Friday, October 29, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 8 - So Much For the Tolneps

Schleim is relieved to hear the distant whine of the approaching Tolnep fleet, so is in a good mood when he tells Jonnie to turn on the projector and show "the latest picture of your fake model!"

It's shot at a new angle, so Schleim has a clear view of the Tolnep insignia sculpted into the planetoid. He spots a hangar entrance:

The moon had deflated further now. It resembled a blue balloon with one side being poked relentlessly in, a great pucker that was growing bigger now and at a more rapid rate.

What appeared to be black gases were eddying up to fill the sunken part.

And then out of that yawning hangar bolted a war vessel! Although it must have been traveling very fast, the enormous size of it caused it to seem to move in slow motion. At least thirty thousand tons of Tolnep capital ship was seeking to escape into space.

But it was too late. It had already been touched by the pucker within the moon. A whole back section of the ship was gone!

Before the fixated eyes of the delegates, the vast space vessel was eaten up from tail to nose, its massive metal turned to gases.

Schleim has had a terrible day. The holoprojector hurts his sensitive eyes. He's been mocked for his accent, and his dirty shoes. His government has been accused of employing a loathsome journalist. And now someone has imploded his moon.

So he screams, pops his earplugs, strafes the audience with his paralyzing scepter, and tries to sabotage the atmosphere armor. But the pistol he draws doesn't fire, Jonnie breaks his visor with his thrown "knobkerrie" - oookay, I'm just going to assume Jonnie was always carrying it, whatever - and the tree-person gets Schleim in a full nelson.

I think there's a goof here, because suddenly the nameless "lord from Fowljopan" has become simply "Fowljopan." Whoever he is, he uses a presumably very sharp knife to cut the metallic skin of Schleim and extract a suicide capsule, then asks if there's going to be a trial "under Clause Thirty-two, threatening physical violence to the conference!"

Jonnie comes over to taunt Schleim, explaining that the reason the paralyzing scepter didn't work was because the humans swapped it out for a decoy. If you're wondering when the hell they found the time and materials to do this, just assume it came from whatever factory mass-produced the limpet mines they seeded the atmosphere with.

There's an argument over whether or not Jonnie is in any position to make threats or demands of the future defendant, until he invokes Clause Forty-one and his role as the one responsible for the conference's security. After a "bulbous creature from a mostly liquid world" named Lord Dom suggests that calling a ceasefire would play well at Schleim's trial, the Tolnep fleet is called off. Or rather, it is once the Tolnep admiral is assured of Schleim's safety by one of the Small Grey Men.

And so ends the wholly uninteresting and unnecessary "Tolnep attack" subplot. While the event has the benefit of getting the other aliens attacking Earth to give their forces a similar ceasefire order, now Jonnie's worried about the clout of the grays.

And who was this small gray man who exerted such power over these? Where did he fit in? Who was he? What would he want out of all this? Another threat?

You know when would've been a good time to get answers to these questions? Before you signed The Gray Man's document and took his advice without so much as asking his name!

Now. Let's talk ethics.

Jonnie just blew up a moon housing a vast naval shipyard, belonging to a civilization of slavers that was attacking his people. It'd be easy to make a comparison to the classic Star Wars and Luke Skywalker's destruction of the Death Star. Both actions destroyed massive planetoids and killed countless thousands, if not millions. Both were arguably acts of self-defense, even if there were certainly some civilian contractors or good men trapped in a bad situation amongst the death toll. But there are some important differences.

Luke torpedoed a moon-sized weapon, an instrument of terror designed to blow up planets. Luke didn't do this with some superweapon of his own, but by taking advantage of a design flaw.

Jonnie blew up a moon currently serving as a military base, but a naval installation can easily be refitted to accommodate civilian traffic. Furthermore, he blew up a planet's moon, which is going to have all sorts of consequences on the planet's tides and whatnot, to say nothing of whether or not that black hole thingy is going to stick around. And Jonnie didn't plug an exhaust port with a photon torpedo, he used a planet-killer weapon on Asart in front of an audience of other aliens, with the implication being "if you oppose me, I will use this on your planets, too." Even in this chapter, while he's trying to get Schleim to call off his fleet, Jonnie nearly threatens to annihilate the Tolnep homeworld and every last lifeform on it, good Tolnep, bad Tolnep, and slave alike.

Like the guys in charge of the Death Star, Jonnie could have made his demonstration on an uninhabited world and it would have been just as effective. But instead he went for the huge body count. So Luke was a hero, albeit one with a lot of blood on his hands, while the only thing stopping me from calling Jonnie a terrorist is the fact that he picked a (predominantly) military target.

Back to Chapter Seven

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