Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Part 6, Chapter 2 - The Riddle of Numph: Terl's Blackmailing

Terl sits down for a meeting with Numph, as the old Psychlo complains that there's no sign of the mutiny Terl's going on about. Terl merely puts "a cautionary paw across his own mouthbones"... great. You know, it's been too long since I've winced at L. Ron's attempts to describe the Psychlos' anatomy.

Anyway, Terl uses a probe to scan the room for listening devices, and gets down to business. He keeps his cool and argues against Numph's concerns about his mining project, and casually drops a stack of papers with certain profit figures and expenditure totals circled. He informs Numph that by company regulations Terl has the right to replace him, but that Numph has always been a good administrator, and why should Terl worry about the crimes of someone back on home planet?

Terl explains that the incriminating papers will be put away somewhere safe, so long as Numph signs some forms.

Numph started to say, "But they're blank. You could put anything on these. Personal money, machines, mines, change operations, even transfer yourself off the planet!" But his voice wouldn't work. And then he realized that his brain wouldn't function either.

His brain not functioning does not, of course, interfere with his ability to think the preceeding sentences. Also note that in Battlefield Earth's film adaptation, Numph does explain out loud what Terl could do with those form, for the audience's sake. Apparently the filmmakers thought that if you were seeing Battlefield Earth in theaters, you'd need all the help you could get.

Triumphant, Terl leaves, and Numph sits "like a dumped sack of ore."

Only one thought kept going round and round in his head. The security chief was an untouchable demon, a demon who, forever after, could do exactly as he wished. Numph never thought of even trying to stop him. He was and forever after would be in the complete power of Terl. He was too paralyzed to even think of warning Nipe. From here on out, Terl would be the real head of this planet, doing exactly as he pleased.

A few things here: first, this sounds like a lot for "only one thought." Second, Numph never considers killing Terl? I mean, between life as a puppet to a blackmailer, and going out shooting, you could at least choose the path that leaves your enemy as a smoking corpse? And who knows, maybe Terl was bluffing about a contingency plan for his death.

And third, if Terl can figure out your embezzlement scheme, anyone can. L. Ron goes on and on about how Terl is so cunning and an absolute "demon/devil," but this doesn't quite gel with how we've seen him operate. He's lazy, sloppy, and suffered some major setbacks earlier because he was too trusting or overconfident. He only figured out Numph's scheme after a miraculous out-of-nowhere flash of inspiration.

But now that Terl's finally gotten his precious "leverage,"the story can get on with things and we won't have any more "Terl being devious" chapters... right?

Not in the immediate future, at least. Next chapter, we learn the names of Jonnie's horses.

Back to Chapter One

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