The Bite Mobile slowed to a hover, directly above ANOS’s parking lot. Peter and Holly lowered down to the asphalt. When their feet touched the ground, his harness detached in a quick series of snaps and clicks. It retracted up into the chassis, then the mushroom-shaped craft clunked on to the pavement. Its thrusters went dark with a descending whine.
“So this is the real you.” Peter gave Kor’Thank a thorough once-over.
“Define ‘real.’ ” Kor’Thank said.
“Wh…what happened? Where am I?” Holly cupped her temple, struggling to process the heaps of corpses littered across the parking lot. She turned her uncomprehending gaze onto the forty-four barbarians, sitting astride a pack of seven-foot tall dinosaurs.
“Sleep,” Wodec proclaimed. A bright blue twinkle shown from his staff. Holly’s eyes rolled back in her head as her legs gave out. Peter caught her and looked at Eun, still in the Bite Mobile’s future-cool cockpit.
“Can you take her home?” he asked.
The craft went through a Michael Bay-worthy transformation, turning from a mushroom-mecha into a sleek-ass car. Eun leaned out from the driver’s seat, arm resting on the rolled-down window. The rear-seat door folded up.
Kor’Thank grabbed Holly’s feet and helped Peter carry her to the car. Once she was in, the gull-wing door folded down. Peter tapped the roof with the flat of his palm.
“See you at the house.”
After the Bite Mobile turned a corner, the barbarian king met Peter’s eyes.
They both spoke at the same time: “This was—” and then broke out laughing. “You first,” Peter lifted a hand.
Kor’Thank spread his arms. “Come here, you crazy motherfucker.” Peter stepped in and embraced the king, clapping him soundly on the center of his back.
“Always thought this’d be hella weird.” Peter stepped away, regarding the king with a critical eye. “Seeing you in your true form. But it’s not. Not in the slightest.”
“Peter.” Kor’Thank grinned. “You’ve already seen my true form. And it wasn’t something you sensed with your eyes. This—” he ran a hand up and down his hulking body, “this is just a shell.”
Wodec piped up: “We are simply ideas, projected through a temporary configuration of matter and light.”
Kor’Thank nodded at the High Mage. “That we are, that we are.” He turned back to Peter. “Hanging out with you and Eun was the craziest, most rewarding experience I’ve ever fucking had.”
Wodec brought his crystal-tipped staff close to his face and breathed lightly onto its craggy rock. It lit with an inner glow that brightened into a steady, pulsing flare. At the same time, a ball of light sizzled into existence fifty yards to the mage’s front, bouncing inward before it dilated into a hypnagogic portal.
Peter’s eyes welled with moisture. He tried to speak, but his voice roughened with emotion. He tried to disguise it by coughing into his fist. “Will you…” he paused and gathered himself. “Will you ever come back? Or is this the…is this the last I’ll—”
Kor’Thank took his raptor by the reigns and walked toward the gyrating portal. “Peter Lee. You of all people should know that we’ll reunite. Somewhere, some when. Everything old is new again.”
“Goodbye, Kora,” Peter said tightly, trying not to cry. “Don’t be a stranger.”
Kor’Thank paused as the rest of his troop marched into the portal, slipping into its dissolute center. He held Peter’s gaze for a long, hanging moment.
“I’ll see you soon.”
Then he entered the gateway, dissolving into the infinity from whence he came.