So the next day Jonnie does some snooping around the Psychlo minesite. He checks on the girls, and has a conversation so banal and pointless that Hubbard simply describes it for us. They've made him some clothes, and ask if he's doing alright. Jonnie does not ask them anything, shows no interest in their condition, and only responds to their questions.
He also sneakily takes pictures of them and the enclosure. You know, for research. Then he rides Windsplitter around as he continues his amateur photography - he photographs the warplanes in the airfield (hangars? pshaw!), the fuel dump, a breathe-gas storage dump (that hurts to type), and the morgue. And then Jonnie "felt a sudden need for cautiousness," so he slips the disks storing the images he's taken so far in a pack.
That was certainly a strange thing to happen, huh?
So then a freighter comes by to the dumping yard, and Jonnie rides up to get a closer look at things and maybe take some more pictures, and believe me it's even more boring reading it straight from the book. But something goes wrong and the freighter can't dump its ore, but Jonnie says he can fix it.
With a roar that had concussion in it, Char told him to get the ------- ------- ------- out of there!
What frightens me is that I'm not even fazed by this. I mean, suddenly L. Ron has decided to use dashes to represent Psychlo curses, rather than use some charming variation of "crap." He certainly isn't taking the bare minimum of effort and creativity to bash on the keyboard and call it a string of alien expletives ("sin'tsulk chital KED!" to him, I say). Flipping ahead and searching my memory, it doesn't look like he does this again later. This is an isolated, baffling, and profoundly stupid incident. And yet, after everything else I've been through to get this far, I'm like, "meh."
Ker is again a nice Psychlo and backs Jonnie up, since after all he trained the man-thing. Jonnie pops up the cargo hauler's control panel, takes some pictures because apparently that's all the he needs to build it, and tightens some wires to relieve the freighter's constipation.
Jonnie goes to hang out at the morgue for whatever reason, and bumps into Terl, who emerges from checking on the coffins waiting to be fired to Psychlo, because the aliens are baffling like that. He sees Jonnie's camera, demands to know what he's doing with it, and after hearing the human's lame excuse of "practicing" tears it off his neck, pops out the discs, and stomps them into dust.
Let us examine this. Now we know why Jonnie got a mysterious feeling that made him hide his earlier pictures. The bigger question is why? Just... okay, is Hubbard trying to suggest that his already ridiculously-talented hero has a danger sense? Did he want Jonnie to take surveillance pictures, but also wanted Terl to smash the pictures of the control panel, and this was the best way he could reconcile the two urges, with such a clumsy and non-sequitur action? Did the surveillance photos have to be taken now, and by Jonnie? And why does this tepid little sequence need a whole chapter? Why even include a pointless setback that only draws this train wreck out further? Why couldn't Jonnie just find a Geiger counter and let the plot move on?
I scream my questions at a dead man, who has no answers, only 853 more pages of dreck to suffer through.
So Jonnie doesn't get his pictures of circuit diagrams that could detect uranium, and "out of plain revenge" makes his Scottish lackeys sit through a picture show. "He showed them all the locations of the whole transshipment area. He would have to do it again later when proper plans were formed. But for now he wanted to show them pictures of Chrissie and Pattie."
The Scots get all riled up at "the faces of a little girl and a beautiful woman," and it's all Foxy can do to talk them out of attacking the Psychlo camp right then and there. And-
Okay, seriously Scotland, you're not like this, right? I can't flash you guys a photo of some swimsuit model and get you to do my bidding, right? You have got to be smarter than these brainless flunkies that Hubbard has dared to label as your descendants and countrymen.
Jonnie goes to sleep all furious with Terl for stomping his pictures, bemoaning how he'll never be able to build a uranium detector from memory. Next chapter, it will occur to him that he might be able to ask Terl for one.
Back to Chapter Four