Chapter 40

               The next few days were tame; Mr. Greene kept his distance as Owen continued to get more familiar with his team. They weren’t called on any rescue jobs, which struck Owen as a touch odd when he watched the news and saw what was happening the city, but it wasn’t his place to push on that front. After the lines he’d aggressively drawn with Greene in their fight, he didn’t have any right to go stepping into the other man’s territory.

                When Owen woke up on Wednesday, however, it was not with any questions about what the day held in store. This was the day of his power-assessment. The details had been finalized on Monday; he was going to Elemental Fury’s base at noon (the symbolism wasn’t lost on him one bit) to be formally tested by the Hero team. There would be a slightly delayed feed of the event (in case someone said something unHerolike or a mask came lose and censoring was needed) fed to every person who had purchased the pay-per-view. From what Lenny had told Owen the day before, that was quite a large number of people. On the plus side, when all this was over, Owen would be getting a considerable sum of money no matter how it played out. If he could still get drunk, he likely would have put every cent toward enough whiskey to wash away the memory of the whole ordeal.

                Owen suited up in his Titan gear that morning, there was no need to lie about and pretend this wouldn’t dominate his day. He was officially off the clock as a Hero Liaison until Thursday, leaving him the whole morning to worry about the fallout from this test. Owen shook it off as he slipped on his mask and pressed the button to activate his earpiece.

                “Titan, reporting in.”

                “Dispatch recognizes Titan. You are shown as inactive today for a power-assessment with Elemental Fury. Do you wish to change this status?”

                For a moment, Owen was tempted to do just that. If he went active in the morning, it might give him the chance to clear his head and work off some nerves. Best case scenario, if he got pinned down in something big it could give him a valid reason to skip the assessment altogether. Sadly, tempting as it was, he had to decline the option. Someone in trouble deserved a Hero with their head in game, and even if he did postpone the assessment it just meant more time to dread the damn thing. Better to meet it head on and be done.

                “No, that status is accurate,” Owen replied, just a touch of regret in his voice. “Checking in to see if there have been any more robot attacks, ones that the news might not have covered.”

                “None so far.” Dispatch didn’t have to specify things like “that I know of” or any such nonsense. If Dispatch didn’t know of it, then it hadn’t happened. “In the current suspected pattern there are several weeks between attacks.”

                “I know, just making sure,” Owen sighed. Jeremiah had given him wonderful intelligence, more than Owen could have rightfully asked for, but it didn’t change the fact that he still had no idea what to do next. Nothing frustrated Owen more than being aware of a problem but not being able to deal with it. He was a physical man; he liked to be in the thick of trouble rather than standing around with his thumb up his ass.

                “There’s little need to bother checking in. You’ve been moved to priority response when their next attack occurs.”

                This was news to Owen, and it showed on his face. Not that Dispatch could tell. Actually, given how much she knew, Owen really couldn’t be sure that she didn’t have some way to watch him when they talked. Either way, priority was something he didn’t technically have the right to. Priority on a response was which Heroes were tapped first. For general incidents they went with whoever was closest, but sometimes certain Heroes were tracking a case, or had a proven track record against a threat, and it made the most sense to call them in first.

                “Who moved me to priority?”

                “Unfortunately I am not at liberty to release that information,” Dispatch told him.

                Now that was something interesting. Plenty of Heroes had worked their way up to get some say in priority management, but very few had the sort of clearance to move people around without it being on official record. That spoke to someone who was deeply connected, probably with ties to the DVA. With all the noise Owen had been making about his interest in the things, it was going to be tough to figure out just who had shuffled him into the queue.

                “Thanks for letting me know. Even if I’m off the comm, please try to reach me for that. I really want a crack at those things.”

                “Of course, I will follow priority protocol as required,” Dispatch said. “Do you have anything else you wish to ask about?”

                “No, guess I may as well grab breakfast before my damn assessment.”

                “There is no need to worry. Assessments are safe, carefully monitored procedures.”

                “Mine’s a bit different than most,” Owen said.

                “I’m fully aware of that; yours comes with political ramifications in the Hero field. May I offer some advice to your predicament?”

                “By all mean, I’d love to hear what you have to say.”

                “Be polite, be careful, and be gracious in either victory or defeat.”

                It was exactly what Owen was expecting her to say, either that or something along those lines. That was Dispatch, always detached, always appropriate, always controlled. Except… she wasn’t quite done talking yet.

                “Also, make sure to really kick some ass.”

                Owen nearly dropped one of the gloves he’d been slipping over his sizable hands as he balked in surprise.

                “Beg pardon?”

                “You heard me. Titan has been more myth than man for many years now, but some of us remember who you used to be. We’ve been waiting for you to come back to us. Don’t make your first true performance a lackluster affair. The world still needs a Titan. Remind everyone who’s forgotten exactly why that is.”

                “I… um… yeah. Yes.” Titan felt his resolve strengthen. She was right. He hadn’t come back to this world to play politics or patty-cake with an insecure Hero. He’d come back to make a difference. Part of that meant making sure that every time a criminal said his name it was the same terrified whisper that children used to ask who was there in a dark room. The more scared of him they were, the more often they surrendered, the less people got hurt. It was Heroing 101, and it was time to remind people why entire gangs would throw down their weapons at even the mention of the name Titan.

                “Thank, Dispatch.”

                “I have no idea what you’re referring to. It is merely my duty to relay all relevant information as needed.” There might have been a touch of snarkiness in her voice, but with Dispatch it was nearly impossible to tell. That was okay though. She’d already given him enough for today.