It wasn’t the first time that Katie had been called in the middle of the night to assist in an arrest-- there were only so many people with super strength, after all-- but she still worried about Trip in the back of her as she sped to the scene. He hated sleeping alone, and he’d be panicky if he woke up and she wasn’t there in the morning. But it couldn’t be helped.
And as she reached the ‘abandoned’ factory building, she pushed all thoughts of her spouse of her mind. It was time to focus on work. An officer near the door pointed for her to go inside. Katie stuck close to anything that would conceal her, finally finding herself crouching on the ground next to Lucas. “Why do you guys need me for this?” No point in mincing words, and no one would tell her over the comm.
Lucas recharged his blaster. “We broke up a fighting ring. Most of the fighters came with us, since they were forced to participate against their will.” Katie suppressed a shudder. “We got one, however, that refuses to come with us.”
She frowned. “Didn’t you try to arrest him?”
“We did.” Lucas motioned his head to the area near their hiding spot. Three officers were unconscious on the ground-- and one was a Gigantian, a species roughly twice the height and three times the weight of average Humans. “Obviously we can’t get close enough to run a DNA scan, but we suspect he’s a mutant. He’s been quiet for awhile, hiding behind the boxes near the back wall, but anyone that tries to retrieve him winds up like our friends on the floor.”
“Ah.” It made sense now. Can’t beat the tough guy? Bring in your tough girl. Whelp, no point in hiding anymore. She stood up, cracking knuckles, more than happy to give this guy a fight if he wished--
She could hear sobbing.
Quiet sobs, as if whoever was crying didn’t wish to be heard. Still on guard, Katie crept closer, until she got to the boxes that the suspect had been hiding behind.
He couldn’t any older than seventeen at the most.
“Hey, son.” It was an odd way to introduce herself to someone resisting arrest, but Katie didn’t want to fight a kid if she could avoid it. She made sure that he could see her, keeping her body language neutral. “I’m Katie. What’s your name?”
He blinked, startled-- and then scuttled against the wall. “You need to get out of here.”
“I will, if you come with me.”
The boy shook his head, pulling his knees up to his chest. “You have to get out of here.” It was a near growl this time.
“I can’t,” Katie replied calmly. “It’s my job to make sure that you’re safe.”
“Don’t understand--” He staggered upright painfully, as he wasn’t moving of his volition. “You’re the one not safe--” Then he charged her.
Katie managed to block the first two blows, but the kid landed a solid kick against her side. Grunting, she grabbed his leg, which gave her a change to look him in the eye. He gazed back at her in sadistic glee.
But it still wasn’t enough to make her strike. “I won’t fight you,” she managed, just barely holding on. This kid really was strong.
He grinned toothily. “Then I’ll fight for the both of us.” He pulled loose, then got her in the gut. Kate staggered, which gave him time to land a strike on her back. Reeling backwards, she saw Lucas getting ready to fire out of the corner of her eye. She shook her head. She might be bruised afterwards, but she could handle this.
After all, he was still a teenager, and teenagers were prone to preen after perceived success. He strutted towards her, saying something about how he’d move onto the cowards hiding next, but Katie didn‘t catch it all, because she grabbed him in a bear hug.
“Let it out,” she whispered. “I can take it, and it’s better than how you were handling it.”
And he did let it out-- all of it. He screamed, cursed, struggled, but Katie hugged him through it all. She kept her hold, even as he weakened into sobs, shaking, and finally an exhausted ‘thank you’ before he passed out in her arms.
It was then Lucas and the other officer came up, ready to take the kid away from her. “No. You two take care of the injured officers, I’ll handle this one.” Then she scooped him up, took him to her car, wrapped him in a blanket and buckled him in, and then drove to Time Force’s medical branch.
“Trip, I’m fine, really.” Katie resisted the urge to switch their conversation to audio and video. If she saw was how worried he was, she’d cave and go home. And she couldn’t leave the boy alone, so audio only it was. “It’s just taking awhile. I’ll be home soon, okay?”
“That what you said an hour ago.”
Katie cleared her throat. “Well, yes, but--”
“But I’m on my way there.” Trip signed off.
Katie groaned, leaning back in her chair. So much for that.
She turned her attention to the boy in the cell (Time Force insisted). He hadn’t even stirred yet, so they didn’t have much information. She’d run his face and DNA through the database and had gleamed a few things. His name was Ryuuji Iwasaki. He was fifteen years old, which meant that he was even younger than she’d thought. He was a mutant, and seeing how there were no listed relatives wherever she looked, she suspected that he’d been living on the streets.
She gazed at her pad thoughtfully. He was a mutant with augmented strength, like her. If she hadn’t been born into the best family ever, his story could very well be hers. Which was partly why she was so invested, but there was also the fact that he was just a baby, with no one to take care of him and he’d been crying like his world was ending when she’d found him.
Speaking of Ryuuji… he shifted, pushing the hair out of his eyes as he sat up. “Hey.” Katie walked over to the force field separating them. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” he said automatically, eyes shadowed.
Katie did her best to smile. “We’re all alone, Ryuuji. Can I call you Ryuuji?” When he nodded, she continued, “You can be as honest as you want.”
He frowned. “Not so fine.”
“I don’t blame you.” She took the water she’d been saving for him, turning off the field long enough to enter his cell. “Here.” She put it where he could reach it. “Don’t worry, the cup’s made from a special metal. Not even someone with your strength could break it.” She sat down on the floor. “It’s what I used when I was still adjusting to my strength.”
Ryuuji was still for a moment, but then took the cup, sipping carefully. “When did you get your powers?”
“Thirteen. I wasn’t much older than you are now.”
He took another sip. “Physical control was never much of an issue for me, but thank you for considering that.” Ryuuji sighed heavily. “Mental control, however…”
“Don’t beat yourself up other this.”
“I nearly killed those people, and I wanted to kill you--”
Katie held up a hand. “Whatever was controlling you did that. Not you. Time Force understands that.” And if they didn’t, she’d make them understand. “How’d you wind up there, anyways?”
“I’m afraid that I didn’t exactly grow up with a safety net,” Ryuuji admitted, and Katie’s heart broke at how hard he was trying to keep his tone light. “I’d done computer work for some unsavory sorts, since they were the only ones who hire an underage mutant.” His fingers tightened around the cup. “But with this economy, even those jobs began to disappear. So I foolishly accepted an offer to fight for money.”
“If you knew it was foolish, why did you accept?”
“I like to eat. And I promised myself I would fight just once, so I could pay for groceries for a few weeks until I could get a job again.” He smiled, even as he shuddered. “Unfortunately, the people in charge decided I was too good an act to let go.”
Katie couldn’t help but reach out, and was relieved that Ryuuji let her rub his back. Poor kid. “We caught them all. They’ll never hurt you again.”
He smiled, but it was bitter. “Thank you. But I’m more worried about hurting others right now.”
“There are programs. Counseling. Prescriptions.”
“For a homeless mutant?”
Katie huffed. She knew teenagers were stubborn, but honestly. The worst part was, he was so polite in his unwillingness to accept help, not unlike a certain husband that would remain nameless--
It was then she realized that they were a childless couple, and Ryuuji was a parentless child.
Now there was an idea.
Maybe Ryuuji wouldn’t be homeless for much longer.
Trip looked up at her. “Katie, I know we’ve been considering adoption, but I don’t think you pick up kids at crime scenes.”
Katie dug into her brunch, which was a cheap sandwich and soda. “Well, why not?”
“Because usually the people at crime scenes are criminals?”
“Not this one. He was a victim. And you know what happens to mutants in child services, Trip.” Nadira had told her more than a few horror stories, before she’d met her surrogate father. “And I know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to managing super strength.”
“I know. And I know you’d make a great mother.” Trip finished his third sandwich. “But I’m worried that maybe you’re seeing this as your one chance for a kid.”
“That’s not true.” She made her peace with the fact that she would never have biological children long ago. All mutants had to. “It’s not that I need a child, it’s that Ryuuji needs me.”
Trip nodded thoughtfully. “But what if he thinks otherwise?”
Katie stared at her soda.
“Sorry.” Trip kissed her cheek. “I didn’t mean to be so blunt.”
“No, you have a point.” She finished the drink, then tossed it in the recycler. “It’s got to be his decision.”
“We could apply to be his foster parents while the trial progresses. Then when it’s over with, he can decide where he wants to live.”
“Yeah.” Katie felt a bit better. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Trip beamed. “Well, thank you!” He took the tray they’d set aside for Ryuuji. “I’ll take this to him, all right?”
“You sure you wouldn’t rather I did it?”
He shook his head. “You take a break. Besides, if you’ve gone from fighting this kid to wanting to adopt him, I’d like to find out more about him.” Trip was about to leave when he froze mid-step. “You said he worked with computers, right?”
Ryuuji still hadn’t worked up the courage to leave his bed. Katie was nice. She was arguably the nicest person he’d ever met. But that didn’t change what he’d done.
When he was set free-- if he was set free-- he was going to leave this city.
“Hello.” He looked up, expecting to see a new officer-- but there was only a robot owl.
A robot owl. He bolted out of bed, grunting softly when he hit the field in his rush. “I’ve never seen a robot so advanced that’s so tiny-- what purpose do you serve?”
“I’m a navigator robot-- but I prefer to be described as ‘compact,’ just so ya know.”
“My apologies. So who built a robot as compact as yourself?”
“Um, I did.” An alien officer smiled at him sheepishly. “My name’s Trip. I’m Katie’s husband. Do you mind if I come in?”
“I don’t see-- wait, was all of this a trick to get me to open up?”
Trip grimaced. “Is it working?”
Ryuuji thought it over, and the robot owl own. “You can come in, if you let me look at Circuit.”
Trip watched on as Ryuuji carefully examined Circuit’s wiring. For a kid who was almost definitely self-taught, he was quite skilled. It reminded him a little of when Trip himself had been a kid, building Circuit--
He coughed. “Don’t forget to eat your lunch.”
“Oh, sorry.” Ryuuji nibbled, then went back to work. “And you built him by yourself? No help at all?”
“Well, I had to do a lot of reading of technical manuals. But yes, I put in the labor.”
“Wow.” Ryuuji patted Circuit before putting the metal plate back on. “I always wanted to build a robot, but never had the things I needed.”
“What do you plan to do now?”
It was like a switch had been flipped. Ryuuji stared at the ground lifelessly. “I’m going to leave.”
“Leave to where? Um, if you don’t mind my asking.”
“I’m not really sure yet.” Ryuuji still wouldn’t look at him. “Someplace where I won’t hurt people.”
“Ryuuji.” He wished there was a gentler way to say this. “Unless you get help, there isn’t a place in the world where you won’t hurt people.”
Now Ryuuji looked up at him, and Trip was struck by how young he really was. Even with the criminal record and understanding of robots and nearing besting his wife in combat, he was still a kid scared of what the future held. “But no one wants to help me. No one should have to.”
“Katie and I want to help you.” He waited for Ryuuji to reject him, because, he’d sound very pathetic.
Okay, two hours was more than enough. Katie got ready to go back in, because obviously Trip and Ryuuji needed her… but then Trip came out.
“Hey, Katie.” Trip started gathering his things. “You’re right, we are adopting him.”
Katie blinked. “I thought we were waiting to see if he was okay with that?”
“I know.” He smiled at her. “So I asked. And he agreed.”