Friday, November 30, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Four - Changing Her Mind

Gris watches as the Countess Krak reaches the not-shabby apartment of Miss Jane Simmons, torn between the hope that the teacher isn't home, and that she is so Krak can be arrested for murder.  She rings the buzzer and introduces herself as a "fellow teacher, from Atalanta University, Manco" here to talk about one of Miss Simmons' students, and the professor is all too eager to let Krak in without even asking "where the hell is Manco?"  Or "your name, please?"  Or "which student?"

Krak knows how to use an apartment intercom, but doesn't figure out that she's supposed to open the door right after it clicks after being remotely unlocked.  She just shoves the foyer door open.  'kay.  Gris meanwhile calls up Raht to confirm that Police Inspector Grafferty is on his way to deal with the situation personally - a single murder in New York City?  He can "smell the headlines already."

Now, if you were paying very close attention (why?) to the chapter before last, you may have noticed that Gris stole Miss Simmons' glasses but didn't give them back at any point.   So when she opens the door to admit the Countess she's basically blind as a bat.  I'm not sure why this is important, because the woman has never seen Krak before, and if the Countess does what Gris thinks she will then Simmons wouldn't be able to identify her anyway.  But whatever.

Simmons immediately starts ranting about an unnamed, despised male student of hers who she knows sabotaged the UN bill, indicating that nobody's told her that the guy who tipped her off about that fact was "A dirty, rotten, stinkin' FED!"  Also, despite Simmons' hatred of this nameless male student, Krak either fails to make the connection to Heller or hears it as further proof that he and Simmons are madly in love.  Then when the teacher mentions that the Tactical Police Force is after her, Krak is nice enough to offer Simmons some head protection - specifically a hypno-helmet, which she quickly drops on the teacher's head.

Krak guides the dazed Simmons into her bedroom and onto the bed.  Miss Simmons' dressing gown falls open to give Gris a glimpse of the goods.  Apparently she interrupted her change of clothes to let a visitor in for a chat without bothering to put on some sweatpants and a T-shirt.  This is the ally Gris hoped would be able to destroy Heller once and for all, a woman who will invite a total stranger into her home, while blind and half-naked, so she can yell at them about how much she hates one of her students.

Krak adjusts Simmons' gown to preserve the other woman's modesty, gets the microphone you apparently need to properly hypnotize someone, takes off her cape and jacket, "the equivalent of rolling up her sleeves to get to work," and gets to work.

"What were those eight men going to do to you in Van Cortlandt Park?" said the Countess, 

Asked!  "Asked the Countess!"  How do you spend a lifetime writing and not figure out that people don't usually "say" questions?!

I'm sorry, that just slipped out.  I've been holding it in for a long time now.

leaning back in her chair.

Muffled, "Rape me.  All eight of them.  They were going to rape me hour after hour."

The Countess lowered her microphone and pushed it into her shoulder.  "I thought so," she muttered in Voltarian.

Thanks for talking to yourself, by the way.  Saves Gris the trouble of having to guess what you're thinking.

"A real rape-crazy slut.  The whole thing has been just a pose to steal Jettero!"

By Countess Krak Logic, if I narrowly avoided getting hit by a car during a walk, it was really a suicide attempt on my part with the added aim of getting the Church of Scientology to waive my entrance fees and let me join.  Or perhaps an expression of my unhealthy automobile fetish and a ploy to seduce the guy who drives the tow truck. 

Next Krak asks about the first time Simmons saw Heller, the memory of which makes the other woman go rigid and quivering and let out a muffled scream because "He is too good-looking."  Krak of course concludes that this is a case of love at first sight, and asks if there's anything else.  Simmons admits that she was dismayed to learn that the handsome devil was "a nuclear physicist major and had to be stopped."  Because...

Miss Simmons looked to be in torment.  She shouted, "THERE MUST BE NO EXPLOSIONS!"  Then in lower volume, muffled by the helmet, "My father held the chair of psychology at Brooklyn University.  He said explosions were substitutions for sexual (bleepulations) and a girl must be frigid, frigid, frigid to protect herself."  She was stiff, stretched out now like hard marble, totally rigid.

Wait, what?  A psychologist is trying to indoctrinate someone against sex?  Why?

Krak spoke into the mike, "When did he say that?"

"When he caught me putting firecrackers in the dog's (bleep)."

...You know, that's a pretty good time to put your foot down and call for an end to explosions.

So after that startling revelation, Krak reprograms Simmons to believe that she was really feeding her ass-sploded dog some milk, she does not get any pleasure from animal abuse, and that her father was "totally wrong.  Accept it."

Simmons suddenly relaxed.  She whispered, "I accept it.  Oh, I am SO glad that was really what happened.  Then my father must have been wrong about everything."

"Right," said the Countess Krak, villainously undoing in a breath what that poor, laboring psychologist father had devoted his whole life to build up.  What a destructive Manco Devil that Krak was!

So Psychology uses hypnotism and other methods of indoctrination to program people to believe lies.  Then a good guy, Krak, comes along and uses hypnotism to indoctrinate someone to believe otherwise.  She takes advantage of a person's trust, gets them under her power, digs into their past, and then convinces them that everything they ever knew was a lie, using brute force to alter their behavior when they are at their most vulnerable.  And this is okay because she's rescuing them from the falsehoods of psychology.

Hubbard is rubbish at satire, but pretty good at unintentional allegory.  The only thing missing is that Krak didn't charge Simmons for any of this.

Krak gets back on topic, mentally taking Miss Simmons back to her first meeting with Heller and convincing her that what she really thought was that she wasn't good enough for Heller (because honestly, who is?).  She moves on to the day of the near-rape, but is interrupted by a knock on the door, and so tells the hypnotized woman to lie quietly and ignore everything.  She answers the door - I guess pretending no one is home isn't an option - to reveal "DOCTOR KUTZBRAIN!"

What an... amazing and unexpected twist.  We last saw the guy back at the beginning of Book Three, I believe.  The long-ignored Grafferty is making an appearance this book as well.  Now we just need Jimmy "The Gutter" Tavilnasty to come back from the dead to complete the Blast from the Past trifecta.

Doc Kutz greets Countess Krak as "Lizzie Borden!" because when it comes to pop culture references, the older the better, and then pushes his way inside.

As soon as he was in, he said, "I just stopped by to tear off a little (bleep).  I always visit my patients in times of stress, namely mine."

In a disgusted voice the Countess Krak said, "Really."

Kutzbrain was taking off his overcoat.  He said, "Nothing like a little psychiatric therapy to cheer one up."

This psychologist seems fine with getting some.  Could there be dissent within the ranks of the damned?  Differing points of view and opinion, different methodologies, something that might take away our ability to make sweeping accusations against the profession, something that might undermine the author's presentation of them as a monolithic conspiracy that controls the world?


The Countess said, "Do you live with Miss Simmons?"

"Oh, no, no.  I'm Doctor Kutzbrain, her psychiatrist at the University Hospital.  But I'm impartial.  I spread my professional skills around.  I don't think you've been an inmate of my ward yet, Borden, but you're a real looker so I'll make sure you soon will be.  So just lie down on that sofa and pull up your skirt and we'll get into the preliminary professional psychiatric examination.  If it feels good enough, I can get you into the ward instantly.  Those look like nice (bleeps) under your shirt.  But they need a (bleep) erection test."

I always assumed when Hubbard was accusing psychologists of raping their patients, he meant while their victims were doped up on something.  But I guess all they have to do is walk up to a random woman and say "hey, you're cute, I'm a psychologist, spread 'em."  I've still got a lot to learn, I see.

Gris assumes that Krak's about to stomp Kutzbrain to death for propositioning her, which is fine with him because he wants Grafferty to find corpses.  But instead Krak reaches into her plastic shopping back, pulls off a black roll of some perforated material, tears off a square, and tells the doctor to hold onto it.  He does so, while Krak retrieves a dynamo with a plunger on it... why do an increasing number of alien devices use plungers to activate?  Anyway, she hits it.

Doctor Kutzbrain stood straight up.  He went utterly rigid.  His face went blank.  He was fixed in place like an awkward statue!

Oh, my Gods!  One of the Eyes and Ears of Voltar devices she had filched from the Afyon hospital!  I remembered it.  It was a remote-controlled rig.  When one had one of those black patches planted on him and the device was activated by the tiny dynamo, the person went rigid and blank and stayed that way as long as the dynamo ran, and when it was cut off the person returned to motion without being aware of the halt.  According to the directions I had fleetingly seen, they used it to obtain evidence photographs in low-level light conditions.  But she was simply using it to immobilize Doctor Kutzbrain.

 Alright, I've got a few questions:

1. How the hell does this thing work?  What is in the "black patch" that immobilizes someone, and why does it need to be physically on them to function?

2. Gris is able to recognize this, indicating that he examined the Eyes and Ears goods at some point and even flipped through some instruction books, but he left this amazingly useful device behind rather than thinking of a way to put it to use, perhaps as a way to immobilize Heller and Krak after sewing two of those patches into their clothes.

3. "Obtain evidence photographs?"  That is the best use the devious minds at the Apparatus can find for something that immobilizes and incapacitates people without leaving any memory of the event?  So what, they freeze someone and take pictures of them?  And the freezing helps when it's dark somehow?

4. Why has nobody used one of these amazingly useful devices before?

Let's end this bloody chapter.  Kutzbrain is now asleep on his feet, so Krak heads back to finish her job on Miss Simmons.  Meanwhile Gris is gloating that the police are "howling on their way" to arrest her for... murders that she hasn't actually done yet.  And she's in a situation where she can program the witnesses into defending her as a friend until the police leave, then kill them at her leisure.

Do you ever get the feeling that Gris doesn't quite think things through?

Back to Chapter Three 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Three - I'd Wonder About Brain Damage from the Fumes, But Who'd Notice?

It looks like the Countess Krak has found herself in a love triangle and is gearing up to murder the hypotenuse, Gris' "ally" who he's counting on flunking Heller out of a single, worthless, mandatory college course, thereby stopping him once and for all.

Oh, I would have to watch this carefully.

Yeah, he's not too worried about this for some reason.  In fact, Gris actually feels a "surge of hope" and wonders if he could use this to get Krak arrested for murder.

Krak calls up Empire University and asks about a Miss Simmons, leading the guy on the other end to run a computer search and figure out which of the eighteen thousand students and five thousand faculty members Krak is... talking... about... how does Gris know those figures?  I have to go on Wikipedia to see how many people go to my local college, but Gris spouts the facts off the top of his head.  Does he use all the parts of the brain he should be devoting to his job on nigh-useless trivia?

The Countess confirms that the Jane Simmons she's looking for teaches Nature Appreciation.

"Does she have a student named Jerome Terrance Wister?"

"Thank God for computers. Yes, ma'am. But it says here that she's recommending he be expelled."

"Dangerous stuff, hate," said the Countess.

"I beg pardon?"

"I said, what is her home address so I can advise the nest of kin?"

Krak's boyfriend has stridently insisted that he hates Miss Simmons.  Someone else has confirmed that Simmons wants to expel Heller.  And so the logical conclusion is that Simmons and Heller are absolutely in love?  So Krak's going to go do something about it?

I guess it's kind of refreshing.  Back in book one I was worried that Krak was going to turn into another Chrissie, a woman-shaped plot device serving only to motivate the main character.  Instead she's a bit of a psycho.

Said psycho suits up in red gloves, boots and suit, making Gris instantly assume Krak is planning murder, and therefore making me assume that Krak will not be planning murder because if Gris assumes one thing the opposite tends to happen.  Then when he sees her pack a hypno-helmet, Gris arrives at the conclusion that Krak is going to hypnotize Miss Simmons into writing a suicide note to cover her tracks.  In Gris' defense, he's in a badly-ventilated closet filling with paint fumes.  So this is a chemically-induced inspiration rather than a sudden plot-mandated "INSPIRATION!"

Krak getting dressed to kill, rather than merely expressing her intent to kill, finally motivates Gris to act.  Unfortunately, the workers renovating the apartment have put furniture in front of the closet door, so just when he finally resolves to haul himself to his feet, he can't leave.  After a sudden attack of claustrophobia, Gris remembers that he has a radio, and that he also has to turn it on before he uses it.

He gets Raht and orders the vastly more competent and resourceful agent who is inexplicably ranked lower than him to ring up Police Inspector Bulldog Grafferty, last seen dripping with tomato sauce, and tip him off that there's about to be a murder at Miss Simmons' address.  Raht keeps Gris talking long enough to read the radio and learn he's calling form Rockecenter Plaza, but agrees to carry out Gris' orders.

I hunched down on the floor.  I watched Krak's viewer with horrible fascination as she rode the subway to her appointment with doom.  Hers.

There was every chance that I would soon be rid of that vicious female, the murderous Countess Krak.

Wait, who are we supposed to be rooting for right now?

On the one hand we have Gris, who is a murderous rapist and an annoyingly idiotic Bad Guy.  On the other is the Countess Krak, who is also comfortable with killing people, manipulates others with mind control, thinks rape near-victims were secretly asking for it, and is currently going behind her boyfriend's back to neutralize a wholly imagined threat to their relationship.  Both criminals, both misogynists in their own ways, both living in their own delusions.

So put it that way and it doesn't matter who wins here, and on top of that I don't emphasize with either character.  The only question is how this farce will affect Heller's mission, and since I don't emphasize with Heller either (though for different reasons), I again don't care.

Mission Earth: book after book of characters I don't like doing things that don't matter.

Back to Chapter Two

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Two - Trust

Gris doesn't know how to use a Manco God-damn radio.

Despite his success dealing "a blow that Heller would not soon forget and certainly could not possibly recover from" last chapter, Gris starts this chapter "frankly getting frantic" over his inability to raise Raht.  So he makes one last try, slipping into a freshly-painted closet and inadvertently brushing up against one of the alien walkie-talkie's buttons.  And the little red button lights up, and suddenly he can hear Raht.

Over four days in New York City, and Gris never pressed that button in his attempts to get the radio to work.  Sure, Gris admits that he doesn't have a manual for the thing, but he never made a serious attempt to puzzle out its function, or wondered if maybe it had been turned off at some point.  He also admits that these paired radios are designed to be "simple rigs" that even an Army general could use, and he still never figured out the bloody thing wasn't on.  All so Gris can't rely on Raht when he arrives in New York, forcing him to have his horrifying encounter with Pinch and Candy.

And hang on a minute - this simplistic device can beam a signal from another continent, but not the super-advanced audio-visual bugs embedded in Krak and Heller's skulls?  Those require a relayer?

L. Ron Hubbard's novels run on stupidity and contrivance.  Those are the only things holding the plot together, the only way the author can get characters from one scene to the next.

Anyway, moving beyond the first page of this chapter: Gris raises Raht, who immediately proves how much smarter he is than Gris, and by extension how much better-suited he is to be the book's villain, by immediately realizing that Gris is lying when he claims to be calling from Africa because his signal's too strong and he wants that bloody stupid 831 Relayer turned off, so he must be within the two hundred mile signal range.  Gris' cunning response is to turn the radio off and run away.

A half hour later the viewscreens are working again, so Gris starts checking on his asset and enemies.  What does Hubbard think a psychologist does all day?

Crobe's came on first.  He had some woman on a couch and was apparently psychoanalyzing her, for she was saying over and over how her three-year-old brother had raped her when she was sixteen.  Crobe might or might not have been listening but his vision was exploring her genitalia in depth.  He looked up once and, my, they had given him a beautiful office: whole shelves full of skulls and his psychiatric diploma framed in gold.  But beyond noting that he was far from a lost resource and that Bellevue seemed to be providing him with its best facilities, I had no interest today in Crobe.  I turned his viewer off so it wouldn't distract me.

Just imagine how much less satisfying this story would be if Crobe didn't have X-ray vision.  All Gris would be able to tell us is that the mad doctor's gaze was fixed on his patent's clothed crotch, rather than "exploring her genitalia at length."

Krak and Heller, meanwhile, are hanging out in their apartment, Krak reading a book on foreign recipes while Heller watches the UN proceedings on the TV.  Heller explains how the Security Council works, i.e. one of five chunkheads can veto anything the rest of the world has agreed upon.

"What is the measure, dear?"

"Women's rights," said Heller.

"Hmm," said the Countess. She got up and sat down again on a sofa near him. "I don't really understand why they have to have a law to give women rights. Women make their own rights."

What's the message here?  Does the author view women's movements as unnecessary?  Is he showing Krak's naivete or suggesting how much more enlightened Voltarian society is?  Is he encouraging females to be more like the Countess Krak?  Stop picketing and start murdering, ladies!

Heller laughs when the news camera settles on a poster held by some women threatening that the UN will be boycotted at the Gracious Palms if the measure doesn't pass, dedicated "In Memory of Pretty Boy."  And Krak is of course suspicious, and Heller is of course evasive and doesn't explain.  And I'm going to assume that this is supposed to be quirky RomCom humor rather than an indicator of how dysfunctional Krak and Heller's relationship is (edit from the future: can't it be both?).

Things go bad when the Russian president of the Security Council, with his "big, square face and Mongolian eyes," calls the "waste-of-time" meeting to order and votes on this "silly nonsense."

"We will now have the debate.  I will be the first one to debate.  So listen, Comrades: It is well known that the only workers who can be made to do any work are women.  If the women did not do all the work, men would have no time to sit around and drink vodka.  But," he fixed the other members with a ferocious glare, "you know and I know and everybody knows and Karl Marx who had an awful married life knew, too, that if you don't slap women they talk all the time, day and night.  And if they talk, talk, talk, where goes the Five Year Plans then, right?  

I'd like to point out that Communist governments were pretty egalitarian (if not at the highest levels) and set quotas for female and minority representation.  In fact, one of the most jarring things to come out of the end of the Cold War was the huge drop in female representation in Eastern European countries.  Kinda like how Iraqi women had it better under Saddam Hussein's pseudo-communist Ba'ath regime but now have to wear hijabs and are afraid to go out alone, even though the new government is technically a democracy.

And if they make the Five Year Plans fail they are counter-revolutionaries and ought to be thermonuclear bombed once and for all so we could have some peace.  And that's all there is to it, Comrades.  This resolution would undermine the already-undermined theory of Marxist Leninism.  Russia votes against it--nyet, nyet, nyet--and spits on it, too.  So there is no point in debating further or even voting, as a great power has vetoed it.  Meeting adjourned!"  And he got up and put on his fur coat and stamped out of the hall where a regiment of KGB guards got him into a helicopter and away.


"Oh, blast, blast those Russians!" said Heller.  "The girls will be SO disappointed after all their hard work!"

"What girls?" said the Countess Krak, very alert.

"And there goes any chance I had with Miss Simmons!" said Heller.  "Confound those Russians!"

The Countess Krak said, very loudly, "WHO is Miss Simmons?"

Heller came out of it.  He looked at the Countess.  "What?"

"I said, WHO is Miss Simmons?"

So Heller finally is forced to explain more about his mandatory Nature Appreciation class, and Krak accuses him of being infatuated with Simmons, and Heller declares "I HATE the hussy!", and Krak warns him to be careful about hate because "The poet says it is the closest neighbor of love," and I ask what poet?

Krak presses further, and Heller talks more - or Gris summarizes how Heller talks more - about how his teacher hates nuclear physicists in general and "Jerome Wister" the aspiring nuclear physicist in particular.  Krak interprets the near-rape experience of last year as Simmons' attempt to lure Heller into a trap, and that the teacher "is the kind of woman who craves to be raped."  Heller promises his girlfriend flowers and a trip to the theater and that he'll even get up first in the morning to turn up the thermostat if she would just shut up about Miss Simmons.  And Krak says "Hmm" and goes into the next room.

I guess keeping relationship-damaging secrets is better than honestly talking about your issues, because the honesty thing just doesn't work.  So guys, if your work brings you into repeated contact with a particular woman, even if you have no interest in her whatsoever, even if you outright hate her, do not let your girlfriend know about it because she'll just assume you're lying anyway and, in Krak's case, go do something drastic.  Good to know, Hubbard, thanks!

Krak calls her friend Mamie Boomp and states that "it has happened" and she needs her advice now.

"[Heller] is so disturbed that I am absolutely certain he has become infatuated with another woman and it may hold him on this planet.  We are not married yet.  I MUST get him away.  What should I do?"

"Scratch her eyes out," said Mamie, promptly.

"Hmm," said the Countess Krak.  "Well, thank you.  I was just checking to see how it was done on this planet.  How is business?"

"I'm not an alien, by the way."

So Krak is out to get Miss Simmons because she's decided that her boyfriend is an unfaithful liar and won't let anything change her mind.  But remember, she's a strong female character who women should emulate instead of loafing around expecting the UN to pass rights on their behalf.

Back to Chapter One

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter One - If This Book is the Answer, I Dread the Question

Know how Gris could totally derail Heller's academic career?  Leak that "Jerome Wister"'s high school records have been falsified.  He wouldn't have to destroy the identity altogether, just come up with another fake document showing that Wister really bombed out of high school, and it's only some bureaucratic mix-up that got him accepted to college.  Ta-da, now Heller has to go back to school, instant comedy gold.  It worked for Adam Sandler, right?

I leaped aboard an AA train and soon was speeding north.  My rendezvous with destiny would set of a chain reaction even Heller would be powerless to stop.

The roar, roar, roar of the pounding wheels carried me relentlessly forward, oblivious of the churning crowd.  At last I was in action.  My mission of vengeance would be fulfilled.  Blood, red blood, would pay the awful price of putting me through the agonies which had spent my energies and lacerated my soul.

Just as a reminder, Gris is talking about making sure a college professor flunks Heller. 

Gris arrives at Empire University and finds a wild-eyed Miss Simmons in the Puppet Building of the Teacher's College (?).  She also doesn't have her glasses on, allowing Gris to introduce himself as a reporter from the Morning Press there to talk about the protests over the "women's thermonuclear rights" bill... wait a second, something is terribly wrong here.  That newspaper name isn't lamely "satirical!"  Shouldn't it be the Morning Pus or Moaning Press or Mourning Press or something?  You're slipping, Hubbard!

While Simmons fumbles for her glasses (which Gris swipes and puts in his pocket), Gris insinuates that there are "black forces" at work.  Miss Simmons asks if she's met him before, perhaps in a psychiatric ward, and Gris changes his story so he's now a PLO agent masquerading as a reporter.  Simmons assumes she was in the same Psychology class as him.

"You did indeed," I said.  "I sat right behind you and cheered you on all the way."

"Then your name is Throgapple," she said.  "I always remember my classmates."

"Correct," I said.

This isn't the old "call them a made-up name and if they answer to it you know they're fake" trick.  Miss Simmons just supplied Gris with the identity he's trying to masquerade as.  It kind of undermines the deviousness of your secret agent when the person he's fooling is cooperating with his deception.

Anyway.  Simmons rants about psychological "preindoctrination" to keep teachers cold and collected, then about how much she supports the Antinuclear bill, until Gris steers the conversation towards Nature Appreciation.  Simmons starts hyperventilating when she remembers the terrible event of last year, and when Gris namedrops "Wister" she screams outright, stacks a bunch of chairs atop each other, and perches fearfully on her ramshackle tower.  Gris claims that Wister is using all his wiles to make sure the anti-nuke bill is defeated, and Simmons spasms and falls to the floor.

Seeing how Gris just "pushed" Simmons to the floor, a mob of students rushes in and starts beating on him, and one even nabs his wallet and screams about the "dirty, stinking, rotten FED!"  So they throw him down a staircase, but are nice enough to toss his wallet after him.  Gris flees to take an express train home, sucking his injured hand but gloating over his mighty victory.

I had done it!  Actually, it had worked perfectly.

If that bill passed now, she would jeer at Heller that it had gone through despite his most villainous plots.  And if it didn't pass I could certainly guarantee that his life from there on out would be a hell not even he could live through.

So long as nobody tells Miss Simmons that the man he was speaking to was not who he said he was, but "A FED!", causing her to doubt his entire story.  Or that, having been unjustly flunked by a hostile teacher, Heller doesn't raise the issue with the university.  This also assumes that Heller's allies, such as - just to pick a person at random - the Countess Krak, decide not to handle matters more directly.

But yes, if none of that happens, then Gris has certainly "struck a blow that Heller would not soon forget and certainly could not possibly recover from."  I mean, he has the advanced alien eco-friendly technology and made boatloads of money from the stock market, but he's gonna flunk Nature Appreciation!  You can't save the planet without passing Nature Appreciation.  How would you know what to save?

Back to Part Forty-One, Chapter Ten

Monday, November 26, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Ten - Like the Last Ten Parts Never Happened

Chapter of Gris raping two women?  Fine.  Subsequent consensual sex with those women?  Meh, skip it.

We jump forward some sixty hours later, after two days of noisy remodeling in Pinch's apartment, and two nights of noisy psychiatric deprogramming.  But Gris is seething because his mission of "Stopping Heller was not making any progress, and it MUST, it MUST, it MUST!"  He's done everything he can - he tried to raise Raht on the two-way, but the competent, dedicated agent isn't answering.  Furthermore, Gris has also... uh... actually, that's it.

See, Gris has decided that he can't just call the Apparatus office in New York, because he's "on the run" and using a pay phone or land line from Miss Pinch's place is too dangerous.  I can't say whether or not this is inconsistent with his earlier decision to not call the place because "they'd turn him in" because I'm not sure if Gris was referring to his supposed allies or Turkish eavesdroppers.  At any rate, no, he can't take a cab over or anything.  Much too risky.  Mohammad might have gotten a tip-off from Zeus and picked up Gris' trail.

This leaves Gris in a lurch because those bloody 831 Relayers are still on, which means that he can't use the bugs he implanted in Heller and Krak's skulls because the signal's too strong, which is why every single time he goes to or from New York he has to get someone to flip the on-off switch on the stupid relayers on the stupid Empire State Building and why couldn't they put up a satellite?!  Why couldn't they remotely turn the relayers on or off?!  Why did the author decide to include this plot device?!  What does it bring to the story?!

With nothing else to do, Gris goes for a walk and by chance notices the headlines on the New York Grimes: "WOMEN'S BOMB RIGHTS COMING UP AT UN SECURITY COUNCIL."  And Gris realizes that, even though Heller's currently abusing alien technology to break the stock market and get all the funding he'll ever need, this is a real emergency!

If that bill got through the Security Council now, Miss Simmons would be drooling all over Heller!  Rather than flunk him out of Empire as she had promised, she would pass him!  I would lose a vital ally I had counted on

You've never met her!  She is not an ally if she doesn't know you exist!

to block his villainous rehabilitation of the planet, a plot that would ruin me, Lombar and Rockecenter.

We have gone back in time.  We have returned to the "flunk Heller out of college" subplot.

Gris is back in New York, and has access to a steady stream of money courtesy of Rockecenter's coffers. Heller is winning big on Wall Street but Gris has decided this isn't as dangerous as the possibility of him finishing college, so we'll ignore that and focus on him masquerading as a student.  If we had skipped everything from Pinch and Candy's torture sessions back in Part Thirty-Two to this chapter, would our current situation be any different?  Heller won and lost Atlantic City.  Gris gained and wasted a fortune.  Heller got kicked out of the mob but made up for it by becoming a day-trader.  Crobe showed up but got institutionalized.

The only meaningful change we've seen in the last couple hundred pages was that Krak is now on-planet.  And Gris is also hung like a horse now.

Well.  Gris figures that Rockecenter has an interest in stopping this dastardly "no-nuking" law since the man controls the world's uranium stockpiles, the value of which would plummet in the event of a "devastating and disastrous peace!" because there is no other conceivable use for uranium, nor would anyone continue to build and maintain nuclear weapons in the event someone else didn't abide by international law.  So Gris goes to the Octopus building and wouldn't you know it but Mr. Bury is sitting right there, just through the door!

Mr. Bury is a lawyer, so he tells Gris to "take the stand" when he offers the alien a seat.  He also thinks he's got the Wister case "pretty well into due process" by having Madison working on it, because "J. Warbler Madman" is worse than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and "Wister" will be begging for death and so forth.  The gist of it is, Bury won't take any action.  He does ask for Gris' current address, and is surprised and impressed to learn he's rooming at Miss Pinch's apartment, especially since Bury had to cover up the murder of someone beaten to death there last month.  Gris, finding no help, moves on.

Know what he didn't do?  Try to get some money as the Rockecenter family "spi."  He was just talking to the God-King of the World's second-in-command and Gris didn't try to fix his financial problems once and for all.  Guess he's fine with continuing to prostitute himself out to a pair of former lesbians for a thousand dollars a night.

So Gris visits Madison, and is all angry because Madison had Dr. Crobe hauled away.  But then the publicist counters that no-no-no, he didn't want Crobe taken as a patient, he had him taken to a psychiatric hospital to act as a doctor.

"Crobe seemed anxious to cut things, as all psychiatrists are,

Hubbard thinks every psychiatrist is a brain surgeon, ya ken.

so they gave him his own laboratory and a top job on staff.  You didn't think I'd overlook a valuable asset like that, did you?  Heaven forbid.  What would the media do for horror if it weren't for psychiatrists?"

Shocking coverage of serial killers?  Sensationalist features on the latest threat to public safety?  War-mongering yellow journalism?  Exposes on the meat-packing industry?  Pointless and gross pieces about freak medical conditions?

Gris fails to show any interest in Crobe's condition and complains about the lack of results on Madison's part since the Atlantic City incident.  Madison shows him tomorrow's headline, which will reveal that "Wister" is actually the descendant of the chief of the local American Indian tribe and therefore the legal owner of New Jersey.  Madison hopes that this will lead to a repeat of the Battle of Wounded Knee, followed by a daring train robbery a week later because remember, we're going for a Jesse James image for the Whiz Kid here.

When Madison throws together a bunch of nonsensical references to decades-old events, he's a madman.  When Hubbard does it, he's writing a satirical sci-fi epic.

Gris tries to get Madison interested in the "TRUTH!", the UN bomb ban vote coming up.  He fails.

Madison gave an unamused laugh.  "Truth?  What does PR have to do with truth, Smith?  News today is entertainment.  Ask NBC, CBS, ABC, ask all the major papers.  They'll tell you.  News is the biggest entertainment industry in the world.  Now let me ask you, how can you entertain anybody by telling the truth?  Preposterous!"

I guess this book of satire is telling things like it is, because I sure as hell ain't entertained by it.

In conclusion, Mr. Bury isn't going to do anything, and Madison isn't concerned with what's got Gris' panties in a knot.

None of them really seemed to get the danger in that UN bill.  If the Security Council passed it, Rockecenter would lose all his thermonuclear profit.

Leaving him with nothing but his monopoly on oil, and psychology, and the world's banks, and the media, and drugs, and political power, and...

The Octopus Oil monopoly on uranium claims would be worthless.  Lombar would be raving.  And even worse, that Miss Simmons would be slobbering all over Heller as a prize hero.

Heller saved her from being raped and she still blamed him for everything.  Why are you so worried about her opinion?  Why have you decided that his growing financial empire is less important than whether or not Heller passes this one class?

I was worried!

I paced.


Has a flash of INSPIRATION ever ended well for Gris?

I would go and see Miss Simmons!

And so the book's villain sets off to solve a problem that only he is worried about with the help of an ally he's never met, instead of dealing with the much bigger problems threatening to overwhelm him without the help of the allies he actually has.

Back to Part Forty-One, Chapter Nine

Friday, November 23, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Nine - The Healing Power of Rape

Gotta say, I find this chapter more disturbing than the last one.

Gris is annoyed enough to consider shooting his two unconscious rape victims, then looks down at himself and notices... yeah, the blood from what he did.

I was in the peculiar situation of having to get rid of the evidence before I committed the crime.  One maidenhead murder was bad enough, but two in the row left enough evidence to convict me of the Jack the Ripper crimes.  One forensic test and I'd be found guilty!

Acetaminophen, ho!


Right, now I'm ready to get past the second paragraph of the chapter.

So, before he slaughters the ladies he just raped, Gris decides to shower and erase the evidence of his previous crime, even though he usually doesn't make such attempts at personal hygiene.  While he applies some... alright, gotta include the author's criticism of American body washes.  It's random, it's pointless, it's Hubbard.

There was lots of soap in the bathroom: I am no expert on the subject, but the American soaps, with their penny-a-barrel "perfume," stunk worse than I did. They use violent odors to cover up the even more violent odors of their questionable ingredients, like rancid hog fat. I finally found an "oatmeal health soap" that said it was for "that virgin look." I began my shower.

In this withering satire of modern society, the author pulls no punches - from magazines to fashion to soap products, nothing is safe from his scathing criticism!

As an aside, I bet someone could make a killing selling soap for "that not-a-virgin look" to insecure high schoolers.

While Gris bathes, he wonders where he went wrong.  Despite applying de Sade's principles of "anarchic sexual violence" that Freud would later build upon, Gris failed to get Miss Pinch to divulge the safe combination.  He considers killing the girls and disposing of their bodies, then hiring a moving company to open the safe for him after claiming he forgot the combination, but he wants to keep his trail covered.  When he's all toweled off he decides to eavesdrop on the two for some hint of what to do next.  Candy and Miss Pinch are discussing which of them should try and convince Gris to get them out of their desperate situation.

When Gris makes his entrance, gun in hand, he sees the terror in their eyes, and Miss Pinch promises to give him his money if he unchains her, then leaves the room.  Gris complies, sure that he can outsmart and murder her after he gets what he wants, but first takes care to tear out the phone lines and gather every weapon in the dungeon, not to mention any bottles of hot sauce or mustard or pepper from the kitchen.  He takes Candy hostage as he leaves the room, then returns to find Pinch kneeling in front of the shut safe.

"What treachery is this?" I demanded.

Miss Pinch took her hands from behind her back.  She was holding a thousand-dollar bill.  She said, "This is yours if you don't do it."  Fear was in her eyes.
It was time I found out what they were terrified of.  "If I don't do what?" I grated.

It was Candy that answered, all in a babble, the accents of sheer horror, "YOU MIGHT WALK OUT THAT DOOR AND LEAVE!  WE MIGHT NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN!"

First time I read this part, I dropped the book and had to walk away for a while.

I blinked.  A new kind of trick.  They had a trap out there and were using the negative ploy, page two million and three of the Apparatus manual on hoodwinking

Gris has memorized part of the "Apparatus manual on hoodwinking" yet still fell victim to Utanc's scams and Ahmed's scams.

Miss Pinch was talking.  There was pleading in her voice.  "Your money is still in the safe.  By your signing a blank invoice I can even get you more.  But this is all you can have right now.  There are conditions."

"Yes?" I said uncertainly.

"You can have a thousand dollars every day if you will live here with us and promise to do that same thing every night."

"To both of us," said Candy.  "Every night."

Oh, this was very suspicious.  I said, "What about Psychiatric Birth Control?"

Miss Pinch said, "Anything that gets in the road of something that feels that wonderful can stuff it."

"To hell with Psychiatric Birth Control!" said Candy.

Miss Pinch said, "They have lied to us.  We have been biting and scratching and smearing lipstick in that back room for years.  We have followed the Psychiatric Birth Control texts exactly.  We have even had consultations with the psychiatrist in charge of it.  And no one, not once, has ever told us the sensation was supposed to come from down THERE!  Isn't that right, Candy?"

Thaaaaat's right.  Psychology is all Freudian and turns colleges into brothels and normal people into bands of rapists and wants to make the world gay as part of voluntary human extinction, but doesn't actually know anything about sex.  For all their screaming and fumbling in the other room after an exciting session of hitting Gris with a stick, Candy and Pinch have never had an

"Orgasm?" I said.

"Oh, is THAT what an organism is?" said Candy.

"O-R-G-A-S-M," I spelled out for her.  "Orgasm."

"Crikes, what a beautiful word," said Candy.  "I know why people take up Christianity now, if that is going to Heaven."

"They lied to us," said Miss Pinch bitterly.  "They simply told us that, to carry out Rockecenter's program to cut down the population of the world, we had to be lesbians.  I was supposed to be the man-one and Candy was supposed to be my wife.  We couldn't do anything else, as they've also turned all the males into gays and made it a crime to break up their marriages."

No, they haven't.  There is no indication that such an event has taken place.  Pinch's apartment is located in some strange mandatorily-gay alternate universe that has no effect on the rest of the planet.

Gris is alarmed at the girls' "treason," but Pinch spits on Rockecenter, psychiatry, and Psychiatric Birth Control and pledges her allegiance to the almighty penis.  Gris protests that they can't expect him to live in such a foreboding dungeon, but the girls assure him that they'll redecorate, and let Gris come and go as he pleases, and again they'll be paying him a thousand dollars a day, so long as he services them every night.  After making sure that no shackles or mustard will be involved, Gris agrees.  The girls are overjoyed.

"Oh, goody!" cried Candy, clapping her hands.  "Let's all get dressed and go to a restaurant and have a deflowering celebration."

If you tell the waiter, I'm sure the staff will come out and sing an appropriate song for you.  Goodness knows Hubbard has probably written one.

"No," said Miss Pinch, looking at me with a cocked head, compressed mouth and hungry eye, "Let's stay right here and do it all over again.  We've got the whole night.  But I'm first this time, Candy.  You can watch if you promise not to scream.  I'M the one who gets to scream when I have another of those GORGEOUS orgasms.  I'm getting breathless just thinking about it."

And that's how I got the safe open.  In fact, three safes.  Well, not exactly as I planned, but one must learn how to improvise.  One must know how to go deeper into things than one might have, at first, intended.

One has to know when to take things lying down.

So there you have it.  Psychology is a twisted false religion that turns people into monsters, but it can be cured by a half-decent dicking.  Likewise, all those "lesbians" running around out there?  A good rape will put them back on the right path.  And most importantly of all, rape is fine if the victim decides she enjoyed it afterward.  You're doing those girls a favor, really, even if they didn't want it at first.

Mission Earth is just full of positive messages!

Alas, if it had only kept up on a level with that night.

Oh no!  Just when we were rooting for you, Gris!

Back to Chapter Eight

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Eight - I Hate This Book

Unabridged version here.  It's easily the worst thing we've read so far, so ask yourself if you really want to read the full thing after reading the sanitized summary.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Have an extended rape scene!

No psychiatrist ever gazed at the lacerated brain of a patient with more pleasure than I enjoyed when I saw the look in Miss Pinch's eyes after she struggled awake.  

After taking in her surroundings, seeing her lover bound squirming and naked to the couch, and trying futility to move her chained arms and legs, Miss Pinch surprisingly says nothing, and only glares at her captor.  Gris gives her a "deadly smile" and assures himself that he's a "master psychologist about to outdo the Marquis de Sade," but can't help but feel ill at ease.  Even though he has the advantage, he's dealing with "one of the most tricky and dangerous creatures alive: Not only was she a woman, she was also Miss Pinch!"

Gris gets down to business.  Chapter One of the Apparatus torture manual tells operatives to act friendly towards victims to increase the shock of what follows.  So Gris smiles, compliments Miss Pinch for her good health, and promises to walk out of the apartment without a word if she gives him the combination to the safe containing "his" money.  Pinch says nothing.  Gris puts away the groceries she was bringing in before he assaulted her, then gets out a beer from the iron maiden/fridge.

I looked at Candy.  She was throwing her head from left to right, eyes wild, trying to spit out the gag.  I trailed a finger down her throat and then made a mysterious circle with it before her face.  Incomprehensible.

You might be wondering what, exactly, Gris just did, or why.  Keep wondering.  Gris doesn't do it again, and the author never explains it.  When he said "incomprehensible" he damn well meant it.

Gris removes Candy's gag.  Candy screams while he slowly walks around the room to "Drag it out.  Don't let them know what you're really going to do."  He offers her a beer, compliments her on her voice, and repeats his statement that she has nothing to fear if Miss Pinch simply gives him the combination.  Candy begs her lover to do what Gris says, but Pinch remains silent.

I'd yell at her for hanging Candy out to dry and being willing to risk defilement and death for the sake of a couple thousand stolen dollars, but knowing Gris the girls are doomed anyway, so Pinch might as well get back at him by not cracking.

Gris paws Candy for a bit, breaks off to search the room's record cabinet, and picks some dusty specimens from the bottom that he concludes "must be the records they hated and never played."  I, too, often keep things I hate in my closet, taking up space and serving no use whatsoever, rather than throwing them out.  Gris is surprised to discover the records are "LOVE SONGS!"

Now, if you've had a decades-long career as a pulp sci-fi writer, convinced yourself that you and your stories helped inspire things like the A-bomb and space program, and started a self-help program and religion so successful that it earned the ire of the Nazi-banker-psychiatrist alliance, you might feel free to try your hand at songwriting since you're obviously such a talented and creative person.  I'd assure you that Hubbard is just as good a lyricist as he is an author, but you don't have to take my word for it:

When I gaze into your eyes,
I see love, love, love.
When I try you on for size,
I feel love, love, love.
When I press your gushing breasts,
And I feel your thighs' caress,
I fell love, love, love
Go into me!

Can you see it?  Mission Earth: The Musical blazing in lights on Broadway...

Candy screams that Gris is about to rape her and begs Miss Pinch to give him the combination, but Pinch stays silent even when Candy's screams intensify after Gris undoes his "Ninja robe."  So Gris rapes her.  It's not quite explicit, and the focus is more on the sound of Candy's screaming and Pinch refusing to talk, though there's little confusion over what is going on.  Gris gives Pinch one last chance to spill when he discovers that Candy's a virgin, but she remains silent, so he tells her "It's you who's doing this."

But you know what's strange?  The book jacket recapped the main plot of the series and made a big deal out of the arrival of the Countess Krak, who has barely been in this book so far but has at least played an active role in the scenes she appears in.  It also hyped Gris' $250 million despite the money ending up getting wasted on what turned out to be kidnapping victims, "the lure of high fashion" discussed on a plane ride before fading into irrelevance, and the "army" of three "mounted outlaw highwaymen" who appeared for a page and a half.

It didn't mention Gris raping anybody, even though he's spent more time doing that than the book has spent on fashion and highwaymen combined.  Wonder why they didn't put that on the book jacket?  "At the same time, Gris' nonconsensual liaisons in the back of a limousine, and his ruthless rape of two women may well derail everyone's plans in this fifth exciting volume of L. Ron Hubbard's acclaimed, best-selling adventure-epic -- MISSION EARTH."

Really, the only purpose Gris' fortune served was to allow him to rape women in his limo.  When the money ran out, and his crimes caught up with him, Gris fled to New York where he is now raping more women to get them to hand over more money.  Back in the same room he fled to Turkey from in the first place.  I guess it's the journey, not the destination, that's important.  And the "journey" in this case involves a lot of rape.

Gris cracks another beer and taunts Miss Pinch about how her stubbornness caused her to "break the most sacred Psychiatric Birth Control laws" and left Candy in disgrace.  "Alas, you forced her to be violated.  She is a fallen woman!"  But Pinch remains silent, even after Gris again asks for the safe combination, making him wonder if the woman is "made of solid brass!"  So Gris opens his robe again and advances on the helpless woman, timing his attack with the music.

Sweet little woman,
Please marry me.
Man and wife together,
How happy we will be.
And then we'll have some kiddies,
Maybe two or three.
So here's the ring and there's the church,
Oh, come, my honey be.

Think the records are old contraband?  Rockecenter is supposedly trying to turn the world gay to kill everyone, so shouldn't there be a backlash against traditional marriage?  Or does his organization's tentacles not extend into the record industry?  Also, why do we only hear about Psychiatric Birth Control from Miss Pinch or Rockecenter himself?  Why doesn't it have an effect on the rest of the story?

Turns out Miss Pinch is a virgin too, and Gris has so much fun he says to Hells with trying to get the information out of her.  But when he's finished and both of his victims are passed out, Gris is annoyed because he hasn't managed to get the lock combination out of his victim.

"(Bleep) you, Pinch," I snarled.  "Have you defeated me AGAIN?"

So what has Gris actually accomplished, besides the obvious?  Well, you'd be surprised.  And probably a little disgusted.  But that's next chapter.  I think the more important question is: what has the author accomplished this chapter?

We already hated Gris, right?  From his first appearance the author has taken pains to portray the man in as unsympathetic a manner as possible.  He's an unrepentant, loathsome murderer who has technically raped dozens of women already.  So was this the scene that was supposed to tip him over the Moral Event Horizon, even though Hubbard has spent the entire series beating us over the head with Gris' evilness?  Did he think anyone might still be rooting for Gris at this point and came up with this chapter to make sure they turned on him?

Other explanations are more problematic.  If this is supposed to be smut for our enjoyment, well, it's a bit circumspect, certainly moreso than Gris' encounter with Nurse Bildirjin in the hospital that left all that "white paint."  The only splashing fluids here are spilled beer.

Another option is that this might be for the author's enjoyment.  Maybe Hubbard got some catharsis out of his murderous villain protagonist raping a frigid, sadistic lesbian.  Maybe they're stand-ins for some women he knew.  But I'd hesitate to make that accusation - Hubbard may have the writing skills of an angsty teenager, but I'm not sure he'd write a story just to burn an effigy of someone he hated in real life.

Though the main bad guy is clearly a stand-in for Rockefeller...

A fourth possibility is that this whole episode was meant to show the horrible influence of psychology, which led a woman to force a man to rape her lover when she refused to give him what he wanted.  If only Miss Pinch had been a normal heterosexual, she would have caved in and saved her and Candy's honor, assuming Gris had enough of the same to not rape them anyway.  But this angle is pretty badly undermined by the next chapter.

In conclusion... well, look at the post title.

Back to Chapter Seven

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Seven - Sadism

I've never picked a lock, nor had one picked (to my knowledge), so I don't know if there's any way to tell if a given lock's been compromised.  Candy certainly doesn't suspect anything - she unlocks the door, steps inside, and is immediately grabbed by Gris, one hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, while his other pops "the capsule of five-minute knockout gas."  The Apparatus officer removes his first hand so she can suck in a breath to scream, only to get a lungfull of gas instead and drop to the floor, unconscious.

Wonder how big the gas capsule was?  Fist-sized?  Pill-sized, a batch of super-concentrated gas?  And how can anyone be sure how long the stuff will conk someone out?  Wouldn't it depend on body mass and how much they inhaled?  Did they test it to make sure the gas was compatible with Earth bio-chemistry?  

Eh, Battlefield Earth had a single alien aircraft carrying enough poison gas to depopulate the entire planet, so I think Hubbard has a lot of faith in gas' ability to do what he wants.

With Candy unconscious, Gris quickly sets about removing her clothing:

I stood and looked down at the unconscious body with a triumphant grin.

She was really not a bad-looking woman.

But I had no time for any more scenic wonders today.

After gagging Candy with her own bra and binding her wrists and ankles with "undies" from a clothesline in the apartment's bathroom (?), Gris dumps her in her room and gets back into position behind the front door.  He evidently has a watch or something, because he knows it takes sixteen minutes for someone to ring the front doorbell.  Miss Pinch unlocks the door (that Gris didn't re-lock after subduing Candy, something he made sure to do last chapter when he first broke in), steps inside, and meets the same fate as her lover - Gris grapples her and blasts her with five-minute gas.  This time Gris locks and bars the door.

I was in a soundproof apartment with Candy and Miss Pinch.  Now I would show the Marquis de Sade a thing or two!

Yet Gris makes no use of the various torture implements lying around the dungeon.  He's not even going to give the girls a spanking, but he thinks he's going to impress sadism's namesake.

More stripping of unconscious women.  Off goes Miss Pinch's "mannish" hat.  Off goes her "mannish" shirt.  Then Gris gets a shock.

She was wearing men's shorts!  But that wasn't the most astonishing thing.  She had on a flesh-colored bra!  I had never noticed it before.  I thought she had been almost without breasts.  It had no straps.  It was sort of molded to her.  I put my fingers under it and ripped.  Off it came.  It revealed perfectly normal female breasts!  She had been wearing a breast compressor to make them appear flat!  Well, well!  The trouble some lesbian "husbands" will go to, to appear like men!

Gris wants to teach the Marquis de Sade a thing or two but has just had his mind blown by a woman's chest bindings.

Miss Pinch ends up naked and shackled to her bed in what I guess is supposed to be karma.  Candy is awake by now, and tries to wriggle away and scream when Gris comes at her - "Wonderful!", says our narrator.  He ties her to the room's couch and, as expected, gloats.  Gris is now in a dungeon with two women bound naked and spread-eagled to the room's furniture.

With considerable satisfaction, I stood back.  I admired my handiwork.  No Earth Boy Scout could have done better.

That's because the Scouts don't teach knots for tying women up for raping.

I had earned my merit badge.

They don't give merit badges for rape either.

Very shortly now, Miss Pinch would be babbling the combination to that safe. I would have money.  And I would be on my way to avenge myself on Heller.

Why didn't you grab some truth serum or something?  Why just the five-minute knockout gas?  Your civilization can build hypno-helmets, why not refine the technology into some sort of hypno-ray used to zap people and make them tell you or do what you want?  Or use the five-minute knockout gas on Heller and Krak? 

The Apparatus had never had a better pupil than myself!

And where the hell is the Apparatus assassin during all this?  Why hasn't he killed Gris for spending a month in the back of a limo instead of monitoring Heller?

Today I was gong to triumph!  Marquis de Sade, pay attention!

I'm sure he's very impressed with your foray into bondage, Gris.

Back to Chapter Six

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Six - Shinobi

So what's the polite way to deal with an unconscious, bleeding cab driver?

Gris drives to an alley not far from Miss Pinch's house and is faced with this puzzle.  The driver is still unconscious, not bleeding too heavily but breathing shallowly.  Gris is out of bombs, so he can't oh-so-discretely "cover the trail again" with a huge explosion sure to attract the attention of every police officer, fire fighter, and FBI agent in New York State, not to mention the Nazi-Interpol agents from last chapter once they put the pieces together and realize the man who blew up Istanbul is now loose in the US. 

Instead, Gris tries to wipe off any of his fingerprints, then tries the cab's "broken" radio and manages to get the dispatcher.  "Officer O'Grunty" tells the woman that one of her drivers is "part of a gang that is about to steal the Holy Sepulcher from Christ.  He's even pretending he's been shot, complete with fake blood.  Would you please call the Bellevue Psychiatric Section for us and have them send the wagon?"  And of course it works, because psychology owns this country, man.  Also, the average IQ in the Hubbardverse is roughly half of our own.  And nobody in any profession follows any sort of sensible procedure.  And the narrative demands the flippant disposal of this unimportant character introduced for a ridiculous scene with modern "highwaymen," preferably in a way that reinforces our frothing hatred of psychology at the same time.

Anyway, Gris continues towards Pinch's apartment and admits that "It would be untrue to say that as I approached that fatal place my skin did not crawl or that I could not taste mustard."  But the importance of destroying Heller gives him the purpose he lacked three hundred pages ago when he had the same mission of destroying Heller.  He picks the locks without any difficulty and enters that apartment of bad memories, "stale marijuana smoke and perfume."  Even though Miss Pinch and Candy will be at work for a few more hours, Gris stays away from the safe, because he knows there's a camera monitoring it, and evidently nothing in his Apparatus background has prepared him for evading a security camera.  If only Gris had received some FBI training on how to rob banks and defeat those very security systems, like Heller did in book two, while Gris was watching through his eyes on HellerVision...

So Gris takes a shower.  Hey, even Soltan Gris has a limit to how many parasites he's willing to support.  He rinses all the fleas off and changes out of the dead man's clothes into... something he gets out of a woman's closet.  Something that against all odds fits him.  Something profoundly stupid.

It was a black silk kimono, very long and very big.  It had an embroidered design upon the chest.  I recognized it at once!  It was a figure with two heads: At one end it was a horned dragon, at the other it was a fanged snake.  The Ninja!  They were a cult of outcast assassins, the most deadly secret executioners of Japan.  How apt!

So now we can add ninja to the list of Things Mission Earth Has Ruined, which includes, off the top of my head, gangsters, mobsters, the FBI, Bugs Bunny, car races, the United Nations, New York City, music, sex, and the entirety of Turkey.

Now in his official ninja uniform, Gris gets two mysterious objects out of his suitcase and settles down on a pillow beside the apartment's front door to wait, occasionally grinning evilly to himself.

I wondered idly if there might not be something to the philosophy of one of Earth's truly great wise men, the Marquis de Sade, renowned propounder of sadism.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do, they say.  When in the apartment of Miss Pinch, the behavioral pattern she set was almost impossible to attain.  But I fully intended to go one better than even Miss Pinch's wildest nightmares.

I chuckled now and then, sitting there in the dark behind the door, savoring my plan.  A master of Earth psychology was about to improve even upon the Marquis de Sade.

You might be worrying what kind of sick tortures Gris plans to visit upon his victims.  Allow me to assure you that nothing like that's going to happen; he's just going to rape them in two chapters.

Back to Chapter Five 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Five - Army of Three

While driving home from the grocery store this weekend, I realized that I'd overlooked a sentence four chapters ago explaining that Gris' boat ride out of Istanbul took close to a day.  All that vomiting and ranting distracted me from that vital detail.  So there it is - the answer to a question I needn't have asked had I paid more attention.

Anyway, want a pointless action sequence?

Gris gets into a cab to leave the airport, one driven by "a squat and crumpled-looking driver" who gets out and opens the door for Gris.  The porter stows Gris' luggage, then stands in his way with a hand out, putting the Apparatus officer in a conundrum.

I saw I was not going to make it.  Not unless I bought him off.  He could still call the airport police.  They stay in constant communication through the Nazi Gestapo headquarters in Strasbourg, which operates under the name of Interpol.  They have a huge radio station down in South America and use the lines of CIA to radio on ahead of planes and grab people they don't like or who aren't criminal enough to join their ranks.  So I was not out of danger so long as I was on airport ground.  I decided to tip him.

This paragraph is a bit of a puzzler, innit?  On the one hand, Gris has been going a bit crazy as of late, convinced that everyone he meets is trying to delay him so the Turkish authorities can deport him to face execution by Mohammad.  On the other hand, Mission Earth's setting already has plenty of stuff crazier than the Interpol-Gestapo thing Gris is suggesting here.  So just how serious is Gris at this point?  Is this a delusion, or a rare moment of lucidity?

This is the sort of problem that pops up when the guy writing "satire" about vast international conspiracies earnestly believed that Nazis, drug companies, bankers and psychologists were teaming up to go after him.

Well, Gris tries to tip the porter in drachma, then in lira, but the man "pretends" not to know what the currencies are.  Gris attempts to bluff that he has nothing else, but the porter spots the thousand-dollar bills at the bottom of his luggage.  He says nothing about it, though, and tells the taxi driver that Gris hasn't got anything else.  But when Gris gets in the taxi, the driver pulls over and spends five minutes "phon[ing] in to the dispatcher" because his radio is broken.

If warning bells are going off in your head, congratulations!  You're more alert and careful than the cream of the Voltarian Coordinated Information Apparatus.

Instead of taking Gris to Times Square, the cab driver insists on giving Gris the "scenic route," free of charge, which leads to a nearly-deserted stretch of town lined with trees.  Gris grumbles about the scenery not being all that scenic, but doesn't get worried or tense up or ready his gun or anything.  Much less demand that the driver go where ordered or jump out when he doesn't.  Especially since the last time a cabbie took Gris on an unwanted ride he ended up buying a limousine he hadn't asked for.  Nope, no pattern recognition or anything.

Then it gets silly.

Suddenly a log came crashing down across the road, dead in front of the cab!

The driver braked frantically.

There was a roar!

Three motorcycles leaped into view and stopped, two in front and one behind the cab.

The riders wore bandannas tied across their faces!

They had guns pointed at the cab!

"Throw down your guns!" the nearest rider said.  "All passengers out!  And don't try nothin' funny!  We got the drop on you!"  A stagecoach holdup!  I knew!  I had seen them in the films.  The next order would be to throw down the Wells Fargo box!  And I had no gun handy!

The problem with Mission Earth is that we've already had sadistic lesbian BDSM sessions and an elderly Nazi general suggesting that a banker and an alien spy use an aircraft carrier launch line as a rubber band to trap a fleeing publicist, so I can't really say Hubbard's jumping the shark here.  We're long past the shark.  I miss the shark.  We're jumping coelacanths and other prehistoric sea monsters now. 

Gris and the driver get out with their hands up, and one of the "highwaymen" takes his wallet and bag of money.  They try to take his passport too, but Gris offers to get it out for him - and then stabs the robber with a plastic fork he stole from the airplane last chapter to see if his Apparatus skills were still up to snuff.  Chekhov's Plastic Airline Fork!  I should've mentioned it last chapter but dismissed it as unimportant!  I'm a terrible amateur literary critic!

He's armed!" he screamed.

I dived under the cab.

A gun exploded!

Something hit the cab.

Three bike motors were roaring.

They were gone!

Yeah.  A plastic fork just scared off some muggers.  And their first instinct was to scream in fear instead of using the guns they had trained upon the man armed with, and again I must emphasize this, a plastic fork.

The fired shot was at the taxi driver, who has taken the classic Shoulder Injury and can't drive.  So Gris draws his gun, takes the wheel, and tries to go after the robbers.  He asks the taxi driver where they went, but the guy confesses that he doesn't know before passing out in the passenger seat.

And that's it for the highwaymen, as far as I can tell.  I've searched the rest of the book but can't find any sign of them.  But, because three highwaymen appeared for less than two pages out of a single chapter, the book jacket felt confident to promise us "an army of mounted outlaw highwaymen."  

This all leaves Gris in a bit of a lurch.  He has no money, no credit cards, nothing.  He's terrified of going back to Turkey, and he's worried that someone will try to turn him in if he goes to the local Apparatus office (why?).  But he realizes he knows where he could get some money.

No, it's not Mr. Bury.

No, it's not Madison.

No, he's not going to rob a bank.

No, it's not Heller.

My teeth gritting, but determined, I was headed stealthily for the apartment of Miss Pinch.

Yep.  Gris' flight to Turkey, chapter after chapter spent loafing around, the fortune quickly gained and just as quickly squandered, the flight from Turkey over adultery charges, the random acts of murder, all of it ends with Gris returning to the place that caused him to flee to Turkey in the first place.  94 pages of An Alien Affair and 272 pages of Fortune of Fear and we've gone in a big, dumb circle.

Back to Chapter Four

Friday, November 16, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Four - Karma Fleas at 35,000 Feet

We've spent who knows how many chapters in Turkey, but our stay in Greece ends a chapter after it really begins.

After a day and a night on another boat Gris arrives at Piraievs, the main port of Athens.  Though seasick the entire trip over, Gris is relieved to be out of Muslim territory.

At least I was out from under the Prophet in the clouds. The Greek Gods live at Mount Olympus and that was far to the north. So there was some hope they wouldn't notice me passing through.

Not to mention the fact that Zeus would probably be fine with the whole adultery/rape thing.  Old bastard was like the patron deity of sex offenders.  

Gris is also nervous, though - he's out of bombs, so he can't cover his trail anymore.  He tenses up, ready to run when someone comes up to him with a sack, but it's just a bag of drachma, his change from the ferry fare.  He uses some of it to buy a suit and changes out of his stolen, parasite-infested outfit in an airport bathroom.  Then he uses his "United Arab League" passport to book a flight to New York via Air Israel.  "Nobody would expect anyone from the United Arab League to be traveling Air Israel.  'Confuse the trail' is an Apparatus motto."

"Don't call undue attention to yourself" apparently isn't.  Also, despite that whole Pan-Arab movement gaining more ground in Hubbard's setting, the state of Israel has managed to survive.  Maybe whatever war that taxi driver drove tanks in was in the Middle East?

Yes, I'm more interested in the implications of Hubbard's sloppy world-building than the actual story.

There's really not much else to say about this chapter.  Gris gets on his flight, happy to be back in the warm embrace of Rockecenter, who owns most of the world's airlines, but he remains quite nervous.

But all told, it was a nerve-racking trip.  People on the plane around kept darting their hands this way and that, and for a bit I was sure they were reaching for guns.  Even the stewardess began to make these sudden moves.

I studied them carefully.  They were scratching themselves.


When they do land at JFK Airport, Gris gets through customs just fine - someone gives him a double take for getting off an Israeli flight with an Arab passport, but his flight bag stuffed with three types of cash and his suitcase full of guns are ignored.

I had made it to U.S. soil!

Also, the God over the U.S. is Rockecenter. So I was safe.

Gris, despite psychology teaching him that humans are soulless animals randomly generated by a godless universe, still believes that Mohammad is trying to kill him.  He also continues to hold Rockecenter in high esteem despite knowing, through psychology, that the man is insane.  So psychology is wrong when it comes to humans and gods, but correct when it comes to humans with god complexes.

Now to begin my retribution trail with a vengeance!

You can be forgiven for expecting Soltan Gris' Retribution Trail (hope he dies of dysentery) to begin with Heller.  The truth is much worse.

Back to Chapter Three

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Three - Karma Fleas

As per last chapter's cliffhanger, Gris' landing has been observed by an old gentleman and his two dogs.  The man reveals that Gris is on the island of Limnos - Greek territory, but the old man is speaking Turkish for Gris' benefit, what with the get-up and word Sanci on the wreckage of the rowboat.  He offers to let his surprise visitor dry off in his humble hut, but Gris isn't fooled - he knows that the man's wife is in league with the women of Turkey.  He also knows the dogs have spotted who he is because they keep sniffing at him.

Hey, that'd be neat, if terrestrial animals could pick up the alien-ness of the otherwise human Voltarians based on scent.  Heller would have to come up with an excuse for why he shies away from New York's strays or the Corleone guard dogs.  Gris would have a better excuse for hating animals besides his innate evilness. 

The old man offers Gris a drink as they sit down around the fire, and explains how his dear Turkish wife died years ago, and the nearest town is that way, and why no, there isn't anyone else around, thanks for asking.  The man gets up to make a phone call, which Gris knows is going to the authorities.

I had everything I needed to know.  And he was not going to detain me, drunk, while he brought the police.  As he stepped out the door, I shot him with the stungun.  It was on full power, narrow beam.  It blew his head half off.

Yet the same weapon won't rip the pillowcase it's fired out of.  And it can partially decapitate people, but they called it a stungun.

The dogs objected.

I shot them.

Guess the author's still tuckered out from last chapter, he missed a great opportunity to spend half a page giving a sentence-by-sentence description of the dogs running at Gris, Gris realizing his gun's on the wrong setting, flipping a lever, missing his shots, and then hitting the dogs at the last second.

I dragged all three bodies down to the beach.  I pushed the remains of the rowboat down into the water.  I put the bodies in it.  I buried the fragment that had the ship's name on it.

People, if anyone ever came this way, would think they had been blown up by the exploding ship.  And then cast ashore by the tidal wave.

So there's a patch of disturbed sand on the beach where Gris buried something, the tracks of Gris making at least two trips to drag the three bodies down to the shoreline since there's no way he could handle the old man and both dogs at once, and the yucky trail of whatever's dripping out of the old man's head.  But Gris is sure that any investigators will decide upon the story he's dreamt up.  And then he goes back into the hut and declares that "There wasn't much blood and what specks there were I obliterated."  What about the brains?  You blew the top of a man's head off! 

Blargh.  Forensics.  Let's not even get started on the questions raised by the chemical composition of Gris' alien-made bombs.

Gris changes into some of the dead man's clothes, wraps a rag around his chin and puts a wad of cotton (where did he get a wad of cotton?) in his mouth to simulate a toothache to excuse why he isn't speaking Greek, and sets off for the nearby town of Moudhros.  He reaches it at dawn, flinches at the prospect of taking a ferry to the mainland, but has no alternative because "Unlike some they say once existed on this planet, I could not walk on water."  So is Gris being dismissive of one primitive religion while convinced another is trying to kill him, or jealous that he isn't the Jesus and able to walk all the way to Athens?

Gris freaks out again when he actually boards the ferry, because not only are women on deck with him, but he realizes that he has no Greek money and can't pay in Turkish lira because that would "open up the trail!"  The solution, of course, is to flash around an American thousand dollar bill.  There's a, uh, "tense" moment when the man running the ferry runs off and Gris gets to stew over what's happening, but when the man returns, pointing at a box, Gris is able to somehow discern that he intends to give Gris change once they get to port in Athens.  More boating.

I got into a corner seat where I could keep the whole room under surveillance.  One part of me dreaded the moment the ship would sail, the other part of me couldn't wait to get it away from the dock.  Was I turning into a schizophrenic, torn asunder by a split personality?

Couple things to note: first, schizophrenia does not necessarily entail dissociative identity disorder.  Second, Gris should know this because he was able to diagnose his boss as having schizophrenic tendencies all the way back in book one.  Third, Gris is and has been displaying some symptoms of schizophrenia, namely persecutory delusions, sloppiness of dress and poor hygiene, paranoia, loss of motivation, poor judgment, and so on.

It is of course an open question as to how much of this is a result of Gris being an idiotic Hubbard Villain.  But there's something sadly ironic about Hubbard's main bad guy turning out to be someone who could benefit from therapy and medication, or in other words the very field of medicine Hubbard spends so much time demonizing.

Well, back to the stupid.

I began to itch.  The itching got worse.  I began to itch in several places at once.  Nervous hives.  According to psychology, when one is under an enormous strain, he tends to itch.  If psychology said so, it must be totally true.  

Real truths, like those regarding ancient alien emperors dumping corpses in volcanoes, take years of expensive training to prepare for.

It doesn't take long for Gris to get to the bottom of things - he's got fleas from his stolen clothes.  Or else from hauling around two canine corpses.  "Oh, Gods, the old man was getting his ghostly revenge!"  And then he starts throwing up from seasickness.

And each time I threw up again, I repeated by sacred vow.

Heller was going to pay for this.  He was going to pay for it all!

It was the only reason now that I cared to bear all this and live.



I repeated it in every lull between the times that I threw up.

At least I knew who was responsible for my woe.  And I was on the way to do something about it!

It was all that got me through that dreadful voyage.

Wait, Gris shot the dogs with his "stungun" and describes dragging their "bodies" to the beach.  He didn't take any effort to finish them off, so presumably they were killed by the "stungun."  So has anybody Gris shot with that thing survived?  And what kind of mess did the weapon make out of the dogs that Gris miraculously didn't have to clean up?

The author's putting so little thought into this that I'm wondering why he even bothered telling us about it.  We could've skipped Limnos and had the Sanci take him all the way to Athens.  We could've skipped the Sanci and had Gris get on a plane in Istanbul.  We could've skipped Turkey altogether and had Gris never leave New York last book!

Back to Chapter Two 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Part Forty-One, Chapter Two - Metaphorical Midnight

Two chapters aboard a boat's enough, yeah? (editor's note from the future: oh goodness no, just look at Book 7) Let's get off this rustbucket and back to the murderin'.

By "the luminescent dark of midnight"... wait a minute, Gris got to Istanbul around ten, right?  And he spent at an absolute minimum of twenty minutes running around town, because of the two ten-minute bombs he set.  And then it took him half an hour to round Seraglio Point, still in the town proper, because that's how long his fourth bomb took to go off.  But he somehow made it the hundred plus miles through the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean and the Greek shoreline in an hour at most?

I'm thinking too hard about this.  It's just one ill-placed adjective in a meaningless sentence about the luminescence of darkness.

Anyway.  The Captain wants payment before he puts Gris on the shoreline, and Gris decides to, say it with me now, cover his trail.  After assuring the captain that he'll pay immediately if the crew gets the skiff ready now, he stuffs a pillowcase with lira... and a little bonus.

"There is something extra in it," I said.  I reached in as though to take it out and show him.

He smiled broadly.

My hand closed around the stungun butt.

I shot him through the pillowcase.

The dull thud of the stungun was followed by the slap of the charge and then by the clatter as he fell into the bunk, knocked out.

So a stungun can be fired through a cloth bag without shredding it or setting it on fire.  But what was the "slap of the charge" bit?  Some sort of "shell" ejection?  But the gun was still in the bag, right?

Whatever, Gris paws the huge Turkish man and recovers the money he paid earlier, then sets a half-hour time bomb.  He steps outside, throws some money at the crowd of crewmen, and shoots them, "broad beam," with his stunamajig while they're distracted.  Then he shoots the two guys in the inflatable raft he'll take to shore.  The time bomb's still ticking, but Gris lingers to pick up all the lira he's thrown about the deck before getting in the raft.

But oh, the irony!  "The outboard motor was some kind of Balkan comedy of levers and corroded bars," and won't start.  If only Gris had waited a few moments for the skiff to start up properly!  Or been satisfied with setting a time bomb instead of stunning everyone.  Before he can do anything about his engine trouble, he hears a noise from the ship and realizes that the engineers - private fishing ships keep engineers aboard, right? - have come up from belowdeck and discovered the bodies of their mates.

Would you like a Hubbard Action Sequence?

Silhouetted in the moonlight, I saw a man with a rifle at the rail!

A bullet knifed a phosphorescent path in the water to my right. The explosion of the fired gun buffeted me.

You felt the blast from the rifle fired from the deck of the ship in your boat how many yards away?

I drew the stungun. I shot. It was on broad beam. It would not reach that range!

Another shot from the ship!

No phosphorescent path!

A sigh of escaping air!

The inflatable had been hit!

Sailor with rifle, Gris is a stationary target on an engineless boat on a moonlit sea.  Come on.

I threw the stungun lever to narrow beam. I aimed.

The rifle went off again!

I fired.

The man on the deck dropped.

Another one was trying to grab the rifle.

I aimed and fired again!

The other one dropped.

The inflatable was sinking!

So Gris dog-paddles over to the boat and starts to pull himself up by a line, forgets his suitcase, gets it out of the sinking raft, loses the line, jumps on it, and climbs the line onto the deck.  He manages to get a rowboat over the rail but can't find a paddle, so he uses the rifle.  Half a page of heart-stopping paddling action as Gris tries to outrun the "BOOM!," only to get caught in the "tidal wave" from the exploding ship and propelled "Fast as a racing car" towards the shore.  Crash, splintering wood, but Gris has made it out of Turkey.

And best of all, no witnesses.  Nobody to tell those Turkish women where Gris fled to.

I looked at the inky sea.  I was through with it.  No more sea for me!  One more black mark against Heller.

A voice said, "Are you from that exploded boat out there?"


Gotta say, these next few chapters?  Pretty dull.  And then the ones after them will make us long for this dullness, so try and cherish it.

Back to Chapter One