Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Part 5, Chapter 3 - Well, That Was Easy

Jonnie's trying to figure out what to do about the cameras overlooking his cage. He'd like to pull the old "fake image to override the real one" trick, but there's two cameras. Oh, and if you're curious about how the Psychlo cameras work: "They were simple devices. They had a small interior mirror to catch the image, and the image became transmitted electrons; the pattern was simply picked up and recorded on a disk."

I'd jump on this, but it's a better explanation than I could give on how a digital camera functions.

Jonnie plans on combining his magical learning engine with a recorder device that he must have gotten while I wasn't looking, and then somehow beam that image to override the cameras. This time L. Ron doesn't bother to explain the mechanics, which may be just as well.

Terl walks in with Jonnie elbow-deep in his instruction machine and is simply baffled, ordering Jonnie to put it back together in exchange for a freshly-killed rabbit. When Jonnie complies, Terl gives one of the few sentences from this book I like: "'Don't monkey with things that don't need fixing,' Terl said with the air of good-God-what-you-have-to-teach-an-animal."

Note that this sentence raises questions of whether the Psychlos have a monkey-like animal associated with mischief, why they would have a similar simile, and what their concept of God is. It is only a likable sentence in comparison with the rest of the book.

Another hassle to overcome is Psychlo heat-sensing equipment, which Terl showed us a few chapters earlier. Luckily, Ker gave/gives Jonnie a miraculous heat-reflecting Snuggie to help Jonnie do some drilling x days before/after the learning machine incident (L. Ron's pretty nebulous when it comes to time). Well, I say miraculous, but for all we know it could be aluminum foil. In any case, the things are disposable (odd for a profit-oriented minesite), so Jonnie simply neglects to throw his away.

He's got enough smoked beef to keep him going, but Jonnie's concerned about footwear. Terl catches him patching up his moccasins, but that just ends with the Psychlo generously getting the local tailor to make Jonnie some boots. Jonnie is suspicious of this surprisingly helpful Terl.

But the main thing on Jonnie's "What to Pack: Jailbreak" list is a gun.

Yeah. The guy who throws clubs and bashes bears to death with rifle-butts is finally concerned about a ranged weapon. Most people would be a bit leery of using an alien weapon, especially if they've never been exposed to firearms before, but remember that Jonnie picked Instant Expert as a bonus feat or something and was a crack shot the first time he used Terl's rifle.

All the Psychlo workers have pistols (which seems like a weird thing to allow if you're worried about mutinies), and Jonnie wants his own. He's heard Ker speak of some past petty villainy, so he shows off one of his silver coins. Ker isn't impressed, since he's seen similar human artifacts and knows it's just an alloy with a nickel-silver plating. So Jonnie whips out a gold coin he must've gotten earlier, and I'm not going to bother checking when. Since that would be worth four thousand credits, enough to buy a wife - which I'm sure is villainous, though it's not like the author's treatment of women has been much better - Ker is interested.

Jonnie hints that he gets these coins from a place so dangerous, he'd need a belt-gun to get more. He also mentions that he stores the coin in a hole next to his cage. That night the coin disappears, and the next morning a handgun and spare charges are in its place.


This is a big plot point, though you can be forgiven for missing it. Not the handgun, which will prove to be pointless, but Ker's behavior. At this point you'd expect the Psychlo to be just as greedy and evil as the others... well, okay, he is motivated purely by greed here. And lust. But he upholds his end of the bargain. He doesn't threaten Jonnie for the location of other treasures. He's not openly dismissive of the man-thing. He's not as mustache-twirlingly Evil as the others.

Maybe there's more to the Psychlos than a race of murderous, rapacious brutes? Maybe the ones at the minesite aren't necessarily indicative of the race as a whole? Maybe they're not always Chaotic Evil? Maybe there's some redeemable specimens amongst them?

Of course, Jonnie being Jonnie, he doesn't react at all to this development, and it won't stop him from trying to wipe out every last Psychlo in existence later (lol spoilers!). But it will help us condemn him for it.

We end at the very bottom of page 157, and I'm keenly aware of the 900 or so pages left to go. Next time, Jonnie learns that radiation is bad for humans, too.

Back to Chapter Two

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