Monday, April 19, 2010

Part 12, Chapter 6 - Astonishing Visual Acuity

Jonnie slips out of his it's-the-future-so-we-use-jetpacks-instead-of-parachutes and readies his gun as he advances on Terl. The Psychlo fell twenty feet out of an aircraft and belly-flopped on the ground while on fire, before rolling himself out on damp grass and lying still. When Jonnie closes to twenty-five feet of his nemesis, Terl uses some sleight of hand to whip out a pistol.

Jonnie blows the weapon up in Terl's hand, of course, and Terl starts to scramble away, displaying no signs of injury from his fiery crash. Jonnie shoots him in the leg and drops him. What can I say, the boy's a natural marksman with xenotech.

Terl goes still again, but Jonnie orders him to "quit shamming," making the Psychlo sit up with a laugh. He explains his survival in the morgue with the fact that he can hold his breath for four minutes, and seems oddly cheerful for someone whose main ambition in life has been crushed and who was very recently on fire.

Torn between going back to the battle raging twenty miles away, finding the girls, and keeping Terl under his gun, Jonnie's choice is made for him when Pattie and Chrissie ride up.

It hit Jonnie suddenly. The shock of not finding them in the cage, the fear that they were still in that holocaust down there, had stayed suspended. He was swept by a tide of relief. They were all right!

I'm trying to remember a chapter when Jonnie worried about the two hostages besides when he found the cage empty just recently. He told the Scots about them a hundred pages or so ago... did he wonder how they were doing when he visited the Village of the Idiots? I pretty sure he thought of Chrissie at least once before that, but I can't remember...

Jonnie waves them in for a reunion, and notices a Scot in camouflage moving closer about four miles away(!). Yes, he's so happy to see the girls again that he's staring off into the distance, searching for his soldiers. Meanwhile, Terl laughingly assures him that "You'll never get away with it, animal. Psychlo will be on this place in a swarm!"

Instead of answering, Jonnie again waves an arm to signal the girls in, either because Chrissie is dense enough to need to be ordered twice or because Hubbard forgot what he'd written half a page ago. We are told that Chrissie is riding Old Pork and Pattie's on Dancer, important facts that will impact the story later. Their reunion is the kind of heartwarming we've come to expect from Hubbard - Chrissie is unable to believe that it's really Jonnie and comes no closer to him, instead "sitting her horse [sic] and crying," while Pattie rushes up to hug Jonnie's waist and gush that he "got the monster!"

Jonnie's first words to his loved ones: "Don't get between me and him." The first thing he notices about Chrissie is how awful she looks, "ghastly pale" with a raw neck wound from her missing collar. Then he alerts her attention to the camo-wearing Scot that can inexplicably be seen from four miles away and sends Chrissie to fetch him.

No signs of affection, questions about their well-being, or any sort of greeting. That's our Jonnie.

He then takes a look at the mining compound twenty miles away, and notices three-hundred-foot plumes of water from the sprinkler system. Terl's still laughing about something, and while Jonnie would very much like to perforate his nemesis, he wants in on the joke too. He asks how the girls got away from Terl - that is, he asks Terl, the lying, untrustworthy alien, instead of Pattie, one of the girls who escaped, and who is standing right next to him. Terl claims that he was simply keeping his word about letting them go.

Oddly enough, Pattie confirms Terl's story, though Jonnie quickly puts together the pieces and realizes that Terl needed an alibi for Char's death and decided to blame the stabbing on two escaping humans. Then he asks Terl how the Psychlo was planning to wipe out the humans. Terl gets permission from Jonnie to retrieve something from his pocket, and pulls out a remote control. He tosses it at Jonnie and laughs. "You took the wrong remote off me, rat brain."

I had to go back and check, but yeah, in Chapter 3 after bobbing Terl on the head, Jonnie retrieves the cage remote from the Psychlo. But either he knew what he was looking for or just assumed the first thing he found was what he needed, because he didn't notice the second remote. Which, unfortunately, has no option to abort on it.

Terl glanced at his watch. "In about ten minutes now, you'll all collect your pay whether you messed up Psychlo or not!" He went into a gale of laughter. "You were after the wrong remote!"

The laughter made him sputter in his face mask. "And here you are," he finally managed, "twenty miles away and you can't do a thing about it. And couldn't anyway!"

He pounded his paws in the dirt, he was laughing so hard.

Terl's obviously never tangled with a Marty Stu before. We end on page 381 of 1083, thus robbing his threat of dooming mankind of any sort of credibility and defusing any tension this sad little plot twist could have prompted.

Back to Chapter Five

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