Thursday, October 17, 2013

Part Seventy-One, Chapters Two and Three - You Will Believe a Tank Can Fly

Having bamboozled the bazooka-toting soldiers, Heller steps outside and orders a sergeant to give him a detailed map of Rockecenter's route, to make sure it's safe.  There's a bunch of Maysabongo partisans out and about, don'tcherknow.  Blew up a few buildings just last night.

Heller sketches a copy and gives it to Bang-Bang, along with some instructions that the book will hide from us for the sake of drama.  Bang-Bang takes a "despatch rider"'s motorcycle and nearly runs down a bunch of soldiers on the way out, because the Army-Marines rivalry is hilarious, while Heller takes the cab to go after Rockecenter.

He had expected to catch up with Rockecenter by the time they had reached the Tappan Zee Bridge.  But when he went through the tollgate, he could see no sign of the limousine or tank on the long span across the Hud­son.  He hoped Bang-Bang was riding fast enough.  Rockecenter was certainly revving it up.

Wait just a moment, this will make sense then.

A paragraph or two of driving along the scenery, noting that the roads are clear because all the gas is gone, then suddenly Heller comes upon "THE LIMOUSINE AND THE TANK!", conveniently pulled over to fix Rockecenter's limo's antenna.  Because otherwise they might have outrun Heller.

Heller has superhuman reflexes, but he's also doing eighty around a blind turn, and so rips right past his quarry.  He makes up for this by turning the move into a skid that ends with him out of sight and undercover, watching the road.

And now we get the important information that Rockecenter's escort is one of those obsolete, wheeled tanks used by the Army Reserve, able to speed along highways at a reasonable rate.  That would've been nice to know last chapter while we were wondering why it'd be difficult to catch up with the thing.

Heller watches the tank and limo go by, the tank's driver sitting in the open top hatch, "goggled and helmeted and holding a drawn .45."

That told Heller all he needed to know.  They had orders to shoot him.

Really?  The Army's decided that another Army vehicle is a threat to be destroyed?  Rockecenter's declared that anyone who passes his needs to die?  I'll tell you what didn't happen, Rockecenter didn't get in touch with the soldiers back at his mansion and learn that his "son" was on the way to help him, because when Heller returns in two chapters he isn't shot for his deception.

Heller waits as the tank and the limo continue along their route, musing about how vital it is that he get those patents back, 'cause otherwise Rockecenter would bury them and continue "the profitable pollution of this planet."  At least he's smarter than those Captain Planet villains who delighted in oil spills.

If Rockecenter succeeded in getting war declared, control of all the oil companies, which he had already, would come right back into his hands.  

We need to stop him from getting the thing he already has, right.

And so would the other things he already controlled, such as banking.  He still owned all the governments by way of international finance.  The only thing Heller would have effected would have been the removal of the threat of nuclear war, by destroying Russia. 

See, Heller killing Russia was a good deed!  

And maybe Rockecenter would build that up again somehow so he could sell arms once more.

Or - and bear with me here - instead of spending a lot of time and money rebuilding a bunch of comet debris so he could continue to sell America anti-Soviet nukes, Rockecenter could sell arms to other countries.  Let's see a new Cold War between America and Canada!  Nukes sitting nose-to-nose on either side of the border!  Bans on maple syrup and Canadian bacon!  Quebec trying to play the two sides against each other a la China!

Heller did not care what happened to Rockecenter himself now.  The man had committed the cardinal sin of breaking his word and, to a Fleet officer, that ended off any mercy that Rockecenter might expect if it came to a final showdown.  They had given him what was really a fair out: he had taken advantage of it like a thief, even to the point of stealing their wallets.

Rockecenter's thugs tried to kill Heller on at least three different occasions, he's cheated and swindled his way to dominate the planet, he even conspired to kill his own wife and unborn child, he has no taste in interior decorating, but when he breaks his word, that's when Heller decides he's past mercy.

I guess I was born on the wrong planet to understand Voltarian ethics.

Alright, reflection over.  Heller gets in gear and catches up with his prey, which spots him coming and once again somehow knows that he's an enemy.

The tank swerved out, let the limousine pass it and fell in behind the car.

Heller was hastily checking his speed.

He didn't check it fast enough.

A burst of machine-gun fire slashed the trees to his right!

Wait, the tank's machine guns are forward-facing and it's still following the car - it hasn't spun around because the turret still needs to traverse.  So how is it shooting backwards at Heller?

The tank turret was coming around.

Heller braked hard.


The tank shell hit the road in front of the cab and screamed over the top of it in a ricochet.

Heller slued the cab over into the left-hand lanes.


Another shell hit where the cab had just been!

And then the tank and limo disappear around another bend, and Heller follows.  As he drives he gazes out at the Hudson, admiring the clear skies and wondering whether the lack of cars or mass-produced "spores" are to credit for it.  It takes a certain measure of skill to defuse the tension in a car chase involving a tank, don't you think?

Heller speeds up to catch up again, comes up on the tank and limo again, dodges a pair of tank shells again.  But this time he spots a motorcycle parked on the side of the road, realizes the significance, and does a sicknasty 360 before putting the cab in reverse, to avoid...


All caps and italics.  Any louder and it would've been bolded, too.

Bright orange fire erupted from under the highway and bloomed hugely into the sky.

A hundred-yard strip of highway was going up into the air!

The tank was flung, as from a catapult, high out over the river!

As it hit the zenith of its flight, it suddenly exploded as a bomb of its own.  Its ammunition and gasoline ripped it into a balloon of fire.


The concussion hit the cab and the tires screeched as it shot backwards.

Then Heller saw the limousine.

It was high in the air, turning over and over.

It spun slowly and plummeted down into the Hud­son, hundreds of feet below.

So ends Chapter Two, with the villain's limo sinking in a river after being nearly blown to smitheroons.

Heller dodges raining boulders of pavement as he drives up to Bang-Bang, who was supposed to blast out a simple barricade or something instead of taking out the whole damned road.  But before you chew out this former Marine and Corleone mafia bomb expert for a sudden lapse in judgment, know that Heller gave the guy Voltarian explosives "a million times as powerful as Earth dynamite" but failed to warn him about their potency, assuming that Bang-Bang would know how to use them to get the result Heller wanted.  Because that would be a Code Break, I guess.

Heller spots the limo bobbing the surface, already beginning to bubble and sink again, and starts stripping.  "You can't dive three hundred feet!" protests Bang-Bang, who has a good eye for vertical distances.  "You didn't see this," answers Heller as he pulls out a round cylinder with a dial on the end... the Mission Earth slash fiction just writes itself, doesn't it?

Heller took a run and leaped off the top of the cliff.  He went way out.

I mean waaaaay out, dude.


Gaping, Bang-Bang saw him hanging by the cylinder in one hand.  He did not know it was an antigravity coil and he couldn't register what he was looking at.

It's called an Immovable Rod.  D&D players can find all sorts of wonderful uses for them - hold a door closed, make a floating sniping platform, stick it in a sleeping dragon's mouth...

With the thumb of his other hand, Heller gave the dial another twist.  He swooped down a hundred feet.  He thumbed the coil again and, using his body as a plane, dived in the direction of the bubbles still coming up from the sinking limousine.

Yet another miraculous item we can file under "why did it take him this long to get this out?"

The water is apparently "cold."  Heller goes diving and tries to get in the limo, and it's very exciting because he needs that thank-goodness-it's-waterproof briefcase right now and finding professional divers to loot the wreck would take too long.  To summarize two pages, Heller stabilizes the limo with the immovable rod, bringing its end above the surface, and jimmies a door open.  He shoves the driver's corpse out of the way, otherwise ignoring a person whose only crime was driving around Heller's enemy.  No pity, no remorse, no comment.  Then:

He found himself looking into the staring eyes of Rockecenter.  The body had followed him, impelled by the current of water.

Heller had an impulse to push it back.  Then he didn't.  He took it by the collar and hauled it out of the car.

Aaand that's the limit of his reaction to killing the most powerful man on the planet.  Maybe he'll think of something to say next chapter.

He only had two hands and he now had two objects, the case and the corpse.  And he had to recover that coil!  To leave it would be a Code break, for this car possibly would be recovered.

Bang-Bang doesn't count when it comes to state secrets?

Heller recovers the doodad and starts swimming back to Bang-Bang, Rockecenter's corpse and briefcase in hand.

Heller, as he paddled, glanced around at the deserted landscape.  These gasless days, they had the whole world to themselves.  Americans, in a culture built around the automobile, could only stay home.  Aside from a few birds, no witnesses.

Except for... uh oh, run for it Bang-Bang!

Back to Chapter One 

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