Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Part 20, Chapter 2 - Further Espionage

Jonnie's chilling on a twelve-foot bed that used to belong to Char. You remember him, right? The guy Terl killed?

Anyway, Jonnie's found Char's copy of the History of Psychlo, a children's book. It mentions how the Psychlo homeworld ran out of minerals three hundred thousand years ago, and is now "a maze of deep and abandoned mines and drifts."

Some of the shafts went down as far as eighty-three miles and in some cases that was within half a mile of the liquid core.


According to Wikipedia, eighty-three miles beneath Earth's surface just gets you as far as the Asthenosphere, the upper mantle. The outer core itself starts around 1,800 miles down. If planet Psychlo is Earth-like in structure and has similar ratios between its planetary layers, it's a tiny little planet only two hundred or so miles deep, compared to Mercury's 1,500. Which wouldn't make any sense if Psychlo's supposed to be a heavy-gravity world, since it would need more mass. So either Psychlo's innards consist of super-duper-dense elements, it has an unusually huge core in comparison to its total size like Mercury does, or I've just put more thought and research into the issue than L. Ron Hubbard did when he was slapping this dreck together.

How awfully hot those mines must have been! They could only be worked by machines, not living beings.

I just stared at these sentences for many minutes.

My biggest gripes about the whole "need humans to mine the radioactive gold" concerned the lack of drone miners, which would be able to go places the Psychlos couldn't. Turns out the aliens had them all along. They just didn't use them.

It's just... why wouldn't they bring them to a world that contains elements that make them explode? Why couldn't Terl get his hands on one off the record? I mean, I know the whole moronic "Terl wants gold" plot is an excuse to get Jonnie's hands on Psychlo technology, but... did it have to be so achingly obvious and artificial? The Psychlos lacking drone miners despite having drone aircraft is stupid. The Psychlos having drone miners and not using them is insultingly stupid. The worst thing would be if there were mining robots in the bases on Earth, but Terl just didn't think to use them.

Good Lord, this is just the third paragraph of this chapter and I already have a migraine from the sheer stupidity.

Jonnie's gotten as far as the "First Interplanetary War to End Mineral Starvation" when Ker shows up and tells him Dunneldeen was arrested by "two men in monkey skins with crossbelts" when he left the canteen. Lars drove the car that took him to a courtroom before the Senior Mayor Planet, who screeched that he wasn't Tyler and let him go after making 'deen promise not to make this a feuding issue with Scotland.

The next day, Jonnie and Angus and Ker get to work... oh? You were expecting a reaction to the news of Dunneldeen's arrest and the notion that Jonnie's being hunted? There isn't one. Jonnie and Angus eat food and go to sleep (for four hours, if you were curious). Cut to the next day.

Anyway. Still bugging Terl's office with "bullet holes" and "eyes," taking care to disguise the surveillance tools by repairing the "bubble patch" and "crack." Ker's able to eat kerbango "goo-food" through his mask. Apparently he pranked Terl by having Lars deliver some "flitter," a compound that sparks blue in sunlight, in order to make Terl think he nearly had some radioactive material near him. Tee hee.

Work on the ducts, making them appear rickety... man, I hope there's no important plot points in this chapter, because I'm struggling to read this. After the whole planet core and drone miners thing, I want to be done. They set up the recorders to transmit to the Academy, and since airborne transmissions would interfere with the anti-bug probe, the solution is to rig the transmitters to use "ground-waves."

Yeah. You just stick a rod into the earth, and you send the right wavelengths through the ground to a receiving rod, and you get high-def video.


After pulling an all-nighter, everything's finished and working. Angus reveals that he's got a plane fueled up and waiting, and that Sir Robert has ordered that Jonnie get to safety before he gets captured. But Jonnie wants to see this thing through, danger or no. He goes back to get his kit. But is he really leaving? Cliffhanger!

Random fact for this chapter: the three receiver/recorders at the Academy for the bugs in Terl's office are hidden under a tile before the alter in the chapel, in a telephone box, and in a toilet.

Back to Chapter One


  1. I've really been enjoying this sporking! Just as a quick note, ground-wave radios do exist.

  2. Ground wave radios exist, but it'd be challenging to send high-def video for more than 1 km because the attenuation is so bad, and because the losses rise with increasing transmit frequency.

    I might buy it if there were a salt marsh connecting Terl's office to the Academy. The Wiki page for "spectral efficiency" has some nice examples of the bits/sec/Hz efficiency of various digital modulation techniques.

    With spread spectrum, a suitable QAM encoding, and adequate error correction, you might be able to do it, but I'm not sure you'd escape detection that way if someone were searching for transmissions. You couldn't use it in today's world because it'd create too much interference with other radios, but in the context of this story, you could.

    This is one area where I have to give Hubbard a little credit, because it wouldn't have been feasible in his time with analog and "1G" cellphone/modem technology, but it's probably feasible today due to advances in digital signal processing technology.

  3. We also know from the docs that Ed Snowden leaked that the NSA has had bugs for years that could be remotely probed by radar, but didn't transmit on their own. See "NSA ANT catalog" for more details. That's a more stealthy technique than constantly sending data through the ground that could be picked up from emissions radiated by other equipment connected to the same ground.