Canto 66 – Fish-Skin Socks in the Rock Garden
The planet Hyde Park was different than most planets in the Thousand Worlds of the Galtorr Imperium. Where most life in the Orion Spur was made up of carbon-based life-forms, Hyde Park was rife with silicon-based life-forms.
Instead of forests of trees or plants, the countryside was overgrown with gardens of living crystal, quartz, and harmonic stone. The wildlife was made up of electro-energy creatures with crystallized bodies, or even no bodies at all. The amorphous stone men of Hyde Park communicated with no one but each other, taking whatever shape struck their weird fancy. They could constitute and dissolve themselves with the speed of thought.
Nert Cooblegooble felt ridiculous in his red-and-white-striped pajamas. His blond hair was tied up in random pony tails, and red freckles had been added to his face with a paintbrush. He stood next to a table advertising fish-skin socks for sale.
“Stop fidgeting, Nert!” said Mr. Crushcracker, waving his fat, smelly cigar. “You have to look business-like to sell these things to tourists.”
“Why do we have to play these silly pretend games?” complained Nert Cooblegooble, secretly Arkin Cloudstalker. He looked dubiously over at Madame Prong, who was obviously an ugly man in drag wearing a tight blue dress over an overstuffed body and wearing gobs of makeup on his… er, her eyes and cheeks.
“We calls ‘em as we sees ‘em,” said Phineas Crushcracker, secretly Scarpigo Snarcs. “These rubes and yokels are used to seein’ us like this. These secret identities are critical to our roles as agents of the Thin White Duke. Now be quiet, or I’ll buy a supper club and beat you over the head with it.”
Madame Prong, secretly Zero Snarcs, put a swollen white finger to her badly painted red lips and pantomimed shushing Mr. Crushcracker for saying the TWD-word out loud where any stone could hear.
“There are no humans about anywhere!” moaned Nert. “Why the need for secrecy?”
“The rocks have ears,” said Mr. Crushcracker.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
In answer to Arkin’s question, a man walked up to the fish-sock table. He was not like any other man either Arkin Cloudstalker or Nert Cooblegooble had ever seen. He was made entirely of stone, a living statue looking out apparently through carved stone eyes. He was an eerie, zombie-like figure that moved and talked without expression, always a degree or two off of what would be natural for a human man.
“Well, well!” gushed Mr. Crushcracker. “So nice to see you again, Mr. Lazerstone! How have you been? How’s the missus and all the little pebbles?”
The cold stone voice that came from the hollows inside Lazerstone chilled Arkin to the bone with dread.
“I don’t pretend to understand your need for charades, Snarcs. I do understand the position of the White Duke. I am ready to render aid. I can do far more than even Duke Keyser himself realizes. Don’t mock me. I get tired of the human need to maintain personal fictions.”
“Have you met Nert Cooblegooble?”
“You know that this man is different from the last human who you introduced as Mr. Cooblegooble. Don’t play games with me again.”
“Oh, you take all the fun out the whole spy thing! This is the Pirate King, Arkin Cloudstalker.”
“Yes. A noble reputation among those who travel through the Hyde Park starport. I believe you use the Knights as a privateer band working to liberate the people of the Galtorr Imperium, do you not?”
“I do. I like your directness.”
“We are many, Mr. Cloudstalker, but we are one.”
“Wait, I don’t understand again. Is this a riddle?”
“No. It is merely a factor in the differences between your kind and mine.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course, you don’t. You are like these ephemerals. You do not have the Wisdom of the Stones.”
“Oh!” interjected Mr. Crushcracker, “You mean like, I can’t get no… satisfaction!?”
“Shut up, Snarcs.” Lazerstone turned cold, sightless eyes on Phineas Crushcracker. “This meeting is important.”
“Help me understand,” pleaded Arkin.
“Very well. The crystals of this planet are all alive. They are all capable of thought. In fact, they all share one vast consciousness. We, the Lazerstone, are capable of understanding everything about your kind and what they are doing in our shared galaxy. We have seen the unnatural evil and crimes of your Galtorr Imperium. We understand the need to put an end to that. We also realize that only men like you, Ged Aero, and the White Duke are capable of making your kind turn away from violent animal ignorance and start harmonizing with the galactic symphony of life.”
“That is all very poetic,” said Arkin, still not fully comprehending, “but how are you going to help us?”
“I will fight for you. Soon you will see how important that is for your future Empire.”
“Your Democracy if you prefer.”
“Yes, that would be better.” Arkin tried to use mental x-rays to pierce the colorful stone of that impassive face. “Can you see me through those stone eyes of yours?”
“He can see through you, Nert,” said Scarpigo Snarcs. “He’s an all-powerful monster from outer space. Booga-booga! He can even tell what color underwear you have on.”
The humorless stone face turned towards Snarcs.
“At least I have enough respect for his underwear that I don’t feel the need to reveal what it looks like. Not like the silk shorts with printed pink bunnies on them that you have on.”
Snarcs turned stone white. “How did you know about those?”
“Lazer-vision, funny boy. I see by using my perceptions of relative density and wave-lengths of gravitons. Don’t cross me, or I might eat you in the night!”
Phineas Crushcracker and Scarpigo Snarcs both cringed. Madame Prong held a rubber chicken in her hand with less than the usual gusto.
“By the way,” added Lazerstone, “Booga-booga! Scarpigo Snarcs!”