Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Part 30, Chapter 5 - Because Nobody Likes Low-Income Heroes

Most of this chapter is talking about various bits of paperwork and how MacAdam and Baron Firstnameless von Roth pulled off their scheme.

First Jonnie asks how they convinced the banking executives on the Selachee homeworld to go along with the plan. MacAdam reveals that they used the gold collected from The Lode to open their account, and due to inflation the stuff went for a half a million credits an ounce. Though for all its monetary worth, the alien bankers have decided to put the gold in an exhibit in the main bank's foyer, due to its historical value. I can imagine it now: "See! Shiny yellow ore that was mined by laborers occasionally supervised by The Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, who brought happiness to all races!"

Then Jonnie ponders how they got Ker to sign the paperwork as Head of Planet, which implies that he thinks so little of his "shaftmate" that he assumes Ker wouldn't cooperate out of the goodness of his heart. The baron relays how Ker was relieved at Psychlo's death since it meant no one was after him, and put down his mark in exchange for a paycheck and promises of breathe-gas from the secret Psychlo prison-moon, Fobia.

Lastly Jonnie asks how MacAdam and Baron Anonymous knew how to word the Intergalactic Mining Co. sale contract for Terl to sign it. The baron admits that they took "a banker's chance" on Jonnie's attack on Psychlo being successful (wait, so did he or didn't he intend to blow up the whole planet?), adding that "You can't go very wrong putting your chips on Jonnie!"

But Sir Robert isn't happy. The two bankers are now controlling the most powerful and wealthiest institution in existence, but Jonnie has nothing. Stung, MacAdam begs forgiveness and shows off the Earth Planetary Bank's charter, which in addition to the bankers' names has Jonnie Goodboy Tyler on it. The baron explains that "Jonnie now owns two-ninths or about twenty-two percent of the Galactic Bank and a third of Intergalactic Mining Company," and MacAdam estimates that Jonnie's wealth lies in the quintillions.

So we can add "richer than God" to the list of Jonnie's accomplishments.

While trying to wrap his head around what to do with all that money ("Maybe he could buy one of those woven leather lead ropes for Windsplitter"), the thought of buying furniture suddenly reminds Jonnie that he has a girlfriend, an idea he'd "been keeping suppressed so he could keep on going." That very second a voice on the radio demands Sir Robert, who bursts out on the tarmac minutes later and interrupts Jonnie's attempt to leave for Scotland with news that everyone's okay. And then immediately after that Thor lands and out pops Chrissie. Here's their heartwarming reunion in all its glory:

It was Chrissie! Gaunt and pale, her black eyes flooding with tears.

"Oh, Jonnie! Jonnie!" she was saying. "I'm never going to leave you again! Never! Hold me, Jonnie!"

Jonnie did. He just stood there, almost crushing her ribs. He held her for a long time. He couldn't talk.

And that's the end of this Part. Nothing left to look forward to but a timeskip and drawn-out denouement.

Oh, and Chrissie, dearie: he left you, remember?

Back to Part Thirty, Chapter Four

Monday, November 29, 2010

Part 30, Chapter 4 - To All Races Except the Psychlos, Anyway

I like to imagine the reception those alien ambassadors got when they returned home from a conference over a backwater world. "Well everybody, we didn't get the planet, though we are getting a share of Tolnep's fine for bad conduct. Oh, and the guy who annihilated the Psychlo empire also blew up one of Tolnep's moons to make a point, threatened to do the same to our capital if we annoy him, and forced us to disarm and remodel our economies to suit him." Would they be sacked? Would there be riots? Would horrified leaders order swift preemptive strikes to keep their worlds from sharing Asart and Psychlo's fates?

In the real world, probably. But in Battlefield Earth everything is hunky-dory. The last plot point has been resolved, the conflict defused, and there's nothing left but to wrap up some loose ends and get to our happy ending.

This will take another eighty pages.

Dries the loan shark signs Earth's mortgage papers, with "PAID IN FULL!" prominently written on them. Lord Voraz the loan shark's boss is awed, explaining how Jonnie's plan will allow the unemployed to form an "independent working class," something that all those moronic alien economists can't produce on their own, and as a side affect force banks to focus on the "little creature," thereby robbing the alien nobility of its influence.

It's pretty amazing how all those dozens of extraterrestrial civilizations turned out to have near-identical societies.

Voraz was looking at MacAdam and the baron now. "Do you know what he just did? In that short period in that room in there he freed more people than have been freed in all the revolutions in history!"

It's not enough for Jonnie to liberate his home planet from alien overlords. It's not enough for him to become heir to the throne of Scotland (by way of blood transfusion). It's not enough for him to all but singlehandedly destroy a million-world empire. It's not enough for him to crack scientific secrets that have eluded countless alien races for hundreds of thousands of years. It's not enough for him to resolve war forever. No, he also has to be the great liberator of the common man, too.

At this point I'm impressed that Hubbard hasn't had these backwards alien deify Jonnie. OH WAIT. His fellow humans did that hundreds of pages ago.

Well, this book isn't done glorifying Jonnie yet. The Small Gray Bankers need to come up with a new banknote, so they decide that Jonnie is part Selachee (he has partially-gray eyes, you see) and should be on the new currency. They'll do a three-dimensional, full-color portrait of him in his formal garb, including the ridiculous dragon helmet and "a special ink that can make the buttons flash." At MacAdam's suggestion they decide to throw in an exploding planet Psychlo for the background, and the legend will read "Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, who brought happiness to all races."

"The very thing!" said Voraz. "It doesn't relegate it to just destroying Psychlo. Because that isn't all he really did. People will know fast enough. His popularity will be not just in the stars but all over the stars and planets in sixteen universes!"

Jonnie is, of course, not happy with all the attention, though of course he doesn't refuse or anything. The chapter ends with the bankers, alien and human alike, laughing that they can work together just fine, and MacAdam once again telling Jonnie how awesome he is.

I think the only reason Jonnie isn't basking in the glorification like a pampered brat is because modesty is a virtue, and someone as incredibly awesome as Jonnie has to be virtuous, right? I mean, getting arrogant would be a humanizing flaw. And we can't have that.

Back to Chapter Three

Friday, November 26, 2010

Part 30, Chapter 3 - Pax Jonnie

In this chapter, our hero will solve the problem of war once and for all.

Jonnie has the alien ambassadors and The Gray Men assemble in the conference room, and he and Sir Robert go in without a substantial bodyguard. Once again we're told how much danger Jonnie is putting himself in, this time by going into a room filled with not-so-secretly-armed emissaries who may react violently to what he's going to say, and how heroic and brave and handsome and smart the book's protagonist is.

When everyone's together, and Angus is done fiddling with the hologram projector, the show begins. As martial music plays Sir Robert reminds the aliens of the old search to find the one.

"There is the one!" and his hand shot out pointing at Jonnie!

The mine spotlight shifted to Jonnie and his buttons and helmet flashed fire.

It was dramatic. A sudden intake of breath from the lords.

It was not exactly as Jonnie had planned it. Sir Robert had let his own feelings change it. Still, it was very effective.

Sir Robert reminds the aliens who combined control five thousand planets that Jonnie, "with the help of a few Scots," annihilated an empire that spanned sixteen universes and a million worlds. The projector shows the fiery doom of Psychlo, a hellish act of destruction that stuns the alien lords into silence. Foxy tells them that they ought to be grateful to Jonnie for freeing them "from a monster," while the alien lords are understandably unenthusiastic about replacing the oppression of an empire with the terror of a man who destroys worlds.

Their fear is only made worse when Foxy rolls the tape of Tolnep's moon getting bombed and turned into a blob of gas that liquified in the "intense cold of space." But there's new stuff too, which I'll include so the scientifically-minded can boggle at it.

That moon was now a ball, not just of gas, but of uncountable quintillions of megavolts of electricity. The separation of atoms had generated enormous charge, but there being no oxygen and no second pole to cause flow, the intense cold of space had frozen the resulting electricity. Jonnie realized that was how Psychlo fuel worked, but it had no heavy metal in it, only the more base metals. And that moon would kill any ship that came near it, not by disintegration, but by huge powerful charges of electricity. Ah, there came a meteor! Lightning flashed out and melted it.

I don't know where to begin beyond "space isn't cold." I guess you could argue that frozen lightning is possible if Asart was in a different universe under different laws of physics, but Jonnie mentions Psychlo fuel, which functions just fine on Earth, working the same way. And hey, my interest in hard science died my sophomore year of high school. Maybe Hubbard's done his research and what he describes here is plausible.

Once the fate of Psychlo and Asart has sunk in, Foxy proves his worth as a diplomat.

Sir Robert's voice went into them like shock waves. "He can do that to your home planet at will!"

Had he hit them with a stun gun he could not have produced a more frozen effect.

"And," cried Sir Robert, "there is nothing you can do to stop it!"

Note that Jonnie hadn't planned on Foxy to be "this strong," but concludes that Sir Robert is getting his revenge for Edinburgh and doesn't worry too much about it. Foxy rants on that Jonnie will build twenty-eight teleportation platforms scattered on other planets, all ready to fire as one and annihilate the aliens' home worlds if they step out of line. Unless the aliens sign a treaty forbidding war, they will be exterminated.

The alien ambassadors, of course, are enraged and scream that "This is a declaration of WAR!" But Jonnie stands up, and his magnificent presence is enough to bring them to silence before he declares that it's actually "a declaration of peace!" Then the aliens threaten to launch fleets to destroy the humans, but Sir Robert is like "nuh-uh, your planets will still get blown up by teleported bombs!" and the the aliens are like "we'll assassinate Jonnie then!" and Sir Robert is like "nuh-uh, we've got body doubles and if any of them are hurt we'll blow you up!"

I'm gong to take a moment to wonder exactly when Sir Robert and Jonnie got together to come up with this plan. 'cause Jonnie's spent the last five days feverishly learning economics while Sir Robert coordinated things over the radio. Then again, threats of violence are pretty much up their alleys, so they might've thrown this together over breakfast.

Anyway, after the word force majeure is thrown around and those cowardly and self-serving diplomats become open to the idea of trying to influence it, one of them whines that their economies are still in trouble, and peace won't save them.

Jonnie looked at them. Then he began to realize what he was really dealing with. Every one of these lords and all their peoples had been bred for eons in the shadow of the cruel and sadistic Psychlos. They may have remained politically free, but they were stamped with the Psychlo philosophy--all beings are just animals. Greed, profit and corruption were understood to be the nature of every individual. There were no decencies or virtues. The brand of the Psychlo!

Such sentiments were the ideas of madmen. The Psychlos had tailor-made life in this way and had then said, see? this is the way life is.

Sorry, not buying it. The story has not explained why having the Psychlos as an aggressive neighbor is any worse than, say, having the Tolneps as an aggressive neighbor, beyond the superior tech of the former. Having a dangerous enemy does not necessitate a loss of cultural values. The U.K. did not become more German during the unpleasantness in the '40s. Vietnam did not become more American during the... well, that's not a good example. South Vietnam was trying pretty hard to fit in with Western modernity, while the North was fervently nationalistic and dabbling with communism-

Point is, this is one of Battlefield Earth's main flaws: the Psychlos are hyped as all-conquering, sadistic monsters that taint everything they touch. But they leave an astounding number of other races unconquered, most of the Psychlos we see are just average Joes working their shift in the mines, and what little oppression happens does so off-screen. Yeah, they took over Earth, but it's hard to work up the hate for them that Hubbard obviously feels, and they certainly don't feel like the scourge of galaxies.

Jonnie does some thinking, and concludes that the Psychlos preferred for these supposedly "free planets," which they could invade at any time but for some reason never did, remain at war with each other, the better to serve as a market for Psychlo metals. So Jonnie explains how they could gear their economies towards "consumer production," and make things for their citizens to buy like clothes and furniture, thus ushering in a golden age of prosperity.

Naturally, not a single alien in sixteen universes has come up with this idea. Kinda like how none of them think to use birth control to deal with overpopulation.

Jonnie goes on to talk about how the Galactic Bank will be able to give out loans to stabilize the aliens' economies and help them shake off the military-industrial complex, as well as stimulate private enterprises with "social banking" instead of dealing exclusively with governments. Oh, and there's a lot of new planets suddenly free of Psychlo control that would make good colonies.

Once Lord Voraz comes to terms with these radical new ways of doing business, he agrees that the bank will be happy to help make Jonnie's vision a reality. But the alien ambassadors are still hesitant to deal with the man who kills planets (no, I'm never going to let that go). So Jonnie has all the recording devices turned off and appeals to their baser nature by suggesting they go home and buy out all the war firms that will crash and burn after this treaty, thereby converting them into profitable peacetime businesses that will earn the diplomats fortunes.

Their heads were together again, whispering. Jonnie couldn't make it out.

Then suddenly Fowljopan stood up among the mob. "Lord Jonnie, we have forgotten what you said. None of it will be repeated by us."

Fowljopan seemed to grow in size. "Build your platforms! We are going to write the toughest, clawproof, iron-hard, most vicious antiwar treaty you have ever heard of!"

He turned toward the back. "Turn on the lights! Turn on the recorders!"

Almost as one being the audience stood. They began to shout. "Long live Lord Jonnie! Long live Lord Jonnie!"

The applause was enough to knock one down!

And so Jonnie uses the threat of annihilation to bring peace to the universes, the empires of which only go to war out to make money and distract their populations from unemployment, rather than to take territory, defend territory, force compliance with treaties, defend national honor, topple oppressive regimes, defend allies, or any of the myriad of motivations for "politics by other means."

I hate this book and everything in it.

Colonel Ivan, lead of the few soldiers running security for the conference, finally relaxes. "Knowing Jonnie, the reversal did not surprise him. That was life living around Jonnie Goodboy Tyler!"

Amazing how things always turn out well for the Gary Stu, isn't it?

Back to Chapter Two

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Part 30, Chapter 2 - Bet Those Psychlos Feel Pretty Stupid Now

With MacAdam's suggestion that Jonnie set up his own company to build teleportation consoles (I'm still awed that a control panel is the key piece of equipment, rather than whatever device is actually rearranging patches of space-time), Jonnie thinks of the implications of such technology's proliferation. He knows quite well the destructive capacity of teleportation, and wants to make sure humanity is never on the receiving end of what he's done to his enemies (and countless civilians or innocent bystanders caught as collateral damage).

After a bit of thought, Jonnie has the idea of building metal analysis detectors into the platforms to keep them from sending uranium or the mysterious element used for The Ultimate Bomb. Pretty simple and straightforward, really - if you don't want to teleport those dangerous substances, make your teleporters incapable of doing so.

SO WHY DIDN'T THE PSYCHLOS DO THAT?! Why didn't the paranoid, totalitarian empire with a ridiculous vulnerability to radiation come up with this defensive measure, instead of hoping a bunch of grunts with scanners could catch everything?! Why is Jonnie the only one who can have this idea?! Hubbard could still have had Jonnie teleport the bombs to Psychlo, he'd just have to disable this painfully-obvious safety measure somehow. It would give Jonnie a chance to show off how smart and wonderful he is, instead of having the plot rely on the villains being achingly stupid and lazy.

Jonnie addresses biological concerns with plans to scan for bacterial "traces" and disease "auras," and after resolving that his consoles would be built in fortresses by only the most trusted workers, concludes that he's designed a fool-proof console and agrees to build them for the bank. Though he adds that he'll only lease the devices for five years before swapping them with new ones, just to be safe.

The bankers are pleased, but there's still one last hurdle: all those alien emissaries, counting on war to save their economies (morons). Once word gets out the Earth controls a million habitable worlds the aliens will surely pounce. But Jonnie and Sir Robert already have a plan, though Jonnie asks that he be allowed to set bank policy for a couple of hours. And the next bit is priceless.

"You set bank policy?" gaped Lord Voraz.

"Let him do it!" said the baron.

"But he might commit us to some course of--"

"You just better say yes, Lord Voraz," MacAdam said. "That's Jonnie Tyler there who's talking."

Lord Voraz looked numbly from MacAdam to the baron. "I've not yet signed--"

"Nor have I," said Dries.

The baron reached over and made Voraz's head bob. "He said 'yes,' Jonnie. Go ahead."

Yes, that's Jonnie Tyler, the obnoxious character the book is written to glorify, the man who physics and biology bend over backwards to accommodate. His will is nothing less than divine mandate. To oppose him is to face annihilation.

The baron physically forcing Voraz to comply is just a lovely touch. Har-har, look how little regard the humans have for their new allies!

If you're wondering how Jonnie will deal with all those hostile aliens, you haven't been paying attention. He already blew up a moon to make a point. Now he just has to remind the idiots that they're planning the invasion of someone who can blow up planets at will. The next chapter wouldn't be necessary if those emissaries had half a brain among them, but this is Battlefield Earth, after all.

Back to Chapter One

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Part 30, Chapter 1 - The Battle of the Banks

For whatever reason, MacAdam and the baron are wearing gray suits similar to the Selachee bankers'.

The four of them sat there at the table for a bit, just looking across it at one another. Jonnie was reminded of some gray wolves he had once seen, prowling back and forth, eyes alert, teeth ready, sizing each other up before they plunged into a snarling, slashing fight to the death.

Except the bankers are all sitting politely instead of pacing with bared teeth. But I can appreciate Hubbard's attempt to make finance sound exciting.

So the great battle of wits and numbers begins when MacAdam and von Roth ask for an extension for the deadline, citing economic upsets. The Selachee refuse, but the humans press on, describing how their questioning of alien prisoners revealed that most of the beings who attacked Earth were conscripts who are reluctant to return home, for fear of getting dragged into revolutions and unemployment and famine. Mac and the baron have even teleported to some of these worlds to witness things firsthand.

"There is economic chaos!" said the baron. "When Intergalactic Mining Company ceased to deliver metals, the scarcity caused their prices to soar."

Because none of these aliens can be bothered to dig up their own iron ore, apparently. I also have to wonder what these guys have been building that requires so much materiel. I mean, we've been spending all of human history building swords and guns and cars and whatnot, and to my knowledge there hasn't been any panic about running out of steel anytime soon. Is Earth the only mineral-rich planet in sixteen universes? Have none of the aliens figured out recycling?

"Factories are closed. People are out of work and rioting. To distract them, the governments are planning wars that are not popular."

Yes, when faced with economic disaster, start up a nice, expensive war to make things all better. Free tip for alien governments: you want to distract your unemployed citizens? TV. Or even better, give 'em free internet.

"To get metals to build weapons, they are even commandeering peoples' cars and the pots and pans of housewives."

Yes, all of the galaxies' races use basic metals for their wargear, as opposed to crystals or wood or bioengineered weaponized symbiotic organisms or psychic powers or whatever. And no matter what universe you go to, housewives stay in the kitchen.

Mac and the baron are on a roll, and reveal that a disgruntled former Galactic Bank employee told them how Dries made some high-risk loans to some high-ranking Psychlos, secured by property on the Psychlo homeworld. Now that the Psychlos are all asploded and no longer paying interest on funds or transfer fees, the Bank lost its main source of income, and Dries himself is trying to repossess Earth to avoid bankruptcy. This prompts an outburst from Dries where he quotes an aphorism about swimming and fins, just to remind us that he's a shark.

The human bankers still aren't done, and talk about how without teleportation there are now Selcahees scattered across countless worlds and universes, totally stranded, making their family members riot. No mention is made of how without teleportation there is no way for these transdimensional banks to communicate with each other and therefore function as a company. By all rights the bank should have collapsed months ago. Oh, and part of the bank's deal with the Psychlos was that all its cash reserves would be stored on Psychlo, which is now a sun.

The humans' next trick is to produce a copy of the Psychlo Imperial Royal (sounds redundant) Charter of the Intergalactic Mining Company, which has clauses stating that in event of an emergency a head of planet may dispose of company property. Then they reveal Terl's contract, selling the entire IMC and its nearly two hundred thousand worlds to the Earth Planetary Bank. MacAdam and the baron have even taken it to the Hall of Legality in the Selachee capital to put it on file. And while the aliens are still choking on that, the human bankers offer to buy two-thirds of the Galactic Bank, a controlling interest.

The baron said, "You'd have assets, then. You could back your currency with reserves which you don't now have. The Psychlos never let you own planets, but you can now. We will turn over eleven planets that are worth sixty trillion credits for ownership of two-thirds of the Galactic Bank, all its assets, debts, everything."

Lord Voraz was wavering. But he had not said yes.

MacAdam leaned back easily. "And we will put 199,989 planets and all company assets into a trust to be managed by the Galactic Bank. That gives you back your fund transfer profits. That lets you lease out mining rights. That surely saves your bank!"

Let's dwell on this for a moment. The humans, who have only recently freed themselves from an alien overlord, who so bitterly complained about having their fate decided by all-powerful outside forces, are now signing over entire worlds, two hundred thousand of them. And we know that some of these worlds had previous inhabitants held in servitude by Psychlo "regencies."

There's no thought that these previously-subjugated people might own their home planets, or have a right to self-determination. There's not a flicker of interest from Jonnie or any others about the issue of indigenous races, or if they ought to make an exception for such worlds. Jonnie's mostly worried about the other alien races attacking Earth.

Well, there's still twenty or so chapters. I'm sure Hubbard will explain how his heroes aren't selling aliens into slavery.

The Selachee are happy with the idea, but say it'd take a board meeting to ratify such a deal. MacAdam and the baron, of course, have already secured and filed the directors' signatures, and even have a pre-typed resolution for Lord Voraz to sign. Dries interrupts with questions about his money, but MacAdam breezily explains how there was over two hundred trillion credits ready for transfer before Jonnie blew up the Psychlo teleportation network last year, which wound up in the Earth Planetary Bank's account at the Galactic Bank and can be used to pay off Earth's mortgage. So I guess if a bank is about to transfer your paycheck, but it suddenly can't deliver it for a year, it gets to keep it? I don't understand this at all, but I'm sure it's legal if our heroes are doing it.

The only remaining matter is the Bank's reliance on teleportation, and Lord Voraz asks for Jonnie's help. And with that this bloated chapter comes to a sudden end.

The short version: the Galactic Bank was broke and on the verge of collapse, but Terl's phony contract let Earth sell off hundreds of thousands of worlds to take control of it, bail it out, and pay off Earth's debt. Yay banking.

Back to Part Twenty-Nine, Chapter Seven

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 7 - That Nutter Keynes

Over the next five days many many mysterious "things" are teleported to and from the platform, while Jonnie furiously studies economic theory from textbooks liberated from a ruined library in Salisbury.

It was a highly specialized subject. And when one went wrong, like some nut named Keynes they had all become mad at, it really messed things up. What Jonnie got out of it was that the state was for people. He had suspected that was the way it should be. And individuals worked and made things and exchanged them for other things. And it was easier to do it with money. But money itself could be manipulated. The Chinkos had been great and patient teachers and Jonnie knew how to study. And with a mind like his, he got things as quickly as a traveling shot.

Yes, Jonnie learns principles of government from economic texts. Yes, the book is once again reminding us how wonderful and intelligent Jonnie is.

So the day of the big bank meeting sees Jonnie and Sir Robert square off against Dries Gloton and Lord Voraz. The aliens mention the dozens of soldiers hanging around the base and reminds them that aggression against the emissaries would make Earth an outlaw nation. Sir Robert responds that "We ha' sma' truck wi' the money changers i' the temple" and it's "Better to fight fleets than be a' cut up with bits o' paper," but "There's na thrat i' the Roosians if you tell the truth and behave. We ken this be a battle o' wits and skullduggery. But it's a battle a' the same and a bloody one!"

Yep, his dialect's back. I hesitate to call it a Scottish dialect though, since it seems to be doing whatever it bloody well feels like, and is popping in and out at random.

The alien bankers assure them that they're really the humans' best friends; since all a world's technology is liquidated when it's auctioned, they have plans for a department in the Galactic Bank for Jonnie to be head of. Jonnie sarcastically remarks that money must be everything, and when the aliens agree he insists that virtues like decency and loyalty can't be bought. The aliens talk about how scientists should work for companies instead of themselves, while Jonnie talks about how banking and governments should serve ordinary people instead of money and profits, and it's obvious that neither side can understand the other's viewpoint.

And then suddenly MacAdam and Baron von Roth burst in, exclaim that the aliens showed up early, before getting down to business. And so the chapter and section abruptly ends.

It's pretty much more talking and banking for the next five chapters.

Back to Part Twenty-Nine, Chapter Six

Monday, November 22, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 6 - Jonnie Finds His Bankers

Jonnie steps outside to see rescue workers reunited with their families, and a brief flicker of positive emotions segues into his hatred of the gub'ment.

Watching fathers in happy chattering exchange with their youngsters, watching mothers anxiously verifying whether this or that had been done properly as to feeding and naps, Jonnie thought of those disdainful and arrogant lords and the soulless haughtiness of government. What did they care what happened to people like these? Yes, such governments might go through gestures of justice and perhaps even social work, but they remained cold, hard forces that could disrupt and shatter lives and people without conscience, and without a second thought.

Jonnie is by most standards a barbarian who took a crash course in flight, mining, and electronics. When the heck did he learn about social programs, or the basics of public administration? And what's his alternative, anyway? Anarchy? Or does he prefer the tribal structure of the Scots, with a hereditary strongman issuing orders?

After this mental rant Jonnie literally bumps into Stormalong, who has come back from a "wild time" of chasing down and rounding up alien prisoners. Not all by himself, of course, but all he had for help was "half a dozen bank guards. And they're French, Jonnie. They're not soldiers. They can maybe guard a vault or carry valuables--" Yes, even a thousand years from now, the French's stereotype as cheese-eating surrender monkeys still endures.

Stormy came here with MacAdam and the German banker Baron von Roth, who all have been flying around, collecting and interrogating alien prisoners under radio silence, which explains why Jonnie couldn't hail them. They also have a cargo of mysterious baggage, which isn't explained this chapter. So Jonnie has his experts ready to try and figure out a way to deal with Earth's crippling debt. "The final confrontation, the last battle, was all too near."

If banking is a battlefield, does that make me a commando or something for slogging through this stupid novel?

Fun fact #1: Dunneldeen's kill count while flying air cover over Edinburgh was at least thirty.

Fun fact #2: Baron von Roth is huge and red-faced and loud, as all Germans are, and Jonnie knows him somehow. "Although he had made a fortune in dairy and other foodstuffs..." wait, what? But I thought everyone had been reduced to barbarism from those oh-so-oppressive Psychlos? And how the hell do you corner the dairy market in a neo-medieval setting? Anyway, the baron "was descended from a family that was supposed to have controlled European banking for centuries before the Psychlo invasion." So yes, not only are governments cruel and repressive, but a few powerful families dominate the world of banking.

Back to Chapter Five

Friday, November 19, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 5 - The Treaty of Kariba

The following afternoon is the big treaty signing ceremony, with Jonnie and Sir Robert, the Selachee bank representatives, and all the alien emissaries attending. The signing itself takes an hour due to the number of people involved and all the pomp, which of course Jonnie and Foxy are dismissive of.

But the document is signed and copies transmitted to all the alien ships, and then it's time for the prisoner exchange. In all the fighting across the planet, only thirteen humans have been taken prisoner, and though they weren't abused none of the aliens who held them captive had the right food for them, so the ex-POWs are rushed to the hospital for intravenous feeding.

Strange how only the Psychlos have had to use masks to survive on Earth, but all the other aliens who don't are still unable to metabolize terrestrial food.

Once that's done the alien fleet departs to escort those dastardly Tolneps home, and a naked and bound Lord Schleim is teleported to his homeworld's slave markets as promised. A lengthy footnote "excerpted" from Galactic Bank, Customer Service Summaries, Vol. 43562789A (I'm rolling my eyes at that number) mentions how Schleim's ignominious return prompted the late Arsebogger's newspaper to run a smear campaign against Capt. Snowl, which culminated in Snowl's death by angry mob, the assassination of Schleim and the whole House of Plunder, and the collapse of Tolnep's economy due to its inability to continue its slave trade or pay its fine. So the whole race ended up imprisoned for tax reasons, defanged, sterilized, and sold as slaves, with the Hawvins left ruling Tolnep.

And so another species is exterminated, and this genocide is presented as satisfying and just. After all, some representatives of the race opposed the glorious Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. It is only right for every last man, woman and child of these disgusting aliens to be wiped from the stars, never to trouble humanity again.

With humans the undisputed owners of Earth, Dries Gloton triumphantly serves Sir Robert with a notice of delinquency of payment, and the week-long deadline to pay off the bank begins. While all the aliens are assembled, Dries mentions that if they are interested in Earth, there's no need to fight for it.

The lords shrugged. War was the surer method, said one. The mental health of the people depended upon war, said another. How was a state to demonstrate its power without war? said Browl. The Galactic Bank would have a hard time surviving without making war loans, quipped Dom. Rulers only became famous when they prosecuted war, laughed another. They were in a jovial mood.

Jonnie listened to all this with a kind of horror. The impersonal cruelty of large government was brought home to him.

This is a preview of what's to come, as well as some more of the "government is bad!" theme. Also note that the aliens all seem to be in pre-WWI mindsets when it comes to warfare's causes and justifications, and it's an open question whether or not Hubbard thinks this is an accurate summation of international conflict.

Dries starts passing out brochures touting Earth's value as real estate, and explains that the planet would make a good colony and will almost certainly be up for auction once the week is up. The aliens all decide to stick around, and Jonnie is of course horrified by Dries' actions.

Jonnie said to Dries Gloton, "So it was all just a question of money!"

Dries smiled. "We have not the slightest feeling of hostility toward you. Banking is banking and business is business. One must pay one's obligations. Any child knows that."

And now we're officially in the endgame. Just over a hundred pages to go.

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 4 - Two Characters Change Locations

Dunneldeen flies over to Kariba, noticing Jonnie's newly-trimmed beard even as Jonnie worries over the bandages wrapped around 'deen's face - injuries earned while fighting fires. He brings word from Scotland, about how the blazes are out and the Small Gray Man has been traveling all over the place asking questions and gathering data from old libraries. The alien also ended up saving the chief of Clanfearghus' life with knowledge of a treatment for hemophilia, so I guess the bankers aren't irredeemably evil.

Oh, and Sir Robert's in the plane too, and is so exhausted that Jonnie and 'deen haul him out and hand him over to the Tsungs for a bath, haircut, and bed without him waking up. When Jonnie notices how Dunneldeen is similarly tired, he has him get the same treatment. Then he gets on the radio and tries to find Stormalong and MacAdam, but keeps getting that French girl in Luxemborg.

And... that's pretty much it. A sparse amount of character interaction that was inexplicably given a two-page chapter. But at least we've still got the exciting meeting with the bankers to look forward to, right?

Back to Chapter Three

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 3 - What Is It Good For?

As he leaves the conference room, Jonnie gets mad and starts mentally ranting.

War! Any one of those lords in there, or their governments, merely had to say the word and their fleets pranced off to bash somebody's head in!

While all Jonnie has to do is say the word and entire planets die.

And when they'd bashed it in, they could just sail off tra-la,without a thought of what they'd done to people's homes and lives, and then maybe come back another day to bash some more!

When's the last time you mourned for the deaths of billions of Psychlos, Jonnie? Or all those Brigante women and children who were incinerated when Denver went up in flames?

Jonnie takes a walk outside, passing by children sitting in camouflaged "rifle pits" happily eating lunch. I really, really hope they aren't expected to be defending the base. And of course Jonnie thinks of the children and how they deserve a peaceful future.

War! What right did cold, impersonal nations have to murder and rampage, to smash and crush and gut their more helpless, fellow beings?

Only Jonnie and hot-blooded Scotsmen have the right to murder and rampage.

Call it "national policy," call it "necessities of state," call it what you will, it still amounted to an action of the insane.

The Scots' clan-based feuds are exempt from this criticism, I'm assuming.

Psychlo! What right did Psychlo have striking this planet down? Couldn't they have bought what they wanted? Couldn't they have come in and said "We need metal. We will exchange this or that technology for it." No, it suited them better to murder and steal it like a thief.

I'm tempted to call this an example of lampshade hanging, when an author acknowledges the ridiculousness of something that threatens to destroy the audience's suspension of disbelief, before moving on with the story. Here Hubbard is actually admitting how moronically aggressive his villains are. The Psychlos could indeed have gotten Earth to willingly hand over shiny rocks in exchange for something like blaster technology. Heck, the Psychlos could have made a show of force to coerce Earth into doing the mining for them. An invasion was pretty unnecessary (especially if you could just teleport chunks of ore from the comfort of your own home, but that's an old gripe of mine).

But, since this entire lousy story hinges on Jonnie saving the world from big, stupid aliens, they have to invade. I just have to ask: if your story depends on everyone being morons, is it really worth telling?

With one last glance at the children, Jonnie resolves that "Whatever happened, there would be no war. Not anywhere." Yes, it's not enough for Jonnie to liberate a planet and destroy a pan-dimensional empire, he's also going to solve the problem of war once and for all.

Chong-won manages to get Jonnie's attention and drags him into the command center, where there's some good news on the radio. Colonel Ivan and his men are in the process of being dug out, and the Russian says to "Tell Marshal Jonnie the valiant-Red-Army is still at his command!" At that very second, Tom Smiley Townsen comes in with the message that all Jonnie's old villagers are safe, which makes our noble hero sit down in a chair and weep with relief.

There's a few big paragraphs of infodumps about a hospital in Aberdeen and the alien prisoners being sent to Balmoral Castle (seriously, what the hell is with Hubbard's Scotland obsession?), before Jonnie is reminded that Sir Robert needs to come over and sign some paperwork. When he gets Foxy on the radio, the Scot is annoyed at the idea of abandoning his efforts to dig some two thousand people out from partially-collapsed bomb shelters, but eventually concedes ("with considerable blasphemy") and agrees to fly over.

The chapter ends on the ominous note that "The small gray man looked very pleased when Chong-won told him Sir Robert was coming."

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 2 - The Day After The Worst Two Days

Lord Dom comes into the operations center the next morning to tell Jonnie that the trial's results will be announced in two hours, and Jonnie is invited due to his role in arresting Lord Schleim. There's also talk about possible reparations for Earth, which Jonnie seizes upon as a way to deal with the Galactic Bank.

With the help of manservant Tsung, Jonnie gets bathed and dressed. The newly-promoted Mandarin even has a new toy, a box on a cord around his neck that translates Chinese into English - a gift from the original Small Gray Man for starting a bank account, after the Tsung family started making money selling paintings and dragon sculptures to the alien ambassadors. Yes, the Selachee banker's library had data on "court Mandarin Chinese" and the equipment necessary to convert it to English. Of course one of the aliens took the time to visit Earth during the Psychlo occupation, meticulously gather data on an ancient, complicated, and nigh-extinct language, and figure out a way to convert it into another ancient, complicated, nigh-extinct language, as well as the Psychlo tongue.

Basically I'm running on the knowledge that there's only 130 pages left at this point.

Jonnie takes his seat amongst the audience in the impromptu courtroom, with all the alien lords assembled on one side and Schleim sitting in the middle, wrapped in chains and placed in a minecart for reasons that surely make sense to the aliens. The emissaries vote unanimously that Lord Schleim did "willfully and maliciously" order an attack on the conference, that he personally attempted to paralyze and attack the delegates, and that the entire Tolnep nation be branded outlaws due to Schleim's actions. The other races' militaries are absolved of guilt but charged with seeing any Tolenp prisoners of war deposited in a holding area on Earth, escorting the surviving Tolnep fleet home, and informing the Tolnep homeworld of its outlaw status. Shcleim in particular is set to be deposited naked and in chains in Tolnep's slave market as a sign of the conference's intense displeasure.

Our hero is called up and exonerated for bonking Schleim with a thrown scepter, and is given the Crimson Slash in recognition of saving the emissaries' lives. Lord Voraz whispers the meaning behind the honor (it's about a guy who saved an alien princess' boyfriend from being killed and earning a superficial wound in the process. Obviously the critters involved had red blood), and also informs Jonnie that he's now officially a Lord, and one who gets a two thousand credit yearly pension. Jonnie is impatient for reparations to be discussed and plans to put the sash on his horse.

Tolnep is fined a trillion credits, to be split among the ambassadors who weren't part of the coalition over Earth. The humans themselves get pretty much nothing - Voraz explains that next to the thirty-nine trillion Chatovarians spread across seven hundred worlds, thirty-three thousand humans don't earn much of a cut. I'm wondering if having 33,000 organisms qualifies a species for "Endangered" status.

Jonnie asks about all the (abandoned and ruined) cities the Tolneps "destroyed" and if that could help them get some reparations, but Voraz explains that he mentioned them to increase Earth's property value, but that this is a trial, not a peace conference. As consolation, he tells Jonnie that Tolnep's economy will crash from this fine, and that at least there aren't any hostile aliens around anymore. The emissary in charge of the "trial" tells Jonnie to either get Earth's representative Sir Robert, or be ready to sign some paperwork himself.

The chapter ends with a mournful Jonnie heading out of the conference, too crushed about the lack of reparations to notice the Small Gray Men (Dries came back at some point) smiling at each other at the idea of Jonnie signing papers.

So, that was the "trial," a bunch of aliens voting on sentences that will destroy an entire civilization and a distinct lack of evidence, cross-examination, lawyers, or defense of the accused. I'm wondering what this tells us about the author's view of the legal system, and if he's in favor of or against it. But I'm grateful that we only spent this chapter on it instead of an entire Part.

Next time, Jonnie loses his temper.

Back to Chapter One

Monday, November 15, 2010

Part 29, Chapter 1 - The Worst Two Days

This section starts with the narration informing us that "The next two days were the most horrible in Jonnie's life--cage, drone and all!" Jonnie's stuck at Kariba with only Angus and Chief Chong-won for company, while everyone else is trying to dig out the survivors in Scotland and Russia. Jonnie can't even call up MacAdam the banker because the only person he can raise in Luxemborg speaks French.

What's weird is that the book insists that camping out in the operations center makes Jonnie "the only one defending the planet." If he were flying air support or holding a gun pointed at the sky, maybe. But I don't think listening to the radio counts as "defending."

Angus keeps busy by sending a camera to keep on eye on the moon Jonnie exploded, checking to see if there's any earthquakes on Tolnep. Conveniently, there isn't, even after Asart is reduced to a cloud of hydrogen by the ultimate bomb. It's confirmed that the Psychlos never used T.U.B. offensively because it doesn't leave behind any useful metals to mine.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The Psychlos had sixteen universes' worth of resources to collect, but they couldn't bear to deny themselves the opportunity to mine a single world, even if said planet was an enemy capital or hosted a military base. They were so greedy, so obsessed with digging up junk, that it overrode their (informed) bloodlust and mindless aggression. They could have held reality hostage by demonstrating their power to snuff out planets at a whim, but preferred to conquer the universes the hard way so they could potentially maximize the amount of minerals in their stockpiles.

I don't have a way to express my disdain for Hubbard's villains without resorting to a string of profanity. Just imagine the result of me smashing my face against the keyboard a few times and you'd get something close.

Come to think of it, the whole Psychlo economy doesn't make any sense. We've got multiple universes with hundreds of billions of galaxies in them, each containing hundreds of billions of stars, each of which could have formed planets. That's a lot of potential gold or tungsten or whatever you're selling, and given the number of species in Hubbard's setting there's a lot people digging stuff up. So how do you sell the Hockners gold if they've probably got in on their home planet, several neighboring systems, and several neighboring galaxies? Are the other races so lazy that they're willing to fund the eeeeevil Psychlos by purchasing gold from them, instead of doing their own prospecting and mining?

Well, I'm no economist. It's possible (but I'm quite cynical) that there's a good explanation for how this could work.

Oh, and Angus also informs Jonnie that asploding Asart hasn't screwed up all their coordinates by messing around with mass and gravity. Fortunately the super-light hydrogen cloud (with a liquid hydrogen center) hasn't dispersed or anything.

There's news from Scotland, in that Clanfearghus' nameless chief is found barely alive and rushed to a hospital, but nothing about Chrissie. The Russian base is still on fire from all the coal that the morons decided to store around the entrances. Meanwhile in Kariba, Small Gray Man Dries unexpectedly disappears, while there's nearly an incident when a gunner opens fire on a craft containing Capt. Snowl, called in as a witness for Schleim's ongoing trial. Jonnie is heroically rude to him and is just able to keep from letting the gunner "accidentally" shoot Snowl's ship down afterward. Oh, and Lord Voraz of the Galactic Bank offers Jonnie a job making teleportation consoles, which he turns down and again heroically restrains from violence.

So in conclusion, nothing much happens, which I guess it the point, so Jonnie gets to angst about inaction being harder to handle than battles and stuff.

Next chapter, the non-awaited courtroom scene.

Back to Part Twenty-Eight, Chapter Six

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 6 - Do Not Store Coal in Doorways

After wrapping up his chat with the Selachee, Jonnie bursts into the operations center and shakes awake Tinny the Buddhist radio operator, who is near exhaustion after working for days without sleep. Jonnie is trying to reach MacAdam and the Earth Planetary Bank in Luxemborg, but Stormalong tells him how everyone there is over in Russia trying to get into the missile base.

The Scot explains that the Russians had been gathering "some black stuff, inflammable," from a nearby mine for the winter, which Jonnie recognizes as coal. So there's walls of flames blocking the entrances to the Russian base, and the Luxemborg base has flown water-filled tankers to do some firefighting, leaving them with nobody at the radio and no pilots.

There's the usual "Jonnie wants to do it, and the supporting characters have to talk him out of it because he's too important to risk" dialogue, and Stormalong ultimately ends up going to retrieve MacAdam to handle Earth's debt.

"A debt?" said Stormalong.

"Yes, a debt. And if we don't pay or handle it, we've lost this whole war! Even if we win it!"

Remember in Star Wars when, after the Death Star got blown up and there was that victory celebration, we got to watch the heroes of the Rebel Alliance come up with a payment plan for their starfighters and supplies? Or when Indiana Jones haggled over life insurance after retrieving the Ark of the Covenant? Or when Sarah Conner had a tense phone conversation from her hospital bed to discuss a missed interest payment at the end of The Terminator?

No? That's because it isn't a very good way to end a story, especially after a war sequence or two (no matter how unimpressive).

This book is basically over. Earth was liberated hundreds and hundreds of pages ago, no matter how long Hubbard tried to draw it out. We've had the "find the hidden Psychlo outpost" plot, the "takeover of the world government" plot, and the "unlock secrets of teleportation" plot. And after all that, L. Ron's grand finale is another "scramble to come up with an alien's money" plot.

This is why Battlefield Earth was printed as one thick brick of a book rather than a series - because what is the market for a novel revolving around planetary debt?

Back to Part Twenty-Eight, Chapter Five

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 5 - Strictly Business

Jonnie finally cuts to the chase and asks why the Selachee are here. Dries explains that the sixteenth universe, which is to say our universe, was the last to be discovered around twenty millennia ago, and hasn't been fully mapped yet.

Take a moment to laugh at the idea of completely mapping one universe, let alone over a dozen.

Anyway, after the Psychlo government's surveyors found one of NASA's probes and followed it back to Earth, the aliens claimed its title based on their right of discovery, sold the rights to Intergalactic Mining, who took out a loan from the Galactic Bank to pay for it, as well as a second mortgage to cover military expenses for the invasion.

Jonnie is visibly upset upon learning that the Gray Men financed the gas drones, and Lord Voraz assures him that "It is just business. The bank tends to banking and the customers tend to their own affairs. It does not mean the bank was ever hostile to you. Actually we are not hostile now. This is all just routine. Ordinary banking business."

I guess this fits with the Brigantes' backstory of a military coup being financed by international businesses. Bankers, psychologists, doctors, politicians, journalists... is there any profession Hubbard approves of? He seems to like soldiers, at least. Probably because he was one for a bit, at least until that whole "unauthorized live fire exercise in Mexican waters" thing.

Anyway, the Selachee insist that the mortgage on Earth still stands despite the war and the change in planetary ownership, so the only question is who will be paying it. That's why they called the conference and the ceasefire - it looks like the humans are holding on for the moment, so the Grays are going to serve a Notice Of Delinquency to the world government. If they can't pay, then Earth gets auctioned off and its population either exterminated or sold as slaves.

Jonnie suggests that any aliens trying to take Earth will find it difficult, but Dries the regional manager assures him that the forces the humans have held off are "just a buzzing of insects" compared to a proper invasion, and that there are too few humans using too poor quality of weapons to survive. He has completely forgotten about Earth's ability to teleport planet-destroying superbombs to anywhere in the universe, it would seem.

So the world government has a week to come up with 40,960,217,605,216 credits to cover Earth's debt, though the Grays are willing to accept a down payment of five trillion and come up with a payment plan. Earth's current funds stand at just over two billion. And that's our final obstacle before the story's over - making a bank payment.

Strangely enough, the plot summary on the book jacket only mentions the struggle against "the invincible might of the alien Psychlo empire," not humanity's struggle to pay the bills. Wonder why.

Shortly after posting my summary of the last chapter, I realized that a statement I made about Psychlos not using birth control wasn't quite correct. But that'll be explained later.

Back to Chapter Four

Monday, November 8, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 4 - Introducing the Selachee, and Further Psychlo History

So now we're formally introduced to The Gray Men, henceforth known by their species name, the Selachee. In an amazing coincidence, the superorder that terrestrial sharks are classified under is called Selachimorpha.

Anyway, these loan sharks are native to "the only three habitable worlds of the Gredides System," which I guess means that they evolved simultaneously on three separate planets? All predominantly water worlds, of course. And the entire species has devoted itself to banking, in much the same way the Tolneps are dedicated slavers, and the Psychlos are mining enthusiasts. Because only humans are capable of producing a multifaceted, nuanced society instead of a species-wide stereotype.

His Excellency Dries - Jonnie is suddenly on a first-name basis with him - explains that "We're ideal bankers. We can eat anything, drink anything, breathe almost any atmosphere, live on almost any gravity." This is pretty damn ludicrous, but par the course for this book. "By tribal mores, we worship total honesty and the righteousness of obligation." I'm not sure what to say to that.

The Selachee have been a space-faring race for nearly five hundred thousand years, but the major event in their history was meeting the Psychlos over three hundred thousand years ago. Back then the Psychlos weren't homicidal morons, and had no interest in the Selachee's worlds since they were mostly water and therefore too much trouble to mine (god forbid the Psychlos come up with some sort of autonomous, deep-water mining robot). Instead the shark-men traded their computer technology for Psychlo metals, and became the big dumb aliens' financial tutors. The Psychlos were in financial ruin, you see, plagued with overpopulation and economic depressions and unemployment, until the Selachees revealed that they could sell the metal they were accumulating, leading the Psychlos to prosperity.

So yes, the species that invented teleportation across universes never figured out birth control and didn't think to sell off what they were obsessively mining. Every time we learn more about these guys they manage to get even dumber.

Dries gives us more information about Psychlo history: their species underwent a great change some two hundred millennia ago, when the Boxnards of "Universe Six" invented teleportation of their own and militarized it. The Psychlos, in just under four (Earth?) years, conquered the seven worlds of the Boxnards' system, and then any other races in close contact with them just to be on the safe side. There was economic ruin, then the Psychlos wiped out over half their own population in a bout of in-fighting, and emerged the sadistic, artless race that we know and tolerate.

Jonnie deduces that this is when the Psychlos started implanting those mind-control capsules to protect the secret of teleportation. I'm still awestruck that in two hundred thousand years he's the first to make this discovery.

This teleportation war left the Psychlos destitute, so they begged the Selachee for help and struck a deal - the Galactic Bank would handle all the Psychlos economic and diplomatic functions, and the Psychlos would guarantee the Selachee's safety.

Jonnie realizes that he is now dealing with the Psychlos' overlords, and senses a hidden danger behind their words. He casually mentions the issues of teleportation or conference fees, but the Selachee are disinterested. The chapter suddenly ends before their true motives are made clear.

Though this section is mostly Dries talking, Lord Voraz's contributes with lots of interruptions where he supplies a name or precise date in the middle of Dries' infodump.

Back to Chapter Three

Friday, November 5, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 3 - Feeding Frenzy

Jonnie and the two Small Gray Men sit down for a fancy Chinese dinner, complete with paper lanterns, paintings, "some very subdued but kind of squeaky music," and a golden brocade tunic for Jonnie to wear. Half a page is devoted to the courses served, which I'll skip - basically anything you'd see on a take-out menu at the average Chinese eatery. Sucks to be those aliens with specialized diets, I guess.

The Grays manage to tear through a banquet meant for thirty people, making Jonnie wonder about their ancestry. The Gray Men's rough, hairless skin, gill-like ears (what), sharply upturned noses, dull eyes, and double rows of teeth lead Jonnie to conclude that they're descended from sharks.

So yes, these beings from another planet are the end result of an evolutionary process that created lifeforms indistinguishable from Earth's. Given that every species in Hubbard's 'verse is man-shaped and that even the separate universes are functionally identical, this comes as no surprise.

After eating everything, the Grays finally start talking. They deride the Psychlo equipment the humans are forced to use, revealing that the suicidally idiotic Psychlos preferred to blow their money on "half a dozen new females or a ton or two of kerbango," then purchase discount, inferior base defenses.

And those chuckleheads were still the dominant power in the galaxies. What's the other aliens' excuse?

The Grays mention that a quality defensive weapon costs over 120,000 credits, while the AA guns the humans have were only five thousand credits a piece. Jonnie casually asks how much it would cost to properly defend Earth, and the aliens put their heads together before coming up with five hundred billion credits for parts alone.

He asks how they know this, if they're arms traders or something, and only then do the Grays bother to introduce themselves: His Excellency Dries Gloton, branch manager, and Lord Voraz, "Central Director, Chief Executive Officer and Overlord of the Galactic Bank." It is the financial power and prestige of the Galactic Bank that is keeping the conference-going aliens polite, out of fear that the Grays will call in their debts and destroy entire worlds' economies so that "their whole planet could be sold right out from under them."

So those are our new antagonists: bankers. Bankers who give loans, and who are descended from sharks. Loan sharks.

Ha. Ha.

Back to Chapter Two

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 2 - Planning a Future Conversation

Jonnie's mountaineering huntsman instincts light up, and he spins around to see two of the Small Gray Men in the room with them. Well, his instincts had been warning him for fifteen seconds before he actually looked over his shoulder, so maybe "spun about" is the wrong way to put it.

The Grays explain that they knew about Psychlo's fate weeks after the bombs went off, and that there are no Psychlos left anywhere - they big morons stored all their breathe-gas next to the transshipment rigs, and built their quarters next door so they wouldn't have to walk far. The Grays once again confirm that the Psychlo empire lacks the infrastructure and communications network to function, and that the other Psychlo planets only learned something happened to their homeworld when they tried to teleport there.

So the Psychlo executives are gone (apparently that mining company is interchangeable with the Psychlo civilization), no Psychlo engineers have built a new teleportation console, and the aliens' breathe-gas supplies would have run out six months ago. Presumably the only reason the Earth-bound Psychlos' supplies have lasted this long is because of all the aliens Jonnie killed.

Psychlo was the only planet known to produce breathe-gas (in sixteen universes), but the Grays reveal there is another that was stricken from the Psychlos' records: Fobia, a... huh. Phobia. Hubbard's paranoia strikes again. Anyway, Fobia is the only other planet in the Psychlos' home system, a world so distant that "you can't even see it from the home planet with an unaided eye." How impressive. Fobia is a cold world with frozen lakes of liquid breathe-gas, and a little dome where the Psychlos exiled King Hak 261,000 years ago, before getting scared and assassinating him anyway. And no, don't expect an explanation about who King Hak was, why he was exiled, and what form of government the Psychlos had before Jonnie asploded them.

The Grey Men mention the humans' teleportation console, and suggest that they have "A talk about having a serious talk." Jonnie suggests that the the Grays join him for dinner in half an hour, and the aliens assure him that they can eat anything.

Now maybe he'd find out the threat that these two posed. He wasn't imagining it. These two were dangerous!

During the Grays' exposition, there's lots of little moments where the senior alien subtly hushes the junior Gray for saying too much. And once again, Jonnie doesn't ask them their names. There's just "the original one" and "the newest one."

Back to Chapter One

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Part 28, Chapter 1 - Jonnie Accidentally the Psychlo Empire

Psychlo, an empire that sprawls across two hundred thousand worlds and sixteen universes, a civilization 302,000 years old, has had no reaction to the uprising on Earth. Unable to accept the possibility that such a vast empire might simply not care about one little mining planet, or that the Psychlos didn't notice the planet-buster bombs Jonnie tried to teleport to their homeworld, Jonnie and Angus work to discover what happened last year.

That night they get their gyrocage and camera ready to inspect other Psychlo minesites. The rig brings back images of a vast hole and a leaning transshipment pole at the base on planet Loozite, while Mercogran in the "fifth universe" shows signs of an avalanche, and a towering metropolis on Brelloton has been toppled "like dominos." That last one was an inhabited world whose natives were ruled by a Psychlo "regency," but there's no sign of life in the city the Psychlos built their teleportation platform in. Neither Jonnie or Angus shows any interest in their fellow subjugated lifeforms.

So the humans have what is an admittedly clever idea, albeit a very implausible one. Light travels at "approximately 5,869,713,600,000 miles a year" (my attempts at math come out a 5,8745,891,520,000, while Answers.com gives 5,865,696,000,000 - but hey, it's not like this is rocket science). So if you park a camera rig that far away from Psychlo, and set the camera to six trillion times magnification (!), you can effectively look a year into the past. So Jonnie and Angus, two primitive screwheads who only became aware of physics and such a year or two ago, calculate where to teleport their camera to avoid interfering planets and what angle to aim it at and so forth.

After fifteen minutes in space the camera rig comes back, and Angus has to warn Jonnie to let it warm up before handling it, since space is cold. Then they hurry off to look at the pictures, and astonishingly there is no chapter break before they see the results.

There was the Imperial City of Psychlo. Circular train rails, streets down from its cliffs like conveyor belts. They even carried the idea of mining into their city design.

Why? Do they only situate cities next to excavation sites, instead of things like food or water? Or did these morons build mines before they built cities? Why is this civilization so obsessed with digging?

Huge, bustling Psychlo! The center of power of the universes. The hub of the great, cruel claw that raked the bones from planets and peoples everywhere. There was the three-hundred-two-thousand-year-old monster itself, spread out in its sadistic and ugly might!

Are the buildings tall? Angular? What color are they? Are there monuments? Parkland? Great open-air markets? What does the city look like besides "sadistic and ugly" and "inexplicably designed like a mine?"

Neither Jonnie or Angus had ever seen a live city of that size before. A hundred million population? A billion? Not the planet, just the city above the lower plain. Look at the trams. Rails that ran in circular spirals. Cars that looked for all the world like mine cars but full of people. Mobs in the streets. Mobs! Not riots. Just Psychlos. You ever see so many beings? Even in such a tiny size one could see mobs!

So the city's crowded and uses public transportation. Thanks for the vivid description, Hubbard.

Then it happens. There's a puff on the transshipment platform that makes the workers flinch and a forcefield come up. A minute later the coffins' "planet buster" nukes and dirty mines go off. The fiery explosions of the first, second, third, and forth bombs are held, but by that last one nearby trucks are being knocked around and the glass in the surrounding buildings shatters from an earthquake.

The fifth bomb went off!

And seen in slow motion, first narrowly, then more broadly, the entire scene went into a churning, boiling mass of atomic fire.

No, something more! Molten, flaming fire

Good Lord.

No, something more! Molten, flaming fire was erupting in spots all over the plain.

They widened the angle quickly.

The whole Imperial City of Psychlo was sinking and all about it sprayed up rolling oceans of molten fire.

The circular trams, the mobs, the buildings, and even the towering cliffs were drowning in a tumult of liquid, yellow green fire.

They hastily widened the view.

And they saw the entire planet of Psychlo turn into a radioactive sun!

The recording ended. They sat limp.

"My God," said Angus.

I like how they're widening the view of a recording. As in, the camera zoomed in to show the mobs in the streets, then zoomed out to take in the whole planet. Fifteen minutes ago, when it was actually filming. Angus' controls go back in time.

Also, suns do not work that way. Suns are supermassive fusion-powered hydrogen furnaces. You can't just set off a nuke and suddenly make one out of an ordinary planet.

Jonnie is actually feeling sick from guilt for being personally responsible for the annihilation of a planet, to say nothing of xenocide. He had only intended to blow up the transshipment platform, not the whole planet (then why did you use ten planet-buster bombs?!). Despite uncharacteristic sympathy for other life forms, Jonnie explains what he and Angus just watched happen.

The first little puff on the platform was the tags to the bomb fuses that Jonnie dropped, which were irradiated enough to spark a little breathe-gas reaction and engage the emergency force fields. Those shields forced the bomb blasts down into the tunnels and mine shafts in Psychlo's crust, right into the planet core, so that fifth nuke stimulated a fusion reaction in Psychlo's core, turning the planet into a sun in a violation of physics.

Angus catches on, and posits that when all those other Psychlo bases linked to Psychlo during their annual transshipment firings, they got blasted by fusion fire. This pretty much confirms that the Psychlos have no communications network, since none of these other bases noticed that their capital planet blew up, or that their neighboring minesites suddenly blew up.

This also means that Terl tried to teleport himself into a sun, which makes Jonnie feel sorry for him.

That's what it took to yank Angus out of it. "Poor Terl! After all the rotten things the demon did? Jonnie, I sometimes wonder about you. You can be cool as ice and then all of a sudden you come out with something like 'poor Terl'!"

"It would be an awful way to die," said Jonnie.

Angus straightened up. "Well!" he said, just like he had popped up out of a dive in the lake. "Psychlo is gone! The empire is gone! And that's one thing we don't have to worry about anymore! Good riddance!"

So that's that. Billions and trillions of lives ended in a fiery cataclysm, creatures who were at best simple workers like Char or Zzt or the Chamco Bros. who worked during the day and played ring toss while getting hammered at night, or who were at worst driven to acts of violence by mind-controlling implants. A civilization destroyed because one company convinced its government to sanction an attack on Jonnie's planet a thousand years ago. Countless subjugated Psychlo females slain, untold innocent Psychlo infants annihilated, and who knows how many "client species" caught as collateral damage.

And after that brief "wow, did I do that?" moment and some unexpected remorse for his nemesis, Jonnie carries on with a clear conscience, happy to have this niggling detail cleared up.

Well, let's be fair - there's over a hundred pages left in the book. He might feel something later. We'll have to see.

Next time, The Gray Men return! Well, not really, since they haven't gone anywhere. But the rest of the book deals with them, and the exciting matter of planetary finance. So strap in for blastoff!

Back to Part Twenty-Seven, Chapter Ten

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 10 - The Punchline

So there's a moment of calm as the Scots rush off to Edinburgh, and the aliens hit their apartments for a break, leaving Jonnie to wander into the ops center. He's got a lot of concerns to keep track of - Schleim's trial, how long the ceasefire will last, Edinburgh, Russia - but he remembers that book he read's advice to take things one at a time... wait, what book? I don't remember a book. When'd Jonnie get a book?

Eh, I'm not going back to look for it.

There is one question Jonnie can get an answer to, at least, and he tells Angus to get ready to teleport a camera to check on Psychlo and see if those aliens are ever going to get around to that counterattack. I'm still not sure how they could launch a counter-invasion, if Psychlo is stuck on a strict teleportation schedule that leaves it with only a few hours each year to link to Earth, and they didn't exactly try to send anything through during the most recent scheduled firing, but that's all a moot point, as we'll see next chapter.

Jonnie goes to the hospital on his way to his room, gets some sulfa powder and a shot of B Complex, is told he's perfectly fine thanks to his impressive physique and willpower-fueled healing factor, and lifts the spirits of the wounded Scots left behind with but a sentence because Jonnie is a Leader of Men. Then he meets Chief Chong-won who complains that a feast of Chinese cooking for the alien diplomats is going uneaten, and then Mr. Tsung shows up to compliment Jonnie on being a fast pupil. Turns out someone recorded the antics in the conference room for a "Best of Jonnie Goodboy Tyler" DVD... this is not an exciting chapter.

Tsung humbly requests Jonnie's "chop" (signature) to approve his family's un-exiling and reinstatement as chamberlains to the world government, plus a promotion to mandarin for Tsung's relatives. Jonnie points out that he doesn't actually belong to the world government, but Tsung says via translator "you don't know what you are." I'm inferring that Jonnie's performance as a pompous twit has made him a fully-qualified emperor in Tsung's eyes, and now wish to inflict violence upon Tsung for being a disgrace to human dignity.

Jonnie signs the papers, and finally reveals what Tsung told him back in Part 26, Chapter 6 that gave Jonnie so many ideas.

"Oh yes," said Jonnie as he left. "One more thing. Tell him how much I enjoyed that tale about the dragon who ate the moon."

So it took a Chinese folktale to remind Jonnie that he had a planet-destroying bomb?

Next chapter, the fate of Psychlo revealed!

Back to Part Twenty-Seven, Chapter Nine

Monday, November 1, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 9 - Yes, He Can Blow Up Worlds AND Fly a Plane

Last time on Battlefield Spork, Jonnie earned a ceasefire after threatening to unleash unimaginable devastation on the free peoples of the universe.

This chapter, not nearly as much happens. While Schleim is being taken into custody, Sir Robert and a bunch of Scottish doctors and engineers rush off to Edinburgh to dig their kin out of collapsed bunkers and tunnels. Uncharacteristic thoughts of Chrissie and Pattie are enough to make Jonnie feel "like a cold hand had gripped his heart," but he's urged to stay and manage the conference.

Lord Dom, he of the "big, liquidy face," warns that redeploying forces during a truce could be seen as suspicious, but Jonnie has "had just about enough of being Chinko polite" - ah, that easygoing, natural racism - and explains that the Scots are all noncombatants, and that it wouldn't be wise to try to stop them.

After that "Lord" Jonnie hits the operations center and learns that the Singapore garrison is being redeployed to check on Russia, and Ker is being left in charge of the Psychlo prisoners at the Victoria base while the humans there go to Scotland. Lord Dom wanders in and points out that with most of the Scots gone, there are now only Jonnie and Stormalong to provide air cover for the conference (don't they still have the not-a-force-field up?). Stormalong jokes "Why, that's twice as many as there used to be! Not long ago, there was just him!"

Lord Dom blinked. He stared at Jonnie. The young man didn't look worried at all.

Lord Dom went off and told his colleagues about this. They discussed it considerably among themselves.

They decided they had better keep a careful eye on Jonnie.

The bastard just blew up a moon and NOW you're keeping an eye on him?!

Next chapter, an old mystery solved.

I just had another thought: the Tolneps are slavers, yes? So after hundreds of thousands of years of galactic history and dozens of interstellar civilizations, nobody has come up with an automated alternative to slave labor. It's more cost-effective to launch planetary invasions and ferry prisoners countless lightyears to work in Tolnep's chocolate mines or whatever than it is to build a robotic arm holding a pick.

This universe sucks.

Back to Chapter Eight