headquarters was that if his first team had been able to get a place like this, they would have taken a lot less calls in favor of staying home and being comfortable. The front doors opened into an expansive living room. Next to it was a large kitchen, stuffed with stainless steel appliances. The windows were along the far wall, looking out into the city and providing a breathtaking view. The floor was carpeted in lush, soft material. In the living room, a gigantic television stood in the center of an entertainment unit, surrounded by various videogame systems. A young woman with ink black hair and make-up pale skin mashed on a controller while she perched on the leather, wraparound couch, and a small man on said giant screen plummeted down a spiked pit to his doom.

“Fucking bullshit horsecock dickgarglers,” the woman swore, spitting it all out as nearly one word. She jammed a button on the controller and the screen reloaded, the digital man immediately resurrected.

“Keep it down,” said another woman, this one sitting on an end of the couch so far away it faced toward the door rather than the television. Her skin was pale too, though it was also dotted with freckles at irregular intervals. Her carefully styled copper hair was swept to the side, purposely not obscuring her line of vision as she flipped the page on her magazine.

“Why don’t you go try to suck a gig out of a producer’s cock,” the video game playing woman shot back.

“Why don’t both you notice we have a guest and show a little a class,” said a new voice, this one from a young man emerging out of the kitchen, peeled orange slices in hand. He turned to greet Owen and Mr. Greene with a wide, practiced, and dazzling smile. His wavy brown hair and boy-next-door features only completed the effect, making him appear affable, friendly, and immediately accessible. “I’m sorry about that. I’m Galvanize, the team leader.”

“Titan,” Owen replied, taking the young man’s hand in a firm shake. It had been a lot of work learning to shake hands without shattering bones, but he’d perfected it ages ago.

“The one playing video games is Hexcellent, and the woman reading is Bubble Bubble,” Galvanize said, pointing to each as he spoke.

Hexcellent paused the game to give Owen a half-hearted wave, turning in her seat rather than standing up. She was lean, slender all over, but with the type of tight muscle one saw in athletes and Heroes. Her face was probably pretty, however since it was obscured by several piercings, dark lipstick, and so much eye makeup that it even coated her cheekbones, it was hard to tell. She wore all black, and had a tattoo of some bat-like creature on her left shoulder.

Bubble Bubble, on the other hand, was especially well put together. She wore clothes that had the kind of simple elegance Owen knew meant they looked normal but actually cost a dump truck of money. She had a more classic beauty, the kind one might find in the Marilyn Monroe era. This one at least, gave a smile and said “Hello” before turning back to the magazine in her lap.

“Where’s Zone?” Mr. Greene asked, interrupting the already awkward introductions.

“In the gym,” Galvanize replied. “His exercise quota is higher than ours, after all.”

“Of course. That is acceptable then, just be sure he is introduced to Titan when he finishes,” Mr. Greene instructed, then turned his attention to Titan. “I’ll send someone to help you get set up in an hour or two. In the meantime, settle in and meet your new team.”

With not so much a “good luck” Mr. Greene turned around and walked through the doors, which closed with a whooshing sound afterward.

“Isn’t he just a ray of sunshine,” Owen muttered.

“You get used to him,” Galvanize said. “Why don’t you get comfortable, take off your mask and shoes, can I get you something to drink?”

Owen’s eyes immediately went to the glass, which seemed so clear it barely registered as being there. Galvanize saw where he was looking.

“Don’t worry, it only looks that way from our side. It’s custom. Durable beyond durable and impossible to see through from the outside.”

Owen trusted Galvanize’s words, however unmasking in an unfamiliar place was something every bit of his life’s experiences told him not to do. Besides, he was going to have to leave soon to go get his access card and what not. Better to be masked in case the person coming to get him had access.

“I’m fine for now. As for the drink, what kind of beers do you have?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, none of us are allowed to have alcohol,” Galvanize told him. “Part of our contracts and health requirements. I can offer you fresh squeezed guava juice, mango juice, specially made vitamin infused water-”

“A water is fine,” Owen said, his own head reeling at how kids this young could be okay with being banned from beer. Afterward, he chastised himself, these were accomplished professionals in their own right, he didn’t need to start thinking of them as kids just because he was old.

“Coming right up,” Galvanize said, walking into the kitchen. He returned with a colorful bottle mere moments later. “So, since you’re new here, what would you like to know?”

“Let’s just start with the basics,” Owen said, grabbing a chair in a part of the living room not dominated by the giant couch where the two women were still largely ignoring him. “What is everyone’s power?”

“A perfectly great place to start,” Galvanize agreed enthusiastically. “To go around the room, Hexcellent has the ability to summon creatures out of thin air.”

“Demons,” Hexcellent corrected, not looking away from her game.

“They are somewhat scary looking, and given the gothic image her advertisers pay for, we would like it if you referred to them as demons,” said Galvanize, soothing his teammate while shooting Owen an apologetic look.

Summoners weren’t too common, Owen had only met a few in his Hero career. Of course, the term was a bit of a misnomer, what they actually did wasn’t summoning, it was creating an animate energy construct. It worked the same as people who could duplicate themselves, only instead of a personal copy they formed something else. Most only had a few things they could create, the level of complexity in forming one was so intense that having more than a couple of options made it too muddled to keep straight.

“How many can she summon?”

“I got three,” Hexcellent answered from the couch.

Three wasn’t bad. It was definitely HCP grade. Owen made a mental note to find out more about her power later, then motioned for Galvanize to continue.

“Bubble Bubble can create energy spheres that are pretty durable, and she can even move them with her mind. Not terribly fast, so we can’t use them for transport, but it’s really helpful in getting people out of high places and the like.”

Evidently Bubble Bubble saw no need to correct Galvanize’s assessment, as she merely continued to read quietly.

“Zone is in the gym, but his ability is basically enhanced agility, strength, and reactions. He’s not at the level of really powerful Supers, but from the human perspective he’s the best athlete alive. That’s why he picked that name, because it’s like he’s always in the zone,” Galvanize said. “Which only leaves me. Aside from a little bit of enhanced durability and strength, my main power is to give people a little extra push. I can amp them up and bring them to their peak.”

Owen’s eyes went wide. “You’re an enhancer?” Enhancers were rare, damned near mythical Supers who could increase the strength of a person’s power.

“Not a true one, no. I just bring people to their own physical best, and I have absolutely no effect on people’s abilities. It’s all physical. I can’t make them better than they normally would be, just take them to the maximum of their own level. It’s like, if you were a car, and the absolute best you could get up to, with ideal handling, was one hundred and ninety miles per hour, I would jump you to that speed. A real enhancer would bump you to like three hundred.”

“I see. So when you use this ability of yours, anyone you target is suddenly going at maximum strength, speed, etc, within the limits of what their body can physically do?”

“You got it,” Galvanize said. “It doesn’t last long, but it’s made the difference a few times in helping get people to safety.”

“I want you to listen to me very, very carefully,” Owen said, leaning in slightly so that he was towering over Galvanize, even while they both sat. “Never use that power on me. Never. No matter what. Are we clear?”

“I…okay,” Galvanize mumbled, clearly taken aback. “There’s no shame in needing a push on occasion, though.”

“My worry is not that I will need a push. It is that I am incredibly strong and have worked for years to make sure I am in total control of that strength. If you suddenly jack me into maximum power then I don’t know how much destruction I’ll cause, but it will be a lot. Now, are we clear?” Owen repeated.

“We’re clear,” Galvanize replied.