Guess they aren't jungle creatures. So what kind of critters are the Psychlos? Did they evolve on the snowy tundras of their homeworld? The dense, coniferous forests of the highlands? Did they used to be marine mammals that hauled themselves out of Psychlo's indigo seas? Hard to guess. All we know about the planet is that there's a graveyard and a corporate headquarters.
Jonnie finds the base's radio logs (printed paper, of course) and learns that these Psychlos had been monitoring the humans' chatter, but is interrupted by a Russian who found a half-empty breathe-mask. This means the aliens couldn't have left more than nine hours ago. The hangars only contain some trucks, mining equipment, and a pair of derelict tanks. Jonnie orders the flatbed trucks loaded up with supplies and the flying mining platforms used to fire mortars from - he wants a squad to tail the Psychlo convoy, delaying their escape by blowing over trees to block the road, which will stop the unstoppable Psychlo armor in its tracks.
And then someone finds the shooting range on one of the lower levels, and the bodies.
In the middle of a veritable lake of congealed blood lay what must have been two old women. It was hard to tell from the scraps. But strands of gray hair, brown skin and ripped clothing lay, with scattered bone chips, in two mounds. The mangled messes and some spent blast gun cases told their story.
Several Psychlos had stood here and bit by bit, inch by inch, with hundreds of carefully nonlethal shots, had carved two women apart.
So the Psychlos' hasty evacuation was not so hasty as to prevent some pointless torture of a pair of world federation emissaries. Or the fact that their supplies are limited and every bit of ammo precious.
When Doctor MacKendrick angrily demands to know why the Psychlos would do such a thing, Jonnie informs him that "It gives them pleasure. They think it's delicious. The pain and agony. It's about the only time they feel joy."
But this doesn't really go with what we've seen of other Psychlos. The ones in Colorado didn't have a weekly session of torturing some animal to death, they played ring-toss. They were more concerned about cut wages than sating their racial bloodlust. Ker seems well-adjusted enough, and Chirk is more stupid than nefarious. With the exception of the laughable Terl the Psychlos were just a bunch of big, hairy lummoxes doing their jobs.
I guess this torture room is a way to make us feel better about Jonnie trying to blow up their planet.
If you want your villains to be irredeemably, gratuitously evil, do a better job. Instead of showing them playing drinking games or ring-toss, have them tearing apart captured bears or wolves in an arena. Don't show them fretting about a human peeing on their floor, have them decorate their rooms with bones and viscera. Don't make the aliens a threat that kills any humans who wander near, make them a threat that hires hunters to actively track down and capture humans for their bloodsports or torture shows. Don't have herds of buffalo wander by their bases, have the surrounding wilderness eerily empty of wildlife, after generations of animals learned that these lands are death.
The cliffhanger for this chapter is the recovery of a Scottish tam-o'-shanter (bonnet) in the pool of blood.
Back to Chapter Six