Chapter 78

                Owen was surprised by the knock at his door. Given the busy day of helping out at a multi-car pileup he and the team had dealt with, not to mention the coming few days of public spectacle, he’d expected everyone to have already hit the showers and be getting into bed. Getting up from his bed carefully, he walked over and pulled open the door, only to find Hexcellent standing on the other side.

                For a moment, Owen didn’t even recognize the thin, pale young woman in front of him, as it was the first time he’d ever seen her not caked in layers of make-up. Adding in that she was adorned in a t-shirt bearing Spyda and his band along with a pair of sweatpants, and she could have easily passed as a different person. In spite of all the moaning and complaining about Mordent and the rules, she was possibly the most dedicated to never being seen out of character.

                She looked younger than usual, and a bit more frail, as though he were seeing her without her armor for the first time. The impression of weakness was quickly shattered as she strode past him, scanning the meager room, and let out a sharp whistle. “Man, they really fucked you good on the accommodations, huh? Pretty sure this was a storage room back when Mirror Fog worked here.”

                “Was it now?” Owen had known from day one Greene was sending a message, but he hadn’t imagined the corporate puppet had gone quite so far to send it. “What’s up kid, can’t sleep?”

                “Yeah, they make drugs for that,” Hexcellent replied. “I just wanted to see what you had scheduled around eleven tomorrow.” Reaching into the pocket of her sweatpants, she pulled out a half-crumpled piece of paper and tried to smooth it out. “I’ve got a gap in ole schedule, and if we do lunch together in public then Greene can’t really bitch about me eating from the food stands that will be there. I mean, team solidarity and supporting a good cause, that’s two fucking birds right there.”

                Owen repressed a chuckle and went across to his dresser, picking up the packet and pulling his own schedule out of it. By the time he turned back around Hexcellent had crossed the room and was now staring at the pair of pictures on his desk. She glanced up from it, stared at him for a long moment, then looked back down.

                “Were you wearing a wig in these? Your hair is way longer, but you look almost exactly the same.”

                “Those photos were taken over ten years ago.” Owen stepped over to join her, staring down at his sons. It was hard to believe so much time had passed. He could still remember watching Roy struggle to even get the washing machine off the ground, then slowly being able to move it higher and higher. By the time he’d managed to hold it over his head, the kid was so proud he may as well have been Atlas holding the earth. And Hershel, nervous as could be to speak in front of all those people at the spelling bee, but he’d still pushed through. What he lacked in strength, Hershel easily made up for in heart and guts.

                “Ten years?” Hexcellent looked back and forth again, then stood up straight. “Are you a fucking Highlander?”

                “Just a Super whose body does not want to play along with the aging process,” Owen replied. He tried not to think about his body’s rebuffing of something as natural as growing older. It meant that there was no peaceful end in sight somewhere down the line. The only options were to be killed, or to keep living until it became a curse. At least there were Supers out there who could kill him. After so many years of being untouchable, Owen actually took a measure of comfort in that knowledge.

                “Damn. The kids still that age too?”

                “No, they’ve both grown up into fine young men.” Owen smiled, unable to suppress the fatherly pride that beamed within him. Even if they hated him until the end of time, he would never stop being proud of what his sons had made of their lives. “They're my kids, actually. Going through the HCP right now.”

                “Oh yeah, I saw some videos speculating about what would happen to your family after… well you know, the fucking another dude thing.”

                “I’m familiar with it, yes.”

                 “So are they like you? Immortal little bad asses destined to whip the shit out of every bad guy who crosses their path?” Hexcellent stepped away from the picture slightly, more interested in Owen’s current expressions than his photographed past.

                “They’re similar, but with gifts all their own.” Owen shook his head, still looked at the boys as he’d remembered them until they came striding into his bar looking for answers. “But they’re better than me by a mile. Those two are going to make the world a more decent place, in and out of costume.”

                “In costume? Ah, I get you. Titan’s kids in the HCP. Bet their knocking the teeth out of all the other students.”

                “The HCP isn’t as cut and dry as you might think,” Owen told her. “Even I got knocked around in my early days. It’s not as much about the beatings, but what you learn from them. Actually, I’m hoping to get time off in a few months to go watch their end of the year final exam, assuming Greene doesn’t find a way to keep me penned up here.”

                “As long as you put on a good show this week, I bet you’ll be able to swing a favor or two,” Hexcellent advised. “And if worse comes to worse, ask Galvanize for the time instead of Greene. Fearless leader has a knack for making the suit come around.”

                “I’ll keep that in mind.” Owen realized he was still holding his paper, and he pulled it up to finally check the time Hexcellent had asked about. “Looks like I’m free from ten to noon. Lunch at eleven then?”

                “Kickass, I’ll meet you at the entrance to the food alley.” Hexcellent pulled out another piece of paper, this one diagramming the different eating options available to those attending the charity event, and skimmed with a growing expression of delight. “I say we hit the cotton candy and funnel cakes first.”

                “That’s your idea of lunch?”

                “That’s my idea of what I’m eating with my very rare access to a free pass.”

                Owen glanced down at his schedule once more, the unmistakable sense that he was being played creeping into his mind. “You’re going to get me in trouble, aren’t you?”

                “Fuck yeah I am.” Hexcellent turned and headed out the door, but turned back around and gave Owen a genuine smile. “But hey, you’ve only got yourself to blame. Before you showed up, there wasn’t any trouble to get into.”

                Then she was gone, leaving Owen torn between whether he should feel complimented or worried by her statement. Ultimately, he settled on the former.