Heller gets through Voltar's space defenses by giving the number of a patrol craft. Presumably he's trying to avoid detection by any potential foes, but I'm surprised nobody looks at the little tugboat and realizes that it isn't a proper warship. Voltarian traffic control seems wonky in general, 'cause Heller's able to zip off to wherever he feels like, then call for permission to land. Guess security's lax because the capital's thirteen minutes ahead in the future, and it's not like you can just drive into a black hole's time distortion or anything.
Heller declares his ship the Upward Strike, which Gris somehow knows was the name of a 125,00-year-old battlecruiser, and lands at some mysterious base on a plateau that Gris can't identify. It's a typical "fast and sudden" Heller landing, and he puts the tug on its tail so that those gimballed seats and beds swivel. The Antimanco pirates landed the tug on its belly at the beginning of the book, and once again I wonder what advantage there is to launching your spaceship like a primitive rocket when it has "gravity coils" and other such space magic.
Between the suspicious name and Heller's choice of landing pad, when Gris looks out the window he sees that "WE WERE TOTALLY SURROUNDED BY FLEET MARINES!" But any tension proves fleeting as Heller steps out and immediately starts palling around with Commander Crup, a character so minor, from so far back in the story, that he isn't even listed in Disaster's Key. Heller's landed at the Emergency Fleet Reserve, you see.
Everyone's rattled because they came close to shooting him, since they only saw it was Tug One coming in during the last two seconds of the flight. So nobody ever got a look at this "system patrol craft," but they waved it in to land at a Fleet base anyway. Anyway, Heller asks for some marines to escort this prisoner from the "drunks" to the Royal prison - not like the shabby prisons for riffraff that the Apparatus operates and recruits from, mind you, a proper prison for real criminals. Then he gets to planning with Crup, Old Atty, and even more minor characters who don't get names. Someone hands a bag to Heller, he hands the bag to Krak, Krak disappears with it into the ship.
Suddenly, I heard a step in my door and glanced hastily sideways and got the impression of a Fleet marine beside me. I felt a surge of fear. They had come to get me!
Heller talked about getting some marines to take Gris to prison, and then some marines showed up to take Gris to prison!!1!
I felt the buckles of the gimbal bed part and looked up.
Oh, he was strapped to the bed? The whole time, or just as part of that tail-end landing? Did Hubbard have Heller land the ship that way so Gris would have to be strapped in?
Is he still tied to the chair, strapped to the bed?
I WAS STARING INTO THE FACE OF THE COUNTESS KRAK, DRESSED AS A FLEET MARINE!
I DON'T KNOW WHY THIS WARRANTS ALLCAPS BECAUSE SHE DID IT IN BOOK ONE AND IT ISN'T EXCITING OR DRAMATIC IN ANY WAY!!1!2.
Her hair was tucked under the combat helmet. The tan, high-collared tunic was darker than the slight tan of her face. She had done something with makeup and looked like a too-handsome young space soldier.
So that was how he was going to hide her. I overcame my terror at being so close to her and filed the information away.
"Countess Krak: currently crossdressing as soldier" is now assigned to short-term memory.
And on that non-cliffhanger, the chapter and Part suddenly ends.
Back to Part Sixty-Five, Chapter Four