Chapter 82

                After the panel wrapped, there was a quick flurry of goodbyes as the others had to hurry off to their teams or next events. Unlike Owen, they were still immersed in the life, and that meant downtime was a rare commodity. It was an aspect of being a full-time Hero he remembered fondly, yet wasn’t particularly burning to recapture. Perhaps it was age, or more likely the perspective that came with living through the years, but Owen was content to spend a portion of his time outside the field. At least, so long as he had his team to spend it with.

                He flipped through his schedule to see what was next on the agenda. Lunch with Hexcellent wouldn’t be for another hour, unless she managed to slip out early, which seemed like at least a fifty percent shot. After that he just had some minor personal appearance work until things wound down. Galvanize hadn’t been lying, the first day really was set up especially to be light and let everyone get comfortable. Lacking anything pressing, Owen decided to make good on his word and go check on Bubble Bubble. The guards Mordent had paid for were no doubt top notch, but that wasn’t really what he needed to be there for. Owen was meant to be a comforting presence for her more than a deterrent for someone with a lot of lip and little wit.

                Weaving his way through the myriad of tents and booths that were still springing up like weeds, it took Owen a good fifteen minutes to find Bubble Bubble’s booth. Once he did, however, there was no mistaking it for any other. The fact that she was standing in front of it certainly helped, but not as much as the half dozen reporters holding cameras and swarming around her. She was inexpressive, face well-controlled as she talked to a handsome man wearing clothes that probably cost more than Owen’s first car.

                Whatever they were saying was lost as Owen moved closer, the reporters catching sight of massive man’s approach and hurrying over, Bubble Bubble and her debate partner half-dragged along with them. Cameras were raised and small microphones thrust upward as they tried to surround him.

                “Titan! Any comment on Corbin Calhoun’s claims that your teammate has fabricated her telling of the events?”

                “Do you know Bubble Bubble to be a habitual liar, or is this her first time?”

                “Have you seen her use powers to manipulate other men?”

                Owen nearly took a step back, bowled over by the wave of questions and accusations, especially since it was the first time he could remember that they weren’t all barbs aimed at him. To his great surprise, he wished they were. At least he was used to this sort of scrutiny, he’d have far rather handled it than let it fall on BB’s shoulders. His eyes swept the small crowd once more, and this time they locked on the handsome man with the wide, clearly artificial smile. So this, no doubt, would be Corbin Calhoun, the one who made so much trouble for Bubble Bubble, showing up to ambush her and undermine her efforts at fixing her image. It was a bold move; Owen had to give him that. Ordinarily, he respected bold moves. Today, he was feeling less charitable.

                “Whoa now, getting into ‘he said, she said’ arguments is no good for anyone,” Owen replied, raising his hands and gently parting the crowd. He stepped through them, getting between Bubble Bubble and Corbin then laying a hand on each of their shoulders. “I know Bubble Bubble to be an honest, capable young woman who has never given me any reason to doubt her.”

                Corbin opened his mouth, and Owen squeezed ever so slightly, using all the self-control he had to keep from snapping this man’s bones beneath his fingers. “But I also want to take this chance to pay my respects to Mr. Calhoun, who is showing the Hero community so much faith and respect with his recent accusations.”

                “Excuse me, he’s what?” Bubble Bubble snapped, whipping her head up to stare at Owen, who merely smiled knowingly at her before returning his gaze to Corbin.

                “Corbin Calhoun is a brave man, one who clearly believes in the Heroes and what they stand for. Most people would be too afraid to make such bold, viral accusations about Supers having ‘secret power’ they kept from the world. Insinuating that a woman who uses her clearly documented abilities to help save lives is also concealing mental manipulating is, to be frank, illogical and unfounded, but he has chosen to exercise his freedom of speech, even though doing it like this is likely to draw the ire of every one of the pro-Super organizations and sydicates out there, legal and otherwise. Mr. Calhoun is trusting in us, in the Hero system, to keep him safe from all those people, even as he slanders our very species, and I want to thank him for that. It shows that he completely trusts in the Heroes of this great country, and that we will be able to keep him safe.”

                The blood from Corbin’s face had begun to drain halfway through Owen’s speech, and as he stared up at the seemingly genuine smile plastered on Titan’s face his legs wobbled the slightest bit. It was only Owen’s powerful hands that kept the man from fainting outright; holding him up through the dizzy spell until at last the world famous director had partially recovered.

                “Anyway, if you’ll excuse us I just came to get my teammate for a quick briefing. Duty always calls, you know how it is.” Owen released Corbin, who the reporters swarmed as Owen carefully led Bubble Bubble away from the booth. Her guards tried to follow, but he waved them off. BB needed some space, and he aimed to give it to her.

                “Titan… was that a threat?” Bubble Bubble glanced over her shoulder to where the small crowd of reporters had turned on the man who brought them, shaking her head as if she couldn’t believe what had just happened.

                “It was simply the truth. There are groups out there who take umbrage with Supers being slandered, and not all of them are the type to handle things legally. I doubt any would really have the balls to go after that high profile of a target, but you never know. He’s certainly not helping himself,” Owen explained.

                “Yeah, but it still really felt like you were threatening him. I can’t point to a word you used, or anything you did, I just know if I’d been in his shoes I think I might have pissed myself.”

                “Don’t sell yourself short,” Owen told her. “You’d have held up far better than him. Now, let’s go duck into the private parking area, then I’ll grab Hexcellent and we’ll all go get cheese fries.”

                Bubble Bubble chuckled and patted Owen on the arm. “You are nothing like the Titan I first expected.”

                Owen grinned, nothing like the fake smile he’d shown Corbin and the reporters, and gave her a quick side-armed hug. “That might be the nicest thing anyone on this team has said to me.”