Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Part Eighteen, Chapter Two - Valentine's Day Massacre

Upon hearing that the probably-Jewish stock-savvy dropout is being targeted by the IRS, Heller's off like a "quarter horse," racing up Broadway as fast as he can run.  Gris takes the time to note that he's probably "only" doing twenty miles per hour, even though Earth's gravity makes everything weigh a sixth less than Heller's used to.  But despite watching Heller investigate the stock market and look up this Epstein guy specifically because he knows the markets, Gris is having trouble deducing Heller's motives - he thinks that Heller might be antagonistic towards this anarchist, or is trying to seek asylum with the American government.

Hubbard, we didn't really need any more evidence that Gris is an incompetent idiot.  You've made that quite clear, thanks.

Heller arrives at an apartment building that "looked like it had been an artillery target."  Gris explains that tax rates are high, so the tenants are destructive and wreck their own homes, and rates go up further if the owners try to renovate it only for the tenants to trash things all over again, so it's much more sensible to let things fall into ruin.  Having never lived in the inner city, I'll just take this moronic alien's word for it.

There's also a number of government cars (double) parked outside, so Heller dodges the debris and slips inside.  He finds a government agent standing guard... Gris, how can you tell?  License plates for the cars, probably, but how did you know that a guy standing in a hallway picking his teeth worked for the gub'ment?

Heller asks the obvious government agent about Epstein, to be told that the guy's run off to drown himself in the Hudson.  The IRS goon doesn't have a warrant for him yet, but his coworkers will be finished planting evidence in a minute.  When Heller turns to leave he finds two more men with guns on him (the IRS packs heat?), picking-teeth guy says "Sucker," and they lead him into Epstein's trashed apartment for an interrogation.

I'm immediately distracted when an agent demands that Heller call him "Sir" and Heller gets confused, asking if the guy's royalty or something.  Despite coming from a military background in a society with incredible similarities to Earth's, Heller is unfamiliar with using a respectful title for someone who isn't royalty?  I almost want to go through the first book to see if Heller ever called a non-royal "sir," but I don't think it'd be worth the effort.  In a story like this, what good is it to harp on one particular continuity error? 

The IRS guys assure Heller that they run the country, making them what, the third group secretly controlling America?  We've already got the FBI and the Rockecenter cabal.  Oh, and psychologists.  Anyway, the agents think Heller is a friend of Epstein, and want to know where the guy's books are - see, Epstein has some actual copies of IRS manuals, and if they were ever made public, the Service would be ruined!

They comply with the "Miranda Rule" and read Heller his rights, giving him a document so he can agree to testify, swear to, and/or sign whatever and however the IRS commands him.  Heller signs it as J. Edgar Hoover, and not only do the agents not question it, but they quickly fill out a subpoena ordering "Hoover" to show up for Epstein's trial.

The IRS goons wrap things up by planting some "Commie literature" and some heroin, and inform Heller that he'll be questioned thoroughly at his scheduled cross-examination.  Heller, who isn't eager for these Earthlings to learn everything about him, helpfully suggests that there might be some loose floorboards in the corner of the room.  While the agents are all busy, eyes away from their prisoner, Heller takes out his red-and-white candy - you remember, don't you, Heller's peppermint baking extravaganza? - and unwraps a piece, shoving the paper wrapper down the middle and sticking it under the floor.  The agents don't find anything and dismiss him, reminding Heller to show up at 0900.

Heller strolls out of the decrepit apartment, then goes to the agents' cars.  He gets out the four pieces of dynamite he'd strapped to his leg (!) and sticks them on the sedans, then proceeds to powerwalk away.

A gigantic flash whipped at the sky!

A roaring blast of sound struck a sledgehammer blow!

Hubbard, Gris isn't there, remember?  He's watching this on TV.  He can't be feeling the shockwave, no matter how loud a noise it makes on his speakers.
Heller looked back.  As the smoke cleared, I saw that the whole front of the abandoned apartment house was falling into the street in slow motion.  Pieces of the roof were still sailing into the air!  The government cars, showered with rubble, did not explode.  So he wasn't that good with explosives after all.

Pieces of apartment house were falling out of the sky.  Torrents of flame began to leap up.

Let's examine this.

Heller just blew up an "abandoned" apartment building, killing presumably at least ten people, plus any squatters or tenants he hadn't met on the way in because there was no way for him to tell if the building was totally abandoned or not.  He sent debris rocketing up into the air to rain down upon the surrounding terrain, and started a fire that could potentially consume entire city blocks.  And he set up car bombs to be completely certain that his victims were killed, car bombs on a public street in one of the most populous cities on the planet.

All this because ten idiots who worked for the "revenooers" were hoping "J. Edgar Hoover" would show up for questioning later, at a time that conflicted with Heller's scheduled university admission hearing.

As far as I'm concerned, Mission Earth no longer has a hero.  There's Gris, who is stupid and murderous, and then there's Heller, who is stupid and murderous in different ways but also the author's favorite.  And both of them will be with us for eight more books.

God dammit, Hubbard.

Gris finally is able to identify the "candy" he watched Heller make oh so long ago.

I knew what the stuff was now.  It was a binary concussion grenade.  It didn't operate until the wrapper, the needful element, was shoved down into the explosive.  It had activated on a forty-second dissolve.  The Apparatus never used them.  They were too risky to carry!

For once we're in agreement, Gris my boy.  Wrapping the explosive in its own detonator, so that any significant pressure could set it off?  Brilliant.  But speaking of brilliance, Gris... where the hell did Heller get the materials to make these minty-fresh explosives?!  Did you not search his luggage?  How can you expect to... what's the use.  The plot doesn't work if characters have basic reasoning skills, so stupidity reigns.

"What the hell was that?" said an old man near Heller.

"There were ten terrorists in the building," said Heller.

"Oh," said the old man. "Vandals again."

I don't understand.  Why would Heller think "terrorists" is an appropriate alibi for an explosion in New York City during the 80's?  Why would the old man interpret that as vandalism?  Or does Heller really think the IRS is a bunch of terrorists?

Don't worry, folks, as Heller runs to the waterside, he can hear fire engines racing to clean up his mess.  So there shouldn't be too many other people killed in the collateral damage, assuming the NYFD isn't as grossly incompetent as everyone else in this book.

Back to Chapter One

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