Chapter 76


                Whatever else Owen could say about Mordent Holdings, they certainly didn’t falter in the face of an unexpected development. Within five minutes of Kirk calling in the missing piece of tech, dozens of privately employed security officers swarmed through the lab’s doors. Owen was briefly talked to as they uncovered why he was present in a restricted area. Once it was established that he had been with the docs, who had more clearance than nearly anyone else at Mordent, and that it was impossible for him to have taken anything without being seen, Owen was gently escorted out to the elevator and told to return to the penthouse.

                He did so a bit begrudgingly, in truth he felt like there was a lot more he could learn from Kirk about what this prototype machine had done, but it didn’t seem like a good time to press the issue. Even aside from the Mordent security picking apart their lab, neither one of the docs seemed to be taking the news well. Kirk had been flitting about, desperately coming up with new places were the device might have been, only to constantly come up empty-handed. Edgar had been far worse though. After announcing that the prototype was gone, he simply sat down in one of the rolling chairs near a computer and didn’t move. It had taken multiple attempts from security to get any information out of him while Owen was there; instead Edgar seemed largely pre-occupied with staring blankly at the wall.

                Having accidentally set off a panic in his own home, Owen decided to double down and alert the other Heroes to what he’d uncovered. It wasn’t much, hell technically it wasn’t really anything at all yet, but it might lead them to something real, eventually. That job was, thankfully, up to Jeremiah and the other Subtlety Heroes. Owen’s only real focus was on kicking apart whatever defenses were there when they found these bots’ home base. Deep down part of him hoped there would be some tough obstacles. It had been a long time since he’d really had to push his limits, and a genuine challenge might be nice.

                That challenge wouldn’t be coming today though, and after sending his e-mail to the other Heroes, putting around the kitchen trying to make lunch that didn’t taste of grass and terrible, Owen finally gave in to the Sunday laziness and sank into the couch, picking up the remote and flipping through the channels.

                He’d managed to burn through about half an hour when a vibration on his leg caught his attention. Pulling out his phone, Owen saw the recent text from Galvanize about moving the Monday morning meeting back an hour, then noticed one dated a few hours prior. Evidently it had come when things were more hectic, as Owen pressed the small mail icon and saw a message from Lenny pop up.

                Channel 44, 1:00 p.m. Don’t miss it.

                Since the clock on his phone told Owen that it was already 1:23, he grabbed the remote and frantically began clicking through the channels, in such a hurry that the idea of punching in the numbers directly never even occurred to him. Arriving at last, he saw a stuffy, somewhat ruddy-faced man wearing what was clearly an expensive suit. For a moment, he was uncertain why Lenny wanted him to watch this dipshit, then a familiar voice came from off-screen and it all made sense.

                “And what, pray-tell, is it you feel I should apologize for?”

                The camera turned to Bubble Bubble, who looked as composed and put together as she’d ever been, a sharp contrast to the worn out man sitting across the desk from her. Owen stared at the screen, taking careful stock of his teammate. Something seemed slightly off about her. Same copper hair, same pale, freckled cheeks, same designer costume as she always wore. Then he looked in her eyes, and it clicked. She wasn’t being demur and careful, doing her best to be pretty yet inoffensive. Bubble Bubble was meeting her interviewer’s gaze head on, her baby blues flashing with a confidence and fire Owen couldn’t recall ever witnessing in her before.

                “Your position makes you a role model to countless little girls,” the man said, his voice raised higher than was called for. Owen might have missed the beginning of the interview, but he had a solid hunch that it hadn’t been going the way the host expected. “The least you can do is show remorse when you make a mistake.”

                “I tell you what, I’ll be glad to make an apology.” Bubble Bubble leaned slightly forward, graceful as a falling rose petal, and smiled charmingly. “Why don’t you just tell me which part I should apologize for? Is it being lied to by a man who I only now know has a history of infidelity, or being naïve enough to trust someone I liked at his word? Perhaps you feel I owe everyone an apology for making a sober, informed decision to have sex with a fellow adult rather than stick to a centuries outdated ideal of feminine chastity. Or do I owe an apology for the act of not being sorry that I was tricked, for standing up and refusing to let myself be blamed for another’s actions? You tell me, Mr. Biron, which one I should apologize for. Explain it to me, and the viewers at home, and I’ll be happy to say I’m sorry.”

                The station cut to a commercial quickly, though not quite before the interview’s face grew a shade or two redder. As a commercial for dish soap began to play, Owen pressed a button on the still open phone in his hand, dialing up Lenny.

                “Thought you’d have called earlier,” Lenny said, picking up after only a single ring.

                “Just got the text,” Owen replied. “What in the hell did you tell that girl?”

                “I told her the right call was to be aggressive and proud. She did nothing wrong, so instead of being conciliatory she had go on the attack. Show no shame, no fear, and keep calling out people for being assholes. Booked her on Robert Biron’s show to test the waters, he’s an aspiring talking head with too little brain to make it anywhere big. She’s more or less been wiping the floor with him for the last half hour.”

                “Caught the tail end of a speech, I thought the guy was going to have a damn aneurysm,” Owen said.

                “This is only the beginning. If she keeps up doing this well, Bubble Bubble might just end up coming out ahead in this scandal. Speaking of, a little bird told me there was a lot of action around the Mordent building today. Anything your agent needs to be aware of?”

                “No, for once this isn’t my problem.” As an ad for Hero endorsed candy bars ended, Owen saw the now-familiar set reappear.

                “Gotta let you go, Lenny. I don’t want to miss a moment of this.”