Monday, August 3, 2015

Ole Doc Methuselah - Part Two - The Rescue

So an hour passes, as Ole Doc continues to fish and Hippocrates continues to watch.  The narration explains that the local star is Procyon, though it doesn't mention the fact that it's a binary system, even though the white dwarf Procyon B was spotted fifty years before this story was written and had been inferred to exist even earlier.  Since we're already on some sort of "asteroid planet," we probably shouldn't expect our legendary science fiction author to sweat the details.

Anyway, after an hour of nothing, two things happen - Ole Doc gets his fishing hook caught in his hat after it bounces off the force field during a cast, and a girl stumbles into the meadow.  And then a third thing happens when an "Earthman" also charges into the meadow, shouldering through the forty-foot-tall stalks of flowers - oh, did the author forget to mention those?  Because there are ginormous flowers next to this meadow.  Maybe this is a bit of worldbuilding, since Ole Doc was more impressed by the green grass than the megaflora, which just goes to show what fantastic sights he's used to.

Also, how about that force field?  Hippocrates put it up and left a gap where Ole Doc was, but it didn't prevent two people from running into the clearing.  And we can't say that the force field is over the ship, because Ole Doc bounced his fly off it while trying to fish (despite the aforementioned gap).  Hmm.  Maybe it's a force field that only repels "radiating pellets" and fishing lines, but not humanoids.

We're barely on page 5 of the story.  Maybe I need to nitpick less.

So the girl is stumbling towards Ole Doc, the "Earthman" is momentarily taken aback at the sight of the "huge golden ship with its emblazoned crossed ray rods of pharmacy," but then he spots the nearby fisherman and quickly positions himself between Ole Doc and his ship.  Hippocrates mentally turns from page 49 to page 115 of the space manual he's memorized and jumps from his spot on the ladder to the top of the ship.  The alien tries to get a good shot at that Earthman, but he hesitates when the girl gets in the way, and then the Earthman gets close enough to Ole Doc to put him in the danger zone too.

And it's then that Ole Doc notices that two people have entered the meadow he's camping out in.  Which is pretty reasonable, I mean his line was badly tangled in his hat.  Excuse me, now the hook's in his shirt.  Let's assume Ole Doc can be comically clumsy instead of rolling our eyes at the author's inability to keep his facts straight.

But Ole Doc doesn't need more than second to get on top of the situation.  He instantly deduces that "the adrenalized condition of the woman was due to the Earthman, that was clear."  Odd that a female is a girl or woman regardless of where she's from, but males are designated by their planet of origin - wait, nitpicking, sorry.

Anyway, "The Earthman was obviously a blast-for-hire from some tough astral slum, and he had recently had a fight, for two knuckles bled."  And since the Earthman is obviously a tough guy and the nondescript space-girl, who has now fainted at Ole Doc's feet, is scared of him, this Earthman is therefore an enemy.  So when he closes to "a fatal fifteen feet," Ole Doc flexes his wrist and embeds the hook of his fly into the guy's upper lip - a bit of a slip-up on Ole Doc's part since he'd been aiming for the nose, but "The beggar was less hyperthyroid than he had first estimated."

I checked Wikipedia and asked my doctor, and learned that an overactive thyroid has nothing to do with the size of one's nose, while the symptoms of hyperthyroidism - weight loss, weak muscles, bulging eyes - don't really lend themselves to a thug lifestyle.

Once the Earthman is hooked, Ole Doc is able to pull him into the stream - the hook doesn't tear through the soft flesh of the Earthman's lip or anything - and while he's still screaming, disarms him of his... um.  Well, I've read back over the last page, and there's no mention of the Earthman carrying a weapon.  But never fear, Ole Doc disarmed him of whatever he had on him.  Presumably it was a ray gun, because Ole Doc uses one to pistol-whip the Earthman "just back of the medulla oblongata - which took care of the fellow nicely."

So the Ole Doc's idea of a non-lethal KO is a precision strike to the part of the brain that regulates stuff like breathing and heart rate.  A part of the brain well-protected by the skull and vertebrate.

Next our hero makes a hand signal, so Hippocrates brings him two hypodermic needles.  The first goes right through the Earthman's clothes into his gluteal muscle, but don't worry, there's "sterilizing radiation" on the tip of the needle.  Ole Doc lifts up his eyelid and tells the guy "You're a stone!"  And he goes still, staring blankly, being a stone.  So even though that blow to the brain "took care of [him] nicely," Ole Doc decided to use drug-assisted hypnosis just to be safe.  And didn't feel like using a sedative.  I guess hypnosis is more effective?

The other shot is for the girl, but Hippocrates notes it's getting close to thirty-six o'clock, and so picks her up and carries her indoors, only grunting when Ole Doc tries to command him to stop.  The girl is dumped on the floor of the Morgue's medical facilities so Hippocrates can assemble the necessary serums and "proper rays."  Ole Doc is contrite enough not to say anything more, and simply rolls up a sleeve and exposes his arm - "as a man does before a fireplace on a cold day" - to the life-giving Science! flowing from the tubes.  We're not told anything about this procedure beyond that it takes five minutes and needs to be done every five days.

With that vital task completed, Hippocrates shifts the girl onto the exam table and gets the lamps right while Ole Doc gives her the second shot.

Ole Doc was smiling, smiling with a strange poignancy.  She was a very pretty girl, neatly made, small waisted, high breasted.  Her tumbling crown of hair was like an avalanche of fire in the operating lights.  Her lips were very soft, likely to be yielding to--

"Father!" she screamed in sudden consciousness.  "Father!"

Ole Doc looked perplexed, offended.  But then he saw that she did not know where she was.  Her wild glare speared both master and thing.

Eeesh.  So with the Earthman, Ole Doc is all business, using his Sherlockian ability to scan someone's appearance and deduce who they are and what they're doing, while also (incorrectly) linkng what he sees to their internal biology.  With this girl, it's all 'wow, she has great tits, and kissable lips!'  And then he's offended when she wakes up and is frightened instead of thrilled to see him leering down at her.  Great physician, this Ole Doc.

Also, Ole Doc is a "master," and Hippocrates a "thing."  It looks like slavery is cool in this galaxy, but are aliens rare and unusual in this setting?  Even when they're sapient, are they still considered bizarre?  Why can't we refer to Hippocrates as a Zenoan or something?

"Where is my father?"

"We don't rightly know, ma'am," said Ole Doc.  "You just--"

"He's out there.  They shot our ship down.  He's dying or dead!  Help him!"

Her dad's close enough to be rescued in good time, but not close enough that Ole Doc or Hippocrates noticed the ship going down?  Well, for all we know they did, but Ole Doc kept fishing and Hippocrates dismissed it as unimportant.

Anyway, into action.  Hippocrates leaves the Morgue in a great leap that actually makes the ship rock slightly - even though he's just a meter tall he weights five hundred kilos.  That's three feet, three inches and 1,102 pounds, for us stubborn Americans.  By the time Ole Doc has reached those tall flowers around the landing site, Hippocrates is already coming back the other way, carrying a man on a torn-off spaceship door while reciting page eight of "First Aid in Space," the part about lung burns, in his high, squeaky voice.

Ole Doc walks alongside the girl's father - who else could it possibly be, anyway?  It's not like a second spaceship could've crashed nearby without them noticing.

He felt a twinge of pity for the old man.  He was proud of face, her father, gray of hair and very high and noble of brow.  He was a big man, the kind of man who would think big thoughts and fight and die for ideals.

Nothing about his kissable lips, and unlike the still unnamed girl, it's all about what kind of person is beneath those physical features.

The old guy's a pretty gruesome sight what with all the burns and everything, certainly "not a thing for a young girl's eyes" - assuming she didn't see what state her father was in when she escaped from the crash.  So when Ole Doc gets back aboard, he shoos the still-nameless girl away with a hand gesture, the "professional imperiousness about it which thrust her along with invisible force."  You want to stay by your father's side in his darkest hour?  Clear on out of here, you delicate flower of femininity.

When the geezer is on the operating table, things look grim.  There's meters on the wall tracking his pulse, breathing, even hemoglobin... I guess the exam room's Science! can tell he's lost a lot of blood?  The worrying part is that all those meters are in the red, while the big dial is slowly falling towards black.

"He'll be dead in ten minutes," said Ole Doc.  He looked at the high face, the high forehead, the brave contours.  "He'll be dead and that breed has gone enough to seed."

I don't... so are genuine Earthmen rare now?  Even though the thug was the Earthman, and this guy hasn't been described as such.  Maybe this guy with his high forehead is, as phrenology tells us, a superior breed of human?  Or is just another instance of Ole Doc being quirky in this whimsical, pulp science fiction story?

Whatever, it's time for Science!  Ole Doc flips some switches, dynamos start roaring, the smell of brimstone fills the operating room... it's interesting, the author spends a good paragraph making this very sinister.  The tubes are arcing with a "snap like a hungry beast," one device makes a "muted scream" while another growls, a "smoky light" covers the table accompanied by the sharp scent of ozone.

This all disintegrates the patient's clothing, so there's a series of clatters as coins and buckles fall to the floor.  No, this doesn't add further burns to the patient.  No, the metal isn't superheated or anything.  Then Ole Doc flips more switches, there's more noise, and the edges of the gaping wound in the man's chest begin to glow, while his exposed, beating heart(!) begins to slow.  The light over the table shifts through blue to an impenetrable black, and then Ole Doc shuts everything off.  The top of the table is slid off, and it along with the patient is stowed in a "gravelike vault" lined with green tubing and filled with coiling gases.

And that's it, space surgery's over.  Ole Doc's the sort of medical genius who knows what buttons to press while the automated systems go to work, not the kind who can correctly diagnose thyroid problems.

Guess it's time to see what that girl's deal is.  Tune in next time as we're properly introduced to our principal female character and get a bucket of exposition dumped on us.

Back to Part One

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for noticing the little things. Like the descriptions of the girl and her father... oh god. I never really thought about it. I guess it's in line with Hubbard's attitudes towards women.