Chapter 31

               Owen was halfway back to the Mordent building, brisk evening air flowing around him as he jogged, when a voice suddenly crackled to life in his ear. He tensed, waiting for Dispatch’s voice to broadcast through. Since he wasn’t registered as being currently active, whatever she was tapping him for had to be serious; meaning he was either the only one close enough to respond or others had already failed to contain the situation. Even if it was protocol, Owen had a feeling stepping one foot further into what Gale considered her turf would destroy whatever shreds of a chance there were for peaceful cohabitation. He’d have to deal with that later, in the moment doing his job was the only thing that mattered.

                It was only when the voice spoke that Owen realized his mistakes. He’d put the specialized earpiece for Dispatch in his right ear that morning, same place it always lived, but the sound was clearly on his left; the spot where he’d stuck the lower tech team transceiver.

                “Titan, this is Galvanize. We’re needed.”

                “What’s up?”

                “The Wild Bucks squared off against a small gang of Supers about an hour ago. They managed to get them subdued, but there was a significant amount of collateral damage. We just received clearance to enter the area and evacuate any remaining civilians from unstable buildings or rubble. The epicenter of the damage area is at Forty-Third and Quail. Do you need us to pick you up?”

                Owen quickly glanced at the nearest sign post, one telling him he was crossing through Twenty-First and Morgan. Much of Brewster was laid out in a simple grid fashion, with numbers moving sequentially and letters alphabetically, meaning he was twenty-two blocks up and four blocks over. He’d never had a super-speeder’s abilities, but he did have powerful legs and a cardiovascular system that could go for days.

                “No, you guys go ahead. I can run there faster.”

                “Understood. Let me know when you’re getting close and I’ll give you directions to meet us. This is a large scale evacuation, so other PEERS teams will be on site assisting, as well as Heroes with appropriate abilities.”

                Galvanize didn’t have to spell it out for him: a lot of people would be there, and so would cameras, so he’d better make sure to keep on his best behavior. Increased media scrutiny was going to be part of their lives now, at least for a while, and they needed to make it work for them. Like a wild horse, you either held on and rode or fell off and got trampled.

                “I’ll seek you out as soon as I arrive.” Owen turned and re-oriented himself, pausing long enough to check the traffic. He wouldn’t be moving as fast as a car, but if he accidently hit one then it wouldn’t make any difference. As important as it was to get to the scene, it was just an important not to hurt anyone on the way there. Not for the first time since he’d re-donned the mask, Owen dearly missed having a teleporter on his team.

*             *             *

                Owen’s mouth hung open as he drew closer to the section of city scarred from battle. Even blocks away he could see the wreckage: shattered streets, over-turned cars, huge dents in the ground where large objects had clearly struck. No wonder this was a large-scale evacuation; he was only at the fringes and the place looked like hell. The gang they took down must have been incredibly powerful.

                “Dispatch, this is Titan.” He didn’t slow down as he spoke, easily hurdling minor obstacles without so much as missing a step.

                “Dispatch recognizes Titan.” She was there, ready as always, just waiting for him to say her name.

                “I’m meeting my PEERS team and heading to respond to the evacuation caused by some dickhead Supers and Wild Bucks.”

                “So they reported in.” Dispatch wasn’t particularly curt with her reply, or even sarcastic. Like nearly everything she said, it was factual and detached. Strangely, it made her one of the easiest people most Heroes had in their lives to talk to.

                “I’m getting first sight on the level of destruction and it’s a damn wreck. What were the Class Assessments on the gang they fought?” Owen jogged by the remains of what had probably been a small storefront, but was now so crushed it was impossible to say for sure.

                “The Supers that Wild Bucks faced were ranked as follows: one NTC Class and three Standard Class. Abilities were determined to be: one healer, one advanced mind, and two shifters.”

                Owen put his foot down so hard with the next step that he accidently shattered a piece of already broken street. He must have heard her wrong; that was the only viable explanation.

                “Dispatch, confirm, did you say an advanced mind and two shifters, all Standard Class, caused this much destruction in their neutralization?”

                “Correct.” Her voice held no judgment in its calm, slightly accented tones, but only because that’s who she was. For someone like Titan, looking at the devastation caused, it was impossible to remain quite so detached.

                Owen was getting closer now, and beginning notice things like smashed out corners of buildings, one that had thankfully already been tagged as clear. The big white spray-painted “X” was an easy visual marker, saving him from having to radio in about every leaning structure he came across.

                “Dispatch, what was the civilian causality count from this operation?”

                “Final tally will not be available until the evacuation is completed.”

                “Give me current total.”

                “Five confirmed, with three more in critical condition.”

                “Thank you, Dispatch.”

                Owen nearly panted out those last words, his breath suddenly short for reasons that had nothing to do with physical exertion. Five dead, in taking down four Supers who didn’t rate above standard class, not to mention countless dollars in destruction. This wasn’t like with the robots, when everyone was doing the best they could just to neutralize the threat. Three Standards and an NTC, none with particularly rare abilities, should be a breeze for any Hero team, regardless of their composition.

                Five dead, three hanging on, and God only knew how many people trapped or in danger waiting to be evacuated. There was no way the DVA wouldn’t be digging into this one, and with good damn reason. Topsy’s team had clearly fucked up royally, and they had to be held accountable for it. As Owen glanced around one more time, surveying the wreckage around him that had once been a neighborhood, he was struck with a single overwhelming sentiment:

                The DVA was going to have to get in line behind him.

                That would come later, right now there were people in danger, innocents who had nothing to do with the situation currently threatening their lives. They mattered more than anything, and it was time to finally start using his powers like a Hero.

                Titan put on an extra burst of speeding, bearing down on the destroyed area with all the unstoppability of a derailed freight train.