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The Beginning of the Patrol Saga...
by Michael Montoure

   She couldn't sleep. The faint glow softly filled the room. She sighed, gently pushed back the blankets and swung her feet down to the floor.
   She turned and looked back at Marcus with a quiet sigh. The bruises looked fainter, but still covered much of his upper back. He shifted fitfully. She silenced him with a gentle kiss on the shoulder.
   The faint hum that had woken her seemed to grow louder. She turned to look at it.
   The Recharger.
   Her feet found her slippers, and she stood up and padded over to it. A two foot high silvery tetrahedron, it stood incongruously on her dressing table among her and Marcus' more mundane belongings. It was surrounded by a faint red halo that pulsed and throbbed as she approached it.
   Try as she might, she couldn't even imagine the technology that had produced it. She still couldn't believe half the things she had seen Marcus do with the Gauntlet. It all seemed impossible, but she supposed that to a caveman, a pistol would seem like an impossible weapon from the gods, too. She shivered despite the warm summer night air. Slowly, carefully, she reached out and stroked the surface of the pyramid with her fingertips.
   She pulled her hand back in surprise. It was warm to the touch, and there was a faint vibration. It felt somehow slick, almost organic. She looked over her shoulder at Marcus. Still asleep.
   She reached out again and placed her palm firmly on one side, as she had seen Marcus do so many times now.
   "Activate," she breathed.
   The surface seemed to turn to liquid. Her hand fell inside, and a force within seemed to pull and guide her touch. There was a brief tingling and a strange coolness, and the humming stopped and the aura faded.
   She pulled her hand back and looked at it. It was now covered in a thin silvery sheen. Her hand looked like it was made from metal.
   She was wearing the Gauntlet.
   Suddenly, a red glowing face appeared in front of her. "You are not an authorized User. You will remove the Gauntlet."
   "Hunhh?" Marcus shifted behind her, but didn't fully awaken.
   "Nothing, sweetheart—go back to sleep."
   "Unhhmmm." He had already started snoring by the time she stepped out onto the balcony and closed the door behind her.
   The face floated steadily in front of her. "You will remove the Gauntlet."
   "I only want to ask you a few questions."
   The face froze a moment. She felt the Gauntlet pulse and throb with warmth. "You are the one called Katrina."
   She held her breath a moment. "Yes."
   "You are the mate of Marcus."
   Kat laughed. "Well, I wouldn't have put it quite like that, but yes. I am."
   "Very well. Questions are permitted. Higher power level usage must be authorized by Marcus."
   "Just questions are fine," she said quickly. She didn't want Marcus to know she had done this, and she wasn't sure if the Gauntlet would tell him.
   "Very well. Proceed."
   She sat down on the deck chair and thought for a moment. Well, what exactly was she going to ask? Why are you doing this? Who sent you? Why the hell did they decide to disrupt our lives? "What is your ... Your purpose here? Why did you come to Earth?"
   "We were sent to establish order and civilization on this planet."
   "I—I see." She swallowed hard. "I know this sounds ungrateful, but—why?"
   "To prepare you to join the galactic community. Before you can be contacted by other worlds, you must first demonstrate the capability to keep peace among yourselves."
   "And you think we can only do that with force?" Her tone was angrier than she had intended.
   "Force is not the intention. We are not capable of harming a sentient being."
   "You're not?" She let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, and she felt the tension in her shoulders start to ease. "What would happen if Marcus were to ... well, to try to hurt someone with you? I mean, I don't think he would, but he does have a temper sometimes ... " She trailed off.
   "The Gauntlet would cease to function."
   "What, forever?"
   "Permanently."
   She sighed and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her forehead. "What, uh, what exactly are your capabilities? What exactly can you do?"
   "We are capable of creating and manipulating what you would call force fields. These fields are indestructible, impenetrable, and may be shaped however the User desires. These force field constructs only last so long as power remains in the Gauntlet."
   "So, whenever Marcus creates an object out of thin air, it's just a force field in the shape of that object?"
   "That is correct. The Gauntlet is capable of scanning an object for later replication."
   "Neat." She grinned. "You mentioned something about running out of power?"
   "That is correct. The Gauntlet is not stable. It will eventually break down and dissolve if not returned to the Recharger."
   "How long does it take?"
   "It varies according to how much power the Gauntlet uses. If used conservatively, it can last as long as thirty-nine hours. If used almost constantly, it must be recharged within fourteen hours."
   She thought for a minute. "Aside from needing to recharge and being unable to hurt people, do you have any other limitations?"
   "The Gauntlet is limited only by the imagination and will of its User. Aside from that, there are no limitations whatsoever."
   "Wow." She leaned further back in the chair and looked up at the night sky, the colors of dawn gradually starting to creep in. "One more question. Why do you refer to yourself in the plural?"
   "I refer not only to this unit, but to all other Rechargers."
   "Other ... ? Oh, right—you mean on other worlds, right?"
   "In part, yes. There are one hundred and fourteen civilized worlds guarded by Patrollers."
   "By what?"
   "Patrollers. Users of the Gauntlets."
   "Oh. Hey, what do you mean, `in part?'"
   "There are other Gauntlets on this world as well. One hundred units were launched to this world under the cover of your Perseid meteor shower."
   "One hundred?" She leapt to her feet. "Has anyone found them yet?"
   No answer.
   "So there will be other Patrollers on earth?"
   "That is correct."
   "Does Marcus know about this??"
   "He has not requested this information."
   "Jesus!" Kat flung the door open and raced back inside. She slapped her hand against the Recharger and said, "Deactivate." The Gauntlet flowed off of her hand and melted back into the tetrahedron.
   She turned back to the bed. "Marcus, you've got to hear—"
   She stopped.
   He had turned over onto his back and was facing her, still sleeping. His lips were parted faintly, his arms sprawled out, the blankets twisted around his legs. He looked like a rumpled angel.
   Maybe, she thought, I won't wake him just yet. She climbed back into bed and wrapped her arms around him. I'll tell him in the morning.
   At last, she slept.


Copyright 1994, 1997 by Michael Montoure