Monday, April 5, 2010

Part 11, Chapter 6 - Time Passes, but Stupidity Intercepts

100 posts and we're still not fighting for Earth yet. But we're close. We're so very, very close. And it won't be worth the wait at all.

Weeks pass, without much luck regarding gold, as all they can find is more white quartz, which is of course worthless. Everyone's also upset about Terl's horse-maiming spree.

It brought home to all of them the nature of the enemy. Were all Psychlos like that? Yes, unfortunately.

That's right, based on the actions of one individual and Jonnie's limited interactions with other Psychlos, including one who seemed reasonable and friendly enough to work with, every last member of this species numbering countless billions and spread across multiple universes is written off as a monster deserving only extermination.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Beyond the slaughtered horses, Jonnie and the Scots are gearing up for war. Angus (remember who that is? Neither do I) has, thanks to repeated infiltrations of the Psychlo minesite, made "keys to everything in sight." So yes, the race that has transgalactic teleportation down pat hasn't invented the keycard.

By compiling the records of Earth's last stand a thousand years ago, including satellite photos - yes, of course the Psychlos made no effort to knock out mankind's satellite network before invading - Jonnie and I'm-A-Real-Doctor MacDermott discover an anomaly. A Psychlo warplane was reported to have attacked a tank in downtown Denver (I guess they found some Psychlo records?), but according to U.S. intelligence there were no tanks stationed there. But a follow-up statement reveals that the alien aircraft crashed into a mountain (what a surprise, an incompetent Psychlo), and provides the exact coordinates to reach it. Nice of them to take the time to write that down while their planet was being overrun by aliens. And nice of the Psychlos to make no effort to recover one of their fighting vehicles and keep it out of enemy hands.

So it's time for a field trip three hundred miles north. The "battle plane" is excavated, and is shockingly unserviceable despite being buried up to its tail in a snowbank for a thousand years. Despite the humans finding legible books in moldering ruins from the same time period. So in other words, paper > Psychlo warplanes.

I need a minute...


The humans recover the pilot's pistols, jetbacks to be used as emergency parachutes, and carefully examine their masks. Turns out the controls for a warplane are identical to those of the personnel haulers they've been using, save for "gun triggers and switches for a magnetic 'grappler.'" Of course they manage to forge keys to use in the thing, and despite it not working anymore train their pilots with it.

Then there's an alien autopsy, thanks to the pair of mummified Psychlo pilots. The parson, who suddenly doubles as a chirurgeon, dissects the cadavers and learns that Psychlos' "hearts were in back of their belt buckles and their lungs were high in their shoulders. Their brains were very low in the back of the head and the rest of the head was bone."

On the one hand, it's realistic to suppose that the biologies of two species from different planets would be quite different. On the other hand, the Psychlos are humanoid, if big, brutish, and apparently possessing knuckles instead of lips or eyelids, so they're obviously quite similar to humans, and it's therefore surprising that their hearts are not protected by a ribcage but beltbuckles. Kudos, L. Ron Hubbard, for splitting the difference between Starfish Aliens and Rubber Forehead Aliens to find something nice and stupid to settle on - creatures that are mostly human and with recognizable organs, just in profoundly dumb places.

...I mean, given what a shoulder is, how would you have room for a...

Anyway. The parson buries the Psychlos "with proper solemnity" despite them belonging to a godless race of manifestly evil creatures. Somehow the Scots build a model of the mining compound for planning purposes. Stealthy scouts work out all the distances and the times required to cross them in the actual complex. They train replacement horses. They all become "excellent marksmen" with their assault rifles and bazookas (I guess they have plenty of ammo to spare). Foxy the Robert explains that they, a mere "threescore men," have only one chance to attack, and if they fail they'll be up to their eyebrows in Psychlos. Or rather they'll be up to the Psychlos' hearts.

So they're stoically-confident and heroically determined and well-prepared and drilled, but they're still antsy because they don't have all the gold. Luckily this plot point will be resolved next chapter.

Best line from this chapter is when they narrate how tricky it is to deal with Psychlos: "It was like playing a violent kind of chess with maniacs." I should start doing stingers with the best/worst piece of dialogue or narration.

Back to Chapter Five

No comments:

Post a Comment