Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Part Twenty-One, Chapter Four - Space Age Blackface Technology

So after the bombshell revelation that Heller has some sort of Master Plan unfolding, Gris... spends a night failing to get any sleep.  And then "chanced" to look at the HellerVision the next morning to introduce this chapter.  Rather than obsessively watching his enemy's every move for some clue as to what he's up to.  Well, I guess that's better than stressing out over things.

Heller is driving out of New York, even though legally he isn't eighteen yet.  So maybe that's the purpose of Heller's age being misconstrued, to show that he's a rebel that doesn't play by the rules?  He's brave enough to risk being pulled over by a traffic cop?

The narrative is absolutely thrilling, by the way.

Now he was paying a toll.  He left the bridge behind him.  Now he was ignoring Bronx signs.  He was spotting U.S. 278.  Throg's Neck?  Was he going to Throg's Neck?  No.  Now he was on Hutchinson River Parkway.  White Plains?  Was he going to White Plains?  No, he passed that turnoff.  Boston?  Ah, New Brunswick, Canada!  He must be running away to flee the country.

I guess Hubbard was expecting readers to pop out an atlas, carefully reread the chapter and follow Heller's course with their finger, and then nod slowly to themselves, awed that one of the greatest authors of their generation plotted out a character's commute in such painstaking detail.

Gris rushes off to contact Raht and Terb, warning them that their quarry is about to get out of range of the signal relayer.  At this point he realizes that he forgot to give them their receiver-decoder.  They're out of contact.

And here I thought that Gris was an idiot who consciously decided not to give his men a receiver.  But instead it turns out he's so mind-shatteringly stupid that he completely forgot about giving his men the device whose absence forced him to spend an entire book as a helpless bystander.

Book's done, series over.  There is no way the reader can be expected to believe this guy has any hope of stopping the amazing Jettero Heller.

Heller keeps driving, out of New York State.  He admires the beaches of Connecticut, remarking that "They haven't completely wrecked you yet, old planet," adding "But they're working on it pretty hard" after spotting an oil slick.  He follows his survey map down some country roads to a near-abandoned service station and talks to the blind old woman who owns it about renting the place.  She has the Disability Superpower that allows her to tell when Heller finishes his coffee, or threaten trespassers with her shotgun.

Once the deal is struck, Heller drives into the station and shines a special floodlight on his car, turning the old cab from Garfield orange to pitch black.  Gris has a conniption - obviously Heller had some Voltarian substances mixed in with the vehicle's paint, special pigments that shift their "refraction frequency" when lights shine on them.

Yes, of course a combat engineer would bring enough of the stuff to coat a car during an espionage mission to another planet.  Yes, of course the paranoid and meddling Apparatus would fail to notice or react to the stuff in Heller's luggage.

It gets better - once Heller has turned his garish cab into a somber roadster, he gets out another vial of Magic Color Stuff and spread it over his hands, face and hair.  A little more lightwork and he's suddenly a black man.  Well, a blue-eyed Manco with Caucasian features but inexplicably chocolate-colored skin, anyway.

He drives to a small town and walks into a real estate agency, introducing himself as... actually, he doesn't.  He's set up an appointment, somehow, and though his "English no not native tongue" Blackface!Heller inquires about a property on Goldmine Creek.  The realtor explains that the place used to be a bootlegger's camp until a reservoir made the creek dry up too much for boats to travel on.  Though the place may be haunted due to some bodies, y'know.

Heller gets the information and promises a commission if he buys it, before moving on to the next chapter.  Is the bootleggers' roadhouse haunted?  Would ghosts make this story better or worse?  Would Heller be dismissive of such superstition, or has he heard stories of Manco Wood Ghosts?  Find out next time on the next exciti... on the next episode of Mission Spork.

Back to Chapter Three

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