I laid it all out for Carver: The weird events that had plagued me since the fish in the sky had first appeared, the abduction of Gail Millik, the conflicting information I had received from Mr. Bob and the League, the truth about what was happening to the God of Toast, and my conclusions that he, Carver, was my only remaining lead. The only things I left out were Roger Binks and Barbara, having decided that those matters were my own business and didn’t concern Carver directly.
Through my entire speech, Carver remained mute and undemonstrative. When I stopped talking, he continued to regard me stonily. Finally, he spoke. “There are things you’re not telling me. Why?”
“They’re personal,” I said sullenly.
Carver leaned forward to regard me carefully. Then he leaned back again and puffed his pipe. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight,” he said. “You’re going up against both the League and Mr. Bob in pursuit of your goal, that goal being to eradicate the fish in the sky, thereby, you believe, saving the God of Toast from annihilation. Correct?”
“And when your investigation led you to me,” Carver continued, “you unflinchingly went after me, even knowing full well that I’m a Tier 3 member of the League of Heroes?”
“I thought you were Tier 4,” I said.
“I was reclassified.”
“Oh.” I myself was Tier 5. That Carver was two tiers above me made me feel a little better about my failure to nab him.
“In any case,” said Carver, “have I painted a fair picture of the situation?”
“And even in light of your current situation, you continue to defy me?”
“Anything I haven’t told you isn’t your business,” I said, gritting my teeth a little.
“In that case,” said Carver, “I only have one more question for you.” He paused, seemingly waiting for me. I raised my eyebrows as an invitation to continue.
Carver leaned forward to stare at me intently. “What loss is incurred when the music listens to a prawn?” he asked.
I blinked. So it was to be this again. I suddenly felt tired all over. But there seemed to be only one option, and that was to play along. I cleared my throat. “In the void of space, the prawn cannot be heard,” I said. “Not even by the music.”
“Space? Who said anything about space?” said Carver. “I’m talking about the fundamental truths to be found here, on Earth, in soups and sandwiches.”
“Roast beef is the culinary equivalent to a beard trimmer,” I said.
“And what answers would you look for in a beard trimmer sandwich?” Carver demanded.
“There’s a sock in the air between us, undulating softly,” I replied.
“I wish you would quit changing the subject,” said Carver. “We were talking about the elemental properties of my closeted bazooka shredder.”
“Leaving that aside for the moment, what do you intend to do about the undulating sock?” I asked.
Carver shrugged. “Do? What can I do? There’s kibble in the rhododendron.”
“The universe can be discovered in a jar of owl pellets,” I said. I was actually beginning to enjoy myself.
“Which brings us to the subject of robots,” said Carver, leading back in his chair with an air of satisfaction. “What will you do when the tenacious, gibbering robots come to you, demanding toast?”
Mentioning toast was a cheap shot in my book. I looked Carver dead in the eye and said, “Even my toast has toast.”
Carver nodded gravely. “A fair point,” he said. “And, I think, sufficient to my purposes.” He stood up, producing a small, lethal-looking dagger from somewhere. The blade glinted in the harsh light as he approached me.