Thursday, September 23, 2010

Part 24, Chapter 4 - The Final Countdown

Buh-da duhn duh... da-duh duhn-duhn-duhn...

I guess this is the story's second climax, or something. Certainly a lot happens in this six-page chapter.

On Dwight's third alert Jonnie "slid" out of his platform-side coffin and immediately has a spanner thrown in his plans: General Snith is suited up for a trip to Psychlo, and has six guards with him standing next to Terl. Jonnie readies his flamethrower to burn them all down unawares, but spots the bound hostage before he opens fire. He recognizes Sir Robert and adds a rescue operation to the day's agenda.

Terl sees Jonnie and is confused as to how the "Jonnie" on the other side of the force field got over here. Before the Psychlo can charge, Jonnie scatters all the phony contracts Terl signed across the platform. "Don't forget to record these on Psychlo!" That gets Terl busy scooping up the incriminating evidence, and Jonnie goes on to distract the Brigantes by shouting "Grenade!" and tossing a "beryllium ultimate bomb," which weighs eighty pounds, mind you, directly at Terl.

So the Brigantes are running from the grenade and bouncing off the force field, and Terl's mind is blown by a teleporting Jonnie somehow stealing his bomb from Brown Limper, and his efforts to get rid of it are hampered by the same force field, so he desperately starts clawing at the bomb's casing to open it up and defuse it. The villains are, scientifically-speaking, completely bamboozled, hopelessly wrong-footed by our super-strong, super-smart protagonist.

Well, one Brigante manages to take a shot at Jonnie, purely for the sake of drama, but misses.

Jonnie rushes to Sir Robert who of course is all "Leave me and save yourself!", which is something heroes simply don't do. While Jonnie drags Sir Robert to safety he kill-clubs two attacking Brigantes with two mighty blows, breaks another's neck with a thrown club, brains a forth who tackles his legs, hits a fifth with a thrown club that breaks physics by sending the victim "catapult[ing] backward," and then parries a sixth Brigante's bayonet with a wooden club and crushes the enemy's skull.

And yes, every blow Jonnie deals instantly incapacitates, if not kills, his target.

In an effort to make the fight something other than pointlessly lopsided, General Snith pierces Jonnie's arm with a poisoned arrow while the latter's back is turned. I'm just impressed with Jonnie's restraint in not killing Snith while he was butchering the rest of the Brigantes.

Jonnie stabs Snith in the heart with a dirk, pulls the arrow out, grits his teeth, and carries on, assuring himself that it's a "slow poison" even as he feels his heart speed up. So it's a neurotoxin that makes your heart beat faster until you die, I guess. Either the "speeds up your nervous system" comment last chapter was simply badly-worded, or else Hubbard thinks the heart is part of the nervous system... I'm not sure how much I'm joking.

Dwight's voice on the radio says "Ten seconds to withdraw!" and Jonnie still hasn't shut off the force field. He drops Foxy off by the console and notices that his vial of antivenom has shattered (drama points +2). Jonnie's vision starts flashing and his hands shake as his heart beats ever faster, but he notices that the console switch is in the "up" position now. Then he gets the dome over the console, starts to lower it, and hacks at the force field cabling.

But then he notices two approaching threats! Terl has popped open the bomb and extracted the core, which Jonnie realizes can be thrown like a bullet "straight through him." And then he sees that Brown Limper the club-footed cripple is "rushing" at him with a Tommy Gun, and if he fires everything will go boom!

Jonnie shouts a warning to Terl, who hurls the bomb's core at Staffor, ripping through his spine. The sad little man's last words are "Damn you, Tyler! Damn you!"

So, bullets from a gun: disastrous interference with the teleporter. Projectile thrown with bullet force: no problems.  Gunpowder combusting to propel bullets from a gun barrel: bad.  Napalm combusting after being squirted from a flamethrower: hunky-dory.

Terl taunts that "I still win, rat brain!" But Jonnie shouts back that the coffins Terl thought were full of money were swapped out last night for sawdust. And that the earlier set of golden-lidded coffins from last year were too.


How? When? And why didn't Terl notice the weight difference?! Why didn't Terl check the contents?! WHY EVEN GO THROUGH THE TROUBLE IF YOU'RE SENDING A PLANET-BUSTER BOMB ALONG WITH THE COFFINS?!

An utterly gobsmacked Terl shimmers and vanishes from the platform, along with the sawdust-stuffed coffins and a bunch of dead guys. Jonnie finally severs the force field cable and drops the dome over him, Sir Robert, and the console. He unties Sir Robert, realizes somehow that there must be a bomb under the console, extracts and defuses the explosive, and tells Sir Robert that the console toggle needs to be in the "down" position for the next firing.

The outside of the dome was struck a blow so hard the whole platform rocked!

It was as though a dozen earthquakes had hit at once. As though the planet had been torn apart.

Jonnie stiffened out into blackness. He no longer heard the chaos going on outside.

And so we end with a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger that won't be resolved until Chapter 6, since the next one concerns those idiotic aliens.

...Isn't it possible to inject antivenom before you get poisoned? Or does that only work with antidotes to poison?

Back to Chapter Three

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