Terl's reading a copy of Metal Markets of the Galaxies, pondering his situation. He's (finally) almost ready to begin his project, but he's contemplating the "riddle of Numph." Putting it like that, I can't help but think that'd be a very different game from The Legend of Zelda.
Numph could end Terl's schemes in a heartbeat, but the Psychlo is convinced that there's something incriminating he can use for leverage on his boss. Something involving Numph's Cousin Nipe. But what?
In the meantime, he keeps a disinterested eye on Jonnie. First the human uses pitch to heal the wounded horse, and his one-sided conversations with it lead Terl to consider that the equine is answering supersonically. Which would suggest that the horse would be talking faster than the speed of sound. Which doesn't make any sense. Perhaps he meant infrasound?
Again, is it Terl being ignorant here, or the author?
Next, Jonnie has a conversation with Ker, which a wary Terl listens in on. The human tells the Psychlo that "it's not your fault," and "I forgive you." Which would suggest that the attempt to purchase a gun did make Jonnie rethink his view on at least one Psychlo, even if it took several chapters for L. Ron to get around to telling us this. Unless Jonnie has an ulterior motive. He borrows a "blade machine" from Ker, which sparks a bit of a spat between Ker and Char, making Terl wonder if the man-thing is manipulating his coworkers.
The "blade machine," which could be anything from a chainsaw to a tractor, given its utter lack of description, is used to slice up some trees to make a fence around the electrified cage. Jonnie then builds himself a little hut out of the rest, and moves his magical learning machines inside. The girls have cleaned their cell and are starting to move in, so Terl goes down, checks on them, menaces them a bit, and then "from nowhere an idea hit him."
Which... I guess is accurate to how some ideas come to us, but feels really random.
Terl grabs a calculator and crunches the numbers, checking his market price guide against the mining reports from the Earth site. Turns out the ore from Earth is worth five hundred times the mines' operating costs, which means that Numph is lying about profit margins so he can embezzle. Terl stays up late going through paperwork, and figures out that his boss is sending coded messages in the vehicle reports to Cousin Nipe, who is in on the scheme.
He briefly considers confronting Numph and NCN about this and demand a cut, but decides that blackmailing them with the evidence would be much safer. And so we end, a third of the way down page 182, with Terl looking forward to his next meeting with Numph, which will come next chapter.
And we're another step closer to the battle for Earth. It's still ages away, but hey, progress is progress, yes?
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