Monday, May 3, 2010

Part 13, Chapter 8 - Zzt Has Had It With These Mothercrunching Tolneps On This Mothercrunching Drone

Sadly, Jonnie can't remain unconscious forever, and he wakes up with a bruised knee, bleeding fingernails, and a gash on his forehead that's leaked blood into his eyes despite his mask. No mention of a helmet, of course. Still, Jonnie remembers "an ancient gag he had found on a cartoon card over at their base... 'A successful landing is one you can walk away from.'"

I wondering how Jonnie knows what a cartoon is. Is it a word that's lasted a thousand years despite his people's inability to produce visual media, or was it inexplicably included on one of the Chinko learning discs?

Our hero disembarks and starts exploring the vast gas drone, noting with dismay how heavily-armored the interior is, and that despite being only a third full it still has enough gas canisters to depopulate hundreds of thousands of square miles. Somehow. Checking closer, Jonnie learns that the toxin bombs date back from the initial invasion a thousand years ago, but were refilled twenty-five years later for what was surely a logical and sound reason.

Jonnie reaches the cockpit, covered in a thousand years of "crud" except for the little locked box were the coordinates were set. The box is armored, the cables leading into it are armored, and Jonnie has no key to unlock the thing. More than that, though, he's feeling "a vague feeling of unease" from the dark recesses of the drone.

And then immediately our POV is back with Zzt, without so much as an extra space between the paragraphs to set them apart. No division to separate the two different narratives, no new chapter for the Psychlo, just a sudden, jarring transition to another character.

Zzt's trying to remember everything he knows about Tolneps from his tour on Archiniabes, a binary star system allegedly in this universe (though Wikipedia or Google searches on it come up empty) that was annihilated by raiding Tolneps.

They had mastered time control and could hold it frozen and their ships made long piratical voyages.

Reading this sentence casts further doubt on the idea that this book was edited. Also, time control?! The Tolneps can "hold" time to make long interstellar voyages?! WHAT?!

This is huge. The Psychlos have an interdimensional empire built around their mastery of teleportation, but how can they defeat an enemy who can manipulate time itself? This changes everything. Suddenly the Psychlos have a real rival, and the humans have another huge threat to worry abo- oh. I just flipped ahead through a third of the book, when some Tolneps actually show up. They talk about coming out of "deep sleep," which suggests simple cryogenic hibernation instead of time travel. I guess either Zzt's being stupid here or Hubbard is.

False alarm.

Anyway, more about Tolneps:

What did he remember about them? What weaknesses? He could think only of strengths. Their bite was deadly poison. They had a body density comparable to iron. They were immune to Psychlo gas. They couldn't be killed with an ordinary blast gun.

But Tolneps have infared-only vision, and have to wear masks to compensate. Plus, they go blind from shortwave light, die from ultraviolet weapons (?!), and are "intensely allergic to cold." I guess they break out in rashes or something. Which is all good to know, I guess, since a Tolnep does show up later, but totally irrelevant now because Jonnie is not a Tolnep. Zzt is emboldened nonetheless, and draws his wrench, intending on hurling it and knocking the "Tolnep"'s mask off, praying "to the crap nebula" that he can sneak up on it.

I guess that confirms that the Psychlos have an unhealthy obsession with feces. And I guess if there's throwing clubs in this book using a wrench as a ranged weapon isn't much of a stretch.

Just as abruptly we're back to Jonnie's perspective as he wanders around, unsuccessfully trying to think of some way to damage or disrupt the bomber. He takes a moment to remove his mask to wipe some more blood from it, but it's knocked right out of his hands by a projectile, nearly breaking his thumb! With superb reflexes undiminished from his head injury, Jonnie draws his pistol and starts blasting away at a menacing shape advancing on him, driving it back into the shadows.

The chapter ends with Jonnie realizing that he is not alone on the drone.

The weird thing? Zzt was the one who sabotaged Jonnie's tractor demonstration all those chapters ago. He knows what a human looks like. He knows they can operate machinery. He's seen Jonnie in person. And yet he still misidentifies him as a Tolnep. I guess it's... better this way? Having Zzt throw a wrench at a "Tolnep" instead of trying to creep up and bash Jonnie's brains in?

Back to Chapter Seven

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