Chapter 54

                When the alarm yanked Owen forcefully from sleep, he very nearly destroyed the floor in his attempts to get out of bed. For a split-second his muddled brain forgot every change that it had undergone in last two decades. Instead of being roused to help with a rescue or clean-up effort, Owen’s head was screaming that he was in his old base, and that they were under attack.

                He slammed his feet through the carpet and into the concrete so hard that it left nearly perfect footprints. It was only when he reached for his mask, which should be resting on the bedside stand, and found nothing more than a desk lamp and a picture, that Owen finally pulled himself out of the fugue and realized where he was. Years of training was good most of the time, but on occasion it outlived its usefulness.

                As he pulled on his costume and tried to think of a way to hide the cracked floor lest Greene charge him for it, Galvanize’s voice came over the intercom system. Owen nearly didn’t recognize it, however, as the young leader’s voice was filled with something he’d never heard there before. Galvanize, the calm rock of their chaotic team, was doing all he could to fight back panic.

                “This is an all hands situation, repeat, all hands. Anyone not downstairs in five minutes will be left behind, but will be expected to find their own way to the scene as soon as possible. The I-287 overpass in North Brewster was severely damaged in a fight between a criminal Super and Heroes. Current estimates put at least two hundred cars stranded in deteriorating positions with civilians blocked in by debris. The fight caused damage in several other areas as well, so resources are stretched thin. We are needed, people. Now.”

                Owen took a deep breath, then slapped the rest of his costume on so quickly that he nearly ripped it in half twice. That overpass stretched across a large area of residential housing, which meant they needed to evacuate the people under it just as much as the ones on top of it. Depending on who else was there, they might be able to help prop the thing up, but with thin resources odds were they just had to race the clock as quickly as possible.

                Tearing out of his room as fast as he could go, Owen dashed down the hall, out the living room, and just made it to the elevator as Bubble Bubble saw him coming and held the door. He sprint through it, barely stopping before he slammed into the back wall, and heard the oddly inappropriate gentle ding as the elevator began lowering them to the basement.

                “We’re the last ones,” Bubble Bubble informed him. Unlike Galvanize, she had not lost her seemingly infinite amount of quiet composure.

                “How do you know?”

                “Hexcellent was still up playing video games, I saw her paused screen when I left the living room. Galvanize would have gotten the word before any of us, and therefore been prepping to go. As for Zone, he prides himself on his speed and reflexes. Losing to either of us would be a point of wounded honor for him.”

                Owen nodded, watching as the red digital numbers ticked away, marking their descent. It struck him as curious that, as much as Hexcellent seemed to think Bubble Bubble wasn’t interested in team, the red-haired young woman appeared to have a keen eye for details and a strong grasp of her teammate’s habits. In any other time, it would have been something he dug deeper on, but as the numbers finally fell below “1” and the elevator slowed, all he could think of was the situation demanding their aid. It wouldn’t be until much later that Owen realized this marked the first occasion when he looked at the problem as a PEER first and a Hero second.

                Perhaps that was why it wasn’t until he’d leapt into the SUV and slammed his door shut that he finally remembered to touch his right ear and get a full assessment of the situation. Before he even had the chance, however, Galvanize began to fill them in.

                “There was an attempted murder roughly twenty five minutes ago, over in North Brewster.” Galvanize’s foot didn’t leave the pedal as he spoke, and the siren’s muffled roar could be heard overhead. “Some gang’s strongman was sent to take out a rival gang’s leader. We don’t know if the first gang was dumb, or just working off bad information, but their guy never stood a chance. Their target was a fellow Super, an energy manipulator whose energy had highly corrosive properties.”

                Owen winced inwardly. Energy manipulators were bad enough; those with talent could create all manner of constructs or obstacles to utilize. Some of the really gifted ones could even coat themselves in their energy, like a suit of armor. If the energy itself destroyed most matter it came into contacts with, then that upped the destructive potential considerably. Just from knowing those two facts, Owen would estimate that sort of opponent to be a Demolition Class, minimum.

                “The fight drew the right kind of attention, and a team of Heroes stepped in,” Galvanize continued. “I don’t know the details, but they were able to bring him down. Unfortunately, he doled out a lot of damage on his way to getting killed. Right now, every emergency service that can is scrambling to get the people to safety.”

                “What about the Heroes who stopped this guy?” Zone asked. “Aren’t they helping?”

                “The ones who can are currently containing and evacuating a section of the city he managed to partially cave into the sewers,” Galvanize snapped. He paused for a moment, and Owen saw the rise and fall of his chest betraying the deep breathes he was taking, no doubt trying to keep an even keel. “Some are getting healed; they’ll jump in wherever they can. We don’t have time to play jurisdiction jockeying right now. Once we get there, it’s going to be a madhouse. Follow my orders as best you can, but put protecting the civilians first above all else. Everyone clear?”

                The vehicles’ passengers all nodded, too well-trained to try and talk over one another while their leader was giving direction. Galvanize appreciated their discipline as he pulled up to a massive traffic jam, the sun’s early morning rays glinting off the metal tops of seemingly countless stopped cars. They were going to need every bit of that discipline to pull of the sort of miracle they needed to.

                “Good, then this is where we get out. Everyone, please do your best. Lives depend on it.”