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Out of the Fire
by Byron Molix

1:Warzone.

   Things weren't looking very good for Ryan or the people he had come out here to protect. He had spent months stopping petty crimes in Kansas City, but the violence of cities like Denver, where the criminals had started to strike back at the heroes, had spread outward. Especially since that strange group of Patrollers there had taken a new approach to their crime fighting. As far as he could tell, when they turned up the heat and then changed their approach, the criminals and gang members had also turned up the heat. This left them much more dangerous than before the Machine had started their war on crime.
   They also changed their tactics. It wasn't safe to let them know you had a Gauntlet anymore. A gang member wearing a funny collar scrambled over the ridge of junk in the junkyard. He was carrying with him a rifle and looking excitedly around him in the dark. Earlier a man similarly outfitted had attacked Ryan. He had thrown up a construct to grab the gang member and then the funny collar had started to glow. His Gauntlet started to warn him that if this continued he would end up harming the man. Ryan couldn't see how he was hurting the man, but he always listened to Aldrin. The little man always knew what was best and if Aldrin thought he would end up harming the men, then he had to stop making his construct.
   Ryan had figured out how to deal with that one and he was preparing to deal with this one similarly. He concentrated and his hands glowed with a brief white light. As he had imagined it, a pair of invisible coils had grown out of thin air near his hands. He reached out with one tendril and yanked the rifle out of the man's hands. He pushed the man down the hill towards him with the other tendril. The collar briefly flared a red color and the man gasped. While crushing the rifle with the white glowing hand that the first tendril had become, he picked up and dropped a big metal drum onto the gang member with the second tendril. He crushed the bottom of the drum around the body of the gang member with the hand. Ryan could do this to each of the gang members, but he was rapidly running out of time. He never kept a full charge these days and it was almost up, an hour more at most.
   He thought about calling Aldrin for help, begging him for an hour more power but knew that the funny little man who lived in the pyramid at home couldn't do that even if he wished to. Ryan knew for certain that Aldrin would not wish to as well. No, he had an hour to wipe up this gang war, send them all to jail and get back home. It didn't sound like he would be able to do it. He certainly wasn't the Flash. Superspeed was just what he needed now, but he had to be satisfied with the power his Gauntlet gave him. It was a lot of power for any 18 year old to wield and he was just happy that he had experience with what to do with it from reading comics. He also realized how lucky he was, not everyone got to become their favorite comic book hero. Well almost. The nonviolence directive was really getting him down. He wished he could do a lot more than just wrap up offenders. He wished he could cut loose like the Green Lantern, or even Cyclops of the X-men. It made his blood boil ever time he saw a criminal gun down an innocent and that he wasn't able to do the same to them. Uh oh, he had been thinking too much. A group of gang members had made it to the top of the rise and had spotted him. That's what he got for dreaming about being a hero instead of doing it. Nothing for it now, he had to do something so that he could get his prisoners to jail.
   He quickly considered his options but before he could do anything they opened fire on him. He barely got a force field around his prisoners before the bullets hit them. The hail of bullets flashed off of him lighting white flashes across his body. So many of them hit him and reflected off his invisible force field that he had to darken the field so that he could still see. He raised his right hand and it began to glow white. The gang members stopped firing in anticipation of the end. It was lucky they did; he had trouble keeping two constructs in existence besides his body field. The moment all the gang members stopped shooting, he dropped the force field protecting his prisoners and imagined a white column of force erupting from his hand and flying upwards and into the ridge scattering trash everywhere. The glow around his hand brightened and a white, hollow force column flew from his right fist. It rose upwards and at the last moment accelerated past the speed of sound before winking out of existence right before hitting the humongous mass. The sonic boom hit the gang members and half of them flew upwards; all of them fell down slipping down the collapsing mound of junk. The entire mass of the ridge was shifting. Paper and other light trash blew everywhere creating a false blizzard of man-made material.
   Ryan always wondered how much energy each construct took to create and maintain, but right now he was feeling kind of tired so the force column that had created the sonic boom must have taken a lot. Just before the pile of junk and gang members tumbled to his feet he gathered his prisoners up into a matrix that carried them without touching them and took to the air. Four gang members wasn't a bad haul but all the ones who were momentarily stunned below him would have been a better catch; if not for those collars. He took his prisoners to the nearest Kansas City Police Department and handed them over. He told the officers that they were members of the Death Fist gang and that they had tried killing several innocent people to precipitate a full blown war across the city. He took off into the air; all he wanted to do was get home and go to bed.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix