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The Quick and the Blue

By Eddy Fettig

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The Quick and the Blue

He almost didn't believe what he had just heard. He creaked his head around to the unassuming officer at the entrance to the saloon.
"You're sure?" he asked from his perch at the bench beside the barkeep.

"Sure as can be, Sheriff," the officer rattled, his voice cracking with fear. "It's...it's him."

The Deputy at his side straightened the ten gallon hat on his metal head and doubled back.

"I'll be a Met's uncle," he groaned. "That devil's here? In our town?"

The Sheriff sighed and rose from his stool as one rises in a church. He grabbed his bright yellow hat and reflected for a moment, running his rusty red finger across the V-shaped badge of gold pinned to its front.

"Guess it's time to get to work, then," he mused carefully, cocking the hat over his head by the brim. The saloon had fallen ill of a deathly quiet as the head officer, hands in his pockets, paced to the door. Each footstep rattled as his spurs vibrated. He pulled up his blood-colored bandanna over his face before he pushed his way through the wooden double-doors. The crowd that had gathered on the streets observed as he appeared in the doorway, twin boomerangs of yellow strapped to his robotic hips. His compatriots followed him, hushed and anxious. The Sheriff sauntered into the deserted, dusty street on his own and nonchalantly cast his gaze to the outskirts of their burg.

A dot of red and blue could be made out quite clearly amidst the sandy hues of the barren wasteland beyond the edge of town.

"Well, well," muttered the Sheriff to himself, seemingly humored by their plight. He raised his arms and rotated his body to speak to the crowds that had gathered on either end of the road. He cried, "The Man in Blue has arrived!" It was then that they all noticed his presence, their gossiping cut short. He followed up his announcement by establishing his role in the situation.

"I'm the Quickest on the draw. In this town, I am the law." Despite his bold words, he found himself recollecting everything he had heard about this mystery man who destroyed all he came across. Is what they say true? he wondered, the icy hands of Fear tickling his motherboard with their fingertips. Does Death wear Blue? Can he fall?

"Don't you worry!" called out his Deputy, who made a dash for his side. "The Quick Man didn't earn his name for nothin'!" A solid pat on the back shook the Sheriff of his confidence when it had been clearly intended to build it. It suddenly dawned on him - he was known throughout the land as the fastest and most accurate robot around. Today, that reputation would be tested, and if all he had heard was true, that reputation was incorrect. His circuits burned with determination; however, his programming already seemed aware of the outcome that would soon become reality. Would this at last be the day that he'd fall? Had those years of corruption finally caught up to him and this patch of stolen fortune he called his hometown?

"Stay back, Deputy," he warned to his second in command. The yellow-hued robot glared at him incredulously.

"B-but Sheriff! It's...It's him!"

"I'm aware, Deputy," sighed the Sheriff. "We've all been waiting for this moment. This is my task. You know this."

"All right, then," his companion huffed begrudgingly. "But you'd better blow his bolts out, Partner." Back to the saloon entrance he went, leaving the Quick Man alone in the empty street as the hum of rockets approached.

"Who is he?" demanded the officer who had warned them originally, quaking in his boots at the saloon's porch. "What is he?"

"He has been known to destroy everything in his path. He has been traveling across the land, annihilating the leaders of our State one by one. Some call him the Man in Blue," the Sheriff explained, arms crossed over his chest, eyes locked on the blob of color that grew larger with each passing second. "Some call him Death. But our creators...They refer to him as the Mega Man." Gasps and whispers of dismay crawled along the road like frightened rodents.

The arrival of the Man in Blue was marked with the roar of rockets slowing to a stop as his red canine steed let loose an unearthly howl and transformed, his flame-spewing jets changing into limbs. The deep blue complexion of the Man who rode on the beastly bot's back cut through the Sheriff's gaze into what he liked to believe was his soul. The mystery Man's leather hat, dyed a deep azure, was tilted over his eyes. Only the menacing visage of what could be interpreted as a frown could be seen on the pale face that.

A bitter wind blasted through the street in the Man's wake as each step he took practically made the world shake. He ripped his tattered cloth cloak from his body and it was pulled away by the chilled gusts. It was unsettling how colorless his face was in comparison to the rest of his cold Blue body of steel. When his methodical footsteps stopped, the two stood each other down for a moment in which time didn't seem to exist: only two forces opposed, neither backing down. The Sheriff turned to the crowds once more, raising a triumphant fist.

"The moment of truth has arrived!" the Quick Man declared. The winds tugged at his hat and bandanna, whispering doom in his auditory sensors.

Doors slammed shut, windows clamped tight, citizens scurried for cover, into alleys...They all knew what was about to transpire here and they wanted nothing to do with it. Reports had indicated that all who had opposed this Man - every last robot - had been obliterated, all in the name of a flesh Man named Thomas Light. How ironic that a being with such a poetic name could breed such a destructive creature. The Sheriff's own proclamations from moments before now taunted him as his processors comprehended who stood before him.

Quick on the draw, in this town, I am the law.

He was about to find out if years of boasting and boomerang-slinging were enough when faced with the ultimate tool of destruction. Fear's hands had worked their way around his circuit boards, and he found himself paralyzed, unable to even dare of drawing his weapon.

His memory banks flashed through the images: each of his brothers, all seven of them, created for the purpose of extinguishing this cerulean threat from the world, just as he had been. Inventors, entrepreneurs, artisans of death, they had all forged lives for themselves in this land out west under their Creator's stolen empire. Thy had known from the moment of their activation that it was all a facade - a facade they willingly chose to absorb in some futile attempt to feel real. They chose to delude themselves into believing they had some existence beyond a form of defense, a way of striking fear into those who lived in the east.

Maybe, if he could slay this vicious alloy monstrosity, the myth could become reality. But could he be killed? The Quick Man at last grabbed his twin boomerangs, bladed edges ready to strike, as his foe reached for a single blaster pistol. A peashooter - practically a child's toy. Was this all he used in his rampage of destruction? Surely it couldn't be. It either case, it was time to put an end to this reign of terror, this Age of Fear - once at for all.

Like a cobra, the Quick Man sprung to action, speeding through the street, darting left and right to avoid the laser bullets that flew in his direction. When the timing was right, he flung his bladed weapons at his foe with precision. The Man in Blue deftly avoided one but in doing so was nicked in the shoulder by the other. A spark of electricity spouted from the scratch in his armor and he scowled, shaking the injury off. The Sheriff tugged the boomerangs back to his hands with his fingertips, charged with a unique type of magnetism. He smirked beneath his bandanna.

What they said was a lie. The Man in Blue could die. What he was fated to succumb to he would defy.

That fate didn't seem interested in the concept, however, as he erased any smugness from the Sheriff's face with a flurry of gunfire. His energy bullets screamed 'Death' as they flew, and the Quick Man's agility made them easy to avoid. Try as he might, however, he couldn't seem to land another blow. For a solid thirty seconds of fire it was a stalemate, each slinger missing their mark by inches every time.

The dust settled at last and the street fell silent, like the calm before a storm. They had both retreated to cover between buildings. In this moment of unsettling tranquility, the Sheriff's circuits slowed as he reflected upon his predicament. He wasn't scared anymore. This was the moment he had been created for: to destroy the Mega Man. His moment had come. It was time to claim it.

He burst from behind his cover in a mighty pounce, soaring across the street in a single bound and landing on the roof of the saloon he had previously been relaxing within. From his perch he scoured the landscape, searching for the slightest trace of Blue. Moments passed by with no motion anywhere. Any robots with wires crossed enough to have stood and watched had since rebooted their systems and wisely hid.

The Quick Man flung himself to the ground, his weight leaving thick boot marks in the dried dirt. He paused, waiting for an attack, but none came. Where had that devil gone to?

Bzzzzz-chink!

He flinched from the sound, his eyes twitching over to where it had stopped. A sleek buzzsaw was embedded in a wooden pillar holding up the roof of the shop behind him.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

To his left, a small white orb was embedded in the ground, an orange light blinking. The Quick Man immediately leaped out of its way as it exploded, shrapnel flying out in all directions. Assuming he'd be left unscathed, he was startled when his body was enveloped in a splash of icy water from behind.

Ga-splish!

He instinctively flung a boomerang in the direction the liquid had come from and dashed in retreat, his speed air-drying his metallic skin. Skidding to a halt, he held out his hand, awaiting his weapon to return. It fluttered toward him, and he reached out for it eagerly. Just before it reached him, a powerful gust of concentrated wind blew it away into the ground, far beyond his reach.

Fwooooosh!

He let his arm drop slowly, eyes darting all around. What was going on? Had the Man in Blue brought backup that had snuck into town under his nose? Was this how he was able to defeat his enemies so easily? In one swift motion, the Sheriff pulled his other weapon from its hilt and made a run for the second weapon.

Shooom!

A gob of molten metal splashed onto his precious tool from the same direction the wind had blown, melting it into a puddle as he arrived. The Sheriff thought on his feet and ran with such speed past it that the fire was put out in an instant, but merely a moment later when he returned he realized it was too little too late. The substance had melted with the boomerang and all that was left was a useless, bumpy chunk. He sped right past it, not desiring to leave himself open for attack. Tucking himself against a wall adjacent to where the previous attack had come from, he hastily crafted his next move. He whipped his boomerang out into the street and it gracefully curved, gliding into the alley to his side in an instant.

Fwp-fwp-fwp-fwp-Fffff!

The boomerang was blasted back out of the alley, and the Sheriff anxiously pulled it back to him before it, too, could be dismantled. Still pressed against the wooden wall, he stared in disbelief as a pile of green leaves scattered to the ground in the middle of the street. All of these bizarre circumstances reminded him of his brothers. It was if their ghosts were aiding the Man in Blue in his disastrous quest, each one lending its talents as he saw fit. What madness what this? And then the figure emerged, slowly, from the alleyway with the same casual arrogance he'd been wearing when he'd staggered into town.

My moment has come, the Quick Man decided. It was time to face this monster who stared him down. The Mega Man raised his arm, his pistol suddenly a deep hue of purple. In an acrobatic feat of prowess, the Sheriff flipped into the air, pelting his boomerang at his adversary with all the strength his arm could muster.

Sheeen!

The Man in Blue vanished into thin air, and the boomerang swirled past where he'd once stood, a shuriken that had missed its mark. Upon landing, the baffled Quick Man glared from left to right. He had to have dodged in some direction. The boomerang made its way back, the magnetic charge pulling to toward his hand, but his hand was not the one that caught it.

To his horror, the arm that had reached over his shoulder from behind and now grasped his weapon was Blue. It was in this moment that the Quick Man's courage disintegrated into a miserable pile of ash as his processors comprehended his fate.

Your speed means nothing if it's Death that you're running from.

After this split-second realization dawned upon him, the Sheriff lunged forward, whirling around and reaching for a concealed pistol in his coat. While still in midair, he aimed it at the monster's head.

Pew!

Before he could seal the deal on his gunfire, a single energy shot, clean and true, ripped through the Quick Man's chest cavity, cutting a hole in his energy core. His body tensed as he sailed through the air, then crumpled into a limp heap as he crashed into the dirt. He had failed. But he wasn't afraid. He would soon join the ranks of his brothers that had fallen before him. The spurs of the Mega Man rattled through his fleeting sensors like the final seconds on a watch ticking away.

Chink. Chink. Chink.

The Sheriff cast his lenses to the icy cold visage of the Man in Blue, his mortifying figure towering above, dark shadows cast down by the afternoon sun, veiling his eyes in darkness.

The Quick Man felt a huge, heavy boot crush his chest as the Mega Man leaned down. A surge of pain shot through the Quick Man's body as the Blue robot pressed his pistol's tip into the gash in his chest like a syringe, sucking his strength into it. It shimmered a golden yellow for a moment as he removed it, then blinked back to that same damning shade of cerulean.

"You're too quick on the draw," the Sheriff sputtered, coughing up oil into his bandanna. "Burn this town - there is no law."

The Mega Man removed his boot and the Quick Man choked on oil, his chest burning, his body twitching as electricity darted through it haphazardly.

"What they say is true," he mused in a raspy moan. "Death...does wear Blue. You can't fall..."

As his sensors faded, the Sheriff caught a final glance at the Mega Man. A satisfied, menacing smirk had crawled across his face as the barrel of his pistol stared the Quick Man down.

Pew.PASHOOM!-Shoom!-Shoom-shoom-shooom...

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