Lulled by months of not seeing her, I had completely forgotten the impact of the presence of the Countess Krak. You knew she was there.
She was wearing a spacer's greatcoat with the collar turned up. She was wearing spaceboots. Her blond-gold hair was in braids around her head like a crown.
Yeah, that's the extent of Krak's "presence." Like many great figures in history, when you see her you say to yourself "Yep, she's there all right. She certainly isn't absent." And then you methodically tally what she's wearing.
She immediately asks if Heller is alright, and Gris remembers to feign a tummyache at the thought of his enemy being in any danger, because remember Krak thinks Gris is still hypnotized to barf up his last meal if he even considers harming Heller, a subplot that ate up a lot of time in Book 1 that could have been spent actually getting to Earth.
Gris asks about Krak's luggage, or more specifically some certain Royal documents, because remember, in order to secure Krak's cooperation in getting Heller off his ass and into space, Gris forged documents promising to pardon her for her past offenses, a capital crime that he's had to waste time in more recent books trying to cover up. Krak assures him that they're safe but won't elaborate.
It occurs to me that I ought to have been taking notes to keep up with all these lingering subplots.
Gris hurries to get Krak reunited with Heller, which involves taking a fake passport photo, which Krak doesn't like because she looks like a mess and couldn't bring all those nice clothes Heller bought her. Then she has to get dressed in the local custom with whatever Gris can find:
I found a dingy-looking woman's hooded cloak. It was a sort of spotty brown. I found a veil. I couldn't find any shoes or stockings. She was wearing spaceboots. So let her wear spaceboots.
Sometimes I think Hubbard is just as bored writing this as I am reading it.
Krak gets dressed, Gris gets her into the cab, and then he starts to describe how crazy these Earthlings are about identifying marks, such as that little nick under Krak's right eyebrow or a faint scar on the back of her hand. When this doesn't work, Gris suggests that Heller might not want to look at such "blemishes" for the rest of their life, and that convinces Krak to see a cellologist.
To sell the deal, Gris agrees that he and the doctor will submit to hypnohelmets (which of course Gris has already disabled), and reuses the old "and you can wear a wrist recorder while you're unconscious" trick he used on Heller back in the first book. Yes, "Strategy Plan A" is succeeding. Gris just restrains himself from hugging himself with glee. I've never hugged myself with glee. Maybe I've never been happy enough.
Back to Chapter Seven