Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Part Sixty, Chapters Four and Five - Mailbag

After ending last chapter with Gris reaffirming his need to wring an idea out of his brain as to how to stop Heller, this chapter opens with the Blixo "roaring out of the night" and Gris scrambling aboard.  Guess he's hoping it has a shipment of INSPIRATION! from Voltar or something.

He meets with Captain Bolz to swap news, correspondence, and orders.  Gris gets Crobe, Teenie and Madison set for transport back to Voltar.  Bolz has been too busy to get a feel for what's going on back home, but Twolah/Too-Too the catamite has big news for Gris - Lombar Hisst has succeeded in getting not just the Grand Council, but His Majesty Cling the Lofty himself, hooked on teh drugs.  Now that he controls the leadership's drug supply, he's practically running the Confederacy, and once he gets the rest of the population hooked he will rule the world!

Don't think too hard about how a tiny fraction of one planet's total drug production could keep the entire population of a second planet satisfied.  Or why Voltar can't make its own drugs after getting samples from Earth and abandon the planet to its fate.  Or why Lombar can't use his newfound authority to simply cancel Mission Earth and recall Heller to clean toilets somewhere.

Perhaps most importantly, Too-Too explains that Astrographer Roke has been dismissed and sent to faraway Calabar, so Heller's encrypted mission reports are no longer an issue.  He hands Gris a super-official message made from letters cut out of magazines and glued to a sheet of paper:

"KILL THE (blEepArd)!"

And so, near the end of Book Seven, Gris finally gets official (?) clearance to dispose of Heller, something he'd been trying to do since... well, a while now.

So long as nothing messes with the supply of heroin and opium and amphetamines coming out of the I. G. Barben pharmaceutical company (and only I. G. Barben, I guess), Gris' future looks bright.  He dismisses Too-Too's inquiries about a reward for such good news and goes to his secret room to scheme.  Someone must have injected a syringe full of piping hot INSPIRATION! into his brain, because once Chapter Five starts, Gris does more planning in one page than he has in the rest of the book combined.

First he'll kill Heller, then blow up Chryster Motors to solve the no-gas car problem, then blow up Ochokeechokee, FL to solve the Miami not buying fuel problem, then blow up the Empire State Building to take out Bang-Bang and Izzy.  After that he'll call Mr. Bury to get his "family spi" status restored, which he'll then use to bully Black Jowl into forgiving that debt.  Simple!

I sat back proudly to eye my masterpiece.

Then my eye caught a flick of movement on the viewer.  A knife was being drawn through a piece of meat.


I shuddered.

I looked back at the plan before me.  I sheltered it so it could not be visible from the monitor.  There was a flaw in my master plan.

The moment anyone draw a bead on Heller, he himself would be in the telescopic sight of a sniper rifle in the hands of the Countess Krak.

Plot's going in circles.  "Heller must be stopped, argh I have to do something about the Countess first, how can I kill her or drive them apart?"  Gris doesn't seem able to consider that it's possible to kill them both at the same time during, say, a building demolition.  I think he's decided that it all has to happen in a certain sequence, and until he can figure out a way past the first hurtle, he's justified in not making any progress elsewhere.  It's an old procrastinator's trick, I've used it often.

I thought about this for a time.  Yes, it was a definite flaw.

How many minutes did he have to spend mulling over whether "death by Krak" was a design flaw or not?

In order to successfully gun down Heller, it was vitally necessary to get rid of that witch.

I thought and thought.  I paced back and forth.  I had been unsuccessful in this before.  I must not be unsuccessful now.

And then he lets himself get distracted by more mail instead of solving his dilemma.  I have to admit, all this slacking is starting to hit uncomfortably close to home...

First letter's from the Widow Tayl, who is still looking forward to having Gris' baby and getting married.  Gris vows to have her "exterminated" once he gets promoted to Chief of the Apparatus for stopping Mission Earth.  Second letter reads "KILL OR BE KILLED IS THE LAW," signed Bloody Dagger.  According to the stamp it isn't two hours old.  Gris has long since given up trying to puzzle out the Apparatus assassin's identity, and resolves to look very busy these coming days.  And then "THERE IT WAS!", just slipped under the door, "HELLER'S CABLE!" asking for Box Number Five.  Incredible!  Amazing!  Gris saw Heller talk about sending a message on the viewscreen, AND THEN HE WENT AND SENT ONE!!1!11.

All that to say, Gris still has no idea what to do, and so he goes to bed without responding.  The chapter doesn't end, even though Chapter Four was only three pages long, and there's only three pages left in Chapter Five.

Gris wakes up, cleans his guns, and loads the viewscreens with fresh tapes so he'll be able to rewind in case he misses something because his civilization hasn't figured out digital storage.  He prays for luck, but Gris' prayer was absorbed by the darkness.  The Blixo leaves, presumably with Crobe and two terrible humans aboard.  Gris goes to sleep.

Gris wakes up.  Around afternoon, Krak and Heller wake up in New York.  "And then at breakfast I GOT MY KEY MESSAGE."  Which is to say he overhears Heller tell Krak that he and Izzy will be flying to Washington so the Wonderful Oil for Maysabongo company can try and take options on the United States' oil reserves (all of them), then fly to Detroit to test out those gasless cars.  So he'll be away for a few days.

So Gris finally, finally picks up that two-way radio with orders for Raht - he's to call Krak and give her the message "I cannot possibly send you the replacement for Box Number Five as I am afraid Jettero might hurt himself with them."  He does so.  And just as Gris predicted, Krak wonders to herself "Heavens, what have I done?" and paces a bit, before calling to schedule a flight to Rome, then Turkey.  See, Gris knew that Krak would hear his message, assume that he was still acting under her mental compulsion to avoid harming Heller, and then decide to go all the way back to Turkey to mind-control him again so that he would be willing to send Heller that box of equipment.

And y'know what?  I don't care.  I'm not going to question it.  Because with less than fifty pages left in the bloody book, the plot is finally moving.

Then she said, "Please make the ticket round trip."

I grinned with glee from ear to ear.  That was one round trip that wouldn't be used.

The Countess Krak was never going back!

Try not to think about how pleased Gris was when Krak first arrived on the planet as his implement to destroy/stall Heller once and for all.

Back to Chapter Three


  1. I don't know why you keep assuming that tapes and digital storage are mutually exclusive. Remember DAT?