Jettero Heller pulled up. He was almost to the edge of the pool. There was no cover.
Stationary and totally exposed, Heller is blown in half by concentrated fire from Hisst's
He could hear the din of battle somewhere in the sky.
He thought if he could only get his hands on Hisst he might end this. But in that split instant it looked like Hisst was going to end him instead.
Stationary, totally exposed, and uselessly reflecting on his half-baked plans to "get his hands on" the man who usurped the throne, Heller is reduced to a steaming pile of ash by Hisst's
Heller had a handgun. It was almost totally discharged. He doubted it would even cause a bruise at this distance.
Stationary, totally exposed, unarmed, and making a mental tally of all the things he's done wrong, Heller is take the bloody shot already, Lombar!
Heller had jinked to the left.
The shot missed.
Of course the bad guy, who has the good guy in his sights, holds his fire until the last second. Of course he goes for a single shot instead of spraying the whole area in blast fire. Of course he misses that single shot against a totally-exposed and formerly-stationary target.
But Heller had drawn as he jumped.
He didn't fire at Hisst.
Heller fired at the water between him and the tank.
An enormous spray shot up!
As a result of shooting his depleted handgun that could barely cause a bruise, right.
Heller hides in the water under the tank, while Lombar remembers that his gun has an Extremely Rapid Fire setting and hoses down the pool around him, creating a "boiling spray." Heller has to protect his ears from the "concussions" of Lombar's energy weapon, but isn't, say, boiled alive as Hisst discharges a similar weapon to the one Heller recently used to turn a patch of desert into magma. Our hero finds an air pocket trapped under a "tread fender" on this flying tank, realizes the shooting has stopped, and surfaces to find Hisst no longer in the tank. Instead the Apparatus chief is swimming towards the shore of the pool, and Heller quickly follows.
Lombar reaches the edge first, pulls himself out, and once again has Heller at his mercy.
Hisst unslung the blastrifle and pointed down. He pulled the trigger.
It was wet and shorted out. It did not fire.
Could've been worse. He could've missed again. The ammo clip could've fallen out of the gun. It could've slipped from his wet hands. He could've panicked at the sight of Heller, thrown down his gun, and run away screaming. Compared to all that, the weapon shorting out because it got wet is pretty dignified.
Panicking because his weapon is useless and he now recognizes Heller, Lombar throws down his gun and continues to flee, running up a nearby flight of stairs. Now, if you've managed to piece together a working geography of these books' setting, good on ya! Way to put more effort into the story than it deserves! Anyway, you might have an idea whose palace Lombar is about to run into. Or maybe you're familiar enough with narrative conventions to realize that there's a character we haven't seen for a while who needs to be dealt with before the story can end.
He was grabbed suddenly from either side.
Two men in silver livery threatened him with electric battle-axes.
Lombar stumbled to his knees. He looked up and stared into the face of a teen-aged girl--Teenie, Hostage Queen of Flisten.
"You are my prisoner," she said. And to her men, "Take him inside and knock him out if he so much as twitches!"
Now, if it were me writing Mission Earth - well, first I'd probably be considering suicide, but after I'd come to terms with what I was working with, I'd have stuck this chapter in Part Eighty-Five so that the cliffhanger wasn't whether Lombar was capable of shooting Heller. A story like this, there's no doubt in the reader's mind that Heller is going to survive to the end, and get a castle and all of the money and millions of worshipers. This development works as a end-of-Part cliffhanger because it's a legitimate puzzle that the hero will have to work out. Or rather a more legitimate puzzle, this is still extremely stupid.
Heller finally gets out of the pool and comes up to Teenie, and she repeats her statement about Lombar being her prisoner. By now Snelz and the Absolutely Useless have caught up with our hero, who notices that Teenie slipped into English to say "Clear off, buster," is chewing gum, and more to the point is "awfully immature, young," because the key to Teenie's character is that she isn't sexually mature yet, to add that illicit thrill to all the times the author has her get naked or engage in sexual activity.
Teenie admits to being an Earthling, but still insists she's the Hostage Queen of Flisten and therefore properly Your Majesty. Heller refuses to kneel and fights the urge to laugh, but introduces himself as a representative of Prince Mortiiy. The conversation is interrupted by an Apparatus spaceship falling out of orbit into a nearby park, with no ill effects for the cast.
At this point Teenie reveals what's going on - once Palace City's time distortion was torn away, it suddenly became capable of being attacked, because what else is the Fleet going to do, fly a ship into its airspace? So the Fleet and Army declared for Mortiiy and promptly blew that Apparatus invasion fleet out of the sky. They couldn't do that weeks and weeks ago to stop the millions of deaths, see, because then there'd have still been a few Apparatus schmucks in Palace City, which is impenetrable, and... well, Prince Mortiiy would have had to set up a new palace somewhere, and all those government officials would have had to move their offices. It'd have been terribly inconvenient.
Heller suggests that Snelz and his men strip to the waist so they look more like rebels than Apparatus defectors, and while Teenie appreciates the "God (bleeped) striptease," she still demands that they negotiate with her for Lombar's custody. She'll hand over Voltar's first and worst dictator if they give her J. Walter Madison, who Heller is shocked to learn is on Voltar, and Soltan Gris, whose survival Heller must have already learned about through Homeview.
"And I want to point out that this territory I am standing on is the domain of the Hostage Queen of Flisten and happens to be inviolate. The only way you are going to get Lombar Hisst is swap [sic]!"
This is hardly unexpected. Good has triumphed over evil, the bad guy is in a cage, and it's only a third of the way through the book. As in Battlefield Earth, Hubbard is going to treat us to a long, dull, drawn-out denouement.
So, hope you enjoyed The Doomed Planet, 'cause it's all downhill from here.
Back to Part Eighty-Five, Chapter Six