And now our POV is up in the sky looking down, as the Gray Man monitors the actions of his fellow aliens. He's no longer feeling urpy thanks to revisiting the old woman who gave him tea during his first trip to Earth. She gave him some buttermilk and peppermint this time, and the Gray Man was so grateful he traded her his translator microphone as compensation.
Just in case you were lying awake at night, wondering if the Gray Man would ever conquer his indigestion.
The Bolbods have dispatched a cylindrical "Punchcraft" to make a raid near the dam (I guess they noticed Jonnie's mob poking around the second teleportation platform), and a crew disembarks to set demolition charges. But before they can reach anything important, there's a huge explosion, killing one Bolbod when his charges go off, and knocking the other two unconscious. Then from nowhere a "marine-attack plane" swoops in to disgorge a bunch of Swedes (the Gray Man can tell, since they're blonde) led by a kilted Scot. They chain up the two surviving Bolbods, load them onto the plane with forklifts, and off it goes.
Almost simultaneously a Hockner probe that's "little more than a sled and was jet-powered" lands on Mount Elgon, its five passengers planning to disable the radio telescope. It takes them long enough to overcome the winds and icy peak for the observing alien captains' attention to begin to wander. The Tolnep runs the numbers and concludes that if he sold Earth's population for a thousand a head, he could make nearly three million credits, pay off his gambling debts, and retire. The Hawvin is coveting all the leftover silver and copper coins...
Oh, guess what? The avaricious, money-grubbing, metal-hungry Psychlos don't value silver or copper. They just ignored the other precious metals while they scraped for every ounce of gold. Come on. Sixteen universes and the Psychlos couldn't find a market for the stuff? At least copper is useful.
Argh. Anyway, the Bolbod was hankering to get his hands on the old Psychlo machinery but is now filled with thoughts of vengeance for his captured crew, and a new alien is thinking of ways to swindle the others out of Earth's treasure.
The Hockners eventually manage to land at the peak, having trouble just moving in their bulky and needlessly-fancy space suits. Then a battle plane flies up over a glacier, while at the same time a bunch of humans in red-and-white high-altitude suits emerge from hiding beyond the telescope and open fire, downing four aliens with stun blasts and knocking a fifth off a cliff. Yes, they managed to hide from multiple orbital viewers while wearing partially-red uniforms. They load up the Hockner prisoners onto the plane.
The Tolnep half-captain concludes that the radio telescope was a dummy designed to lure attackers in, since everyone uses "infrabeams" nowadays, including backwards indigenous races who nobody knows anything about. But seconds later the aliens receive a transmission from a "gray black-haired and bearded" human who wants to discuss the six prisoners they now have.
The aliens aren't fooled - clearly these humans have been subjugated by the Psychlos, who are either going to torture the prisoners to death or have already killed them. They refuse to receive the prisoners. When the human asks what to feed their new captives, the Tolnep smiles and sends a "food package" down, which in actuality is a bomb. But once it lands, the package is met with a Basher tank, which shoots and detonates the payload. I'm sure later it'll be explained how the humans knew the package was a trap.
So the initial, pitiful alien incursions have been spectacular failures, and the coalition of commanders are thoroughly spooked. They decide to sit tight until the Gray Man's courier arrives with news of whehter or not Earth is the one, and if it isn't, they'll launch an all-out attack which I'm sure will be a huge success.
Earlier I wondered how the Psychlos could possibly be the most dangerous race in the universes. Now we all know why.
Please extend a warm welcome to the newest member of the League of Ineffectual Alien Invaders, the Jambitchow, a name that sounds like a stupid white man's thoroughly offensive attempt at coming up with an Southeast Asian word. The race's representative is described with "glittering gold scales and eyes where his mouth ought to be." From this we can gather that facial features are somewhat standardized across the myriad universes, which would in better works be a central plot point or great mystery to solve, but here is more indicative of the author's limitations.
Back to Part Twenty-One, Chapter Seven