Chapter 79

                The hectic, half-mad energy of the sprawling grounds felt strangely familiar to Owen as he rode past the few security barriers with the rest of his team, all crammed into the Mordent issued SUV. Once upon a time, Titan had been a mainstay at many such events, putting on displays of strength and signing autographs until his pens ran dry, all in the name of giving back to the community. Many of his fellow Heroes undertook such activities as necessary obligations, something to generate good PR and make their agents happy. And, in total truth, Owen hadn’t been so different from them when he first started doing Hero work. That changed when he found out about Hershel and Roy’s status as Powereds, and suddenly all those unfortunate souls he’d had the chance to help seemed much closer to family than strangers.

                As they cruised past various stalls and tents being set-up on the Brewster fair grounds, which the city and generously allowed for the SCCS’s use, Owen felt pangs of both nostalgia and regret. While it was good to be back in a position where he could make a difference, the weight of all his years pissed away on seclusion and self-pity weighed heavy on his heart. He looked away from the window, turning his attention to the team that was excitedly gabbing inside the vehicle.

                To them, none of this was familiar in the slightest. Mordent had put them in charity events before, but never one as big as what they were currently heading into. It just didn’t make sense, as few corpies had any fans that would want to see them, and their powers weren’t generally strong enough to compete with Heroes and professional athletes in a meaningful way. Sending them into situations like this was a good way to make a team look foolish while also tearing down their self-esteem. Unless, of course, they had a big wave of public accolades to ride or a very famous Hero backing them up. Even so, Owen knew Mordent was taking a risk putting them out there like this. Most likely, they were counting on him to keep his team looking, and more importantly feeling, good.

                Thus far it was an easy job, as Zone was rapid-fire listing all the events he wanted to watch, Galvanize was reminding everyone to stay ahead of schedule whenever possible, Hexcellent was almost leaning out the window as she tried to catch sight of food trucks setting things up, and even Bubble Bubble seemed cheery as she spotted the occasional famous Super. Everyone was of course in costume, and were under strict orders not to be out of them unless they were safely inside the penthouse. Given that some of their activities were going to physical, sweaty, and downright dirty, Owen imagined whoever did the team’s laundry was in for a hellish week.

                At last the SUV was guided into a covered parking area near the rear of the fairgrounds. Following the direction of several men in vests, Galvanize pulled into a large parking spot and killed the engine, then swiveled in place to face his team.

                “Alright, what’s everyone’s first events? Hexcellent?”

                “Fiery Subject is sponsoring a temporary tattoo booth where I’m going to stand around and help people pick what designs they want.” She watched as Galvanize began to open his mouth, then cut him off. “And the designs have to be on the pre-approved board. I am not allowed to try and talk anyone into making the artist draw a dick on their face, no matter how funny I think it would be.”

                “Very good. Bubble Bubble?”

                “Cosmetics company doing a raffle for free makeovers. I’m there to sell tickets and answer basic questions about the products.”

                Galvanize nodded. “Given your extra burst of notoriety, Mr. Greene approved having some plainclothes security stationed nearby, just in case anyone decides to forget that we’re all here for charity.”

                “I’ll stop by when I’ve got downtime too,” Owen promised. Bubble Bubble gave him a grateful look and seemed to relax visibly. In his experience, people tended to use a lot more manners when staring up at a tree-trunk of a man who could juggle cars like cotton balls.

                “On that note, Titan, can you remind us what you’ll be doing with the morning?” Galvanize asked.

                “Private panel for new Heroes, ones still in or only two years out of their internships,” Owen replied. “They’re paying to get in and ask some of us old-timers questions and advice for a couple of hours.”

                “Hot damn, that sounds cool,” Hexcellent said. “Who else is in there besides you?”

                “Not a clue,” Owen admitted. “I was the first name on the list when we signed up, and I sort of forgot about all this anyway, so I never checked to see who came after me. I’m assuming some people did though, otherwise they’d have canceled the damn thing.”

                “I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” Galvanize told him. “Plenty of people would pay good money to learn from your experience. Alright Zone, you’re the last one, tell me you remember where you’re supposed to go.”

                “Like I could forget.” Zone leaned back in his chair and set his sneakered feet up on the dash. “Punch Juice is teaming up with a sport’s equipment company, so I’ve got to be on hand demoing what their stuff can do in order to get people to buy it. Which, by the way, I’m logging as work-out hours.”

                Galvanize reached over and swept Zone’s legs down from the dash before responding. “I’m sure Mr. Greene will have no objection to that, since you are burning the calories.” He looked away from Zone, making sure to meet the eyes of each member of his team at least once. “Now everyone, today is basically a warm-up. All the events are small and simple, with none of the showy stuff scheduled to start until at least tomorrow. Use this time to get familiar with the area and plan your routes for the more hectic days. Remember, we’re here on the job, and everything we do reflects on our team and sponsors.”

                “Hey fearless leader, since we had to quizzed on our schedules, what are you doing with your morning?” Hexcellent asked.

                “I will be spending my morning at a meeting for organizers and team leads. Lots of slides, handouts, and boring details. Anyone who dislikes their plans up for trading jobs with me?”

                Deafening silence was the only reply, and Galvaize allowed himself a smug smirk in the privacy of their SUV.

                “I thought not. Now everyone get out there and do your best!”