Reness

Old Reness was coughing up blood when I found him. The old bastard had crossed me two days before and wound up with a round in his back. I thought I had killed him outright, but again the old man had surprised me.

He was tough as a cockroach and twice as ugly. When I came strolling around throught he doorway of the burnt out cathedral he didn’t bother to scramble.

He knew he was breathing his last couple of breaths. So, being the nice guy I was I sat down on a half collapsed pew and offered him a shot of my flask.

Giving me a smile, he pounded back a round. His rugged fingers left greasy smears of oil and blood on the last piece of my past life. I shook my head when he offered it back.

“So, this is the end old man. I have to say, you’re one touch son of a bitch. I tracked you all the way from the airfield to here. It was really a hike for me, how the hell did you manage?”

He paused for a minute, probably trying to scratch and claw onto the last shreads of juice from his busted internal power supply. His blood was already beginning to corrode his exoskin.

“Brunus, how the hell do you think I got here? I fucking walked.”

He laughed, coughing and gagging on the bile that was probably eating him inside out.

“Plus, I didn’t want to give you the satisfaction of getting another, cleaner round in the back of my head. God knows your aim is terrible, but I didn’t want to take another chance. You might have wound up blowing my wang off when you were going for my forehead.”

I stared at him for a moment. This was the last moments of his wretched life. We had plagued one another for three decades. The ending didn’t seem quite right. I hate to say, I didn’t expect to win our brutal struggle.

He was wiser, stronger and a thousand times more agile. My shot had been a lucky one while he was taking a leak.

“I wish I could do something.”

I spat, barely sounding sincere. He glared at me, his flickering powder blue eyes turning with gears and liquid sentience.

“You little shit. What the hell do you want from me, an apology for dying? You shot me in the back while I was pissing, five minutes after I woke up. You feel bad? You should. I wouldn’t have offed you that way and you know it.”

There was an awkward beat.

”You were pissing on my power cells.”

The old man cracked a smile and took another sip of my flask. He drained the precious fifty year old whiskey. I didn’t mind.

“You’ll get a lot of use out of them now, eh?

”We had some good times, kid. I must admit, you’re a cheating, dishonorable snake in the grass but I enjoyed every minute of hunting you. We must have covered half the world fighting it out. I’ve seen some mighty fine places.

”The ruins of Moscow, New Tokyo, I even got to eat a steak in what was left of the great plains”

He was my father in some sense. I never knew my real one, but I always suspected Reness was capable of more things than I could imagine. Who knows, he may have just banged my mother just for the thrill of a chase in his later years.

Reness didn’t seem like the kind of gentleman who just settled down somewhere in a quiet Brazilian suburb, sipping lemonade on a farmer’s porch.

He was a fighter and a loner. Like me.

Our eyes caught and he saw right through my fa├žade. I broke down, tears welling in my eyes.

“What the hell am I going to do now, you old piece of scrap? There isn’t another person for a thousand miles. Who the hell is going to keep me company?”

”Before you shot me in my power supply, we hadn’t seen each other for a week and a half.”

”You know what I mean.”

I said, running my hands through my hair. It was greasy and sharp around the edges. Like oiled barbed wire. I didn’t bother to heal the wounds on my hands. They’d fix themselves over time anyway. Efficient little buggers.

His body grew ridgid and he convulsed, legs rattling against the ancient foundation. It wouldn’t be long now.

Even in his last moments, the old coot seemed to look smugly upon me, as if my tears weren’t enough for him.

“Look, you little shit. You’re going to get along just fine. You’ll find some tidy little toys in my pack over there, enough to last you through the winter. When its over, go find yourself another nemesis. I’m getting too old for this shit.

”I should have retired when I got the chance. But no, you had to go and piss me off.”

”They were really good peaches if it makes you feel better.”

I smiled at him, and he tried to smile back. But before his lips reached the corners of his mouth his powder blue eyes flickered and drained. The gears stopped moving, and the liquid that was Reness froze and chipped.

The fine powder leaked through his optics, making him look undignified and beaten.

I sat there for a good hour, staring at the man who had been such a pain in my ass for the majority of my life. He had taught me how to be quiet, and how to hunt. He even taught me the value of a good night’s rest.

All through his trial by fire.

I wondered as I collected my things and what remained of his of what I’d do next. The world was a big place, and there a lot of people still left in it. Maybe I’d find myself a nice, tidy girl to keep me company. I was fast reaching middle age.

Maybe have a son.

That’d be nice.

But as Reness would be the first to admit, I’d never be the type to settle down and let the flow take me where it pleases.

It was snowing by the time I found myself a suitable hole in a bombed out office building. I laid down and plugged myself in.

It’d be a good night’s sleep.

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