Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 2 - Pitch-Black, Cavernous Plot Holes

So Jonnie meets The Gray Man under the pagoda near the teleporter platform, and notes that the alien is indistinguishable from a human save for his gray hue. He also only comes up to Jonnie's shoulder, and is wearing a Scottish-knit sweater. TGM notices that they only have one console, which makes Jonnie defensive and he insists they can build more.

That small talk done with, they get down to business, conversing in Psychlo since the translator device The Gray Man uses occasionally "miswords critical clauses that lead to disputes." They get Chief of Clanfearghus on the line to empower Jonnie and Robert as acting on behalf of the government, i.e. the Scottish chieftains, and then TGM asks if the humans have any galactic credits, at least five hundred of them. 12,000 GC is quickly gathered from the human pilots, who "had been taking them off pilots they shot down."


While fighting for their lives against an alien foe that badly outnumbers them, the human air force is taking the time to search the wreckage of downed enemy aircraft for loot. That, or they've been industriously capturing aliens who ejected, who for whatever reason were carrying their wallets. Now I'm not a military man, but it seems strange to me that a pilot about to go on a mission over enemy territory would have any reason to bring along some currency. Were they expecting to have to bail out and wanted to be able to buy a sandwich afterward?

The small gray man - I shoulda abbreviated him to TSGM, since that's how the book always names him -writes up a document for Sir Robert and Jonnie to sign. After they become his paying customers, TSGM/TGM launches into his role as legal counsel, breaking out a big "address book" of teleportation coordinates and telling the humans to act fast and contact the home planets of the attacking aliens, declaring a temporary truce over the Kariba base for a conference over the planet's future. Since it'd take forever to enter the coordinates by hand, The Gray Man gets a crewman to bring out a computer that'll help with all the firings needed, and runs through the seven-hour process of sending a form letter to the twenty-nine "basic civilized nations" (and Lord Voraz).

Jonnie asks if TGM knows how to work a teleportation console, and the alien says no. He just has detailed information about how to operate an add-on computer to manage the teleportation. I guess the Psychlos didn't mind other races learning how to use peripherals for their top-secret technology?

So letters requesting an intergalactic conference are sent to the front steps of the Hockner Imperial Palace, the Tolnep House of Plunder, and so forth. And now you might be wondering "wait a tick - the Psychlos can send objects right to their rivals' capitols, and can build bombs capable of obliterating planets, so why haven't they annihilated those stupid Tolneps and Hockners already?" And neither I nor Hubbard have an answer for you, even though Jonnie just wished he could do something similar to the orbiting warships. There's no BS about the limitations of transshipment or some technological defense to such an attack. It's a plot hole, another oversight concerning the implications of the miraculous teleportation technology this book uses. Maybe, if my memory is failing me, there will be an explanation or excuse in a later chapter. But I'm not optimistic.

His job done, The Gray Man steps aside, saying the rest is up to Jonnie and Foxy, who exchange a concerned glance when they realize that "six and a half hours from now authorized ministers of twenty-nine races, which apparently made up about five thousand separate planets, would be here!"  We're not told this yet, but these rapacious, hostile aliens will be hitching a ride on the humans' new teleporter. 

In any event, the next plot point is set up - the dam is damaged, and unless it's repaired will lose power in a matter of hours. Oh no. Whatever will our heroes do.

Also note that despite hiring him as their legal advisor and working with him to send those summons, at no point do the humans get The Gray Man's name. We're told he initialed his part of the document, but not what those initials are. Given that the Scots all but agreed to serve as Jonnie's army before someone wondered who he was, this should come as no surprise.

Back to Chapter One

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