“I need a favor.”
“Are we going to just replace ‘hello’ with that now? First you’re trying to set me up on a public speaking gig, what can be worse now?” Lenny sounded tired, which surprised Owen even with the late hour. Given that the city had seen some actual Hero action during the day, he imagined Lenny would still be up, wheeling and dealing and making sure his clients came out looking great.
“That one wasn’t even for me; I was just passing along the message since you don’t take phone calls from retired Heroes.”
“Now now, be fair. I take them if they’re from my old clients,” Lenny reminded him. “But I can’t go returning every message I get during the day. I’d spent all my time talking to wanna-be clients instead of working for the ones I’ve got.”
Cold as it seemed, Owen knew Lenny was actually being more honest than arrogant. There were tons of agents in the Hero world, some okay, some awful, and a few tremendous. As a man who fell into the third category, Lenny was in high-demand. He could have taken on every Hero that was willing to sign, others before him had, but it would have dropped the amount of attention he could give each one. Lenny had chosen quality of clientele over quantity throughout the years, and his reputation had flourished for it. Unfortunately, that meant if he actually did grant Owen’s favor then Owen would owe him huge.
“It’s actually kind of about that,” Owen said, gathering up his nerve to charge the verbal hill. “I’m assuming you saw what happened to my teammate, Bubble Bubble, on the news today?”
“Sadly, yes. Scouring tabloids and skeevy news sites is one of the many fringe benefits of my illustrious job. Give the gal my condolences, by the way. She’s getting a raw fucking deal and anyone with half a brain in their head knows it.”
“Maybe so, but I want to drill it in to the ones with less than that half.” Owen idly ran his fingers over the battered sweatshirt he’d taken off, getting more concrete residue on his hand. It was now or never, the worst Lenny could say was no. “That’s the favor I need. I want you to take her on as a client.”
Silence screamed at him through the phone for several long, lingering seconds. When Lenny finally spoke, it wasn’t with annoyance, as Owen was expecting. In fact, even the weariness seemed to have disappeared from his agent’s voice. If anything, he seemed to be barely holding back chuckles of mirth as he responded.
“Sometimes, just sometimes, I honestly forget how big a pair of brass ones you’ve got swinging down there. To be clear, you want me to take on as a client, for the first time ever, a corpie, and not one that’s prime real estate, but one going through a media shitshow that will probably end up torpedoing her career.”
“She’s probably toast,” Owen agreed. “Unless someone with real skill, a legendary level of talent, were to take her on and steer her to safe shores.”
“Flattery, a nice touch. Little overt, but that’s about what I expect from you.” Owen could hear Lenny sigh over the phone. He imagined his agent pacing about, weighing the pros and cons while time was pitted against potential income in that balding head of his. “Listen, Titan, you and me go back a long way, and there’s not much I wouldn’t do for you if needed, but that’s for you. This girl is going to need a shitload of work to keep afloat, and even more if she wants to come out ahead. Truthfully, that might not be a bad thing though. I’ve been thinking about taking on a few of the corpies with real earning power out there, and pulling her from the fire would be the best exposure I could ask for to show them what I bring to the table. That said, this one isn’t going to be free.”
“Tell me what you want,” Owen said.
“You know damned well what I want,” Lenny shot back. “This year’s Intermurals have two of the supposedly heaviest hitters to come out of the HCP in a decade squaring off against each other. I want what no other agent gets: a seat at the show to judge them for myself.”
“This year it’s being held at Lander, I’ve got almost no clout there. If it were Sizemore, sure, I could swing a few things, but all I’ve got at Lander is a kid who won’t talk to me. Why not do the talk for Blaine? He’s more likely to be able to get you in.”
“Already agreed to that, but he’s not sure he can swing it. All he could promise was support. Now, if someone still active in the field, someone who might still have a few markers to call in were to ring old friends in the Intermural Committee, that could give me the extra push I need to watch this first hand.”
“I… can make some calls. That’s the most I’m able to promise, Lenny. A lot of people voided their chips to me when things went south and you know it. I’ll do everything I can, and I’ll take on some favors if needed, but that doesn’t mean I can make you a promise.” Owen had once been a man who prided himself on never breaking his word. Despite the fact that this character feature had ultimately unraveled along with the rest of his life, he still made it a point to not a promise unless he truly believed he could keep it.
“Tell you what, you promise me that you’ll do your best and I’ll let it ride for now.” A soft fwump of sound filled the receiver, and Owen knew than Lenny had just let himself fall into his favorite easy chair.
“Really. I’m not dumb, I know you can only do so much. Still, you’re a determined guy. If you say you’ll give it your all, then that’s the most I can ask for. Make me that promise, and you can send the girl by tomorrow morning. I doubt she has any other pressing appointments to make.”
Owen let out a long sigh of relief. Just knowing Lenny would help made the whole situation less scary and more manageable. He wondered if this was how people felt when they saw a Hero drop in on a scene; like suddenly things might just be okay after all.
“I promise, Lenny. Anything I can do to get you a seat, I’ll do it. Calls start going out tomorrow.”
“Then tell your girl she has a new rep on her side. It’ll be a hard road, but I’ve got a few ideas for how to spin things. Now if I can just make that damn dean push from his side I might get treated to a real spectacle.”
“These kids supposed to be that strong?” Owen asked.
“Remember Hank Rhodes? One of them is his son.”
Owen indeed remembered Hank Rhodes; while the man hadn’t become a Hero, he was a Super of incredible power and often helped train Heroes when asked. He’d never met Hank’s son, but if his power was close to his father’s, it would be hell to defeat.
“Who’s the poor bastard going up against him?”
“Graham DeSoto’s granddaughter,” Lenny replied. “Both, by the way, undefeated in their entire time at the HCP. That’s something that, correct me if I’m wrong, but not even the great Titan managed to accomplish.”
“No need to be mean about it,” Owen said. “I came a long way in those four years, and it’s not in how you start a race. It’s about how you finish.”
“Heh, well you definitely finished strong. That was another Intermural I had to scheme, bribe, and favor my way into watching. Worth it though. You made for one hell of a show.”
“I like to think I still do.”