Epilogue: Part 4

                Once she’d regained her composure, Owen dropped Hexcellent, Hannah, off at the hotel lobby where an older, seemingly innocuous man was waiting to discuss the details of her enrollment. Dean Jackson would bring her the rest of the way up to speed, making sure she truly understood what she was facing if she chose to attend Sizemore. He’d probably try to scare her off, at least a bit, as the program had little time to waste with those that couldn’t handle the harsh reality of what they were undertaking. The effort would fail, though, of that Owen had zero doubt. He’d seen the bravery and determination in that girl’s soul, now that she had a real shot at her dream nothing would make her turn away.

                With his former team seen to, the time had come for Owen to look ahead. Bounding through town, he ran to the abandoned district where the team once known as the Wild Bucks made their home. Juiced and Kaiju were both in the gym area, working hard just as they had been when he last saw them. Neither had been seriously injured in the battle with the robots, though both had seen the limits of their abilities more than once. For some Supers, not being powerful enough when it counted destroyed them, shaking their confidence and driving them away from future confrontations. Heroes, however, were made of sterner stuff. At least, the ones Owen respected were. When they failed, it lit a fire under them to become better, stronger, more capable for the next time around. And it reminded them that no Super was unstoppable alone. Trusting their team was more important than any individual ability.

                Sometimes, even Owen needed to be reminded of that.

                Deadlift was in the makeshift office, reviewing documents. He glanced up at the massive form of Owen as it entered, shaking his head in annoyance. “You sure you don’t want to take over the leadership position here? I figured when you asked to join I’d at least be free of the paperwork. I mean, you are the most experienced Hero on the team.”

                “And with experience comes wisdom, such as knowing that being a leader means having to deal with the boring crap like paperwork,” Owen countered. “Besides, I think you’ve got this well in hand. I’m good at hitting stuff; you handle things like tactics and planning.”

                Although there had been no shortage of teams offering Titan spots when the robot battle dust settled, Owen had decided to throw in with Deadlift and his crew. In part, it was because he needed someone he trusted looking after the PEERS, and Topsy wouldn’t budge until his people were taken care of. But, more than that, Owen wanted to be there because he knew how precarious their position still was. This was a team that deserved to exist, and if his presence could help them stay afloat then it was a worthwhile endeavor. Besides, there was something he just liked about being back in these bare-bones quarters, it reminded him of his early days, before the press and the merchandising and the attention. Back when it was all about the job, and the people in the trenches with him.

                “Well, the good news is that we just got word from the DVA, and the name change is officially approved,” Deadlift told him, setting down a crisp page atop his desk. “All it needs is your signature. But I do have to ask, for the umpteenth time, are you really okay with letting us have this? It’s a strong legacy, and I hate the idea that we might tarnish it.”

                Owen leaned forward, grabbing the paper and a pen that barely fit in his oversized hand, then scrawling “Titan” across the blanks Deadlift had marked. “Maybe we’ll drag the name down; maybe we’ll raise it to new heights. Doesn’t matter either way. It wasn’t doing anyone any good just sitting there in the history books. But you all had to chuck the Wild Bucks, that was a reputation that needed to be abandoned. If your lot wants to resurrect this antique, I’m not going to be the one to stop you.”

                With a final signature, Owen pushed the page back over to Deadlift, who examined it carefully. He doubled-checked each line to be sure everything was in order, just like a good leader should. Owen had high hopes for this kid, as well as for Juiced and Kaiju. That was why he’d refused to take over as head of the team. One day, Deadlift was going to an incredible Hero and a respected leader, but he needed experience to get there. Owen’s job was to guide the next generation, not take over for them.

                “As far as I can tell, this is all in order,” Deadlift said. “Once I send a copy to the DVA, the Gentle Hammers will officially live again. I still can’t believe you got all of the old team to sign off on letting us use the name though.”

                “You do Hero work with someone long enough, there’s not much you won’t trust each other with,” Owen replied. “And truth be told, I don’t think any of them were happy with how that legacy ended, a bunch of people just drifting apart. Win, lose, or draw, at least this gives the Gentle Hammers a chance for a new ending.”

                “On that note, we’re being tapped for patrol duty tonight,” Deadlift told him. “There’s been some increased crime and looting in the wrecked sections of town, so Heroes are being rotated around to keep the peace. So try to hurry back.”

                “Who said I was going anywhere?” Owen asked.

                To that, Deadlift replied with a sarcastic laugh. “Come on, we both know you’re only here checking in. In an hour you’ll be out the door again, going to same place you’ve spent every spare moment you could for the last week. Just be back by eight, our patrol run starts at nine.”

                “Yes, sir.” Owen rose from his chair and snapped off a crisp salute, though they both knew he’d be back by the deadline. This was his team, and when they went out they’d do so with Titan to watch over them.

                “Oh, and give Jeremiah my best,” Deadlift called after him as Owen left the office.