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