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Trial by Fire
by Byron Molix

12:Time Flies

   "Ryan! What are you doing here? I heard about your parents. Oh come in dear boy, come in!" his aunt said. Mary was always dramatic and emotional, but when the police told her that her brother's family had been killed by violence she had cried for three hours straight. Ryan Moore was standing in the door to her apartment and she was shocked and relieved to see him. Ryan walked in, dropped his suitcase and hugged his aunt.
   "Aunt Mary. I wanted to get away from those men as fast as I could. I didn't know where else to go, or who else to turn to," he hid his own thoughts as he said this. He knew exactly what he was going to do and had merely stopped by to assuage his aunt and gain a new base of operations. Ryan loved his aunt, and didn't want her to get hurt by the gang members either. He had to hide everything from her.
   "Well, Ryan you'll have to stay here until you can go off to school. Will that be all right with you? Hopefully the police will clear everything up and we can have a proper funeral for your parents soon," she said. Her eyes teared up and she thought for a moment. Mary looked past Ryan and then back at him. She hugged him again and led him inside her home.
   On his way to his aunt's apartment in St. Louis, Ryan had noticed a quiet secluded area of sweeping arable land. He had picked out the perfect spot and was going to return there tomorrow morning to create his base of operations. Never again would his family be threatened by his being Guardian. He had promised it over and over but it never hit home until his parents had died. Now the promise was a vow.

   Moridosi looked into the darkness surrounding him. He preferred it now. It let him think and always evened the odds. Also it became apparent whenever someone was going to disturb him as the door to the basement opened and flooded the darkness with light. That door opened now and one of the young gang members entered his abode. All the older gang members are afraid I'll kill them if they displease me, so they send the innocents in to give me their messages.
   "Mr.... Hey are you down here?" the young girl asked. Moridosi wondered where this one had wandered into the gang from. He didn't spend a lot of time on it and acknowledged her question by mentally issuing his Recharger a message. The Recharger lit up and she jumped back as she suddenly looked at Moridosi's figure. He walked forward and lifted her face towards his with one hand.
   "What news do you have, little one?" he asked. There wasn't a touch of gentleness or love in his voice. It was all business.

   The Emissary looked at the brief exchange from afar. The 'Recharger' was like a television for him. The little girl told Moridosi that Guardian had returned and beaten up several gang members to get his whereabouts. The Emissary practically rubbed its hands together as everything played out as he had hoped. Guardian and Moridosi would meet each other in combat, in a battle that could have only one victor.
   The loser would be demoralized and the winner would be the Emissary's next target for ultimate corruption. Corrupting Patrollers was something the Emissary loved more than anything. Sowing dissent and chaos was fun too, but nothing gave you a high like taking one of the lofty Civilization agents and bringing them to the very bottom of moral existence. Twisting one of the pillars of good into the most base and evil things was his only goal. Even if Moridosi won, he would be corrupted to corrupt others. The Emissary didn't see Moridosi winning though, the Recharger he had was only a mockup. Powered by a tiny fusion reactor and with a simple force field and anti-gravity field generator, he couldn't stand up to a Gauntlet wielder, but the fight should be fun to watch and the Emissary could always watch through the Recharger.

   Ryan took off as soon as he awoke the next morning. He put the small silver ball he had hidden the night before against his forehead and willed it to flatten and become a thin circle. It glowed and then flattened. He never thought he'd be changing in back alleyways, but it was always good enough for the comic book heroes. In a flash his clothing shimmered dimly, and a familiar blue, black and white costume replaced the clothes he had worn out of his aunt's home earlier. Guardian rose out of the alley and sped upward and out of St. Louis. He was just out of the city limits when he turned on the speed and burst westward at supersonic speeds. Guardian passed a flock of birds like they were standing still. He looked back and smiled.
   Guardian streaked across the state. He went to a deserted area of northern Missouri, that was almost in the center of the state. Farm land, he thought as he sailed over it. He again saw the spot he had picked for a base of operations. For now, he'd just have to clumsily build the headquarters using what little knowledge he had of how to transmute matter. The Matrix truly made idea into reality, but this had to be perfect if it was to serve as a good headquarters. He also needed to get Kel to loan him a teleporter, or to copy one. Why make it easy to get in? Guardian smiled at the plans he had made, but knew he'd have to wait to implement them.
   He concentrated and a section of earth rose up out of the ground and sped to the side. It was deep, about 15 feet deep. He looked into the hole and lit a small light. Guardian concentrated again, and another 15 feet of dirt disappeared, but instead of simply pushing it out of the hole, he transmuted it. It slowly reached up to coat the sides of the tunnel, forming braces and a man sized shaft. In a minute the metallic shape took form, reaching deep into the ground and protecting the tunnel. Guardian jumped into the hole and descended to the bottom. He lit the tunnel as he went and examined it. It had a futuristic bent, with indentions and lines running the length of it, but he knew none of those lines did anything. Then in a furious glow, everything below Guardian changed. Beads of sweat beat off of his face and dripped through the hole in his mask to fall.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix