Since Terl seemed to be working on other things than teleportation, which was the key to this entire dilemma, Jonnie, for the time being, turned his attention to other things.
Ho ho, that rascal Terl, trying to kill us all! Up to his old tricks again, is he? Ah well, let's go to Africa.
Jonnie still wants to see if it's possible to rehabilitate Psychlos by removing those mind-control units in their skulls, not out of any sense of goodwill of course, but to see if he can get an engineer to cooperate with him to help figure out teleportation. But Dr. "Psychlos are giant viruses" MacKendrick has bad news from Africa: the three remaining alien patients have come down with malaria and are deathly ill. Though the thirty-three Psychlos from America have now been "lost at sea in a plane crash" and relocated to Africa, MacKendrick is still pessimistic about the viability of the operation. You can't get to the implants without going through "critical skull bone joints" and nerve bundles, apparently.
But then Jonnie is visited by Chirk the secretary, who he has nothing against but is willing to terrify into hysterics. Chirk thanks him for rescuing the remaining Psychlos (y'know, after Jonnie helped kill all the others) from Terl's murderous impulses. Jonnie belatedly notices how forlorn and underdressed she is, though in a clinical, detached way. He certainly feels no sympathy for Chirk, or remorse for having helped put her in such a situation. Instead he is amazed that a Psychlo is being thankful and appreciative.
Lightbulb. They put Chirk's vacant noggin' under one of those mineral scanners and discover a silver capsule quite unlike the bronze doodads in the other Psychlos' skulls. In fact all twelve female aliens from Colorado have the silver implants. So the quack doctor runs an autopsy on the three dead females from Africa and discovers a device with "a less complex internal filament," but an unknown function. But since female Psychlos seem to lack the "bronze cruelty factor" found in males, Jonnie offers Chirk a job.
What follows is three or four paragraphs describing Chirk's makeover. She takes a bath in the lake "oblivious of crocodiles," seizes enough fabric to make a dress, and mixes some minerals and chemicals to create makeup, and even creates some leather boots out of an old seat covering. The end result involves "brilliant green lipbones, a glaring white nosebone, and white and green circles around her eyebones," with purple nail polish for her talons to complete the ensemble.
When Chirk meets with the other captive females, soon after the humans are bombarded with job applications and demands for clothes. And then Chirk spends nearly a page going out to gather mud. Not for more cosmetics though, but to mix with some squishy Psychlo chow to make a "counter-virus" for her sick kin. And after that Chirk organizes Jonnie's library, revealing two books: War Vessel Recognition Tables of Hostile Races and Individiual Troop Combat Capabilities Catalogued by Alien Races. Soon Jonnie has figured out that he's got Tolneps, Hockners, Bolbods and Hawvins hanging overhead.
But then Chirk's streak of usefulness comes to an end when Jonnie, trying to crunch the numbers to figure out how many months the invaders are from their respective bases, asks Chirk for help with math. She freezes up for a minute, says she doesn't know how, and goes into a coma. She's taken to her room via forklift, the eight hundred pound fattie.
Jonnie theorizes that the silver capsules were there to keep Psychlo females from learning mathematics. Noooooo, really?!
Random fact for this chapter, provided by Chirk: Psychlo males don't "mass hunt." Instead "the silly things find just one animal and follow it and then they sit around in a circle and take three days to kill it little by little." I can't help but feel impressed that they don't get bored after six or seven hours of shooting the same thing.
Back to Chapter Five