Canto 148 – Of Rocks and Men
The hills of Outpost had come alive with construction projects. The Lazerstone collective had found enough harmonic crystals to form ten million new rock men. They all looked like the original Lazerstone, but once separated from their original, they quickly developed personalities and intelligences uniquely their own. Lazerstone himself explained that the content of the native Outpost crystal, various minerals and odd bits of elements, made each crystal man different from the rest, just as snowflakes are unique from each other. The result was a vast and capable workforce who could build spaceships and defense installations in an airless environment without complaint. They were also highly capable of manipulating the planet’s rock formations to construct what was needed for defense.
“It is unbelievable!” swore Tron, “these rock men may have saved us from Tang and his Imperial Fleet! Arkin, I can never repay you for this.”
“I am lucky to be alive and glad to be able to help in this fight,” declared Cloudstalker.
“You got that right!” added the head of Ace Campfield bitterly. The head of the deadly bounty hunter and skilled assassin was all that remained of the Mechanoid menace.
“Shut up, Ace,” said Cloudstalker.
Tron, Arkin, Hassan the Elf, and the head of Ace Campfield were watching the intensive creation of defense facilities from the edge of the transparent dome that covered Tron’s pirate city.
Tron’s scarred face drew up in a sneer. He looked at the still-living Mechanoid head. “I don’t know why you keep that thing around.”
“He was someone to talk to on the trip here. Besides, I may be able to learn something about the enemy from him.”
“Yeah,” growled the head, “When the stars all go out.”
“If it were me, I would drop-kick that thing out onto the surface. He can talk to himself for a thousand years. How do you know he’s not secretly broadcasting everything he sees or hears to Admiral Tang?”
“Well, I guess that’s why I only kept the talking part. It’s small enough to scan completely and inside out.”
The head fell into grim silence.
“These rock men fit my armors perfectly,” said Hassan. “They will be a formidable fighting force.”
Arkin looked at the Peri intently, really noticing him for the first time. He marveled at the clever way the little child-like man had redesigned his artificial leg to operate like a Swiss Army Knife, with forty-two extra pop-out devices including a mini drink mixer for martinis. He also noticed how charming the creature was for being a genetically manipulated freak.
“You are quite an arms designer,” Arkin said to the elf.
Hassan smiled an extra-broad smile and looked a bit sheepish as he answered, “I don’t really like weapons, you know. The Peris believe that every story, no matter how much adventure and risk it has in it, should be about love. All life is a page in the Great Story. I don’t object to making things that might save someone in battle or prevent a serious injury.”
“Hmm. I see. I don’t know how necessary the defensive part will be to Lazerstone soldiers. They are pretty much impervious to harm as it is,” said Arkin.
“Well, the armor allows the wearer to fly and protect against plasma bolts,” said Hassan.
Arkin nodded. That was a very good thing for his side in the upcoming battle. He was glad this creative little goober was on their side. The elf was not a great warrior or anything, but he was a good little man to have on your side. Arkin couldn’t help but feel something paternal towards this child-like little man. He was reminded of his own son, Devon, growing up away from his father on the distant planet Arriseah. It could easily all end very badly. Even with the help of these crystal soldiers, Admiral Tang had the resources and strategic genius to wipe out all of these pirates. He knew he could die here and never see his family again. That had never stopped a good idea before, though. He meant to see this through, no matter what the cost. He smiled at the brooding head of the assassin, Ace Campfield.
“We are gonna win this, Tron,” said Arkin. “I know we will.”
“I wish I could have your optimism,” Tron answered. “Any realist will tell you, we are probably doomed.”
“We can’t fail,” said Hassan simply. “The good guys always win. The creator made it so.”
Arkin nodded as he looked at the elf. It was the way he had always felt put into words. Let Admiral Tang come soon! He wanted to see how this would play out.