Apparently the noise Zzt was making managed to wake Jonnie (despite the constant roaring of the gas drone's engines), and he peeks out to see the Psychlo on the radio. Ignoring his instinct to take the shot, Jonnie waits to see what's going on, fighting off unconsciousness the whole time. He watches Zzt smash the radio and go over to a cable ladder. Jonnie crawls out of his hiding space, wraps a nearby safety line aroun... hmm. Didn't Zzt have Nup reel in his plane's safety line? Oh wait, the line Jonnie found was attached to his plane. Huh. When'd he get that out?
Let me check last chapter.
Zzt did it. After saying "Devil with it" about Nup's safety line, Zzt got out Jonnie's safety line, couldn't figure out what to do with it, said "Devil with it" again, and left it on the floor for Jonnie to use in this scene. Wow. I mean, there's the Law of Conservation of Detail, and then there's painfully obvious and unnatural set-ups like this.
Anyway, Jonnie attaches the safety line to himself and watches Zzt climb. Then he notices the ore basket filled with fuel cartridges and ammo. When Zzt pauses to yell at Nup to open the door wider, Jonnie raises his Smith and Wesson .457 magnum and shoots the basket. And whaddya know, but he hits it.
Enough fuel and ammunition for twenty battles not only went up, it also flashed down into the open fuel and ammunition receptacles!
...Of Jonnie's plane? I guess. I also can't help but wonder why the ammo had to be in the basket too. Surely "twenty battles'" worth of fuel would make a big enough kaboom? But no, we have to have a Psychlo being stupid and not checking what he's carrying around.
The Mark 32 fighter, which is able to ignore direct hits by bazookas, is destroyed by the fireball, and Zzt tumbles out of sight aflame. Jonnie is blasted out of the drone, but wouldn't you know it but the safety line "snap[s] him back inside the door" like a bungee cord. He starts passing out again, realizing that he just blew up the only thing that'd show up on radar and help other pilots find him. D'oh.
The body on the icy floor just inside the door did not move.
The lethal cargo soared onward toward Scotland and the rest of the world, its goal the final obliteration of the remainder of the human race, the ones it had missed a thousand or more years ago.
I still don't get the gas drone. In a realistic world, one bomber would not be able to carry enough gas to blanket the Earth with enough poison to wipe out the majority of mankind. In an unrealistic world, sure, chemical weapons magically seek out and terminate your targets without regard to the behavior of gases. Hubbard's world is some sort of compromise, where a single alien bomber can wipe out most of the world's population. And here it goes, not flying with a full payload, not doing a decisive carpet-bombing, just hitting the top dozen or so places Terl thinks some humans are hiding - though it's hitting the Rockies three times, to make really sure the Village of the Idiots is wiped off the map.
I guess it's dangerous, but it doesn't feel like an apocalyptic threat. Then again Jonnie doesn't feel heroic, Terl doesn't feel devious, and the Psychlos don't feel like world-conquering overlords, so whatever.
Back to Chapter Two