This is quite the technical chapter, which means I get to condense the hell out of it.
Gris calls up a technician named Flip of the planet Wiggo, and before we start snickering we should remember that this was written thirty years ago. This Flip fella has amazing hair that stands up "in two spirals, like twin antennae." And believe it or not I think this could lead to a plot hole.
Though Flip is summoned to fix a broken alarm, Gris explains the real situation as best he can, which takes Flip three paragraphs to wrap his head around. He wants a way for those hypno-helmets to work on some people but not others, or more specifically for a certain someone to disable a helmet while wearing it. Though Gris' first plan was for him to install some sort of kill-switch he could flip by wiggling his ears, Flip has a better idea There are devices called "mutual proximity breaker-switch[es]" used to keep spaceships from colliding - when the sensors get too close they trigger the ships' engines to send them in different directions. And luckily the little doodads are made from "mini-micro circuitry components" courtesy of Yippee-Zip Manufacturing Company, so they're easy to hide.
Gris has Flip get to work, rigging all those hypno-helmets with one kind of device, so if Gris has the other hidden in his hair or something the helmets will appear to be working, but won't. And Gris, showing unusual restraint, quietly fixes a hypno-strip for Flip. When the technician is finished Gris decides to "test" his work but doesn't add the neutralizing circuits to Flip's head, so he gets hypnotized into thinking he was working on a faulty alarm system the entire time.
But what about his hair? Won't Flip notice that his glorious hair-antennae are crushed? Almost as though he was wearing some heavy headgear? But why wouldn't he have a memory of such a thing, unless... he was hypnotized!
This is probably an example of how a frivolous, thoughtless detail can cause unforeseen plot problems. Gris certainly doesn't have any difficulty getting the hat on Flip's head and doesn't mention what doing so does to his hair-antennae, so Hubbard likely just forgot what he wrote two pages ago. But if later Flip does start acting suspicious towards Gris, I'll be genuinely impressed.
Anyway, the chapter ends with Gris basking in his cleverness and how soon he'll be unstoppable, so of course his plans are doomed to failure. After all, Soltan Gris isn't just a villain, he's a Hubbard Villain, that potent combination of arrogance and breathtaking stupidity that renders the hero's victory inevitable before the end of Act One. More to the point, he's working with a technician who, though familiar with those "mutual proximity breaker-switches," has forgotten one crucial aspect of how they operate.
Back to Chapter One