Anyway. Zzt (remember him?) is down in these underground hangars having conniptions along with a bunch of other workers. First there was the "wild recoil," which he hasn't figured out was a huge explosion yet, and now there's a rumor that humans are attacking. Zzt, who saw firsthand how Jonnie could learn to use a tractor, doesn't buy this, and suspects it's an attack by the Tolneps.
So hey, another alien race, right out of nowhere. Tolneps are apparently "short, about half the size of a Psychlo," and are immune to gas attacks since they can "breathe almost anything." A useful evolutionary trait, that. You have to wonder why so few species end up with it. These guys are apparently advanced in the ways of military science, as Zzt thinks that only a Tolnep could come up with a weapon that makes Psychlos explode "into a pale green flash."
Yes, in all of the universes, only Jonnie's cavemen have been smart enough to take advantage of the Psychlos' inexplicable and explosive reaction to radiation by making dirty ammo.
Zzt mentally rages at Terl's orders, which have resulted in all the tanks and reserve weaponry being locked down tight in the main base. He also blames Terl for the fact that the ammo and fuel for these vehicles is stored separately a half-mile away, but Hubbard tells us that this is unfair, since Psychlo regulations dictate the placement of ammo dumps and whatnot. Good to know. Then there's the gas drone, which is so huge it blocks the hangar door and prevents any other aircraft from launching. Zzt's been raging at people to move it for two hours to no effect.
Meanwhile the Psychlos are coming to blows over what weapons and fuel they can scavenge as they try to retaliate against their attackers, not that there's any consensus over who they're fighting. The Chamco brothers (remember them?) think they're fighting "Hockners from Duraleb, a system Psychlo had completely whipped two hundred years ago," while Nup (he's new) heard in a bar in Imperial City that a conquest of the Bolbods was in the works and assumes this is a preemptive counterattack.
L. Ron has put more effort into making up alien words in this chapter than he has for the rest of the book.
Even though the only two tanks the Psychlos have managed to launch were almost immediately blown to bits, the Chamcos are trying to get a Basher "Bash Our Way to Glory" tank up and running, Zzt and Nup are readying a Mark 32 "Hit 'Em Low, Kill 'Em." Why am I bothering to write these tanks' names? Because I think they're stupid and want to share the stupidity.
Anyway, Zzt resolves to get rid of the gas drone once and for all by climbing inside the unmanned aircraft and disengaging its magnetic grapnels (after Chirk the secretary saunters in with a "Yoohoo!" and hands over the keys from Terl's desk). Zzt manages to break inside and get to the control panel, but then hilarity ensues as the drone suddenly activates and flies out of the hangar. It's too far for Zzt to jump by the time he runs to the hatch, so he gets to go for a ride.
Well, at least now they could get the battle planes out and end the Tolnep attack.
And all this on half-pay and no bonuses.
Probably that was Terl's doing, too.
Now I know my standards have been lowered by this book, but this chapter wasn't totally awful. It's got Zzt in it, who's probably my favorite character, and he adds "Damn Terl!" every time he thinks or hears the Psychlo's name. Too bad we won't be seeing any Zzt for a few chapters, and next time we're back with the oh-so-lovable Jonnie.
"You imbecile crunch" is apparently a Psychlo insult/curse, by the way. Go crunch yourself? A worthless pile of crunch? It's no "spoony bard," but who knows, it may catch on someday...
Back to Chapter Six