Chapter 8

               The vehicle had a siren, which Owen found surprisingly delightful. In his Hero days, they’d had people with flight, teleportation, and other various mean of covering distance, so the only time he’d heard sirens was from the police and emergency responders showing up in the aftermath. Sitting in the vehicle making the sound, it reminded him of his childhood, before his abilities manifested, when he would feel a thrill every time the fire fighters or policemen would drive by.

               Certainly, this team’s vehicle had far more advanced accoutrements than the siren. It was constructed out of an SUV; however, the whole thing, from the wheels to the antenna, had been heavily fortified. Even with five people, one of whom was far from slender, in their seats, the car had only dropped a few inches. Bright lights buzzed along the dashboard, and Zone was fiddling with something where the passenger glove box should be while Galvanize drove them quickly, but safely, through traffic. There was likely an electronic's store worth of useful gadgets and pricey doodads, all at their fingertips, but Owen was really only fond of the siren.

               Everyone could see the source of their trouble a few blocks before they reached it, telltale smoke billowing up from the fire. Had it been darker, Owen knew, there would have been an orange glow cast against the clouds, visible for miles. Daytime stole much of the scenic drama away.

               They came to a stop just outside a police barrier, Galvanize dashing out the door before the rest of them could even unbuckle their seatbelts.

               “He has to go talk to the cops and firemen,” Hexcellent said, answering a question that Owen would have been tactful enough not to ask. “Unlike Heroes, we can’t just galavant in wherever we want. We have to respect the chain of authority.” She’d changed into her costume, a black number with lots of zippers, buckles, and torn fishnets. Several logos for makeup companies were dotted about her outfit, and one for a clothing store named Fiery Subject was featured no less than four times.

               “To be fair, it’s also a good practice because they can tell us where our help is needed most,” Zone added. He wore a skintight material across his torso that was see-through everywhere a logo wasn’t present. It seemed he was heavily sponsored by skateboard companies, a few football franchises, and one very enthusiastic energy drink. The latter logo, for a brand called Punch Juice, took up almost the entirety of his back.

               “He’s right,” Owen agreed. “When we can, Heroes talk to uniforms too. It’s smart to get all the information you can.”

               Zone gave a nod, but pointedly avoiding making eye contact with Owen, despite the older man’s agreement. This, it seemed, was going to be the least cordial of his working relationships. He idly wondered if Zone was a fundamentalist, a bigot, or just didn’t care for having a washed-up Hero on his team. It didn’t really matter, as long as the young man could stay polite, he was free to dislike Owen all he wanted.

               “We should catch up,” Bubble Bubble advised them. Her costume was barely a costume at all, more like an experimental outfit from a high-end designer. It was white and green, which went well with the emerald contacts she’d slipped over her naturally brown eyes, hugging her body in a way that spoke to the figure beneath without going so far as to divulge secrets. Even the logos she wore seemed a bit more tasteful than the others, colors downplayed so they didn’t clash with her ensemble. It seemed she was sponsored by make-up companies, as well as skin management creams, and a name Owen fleetingly recognized as someone who made designer handbags.

               Corpies didn’t need costumes or masks, of course, since they didn’t undertake activities that made them enemies. Heroes wore the capes and cowls by tradition as well as necessity: when your job requires capturing or killing powerful people who often have powerful friends, its pertinent for them to not know where you hang your hat. Corpies were effectively specialized rescue services, like EMT or firefighters. They weren’t making anyone mad, so it was assumed by most, Owen included, that they wore the costumes in a vain attempt to seem more like the Heroes they weren’t. He kept those thoughts to himself as they exited the car and headed toward Galvanize. It was a free country, and they had as much right to wear costumes as they did to wear t-shirts or jeans.

               Their leader met them a few feet from the building, his own outfit’s cape flapping slightly in the breeze. Galvanize wore a costume closest to the style of real Heroes, a navy and white ensemble with the cuffed gloves, calf-high boots, and even an emblazoned cape. He was sponsored by Punch Juice as well, along with several protein and nutritional supplement companies. The enthusiastic young man wore a serious expression, exactly what one should look like when dealing with a dangerous situation. Owen knew the pictures of him would look great, which was clearly the point.

               “Alright team, I just spoke with the firemen, and this place is very unstable. They believe they’ve gotten everyone out from the bottom floors, but the top ones have proven treacherous to explore. We need to search for any survivors. Hexcellent, get Impers up to the top floor immediately and have him let us know if he finds anyone. Zone, I want you to start on the floor below. Bubble Bubble, that means he needs a way up. Titan, you and I will make our way from the ground. Hexcellent and B.B. will stay out here to evacuate anyone from the higher floors with Big Henry and energy spheres. Be quick, be adaptable, and make sure you don’t get in the any of the firemen’s way. Any questions?”

               “Do they know what started the fire?” Zone asked.

               “Nothing conclusive. It’s an old building, lots of smokers and ancient wiring,” Galvanize replied. “If that’s it, let’s go!”

               Galvanize had no sooner yelled the last part than everyone sprang into action. Hexcellent summoned Impers in a cloud of smoke and had him leap into the air, heading for the top floor. Galvanize took off toward the entrance, pausing only to throw a small black mask on over his mouth and nose. Owen was a few steps behind, lagging a bit out of curiosity. Bubble Bubble had been told to give Zone a way up to the second highest floor. Given what Owen knew of their powers, he was wondering how they were going to pull that off.

               The spectacle did not disappoint. Zone took off running, aiming himself at the side of the building. In a smooth, fluid motion he leapt from the ground; foot catching a brick window sill that he used for a second leap. Another jump off the top of the window’s outcropping brought him a few feet higher, but with it he was out of usable footholds until the next window. When Zone’s sneakers met the flat, brick wall, he pushed backward instead of up, executing a perfect backflip that sent him twirling through the air. Instead of plummeting to the ground, as one would have expected, he momentarily landed on the energy sphere Bubble Bubble had place directly under him. Launching himself off of it, Zone’s nimble feet made it to the next window sill and the dance began all over again. It was difficult, dangerous, and stupidly risky.

               But it was impressive. Owen had to give them that.