Thursday, January 31, 2013

Part Forty-Six, Chapter Two - Pro-Life in a Very Specific Sense

Last chapter ended with a reminder of some of the inconveniences of the book's narration style, with Gris having to assume that Heller concluded that Harvey Lee stole his car back while he was talking to Stonewall Biggs, and Gris guessing that when Heller looked back in the direction of the used car lot he was thinking about revenge.  This chapter's start is more muddled, with Gris turning on Krak's viewer and finding her staring down a hallway.  So we get an inconvenience when Gris runs a high-speed replay of Krak's activities before that point - arriving at the hospital, having Bang-Bang play sick and cause a distraction so she can slip in - but when he catches up to "now," he's just in time to watch her receive another infodump.

So there's the nod to reality when he initially tunes in and finds nothing of note, followed by a lucky coincidence where he's able to catch the next plot development live.  Rather than having to rewind to get everything, not just Krak's insertion.  And it again begs the question - why is this better than a conventional, third-person omniscient narrator?

I'm getting bogged down in the opening half-page because there's not much else to the chapter besides talking.  Krak slips past some nurses and into the room of one Dr. Tremor Graves.

"Do I know you?" said Dr. Graves.

"I am the new therapist," said the Countess Krak.

She reached into her shopping bag. She pulled out a helmet. She slid a recording strip into the slot and pushed a button that said Record. She plonked the helmet onto his head, threw the switch, plugged in the microphone and sat down.

I was gonna say something sarcastic like "and he just let her do this to him?"  But a line shortly after that says Graves was "thrashing about" until the helmet is turned on and he goes still.  So let's enjoy the mental image of one of the book's good guys slamming a mind-control helm onto a struggling, bedridden hospital patient and heroically bending his brain to her will.

Krak forces Graves to talk, promising that his arthritis pains will go away if he tells her what she wants to know.  Four pages of backstory follow.

Dr. Tremor Graves, M.D. owned a practice of his own before falling victim to "my own drink and drugs and folly."  Aaaand that's all we need to know about his past, apparently.   Dr. Graves has more to say about Delbert John Rockecenter's youth, and knows that at twenty-five he met a local farmgirl-turned-chorus girl named Mary Styles at a "pot party."  The two got a quickie marriage while tripping, and though Graves knows that Rockecenter considered the marriage a joke, he also knows that for Mary "it was her whole life."  Rockecenter kept it secret from his Aunt Timantha and the rest of his family because they'd be upset he'd married someone so poor, but then Mary got pregnant and refused to get an abortion, the selfish thing.

Rockecenter sent his wife back to her parents in Fair Oakes, and the next day Dr. Agnes P. Morelay, "a newly graduated acid thing," showed up with some thugs to grab Mary, then demanded that Dr. Graves kill her and call it a suicide.  Graves refused, not so much because he doesn't want to murder the girl, but "because I was afraid they would be able to blackmail me, then, for murder."  Except he refused to perform an abortion either, because that would be murder.  Graves did promise, for a bribe, to keep Mary in a padded cell (psychology!) and, for more money, he promised to kill her and the child after she delivered.  So he draws the line at murdering a fetus while it's still in the mother, but once the two are separate it's alright? 

Also, there is no indication as to why Graves would be following Agnes' orders.  He doesn't mention any sort of existing blackmail or other control over him, and Agnes didn't elaborate either when Krak grilled her several chapters ago.  I guess if a psychologist walks into your office and orders you to murder someone, you have to come up with a good reason to say no.

Well, as Mary was about to have the baby, word came that her parents had died in a car accident, and while it was a terrible shock the news didn't kill her, the breech birth did.  But Graves didn't kill the child, again because "I didn't want to be blackmailed by the psychiatrist."  He just told Agnes that he did it, and she never checked or anything.  And since Agnes was willing and able to get a car bomb to kill Mary's parents, we the hell didn't she take care of Mary and the unborn child the same way?  Why did she feel the need to outsource those murders but not the others? 

But there you have it: there is a Rockecenter baby boy.  Graves tattooed a dollar sign onto the sole of his left foot and stuck him in "the county poor farm" under the name Richard Roe, and didn't mention the fate of the child on Mary's death certificate.  Miss Agnes of course did not look to closely to see if her orders were followed, orders given to a man clearly reluctant to kill anyone just because she told him to.  Graves planned to threaten Agnes with the existence of Rockecenter Jr. if she tried to move against him, and admits that while he's done many (undescribed) evil things in his life, "I did not kill the two of them!"

All Krak has to say to this is "That has been heard."  Cool story bro.  She then modifies Graves' memory so that Mary actually gave birth to twins, and the firstborn got the dollar mark tattoo, was shipped to Georgia, and grew up under the name Jerome Terrance Wister, or in other words Heller's current alias.  She programs the man to write up a full confession to this effect, and once that's done he'll "feel no more pain."  His bones will still be grinding together, but he'll be comfortably numb the whole time.

We get a mild cliffhanger ending when Krak finishes up and removes the helmet, just as Bang-Bang enters the hospital room "making motions."  Since the author doesn't go into any detail, feel free to imagine what sort of goofy movements the mob bomber's making.  

Back to Chapter One 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Part Forty-Six, Chapter One - Back Where It All Began

Although Gris' plan is to sit around in a motel room, watch viewscreens, and hope that things happen the way he wants them to, he's stymied by the carbon-based interference blocking out Krak's signal, while Heller's screen is still blank because Raht and the bloody 831 Relayer are on the move.  So all Gris can do at the chapter's start is try to decide why he's feeling squeamish, as if he'd just witnessed something unpleasant.

I sat there restively.  My nerves were in pretty poor shape after that cop murder and rape.  I wondered why these things were having such an effect on me.  By psychology theory, there was neither limit nor personal penalty to crime unless it happened to oneself.  Nothing had happened to me yet.

Someone needs to introduce Gris to the wonderful, lucrative world of "psychological damages."

Why was I reacting?  Psychology and psychiatry couldn't be wrong.  That was unthinkable.  Man was just an animal that had no conscience or soul, just a rotten beast, in fact.  So, of course it shouldn't affect me, no matter how many rotten things I did.

Nothing new here, the author's just repeating himself in case we missed the point the first time.  But don't worry, Hubbard's satire!psychology will reach new heights of stupidity once Gris checks on Crobe later on.

Clamping down on a crisis of faith in soulless science, Gris instead busies himself with finding a potential escape vehicle in case Torpedo doesn't pick him up after killing Krak, and makes "some other precautionary arrangements."  About this time Heller's viewer comes back on as Raht flips a switch on the relayer.  Our hero gets dropped off via a rope ladder dangling from a helicopter, landing in a used car sales lot.  Yes, he's back at Harvey "Smasher" Lee's Bargain Cars For True Virginians, Money Back Sometimes.


It was only... using a calculator here... ah, approximately 1600 pages ago that Heller was first dumped off in Virginia, eventually picking up a Cadillac from Mr. Lee here.  Gris obligingly spends a paragraph reminding us how Heller was probably still wanted in this town (under a different alias) and left with a Miss Mary Schmeck, who tragically died off-screen with no further impact on the story.

Mr. Lee steps out of the sales office, and goes white at the sight of Heller, who asks if there's a cheap car available.  Harvey instead asks if Mary's around, and Heller says "There's nobody with me."  Because... no need to tell a shady car salesman that a woman who haggled with him died of a drug overdose?  Well, surely Heller has a good reason for doing the things he does.  Even if we never get to hear it.

I'll skip a page of haggling - Heller ends up buying a cheap ride he can "use and throw away," some awful French car called a Karin.  Apparently this was a real concept vehicle, and I've gotta say, I can see why it never went any further.  Heller asks about Stonewall Biggs, and Harvey gets all shifty-eyed and explains that he's still at the (burned-down) courthouse.

Heller drives off in his rolling pyramid and arrives at the pile of rubble marking the old building, next to a temporary structure.  It's past dusk now, and as Heller gets out some voices shout that he's under arrest in thick, mangled Southern accents.  Yes, Mr. Harvey tipped off the local cops about a car that got "stolen" off his lot.  The officers move in to cuff Heller, who is mostly annoyed and asks if they can "put this off until business hours?"

I'll skip a half-page Hubbard Action Sequence in which Heller ends up throwing one cop at the other.  He dumps the unconscious cops off at the temporary courthouse and drives back to Mr. Lee, grabs the man by the throat, ties him up, and threatens to torch the man's merchandise if he doesn't tell where Mr. Biggs is.  The man blabs, Heller drives off towards the new directions, arriving at a nondescript house in some generic neighborhood unworthy of description.

Heller knocks on a front door, an old black woman announces that there's "Some young whaht mans," and Mr. Biggs starts chatting with Heller in Hubbard's patented What The Hell Is That Accent?

"Well, Junior!" he cried. "Mah, this sho' is a su'-prise!" And he was pumping Heller's hand and beaming. "C'm in, c'm in and set a spell! Mah, am ah glad t'see you, boy!"

He led Heller into the kitchen and sat him in a chair at the table. "We've et. You et? Marcy, git some vittles on. Some of that friahd po'k 'n greens."

"Ah'm mighty glad t'see you well," said Heller, unstrapping his musette bag and laying it on a chair.

"Aw, they cain't kill off an ol' coon dog lahk me," said Stonewall Biggs. "They thought ah was done fo' aftah you pulled me aht of that fiah but ah was jus' singed, jus' singed. Marcy, he do look a bit ga'nt. Hurry up them vittles so's we c'n talk."

I am tired of Virginia already.

Gris chortles that sitting down for exposition only plays into his hands, since it keeps Heller away from Krak so Torpedo can... well, presumably he could snipe her regardless of whether anyone's around, but I guess Gris has latched on to the "defiling" part of the plan too.

Heller and Biggs make small talk, then Heller asks for more information about his birth.  So Biggs tells a short tale of how the town doctor got drunk one night, so Biggs asked some questions, and the doctor said something about how "Ah done a lotta rotten things in mah tahm, but at leas' ah nevah murdered th' two of them."  And Biggs admits there'd been some rumors about a local girl getting married to Mr. Rockecenter and coming home pregnant and how she disappeared and how her parents died in a car accident that looked suspiciously like a car bomb.  But nobody has any hard evidence and the local sheriff would sell his soul for some "waht mule," so nobody did anything and the rumor never went anywhere.

So a whole town has suspicions about how the world's most powerful man might have murdered his wife and unborn children, as well as his in-laws.  Way to cover your tracks, Rockecenter.

Biggs gives Heller directions to this doctor, a Tremor Graves, but when he tries to leave Heller finds that the rolling pyramid has been stolen.  Biggs ends up driving him off, so Gris calls an operator, announces a Federal emergency, and without any attempt to verify his identity is able to tip off the local police that the man who stole a car and beat up two officers is on his way to a hospital in a Buick.

I hung up.

I beamed.  Heller would be stopped.

Torpedo would have his chance!

Of course, if Heller did get stopped, and arrested, and jailed for his crimes, he wouldn't be able to write his reports back to Voltar, and since Gris doesn't know the cypher to forge him, the Voltarian government would get tipped off that Mission Earth is failing, and go ahead with the invasion plan, jeopardizing the Apparatus plot to seize control of the Confederacy.  On the other hand, given their past success rate there's absolutely no reason to believe the local law enforcement has any chance of apprehending Heller, so Gris is probably safe from his own short-sighted stupidity.

Back to Part Forty-Five, Chapter Seven

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter Seven - Good Triumphs Because Evil Can't Keep It In Its Pants

Unabridged version here.

On day four, Gris happens to check Krak's viewscreen at some point and finds that the interference is off, allowing him to overhear Bang-Bang saying how he managed to find a mysterious "him" hiding out in a private hospital at Redneck (hur), Virginia.  Bang-Bang helpfully explains that it's only thirty-five miles west of their location, allowing Gris to check a map and trace backwards.  Somehow Krak managed to slip south of Gris, but since Redneck's only twenty miles away from where he is, surely he'll be able to beat Krak there and set up the perfect ambush.  Well I say "he," but Gris' plan is of course to sit in his motel room while Torpedo runs out to do the dirty work.  The only way things could go wrong would be if a distraction knocked on the motel room door.

Immediately, a distraction knocks on the motel room door, revealing itself to be a motorcycle cop here to complain about how their car was parked.  Torpedo's reaction is to grab the cop when the officer turns his back to point out the vehicle in question, and while muffling any screams with a hand over the man's mouth, stabs him in the back.  Gris speculates that Torpedo's knife cut the cop's heart in half, from behind.  I could argue over the mechanics of this, but I won't.

So Torpedo has just delayed his appointment with Krak's demise by murdering a nonhostile police officer, forcing him and Gris to deal with the fallout of that crime.  The only way things could get worse would be if Torpedo flipped the body over and took off its pants.

Torpedo flips the body over and takes off its pants.

Gris cries at his henchman to stop, complaining that his real target is just south of here on a set course, but Torpedo pulls a gun and insists on... finishing.  Gris doesn't mention diverting his eyes, nor does he attempt to run out, either to excuse himself from Torpedo's activities, or - and this is a stretch - try and take care of Krak himself.  Presumably Torpedo would shoot him for trying to leave?

Torpedo laughs about "(bleeping) a screw!" and runs off to make the kill, since he boasts that his previous diversion only whetted his appetite.  This leaves Gris in a room with a dead, defiled police officer.  He pulls up the corpse's pants and drags it to the bottom of some stairs - actually, got that backwards, he drags it outside and down the stairs, then fixes the pants.  Then Gris goes back to the crime scene and cleans up, "eradicating" any bloodstains with... I dunno, toilet paper?  A magical alien cleaning agent that dissolves all types of blood, even those from lifeforms on different planets?  Febreeze?  The author doesn't say.

Gris is basically stuck since Torpedo took the car and he's unwilling to leave his luggage behind, so he resolves the situation by calling in on the cop cycle's radio to report the murder, using his federal credentials ("This is Inkswitch.  I'm a Fed.").  When other police forces show up he blames the murder on a black man ("We knew it!" said their chief) and they tear off, returning an hour later to dispose of the body.  That distraction handled, Gris gets back to what he does best: watching on a viewscreen while the good guys make progress.

Now, something I'd like to point out.  L. Ron Hubbard wrote this book.  He also founded what he insisted was a religion.  To my knowledge, Jesus did not write stories about someone raping women until they liked men again as a side project while traveling around and preaching.  Neither am I aware of the Buddha writing an epic tale in which the protagonist unwittingly commits genocide on at least one race, only to be assured that his victims were all better off dead even after previous cases proved they were redeemable.  And for all the controversy surrounding Muhammad (peace be upon him), I don't think he told stories featuring a necrophiliac assassin.

Just something to think about.

Back to Part Forty-Five, Chapter Six 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter Six - Orgy of One

Unabridged version here.

If Gris were the protagonist of Lord of the Rings, he'd be on an epic quest, carrying the Ring of Power to the slopes of Mount Doom, so that some budget hireling he picked up in Minas Tirith could chuck it in.  If he were in the original Star Wars the movie's climax would involve him escorting another pilot's X-Wing into the Death Star trench to take the torpedo shot, even though he had a full load of missiles in his own fighter.  Because Gris spends much of the chapter driving around with a hitman in his passenger seat, looking for the Countess Krak, so he can tell the hitman to shoot her.

At least Gris is as annoyed with the experience as I am, though for a different reason - he can't stand Torpedo Fiaccola.

Not only did the filthy beast stink, he kept whining that I wasn't being fast enough.  He wanted to get on his kill and he twisted and agonized about how frustrated he was and how he had to have it.  He kept stroking his rifle's barrel and unloading the gun and spitting on the cartridges and reloading it, crooning to the slugs to get him to his next orgy.  My disgust rose like vomit in my throat just to hear him.

Just in case anyone's unfamiliar with the term: an orgy is an event featuring indiscriminate group sex.  It's therefore difficult to pull off with two people, especially if one of them is dead. 

On the second day of the hunt Gris checks his viewers.  Heller is down in Florida, where workers are hailing his supernatural skill when it comes to laying out a building's foundations, while Heller is trying and failing to reach Krak's phone (since Gris got the land yacht's line disconnected).  After spotting a disguised Raht lurking around Heller's hotel, Gris checks the other viewer and finds Krak lounging about by a lake, extremely snipeable, but he can't tell where she is.

On day three he catches Bang-Bang returning from trying out local pay phones in his attempts to reach Heller, and spots a sign for Bogg Hollow's general store.  The three places Gris can find on a map with Bogg in their name are all north of Lynchburg, Virginia, so Gris takes a whining, drooling Torpedo to a hotel in that town, to... well, I'm not quite sure what the strategy is.

Gris picks a spot with a good view of the highway and a clear route to give chase, but then he sends Torpedo out to all the potential Bogg Whatever places Gris found on the map, presumably in the hope that Krak hasn't moved yet.  Gris stays behind at the hotel, allegedly able to watch both the highway and Heller's viewscreen, but he only pays attention to the latter.  And what's he expecting to do if he sees the target come along on the highway?  He doesn't have a sniper rifle, and his own weapons aren't mentioned.  I guess he'll yell at Torpedo whenever he comes back and try to chase Krak down.

After Gris watches Heller make plans to hitch a ride with a pilot to Fair Oakes, VA, Torpedo returns to report both his lack of success and the full extent of his frustration.  He's now certain he got gonorrhea from... um, his last sexual partner.  Although partner would imply that the other person was playing an active role and not laying limply because - anyway, Torpedo knows from his prison psychologist that the only cure for the clap is to pass it around.

Torpedo mentions how he wished he had a bloodhound to track down the Countess Krak, which sets off Gris' newfound animal phobia that he's developed from anecdotes shared in the uncensored version of this blog.  Our villainous protagonist is now convinced that he's doomed, but he'll try and bring down the terrible Countess Krak before he dies.

But somehow it didn't help.  Somewhere in my career, had I gone wrong?

That would imply that at some point Soltan Gris was actually good at his job.

Was there somebody else I had failed to maim or kill? I was being punished for something, I was sure. But it was not because I had not tried to do my Apparatus duty always, like now. I was sure of that. It was just that the Gods are treacherous. They had it in for me.

Close, but it's really the author that hates you, Gris.  You've been created to embody everything he despises about the Central Intelligence Agency (regardless of whether those beliefs have any basis in reality).  Your role in the story is to fail repeatedly and miserably, to allow the heroes, including the avatar of the author's self-image, to succeed and defeat you.  You were betrayed at the moment of your inception.

Back to Chapter Five

Friday, January 25, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter Five - These People Tell the Most Interesting Stories

Unabridged version here

Bad news is that this chapter's more about Gris' sex life.  Good news is that we'll be taking a break from it for a bit after this.

Miss Pinch brings in the next pair of women to be rescued from Psychiatric Birth Control, an American-Indian going by the name "Chief Malcomb" and Bucket, a "plump high-yellow." I think we met our first "high-yellow" woman about a year ago, in Book Two, and I still don't know what the hell the author is talking about when he uses the term.

The encounter goes badly; Chief admits that she's scared half to death, and Gris freaks out, orders that Pinchy call for an electrocardiograph, and is only willing to perform his duty if he can watch the little needle charting his client's heartbeat.  Because that's the only way he can now convince himself that he's not interacting with a corpse.

The girls are unsatisfied - though they admit that an awkward night with Gris' magical dongle is still better than anything they'd experienced before - and Miss Pinch chews him out because Bucket is used to... um.  Let's just say "big things" without going into the specifics of what the lady actually slept with.  So Pinch is worried that Gris' failure might cause Bucket to fall back into bad habits.

Gris tries to make up for his shortcomings when he attends to Candy and Pinch, but when they thrash about they disconnect the heartbeat monitors, causing Gris to panic that he's sleeping with a flailing, screaming corpse.  So he gets kicked to the couch, just in time to receive a phone call from our friend Torpedo.  Gris gives the hitman the location and description of Krak's new land yacht, and demands to know why Torpedo's in Harlem instead of Hairytown.  The killer replies that he'd stolen a gun, a double-barreled magnum elephant rifle with a superpowered night scope, and he's such a professional that he needed to test it out before he made the hit.

And Hubbard double-downs and adds necrophilia to a chapter already containing bestiality.  Oh, and Torpedo has syphilis now.  We get to hear too many details before Gris finally yells at the man to top telling his terrible stories, and he goes to bed, but is now worried about STDs.

The next morning Torpedo phones in to report that the land yacht has moved on, so Krak isn't dead and defiled yet.  Even worse, not only has the note and envelope Gris gave him earlier disappeared, but the money in it has evaporated into a green powder!

Oh, (bleep)!  That timed disintigrator spray had gotten on the money in the envelope!

I was joking!  I was joking when I wondered why the spray didn't disintegrate anything else!  I just assumed the paper was specially-treated to interact with the spray... can I not think of something too stupid to be included in this story?

So Torpedo's broke and literally (bleeping) around instead of doing the job.  Gris takes two thousand bucks out of Pinchy's purse, leaves a note explaining that he's going to meditate on a mountaintop for a week, grabs his federal ID (in case anyone asks about the hitman) and his other gear, and hits the road.

No more lesbian deprogramming in Candy and Pinchy's apartment!  Gris has picked up his gun, he's going to track down the Countess Krak, and he is going to make damn sure that the hitman he hired kills her, because that's the only way to be rid of that woman.

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter Four - Communications Technology of the Year 2000, Part Two

Well, I guess Miss Agnes' first act of revenge was to try and kill Rockecenter's wife and maybe-son.  I say try because, well, we'll get to that in a bit.

Bang-Bang is "snarling and swearing to himself" after being, y'know, raped, and he struggles with the land yacht's controls as he drives the behemoth away from his attacker.  Krak acts as his spotter, reading out road signs, and the first time she mentions a parking area Bang-Bang immediately pulls into it and uses the motor home's - get this - mobile telephone!  The cabbie/mob demolitionist places a long distance, person-to-person call to "Pretty Boy Floyd"'s hotel room and starts panicking into the line about how he thinks they've just stolen a million dollar land yacht.  Then he hands the phone over to the Countess.

She took the headset.  She said, "How are you dear?  Did you have a nice trip?"

Heller's voice, "What are you up to?"

"Do you have a nice room?  I hope there were no alligators in it."

Heller said, "Quit it!  It's all okay here.  What are you up to?"

In a very sweet voice, she said, "Well, it's all okay here, too."

"Listen," said Heller, "What are you doing with a million dollar land yacht?

Good bloody question.  Looking back, the logic seems to have been "Oooooo!  I want that!" and then she basically stole it with her mind control helmet.  This was a compulsive act of theft and mind-rapeage that doesn't fit into a particular plan or anything.  Krak saw something shiny and took it.

Where are you going?"

She said, "It's lonesome without you, dear."

"WHERE are you headed for?" said Heller.

"You really want to know, don't you, dear?"


"Well, I'm not going to tell you straight out. The domestic police monitor calls, you know."

I'd like to be able to make a crack like "still a healthier relationship than Twilight," but to be honest?  Couldn't make any headway into the thing, gave up after maybe three chapters.  I don't remember even getting to the sparkly vampires, so I can't rightly make the comparison.  Though I can insult the series by all implying/stating that I find L. Ron Hubbard more readable than Stephenie Meyer.

Krak finally relents and hints about a "stone wall," and despite Heller's protests she insists that she has to speed the mission along.  Heller caves but asks for a favor -

"Whatever you say, dear.  You know I never do anything you don't want me to do."

- and asks that Krak give him four days to finish what he's doing and meet up with her before diving in.  Then he asks to speak to Bang-Bang again, gets the number for the land yacht's incredible mobile phone, and passes on some secret instruction that Bang-Bang doesn't immediately share with Krak or the audience.

Gris starts gloating about how Heller is playing right into his hands, and now he'll have four days to pick off Krak while she sits in a huge obvious target, etc., but then Bang-Bang makes a call to a garage to get the cab picked up.  What starts with a ferry fee grows into a rebuilt engine and new leather seating for the cab, topped off a cook and driver and cleaning lady and mechanic for the land yacht, with new uniforms, and a smaller mobile home to live in while they follow the sandcrawler around.  All of this on Gris' credit card.

I was almost fainting!  He had just run up what might become an eighty-thousand dollar bill!  With all Krak's other purchases, Mudur Zengin might begin to run out of money and cost me my half-million deposit certificate!

And there's not much to say that isn't an expletive.  After wasting most of the last book with the subplot about Gris' bank account, Hubbard wants to resurrect that oh-so-compelling story.  The bloody stupid land yacht is an excuse for us to talk about deposit certificates and credit cards some more.

Does Twilight get bogged down in idiotic subplots?  Like does whossername spend half of Eclipse fretting about her science fair project, or a cousin who wants to be a rodeo clown?

Krak asks what Heller told Bang-Bang, and the bomber says it was an order to keep her safe, then talks about how she'll be able to walk around enjoying the wildflowers while they wait for Heller.  "You'll love it out in the open."  Then Krak tries to turn on the land yacht's lights, and Gris' viewscreen shorts out.

Interference!  It must be coming from the generator's carbon brushes!  It might be suppressed for Earth-type radio but it certainly jammed the wavelength and type that I was operating on!

Yeah.  This again, the mysterious "interference" that kicks in when the plot requires and is based on a hack author's deeply misinformed grasp of physics.  A generator's "carbon brushes" are evidently emitting radio waves.

Gris consoles himself that he knows where Krak is going, to visit Stonewall Biggs, County Clerk of Hamden Country, Virginia, introduced way the hell back in Book Two.  He also knows the terrain well enough (somehow) to understand that there's only one main road to get them there.  To further stack the odds, he calls the telephone company and gives the land yacht's mobile phone number for them to disconnect, claiming that the thing's in vacation mode and doesn't need to be on.  So Krak and Bang-Bang are currently parked at the start of a set route, incommunicado, and Heller will take four days to meet up with them.  How could he not manage to get them killed?

The chapter ends with Gris preparing to go back to another obnoxious subplot, his "evening stint" deprogramming lesbians with the power of his dong.  So the final tally is two terrible subplots, the return of a contemptible plot device, a plan to visit Chekhov's Gunman, and more evidence of the deeply dysfunctional relationship between the romantic leads. 

Busy chapter.

Back to Chapter Three

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter Three - Miss Agnes' Revenge

The chapter break interrupts the end of Miss Agnes' forced confession and infodump, though she only has half a page of monologue left to say, so you have to wonder why the author decided not to end the chapter there, assuming you haven't given up trying to make sense of all this several volumes ago.

All Agnes has left to say is that as part of her revenge scheme, she took the opportunity to give Rockecenter a little snip when he knocked himself out falling off a horse, thereby ensuring that there will be no heir to dispute his fortune.  Which is what he wanted anyway, I thought.  Rather surprised Rockecenter didn't take care of that himself.  Unless his plan was to simply abort any pregnancies that resulted from his lifestyle, which is probably keeping with the stupidly evil characterization the author is going for.

But that's it - Agnes feels insufficiently rewarded for all her work advancing psychology, since she's after nothing less than the Rockecenter fortune.  So Krak, kind-hearted soul that she is, decides to help the woman.  "Listen carefully.  You will feel rewarded when you propose to some nice young man and settle down."  Yes, ladies, always remember that your ultimate ambition should be holy matrimony with a man.

My earlier fears prove justified when Krak goes on to mind-control Agnes into signing over the monster motor home.  It's not outright theft, since Krak decides to set the terms as Agnes letting her "friend' take the thing out for three months and try to sell it, and if unsuccessful Krak will pay "fifty thousand credits."  Krak knows about Earth dollars, and the approximate exchange rate of dollars to Voltarian credits, but she still phrases the deal in alien currency anyway.  But it's a moot point since Agnes puts down fifty thousand dollars when she writes up the "contract," which opens up the can of worms of whether Voltarian mind-control magic reads the wielder's intent or the victim's.

Agnes hands over the deal, forgetting about being hypnotized and questioned as per standard mind-raping operating procedure, and shoos Krak out the door.  The Countess gets Bang-Bang to move their things to the "land yacht" -

Bang-Bang looked anxiously at the house and then at Krak.  "Hey, you couldn't have bought this.  It's worth a million bucks."

"It's a steal, Bang-Bang.  Get the baggage."

Which is a witty bit of wordplay unless you think about how much money Heller's making, and the implication that Krak has no access to it.  And apparently isn't using Gris' credit card anymore.

But wouldn't you know it but Krak forgot to make Agnes hand over the keys to the thing?  She sends Bang-Bang back to the house to pick them up, and for no real reason at all decides she'd "better make sure he is all right" and gets out the X-ray telescope identical to the one Gris was using for a chapter or two back in Book Four, I think, which of course she just so happened to have been carrying in her baggage all along.

This?  This is an example of the hoops you have to jump through if you want to have the story follow someone into a building, but have come up with the ridiculous set-up of your narrator being a character in the story narrating other characters' actions through long-range spy implants, looking through their eyes and listening through their ears.

Bang-Bang goes back to the mansion, Agnes perks up at the sight of him and asks if he's a "nice young man," then she reaches for his belt buckle.  Bang-Bang freaks and tries to flee, but trips over a garbage can and falls onto a couch.  Agnes jumps on him and, despite his thrashing and desperate attempts to escape, commands Bang-Bang to "Lie still, you nice young man!  I've got to settle down on you!"  And there's the usual shaking furniture and things falling off the walls and shelves to denote a Hubbard Sex Scene.

Now, you might be tempted to call this a rape.  After all, Bang-Bang did not initiate this encounter, tried to get out of it, but was stripped, held down, and used.  But see, he's a guy, and we all know that men are lustful creatures who wouldn't say no to a quickie with a woman they're terrified of and have no interest in.  Plus if he'd really wanted out of it, surely he's strong enough to get out of a woman's pin?  So there you have it - men can't be raped, at least not by women, so what would be shocking or horrifying were the gender roles reversed is instead titillating and even comedic. 

Krak watches the whole thing.  After all, Gris couldn't tell us about the diploma falling off the wall if Krak weren't staring at the sordid affair through her magical telescope.  The most she does is cluck her disapproval of Agnes' actions - "You give these primitives the simplest suggestion and even then they get that wrong!" - and feels sorry for Bang-Bang because he must be so embarrassed, but again, she doesn't stop watching his humiliation.  The whole event annoys her more than anything, because now they'll have to find a place to stop for the night so Bang-Bang can rest, when Krak was hoping to drive straight home.  She does not interfere, or try to rescue him... oh, what am I saying, rescue implies that something bad was happening!

Miss Agnes lay there grinning like a ghoul. "Oh, boy, that was really good," she said. "Forty-four years I kept myself a virgin

This book has an unsettling fixation on hymens.

for that rotten (bleepard).  But now revenge is really sweet.  I've let myself be settled down by a nice young man instead of him.  And that vengeance was really great.

Her first act of revenge was to sterilize the man who was worried that his heir would try to steal his fortune.  Her second act of revenge was to have sex with a random stranger rather than the man who showed no interest in her for four decades.

Revenge after all is the best reward.  And I've got it at last!  I'm full of it!"

She puts on her pants and throws Bang-Bang the keys and whatnot, advising him to "take up Psychiatric Birth Control.  If anybody found out that nonperverted sex is that good, they'd overpopulate the world!"

Bang-Bang flees to the land yacht, begging Krak not to lose the keys because he "couldn't stand getting another set!"  He also asks if Krak said anything about him to Miss Agnes, but the Countess of course feigns ignorance.  And Gris out of nowhere remembers that the old cab they had been driven was bulletproof, but now they're in a huge target with dinky aluminum walls.  Surely fate was smiling upon him, Krak is a gonner, yadda yadda yadda might want to tell your hitman that the target is in a different vehicle, ace.

Back to Chapter Two 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter Two - Those (Bleeping) Nazis Are Behind Everything

Hey, description of the terrain!  Bang-Bang and the Countess drive through "hedge-enclosed and iron-walled streets," a "maze of greenery and forbidding steel spikes."  You know, perfect sniper country.

Krak lets out an "Oooooo!" at the sight of a huge-ass vehicle blocking the drive to the Morelay Estate, and gushes how she used to ride around in something similar during her life in the circus, but she "didn't know they had those on this planet."  Bang-Bang explains that they're looking at an ultra-deluxe motor home, converted from a Greyhound bus to make a two-story housemobile.  See, you use the luggage space for your ground floor, and build up from there.  The Countess asks if Bang-Bang knows how to drive it, and I get the foreboding feeling that Heller and Krak will soon have an additional super-luxurious vehicle to waste a chapter or two describing in aching detail before never using again.

They slip past the parked behemoth and find a sprawling mansion, as well as "a very butler-type butler" to let them in, having been forewarned of their arrival by a call from the friendly service station manager, who you'll recall was a "service station manager type."  The manor's interior is decorated with "broadaxes, battle-axes, and headsmen's axes," because when psychology isn't about phallic imagery it's about slicing off phallic imagery.  Krak takes out a blank card and sprays some mysterious something on it, just before the butler-type butler introduces them to Miss Agnes.

The good doctor is "dressed like a Harley Street doctor would be dressed," in a black suit, graying hair in a severe bun, and glasses on a black silk ribbon.  Miss Agnes immediately launches into a tirade about what an insult the leviathan mobile home is, "an outright bald hint that I take myself away," and how badly parked it is.  When she demands her delivery money back, Krak instead hands over the blank card.

The woman held it close to her face.

The Countess Krak said, "There's nothing on that card, is there?"


"Then you wouldn't mind if I put this helmet on your head, will you?"


And Krak puts a hypnohelmet on the other woman, helping Agnes lay down onto a convenient couch.  See, she doused that card with more bottled Voltarian magic, an Eyes and Ears of Voltar perfume that "made the person say no to everything and was intended to protect chastity."  Unless the other guy is clever and asks "do you not want to take off your pants and get freaky?" of course.

Wait... she said no to "wouldn't mind," so she would mind if Krak put the helmet on her... so does the perfume read intent or syntax?  Like regardless of how the other person phrases the question, if you don't want to go along with it the smell forces you to comply?  Or does the smell patch into your understanding of grammar and slang to... this is so stupid.  Stupid.  Bloody stupid.  Just have her pull a gun or slap the helmet onto her head instead of getting into this nonsense.  Stupid.


Gris wails about the sacrilege of forcing a psychiatrist onto her own couch, while Krak starts grilling Agnes on various things.  She asks what Agnes is upset about, and is told about the lack of reward, she wants "Money, money, money, money!"  Krak asks why Agnes is due a reward, and we get a steaming bucket of backstory poured down the back of our shirts.

"The Rockecenters have a sacred charge from Goebbels to render all other races incapable of defending themselves against Hitler.  The Germans may have lost the war but this did not nullify the sacred trust.  

"Even though the guys who I was supposed to be paving the way for were no longer around, that was no reason to stop undermining everyone's ability to resist this threat that, again, no longer existed."

As a psychiatrist and psychologist, knowing my debt to Germany for those vital subjects, I have forwarded them with dedication.  The Rockecenters advocated worldwide population reduction for generations.  It is a sacred family trust and I have carried it on.  With every possible trick I could devise I have made Delbert John Rockecenter carry out his family commitments.  Utilizing the Rockecenter control of the World Federation of Mental Stealth,

That is still an achingly stupid name.

I have spread far and wide the doctrine of Psychiatric Birth Control.

"Far and wide" meaning "the people at Octopus Oil."

And for Delbert John Rockecenter himself, personally, I caused him to found the foundations which, with glandular operations and drugs, have made him immortal."

So there you have it: psychology, homosexuality, even Rockecenter's cartel?  All a Nazi plot to destroy their enemies.  And it all comes down to this one woman.  Also, Rockecenter is immortal now.

Funny how Gris' lessons in Rockecenter family history back in Book Three didn't mention the whole "working for the Nazis" thing. 

"Is there anything else for which you should be rewarded?"

The body on the couch did a small writhe.  The voice was muffled but it carried hate.  "I listen to his puking drivel about watching chorus girls go to the toilet and making Miss Peace exhibit herself to him while she pees until I could simply strangle him."

The Countess Krak, oddly, has no reaction to Rockecenter's interest in watersports - which raises a few interesting implications about what's considered mainstream sexual practices on Voltar - but instead mutters about "Where there is this much hate, there must have been love."  She asks Agnes about a son, and the psychiatrist goes ballistic, ranting about what a "disaster" it would be if the guy who owned the planet was forced to give up a ten billion dollar trust fund, so "THERE IS NO SON!  THERE MUST NEVER BE A SON!"

Krak repeats her question, and Agnes admits that okay, there might have been a son.

Although he's impotent now, once upon a time Delbert John Rockecenter was an eligible bachelor, and Miss Agnes decided to marry him (for his money).  She studied psychology to learn how to properly seduce him (this being before psychology was turning everyone gay), and even saved herself for marriage because that's evidently important.  But imagine her surprise when Rockecenter went and ran off to marry a chorus girl, 'cause he got high (bah-dah-duh-dum-dum-dum).

So she swallowed her pride and worked for the Rockecenters, and arranged for the pregnant woman to be hidden with her family in the Catskills, and even though the Rockecenters are like totally ruthless and willing to kill family members in the name of money, and a male Rockecenter heir (but not a female!) would be eligible to inherit a share of the fortune, they decided to buy the girl's family's silence instead of killing them in the name of money.

Then Miss Agnes forced the doctor who would deliver the baby to ensure that the child came down with "natural causes," while its mother was arranged to die of shock after learning of the death of her family in an "auto accident."  And the talent agent said "wow, so what do you call that act?"  And I said, "Mission Earth!"

But there you have it - everything's the Nazis' fault, through their instrument of Miss Agnes.  Rockecenter potentially had a child delivered eighteen years ago in Hamden County, Virginia, but Agnes is sure it was killed.

Gris ends the chapter cooing over Lombar Hisst's brilliance in picking an identity for Heller that would get "the Rockecenter Angels of Death swarming."  With the obvious downside that if those swarming Angels of Death proved insufficient, Heller would be handed an identity as successor to the richest, most powerful man on the planet.  So the cunning plan will either kill the guy, or give him more than enough resources to accomplish the mission we don't want him to accomplish.

Back to Chapter One 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Part Forty-Five, Chapter One - The Difference Between an Automobile and an Aircraft

Gris goes to Boyd's of London's US office to get Torpedo's insurance.  This is of course a parody of Lloyd's of London, which got into trouble for being a tax haven and setting up cartels and whatnot.  Rather than engage in a meaningful satire of the company's ups and downs in the wild world of insurance, Hubbard instead goes with less than a page of Gris haggling over his rate for "hit man insurance" with a nameless agent, who establishes his Britishness with an "eh, what?" and an "old chap."  The important thing is that Gris gets a policy to give to Torpedo to give to his momma.

He does this very spy-like, writing a note with instructions for the hitman to get to Hairytown with his rifle and whack the people in an old-fashioned orange cab.  Gris uses a special envelope with "Apparatus self-destruct paper.  You write on it and then spray it lightly and then ten hours after it is opened it simply evaporates.  No evidence."  Then he goes by Dr. Finkelbaum's waiting room, sticks the note in a magazine, and casually leaves the periodical in the chair next to Torpedo.  You might ask why the cloak-and-dagger is necessary if you can legally purchase insurance for hired killers, but then you may as well wonder what's in the spray Gris used to evaporate that paper, if it works on other substances, or why it doesn't evaporate the bottle it comes in.

With his message passed on successfully, Gris concludes that Krak will soon be dead and gets out his viewscreen to watch.  But Krak and Bang-Bang haven't quite arrived at Hairytown yet, and Krak is trying to get Bang-Bang to take the cab "off this bumpy cart track and fly it."  See, the Countess hasn't figured out that the difference between the cab (the thing with wheels) and helicopters (the things with whirlygigs on their tops) she's seen flying about, and puts  Bang-Bang's refusal to take to the sky down to his fear of the police, who she promises to "fix" if they try and stop him.

I guess this is supposed to be the endearing confusion of a stranger in a strange land, rather than someone failing basic observations and threatening to mind-rape her way out of any difficulties.  You gotta wonder why she didn't just mind-control Bang-Bang into doing what she wanted instead of wasting time driving around to mind-control others.

They reach Hairytown, which is a total void.  There is no description of architecture or scenery, other than Gris noting how the place is "perfect sniper country: open and unobstructed" at the end of the chapter.  Buildings exist only as signs advertising their function and the person inside, without any merchandise or frontage or anything.  Street names exist, but there's nothing else on them worth mentioning.  When Krak decides to ask for directions, Bang-Bang is immediately able to pull over, Krak reads the building's sign, and then she passes from the car to the interior without encountering anything in between.  It's almost surreal.

The first shop they try is an antiques dealer, but when Krak says she's "supposed to be from around here" and wants to talk to Miss Agnes, the salesman turns his back on her, spits on the floor, and walks out.  They try a sign painter, but she can't believe a "beautiful girl" like Krak would need to see a psychiatrist in general and "that God (bleeped) shrink in particular!" and refuses to give Krak the address.  Krak notices that they're near Pokantickle "palace" and wants to try the direct approach, but Bang-Bang instead decides to try a service station.

This guy, "a hard-beaten, grease-spattered, service station manager type" - you know the kind I mean - listens to them ask about a Miss Agnes, corrects them by saying they mean Dr. Morelay, and then assumes that they're here about the woman's "land yacht."  Without waiting for confirmation, the manager goes on to advise them to step lightly around Miss Agnes, since "She's a power in this area and can have you held under the insanity laws by just snapping her fingers," and on top of that they "have to be careful of her because of him," referring of course to the emperor of the planet.

And he tells these strangers - who were uncomfortably casual when referring to a dangerous woman but didn't know where she lived and never said what they wanted from her - how to get the "Morelay Estate."  That's nice of him.

Gris ends the chapter gloating about how sniper-friendly the terrain is, as previously mentioned.  I guess a featureless plane of roads and the rare signpost would be a pretty good shooting range.  Probably hard to find cover to shoot from, though.

Back to Part Forty-Four, Chapter Eight

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Eight - The Unimaginative Sequel to the Previous Adventure

Chapter Eight is Chapter Seven with the names changed.

There's a brief bit at the beginning of Gris going to the hospital to pay Torpedo's $5,100 bill and get him released from security, after which he orders the clerk to send the hitman back to Dr. Finkelbaum.  Then he continues on to Boyd's of London to get that "hit man insurance."  While riding the bus, he tunes in to Krak's activities on the portable viewscreen.

Bang-Bang's already driven them to the ROTC offices at Empire University.  Colonel Tanc is described as "a military martinet, stiff as starch."  I had to look up "martinet."  The colonel apparently has nothing but contempt for the students playing at soldiers, and Bang-Bang once again tries to talk the Countess out of trying to reason with him, as though she hadn't just miraculously convinced Bang-Bang's equally antagonistic parole officer to cooperate with her wishes.

Then Hubbard breaks my mind again.

Two plump black women in the seat behind me were looking over my shoulder at the viewer interestedly.  One said, "I didn't know they were doin' no rerun of Sophia Loren in the morning, but that sure as hell is Marcello Mastroianni."

"Naw," said the other, "that's Humphrey Bogart, plain as the nose on your face, woman.  But I didn't know he played with Sophia Loren and that sho' as hell was her voice."

"Look at that," said the other, "you don't see her face, only what she's looking at.  I know a Hitchcock film when I see one, only it's in color.

Wikipedia sez Hitchcock's first color film was Rope in 1948.

Did Hitchcock ever direct Sophia Loren?"

I ignored them.  Riffraff.

Maybe I'm just ignorant.  Maybe there was an explosion of interest in Humphrey Bogart (died 1957) and his contemporaries in the late 70's/early 80's.  Maybe everyone from cab drivers to inner-city African-American women to sleazy space aliens were into classic Hitchcock movies.  Maybe this isn't really, really bizarre.

Moving on... Krak writes up a request for leave on behalf of Jerome Terrace Wister, and puts it in an envelope along with a small glass bubble.  Gris immediately wonders if Krak's making a mail bomb, which would imply that either Voltarian explosives can look like small, transparent bubbles, or Gris is a thundering idiot.

When Krak steps into the office of Colonel Panzer, who is of course surrounded by flags and cannon shells, she crushes the sphere in the envelope as she uses the Magician's Forcer Gesture to make the man grab it.  She introduces herself as Wister's sister, asking for some leave time on his behalf, since their "poor, dear grandmother lies dying in Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave him a million bucks if he avoids the wolf and comes out of the woods in time with a basket of lunch on his arm."

Hubbard's attacks on my brain this chapter: 2.

Krak also adds that if the colonel refuses, she won't dance at him at the regimental ball.  And Colonel Armored Fighting Vehicle, who is now flushed and staring at Krak with a "strange look of pleasure," hastens to sign the leave request.  But as she tries to leave he lunges at her, crying "Come with me to my room, my little pigeon!"  Krak ends up chased out of the office by the colonel and a sergeant, until she leaps into Bang-Bang's cab and they speed out.

"She made it!" said one black woman.

"Yeah, and right in the teeth of the Army, too!" said the other.

"Did you see that colonel slaver?" said the first.  "Great actor, Charleton Heston."

"(Bleep)!" said the other.  "That didn't take no actin'.  Now when you realize he was chasing Lauren Bacall!"

Ha!  Your attack has no effect, Hubbard!  I'm too busy trying to figure out why some gerunds are -ings and others are -in's, even though they're said by the same person.

This time Krak used "An emotional stimulator perfume capsule.  Crush in contact with paper or cloth and avoid.  Causes a person to become amorous so that he can be arrested for making improper advances."  Good thing this evidently only works on males.  And her targets hadn't been turned by Psychiatric Birth Control.

Bang-Bang asks what Krak did to get such results, Krak orders him to take her to Hairytown... which sounds like a terrible innuendo, eww.  Bang-Bang goes along with this dangerous plan because gosh he can't say no to such a beautiful woman.  And the black ladies on the bus with Gris have to get off at their stop, but say they'll be sure to catch the end of the show, because they love the part when the girl gets killed.  "So will I!" Gris says to himself grimly.

Meanwhile I can't help but conclude that the last two chapters could've been skipped if the Countess Krak had taken a flippin' bus to Hairytown instead of insisting that Bang-Bang drive her.  But then we would've missed out on her using magical alien devices to effortlessly get what she wants while humiliating one-shot characters who we are told are bad guys.

And is that not what Mission Earth is all about?

When it's not about Gris raping lesbians straight or murdering people.  Or insane rants about the evils of psychology.  Or unsophisticated and unsubtle social commentary.

Back to Part Forty-Four, Chapter Seven

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Seven - The Thrilling Quest for the Necessary Paperwork

Gris needs Krak dead, and he's decided that the only way to do this is to hire a hitman.  But it turns out paying someone to commit murder is more complicated than you'd expect, with a bunch of hassles and inconveniences and hoops to jump through before anyone gets whacked.  And Hubbard, bless his heart, is going to show us as many as he can.

The Apparatus agent calls Torpedo's mother, but is told that the hitman is at a Dr. Finkelbaum's office getting an insurance examination.  For "hit man insurance."  That is, a policy to cover hired killers.

So we get a page of Gris tracking down Torpedo, learning from a telephone operator that none of the thirty Finkelbaums in Queens work in the insurance industry, deducing that Torpedo must have gone to Boyd's of London because they'd insure even high-risk killers like Torpedo, learning that the hitman had been sent to a hospital to get his shots, and then hearing how Torpedo's being held by hospital security for not being able to pay his fees.  Gris hops in a cab and takes off for Bellevue General Hospital to bail out his twisted killer.

But on his way out the door, he grabs Krak's viewscreen to watch while he rides his cab.  Because we can't have Krak and Bang-Bang just ride off to visit Rockecenter's mansion, no, there's a lot of hassles and inconveniences in the way of that too.  And Hubbard intends for us to experience them.

The Countess wants to talk to Bang-Bangs parole officer, so they're taking the cab to Chinatown.  This confuses her, because Bang-Bang isn't Chinese, but that's where the parole offices are.  The cabbie explains that the guy she's asking to see is "pure ape," someone who "mangles prisoners and English irregardless," so she's wasting her time.  But Krak merely orders Bang-Bang to pull over so she can buy some flowers, and they're on their way.

And then Mission Earth has another one of its moments... er, little moments.  One of the baffling ones, not the stomach-turning ones.

My own hacker was happily running up his meter in the cross-town traffic snarl.  "Good thing you got a portable TV, mister," he said over his shoulder.  "This is going to take a while.  But what program is that?  Some old morning rerun of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall?  Well, you'll have time to finish it at this rate."
Rage hit me.  To infer that Bang-Bang sounded like Bogart!  And she sounded more like Susan Hayward in her most villainous roles!  Oh, well, she'd soon be dead.

It's not just that this alien intelligence operative has an obsession with vintage Hollywood movie stars, it's that he keeps running into other people with the same interest.  Sort of like some bad Harry Potter fanfic where the main characters happen to listen to the same boy band the author does.

Krak and Bang-Bang get to the parole office, Krak tells Bang-Bang to keep the motor going and steps out, and Gris groans at the "lost opportunity" of Krak standing out in the open on a sidewalk, where a "sniper in a passing car" could end her life with one shot.  Because a scoped rifle is exactly the sort of weapon you want to use in the cramped backseat of a moving vehicle.
The Countess pops a mysterious pill and walks into the parole office, flowers in hand.  She talks to the "absolute beast" at the desk about Bang-Bang and how he should be set free.  The absolute beast is pretty vehement in his opposition to this, but Krak shoves the flowers in his face, he opens his mouth and takes a deep breath to yell, and then quiets down.  And becomes quite cooperative.

She continued.  "Don't you think it would be a good idea to lift all restrictions on his movements?"

"Yes," said the parole officer.

"And make it unnecessary for him ever to have to report in again?"

"Yes," said the parole officer.

"And give him a clean bill of health for his entire parole time?"


There's a bit more, but he ends up hurriedly signing all the paperwork and gives Krak a copy, and she leaves.

It's magic, of course.  Krak simply used an Eyes and Ears of Voltar "Perfume to make a person say yes to anything.  Pre-antidote necessary."  Yes, the Voltarians have perfected a smell that works like a mind-control helmet, but without the unwieldy equipment.  Yes, this smell of acquiescence goes beyond forcing someone to say "yes" and actually makes them fully comply with your every suggestion.  And yes, it works perfectly on humans, even after thousands of years of divergent evolution, or the fact that human drugs are exceptionally potent to Voltarians, so Voltarian drugs ought to be less potent against humans.  Yes, Krak just solved another problem by destroying free will.  The only hitch she has about it is that she only has one of the packets left, so she vows to save it for an emergency.

The cabbie's eyes bug out when he's handed the papers.

Bang-Bang edged over into Lafayette Street, heading north. All of a sudden he exploded "I'M FREE!"

Hooray!  The good guys have secured the release of a mob killer!


Back to Chapter Six

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Six - The Heart-Stopping Search for Contact Information

Raht comes by to drop Crobe and Krak's relayers off for Gris to hold onto - he'll be taking Heller's when he shadows the guy down to Florida.  Hubbard earns a point for world-building by having Gris try to scrub some of the soot that has accumulated on the devices after being exposed to New York air for weeks on end, bringing the author's total score to -39.  Raht takes in the phallic decorations and stench of flowers and asks if Gris is rooming with some whore, and Gris kicks him out.

Wonder why Gris never considered having Raht try and kill Krak?  It's not as if he dismissed Raht for failing to whack Gunsalmo Silva, Gris went straight from "Krak must die" to "I need to hire a hitman." He completely forgot that he had a henchman, and his interaction with Raht isn't reminding him. 

Gris switches on the viewer to find Krak trying to use the phonebook to look up Rockecenter, though she seems to be having trouble remembering how the alphabet goes.  When Bang-Bang asks if he can help out and she tells him what she's doing, the mob demolitionist is absolutely shocked, leading Krak to patiently explain that "On a civilized planet, nearly everyone has a communication call sign."  Then she gets out Heller's magical geometry swirl that proves how Rockecenter is in total control of the planet (which isn't a Code Break because even though it's covered with alien symbols, Bang-Bang doesn't know that they're alien symbols).

This revelation is not news to Bang-Bang.

"Well, hell--beggin' your pardon, ma'am--that don't take no fancy diagram to figure out.  Everybody knows that.  For the last century the Rockecenter family has been taking over from other mobs and now Delbert John Rockecenter owns and controls all the real estate and rackets.  I guess 'emperor' would be a fancy name like capo di tutti capi, but it really don't embrace all that Rockecenter really controls.  He's into everybody's pocket, too.  He controls every oil company and I can't fill up the cab's tank without helping make Rockecenter rich.  I can't buy an aspirin without making Rockecenter rich.  I can't even drink a cup of coffee without stuffing more dough in the Rockecenter coffers.  Everybody knows that.  So what's the urgent notice on the regimental bulletin board?"

Have we really been on Earth for five books without anyone telling Heller or Krak this?  It feels like Bang-Bang's already given this lecture, but I can't place it for sure.  And this means that Heller's advanced alien jommetry was approximately as effective as turning to the guy next to him and asking "who do you think runs the world?"

Krak drops her bombshell that Rockecenter has a son, which as you'll recall is based partially on her childhood memories of life as an aristocrat.  Bang-Bang is dismissive and insists he and Heller found no proof of any Rockecenter offspring.

"That's just it," said Krak.  "Delbert John Rockecenter doesn't know he has a son."


"Aha!  So it surprises you, too," said the Countess Krak.  "But it is a fact.

She's an alien, let's cut her some slack for confusing a fact ("something concrete used as a basis for further interpretation") with a theory ("a hypothesis or conjecture").

Though I must point out that someone's shocked response to your statement does not in itself prove its veracity.  If I told everyone that President Obama is actually a hyperintelligent squirrel manning a sophisticated animatronic "human suit," sure they'd be surprised to hear it, but that wouldn't necessarily mean I'm right.

Anyway, Krak knows that Rockecenter has a son, and she also knows that Mr. Bury, Rockecenter's right-hand man, is hiding Rockcenter Jr., so when Rockecenter Sr. kicks it he can run his financial empire through Jr.  And she also knows that when she tells Rockecenter Sr. this, he'll be so grateful that he'll do everything in his power to help Heller out so he and Krak can finish the mission and go home.

The next page or so is Bang-Bang and Izzy trying and failing to explain how utterly wrong Krak is.

Bang-Bang calls Rockecenter's outfit a pack of wolves - no, "WEREWOLVES!" - so vicious that they could "eat the Virgin Mary, toenails and all, and never even bother to spit out one Ave Maria!"  Izzy explains that if you laid the number of corpses made by Rockecenter's ruthless business practices and warmongering end-to-end, they'd extend forever and offers to distract Krak with flowers or theater tickets.

But Krak is stubbornly convinced that Rockecenter's heart would grow three, possibly even four sizes if he learned he has a son, and is a potential ally, provided she can only get in touch with him.  Bang-Bang and Izzy refuse to help her.  So she picks up the phone, hits "Operator," and asks to get in touch with the Delbert John Rockecenter, the one who owns the phone company "And the planet."  Her hunt for Rockecenter sees her redirected across Europe, then to Texas "when somebody remembered he now owned Texas," and then some Arab feller remembers hearing about a place called Hairytown, and finally an operator patches Krak through the Pokantickle Estate.

Remember?  One of the two geographic locations Heller's alien jiggletry came up with?  The one on the sheet Krak just showed Bang-Bang?  The place she didn't try to call up first thing?

Krak gets the estate's number, a butler says that Rockecenter isn't accepting any calls except from Miss Agnes, and when the Countess admits she isn't Agnes, she gets hung up on.  Quest over!

Or not.  Krak decides she'll go to Hairytown, find Miss Agnes, and get the other woman to help her reach Rockecenter.  Bang-Bang not at all reluctantly admits that due to his parole, he's unable to leave New York City.  On top of that, he's still attending Heller's ROTC classes for him.  So there's no way he'll be able to take her along on a suicide mission.

The Countess is not to be denied:"an important project like this couldn't possibly be allowed to halt just because of tiny routine matters."  She gets up "in a purposeful way," and Gris freaks out.

I suddenly went crazy

After five pages of dispassionately narrating other people's conversations without interrupting to tell us how he feels about it, Gris finally feels free to react to the events he's recounting, just before the chapter ends.

My Gods, not only was Heller gone but she was setting herself up like a duck in a shooting gallery.


Wonder what Mr. Bury would do if Gris told him about this woman who was convinced that he was hiding Rockecenter's secret heir?  Maybe send his best assassin to silence her, right away?  Might save Gris a bit of trouble, that.

Wait, Bury's response to Heller declaring himself as Rockecenter Jr. was that half-assed hotel room hit and dispatching the same guy Gris is using.

Why is every bad guy in this story so bad at being a bad guy?

Back to Chapter Five

Monday, January 14, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Five - Sweet Sorrow

Gris kicks this chapter off by spending one last paragraph to assure us that he isn't going to learn anything from the previous chapter.  "In the chilly light of dawn, after a bad night of introspection, I decided it was all nonsense.  There was nothing wrong with me at all."  Screw you, character development.  Up yours, epiphany.  Gris is an imbecile with a slavish devotion to his half-baked idea of the author's warped take on psychology, and throwing up at the thought of necrophilia isn't gonna change that.

He goes back to what he does best, sitting down in front of the viewscreen and seething about the progress Heller is making.  Heller and Krak are saying their good-byes at the airport, she's tearing up as expected, she'll feel his absence like an ache, and so forth.  While mentally whining how inconsiderate Krak is by putting his life in danger by pushing Heller towards the successful conclusion of Mission Earth, Gris remembers that most tedious of plot devices, the 851 Relayer.  And so we get another paragraph or two of Gris ranting at the only competent Apparatus agent on the planet, demanding that Raht take the Relayers off the Empire State Building, give them to Gris, then go down to Florida and tail "Pretty Boy Floyd," Heller's business alias.

Just imagine how different Mission Earth would be if the whole Relayer thing got dropped and Gris could pick up Heller's signal fine from anywhere on the planet.  Or if he skipped Turkey and stayed in New York from book two on.  No scenes where he insults and bosses around people who by any standards ought to be his superiors.  No... hmm... has there been any occasion when Gris missed something critically important because the Relayer was turned on or off at the wrong time?  There has to have been, right?  Otherwise there's no point to the damn thing.  But I can't remember any...

I guess the better question is: has there been a time Gris missed something due to the Relayer that couldn't have been just as easily explained by him being an idiot and not putting recording tape in it, or forgetting to turn it on, or choosing to whore away a month instead of doing his job?  And I think the answer to that is a negative.

More farewells.  Izzy advises Heller to wear face paint, so if the Indians attack they'll think he's one of them.  Krak is well and truly crying now.

"I feel too bad even to be cross with you about those women," she was saying.


"That protest at the United Nations. The ones carrying your picture with 'Pretty Boy' on it. You use that name on tickets."

"Oh, honey, I can explain. . . . "

No, you could have explained back when you were recapping the first five books.  You chose not to, and now you're paying the price.

Or not, as the case may be.

"No, no.  You don't have to.  I love you, Jettero.  You're my man and I love you.

"I'll mind-rape anyone who my delusions convince me threatens our relationship, but you don't have to explain yourself!"

I think the Japanese term for Krak would be "yandere."  A possible English translation is "crazy bitch."

And I'm being an idiot for staying behind and not going to Florida with you.

So if you know the thing you're doing is stupid, why are you doing it?

But I've got to do all I can to speed things up and help us get home.

So if you have a reasonable justification and worthwhile goal for your plan of action, why are you stupid for following it?

 And then we can get married and live happily ever after in some civilized place.

Like the imperialistic society with mind-control helmets and electric penis stimulation, an empire that conquers other planets due to its unthinking devotion to an invasion schedule drawn up by their ancient ancestors.

There's a nice surprise waiting for us both when we get home.  I promised I wouldn't tell you and I won't.

Wonder why Krak's willing to go behind her boyfriend's back to eliminate any potential rivals for her affection, but here she is keeping a promise to Soltan Gris of all people?

But hurry and finish up this mission, Jettero.  And I'll do all I can."

"You sit quietly and wait for me," said Heller.

That's his good-bye to her.  Not "I love you" or anything like that, but "stay home, don't do anything.  Don't take any independent action, even if you think it'll speed the mission up."  Almost makes you wonder if he suspects what she's been up to.

Heller boards his plane, Krak cries and cries, Gris again reminds us how Krak's endangering things by egging Heller on, and swears that Krak will be dead before Heller sees her again.

Which means that we're looking at just over a hundred pages of Gris trying to help his "twist" hitman murder Krak, and failing miserably.  

Back to Chapter Four

Friday, January 11, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Four - Signs of Life

Unabridged version here.

Let's take a brief paragraph to explain Girs' reaction to the previous chapter:

I was flabbergasted at my tremendous luck! Of course, I'd known for some time that Heller was doing something with spores to clean up the planet's air, but I hadn't realized he was going away so soon. I just sat there gaping. The Gods had decided to smile upon me at last!

We're about a fifth of the way into Book Six and we still have learned nothing about the Voltarian pantheon, beside that there's a god of voyages, whossname.  Let's call him Jeff.

Bang-Bang I could discount.  Without Heller to direct him, he was nothing.

Bang-Bang, the guy who Gris saw rig a parking garage to explode, wiping out three cars of federal agents.  Bang-Bang, the guy who killed Gris' snipers right in front of him during Heller's race, the reason why Gris is getting stuck with a necrophiliac hitman.

Oh, he's nothing.

I could hardly believe it.  I was actually going to be able to get the Countess Krak killed without any trouble at all!  

Gris has evidently forgotten how terrified he was of Krak before she teamed up with Heller.

Not only killed but her dead body raped!

Why is this important?

So that's the first paragraph.  Now let's spend the remaining four pages of the chapter on what's really important: Gris curing "lesbians" of their misguided sexual preference with the power of his penis.

Pinchy calls him into the living room, Gris lets his clients watch him disrobe, and on with the show - seriously, Miss Pinch and Candy are hanging around to watch, Candy "eagerly nodding in rhythm."  Unfortunately Gris has some difficulty with the lesbian "husband" Ralph, who passes out with her eyes open and staring, which is off-putting enough that Gris has to finish quickly and go sit in the garden.  Pinch gives him some champagne as a pick-me-up, but again Gris is undone by his own incredible sexual prowess - the "wife" Miss Butter goes rigid and blank-eyed, and Gris has to run to the bathroom and throw up.

So Gris, a certified murderer and rapist, is feeling nauseated after a bit of consensual sex.  Now he must put his towering intellect to work at figuring out why.  It's not the champagne, because he was feeling strange before he drank it.  He knows that Prahd's enhancements must have warped his mind, since Freud insists that everything is based on sex, but Gris does a mental check and concludes that no, he still likes shooting songbirds and spitting on the riffraff.  So gee, could anything else be putting him off?

I got to thinking about Torpedo Fiaccola.  His psychologist had recommended becoming a necrophile.  So obviously, from this evidence and much other psychology reading I had done, it was quite a normal thing to have coitus with a corpse.  So that could not be the basis of this strange reaction.

I just couldn't get to the bottom of it.

Phew!  Thought we might get some character development with Gris having second thoughts about psychology, maybe even questioning some of its assumptions.  Then the author could make a big deal about how even Soltan Gris finds such a warped field of pseudoscience to be distasteful.  Glad we dodged that bullet.

When Miss Pinch retrieves Gris from the bathroom for his nightly duties, he asks if Butters survived the night.  Then he asks the walking, talking woman "Are you a live girl?" 

We're supposed to feel suspense over whether or not the good guys can overcome Gris' machinations, remember.  The bad guy is asking clearly animate people whether they're dead or not, and we're supposed to view him as a credible threat.

Pinch sends Gris to take a shower, and the Apparatus agent has another out-of-character moment when he takes care to wash up properly.

Miss Pinch finally came into the bathroom again.  "For Christ's sake, Inkswitch, come on!"

She got me out and towelled me and got me into the other room.

"No," I said.  "Wait a moment."  I found my hands were very shaky.

"Look," I begged, "promise me you'll keep moving."

And so the author of what the Literary Guild called "an extraordinary ten-volume epic rich with intergalactic intrigue and wry social commentary" ends the chapter with a necrophilia joke.

Back to Chapter Three 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Three - Darkest Florida

Fresh on the heels of a mentally-scarring chapter about a killer's discovery of the joys of necrophilia, Florida jokes.

Gris goes home and flips on the viewscreen to find "good fortune staring at me with its evil grin," i.e. a map of Florida.  Heller is planning an expedition to the Sunshine State, having arranged for Izzy to purchase miles and miles of property in the Everglades, nothing but swamp and gators.  Then Hubbard hits us with a page-long barrage of stupefying anecdotes.

Izzy was hauling out some deeds.  "It's a former retirement estate but the alligators ate the old folks they sold it to.  Then the CIA bought it as part of a training program for a secret army to invade Jamaica but they got defeated by some small boys with slingshots on the beach,

Wait, what?  Why?  How?

so they sold it, according to the records search, to the Saint Petersburg Grimes, who used it for a place to hide out their reporters when people wanted to shoot them.  But the people were so successful that the place was not much used.  Then the

Can we go back to explaining the Jamaica thing?  I still haven't come to grips with that.

Grimes went bankrupt and I bought it mud-cheap with fifteen leftover reporters thrown in, including a woman reporter named Betty Horseheinie."

Is this a reference?  To who?  A journalist who's wronged you, Hubbard?

"A woman?" said the Countess Krak.

"Yes," said Izzy.  "And she was a problem, too.  The alligators tried to eat her but got so sick the conservationists raised hell.  We sent her to an insane asylum 

Wait, isn't that very much a Bad Guy Thing, turning someone over to the tender ministrations of those twisted psychologists?  Or is this excusable because Hubbard really hated whoever this character is "satirizing?"

near Miami but she drove the patients so crazy that we got a permit from the government and disposed of her as contaminated waste.  She's


miles deep in the continental trench now, but they do say all the fish are dying there.


However, she's not around."

"Good," said the Countess Krak.

So there you have it - in less than three paragraphs the author has done the literary equivalent of that thing from that anime where the guy hits the other guy with like a million punches over three seconds, and then the other guy explodes.  Except he's using words, and the target is the reader's brain.

And the madness doesn't stop.  Izzy explains that he wanted to call Heller's latest company Beautiful Clear Blue Skies For Everyone, Inc., except Florida's government "want[s] only criminals in the state, and anybody trying to do good drives them up the palm trees in horror."  In fact, they even confused Izzy and Heller's enterprise with a religion - what a silly mistake, mistaking an obvious corporate entity for some sort of faith-based organization.  But Izzy was able to convince them to let it slide, because it turns out that "blue sky" is slang for worthless stock.  Urban Dictionary can't verify this, but maybe it was a thing in the late 1970's.  

Then Izzy starts ranting about Indians, because the Seminoles have a reservation nearby, and Izzy knows that such nasty-looking folks must eat dogs and frontiersmen.  He also checked, and the Seminoles only signed a peace treaty a scant few decades ago.  So he advises Heller to take some beads with him, in case the natives try to dispute the land purchase.

Those poor Native Americans.  Genocide, broken treaties, residual racism, and now they're appearing in an L. Ron Hubbard novel.  Haven't they suffered enough?

After listing all the... quirks of their new property, Izzy asks why Heller wanted it, conveniently letting us hear an explanation of what he's doing.  This is where Heller is going to produce his miracle "spores" to release into the atmosphere, eat up the pollution, and blot out the sun with their cancerous growth... er, eat the pollution and fart out oxygen, shifting the composition of the atmosphere to prehistoric levels of oxygenation, heralding a new era of gigantic organisms in a world where lightning ignites cataclysmic fires... er, eat the pollution, fart out oxygen, and the end.

Florida is an ideal place for this due to trade winds, and Heller can use all the swamp's mud to break down into electricity... wait, what?  Dirt + water = power?  Guess this is another use of Heller's magical carburetor.  It's been so long since the stupid thing appeared in the story, I've forgotten how it works.

The spore plant will make money by selling some of its magically-produced electricity to the local power grid, while Izzy's other projects in the area, namely an upscale retirement resort, will bring in the main profit.  Heller's ready to go and asks if the Countess has her bikinis packed, but to his surprise, Krak announces she's staying behind.  She's got things to do, you see.

Her smile was enigmatic.  "I want to pick an item up that I haven't found.  It's going to take a lot of search [sic]."

Heller orders Bang-Bang to look after he while he's gone, while Gris... well, at the start of the chapter he said this was all a sign of good fortune, but he's going to wait until next chapter to explain why.  Oh, and have more uncomfortable sex with deluded "lesbians."

Back to Chapter Two

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Part Forty-Four, Chapter Two - Another Reason to Ban This Book

Unabridged version here.  This one's pretty disgusting, so think twice before clicking the link.

Let's see, we started out with allusions to bestiality back in book one, then moved on to underaged sex, outright pedophilia, and a whole bunch of rape, with some extreme sadism thrown in for flavor.  But the author apparently felt that despite all that, there still wasn't enough sexual degeneracy in what the Cincinnati Post called "a wild compound of science fiction action, political satire and sexual comedy."  We needed more perversion.  So see if you can guess what Hubbard is going to add to the mix in this chapter!

Gris goes to his meeting with Razza Louseini and shells out his two thousand bucks, settling accounts with them.  The mobster gives Gris a contact card for his hit man, a card with an image of a hand on it - a hand with an extended middle finger, "Italian symbolism for 'up the (bleep)' or 'you been (bleeped)!'"  The Apparatus agent complains that the mob isn't keeping its side of the bargain, but Louseini explains that after the deaths of the snipers Gris ordered several books ago, he'll have to take what he can get.  And what he can get in this case is a budget hitman, who's such "a dirty, rotten (bleepard), no one will hire him anymore unless they are so God (bleeped) mad at the victim they want something awful done.  Lawyers won't hire him anymore.  He's got a twist.  Filthy."

So there's the Mystery of the 80% Off Hitman solved - Louseini saddled Gris with the worst one on the list.

Even the grizzled mobster doesn't want to talk about what's wrong with this guy, leaving Gris to track down the address and find out for himself.  He ends up in a neighborhood apparently built in a state of "total decay" when it was new, and after ringing a broken doorbell is greeted by a huge, glaring woman with "a mustache like a cavalry sergeant."  Angry mustache woman immediately realizes that Gris is here to see her "no-good, worthless son" who is lurking down in the basement "with the rest of the rats."  She's not happy with her "rotten filth" of a child, who is no doubt polluted by the "blood of his rotten, putrid, no-good father!" because he's hiding not from the cops, but bill collectors out to collect the sum owed for a hospital visit.  A hospital visit resulting from a car crash.

Sure enough, when Gris goes down in the basement he finds "TORPEDO FIACCOLA!"

Remember?  He was hired by Bury to kill Heller back in Book Two?  Heller was practicing driving with that cabbie and knocked Torpedo off an elevated highway?  I think another guy got turned into hamburger meat.

Gris introduces himself and uses Torpedo's name without being told, freaking out the hit man, who is worried that Bury is sending someone after him.  But Gris announces that he has a job for him.  This leads to an absolutely riveting page of dialogue as Gris tries to haggle about how much he'll pay for the job, expenses, and Torpedo's bills.  Oh, and Torpedo's mom won't let him leave the house without insurance.  What a strange demand to make.

During a pause in the negotiations - "I don't like uncomfortable silences" - Gris makes the terrible, terrible mistake of asking Torpedo to talk about himself.  The result is three of the most unpleasant pages in Mission Earth.

The short version: six years ago while serving time, the prison psychologist noticed that Torpedo wasn't participating in the scheduled shower gang rapes, and took an interest in Torpedo's condition.  After trying and failing to interest the hit man in homosexual relations, they discovered that Torpedo's problem was erectile dysfunction, which was not something I anticipated discussing when I started this blog thanks Hubbard.

After being shocked to learn that Torpedo didn't even have an Oedipus Complex towards his mother, thanks to all the beatings she gave him as part of bringing him up right, that kindly psychologist was stumped until he suggested something new - why not try some necrophilia?  So after being released and getting in a shoot-out in New Mexico, Torpedo got his big chance when a girl caught some stray rounds and found a way to be a proper pervert thanks to the miracle of psychology.

But when his comrades caught him after the act, he became an instant pariah for some reason, and not even the mob would hire him.  Luckily Mr. Bury is an understanding sort and found work for poor Torpedo, but since his failed attempt on Heller's life the hit man has been in a rut.

So Gris offers him a bargain: $5,000, bills paid, expenses, and oh did he mention that the target is a beautiful woman who Torpedo can do whatever he wants with once she's dead?  The only stipulation is that Torpedo can't move against Heller, who as Gris fails to remind us is still protected by the virtue of his coded mission reports.  The hit man is happy to accept, Gris works through his mother to pay the hospital bills, and the agent leaves in a good mood, in marked contrast to how I feel after enduring this chapter.

The thought of not only killing but degrading the corpse of the Countess Krak pleased me immensely.

It was just exactly what she deserved.  And I knew that it was the only way anyone but Heller could touch that pure and noble body.  Touch her that way alive and you'd be dead!

There were some things to do and to arrange.  I'd have to get her pattern of moving around so I could set up when she was alone.  I had to get a rifle, preferably with explosive bullets.

He's going to get Krak's schedule down, get a murder weapon, note opportunities to make the hit... and then hire a guy to pull the trigger for him.  That's like mixing a cake and hiring a chef to stick it in the oven.

I had my hit man.  And what a hit man!  A necrophiliac!

Not traditionally a quality associated with successful, professional killers.


I'm sure that would make Heller's next mission report an interesting read.

Back to Chapter One