Chapter 94

               “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to thank you all for coming to today’s main event at the Supers Care Charity Spectacular. We, and more importantly those in need, greatly appreciate all the funds you’ve helped us raise so far.” The voice crackled through the stadium, audible over the static, but not by much. Thankfully, someone had turned up the volume, as the woman talking now had to compete with a nearly stuffed stadium. Admittedly, it wasn’t a very large one, not much bigger than what would be built for a high school football team, but it was still packed full of people eager to witness Supers testing their might against one another.

                “Today’s event will be three-person teams in a single elimination tournament, meaning once your team loses, you are out of the running,” the voice continued. “There are white painted lines indicating where to start, and where the midway point is. The first team to have a member be dragged across that middle line immediately loses, and the winners will move on. And, since we’ve got such strong competitors, plus we don’t want to see broken ropes everywhere, the contestants will be using specially fortified ropes. They might weigh upwards of ten times more than the usual kind, but they won’t break easily, and that means you all will really get to see these Supers strut their stuff.”

                “I swear I know that voice,” Zone said, peering up at the speaker from next to Owen.

                “Yeah, I had the same thought,” Owen agreed.

                “Really? Neither of you have placed it yet?” Galvanize had an uncharacteristically smug grin on his face as he looked between his teammates. “Come on now, I know she didn’t talk much during her player days, but she’s been doing commentary on SAA games for at least five years now.”

                “Hoooly shit.” Zone stared up at the speaker with newfound respect, and for once he and Owen were on exactly the same page. The secrecy of their revelation was short-lived, as seconds later the voice spoke once more, this time announcing to the crowd what it seemed only Galvanize had figured out.

                “And I’ll be down here, doing interviews and providing color-commentary throughout the whole event.” From a nearby entrance, a woman which short brown hair and an athletic build stepped into view. No sooner was she visible than the ever-present roar of the crowd escalated, forcing her to raise her voice. “For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jade Norris, though they called me The Comet back when I used to-”

                The rest of her speech was drowned out by cheering from the stands. While not everyone seemed to know who she was, those who did were clearly overjoyed by the surprise celebrity that was serving as a commentator. She quickly gave up trying to speak over them, instead just waving politely as she waited for the crowd to cheer itself out.

                “Damn, is that what it’s like to be A-list?” Hexcellent asked, admiring the crowd’s reaction more than the woman who had triggered it.

                “Pretty much,” Owen told her. “Just remember, as loud as they cheer for you, that’s exactly how loud they’ll be when they’re shouting for your blood.”

                “Well, that’s a bummer,” Hexcellent muttered.

                Owen nodded in agreement. “That’s fame.”

                Eventually, the cheers of the crowd faded and Jade was able to actually get the event underway. The system they’d devised was well-organized, with three tug-of-war areas set up for the teams to use. Only one actual match would take place at any given time, however, the other spots were there to minimize any delay in the action. As soon as a team’s match ended, referees descended on the area, fixing any of the chalk marks that were smudged and dragging the rope back to the starting point. Then the next set of teams would get into position, squared and ready to go as soon as the signal was given. It was a rotation that kept the action constant and the crowd thrilled, never leaving a dull moment in the show.

                The team from Mordent Holdings was in the fourth match, set against three players from the Orlando Krakens. Owen recognized two of the three men set on the opposite end of the rope, albeit one was easy given his distinctive shifted form. The man looked like a cross between a gorilla and a bull as he easily lifted the rope from the ground and handed it to his teammates. While his shifted form wasn’t pretty, it did make him an excellent receiver on the field, and he was no slouch in the muscle department either.

                Reaching down carefully, Owen lifted the fortified rope. By human standards, it was probably damn heavy, though in his hand the difference was barely discernable. As the other team raised their side of the rope, Owen match their movements and pulled it taut. Logic had dictated he take the spot in the rear, since that would allow him to make sure there was no slack in the rope. It would have been embarrassing for the rest of his teammates to struggle at even lifting the rope they were supposed to pull. This way, at least, they could hold it and appear to be contributing.

                Galvanize and Zone got into position, gripping the bundle of woven fiber as tightly as they could. Galvanize was in the front, of course. He was the team leader, and if anyone was going to bear the shame of being pulled across the line, it would be him. In another life, with another power, Owen imagined Galvanize could have been a damn fine leader for a team of Heroes. Then again, he’d found a calling with a team that helped save people, so maybe Galvanize had gotten the right power after all.

                Then, with almost no warning, the referee blew the starting whistle, and the match began. Owen braced himself as he felt the pressure increase, all three Supers on the other side of the chalk line pulling with everything they had. The strain increased steadily, taxing Owen’s muscles a bit more every second, until finally it leveled out. They’d reached the point where they were pulling with all of their strength, and aside from a few fluctuations of grip and adrenaline, it wasn’t going to get any stronger. That was too bad for them, because they were still nowhere near pulling with enough might to actually drag Owen forward, let alone beat him.

                With methodical movements, walking backward foot by foot, Owen dragged the other team forward. They struggled, first shocked, then angry, and finally determined as they realized one man was easily beating their combined strength. Digging in with everything they had, the team managed to eke out a bit more power, which was no small feat given how hard they were already working. Sadly, it made no difference, as Owen’s steady pace continued. Seconds later the first foot was pulled across the chalk line and the referee blew another whistle. The match was over, and the Mordent Holdings team had won.

                As Owen lowered the rope and prepared to shake the other team’s hands, he noticed something odd. Though the crowd was cheering, Galvanize and Zone were smiling woodenly, their usual charisma absent as they accepted the kind sentiment. Glancing over to where the others were resting, Owen noted that Bubble Bubble and Hexcellent looked much the same. The act was still there, but that’s all it was. None of them were happy to be there. If anything, they were embarrassed.

                The more Owen considered their situation, the more sense it made. Everyone knew he was strong. No one was really cheering for them, and they knew it. They were just set-pieces, and much as Mordent like to prop them up like display models, at least when they did shoots or rescues they were working under their own power. No one liked to feel useless, especially in such a public venue.

                If Owen wanted his team to get any enjoyment or meaning out of the day’s activities, he was going to have to think of a new strategy, and soon.