Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Part Twenty-Eight, Chapter Five - A Missed Opportunity, a Long-Forgotten Plot Point, and an Ignored Warning

While in the grips of his confusion-induced depression, Gris realizes that it's now a few days past when Heller ought to have written up and sent in his latest update to Captain Roke on Voltar.  The letter in question was probably mailed directly to the Turkish Apparatus base, but more importantly it means that Gris has squandered another opportunity to learn where Heller keeps the platen used to encode those letters.

If only... if only there were some way to record the data being transmitted from Heller's ocular-aural implants.  If only some sort of device could digitally store those images and sounds, so that Gris could go over them later, and not have to spy on Heller in real time for fear of missing something important.  Oh well.  He's only an alien from an advanced space-faring civilization visiting planet Earth in the 2000-somethings, it's not like he could get his hands on something like that.

Instead of moping about his latest foul-up, Gris mopes about Utanc, as this chapter remembers that she exists, at least for a paragraph or so.  Apparently her only interaction with Gris has been to hand over a pile of packages after one of her many shopping trips, probably confusing him for a bellhop.  Since that thought is also depressing, Gris tries to look on the bright side - if Heller mentions how he's become a media darling in his report, his superiors back on Voltar will probably assume Mission Earth is going along just fine and won't interfere.  "It sort of depended on the way you looked at it."

But then Gris is jarred out of his melancholy by Heller being approached... oh, Gris is watching HellerVision?  But last chapter Gris had his luncheon with Bury, and then another day passed, so... when the hell is it?  Has Gris been watching Heller the whole time and is just now perking up, or what?

Whatever.  While servicing his Cadillac at the raceway one... time of day, he's approached by a plump, yellow-toothed mechanic who introduces himself as Stampi.  The newcomer has a proposal for Heller - publicize his car's next endurance run as a way to both show off his new fuel source/carburetor and make a cool million from ticket sales and TV coverage.  It'll be like a little off-season race, complete with trophy and cash prize for the winner!  A mildly disinterested Heller agrees.  And Gris suddenly remembers that Heller's carburetor has been sabotaged!

It has?

Um... well this is embarrassing, but when did this sabotage happen?  Was it this book?  I remember Utanc arriving, Gris punching that kid, all that nonsense with the hypno-helmets, the mobster hospital, the shopping tour of Europe, and Gris' Colt Python .357 Magnum-.38 Special... oh wait, there was that delivery Gris did with the crates from the Prince Caucalsia.  Yeah, he had a box "disappear."  But reading back through Part Twenty-Two I can't find any instance of Gris sabotaging Heller's carburetor.  Did it happen last book?  And how did Gris manage to forget about an act of sabotage after spending weeks watching Heller put together his plan involving the compromised component in question?

Argh, whatever.  The important thing is that someone at some point sabotaged Heller's carburetor so that it'll clonk out after seven hours of use, and Gris is elated.

I leaped up.  I was in ecstasy!  Brilliant, brilliant Lombar!  He had foreseen it all from the first!

Oh wait, so this sabotage happened back in Book One?!  And it hasn't been mentioned until now, nearly nine hundred pages later?  What astonishing faith you have in your reader's memories, Hubbard!

Anyway, Gris is so excited that he calls up Madison, who is fully aware that Heller's agreed to the race.  But then Gris tries to explain why he's so happy.

"But you don't know the good part!"  I told him.  "His carburetor is sabotaged!  It's going to fail in about seven hours!  He'll

Hang on.  Heller hasn't actually hooked up the carburetor yet.  So it's not going to go off like a time bomb seven hours from now, it'll fail after seven hours of use, yeah?  So unless the race takes that long, Heller is not in fact screwed.

He'll lose for sure!"

"So?" said Madison.

What do you mean "so?"  Heller's.  Being.  Sabotaged.  Gris is telling you that Heller can't win the race.  The race you helped set up, presumably for Heller to win as part of his good publicity.  You should be concerned, or angry, not unimpressed.

"He's all set up to fall on his head!"  I said.  "He can't possibly win that race!"

"Mr. Smith, please forgive my abruptness but I have some very urgent things to do.  We just got the governor of Michigan to be president of the International Whiz Kid Fan Clubs and he's on the other wire.  But when you have important data for me, by all means, phone.  But right now, I'm sorry.  Good-bye."


I sat there gaping.  He was not the least bit interested!  If he was really selling us out, he would be interested.  If he was not selling us out, he would be interested.

There wasn't a way to make heads or tails of it.

By Augustus Caesar's Assless Chaps, I'm in full agreement with Gris.  Last chapter was all about noncommunication, with people expecting other people to know what they wanted without trying to share those expectations, then getting annoyed or afraid when things didn't go as expected.  This chapter has a character outright ignoring critical information.

I guess... well, since Gris Is Always Wrong, Madison must have set things up so the other racers are doomed to fail?  And plans to swap out Heller's experimental carburetor for a more reliable one on race day?  Because the alternative is that Madison's plan has been sunk even though Gris just told him how the plan is in danger. (editor's note from the future: or as we'll see next book, perhaps Madison's plan doesn't care whether Heller wins or loses the race...)

Gris spends the last few sentences of the chapter in a deep funk, surrounded by media coverage of the Whiz Kid and people wearing Whiz Kid buttons or newsstands selling Whiz Kid plushies.

This whole thing was out of control.  I didn't have the least notion of what would happen now.

I do.  Heller will win despite incredible odds, and you'll end up in a jail cell, writing the "confession" that will serve as the body of the Mission Earth books.  It's nice that the story's framing device has effectively robbed it of any drama or uncertainty regarding its ultimate outcome.

On an unrelated note, I'd like to point out that even though this story is set in the 2010's or something, the world's telecommunications technology seems very 1980's-ish.

Back to Chapter Four 

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