Chapter 89

                “Got the jitters?” Hexcellent had sidled up to Owen, her goth makeup done perfectly as she eyed the stage. “It’s okay if you do. It just means you’re a cowardly pussy. That’s all.”

                “You know I used to do public appearances multiple times a day, right?” Owen said.

                “And I used to shit my bed when I was baby. Doesn’t mean I’d feel comfortable doing it tonight,” Hexcellent shot back.

                “Alright everyone, it’s time.” Galvanize’s announcement came from behind them, so Owen and Hexcellent both stepped aside. After all, it was only right that their team leader go first.

                He walked briskly past them, the usual charming smile affixed firmly in place, and then Hexcellent fell in behind him. Next was Zone, and after that Bubble Bubble. Finally, at the end of the procession, was Owen, who stepped out into stage in the public eye for the second time in two days.

                Oddly, he felt more at ease as soon as the stares and sunlight hit him, the open roof allowing the afternoon sun to keep every just a bit too warm. The actual conflict, be it a fight or a crowd of possible assholes, was never as scary for him as the anticipation. Once Owen was in, there was no room in him for fear. He was usually too busy trying to keep everyone alive.

                The others quickly sat in their chairs, leaving Owen the one at the end of the table, again. Curiously, he noted that this seat was extra-large and reinforced, just like the chair he’d sat in yesterday. In fact, there seemed like a very real possibility that it was the exact same seat. Idly, he wondered if some poor staff member was dragging it from event to event for him. Then Owen realized he’d been standing, staring at his chair for a hair too long, so he quickly threw himself into it. The reinforcement turned out to be a good idea, as audible creaks could be heard when Owen settled in.

                “Good afternoon, everyone.” Galvanize was talking into the small microphone set up before him, his voice completely calm, as if it a near-giant hadn’t just stared at a chair then rushed into so quickly he nearly turned it to debris. “My name is Galvanize, and with me here is the rest of my PEERS team: Hexcellent, Zone, Bubble Bubble, and our Hero Liaison: Titan. We’ve come here today to answer any questions you might have about what it takes to be PEERS, or a Hero Liaison, if any of you are interested in working from that capacity. I understand the staffers took your questions ahead of time, so please ask them as you’re brought a microphone.”

                Pre-vetting the questions: smart. It was easy to think of his team as just kids, but Owen tried to remind himself that they were media savvy performers who’d been doing this for years without him. None of them showed the slightest amount of worry as the event staff member made his way through the crowd to a muscular man in a tank top. They all seemed completely self-assured, despite the nearly endless complaining about doing the event. Owen, it seemed, wasn’t the only one who knew how to put on his game face.

                “Yeah, I was wondering, if I got rejected by the HCP, does that mean I’m not qualified to do the rescue stuff either?” Owen couldn’t quite place the man’s accent, though he did note the way his eyes flicked to Titan’s side of the table when he talked about the HCP. It was a fair question though, getting denied to go into the Hero business was a hard moment for a lot of Supers to swallow, and many didn’t want to open themselves up to that sort of rejection again.

                “If you all don’t mind, I’d love to take this one,” Galvanize said, looking up and down the table. When no one objected, he looked back at the man in the tank-top and continued. “That is absolutely, one thousand percent, not the case. The Hero Certification Program is a great system full of wonderful people, but what they’re looking for is a narrow view compared to all the different kinds of Supers out there. Just because you weren’t a good fit for them doesn’t mean your power can’t help someone. That’s why I wanted to take this question; I was turned down by every HCP three years in a row when I was younger. It wasn’t out of malice; it was simply because neither I nor my power had what they were looking for. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve been able to do a lot of good on a PEERS team. So much so that they let me run one of my own.”

                Polite applause filled the room and their first question asker took a seat, allowing the microphone to drift several rows down to a short girl with mousy brown hair. She reached out slowly, as if she were afraid the staff member was going to smack her with the microphone, before finally starting to speak.

                “Hi. Um, my name is Hillary, and I was just wondering if you really have be to outgoing to do this kind of work. My power is solid, but I’m not so good at talking in front of people.” Given that she was half-whispering in the microphone, the part about her shyness was already self-evident. Before she’d really finished getting her question out, Hexcellent was leaning forward and gripping her own microphone like it owed her money.

                “Yeah, I got this one.” She shot some glares up and down the table, lest anyone dare to object, which no one did. Even Owen, the newest member of the team, knew not to try and stand in the way when Hexcellent got her mind set on something.

                “Look, Hillary you said it was, here’s the thing no one explained to me until I’d gotten been stuffed into a pink costume and had my fucking roots dyed blonde: there’s a brand to fit every personality type out there, and a good company will find it for you. When I came to work for Mordent, one of the first things they did was get a sense of who I was; me, the real person. Upon finding out that I liked heavy metal, dark make-up, and strong language, they paired me with the kind of people who were proud to have that sort of person repping them. If you’ve got what it takes to do the hard work, saving people, then any manager worth his shit will pair you with people that want you to be the shy gal you clearly are, and love you for it.”

                The applause for Hexcellent was rowdier than it had been for Galvanize, which only seemed fitting given the nature of her reply. As the microphone moved once again, Owen found himself becoming a bit relieved. Despite what everyone on the team had expected, the questions so far were about being PEERS. No had even mentioned Titan, let alone tried to make the panel about him. Owen wasn’t sure if it was the work of Galvanize’s team vetting the questions or if they’d all underestimated genuine interest in the field.

                All he knew was that he hoped it held out.