Heller and his academic stunt double are lounging at their "command post" in the school library. Bang-Bang is, as I said, reading a comic book, and getting so worked over it that he's miming firing a handgun with his fingers, whispering "bang-bang!"
Half a book since we met him and we just now got a hint as to where his name came from. (edit from the future: and a misleading hint at that)
Heller meanwhile is reading old-timey accounts from the Age of Exploration, concluding that "anybody who tries to land around here gets the Hells attacked out of him by the natives." Might be enough to give any would-be alien invaders second thoughts, if it weren't for, you know, the hugely disparate technology levels and the super-advanced planet-krumping guns and super-stealth coatings and all that. Though Heller seems more interested in accounts of yellow minerals.
His reading done, Heller announces that he's undertaking some "reconnaissance" and wanders around campus until he finds a student hanging up a poster for a "UFO PROTEST MEETING." The student explains what UFOs are and how his group isn't protesting the aliens, but how the government keeps the sightings of those aliens secret. And with that I lean back and scratch my head. That was almost... well, satirical. Or certainly more satirical than what we've seen so far. Could The Enemy Within be where Mission Earth really starts to take off? One of the blurbs inside the cover claimed that the third volume outdoes the first two. Maybe things are looking up?
After assuring his fellow student that he plans to attend the UFO protest march in a few weeks' time, and confirming that his Nature Appreciation course is getting a new professor, Heller takes a train ride downtown to the Geological Survey office to ask about gold mines.
Twenty pages into The Enemy Within and I already want to stop reading. If a gas drone or teleporter platform shows up I may need some antidepressants.
Heller ends up spending three sodding hours with "Cap" Duggan, an old surveyor who spins tales of the Seven Cities of Cibola and various gold rushes. Gris complains that they talked about "absolutely nothing" yet fails to get off his ass and find something better to do with his time than watch an enemy waste his. At the end of it Heller has gotten excited about a Goldmine Creek on the coast of Connecticut and bought twenty autographed copies of Duggan's guide on colonial-era mines and mineralogy.
Oh, and on his way back to campus he stops by a flower shop to arrange for dear Miss Simmons to get a daily bouquet as she recovers in the hospital. This humanizing gesture mainly serves to make me wonder when the hell this is taking place and how much time has passed since she was attacked at the end of the last book. The transition between The Invaders Plan and Black Genesis was instantaneous, but here we've abruptly gone from Heller having a minor breakdown over the wicked atheists of Earth to him loafing with his buddy Bang-Bang.
One more thing happens this chapter - Gris returns to his room to find a note on his pillow.
SOLTAN GRIS: I WAS TOLD TO REMIND YOU FROM TIME TO TIME THAT SOMEBODY UNKNOWN TO YOU IS AROUND WITH ORDERS TO FINISH YOU OFF IF YOU MESS UP. HISST LEFT THE CHOICE UP TO THAT PERSON. A KNIFE? A GUN? AN AUTO ACCIDENT?
Aliens use the phrase "auto accident?" When Heller had to have a car explained to him? What?
MAYBE SOME POISON IN THE FOOD? YOU HAVEN'T GOT A CHOICE. EXCEPT NOT TO MESS UP. SO, GRIS, DON'T MESS UP.
The note is "signed" with a drawing of a dagger, which would have made an effective statement on its own without the preceding nonsense. Am I already hallucinating, or did this happen last book? Didn't Gris find that envelop in his pocket at the start of Black Genesis? Didn't he freak out about the assassin out to get him, and then meet the two Apparatus "assassins?"
And since he did absolutely nothing those times, why should we expect him to do something now?
Back to Part Nineteen, Chapter Six