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Out of the Fire
by Byron Molix

7: Home Sweet Home

   Ryan walked to the bottom of Kel Etrice's spaceship. He was now in the only airlock that the ship had. He pushed the buttons that would open the doors to space, after sucking out the air in the room. Ryan could feel the air get thinner and thinner. He almost started to choke, but he could suddenly breathe again. He strained to see the force field he knew was there, but it was no good. It was invisible and if he wished to make one for anything other than self protection, he would have to learn to visualize the effect he wanted better. The sounds of the ship faded as the air became more and more thin. Sound ceased altogether and Ryan could tell that he was existing in a near total vacuum. Well, he had wanted to test the Matrix before stepping into space, and it looked like it was working fine.
   No longer feeling the supercharged feeling of the energy bolt Kel had fired at him, he realized that his protection was not without its price. Conceivably he could die out here if the Matrix somehow didn't have enough power to maintain all of this. The space doors began to open and Ryan felt strange to see the sun and earth from this perspective. Radiant beams flew into the chamber through the doors and Ryan could have sworn it felt like he was on a beach. He didn't waste time, but concentrated briefly. Ryan's body rose off of the floor and shot out of the open space doors. They started to close as soon as he had passed and looking back, Ryan could see the ship he had so recently been on. It was an asymmetrical conglomeration of curves and angles. It was like nothing Ryan had ever seen in a sci-fi movie and he was glad. Ryan didn't think it would have felt too real if it looked like the Enterprise.
   Ryan sped forward away from the ship, and out of it's personal gravity well. He suddenly felt weird, but realized that it was the effect of flying through space. It wasn't like anything he had ever encountered on earth and he thought, 'So this is what a space walk feels like.' There was suddenly no up or down, he lost all physical bearing on direction. He was drifting in space now that he had stopped concentrating on flying forward. It was something he would spend more time to ponder later. He concentrated again and had the urge to open up the Matrix's flight ability; wanting to see how fast he could go, but still reluctant to do too much. Moving forward slowly but increasing speed all the time, Ryan flew toward Earth. In an instant he was in the upper atmosphere and he had to slow down because a red glow had flared up and was blocking his vision.
   Friction, he thought. If he didn't slow down, he might kill himself. He'd be blind until he did so anyway, and he didn't want to plow into anything at a thousand miles an hour or more. He might survive, but he didn't want to lay odds on the thing he collided with surviving. Gradually, the red glow subsided and he could see where he was going at least. He was now through the upper atmosphere and could pick up speed again. He flattened his approach and cut a swath around the globe as he spiraled home.

   Tammy sat down on her couch and turned on the television. She was tired from the Saturday morning workout session she had just come from. She flipped to the News Network on cable because she knew they would have recent news at this time of the day. One of the anchors, she could never remember all of their names, was just starting in on a recent story that had just happened.
   "Sir, are you sure that this falling object is a satellite?" the anchor asked. The picture changed to that of a military man in a blue suit.
   "Yes, see how it spiraled around the earth at several thousand miles per hour. We are currently trying to figure out who's satellite it is so we can stop it before it impacts somewhere, it should take a few days for it to hit ground at the rate it was going, but we only got sporadic radar reports on it," the man said.
   "Thank you, General. It looks like the Air Force has things well in hand and hopefully we won't have anything to worry about," the anchor said. The general nodded and the anchor started to talk about more news. "In local news, local hero Guardian apprehended two members of the Death Fist gang yesterday night. Police are questioning the gang members and have them under heavy protection. It looks like we may get some court convictions from this affair, but the gang members are presently loyal and tight lipped. It looks like they will be going to jail alone, but wherever you are Guardian, thanks," the anchor said. The anchor said something about a commercial break, but Tammy was already reaching for the remote.
   "With the way this station covered Guardian, you'd think he was the only Patrol member in the state," she said. She had only had her Recharger for twelve hours but she was determined to make something out of her life using it. She looked over her shoulder back at her closet, where the pyramid shaped Recharger lay. Yes sir, that object was going to turn an unemployed teacher into a heroine. The Recharger had a funny personality, but Aldrin had told her enough early this morning to make Tammy jump at the chance to be a Patroller. Seeing Guardian do so much good and get so much notoriety recently had made Tammy determined to seek him out. He had been doing this for months, he could help her in the beginning. She had already discussed her plan with the Recharger and it had concurred. Meeting Guardian could prove a good point in her training it had said.

   Ryan flew down out of the upper atmosphere at hypersonic speeds and headed for the Midwest. He blazed through the air faster than he had ever dared before only slowing when he reached Missouri. A sonic boom followed his sudden stop and the wave hit him like a truck. He flew forward as the force hit his back. He twisted at an awkward angle and started to fall out of the sky. Ryan stopped his spiral dive and pulled himself to a stop. He had completely forgotten about how fast he was going. The force dissipated off of his force field, but he was lucky he hadn't flown into town going that fast; the destruction would have been about a mile wide. After recovering from the shock of the sonic boom he started to fly again toward Kansas City.
   It only took a few minutes for Ryan to make his way to his neighborhood. Just before he reached his house he wondered how he was going to hide his identity now. He couldn't just waltz into the house in his costume holding onto the suitcase that had barely made it down in the first place. He swung low toward the street he lived on and turned the corner. What he saw wasn't the welcome sight he had imagined. What he saw was a pile of brick, broken wood and collapsed cement. It was no longer a house, but a demolition site, and Ryan's jaw dropped as his mind blanked with surprise. He quickly flew down and landed in the midst of the pile. Dust blew up around him as he landed and as it cleared he looked around the site of destruction.
   "Guardian, it's good to see you, but if you wanted to prevent this you're a little late," a voice said sarcastically. Ryan turned to face the speaker and saw that a female police sergeant was addressing him. For the first time, he noticed the police lines and the small group of police still left at the scene.
   "I can see that. How did this happen?" he managed to ask after composing himself. The sergeant shook her head slightly and then turned around to walk away.
   "It's a drive by, but what hardware they could use to totally demolish a structure of this size is beyond me. Frankly, I'm scared of what other uses the gangbangers would put it to," she responded as she walked toward the police lines. Ryan's mind whirled, a drive by? How could the gang members have found out who he was or where he lived? How did she know it was a drive by? It looked almost like arson.
   "Sergeant, how do you know this was a drive by? Even the hardware of the Death Fisters I took down yesterday wasn't anywhere near this powerful. They had regular rifles as far as I could tell. If they have decided to bring their evil to this part of the city, why is there no other destruction?" Ryan asked. The police woman turned back to face him.
   "It had to be a vengeance hit, maybe the people who lived here made a powerful enemy," she said. Ryan thought that he had been found out. The gang knows who I am. Then he latched onto something else the woman had said.
   "What do you mean the people who LIVED here?" he asked. It could just be a slip of the tongue or she might not have used the right tense.
   "I mean that the family that lived here is dead. The gang members killed them across town at the airport as they were arriving on a plane this morning. Well the two parents anyway, their son has been missing since the house was demolished, but we think he may be being held by the gang. That was after the house was destroyed, but the two events happened within 12 hours," she answered. She looked Ryan directly in the eye. "Do you think you can do anything about these criminals, vigilante?"
   "Yes, I think I can bring these criminals to justice. But you may not like how I do it. Stay out of my way, Sergeant," Ryan said. Guardian took off into the air and flew away at high speed. The police just looked up at him as they watched the hero fly off. He seemed mad and angry. Those were things that could turn their city into a wasteland when you considered how powerful he was. What they didn't see were the tears that disintegrated against his face as the air ripped them away during his flight. They couldn't hear the echo of the harsh sounding words, the gang members killed them, over and over again.
   "From this day on, Ryan Moore is dead. There is only Guardian, only a new identity I will have to later embrace," he thought. He flew generally westward, in minutes he crossed the Kansas-Missouri border and was soon headed for the center of the state. The pain was all he could feel and revenge was all he could think about. When he calmed down enough to plan, he started to think. Kel had said that an Enemy attack had been primed toward him, and this obviously had been that attack carried out. Could the Enemy have something to do with the Death Fist gang? Ryan didn't have time to return and ask Kel. He only had enough time to get himself primed to take the murderers down. In the middle of Kansas's flat grassland, Ryan Moore began to change. He sank down in the waving wheat and began to concentrate on his identity as Guardian. It was mere coincidence that he had originally chosen that name, and now that he was a Guardian he didn't feel a need to change it. If the Enemy wanted to deal with Guardian, Guardian would grow to deal with them.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix