by Jenny Hayward

The bar was the brawling kind, where beer and biceps were the order of the day. At a table near the bar, Big Bob had a standing bet that nobody could beat him at arm-wrestling, and there were enough transients passing through that it kept the locals entertained. Rumours of odd goings-on, whether ghosts or bigfoot or straightforward villainy, seemed to attract a reporter or two, but they were easily spotted, and they never had the muscles to go against Big Bob.

"You want some answers," said a regular to the stranger, "you gotta go against Big Bob first." And be a good loser, was the unspoken thought.

The man eyes Big Bob, tall, bulging muscles and a thick neck. He himself was ruggedly handsome, short brown hair, and the kind of posture that said ex-military. He smiled slowly. "Guess I'll just have to go against Bob, then," he said, and went over to Bob's table.

The locals bestirred themselves to look, expecting a quick contest. The stranger had some muscles, sure, but nothing to compare to Bob's.

They were both right and wrong. The contest was short, but Bob didn't win it. The stranger had Bob's arm down five seconds after the mark. They could barely take it in. They demanded he do it again.

He did it again. This time he humoured them; he took ten seconds.

Bob paid him up and pounded him good-naturedly on the back. The stranger was about to return to his seat when another transient came up.

"Would you mind if we had a contest?" he said to the man who had just beaten Bob. He too was handsome enough, with dark, almost black hair, finer features and a slighter build which had 'reporter' written all over him.

"You don't want to try Bob first?" the winner asked, eyeing the slim man sardonically.

"It wouldn't be fair on Bob," he replied with a gleam in his eye, "to lose twice in a row."

The other laughed. "Or maybe you just don't want to lose twice in a row."

Bob butted in. "Put your money where your mouth is, Mister." He put up his arm on the table.

The dark-haired man shrugged and sat down in front of Bob. "It's your funeral." He choreographed his moves; he downed Bob stylishly in thirty seconds.

The patrons laughed, Bob grumbled, the rugged man raised his eyebrows and the dark-haired man merely shrugged.

A table was quickly cleared, and the patrons gathered around for what looked to be an interesting contest. The two men sat down eyeing each other. Interestingly enough, a similar thought was going through both their minds: this guy is strong, still, I don't want to exert so much strength that I break his arm...

The mark was given. Their arms tensed, swayed, and held firm. And held firm. Over their gripping hands, they stared at each other.

The dark-haired one frowned. "Your face is familiar. Have we met?"

"I doubt it," came the reply.

"I never forget a face," the dark-haired man said.

Their hands wobbled briefly, as first one, then the other, exerted himself to greater effort. "Austin," declared the dark-haired man. "Steven Austin. The astronaut."

Steve Austin inclined his head. "You do have a good memory for faces. Now that you know my name, might I know yours?"

The dark-haired man grinned. "If you beat me," he said, and exerted his muscles even more, sweating with effort, but Austin's arm was as steady as a gyroscope. He's not even breathing heavily, he thought. What is this Austin made of? Then he heard it: the whirring of the motors, the clicking of the relays. Austin had an artificial arm!

The surprise was enough to slacken his concentration. Austin pressed his advantage, and slowly, slowly pressed his opponent's arm to the table.

"So what's your name?" asked Steve Austin, the six million dollar man.

"Sterling," replied the dark-haired man. "Craig Sterling." Who, when he had crash-landed in the Himalayas with two others, had been given amazing powers by a lost civilization. He massaged his hand. "That's a very good arm you've got. Do they come in assorted colours?"

Steve Austin froze. Who was Sterling? Was he bionic too? "What?"

"You don't get away that easy," Craig grinned. "Other arm." He had a hunch that the other arm did not sport the same enhancements as the right one.

"I don't wrestle left-handed," Steve declared, stony-faced.

"Aw, give him the other arm!" cried a local, and there was a murmur of agreement all round.

Frowning, Steve complied. Craig, with a twinkle in his eye, downed him in thirty seconds. "Now we're even," he said. "Let me buy you a drink."

(Appeared in Crossovers Anonymous #1)