Friday, August 31, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Nine - And Now, the Punchline

Gris storms back to his room, avoiding detection by Nurse Bildirjin's father (who has no reason to suspect that Gris has been doing anything inappropriate with his daughter) by hiding his head with his bathrobe.  When he gets back he finds the Unnamed Taxi Driver and a lot of boxes.  The cabbie remarks that the construction crews did a sloppy job with the place, and points out the trails of "white paint" splattered on the floor.

Orson Scott Card is quoted praising this book as "Ironic, exciting, romantic and hilarious."

To steer the conversation away from "white paint," Gris asks about the clothes that were supposed to be delivered.  The cab driver then pops open the boxes, revealing... well, a page's worth of various articles of clothing.  The important thing is that it's all been shipped in from Istanbul and has been put on Gris' Start Blanching and Dunner's Club credit cards.  See, when Gris sent out a message for someone to get him some clothes, he neglected to specify that they should go to his villa and pick up existing clothes, rather than orders thousands of dollars' worth of genuine bearskin coats or English tweed jackets.

When Gris wonders how this cabbie was able to do this, the guy reveals that everyone in town knows Gris' credit card numbers.  Heck, everyone in Istanbul knows his credit card numbers.  The why and the how isn't important, what matters is that the author's setting the stage for more credit card wackiness, hyuck!

Gris counters that he won't sign the invoices, but the cabbie reveals that he's a convicted forger from the planet Modon - suddenly that planet is popping up a lot - and he's already put Gris' name down, since he knew Gris would be too weak to sign things.  And good lord he spends another huge paragraph describing clothes.  Are these plot-relevant?  Is Gris' alpaca-wool mountaineering outfit going to play an important role later on in the story?  Does the author think that his audience is interested in fashion?  Why is this happening?

Our villain eventually gives up, reasoning that by the time the payment for all this is due, he'll already have been killed for failing to pay his existing expenses.  He showers in preparation for going home, and realizes - three books after the character has been introduced - that he doesn't know the cab driver's name.  So he finally asks it, and learns that the guy's real name is Deplor, which on Modon means "fate."

And there you have it.  Why did the author withhold a simple and obvious tidbit of information?  Why did he have a character go so long without wondering what to call someone else?  So he could make this little "joke" about how Gris always whines that Fate has it in for him.  Well, his cab driver is called Fate!  Hilarious!  Maybe he'll find an actual Manco Devil somewhere who's been masterminding a conspiracy against him.

And so the chapter ends with Gris getting somewhat distracted while soaping his "newly acquired appendages," which he hopes will fit in his new pants.  "It sure was big!"

Interesting note: Gris decides that "Another fifteen thousand wouldn't make any difference when added to the maybe half a million I still owed on credit cards."  At no point does Deplor the Previously Unnamed Taxi Driver actually mention the cost of all the new clothes.  So either Gris has an uncanny ability to estimate the value of several boxes' worth of clothing, or the author forgot to include an important sentence or two.
Oh hey, there's just one Part left.  I better order the next book.

Back to Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Eight

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Eight - Diabolic Shift

Which isn't to say that I don't have any problems with Obama, but I see them as smaller obstacles to overcome than the results of a Romney presidency- oh, Gris has his pants on. 

To recap last chapter: we learned exactly what Hubbard considered "a hint of sex," Gris was either raped or became a statutory rapist, Nurse Bildirjin revealed that she knows Dr. Prahd's Voltarian name, and I hit the Adult Content toggle for the blog because I really don't want to explain to some naive youth what exactly Bildirjin is using to improve her complexion.

Gris makes his way out of the hospital, and his post-orgasmic high proves short-lived when he gets annoyed at the number of Turks taking up beds that could be treating well-paying mobsters.  Then he spots an old doctor he recognizes as Nurse Bildirjin's father, flinches, and dives into the nearest room before he's spotted.

The room is occupied by someone up to their eyeballs in bandages, someone who is making weak defensive gestures at the sight of Gris.  A closer look reveals who it is.

I peered closer.


What in the name of Modon Demons was Raht doing here?  Oh, I was furious!

Somewhere a Manco Devil is crying, forgotten.  Also, isn't it strange that Gris will only swear by spirits from a certain planet after another character brings it up in the story?  Almost as though the author were writing by the seat of his pants, making little to no effort to flesh out the setting even as he nears the end of the fourth book taking place in it.  I certainly can't recall Gris ever mentioning planet Modon before last chapter revealed he had a coin from there lodged in his kidney.

Well, Gris breaks into an extended rant about how lazy and desperate for vacation his subordinate is, and how Raht should be in New York to switch on that 831 Relayer so Gris can keep tabs on a certain "Royal officer."  The point is of course to reinforce Gris' disregard for the welfare of his minions.  Of course this also makes him an idiot and an ineffective villain who can't recognize that not only are his tools almost broken, but that without them he'd have to climb the Empire State Building all by himself.

His tirade is loud enough to get Dr. Prahd to come in to shush him, since patients shouldn't be hearing Voltarian (hospital staff is evidently exempt to this rule).  And even though Gris just ducked into this room to avoid meeting Nurse Bildirjin's dad, he has no reaction whatsoever to the man whose girlfriend he just (bleeped).  Odd, that.

Prahd explains that Raht is almost dead from frostbite and pneumonia and older, unhealed injuries, and Gris wants to kick him out of the hospital and put him on a plane to New York.  Raht heroically gets a sheet of paper and scribbles a note explaining he's in such poor shape because he switched on the Relayer.  He also asks if Heller is really a Royal officer.

And this just makes Gris angrier now that "they were just trying to make me wrong."  He reminds everyone that Heller's bosses could have them all arrested or killed, and storms out without forbidding Raht from finishing his treatment.

Wonder what are the odds that Raht will try to defect at some point, forcing Gris to kill him...

Back to Chapter Seven

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Seven - Soltan Gris Finds Something in Common with Doctor Prahd

Unabridged version here.

Nurse Bildirjin comes in to clean Gris' hospital room, and he accuses her of being the one who talked Prahd into souping up his naughty bits.  The nurse admits it, saying she figured that anyone who "would TWICE interrupt a girl halfway" obviously wasn't getting enough themselves.  And now she's here to give Gris' new equipment a "clinical test."

Now, Gris is still strapped to his bed.  He's alarmed that Bildirjin is a minor, and Prahd's girlfriend, but takes some comfort from the fact that she's the one instigating this... encounter, and of course he doesn't object to the "GLORIOUS SENSATION!"  Afterward he begs her not to tell Prahd about the time she forced herself upon him, and she not-quite-promises to keep her mouth shut... ahem... so long as he never interrupts a girl again or dings her Fiat.

(edit from the future: it'd be easy to dismiss this as some unnecessary titillation, or an attempt at such, except of course this is another plot point to be tossed into the air to land on a later book)

Back to Chapter Six

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Six - Soltan Gris' Marvelous New Penis

After Gris has spent over a week in the Healing Tub of Space Science, Prahd walks in one "morning" at around 11:00, declares that he's about to disconnect Gris, and promptly slaps an anesthesia mask on his patient's face before Gris can object.  The agent wakes up mid-afternoon strapped into a bed, and is relieved that when he wiggles his fingers and toes he isn't moving flippers or hooves.

Nurse Bildirjin comes in with food and that suspicious smile.  She spoon-feeds our recovering villain protagonist, and even though she appeared what, last book?, now Gris takes the time to properly describe her.  And wax misogynistic. 

She was a very pretty girl, though young.  Raven-black hair, a tan complexion, even, white teeth, full lips, big black eyes capable of considerable expression.  And very well developed in spite of her being only sixteen.  But she was a woman and treachery could not be far off.  Anybody can tell you that beauty and treachery go hand in hand.  That's why you have to kill songbirds wherever found.  But where women are concerned, it's the other way around.  Where killing is concerned, they always choose me as the first target of choice.  Piled onto earlier experience, Krak with her hypnohelmets, Miss Pinch with her red pepper and even dear Utanc with her credit cards proved that beyond any doubt whatever!  I was learning to be wary.  Nurse Bildirjin undoubtedly had something up her sleeve!

Actually, she doesn't, but the nurse is very interested in what Gris has under his sheet.  She goes to the foot of his bed, lifts the linen, and declares "That's what I wanted to see."  Gris panics and screams for Dr. Prahd - using his alien name in front of the human nurse, who deduces that he's shouting for "Dr. Muhammed" - who comes in to check on the holes from the feeding tubes Gris was until recently hooked up to, and announces that his patient is doing well.  When Bildirjin directs his attention between Gris' legs, he amends that Gris has done "very well."  Gris demands that they get him a mirror to see what they're talking about.

I looked in the mirror.

I almost fainted.

I looked again.  I shrieked, "You've made me into a horse!"

"No, no," he said with professional calm.  "That's simply normal.  You are so used to one testicle not being there and the other drawn up into the body that a normal scrotum and actually having testicles may look strange to you."

"But the LENGTH of IT!" I screamed.

I don't want to read this book anymore.

This is supposedly "a new style of Science Fiction epic, rooted in the clandestine worlds of intelligence, drug smuggling and crime."  This was supposed to be a work of satire, lampooning the world we live in by showing it from an alien's perspective.  The story is ostensibly a hybrid sci-fi/spy thriller about a secret battle between rival extraterrestrials for our planet's future.

But now it's about Gris' junk.  Mission Earth failed as an intelligence thriller because it wasn't very intelligent or thrilling, and failed as satire because the author decided to use the term to excuse his delusional rantings.  But at least it stayed somewhat on-topic up until now.  For the most part.  For some parts.  Some parts that were even contiguous.

Now the main plot has been "resolved" and abandoned, and we're going to spend the next few chapters talking about Gris' dong.

It's like suffering through a terrible speaker who keeps forgetting his place and getting distracted with boring and unrelated anecdotes, and you sit there in the audience silently pleading for him to finish so you can get on with your life, but then the speaker tosses the speech aside, drops his trousers, and decides to show off the jellyfish stings he got at a nude beach.

Except this is a book, so we're free to just throw the thing at the wall and go do something else.  But I won't, due to this blog and the Sunk-Cost Fallacy.

So, anyway.

Dr. Prahd explains that he's fixed all of Gris' injuries, given him an all-new skin, and restricted himself to removing some of Gris' scars and warts instead of actually making him good-looking.  And as for the genitalia, he points out that in Gris' "home habitat, a tumescent size of ten inches is not overly large."  He also mentions that Gris should now feel more vigorous and develop more muscle tone as a result of his unnatural male enhancement.

L. Ron Hubbard and science go together like manatees and treadmills.

Gris keeps insisting that Prahd did something "peculiar," since surprise tinkering with his patients' sex organs seems to be standard for this guy.  Prahd searches his memory and admits that he did leave one of Gris' new testicles "in the growexpeditor a bit too long.  But it won't produce in excess of more than half a pint of semen."

Damn you, Sunk-Cost Fallacy.

Despite being assured that this can only enhance his sex drive and he'll still produce normal "human" (not Voltarian) babies, Gris bursts into tears and sobs about how, logically, the fact that he's got larger gonads is going to completely alter his psychology.

"Ask any Earth psychologist.  All a personality is, is a product of the cells.  One has urges.  They come from the reptile brain, the censor and the id.  And all that is made up of cells.  You have changed my cells and so you have utterly changed my whole character."

"Ah," he said.  "In your case especially, how I wish that were true.  Unfortunately, you are just mouthing the superstitions of an uninformed primitive cult: you find it on many backward planets.  They try to make men believe that character is inherent and passed on by an evolutionary chain or some such nonsense.  In some witch-doctor cults they even go so far as to say a man is totally the effect of his cellular inheritance and therefore can't be changed.  It's a way

I'm gonna interrupt to speculate that Hubbard uses "cellular" in the way more informed science fiction authors might reference "DNA."  I think he's caught on to the fact that something in those little blobs that make up bigger blobs is rather important, but he hasn't quite narrowed it down to what.  While at the same time completely misconstruing the effects they have on a person, of course.

of excusing their inability to mold character.  When people try to hold them responsible for creating a criminal society that way, they just glibly say 'a man is just the product of his cells.'  It obscures the fact that they are just too incompetent and too criminal themselves to mold character and teach right from wrong.

"Ah, no, Sultan Bey.  If cells and glands were all there was to life, I'd be a God, wouldn't I?  And I'm not.  I'm just a poor cellologist, unpaid, but doing my job anyway, and without even a thank-you from my superior, but suspicion undeserved."

Prahd adds that it's really a shame that his field can't influence personality - particularly in Gris' case.  But he declares that he can do what he can to make his patients' lives better, and hopefully Gris' enhancements won't "have violent consequences for others or this planet," which is some ominous foreshadowing if I've ever read any. (edit from the future: Yes.  Yes it is.)

But there you have it - people are more than what their cells tell them to be!  Yes, this book has successfully debunked psychology's insistence that people are purely the product of their biology.  Not their minds, or their upbringings, or their neuroses, but their cells.  Psychologists think your cells are what's important, and are what dictates who you are.

In other words, Hubbard has valiantly argued against a theory that only existed in his mind to begin with.  You show those windmills who's boss, L. Ron.

Back to Chapters Four and Five

Monday, August 27, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapters Four and Five - Gris Spends a Week in the Tub

Gris wakes up to darkness and a sensation of numb weightlessness, and immediately starts panicking.  Given the things he's seen Dr. Crobe come up with - you remember, the surgical freakshow from waaay back in Book One? - for all Gris knows he's been turned into a severed head or a cat or something.  But even more terrifying is the prospect that reconstructive surgery has managed to completely transform Gris' mind and personality.

Earth psychologists and psychiatrists teach that all everyone is, is a bunch of cells evolved up the evolutionary track, that the person himself is just what his cells and body make him.  There could be no doubt of the validity of their teachings, for one could be shot for not believing them.  If Prahd had changed my cells, it followed by Earth psychology that my personality would suffer a total shift!  So what new personality would I have?  Something sweet and kind--Gods forbid!  Or something whining and propitiative, like Izzy--which of course would be even less acceptable. 

Obviously he can't tell that he's just as intelligent and reasonable as he's always been.

Gris takes a brief break from his worry to note that he's in some sort of tub, floating so he doesn't touch the sides or bottom, a fact he puts down to antigravity coils rather than his own buoyancy.  He spots the moon through a window, calculates that it's been eight to ten hours since the doctors started to work on him, and resumes his freakout.  "WHAT HAD THEY DONE TO ME?"  He even wonders if he's become Dracula and tries to move his mouth to feel for fangs, but finds that his face is bandaged below his eyes.  "WHAT HAD THEY DONE???????????"

That's eleven question marks, people.  This is Hubbard's magnum opus, the culmination of a lifetime of writing, and he's conveying a character's emotional state by spamming punctuation like a middle school fanfic writer.

Prahd eventually comes in to check on him around sunrise, after Gris has spent the entire evening wondering what new physical or mental deformities he'll leave the hospital with.  Prahd dismisses these accusations and explains that they had to put Gris under anesthesia because he kept screaming even after fainting, and that he really was in terrible condition - not just from Miss Pinch, but from a lifetime of old injuries and untreated wounds, including a twopence coin from the planet Modon that somehow wound up in Gris' kidney. 

Gris presses the doctor about any alterations, and it's then that Prahd admits that "I had to work on your genitals a bit."  But just to "normalize" things, he claims.  And suddenly Gris' fears seem more justified, what with this doctor's idea of improving the Widow Tayl.  This is a man with an unhealthy interest in his patients' genitalia.

The next chapter doesn't add much.  Daylight allows Gris to read the label on his tub, "Zanco Cell Catalyst Growth Machine, Model 16 Magnaspeed."  Nurse Bildirjin - who is still 16 years old, keep this in mind for later - comes in with a suspiciously sly look on her face and explains that Gris is being fed by the tubes in the tub.  And I guess nobody's worried about one of those Code Breaks because an Earthling girl is not only allowed to see advanced alien medical technology, but also knows how they work and what they're capable of.

The nurse is nice enough to put her headphones on Gris' ears, so he gets to spend eight days listening to "hot pop" from Radio Istanbul, a lot of the same song by the Goat Guys, commercials for camel feed (even though the dromedary camel has little to no presence in Turkey), and news reports about the usual Middle Eastern conflicts (which are not elaborated upon, to save the author from having to display knowledge of foreign affairs or extrapolate how today's crises would play out in the grim future he is describing).  Gris keeps focusing on these elements to see if his reactions to them change, thus heralding a change in his personality.  And that's about it.  Gris is in a bathtub, freaking out while his body undergoes changes.

But next time... well, Prahd will debunk some of Gris' interpretations of Earth psychology.  I'm going to focus on that.

Back to Chapter Three

Friday, August 24, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Three - "Dinky" is of Course a Medical Term

When Gris wakes up from his manly swoon, he's still sprawled in the dirt in his front yard, with the villa's staff stepping over him as they go about their business.  "Suddenly" he realizes that he's in pretty bad shape, and should probably get to a hospital while he's still ambulatory.  Since Unnamed Cab Driver Who Moonlights as a Slave Trader has left, Gris is forced to take an old Chevy and limp his way to the Mobster Hospital.

Unfortunately he runs into Nurse Bildirjin in the parking lot, or more specifically her car door.  She perks up when Gris gasps that he's dying, and a crowd of cheering and laughing women and children swarm the lobby as Gris is helped inside.  Dr. Prahd Bittlestiffender chastises Gris for trying to deliver a cadaver through the front door, but after once again complaining about his lack of a paycheck ushers Gris to a room.

And it's only then that Gris notices a flaw with his plan of seeking medical attention at a hospital run by Dr. Prahd and Nurse Bildirjin: "It was with shock that I realized I was alone with Prahd and Nurse Bildirjin!"  They strip him naked while he insists that they not put him out, and then Gris gets to explain what all the numerous burns and abrasions adorning his body are from.

Prahd starts cataloging Gris' other injuries - three cracked ribs, chipped pelvis, blood blisters - but as Nurse Bildirjin begins pulling grains of blackpowder out of Gris' wounds with a pair of pliers, the chapter takes a terrible, terrifying turn:

"Doctor, in your professional opinion," she said conversationally as she worked, "don't you think he is a bit dinky?"

Prahd nodded.  "Yes, I would say an inch is below average.  Well, well!  What is this?  What is this?  A crushed testicle!"

When I started this blog, I never thought I'd end up talking about Gris' genitals.  But that's what the last page or so of the chapter focuses on, Gris explaining that when he was a boy a farmer kicked him for drowning his animals, and the primitive people of New York are "real (bleep) breakers."  And this is foreshadowing.  This is the focus of upcoming chapters!  This is where the story is going!  Right down the front of Gris' underpants!  And not in a "hur-hur-hur look how tiny my strawman villain is," this is going to lead to psychological drama and worse!

Prahd suggests that Gris submit to anesthesia since he's got hours of surgery and "cellular handling" to go through.  It's a moot point; once the nurse suggests they just zap the grains of blackpowder with an electrified probe and burn them out of him, Gris faints again.

Tune in next time as Gris has a surgery-driven existential crisis.  As for the chapters after that, you may want to skip them.  Goodness knows I'm tempted.

Back to Chapters One and Two

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapters One and Two - Gris is Poor, Again

The Turkish Airways plane makes it safely back to Afyon, and Gris spends a paragraph boggling at how anyone could live in such a scene of "utter desolation," what with mountains and villages and everything, before taking comfort that he's finally home upon seeing the holographic mountaintop denoting the Apparatus base.

While departing the flight, Utanc acts suspiciously out-of-character and cozies up to Gris, sweetly asking if she can have what "little" trip money is left.  Gris is gracious enough to agree, since after all he has all that transmuted gold he shipped in from Voltar.  Utanc immediately ignores him in favor of the two prepubescent boys who have been surgically altered to resemble movie stars from nearly a hundred years ago in order to satisfy her bizarre kink.  Utanc offers to buy them ice cream, and along with Karagoz the housekeeper they speed off in her BMW, leaving Gris behind.

Gris thinks his underlings are trying to get vacation time when they're dying of pneumonia, but hasn't figured out that maybe his "beloved" isn't quite as besotted with him as he is with her.

So Gris heads home with the friendly nameless taxi driver who sold him Utanc, who shares his sentiments about what a bargain Utanc was, and how "they don't make slaves like that anymore" (I should certainly hope not).  Gris gets dropped off at the villa... and finds a mob of burly men waiting for him on the front lawn.

I guess they knew who he was and which flight he took, or else they've been camping on his yard for however many days.

The thugs are from American Oppress Company, the Dunner's Club, and the Squeeze Credit Card Corporation, respectively, and they have one simple question for Gris - where's their money? 

It hit me!  Utanc had gotten credit cards on my apparently affluent name and position before we left.  She had done the whole trip on CREDIT CARDS!

Wacky musical sting, canned laughter, and still shot of Gris face-faulting.  End Chapter One.

In Chapter Two, Gris resolves to "save the old homestead!" by parting with one of those golden bars he hauled from another planet.  He runs to his secret stash, and even jet-lagged, even after all those beatings, and despite his own mental disadvantages, Gris is still able to instantly and flawlessly calculate the worth, in American dollars, of a 41.6 pound gold bar.  He hauls it out and gives it to one of the credit brutes, who cuts into it with his knife... and reveals lead.

Let's get one of those "wha-wha-wha" horns here.

Sure enough, all of Gris' precious gold is in fact gaudily-painted bars of lead.  So the creditors start ransacking his house for rugs and furniture, and even start clapping the staff in irons, since "They'll bring a good price in the slave markets of Arabia!"

This story is supposedly set in the early 2000's, yet the author thinks credit companies will follow people across the planet and enslave domestic workers to be sold in markets in another country.  "Satire" sure is insightful and amusing.

So Gris pleads with them, and they go to Mudlick Construction Company, and Gris ransacks the safe for a quarter million dollars, which still isn't enough.  So they got to Faht Bey's office to take out some earnings from that Mob Hospital of Gris', but Faht Bey flatly refuses, claiming that what with one thing or another they're barely breaking even, despite Gris' calculations that they should be earning twenty million dollars from all that plastic surgery.  Instead Faht Bey offers to help with Gris' credit problems, but only if Gris signs a contract swearing to stop "grafting, chiselling, and embezzling monies from the Earth Base Treasury."

Even though Gris is Faht Bey's boss, and even though Gris could probably find a blaststick or something to deal with these debt collectors and unruly subordinates, he instead signs the contract and gets enough money... for one month's payment on what he still owes.  Then he faints.

And there we are.  The main plot has been "resolved" for now, so we're back in Turkey, the land of dull subplots and Gris sitting on his ass.  And once again we're being subjected to chapters concerning Gris' money problems.  Like in the first book, when he became so poor he couldn't afford food.  Or in the last two books, when he struggled to manage his funds and juggled payments to cover his Mobster Hospital and imported Turkish belly-dancer.

And as mind-numbingly boring Gris' financial status is, I'd still prefer it to where the plot is going next.

Back to Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Nine

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Nine - Escape from New York

So thanks to Madison's negative publicity blitz, and some characters' mindless acceptance of the resulting headlines, Heller has now been cast out from the Corleone crime family, which combined with his multinational corporation's financial woes means that he has been shut down.  Forever.

This frees Gris to deal with the real threat - Miss Pinch the sadistic, man-hating lesbian.  And by "deal with" I of course mean "flee from."

Gris finally stops singing paeans to public relations and notices that not only is Utanc gone, but so is all her luggage!  And he doesn't know which flight they're leaving on!  And he has less than a hundred bucks to get out of New York with!  The obvious course of action is to not panic, decide that Utanc has simply left to pick up the tickets and will call when it's time to leave, and sit on his ass and read newspapers.

Unfortunately for Gris, this attempt to loaf around and hope things turn out for the best is soon sabotaged when he reads a headline about a Mr. Pauper being admitted to the Walnut Lodge Nut House to be lobotomized, electroshocked, and tortured for life - all as punishment for failing to file his income tax return.  Also, his wife and kids have been ground into meatballs to help cover other penalties. 

Now, Gris knows that this instance of Evil Psychology is actually false - it's another bit of PR done to scare Americans into paying taxes.  It still scares him "spitless," but it's not true.  Yet it's no less ridiculous than Miss Pinch's talk about "Psychiatric Birth Control," which totally is true, as is the great psychology conspiracy that controls every aspect of society.  Psychologists are trying to turn the world gay and have their talons in our schools, our government, and our businesses - but they don't lobotomize people for being behind on their taxes?

The phone rings, a gruff voice asks for Inkswitch, and Gris forgets what happened last time and responds in the affirmative.  It's another IRS courtesy call, making sure he's here.  With the threat of three years in a federal prison "with homos even worse than Miss Pinch," Gris finally finds the energy to get off the couch and get out of town.

But then... well, his energy levels are fluctuating a bit.  Gris forgot to dress this morning, but he's too tired to unpack his clothes, so he digs his spicy clothes from Miss Pinch's little fiesta out of the trash and puts them on, and immediately starts sneezing.  He does have enough energy to get his luggage loaded up with a bellboy and sent down to the lobby, and when he spies two burly men knocking on his recently-vacated room he finds the strength to bolt down thirty flights of stairs to the waiting cab. 

Off to JFK Airport, but Gris looks behind him and spies a pursing car carrying "THE TWO TOUGH MEN!"  He offers the cabbie a bonus if they can shake the pursuers, which they do.  They reach the airport and Gris has no idea what flight he's after, but a black porter helps him narrow it down.

He was loading my baggage on his small truck.  "Well, you c'n take yo' choice then.  They's Pan Am.  They's TWA.  But if'n it's TWA, we bettah git anothah cab 'cause this is Pan Am.  Now, me, f'um mah study of the crashes..."

I thought fast.  Four o'clock.  Maybe only one plane left at four.  "What goes to Rome or London or someplace at four?"

"Well, ah thinks they is one fo' Rome at fo'.  But if you ain't too partickler, me, I'd go to Trinydad wheh it is mo' wahm."

This has been another episode of What the Hell is That Accent? with L. Ron Hubbard.

Gris makes it to a desk before panicking as the Two Tough Men walk in after him, so he flees and bounces off numerous other travelers in a humorous and droll fashion, then hides in a bathroom by using the old "sit on the john and lift your legs" trick when they try to check under the stall doors.  When the danger has passed, Gris suddenly remembers that damned 831 Relayer, and how he needs to remind Raht to turn it on so he can watch HellerVision in Turkey. 

So he calls the local Apparatus base and learns that Raht is having complications from pneumonia and isn't responding to penicillin, leaving him in critical condition.  I guess nobody thought to bring along some Voltarian medicine to keep the agents assigned to this critically important planet alive.  Gris is of course unsympathetic of Raht's attempts to grab more vacation time and orders him to turn on the relayer, whatever the cost.

Then he calls Madison to congratulate him on a job well done.  Madison explains that the whole "Kansas farmers" angle was his attempt to make the Whiz Kid into a Jesse James figure, who of course robbed the railroad companies and gave his loot to the farmers of Kansas... allegedly.  Not historically, there's no evidence to suggest that ever happened.  The important thing is that we have now regressed past gangsters to cowboys.

Gris says his good-byes, and then the Two Tough Men catch up with him!  But they turn out to be workers for the Bolshoi Travel Agency with his plane ticket.  They help him onto the plane, and there in the seat next to him is Utanc!  Who complains how all the peppers and spices coating her "owner"'s (her exact words) suit are making her sneeze, so Gris gets stuck in the back of first class and wrapped in plastic.

So that's it.  We're done with New York, at least for the rest of this book.  What's in store for us in Turkey?

With its usual evil grin, fiendish Fate had been busy, just ahead, sorting out available disasters.  The one it chose to first serve up for me was horrible.  The very memory of it makes me wince.

And if you think the twist he's talking about is bad, wait until we get to Gris' surgery.

Back to Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Eight

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Eight - Book Four and Gris Has Already Won

Gris watches Heller drive home to the Gracious Palms and go up to his suite.  He ignores the two girls practicing how to break a wristlock, and when he starts to get out his luggage and pack his things, the pair of prostitutes hurry out to sound the alarm.  He doesn't react when a crowd gathers outside his door, or reply when a "high-yellow" asks "Pretty Boy" is he's really leaving.

Vantagio soon arrives and asks what's going on. 

Vanatgio said, "Oh, kid.  Babe sometimes gets upset.  I should know.  She gets over it."
Heller reached into his inside pocket.  "Have you seen the morning papers?"

"I just got up," said Vantagio.  "What have the morning...?"

Heller had handed him a ripped-off front page of the New York Grimes.

Vantagio stared at it.  He took it in.  He went white.  "Good God!"

Heller was indicating the piles of clothes.  "These are no good to anybody else.  What would you say the bills were?"

And he proceeds to argue with Vantagio over how much he owes him, eventually settling on ten thousand dollars.

So Heller leaves the Gracious Palms, and all the girls are crying, and the guards are all downcast, and even Vantagio is teary-eyed.  Then the HellerVision gets blurry and Gris realizes that Heller is misting up too.  Heller then goes to his Empire State Building offices and tells Izzy that he'll be living there now, which the always gloomy Izzy is not at all surprised to hear.  But the accountant has his own bad news - the IRS is coming down on them harder than ever, and plans on impounding all of their international holdings and smearing them in the newspapers.

Heller said to the cat, "You picked the wrong guy to be responsible for."  He sounded beaten.


I had won!


Gris has a good half-page celebratory rant.

Suddenly, I understood the power controls of Earth.  So this was how even empires had been broken and made.  By the PRs.  And then the PRs even wrote the history books!

No, they don't.  Nor did public relations have anything to do with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Qing Dynasty, Abbasid Caliphate, Aztec Empire, Mongolian Khanates, Soviet Union...

In one deadly blast, Madison had stopped the mighty Heller cold.  With a few lines of ink, based only on his imagination, Madison was directing the destinies of not just Earth but Voltar!  Now wonder Bury considered him so dangerous!

This is after Madison hyped Heller into a national hero and made Gris panic over which side the publicist was really on, of course.

The PRs were the true Gods of this planet!  Gods of wrath and misery.  But Gods nonetheless!  What a weapon they wielded!  What destruction they wrought!  Magnificent! 

I think Gris gets inordinately impressed by whatever plot point happened last.  Like he was all about how drugs and the Feds controlled the country in book two, and in book three he was singing the praises of Rockecenter's energy cartels.  Now along comes a publicist and Gris has a new god.

So that's it - Heller cuts his ties with the mob, apparently defeated.  But what didn't happen this chapter?

Vantagio, when shown the newspaper, never asked the obvious question: "Is this true?"  He didn't express his shock that his young friend would take a bribe from a rival criminal syndicate to throw a race, or even get outraged at this perceived betrayal.  He didn't laugh off such a ludicrous charge, especially since it clashes with everything he knows about Heller.  He didn't even notice "but that guy looks nothing like you!"

For his part, Heller made no statements confirming or denying the damning charges in the day's headline.  He didn't try to explain that he has no idea where this storm of bad publicity is coming from, or protest that the newspapers are just making things up.  Nor did he try to reassure his friend that he wouldn't commit such treason, or dishonor himself by throwing a race.

There's no attempt to fight back, or unravel this conspiracy, or even explain the situation.  It doesn't matter whether the headline is true, and it doesn't matter whether any of the characters involved would have any reason to think it's true.  A newspaper says Heller is a bad guy, so he has to leave.

Gris' sinister plan worked by turning the "good" guys into gullible, passive morons.

Back to Chapters Six and Seven

Monday, August 20, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapters Six and Seven - The Nixon Nailer and Other Credible Sources

And there's the headline, "WHIZ KID BRIBED TO THROW RACE!"  The story describes how the Whiz Kid took a mob bribe from none other than Narcotici himself to raise enough money to develop his fuel, and is accompanied by that "candid" shot from three chapters ago.  This scoop is credited to the famous Bod Hoodward, "the Nixon Nailer."  Personally, I wouldn't want to be known as the man who nailed Nixon.

Confusion comes from the photo's caption, which mentions that the exchange took place "in the chair once used by Boss Tweed, the Bribe Baron of New York in the '90s."  If this refers to the historical William M. Tweed - and there's been nothing to suggest that they're talking about a different Tweed - then this statement makes no sense, since Tweed died in 1878, well before the 1890's, to say nothing of the 1990's. 

Gris spends several paragraphs singing his praise of Madison's brand of journalism.

I was stunned! What virtuosity PR had! I had never realized the headlines of this world were the products of overheated imaginations, staged events and tons of nothing! It took my breath away.

Yep, never believe anything you read in the papers, like - and this is just at random - allegations of brainwashing or harassment or other criminal activity concerning a certain religious organization.  Bunch of nothing, ignore it.  It's all PR folks with a grudge.

And how cunningly they had linked it up with NAMES! Nixon, Narcotici, Boss Tweed. The Whiz Kid was now positioned with criminals! How convincing! Who could doubt it?

The other papers were the same. This story would be bouncing coast to coast and even around the world. TV would be carrying that photo as a still. Radio would be spot-newsing it every hour. What coverage! An avalanche!

I minored in Journalism and never heard of "spot-newsing."

That's about it for chapter six.  Gris then decides to check how Heller's handing this onslaught of bad press, and switches on the HellerVision to find him driving a cab, occasionally risking death by glancing at newspapers on the floor instead of focusing on the road.  Gris declares that Heller "was PERTURBED!"  I'm not sure how he can tell that based on what Heller is looking at.

Gris rewinds the tapes a bit and catches Geovani, one of Babe's main henchmen, making the paradoxical statement "You'd better get over here, kid, but I advise you not to come."  When Heller reaches Babe's penthouse the doorman again suggests that he keep out, but Heller goes in anyway.

He finds Babe on her knees in front of a cross, with a sackcloth over her head.  This does not prevent Heller from seeing her tears, or keep her from smearing ash on her face.  So I guess she's wearing the sackcloth as a hat.  She's repeating "Mia culpa.  Mia magna culpa.  It is my fault, it is my great fault."

And no, this isn't in response to her desecrating a corpse and profaning a church by performing a "Black Mass" on someone.

She sees Heller and groans how her own son is a traditore.  I must've missed the part when she adopted him.  Heller tries to explain, but Babe cuts him off and keeps him from coming closer, sobbing about "tainted blood," "stain[ing] the honor of the family," that sort of thing.  Good to know she still reads the paper.  Then Babe screams about how the mayor's wife was laughing at her for having a "traitor" in her midst this whole time.  She ends her rant by throwing a poker at Heller and demanding that he get out, which he does.

Now, Babe has warned Heller of consorting with "criminal types like reporters," and knows that "newspapers are very bad things."  She's also commented how Heller never looks anything like his photo in the papers.  But when those criminal types come up with a story that links someone who doesn't look like Heller with Narcotici - whose mobsters Heller has repeatedly smashed until he's become their personal bogeyman - Babe buys it completely.  And when Heller tries to explain, Babe never lets him get a word in, now or in earlier chapters.

So this plot point depends on Babe Corleone being a gullible idiot, and Heller never managing to explain that he's a victim of libel.  Oh, and Narcotici had to be stupid enough to agree to present that "Most Honest Person" award to get in the photo.  And this whole "death by defamation" angle is the result of Bury being unable to defeat Heller through more conventional methods.

A plot that only works because everyone involved has taken a massive hit to their IQ?  Sounds like an Idiot Plot to me.

So Heller slinks away, defeated, and slowly drives away while presumably a lonely violin piece plays.  Gris is jubilant.

Oh, my Gods!  Madison had done it!  With just a simple trick of paper and ink and newspaper influence, out of whole cloth and without even an ounce of truth, he had turned Heller's most powerful ally against him!

What genius!

What a beautiful tool!

And Heller did not even suspect who was shooting at him!  Or that anybody really was!

Against all expectations, and assisted by the irritating stupidity of the good guys, the forces of evil have won a victory.  Truly, this is Heller's darkest h-

But this might still take a turn for the worse. Heller was tricky, too!

Way to undermine and second-guess your paltry accomplishments, Gris.

Back to Chapter Five

Friday, August 17, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Five - Sick Day

Well, Gris has now spent three nights getting battered and beaten by lesbians, and not in the good way.  But broken and exhausted as he is, he has a plan.

I had one ace up my raw sleeve.

I was not going to visit Miss Pinch that evening!


The problem of course is that he can't leave New York until he's sure Heller has been "stopped," which is somehow dependent on what headline runs next morning.  And if Heller isn't "stopped" by those devastating headlines concerning the fictitious activities of an impostor, then that super-competent Apparatus assassin will kill Gris.  And then Gris panics after remembering that the assassin promised to kill Utanc first! 

Skimming over the past Part or so, it looks like the last time Utanc was so much as mentioned was about 70 pages ago. 

This all leaves Gris a nervous wreck, sure that the Miss Pinch is about to call down the wrath of the IRS upon him for failing to show up for the evening's beating, or that Mr. Bury will notice that Madison linked the wrong two firms in the newspaper.  So when Gris gets the day's paper, with a story about the Whiz Kid donating his settlement money to the farmers of Kansas, Gris is so perplexed by the meaningless gesture that he slips into a feverish delirium. 

I'm not exaggerating.

I knew now that, factually, it was a nothing amount that he was retaining a nothing of.  But this thing about the farmers of Kansas was quite beyond me.  What did they have to do with it?

Maybe I was sort of feverish already but this puzzle turned it into a kind of strange delirium.

So Gris spends that afternoon and evening waiting for "two deadly IRS men to slither through the crack at the bottom [of the door] or a snake to call me via the U.S. Army Signal Corps before I could check out."  He finally comes to the next morning to find the hotel doctor fussing over him and prescribing aspirin in case Gris starts screaming again.  Utanc is nearby, and explains that she called the doctor after Gris' deranged ranting made it hard for her to hear the radio.  "How thoughtful of her!  How tender!"

When the doctor leaves, Gris confesses that the feds may be after him, and that they'll have to flee that day.  Utanc assumes this is about the man Gris had killed, back in... um... well, I don't remember what she's talking about.  I remember three chapters of lesbians torturing Gris, but not Gris recovering a bloody wallet from anyone.  Wait, did he kill someone in Turkey?  Or take credit for Silva killing - oh, it was the director of the CIA!  Yeah.  That very meaningful plot point. 

Utanc, white-faced but all business, hurries off to book the four o'clock flight, and it says a lot about Gris' deteriorating condition that he doesn't pointedly excuse her suspicious actions as somehow befitting a simple desert girl.  Instead he calls room service and orders "two scrambled newspapers, overdone."  The chapter ends with a heart-stopping cliffhanger as Gris unfolds the day's paper to read the headlines.

Will the story Madison worked on and planned to release that day get released that day?  Will an article linking a fake Whiz Kid to the mafia that the real Whiz Kid's mafia is at war with somehow sabotage Heller's efforts to revolutionize Earth's energy industry through competitive racing?  Will Gris be able to safely leave for Turkey?  And will we be happy to leave New York, or rant at him for skipping out on the plot again?

The answers are yes, somehow I guess, barely, and "good lord I am not looking forward to Turkey."

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Four - Spicy Soltan Gris

Unabridged version here.

Once Hoodward is dropped off, Gris returns to his problems of being 1) broke and 2) the chew toy of a terrifying lesbian cashier.  He concludes that since he's too weak and battered to rob a bank, his only course of action is to "torture the [money safe] combination out of Miss Pinch and then to murder her in the most gruesome and grisly way imaginable."  Y'know, the woman who's always been one step ahead of him so far.  This time he'll get the drop on her, oh yes.

And then comes a paragraph that I'm pretty sure was stuck in by an editor, because it actually acknowledges the whole "confession" framing device the Mission Earth series uses.

Actually, I would like to omit that evening from this confession.  It is too horrible.  Murder should not be advertised to the young and this confession might someday fall--Gods forbid--into the hands of the immature.  Even a Judiciary is likely to pale at what happened.

But in all honesty, as promised, I will carry on, even though the next few hours fill me with remorse.  In all my crimes and escapade, this was the worst.

This paragraph is a lot of things.  First, I think it's the editor's way of saying "Get out while you still can!" and "hide your kids!"  Second, it's wildly out-of-character for Gris, who in the next paragraph will go on scheming without a glimmer of guilt.  And third, it's a load of crap because Gris is victimized this chapter, and doesn't get a chance to enact any evil schemes.  He does worse things in previous books, and if the dark murmurs are true there's even worse to follow.

So Gris has a plan, "an Apparatus technique called the 'Lure-Kill.'  It pretends affection as a mask for murder."  Yep, he's going to fool the virulently misandric lesbian by pretending to like her.

He hits a supermarket and gets a big box of McKormick's Red Pepper, then buys a nice bouquet of white chrysanthemums.  After leaving, Gris carefully works the pepper into every petal of the flower.  This is totally going to work.

With glee, I contemplated what would happen.  Miss Pinch would open the door, holding a gun as usual.  I would say, "You have reformed me from being a beastly male and I bring this to express my affection."  She would say, "Oh, how charming!"  And then she would take the bouquet, pull back the top flap to see what it was, behold flowers and sniff!  That would be all I would need.  I would have her gun as she convulsed in sneezes.  I would hit her over the head.  I would drag her to that bed and use every torture implement in the place until I had that combination.  Candy?  I would just gut-shoot her and laugh as she writhed.

Again, Gris wants something to happen, and despite what his past experiences would suggest, and despite lacking ways to ensure that this vision comes to pass, he fully expects things to occur the way he imagines them.  It's a unique blend of optimism and idiocy.

Gris takes a cab to Pinch's home.  He says his line and offers the flowers.  She immediately goes off-script and rants about him trying to steal Candy from her, stomps on the bouquet, and opens the lid of a trashcan to dispose of them... until she smells the pepper on the flowers.  She snarls at Gris' treachery and gets him to strip at gunpoint, then shackles him to the bed as usual.

When she finished the last cuff, she threw the gun aside.  "So you like red pepper, do you?  Well, always give the male the right to his chauvinistic domination."  She turned and called into the other room, her voice lilting, "Oh, Candy dear, we're going to have Mexican red-hot tamales tonight."

Now, Mission Earth is printed by Galaxy Press, which is owned by the Church of Spiritual Technology, which publishes Dianetics and other Scientologist materials.  So it's basically an in-house job.  Which means that Hubbard never had to pitch his book to a publisher or have conversations like:

Publisher: Okay, so the main lesbian does the whole Naked Apron thing, nice, and puts on a chef's hat.  Then she strips the other to a napkin that doesn't cover anything either, very nice.  So with the spies and all, this is kinda like a hotter and sexier James Bond flick.

Hubbard: That's what I was going for.

Publisher: And then... she picks up a cheese grater... Uh... James Bond flicks don't usually show the protagonist getting tortured with a cheese grater.

Hubbard: It's okay, Gris is the bad guy, remember.  Anyway, if you'd read Casino Royale you'd know all about James Bond getting hit in the groin with a knotted rope.

Publisher: 's that so?  Well, they'd probably cut that bit out of the movie.  So... then the lesbians go to do, heh heh, their stuff.  And then they come out... and... Tabasco sauce and barbecue forks?  Really?

Hubbard: It shows just how depraved they are.  What psychology has done to them, giving them such sick ideas.

Publisher: But... they're just characters in a book.  They're your ideas.

Hubbard: I'm afraid I don't follow. 

Publisher: Just how many pages of this are there?

Hubbard: Oh, just four. Well, for this chapter.

Publisher: I'm just having trouble getting a feel for this series' tone.  I mean, one book you have the hero, Heller, smearing pasta all over somebody's face to embarrass him in front of some celebrities.  Then in this book we have three chapters of Gris getting tortured.  But earlier in the same book Heller throws a cat at a guy.

Hubbard: It's a complex story.  There's romance, comedy, action, satire-

Publisher: Did we really need three chapters of torture, though?

Hubbard: It shows how committed they are to Psychiatric Birth Control. 

Publisher: Now I'm not saying I'm gay, but this might be a little, uh, inflammatory?  And I'm still a bit confused as to how this is supposed to make Gris gay.

Hubbard: Psychologists are pretty twisted people.

Publisher: ...Yeah.

In the end, Gris gets kicked out without being allowed to wash his wounds, while Candy threatens him with jail time if he doesn't return the next night.  At the hotel, the staff doctor treats Gris' wounds "in the most painful way possible," which is immediately followed by a sentence explaining "It didn't hurt so much, only because he had first given me a shot of morphine."  So it was as painful as possible, but it didn't hurt much.

Gris resolves to leave the hell out of New York, and takes comfort that in forty-eight hours Heller will be "finished" thanks to that story about his mob ties (to the wrong mafia).  Because, as we've seen, things usually go according to Gris' plans.

Back to Chapter Three

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Three - A Mob Boss Who Thinks "The Most Honest Man of the Year" is a Real Award

After a thoroughly painful taxi ride ("every pebble or white line a tire hit communicated to one or another of my bruises"), Gris makes it to Madison's office to try and share this great idea of his.  Unfortunately, Madison seems to think that Gris is talking about Mount St. Helens erupting.  I guess he got confused by Gris repeatedly referring to his enemy as "Hel--I mean Wister," but then shouldn't Madison be talking about a Helen Wister?

It takes two pages, but Gris eventually gets across that Madison is due to run out of front-page material soon, while Gris has an exclusive scoop.  Madison retorts that he already has the next headline ready: "WHIZ KID DONATES WHOLE SETTLEMENT TO CHARITY."  Gris is aghast until Madison slyly explains that the undisclosed out-of-court settlement between Octopus Oil and the Whiz Kid amounted to zero dollars.  Nobody loses, nobody gains, so... the point was... well, somehow this is "stopping" Heller.  I guess.

Gris suggests a new headline: the Whiz Kid's in with the mafia!  Madison isn't too excited ("well, who isn't?") but soon has a stroke of inspiration.  He rustles up an old reporter "who knows mob figures and is expendable," one Bob Hoodward of the Washington Roast and crap on a stick.  It's even explained that this "Hoodward" guy is credited with taking down Richard Nixon "and some other mob figures" back in the day, so it's pretty obvious who he is.  So why bother with the fake name?  You didn't call the fallen president "Richard Dixon" or anything, Hubbard.  Is this satire?  Are you trying not to get sued? 

Hoodward gets on the phone with somebody and arranges for a suspiciously abrupt, brief ceremony in which they'll hand over a "Most Honest Man of the Year" award to an undisclosed recipient.  Madison gets some trusted photographers in face-obscuring makeup and bulletproof vests, while the fake Whiz Kid receives his own orders.  Soon Gris and Madison and other crewmen get in an unmarked van and arrive at the back of Tammany Hall, which incidentally was restored as a landmark to be used "for only the most sacred occasions" by none other than Rockecenter.

New York's political machine?  Oil cartels?  The drug trade?  The mafia?  The Klan?  Terrorist cells?  Psychology?  All one guy.  Is this how Scientology views the world?  A few, enlightened followers of the Right Way versus a monolithic alliance of evil?

Gris and Madison get to a convenient overlook, the cameramen take their hidden positions.  The fake Whiz Kid moves in and Gris notices how, besides not looking anything like Heller, he lacks the real deal's "aura," and instead has "the air of a cheap bum."  Madison finally reveals which mob figure he's involving in this scoop - Faustino "The Noose" Narcotici himself.  Gris is dismayed because, as we've seen, the Narcotici mob is absolutely terrified of Heller and will flee on sight.

But the "Whiz Kid" looks nothing like Heller, so why would... oh.  Yeah, last chapter the Narcotici guy who panicked at the sight of Heller was a lieutenant who had seen him before the whole "Whiz Kid" thing started.  But this is Narcotici himself, who only knows Heller by his reputation as established in the papers, so he'll recognize the Whiz Kid as presented with the goofy glasses and buckteeth.  Which means that at no point did the Narcotici outfit get suspicious that the "Wister" one guy recognized looks nothing like the "Whiz Kid" being trumpeted in the papers.

Stupid Hubbard Villains and plot holes, what else is new.  They put a racing helmet on the "Whiz Kid's" head to hide his face.

(edit from the future: no, wait, Heller put on a ski mask before crashing the funeral a few chapters ago, and everyone only panicked after he introduced himself even without seeing his face.  Which is pretty sad, really, but at least it covers up this little plot hole)

Narcotici shows up.  He is given some bills to give to the recipient of the fake award.  Fake Whiz Kid walks up to take the bills and fake award, flips his visor, and in the split-second between this and Narcotici fleeing in terror, the cameramen get a shot of a smiling mob boss giving cash to a smiling Whiz Kid.  Mission accomplished.

Poor Hoodward complains that he's going to get whacked for this stunt, so Madison offers him a new life in Israel as Martin Borman.  If that's a reference to anybody I can't figure it out.  The chapter ends with Madison and his team on their way to the airport.

Wonder how differently the book would have gone if Gris had explained which mob family Heller was in with.  I guess it's supposed to be ironic that the journalist is ignoring the truth even though it'd be much more useful to him, or something. 

Next chapter... oh goodie.  Miss Pinch is back.

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter Two - A Funeral He Will Never Forget

Gris flips on the HellerVision and sees a lot of red.  It's Babe Corleone in a red gown, red veil, and red cape marked with black hand symbols, which is either a reference to a protection racket that was fading away even when Hubbard was young, or another product of the author's eclectic tastes in fashion and interior decorating.  Gris realizes that Heller is with Babe in the back of a parked limo, preparing to crash GUNSALMO SILVA!'s funeral. 

There's another guy there too, trying to talk her out of it since, y'know, it's a rival mob family's funeral and the place will be swarming with Narcotici's "lice."  Not that Babe's coming unprepared - there's a dozen thugs with riot shotguns waiting outside the car.  Since he can't make any headway, Unnamed Naysayer appeals to Heller as the voice of reason.

"Mrs. Corleone," said Heller, "why don't I just step over to that church and see what's really going on?  Then we'll know for sure whether it's safe or unsafe.  We don't want you in the middle of a gang fight."

"They'll shoot you!" said Babe in sudden alarm.  "Take ten or twelve men!"

"No," said Heller.  "I'll be all right.  I'll wear this ski mask."

Oh yeah, a mobster wouldn't get an itchy trigger finger when approached by someone in a ski mask.  And they'd certainly never kill someone unless they were absolutely certain who they were.  Also, "what's really going on?"  I think, based on the fact that it's a funeral, that these guys plan on sticking a corpse in the ground.  As opposed to throwing a rave or playing cards.

Heller takes his gun, that golden "Llama" .45 pistol, and on his way out has to say "You stay there."  You see, he brought that cat along with him, the one that helped killed Silva, who is yowling in protest at being left behind.  And then it follows Heller's orders and stays put.  I'm now skeptical that Hubbard ever owned a cat.

So our hero sets forth to "investigate" a rival mob family's funeral to see if it's "safe."  Gris is of  course gleeful at this situation, since Heller's liable to be shot.  He does remember that he doesn't have Heller's platen yet so it'd be a huge inconvenience if Heller were killed, so Gris instead assumes that the rival mobsters will only wound him with a bullet.  Gotta admire the man's optimism.  While continuing to loathe him for all his other qualities, of course.

Heller steps inside the spacious, gothic but "small" Our Lady of Gracious Peace cathedral.  Sure enough, there's an open casket.  Sure enough, there's a whole mob of mobsters standing around with shotguns out and ready.  And to make matters worse, Razza Louseini is there!  You don't know this, but he's Narcotici's consigliere, and you don't remember this, but he's the man who "fingered" Heller in the Howard Johnson waaaay back in Book Two.  Gris is elated: "He would probably recognize Heller!  Marvelous!  A good, disabling wound in Heller was exactly what I needed!"

It's like the Countess Krak "plan" of his.  Gris wants something to happen, and assumes that someone who he has no control over or contact with will do exactly what he's expecting.  At least Terl knew how important it was to get Leverage over someone and make them oh God I'm referencing Battlefield Earth as a positive example.

Louseini (oh I get it, "louse"-ini!) is trying to convince his boys to stay put and bury Silva properly, but they're complaining that they've already lost so many men this year, and they've got better things to do.  A priest asks for pallbearers, but one of the thugs points out that even though Silva died doing family business and killed a hated rival for them, he's still "a traditore, a traitor."  Because once again, you the reader are an idiot unable to make an educated guess as to the meaning of a foreign word, and you lack the attention span to remember the last time the author defined this word for you.

I don't think consigliere has ever been defined. 

The priest is taken aback by the whole "traitor" thing: "All are equal in the eyes of God, but a traditore . . ."  Even Jesus has limits, y'know.  But at this point one of the Narcotici goons spots Heller and advances in a no-doubt menacing fashion, demanding to know who this masked newcomer is and whether he's a spy.  The priest calls for peace in this house of God and tries to be diplomatic, inadvertently emasculating an entire group of antagonists.

"My son, you are masked," said the priest.  "What is your name?"

Well, I suppose a Royal officer doesn't lie to a priest.  He said, "Here on this planet, they call me Jerome Wister."

"But I'm not an alien!"

The noise was such that I couldn't tell what happened for a moment.  It was a dreadful smashing sound.

Heller looked.

Men were going out those leaded windows in a rocket stream!

Screams of panic!

Shattering crashes of riot gun butts hammering out panes to clear the way!

Yes, this is happening.  The place was "absolutely crammed" with heavily-armed mob soldiers, and this is happening.

Men were pouring out onto the shrubbery outside!

Limousines were roaring to life!

The room was empty.

The limousines were gone.

A tinkle of broken glass fell with one last sound upon the floor.


But there you have it.  The Narcotici mob, the closest thing we have to an organized opposition to Heller now that Mr. Bury has given up on physical confrontations in exchange for undirected and meaningless bad publicity, is so terrified of our book's hero that they flee at the sight of him.  So much for tension or conflict or excitement.

And yet it's still going to take six books to wrap this wretched story up.

So Heller steps out, tells Babe that it's safe, and the Corelone mob moves in to give Silva "a funeral he is not likely to forget," with the still-nameless cat hitching a ride on Heller's shoulder.  They go up to Silva lying in state, and Gris notes that the morticians did a good job rebuilding his face after the whole "broke every bone in his body" thing.  Let the festivities begin.

Babe towered over it.  She lifted her red veil.

"Traditore!" she said.


The priest drew back in horror.

Suddenly the cat let out a snarl!

It rocketed off Heller's shoulder!

It went straight at Silva's face, snarling and clawing!


Heller hurriedly reached over and pried the cat off.  As he held it, it kept snarling and hissing the way only a cat can do!  It was hard for Heller to hold it.  No cathedral organ for Silva.  Those sounds of hate reverberated through the vaults.

Yeah, take that, you... guy who killed another guy we never met, off-screen, before the book even started.  Yeah.  We hate you... so much.  Grr.

Is Silva representing one of Hubbard's enemies or something?  It just seems like he's expecting us to really enjoy this for whatever reason.

While the "powerless" priest continues to cower, all the Corleone mob soldiers come up one by one to stab Silva's corpse in the chest, spit on him, and shout "Traditore!"  Which is no longer being translated.  Thanks for showing some faith in our cognitive processes, Hubbard.

When that's done, Babe gets a branding iron, heats the end with a blowtorch, and marks Silva's corpse with a T on each cheek, branding him as a - you guessed it - traitor.  But she's not through.

Babe was not through.

She took the other iron and began to heat it.

Father Paciere wailed.

It was a cross!

It glowed cheery red.

She again approached the casket.

She lifted her red-veiled face to the vault of heaven.  She cried, "MUEM SUPROC TSE COH!"

She plunged it down on his forehead.  The cross was upside down!

Oh, Gods, I suddenly understood.  The words Hoc est corpus meum are the words of Holy Communion.  They mean "This is my body," in Latin.  When they are said backwards, over an inverted cross, the grace of one of their Gods is taken from the individual, not given to him.  He would receive the reverse of forgiveness.  BLACK MASS!

That's... it's just... the weird thing is that this almost certainly isn't one of Hubbard's childhood interests popping up in Mission Earth.  The modern conception of a Black Mass as a sort of dark ritual only popped up in the 50's or 60's as a side-effect of heavy metal music.  Earlier Black Masses in the medieval era were either parodies of Catholic rituals or sensationalized rumors accompanying witch hunts.  Or so says my 5-minute research on Wikipedia.

So this nonsense is probably Hubbard staying trendy.  He's with that Satanism stuff, kids!  Buy his books!

After she's done invoking the powers of Satan to curse her enemies, the priest declares that it'll take thirty Pater Nosters and thirty-one Ave Marias for Babe to make up for desecrating a church.

"It's worth it," said Babe.  "The dirty, filthy traitor!  Now you cannot bury him in consecrated ground!"

"No, we cannot," wept the priest, "though it is doubtful if even God would accept a traitor."

Let's see... "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace," that's Ephesians 1:7... "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," that's Colossians 1:13-14...

Babe suggests the church dispose of Silva's corpse by throwing it in a pig trough, but the priest protests that they'll get in trouble for poisoning the pigs, so Babe tells him to donate the body to I. G. Barben Pharmaceuticals to make poison.  The priest thinks that's workable.  If only, though, if only there were something he could do to consecrate Silva's body, to undo the Black Mass.  If only he, a cleric of the lord, had the power to bless people and conduct religious rituals.

You are a rubbish priest, Father Paciere.  

Well, Babe and everyone leaves the funeral, quite satisfied.  I leave the chapter somewhat worried that I've had to research some occult rituals, but take heart that I might have balanced it out by going through bible verses.  And Gris, well, Gris has an idea. 

Hey, why didn't any of the Corleone gunmen engage the Narcotici guys when they were swarming out of the cathedral?  Your sworn enemy crashes through the windows and runs at you and you don't take a few shots?  No worries about shedding blood on holy ground, priest says you'll just have to say the magic words a few dozen times to make up for it.  

Back to Chapter One

Monday, August 13, 2012

Part Thirty-Three, Chapter One - Mandatory Brainstorming

A new day begins, as does a new Part of the story.  There's a reassuring familiarity about this chapter, with Gris checking the day's paper and panicking at the job Madison is doing.  No sadist lesbians to be found or anything.

Soltan Gris on newspapers:

You would not think that a wad of wood pulp, crushed flat, messily smeared with some carbon, could constitute a deadly weapon.  But a newspaper is all of that and more.   Any direction it is pointed, it can kill.  Especially when motivated by an idiot.  One who does not seem to know who he is pointing at.

The headline is about the Whiz Kid's out-of-court settlement with Octopus Oil and the fallout of such a landmark case.  The New York Stock Exchange is reopening, which is surprising since I never noticed it closing.  A stock broker is quoted as giving his condolences for all those ripped off after he and his firm bought a bunch of Octopus Stock after causing a sell-off.  And now I realize why this chapter seems reassuringly familiar - we got the same headline in Chapter Seven of the last Part.  You know, between Torture Sessions #1 and #2. 

Gris realizes that despite his meeting with Madison, the story mentions Swindle and Crouch in the same sentence as Boggle, Gouge and Hound.  Mr. Bury's gonna be maaaaad.  So Gris is in a pickle.  He's decided that New York City is "just too small for me and Pinch," but he can't flee to Turkey because there's that Apparatus assassin waiting to kill him if he continues to botch the mission, and Heller is "still winning."


Heller's got his driving privileges suspended or something thanks to the fake Whiz Kid's antics, while he's unlikely to gain anything from the fake's recent victory because he wasn't the one actually in the courthouse.  Well, I say his driving privileges are gone, but we haven't seen anyone confiscate his keys or anything, probably because he looks nothing like the Whiz Kid getting spat on in the papers.  In fact, all this newspaper drama isn't having any discernible affect on him beyond making Babe Corleone cranky.  It's not so much that Heller has been stopped as it is that he's just not doing much.  Aside from keeping Izzy from killing himself again and taking out a laughably killable super-assassin and recovering tons of money and stuff.

It's like the newspaper drama is totally divorced from reality and the rest of the story.  Like the whole Psychiatric Birth Control garbage.  We're told it's there, but that's about it.

Well, the best Gris can come up with to get himself out of this mess is to hit Madison with a baseball bat, so he sits down and waits for inspiration.  "An idea greater than any idea I had ever had was absolutely mandatory!"

So of course he turns on the HellerVision.

Back to Part Thirty-Two, Chapter Seven

Friday, August 10, 2012

Part Thirty-Two, Chapter Seven - This Time with Antique Firearms

Gris wakes up in his hotel room feeling like a sadistic lesbian had spent the previous evening hitting him with various truncheons.  Before going to bed he evidently visited the hotel's resident doctor who patched up his hands, while Utanc apparently paid the repair crew that fixed the damages done by the Signal Corps. what feels like years ago.  He showers, which is painful, then dries his bandages by the fireplace.  "I was encouraged.  They only caught fire twice."

Now, here's a little writing trick to try at home - last book, when Gris packed before returning to America, neither he nor the narrative actually described what he packed.  The reason for this is simple: if I told you, for example, that I had a backpack containing three pounds of jellybeans and a marmoset, there's no way you would accept me pulling a combustion engine out of it.  After all, I didn't include it on my list.  But if I never define the contents of my backpack, then I can pull anything I want out of it and not strain your suspension of disbelief.  I call this hypothetical backpack that can hold potentially anything an Ambiguous Storage Space.

So Gris reaches into his Ambiguous Storage Space and pulls out a pair of blackpowder dueling pistols, working replicas based on an 1810 design, complete with gunpowder and lead balls.  Gris assures us that they're ".50 caliber and that half-inch slug could almost cut a body in half," then spends some time cocking and snapping the archaic firearms to produce pleasing showers of sparks.  He loads them up with "enough charge to kill an elephant," presumably referring to a pygmy elephant with hemophilia and lung cancer.

We could wonder, at this point, what possessed Gris to bring along this pair of antique firearms, or why he would pack them in preference to, say, any weapon made in the last century.  But we can't argue with their existence.  After all, Hubbard never defined the contents of Gris' luggage, so he can pull stuff like this out of his Ambiguous Storage Space whenever he needs to.

Bathed and armed, Gris decides to check the morning paper, only to be infuriated by the headlines - "WHIZ KID COURT TRIUMPH."  Yes, Madison followed his orders to end the lawsuit by having it end in the Whiz Kid's favor with an out-of-court settlement of an undisclosed sum.  Satire comes from the article mentioning "Herman T. Guesswinkle, noted astrologer" trying to guess at the exact number.  No doubt you are shivering at how eerily prescient this criticism was, given the great astrology and necromancy scandals that rocked CNN and MSNBC during late 2007.

So Gris gives up and goes back to bed until four in the afternoon, when he's awakened by a phone call asking if this is "Inkswitch"'s address.  He stupidly answers in the affirmative, only to learn that it's the IRS confirming his location - an unsubtle warning from Miss Pinch.  Wellp, nothing for it, she's gotta die, her and Candy.  Gris gets dressed, pulls some explosives out of his Ambiguous Storage Space, locks, loads, and heads out.

Gris takes a cab to a block away from Pinch's apartment, approaches carefully in the wintery darkness, draws one pistol, and uses its muzzle to ring the doorbell.  He realizes his first error when he doesn't use Miss Pinch's three-buzz code.  Candy opens the door, and before Gris can do anything else something knocks him out from behind with what he thinks was a blackjack.  Now, he has no real way of knowing this, but he posits that Miss Pinch was standing in the shadows of the entrance waiting for him.  So it might have been a good idea to check those shadows before going for the front door.

Apparatus training + Gunsalmo Silva = unstoppable super-assassin (as long as no cats are involved).  Apparatus training + Soltan Gris = how have you not died yet?

And then it's more of the same from last chapter.  Gris awakes naked and chained to the bed.  Miss Pinch draws his pistols "expertly," cocks the guns, then fires them at Gris' head and belly - releasing only a spray of sparks.  She taunts that "You forgot to prime them, Inkswitch!  Not a single grain of powder in the priming pan!"  But Miss Pinch of course knows all about blackpowder weapons from 1810, because... which is how...

So Pinchy goes to town with the old guns, showering Gris' beaten and bruised body with sparks and branding him with flash burns.  Candy demures on participating, since she's staying true to the teachings of Psychiatric Birth Control and refuses to touch men.  I would like to point out that heterosexual men and women rarely have such antipathy towards their own genders as to avoid physical contact with the same sex.  Eventually Candy gets so excited from Gris' screaming that she and Pinchy have to leave the room to engage in that mysterious activity of theirs.

Half an hour later they return.  Miss Pinch still has her shoes on as she spends some time berating and cursing at Gris, and when she's done Gris tries to turn the tables by using Psychology! to suggest some childhood trauma causing some role reversals, only to fail when he can't come up with anything that would explain her sadistic behavior.

So is that why Gris is Most Definitely Not Gay?  He was spared by his own half-assed understanding of psychology?  Is true psychology like the Necronomicon only instead of sprouting tentacles or going insane after studying it, you catch the gay?

Pinchy turns Gris' tactics around and accuses Gris of throwing girls off cliffs as a child and turning his sister into a prostitute.  Gris counters that he doesn't have a sister, but Pinchy assures him that he will after she hits him with this truncheon enough.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why torture is an ineffective method of collecting intelligence, but a very useful way to obtain a false confession.  Lock a man in a freezer long enough, play Metallica at rock concert decibels for days on end, whip him with an extension cord, and he'll happily explain how he not only masterminded 9/11, but is actually Osama Bin Laden in disguise.

Then comes a first for the series - a section break.  As far as I can tell, up until now the only breaks in the narrative have been between chapters (which is not to say that every chapter break occurred during a lull in the story).  Places were you'd expect a section break, such as Gris being knocked out in this chapter, do nothing but start a new paragraph with Gris waking up immediately afterward.  But now we get one to spare us from reading about Gris being hit with a truncheon, as opposed to last chapter, which did not.

The room's filled with marijuana smoke (drugs are bad) and Miss Pinch and Candy have gone through their record collection (this is the year 2000-something, by the way).  Gris gets dressed, and Miss Pinch has some more parting words for him.

"You obviously have not had company training, Inkswitch.  It is all too plain to see that you prefer sex-smashing a woman down into a bed.  You are perverted, Inkswitch.  Don't you know that makes babies and babies are forbidden?  Think Psychiatric Birth Control, Inkswitch.  Rockecenter would fire you out of hand if he thought you favored old-fashioned sex!  So we are doing you a favor, Inkswitch.  We will gradually win you away from your male beastliness.  Consider it our blessing, Inkswitch."

"Oh, I do," I faltered.

"Very good, you contemptible (bleepard).  We will see you here tomorrow night.  Without pistols.  Primed or unprimed.  And without fail."

So their plan is to what, knock the heterosexuality right out of him?  Hit him until he's so afraid of women that he turns gay?  What if he's kinky enough to be into masochism, but still straight?  What if homosexuals don't have a monopoly on the hard stuff?  Or what if a fear of Miss Pinch and Candy Licorice doesn't translate into a fear of the entire female gender?

Also, Rockecenter?  Last we saw he was promoting his infanticide programs, not Psychiatric Birth Control.  He wasn't spying on his ladies to make sure they were all lesbians, he was checking to see if they were pregnant. 

Blargh.  This is so stupid, even for Mission Earth.

Gris takes Pinchy's hundred bucks for cab rides from and to her house and leaves.  I hope you're not tired of Gris getting tortured by crazy lesbians, because there's another chapter of it in twenty pages.

Back to Part Thirty-Two, Chapter Six

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Part Thirty-Two, Chapter Six - This Chapter is Part of the Reason Why People Try to Ban This Book

Unabridged version here

This chapter is twelve pages long.  It feels much longer.

The room's other door opens, admitting a thirty-something women with frizzy blonde hair who "wasn't very pretty but she certainly was making the most of what she had."  She coos and claps her hands excitedly upon seeing Gris (who is, need I remind you, still naked and chained to the bed), thanks Miss Pinch profusely for this gift, and starts making out with the other woman.

"A lesbian and her 'wife!'" Gris dubs them.  So wait, Miss Pinch is the lesbian, but Candy isn't?  And why would a homosexual couple necessarily adopt traditional heterosexual gender roles, with one being "butch" and the other girlie?  I'll just put this comment down to the 80's or something.

The newcomer Candy takes a closer look at him, before declaring that Gris "isn't very big, is he?"  And God help us all, but this is actually a plot point.  This will co... pop up... this will be addressed again later.  "This" being Gris' genitals.

And then, well.  It turns out these particular lesbians only get excited when a male suffers.  So Gris gets those mousetraps on his fingers yanked off in the most painful way possible, then gets beaten with a truncheon, then just gets beaten with fists.  And every now and then Candy and Pinch have to run off into the next room to do things that Gris just can't figure out; there's a lot of groaning and they emerge some time later half naked and covered in lipstick, so what could possibly be going on?  And all of this is set to Wagner's operas or funeral dirges.

But aside from that, there's a lot of exposition in this chapter, delivered while Candy catches her breath between rounds of torture and mysterious off-screen activity involving two women.

Indulgently, Miss Pinch said "All Rockecenter's companies have classes in Psychiatric Birth Control.  It's vital, you understand, to reduce the world's population.  They breed like rats.  And they're all riffraff.  They outstrip the world's food supply which has to be reduced so food prices will stay up and Rockecenter's friends can make a profit.  And, of course, that is the name of the game."

I guess "they" here is "everyone on the planet," not a specific ethnic minority or anything.  And the best way to keep food prices high isn't to pad them with "transportation costs" incorporating the high price of fuel (which Rockecenter can set), or to just set the prices high and expect people to pay them because you and all the other suppliers are in cahoots, or to simply sabotage your own efforts to produce food to keep supply low, or even to encourage overpopulation so there's more demand for a limited supply of food.  No, the best way to keep food prices high is to reduce demand by reducing the population.

She took a thirsty guzzle of her beer and, without bothering to wipe off the mustache, continued learnedly.  "Birth control requires more than pills and besides, I.G. Barben has no monopoly on them and there are competitors.  So the answer to controlling world population is homosexuality.  Now if everyone were a homosexual--the men gays and the women lesbians--then there's no more population problem at all.  The great work begun by the Rockecenters decades ago is just now coming into its own.  Birth control training is now being introduced even into kindergartens.  The competitors of Barben will go broke, as who will need the pills?  There will be no mass meetings against abortion and even abortion is going out of use.  The trend is overwhelmingly towards universal homosexuality."

Yes, rather than work to expand I.G. Barben's business and attain a monopoly on birth control pills, or rather than simply being happy with its market share, the most sensible thing to do is to retire birth control products altogether and turn everyone gay, an undertaking that will certainly require a monumental investment of time and money and constant maintenance to keep the program going, an investment that could very well outstrip any profits to be made from higher food prices resulting from reducing the number of customers trying to buy your produce which, as I said before, doesn't make any sense. 

"The Psychiatric Birth Control classes are wonderful.  They were developed by Dr. Frybrain, the head of the International Psychiatric Association, on a special Rockecenter grant.  And the Rockecenters, as you know, have always controlled psychiatry and psychology.  What used to be called 'normal' sex is the real sex crime.  And what used to be called 'sex crimes' are now normal.  So if every student becomes dedicated, as psychiatrists are, to making all the perverts and sadists and homosexuals they can, then the long-term Rockecenter goal of shrinking world population will become a fact.  

And once again we run into Hubbard's greatest... one of Hubbard's great flaws as a writer: the incoherence of his setting and the lack of verisimilitude.

An energy monopoly's plan to turn the world gay, starting at kindergarten, is kind of a big deal.  It would have a huge impact on society - even assuming that somehow all resistance to the program gets cowed, you'd have the shockwaves of such a sudden drastic change in the planet's sexual orientation.  It would be visible, there would be new gay couples everywhere, straight couples feeling somewhat out of place, a whole shift in marketing as gender values were thrown through the blender, a media campaign to introduce and reinforce the new "gay is good" message... the world would be changing before our eyes.

Except it hasn't.  This is the first we've heard of Psychiatric Birth Control, and we've been on this planet for three books!  Nobody else has so much as mentioned this plan, much less a sudden surge in the gay community.  Heller hasn't been ordered to attend Gay Seminar 1010 for his freshman year.  Bang-Bang isn't hounded by the Rockecenter Gay Police for liking boobies.  Nobody's tried to shut down the Gracious Palms for practicing sexual deviancy, i.e. heterosexual relations.  Mr. Bury, Rockecenter's right-hand man, is still married to a woman.  Gris hasn't had to attend Psychiatric Birth Control classes as part of his employee orientation.  The closest thing to it was Mary's mention of psychiatrists turning women into prostitutes at the beginning of book two, a claim that also has not been reflected in the story since then.

In short, there is no indication that the Great Gay Conspiracy being described in this chapter is anything more than Miss Pinch and Candy's shared delusion.  It does not exist outside this chapter.  Its presence cannot be felt in the greater story.

Also, let me point out a fatal flaw in this crackpot plan - just because people are gay doesn't mean they don't want to have children.  Lesbians find sperm donors.  Gay couples adopt or get surrogate mothers.  I guess Rockecenter is going to have to outlaw pregnancy period, a hugely controversial move which would probably be aided by the same birth control practices he's abandoning in favor of Psychiatric Birth Control good god this is a mobius strip of stupidity.

But there you have it.  Homosexuality isn't the result of being born a certain way, or a lifestyle choice, it's something psychiatry does to you.  Rockecenter is not only crazy, but stupid enough to want to wipe out all his potential customers with a badly-thought-out master plan, leaving him with no way to make more money, nothing to spend it on, and nothing to rule. 

Once the hurting (Gris' hurting and the reader's, that is) stops, Miss Pinch also explains a few things about Gris' money - she didn't pay off the security chief, who is an honest drug pusher.  Rather, Miss Pinch used a hidden camera and fingerprint scanner to record Gris' identity whenever he made a withdrawal, regardless of what he signed the forms with, a system her predecessor taught her and one that Rockecenter doesn't know about.  She now has records of all Gris' semi-official embezzlement to report to the IRS if he speaks out, putting him completely in her power.

Pinchy showers Gris' naked, beaten body with the money she took, before stuffing it all in a safe.  She gives him a hundred dollar bill to cover his taxi fare - both home tonight and back to her dungeon tomorrow night - and suggests that she might part with more of the haul later.  Oh, and there's a hidden camera recording everything so he can't murder her.  Guess she and Candy don't mind putting on a show.

So Miss Pinch shows Gris out, but not without some parting words.

She opened the front door and wrought-iron gate.  She stood there, naked and thin-lipped in the icy blast.  "The first time you came to my window, Inkswitch, I told you to beat it.  I didn't think you'd last.  But due to Psychiatric Birth Control, all the males around here lately have turned into gays

Reader to author: PROVE IT!

to help cut down world population.  And I refuse to risk the danger of separating two dear gays.  So you're better than nothing, Inkswitch.  Although not much.  So I will see you right here tomorrow night.  It's better than three years in a Federal pen.  The homos there would murder you.  Don't be late."

Gris staggers home, and finally, finally the chapter ends.  A chapter containing Hubbard's forays into erotica, half-baked evil schemes, insistence that things are happening that aren't supported by the rest of the story, psycho lesbians, torture, revelations that mental therapy is trying to turn us all gay, bad economics, and blackmail.

And there's more to come.

Back to Chapter Five