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# 24

A mystery fusion
by Brian Randall

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The dust of the seemingly eternal waste drifted across the parched and thirsty earth, swirling in gusting eddies away from a pair of figures. The first was a man, large in stature, hair loose and flowing to just past his shoulders, with sunglasses hiding his eyes and lending him a nearly expressionless gaze. His trench coat ruffled slightly in the errant breeze, parting the material and revealing the large cylindrical weapon in his hand, the end still glowing and warm, stray vapors and mists boiling off of it.

The other was not human by any stretch; quite large and much like a humanoid dragon, with exaggerated, jagged claws laying limp against the ground as its death rattle sounded. One good eye slowly rolled to peer at the man. Beneath the creature, feeding the thirsty soil, dark ichor seeped out of a messy circular bore that lanced through the creature's entire torso.

"You are the last?" it hissed, voice heavy and gurgling with more of the same ichor flooding its throat.

"Yeah," he said after a moment, lowering his head to gaze at the creature, then crouching lower to look at it more closely. "I guess so."

"Even… even the… why you? Why me?"

One of the man's hands instinctively, reached towards a pocket of the coat, but that hand dropped, and he shook his head. "Me? I got lucky. Screwed up. One experiment gone wrong gave me what I have now."

"And I?" the creature insisted, coughing weakly.

"I don't know," he admitted after a moment. "Alien, I guess. You just might have lived this long anyway. I know I got lucky. It was the nanites. In part. Maybe you, too."

"You finally got me," the draconian beast managed. "You always wanted to. Why?"

"You killed them," he said simply. "I always said you would, and you did."

"Not… not on purpose," the creature protested. "Was… accident."

"Yeah, well," the man trailed off, sighing. "Why were you here, anyway?"

"Learn," the creature gasped. "To learn. About humans."

The man grunted, brushing a strand of hair away from his sunglasses, though the motion might have been to wipe away a stray tear. "I never thought it would lead to this," he said quietly.

"But it did," the creature hissed, its eye drifting slowly shut. "Miss… Torg… others. Lonely."

"I know," he whispered. "I almost wish I could go with you."

"What… you… do… now?"

"Finish what you started, I guess," the man said. "I never learned as much about people as I should have. Nothing better to do now."

Heaving a final shudder, the beast managed a final, "Goodbye… Riff…"

"Goodbye, Aylee," he responded, rising to his feet. "But it's Bolt Crank now. And I guess I got a lot to do." He smirked, adjusting his sunglasses. "And a lot of notes to take."

With that the man turned, striding away purposefully across the wastes that had lain undisturbed for hundreds of years, though in his youth they were different lands entirely…


Author's Notes: Who am I kidding? No one is going to get this one…

Bolt Crank is from Eatman, which is owned by Viz in the US. Sluggy Freelance belongs to Pete Abrams.

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