Thursday, March 28, 2013

Part Fifty-One, Chapter Six - Flower Girl

I'm starting to feel bad about spending so many, many posts making fun of Gris.  The man's clearly mentally defective.  I may as well laugh at stroke victims.

By the second paragraph he's wondering if everyone's working against him, if Krak sent Teenie to oh-so-euphemistically "distract" him while she moved in for the kill.  Typical paranoia, in other words.  He talks to himself, recites a little mantra: "Steady.  Be calm.  You heart is still beating.  There is hope yet.  Steady.  Be calm."  And with that, he has an incredible revelation.

THE VIEWER!

If I looked a the viewer I could see where she was.

So maybe it was unfair of me to yell at Gris at this book's beginning for spending chapter after chapter setting up a hit on the Countess.  Maybe he didn't know that he could use a gun on her as well.  It could even be psychology's fault, maybe he's been told for so long that man is a victim of biological forces that he's become hopelessly passive, unable to directly act and change his destiny.

Krak's looking at a building that consists of a porno store, massage parlor, National Association of Mental Stealth office, and law firm stacked atop each other.  Yes, Krak is approaching "THE LAW OFFICES OF DINGALING, CHASE AND AMBO!"

I think this is "alarming news capslock" rather than "quote unquote unexpected plot twist capslock," since it's kinda obvious Krak would go after the source of the problem.

Speaking of sources of problems, in a hugely convenient coincidence, Gris has turned on the viewscreen in time to watch Krak watch Maizie Spread, Toots Switch and Dolores Pubiano de Cรณpula, all of the Whiz Kid's alleged wives, walk out of the building.  Krak follows them.  Cue the Jaws theme.

Gris does what he does best - call up someone and yell at them to do something about his problems.  He warns one of the lawyers that the "female fiend" he previously warned them about is outside their windows, stalking their star witnesses.  Shabby Man In The Shabby Coat With A Shabby Hat is dispatched to intercept her but, as Gris watches the viewscreen, passes right by Krak without noticing, even though he'd met her in person.  "What crazy magic was this?" Gris wonders, as if several chapters ago he didn't see the results of appearance-altering technology.

Krak follows the women into a restaurant, and while they wait for a waitress, asks them in a quavering voice if they want any flowers.  She doesn't wait for an answer, and plops down some plants and reaches into the women's purses, one after another, to get her due payment.  She gets thrown out, of course, but not before knocking out the restaurant's owner with a blow from one of the purses.  Sucks to be a small businessman in Mission Earth, I guess.

At this point Gris realizes that Krak has somehow disguised herself as a little old lady wandering into restaurants to aggressively sell flowers, so that's why Shabby didn't recognize her.  And the best part is that, since we never actually see Krak's face thanks to the whole bugging gimmick, we don't have to worry about how she disguised herself.  Make-up, theatrical training, some alien gizmo, it doesn't matter, rest assured that she somehow completed the deception.

Gris is about to call up an ambulance to get a certain old lady committed to an asylum, when he notices that Krak has, while rummaging in her purses, extracted three cards bearing the women's addresses!  Conveniently, the girls each put down their personal information on handy little cards that Krak could distinguish by touch from all the other stuff in their purses.  Even more conveniently, the girls all live together.  Things could only get easier for Krak if her future victims were hit by a bus after leaving the restaurant.

So instead of calling the asylum, Gris calls the lawyers again, and warns that their target is not only disguised as a flower seller, but about to murder their witnesses at their apartment.  Mr. Chase assures him that they're not going to bother with the police.  No, they've got a "tough security company" with orders to shoot on sight and ship any survivors off to the asylum.

I rang off.  I was much relieved.

Where the hell did Gris pick up so many Britishisms? 

Thank Gods, Dingaling, Chase and Ambo and I were on the job.

The trap was laid.

The Countess Krak didn't stand a chance.

Much like how Heller didn't stand a chance against the marina's National Guard defenders.  Or the Coast Guard.  Or Grafferty and the police.  Or how Krak couldn't possibly survive an encounter with that fearsome mob killer Gris sicced on her.

Is this the end of
the Countess Krak?

Sure.  Unless - and this is just a hypothetical situation - she had some sort of technology capable of making a squad of policemen run away screaming.  Or some magical gesture that forced others to grab whatever booby-trapped item she thrust at them.  Or was able to disguise herself in a way that let her walk right past without them noticing her.  If Krak could do anything like that, I think the odds of this particular security force stopping her would be quite low.

Read 

MISSION EARTH

Volume 7

VOYAGE OF VENGEANCE

Why?  What do we have to look forward to?  The heroes are so damn unstoppable and the villains are so damn incompetent that there's no dramatic tension.  This book ends with the promise of Heller in Turkey, which is a place where nothing interesting or plot-relevant happens, and Krak going around mind-controlling people, which we've seen this book and last.  And then you keep treating us to sex scenes with minors, Hubbard.  What is the reader's incentive to continue? 

I'll answer my own question: morbid curiosity.  Not so much to see just how awful this series can get - I can only hope we've plumbed its depths with this volume (editor's note from the future: ahahaha NO) - but to explore the mind of its author.  To see what L. Ron Hubbard considered heroic and what he felt was villainous.  What he felt was romantic, even erotic, and what he deemed humorous.  More importantly, since he called this satire, this lets us catch a glimpse of how he viewed the world, how he thought it should be, and how he thought he could convince readers to change the former to the latter.

Hubbard may have hated psychology, but he's really jumping on the couch for us.  And oh, the things we have learned!


Back to Part Fifty-One, Chapter Five

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Part Fifty-One, Chapter Five - Getting the Picture

This book's really looking up.  For one thing, this is the second-to-last chapter in it.  For another, Teenie won't be making a reappearance in the remaining ten pages.  And Gris keeps his pants on the whole time!  Yes, life is good.

Gris wakes up without a murderous headache and comes to the amazing conclusion that wow, if you lay off the alcohol, you don't get hangovers.  With a cup of coffee, he may even be capable of thinking his way through an episode of Blue's Clues.  "And thinking brought my attention to the viewers.  I uncovered them and turned them on."

Heller's playing cards with the captain of the seaborne luxury resort, learning poker in a salon of "amber and beige carpets and brass."  Gris starts thinking that the captain might be in danger of losing a week's pay, then decides "But who cared what happened to Captain Bitts?"  Probably no one.  Wonder why the author even mentioned him.  Beyond as an excuse to describe Heller's luxurious and tastefully-decorated accommodations, of course.

Krak's screen is still blank, and using the power of not being drunk or high off his ass, Gris deduces that since Heller's in the Gulf Stream down in the Caribbean, Raht must have had the initiative to follow him down there with the bloody relayer for the bloody optic and aural bugs.  So he calls up his henchmen on the "two-way response radio," and once again I most note how utterly pathetic it is that these advanced alien infiltrators have to differentiate between a "normal" radio and proper two-way communications equipment.

To summarize two pages of conversation: Gris is like "So when'd you get back?"  But Raht is like "I didn't go anywhere."  And Gris is like "But you put the relayer down on Heller's boat in the Caribbean, right?  He's in the Gulf Stream and everything."  And Raht points out that "The Gulf Stream runs up the East Coast towards New Jersey, so Heller's still in range."  And Gris is like "Then how come I can see Heller's viewscreen but not Krak's?"  And Raht tells him "I dunno boss, you've got her equipment."

So Gris hunts down the "activator-receiver" for Krak's bugging implants and eventually finds it under a pillow in the closet - maybe the weight pressed the buttons?  He starts punching things and the viewscreen lights up.

The full import of this took several seconds to sink in.  And then a freezing horror began to chill my bones.

THE COUNTESS KRAK WAS WITHIN RANGE OF ME!

Like she was for the entirety of this book!!!!1!

For days she had not been observed!

In a mere matter of weeks she might start competing with Heller's record month spent off the radar!

This is just sad.

She might this very moment be picking the lock of the front door to come in and kill me!

Something worse than terror gripped my throat.

Acid reflux!

I raced to the front door and looked.  No.  She wasn't there.

I sped to the back garden and looked.

No.  She wasn't there.

Where is Countess Krak?, a children's book by L. Ron Hubbard.

I wrung my wrists in extreme agitation.

WHERE WAS THE COUNTESS KRAK?

So this chapter ends on a mystery.  Where is the Countess Krak?  And how can Gris, someone with a television displaying everything she sees and hears thanks to some transmitters implanted in Krak's skull, possibly hope to find out?


Back to Chapter Four

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Part Fifty-One, Chapter Four - Missed Opportunities

More Teenie shenanigans.  More Gris being stupid to notice what's happening in the actual plot.  But at least he keeps his pants on this time.

Gris is awoken by Mrs. Gris, who informs him that she'll be out late at a mandatory company meeting, where there will be a live demonstration of a new abortion technique by that rising star of psychiatry, Dr. Crobe.  Remember, psychology is about killing people, which is why it's pro-choice but anti-contraception.  Pinchy also mentions that Teenie just got fired during a Rockecenter "personal staff inspection," when he noticed that she was, as the book so bluntly puts it, "full of semen."  Why, this clashes with what Teenie said yesterday about how and when she lost her job!  Much like how her story about her parents changes each time she tells it!

Whatever, that's a mystery for next book, albeit one that seems irrelevant to the larger plot.  Gris, still hungover and confused from all the sex and drugs, oozes back to his room to check the viewscreens.  Heller's peering about at the endless ocean, and Gris concludes that he must be very far away.  Crobe's preparing for the night's lecture and demonstration. Krak's screen remains blank.

I felt sort of fixated on the viewers.  There was something wrong here.  It eluded me.  I concentrated very hard.  If Heller was far away and still on the viewer and Krak wasn't on the viewer, then Krak had to be further away . . . I sort of gave it up.  Something was odd.

The main source of "tension" in Hubbard's stories is whether the villains will bang enough braincells together to reach obvious conclusions.  It's impossible to think that Heller might lose to someone like Gris.  It's impossible to think a squirrel might lose to someone like Gris.

And then Teenie starts gabbing at Gris for watching "television."  Yes, she stole one of his keys and had a copy made (or so she says), and then she starts talking about her continued education.  She's up for hygiene and disease control classes soon, and shows off more of her muscle training - nothing like last chapter, thank God.  It's "the new, scientific Chinese system," which uses probes and electrodes to teach her to move individual muscles on her leg and stomach, send nerve impulses to specific parts of her body, which will lead to blocking nerve impulses and then using those techniques on another person.

The confusing bit is that all this talk of electronic measurements and fantastical bodily mastery reminds me of nothing less than Dianetics.  So the message is that even a teenage "sexhibitionist" tainted by psychology can learn to master her own body to better pleasure the narrator?

Teenie shows off some stretches and "sexual choreography," and Gris begs her to leave due to his headache.  The girl gives him the sound advice that he shouldn't mix marijuana and alcohol - better to just stick with pot - then administers some aspirin and runs off to school.  Gris screams at her to leave when she's already in the process of doing so, and in the very same paragraph rants at himself that he's missed a third opportunity to kill the girl.

Despite making no effort to kill Teenie.  Or making any real plan to kill Teenie beyond noting that he's missed an opportunity or two to kill Teenie.  That's like me saying just now that I missed an opportunity to watch 30 Rock.  I hadn't really planned on it, and didn't turn on the TV or anything, but I could have and didn't.

Gris as retrospective narrator tells us that it was his last chance to kill her, making it one he would "look back on it with longing from that day on."  Wonder if I'll ever look back at this missed chance to watch 30 Rock and sigh with wistful regret?  Could be.  Some folks say it's pretty good.  Might be missing out.


Back to Chapter Three

Monday, March 25, 2013

Part Fifty-One, Chapter Three - Ancient Chinese Secret

Unabridged version here, and don't say I didn't warn you.

This is not a fun chapter.  This is a chapter where the first-person narrator describes sex with what is optimistically a fifteen-year-old girl.

Gris is still all achy and hungover, especially after confusing some vodka for water and chugging too much before realizing.

Consequently, I have no slightest recollection of what had gone on that evening.  If there were two lesbians who had then become ex-lesbians, I could not tell you to this day. 

Are we supposed to be rooting for Gris?  Should we be worried at the prospect that two lesbians spent a night with him and left without switching teams?  Oh, and what did they look like?  How butch was the "husband," Hubbard?  How girlie was the "wife?"  What were their hair colors?  This is important.

The next day Gris takes an aspirin and checks on Crobe, who's mood-reading doodad declares "SATISFACTION" as he gives electroshock therapy to mental patients until they're wheeled to the morgue.  "Normal Earth psychiatric duties," Gris notes.  Krak's viewscreen is blank, so Gris puts her out of mind because that can only mean she's far away and out of range.  More on that later.  Heller's in physical training with the floating mansion's Sports Director, who praises him for being able to "run up to the top of the mainmast and down ten times without stopping," putting him in much better shape than most CIA agents.  The guy also points out the skies and water as proof that they're in the Gulf Stream, so Gris assumes the boat's in the Caribbean already, the logistics of which make his hangover worse.  More on that later, too.

Gris takes a nap instead of putting the pieces together, poor hungover guy.  Hours later, in what he thinks is a nightmare, he notices some music.  Well, "music."

Do it in the morning.
Do it in the night.
Do it to me, baby
And do it right.
Do it in the water.
Do it in the clouds.
Do it long and tenderly
And make me proud.
Do it, do it, do it!
And do it once again.
Write a day of ecstasy
With your lovely pen.
Do it, do it, do it!
Don't be shy!
Do it, do it, do it!
And gaze up at the sky.
For this must be heaven,
You can hear the angels cry,
"Do it, do it, do it!"
So open up your fly!

Thought psychology was cold and atheist, though.  And if it's trying to turn everyone gay, they should be more specific who we're supposed to be doing it to. 


As Gris notices the music, he also grows aware of... sensation, as well as something covering his eyes.  Yes, it's "TEENIE!" who decided to uphold her end of the "never see you again" bargain by putting a blindfold on Gris before mounting up.  Gris demands she get off him without making an effort to actually remove her, but she doesn't budge, instead talking about the training she's been getting from that Chinese hooker.  Things involving muscles, in places.

During this, Teenie mentions how proud her parents will be of her, explaining that they're serving life sentences for a failed assassination attempt on the president, and this time her sexual exploitation started at the hands of a judge.  Gris notices but does not call attention to her different story, instead telling her to get out, while again making no effort to make his wishes a reality.  Instead Teenie moves another muscle, and we get another "things exploding on shelves" Hubbard Sex Scene. 

It is, of course, satirizing how psychology is so unholy and sensual as to turn girls just out of their tweens into sexpots.  It's vital to the story.  Without it, we can't fully appreciate just how depraved psychology is.  The statutory rape is part of the satire.  Gotta have it.  Mission Earth wouldn't work without it.

Three exploding flower pots later, Miss Pinchy wakes Gris up and chides him for having "wet dreams" when there's a blonde and brunette lesbian waiting to be cured - and thanks for the hair colors, Hubbard, I'm trying to keep a spreadsheet of Gris' sexual conquests.  She gives Gris a hit of a bong, some gin, and an upper pill and sends him on his way.  Once again Gris has no memory of the night's events, but he wakes up at three in the morning screaming about the Fates being all around him, armed with drugs.  His wives give him a sleeping pill, but that doesn't mean he was wrong!

That very afternoon, I had missed my second opportunity to kill Teenie.  And the horror of it is, I didn't even realize it until much later--fatally MUCH later!

So Book Seven "later?"  Or more of a Book Nine "later?"  (editor's note from the future: Book Nine) Also is "kill Teenie" a real subplot or hyperbole about how much she annoys you?  And what are you gonna do, hire another hitman?  Maybe try to get Teenie in the papers so a jealous love interest kills her? 

And right then, had I had my wits about me, I might have seen another Fate face grinning at me ghoulishly.

I didn't even think of Freud and his unerring analysis of dreams.  Frankly, I will be candid, that omission was the only mistake I ever made in my professional career.  Oh, I could weep tears of blood as I recall it now.  One should never desert his Gods as I deserted Freud that night.  Even two minutes spent on dream analysis would have told me of horrors to come that even now I have difficulty facing.

It's Krak.  Krak turns out to be in the same city as Gris, taking care of Heller's problems in her own special way.  You can do the horned lizard thing if you want to, though if you're the type to bleed from the eyes, that's not the part of this chapter that should have caused it.


Back to Chapter Two

Friday, March 22, 2013

Part Fifty-One, Chapter Two - Teenie's Story

Unabridged version here.  If you absolutely must.

I'd complain that I really don't want to deal with a twelve-page Gris/Teenie chapter right now, but really, is there ever a good time to go through that?  If you were in a good mood the book would ruin it, and if you were in a bad mood you might resort to autocannibalism.

Gris kicks off this chapter by confessing that he was so hungover and drug-addled that he completely missed the disastrous implications of last chapter, i.e. Krak is going on another rampage and Heller is on a course to Turkey, where the Apparatus' drug operation is based.  It's going to take a few more chapters for Gris to notice what his foes are doing.  He's just so distracted, what with all that sex, drugs, and terrible modern electronic psychology-approved music.

The doorbell to Pinchy's apartment rings, and Gris, thinking it's "one of those (bleeped) paper boys who wants you to subscribe to a paper you are already subscribing to, so they can get an all-expense-paid tour to reform school"... just how long has he been living in the States?  There was nothing like that in Turkey, nor did anything like this happen since Gris went to New York in the series.  Anyway, Gris answers the door and finds not a paperboy hoping for him to resubscribe to a magazine, but the dreaded Teenie!

He slams the door on her, bolts it, closes the shutters, gets some ice from the fridge to put on his aching head, and watches "a wraith that looked just like Teenie" climb over the garden wall and waltz through the back door to take a seat in an easy chair.  Of course she isn't wearing any underclothes, and Gris is quick to offer a diagnosis.

If she matured--which I doubted, from the way she enraged me--she

Credit where it's due, this is a darkly humorous line from a villain describing an annoying kid.  I just wish the kid in question was wearing underpants, and not trying to jump the villain.

would probably become a model for nonexistant women's clothes.  No.  A female flasher!  Yes, a sexhibitionist all right, unfortunately real and no hallucination.  Bless psychology!

Teenie explains that she's here to complete her education, or in other words get Gris to (bleep) her.  Gris doesn't want to not because of the whole statutory rape thing, but because she has nails and she scratches.  Teenie complains that her education plans are in ruins because she's been fired from her job as a stamp-licker due to being "instruction-deficit."  See, she caught Rockecenter going down with the elevator boy, ahem, and tried to correct her boss' technique using what she'd learned watching Gris "cure" those lesbians.  But Rockecenter threw her out and yelled at her, so Teenie's only recourse was to try to get in Gris' pants. 

Gris' response is that "I HAVE A TERRIBLE HEADACHE AND I DON'T NEED ANOTHER ONE FROM YOU!"  Fortunately Teenie knows the cure for having mixed marijuana with champagne - mix marijuana with Neo Punk Rock music!

Subliminal, subliminal.
A toy car,
And a toy girl,
Ran up a tree!
SMASH!
A toy house,
And a toy boy,
Fell out of the tree!
SMASH!
The toy car
And the toy baby,
Dropped the tree!
SMASH!
Where was NASA?
Where was NASA?
Where was NASA?
SMASH!


The great thing about satirizing music is that you don't have to be good at songwriting to do it.  Just slap together some nonsensical lyrics, and if the result is crap, that's the point!  That's the satire!

When the healing power of song doesn't work, Teenie shows Gris how to use a "bhong" for some hair of the dog.  Then she goes into her tragic life story to try and coax him into having sex with her.  Teenie's parents were executed for murdering her grandparents over their retirement home fees, and her court-ordered guardian was a wino who had her foraging in trashcans.  Then her school psychiatrist diagnosed her with hyperactivity, and the only cure was to give him oral sex.

Gris points out that, why, that's "interfering with a minor," and illegal!

"Oh, no.  You don't understand.  My guardian--he drank himself to death three years ago and they never appointed another, due to legal delays--told the judge the treatment was making me so tired I couldn't look in garbage cans.  I was there.  The judge explained the psychologies and psychiatrists are professionals and they are not bound by ordinary law: they can even murder people and nothing is done about it because they actually work with the government and the courts and, like them, are above the law.  They can do anything they want with anyone placed in their care.  Even murder them.  I was surprised when my guardian questioned it because we were always taught in school that psychiatrists and psychologists are kind of sacred.  But that's just a bunch of horse (bleep), I know that now."

It's not so much that the story takes place in a world run by psychiatrists as it takes place in a world where Heller drives a racecar and Gris has sex with lesbians, and occasionally another character drops a few paragraphs about how psychiatrists run the world.  Then Heller gets a boat and Gris spends half a book trying to get in a belly-dancer's pants.

Gris objects that psychiatrists are paragons of truth and men of "SCIENCE!" and would never lie, but Teenie counters that... well.  They told her not to do something to avoid getting pregnant, but she did it anyway and didn't get pregnant.

The worst part, Teenie says, is that she never was offered any constructive criticism or coaching.  Gris complains that he still has a headache, Teenie tries to help in her own special way, and when Gris realizes what's going on he jumps back with a cry of "Utanc!  I must not betray you!"  As if Utanc has been mentioned at any other point in this book or has played a serious role in this godawful story's plot.  As if during any of Gris' sessions with those soon-to-be-ex-lesbians or his wives he was ever worried about staying faithful to his purchased belly-dancer.

Teenie grapples with Gris in an attempt to climb aboard, and gets thrown against a wall.  She sniffs and tries to heal him with more music, from a record, of course, but it doesn't improve Gris' mood any.

Teenie rants at Gris for being selfish, hogging "the finest sex equipment I've seen in my life" instead of sharing it with her, and not helping a poor, broke little girl with her sexual education.  She threatens to hang around and annoy him until he gives in to her advances, and in desperation Gris asks how much it would take for her to go and never return.  Teenie immediately replies "Five thousand dollars," the cost for an advanced class taught by a Hong Kong hooker who's willing to take Teenie on as an apprentice, despite her being an underaged girl and all.

Gris makes her swear that he'll never see her again before shelling out the cash.  She gives him a kiss, reveals that she lives in a "garret" at Tudor City, and is perfectly willing to use her various body parts on him should he ever visit.  She keeps hinting at what a waste it is for them to be in a house alone without engaging in any inappropriate activity, but Gris covers his ears with his hands until she leaves.

Then he waxes poetic while providing more foreshadowing.

How often in life does one go through the first tremors of a catastrophe and never realize that they were but the unheeded warning?  Ah, but if only one could change the fleeting moments of a yesteryear.  How different would life be.  I should have killed her when I had the chance!

And by "foreshadowing" I mean Teenie shows up next chapter to continue to annoy and distract him with her sexual wiles.

If there's one thing to take away from this book, it's that your life can never be so bad that L. Ron Hubbard can't find the right words to make it worse. 


Back to Chapter One

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Part Fifty-One, Chapter One - Drugging and Holding Your Beau Prisoner is Romantic, Right?

Gris wakes up with a hangover wrought by booze and pot and Teenie's camera,and once again hopes that somebody will kill the teenager.  He ventures outside to find "a beautiful spring day for some people but not for me," because Gris is evil, remember, and before he can try to relax in the beautiful-for-other-people sunshine, he's called back into his room by a buzzer.  Turns out the viewscreen does know when Heller's woken up.  Somehow. 

The book's hero is still in bed, staring at the sign reading "Please push Bell S" dangling on a string from a pipe.  Gris throws another glob of foreshadowing at us by mentioning how "I was so stupid after last night, not even a sixth sense warned me of the catastrophe that was to begin," as if anything about Heller being presented with a sign on a string indicates imminent doom.

Heller presses button, receives butler, a "gaunt-faced man" who bows, offers him some aspirin, and says he's under strict orders to help him get to breakfast.  Heller puts on his own bathrobe, but "resign[s] himself" to not just being shaved by this strange, nameless man, but scrubbed in his bath by the butler.  And here, I think, we can really see the inner turmoil of the author - on the one hand, Heller is so independent and dynamic that it's in his nature to do this sort of thing for himself, but at the same time Heller exists to be lavished with luxury and pampered and praised for being just so dang superior to the rest of us.

So we get a compromise, where Heller is independent enough to dress himself, but doesn't have to worry about matters of hygiene.  The boatmansion's Chief Steward presents Heller with a "nautical jersey, white with horizontal red stripes, white pants, a red sash, deck shoes and a yachting cap."  With the Costume Porn concluded, the Boat Porn continues.

They escorted him with no little ceremony down a broad stairway and into a cheerful breakfast salon with murals of sailing craft blending in color with nautical designs on the tiled floor.  A resplendent table was set in the middle.  It had snowy white linen, silver dishes and plates and a single huge red rose in a tall white vase as a centerpiece.  There was an engraved menu on a plate.

Yeah, just lovely.  Going with current trends, this whole damned boat is going to either blow up or get impounded at the end of the book, never to be seen again. (edit from the future: if only)

Heller asks where Krak is, same as he did first thing after waking up, but this time instead of deflecting him towards breakfast the staff gives him a letter.  Gris, despite being unable to see Heller's face, knows what he picks it up "with some alarm."  Must've been Heller's wrists that tipped him off.

Dearest,

This was all my fault for not believing in you.
The only way I can earn your pardon is to clear this matter up.
If you went back, they would arrest you.
These are just women

Krak proves that you can be misogynist despite lacking a Y chromosome.
 
and women are best handled by a woman.  It shouldn't take long.
I will send you a radio when it is all settled.
Love, love, love!
K

P.S. I told them your name was H. Hider Haggerty, as that is on your CIA passport.

P.P.S. I took all your money so you can't bribe the crew.



So, once again, Krak gets to run around, solving Heller's problems by mind-controlling people.  Except this time she was smart enough to drug her boyfriend and ship him to another country so he can't interfere.  Because that's what Heller finds out when he protests this turn of events - the crew explains that they're under strict orders to help him "recover his strength" after those terrible flesh wounds, and understands that he's in some sort of trouble in the States and so will be staying out of American waters.  They're going back to the home country of this boat's owner, who is allegedly "Sultan Bey and Concubine," which means Heller is on a course to Turkey.

We're going.  Back to.  Turkey.

Heller took hold of a funnel stay. He glanced at the letter he still held and then looked all around at the very empty sea.

"Well, I'll be blasted!" he said. "I'm a prisoner!"

Just use your magic paralyzer light to knock everyone out and turn the damn boat around.  Or explain that your girlfriend is a crazy, delusional psycho and talk the crew into not following her orders.  Or I'm sure this boat has a smaller, just as luxurious boat stuck in a garage somewhere, so go steal that.  Or sneak onto the bridge at night and use the radio.  Or use your CIA "credentials" to pull rank.

Please don't take us back to Turkey.


Back to Part Fifty, Chapter Six

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Part Fifty, Chapter Six - Krak Learns Nothing

Wait a minute, if the yacht had guards around to hear something breaking, why didn't Krak scream for help when she thought Heller was going to rape her?

Krak and Heller snuggle for a bit, then the Countess gets up, starts pacing, and begins wailing about "Oh, how I have wronged you!" and sullying "the honorable word of a Royal officer of the Fleet."  Remember, Jettero Heller was born better than you.

While she goes on about how terrible her crimes are, she keeps ignoring Heller's protests that he instantly forgives her.

"Oh, no!  It is too horrible!"  She got down on her knees beside him.  "I can never make it right!  It's an absolutely unforgivable thing I did!"  She sprang up again and began to pace.  "Oh, dear!  Oh, dear!  How can I ever make it up to you!"

"By just being your beautiful self," said Heller.

No, Krak being Krak is what got you two into this mess.  She needs to be not-Krak for a bit.  Someone sane, rational, less prone to solving her problems through violating free will.

Krak continues to berate herself for believing the media and legal institutions instead of her "darling Jettero," then drops to her knees again and apologies to him for all the terrible physical injuries she's inflicted upon him - she "slashed [his] face to ribbons" with that thrown lotion bottle (Heller cut himself shaving without a mirror), "smashed [his] chest" with that hurled magazine Heller didn't think was worth dodging, and positively shrieks when she sees the state of his hands (a few pinpricks from those nasty metal cables). 

So she plays doctor.  She helps the man who was several minutes ago pinning her to the floor onto his feet, offering to let him lean on her as she leads him to a couch.  She washes his terrible wounds and cries about how from now on, every time he looks or her or she looks at him, they'll remember the time she led him to get "maimed and crippled."  Krak begs Heller to forgive her, and he forgives her, but she still isn't satisfied that she got exactly what she asked for.

So she has a mood swing.

She got back up. "No.  That isn't enough.  I can't permit you to forgive me.  It is too awful!"  Then she suddenly stood up very straight.  She said in a firm voice, "I have no right to inflict my upset on you when you're in so much pain.  You don't need an emotional female on your hands.  So stop worrying.  I will be efficient and effective."

Krak robotically strips Heller of his wetsuit, uses the magic light of science to turn his skin back to pure, sinless white, orders rooms service, and feeds him broth and crackers while he lays on her bed.  She also does something reasonable by asking for the full story of his escapades on Earth, and Heller just as smartly decides to tell her things that might provide context or explanations for what's been going on.  He mentions all the girls he's had platonic relationships with, that might get misrepresented in the paper.  He mentions the "bad publicity," which neatly explains why there's so much sensational Whiz Kid stories in the paper.  He mentions the arrest warrants out for him, which gives an idea of how the legal system is being used against him.

In short, he does all the things he could've done last book that would've made a lot of the nonsense in this book entirely unnecessary.  He acts like someone in an equal, healthy relationship with another rational, intelligent human being.

He's wasting his time.

She thanked him and sat back.  "It's the women," she said.  "They caused the trouble.  And because my Jettero is so handsome and so darling, I was a jealous fool.  Yes.  It was the women."

"Izzy says---" began Heller.

"No, no.  Izzy is a man.  He wouldn't understand these things," said the Countess.  "A woman--any woman--would move Heavens and planet to get her hands on my Jettero.  I understand that completely.  It all makes sense."

"I think there is more to it than . . ."

But she was not listening.

Instead Krak steps out and has a muffled conversation with someone.  I thought Heller had super-hearing at some point, but I guess it's too inconvenient for the plot.  When Krak returns she has some sleeping pills to help Heller rest and recover.  Despite his protests, she puts them in his mouth and gives him some water to wash them down, promising that everything is gonna be all right.  Heller passes out.

Gris... well, it's puzzling.  He knows that obviously Heller will be out for a while, but also knows when to set the viewer alarm for when he'll wake up.  So either someone discussed how long these Nembutal pills keep you asleep in a conversation not recorded on the book's pages, or else the viewscreen recorder is smart enough to know when Heller wakes up.

So Gris decides to get some sleep.  And since it's the end of a Part, he also decides to slather on the foreshadowing with a trowel.

Fool that I was, I had no clairvoyance whatever of the blazing storm of disaster which was about to be turned loose!  With me in the eye of the worst series of disasters Hells had ever unleashed.

Stupid with shock, champagne and marijuana, I had no inkling that my last days on Earth were about to pounce.

Whaaaaaa?!  We're not even on Book Seven yet and you're gonna leave?  But how will the author be able to satirize Earth music if you're not around to listen to it?

Looking back on that moment, I am incredulous that I could have been so unalert and calm.

Dark, devilish disaster was on its devastating way.

Eh, if you're gonna try to be alliterative, don't end by breaking the streak.  Better a terrific, truncated tidbit than a nearly noteworthy segment.


Back to Part Fifty, Chapter Five

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Part Fifty, Chapter Five - Krak and Heller Get Physical

Heller goes from beginning work with his "picklock" at the end of last chapter to quickly slipping through the door and silently shutting it behind him so "that the surprise was absolute."  Krak's in a silken-covered bed, staring disinterestedly out the viewport at all the fires and floating corpses in the harbor instead of reading her magazine, clad only in a blue negligee. 

Something must have made her aware that someone else was in the room.

She whipped her head sideways.  She went white!

"THE BLACK!" she cried.

With all her might she hurled the magazine across the room.

Krak's not shrieking about "the black man who the harbormaster warned was coming to attack me!"  No, she recognizes Heller immediately, she just thinks that "Your sins have blackened your face."

Let the reconciliation begin.

"Dear," he said, "you've got to listen."

"There is nothing to listen to!" she flamed.  "You lied to me about other women!

True.

You married some cheap harlot!  And then you married another one!

Not as true.

You have blasted all my hopes and dreams! 

Krak never had any aspirations beyond "enter a monogamous marriage with Jettero Heller."

Get out!  I never want to see you again!"

"Dear, are you going to listen to me or do I sit on you!"

"Don't touch me, you philandering, unprincipled beast!"  Her hands had been grasping about.  She seized a bottle of sun lotion and hurled it at him with all her might!

Yeah.  First a magazine, now a bottle of suntan lotion, maybe a chair next.  Gris is actually wondering whether Krak might kill Heller.  She's not wearing her stomping boots, boyo, don't get your hopes up.

She doesn't get very far, though, as Heller frickin' tackles her legs to bring her crashing to the (Persian) carpet.  When Krak starts scratching at him, Heller gets both of her wrists in one hand and pins them to the floor over her head, keeps a knee across her thighs to stop her from kicking, and sits on her.  The most she can do is struggle and fail to bite him.

"You," he said, "are going to do some listening!"

"I won't!"

If you ever need to summarize what's been wrong with Krak and Heller's relationship for the past third of this book, here you go.

While Krak accuses Heller of planning to rape her like he did those other women, Heller reaches into an undoubtedly waterproof satchel to retrieve some key pieces of evidence.

Heller had taken a piece of paper off the stack.  He opened it and shoved it in front of her face.  "Look at this."

"I won't!"  She turned her face away from it.

Remorselessly,

If the word "remorselessly" can ever be applied to an aspect of your relationship, it's probably best to just end it before things get any worse.

using the elbow of the arm that held her wrists, he forced her head the other way toward the paper he held.  She closed her eyes, tightly and violently.

Heller said, "LOOK AT THAT PAPER!  What is it?"

"You can prove nothing to me!" she said.

"Answer me.  What is the paper?"
"You're hurting me.  Ouch."

So does Edward ever do this to Bella?  I hear he stalks her and breaks into her house and sabotages her car and kidnaps her and threatens her and basically takes over her life, but that's all emotional abuse and domination that Bella apparently finds appealing.  But does he ever just pin her down and force her to do something, despite causing her pain and distress?

Put it like that, this chapter is just as, if not more rape-y than the one where Gris actually rapes people.

She looked.  Her eyes flamed.  "It's that nasty suit by that awful Mexican (bleeptch)!"  She struggled to get free.

He shifted the paper in his hand and pushed it at her face.  "Read that paragraph!  What is the date in it?"

She was hissing and snarling.  Then, "Ouch.  You're breaking my arms!  ALL RIGHT!  It says you married her twenty-six months ago!"

This goes on for another page.  Heller gets out the Toots Switch suit ("You're bruising my neck") and makes Krak note the date on it ("Why are you torturing me?").  He gets out a paper covering the Mamie Spread affair ("You're breaking my legs!") and points out the date on that.  Then he gets out his Fleet logbook...

Why would you let a covert commando infiltrate an alien, hostile planet with a complete log of his activities over the past couple of years?

Gris narrates that Heller "applied pressure" to get Krak to open her eyes to examine it, which leaves entirely too much to the reader's imagination.  But once she starts reading, Heller finally lets his girlfriend sit up to page through the logbook and conclude that why, Heller hadn't even seen Blito-P3 until last year, and only landed on it a few months ago.  There's no way he could have been around to rape and/or marry all those women!  So the newspaper and lawsuits are lying!  (Or else the logbook is, but that never occurs to Krak.)

And with that revelation she bursts into tears and clutches Heller while the orchestral swells into a sweeping romantic piece that would have been perversely ironic had it played a few paragraphs ago.

There was a rap on the door.  A gruff voice said "Ma'am, are you all right in there?  A sentry reported something breaking somewhere this end of the ship."

But the sentry didn't hear all the screams of "You're hurting me!" and "READ IT!" and the thumps and crashes and struggling and damn I hate this book.

She raised her head, swallowed hard, and made a determined effort to speak.

"No, nothing is broken now!" she cried.  "Thanks Gods it's just been mended!"

The footsteps went away.

The Countess Krak.  A woman so viciously, purposefully stupid, so insanely jealous, that you have to pin her down and force-feed her the information to snap her out of her delusions about her partner's fidelity.

Jettero Heller.  A man not afraid to knock his girlfriend down and force some sense into her, a man who couldn't send her an anonymous package containing some newspaper clippings and a mission log page with the relevant dates circled in red marker to get the same point across.

I'd wonder if the horribleness of these characters and their pairing is intended to be satire of... I don't know, action hero romances?  But having read Battlefield Earth, I can only conclude that the author thinks such relationships are acceptable, even romantic.  So yeah.  Delbert John Rockecenter trying to either kill everyone through psychology or turn them gay through psychology?  Satire.  J. Warbler Madman trying to turn the Whiz Kid into Jesse James through a thoroughly fictitious media campaign?  Satire.  Krak x Heller?  Twue Love.


Back to Chapter Four

Monday, March 18, 2013

Part Fifty, Chapter Four - The Countess Krak's Floating Palace

Well, most of Heller's obstacles have either been effortlessly neutralized by Voltarian technology or proved themselves too stupid to live, so all that's left to do is sneak about Krak's yacht.

The boat has been ringed with "rigged collision stages" in case that black PLO-trained boatorist tried a kamikaze attack, tied to the lowest of the ship's three decks.  There is "A guard.  With a rifle" patrolling above him, but of course the grunt is spending too much time looking at the blazing marina, destroying his night vision.  So Heller's able to swing his scuba straps over the cable and climb it hand over hand to board the boat.

Witness our hero's dedication!  Though the metal cable has sharp loose strands jutting from it, enough to shred his cotton gloves and make Heller whisper "Ouch!", he resolutely continues his ascent!  Note that these injuries are mainly to his clothing and will have absolutely no impact on his ability to use his hands.  But still, look at him heroically endure physical discomfort!

The guard either never looks down or never notices him, and so Heller makes it safely to the ship's lowest deck, then no doubt quickly and silently divests himself of the air tanks, flippers, mask, weights, and other parts of his diving kit.  He stows the stuff in a locker and moves inside the ship proper, ducking into a side room when he hears footsteps on a ladder.

Now wait a minute, Hubbard.  Heller's got Superman vision, right?  Enough to measure the granularity of a stone wall in a dreary dungeon without a microscope?  Enough to differentiate a Coast Guard clipper from the other water traffic as it approaches from miles away?  Enough to navigate the murky waters of a nighttime harbor when Gris has to crank up the brightness on his TV to just barely see things?  And yet here Heller has to flip on a light switch to see where he is, revealing sleeping crewmen who almost but don't quite wake up at the intrusion.

Breaking continuity for a mildly "tense" moment?  I'm disappointed, Hubbard.

Heller kills the lights and backtracks without incident, then tries to find out where he is.  Luckily there's a nearby framed floor layout displaying the boat's fire escape plan... set in a brass frame, on a walnut-paneled wall, which sets the tone for the type of boat Krak ended up with.

I had not realized how extensive this yacht was!  But two hundred feet of vessel with lots of beam must make her at least two thousand tons.  Music salon.  Nightclub.  Theater.  Steam baths.  Breakfast dining room.  Luncheon dining room.  Banquet hall.  Gymnasium.  Inside swimming pool.  Sun swimming pool.  Squash court.   Race track . . . race track?  Yes, there it was marked, and beside it, Miniature car garage.

I never knew how empty my life was until Heller and Krak's luxury yacht, with its own go-kart track, came along to fill that hole inside me.

Cabins, cabins, cabins.  The ship must have room for fifty guests or more.  In suites, yet!  What a yacht!  More like a liner!  And apparently fairly new, given the modernness of the decor.  It must have cost a fortune to build and was costing another one to keep up.

So Krak bought a boat, for herself, that can accommodate 50+ guests in sprawling luxury apartments, with multiple dining areas and entertainment centers.  This feels entirely appropriate coming from the guy who spent his final years blowing millions of dollars renovating a "virtually-uninhabited" ranch house.

Heller eventually finds the Master Suite on the ship's map, then stalks along colorfully-tiled halls with walls of walnut and mahogany and polished brass until he reaches a certain passageway.  And perhaps I've erred while relating this tale, and missed some ambiguity concerning Heller's objective.  I immediately assumed he's trying to reunite with the girl he, for some ineffable reason, loves, but maybe we're supposed to be wondering what Heller's motives are here.  He gets out a satchel and retrieves "something" from it, making Gris hold his breath in anticipation - "Was he going to shoot up this ship?  Blow it up?"

So I guess we should be on the edges of our seats as Heller passes the Owner's Master Suite, Drawing Room, and the Owner's Master Suite, Bathroom, and the Owner's Master Suite, Dressing Room to arrive at the Owner's Master Suite, Bedchamber.  He doesn't even bother with the knob, he starts picking the lock.  Could this be the end of the Countess Krak?  Have the last nine chapters been part of his attempt to assassinate the Countess Krak in revenge for running out of him?  Might we see a murder instead of poorly-written "romantic" dialogue in the next chapter?

Of course not.  Which is not to say that Krak and Heller's reunion won't be violent.


Back to Chapter Three

Friday, March 15, 2013

Part Fifty, Chapter Three - Hope Nobody Was Taking a Nighttime Walk at the Marina

In case it isn't clear yet that Hubbard's vision of his near-future, our present-past was a little inaccurate, in this chapter we get proof that nobody in this world has ever played a video game.

Gris watches Heller for two straight hours, with nothing to see but a few bubbles or watery views of the harbor.  Our hero evidently grabbed a wet suit, so fear not, he should be comfortable instead of all pruney from his extended swim.  Gris keeps calling the harbormaster with helpful information about there still being a fugitive in the harbor, and the guards continue sweeping the water with searchlights.

Heller gradually approaches Krak's yacht, so Gris calls again to warn that the enemy is approaching the starboard side of the Golden Sunset, a patrol boat moves into position, and Heller ducks underwater for a few minute.  Rinse and repeat once.

Gris is kinda dumb, by the way.

A water-washed glimpse of the patrol boat showed.  It was coming straight at him!

Blackness.  One minute, two minutes, three minutes.  I was holding my breath.  Four minutes, five minutes . . . What the Hells was going on?

Dizzy and lightheaded from not breathing, I shook my head to clear it.  My viewer was just staying black!

Scuba gear!  He must be using scuba, taken from the 81!  Yes, there was the hollow, rhythmical sound I had ignored.

Yeah.  He's holding his breath in excitement until he almost passes out, and was disregarding the sound of a breathing apparatus the whole time - a sound he of course never bothered to tell us about.  I guess this way it's an exciting surprise that Heller had an air tank along with his wetsuit?  Unless the reader read "wetsuit" and automatically assumed he had scuba gear to go with it.

Sure is lucky Heller got scuba training at some point, too.  Or that these advanced aliens' space navies train their commandos with similar equipment.

Gris eventually gets the bright idea to crank up the "viewer gain" so that he can make out where Heller is (of course Heller isn't having any trouble seeing).  He finds Heller looking at a floating fuel platform, calls the harbormaster, and concludes that Heller's under the dock right next to the fuel depot.  The harbormaster realizes that this means the foe is right under his office, tells his men that the "God (bleeped) Fed on the phone" knows where the enemy is, and orders them to start firing into the water underneath them.

Shooting blindly, near fuel containers.  I could end the post right here and you'd know what happens next.

Blackness.

The funky thud and moan a bullet makes when going under water! Another shot. Another!

The churn of the launch engine.

A view!

It was from mid-channel, looking back at the dock.

BEROOOOOOM!

Flame geysering into the sky!

Concussion in the water!

The whole office went in slow motion up into the sky, turned over, and fell apart in flaming chunks.

Thrill as the hero sits and watches as his enemies destroy themselves!

So the dockmaster and his office get blown to smitheroons, followed by a patrol boat ("BEROOM!") and then the entire fuel depot ("BEROOOOOOOOOOOOM!").  Once the debris stops falling from the sky and the secondary explosions are finished, Heller surveys the carnage.

"Well, it wasn't just underwater detection gear, anyway," muttered Heller.  Then his eye fastened on a distant floating body.  He said, "I'm sorry, you guys.  May your Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your souls."  He sounded very sad.

Wonder if he could've gotten Izzy to give Krak a call once he found out where she went?  Maybe skipped all this boating nonsense and needless, stupid death?

So Gris curses that he no longer has anyone to call, but tries to stay optimistic that maybe the guards on the yacht itself will catch Heller.  He did hear through Heller's ears the marina guards yelling about the Fed on the phone who mysteriously knew exactly where Heller was, and he just heard Heller mutter about being up against more than underwater sensors, making it increasingly likely that Heller knows someone is working against him who has him under constant surveillance.  It goes without saying that Gris fails to make that connection. 

Next chapter we'll get a sense of just how luxurious Krak's yacht is.  Also, Heller will hurt his hands.


Back to Chapter Two

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Part Fifty, Chapter Two - It Didn't Even Last Six Chapters

Gris wakes up around 8:00 pm with a rage-, alcohol-, and marijuana-induced hangover, showers, and suddenly remembers to check on his nemesis.  Krak's viewscreen is already blank, Crobe's screen is of "no interest," but Heller's parked his pirated patrol craft with the lights of Atlantic City on the horizon.  So Gris' settles down to watch Heller get blown up by the harbormaster.

Oh, and he is aware of the potential consequences of ordering Heller's death.

Oh, I knew I could count on the harbor master: they didn't like blown-up ships clogging their channels.  Heller, I said, you are going to catch it good this time and I hope to the Gods that Lombar has removed your Grand Council contact, for tonight, you could get your head blown off.  And a pleasure it will be to see it done.

Well, boss, I knew Heller's sudden death would lead to either an investigation or a full invasion, both of which would blow the lid off your whole plan to use Earth to take control of the Confederacy, at least until you'd found a way to either forge his reports or make them unnecessary.  But see, I really hoped that you had already done that even though you hadn't yet given me the go-ahead to kill the guy.  It's really the Gods' fault for letting me down.  So we cool?

And then Lombar would shoot him.

Heller continues trolling the Coast Guard by plotting a course from Atlantic City to the Devil's Triangle, and continues to copy the logbook's "calligraphy" to report that the friendly sea monster was offering to help them solve the "mystery" of that million-mile, statistically-unexceptional patch of ocean.  He then gives a speech to the still paralyzed - paralyzed is another word for "unconscious," right? because these guys were hit by a nerve-paralyzer beam but wound up asleep - National Guard crewmen about how hopefully their bosses will believe their story based on his work, and hops aboard his Sea Skiff.

As he boats towards Atlantic City, Heller talks to himself about cannibals, making Gris nervous that he suspects a trap until he realizes it's a Giovanni da Verrazano reference.

You could never tell when he was joking.  It was a disconcerting trait, typical of the villain. Threw you off.  He had owned the place once: he knew very well that, aside from Federal tax collectors, there were no cannibals in Atlantic City.

Zing.  Gris just so happens to have a map of Atlantic City's coastline and harbors on-hand, and sees that Heller's taking a back-door approach through a waterway.  He calls the harbormaster again to warn them that a desperate, black, PLO-trained terrorist is trying to sneak up on them.  The other guy assures him that their guards have been supplemented with National Guard forces.

An oblivious Heller sails on for another half-hour, annoying Gris by drinking a (non-alcoholic?) beer. But as he nears his destination, he readies a dummy he manufactured out of spare clothes and pillows while Gris was... preoccupied last chapter, stuffs it behind the wheel, puts on some headgear, and jumps off the stern.  Gris realizes that Heller also rigged a radio control for the ship's autopilot, so he can continue to steer the ship even as it's greeted by "A CHATTERING BURST OF MACHINE-GUN FIRE!"

What follows is not an action sequence.  It may be written like one, but there's no drama or excitement to be had... um, let me rephrase that: there's nothing at stake except the boat.  Heller is safely floating in the water, ignored, while his unmanned boat zips around getting shot at by clueless guards.  

"I'm sorry," said Heller.  "You were a good boat."

The Sea Skiff turned again.  It passed under the bridge and was racing toward a nearby marina entrance.

The sharp staccato hammer of machine guns above the roar of the engines.

The crash of a shattered windshield!

The vicious multiple whines of ricochets!

A heavier burst of fire!

Still surging toward the marina docks, the Sea Skiff seemed to stagger.  Then it went racing on!

A gout of flame!

The blue-white flash of exploding gasoline!

All the extra fuel cans must have gone up as one!

BLOWIE!

The remains of the rocketing speedboat hit the end of a pier!

CRRRRASHHHHH!

Sure hope nobody was on that pier.

Heller dives when searchlights start scanning the waters, and only then does Gris think to call the harbormaster to inform him that they've just killed a dummy.  But the man insists that they distinctly saw a non-dummy body fly up into the air, forcing Gris to use his Fed credentials and order him to continue the search.

Gris concludes the chapter fuming that Heller must've been tipped off by the message sent to the Coast Guard ship.  "(Bleep) Heller!  Him and his can of beer!"

In fairness, only part of it is Heller's fault, the rest is the ineptitude of the marina staff.  We'll see just how catastrophically stupid they are next chapter.


Back to Chapter One

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Part Fifty, Chapter One - This Stupid Thing is Fifty Parts Long and We're Not on Book Seven Yet

Heller continues boating along, checking his charts to plot his course, but he's only going about ten knots so it'll be hours before he reaches Atlantic City.  So let's spend a chapter with Gris as he cures more women of their lesbianism.

Gris' wives come home and drag him off to do his "husbandly duties," and he meets Mike, "a somewhat sallow woman of thirty-five, dressed in long mannish clothes," and twenty-five-year-old Mildred, who has "a rosy complexion, was soft and round a quite pretty."  I'm suddenly struck with a disturbing question - is Hubbard just living out his sexual fantasies here, or are these based on anyone he knows?  Is this a nostalgic trip back through the notches on his bedpost, or what he wishes were notches on his bedpost?

But there's a third female lurking in the corner - "TEENIE!"  Yes, Miss Pinch invited the teenager (and not the "barely legal" kind of teenager) along to continue her education.  She's just there to take pictures, Gris' wife assures him, and Teenie says she'll behave: "I love spectator sports but I won't even cheer.  I promise."

So Gris opens his robes to reveal his mighty man parts, and Mike turns pale at the sight of his [clever euphemism for penis here], but before she can run all the others grab her, strip her, and pin her down for Gris to have his way with, because consent doesn't matter when the alternative is being condemned to a life of lesbianism.  Mike was wearing a breast compressor, as "male" lesbians are wont to do, but Pinchy assures her that she'll never want to wear it again once Gris is finished, because hetero sex has something to do with chest binding.

Things start off predictably - "Ooh, it isn't a falsie after all!" - but then Gris' groove is thrown off by the brilliant "FLASH!" of Teenie's camera.  Gris continues as best he can, but it eventually develops into a "race" between Gris and Teenie's distracting photography.  Gris, er, wins. 

Initial misgivings aside, Mike says she had a great time and declares an end to "biting and scratching.  And using Polish sausages for dildos."  Immediately after it's Mildred's turn, and Gris' wives stick a joint in his mouth to try and lessen his irritation with Teenie.  It doesn't really work.

FLASH!

I came straight off the bed!

It took me a moment to see again that it was not a spaceship landing.

Teenie's oversize lips were smiling sweetly.  "That was a good one," she said.  "She looked just like she was dying!"

"Kill this kid," I said bitterly to Adora.

"Oh, why should you be upset with a little thing like that?  After all, it was only the artistry in the girl.  Education and art go hand in hand.  She saw something she wanted and took it."

"I'm going to kill her," I said.

So Pinchy gets Gris another joint so he can get back to business, and Gris again sneers triumphantly at Teenie when he "made it" despite her presence.  But the teen complains that she needs more pictures to further her education, and like ice skaters trying to get their form right, she needs to look at pictures of herself.  So with Pinchy's approval, she shucks her clothes and walks over to Gris, looks down at him with disapproval, and decides that some music is what he needs.  Teenie pops in her record, not a CD, not a tape cassette, and actual honest-to-Elvis record:

NEO PUNK ROCK
MORAL
For Grade-School Kiddies
International Psychological 
Association Approved
Educational Ditty
The Naughty Boys
Biffer, Poker, Slider and Wowie.

And even though Gris knows it's "childish gibberish," he also knows that since psychology endorses it, it must be quality entertainment.  We could criticize Gris for having two mutually exclusive thoughts, but we really ought to be celebrating that he managed to stick two thoughts period in his tiny, tiny brain.

And now, more... music.

All the people in the room began to jerk in rhythm to those drums.  Teenie was wide-eyed, beating time with her hips and heels.

Then the whine and moan of electronic instruments.

Then a chorale like a tribal chant.

Freddie was a jumper!
Jump, jump, jump!
Freddie was a jumper!
Pump, pump, pump!
Freddie jumped his teacher!
Pump, pump, pump!
Freddie jumped his sister!
Pump, pump, pump!
Freddie jumped his brother!
Pump, pump, pump!
Freddie jumped his papa!
Pump, pump, pump!
Freddie jumped his mama!
Pump, pump, pump!
Freddie jumped a ROBOT!
Oh, my God!
Poor, poor Freddie,
Hasn't got a rod!

I don't remember meeting any robots in this story.  It may be for the best, they'd probably be rape-bots programmed by psychologist scientists.

And then in a perfectly normal voice at the end it said: So that's the moral, little kiddies. Don't never (bleep) robots!

Don't (bleep) the non-existent thing, got it.  Thanks, psychology!

The women in the room had almost had (bleeps) from the rhythm. I thought I had read the label wrong. I leaped up and snatched it from the turntable before it could repeat. Yes, it was approved by the International Psychological Association and its title was "Moral."

So it's not all the times that his grasp of psychology has failed him, or the fact that it clashes with everything Gris' education told him about the nature of the universe, it's psychology's lousy taste in music that's shaking his faith in it.

Then Teenie yanks Gris to his feet and starts doing "poses," with him, while Adora/Pinchy/Mrs. Bey takes pictures.  But these poses, they're strange - Teenie looking scared at Gris, or Teenie grappling with Gris, making him grab at her in time for the camera to go off, or Teenie tearing at Gris' robes so Gris latch on to her for another FLASH!, or Teenie slapping Gris and then scampering away for the camera to record his enraged pursuit.

I seized her ponytail.

She backed up! Against me! 

FLASH!

I made my hand flat to give her behind a powerful swat. "I'll teach you to insult me!" I snarled.

But Teenie was laughing!

Teenie turned over onto her back and began to hold her sides with mirth.

Adora was laughing.

Candy was laughing.

Mike and Mildred were laughing.

Anyone else?  Good.  Laughter is not a healthy response to this kind of situation.

A very confused Gris stomps off to his room, unable to comprehend what's going on and what's so funny.  He gnaws on his pillow - seriously - while looking forward to the day his boss blows Earth up "with Teenie in the middle of the cataclysm!"

So, why did Gris' wives think they needed more blackmail material?  They've already got the bigamy threat.  They're also his only source of income.  What purpose did this section serve, both in-story and more significantly out of it?  What is this satirizing?  Why did we need more inappropriate sexual contact with minors in this story?

The good news is that next chapter we get back to Heller on boats for another twenty-five pages, when Teenie makes her reappearance.  The bad news is that next chapter we get back to Heller on boats for another twenty-five pages, when Teenie makes her reappearance.


Back to Part Forty-Nine, Chapter Seven

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Part Forty-Nine, Chapter Seven - A Sea Serpent That Spoke with All the Tongues of the Northmen

Gris is all confused by Heller's heroic rescue of the people who'd been trying to kill him, since as an Apparatus officer he would have happily watched the out-of-control Coast Guard boat smash into the beach.  In fact, he fully expects Heller to take the captured ship out into deep water before sinking it and killing its crew that way.

This is supposed to be one of those cases where we see how the evil Gris cannot comprehend the virtuous Heller's actions... except I'm kinda in agreement with Gris here.  So what, these Coast Guard boat jockeys deserve special treatment, but not Oozopolis or the Federal investigators going after the mob, who Heller helped set up for a bombing back in Book Two?  What about those IRS agents?  Do you have to be on a boat for Heller to spare you?

Whatever.  Gris could call the Coast Guard and inform them that their ship has been captured by the guy they were trying to apprehend, but again decides he needs to figure out exactly what Heller is planning before making the call.  So he watches as Heller wrangles the Sea Skiff and pulls it alongside the Coast Guard ship, then drags the paralyzed crewmen into the "salon" (which isn't on Wikipedia's glossary of nautical terms).  He makes a pile out of all the rifles, throws some "caps" onto it, then inspects the damage he caused with his ray gun.  He sprays the deck gun with a fire extinguisher to finish cooling it, then scrapes off the melted puddle that used to be the radio aerial and chucks it in the ocean, nature's garbage dump.  After that Heller uses some bolt cutters to make it look like the radio antennae had been broken off rather than melted by alien weaponry.  He finishes by changing into a spare uniform and continues boating along, towing the Sea Skiff behind him.

Gris keeps watching.

Heller puts the Coast Guard ship on autopilot and decides to respond to the faint but insistent messages that are managing to get through the damaged equipment.  He reports a "little mishap" affecting the radio and engines, and that "Everybody is a bit flaked out."  But the capture was a success and they're heading down the coast back to base, but oops the radio is going see you tomorrow bye.

Heller put down the mike and went back to gaze at the beautiful day.

It was probably his attitude, probably the way he propped his elbow on a radar and cupped his chin in his palm.  Heller can drive anybody absolutely insane with things like that!

I went crazy.  I phoned Captain Grumper.

"What's wrong now?" he said.

It was on the tip of my tongue to scream that an extraterrestrial had just seized his fast patrol craft.  I checked myself in time.  It would sound odd.

"The man," I said, "that you were supposed to capture has TAKEN OVER THE 81!"

It takes a while for him to convince the captain, though, I mean the boat just called in to say everything's fine.  So Gris pulls rank as a Federal agent slash Rockecenter henchman and gets the Coast Guard to send out a recovery force, while Heller yawns and watches the seagulls and writes in the ship's log about encountering a 300-foot sea monster with orange wings and purple horns that breathes fire and speaks "Scandinavian." 

But eventually three helicopters catch up with him and swing down low.  Heller waves at them, and then "THE THREE CHOPPERS WENT AWAY!"

Gris demands an explanation, and the Coast Guard captain tells him that one of the helicopter pilots recognized the officer at the helm, "Chief Jive, one of the most able blacks we have in service."  Gris drops the phone in shock from the reveal.

See, he had - along with me - assumed that nobody recognized Heller at the harbor because they were looking for the buck-toothed, bespectacled Whiz Kid "body double."  But no, Heller actually blackened his face using that skin blackener doodad he used.... a long time ago, to buy that roadhouse in Connecticut that we haven't seen in forever.  How convenient that the run-down bathroom he shaved in didn't have any mirrors to spoil this surprise for us.  How convenient that Mortie the cab driver was half-blind from being sprayed with mace so he couldn't notice his friend changing ethnicity.  It certainly made this revelation all the more...

No, it's still moronic, the equivalent of James Bond using an ingenious grappling hook disguised as a haddock to scale a wall right alongside a perfectly-usable ladder.  It was totally unnecessary and just as uninteresting as all the other times Heller pulls an alien gizmo out of his ass to solve his problems. 

I watched with great care.  And I confirmed it in the pilothouse window reflection at last.  Heller was black-faced!  And blacks all look alike to whites.  No wonder the day had looked so beautifully hazeless!  He was wearing tan contact lenses!

I can't tell if this is more of the author being racist, or the author trying to satirize racism but failing due to his own racism.

(Bleep) Heller!  How can you keep up with such a man!

Not with the Coast Guard, obviously.  So Gris calls the Atlantic City harbormaster, introduces himself as "a Fed," and tips him off that the Golden Sunset is going to be attacked sometime today or tonight, so they should put the boat under armed guard and not let anybody approach, especially the Coast Guard.  The culprit is a black fellow that is to be shot on sight.

Gee.  Only way this could go wrong would be if Heller had a device that let him change race at will.


Back to Part Forty-Nine, Chapter Six 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Part Forty-Nine, Chapter Six - Outwitting the Foe by Shouting "Look Behind You!"

I'm trying to remember how the optical bugging equipment works.  Yeah, it's attached to Heller's optic nerve, but I can't recall whether or not Heller's superhuman eyesight usually gets transmitted to Gris' viewscreen.  Here it doesn't - Heller idly enjoys a sandwich while the ship is on autopilot, then catches sight of a "speck several miles ahead" that Gris can't distinguish from the other sea traffic, but evidently Heller can.  So only Heller's special brain can interpret all of the data his eyes are picking up, but Gris' viewscreen can get the 95% that isn't superhuman.  Or the optical bugs can only pick up some of the neural impulses from Heller's eyeballs.

Whatever, continuity or even plausible science fiction aren't this book's biggest problems.

So Heller finishes his (nonalcoholic) beer and throws it in the trash, not the recycling, and then conveniently talks to himself so Gris and the audience can hear it.

"Hello, hello," he said.

The Countess just dumped him and he's already trying to pick up someone new.

"You look like a military craft.  And travelling at high speed."

He stepped back over the windshield and dropped to the cockpit.  He perched on the edge of the pilot chair.  "And now we'll see, Mr. Military Craft, if you have any interest in me."

"Why, yes!  Who wouldn't be?  Are... you interested in me too?"

"Aha," he said.  "An intercept!"

And so forth.  Heller computes that the other ship is going three percent faster than him, then decides to test its intentions by closing the distance.  A radio message orders him to "lie to," but Heller disregards it, pulling a "foam-flying" U-turn to try and outrun the boat he just calculated is faster than him.  Not that the Coast Guard ship has the patience for a race.

A flash from the bow!

A GEYSER OF SALT WATER DEAD AHEAD OF HELLER!

THE AUTHOR USED CAPSLOCK TO TRY AND MAKE HIS ACTION SEQUENCES MORE EXCITING!

BLAM!

The sound of the shot reverberated like a single beat of a bass drum.

Heller declares that this is "all I wanted to know" and pulls out a Voltarian handgun, spins its dial, aims at the "Coast Guarder"'s deck gun some two hundred years away, and takes the shot.  Seconds later the two-man gun crew abandons their post, screaming.  Gris sees that "THEIR GUN BREACH WAS MELTING!" and realizes Heller must've "fired a heat shot, centered by the handgun computer, down the barrel of that thing!"  And I'm kinda disappointed it was a computer-assisted shot.  What, the guy with scoped eyeballs couldn't hit a target less than two football fields away?  Some action hero he is.

The race continues.  Heller hears a crackling on his radio, understands this to mean that the other ship is calling its base, and melts the aerials of the other boat with his Ray Gun.  But the Coast Guard isn't running, and Heller talks to himself about how he doesn't want to kill them, because they're "Fleet."  If they were Federal agents or random thugs in the park or hired goons he wouldn't be batting an eyelash, of course.

As Gris points out Heller's "insane gallantry" and some of the enemy crew take potshots at him with rifles, Heller gets out a signalling lamp and once again helpfully narrates his own behavior as he flashes "Y-O-U-R E-N-G-I-N-E-S A-R-E A-B-O-U-T T-O B-L-O-W U-P."  Oh, did I mention that Heller learned Morse Code at some point?  No?  Well, the book didn't either, but he must have, obviously.

And the Coast Guard buys it.

Everyone on deck starts running around, three guys pop up from a hatch to go check on their engines.  Evidently none of the actual crew is monitoring them.

Think this would work on a cop?  "Pull over!"  "I think your engine's about to explode!"  And then they pull over while you speed away?  Couldn't hurt to try, I guess.

Well, Heller doesn't do that, precisely.

"Now that you're all in sight . . ." muttered Heller.  And he put a small device on top of the Aldis lamp and pressed its trigger.

There was no sound.  There was no flash.

ALL THE MEN ON THE DECK OF THE COAST GUARDER COLLAPSED!

He had said he wasn't going to kill them and then it appeared that he had!

He said he wouldn't do it but he did it anyway!  The guy who just said he didn't want to kill those guys did something that made them all fall over, as if they had been killed, by him!  Even though he said he didn't want to! 

A split-second after undoubtedly crapping his pants at this unexpected act of murder, Gris suddenly realizes that oh, Heller just used a "radio nerve-paralysis beam."  Of course!  Really, we should've known from the start that it was a radio never-paralysis beam.  It's just a classic Heller move by now, he's used it so many times.

Buuut it turns out he might kill the Coast Guard after all, because he's knocked them out while they're boat's pointed at the shoreline with the throttle set to full.  Whoopsie.  So Heller ties some strings to his own throttle, right, and takes the autopilot-onna-cable so he can steer from outside on the railing, intercepts the Coast Guard ship, and pulls alongside it.  "The suction that occurs between two ships" causes the two vessels to bump into each other, Heller grabs the patrol craft with one hand, hits a switch on the autopilot with another, and yanks on the strings connected to the throttle with his third hand.  Then he jumps ship.

The Sea Skiff is sent away from the shore with its engines cut off, while Heller races to the Coast Guard ship's helm and slams the propellers into full reverse.  Dramatic bump and scrape in the shallows followed by the boat safely moving away from land.

He looked out on the deck where a man with a lot of chevrons on his jacket was lying draped over a bitt.  Peevishly, Heller said, "You're supposed to SAVE people, not GET saved."

Hey, when did Gris learn these salty nautical terms like "bitt" and how the sea was "on his beam?"  Just that one boat ride out of Istanbul?  But he didn't learn to call a ship's toilet a "head" or the proper name for the Bernoulli effect.


Back to Chapter Five

Friday, March 8, 2013

Part Forty-Nine, Chapter Five - Boat Enthusiasts

At first I thought that the Inspector Grafferty really was stupid enough to help the lawyers serve the "real" Whiz Kid in person, see that he looked nothing like the Whiz Kid in the papers, and then not tell any of his men to update their perp description accordingly.  Then I read ahead and found the truth.  It's just as stupid, but at least it doesn't mean that Grafferty is quite as dumb as I thought.

Anyway, the police are completely useless, and Heller is getting away on his new speedboat.  Only one group can save Gris now - "The Coast Guard!"

But he won't call them right away, because he needs to get "just a little more data."  So instead of dialing them up and saying "there's a fugitive on a Sea Skiff who just left the 79th Street Boat Basin headed towards Atlantic City, get out there quick!", Gris decides to watch Heller boat around for a page and a half.  To get that crucial data.  And I thought I was good at procrastinating.

Heller quickly figures out the gyrocompass, engages the autopilot, and goes belowdecks, poking around the bunks and head until he finds some charts.  He comes out, carelessly slips just by the stern of a huge freighter, and takes his seat.

Typically Heller, her perched himself sideways on the edge of the pilot's seat, hooked a foot under a rung and without the least concern for the absolutely jammed traffic on the river, sat comfortably in the warm sun and began to examine the chart.

He was giving me the data I needed.

Yeah, Gris needs to know Heller's whole route before calling down the Coast Guard, apparently.  It's only when he sees that Heller's coming up on the Coast Guard station at Fort Jay that he actually calls them, informing them that they can apprehend that criminal they are now close enough to see with binoculars.

Unfortunately, the Coast Guard isn't any more competent than the police.

"Jesus, is that right, Petey?  Mister, Petey says she's clocking 42.3 knots.  Man, look at her go! . . . Hey, wait a minute.  That number is familiar.  Petey, ain't that the old Faustino Sea Skiff? . . . Yeah, I thought so.  Man, look at her GO!  Petey, git your nose out of the radar and eyeball this. . . . You ever seen a prettier sight?"

Another voice, "Yowee!  Man, would I like to be in that on a beautiful day like this, huh, Dicey?"

"(Bleep) it!" I screamed.  "DO something!"

Seaman Second Class Dicey said, "I'm sorry, mister.  That's just some guy from the Faustino mob going out to pick up a load of dope from some foreign freighter off Sandy Hook.  Why would the Coast Guard be interested?"

"Arrest him!" I howled.

"There's no speed limit where he is now.  He can't be arrested unless he doesn't have a foghorn and I didn't see him throw anything overboard to litter the harbor."

So while Heller cruises past the Statue of Liberty, raising a hand in salute, thereby making a bald eagle somewhere shed a single patriotic tear, Gris tries to prod the Coast Guard into action.  He first claims that the boat is stolen, only for the Coast Guard guy to check and verify that it was in fact just purchased legally.  So he gets kicked up to a superior officer, and then explains that the guy on the boat is a wanted criminal fleeing a Federal warrant issued by Rockecenter's henchmen.  Which he should have done first thing, in a phone call made the minute Heller left the harbor.

All in all, it takes nearly three pages for Gris' orders to get through - intercept the Sea Skiff before it enters international waters, arrest its occupant, and put him in leg irons before handing him over to the New York police.  Gris insisted on the leg irons. 

Only then did I allow myself a smile, a very Apparatus smile.  Heller was just passing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, white spray, blue water and bright, spring sun.  Little did he know the trap that had been laid.

He had gotten past or around the police some way I could not fathom.

Like I said, it's pretty stupid, and it requires two very contrived coincidences to be any mystery to Gris.

But I had not mentioned any name or identity to the Coast Guard.  They would grab anybody in that boat!  And I would make sure, through Dingaling, Chase and Ambo, that that was a grab that would be made to stick!

Heller, admire the gulls as you streak by.  This is NOT the day you will see your lady love!

Again, this is all being told to us after the fact, a prison confession.  So imagine if your grandpa or whatever was telling you about fighting Charlie in the jungle, and his tale went like "so I smiled to myself and said 'this time it is I who will be doing the ambushing!'  Then we got in a helicopter and flew for a few hours, and when we got out I said to myself 'enjoy this evening, because it will be your last!'" 

Also, I'd really love to read Justiciary Turn's responses to all this garbage.  "Gris, I don't really need to know the names and appearances of every single lesbian you slept with, could you focus on Lombar's activities please?"


Back to Chapter Four