Jonnie drifted up out of a pit of black pain. He tried to orient himself. The drone motors were like shouting anger in his ears. His arms were hanging down into a gap in the floor plating. Blood had run along the sleeves and dried.
Yay. More gas drone.
Jonnie unties himself from the elastic safety line, having trouble thinking coherently due to his multiple injuries. He notices that the drone's flying through a storm, but that it's also daylight, so he must have been out for a while. It won't be long before Scotland gets gassed. Jonnie opens the plane door to check his compass, gets distracted by Zzt's sabotage, realizes that he's getting distracted and checks the compress on his head, then remembers what he was doing and checks his heading on the compass.
Credit where it's due, this kind of mindless, rambling activity does a good job of conveying how addled Jonnie is. Since I'm loath to compliment Hubbard, I'll take a cheap shot and add that when it comes to scrambled brains, Hubbard is writing from experience. Burn!
Changing his air mask for a fresh bottle of oxygen helps Jonnie get a grip, so he starts trying to sabotage the drone. He gathers six limpet mines from his plane, some assorted explosive equipment, and gets back into the drone's guts, working on that access panel he tried to open a few chapters ago. This time he succeeds, exposing the interior of the drone's baffling teleportation-based engines.
There were some small electrical sparks arcing in there. He knew very well you were not supposed to get into a motor when it was running. And certainly not put a hand to one. It was said it gave a paw a funny feeling like it wasn't there, and then was, and then wasn't there. One could lose a paw, Ker had said.
There's some nonsense about the arcs not being electricity, but energy from the space coordinate (in terms of pure space) conversion process as the engine propels the ship through thousands of coordinates, as opposed to simply materializing at the end point of the programmed course, but whatever. Jonnie resolves to blow up the little "submotor" to knock out the drone's "space converter," which as we all know would make it fall out of the air.
After getting distracted again and nibbling some venison, Jonnie ties his mines into a bundle. This reminds him of Chrissie making garlands of flowers for Jonnie's pony when she was a little girl, which if I recall is the first time that he's actually reminisced about his love interest. That's right, you have to smash Jonnie's skull in until he's on the edge of death before he thinks about his girlfriend.
Jonnie lowers his bundle o' boom into the drone's innards by a blast cord, which he plans on detonating with shots from his crashed plane. But as he inspects his handiwork he notices fuel cartridges down in the access space. Seeking more boom, Jonnie stars unscrewing the caps of the cartridges - the drone requires hundreds of them, and if an explosion blasts back into the fuel cells - "oh, my!"
He checked everything again.
The drone soared out. But not for long, he told himself grimly.
That part's true, at least. Just two chapters until we're done with this. "This" being the tedious gas drone sequence, not the book. Not by a long shot.
Back to Chapter Four