Chapter 49

               Owen had just finished changing into his back up pants when he heard the door to the locker room open. He sat down on a bench and began to lace a pair of fresh boots, moving with a deliberate precision. Own had snapped many a pair of laces before getting his strength under control.

                “How’d I do?”

                “Not bad, not bad at all.” Lenny took a seat next to him, his short legs almost able to dangle in the air from the height of the bench. “Your Offense and Defense portions reminded everyone that in a contest of pure might, always bet on Titan. Obviously we expected that part, though. What really impressed me was the show you put on with that last section. You let those folks shine pretty bright.”

                “I didn’t want to walk in and decimate them; they’ve got criminals to stop too. Hell, given my other duties, they’ve got a lot more than me.” Owen finished his first boot and moved on to the second. He’d tried to hope that he wouldn’t need a back-up costume from this assessment, but practicality and experience had both demanded he bring one along.

                “You struck a nice balance. To the untrained eye, it looked like things could have gone the other way if a few things had broken differently. They showed off their skills against a legend, and you reminded them why you have that term associated with you in the first place. Overall, it was a win across the board.” Lenny leaned forward and stared at his client. “So why do you look like someone just stole your ice cream and kicked your puppy?”

                “I don’t know,” Owen replied. “Honestly, I realize this is about as good an outcome as I could have hoped for; I guess I’m just a little miffed that I had to be here in the first place.” With the second boot done, he planted both feet on the floor and spun around to meet his agent’s eyes. “When I came back, I said I was doing it to make a difference. To help people and stay out of the petty politics and bullshit that took me out the first time. Here we are, not even a month later, and I’m in a stupid pissing contest for no reason other than a Hero thought I might cause some trouble. I let myself get roped back in; now I’m pissed at myself for letting it happen and for the system for bringing me to this point.”

                “It’s a wet mess of shit, but that’s the life,” Lenny replied. “The reputations, the media stuff, it’s all important. Come on, Titan, you’re been at this for a long time; you’re not some HCP senior who just got the speech. You know what Heroes are really here for, and coming back in meant you were taking that burden on along with all the others.”

                “I’m fully aware of what I committed to. Just in one of those moods, I guess.”

                “Ah yes, ‘those moods,’ what fuckers they are.” Lenny pulled himself up from the bench and reached into his pocket. He pulled out his cell phone and began tapping on the screen. “Might have something that will pull you out of that funk, though. Here.”

                Owen took the phone from Lenny, the screen already filled with a video file that had begun to play. It took him a moment to realize what he was seeing, until he noticed the familiar costumes of his PEERS team right before a loud cheer burst forth from them. He could just make out the shape of giant television in the corner, which all of them were watching with rapt attention. They let another scream, and Hexcellent clapped like someone had just complimented her tattoos.

                “They were cheering for you so damned loudly I was half-tempted to kick them out of my VIP accommodations,” Lenny explained. “But in the end I thought doing this might be more helpful.”

                Owen wasn’t sure what part of the fight they were watching; he only knew that they all suddenly grew very quiet. Moments later they all jumped up from their seats in excitement, even Zone and Bubble Bubble, though the latter did manage to seem more composed than the others.

                “That was when Spring stuck all those weird goo bombs on you. Poor kids really thought you might be down for the count.” Lenny reached over and took his phone back as the file finished playing, then patted Owen on his enormous shoulder. “It’s easy to lose sight of when you’re entrenched in all the bullshit, but there are people out there who are happier for seeing you succeed. You are making a difference by being back in the life; I bet some kid out there has already hung a new Titan poster over his bed. So, you still having a mood?”

                “I think I’m good.” Owen pulled himself off the bench, pausing only to make sure that his costume was on straight. There were going to be reporters and cameras when he stepped out of this locker room, he wanted to make sure that Titan looked his best. Just in case fans were watching. “Hey Lenny, did I ever thank you?”

                “For the generous portion of the profits I got us from this whole clusterfuck? No, you didn’t, but nothing says thanks quite like a bottle of fifty-year-old scotch.”

                “Not for the money, though I’ll be watching for a check. I meant for making me join up with a team when I came back. As hard as I tried to fight it at the time, it seems so obvious now that you were right. Those kids have probably kept me more centered than anything else since I’ve gotten back in, and I wouldn’t have them if not for you.”

                “Any agent worth his salt knows what his client needs to stay in peak condition. For you, it’s a network of people who depend on you. For others, it’s ego-stroking sycophants or more drugs and sex than a seventies rock festival. Yours is a lot less work on me managing the blowback from, so it’s my pleasure. Now let’s get out there already, and remember to pimp the fact that we’ll have DVDs for sale next week.”

                “Whatever you say, Lenny.”