Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Part Twenty-Two, Chapter Two - Telecommunications Anxiety

Gris starts this chapter with "Lightning is said never to strike twice in the same place," and is it me or is that a really awkward way to phrase things?  "But there apparently is no law about it striking twice in the same time period."  Which is pretty vague, since last chapter took place sometime after midnight, while this one starts at four in the morning with Gris being awakened by a messenger.  Lightning can probably strike twice in the same region in the same minute during an intense storm, right?  So several hours later shouldn't be a big deal.

Anyway, Gris has a phone call, requiring him to hustle out of bed and to a nearby motel.  We get a half page of Gris on the line, going through a series of operators asking if this is indeed "Sultan Bey" with Gris giving the same "Yes, yes!" response each time.  Eventually he's connected to his caller, who is none other than Jettero Heller, affecting a terrible accent.

"We'uns up in Ha'lum is having us a wedding.  De date is 2 October r'aht aftuh sunset.  We'ums will leave de po'ch light on."

"My Gods," I said.  How could I shut him off?

Gris' reaction is understandable, though he's freaking out more over the possibility of the NSA monitoring the call with their satellites than Heller's horrifying accent... wait, how'd Heller get Gris' number?  Why did that number go to the Dreg Hotel in Afyon rather than Gris' villa or the Apparatus office?  Why would the Apparatus use communication methods that could be intercepted by the backwards natives? 

"De pahty goin' be very fancy so don' bring dat ol' Miss Blueflash.  She trash.  You'uns bring dat Prince Caucalsia foh shuah.  We goin' empty he stomach."

"Good Gods!" I said.

Yeah, anyone eavesdropping isn't going to perk up at a completely incongruous name like Prince Caucalsia getting dropped in this insipid conversation.

"Now we is countin' on you coming 'cause we got to write de cap'n you'uns doin' jus' fine.  Now de address he be griddle . . ."

"Good-bye!" I screamed.  "Good-bye!  I be there.  Good-bye!"

I hung up hysterically.

So yeah, Gris the highly-trained secret agent completely freaks out over this phone call.  So much so that he actually forgets most of the conversation, forcing him to go over his spy tapes to catch it from Heller's side.  After watching Heller eat three hamburgers at the Howard Johnson he called from and mulling things over a bit, Gris deduces that "Miss Blueflash" refers to that magical stunlight the Apparatus uses to secure landing zones, the "porch light" is a radio beacon (that of course Gris hadn't known Heller packed because nobody screened Heller's luggage), and the "griddle" reference would have been the grid coordinates of the landing zone at the roadhouse Heller just bought.

And there's our... uh, conflict? for this Part.  Heller wants to unload some crap from his spaceship, and also send a letter to Mr. Astronomer Alien.  Gris realizes this is an opportunity not to steal that platen, but to render it irrelevant - if he can get a look at the second letter and compare it to the first, he might be able to figure out where the cipher fits without physically possessing the platen.  So our villain gets to end the chapter hopeful that at last he'll have the hero right where he wants him, at least until he learns just how many steps Heller is ahead of him in a few pages.

Back to Chapter One

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