It looked like a derelict! Here was a mark where an atomic bomb had hit it, there was a scar where possibly a plane had crashed into it leaving the charred remnants of oil and fuel. There a row of minute dents where surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles had struck it. But such marks were notable only for their stains, not for any damage they had done.I've just given up and accepted that you can nuke-proof an aircraft, and that a barrage of missiles or kamikazes have no impact on the thing's flight path. But I just thought of something else - since there's no breathe-gas on the drone, it's not radiation shielded, right? But don't nukes going off in the upper atmosphere release a pulse of electromagnetic radiation, which is quite effective at frying electronics? Though given the Psychlos' schizophrenic grasp of technology, it wouldn't shock me to find the gas drone run by vacuum tubes.
Jonnie theorizes that after the drone's mission was complete, it crash-landed in and destroyed Colorado Springs. Years later, when the hangars were built at the main Psychlo base, they simply dumped water on it to wash off the radiation... seriously? You can just wash radiation away? Actually, given Hubbard's knowledge on the subject, this isn't shocking at all.
Anyway, Jonnie figures that the Psychlos kept the unmanned doomsday weapon around simply because they had nothing on Earth to take it apart and ship it home. So there are teleporters big enough to send it to Earth, but not to take it back. Also, the Psychlos are fine with such a lethal, invulnerable device being left in a hangar on a backwater mining colony with absolutely pathetic defenses and security, just begging for a rival race to swoop in and steal it.
There's a paragraph of technobabble, something about the "magnetic skids" instead being "whole-molecule reorientation fields" allowing Nup's plane to stick to the drone, which is built of "molecular metal," an unknown alloy that once mixed could be impossible to separate.
He had thought a Psychlo was a monster when he first saw one. Now he was really looking at a monster. An ultimate in indestructibility.
Then our hero notices the drone's loading door is ajar, flapping in the wind every twenty seconds. It's a big door, big enough to accommodate his plane. Can you see where this is going?
First Jonnie tries to shoot the hatch off to give himself a larger window, but even the joints for the doors on this thing are made of Unobtainium and aren't scratched. Nup squawks at the weapons fire, but Jonnie assures him that he's just trying to board and rewire the drone, which is true enough, and then goes back to trying to blast off the door. After a full page of various shots, he manages to get the door stuck open, having superheated the hinges enough to twist them a bit.
Yet a nuclear bomb does nothing.
After some preparation, securing loose objects, watching the rhythm of the bobbing drone, and taking deep breaths, Jonnie prepares for his most improbable feat of acrobatics yet - flying sideways at 302 mph, then rushing forward to match speed with the drone, and landing safely. Instead of matching speed with the drone, then ruddering sideways little by little until you were inside. Maybe those moronic teleporter-driven Psychlo aircraft don't have such basic features.
The only consolation is that Jonnie doesn't quite pull this off, instead scraping the top of his plane on the doorway, coming to a sudden stop thanks to his not-magnetic grip, and bashing his head on his map case, knocking himself unconscious.
I think more chapters need to end with Jonnie suffering head injuries.
Back to Chapter Five