The phone rang and Joseph Ashon snapped awake, immediately filled with a sense of betrayal and rage. He waited a few seconds, hoping his husband would answer but that was definitely the ring from his cellphone and Jake was respectful about that sort of thing. Joe would have to get it himself.
This was what he hated about working nights. Sure, he only got to spend real time with the man he loved when their sleep schedules synced up for a few hours on the weekend and shopping was a pain, not to mention something like getting an oil change, but this was the worst. Everyone who wasn’t his husband just assumed that it was fine to call him during the day. Never mind that he’d been asleep for less than three hours and this was the equivalent of calling someone else at midnight.
He didn’t recognize the number but his phone was still ringing. With a probably futile attempt to keep the irritation out of his voice, Joe answered. “Hello?”
“Hey- um, hello. Joseph. This is, uh…” The voice was familiar. He was almost certain he knew who it was but… but that wasn’t possible. “This is Hans Sullivan.”
“You’re dead. We read it in the paper. Chief Leighton called and told Jake himself. You’re supposed to be dead.” Forget the fully justified wrath at being woken up while the sun was still shining, Joe had absolutely no idea how he should be reacting to this.
“Please, I know you don’t owe me anything.” the dead man said, “But I don’t have much time and I gotta talk to Jake. Please, is he there?”
Joseph nodded, realized his father-in-law couldn’t see it, and mumbled an answer as he crawled out of bed and went searching for his husband. Normally, he’d have taken more care to make sure his bare feet didn’t step on one of the cat’s ‘presents’ or that he had at least a robe on so the neighbors didn’t get an eyeful… But this was Jake’s dad, the man who hadn’t spoken to his son in two years, hadn’t seen him in three.
This was the man who’d made sure they could never make up, no matter how badly Jake wanted it and no matter how much Joe wanted it for him because he’d died in a fire and… Joe went looking for his husband so he could let the other man deal with this. Being exhausted wasn’t helping but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t have a good idea how to handle this regardless.
Their uniforms were pure white, except for the Citadel’s logo in black, over their hearts. They each wore the arm band that signified membership in Intervention Prime and red light, slowly fading, clung to them as they stepped from one place into another. That was where the similarities between the four ended.
Most eyes went to the man that seemed to be made out of pale blue ice first. Average height, a little bulkier than normal, it was the painfully bright light that shone through the cracks in his body that attracted attention. Well, that and the sheer other effect of a man of ice with fire in his eyes. The two girls in operative uniforms and the dead woman stared at another man. Short, thin enough to be called scrawny if not for the bit of beer gut, he had a receding hairline and a weak chin. He was arguably the most famous operative in the Citadel and unquestionably its most experienced. The woman’s long, mousy brown hair was tied back and her face eyes carried a determination more commonly found in soldiers far older than her. Her uniform had crosses sewn in at both wrists, just below her collar and on each thigh. If she took any comfort from them, it didn’t show.
The third man was the least distinctive, least recognizable. Like the other three, his uniform was the white of a senior operative but he carried no visible equipment, showed no sign of power. He had the bronze skin and broad features characteristic of Chinese descent but that was the only thing that set him apart. The operatives present likely recognized him, but the civilians shouldn’t have any idea who he was unless they made a habit of paying very close attention to the Citadel’s administrative infrastructure.
There was a pause, like a breath being held, as the room took in the presence of the new arrivals before, without any trace of doubt or sign of hesitation, Bruce Richards gave them their orders and they went to war.