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!




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.


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

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