Chapter 62

                As much as Owen would have liked to lay down in his bed once the team got back to the penthouse, such luxuries would have to wait. Instead of passing out and finishing his sleep that had been so suddenly interrupted, he stripped off the costume that was coated in chalky concrete dust and grime, laid out a fresh one, and hit the showers. It took a long while and a lot of strong-handed scrubbing to get all the dirt off of him, but when eventually he emerged he at last felt clean.

                Silly as it seemed, Owen had learned over the years that whenever he had to go into a place as an authority figure, he felt it put him in the mood to make himself presentable. Owen had never much been one for leadership roles during his Hero days. There were always smarter people than him on the team, ones who could look at a situation and immediately see where to best deploy every asset they had. Those were the ones that took up a leadership role, and Owen was more than happy to give it to them. He might be one of the most lauded strongmen in the world, but he was still just a strongman at the end of the day. Melee was his bread and butter, when he shined and where he felt most at home. Given a choice between having his boots on the ground, staring down a hundred enemies or having to make the calls that would determine who lived or died during a fray, Owen would have taken the hundred any time.

                Still, as his star had risen all those years prior it had brought with it a certain amount of prestige. Titan had become a role model, an icon, one that many people, including other Heroes, looked up to. With that had come public-speaking gigs, being chosen to chair meetings, and even getting called upon by other Hero teams to work with their own strongmen. Owen didn’t relish such roles, but he accepted it all at the time as the price of fame.

                Over a decade later, Owen Daniels was no longer certain if such a price was worth it. Time off had given him the perspective that perhaps fame itself was the price of fame. If he’d been asked by nearly anyone in the world to make an appearance as Titan for anything other than helping his team, saving people, or punching bad guys, then Owen would have like told them to go fuck themselves. Topsy was different though. He was an old friend, one who’d been with Owen back when they were doing all they could to survive in the insane world that was Heroes fresh off their internships. Even beyond that, Topsy had been one of the people who stuck with him during the Titan Scandal. Owen had spent two weeks on the man’s couch as the media hunted him and he tried to think of what he could possibly tell his wife and sons to mend the relationships. More than one person he’d counted as a friend turned their back on Owen Daniels during those weeks, but never Topsy. Which meant if he was the one who needed help, then Owen was damned sure going to deliver.

                Before leaving the peace of the penthouse and heading out on the town, Owen only paused to put in a quick call ordering more costumes. He’d thought that doing a job with less direct battle would mean he wouldn’t go through so many of the things, but it seemed the strongman’s clothing curse was still at work as his supply was dwindling dangerously. At least his supplier cut him a break on bulk orders, a formality they extended to most of the Heroes that got down in the rough and tumble with real frequency.

                That done, Titan took the elevator down and stepped out into the last rays of the setting sun. He could have taken the town car, as a member of the team he was entitled to it, or just used his own vehicle since it was stored in the garage, but tonight he felt like walking. A lot of Heroes didn’t care to do street patrol, they felt like it lowered the sense of terror a criminal felt at the sight of them, but Owen had always thought it added a sense of danger to the punks' daily lives. Seeing a Hero exploding out of the sky or bursting from a portal was one thing, but to just be walking along and suddenly find one’s self in the presence of such power would be jarring, reminding them that Heroes could appear at any time. Owen liked the idea that he was making sure everyone out there was always on their best behavior.

                His jog was a long one, but nearly endless stamina and powerful legs muscles meant he could close the distance with haste if it was called for. Since he’d left early enough, Titan took his time running through Brewster, nodding and waving at civilians as he passed them. The Wild Bucks base was in what had once been an industrial area, before the primary company’s illegal environmental practices were brought to light and they were fined out of existence. Despite the area being certified by the city as safe, not many people wanted to live on land associated with terms like “biological hazard” and “contaminated”. Bad as it was for property values, it was perfect for Hero teams that needed an isolated area to live that was still in a decent proximity to the city they looked over. Legacy teams like Elemental Fury might have had fancy mid-lake accommodations, but for most Heroes they were just trying to find a spot that could be rebuilt cheaply after it was attacked.

                As Titan jogged past the thick, iron gates which were half-rusted and half knocked down, he spotted a familiar figure standing in the middle of what had once been a private road. Topsy smiled at the sight of his old friend, and the two men shared a brief hug after Titan closed the distance between them.

                “Really appreciate you coming out,” Topsy said as the hug ended. He looked tired, even more so than the last time Titan had seen him. No doubt the DVA was putting his people through the wringer and him along with them. Titan didn’t exactly disagree with the need for that, though he wished they’d taken more care to leave his friend out of it.

                “Don’t worry about it. I owe you a lot more than this.” Titan did a quick scan of the area, noting that there was a large building with better upkeep than most of the others to his right. Either their actual base or the entrance to it, by his estimates. “How bad are things?”

                “They’re pretty shitty,” Topsy admitted. “The DVA finally made its call, and I lost two of them. One has been busted back down to intern and had heavy restrictions put on how he can use his power, while the other is all the way out.”

                Titan nodded, but otherwise kept his face stoic. Being a Hero was a privilege that came with a lot of responsibility. If one couldn’t live up to that responsibility, they didn’t have any place being a Hero and damned sure wouldn’t be once the DVA got a hold of them. For the amount of destruction he’d seen, only one being tossed out on their ass was actually pretty restrained on the DVA’s part.

                “So you’re down to a three-person team then?”

                “For the moment,” Topsy replied. “I honestly think if the whole team wasn’t seen as pariahs right now they’d have split off and joined up with other Heroes. Problem is, after all that mess they caused no one would want them and they know it. Rock and a hard place.”

                “Well, I can’t change their situation, but hopefully I can help them find the best way to handle it,” Titan said. It was the sort of thing he was supposed to tell his friend, even if they both knew it was largely bullshit. “Take me in so I can meet the tykes.”