Thursday, March 11, 2010

Part 9, Chapter 3 – Terl Does Not Like the Rocky Mountains

Back at the Psychlo camp, Zzt is worried about his boss. Terl’s in the underground hangars… huh. So they have underground garages but an aboveground airfield for whatever reason? Anyway, Terl’s gotten a crew of workers to help him repair an ancient bomber drone. He’s up in the thing’s front, programming and muttering to himself.

“Scotland . . . Sweden . . .” Terl was saying, consulting his tables and notes and pushing ship buttons. There were no seats in the place, for it would never be piloted, and Terl was hunched uncomfortably on a balance motor housing.

“. . . Russia . . . Alps . . . Italy . . . China . . . no. Alps . . . India . . . China . . . Italy . . . Africa . . .”

“Terl,” said Zzt timidly.

“Shut up,” snapped Terl, not even looking up. “. . . Amazon . . . Andes . . . Mexico . . . Rocky Mountains! Rocky Mountains one, two, and three!”

Yes, that's how Hubbard renders ellipses. I just wanted to make clear how annoying it is when you deal with a lot at once.

Terl’s in full paranoid/vengeful/cover-my-ass mode, and is preparing to wipe out the remnants of humanity with another gas attack. Apparently all of Russia or Africa requires the same amount of bombing as Italy or Scotland. And it looks like Terl wants to be absolutely sure that the Village of the Idiots is wiped off the map. Can't blame him, really.

And that’s not all that’s stupid – the bomber he’s repairing is a thousand-year-old “wreck,” a venerable piece of machinery that was used in the initial invasion and was only around now “as a curiosity piece." Why a mining camp on a pacified planet has held on to a rustbucket for that long, and why said rustbucket has not disintegrated by now, are questions that shall have to go unanswered.

Zzt complains that Terl’s ordered the drone, once repaired, to be on permanent standby, which takes up valuable space in the “automatic firing bay,” and that there’s no war for the heap to fight in. Furthermore, there’s no override to the thing’s controls (why not?!) due to the interference created by its engines (WHAT?!), and its flight path is so erratic that there’s no guarantee it won’t bomb Psychlo camps (how did this thing make it out of testing?!).

Terl rages that his orders are final. A nervous Zzt mentions that the target locations have strange names, and is impressed that Terl’s going through so much trouble to kill a “little handful” of humans.

Terl screamed something and threw the wrench at him. Zzt ducked and it went clanging across the hangar floor, making workers dodge.

“You’re acting kind of insane, Terl,” said Zzt.

“Only alien races ever go insane!” screamed Terl.

Zzt is now my favorite character. Seriously, that was probably the best line in the book.

My new hero considers shooting Terl when a good opportunity presents himself, but knows that the guy probably has an “in case of my death” envelope stashed somewhere. Instead Zzt complains to Numph, who of course is near-comatose and does nothing.

Terl goes back to obsessing over Secret Agent Jayed and checking on the living bombs, who now have firewood, food and water. Apparently Chrissie is doing better and is now upright – so yes, the plot point about the main character’s girlfriend almost dying is finally resolved in a chapter focusing on Terl and all but ignored by the hero in question. “Sometimes he found packages outside the cage door---he chose not to think about how they got there---and threw them in too.” Instead, Terl keeps focusing on Day 93 and the animals’ paycheck, and dreams of committing “the perfect murder” and removing the Jayed problem.

Was he crazy, really? No. Just clever.

He's neither.

All Terl is really doing here is using overkill to cover his tracks. He’s just as paranoid as he used to be, but now he’s ranting and screaming and throwing little temper tantrums too. He was moronic, what with not doing any research on the creatures that his plan relied on, and systematically either wasting resources or endangering his entire operation through gross incompetence or stupidity. Now he’s all that and childish.

So yeah, that’s our Big Bad. He thinks his hostages have a psychic link with his archnemesis/lackey and seemed rather unconcerned about his all-important “leverage” dying on him. Now he’s tossing wrenches and screaming girlishly. Fear him and his devilish cunning!

In related news, Jonnie has a new obstacle to overcome, the gas drone. Which of course he will overcome, because he's Jonnie. It’s just a matter of how many chapters L. Ron decides to drag it out across.

Next time: Return to the Village of the Idiots!

Back to Chapter Two

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