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Trial by Fire
by Byron Molix

11:The Ropes

   "Hold it right there Guardian!" a voice said behind Ryan. It was almost inhuman sounding, with various echoes in it. Ryan looked behind him as he flew north and saw something out of a sci-fi movie. It was a suit of body armor, with bulbous shoulders and a stylized M on the chest. Ryan didn't know what to say or do, but wasn't sure if it was a trap or not. He slowed, but he didn't stop.
   "What do you want?" he asked. The figure had slowed as he had and was pacing him.
   "You and I have to talk. My name is Matriarch and you are the Guardian I have heard so much about," the armor said. A vaguely female voice was doing the talking, but it was so garbled Ryan couldn't tell if he'd heard it before. He decided to stop and began to hover in midair. He turned around and faced Matriarch. It was then he noticed that she was examining him from his feet up. He looked her straight in her face plate and began to address her.
   "What are you? I've never heard of any Earth technology as advanced as that suit you are wearing, and why does it look like it was made in Japan?" he asked.
   "I am a Patroller. I designed this suit after something I saw in an animated movie. It simulates superstrength, lets me see long distances and is very protective," she said. Her conviction in the suit seemed greater than her conviction in herself. So she's a Patroller, he thought. Better keep on my toes. He hadn't tested how much damage one his force fields could take. He knew the Gauntlet could match him easily and if she chose to, she could capture him right now, but, maybe she didn't know that. He had to size up this Patroller immediately.
   "Let me guess, your Recharger told you to come looking for me, because I was breaking the Patrol Code right?" Ryan said.
   "No. I came to you to learn," Matriarch said.
   "Well, I'm not a Patro... what did you say?" Ryan couldn't believe what he had just heard. She wanted him to teach her?
   "I said I came to you to learn. While this suit construct is good, my Recharger keeps telling me to do more and I suggested having you teach me. My Recharger agreed and now I have sought you out. I didn't know you weren't a Patroller. Were you a Patroller before?" she asked. Ryan felt something strange, like deja vu, but shrugged it off.
   "I used to be a Patroller named Guardian. Now I am a Guardian. I can give you a few pointers but now is not the time. Farewell," Ryan said. He concentrated and focused his will to form a cloud of dust around Matriarch. As it began to coalesce, he took off eastward at sonic speed, and soon surpassed that to leave a sonic boom in his wake as he raced away.
   Matriarch struggled to leave the dust cloud before he got away. It fogged her vision just long enough for him to disappear. Damn she swore under her breath.
   "I've lost him, Aldrin. Think you can guide me home? I didn't make sure I knew where I was when I followed him. I didn't have time, he was going so fast," she said.
   "Affirmative, Tammy. I will guide you back to your house. Have you learned anything from Guardian?" a machinelike voice said.
   "No. He took off just after he promised to give me some pointers. Pointers. As if he didn't have time to help a fellow crime fighter," she said.
   "Persist and he may take you under his wing. I believe he is good of heart, if not as noble as one who follows the Code," the voice answered. What Aldrin didn't relay to Tammy was that he knew what was on Ryan's mind. His anger had consumed him and he wouldn't be in the mood to teach Aldrin's new charge until his parents were avenged. As much as it galled Aldrin to let Ryan commit violence and to let Tammy watch such violence and not stop it, as the Code actually demanded, he didn't feel compelled to by his programming. He placed this thought at the back of his machine mind and began to guide Tammy in a straight line back to himself.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix