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

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