Thursday, March 4, 2010

Part 8, Chapter 4 - A Raid, Complete With Purple Drops

Once again, Jonnie's creeping about under cover of darkness (and heat shield) near the Psychlo base, but this time he's got Dunneldeen and twenty other Scots lurking nearby. The original plan was to take advantage of a herd of cattle and provoke a stampede as a distraction. But the cows moved on, so the Scots will be relying on stealth and those handy heat-reflecting cloaks.

The trick was to raid an enemy who would never know he had been raided. They must not suspect at the compound that the "animals" were hostile. It was a raid that must look like no raid. The Scots must not take any weapons, must not collide with any sentries, must not leave any traces.

Wonder why they're bringing such a large group for a burglary, thus greatly increasing the chances that they'll be caught and doom their whole campaign to liberate Earth. I'm sure there's a sound, tactical reason for it.

Anyway, Jonnie's taking a moment to check on the girls. He has his kill-club, which suggests he's exempt from the "no weapons" rule. Using Blodgett the Horse as a walking shield, he sneaks over to the cage. There's a close call when a sentry lumbers near, but the Psychlo gets distracted by his ear radio and wanders off. When Jonnie reaches the cage, Pattie's the only one that answers.

Turns out the girls' water supply has frozen, they're out of firewood, and Chrissie is even more braindead than usual, lying unresponsive with a fever. He suggests that Pattie lie on the frozen bilgewater to thaw it, and...

"Tell Chrissie I was here. Tell her---" What did girls want to hear, what could he say? "Tell her that I love her." It was true enough.

Attack of the Clones is a better love story than this.

Then Jonnie hears a thump at the target breathe-gas dump, and rushes off. Two sentries are shining flashlights - what, no night vision gear? - around the supply cache. They see Blodgett walking towards them and completely disregard the horse, passing on the opportunity to shoot wildlife as they investigate.

Jonnie saw what had happened. A messily stacked tier of boxes had overturned when someone touched one.

With better night sight than the light-blinded sentries, he saw a Scot move and then began to run away.

No. A sentry saw it. The sentry was raising the blast rifle to fire.

What a bad night! The Psychlos would know the animals were raiding them. A wounded or dead Scot in a heat camouflage cape would give it all away. The Psychlos would retaliate. They'd wipe out the base.

Twenty feet away the sentry was shoving off the safety catch, aiming.

The whole "action sequence" is written like this.

Short version: Jonnie throws a short length of wood at a twelve-foot, hulking alien, bringing it down instantly. Then he charges forward fast enough to grab the second sentry's weapon before he can fire, and twists this six-foot-long firearm out of the alien's skull-crushing grasp, twirls it like a staff, and butts him in the gut. A third guard runs up with pistol drawn (instead of just opening fire), but Jonnie swings his stolen rifle by the muzzle and smashes the enemy's helmet, poisoning the Psychlo. The first guard tries to get up, but another rifle whack knocks his helmet loose and he chokes too.

In other words, a human just defeated three aliens twice his size and strong enough to carry horses underarm in hand-to-hand combat.

Jonnie couldn't fire a weapon, you see, for secrecy's sake. While fighting him, none of the sentries made any loud noises or used their frickin' radios. Regardless, doors start slamming in the compound, so Jonnie plants the rifle barrel-first into the ground, ties a "thong" around the trigger, and hides behind a body with the other end of the string. When the approaching guards reach the fight scene, Jonnie pulls the string and thus the trigger. Instead of just vaporizing the loose dirt that's blocking its barrel, the blast rifle explodes like a bomb. "When the barrel is clogged," Jonnie explains later, "they blow back and explode their whole magazine of five hundred rounds."

So it's obviously not an energy weapon, or a traditional firearm, since neither of those fire shots that ricochet off dirt. So what the hey is a blast rifle?

Our hero withdraws, and two hours later regroups with the others. Dunneldeen comes back late with a box of breathe-gas vials, explaining that he had stuck around to watch the Psychlos' reaction, and giving another worshipful account of how wonderful Jonnie is, in case the readers hadn't caught on yet. Apparently a nearby buffalo got startled by the explosion, and the relief force concluded that the sentries had gone hunting and blown themselves up by clogging their rifle.

The saddest thing is that this implies that such hunting accidents have actually happened before.

And then Hubbard spots a plot hole and assures us that Jonnie remembered to pick up his kill-club, instead of changing the actual fight scene so that it happens then. Was the man just unwilling to revise anything?

Foxy the Robert calls Dunneldeen a "scamp." The other's reply: "Ah, bit we haed tae know noo, didn't we?"

By this point in the story the Scots are only intermittently speaking in dialect, to represent Jonnie becoming familiar with it, or their adoption of a more proper form of English after being exposed to the wonder that is Jonnie. But when they do speak in their "accent," the result is usually like this.

So Jonnie has finally gotten his uranium detector, but now he has to figure out how to stop his favorite ambulatory plot device from dying. Next chapter, he develops psychic powers.

Back to Chapter Three

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