Thursday, December 10, 2009

Part 3, Chapter 4 - More Like a Baron, Maaaybe an Earl

The mighty planet Psychlo, "king of the galaxies," basked beneath the forceful rays of triple suns.

Three things here. First, the planet name: yep, it's Psychlo. It's just one of those weird sci-fi conventions that every other species in the galaxy shares a name with their planet, even though we don't call our homeworld Human or Man, or ourselves Earthlings. Given the amount of creativity displayed thus far, it should come as no surprise that L. Ron didn't bother to come up with a new name for his Psychlo homeworld.

Second, king of the galaxies? I'm just going to assume that our oh-so-helpful "translator" has rendered some Psychlo concept as "king," since it'd be disappointing to learn that the alien race followed the exact same evolution of government that Earth did. Though you have to wonder, if they control galaxies, as in plural, why they're settling for "king." Why not "emperor of the galaxies?" Or simply "master?" Maybe invent a more grandiose term?

And third, triple suns. To my surprise, that's actually plausible. So I learned something from Battlefield Earth, imagine that.

A nameless courier is waiting on the latest shipment of material from Earth. We finally get a look at the seat of Psychlo power, the "king of the galaxies," the clenched fist that holds the universe in a chokehold:

Above him the mauve skies domed the purple hillsides of the horizon. All about him spread the smoke-spewing factories, the power lines, the tense and crackling might of the company. Machines and vehicles boiled in purposeful turmoil throughout the multilayered roads and plains of the vast compound. In the distance lay the pyramidal shapes of the Imperial City. Spotted among the outlying hills were the compounds of many other companies--factories that spewed out their products to whole galaxies.

So... yeah. Everything's purple, and there's a few factories near an "Imperial City" that likes pyramids. Distances and numbers are left vague, there's no real sense of scale, there's the stupid statement that these factories are able to supply entire galaxies on their lonesome, and that's about it. No real sense of majesty, certainly nothing to anoint this planet as "king of the galaxies." We don't even know if this follows the "planetwide city" convention other, better settings use to make their capital worlds impressive. Heck, there's nothing in that description that doesn't fit parts of Earth.

But Nameless Courier wonders why anyone would want to leave Psychlo, to go "live and toil on some forgotten light-gravity planet, wearing a mask, working under domes, driving pressurized vehicles, digging in alien soil? Or drafted, fighting some war on territory nobody cared about anyway?" And then it hits me - the Psychlo have mastered telepor-friggin-tation, but they haven't figured out their species' equivalent of terraforming.

Or robot miners.

Anyway, Nameless Courier sees a bunch of rocks materialize on the transshipment platform, and notices snow melting on it. Which means that yes, they're teleporting potentially hazardous materials onto their homeworld. Where does the melting water go? What does that do to their environment? Are there Psychlo cubs born with birth defects? What about oxygen, does atmosphere get 'ported too? Why isn't this planet a toxic industrial wasteland, if they're importing elements and compounds from countless alien, toxic worlds?

Whatever. Nameless Courier gets a dispatch box from the shipment, jumps on his "ground-go" - a Segwey? Go-kart? Pogo stick? - and makes his way to the Intergalactic Central Administration Compound. He hands the messages off to a clerk, and disappears from the story. Now we follow the Junior Assistant to the Deputy Director for Secondary Uninhabited Planets, Zafin... and a clerk who doesn't get a name or title despite being just as unimportant. Oi.

There's a "green-flashed urgent" information request from a security chief named Terl, who Zafin remembers requested a transfer five months ago. Terl is asking about Numph's connections to the main office. Zafin and Nameless But Just As Unimportant Clerk pass on that Numph is the uncle of the Assistant Direct of Accounting for Secondary Planets, Nipe. They also mark on Terl's report that he assigns too high priorities to nonsense, and to ignore further communications from him.

And that's it. That's all that happens in this three-and-a-half page cutaway from the "action" proper. We don't even get a good description of the Psychlo homeworld to make up for it, besides "purple + factories."

"The mighty, imperious, and arrogant world of Psychlo hummed on."

Whaddya mean hummed? Is its engine running noisy? How is it mighty and imperious and arrogant? Just because of its stupid nickname? The description certainly didn't...

Eh, screw it, chapter's over. Next chapter, Jonnie doesn't give his demonstration.

Back to Chapter Three

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