Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Part 19, Chapter 3 - The Grey Man

Cut to Jonnie on the bluffs overlooking Lake Victoria, throwing rocks. This is... a surprisingly humanizing thing for him to be doing. It's childish and purposeless, and therefore believable. Jonnie's not being worshiped or bending strangers to his whims, he's killing time while thinking.

In the ??? days between now and Part 18, he's been hiking the miles between the minesite and the lake, following a Psychlo-made road. Apparently the aliens liked to go boating or something, but not swimming. Psychlos don't like swimming, Jonnie knows.

Jonnie wonders why the Psychlos hunt people, and remembers the quack MacKendrick's explanation involving "sympathetic nerve vibration." Torturing random wildlife to death isn't enough to satisfy the Psychlos' conditioned cruelty; only a bipedal creature similar to their own form would do. A lot of Psychlo science is concerned with this concept, and in fact the nerve gas they like to use is "attuned" to "more highly developed central nervous systems." And since Psychlo scientists obviously know what they're doing, I'm not going to question this at all.

MacKendrick has been practicing removing those little nerve clamps from the dead Psychlos, whose number has been joined by one of the four wounded captives, so that's the bad news. On the upside, Jonnie realized after the battle that he'd been piloting his flying platform with both hands. The faux-doctor posited that new parts of Jonnie's brain are learning how to control his previously paralyzed limbs, but Jonnie knows better. He moved that dead arm through sheer force of will, dammit. He doesn't need any "science" or "medicine" to tell him what he can or can't do.

This is one of those claims of Dianetics, that you can do things like talk yourself out of needing glasses. Hubbard himself liked to claim (i.e. lie) that he was labeled an invalid by the military after being wounded in glorious combat, but willed himself to full health again. So all those guys with spectacles or wheelchairs just aren't trying, the big babies.

A three-wheeled groundcar drives up and out pops Stam "Stormalong" Stavenger, one of the Jonnie lookalikes from the good old days at The Lode. He's one of those Norwegians who emigrated to Scotland and kept their names, but not their customs. Why, Hubbard? Why are Scots so awesome? Why can't Stormalong be a Norwegian? My guess is that Hubbard doesn't have a stereotype he can attach to Norway beyond "hairy combative Norseman," and he's already got Scots and Russians.

Stormalong has a bunch of news for Jonnie. Those horrible Brigantes are in Denver now, Scotland's all angry over the murder of Allison, Clanfearghus' chief sends his respects ("mind you, not his regards but his respects"), Aunt Ellen married the parson, Bittie sends love to Pattie, and Chrissie sends love to Jonnie. There's our mandatory once-a-hundred-pages mention of Jonnie's beloved. He has no reaction to her well wishes, and doesn't spare her a thought afterward.

Oh, and Earth might be due for another invasion. Stormalong spotted a big honkin' spaceship, like a sphere with a ring around it, in high orbit. "Spotted" isn't the right word, though: Stormalong pretty much ran into it, or where it should be. It was insubstantial and gone an instant later. Jonnie theorizes that it was traveling faster than light, so the can't-be-Norse pilot flew through an afterimage.

Stormalong consulted his logs after that encounter and traced the UFO to the farm of an old woman, who told him a story. She'd met a strange small gray man (as in gray skin, hair, and suit) standing next to a spherical, ringed object, invited him in for tea, and had a pleasant chat. He had to talk through a box on his throat, which Jonnie assumes was a "vocoder" to translate for him, and asked about newspapers and history books. She had none, but she did show off some of the printed Jonnie money she had and got a pocketknife out of the deal. Then the mysterious stranger got in his ship and flew off in a matter unlike pure teleportation and Psychlo retarded teleportation.

Oh, and Ker wrote a letter for Jonnie, which is next chapter. Like, almost all of next chapter.

Back to Chapter Two

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