By Matt Lao
“Go ahead,” dared Talon’s bounty. “What do you think you’ll do to me? Turn me to ash? Cut me ‘n half? And the witch?” Demora flashed her target a glare. “Blow up my heart with enough lightnin’ to power a city block? Or scatter my atoms and wear ’em like armor?”
“Keep talking and you’ll find out soon enough,” hissed Talon. Deeply and truly, Talon was ready to sing his old song, and put the man to sleep. The gunslinger mapped his bounty’s bearded and gruff face. The bounty’s brown eyes and unkempt hair reflected nothing but a lowly scoundrel. However, Talon had an inclination about his bounty, one that he had not shared with Lady Demora. Talon was ready to give Dune Harrow’s drunkards a show to remember.
“A name,” muttered Talon. “You got one?”
“Well Vert,” Talon offered, “I’ll make a deal for you. You explain to me how exactly you managed to escape a full fire team of Guardians (though not as skilled as me, they were Hunters nonetheless), and stumble through the Venusian badlands without being hunted down by those four-armed low-lives, on foot by yourself. If you tell me how, I probably won’t shoot you.” Talon had noticed that Vert was more amused than threatened. “This bastard’s going to have to show his cards soon,” Talon thought to himself.
Vert nonchalantly spoke his piece, claiming that “a magician ain’t s’pposed to reveal all his tricks.” In a single moment, Talon erupted. Reflex kicked in as the gunslinger reached for his cannon, every motion smoother than a seamless river stream. Spring-loaded ejectors launched the heavy revolver straight into place, while Talon’s left hand guided it to his target less than five feet in front of him. Using his right hand to fan the ancient cannon’s hammer, Talon unloaded three high-caliber rounds in under two seconds. Every bullet fired had drilled straight into Vert’s chest. Talon had considered for a short moment that three shots from his revolver was a bit of overkill; his rounds were designed to rip through multiple targets and shatter Cabal armor plating, which was built to protect users from conventional firearms. It was too late at this point.
Vert’s upper abdomen exploded into several chunks of flesh, the momentum of Talon’s shots sending body parts flying. Crimson red painted the room. Red was the color of the ceiling, red was the color of the floor. Talon looked around to see red on the faces of the people in the bar. Demora seemed more disappointed than angry.
“You know Tal,” Demora sighed, “murdering non-Guardians for theft does not make us look any better in the public eye.” Talon’s beady, laser-beam eyes remained fixated on the corpse.
“He isn’t a non-Guardian, Demora.” Once more, the tavern doors burst open. Only this time, no man stood at the entrance. Instead, a one-eyed piece of machinery no bigger than Talon’s fist shot through the air only to stall right above Vert’s remains. Blue rays like deep-sea sunshine fell from the machine onto Vert’s mangled corpse. A bewildered Demora stood in shock.
“He has a Ghost?”
“This coward’s a Guardian hiding from the world.” Spite seethed from Talon’s words. The scattered appendages slowly inched towards the Ghost’s light, where they clumsily rebuilt a body like that of a mannequin. Even the blood that littered the tavern had peeled from the walls, forming a red miasma which pooled into Vert’s body. In a pillar of glowing white dust, Vert was reborn.