Jonnie's riding in a Psychlo flatbed, trying and failing to take a nap thanks to the rough terrain they're traveling over.
The ground drive of these things was supposed to keep them floating one to three feet off the ground. But when the ground varied eight to ten feet from level every few feet, the effect was far from floating. It was bone jarring.
The teleportation-type drive sought to automatically adjust itself to the sensed ground distance. It corrected and recorrected and the result was a whining, racing, dying, racing combination of rumbles and screeches that hurt the ears.
Again, why is this teleportation-based engine a good idea? At best it behaves like conventional engines (instead of cutting travel distance, which is the entire freaking point of teleportation), and at worst it does stupid stuff like this. They'd have been better off using helicopters. Or a dirigible with good engines.
It'd be nice if the Psychlos' stubborn, stupid reliance on teleport tech was a part of their civilization's characterization. Like if they were arrogant enough to consider teleportation the pinnacle of scientific achievement, and refused to reduce themselves to "lower" technologies. Or if they're a culture of pirates who stole and mastered teleportation, but few other technologies to supplement it. Or if they're so stagnated that they've forgotten everything else.
Instead, it just comes across as the Psychlos being dumb. Again.
Jonnie and the gang's progress is delayed by a herd of elephants (in a jungle) and then a leopard, in case you'd forgotten they're adventuring in Africa. The next morning they come across another of the small Psychlo rest huts that dot the road, but this one has a trail marking pointing at it. Jonnie and some men disembark to investigate.
After smelling human blood - that's actually kind of distressing, that Jonnie can differentiate between human blood and other species' blood - and startling a rat, they find a pile of mangled meat in a pool of blood, and a scrap of a kilt. It's the missing Scot, Allison, or at least what's left of him.
A closer examination showed that every artery and major vein had been left unsevered. Careful Psychlo claws had ripped away the flesh around them, slice by slice. The whole body had been shredded in such a fashion.
It must have taken hours for him to die.
They had left the throat and jaws until last and much of them still remained. Interrogation, Psychlo-style!
There was something in the remains of the hand. A sharp-edged tool Psychlos often carried in their pockets to clean motor points. A major artery on the inside of the leg was parted.
Allison had effected his own death. He must have seized the tool from an unguarded pocket and finished himself.
Oh no not Allison how sad. Yes, the Psychlos really started torturing him back at the jungle outpost, then lugged him along with them for more torturing. All without the guy going into shock from intense physical trauma, or bleeding to death. Apparently the Psychlos all took human anatomy classes to avoid all those arteries.
I suddenly wonder why a race with technology that beams information into beings' brains cannot reverse the process and make a device to extract information.
Jonnie concludes that there was no way for them to catch up and save Allison, the Scots promise to return for the body with blood on their blades, and Jonnie realizes that the Scots now have a blood feud with the Brigantes. Oh, and he has to remind himself why he needs the Psychlos alive, he's so angry over Allison's death.
When was the last time he thought of Chrissie?
Back to Chapter Three