“Bull shit,” said Myke with his distinctive edge-world drawl. “I got ten coin and a brand new jacket that says you ain’t got the guts.” He held his hand to his eyes and squinted as the clouds passed and the twin suns beamed warmly on the three boys standing in the short silvery grasses.
“You ain’t got the guts neither,” said Sage.
“Naw, but I don’t need guts; I got half a brain. I know better than playing Resplendent Roulette.” The Resplendents, of course, were the long-dead former inhabitants of this arm of the Milky Way. Their portals still littered the worlds here, the moons and the asteroids, and the rogue protoplanets that sailed the sparkling black ocean between the stars. Some of the portals, rumor had it, still functioned. The one standing before these boys appeared to be no more than a thin metal ring on a raised pedestal, no more alive than its makers. But such a thing is hard to know for sure.
“What’s a matter, Sage? You chicken?” asked Adrian.
“Yes you is,” Myke joined in, “yer like a chicken in a thunderstorm!” and he began to crawl around on his hands and knees and bark. Adrian did the same now, and the two of them crawled in circles around Sage, barking and laughing. Clearly none of them had the slightest idea what a chicken was, but they knew the expression, and that was enough knowledge to wield its persuasive power.
“I’ll do it; you’ll see,” said Sage. “Your jacket won’t fit me though; you’ve got baby arms.” Adrian chuckled at that until Myke silenced him with an icy side-eye. “What else you got?”
Myke put that half brain of his to work but came up empty and shrugged.
“My old man’s got a box of chocolate bars. I’ll give you…” Adrian ran the numbers, “two bars.”
“Three,” Adrian insisted.
“Fine, but I’m not sharing.” Sage looked thoughtfully at the portal.
“Are you really gonna do it?” asked Adrian.
“Hell no he’s not. Bark-bark.”
That sealed it. “Get ready to pay up!” Sage exclaimed, and he took off sprinting toward the portal.
Adrian and Myke stood up in the silver grass. “No way,” Myke said, “he’ll stop short.”
But Sage didn’t stop short, or even slow down. He ran up the little ramp, across the pedestal, under the edge of the ring, and—
Myke’s eyes bugged out of his head. “Oh shit!” he cried, his shrill voice cracking. “Oh shit, Sage, oh shit!”
But Sage was gone, lost among the former worlds of a fallen empire.