Monday, April 26, 2010

Part 13, Chapter 3 - And Now We're In Cornwall

So now we're riding along with Dunneldeen and his copilot Dwight as they fly to the Psychlo base in Cornwall, having won the lottery for the honor. The Scots have long suffered the predations of this particular alien base, whose inhabitans hunt the humans for sport, and one story has "a raiding party captured and tied to trees and shot tiny bit by tiny bit and man by man for eighteen agonizing days." Note raiding party. Props for your courage, guys, but sometimes it pays to not provoke the huge, advanced alien overlords. Also note that it's another "so who survived to tell the story?" story. Also also note that in order to survive eighteen days tied to a tree, the Psychlos must have been nice enough to administer food, water, and medical attention to keep their victims alive long enough to kill them.

There's a few paragraphs where we hear how 'deen and Dwight waited in their plane all night, and the requisite smooching of Jonnie's buttocks as they remember watching his "incredible" sprint, the Scots "wide-eyed and thrilled." And there's finally mention of "the planetwide radio towers collaps[ing] in a tangle of cables" from bazooka fire, a vital bit of information that Hubbard's belatedly addresses several chapters after it became important.

At least it confirms that none of the other Psychlos are concerned that their HQ just went silent a full twelve hours ago. It gets worse.

'deen brings his plane/tank/car/flying object in at "normal Psychlo approach levels" as he nears the Cornwall site, which is completely unprepared, with no aircraft patrolling and bright lights illuminating all the possible targets below.

The silly apes down there lit up the whole landing area for him! It gleamed like a bloody stage. They thought he was simply some nonscheduled Psychlo flight. Bless radio silence.

At the risk of repeating myself, the Psychlos are not alarmed that they've lost contact with their planetary communications hub. They have no global air traffic controller keeping track of their vehicles and watching the skies for other hostile races. They send no radio messages to incoming aircraft, no greetings, no challenges, no landing instructions. They assume anything flying around is friendly and supposed to be there.

How the hell do these guys run a intergalactic empire? Yes, you could try to handwave this by saying "these are just corporates, not a professional military." Except this is a heavily-militarized corporation, complete with tanks and a superweapon capable of wiping life from a planet (except for everything that isn't human, apparently). Yet here's a glaring hole in their defenses that any species smart enough to build aircraft could take advantage of. And in a thousand years nobody's kicked the Psychlos off Earth.

Oh well, let's watch Dunneldeen blow stuff up. Noting that "the freaks cared nothing about an aerial navigation menace," he spots a "master pole" for their power systems, not far from the "master wheel that, when spun, withdrew the master bus bar from the circuit." While I'm still stumbling through this, 'deen talks with Dwight and quickly improvises an attack of opportunity. They land, 'deen jumps out, and he strolls over to the "bus bar wheel" to turn off the power.

Perhaps realizing that letting him get away with this makes the Psychlos utterly impotent adversaries, Hubbard gives the bad guys a break. They spot Dunneldeen and start wailing about attacking Tolneps, sounding the alarm. But 'deen dashes back into his fighter without so much as getting shot at, turns on the "wave neutralizer and infrared screens" so that the Psychlos won't know which plane is the enemy, and starts firing on "No Flame, Maximum Concussion."

Domes are "squashed like punctured balloons," warehouses are flattened, (nonradioactive) bombs are dropped, and through it all the Scots suffer a single nondamaging hit in retaliation. Since the Psychlos had no time to put on their masks, it's assumed the ones in the domes are all dead, and any survivors are picked off by the flying barbarian duo. And then the pilots loiter for no explained reason, eventually detecting an incoming transport, almost as though they were waiting for it without knowing it. 'deen lands and turns the power back on as a lumbering hauler comes in for a landing, oblivious to the fact that the base is in ruins and strewn with corpses and gutted vehicles. After "fool[ing] around with luggage" and halfway to the compound, the disembarked mob of aliens has a brief moment to realize that something's wrong before they're cut down by the Scots.

For an encore, Dwight hops out and loads the transport with "fuel cartridges" from the local dump before stealing it, and once both craft are clear Dunneldeen drops a dirty bomb on the main breathe-gas storage area that turns the base into "a miniature volcano."

They hoped the other fourteen minesite attack planes had done as well. Of course, perhaps not with the same style.

The one-sided battles are always the most exciting, aren't they? Light casualties, one downed plane - if it weren't for the gas drone that Jonnie will get to disarm in a few chapters, this whole battle to liberate Earth would be pretty anticlimactic. As it is, it'll be drawn-out and anticlimactic.

I took a few minutes to browse Wikipedia for Cornwall facts, mainly out of interest over its name preceding Europe's discovery of corn. Turns out there are some tin and copper mines, except they're all derelict World Heritage sites. There's just enough tin left to consider reopening a mine, but enough to last a thousand years? Unlikely. Either the Psychlos are interested in china clay, or Hubbard just needed an excuse for gung-ho Scotsmen.

Back to Chapter Two

No comments:

Post a Comment