So Gaylov knew the USSR had been pulverized, but felt like making one last scavenging run into the hangar? He had no other contingency plan, no escape stash prepared? Why didn't he go off to eastern Russia in search of a surviving authority to- bah, whatever.
Gris makes a conscious effort to play up his injuries in hopes that the guy using him as a human shield will let him get behind him. Then he remembers how he triggered the alarm and the hail of blaster fire that will greet anyone approaching the hangar, and so, for the second time in a page, assures us that he cunningly exaggerated his wounded condition. Just as they're about to step into the hangar:
Expertly, I weaved and crumpled.
Gris aced his Apparatus "falling down" classes.
I shouted, "Kill him!"
Instantly a barrage of fire racketed!
The whole tunnel exit turned blinding orange!
I felt my jacket singe!
Something had me by the collar, dragging me back. "Well, blast you!" said Heller. "It was a trap!"
Good luck working this one out. Heller has somehow dodged a wall of unfriendly fire bursting over Gris' prone body, then managed to grab him by the neck and haul him back into the tunnel while continuing to avoid getting shot. Guess he's scuttling about on the floor like a crab.
And he doesn't sound all that mad about Gris' sudden but inevitable betrayal. Though if he's avoiding getting hit this easily, maybe he's not too concerned.
Heller uses "that piercing, Fleet officer, carrying" voice of his to open a dialogue with the guys shooting at him, warning that even though he's pinned down in a tunnel, he's armed, so they better not try anything. Faht Bey orders him to come out with his hands up, Heller cites his Grand Council orders and tells them to come out with their hands up. Faht Bey accuses Heller of wanting to kill them, Heller responds that he has Gris as his prisoner to be tried, Faht Bey's like nuh-uh, Gris probably has a gun on you, get him to come out. Faht Bey also brings up the earthquake for whatever reason, and then Gris screams that it wasn't his fault. And, having confirmed that Gris is there, everyone starts shooting again, raising the question of why, if their objective is to kill him, they chose not to shoot him when he stepped into the hangar in the first place.
So hey, remember way the (bleep) back in Book Two when Heller was poking around the Apparatus base, climbing the walls and such? What'd he say he was doing, rock surveys? Well, that was a lie.
Heller orders everyone to stop shooting, or he'll heroically collapse the cave-hangar on their heads. The shooting continues. So Heller whips out a little detonator he grabbed from a hiding place along the tunnel, but which Gris didn't think anything about beyond "He now had something in his hand." Heller presses the button, and...
So hey, remember way the (bleep) back in... Book Five? When Gris shot at Crobe with a stungun and somehow caused a minor cave-in? No? Well, Gris is nice enough to remind us about it, to explain why Heller's attempt doesn't work - Gris accidentally triggered it months ago. Mystery solved! A seemingly random and pointless event from a thousand pages ago now pays off to explain why Heller's first attempt at subduing his foes didn't work. Aren't you glad the author included it?
Heller of course has a back-up plan, and pulls out gas masks for himself and Gris. He flips some different switches on his "firing board," causing some muffled explosions from elsewhere within the base.
Then I heard some coughing. Faht Bey's cough joined it through the loudspeakers.
Somebody screamed, "Opium!" Another took it up!
The firing stopped.
There was the beginning rush of everyone trying to leave.
A white fog came swirling into the tunnel mouth.
The opium storage caverns! Heller had installed flame bombs in them last fall. Countless tons of opium were burning.
Yes, our hero set this up back when he was "surveying" the base months and months ago. And nobody noticed. Nobody saw him do it, nobody discovered the bombs after ward. For half a year, those explosives sat around, undiscovered, at this highly secure, top secret facility.
Don't even ask where Heller got the firebombs.
Or why the opium storage caverns don't have a sprinkler system.
Or why there's no gas masks around for the base crew to wear in case of fire.
The electronic illusion which made up the hangar roof would not pass air. I had seen Heller test it!
Or why an illusory spaceship can pass through an icy comet but an illusory mountaintop forms an airtight seal.
Or why there's no ventilation system beyond the hole in the - hold up, Gris' super-deluxe holding cell had a separate air shaft installed. Was that the only room in the base with an alternate air supply? Why wouldn't they make precautions for their narcotics catching fire and fuming up the place?
The whole hangar was now full of a powerful narcotic--OPIUM SMOKE!
Oh, thanks. I was wondering, since the opium stores were on fire, and the people were screaming "Opium!", what exactly the white smoke was.
So all the shooters fall over, having succumbed to the... well, I guess the opium euphoria'd them into unconsciousness. No confusion or hyperactivity, no potentially fatal slowdown of the respiratory system, not even constipation or rash. Nope, a cloud of concentrated opium smoke merely knocks you out for a bit, after which you can be roused with a good puff of oxygen with no lingering side-effects or addiction problems. Especially if you're an alien with a particular vulnerability to drugs.
And after all that, after getting lured into an ambush, Heller nudges Gris forward and orders him to take him to Krak's cell. And Gris complies, confident that he'll soon be able to shank Heller, because the guy hasn't even bothered to handcuff his untrustworthy, murderous guide.
Even Frodo had Gollum on a leash for a little bit, sheesh.
Back to Chapters Three and Four