Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Part 1, Chapter 13 - What a Weird Horse

Now we get to see the Jonnie vs. the Magical Floating Cockroach battle from Terl's perspective. Turns out he had driven into the ruined city, chugged some kerbango, and fallen asleep, only awoken the next day by Jonnie's intrusion. He sees, as he puts it, a two-headed horse before him.

Terl knows what horses are, since they apparently fall down mine shafts from time to time. But it takes him a while to figure out that there's another animal riding the "two-headed one." Now, this would suggest that a) the Psychlo have been mechanized for so long that the idea of using animals for transportation is an alien concept to them, b) Terl is still drunk, or c) Terl is an idiot. All options are equally valid at this point, though Terl's stupidity will reveal itself soon enough.

This makes Terl bat his "eyebones," and once again I wonder if L. Ron is creating a truly alien physiology here, if this is a typo of "eyelids," or if ol' Hubbard was "drinking lots of rum and popping pinks and greys" when he was cranking out this garbage.

The only extra detail we learn about the chase from last chapter is that Terl chugged some more kerbango during it.

Again, Jonnie attacks - or rather, the two-headed beast takes a stick out of his belt and charges with it. Now, Terl notices the belt on this strange "horse," but he never seems to question why this "horse" is wearing clothing and equipment and using a weapon. Maybe he thinks all the horses that fell down the mine shafts were nudist, Luddite pacifists?

Anyway, the club hits the vehicle right in the window - the "missile-proof" window, mind you - and manages to knock the thing out of its mounting, causing dangerous "air" to leak into the cabin! Terl manages to put on a mask before he becomes more than dizzy. Peeved, he cranks down his cannon to "stun" (to avoid damaging the window further, not out of any particular desire to capture this remarkable horse). And with a blast of ions, the battle is over, Psychlo military science only just managing to overcome a guy with a stick.

To Terl's continued astonishment, the "two-headed horse" has fallen apart into two separate animals! And "luck of the gold nebula," one of them was a man!

Yes, this means that Terl was out trying to find something he couldn't recognize on sight.

He tosses his new captive into the car and starts repairing the battle damage. And here L. Ron admits that maybe having his hero bash up a "missile-proof" window is a bit much, so Terl justifies things by reasoning that the tank was old and brittle, or that Zzt had been doing shoddy work maintaining it. Good thing Jonnie showed up to warn him of this danger, or else Terl may have been killed in a sudden hailstorm or a deer collision.

Now, knowing that man is an air-breathing mammal, Terl has nonetheless put one into his vehicle and filled it with "breathe-gas." And yet he's still astonished when the man he's captured goes into convulsions. Only after throwing Jonnie back outside and watching him recover does Terl suddenly understand that by golly, these things can only breathe the atmosphere of the planet they evolved on!

Is this because Terl is stupid, or because Terl is stupid and drunk? Who can say...

Terl's too selfish to drive home in a gas mask, so he roots around Jonnie's luggage, finds some "thongs," and lashes him and the two horses to the roof of the car/tank. He stretches his jawbones in a grin (two mouths, a mandible-like arrangement, or more bad writing?) and drives off, our hero tied up like a roadkill deer being taken home to supper.

Which, all things considered, is a pretty hilarious mental image to end Part One on, just above the bottom of page 49.

Man, that took over two weeks, didn't it? So how many Parts are in this book?


Back to Chapter Twelve

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