The interior of ancient Spiteos is a labyrinth of windowless, black stone. Above ground level it is mainly a deserted hulk but huge with rooms and vaults and tunnelled passageways. The original inhabitants of the planet believed in fortress security--but it had availed them not at all when our forefathers came.
This is the what you guys are missing by reading my chapter summaries instead of the book itself. This is the prose and style of the "master storyteller" L. Ron Hubbard. This is the best he could do after a lifetime spent churning out books and stories for magazines.
Gris and Heller are on their way to Countess Krak's quarters for a scheduled bit of training, but they're not going to make it this chapter. Gris needs to run to the armory and get a dummy blaststick he can swap out with Heller's illicit weapon, while Heller insists that they walk all the way across the fortress so he can get some exercise.
He's doing so in his "hull boots," shoes that can extend magnetized bars from their soles with a click of the heels, to help you walk around while weightless aboard a spacecraft. Heller has left the magnets out as he walks, so he makes an incredible racket as he inspects the primeval fortress' stonework. Heller expresses admiration for the ancients who built it without the benefit of modern tools like disintegrators, and wonders why the ancient Voltar had to wipe the planet's natives out.
This leads to Gris mentally sneering at his partner's soft attitude towards "riffraff and excess baggage" such as conquered indigs, which makes me wonder - does the Apparatus' recruitment pool count as riffraff? Does Hisst plan to purge his own people after gaining power? Not that this would be unusual, given how real-life dictators tend to operate. I'm just trying to apply logic to a half-baked villain, don't mind me.
They reach the armory, and of course the guy running it is all snarling and unhelpful and makes a big deal out of getting a dummy cartridge for Heller's not-gun because the CIA is a bunch of evil criminals who hate each other almost as much as they hate everyone else. And then we're reminded once more that Jettero Heller is a wonderful, talented person. He feels a nearby wall up high near the ceiling and announces that he and Gris must be at surface level now. He can tell because he senses a half-degree difference in the stone's temperature between the bricks at the ceiling and floor.
This bit of "look how awesome my character is" also serves Gris' purposes, though. The agent plays along and copies Heller's gesture, "accidentally" stumbling against the other man and using his Apparatus-trained pickpocketing skills to draw Heller's blaststick from this boot, retrieve the dud power cell from his own sleeve, and load it into Heller's (presumably empty) weapon, all in a "split second."
Since Gris has just displayed a bit of superhuman speed and dexterity that rivals the incredible Jettero Heller, Hubbard puts things right with Heller's next trick. The combat engineer finally retracts the magnets from his boots, gets out a big sheet of paper and a pen, and begins drawing, his hand a blur. Within mere moments he has finished a fully-detailed, "beautifully done" floor plan of Spiteos' upper level, just as an "archeological curiosity" - which he then gives to Gris as a gift for his boss. An awestruck Gris asks how the measurements could possibly be accurate, and Heller explains how all the stomping he's done with his metal booties let him use "echo-sounding" to calculate distance, with a little help from his watch.
Gris has a little freak out as he imagines Heller going and surveying Spiteos' lower levels, what with the secret hangars and storerooms full of supplies for the impending coup and the fifty thousand prisoners and so on. His sweating makes the bandages from his beatings start to peel, but he shoves Heller away before the combat engineer can express selfless concern for his fellow man, and once more reminds him that they have an appointment with the Countess Krak.
And so ends this chapter, yet another reminder that Jettero Heller is smart, resourceful, and utterly incompatible with the Apparatus' amoral methods of subterfuge. I guess the dud blaststick could be considered a minor, minor plot point, but I can't remember how it turns out. I have a feeling Heller's going to get another chance to show us how awesome he is, though.
Back to Chapter One