Gris regains consciousness pinned to his seat by a broken instrument panel, the back of which is on fire. He gets to put it out with his bare hands, screaming all the while. He takes a rest afterward, and notices a beam of moonlight coming through the ruined hull to illuminate the face of Lombar Hisst, surrounded by broken cables and wiring, making it look like he's "lying in a nest of snakes." The guy's last name is "Hisst," his eyes keep narrowing to slits, and he likes to strike out at people with a little stabbity whip-thing, but there might be a few readers out there who don't get what the author's going for, so let's throw more symbolism onto the pile.
Lombar wakes up to discuss recent events.
His eyes went slitted. "So you were part of the conspiracy to kill me!" he said.
"No, no! I came to warn you and save your life!"
"Conspiracy to kill! You came to set me up for Heller! The two of you have been in it thick, all the time!"
"NO!" I tried to hold up my hands. "I even kept you from burning to death!"
"And all this was a ruse! You pretended to come with a warning--me, whom the angels have chosen to be king! Just so you could get me into the air and Heller could shoot me down!"
"Oh, dear Gods, no! You've got it all wrong!"
"I know who my enemies are. They are everybody. And you chose this chance to sneak up on me when I was undefended!"
Lombar must be crazy if he thinks Gris has the wherewithal to hatch and execute such a cunning scheme. Then again, he did hand Mission Earth over to the little twerp in the first place. Poor guy suffers delusions of having competent underlings.
Gris realizes the downside of working for a paranoid schizophrenic and makes a run for it. He pushes at the door - "IT MOVED!" - and manages to pull himself out of the wreckage by sacrificing his boots - "I WAS FREE!" Unfortunately he's free in the middle of a desert, two hundred miles from Government City or a nearby mountain range. Also, a swarm of vehicles is rushing his way.
So he dives into a nearby gully, curls up in a little ball, and covers himself with a flat rock.
I'd say "how the mighty have fallen" or something, but Gris isn't mighty. He hasn't fallen. He's just as lousy as he was at the start of the series. We can't sympathize with him because he's such a loathsome individual, and we can't exult in his downfall because we never bought the book's insistence that he's some sort of evil mastermind. We just sigh, roll our eyes, and wait for him to come out from under his rock.
Gris listens as the Apparatus soldiers deploy and upon Lombar's insistence try to "FIND HIM!" We get a page and a half of him hearing boots on sand and guns bouncing against their bearers. At one point someones come within a few feet of him, but the grunt declares "He'd be a fool to come this way. Nobody can cross this desert on foot," and turns back. Maybe Lombar's condition is contagious. Maybe the whole Apparatus is under the impression that Gris isn't an idiot.
From the sounds of it, Lombar's tied up by a cable in the wreck, so someone has to go back to base and get some industrial "conduit slicers" to free him. In the meanwhile Lombar keeps shouting orders: issue a warrant for the arrest of Jettero Heller for attempted murder, send a Death Battalion to Blito-P3 (that's Earth!) to investigate Gris' treason, and capture Gris so he can be tortured to death.
Also, Apparatus officers have names like "Captain Bodkin" and "Lieutenant Wipe."
Gris gets out from under his rock and looks around, lamenting how screwed he is since he's surrounded by hundreds of men and vehicles, and he can't even walk! Even though he managed to stumble out of the wreck to the gully... Anyway, he spies an unoccupied airbus and manages to crawl to it. Then he stands up and walks into it. Even though literally half a page earlier he... bah.
Gris starts the thing up - he doesn't even have to gush about his "LUCK!" for not needing keys - and "casually" flies away. He fails, and is shot at and pursued, so he has to zip this flying Greyhound along at 500 mph just above the desert surface.
The Blike Mountains?
No. The game wardens would be alerted and would round me up very fast.
That was insane!
And then suddenly I knew I had a choice. Trial and a quick execution. Or capture by the Apparatus and a month of untold agony. There wasn't much choice to it!
I fled for Government City, pursued by shots, speeding air vehicles on my tail, the air alive with explosions all around.
Just looking at the map helpfully included at the front of the book, I can see that Joy City, a bit further north than Government City in the east, is just about as far from Spiteos, and he could always go towards Palace City in the west, which is about the same distance. Port City, Commerce City, and Industrial City are all just a hundred miles further than his other destinations, so really, Gris' got plenty of potential hiding spaces. But the plot demands he turn himself in.
Gris' pursuers eventually let up, only because they're rallying other forces to catch him in the cities. Sure enough, Gris uses the bus' radio to listen in on orders to the "bluebottles" with his bus' tracking number. He's still in the desert, which means that his radio has a range of a couple hundred miles. So assuming interchangeable airbuses have interchangeable radios, Gris' could've called Lombar immediately after stealing his first vehicle four chapters ago, and contacted Apparatus forces to pass on his warning that way, instead of flying to Spiteos in person. But again, plot.
Half a paragraph of Gris hurtling through canyons, worrying that his hands are breaking from the strain of maneuvering at such high speeds, then suddenly he's upon his destination.
There was the Royal prison on a hill, a stern and ghastly fortress, ominous in the green moonlight. But it looked like refuge to me.
Lombar could not get me out of it if I got in.
It was suddenly getting bigger. Too fast!
I put my drives in reverse. I heard the machinery break.
I crashed before the very gates of the Royal prison!
Hey, if Gris' goal is to get tried and quickly executed, why didn't he just skip the trial and drive full-speed into a cliff? Or headbutt Spiteos or something, go out in a blaze of glory?
Tune in next time for our last(?) chapter with Soltan Gris.
Back to Chapter Four