- Age: 21
- Species: Antari
- Weapons: Blood magic, some very tricky outerwear
- Special Attack: Traveling between universes
- Able to communicate with blood, where magic resides
- Can travel between parallel worlds
- Can exercise some degree of control over blood
- Can be stubborn and overprotective
- Exhibits some occasional poor judgment
- Age: 75+
- Species: Human (enhanced)
- Weapons: CDF MP-35 infantry rifle with BrainPal interface
- Special Attack: Create different ammunition on the fly, including bullets, missiles, grenades, fire and microwave beams
- Enhanced body with heightened reflexes, senses, and abilities
- BrainPal, an implanted computer giving the owner tactical advantages on the battlefield
- War Suit, a nanotech unitard that hardens under impact
- Works better as part of a team
- Still adjusting to his new mods
By Elizabeth Bonesteel
Perry stood, puzzled and annoyed, on a floor of flagstone in a windowless room, staring at his opponent. First a big one, now a small one: scrawny, red-haired, but standing as if he knew something of the world. He looked young, but Perry knew better than to take that as anything meaningful. The scrawny man stared at Perry, unblinking, one eye black and one blue. Eerie as hell.
Even so, he was substantially slighter than Perry, and not obviously enhanced. Which made Perry wonder what the hell he could do.
“You got a name?” Perry asked.
The man paused before answering. “Maresh,” he said at last.
Perry slung his gun into his hand. “So, Maresh, what are you in for?”
“I’m here to kill you,” Maresh said.
Well, at least the agenda seemed to be consistent. “What if I kill you first?”
Maresh straightened. “If you strike me down,” he declared, “I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
“I don’t know,” Perry said. “I can imagine quite a bit.”
They looked at each other for a moment.
“Are we crossing fandoms?” Maresh asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Perry replied. “She’ll get it in editing.” He thought. “I hope you don’t mind my asking, Maresh, but since somebody somewhere seems to think we might be evenly matched—what is it you can do?”
Maresh said something in a language Perry’s BrainPal couldn’t translate…and the stone floor crumbled beneath his feet.
Great, Perry thought as he fell. A magician.
The basement was three meters down, and Perry landed on his feet, only to find Maresh’s arm around his neck and an impressively sharp knife blade at his throat. He looked up; he could still see the nondescript room above them. I’m that fast, Perry thought. Nobody else is that fast. “Nice,” he said, impressed. “How did you do that?”
“I can teleport,” Maresh told him.
That explains it. “So can I,” Perry said. “I just need a ship to do it.”
“You can do it with technology?” Maresh sounded surprised.
“Well, I think so,” Perry said. “But I’m not a physicist. I take their word for it. How do you do it?”
The knife was sharp, and Perry resisted the urge to swallow. “Yours, or mine?”
“Since I’m the one teleporting, it has to be mine.”
Well, that’s something. “So you’re telling me,” Perry said, his enhanced senses calculating the dimensions of the small room, where the corners were, how high he’d have to jump to get back up through that hole, “that every time you have to work magic, you have to bleed?”
Perry felt Maresh shrug. “Not every time,” he admitted. “Just for certain types. Teleportation. Opening doors to other universes. That sort of thing.”
All movement, Perry thought. All defense. “Is that all you’ve got?”
“Well,” Maresh pointed out, “right now I’ve got you.”
Maybe he is as young as he looks. Perry gave his own shrug, and Maresh was thrown across the room and into the wall. The knife traced across Perry’s throat as Maresh’s arm was flung away, and he felt a warm trail of blood run for a moment down his neck before clotting kicked in. He stood, and with a single jump leapt straight up back into the main room, his gun aimed into the hole he had just come through. As he suspected, though, Maresh did not take the obvious route, but appeared again behind Perry, the same knife in the same position. No formal combat training, Perry realized. He could hear the magician’s labored breath in his ear.
How much blood could Maresh lose?
Perry knew what to do: shrug again, and this time shoot while the magician was in the air. But just as the thought wandered through his head, he found the gun in his hand suddenly heavy, his muscles sluggish, his entire body slowed as if it were trapped in molasses.
“None of that,” the magician said in his ear.
This was a more interesting trick than the teleportation. “What are you doing this time?” he asked.
“I can control your body,” the magician said. “I wasn’t sure, but it seems there’s enough magic in this world to give me the strength. Actually,” he added, sounding puzzled, “I’m not sure why you’re still able to talk.”
“Me, either,” Perry said. “I usually know when to shut up.” And with a supreme effort, he shoved one elbow backward. The magician didn’t fly into the wall this time, but he caught a little air before he hit the floor.
Enough’s enough, Perry thought, and lifted his gun; but before he could fire, the magician murmured that unknown language again, and the stone floor shattered between them, the shards reforming into a solid wall reaching toward the ceiling. Perry fired, and the wall turned to dust, but Maresh stood beyond, all in one piece, the cuts he’d made to his arm to teleport beginning to heal.
Perry pointed the gun at him. “I should have mentioned,” he said apologetically. “My bones aren’t bones, in the conventional sense.”
Maresh’s eyebrows went up, and a faint smile crossed his lips. “Ah,” he said. “That explains a great deal.”
Perry fired a round. Just one. Beyond the magic, Maresh seemed human enough, and more than one round would have been gauche. Maresh was slammed against the back wall, his abdomen blooming red, and he made a wet, gasping sound as his lungs fought with the remains of his diaphragm to draw air into his body.
Perry stepped forward, and knelt beside the fallen man. Maresh was still breathing, and his eyes were still open, but from this angle Perry couldn’t see the blue eye, only the expressionless black one. Beneath the body, blood seeped steadily into the stones.
“I’m sorry about this,” he said, and meant it. “But this is the game.”
“It’s all right,” Maresh said, his voice weak and hoarse. “We both brought our talents, and your way won.”
Perry sighed. Maresh wasn’t an alien invader, he was just some kid hauled across universes for a fight to the death. “My way’s not very sportsmanlike,” he said.
“You’re doing it again.”
“Be quiet,” Perry said. “You’re dying.”
Maresh nodded his agreement.
“There’s blood here. Can you use it? Get out?”
Maresh shook his head weakly. “This isn’t a door. There’s no way out.”
“That you know of.”
Maresh frowned. Apparently Perry’s interruption of his death was annoying him. “There’s nobody on the other side to mirror the mark,” he said. “It’s vanishingly unlikely that there’s a door here.”
Perry straightened. “Everything you think is so unlikely,” he told the magician, “is not unlikely at all.” He spotted the knife where Maresh had lost it, halfway across the room; he retrieved it, and dropped it on the ground next to the dying man’s bloodied fingers. “You’re dead here,” Perry pointed out. “Maybe you could be not dead somewhere else.”
Don’t be stupid, dumbass, Perry thought to himself. He’s probably faking it. Playing with you.
But he turned away, and began walking slowly toward the door that he was certain hadn’t been there when all of this had started. Behind him he heard the sound of the knife blade scraping against the stone, and small sounds from the magician as if he were trying to move. Then something in the air compressed, as if a storm was coming in, and Perry’s ears popped; and then there was silence.
Perry walked out of the room, and never turned around once.