Gris rushes back onto the former Tug One to sneak a peek at Heller's mail. One letter is a "mushy" love note to the Countess Krak, while the more important one informs the chief astrographer that he's in the "basic setup" phase of the mission, noting that a lot of our planet's problems both environmental and financial stem from our choice of fuel. But he's optimistic, since from a technical standpoint the problem is pretty simple and he's figuring out the political and economic aspects.
Though there is a complicating factor Heller has noticed.
They have a thing called "psychology" which is ridiculous. They even force schoolchildren to learn it. You won't believe this, but they believe matter created life.
I guess the Gideons never dropped a Bible off at the Gracious Palms. And I'm still wondering what the Voltarian alternative is. If Heller's poo-pooing the thought of life spontaneously arising from primordial gelatin, what does he think caused it? I don't know, the author won't tell me. He'll throw around concepts like "Manco devils" or "wood nymphs," but the Voltar we've seen isn't demonstrably more religious than this unfortunate pastiche of America.
This somehow tends to make them immoral and without honor.
Is the author admitting that having atheism turn people into murderous rapists is a bit of a stretch? Or is Heller too dense to come up with a theory explaining it?
I have to be careful dealing with them to keep my own honor clean.
Says the man who has joined an organized crime syndicate, rooms at an illegal whorehouse, assisted in the assassination of government employees, and blew up a building to kill some incompetent investigators. But at least he doesn't push drugs!
The letter ends with another random reference to one of Heller's academy classmates, obviously an alternate way for Heller to prove his identity, and one that goes completely over the head of Soltan Gris. Instead he whips out a copy of the previous letter and quickly overlays it with this one, attempting to find any places where the curiously-spaced words overlap. There aren't any. Gris notices a faint "2" written in the corner of the page, and realizes - dramatic sting - that Heller and Astrographer Roke are using a series of platens!
Which they evidently whipped up during the Mission Earth launch party between speeches and drinks without being noticed by anyone, especially a stoned Gris.
The important thing is, once again Gris is screwed. He won't be able to puzzle out Heller's low-tech encryption, so when the good Cap'n Stabb asks if they can kill him now, he reluctantly orders them to spare Heller's life. He says his good-byes to a still taciturn Heller and the tug departs. Gris tries to be upbeat and focus on how he destroyed the rascally Box #5, stopping Heller's plans once and for all. But then he gets paranoid about Heller's demeanor during the meeting, wondering if he might suspect something.
He had stood on the porch and he must have known with a night sight he would have been an easy target. So he didn't know.
Or did his silence mean that he DID know?
Speeding back against the dawn to the base in Turkey, I vowed to carefully watch what he had done after we had left. I HAD to know!!!
I miss Terl.
On an unrelated note, we're now 1237 pages into Mission Earth, while Battlefield Earth's hardback copy was only 1083 pages long. And we're not even halfway done with book three of ten.
Back to Chapter Six