Chapter 42

                Unlike the PEERS team, Elemental Fury didn’t have the luxury of living in the middle of a big high-rise. No real Hero team could ever have gotten away with such a location for a base; even aside from defense concerns, of which there would be plenty, putting a base in a shared building broke one of the core tenants that Heroes lived by: it endangered civilians. It took a special breed of stupid to try and attack Heroes where they lived, but unfortunately stupid was never in short enough supply. When the attacks came, there would be collateral damage, and that meant anywhere that a Hero laid his or her head had to be as isolated as possible.

                When Owen first saw Elemental Fury’s base, he was surprised that they’d taken such an old school approach. Eventually he remembered that they were a legacy team, meaning the base had been passed down with the title, and it all made more sense. The base of Elemental Fury was located in the middle of a sizable lake, built atop an island that was almost certainly crafted by some skilled Super. It was several stories high, with ample cameras in view. Owen could only imagine the arsenal that wasn’t so easy to spot. With a legacy team there would have been at least a dozen Heroes, each with their own skills and connections, contributing to the defenses over the years.

                For today, a metal walkway ran from the edge of the lake all the way to the base’s front door. Owen walked over to it, noting a few folks in capes and masks making their way across, with his team trailing a few steps behind. Though they’d come to offer support, they also understood his need to focus before the actual brawling began. As Owen drew close to the walkway, he spotted a familiar form and felt an unexpected sense of relief wash over him.

                “Lenny, it’s good to see you.” The massive Hero shook hands with the small, round agent. “I thought you might still be pissed about me accidently pushing Gale into this.”

                “Come on now, why would I ever be mad about that? You know I get a cut from your end of the profits, and have you even seen the pre-order numbers? I could take a month long vacation on one of those islands where they carry you around everywhere.”

                “Except you don’t take vacations,” Owen pointed out.

                “That’s no reason to ruin my fantasy,” Lenny said.

                The rest of the team caught up to Owen and Lenny, most of them looking at the bald man speaking confidently to Titan with blatant curiosity.

                “You must be my client’s team,” Lenny said, speaking before any of them had the chance. “Great job you’ve all been doing keeping him in line. Galvanize, loved the way you played on camera at that last rescue. Bubble Bubble, your magazine spread was fantastic, wouldn’t be surprised if they call you for a centerfold gig. Zone, congratulations on the new Punch Juice commercial, I hear it’s testing fantastic in the Asian markets. Hexcellent, don’t be surprised if a new make-up company tries to open negotiations with you next week. Word on the grapevine is that you’re turning into a hot commodity and lot of folks are interested.”

                Lenny paused for a moment as the four momentarily dumb-struck Supers stared at him. “Oh, my apologies. I’m Lenny, Titan’s agent.”

                “You certainly are… thorough with your knowledge,” Galvanize said, finally managing to find his words.

                “It’s my job, my passion, and my pleasure,” Lenny replied. “Why don’t you four go on ahead while I take my boy over to the assessment area. He’s never been here and gets lost easily. The people working the door know to show you to my viewing area, funny how no one noticed I worked VIP seats for myself into the contracts they signed.”

                “There’s really no need-” Galvanize began, trying to protest.

                “Nope, none of that. You’re with one of mine, then you’re with me. Hustle along now; if I don’t deliver this meathead on time then everyone has to wait for the show.”

                With little choice and no idea how to protest, the PEERS team headed down the walkway into the entrance. Hexcellent paused to glance back and throw Owen a “Rock On” hand signal, which he chose to believe was her version of a thumbs up for luck.

                “Nice kids,” Lenny said once they were gone. “Sure you wanted to bring them along for this?”

                “They demanded to come. Said we were a team and they were going to cheer for me.”

                “That a fact.” Lenny glanced up at his old friend. “Still having that trouble with thinking they’re not as good as you?”

                “No. I think that problem is good and dead.”

                “Fantastic. Now that you’ve found your humility, let’s go remind everyone why you actually are better than them.”

*              *              *

                When Owen emerged from the elevator that led up to the team’s training arena, he wasn’t surprised to find the entire Elemental Fury Team waiting for him. Though the walls were solid, with no windows in sight, he could still feel the familiar tingle of eyes upon him. Cameras, embedded all over the place, no doubt, picking up everything he said or did. No movement would go unseen, no gesture unrecorded. He was under the public eye once more, and the pressure from their scrutiny was like a dull pain jamming into the back of his head. Much as he loved Hero work, he’d managed to forget how much he hated this part.

                “Welcome to our training grounds, Titan.” Gale’s voice was loud, well-enunciated, and authoritative. She’d clearly had ample experience playing to the crowds and cameras. It was no surprise, being the leader, the face, of a team this popular demanded some theatrical skills. “You are here for a standard power assessment, to determine your skill levels in case we should ever need to call upon you for assistance or a team up.”

                “Yeah. Sure. That’s exactly why I’m here.” There was no attempt to disguise the biting sarcasm in his tone. Lenny was going to give him shit for this, but honestly at this point Owen didn’t care. They might have corralled him into this situation, but they couldn’t make him dance like a good puppet.

                “Excellent.” If Gale was flustered by his response, she kept it completely off her face. The woman was a pro, no question about it. “Let me introduce you to our team. You’ve already met Granite, I believe.”

                Granite was in rock-monster form, but he gave Owen a small wave that seemed out of character for such an intimidating being. It was a nice reminder that not everyone on the team hated him.

                “To his right is Spring and Birdsman,” Gale continued.

                An older man wearing a costume that looked oddly arcane gave a bow, as did the lean young woman next to him. She wore a tight costume of bright greens and yellows, although there was a silver sash wrapped around her chest that didn’t quite match the motif.

                “And on my left you will find Misdirection.”

                It was hard to tell if Misdirection was male or female, the flowing costume was topped off by loose black sack of a mask that obscured any details about his or her head. Thankfully, Misdirection actually spoke a greeting instead of bowing.

                “A pleasure to meet you,” said a voice from within the hood, one that was distinctly female.

                “Same here,” Owen replied. “I’ve heard great things about your entire team, and I have nothing but respect for what you’ve accomplished.” That part he was able to say with sincerity. Stupid politics aside, these people saved a lot of lives, and that was always going to be the sort of thing worth admiration.

                “As do we you,” Gale said. “Now that introductions are done, shall we commence the assessment?”

                “This is your party; just tell me where you want me to dance.”

                “Of course. Let’s keep it standard and start with Offense. Granite will serve as your sparring partner.”

                Owen nodded and headed into the center of the training arena. So far it was going like he’d expected, but it was unlikely that would continue. In real battle nothing ever kept to plan, all he could hope for was that he’d be able to roll with the changes, and the punches, as they came.