Thursday, July 26, 2012

Part Thirty-One, Chapter Two - The Kind of Situation That Never Comes Up in Assassin Training

I'm not sure when this chapter happens chronologically.  Gris informs us that between his terrifying encounter with the non-hostile GUNSALMO SILVA! and lingering worries that Heller might be suspicious that Gris had something to do with all the sabotage affecting him, he'd been "making it a habit" of fast-forwarding through the taped HellerVision footage at the end of the day.  He's also so spooked that whenever he's gone near the Empire State Building in a taxi he's hunched down in his seat to stay out of sight.

Of course, the only time we've actually seen Gris leave his hotel room was his attempt to get money from Octopus Oil several chapters and in-book days ago, and he certainly didn't make a big deal of staying out of sight then.  And it goes without saying that the author doesn't explain what Gris was doing out on the town in these other, off-screen instances.  So my guess is that Hubbard is trying to imply that Gris is taking an active role in the plot and going out and doing things without actually showing this, and especially without going back to re-write previous chapters to show him doing this.  We've watched Gris cease to exist beyond reporting the morning's newspaper headlines, but now we're being told that nope, he was doing things.  They're just none of our business, apparently.

Anyway.  Over the past whatevery days Gris has observed Heller fall into a routine of dressing up like a janitor and going to the closed observation deck of the Empire State Building at around midnight, planting and collecting "wind cones" to take air quality samples.  Gris spends not one but two separate paragraphs wondering why Heller would care about Earth's atmosphere to do such a thing, as if Heller was aware that his mission was a sham and that Lombar Hisst would probably use "exterminator sprays" on the natives, sparing only a drug-growing colony in Turkey.

Hmm.  Between this off-hand comment and the Psychlos, sounds like Hubbard was a firm believer in gas warfare.

Gris doesn't enjoy watching Heller collect these samples, as he doesn't like heights and as said before he doesn't see the point of it.  But then something magical happens.

So tonight, I

When's "tonight?"  The night of the day of the second headline from the last chapter?  Why is it "tonight" instead of "that night" or "that morning" like it's been for the rest of the book?  Why the sudden shift in tenses?

So tonight, I almost didn't look at the viewer when the time came.  

Wait, so is he watching these in real time, or doing another "rapid scan [of] the recorded strips"?

So tonight, I almost didn't look at the viewer when the time came. But some keen sense that is bred into you in the Apparatus told me that before I went to sleep, I better make sure he was up there again and not knocking on my door.

Yes, once again the Plot has spoken to Gris, telling him to do a certain action at a certain time even when he has no real reason to do so.  Also, allow me to blow a particularly wet raspberry at Gris' "keen senses."  This is an intelligence officer who is convinced that a hitman eagerly taking orders from him is actually trying to kill him, and who isn't the least bit suspicious of his "wild desert girl" knowing multiple foreign languages.  Also also, if Gris is scanning archival footage than how would it help him if Heller is indeed on his way to knock on Gris' door?

Gris finds Heller up retrieving his sooty windsocks when an "old lady" in all black, including a veil, comes up to him and sobs that her cat is stuck up on the railing.  Gris goes into "instant shock.  Falsetto or no falsetto, I knew that voice."

Say it with me now: "GUNSALMO SILVA!"

Yes, that last million-dollar contract killing Silva's going for is on none other than Heller himself.  Gris is dismayed because he still doesn't have Heller's platen, and surely the unstoppable warrior that is Jettero Heller stands no chance against an Apparatus-hypnotrained transvestite assassin.

Heller pats the "lady" on the back and works to retrieve her cat, a white orange and black critter hanging from outside the safety railing by his leash, eighty-six stories above the streets below.  Gris concludes that Silva hopes to knock Heller off the building to make the kill, since "To leave bullets in a body makes people suspicious."  Which is absolute crap, as the police in these books have been consistently presented as criminally disinterested when it comes to bodies in crashed vans or corpses with stilettos in their backs.

To get the dangling kitty Heller takes some yarn from the "lady"'s suspiciously bulky purse and weaves a - wait for it - cat's cradle.   And by "cat's cradle" the book means "yarn basket at the end of a sturdy length of string."  How does he know what a cat's cradle is?  Shouldn't it be a "lepertige's cradle?"  Why does Heller possess this particular skill of weaving mesh harnesses out of yarn?  Did it come up often in his time as a combat engineer?

Heller climbs up on the safety railing and successfully wrangles the cat, but then "Some sound must have caught his ear above the wind" and he looks back at the "old lady."  Silva is placing something on the pavement ten feet away, and Gris recognizes the item as a Voltarian concussion grenade he gave to Terb.  This miraculous explosive is certainly capable of knocking Heller to his doom, but will leave no fragments of any kind, no evidence that it ever existed.  Magical Voltarian science.

Heller spots the explosive, starts counting down from fifteen, and throws the cat at Silva.

This is the point where I lost all interest in the chapter and surfed the net for fifteen minutes before dragging myself back to finish.

So the cat hits Silva in the face and goes nuts on the mobster in the way that only felines used as projectiles can.  The seasoned hitman, even with all his enhanced Apparatus training, is immobilized as he struggles to get the angry animal off him, and though he isn't too distracted to pull out Gris' pistol, he's sufficiently distracted to be unable to fire it.  Heller takes cover.  The cat continues to claw and howl "like a nightmare."  Silva hits the cat with the purse until the "cradle" bursts and the cat flees.

As Heller continues to count out the seconds, he moves to the safety of some suitcases Silva apparently hauled up as a buffer against the concussion grenade that he has completely forgotten about.  Instead Silva tries to get a good angle on Heller, firing his pistol but missing.  See, he knows better than to rush at an unarmed man, and while he's an unstoppable super-assassin he certainly can't count on hitting the top of someone's head.  No, the best thing to do is to climb up on a parapet and shoot down at Heller's position, with a ticking explosive nearby, of course.

At the count of fourteen Heller ducks behind the suitcase and covers his ears.  There's an explosion so loud that even his clasped hands can't negate it, and he looks up to see Silva hurled into the air, up and over the fence to splat on the streets of the Big Apple.  The only evidence of the encounter is a "slight concavity" where the grenade went off, and who's gonna notice that?

Heller raised his head to the sky.  He said, "I hope you noticed, Jesus Christ, that I didn't have much to do with that.  But if I ever happen to wind up in your Heavens by mistake, remember to chalk me up with having saved a cat.  Amen."

And that's it.  Heller throws a cat at a guy, and a super-dangerous assassin forgets about the explosive he set to try and kill someone with.  What's interesting is Gris' reaction - there isn't any.  Once he recognizes Silva and the Voltarian grenade and the scene on the roof starts to play out, Gris' only input is to remind us that Silva's using his Colt Bulldog.  Gris doesn't respond to Silva's death in any way, and only describes the action without sharing his thoughts with us.  Aside from a half dozen or so lines, the next few chapters play out as though the story had a more conventional narrator.  It's like Gris isn't even a character at all.

Back to Chapter One

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