Something was wrong. I could not place it.
The boots! The boots my foot had been resting on!
They were GONE!
My eyes darted to where I had left the pile of clothes. They were gone!
I started up.
My hand went to the knob of her door. Silently, I opened it.
THE COUNTESS KRAK WAS GONE!
And so, not only were Gris' painstaking preparations from last chapter completely ineffectual, but it took us less than a page for him to go into an all-caps freakout.
This is gonna be a long book. (edit from the future: you have no idea how long)
He rushes into Prahd's room and once again finds the "good" doctor in bed with an underaged girl, who complains "You broke your promise!" Then Gris runs all over the hospital looking for the Countess, and grills the receptionist and guards over her whereabouts, to no avail. Then he finally remembers that he implanted a bug in her head, and he can just turn on... uh... the Krak Channel? KTV? Well, the important thing is that we get to the meat of the chapter: watching the Countess Krak look at things.
Gris finds her poking around the warehouse, rummaging through medical supplies and assembling a first aid kit. But not for her, oh no, this is all for Heller. She picks up some healing agents because "He could put his hand on something hot," (yes, conveniently for us the Countess talks to herself all the time), some space-age poultices "That would heal a blastgun scar," that sort of thing.
There's a, ah, clever shout-out to Hubbard's more infamous book, as Gris wonders where the Countess got the idea that "Earth was a battlefield!" And then it's right back to gawking at alien doodads - again, for Heller. "I'll bet his spinbrush is all worn out. . . . Maybe his nerve ends have gotten dull. . . . Maybe he has grown a mustache and wants it speeded up. . . ." And then she gets into the Eyes and Ears of Voltar stuff. See, when Gris raided that shop waaaay back in book one, he didn't just take the bugging equipment, he looted the whole vault. And then shipped it to Earth. And promptly forgot about it.
So we get almost a full page of alien espionage equipment: "A gadget that detected eye-pupillary shift when someone was lying," a very useful device nobody in the Apparatus uses. "A perfume that makes a person say yes to anything," man, that'd be useful for taping false confessions, you wouldn't have to muck about with hypnohelmets or anything. A "dart that causes people to grow warm and itch so they will disrobe and you can get divorce evidence," that's a device with a strangely specific function. As is "a headlight fitting which installed in one's own headlights causes other drivers to act like they are drunk so they can then be arrested for drunken driving" - well if you're not going to breathalyze them but want to jail them anyway, why not lie about the swerving too? Oh, and here's a "field coil that stimulates the desire to pick up money so the person can be arrested for stealing." Yes, influence behavior by shooting Greed Radiation at people!
It's just bizarre. Not just the gizmos, but the sudden deluge of creativity and imagination, an avalanche of fantastical spy toys that are only showing up five books into the series, amazing devices that have not been used by anyone in the story despite their obvious utility. And these were all made by a civilian company, not the Apparatus' private labs!
And again, I must wonder why psychology is being treated as the worst thing imaginable when these Voltarians have invented "a case of emotional perfume bombs that cause people to react with emotions that make them say the required things: packs of eight assorted emotions. Caution: point away from self when breaking tip." Bloody alien hypocrites. Or maybe they're dismissive of psychology because it doesn't work as well as their "field coil" devices.
Well, Krak helps herself to this bounty of gadgetry, and Gris is about to go stop her when he remembers that doing so would reveal that he isn't under hypnotic suggestion to let her run freely through the hospital. He then takes stock of his weapons but glumly concludes that a stungun, couple of blasticks and knife just wouldn't be enough to handle one flat-footed female loaded down with loot.
There was only one thing I could do and I did it. I sat there and suffered.
She had tricked me.
Wow, the Countess "tricked" Gris into sitting on his arse watching another character's actions on a television set. She's certainly something special, isn't she?
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