Chapter 6

“You should walk more to the center of the room,” Galvanize advised. “So there’s space to move about.”

“If you say so,” Owen complied. He wasn’t too worried about needing to dodge, but stranger things had happened in his life. A few large steps brought him to the center of the unobstructed area, with ample space around him. Hexcellent made no such motions.

“Aren’t you coming?” Owen called to the dark-hair woman.

“I don’t get my hands dirty, I’ve got people for that,” Hexcellent replied. “Let me demonstrate.”

“No,” Galvanize said immediately. “I know what you’re about to do, and no. Show him the other two first. This about a full-assessment, not you trying to prove a point.”

“Fiiiiiiiiiiiine,” Hexcellent agreed, drawing out the word into a whine. “I’ll start from the bottom. My smallest demon is Impers. We use him for recon and message relaying.” She stuck out her hand and exerted a minor bit of focus. Next to Owen, a small creature appeared in a puff of red smoke.

It was about a foot tall, human shaped with red skin and diminutive horns on its head. Large, bat-like wings nearly as long as it was tall extended from its back, and a three inch tail swept from side to side out of its rear. The creature made a chittering noise, then leapt into the air. Owen was surprised with the grace it had in flight, moving through the air with precision and speed. Impers circled the room four times, then landed on Hexcellent’s shoulder and made the chittering noise again.

“How is that thing used for messages?” Owen asked. “It can’t talk.”

“‘It’ is a he, and we worked out a system,” Hexcellent explained. “Impers can understand the questions we ask him, plus he can control the clicks he makes. One click means yes, two means no, three means follow me, and four means run like hell. As long as you ask the right questions, it’s pretty effective.”

“Useful,” Owen commented, trying his best to hide the surprise at this creature being any gender, let alone a male. Still, since it sprang from the summoner’s mind, no one was more familiar with it than her. “Anything else I should know?”

“Impers is the smartest of my summons, so he can take the most complex directions. The others make noise, but they have to be ordered more directly. Impers excels in situations where we’re trying to located people who are trapped, since he can remember where he sees them and point to it on a map. He’s frailer than the other two, but fireproof. All of them are fireproof,” Hexcellent said.

The fireproof part didn’t shock Owen at all. “Okay, what’s next?”

Impers vanished in the same smoke he’d appeared in. Another motion from Hexcellent, and a much larger cloud of red smoke appeared near Owen. Out of this one came a creature roughly five feet tall, the head of a vulture atop a hunched body. It had no wings, its feet were taloned, and where each arm should have been was a long, pale-white blade in the shape of scythe.

“Her name is Huggles,” Hexcellent informed Owen.


“I was feeling a bit feisty and sarcastic when I created her,” she admitted. “Anyway, those blades on her arm are sharp enough to cut through most metals, and she’s got the strength to wield them. She’s most useful for getting people out of cars, sawing through debris, that sort of thing.”

“I see, mind having her strike me?”

“I can, but it won’t prove anything,” Hexcellent admitted. “Huggles can’t cut through anything stronger than steel, and even that gives her trouble. I’d assume a veteran Hero like you is at least that tough.”

“None the less, I’d prefer if you did,” Owen said. He stuck out his left arm and left it there, freely exposed.

“Have it your way. Huggles, cut his arm!” Hexcellent yelled. The words had no sooner left her mouth than the bird-thing whirled into action, again moving with more grace than its form should allow. She swung both arm-blades down in a smooth slice, striking two places on Owen’s forearms. As soon as the blades met his skin, the motion ceased completely. He’d never expected Huggles to be powerful enough to move him, but he was surprised by the amount of strength the demon could muster. It was good to know this thing had some power behind it.

“Not bad,” Owen complimented. “I take it there’s one left?”

“Yup, and I saved the best for last,” Hexcellent replied. This time her motion was slower, and there was a noticeable delay between Huggles’ disappearance and the next demon’s cloud of smoke. Once it appear though, it was impossible to miss. The cloud was huge, and Owen caught the faint scent of brimstone in his nostrils. Once it cleared, he found himself in the rare position of looking up.

This monster stood over seven and half feet tall, likely eight if one included the large, black horns jutting upward from its forehead. Thick, chitinous, black plates covered much of its body, most concentrated on the disproportionally large arms, the broad chest, and the thick legs ending in large hooves. Its face was dog-like, black sharp teeth in its muzzle and a pair of glowing red eyes above the snout. Any monster movie company would have paid top dollar for this creature to appear in one of their films, assuming they could keep the rest of the cast from pissing themselves.

“His name is Big Henry,” Hexcellent supplied helpfully. “His job is heavy lifting. Clearing rubble, moving cars, holding up support beams, that sort of thing. More or less the only things you’d be good at, except he doesn’t need a room and pay.”

Owen examined the creature closely. He knew enough about summoners to know that their creatures were often born of a problem or a need. Creating another being from nothing was intensely difficult; the only way to succeed was to pour an aspect of one’s self into it. The summons were supposed to do something that summoner couldn’t. They represented a strength to fill in a perceived weakness. And this summon was not built for heavy lifting. It was built for fighting. Maybe for killing.

“Guess we should give the people what they want,” Owen said, pointing to the other three Supers. “Why not have him give me a little tap?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Hexcellent replied. “Big Henry, punch him with everything you’ve got.” This time she didn’t yell, she barely even raised her voice. Owen had just enough time to wonder if her summons even needed to be close enough to hear for her orders to work, then Big Henry sprang into action.

This one didn’t have as much grace as the other two, but he made up for it with a shocking amount of speed. He whirled forward, hooves nearly cracking the floor with each step, closing the gap between he and Owen in mere moments. The punch came at the end of the movement, part of the motion’s flow that utilized the extra momentum. It was impressive, especially for a being that Owen suspected had never been trained. The black armored fist drove directly into his torso, right between his sternum and stomach. It had so much power that, even braced in an appropriate stance, Owen was still moved back several inches as the concrete under his feet crumbled against the indirect force.

“Better than I expected,” Owen said, clearly unharmed or inconvenienced by the attack. He glanced up at Hexcellent, whose face had morphed from its usual anti-social glower into an expression of genuine shock. Given how strong this summon was, she’d likely thought it would at least do some damage to him. Owen didn’t fault her for that belief. She hadn’t been inside the Hero world, her sense of scale for what constituted strong didn’t even have a ranking for someone like Titan.

“How durable is this one?” Owen asked, shaking her out of her surprised reverie.

“Damn near indestructible,” she called back, her jaw setting and her eyes growing narrow. She was gearing up for round two, when she’d show that her summon was at least no less durable than he. If it could take his blow with the same lack of effect, it would prove they were on even footing. Owen, fortunately, knew better.

“Good to know,” Owen said, taking a step back from the still half-crouched-in-attack summon. “Luckily, since you don’t have to use him to fight, we don’t need to test that. Let’s move on. Zone, how about you show me what you can do?”

Hexcellent stared at him for a few moments longer before dismissing Big Henry into the smoke cloud. Owen was sure she wasn’t happy with him at the moment, but that would have to wait. He needed to finish seeing everyone’s skill set for now.

After that, he could work on making them better.