The light of the television screen painted the tan carpet in a washed out blue strobe. There was no sound, closed captioning trying desperately to keep up with what was being spoken on the screen. Fire engines and police vehicles created a spectacle of lights in front of the giant vintage milk container that made up Little Man Ice Cream. Standing on top of the unique building, was a person crackling with electricity from head to toe.
“Daddy, that man sparkles.”
Joe Gatton glanced over at his daughter from the tiny kitchen where he prepared her favorite meal: Spaghetti O’s with mustard and pickles. Her mother ate that very same concoction while pregnant, smiling at Joe as she ate bowl after bowl of it right across from him at their tiny table. Now the only time Joe saw his wife was in pictures.
“Is he an angel, daddy?” Embry continued. Joe looked at the television, feeling his chest tighten.
What he saw was not the same thing his daughter saw. She did not see the danger standing atop Little Man Ice Cream. He knew what that thing was and it was no angel.
Denver was supposed to be a haven, a safe place away from people like the man on the television screen. The laws were still different state by state, city by city. Denver did not allow people like that inside their borders. Technically, they didn’t allow people like Joe.
“Come eat your dinner, Em,” Joe said, drawing his daughter’s attention away from the breaking news on screen. She happily complied. He kissed her cheek, setting the bowl of food down in front of her before changing the channel to cartoons. She watched while she ate, letting him slip back into his bedroom unnoticed.
He dug around his drawers and under-bed boxes until finding a small hand-held device oval in shape and bright white in color despite being in a dusty old corner for over five years. Joe shut his eyes, took in a deep breath, and pressed his thumb to the center of the oval.
“Recognized: Greenlight. Connecting you to PeaceKeeper Headquarters…”
The voice held a childish tone, accented in a British lilt, but also robotic. It was not a voice Joe ever thought he would hear again; a voice he didn’t want to hear again.
“WiFire; state your emergency, Greenlight,” said a woman with a heavy Russian accent. Her face popped up as a hologram from the oval device in his hand, her hair a bright electric blue.
“My emergency is that there’s an electric shit head standing on top of my favorite ice cream shop in Denver, WiFire. What gives? I had assurances that this place was safe.”
“There’s been complications,” she said by way of explanation. “Do you not watch television?”
“If NickToons counts as television, then yes, I watch that all the dammed time. My daughter is here, WiFire. Do you understand that? My daughter. There is a Stronghold not sixty miles north of here, dammit. Are they all on vacation??”
“Sixty-five miles,” WiFire corrected. “And there is no Stronghold in Fort-”
“Spare me! I know there is a Stronghold in Fort Collins!”
“No, there is not,” WiFire corrected again with a firmer tone in her voice and set jaw on her face. “The Strongholds were compromised. Many have been shut down or moved. The Secretary of Defense felt that it was not in the best interests of anyone to maintain a compromised posting within a military base. The Stronghold beneath Fort Collins has been destroyed.”
Joe was speechless. He felt his jaw drop open and knew that she could see his shock. Five years; he’d stepped away five years ago and never looked back, never once thought of his previous life until tonight.
“I am monitoring the activity in Denver now. There has been no damage. Without a name, I cannot track this particular Evolved, especially since your state has no database of Evolved.”
“Because they’re not allowed,” Joe nearly growled.
“I am aware,” WiFire replied calmly. “I am transmitting the situation to-”
“Let me talk to Karma,” Joe interrupted again with a heavy sigh.
“I am afraid that is not possible,” WiFire answered making Joe frown and glare at the blue-haired woman in the hologram call. “Karma is no longer in PeaceKeeper Headquarters. He is in Spain.”
“Spain,” Joe repeated with heavy annoyance on his voice.
He looked up, tucking the device behind his back. He kicked the under-bed box back into its spot with his foot and stood quickly. Embry bounded into his room with her empty bowl, red sauce and mustard all over her face.
“All done! Can I have a cookie?”
“Yeah, baby, uhm, just give daddy a second and I’ll get you a cookie. Put your bowl in the sink.”
“K!” Embry said, spinning around with her pigtails flying through the air as she ran back out to the kitchen. Joe watched her, feeling his chest tighten again and his stomach twist itself up in knots. No one was coming to help them, it didn’t matter what WiFire did or didn’t do, who she transmitted the situation to or not. He knew what the PeaceKeeper’s capabilities were.
“Where is the nearest Stronghold?” he asked, partially dreading the answer.
“Los Angeles,” WiFire answered. The PeaceKeepers were good, they were fast, but they weren’t that fast.
“Reinstate me, WiFire,” he said almost sadly. “Formal request, Gatton, Joseph Andrew aka Greenlight with additional request for full protective custody of Embry Elizabeth Gatton, effective immediately.”
“Do you want to list a next of kin or specific guardian for Embry?” WiFire asked, her eyes looking down to the keys upon which she typed the request. He could hear the keys clacking together, felt a lump form in his throat, but suppressed it long enough to speak.
“There is no next of kin. She’s it. Requested guardian – Kristian Lyle aka Seraph.”
“Reinstatement completed, Greenlight. I am sorry,” WiFire said. “You will report to Auspex. They have been made aware of the situation. ETA – five hours.”
“Five hours?” Joe echoed.
“There is a situation in San Francisco that they are currently involved in. Again, I am sorry, Greenlight. Things have changed. Good luck.”
The call ended, WiFire’s image vanishing in a blink. Silence filled the room again.
“Daddy!” Embry called from the kitchen.
Joe blinked and glanced over to the side table where his wedding picture stood in a silver frame. His wife smiled at the camera while he kissed her cheek. Beside the frame, was a small urn with her ashes.
“Coming, Em,” he said though not loud enough for her to hear him. He put the oval communication device in his back pocket as he walked out to the kitchen where his daughter waited.
* For more super hero fun, check out Hellfire, available in print and eBook on Amazon.