Monday, September 24, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter Two - A Critique of Modern Currency

The act of wringing his hands gives Gris a glance at his watch and reminds him that he has two hours to get the Countess Krak on her plane, so it's time for some last-minute preparations.  Apparatus agents usually get five hundred bucks for travel expenses or emergencies, but Gris is broke, so he pockets everything but a fifty for the Countess to get a cab with.  Then it's off to find Raht so the agent can tail Krak and Heller with the relayer for the implanted bugs.

Gris admits that Raht is looking younger and healthier than ever after the treatment for broken bones and pneumonia and all the other injuries Gris kept putting him through.  And Gris, of course, rails at Raht for "lying around doing nothing."  And I guess I could get annoyed at Gris for failing to appreciate the value of a good minion, but since he's going to keep repeating this mistake, what's the point?  Gris pulls his knife on Raht to make him shave his beloved mustache, so Krak won't recognize him.  I'm not sure if this is "comedy" or a redundant effort to make Gris seem as petty and unlikeable as possible.

Krak comes back with two hypnohelmets, which are not nearly as bad as that disgusting false science of "psychology," and compliments a bowing and scraping Dr. Prahd for his work.  The helmets are disguised as World Health Organization specimens, because nobody at customs wants to rummage around in a sample of spinal meningitis.  Krak thinks Gris' alias for her, Heavenly Joy Krackle, is awfully "sweet" of him.  And then the issue of money comes up.

First there's Gris' commentary that "modern U.S. money, a dingy blackish green on gray-green paper, does not compare very well in appearance to the gold gleam of Voltar currency."  I guess this implies that Gris has made a study of the history of American currency and finds the original dingy blackish green on gray-green paper notes from 1862 noticeably different from today's dingy blackish green on green-gray paper notes, suggesting an incredible eye for detail and nostalgia for the good old days.  Also, this might be the closest we've come to a description of Voltarian currency, but I can't be certain.  It's been so long since we've been on Voltar, after all.

Krak is confused because the fifty dollar bill says "Grant" on it, which means "give away," so "This bill can't be very valuable if they just give them away."  Gris, in a stroke of inspiration, explains that most people on this strange planet use something called "credit cards," with which you can just buy whatever you want.  Krak finds this a bit odd, but accepts it.

So the super-advanced 110-world alien empire has no notion of "credit."  Which is a bit odd, because I'm almost certain the first book mentioned things like gambling debts and debtors' prisons, but I'm not going to check.  The important thing is that, for this plot point/gag to work, the Countess Krak has to have no idea that using credit cards carries any repercussions, to say nothing of a grasp of basic economics.

So the chapter ends with Krak deciding she'll have to get a credit card from somewhere, and patting Gris on the shoulder - remember this.  And then it's off to the airport.

Back to Chapter One

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