Chapter 41

                When Owen emerged from his room, he found the rest of his team already waiting in the kitchen. They were all clustered together near the breakfast table, though Zone looked grumpy and Bubble Bubble seemed bored. Owen barely had time to register their presence before a wave of tantalizing scents hit him at the same time they realized he was there.

                “Surprise!” Galvanize announced. “We made you a good luck breakfast.”

                The scent was becoming more defined now, and as it sank in Owen realized it was both familiar, and delicious.

                “Is that… did you all make actual waffles and bacon?” The rumble from his stomach nearly overshadowed Owen’s words. Aside from a few hastily grabbed meals from street vendors, he’d been eating at the penthouse since arriving in Brewster, and each of those meals was a blend of nutrition and terrible.

                “Snuck in the ingredients myself,” Hexcellent said, a bit of pride in her voice. “We’re still eating the usual stuff, God knows Greene will shit a kitten if we gain an ounce, but we thought you deserved a real meal before your throw down.”

                “I envy your ability to put down such food and retain such a svelte figure,” Bubble Bubble said. From her, it was about as involved and nice a compliment as he could expect.

                “Wow. I, um, I didn’t expect this. Thanks. All of you. I mean it.” Sometimes Owen hated his difficulty expressing emotions. It wasn’t like it came from some macho complex; his damned tongue just went dumb when he got overwhelmed by sentiment. When Hershel was born, he’d barely been able to string three words together.

                “We wanted you to know we support you, as a member of our team,” Galvanize said. If there was any guile or subterfuge in his words, it was too well hidden for Owen to sense. No, this was just the sort of thing that Galvanize did, because he was a good man and damned fine leader. Owen found himself thinking that if only the young PEER had been born with a better ability, he would have made a fine Hero.

                “I appreciate i-” Owen was cut off by another rumble from his stomach; this one actually managing to overtake his words.

                “We get it, you’re thankful, now come eat before the offices downstairs start complaining about the noise,” Hexcellent instructed him.

                Owen did just that, walking into the kitchen and piling up a plate of lopsided Waffles and slightly overdone bacon. Good as their intentions were, the fact remained that none of them had much experience cooking this kind of food. Not that Owen said a word about it, he was so touched by the gesture that everything could have been burned to charcoal and he’d have devoured each bite with gusto.

                “Tell us about what this trial of yours involves,” Hexcellent demanded once they were all seated at the table. “Us little shits have never gone through such high and mighty rituals.”

                “Be thankful, the things are just overgrown pissing contests that the DVA sanctions,” Owen said, shaking his head even as he stuffed it with a mouthful of waffle. They’d brought in legitimate syrup to go with it, the kind that was more sugar than substance. It was perfect. “Basically, they’ll be testing the various aspects of my ability using their own team. Technically this is to get a sense of what I’m capable of handling, but a lot of times Heroes use it as a chance to prove they’re better than someone else.”

                “Heroes acting like dicks, imagine that,” Zone muttered as he stirred around his bowl of grey-looking oatmeal.

                “What kinds of tests will they be doing?” Galvanize asked, quickly skating over Zone’s comment.

                “Offense, defense, and adaptability,” Owen explained. “The first two are straightforward: they just see what you can dish out and what you can withstand. Supers have too varied of powers to try and break it down more granularly than that. Usually they’ll have you square off against someone who’s strong in what you’re trying to break. So for offense, they’ll put me against Granite, to see if I’m able to crack him. For defense, I’ll probably have to deal with some of Gale’s most powerful attacks.”

                “You said there was a third one too,” Bubble Bubble pointed out.

                “Yeah, that one is the fucker,” Owen said, stifling back the urge to let out a frustrated sigh. “Adaptability is where they hand you a hypothetical scenario and see how you deal with it. Shit like ‘you have five minutes to defeat a teleporter before he successfully sets a bomb off’ or ‘there are two citizens in the building behind you and a rock elementalist is attacking you.’ The one condition is they obviously can’t be tests that require lethal force to solve, because the people doing the testing will be playing the villains. Even in a power assessment, killing is pretty frowned upon.”

                “Damn, that does seem like a bitch,” Hexcellent agreed. “Any clue what Elemental Fury will throw at you?”

                “At this point, I think they’ll go with a classic: the ambush. I’m doing basic patrol and a gang of criminal Supers jumps out and tries to bring me down. It’s not fancy, but it lets them use every member of their team against me at once, and since I don’t have any travel powers I’ll have to fight each of them to surrender.” Owen took a bite of the overly crispy bacon, which helped calm his nerves a touch.

                “Given the nature of your abilities, it seems like that would actually favor you,” Bubble Bubble pointed out. “After all, you are renowned for your indestructability.”

                “That’s exactly why I think they’ll pick it,” Owen explained. “It lets them get every one of their people into play, and they can fight me on what’s supposed to be my home turf. If they can beat me on that count, it will say a whole hell of a lot about their skill. If they fail, then they have the deniability of it only being because my power is so strong. Besides, there are more ways to incapacitate someone than just by knocking them unconscious.”

                “Well, whatever they pull, we’ll be there to see it,” Galvanize said. “We’ve all been given the afternoon off to watch your assessment.”

                “Greene was okay with this?”

                “Mr. Greene insisted, actually,” Galvanize told him. “He sees the benefits in showing a united front and cheering one of our team members on to victory.”

                Greene was smart; Owen had to give him that. No matter how much he might dislike Titan at the moment, the fact still remained that tying the team to his image was good for the brand. The man could put business over personal feelings, a skill that made him especially dangerous. Regardless of the reason why they’d gotten permission, Owen was glad to have his team at the assessment. It would be nice to have a few people cheering for him.

                Especially since they might be the only ones.