Command Center, Washington DC
"General! A B-class stellar flare has just been detected and is heading towards Earth!"
"Where and when?" the General ordered.
"Philadelphia, General! ETA three hours!"
"Commence evacuation of the city's population immediately and inform the Champions stationed in Washington DC to prepare for deployment."
"No lives will be lost during this Colossus invasion!"
"Sir, yes, Sir!" everyone in the command center said in unison.
The General sat back down in his seat at the center of the room and held his chin as he watched the giant screen that displayed a bird's eye view of the city of Philadelphia. It was his hometown and it was the first time a Colossus was going to appear there. He was already worried about the destruction the Colossus would create in the city, but he knew he could not think about that, but to think about how to command the Champions and successfully defeat the Colossus without losing a single human life. It was done before, and it was going to happen again.
It was about time a Colossus would appear again on American soil, being almost three years since the one's last appearance in Chicago, Illinois. The Colossus were massive beings that could materialize anywhere around the world, mostly in major cities and especially in capital cities. No one knew why these beings began appearing on Earth more than a decade ago, but the consequences of not stopping them were clear after a crater lied on what was a former part of Washington DC. So many lives were lost that August day and it was only the beginning.
So far, the only way to foreshadow the appearance of a Colossus was through the detection of stellar flares from an unknown origin that were strong enough to penetrate through the Earth's atmosphere and were directed at a major city. In addition, the strength of the stellar flares, categorized into five classes, most likely determined the size and strength of the Colossus that would inevitably appear in a highly populated area. These beings were not like the kaiju from the poorly dubbed Japanese films that resembled creatures on Earth, they were far more alien. They looked like deformed humanoid statues that levitated above the ground as they moved across cities, destroying everything in its path until it approached the heart of the downtown areas and ultimately self-destructed like the one did in Washington DC, and the ones in Paris, Madrid, Moscow and Beijing. They killed tens of thousands of people, and so many more were devastated by their deaths.
However, now humanity was prepared. No longer were they going to cower as these foreign beings destroyed more cities. No longer were we going to let old rivalries between countries prevent them from working together to find a solution to this problem. No longer were we going to let one more human life be lost without a damn fight. And because of that, we have the Champions, the heroes of humanity's future and the most powerful beings ever created on planet Earth.
Only a few minutes have passed before personnel in the command center informed the General that the Champions stationed in Washington DC have already mobilized and were ready for his orders.
Standing from his seat, the General looked at the screen that displayed all the Champions standing rod straight with their arms down and their feet together and said, "Men and women of the United States Champions, this is the situation. A B-class Colossus will most likely appear in the city of Philadelphia within three hours and it is your duty to prevent this invader from self-destructing and taking another city from the American people. You all are humanity's best chance to fight against the Colossus and shine a light for our future, so follow all of my orders and let's defeat this Colossus!"
"Sir, yes, Sir!"
"General! The Champions are now heading to the helicopters and will arrive at Philadelphia within thirty minutes!"
"Good. Keep me informed of any significant changes," the General stated.
Sitting back down, the General of the United States Champions closed his eyes and silently prayed to Maria that this would end without any deaths…he prayed hard to the creator of all Champions that this would happen.
"Are you okay, Ryan?"
Ryan sat at the white-painted, wooden gazebo that was located at the center of the cemetery, a cemetery where a funeral just happened…his mother's funeral. Whoever this stranger was, Ryan did not know how to answer that question. He did not cry when the priest gave the sermon as he stood by his mother's casket, nor did he cry when he watched her casket get lowered six feet under…he was so broken during the week after his mother's suicide to the point that he was retching out his stomach since no more tears would come out, leaving his eyes red, dry and in pain among other things in his life so far.
Not many people came to his funeral since he did not have any friends who cared enough to be there for him during his time of sorrow, and neither did his mother since she was so busy working three jobs back to back, every day that she did not have a social life, or any life beyond making sure their crappy apartment's rent was paid for and being a loving mother to Ryan.
Now what did he have left. His mother was dead, and he only had enough money that he saved up over many months that he kept under his bed to pay for all the funeral expenses. He knew his mother would have just wanted him to cremate her and save him the trouble of a funeral, but he felt like he could not deal with the idea of living in an apartment with the reminder of someone he lost every day, that someone he loved beyond anyone else. Plus, he felt like he needed some type of closure which only a funeral could give. He only wished, now that the funeral was over, he knew why his mother decided to slit her wrists and leave him alone and in despair.
He also really wished that he was not so selfish with his own money that he made from a part-time job as a cashier at a convenience store, buying collectible items that looked so petty and materialistic now that his mother was dead. Maybe if his mother knew about the extra money that he had, she would have known that it was not going to be the end of the world, that they would be able to pay the rent and other expenses so that could continue their lives, though not perfect, was far better than living on the cold streets like the people he watched begging for money as they held cardboard signs just outside his apartment.
And if only he showed the acceptance letter that he received a month ago, the acceptance letter that stated that he was accepted to one of the top Ivy League universities in the country…maybe she would still be here today. He was so mixed about whether to show her or not. He knew, without a doubt, that she would have been so proud of him…but he also thought about how much it would cost to attend even one semester at that university. His mother never liked the idea of going into debt or paying anything that would lead to large amounts of interest, so the plan to sign up for student loans was very conflicting. And the idea of having to leave his mother to live at the dormitories, a thousand miles away did not sit well with him at all.
But maybe if Ryan just…he did not know anymore. All he wanted right now was to be by myself and not talk to anyone who came to the funeral, all three who must have been his mother's co-workers. He didn't know any of them, especially the man with the graying beard who had a hat that matched the color and style of his black suit that casted a shadow over his face during the whole sermon. Now he was sitting next to Ryan, expressing his pity for him which he did not want or need.
Ryan heard the man sigh next to him before he said, "Of course you're not okay. Your mother just passed away."
Ryan just continued to look down at his lap and said nothing.
"Do you know how she died, Ryan?" the man asked.
Ryan closed his eyes and simply said, "Suicide."
Ryan sensed the man move a little before he said, "I'm sorry, Ryan."
"Yeah…I know. Everyone is…everyone who came at least."
Feeling a firm hand on his left shoulder, Ryan looked at the man sitting next to him and really wondered what kind of relationship he had with his mother other than working with her at one of her three jobs. Maybe he knew something about her that Ryan did not.
"I heard she was a very hardworking woman, always caring about you before anyone else. Even herself," the man stated.
Nodding, Ryan looked back at his lap and adjusted the tie of his rental suit that he was going to return tomorrow after school…if he was going to return to that hellhole that people called an educational institution. He had not gone to school for a week now and he knew that he had a lot of work to catch up to if still wanted to graduate and go to college. But none of that mattered now since the only person that made this world livable was gone now and he did not know whether he could continue.
Ryan then furrowed his eyebrows and asked, "What…What do you mean you heard?"
"Excuse me?" the man asked.
Looking back at the man, Ryan said, "You said 'you heard.' You're not one of my mother's co-workers then?"
The man, silent for a moment, looked up to the ceiling of the gazebo and then said, "No, I didn't work with your mother…but I did know her. It has just been so long since…we last communicated… When I was notified about her passing, I just had to come."
"Are you a distant family member?" Ryan asked.
Ryan did not really want to hear the answer to that question since he knew his mother and her family were not in good terms. He did not know much other than that they kicked her out after finding out she was pregnant out of wedlock and forced her to raise him all by herself. So, if it was indeed the case that this man was part of his family, then he was one of the last people Ryan needed to feel sorry for him since they did not feel sorry for his mother when she was still alive and raising Ryan at a cramped apartment in New York City.
"You can say that," the man said.
Shaking his head, Ryan muttered, "Then you should've been there for her when she was still alive. Then maybe she wouldn't have…"
Ryan bit his lower lip, not able to finish that sentence.
"You're definitely right. I should have." The man then stood up and faced Ryan with one hand extended to him. "I can't change the past, Ryan…but I'm going to make this up to her…and to you. Ryan, if you don't mind, I want you to come with me."
Ryan looked up at the man who was becoming more familiar to him and narrowed his eyes. "Why? So, you can take me to a family who left my mother on the streets just because she was not married and pregnant?"
The man sighed again before turning around and leaning his hands against the railing of the gazebo.
Looking to the distance, the man said, "I don't know much about the history between your mother and her family, but I will say this. If your mother worked three jobs and was barely able to raise the both of you with a roof over your head, I highly doubt you'll make it far all by yourself… However, I know how incredibly smart you are. Being accepted to an Ivy League school is no small feat and I want you to have the opportunity to show the world how capable you are."
Confused, Ryan asked, "How did you know about that? My mother didn't even know."
"When you're in my position, Ryan, nothing is inaccessible, or unknown to me." Facing Ryan, the man gave a small smile and said, "You have so much potential, Ryan, and I want to give you what your mother most likely wanted for you…a better and brighter future than the one she was currently living in."
"Who are you exactly?" Ryan asked, very curious for the answer to that question.
Looking down at the floor of the gazebo, the man said, "I know you don't recognize me because of the beard and hat…but I'm Nathaniel Johnson, former President of the United States of America…and your father."
Ryan's eyes widened immediately from hearing the man's, the supposed former US President's, answer. There was no way that the former President was standing next to him right now, but there was a reason why he looked increasingly familiar. Ryan did not watch a lot of news, too busy studying to get the grades that were possible to get accepted to a top-ranking school, but of course he knew who the US President was four years ago. And Mr. Johnson was his father? What the hell?
Taking his hat off to reveal neatly combed graying hair, the man, Mr. Johnson, said, "I'm actually surprised that not one person recognized me…but I guess it was because I wasn't in the public eye very much since…all that happened ten years ago."
Ryan couldn't say anything, just sat there looking at Mr. Johnson with a look of astonishment on his face.
"I understand if you don't believe me saying that I'm your father, let alone believe that a President would come here to talk to you…so let me take you out to lunch, so I can explain everything to you. However, I understand that you're still grieving for your mother and you still need time to cope with your loss. I wanted to come here just to let you know that your mother's death isn't the end of everything…and that you don't need to end up where she is now… So, do you need more time, Ryan?"
A moment passed before Ryan nodded and said, "Yes…I need more time to wrap my head around all of this…but just for today. We can talk tomorrow at noon if that's okay."
"Of course, it is. I'll have a car to pick you up tomorrow noon. It'll be a black SUV and the driver will take you to an Italian restaurant at downtown Manhattan. I'll be there. In addition, here's my card. If you need to talk to me about anything before tomorrow, call me. Okay?"
Ryan nodded and accepted the card from Mr. Johnson. He looked at the card for a few seconds before placing it in his pocket. He was still stunned that Mr. Johnson was still talking to him, but he quickly adjusted to the situation.
"Do you need a ride to your apartment, Ryan?" Mr. Johnson offered.
"No, I'll just take a cab like I always do. Thank you though."
"All right. I'll see you tomorrow then. I know you must have many questions right now, like what relationship I had with your mother, and I'll answer all of them to the best of my ability tomorrow. Understand?"
Ryan nodded. "Yes."
Mr. Johnson began to walk away, but then turned back around and stopped in front of Ryan to pat him firmly on the shoulder with a smile. "Things are only going to become better for now on. I can promise you that."
Ryan just nodded again and he watched Mr. Johnson, the former President and his supposed father, walking away.
Looking down again, Ryan pulled out the card he was just given and his cheap flip phone, so he could add the card's number into his contact list. After that, he put both away and pulled out a gold necklace from under his shirt. He then opened the heart-shaped locket attached to it and looked at the small picture of himself as a newborn in just a diaper and wool cap. This was the only piece of jewelry his mother ever owned, and she wore it the time that she died…open.
Though his eyes were dry, one tear managed to form and as it trailed down his cheek, he closed the locket and vowed to himself and to his mother, wherever she was now, that he would remain resilient and continue his life…just what his mother, Barbara, wanted and he was not going to let her down. He could promise her that.