She was stupid enough not to be any menace and good-looking enough to be decorative. She got drunk with economical speed and had other advantages. Her utility was in blocking off callers and shuffling administrative papers back for somebody else to handle.
Terl meanwhile is busy looking over the latest recon drone scans of the minesite, and again notes that there simply isn't any way to reach it by land. The whole process of getting at the gold would be difficult for seasoned Psychlo miners, and when Terl thinks about rookie man-things trying to pull it off "it put spots in front of his eyes."
Yes Terl, your plan really is that badly thought-out.
I'm still wondering what would happen if against all odds he did manage to smuggle a load of gold to Psychlo Homeworld. Seriously, nobody's going to wonder where this loser security guard suddenly got a bunch of gold? Or even if he sells it on the black market, he'd still be suddenly and mysteriously wealthy. Is the home planet considered "safe" when it comes to scheming, like if you make it that far they can't punish you for whatever you did?
Jonnie comes by, and Terl notes that the animal is behaving well, despite having no button camera surveillance anymore. I'm hoping this means that Jonnie's not sporting a mini-camera on his person, but is still under constant observation at the work camp. But I'm not that optimistic in Terl's abilities as a credible threat.
The human has a list of requisitions - "piping and Chinko cloth and the tools to cut and sew it together and some pumps and shovels" - and an annoyed Terl slaps it away and sends Jonnie to Ker, instead of immediately double-checking exactly what Jonnie is trying to get a hold of. Jonnie adds that he wants more sensitive equipment, like the Magical Learning Machines and flying trucks.
A long-dormant ember of intelligence flickers within Terl's mind.
...a flying truck or personnel carrier had the same controls as a battle plane and fewer guns. There was a hard rule that no alien race could be trained in battle. Then Terl thought of the inaccessible lode. Well, a mining truck was not a battle plane, that was for sure. Besides, he controlled the planet and he made the rules.
Weeping softly to itself, the ember of intelligence fades away once again.
Terl does finally look at Jonnie's list and is surprised at the number of "tri-wheel ground cars" and other vehicles on it, but Jonnie suggests that the Scots are hard on equipment, which reminds Terl of his slave nearly driving off a cliff, thus distracting him entirely.
Jonnie asks about his time frame for teaching barbarians about futuristic mining equipment, and Terl says he has two months. The real window is going to be nine months from now, during the "semiannual firing of personnel and dead Psychlos." Yes, they keep corpses around for half a year instead of sending them with the regular ore shipments. No, it's not explained why they can't just shove a coffin on the platform with the ore.
While reminding himself that he needs to come up with a good excuse for why man-animals are flying around in the mountains, Terl threatens to blow up Pattie's head if word of the project leaks out and sends Jonnie to Chirk to file the requisition form. The female Psychlo is fairly chipper, and even asks him his name.
"Mine is Chirk." She batted her painted eyebones. "You animals are kind of funny and cute. How can you be so much fun to hunt like some of the employees say? You certainly don't dangerous. And I don't think you are even edible. Crazy planet! No wonder poor Terl hates it so. We're going to have a huge house when we go home next year."
She explains that Terl is going to be rich soon, sends Jonnie off with a "tah-tah," and adds that he should bring her a "sack of goodies" if he wants a favor.
The significance of all this is obvious: Terl has finally found an underling dumber than he is.
Next chapter, Jonnie and some people talk.
Back to Chapter Two