Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Part 4, Chapter 7 - Jonnie Does It Wrong

On the road again, Terl's thinking about how to break his unruly animal.

Yes, after having Jonnie for a season, he's just now getting around to wondering how to subjugate the stubborn little human.

Jonnie notices an information plate in the car/tank's cockpit, identifying it as a "Mark III General Purpose Tank, Executive, 'The Enemy Is Dead'" model ("use only Faro power cartridges and breathe-gas"). He asks if Faro is part of Intergalactic Mining Company, and Terl tells him not to try to wrap his little "rat-brain" around the fact that IMC is a huge monopoly spanning galaxies, yet nonetheless is run by an office on Psychlo, and powerful enough to snuff out races who cause trouble, like the Chinko or humans. Jonnie thanks him for this bit of information, like he couldn't have guessed it already.

They arrive back in Denver, for a nostalgic look at where our two main characters first met. Terl reveals that they're looking for Jonnie's horse, and sends a recon drone up and starts doing heat scans. After an undisclosed amount of time, and after spotting a lot of cattle, wolves, and even a rattlesnake, Terl loses patience and decides for a more direct demonstration of power.

He pulls over, orders Jonnie out, sights some cattle nearby, and proceeds to surgically dismantle the fleeing bovines with well-placed blasts of his rifled energy weapon.

The air was shattering with the bawls of pain from the cattle.

Terl grinned as he looked at them. Jonnie looked back at him in horror. The grin behind the faceplate was of pure joy.

Jonnie felt revulsion for the monster. Terl was--Jonnie suddenly realized that there was no word for "cruel" in the Psychlo language.

I'm sorely tempted to go back through all the Terl chapters and look for the usage of the word "cruel." But mostly I'm annoyed that L. Ron wrote that last sentence, because it's similar to a well-written part of Small Gods. Battlefield Earth is so bad that it's tainting other, better books.

The demonstration over, Jonnie starts to advance on the maimed and mutilated cows, ready to club them out of their misery... and then the largest grizzly he's ever seen bursts out of the nearby cave and lunges at Terl's back. And then Jonnie does something special.

He tries to yell a warning, but Terl can't hear him over the cattle, and goes down from a blow "that sent out a shock wave." Apparently we're in an anime now.

Terl's gun is caught by Jonnie, left-handed of course. You'd think that a mere human would have difficulty catching a hefty alien rifle like that, but this is no mere human, this is an obnoxious author stand-in. With a gun in one hand, and his club in the other, Jonnie leaps to the attack and engages the bear in melee.

He gets the first blow with his club, staggering the grizzly with a strike to the brainpan. He ducks the bear's counterattack and bonks it again, but on his third strike the bear swipes the club right out of his hand. So Jonnie grips the rifle's barrel and bashes the bear with its stock. One more blow and it's dead.

Let us reflect on this.

Our hero... well, the main chara... the protag... Jonnie has just defeated a grizzly bear in close combat, an implausible, superhuman accomplishment, unless the bear was sick or mentally defective or something. Jonnie did this by beating it to death with a gun.

Good God this man is stupid.

And Terl, the big dangerous enemy, was blindsided by a huge predator - or rather, something comparable in size and strength to a Psychlo - while gloating over his ability to shoot up cows. He went down in one blow, and was utterly helpless while his pet human dealt with the problem.

This Psychlo is pathetic.

Jonnie uses the gun to put down the cows - with six precise shots of course, even though this is the first time he's used a ranged weapon beyond his "throwing club" - then ignores Terl's subtle reach for his sidearm and unconcernedly skins the bear. When Terl pulls himself together, Jonnie tosses him the gun (safety on, of course). All Terl can think to say is that he's not letting Jonnie take the hide home inside his new ride. It gets strapped to the roof of the tank/car instead.

Terl is thrown by the lack of fear in Jonnie's eyes, and again laments about not having leverage. And the chapter mercifully ends without throwing any more stupid at us.

Next time, more Numph. Will there be jokes about Jonnie peeing on the floor of his office? Ah, suspense at last!

Back to Chapter Six

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