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Out of the Fire
by Byron Molix

2: Coming of Age.

   Ryan got back to his house by turning himself invisible beneath his force field and flying in by his Gauntlet's memory. It was difficult to maintain but it was necessary. He landed outside his house and dropped the force field everywhere except his hand. His costume faded out of existence as he faded back into existence. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. He opened the door and went inside, locking it behind him. His parents were both away on vacation and he was happy, if they were here and he was found out as Guardian, then they would be in danger. He walked up the stairs to his bedroom and once inside closed the door. He let the force field around his right hand drop and saw the silvery metallic glove that had been clinging to his hand for nearly fourteen hours now. It was something he didn't understand but he had never really thought about it much before.
   "So Ryan Moore, did your raid go as smoothly as you had planned?" an old slightly high-pitched voice quietly asked from across the room.
   "No. Not that you didn't know or had wanted it to turn out any differently. I hate it Aldrin, I always have to use tweezers on the bad guys when they are out there dropping nukes on each other," Ryan answered. He didn't know why he always had these talks about his missions with Aldrin, but he always did and he always learned something when he did. Ryan walked over to Aldrin's home and tapped his hands to the sides, he closed his eyes and when he opened them again, the Gauntlet was gone from his hand. He had done this innumerable times before but the little pyramid never ceased to amaze him. After all, it held Aldrin and all his belongings. Maybe Aldrin shrank like that girl on that old Genie show.
   "What is the chronological time of passage for your culture again? The age you become an 'adult'," Aldrin asked. Ryan wondered why Aldrin wanted to know but told him anyway.
   "You become an adult at 21, if you've forgotten already, I'm 18," Ryan said. Aldrin looked like he was thinking very hard and then decided upon a course of action.
   "You are over 85% of the age of passage, are intelligent and act very mature at times. I believe that I can reveal some things that have undoubtedly been confusing you since you received your Gauntlet. Firstly, I am not a living being. I am a projection produced by your Recharger, what you call my pyramid. I can continue to interface with you in this manner, but I am not a living being. Also, you have been wondering why you are forbidden from harming those who you see as the most harmful. This is necessary for your society to become Civilized. Your people must see that violence is wrong and also that they have nothing to fear from you. Your gauntlets are very powerful," Aldrin said.
   Ryan didn't know what to do or say. As always, Aldrin had read his mind about two of the biggest problems he had with being a hero. He could only respond with the confusion he had locked away until this day.
   "But, why do we have such power if we are prevented from doing harm, period. I don't like that but I always abide by your rules, Aldrin. I hate to debate about this with you, but anytime I use my Gauntlet I'm probably killing millions of germs or other things. How far does this go? I just don't get it. We as you put it, are a race that is very physical. When we have extreme conflicts we react physically, in the extreme. That means violence and it is almost inevitable," Ryan said.
   "Yes, almost. You know that I was created by a race of beings that wants to bring Civilization to your world. Your planet is not ready to meet us, but you as a Patrol Member are our representatives in spirit. You as a protector must prevent yourselves from falling prey to your most gruesome and painful act, violence. In case you are wondering, the standards are similar, but not identical for all Patrollers," Aldrin answered.
   "What do you mean, similar but not identical? I thought all Patrollers had the same restrictions," Ryan asked.
   "When we examine a planet that we wish to Civilize, we determine the act or intent that is dominant for that world's most advanced life forms. We then issue Gauntlets and rechargers to the populous and charge them above all not to fall below the lofty goals of the tenets that we have set forth. Your race has an overriding tendency toward violence and causing harm to each other. Therefore you are prevented from doing this as you are a Patroller, one of the few who is considered Civilized. On a distant world for example, the people were pacifists, but they had let their environmental consciousness, as your people quaintly put it, fall into oblivion. They were physically unthreatening and peaceful but they did not take care of their ecosystem. The Patrollers of that planet were instructed never to harm their ecosystem. They were charged with cleaning up their planet and raising environmental consciousness. So you see there is no set in stone formula for Civilization, but many variations on the standard plan seem to work well. With this idea we have Civilized countless races and prepared them for entering the Galactic Community," Aldrin said.
   "There are worlds much less advanced than yours that are given gauntlets. We seek their mental advancement more than their technological advancement," he added as Ryan mulled this over in his head. Ryan had never guessed or imagined that this is what truly went on. He was reassured that Earth wasn't the first or last planet to undergo Civilization but he nevertheless wasn't sure that anti-violence was what was called for, especially at the current stage of Civilization. And to think there were more primitive people out there, using Patrol magic to bring their race out of the hole it started in. If he didn't know for sure that the Patrol had started recently, he'd have worried if all the magic in earth's past wasn't alien technology.
   "Aldrin, you made your point, but I'm not sure that humanity is ready for Civilization as you mean them to be. Perhaps if you eased them into nonviolence first, then the way you currently have the Patrol set up will work. Also I'd like to leave the planet. I'd like to see your creators and find out more about the universe. Can you arrange this?" Ryan asked. He wasn't sure what Aldrin would say. He wanted to see first hand some of the things that Aldrin had spoken of.
   "I am not permitted to let you meet my creators. I am not permitted to take you to another world," Aldrin answered instantly, in a monotonous tone, almost as if he was programmed. After he spoke this statement, he continued to wait for Ryan to say something more. Ryan guessed that Aldrin wasn't even aware that Ryan had said anything nor that he had responded. Oh well, it was worth a try, he thought. Suddenly Aldrin blanched. Ryan wondered what could spook his artificially intelligent friend like that. He quickly looked behind him and what he saw shocked him as well.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix