The explosion had been sharp and loud. Completely unlike the dull roar that every five days shook the cage and compound.
Odd not to mention the regular earth-shaking roars two chapters ago, after the first time skip. Maybe Jonnie didn't notice them because he was learning the alphabet so hard?
Our hero has wedged himself in a corner of his cage and chimney-walked his way to the top for a look around. Theoretically, this means he could escape if he wanted to, since the anchor end of his leash is just looped around one of the bars. But I have a feeling that hasn't occurred to him.
Anyway, it's winter now, and Jonnie's scoping out a metal platform surrounded by wires and poles, adjacent to a Psychlo dome and a landing field. Cylindrical aircraft deposit "rocks and chunks of things," piles of vague but tantalizing "material," to put on a conveyor belt that brings it to the shiny platform. After five days, "the material on the platform glow[s] briefly. Then there would be a roar like a low thunderclap. And the material would vanish!"
So teleportation, okies. This isn't "a guy has no sword in his hand; bang, there's a magic sword in his hand." This is "there's a pile of 'material' on a platform; bang, there's no 'material' on the platform." Completely different, people.
Jonnie's seen this happen enough for him to be able to predict its occurrence to the minute (despite a distinct lack of chronometry), and knows that this latest boom is unrelated. One of the Psychlos' tractors or 'dozers has just exploded. Jonnie watches the work crew stuff a body into a "basket," and then Terl shows up.
Jonnie, in Psychlo, tells Terl that his teaching machine is broken. Terl replaces the battery, then indicates for Jonnie to get back to work, but our plucky human hero tells Terl that he knows all the discs now. His captor's face is looking "grim," but the Psychlo leaves and returns with a new stack of not-magical learning devices.
And then, after a deep breath, Jonnie tells Terl that "Man does not live on raw rat meat and dirty water." Dun-duh-duhn!
Well, Jonnie has. For months now. He didn't think to try to cook his rat, or bring up his contaminated water supply with his host before. I mean, obviously Terl wants Jonnie alive, or else the alien wouldn't be feeding him. Maybe feigning illness and begging for cleaner water would pay off? But nope, Jonnie's heroic and prideful and doesn't want to say "please," so he gets to drop this drama bomb. In a just universe he'd be dead by now.
Anyway, Terl... oh, that's it? Huh. The chapter ends at the bottom of page 83, and then the last chapter for this Part starts next page. Looks like it's gonna be a short one...
Well, this is a real cliffhanger, isn't it? What will Terl's response to Jonnie's audacity be? What kind of food does Man live on? Is the stench that not doubt surrounds Jonnie's pen strong enough to melt earwax, or can it be cut into bricks too? Tune in tomorrow for the excit... for the conclusion!
Back to Chapter Eight