Thursday, June 17, 2010

Part 16, Chapter 4 - Back in the Cage

Forging a world government and rebuilding civilization after a thousand years of barbarism are both important work, but sometimes you just have to go watch one of the aliens that have been oppressing your race (but you've never seen before) act like a gorilla in a cage. There's a "throng" of gawkers around the Terl habitat, including most of the Academy cadets, a sizable percentage of New Denver's population, and even a few members of the planetary council - including Brown Limper Staffor, "chief of this continent."

Remember him? Club foot, stupid name, irredeemably evil because he didn't like Jonnie? No?

Jonnie's conflicted. "How many months had he been inside looking out, and how many nights had he stood outside looking in. A lot of nightmare was mixed up in that." I feel obliged to acknowledge those two sentences for not sucking.

He wants to talk to Terl, but not by shouting through the electrified bars. He orders the compound commander to cut the electricity and open the gate, and there's a tense moment because that particular Scot is an Argyll and not a Clanfearghus, and Jonnie remembers that it was only his arrival that interrupted the last clan war. This somehow prevents the guy from conceding to Jonnie's request. But Colonel Ivan's skill at shoving sees Jonnie through.

Terl's still doing his "grrr I am a feral monster" act, so Jonnie's first words to him are "Quit clowning, Terl." Terl grins (evilly) and says hello to the "animal," which prompts the parson in the crowd outside to shout "He is not an animal!" I'm not sure why I mentioned this, because it isn't really important.

The crafty old Psychlo is snidely insulting, speculating that Jonnie got injured doing something stupid and bemoaning the fact that he could never teach the "rat brain" to overcome his Chinko accent. Jonnie's unfazed, and demands to know why Terl's out in the cage. Terl assures Jonnie that "I'm --------," the row of dashes this time representing a Psychlo word Jonnie doesn't know, rather than a Psychlo expletive.

Rather than getting confused and perhaps wondering why Terl was describing himself as something indecent, Jonnie quietly scans the cage for anything Terl may have hidden. He finds the dictionary and discovers that Terl said he's "Repenting," and laughs. Jonnie says he ought to put Terl back in his room. Terl's not worried.

"Animal," said Terl, "in spite of past difference, I think I should tell you one more thing. You will be coming to me for help soon. And as I am ------ and ------," two more words Jonnie wouldn't bother to look up, "I probably will be stupid enough to help you. So just remember, animal. When it gets too difficult, come to see Terl. After all, weren't we always shaftmates?"

Despite the partially ominous, partially pathetic speech, Jonnie laughs and leaves, and Terl goes back to making an ass of himself. Instead of ordering Terl moved back to a secure location and foiling whatever plans he was furthering by placing himself in that cage, Jonnie continues on with his day, so that Plot can happen.

On the way to the horse, he meets Brown Limper, with "naked, malevolent hatred" on his face. Limper says "I see there are two cripples now!" before departing. I guess at this point Hubbard realized that Terl wasn't much of an obstacle any more, so here's an evil cripple to drag this thing out further.

Back to Chapter Three

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