Um, Terl, you're the one metaphorically giving him the recipe for gunpowder. Actually, scratch the word "metaphorically," I have a feeling chemistry lessons were on Jonnie's magical syllabus. He's probably like MacGyver now.
Anyway, Terl's a bit uneasy, because sometimes he sees danger in Jonnie's eyes, and more importantly, he's been summoned for a meeting by one of the executives. And so we meet Numph, Planetary Director of Earth, a decrepit old Psychlo rumored to have been sent to Earth as punishment. We first see him gazing out a window, gnawing on the corner of a file folder like a three-year-old.
...L. Ron, were you wanting us to take the Psychlos seriously? I know arrogance is supposed to be their fatal flaw, but they're coming across more as idiots, and having one chew on things when bored isn't making things any better. Every time I see them, I wonder how the hell they managed to get off their homeworld in the first place. It really says a lot about the rest of the intelligent races of the universe that they let a species like the Psychlos rise to power.
Anyway, Flumph wants to talk finances. The Earth mining camp is having trouble staying in the black, due to galactic economic fluctuations and cost of upkeep.
Numph tossed the folder at him. "Personnel costs. We have 3,719 employees on this planet scattered over five active minesites and three exploratory sites. That includes landing field personnel, freighter crews and the transshipment force. At an average pay of thirty thousand Galactic credits"-
Wait, "Galactic?" As in singular? I thought the Psychlo had holdings in multiple galaxies?
-"a year, that's C11,570,000. Food, quarters, and breathe-gas is averaged at fifteen thousand credits each; comes to C55,785,000. The total is C167,355,000. Add to that the bonuses and transport and we have nearly exceeded the value of our output. That doesn't count wear and tear, and it doesn't count expansion."
Hey, Psychlos? Ever considered automation? You know, robot miners, a simple application of technology you already use for gas drones and recon drones? You'd only be paying food and air costs for the robots' technicians, and though the initial investment would be greater, your work force would last longer, operate in more extreme conditions, work harder, and pay for itself in no time.
But that would prevent this idiotic plot from happening, so the Psychlos will use manual labor in the future.
Gumph is also worried about a mutiny once word gets out that they're slashing pay and bonuses. So Terl takes a gamble.
"We could increase our output," said Terl, fencing in toward his target.
"No, no, no," said Numph. "That's pretty impossible." He sighed. "We're limited on personnel."
That was cream to Terl's earbones.
...The hell? I'll let "earbones" slide for once, since yes, there are bones in the eardrum. But cream? The Psychlos regularly pour dairy products into their ear canals as a form of pleasure? Dammit L. Ron...
Terl raises the specter of executives getting lined up against a wall to get Dumph good and scared, then spills the beans about his little training project, which could potentially halve the local workforce - man could be trained in elementary machine operation, and wouldn't have to wear gas masks to work outside. Terl admits that there's only thirty-four in the nearby mountains, but says that there's thousands more on other continents. Plus, "they breed fast if given a chance."
So why are there only thirty-four of them in Colorado?
Terl promises a demonstration of Jonnie's mad tractor-driving skillz soon, but can't quite get Mumph to give him a blanket requisition. Still, Bumph is pleased, and Terl thinks the meeting went well. And then the old geezer mentions that home planet (which is named...?) sent a dispatch about need for an experienced security chief, but he turned it down and recommended Terl for another ten-year tour since he's doing so well here. Terl manages to make it out the door without throwing up.
The glittering vein of gold lay in the mountains. His plans were going well in all other ways. It would take perhaps two years to get those forbidden riches, and the end of this duty tour would have been a personal triumph. Even the man-thing was shaping up. Everything had been running so well.
And now ten years more! Diseased crap, he couldn't stand that!
Leverage. He had to have leverage on Numph. Big leverage.
What is with the Psychlos and their obsession with ailing fecal matter? Give me made-up profanity any day. We end just about halfway down page 81. Next chapter, more technological magic.
Back to Chapter Seven