Chapter 139

“Campbell, Nicholas. You’re up.”

Nick happily stood from the stiff wooden bench he’d been sitting on. The cell wasn’t too bad; he’d certainly been tossed in worse over the years. Plus, it was still early in the evening, so there was only one drunk accompanying him. That dapper gentleman had passed out on the opposite side of the bench before soiling himself, so Nick was quite glad the family extractor had been quick with this one.

“Never seen someone get cleared of assault so fast,” the police officer remarked as his keys jingled in the lock. “You must have a hell of a lawyer.”

Nick gave him a sheepish smile, nothing like the devil’s grin he’d worn when being dragged away from his victims. “Something like that.” The jailer didn’t need to know that the order had actually come from a local politician who either owed the family a favor or owed someone who owed them. Crime only didn’t pay if you forgot to give the politicians their piece of the pie.

“Can’t believe a little guy like you took down three fellows. I mean, you’re fit, but the report said any one of them had twenty pounds and a few inches on you.” The jailer’s face grew uncertain as he pulled open the door. “You... you ain’t one of those Supers, are you?”

“Man, don’t I wish. Nah, the simple truth of it is that big guys can’t fight worth a crap. They’re big, so no one ever challenges them. We smaller folks know how to scrap because we’re the ones everyone tries to take on.”

The jailer’s face eased; this explanation clearly fit into his worldview. “Well, you’re free to go. Seems everyone saw them throw the first punches and you didn’t have any booze in you, so this is officially self-defense.” He closed the door and re-locked it, lest the pee-soaked drunk get any ideas of escape. “By the way, there’s a girl waiting for you in the lobby. She what this whole thing was about?”

“It’s possible,” Nick admitted.

“Can’t say I blame you then,” the jailer said with a conspiratorial wink. “Can’t say I blame you one bit.”

*    *    *

Hershel’s body was aching as he lay on the hotel’s plush bed. He could have shifted to Roy, but Owen had been adamant that the more he was able to push himself, the better the results would be. Evidently working through pain was a part of that equation. It was invaluable experience; the closer Hershel could come to complete bodily destruction, the greater the gain for Roy would be. He would have to pick up an exercise regimen once back at Lander, but this kind of intense training was far too dangerous to do without experienced supervision.

Hershel found he couldn't just sit still, in spite of his body’s fervent demands he do just that. He decided to compromise and engage his mind. A sore walk over to the desk and few quick button punches fired up his laptop and jumped his connection onto the free hotel WiFi. The hotel’s front page came up, along with a few advertisements for local businesses a weary traveler might be interested in. There, in the lower left hand of the screen, was a small ad for Owen’s bar: Tartarus.

Hershel suppressed a grim chuckle. His father never had been all that creative. Owen had only taken the name Titan at a friend’s suggestion when he couldn’t think of anything better. Naming his bar after the place where the gods had sealed away the titans of ancient myth... it was just so predictable. Not that it was really appropriate, anyway. The Titan Scandal had certainly changed things for him; however, it didn’t have to mean his exile. Owen made that choice himself.

A new browser window opened and a quick search revealed countless articles about the former Hero. Amidst the hate-speech and conspiracy theories, there were a few archives of images taken of him before the scandal. There he was knocking out a gorilla equipped in a battle suit. There was one of him lifting a bus of children off of a collapsing bridge. There he was shaking the president’s hand. It always looked so effortless, in his blue jeans, red mask, and red shirt. No wonder he was considered one of America’s great Heroes. A strong, powerful man, who often talked about his wonderful family, though never with enough detail to deduce his identity. A steady anchor of decency for people of all walks to rally around. A symbol of goodness and morality. Everyone loved Titan.

Until he was caught having sex with another man.

Honestly, Hershel was amazed his mother had kept the truth of what happened from him for so long. He’d been in his teens before he finally found out about the Titan Scandal, a few weeks after Roy’s fateful trip out here. He’d found out about the reporter who’d spied on Titan, hoping to glean some information on his identity, and instead recorded the famous family man carnally engaged in homosexual acts. The cheating was bad, but one would think that in this day and age people wouldn’t have completely lost their shit over something like that. One would think wrong.

Hershel browsed through the articles now, it wasn’t like he was going to read anything new. Conservative groups denounced Titan as a sinner and a liar who was secretly promoting his gay agenda. Homosexual advocacy groups rallied around his image in support. Conspiracy theorists screamed to anyone who would listen that the whole thing had been set up by a shadow government. And, in the eye of the media storm, hidden away in a small house in Chicago, a family self-destructed as a piece of truth that Owen had been trying to hide from everyone, even himself, finally came to light.

No one banished Titan. There was no law that a homosexual, or any minority for that matter, couldn’t be a Hero. He was the one who walked away. He was the one who couldn’t handle being a Hero once his precious image was shattered. He was the one who left his family to come run a gay bar in Colorado. The man who had taught Hershel and Roy about honesty, integrity, and living up to one’s obligations had walked away from everyone who depended on him.

That was the only part Hershel and Roy couldn’t forgive.

Hershel clicked off the computer and walked back to the bed. Suddenly sleep sounded far more intriguing than it had half an hour ago.