Canto 75 – The Music and the Gunfighter
Arkin Cloudstalker and his friend Lazerstone walked into the starport center in the planet known as Ibiguy. This stop on their journey had been a necessity brought on by lack of supplies and fuel aboard the little scout ship they now flew. It was only one small needle-like wedge of mechanical parts to use in the quest to puncture holes in the fabric of space and re-unite Cloudstalker with his Lady Knights.
Swirls of orange dust flew about the grand concourse in this starport. It was a parched and cracked desert world, this Ibiguy. It was one small discordant note in the symphony of space and time. It was also a hardship to travelers. There was no water and little hydrogen in this system to use as fuel for starships. It had to be purchased at the starport in order to move along to the next stanza in their travels through the star lanes.
Many alien eyes pondered the odd pair as they walked through the starport. Birdlike aliens, wedge-headed aliens, oceanic aliens wearing suits filled with salty water, and star-fish shaped aliens known as Sparkies. This world, rarely used by Galtorr Imperials, had become a haven to those who were persecuted, especially those known as Un-Humans because their make-up was not humanoid. Freaks, too, who had slipped away from their forced servitude, found sanctuary in this place. For obvious reasons, the starport had only planet-bound elements, a downport. There was no space station or space port in the system.
“I don’t understand,” said Arkin, inclining his cowboy-hatted head towards Lazerstone, “why are they watching us?”
“I sense anticipation. Their pulse and surge rates are all slightly elevated, indicating anxiety of some sort.”
“Yes, I feel it. Can you tell what might be causing it?”
“Is there an angry cyborg in your past?”
“What?” Arkin’s eyes grew round and fearful.
“There is a being re-animated with artificial energy flows behind us. He is seventy-two per cent metallic and eight per cent polymer. He has been trailing us since we passed through the first security gate.”
“It’s Ace Campfield.” Arkin tried to pretend that the music of the universe was not pounding out an eerie tuba score that made the heart rate climb dramatically.
“We know he’s there,” cautioned Lazerstone. “I can see him even when he’s hiding because I don’t rely on eyes to see. It gives us a tactical advantage.”
“I can’t read minds, but I know he’s got a small plasma weapon that he is firing up for use. We can attack first.”
Arkin began to sweat profusely. He only narrowly escaped the bounty-hunting Mechanoid the last time. This would have to be a fatal confrontation, one way or another.
“He’s hideous in a way,” commented Lazerstone. “He is a creature who’s not fully alive and certainly not dead. His cold heart seems to be without feeling.”
“You’re going to say it again, aren’t you?”
“Yes, that. You got it from ancient holovids, didn’t you Mr. Vulcan?”
“Yes. It’s a good word. But I am not Spock.”
Arkin pulled his gauss pistol and dove to the right. Lazerstone dove to the left. They both rolled and came up pointing their weapons at a surprised Ace Campfield.
“What? You will shoot me with those things? A speedy slug thrower and a finger?”
“Yes,” said Arkin, pulling the trigger. The gauss pistol launched its accelerated slug at mach 4 and Lazerstone simultaneously launched crystal shards from the end of his finger. The slug tore through Ace’s cranium, breaking circuitry and slagging connections. The crystal shards flew past the rotted head and plunged into the ground in five places.
The face of Ace Campfield wrinkled upwards into a skeletal grin of pure mockery. “Didn’t feel a thing!” He raised his plasma handgun to point it at Arkin’s white face.
Out of the ground surrounding Campfield, five crystal arms rose out of the dirt like a scene from a George Romero movie. Each grabbed the bounty-hunter, pulling at him from a different direction.
Ace’s arms and legs splintered as the five new Lazerstones stood up, rending him limb from limb.
“Curse you, you alien scum!” cried the limbless torso that was previously Ace Campfield.
“Sorry there were only five of us to answer the call,” said Lazerstone, “but there’s a limited amount of harmonic quartz on this planet.”
Arkin smiled and nodded at his friend. “Fascinating!”