"What- I-... How is that possible?" I gasped to myself.
"I have no idea… have you ever… you know?" Hollace scratched his head awkwardly.
"Are you kidding me? No! I'm seventeen, plus Ava's six, so there's no way that makes any sense! Unless I… ew no," I tried to take in the news.
"Well, I hope that's not the case," he cringed at the thought. "Maybe your DNA was taken from you at a young age?"
"Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I'd remember, or my father would've told me," I shook my head.
There's no way Ava is my daughter… it doesn't add up! I've never been with anyone, let alone in a serious relationship. Even if I did, the age gaps didn't add up. Plus, Ava has a vague recollection of her father, so it can't be me… right?
My heart pounded as it took every ounce of strength in my body to now look at the girl sitting beside me. Ava looked unfazed. Her beautiful blue eyes shimmered back at me with trust in her eyes. The more I stared at her, the more familiar she appeared to me.
She had the same black hair as me, as well as my pale skin complexion. Her eyes were bigger than mine, but we shared similar facial features. She really did look a bit like me. Could she be?
"Ava, do you understand what the doctor just said?"
"Yes, papa," she said plainly.
Hearing her call me by that title brushed an odd feeling against my heart. The emotion quickly took off, sensing the severity of our newfound relationship.
"Did you always know?" I uttered.
"Ummm… I think I always did, but it never made sense to me."
"Why didn't you say anything? Why couldn't you tell me?"
Ava was now facedown, whimpering lightly with her voice trailing the room. "I thought it was a dream. I thought that you would disappear if I said anything," she teared up.
I rushingly pulled her in tight to embrace her with security. Now sobbing, her tiny lips cried out, "I was scared! I missed you so much, papa!"
We stayed there for a few minutes longer, reunited when we were strangers. Under the circumstances, Hollace dismissed us, allowing me to talk privately with my… own daughter.
Outside the hospital, a dense fog now crept over the city's ground during the day. Few cars were being driven on the streets, and more were flying above the thick obstruction. They flew above us like faint flies.
I walked with Ava back on our way back to my loft. We stopped at an empty lot between two large apartments. Large thick walls with black tinted windows towered over us like a tube. The entire time ever since leaving the exam room, we never said a word after.
Ava felt like a whole other person now. I now regretted the many actions I did and the choices I said around her. In some strange way, I had a responsibility to really watch over her now. But was I ready for the task? How can I be a parent?
"Look, Ava, I'm sorry I've been quiet all this time. It's just-... I'm having a hard time putting this all together. I was a dangerously foolish teenager moments ago… and now I'm… well, still the same, but now I'm a parent as well."
I picked my words and phrasing carefully, making sure she'd understand.
"It's okay, papa. I like you this way," the little girl complimented.
"Thanks. Are you starting to remember now?"
"Maybe, I remember you being old and different. I remember my last name now. Katsuo. Ava Katsuo."
"Do you know how this happened? How you got here?" I asked.
"I was always here. We live in Ultima, in our home… with mama."
Ava ran away from Dygen Corp Tower and saw her parents days ago. This little girl can't have two dads.
I felt a buzz in my pocket. I held my phone to see Keiffer calling me. I put away the phone, ignoring the call. Keiffer… was he ready to talk? Wanting to forgive or seek apology…
But he was right, though. I'm not a good person. I kill with no plan of stopping because that's all I can do… I'm not ready to be a father. Not even close.
"Ava, let's sit. I want to talk."
We both sat on the concrete ground, crisscrossed style. The area around us was eerily empty; only dense white clouds circled us. I struggled to look her in the eye as I formulated my words. She waited for me patiently as I readied.
"This might not make a lot of sense to you, but I want you to know what I'm thinking… I don't know what to do now. Hermes betrayed me, no longer paying me to kill Dygen. I don't even know if I can break into the tower to find out what happened with your 'dad'- the one you knew. But I know I can't take care of you anymore. It's too dangerous around me. You'll get hurt. I can't afford to put you in harm's way."
"But you're strong. You'll protect me like always," she countered.
"I'm not the same man your real father was. I can't explain what's happening or why it's happening, but I know this. I'm in no place to care for a child. I might share the same blood, but I'm not your 'papa.'"
"But I can feel it! The doctor said so!"
"Whatever the case is, I can't protect you. So I'm taking you to the police, who can handle it from here. They'll help you. I'll take the risk of bringing you there. At least then, you'll be with good people."
"No! I'm not leaving you!"
"I'm not a good person, Ava! I'm… a killer. A bad man that they would put in jail. Not a father. A murderer. Maybe you are my daughter… but I'm not worthy… I'm not there."
"But you saved me. You're good. A hero!" she pleaded.
I choked, trying to prevent saying anything that would hurt her. But I needed her to understand. It was too cruel for the world to put me in a position to deny a lost girl her own father.
"Please, Ava, forget about me. I'm so sorry about this," I stood up, pulling her from the ground.
"No! Don't take me there! Let go!" she tried to shake from my grasp.
She flailed her arms at me, crying. Every small punch she threw was as weak as a pebble, but each one hurt me to my very soul.
"Don't make the poor girl cry," a metallic voice rasped.
A zapping blue beam of light rocketed towards me but hit me with no physical sensation. My body, however, clenched up and flopped to the ground, losing all my strength to move. I was paralyzed.
Ava rushed to me, trying to raise me up. "Papa! No! Get up!"
I looked at where the light came from, and out of the fog appeared a ghost. The masked Bounty Hunter from the rooftops. He held a peculiar weapon on him this time. A white gun with a small satellite-shaped disc coming from the front instead of a barrel.
"Non-lethals. Not really of fan of them, but this should keep you from hopping around," the Hunter moved closer.
"Ava… run!" I grunted.
She stood still in terror before the Hunter. Her eyes were wide, and her hands were shaking rapidly. As she finally broke from her shock, she tried to sprint, but the Hunter reached for the back of her neck and dragged her to him. She screamed at the top of her lungs. The sound ripped through the fog and made my skin crawl.
Seething, I was desperately trying to get up from the ground. Fighting to protect the helpless girl.
"Not so loud. Be a good girl and wait here with me." The Hunter, still holding Ava, looked up to the sky slowly.
At first, there was nothing, but then I heard it. A large hovercar descended from the heavens and landed a few feet from where we were. There was one driver and a single passenger. The side butterfly door opened upward, and a middle-aged man stepped out. I couldn't see his face, but his fine suit and walk carried power and command. His stride was dominating with every step in our direction.
"I believe we've both been unofficially acquainted, but this makes it our first personal meeting. Nice to meet you… Darkstar."
The new man spoke in a familiar light southern accent. One I've heard before. Many times actually. In countless ads and commercials. Unable to move my head, my eyes trailed upward to see the suited man's face.
It was Jacob Dygen. The target I failed to kill.
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