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Trial by Fire
by Byron Molix
Ryan Moore flew through space; his own acceleration was so great he didn't notice the difference between the presence or lack of gravity. He flew on, propelling himself with anger and fear. Ryan poured on more speed, trying to lose himself in the sheer velocity. He pushed himself to the limit, until he thought he would collapse from exhaustion, his reserves drained. Then he took a look around himself. Behind him was Earth, and the Moon as well. Ahead and to the right was Mars. Ryan had never opened the throttle this far before and he was speechless. He made himself stop, dead in space. There he waited, looking forward several hundred miles to Mars, and around at the Solar System. His hate ebbed away, confronted with the enormity of the universe, and the magnitude of velocity he had achieved. A few moments to a different world, he thought as a huge, familiarly asymmetrical shape seemed to materialize beside him. With an afterthought, he pushed himself to the airlock; still looking out at space, he calmed himself with simple thoughts.
He entered the airlock and then the air supply of the ship itself. Metal closed around him silently; the pieces of the ship moved like organic things, sliding and closing like the irises of camera lenses. Setting himself down on the floor, he turned to take another look at this room he had seen only days before. The walls were austere, devoid of any kind of decoration, as was the rest of the ship. Ryan pulled off his mask and removed the Passion Device Matrix that was on his forehead. He tried to hold back the tears and make the anger vanish. It wasn't a time for personal grief or thoughts of hatred. He had more to learn and Kel Etrice had to be waiting for him; then he thought, my aunt is also waiting for me. He had to get Kel to turn the ship toward Earth, so he could leave her a message saying he would be away a while. He wiped his face with his gloved hand as he walked toward the exit. Matrix in hand, now shaped as a ball, and a new sense of determination, Ryan moved through the door to do what he had to.
"This just in, Karlmax of Colorado has just announced a patent on Broadcast Power. Broadcast Power is a new energy theory, based upon the works of a dead scientist named Tesla. According to Karlmax's PR department, cars could be powered by street lights. They say that power can be sent through the air. Well, all of this looks like an elaborate hoax to me. This station does not believe that anything other than parlor tricks are being demonstrated by Karlmax. We would also like to congratulate Karlmax on obtaining a patent on what we for now consider vaportech," one of the anchors said. Tammy watched the news as she did every day while fixing dinner. She knew that there was more to this Broadcast Power than they reporters were telling, but she didn't know everything. Aldrin never told her anything, but she could figure this out on her own. The anchor's partner took over the broadcast.
"Closer to home, Downtown Kansas City was rocked yesterday by several powerful sonic waves. The perpetrator was a man dressed in black who was hovering in the air. As you can see from this long distance photograph, courtesy of the Police Department, the man is indeed floating without any apparent aid, with the exception of this glowing red triangle shape near his head. Authorities are pleased to announce that someone flew into the city, noticeable here as a blue streak, impacted with the perpetrator and in an ensuing battle ended the sonic bombardment. This, coupled with the fact that the perpetrator was broadcasting the name at high volume, leads us to believe that resident hero Guardian handled the matter. Had our hero not been there, more property damage would have resulted, along with the possibility of permanent deafness for some Kansas City citizens. Thank you Guardian," the announcer said. Tammy looked on at the television screen. She hadn't had time to be jealous of Guardian's press because she had made the front page yesterday. Matriarch was the feature article, because she went out to help educate children at a homeless shelter, small children who didn't go to daycare centers. Tammy liked doing that. It was also good practice, she couldn't let anyone see inside her suit, but she got to relax and just teach. It took a bit of will, but the suit was automatic now. The news had severely scared her. That was a Recharger that was floating above that madman's head in the previous video footage.
That man was a Patroller, and he had broken the code; what scared her was that his Recharger and Gauntlet were still there! Worse, Guardian was the one to take him out. Guardian had said he wasn't even a Patroller. Tammy didn't know what that was, but it had to be powerful. She was starting to worry if he would become a loose cannon, or a vigilante who would try and execute criminals. She felt like she should ask questions at the source. She figured the man in black was now in police custody; maybe she should pay him a visit and ask him some questions.
Luckily, she had been working on Matriarch Mark II; she had learned how to make parts of the construct glow, or the entire suit if she wanted it too. The lights would add something to her image. She also had begun to change the color of the suit to match the surroundings, a black suit for night patrols, a gray one next to concrete. It wasn't hard. Tammy was becoming good at making that suit. Aldrin had helped, offering advice after seeing one of those movies that her boyfriend always watched with her. Aldrin kept telling her, that once she had enough willpower she could construct more than just the suit at the same time. She just needed practice he always said. She knew he was right though. She had gone from greenhorn to having a polished force field construct, in a few days. She only hoped Guardian would be as helpful, where the Patrol was concerned.
"Moridosi, you've got a visitor," an officer said. Moridosi cringed; his face blanched as he imagined an all black body walking through the door, showing no contrast from behind the bars, "You seem to be popular with the heroic crowd around here." The officer moved back through the door, and a tall, strange, metallic thing walked into the room. The thing was human shaped with spherical shoulder joints and a wide chest cavity. Stranger than most of this though, there was an M etched into the chest. The feet made a tinny clang as the machine walked.
"Mr. Moridosi, I am Matriarch. We need to talk," a decidedly feminine, but heavily garbled voice said. The armor suit extended a hand toward Moridosi, which began to glow brightly. Then the M lit up, a bright white light flaring from it.
Copyright © 1995, 1997 by Byron Molix