Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Part Sixty-Nine, Chapter Four - Military Law is Hard

I'm kinda disappointed that Chapter Four's first paragraph is a bait-and-switch.

Mister Calico thoroughly enjoyed his ride to New York.  Jet was travelling on non-U.S. airlines that were not too insistent on putting pets in special boxes---after Jet talked to them---and the flight attendants let him have a spare seat beside Heller, a window seat from which one could admire the various seas and mountains.  He also enjoyed the food, both in flight and in a posh restaurant during their long layover in Brussels.  He also enjoyed his twin bed in the deluxe hotel.

What can I say, I think it'd be refreshing if we had a chapter told from the perspective of that damn cat.

Also, why didn't Heller take the tug?  Use the absorbo-coat to land in total stealth, have the New York former-Apparatus branch pick him up, tell Corky to take 'er up to a hundred miles up and come when he whistles.

The phone service to Izzy and the office is still suspended, but Heller's able to contact his condo staff - Izzy never laid them off - so there'll be a chauffeur waiting when he lands.  God forbid our hero stoop to calling a taxi.  After landing, Heller's progress through the airport is slowed by the usual case of customs agents running a body search of an old lady after deciding that her smelling salts were cocaine: "a typical American welcome-home for Americans."  And, as we saw earlier, this is not dry sarcasm, but explicit government policy.

As for Heller:

The corpse at the immigration desk took Heller's passport, looked up in his secret book to see if Jerome Terrance Wister was wanted anywhere, pushed buttons with his knees, read secret screens and, giving no sign of anything, let Heller through.

Which is better?  Starting an undercurrent of tension early in the chapter, or having things be fairly routine so that the later shock will be more powerful?

Heller has to hand over his cat food after the customs agents find that the FDA has identified carcinogens in its preservatives (sorry, Mr. Calico), and then he has to hide the cat in a bag so the animal isn't quarantined, leading Heller to joke that the cat is now an illegal alien on top of his other crimes.  Heller killed a hundred million people a few weeks ago.

After noting that the airport is crawling with military folks, Heller meets Balmor, who is not in the book's Key, and the chauffeur, assuming he and Balmor aren't separate individuals, at the Rolls-Royce, because Heller deserves only the best conveyance when moving from scene to scene.  They make it to the penthouse's front door when some gun-toting fellow steps out to declare that Heller is under arrest.

It's the military police, who Heller guesses were alerted by "that bird at airport immigration."  Heller's charged with desertion for failing to report during the general mobilization two days ago.  Heller counters that he had a waiver, the MP says the waiver's been revoked.  Heller explains that he just got back from out of country, and at this point the MP backs down because he doesn't want to deal with a lawsuit, paperwork, or the paperwork resulting from a lawsuit.  Instead he promises to overlook the whole "deserting your country in its hour of need" thing if Heller puts on his uniform and gets inducted.  Heller's still worried about Izzy, but agrees

"I've been away," said Heller.  "Would you mind telling me what this war is all about?"

The captain sighed.  "I don't know what use you'll be to Intelligence, not knowing that.  But there isn't any war yet.  This is just a presidential mobilization.  This is Friday.  War will be declared just as soon as Congress meets Monday.  They're being real legal this time."

It's one of those crises important enough to warrant military mobilization, but not getting Congress together for a weekend emergency session.

"Declared on whom?" said Heller.

"Maysabongo, you idiot!  Those (bleepards) have got all our oil and the only way we can get it back is declaring war and seizing it under the Enemy Property Act."

Heller reeled.

Hmm.  Maybe Heller should've developed that oil-free engine and gotten it distributed before yanking all the fuel out from under the world's premier gas-guzzling superpower.  We'll see more about the weaknesses in Heller's plan next chapter.

He had gotten his first inkling of how Izzy was in trouble!  He must be in the middle of this impending war!

And here he himself was, in the grip of the army, and couldn't help him!

And he knew he didn't dare stay on Earth more than another five weeks. To be here longer would be fatal to the Emperor and the base!

So get out of the grip of the army?  Karate chop, judo throw, toss 'em over the side of the building?  I'm sure the butler will be too polite to mention it to the authorities.  Or is Heller the space commando too squeamish to fight the uniformed soldiers of an opposing power, who are keeping him from completing his mission?

All this to say, it's a good thing Heller had the whim to call and check on Izzy last chapter, or else he'd have missed the whole eminent war and energy crisis.  Be kinda embarrassing to spend a few days of quality time with Krak in Turkey, only to flip on the TV and hear about it after the fact.

Back to Chapters Two and Three

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