Oh, wait. My bad. We don't quite have a ship yet.
Soltan Gris is understandably reluctant to sign for a mission vessel with notoriously - even legendarily - wonky engines, and takes a deep breath to voice his one-word objection. But Heller cuts him off, commenting that "you know and I know that we must not put secrets of the Apparatus before unauthorized personnel."
I didn't mention it last chapter, but Heller has shown unusual discretion in what he's told his Fleet buddies during all this. When asked why he's in the company of Apparatus "drunks," Heller states how he's "in disguise" rather than a kidnapping victim, and when their guide inquired what they needed a ship for, Heller simply called their mission "a peculiar one." Why, it's almost as if he's not quite as espionage-stupid as Gris and the others think he is, as though his affably honest persona was a clever ruse!
So here he is now, all but blackmailing Gris in order to get his ship. Gris is understandably shocked and terrified that Heller could reveal the bafflingly-still-secret existence of Spiteos. So he holds his tongue, inwardly vowing revenge.
Then there's a moment of hope when Commander Crup, the old officer running the Fleet Reserve, flat-out refuses to sign over such a dangerous ship, citing how the engines will build up too much energy and blow up. But Heller smugly posits that he may have figured out a way to avoid a critical build-up, and promises to do extensive remodeling - which Gris mentally groans could take months. And now we can actually emphasize with Soltan Gris, at least over his desire to get on with the bloody mission already instead of wasting even more time on Voltar.
So Crup is almost ready to hand over the keys to Tug One, but remembers that his Fleet superiors would kill them if he just signed over a ship to the "drunks." But then he comes up with a way around this by citing the Fleet's practice of selling disarmed surplus ships to civilian companies - which will somehow apply to Voltar's intelligence division - and even digs up a discount due to the whole "engines may explode" thing.
A fully miserable Gris puts his "identoplate" seal against the papers for Tug One's change in ownership, and Heller and a buddy run off to start doing engineer stuff. And so ends the four-and-a-bit pages that do nothing but draw this story out even longer.
Now I know why that other guy summarized the Mission Earth series book by book, rather than chapter by chapter. 'cause what can you say about stuff like this? "Veiled threats were made, excuses were found, papers were signed?" Riveting stuff.
Back to Chapter Three