Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Part 11, Chapter 2 - Retroactive False Alarm

It's morning, and a "very masterful" Terl is getting started on his paperwork and finishing up his "perfect crime," which seems to rely more on his superiors' disinterest than any great ingenuity on his part. He also plans to release the gas drone to wipe out the humans after he gets the daily recon photos in - but only if the humans are still at the mine.

Why? Terl's misfiring little brain has come to the conclusion that Jonnie and the other humans have blown up The Lode out of spite. Why does he need to wait a few hours so he can take another look at their victory over him? Why do they need to be clustered around the mine if the drone's schedule involves dropping three gas bombs on the Rockies alone, especially if just one canister was capable of depopulating southern England?

The answer is simple: because otherwise Jonnie can't win. Once again, logic must bend over backwards to accommodate our loathsome "hero."  When Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings, he included mountains because that was Middle Earth's geography. The Misty Mountains were an obstacle for the Fellowship, but they were part of the world, and certainly weren't put in just to have a mountain-climbing scene. But in Battlefield Earth everything, from the aliens' biology to the durability of weapons to Terl's behavior, exists purely so that Jonnie can save the day.

It's a very important distinction, I feel.

Anyway, Terl's a little bummed because even though he'll be gassing his former pet to death in a few hours, his scheme is ruined.

He sighed. It had been a beautiful plan: put the gold in the coffins, ship them home, and when he returned there, dig up the coffins some dark Psychlo night, melt them down, and lord it over everyone as a very rich fellow!

Remember those scanners on the recon drone? Apparently the teleportation network that's the cornerstone of the intergalactic Psychlo empire doesn't have them, or else they'd notice suspiciously high levels of precious metals in a bunch of coffins. And also, Terl would somehow be able to track down ten or so Psychlo coffins interred in a necropolis the size of which can only be imagined.

Anyway, something's nagging Terl besides his failure to get rich, keeping him from finishing his report on Jayed and Numph. He realizes that he doesn't have Secret Agent Jayed's badge, so he lumbers over to the morgue to fetch it and maybe smack the corpse around for good measure.

His route takes him past the electrified cage where Whatshername and Kid Sister are hanging out, where Terl sees a delivery of food and firewood outside the gate and gives the care package a kick - before remembering those incredible "psychic powers." So he opens the cage and tosses the goods in, confiscates a steel knife, but pats the big female on the head, again because of those "psychic powers."

So... yeah.

The two freshest bodies have just been dumped carelessly in the morgue. Numph weighs a good thousand pounds despite being so old, and Secret Agent Jayed around seven hundred. Mentioning these facts serves little purpose besides reminding us just how mind-boggling it is for Jonnie to defeat such hulking creatures three at a time.

Terl starts beating on Jayed's corpse, whining that "If you hadn't shown up my future would have been a beautiful dream," punching it in the face, choking it, smashing its head into things, and other useless gestures of childish anger. Then he remembers what he's supposed to be doing and starts searching the mangy creature's threadbare uniform for his badge, and discovers three horizontal lines branded onto Jayed's chest. Using hitherto unmentioned powers of forensics, Terl deduces that the burns, along with some tell-tale shackle marks on Jayed's ankles, are around a year old

It was not an unfamiliar story. An official or an agent had committed a crime in the performance of duty or had been stupid enough to tamper with a crime committed by the aristocracy, had been drummed out of his position and thrown into the imperial prisons.

How original, an intergalactic empire with an aristocracy. Are they distinguished by noble blood, or political ties, or pure economic power? Are they connected to the great mining company and other absurdly powerful corporations? Hello? L. Ron? World-building?

Terl "suddenly" realizes that Jayed had simply used his secret agent skills to assume the Snit identity and go into hiding. If Terl had just been a little less quick to shoot last night, Jayed would have shown him the criminal brand and thus given Terl a new lackey to boss around through "leverage." At the revelation, Terl breaks into hysterical laughter for several minutes.

So there you have it - the subplot that drove Terl insane for the past few Parts has been utterly pointless. I'm not really sure how Hubbard intended us to feel about this. Are we supposed to chuckle ruefully at Terl's paranoia? Sag with relief that such a great source of tension has been removed from the storyline? I myself am feeling a little sniffly, though that's probably allergies.

Tune in next time, when Terl finally gets around to wiping out the human race.

Back to Chapter One

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