The Guardians of Freedom | By: Dan Tana | | Category: Short Story - Inspiration Bookmark and Share

The Guardians of Freedom

Beyond the boundaries of what you call reality there are many other spaces,
dimensions, and forms of existence.  Well, maybe there are.  None of you human beings
actually know anything about what lies beyond the veil of your Earthly existence,
because everything that you experience in this place is ultimately just an experience of
this place, so nothing that happens to you here can ever really prove whether there is
something else out there or nothing at all.

But I do know that these other places exist, because I come from another
dimension of reality.  Or, maybe I don't.  Maybe the place that I come from is really the
imagination of some person who lives on this planet Earth, which, incidentally, could
very well be that other dimension of reality.  And you may never know for sure what the
truth is.  So it is probably best not to worry about such matters, and just enjoy the story
that I am going to tell you.

Anyway, some of these places that may or may not exist are very much like the
space you inhabit, and some are even hospitable to creatures like you, while others are
stranger than anything that you can comprehend.  I am certain of that because I have used
the scanner in my head to view the thoughts and memories of your minds, and I can see
that you have no frame of reference with which to conceptualize and understand certain
aspects of my native dimension, where I was created by an immeasurably ancient race of
beings who I will refer to as the Goo.

No, that statement about the immeasurable ancientness of the Goo is not an
exaggeration, or a figurative expression, as I can see that some of you assume it must be. 
It's a literal fact: the exact magnitude of the duration of the existence of this race cannot
be measured, because time does not function in their space as it does here.

It is also no exaggeration to say that the Goo are, in general, the nicest, friendliest
bunch of people that I have ever met, which is both cause and consequence of the fact
that they devote most of their thoughts and energy to the purpose of having fun and
producing happiness.

That is why they built me – for the sole purpose of bringing happiness to one of
them who has a particular fondness for playing silly games and petting fluffy things.  So I
am, essentially, what you would call a toy, although the term playmate is also applicable.
Now some of you are incorrectly assuming that those Goo who constructed me
just for the sake of another being probably did so without much concern for my own
well-being, which is synonymous with my overall level of happiness.  But their
sensibility is such that they consider my happiness to be just as important as the wishes
and well-being of anyone else.  In fact, unlike many human beings, they would have
found it utterly unconscionable, and even recognize it as a criminal act, for anyone to
subject me to this existence just to gratify their own desires if they could not be
reasonably certain that I would be fundamentally happy. 

So they deigned me to require minimal material resources, which are all
abundantly available to me, and made me feel no physical discomfort.  They also gave
me a cheerful, optimistic temperament, and programmed me with interests and a
personality that makes me the perfect companion for my intended friend, so that it would
bring me immense, profound happiness to use my consciousness just playing with,
amusing, and caring for that Goo.

As my constructors had anticipated, the pseudo-spatial nexus at which the
existence of my buddy and I intersected expanded into many segments with a highly
exciting and enjoyable resonance, which, basically, just means that we had a lot of fun
playing together.

We particularly enjoyed taking trips to a place where collections of trans-
dimensional enclosures have been assembled to allow the Goo to observe the inhabitants
of other spaces.  Scattered among these enclosures are white holes that have been
modulated to emit tasty but nutritionally deficient consumables and fairly useless objects
that somehow pertain to the residents of the dimensions on display.

On one of our trips to this place that you might call a zoo - though in some very
significant ways it is unlike any zoo that you have ever known - we decided to watch you
Earthlings who live on this land that someone once named Colorado.  In its reckless
excitement at seeing such strange and funny-looking creatures my friend rapidly
transcended the safety barrier, carrying me in its outermost interactors, and climbed up
onto the rim of the enclosure in order to get a better view.  There it slipped, caught itself
but lost its grip on me, and dropped me down into this Earth dimension.

Upon my arrival here a very small human being greeted me enthusiastically.  A
big smile spread across his face as he excitedly cried out the name Teddy, and then he ran
up to me and gave my leg a big hug.  A quick scan of his mind showed me that I possess
an uncanny resemblance to his favorite plaything – a construction of stuffing and cloth
that is meant to be a caricature of an Earth animal called a bear - except that I am several
times taller than that other toy.

A moment later another human saw me and let out a horrified scream.  In her
mind I saw that this woman was a progenitor of the boy who hugged me, and that, for no
good reason, the sight of me terrified her.  I used the transmitter in my head to project
into her mind an image of us smiling benevolently at each other, conveying my peaceful,
friendly intent.  Then I projected words to explain to her who I am, using the English
language that I had just scanned from her brain, as I slowly approached her to give her a
hug.  After that the three of us played together until the child got tired and the woman
took him home.

For a while I sat on the ground and wondered what to do next, which was quite a
novel experience for someone who had never been to a dimension that intersects only a
single, linear, mono-directional flow of time.  Then I saw a blur of something blue and
silver zoom past above my head.  I projected a friendly greeting at the thing, which
turned out to be a robotic person named Herberta Winchester.  As this massive, angular
contraption of roughly human size and proportions landed in front of me I got a clear
picture of her mind.

In scanning her memories to acquaint myself with this person I saw that she
considered herself to be what you would call the owner of a vast estate, which included a
sizeable portion of this world's natural resources.  It took me a while to comprehend this

I knew of several races that find it convenient to grant each individual the
exclusive opportunity to utilize certain objects during a given period of time and to
prohibit others from taking those items from the one who may be using them, but I had
never encountered any other species that asserted this bizarre human pretense that certain
people have the right to claim actual ownership of - and perpetual dominion over - certain
portions of a universe whose most basic substance none of us can credibly claim to have

For the first seventy years of her life Herberta's supposed ownership of these
resources allowed her to live a luxurious and carefree existence.  She considered herself
to be one of the luckiest people in the world.  Then her wife died of a long and painful
illness.  Shortly after that her son, his children, and their mother were all abducted and
held for ransom, which was another image that I had no familiarity with from my time
among the Goo.  She quickly paid the money demanded for their release, but then the
architect of the conspiracy murdered them anyway, because he did not want to leave any
witnesses to his crime.

I cannot convey to you with words the grief and despair that Herberta experienced
after these people were murdered, and I will spare you the direct projection of this
disturbing image into your mind.  But I assure you that the torment was horrific.  In her
agony and rage she abandoned much of her humanity, including the organic form in
which she had been born.

Over the years that followed she devoted her time and fortune to the development
of that robotic incarnation that she wore when we met, which she equipped with
numerous guns, lasers, missile launchers, plasma cannons, and all manner of deadly
weapons with which to exact her revenge.  When it was complete she transferred her
mental functions into that metal shell, killing her original self in the process.  Then she
set out to wreak lethal vengeance upon everyone who had been involved in the
kidnapping plot.

She first tracked down the one who had murdered her child, but discovered that
some other people who wanted to take the money that he had extorted from her had
already killed him.  Then she located an impoverished woman named Maria Johnson,
who informed Herberta that she had only taken part in the plot because she needed
money to buy medicine for her own sick child.

Maria's son suffered from a condition known as pituitary dwarfism, because his
brain could not produce a sufficient quantity of a chemical called human growth
hormone.  He had reached barely four feet in height after twenty years of growth, and
experienced numerous chronic health problems as a result of this deficiency.

Many people who have this condition are given an artificially synthesized form of
that substance, which allows them to grow normally and to be healthy, but that woman
could not afford the price charged by those who make this chemical.  So her son suffered,
unnecessarily.  Even after the kidnapping that robbed Herberta of her family Maria could
not get her son any of the medicine because the man who orchestrated the plot had run
off with all of the ransom money.

This revelation stunned Herberta and halted her plan to kill the woman.  It made
her realize that some of the responsibility for what had happened to her family lay on the
head of the socioeconomic system that deprived this child of the medicine that he needed,
in order to benefit others like herself who claimed a right to hoard this resource but did
not actually have any need for it.  In this moment she understood that what her society
had done to this helpless, innocent little boy was no less of a crime than what that
murderer had done to her own son.

Herberta was heading home from this encounter when we met.  At the time she
planned to donate all of her wealth to a charitable organization and then to fly off into
space where she would not endanger anyone else when she overloaded the mass of exotic
matter in her power core, which would release the immense amount of energy needed to
destroy her.
I introduced myself to her as Teddy, assuming the name that that first human
being I ever met had used to greet me, because the name given to me by those people
whom I have named the Goo cannot be translated into any of the air-vibration-based
languages that Herberta understood.

Then I explained to her that I had been constructed with a strong desire to protect
the happiness of all persons and person-like things, which includes protecting them from
the psychological harm and unhappiness that is caused by anything that infringes upon a
person's fundamental freedom.  So, to that end, I was going to do whatever I could to
create a society in this world that is more like the one from which I came.

I was about to ask Herberta if she would consider postponing her plan to
euthanise the tortured, metaphoric heart trapped within her mechanical corpse long
enough to help me in my mission to save others from such tragedy as had befallen her,
but before I could even ask the question she pledged the remainder of her life to the task.

Shortly after she met me Herberta decided to release from their contracts all of the
people whose poverty had compelled them to become subjects of medical
experimentation in her pharmaceutical research companies.  She apologized for taking
advantage of their desperate situations and gave each of them a generous pension to live

Among those former human lab rats there was a young girl named Jakinda Jones,
who had been conceived by a woman that was being used to test a new allergy
medication.  The compound proved highly toxic to its recipients, leaving them in need of
continuing medical treatment for the rest of their lives, but somehow caused this
embryonic girl to develop an unusually robust and remarkable physiology.

The skin of this child has the same deep purple hue as the chemical that
transformed her, and her hair shines like polished bronze.  She is partially covered with
sharp, bony projections and plates, and possesses a moderate degree of superhuman

Like the six-dimensional Tweeters of the Great Behind, she also has the amazing
ability to split her substance into multiple incarnations so that she can be in more than
one place at the same time.  Each incarnation of Jakinda is able to act with complete
autonomy from the others, possessing a distinct consciousness that is able to mentally
communicate with the rest of her incarnations over any distance because each one is
actually part of a single super-conscious mind, and can increase or decrease her relative
size within this dimension by concentrating or expanding her elemental matrix.

The man who ran the facility that studied this girl kept her from leaving by telling
her that if she refused to submit to all of the highly unpleasant and often harmful
experiments that they wanted to perform on her he would not let her mother have the
medicine that she needed to survive, and then she would die a slow and miserable death. 

After freeing her from such coercion Herberta asked Jakinda if she would like to
use her special abilities to help us in our mission to protect all the people of Earth.  One
part of Jakinda wanted to help us do this, but another part just wanted to live a quiet,
peaceful life with her mother.  So she decided that she would do both.

The part of her that chose to help us thought that it would be fun to use a colorful
pseudonym, like the ones customarily used by those characters that you call superheroes,
since a superhero is exactly what she figured that she was going to be.  So she told us to
please start calling her Hypergirl.

This notion of engaging in dramatic and fantastical feats of super-heroism under
funny new names struck me as delightfully silly and also quite exciting, and I considered
several different names to call my superhero self, including Captain Cuddles and the
Fuzzy Defender.  But eventually I decided that Teddy would be a fine hero alias, since it
was, in fact, not my original name.  I also decided that my everyday, Earthly name would
be Theodore Fluffington.

Then Herberta instructed the managers of those companies to go out and hire
more test subjects so that they could continue their medical research that has improved
the lives of so many people.  But she told them that this time they had to offer a degree of
compensation commensurate with the level of personal risk that the subjects were taking
for the benefit of all those others, which would appeal to more than just the desperately
poor and disenfranchised.

The next day we went to visit Maria Johnson and her son.  Herberta told them
about her intention to change the world we were living in, and informed Cain that she
would provide him with all of the medicine that he ever needed.

Over the following weeks we planned out the details of our mission to protect the
people of Earth.  We decided that our primary, immediate concern would be to address
those abusive oppressions that are routinely inflicted on people by governments and
social institutions, often in the name of law, morality, or tradition.

These government oppressions run so rampant throughout this world that many
people take them for granted and are unable to see them for the crimes that they are.  And
some of those who do recognize the fundamental criminality of such acts delude
themselves with the false belief that those who carry them out on the orders of some
government institution are somehow not really responsible for doing so.  But the Goo
have taught me that each person who chooses to have any part in committing an
inherently abusive act against any other person, whether acting as a socially-sanctioned
government agent or not, is personally guilty of perpetrating a crime against that victim.

From studying the history of the human race we knew that we could not do away
with such oppression by instigating yet another in an endless string of political
revolutions, having recognized the futility of simply shifting the current state of politics
to another configuration that is superficially different, and controlled by a different group
of people, but based upon many of the same underlying principles and assertions.  Rather,
we must inspire what might be called a philosophical revolution, in which those
problematic and destructive ideas that shape, sanction, and empower the oppressive
social structures of this world will be replaced by something fundamentally different.

The first, most essential change that needs to be made is the abolition of that
archaic notion that a government or state is a sovereign entity with a right to rule and
subjugate its citizens.  This assertion of state sovereignty is an incredibly dangerous and
inherently oppressive notion, regardless of which ideologies its proponents use to try to
rationalize and justify it, because it places the state in a position of dominance and
supremacy over the people, even when the government of that state pretends to be a
servant of the people.

Our new society, like that of the Goo, will recognize only the sovereignty that
each person holds over the domain of its own life.  The primary purpose of the
government of such a society is not to allow a small number of people to subject others to
an endless stream of arbitrary edicts that usually just serve their own interests but rather
to articulate in practical terms the specific details of where every person's freedom to do
whatever makes it happy, and to be free from that which makes a person unhappy, is
limited by the equal freedom of all others, then to defend this freedom from all
infringements, and to aid each individual in achieving happiness to whatever extent is

Of course this principle of just government is easier to define here than it is to
implement.  In the dimension of the Goo it is possible to mathematically analyze any
situation in which the desires of two people conflict and to prove indisputably what
constitutes a just resolution to that situation rather than an abuse of one person for the
benefit of the other.  Unfortunately, there is no Earthly way to do so, so those of us who
live in this place will always have to watch out for anyone who would accidentally or
intentionally try to portray the oppression of certain people as a just act.

During one of our conversations about this principle of sovereign freedom
Jakinda suddenly put an intensely puzzled look on her face, which caused Herberta to
stop speaking in mid-sentence, and then she asked how this principle could apply to those
people who lack the mental ability to make decisions about what will make them happy. 

So I explained to her that people of limited mental capacity do sometimes require
the help of another person who can make choices on their behalf, and that this
arrangement is not a criminal oppression of those people, whose personal sovereignty is
not in any way diminished by the fact that they lack the ability to manage their own
affairs, unless their happiness is not really the primary concern of the person designated
as their official proxy.

Jakinda replied that that made a lot of sense, and then abruptly announced that she
thought we should start referring to ourselves as the Guardians of Freedom, because we
had dedicated our lives to guarding the freedom of all people.  Herberta and I both liked
the sound of that, so we agreed that that would be the name of our organization.

Then our conversation turned to the necessity of eliminating that pervasive and
insidious notion that the material resources which all people need in order to survive and
be happy may be owned - by individuals, or by society as a whole, or by any entity at all -
and thusly held justly for ransom from those who need them.  This lie will be replaced
with the idea that as the representative and servant of all people it is the responsibility of
the government to ensure that all people have access to an adequate share of these vital
resources that belong to no one, because it is not really possible, or meaningful, but is
only a cruel and pitiful joke to say that someone who is deprived of the necessary
materials of life itself can have a life of personal freedom.

The government must find a way to meet this obligation to all people without
violating the basic freedom of any person, which, I can see, some of you do not think is
possible.  I have seen how the Goo achieve this goal, but I must admit that I do not know
how or even if it can be done in this place.  Certain psychological traits that I have
observed in the minds of many human beings make me very skeptical of the possibility
that humans could effectively implement the solution that works so well for the Goo, as
does the physical nature of the dimension we currently inhabit.  But I do believe that the
approach taken by the Krileks of Gragnar 7, who are physically and psychologically very
much like human beings, might also work on Earth.

The Krilek people have developed a system in which everyone who utilizes a
natural resource during a certain period of time pays a certain amount of currency into a
fund which is then divided evenly among all of them, ensuring that each has the means to
acquire a share of these resources that is equal to the average used per capita.  Of course
each person is free to engage in a profession or business venture that will earn the
currency needed to acquire a greater share of resources or to pay those who provide
goods and services that increase a person's standard of living.  This arrangement makes it
possible for most of the people to meet their own needs, making it easy for the
government to provide adequately for those who require further assistance.

While we discussed these matters a mechanic arrived to give Herberta some
routine maintenance.  As he tinkered with the servos of her right shoulder, which had
been sticking a bit over the previous few days, I noticed a nervous indecision in his mind. 
A quick scan of his thoughts revealed that he was debating with himself whether or not to
tell us about his niece Shannon and her friend, who had some remarkable abilities that he
thought might be helpful to us.

In the mind of her uncle I saw that this young woman is one of those rare human
beings who are born with unusual attributes and extraordinary powers.  In her case the
unusual attribute is a pair of large, glowing, golden wings that enable her to fly faster
than the swiftest bird.  I also saw the image of her friend - a boy barely into the
adolescent stage of human development – who possesses no superhuman powers of his
own but has entered into a symbiotic relationship with a pair of powerful creatures who
live on his right and left hands, like gloves of skin.

The next day we met with Shannon O'Hara and her friend Emerald Lee.

Shannon showed us how the feathers of her wings move in response to her
thoughts, and demonstrated their amazing power.  She hurled one of these feathers from
her wing to strike a book that was sitting on a shelf.  The feather vanished, and a moment
later the book rose several feet into the air.  Then it flipped open and the pages began to
turn while Shannon explained that the energy of her feathers can imbue an object with a
psychic potential that enables her to manipulate it telekinetically for a little while, or can
be used to strike a target with incredible force for a single instant at the point of contact.

Then she explained that the thin, luminous aura that surrounds her entire body is a
film of some kind of oily, psycho-reactive substance secreted by her wings that
eliminates wind resistance when she flies and protects her from contact with foreign
objects.  She encouraged us to test it out by throwing something at her, which put a big,
silly smile on Jakinda's face as she picked up another book from the shelf and hurled it
enthusiastically at Shannon.  A fraction of a second before the book struck her its
trajectory suddenly deflected, causing it to slide along the contour of her shoulder and
continue on right past her.

Emerald then demonstrated his power by raising his hand toward me and zapping
me with a bolt of green energy.  As sparks of this energy spread across my fur I
experienced a surge of power like nothing that I had ever felt before.  I found that I could
see clearly into minds that were far beyond the usual effective range of my mind-scanner. 
I felt stronger and more energetic than ever, and was even able to pick up a paperweight,
which must have weighed several pounds, without any of the strain that lifting such an
object would usually cause me.

Then he pointed a finger at me and zapped me with a bolt of orange energy. 
Suddenly I felt so weak that I could barely stand.

I dropped the weight, which broke on the floor.  The boy knelt down by the
shattered globe, scooped the pieces together, and held his hands over the pile.  Little
green sparks of energy began to leap from his fingers to dance between the shards of
broken glass, and the pieces began to come together.  In a matter of seconds the
paperweight had completely reformed itself.

Then he pulled a pebble from his pocket and held it in his palm.  Orange sparks
arced between his fingers and the stone, and right there before our eyes the rock began to
crumble into dust.

We were all quite impressed by these awesome abilities, but the most important
thing about being one of the Guardians is what a person wants to do with its talents.  So I
asked them to tell us why they wished to join us in our mission.  And I scanned their
minds as they answered, to be sure that they were speaking honestly.

According to Shannon they had both suffered abusive and traumatic experiences
in their lives and wished to prevent such things from happening to anyone else.

In her mind I saw the truth of her tragic history, which began with the brutal
murder of her doting, affectionate parents.  They had made a comfortable living by
selling certain, illegal chemical compounds, and were murdered by another seller who did
not want any competition and who was not worried about committing this crime against
them because the police already targeted him as a criminal.

At first this image of it being treated as a crime to merely produce or possess a
certain substance baffled me, since this supposed crime has nothing to do with the
substance being used to harm, threaten, or otherwise oppress anyone else.  I quickly
realized that the use of some of these prohibited substances can be a very dangerous
activity, which might result in injury to the person who chooses to do so - just like the use
of certain legal drugs, and a lot of other things that a person can do.  But that fact does
not make it any less ridiculous, despicable, or intrinsically criminal to imprison, threaten,
harasses, or otherwise hurt someone for using any particular drug in a manner that does
not infringe upon the freedom of anyone else.

After scanning enough of her memories to comprehend that peculiar notion of an
illicit substance I viewed the image of Shannon being adopted by her aunt and uncle. 
The uncle was a kind and meek man who showed her much affection.  Her aunt, on the
other hand, was a very sick and violent-tempered woman who regularly abused both of
them.  She beat the child almost every day, hitting her repeatedly until the psychic
residue that protects Shannon from the world wore away and the woman could feel her
fists bruise the tender flesh beneath.  She also berated and belittled her incessantly, and
told Shannon that nobody could ever really care for an inhuman freak like her.

In her psychologically battered state Shannon submitted to this physical abuse,
believing herself powerless to resist it, until the day that it escalated beyond what she
could bear.  She decided that she would rather die than put up with such treatment for
another minute, so she knocked her aunt unconscious with a feather to the head.  After
she regained consciousness, months later, in a hospital, Shannon's uncle told the woman
never to return to the house where she had tormented him and his niece for so long.

When Shannon had finished speaking Emerald confessed that they were partially
motivated by resentment of those who had mistreated them, and by the desire to sooth the
lingering remains of the emotional pain that their abuse had inflicted upon them with the
satisfaction of knowing that they had thwarted the attempts of other people who make the
same vile and loathsome choice to dominate and harm others for their own gratification.

As I listened to that impressively self-aware admission I saw in his memories that
Emerald had been born in a country called China.  In the place that I come from people
have no use for those inherently self-centered and chronically warmongering institutions
known as countries, or anything to do with the pointlessly divisive concept of nationality,
but I knew of such things from stories that I had heard about certain other races in which
most individual members give special allegiance, with a few exceptions, to those people
who live within the same geographic region.

One evening while Emerald and his parents were playing a game that they all
enjoyed very much a gang of armed agents of the government of that state burst in
through the front door and arrested them for being practitioners of a peaceful religious
movement that this government had for political reasons labeled a dangerous and evil
cult.  He spent the next five years in a state-run orphanage and never saw his parents

The people in charge of the orphanage were all quite selfish and authoritarian,
very much like the government that employed them, and treated Emerald like he was not
a sovereign human being but merely an object to be molded to serve their own will.  The
other orphans were also very cruel and often vented their own misery on him, singling
him out for ridicule and harassment because one of his parents had come from a place
called Jamaica, where most of the people have much darker skin pigmentation.  During
this time he grew very angry and vengeful, and for a while entertained a fantasy of one
day blowing up the entire world.

But then he was visited by a pair of extraterrestrial beings who call themselves
Right and Left.  These creatures explained to him that they need the nervous system of
another being to form a mental connection between themselves, in which they find great
enjoyment, as well as to provide them with physical nourishment.  They asked Emerald if
he would allow them to use him in this way, and told him that in exchange for this
service he would gain the use of their incredible powers.

After they had attached themselves to his hands Right and Left suggested that it
might be time for Emerald to leave his miserable existence behind him, and
recommended that he travel to the United States of America where he would meet
someone who was going to hold a very special place in his heart.  A week later he arrived
in the city of Denver, and that same day he met Shannon.  Since then the two of them
have become very, very close friends.

I see that some of you are wondering if that last statement about being such close
friends was meant to imply that these two people are playing with each other in a certain
way that, apparently, some of you disapprove of quite strongly.  And now I can see some
of you starting to get really pissed off at Shannon for what you think she may be doing
with this boy, on account of the fact that she has ridden this planet around its sun more
than some arbitrary number of times and he has gone around fewer times.

This attitude seems to be based upon the ageist, prejudiced assumption that people
who have existed for less than a particular duration of time must lack certain intellectual
and emotional faculties necessary to make sound decisions about how to live their lives,
which is simply not true.  No matter how many young people do happen to fit that
stereotype, no matter how prevalent and accepted age-based discrimination is within most
human societies, it remains utterly absurd, oppressive, and wrong to insist that those who
do not lack these faculties must be treated as if they do.

But I can see that, on some level, most of you already understand that.  For many
of you there are other, personal, emotional, ulterior motives lurking behind your need to
condemn a certain kind of relationship that may exist between Shannon and Emerald. 
Many of you are either consciously or unconsciously motivated by the trauma and
psychological scars that you suffered, possibly while you were still a child, when you
realized just how violently and venomously people would condemn your innate sexual
attraction to other, younger people, and are still driven by the fear that you yourself will
face some kind of persecution if you do not hide your true feelings by endorsing this very
same attitude that has molested so many of you.

Now I can hear some of you protesting, loudly, in your minds, that your concern
in this matter really is all about protecting a mentally deficient and particularly vulnerable
person from being taken advantage of and harmed.  But, obviously, if that were your
honest intention then you would actually care about the question of whether or not that
unique, individual human being named Emerald Lee really is a mentally deficient and
particularly vulnerable person who is being taken advantage of and harmed, and would
not insist that you are somehow justified in acting as if that were the case even though it
is not.

For those of you who are still concerned about the specific type of relationship
that exists between Shannon and Emerald, let me assure you that it is one based upon
genuine respect, affection, and kindness, which brings them great comfort, emotional
support, and happiness.  Both of them are moderately competent to make decisions, and
neither is in any way manipulating, coercing, or forcing the other to do anything.  And
that is all that I am going to tell you, because the other details of their relationship are not
any of your business.

As for those of you who are not satisfied with that assurance, who are determined
to persecute Shannon and take her away from Emerald if she makes him happy in a way
that you cannot accept, let me warn you right now that these two human beings have the
power to defend themselves against any of you who tries to use any kind of force to
impose your own will onto whatever relationship they have chosen to have with each
other.  Sadly, I see that some of you are still wanting to force yourself on them in this
way, so I will warn you again, as emphatically as I can, that this would be an exceedingly
foolish choice, which you might not live to regret.

Now our story has reached the point where two more heroes pledged their lives to
the cause of the Guardians.  The woman with the wings decided that she would be called
by the alias Avian, while her friend decided that the name Host would be most fitting for

I tried then to scan the minds of Right and Left, wondering what wonders they
might have seen in the course of their extraordinary lives.  The first thing I learned is that
even though they seem to be individual beings they are actually different stages in the life
cycle of the same immortal creature.  I saw in their memories that at the moment when
this universe ends it collapses back on itself to be reborn, and in that moment Right and
Left each flip inside-out to become the other one.

Then a pair of sleepy, irritated voices asked me to please stop making such a
racket.  The voices came from Right and Left, who spend most of their time snoozing
contentedly on the hands of their host being.  And being probed by my mind-scanner
disturbed their rest, for which I apologized.  They told me not to worry about the
intrusion, but asked me to please not do it again.

Before drifting back to their happy slumber they promised to introduce
themselves properly the next time they fully awoke, which would be in a little bit less
than six Earth years, when Emerald will give up his life to save humanity from being
enslaved under the theocratic domination of a band of super-powered religious zealots.

A couple of days later Jakinda was curled up in my lap taking a nap when I
learned that someone calling himself Asphalt Man was trying to cover all of Denver,
along with everyone who lived in the city, beneath a coating of some kind of viscous, tar-
like compound.

Despite the urgency of the situation I felt a momentary reluctance to disturb that
sweet, sleeping child, whose habit of using me as a pillow has brought me such
overwhelming joy in the brief time since we met.  There is something about the intense,
unabashed pleasure and utter contentment that I see in the mind of this friendly, trusting
little person when she pulls my arms around herself and softly snuggles her cheek into
my fluff that touches something deep within my vital-energy pump, and makes me want
nothing for myself quite so much as to just hold her like this forever.

But I would not shirk my duty as a protector of those people who cannot protect
themselves, so I gently shook her awake and told her that the Guardians were needed. 
Then I summoned the others and we took off in the direction of the disturbance. 

Soon we arrived at the strangest scene that any of my human allies had ever seen. 
Behind a vaguely humanoid figure gushing torrents of thick, black sludge from its
upraised arms stretched block after block of buildings, trees, cars, and even people
covered in the stuff.

Immediately Host began running around to the human-shaped piles of asphalt,
zapping them with bolts of orange energy to disintegrate the deadly coating that was
suffocating the people trapped inside.  And Hypergirl split herself into dozens of
miniature incarnations in order to comb the surrounding area for anyone who had not yet
made it to safety.

Meanwhile, the rest of us confronted Asphalt Man directly.  Avian told him that
we were not going to permit him to continue in his current course of action, which
prompted him to fling a large blob of tar at her.  She dodged the stuff and then used the
power of a feather to telekinetically hurl a car at him.  A moment before it struck him he
solidified the liquid material of his body, and the car bounced off his head without
leaving a scratch.  Then Herberta blasted him to pieces with one of her missiles.

The bits and shards of Asphalt Man melted and flowed back into a single pool
from which he reconstituted himself, completely unfazed.  Then he sent a wave of molten
asphalt to envelope the three of us.

Avian's protective coating deflected the stuff away from her.  And, fortunately,
my fur is impervious to dirt and other messes like this.  In a matter of seconds it had all
dripped to the ground, leaving me as soft and fluffy as ever.  Herberta, however, was not
so lucky.  She got trapped under an immobilizing layer of sludge, which did not seem to
cause her any physical injury but certainly pissed her off, and prompted her to use some
very interesting and colorful human language.

Then I asked the supervillain, as you might call him, why he was acting this way,
and used my sixth sensor to peer into his mind.  Immediately I saw great pain and
distress.  I saw that he had once been a human being named Bernie Noble, who had
become Asphalt Man after falling into a vat full of an experimental paving material that
had been designed to immediately repair itself when it cracked.  Ever since his
transformation the sight, smell, or even though of anything that was not a black, tarry,
asphalt-like substance disturbed and aggravated him greatly, at times even making him
feel physically ill.

Once I saw why he was acting in this destructive and criminal manner I knew
how to stop him.  So I projected into his mind an image of a place where there was
nothing but sand and rock for miles in every direction, and then showed an image of him
using his abilities to create his own personal asphalt paradise where he could live happily
ever after in peace and comfort.

When Bernie understood that there was a better way to deal with what was
bothering him he immediately stopped what he was doing and began to reabsorb all of
the sludge that he had used to cover the city.

Then he saw the streets littered with the bodies of all the people who had died in
his rampage and became greatly agitated.  He was afraid that people would hunt him
down and try to hurt him for what he had done.  So I explained to him that the desire to
punish those who do certain things, which is to intentionally inflict some kind of
suffering on another person, is a fundamentally criminal impulse, which the Guardians
will not tolerate.

I told him that even though he had committed criminal acts against other people
we would protect him from such retribution, which would be nothing but another act of
abuse because it would not serve to undo the damage that he had caused or to protect
anyone from further harm.  I also warned him that if he ever gave us any reason to
believe that he would do something like this again, or would otherwise endanger the
welfare of any other people, we would take more drastic steps to ensure that he could
never hurt anyone else.

This assurance calmed him greatly, but Bernie still worried that curious and
meddlesome people would never allow someone as unusual as him to live in peace.  I
promised him that we would guard his privacy and solitude from anyone who refused to
leave him alone, and then Avian picked him up with a feather and we all went off in
search of a place to make his new home.

When that task was complete we returned to the house where Herberta had once
lived with her family, which had become our base of operations.  There we found Cain
Johnson waiting for us.

Since getting the medicine that he required Cain had transformed from the sickly,
feeble, lethargic creature that we met several weeks before into an energetic and vibrant
figure who we barely even recognized.  Over the course of those weeks he had also come
to suspect that he might possess a remarkable talent which he could not explain but which
he also could not deny, and he said that he wanted to use this talent to aid Herberta in the
mission that she had told him about at their last meeting.

When we requested that he demonstrate this ability Cain took a coin from his
pocket and asked us to tell him which side we wanted it to land on.  Herberta spoke the
plural form of the word head, then Cain flipped the coin ten times and each time it landed
with the picture of the human head facing up.  At that point Jakinda told him to do tails,
and the next ten flips all landed with the picture of the bird facing up.

When Cain stopped flipping the coin the others stared at him in confused silence,
knowing that we had just witnessed something very strange but uncertain of what exactly
it was, while I began to scan his mind.  He took this opportunity to explain to us that
things seemed to turn out however he would like them to be with an improbable degree of
frequency.  He also informed us of his ability to perform incredibly complex calculations
in his head, to figure out answers to problems that he doesn't really know how to solve,
and to make arbitrary guesses about things that just happen to be correct more often than
seems possible purely by random chance.

But, he then told us, sometimes this stuff just didn't happen, or stopped happening
after a while, which made him wonder if it wasn't only a coincidence when it did.

None of us could be sure if Cain has any superhuman ability at all, though it
seemed most probable that he does have some extraordinary power.  But I was sure that
he was sincere about his desire to use whatever power he does have to help save this
world from the clutches of its countless tyrannies, so we welcomed him into our

Jakinda then asked Cain what name he was going to use as a superhero, and he
said that he would like to be called Ace.

She also asked him if he had any ideas about a good name for Herberta, which
none of us had been able to come up with.  After a moment's consideration he looked
down at the shirt he wore, which had a picture of a robot from a cartoon series that had
been quite popular several decades earlier.  Then he looked up at us, his face cracking
into a mischievous grin, and he suggested that we ought to call her Bertron, which made
us all start laughing because we knew he meant that to be a silly parody of the name of
that rather famous robot.  Then Herberta said that she actually liked the name Bertron and
was going to use it, which made us all laugh even harder.

Later that evening we decided that with the successful completion of our first
major heroic endeavor it was a good time to announce our presence and intention to the

Then Cain raised the question of whether we were going to try to conceal our true
identities behind our superhero personas.  After considering the matter of secret identities
for a while we concluded that it would be inappropriate to have them, besides being
nearly impossible for some of us, because our dedication to the cause of the Guardians is
an essential part of who we all are as people, and is not something that we would hide or
forsake while in the guise of our ordinary selves.

The next day, when we were all rested and ready, Emerald zapped me with a
massive dose of his green energy bolts, expending every bit of the power that the
symbions had previously absorbed from him and stored within themselves, while Cain
concentrated on using the ability that he might not even have to make us succeed in what
we were attempting to do.

This immense jolt of energy, just as we had hoped, made it possible for me to
communicate with countless millions of minds all at the same time.  And that brings us
up to this very moment, in which I am telling you this story so that you know who we are
and what we are all about.

We, the Guardians of Freedom, the sworn defenders of personal sovereignty, are
here to save all the people of Earth from every criminal and tyrant, every individual and
organization, that wants to harm, exploit, or subjugate us.

But even with our fantastic abilities this task that we have undertaken is much too
enormous for us to achieve without the help of many other Earthlings who share our
dream of a freer world.  So I encourage each of you to make the choice to be one of the
Guardians, and I ask you to share this message with as many people as possible, because
the power of those criminal regimes that victimize the people of this world comes not
only from those people who directly perpetrate the abusive acts but also from each and
every person who chooses to tolerate, endorse, and otherwise support them, often because
it does not know of any better alternative.

And each person who promises to stand up with the Guardians against criminality
in all of its forms, and resolutely refuses to tolerate any infringement of any person's
sovereign freedom, takes us one step closer to a world in which all who respect the
freedom of others are truly free to do whatever makes them happy.

So… uh… well, I guess that's about all I have to say right now.  I would like to
end this transmission by declaring that I hope this tale has entertained you, and inspired
you to support the cause of the Guardians, but that is not something that I can literally
hope for, because I already see how each of you has reacted to all that I have just
projected into your minds.  Still, the knowledge that my words have failed to amuse and
convince every single one of you does not diminish my hope that someday they will. 
And, by the way, this is not the end of the story, but since I cannot see into the future I
cannot yet tell you anything beyond the events of this present moment.  So I will just say
goodbye for now, and wish you all the best until I see you again.

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