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Out of the Fire
by Byron Molix

3: Surprises

   "Greetings, young humanoid," said a lyrical voice that had until a moment ago been behind Ryan Moore. The creature that said these words was also a humanoid, however it had a bright white skin that somehow did not gleam in the lights of Ryan's room. This was no albino and how it had gotten into Ryan's room was something that had shocked him and Aldrin both. Ryan hadn't heard anything and was instantly suspicious of the being.
   "Uh, hello. Who are you? Why are you here? How did you get in here?" Ryan asked. He fired off each question while inching closer to the closet where the pyramid he now knew was a Recharger lay. He hoped that it would give him his Gauntlet now, he was in dire need of it.
   "I am Kel Etrice. I am here to take you to safety and I teleported inside. I don't have time to explain this now, but pick out your costume and anything you deem especially important to you including your Recharger. We have to leave immediately. All I can say is that your activities have unwittingly attracted the attention of the Enemy. Quickly Guardian. A being of your talents can not be wasted in a fit of Enemy violence," Kel said. Ryan was still suspicious about all of this and he was backing toward his Recharger when Aldrin spoke.
   "Do as he says Ryan, I know of his kind and they would not harm you. He also gives you a plausible threat that you must escape from," Aldrin said this and then disappeared back into his pyramid. It began to float and started to move toward the alien over Ryan's head. He silently cursed under his breath, but he saw that he had no choice but to do as Aldrin said. The little man had never been wrong before. Ryan gathered up the clothing that had been various versions of his costume. Boots, belts, tunics, body suits and tights in blues, black and white were what he had worn as Guardian over his short career as a Patroller. He threw these onto his bed and then reached into his closet and pulled out several shirts, pants, and a few jackets. He did likewise with his underwear. If he was going, he had better make sure that he had something to wear besides his costume.
   Almost two minutes later Ryan had gathered all the clothes he was taking with him and had put them inside a suitcase. He picked up the suitcase and swiped his micro-notebook computer off of his desk.
   "I'm ready," he said. Kel nodded and then closed his eyes. While he was engrossed in his thoughts, Ryan got a good look at him. Kel Etrice was a tall humanoid with white skin, deep blue eyes or rather eyes that were all blue. It reminded Ryan of a movie he had once seen called 'Doom' or something. He wore a bright yellow robe that fell around his body loosely. The alien was bald but he had black eye brows that lead Ryan to believe that if he had hair it would also be black. The alien wore nothing beneath his robe but a black bodysuit. A crest stood out on his chest both beneath the robe on the body suit colored in white and on the robe, colored in black. It was a square with a circle in the center. In the very center of the glyph was a generic eye design. Hard to spot at first, but readily apparent now that he was looking at Kel with scrutiny, were two bands of metal that clung to the backs of his hands. They were a shiny silver color and were thin, but had substance. As Ryan watched the metal on the back of Kel Etrice's hands they flashed with a white glow once and suddenly Ryan felt as if he was being ripped apart. The feeling lasted only a second and his surroundings had changed once it had stopped.
   "Now, I am prepared to offer you any information you will be needing before you proceed to the next step," Kel said. He was waiting patiently for Ryan to ask questions and Ryan was just standing there in shock. Kel sensed that teleportation would confuse the boy and so he began to speak again. Ryan stopped him almost at once, but still stood in awe of where he found himself. They now stood on a smooth metal floor in a well lit, large room. The walls about them resembled nothing more than flattened waves with a line undulating around the room seeming to separate the sections of the metal walls.
   "Wow. I've never seen anything like this. Um... I suppose I could ask you some questions now," Ryan said. He forced himself to regain his composure and Kel nodded knowingly. It was not too far in the past from when he had a similar experience. "Are you a Patroller?" he asked.
   "Once I was, like you, a member of the Patrol. Your Recharger probably knows me well but has told you nothing about the other races of the universe," Kel said. He looked at the Recharger with no display of emotion as if he knew what had gone on in Ryan's life. Well, of course he said he once was a Patroller, he would have known something. Kel continued, "When a choice was given to me, I quit the Patrol. I left behind the Masters of the Gauntlet and joined the Masters of Neutrality, of Passion, in the war for justice. What you see on my hands," he held them up before him, backs toward Ryan, "is called the Passion Device Matrix. They are alternate technology along lines of the Gauntlets. I am honored by my superiors in that I wield enough Passion Devices to form two such physical manifestations on my body."
   Ryan looked at the Passion Device Matrix and wondered at all they could do. If they held similar power to that of a Gauntlet, then he could understand why Kel would consider quitting the Patrol. He wondered if Kel had struggled under the yoke of the almighty restriction that was prescribed to his race when he became a Patroller.
   "If you wish I will give you some information about myself, my race and the Masters of Neutrality," he said. Ryan immediately agreed, nodding his head. He wanted to find out more information about the galactic community that Aldrin had always glossed over. "I am from a planet called Skyy in our language. It is a beautiful paradise with clean, fresh air and beautiful forests and greenery. It closely orbits a red sun and our upper atmospheric levels and albedo keep the planet warm. For all of that, none of us regularly see the sun," he said. Kel paused and then continued since Ryan was listening so intently.
   "One day long ago, the Patrol came to our planet to Civilize us. Our people were violent just as yours are now. We fought ourselves and would have fought the galaxy if we had been abruptly thrust into that position. Over the next twelve years, we gradually began to fit the mold that the Gauntlet wielders had set out to make for us.
   Our people had been working on strange new technologies that would take us off our planet and could provide for our protection. The arrival of the Gauntlet sparked new curiosity and we sought to unravel their secrets. That prompted the final stages of the creation of the Passion Device Matrix. Our scientists had been experimenting with microscopic machines and had started to make breakthroughs when the push for Civilization began. With the Gauntlet so nearby, they combined their knowledge of micro-machinery with that of starship mechanics to create their own version. Anti-gravity, atomic manipulation and other technological breakthroughs for our world were bound into the microscopic machines. The individual machines were powerful, but individually, they still lacked what we needed. Luckily each machine could bind with another to increase the desired effects that were being worked on at the time.
   A governmental peace force was given the Matrixes first and they indirectly created the organization that now 18 years later is known as the Guardians. I am a Guardian and we have been a powerful force for justice on our homeworld. There are still Patrollers on our world, but many flocked to our banner and now our organization is as large a presence on our planet as the Patrol is there. Because of our less strict controls and methods, our planet is still not considered Civilized. However we were able to deal with the threat of the Enemy as it manifested on our world, while those with Gauntlets were not so capable.
   My organization is known by different names across the galaxy. I am known as a Neutral by the Patrol, a Watcher by the Enemy and many other races of the galaxy. Our official title is Guardian, but I have been called many things in my time, including Patroller, by misguided individuals. To start with, the Masters of Neutrality are the Guardians of any race that has advanced to the higher position of Councilor. You are one of the first aliens given the opportunity to become a Guardian.
   The combined number of Passion Devices, as the machines are called, that are on the backs of my hands is literally more than 800. As such, I wield power that made my Gauntlet pale in comparison," he said. He let this sink in to Ryan. He had made his statement without too much arrogance but the gleam of truth in his eyes forced Ryan to think.
   Ryan thought about what he was hearing, but he just couldn't conceive of all of it at once. He decided to ask about things he could understand, not machines he couldn't even see. "Tell me more about the Heads of the Patrol and the Enemy. This is the first time I've even heard of them," Ryan asked. Kel looked at the dormant Recharger with a sad look in his eyes.
   "The Masters of the Gauntlet are a race that is emotionless but well meaning. Few ever see them, including their loyal servants the Patrol. Some say they are a bank of computers, some say that they are carbon based life like the rest of the known galaxy. I do not know what they are physically. The Enemy are a degenerate race that has many inherent psionic powers. They are ruled by their emotions just as the Patrol Heads are emotionless. They take great pride in their abilities and find endless enjoyment in giving Patrollers problems. You yourself have encountered their ingenuity, the pain collars are their invention. It may be hard to believe but do not trust them, for they are all malicious to some extent. They have black skin, and I mean black as in absence of color, of darkness. Beware them at all costs," Kel said.
   Finally Aldrin appeared in the room. He looked disheveled but presentable and now he was able to carry on a conversation again. He looked at Kel and then at Ryan wondering what had taken place since they had arrived here.
   "Where are we Mr. Etrice? I do not mean to intrude, but my charge is my sole responsibility on this planet," Aldrin said.
   "You are aboard my spacecraft. This is the bridge as you would call it," Kel answered. His Passion Device Matrix flashed again and the room was plunged into darkness. A sudden sound of movement, all around them, startled Ryan. The walls were moving. Slowly and majestically, the walls receded to show the gulf of space that existed outside the top of the ship. It was beautiful. Ryan looked down onto Earth and saw that he liked his planet from this vantage point. It wasn't just a picture from a book or off a computer it was real. The lights came back on and suddenly the walls turned into blank white sheets. "The metal hides a bank of circular monitor screens, in case you were wondering what those were. This ship has the capability to show anything that happens around the ship in any direction," Kel explained. Ryan could not shake the feeling that the wondrous beauty of space had given him.
   "Do you ever go outside your ship?" Ryan asked. Kel nodded and then further explained with words.
   "In my earlier days I used to fly through space without a ship, it is just more convenient for me this way," he said. Ryan suppressed another wow and just looked around the area.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix