Chapter 55

                Titan had seen worse. He’d come upon battlegrounds after Armageddon Class Supers were taken down, he’d seen entire streets run thick with blood and bodies, often wearing masks that he recognized. He’d seen what happened when Heroes were too slow, when civilians were piled like kindling after a maniac’s rampage. He’d seen truly horrible things in his time as a Hero, the sort that woke him in a cold sweat some nights, desperately groping for someone nearby to remind that it was going to be okay. As he surveyed the scene before him, he did so with a sense of perspective, and concluded that the situation was bad, but not horrible. Of course, all of that perspective just lit a fire in his gut, driving him to make sure this morning didn’t turn into another one that would live on for decades in his nightmares.

                The overpass was badly damaged; part of it had been sheared off completely and several of the support columns were broken, if they remained intact at all. Since it was a flyover which stretched across a residential area, bits of the debris had already come down and crushed several houses. Titan dearly hoped they’d been evacuated first, then immediately put it out of his mind. It was key to focus on the people he could still help, not dwell on the ones already lost. That was how he’d keep himself moving, if things took a turn for the terrible.

                A massive jam of cars stretched before him, most of which were already emptied, leading up to the section of the overpass where at dozen vehicles had been flipped and scattered, creating an unintentional barricade for all the civilians still stuck on the elevated concrete. Some of the cars had caught fire, which meant he had to worry about the slim, but still real, chance of a gas tank exploding on top of everything else. It was bad, but not hopeless.

                “Hexcellent, I want Huggles on that overpass. Reports have some people trapped in their cars, get them out now. When that’s done, help clear the debris.  Zone, you and Bubble Bubble start evacuating people from the broken end of the bridge. She can only take so many at a time, which means you have to keep the order between trips. Titan, I want that wall of cars cleared out, or at least a path that I can lead people through. Be careful, but be quick. BB might have to chip in on helping keep the overpass up, which will make your exit point the only one we can use. I’m going to help Hexcellent and Huggles get people out of cars and try to organize them as best I can. This is a fluid situation, so be ready to change in a moment if needed.” Galvanize didn’t waste any more time with words, instead he took off at a dead sprint through the sea of empty cars that led up to the barricade, the others hot on his heels.

                Titan was with them, moving carefully to avoid knocking one of the vehicles aside and causing a domino effect. By this point, he was used to precise way that Galvanize deployed his team, but he was still impressed by it. In his Hero days, he’d have never imagined a purely rescue team required such careful coordination; only several weeks actually doing the job had shown him how essential it was. More than once it had made the difference in saving someone’s life, which meant it was a skill damned sure worth having.

                They all reached the barricade at roughly the same time, though Zone started moving over it first. He leapt up the pile of shattered concrete and twisted auto parts, only needing a single sphere from Bubble Bubble to finish his climb. Hexcellent and Galvanize waited as Bubble Bubble produced a single sphere that engulfed all of them, then it began its slow, but steady, trek over to the other side. Her ability wasn’t quick, but it was certainly useful.

                For his part, Titan wasted no time once his team was clear. Surveying the warped barricade with an experienced eye, he looked for the spot that could most easily be turned into an opening. He’d have to be choosey, since he had very limited space to put whatever he moved, and with a slope of stopped cars descending behind him it would be all too easy to start a steel avalanche. That meant either just turning things or having to try and stack them, both of which had their cons.

                With a slam of his shoulder, Titan grabbed the nearest car by its axle and pulled it forward, moving slowly so as not to send the rest of the debris tumbling uncontrolled in all directions. It was akin to playing a very high stakes game of Jenga, and as he felt several other cars shudder, Titan would have traded two tons of lifting power for the ability to disintegrate matter. Thankfully, the barricade held, and he squeezed the first car into an open spot near two sports cars. It was a start, but there was still a lot to clear away before he could escort anyone without super-human endurance through it.

                “Titan, this is Dispatch.” He heard the voice in his ear as he hefted up a slab of concrete and dropped it unceremoniously on the first car, smashing out the one remaining window but otherwise doing little to the already battered automobile.

                “Dispatch is heard, Titan responding.”

                “Titan, you are currently registered as in the recently damaged North Brewster area on a rescue operation, and your PEERS team shows as present to. Is that accurate?”

                “Sure is,” Titan said. He tried to ignore the growing knot of worry in his stomach. If she was checking everyone’s position, not just Heroes, then it meant something bad.

                “That zone has been reclassified from contained to active,” Dispatch said. He wondered how she could stay so calm, even in moments like these. Maybe that was her ability, wherever she was. “The gangs involved in the initial dispute have begun fighting in the streets. Based on information at hand, we have at least four confirmed Supers, with many more suspected. PEERS teams are permitted to remain and continue evacuating civilians at the discretion of their Hero Liaisons, but all active Heroes in the area are to focus on containing the brawl before more destruction occurs.”

                Titan let out a long breath as he lowered the car clutched in his hands. Supers fighting in an area already on the brink of destruction meant lives were hanging in the balance. He released the car and looked around, trying to spot where the fight might be going down.

                “Give me coordinates, Dispatch. And what’s the containment protocol on this one?”

                “With so many civilians already in danger nearby, the DVA ordered that Damage Class evaluation protocol be temporarily suspended. First priority is neutralization before any more innocent lives are lost. The lives of aggressors are considered low-priority.”

                “Understood,” Titan said, and he did understand. In a perfect world, the Heroes could stop people without having to resort to lethal force, but some Supers just wouldn’t go down unless it was in a permanent fashion. It was messy, and hard, and ugly; but it was better than letting innocent people pay the price instead.

                Titan listened to the coordinates Dispatch rattled off in his head, then he began to run.