Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Part Sixty-Two, Chapter Four - The View from the Cockpit

I guess Tug One's cockpit is located immediately next to its primary airlock, 'cause Gris spends this whole chapter tied to the pilot's seat, yet is able to see a great deal of what goes on outside the spaceship.

Heller decides to tidy up the scene of his latest killstreak with a "trash-disintegrator unit."  All he has to do is make a pile out of the pirates' bodies and bring the device over to it, so that they quickly disappear with a bit of "small blue lights" coming from slow-to-dissolve buttons and other bits of metal.  I think I remember the Apparatus dumping the bodies of its victims into a canyon back in Book One.  Maybe they're too cheap to buy a simple trash-disintegrator unit.

Gris' hopes are raised when he sees car lights approaching, and figures that whoever's in it will notice the parked spaceship, hear his yells of being a Federal agent in distress, and will be able to succeed where a bunch of vicious space pirates failed.  "I wasn't going to be exterminated here after all!  I'd even have Heller on a Code Break!"

Alas, the car contains George and Ralph, the pair of utterly forgettable deputies that Heller's set up to guard his roadhouse.  The "absorbo-coat" on Tug One means their headlights never illuminate it, and Heller explains that the strange noises they heard were a wildcat, which the two run off to try and find.

This gives Heller and Raht almost two pages to transfer stuff from the roadhouse, such as the bag of diamonds that Gris fell into a trap after.  While dropping it off in the ship's hold, Heller finds the bag of fake gemstones Gris bought in Switzerland three whole books ago, as part of his plan to... fool Stabb... about something?  Oh, and there's also 750 pounds of gold ingots in the cargo bay.

I felt like my skull had exploded.  Stabb!  He was the one who had stolen my first gold shipment!  He'd hidden it in the tug hold, meaning probably, when he got a chance, to do away with me and steal the tug.

So the strongly-worded letter Gris had to write to... those guys who sent him the gold, way back in... a book... it's all Stabb's fault!  If it weren't for him, Gris could've gained and squandered his fortune as early as Book Two!

Wait, how did Heller know it was 750 pounds of gold just from looking at it?

"Isn't that an awful lot of gold for this planet?" said Raht.

"It sure is," said Heller.  "Worth about seven million dollars at current prices."

Wait, why does Heller know the current going price for gold?

Heller decides to give Gris' bullion to Izzy for investment, because Heller isn't quite as rich as God yet, and we only have three books to go.  The deputies show up and ask Heller's permission to come back later to continue their wildcat hunt.  Gris remembers that the tug's controls stopped working, so all he has to do is sit still until morning, when the ship will be visible, someone will surely notice it, and that someone will be able to defeat Heller and Raht to free Gris.

Until then, he notices Heller doing more packing, and sees that Heller's crates have false bottoms, explaining how he smuggled in a gun.  And of course the paranoid spies at the Coordinated Information Apparatus failed to notice a secret compartment in a dangerous commando's luggage.

Heller prepares to send Raht to deliver the gold to Izzy along with a videophone on a secure frequency, to be passed off as another of Heller's wonderful inventions, then goes through Gris' wallet.  Gris, naturally, keeps his idento-plate and a requisition form on him at all times, and Heller uses them to pay Raht, over his protests, the ten grand Gris promised for killing Heller.  "Buy a wreath for Terb's grave and get yourself some new clothes." 

At this point Gris loses his temper and taunts his captors that the tug's controls are unresponsive, reminding Heller to hop out and collect a buzzing canister lying nearby.

"The only reason I called you here," he said, "was I needed the tug.  You landed on an engine-control cancellation coil

God dammit Hubbard.

that operated the moment you opened your airlock.  You stupidly had it open already when you landed.  Only the air cushion kept you from crashing.  Stupid Antimancos."

I'm pretty sure Heller smuggled this particular device to Earth in his colon.

And y'know what else?  Heller can pilot the whole tug just by himself, because he had it "robotized" back on Voltar when we weren't looking.  Make a note of this, because Gris will forget about it to be surprised fifteen pages from now.  Also, this is the first use of artificial intelligences since 54 Charlee Nine in the prefaces and perhaps the Apparatus computer search engine.

So Raht salutes and leaves, and Heller takes off, intending to (eventually) dump Gris off at the Afyon base for judgment, because regulations state that officers involved in crimes should face a conference trial, while everyone else is apparently fair game.  Since Faht Bey was clamoring to do one of those conference trial things last book, Gris realizes he might be boned... or is he?

Wait, wait.  Suddenly, I had a surge of hope.

At the Afyon base they thought Heller was under orders to kill them: they would shoot him if they saw him.  I had taken care of that.

Better hope Raht never calls the place and explains things.

And Voltar?  Why, Lombar hated Heller and Lombar was now in control of the entire Voltar Confederacy!

How is that relevant?  Heller isn't talking about going to Voltar.  Yet.

Heller was not home safe at all!

He was the one at risk!

All I had to do was con him in some way and stay alive and I would win completely in the end.

I would pretend to be cooperative.  I would pretend to be his friend.  I would lead him in some brilliant way to his doom.

My confidence began to return.  I would think of something.  All was very far from lost.

The last time you had to think of something you spent a month on a boat.

I almost laughed aloud.  Heller and his Royal officer ways--he'd be the dead one in the end.

This from a man being held prisoner by a cat.

Heller, having pulled a new bank of controls and switches out of a hidden floorboard, tells a cordless microphone to "Take off and hold at altitude three hundred miles above New York."  The spaceship knows what a New York is, and knows that Heller refers to the city, not the state.  Off it goes.  Gris watches Heller go back into the galley for some hot jolt and then sit on the arm of the chair.

So from the pilot's seat, you can look out the ship's airlock, see the entrance to the hold, and see the galley?  All the space aboard must be taken up by those luxury apartments.

Back to Chapters One, Two and Three

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