Having solved the Riddle of Numph, Terl is now going bonkers over the Mystery of Jayed. The Psychlo secret agent is doing absolutely nothing, which terrifies Terl, and his efforts to get his secretary Chirk to bed him while wearing a mole-sized camera (!) have gone nowhere. So Terl's been on his best behavior and a model worker, but he's so tempted to cover his tracks that "fifteen times a day Terl decided that he should wipe out the animals and return the machines to storage. And fifteen times a day he decided to go on with it for a little longer." Rats.
We also learn a little bit more about Psychlo society. Terl's speculation over Jayed using some new manner of communications is dismissed because neither the Psychlo government or the mining company have invented anything new "for the last hundred thousand years." So yeah, the apex civilization in the universe(s) has been stagnant since the Middle Paleolithic. The empire is also very hands-off about company procedure, and will only investigate serious crimes - such as teaching aliens Psychlo military secrets.
Terl suspects nothing about the explosive death of the three sentries, but was disturbed when he found a brand burned into the chest hair of one of them - three bars, symbolizing someone "barred from justice procedures, barred from government assistance, and barred from employment." This tells us that someone at Psychlo Resources is slipping, and that apparently the Psychlos don't have Hair Club for Men.
And then to make Terl's day worse, he saw the spy plane photos of the work camp, and a partially-obscured sign written at The Lode indicating that Jonnie wants a meeting, urgent!
And yes, the chapter opened with Terl arriving at the mining camp, followed by a two-page flashback covering what he's been doing for the past two months.
Terl's so frazzled that after shredding the photos (not deleting them from his hard drive, but shredding them, because this is the future) he begins to imagine that they called on him by name. When he drives up the camp he nearly blows up Jonnie, but regrettably holds off.
Terl abruptly asks Jonnie if he killed those sentries the other night. Instead of just lying, Jonnie is... well, not so much cunning as able to take advantage of Terl's stupidity.
"We haven't lost any sentries," [Jonnie] said truthfully.
"You know the sentries I mean. At the compound."
"Have you had trouble?" said Jonnie.
The word trouble almost made Terl's head spin. He didn't know what trouble he had, or what kind of trouble, or from where. He got a grip on himself.
"You obscured the last part of that sign," he said accusingly.
...which Jonnie did on purpose to make sure Terl showed up. But yes, Terl got so hung up on one word that his train of thought was completely derailed, purely by accident. This is our highly devious villain, remember. And our oh-so-special hero.
Jonnie pretends he just wants some advice for how to proceed during winter, then mentions that they need radiation protection because some of the men are falling ill. Terl takes some enjoyment in the idea of ailing man-things, and explains that all the little radiation sources of a planet like Earth is why the breathe-masks and canopies are leaded glass. So I guess the Psychlos are wearing lead-lined uniforms and have lead shells around all their buildings too, since, correct me if I'm wrong, lead is used to protect against gamma radiation, which isn't known for only coming through windows and visors.
Our hero shows off some of the gold he's harvested, but complains that Terl isn't keeping his promise to look after the girls. Terl suspiciously asks how Jonnie knows the girls aren't being cared for, and things get stupid.
Jonnie claims that humans have a special ability Terl isn't aware of: "They have psychic powers sometimes. I have psychic powers with these females." Not telepathy, or anything specific, just some sort of psionic ability. It's such a stupid statement it should have been mistaken for sarcasm. Instead, Terl buys it.
This is where doing the slightest bit of research about the race you're trying to subjugate really pays off. Also, where did Jonnie hear about psychic powers? Ancient tribal legends? The Magical Learning Machines?
Terl has apparently "read about this," and "hadn't realized these animals had it. Damned animals." This just raises further questions, like how many psionic races there are, if Psychlos have mental powers, if it's proven a problem for them in the past, and so forth. Unless telepaths and the like only exist in fiction in this sad universe, and Terl is just a gullible oaf.
Jonnie demands the Terl send a care package to the hostages, or else he might wander over to the compound and start blabbing. Terl snaps that he could send drones to bomb the camp via remote, but apparently remembers that hostages work better if they're alive and agrees to clean up the cage.
So the Psychlo drives off, the Scots come out of hiding where they were covering the scene with machineguns and mention how Terl's going nuts, and everyone agrees that a crazy Terl is more dangerous than a sane one. And now we're ready for Part 9: The Quest for Uranium. I assure you, eventually there is an actual battle in Battlefield Earth. You just can't rush these things, y'know?
Back to Part Eight, Chapter Four