All because this feared secret organization that has its talons sunk deep into the Voltarian government is so mismanaged, unmotivated, and just plain sloppy that it's common for this sort of project to be half-assed and unfinished. Because there's no one else in the entire Apparatus who can ensure that a routine disappearance gets done correctly. Because if the ship isn't disposed of properly, all of the blame and consequences will bypass everyone else in the agency to fall directly on Gris.
With his "needle blastrifle" and game bag, not to mention Heller's gift of sweetbuns and sparklewater, Gris and his driver head out towards the Blike Mountains as part of Gris' "hunting expedition," while the hunter in question scans the sands for signs of a wrecked spaceship. But he finds nothing, and reasons that the vessel must have been sold off to smugglers or something. Well, not quite nothing - he spots a songbird called a "thriller," which he blasts and stuffs in his bag. And then he finds two more birds to kill at the next too-old crash site they find.
Ske the Nameless Driver sarcastically asks if they're going hunting or looking for wrecks, and Gris realizes that they're doing the former. So they go deeper into the mountains, a rough and rocky country of gorges and woodland, divided up amongst numerous lords for their private hunting preserves. But Ske mentions he thinks they're being followed, so by dusk the two of them have landed their transport in an isolated, out-of-sight little... plateau. And then they make a campfire to roast some of those innocent songbirds - not game birds - Gris has blown away.
Shockingly enough, despite these precautions someone starts shooting at them! And they're not joking around either, they're using a "fangun," which "puts out electric fire in a forty-degree front arc" and is potent enough to shear the tops off the rocks Gris and Ske take shelter behind. This is after Ske pops up to yell "Hey! This is just us!" in case it's all a misunderstanding.
I like Ske. He's a fool, but an honest one - his happy-go-lucky stupidity is just part of his character, rather than something that suddenly strikes to allow Hubbard's insipid story to function.
Anyway, Gris gets an idea as he huddles there near the sheer cliffs ringing the plateau, and fakes a "dwindling scream" even as he and Ske dive into a nearby cave. They hide there until their unseen attacker assumes they've fallen to their deaths and wanders off, but not before blowing up their airbus. Ske is rather upset to find that they've been stranded in the wilderness, but Gris just laughs and laughs and laugh - their attackers robbed them of counterfeit money, so if they try to spend it they're screwed. Plus:
Gone was Tug One. Gone was Heller. Far away was the Countess Krak. If found, I could explain to Lombar we were looking for the patrol craft he had ordered crashed and burned.
I was looking ahead to happy years in this wilderness full of game. All my problems were solved.
So there you have it - even Gris is fed up with this story, has concluded that the plot is going nowhere, and plans on becoming a mountain man rather than play any more part in The Invaders Plan. Now I'm not a professional writer, but I have a feeling that if your characters are ready to walk off the set, so to speak, you may want to consider some rewrites. Or just scrap your story and start over.
Back to Chapter Three