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Trial by Fire
by Byron Molix

10:On Coming Home

   Ryan flew back across the Kansas countryside eastward, toward Kansas City, Missouri. The wind ripped past him and around his body as his invisible force field blunted the gale force winds and then let them filter through. It felt like he was sticking his head out of a car window that was moving at 60 miles and hour. In reality, he was moving slightly under the speed of sound. Ryan had been flying back to his home city for almost 15 minutes. He expected to arrive any minute now, and then he would see what he could find out from some of the Death Fist gang members.
   The entire return trip, he had been agonizing over the deaths of his parents. He had never meant to get them involved in any of this, but his disguise hadn't been good enough. Someone behind the gang had found out who he was and ordered his parents killed. It was going to take Ryan just long enough to find this person before he dealt with them. His anger and hatred welled up inside of him, and he didn't worry as he pushed himself further and faster.
   The passing scenery blurred into a wide green plane below him. Then it turned gray as he flew over downtown. Ryan slowed down and looked about him. He didn't figure that it would be too hard to find one of the Death Fists. They were always out causing problems in the city. It was dusk and growing darker; the criminals would soon be out to prey upon the innocent and now was the time for Ryan to find his man. He looked down into the city a hundred feet below. His gaze pored over the city blocks and then he found what he was looking for.
   Guardian flew down out of the sky like a kamikaze attack plane and pulled up right in front of the gathering group of gang members. Even from 90 yards away the distinctive Death Fist insignia was clearly visible on their jackets. Ryan held his anger in check and only used enough to keep him running on a power high. He landed right in front of the gang members, held out his fist and caused it to release light in a soft glow.
   "I am Guardian. You are criminals in my city. I want ... information. If you don't give it to me, the police may not find all of your body parts!" he exclaimed in his best voice. It wasn't Ryan speaking anymore; Guardian had taken over and was dominating the situation. The young punks blanched a pale white color faced with this powerful figure. Some started to back away. Others started to draw weaponry. Guardian did what you'd expect him to; he moved first.
   Guardian grabbed hold of the nearest punk and imagined that he was superstrong. Guardian grabbed the boy and threw him over the group's head and into the alley behind them. The other gang members watched their friend sail over their heads and then looked back at Guardian.
   "No one goes anywhere until I get my information!" he said. He pointed at the handgun one of the gang members had lifted and a pinprick of energy lanced from his finger and to the barrel of the gun. The barrel visibly heated and then started to melt together. The gang member dropped it and looked back at Guardian.
   "We don't know nothin' man! What do you want us to say?" he asked. Guardian looked at each one of the gang members and then spoke again.
   "Your gang pulled off a driveby in a peaceful section of town, in a suburb that until now was untouched by your violence. You are going to tell me who ordered this driveby or I can make it more difficult for you," he said. His high was reaching a crescendo. He held in his anger and it only kept building. Guardian reached out his hands toward the gang members and willed that the gravity field around them increase. Nothing noticeable happened at first, but gradually each of the gang members seemed to slouch. Then each one was on his knees and fighting to keep from falling to the ground.
   "Who ordered the driveby?" Guardian asked. His anger showed in his words, if not so much in his powers. He concentrated to keep from breaking limbs or killing any of the young boys. All of them cursed, or whimpered as their own weight attacked them. Three of them screamed that they didn't know anything about a driveby and then three others screamed out in pain. Guardian halted his pressure. This was the critical moment. If he lost control, the gang members might well die from his power use. He lessened the pressure to make sure they would survive, and then waited.
   "All right! All right! The one who ordered and did the driveby was some big shot assassin. He's been getting cozy with our leader and now he's ordering us around like he is our boss. You can find him at the corner of Palmtree and 110th street. Don't hurt us any more. It hurts like hell! Ahh!" the leader of the small group of gang members said. Guardian wasn't sure if he was telling the truth, but he knew that the boy had to feel his own bones grinding together and his pain couldn't be faked. He canceled the gravity field, knowing that the gang members would be in pain for at least 5 minutes or more and took off into the sky. Guardian wasn't sure at all if he could find Palmtree and 110th at night, so he decided to go home for now.
   A single figure watched him go. She was wearing a weightless suit of electronic looking armor made of invincible force fields. The field was porous so that gas could filter inside, but it was a completely enclosing bubble, that just happened to be shaped like some weird futuristic body armor. Matriarch stood on the roof top overlooking Guardian's handiwork. Not bad. He barely even hurt those boys but he was so violent it was obvious he no longer had a Gauntlet. Matriarch could feel the Gauntlet on her right hand even beneath her techno suit. She didn't see any reason to hang out here any longer and so she took off after Guardian. He was her ticket to learning the ropes of the Patrol. Her Recharger had said as much and she had wanted to meet him ever since he had debuted during the early spring. Even as she flew after him, he was picking up high speed and was pulling away from her. She had to will herself to fly faster, faster than she ever had before to follow him.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix