Friday, November 27, 2009

Part 2, Chapter 5 - The Care and Feeding of Man-Things

We're back with Terl, who is feeling very pleased with himself due to his cunning plan to learn what the "man-thing" eats. He was able to easily track Jonnie with something called a "flying scope," or in other words, a surveillance drone. So shouldn't he call "gas drones" something like "flying sprayer?" Oi.

He does some paperwork, pertaining to a dead Psychlo and ruined tractor found at the bottom of a two-mile deep mineshaft, which bodes well for Terl's cunnin' planz. We'll learn more later. For now, Terl's out to get some food for his pet, and grabs his blast gun and mask before stepping outside.

Turns out our main Psychlo was on the school shooting team, as shown by his skill at decapitating leaping rats in mid-air at fifty feet. Which comes out to forty-two Psychlo paces. So... was Terl thinking in Psychlo feet, or did the "translator" clean things up for us?

The bigger question is why there are rats hanging around the minesite. They can't breathe that mysterious "breathe-gas," and Jonnie showed us that Earth creatures can't palate Psychlo food. Are the rodents seriously going to loiter around a place filled with hostile air, huge lumbering creatures, and heavy mining equipment, without the promise of food to make up for the danger of being squashed?

Terl bags two rats, which makes his "mouthbones" stretch out in a grin. You have to wonder what miraculous, flexible substance makes up the Psychlo skeletal system. Some kind of cartilage? A system of firm but malleable fluid-filled bladders? Or does L. Ron mean Terl's lips stretch out into a grin, and just fails at the English language?

I wonder if Scientologists learn the answers to these questions after paying enough?

Terl heads back to the cage, and notices for the first time that Jonnie is outright glaring at him. The Psychlo is surprised that humans have emotions, but tosses his prisoner the rats he caught. Jonnie is unenthusiastic, and Terl sees that the human is staring at two books. Terl wonders where in the "crap nebula" it had gotten them. I wonder if there really is a Crap Nebula somewhere, given the frequency that Psychlos reference it.

After some quick plumbing work, Terl fills a cement pool in the cage. He pours too much into it, and Jonnie has to climb up on the bars to stay out of the standing water and mud.

There, I just summarized a full page of narration.

Terl confiscates Jonnie's books, flips through them, and wonders if the Chinkos were right about humans being able to grasp meaning. This is the same person, remember, who claimed that humans were intelligent, the dominant species on Earth, and capable of building vast cities and launching rockets into space. Too much kerbango? Terl's natural stupidity? Plot hole? The choice is yours.

Full of questions, Terl laments that it's useless to try to talk to the "man-thing," but in a flash of insight realizes that the squawking noises it was making earlier were its language! Humans can talk! Wow!

I am tempted here to post a picture of Captain Jean-Luc Picard facepalming. But I fear that if I did this now, I'd end up using it every chapter, and that would get old real fast.

Terl flips the books' pages in front of Jonnie, but there's no glimmer of recognition. The Psychlo surmises the human can't read. Ah, but Jonnie does see something in the book's pretty pictures. Terl can work with that. He scurries off to the Chinko quarters, to find one of the "man-language disks" they made.

That's right. The Chinkos couldn't figure out the human diet, but somehow managed to completely translate not one, but several Earth languages into Psychlo, presumably just from ruined libraries and such. Hubbard actually does some lampshade hanging here, as Terl snorts that typically for the race, the Chinko "miss the essentials and soar off into the stratosphere." I ought to give credit where it's due, but I can't help wondering if this was accidental.

We end near the bottom of page 67. In Chapter 6, thrill as Jonnie learns.

Back to Chapter Four

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