Monday, January 11, 2010

Part 4, Chapter 5 - Payback's a Female Dog-Animal

Terl is visited by the smaller Chamco brother, who still doesn't have a real name. Unless, of course, their parents were stupid enough to name both children Chamco, and everyone is forced to refer to them as "big Chamco" or "little Chamco." Which would, again, be really stupid, but certainly not beyond anything we've seen so far.

Chamco the Lesser brings up the money he won from Terl, and how it and some other credits were stolen. Terl is shocked, shocked! but reminds the other Psychlo that he's security chief, and has been ordered to place some workers under observation to appease management's fears of mutiny. "Reluctantly," Terl goes through the records, and sure enough "Zzt" is clearly visible taking Lil' Chamco's money. According to the book of regulations, Volume 989, Article 34a-IV... argh, that just derails everything.

Seriously, L. Ron, the company has over nine hundred volumes' worth of rules? Did you think that just throwing big numbers at us would impress your readers? "Wow, these bad guys have a lot of books! Clearly they are a force to be reckoned with!" Or is this supposed to be something more subtle? Like, the Psychlo are evil because they have so many laws? So an ideal society wouldn't have such an emphasis on law and order, and wouldn't, just to make up an example, chase a guy around the world with charges of embezzlement or conspiracy?

Anyway... turns out the penalty for stealing is vaporization, which raises the question of why a race that uses capital punishment for petty theft nevertheless requires nine hundred books' worth of legal code. Micro-Chamco is handed a blast rifle (how can you rifle an energy weapon?) and accompanies Terl to Zzt's corner of the garage.

Zzt throws a wrench! His attack missed. Terl used his paws! It's super effective!

Using sleight of "paw," Terl "retrieves" the money he stole from the Chamco brother's room from Zzt's person, waves the purloined bills in front of the security camera, and for good measure shows Zzt the incriminating video. But, in a show of mercy for a first-time offense, Terl convinces Chamco the Short to stay his hand. Paw. Energy rifle. Whatever.

Terl assures both other Psychlos that he'll keep Zzt's file open, so that his sentence can be activated if the troublemaker acts up again. Satisfied, the Nameless Chamco leaves, allowing Terl and Zzt to have a heart-to-heart.

Zzt was standing there restraining the tremble that threatened to engulf him. The aura of death had gripped him all too nearly. Stark terror flared in his eyes as he looked at Terl. He was not seeing Terl. He was seeing the most diabolical devil ever drawn in the mythology of the Psychlos.

Actual details about Psychlo mythology, religion, or culture are not important enough to be included in this epic, of course. What, you wanted world-building? Fleshed-out civilizations? Not in this sci-fi masterpiece, bucko.

Terl makes his demands - a MkIII ground car, "battle planes," freighters... in fact, he has some requisition forms prepared, and some blank ones, all for Zzt to sign. The other Psychlo listlessly makes his mark on each sheaf, like a dead thing still moving.

This is almost an effective section. We've seen Terl use his cunning to utterly crush an enemy, and finally achieved the means to get the plot moving again. Except we have to wonder why he's doing this now instead of at the start of his schemes, which undermines this example of villainy considerably. Like watching a master burglar break into his own house because he locked himself out, or an ace pilot down an enemy squadron single-handed because he wandered into enemy airspace while smoking a joint. Impressive, but unnecessary.

That evening, Terl shows his gratitude by winning back the previous night's losses from the Chamco brother, and then some. Well okay, he does buy everyone a round a kerbango before going to bed.

He dreamed beautiful dreams wherein leverage made him wealthy, crowned him king, and got him far away from this accursed planet.

Even in sleep... Fortunately, the chapter's over. Tune in next time, as Jonnie goes for a ride.

Back to Chapter Four

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