Daddy's Girl I
There were times when Armsmaster felt subsumed by his work. In addition to managing the Protectorate and overseeing a couple dozen of tech projects, he always continued to tinker with his equipment, implementing a few more functions or improving upon an existing method. Sometimes, he felt as if he wished he could make the entire world go away and leave him all alone with his workshop to do as he wished.
But then he'd remind himself to come home, shed his uniform and take the time to cook up a meal for two.
"Katherine! Dinner's ready!"
His little sunshine jogged down the stairs of his cozy, upscale home and took a seat opposite to him of the dinner table. "Pasta again?"
Colin reached out and ruffled his daughter's hair. "I have to start easy, you know."
She smiled back at him, which instantly brightened his otherwise dull and uneventful day. He was so lucky to have a daughter in his life who constantly reminded him the joys of life. He would give his life in an instant if it was necessary to save her. Though she was a lanky, skinny teenager, to him she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever known.
As the two dug into their meals, Kat asked, "So how was work today?"
"Hm, nothing unusual. Patrol was quiet, and I had more excitement dealing with paperwork than keeping the streets clean."
His daughter frowned a little at that. "You're not going to find any dirt on the boardwalks. Why don't you schedule the patrols down at the docks and other gang-infested areas?"
Colin frowned at her question. It was an exceedingly delicate matter that her daughter had no involvement in. Yet when she looked at him with such bright, pleading eyes, he felt his resistance softening. It was just his daughter. What harm could there be in teaching her?
"It would be unseemly for the Protectorate to actively patrol the most gang-ridden territories on a regular basis. Not only do we lack the strength to confront any gang without losses, the escalation that would inevitably result might lead to an unacceptable amount of casualties. For better or worse, we have to tackle the villains patiently, and only engage when they make an opening we can exploit."
"That's stupid." She said back with all the innocence of youth. "Shadow Stalker shows up more in the news than the adult heroes. People are beginning to question whether the Protectorate deserves its paycheck, you know."
As much as he wanted to argue back, he couldn't do that to his daughter. Instead he gave her a patronizing smile. "You'll learn soon enough. By the way, when will you join the wards?"
"Not now. I don't feel confident in my skills." Kat said, but then she smiled at him and unlatched her wristwatch and holding it out to him to inspect it. "I finished working in your suggestions. It can tap into wireless communications even with its jamming function activated. I also smoothed over the other conflicts and finally managed to squeeze in the lockpicking module."
He didn't exactly approve of the lockpicking function, but that was relatively tame compared to her attempts to implement something more dangerous in his daughter's creation. He had to put his foot down several times in order to dissuade her from implementing more than just an electrical jolt for self defense. As he inspected the wristwatch carefully for any major flaws and hazards, he handed it back to her with a mild but proud smile.
"You did a fine job with just the tools in the garage. It's stable and easy to maintain, though I do feel you're holding back."
Kat slipped the watch back on her wrist. "I wanted to make sure non-tinkers would be able to maintain it. Maybe I want to sell my design someday so the rest of the world can take advantage of these nifty functions."
"Hmm it's still a waste of your potential."
They both finished their meals and cleaned the dishes. After an hour of doing their own businesses, they eventually came together in the living room where they both sat down to watch soppy drama. Normally, Colin would rather bash his brain against a wall than watch something so pointless, but if it meant he could spend some more time with his daughter, he'd gladly watch hours of the program.
"About the wards..."
"What is it, Kat? Are you still not satisfied with what you already know?"
"If I'm going to join the wards, I want to make the best impression possible. You already told me about Kid Win, Vista and the rest, but you still haven't told me much about Shadow Stalker."
"She's... not entirely stable. I don't.. want to scare you."
"Let me be the judge of that, dad. Just tell me, please?"
His daughter - despite having almost the exact same powers as him - still had no business knowing about the Wards until she officially joined the group. Yet.. he didn't want to plunge her into the harsh world of parahumans without preparation. He wanted to give her daughter the best headstart possible in order to boost her future career in the Protectorate. Besides, he chuckled to himself, he couldn't resist her pleading eyes.
"Alright, alright, Kat. She's not exactly your average Ward. She's actually on probation, you know. We found her cleaning up the streets with some of her victims bleeding out from that crossbow of hers, and ever since then we've been having trouble reigning her in. Those incidents where she's found in gang territories isn't something I've planned in her patrol schedule. She always seems to find an excuse to 'chase after a fleeing perp' or something and draw out that pursuit to include a wealth of drug dealers and gangbangers."
"Then why haven't you cracked down on her yet?"
"She's not stupid enough to break the rules. I hate to say it, but the PRT taught her enough sense to not only understand the rules, but how to bend them in her favor. I'll be glad to see her off the Wards in two years so she'll be in someone else's hands. I have a bit more choice concerning the Protectorate and there's no way I'll let her in on my team."
She raised her eyebrow at that. "Two years? So she's the same age as me, right?"
He nodded. "And unlike the other Wards, she isn't attending Arcadia. She's attending Winslow like you."
Though why did he let Kat attend Winslow? He frowned internally. Arcadia was a much better school with much less gang influence, and it wasn't like he was short on cash with all his superhero work. But then his daughter pulled him out of his thoughts.
"Oh!" She beamed. "Then I might know her! Who is she, really? I might be friends with her already without knowing it."
"You know I can't tell you that, sunshine." He smiled back at her, messing up her admittedly unruly hair again. "There are rules about these kinds of things."
"But daaaaaaaaad! You already told me the names of the rest of the Wards. What can it hurt to complete the set?"
Yes, what could it hurt? His pride and joy would soon be joining the Wards anyway, so it wasn't like he was leaking highly classified information. He would only be giving her a leg up.
"Alright, dear." Colin sighed. "I don't have to warn you again not to tell anyone, do I? Shadow Stalker's real name is Sophia Hess. She's an African-American, and last I heard she's on the school's track team. Do you recognize her?"
His daughter's smile trembled a little, but before he could ask what was bothering her she quickly hugged him. "Thanks dad, that was exactly what I needed to know!"
Somehow, the conversation veered away from the Wards and to her school performance. Eventually, Kat's bed time approached, and after giving her time to change clothes and brush her teeth, he tucked her in. "I love you, Kat."
"I love you too, dad." She murmured as she closed her eyes and gave him a contented smile.
That single happy smile strengthened his resolve to have her join the Wards. She was more than ready to join and expand her potential from creating gadgets out of household goods and whatever she could afford with the generous allowance he gave. After a good night's sleep, he had breakfast alone, wishing his daughter wouldn't wake up so early in order to jog each morning, and went to work after donning his uniform.
As soon as he reached his office, he booted up his computer and filled in the preliminary paperwork. Miss Militia entered his office with two steaming cups of coffee shortly before he finished the final page.
"Good morning, Colin." She greeted him casually as she placed his cup just in reach of his hand, just the way he liked it. "What are you working on this time? It's too early to file in paperwork, you know. You'll get exhausted before you go on patrol."
"This isn't just a regular report. I'm finally going to apply my daughter for the Wards."
A few seconds passed where the only sounds in the office were the taps of Armsmaster's keyboard.
"Colin.. you don't have a daughter. You're not even married."
"What nonsense are you talking about? Didn't you meet Katherine once when you visited my place?"
Miss Militia put down her cup of coffee and gripped the morphing pistol hanging by her side. "Katherine? You're single, Colin. Pretty much all your life. And you're talking applying a daughter who doesn't exist to the Wards?"
"But.. she's real." He whispered, even as his helmet told him that Miss Militia wasn't lying. He just couldn't believe it. "She even has the same powers as me. The watch she gave me last night was real. She made it with her own powers, powers she inherited from me."
A short silence, before Miss Militia exploded into action. She ran back to the wall and slapped an alarm that caused the office to lock down immediately. The door and window barred shut while Armsmaster's computer shut itself off. Miss Militia brought out her phone and dialed an emergency number.
"Miss Militia here. I need a containment team to take Armsmaster into custody immediately. He's been affected by an unknown parahuman, possibly a teenage girl with the appropriate age to join the Wards. Put the Master/Stranger protocols in effect."
"But she's real.. Katherine's real.." Colin continued to say.
Elsewhere, Taylor felt the connection she had to Armsmaster break. 'A pity, but I knew it wouldn't last.' Still, she was glad she got what she wanted out of the relationship, however brief it may have been. She knew a bit more how the PRT worked and got plenty of dirt on the Wards. She even inadvertently found out Sophia's hidden identity, which explained so much. Perhaps it was better that her relationship with Armsmaster ended there. She might not want to find out what she could persuade him to do concerning Sophia.
Taylor looked at her wristwatch, and lamented the lack of insight that allowed her to tinker with it and improve its design. 'If I had a few more weeks, I could have made something even more awesome.' At least it was untraceable and wouldn't break down any time soon.
Oh well, it was time for Taylor to find a new daddy.