After helping put down a mutiny, Gris completely forgets about having his troops drill in case of attack and goes back to the old standby of watching HellerVision. For over two weeks straight. Gris has apparently decided that dealing with people is hard, so he'll just stay in his room and vicariously live the life of the book's hero, while unsuccessfully trying to piece together Heller's master plan.
Heller continues to take college courses via tape recorder, and spends both his days and nights studying, even when he's sitting in the Gracious Palms' lobby. Gris notices that Heller's making friends among the UN diplomats, and sometimes the working girls will drop by and say cryptic things like "I got South Africa to say yes." And this completely confuses Gris, who is mostly trying to get a good look at the nude model being painted in Heller's peripheral vision.
In a brief aside, Gris mentions his beloved Utanc still isn't speaking with him, but takes daily drives in that car Gris got her. Also that little victim of child abuse has made a recovery, but neither of Utanc's little underage helpers leaves her bungalow. So let's try to guess how many chapters this potential plot point will circle in a holding pattern until Hubbard tries to do something meaningful with it.
Heller also spends a few days taking a cab or subway to a random spot in New York, only for Bang-Bang to drive up moments later and report "nothing." Gris assumes that they're unsuccessfully practicing how to tail someone, and doesn't put much more thought into it once Heller stops. "Maybe he got tired of walking and riding. Maybe he was just seeing New York. Who could follow his insane actions?"
This is the veteran agent Lombar Hisst chose to handle Mission Earth, which will make or break the Apparatus' planned coup of the mighty Voltarian empire.
Heller then visits that garage where he's getting the Cadillac supercharged. The owner tries to get Heller to come with him to Mass, but Heller declines with a "How do you know my soul hasn't already been saved?" If you're expecting some mention of Voltar Jesus or just what in the wood hells these aliens actually believe in, you're obviously unfamiliar with Mission Earth.
Instead Heller takes the old Caddy engine and puts it on a trailer to take to a rented garage. It takes a page, but Heller gets the engine to run, pollution and all, then manages to remove the carburetor and, with the help of a "huge bag of tools and whatever," connect the engine to huge tanks of oxygen and hydrogen that he evidently picked up while shopping one afternoon. He adjusts things until the engine is running but emitting nothing, and is so pleased he whistles while he walks home that night.
Or in other words, I think Heller just rigged a hydrogen fuel cell engine, but somehow skipped the "fuel cell" part. It's really that simple. All this time we were messing around with cathodes and anodes, but you can just take a gasoline-burning engine and plug oxygen and hydrogen tanks into it, and bam! Clean energy.
And it goes without saying that Gris, who read Heller's mission report mentioning his plans to fix this backwards planet's energy problems, who knows that Mission Earth is all about cutting back on pollution, is utterly mystified by this turn of events. "You can always count on Fleet people to play with machinery!"
Especially when that's what they were assigned to do.
Back to Chapter One