Monday, August 16, 2010

Part 21, Chapter 1 - The One?

Now we're four hundred and twenty-one miles over Earth in the spaceship Ankar II, in which the small gray man is sitting in a small gray office looking at small gray instruments, downing indigestion pills as he ponders his predicament.

He had faced many situations in his long life, a large number of them involving the most dangerous and overwhelming elements. But at no time---he did a hasty calculation with a rolling calculator---in 313,000 years had he or his predecessors ever been confronted with the ruin potential of this one.

Besides traveling the globe speaking with people, The Gray Man has been monitoring events through an "infrabeam sound transmitter," which apparently does visuals too since he has a video of Jonnie gunning down the Brigantes at the compound. He thinks he's identified the guy from the bank note he acquired from a native, and also listened in on the meeting in Scotland so he knows there's a war on. But the transmissions weren't perfect, so he's left wondering just what's going on, and why the death of a boy ("A prince of a reigning sovereign?") was enough to cause all this. You and me both, man.

But then The Grey Man is distracted when his sensors detect a Tolnep warship... uh, that's it. It's not so much approaching or coming out of Warp or anything as it is in orbit nearby. I guess someone finally looked out a window. The Grey Man checks his data for this Vulchor class cruiser ("List weight two thousand tons, solar powered, main battery 64 Maxun blast cannons...") and notes that such ships are led by a "half-captain" with tactical, but not strategic, command.

He get signal. Main screen turn on. The Tolnep half-captain, Rogodeter Snowl, wishes the Grey Man "good spacing" and asks if he has any information about the planet below. The Grey Man is polite but noncommittal, so the Tolnep mentions how he'd like to wake the rest of his crew from "deep sleep" and do things his way: "a quick smash-bash, a few beings seized from here and there, and a rapid interrogation."

But the Grey Man advises caution. Even though there's three hundred and two planetary suspects, and though it's still too early to be sure, the Grey Man's instincts say that "this just could be the one."

The Tolnep is loath to just sit and watch for months, but agrees to be patient, even inviting the Grey Man over for tea sometime -- assuming the Hockners, Bolbods or Hawvins don't show up and make things interesting. The Grey Man goes back to his indigestion pills.

He glanced down at the planet face below them. Was it really the one? If it were, in one way it would be a relief. But if it were, what violence could go shooting down at it!

"The one" should really be rendered as The One. But yeah, we've got some near-mythical "chosen one" bullcrap going on. At the moment it looks like Earth and humanity as a whole gets to bask in it, but I have a feeling this will change once the aliens get a look at the wonder that is Jonnie.

Speaking of aliens, the only description we have so far of The Grey Man is his coloration, while the Tolnep captain is given a "hard face" under a "shield helmet," though at least he has poisonous fangs that make his smile disconcerting. The Psychlos, lest we forget, are basically big, bony, explosive humans. In some settings a bunch of suspiciously-human aliens is the sign of something deeper, like Precursors or ancient interstellar travel. Here it's a sign of a lazy and uncreative author.

And solar-powered battleships? Environmentally-friendly, I guess, but wouldn't you want a power source that doesn't require large, exposed, fragile panels on your hull?

Back to Part Twenty, Chapter Ten


  1. "And solar-powered battleships? Environmentally-friendly, I guess, but wouldn't you want a power source that doesn't require large, exposed, fragile panels on your hull?"

    Or, for that matter, can only be powered when they're in a solar system?

    Seriously, stars are pretty far apart. Can the solar panels hold in enough power from one star to drive all the way over within charging distance of another?

    I don't think Hubbard took in the fact that "solar-powered" meant the energy had to come from a nearby star.

  2. I don't think Hubbard was familiar with the inverse-square law that would make a solar-powered battleship impractical outside of a solar system.