Friday, August 28, 2015

The Expensive Slaves - Part Three - The Invisible Enemy

The Arlington douche is understandably alarmed when Ole Doc comes running into his office holding a bloody liver, though this quickly changes to anger when our hero tells him that he's got to return the Kufra to where they came from.  "Why should I spend a fortune doing that?" he asks.  More on this later.

The slavemaster talks about having the Kufra all killed for causing the plague, but Ole Doc is like 'nuh-uh, I'm a doctor!'  He also points out that killing the aliens would just leave the "poison" behind, and brings up that tale he misremembers as an Italian turning his daughter into a biological weapon.  When the Arlington douche still refuses to cooperate, Ole Doc gets out his big guns: a piece of yellow paper with

George Jasper Arlington

written on it.  Unlike in the first story, our bad guy doesn't understand the significance of this, forcing Ole Doc to explain that it's

"A personal yellow ticket.  I go now to give them to all your spaceships, all your captains, all your towns and villages.  No one will come to you, ever.  No one can go from here, ever.  There will be no export, no import.  I abandon you and all space abandons you.  I condemn you to the death you sought to give your slaves.  I have spoken."

So a half-assed attempt to reason with the guy, followed by a threat to kill an entire settlement through disease and starvation.  Our hero, laddies and gentlewomen.

The Arlington douche finally asks just what's wrong with the slaves, and what disease or poison they're spreading.  Ole Doc doesn't quite answer, though - he shows off the liver again, and points out "the remains of a malignant and commonly fatal tumor of this particular species of colloid.  It is a cancer, Arlington."  Now a colloid is just a term for a certain type of mixture, with nothing really to do with cancers or livers, so I'm not sure whether this is some primitive, early 20th century medical science going on or just Hubbard not knowing what he's talking about.

Anyway, the Arlington douche complains that cancer isn't contagious, but Ole Doc just says "Look at it" and presumably waves the organ at him until he agrees to return the Kufra to Sirius 68, alive and unharmed, in exchange for Ole Doc's help treating the rest of the settlement.  The ruler of Dorab whines that shipping the slaves out will cost him "half my fortune" and all his laborers, and Ole Doc recommends hiring the galaxy's best engineers to make "some machinery" for the timber industry, and the doctor will whip up some Potions of Resist Cold so normal humans can spend some time out of doors.  Not mentioned: frakking robots.

Now, that stuff about space travel - Dorab is worth fifteen trillion spacebux, and the Arlington douche controls the majority of it.  So if we take his comments at face value, it would cost trillions of dollars just to ship one load of slaves between two worlds.  So space travel in this setting is advanced enough to allow movement between galaxies, across distances so vast that the mind doesn't just boggle, but curls up in a little ball and pulls blankets over its head, and yet it's also prohibitively expensive.  This makes the first "Old Doc Methuselah" story even more problematic, and casts serious doubts on the feasibility of interstellar trade in general.

And just how much was that little atomic "pile" Ole Doc picked up last story worth, anyway?

Ultimately it's fear of Ole Doc's threats and "the thing in his hand" that makes the Arlington douche relent - try flourishing a bloody, diseased liver the next time you're haggling with someone - and so the next page is our hero saying goodbye to the Kafra.  Their still-nameless leader shakes hands with Ole Doc, promising to build a shrine and direct their prayers to the physician as if he were another deity.  Ole Doc smiles and pulls out another piece of yellow paper - well, a sheet of "eternium satin" - that reads


Know all wanderers of space, all captains of ships, generals of armies, ministers of governments, princes, kings and rulers whatsoever that this
Planet Sirius Sixty-eight
Has been declared in perpetual quarantine forever and that no inhabitant of this planet is to depart from it for any cause or reason whatsoever until the end of time.
 By my hand and seal, under the watchfulness of God, by the power invested in me, so witness my command:
Soldier of Light

And Ole Doc tells them to enshrine that, and "show it to all who would come for you and be deluded by your manlike appearance into thinking you could be slaves."  So the closest to the human form a species is, the more likely people are to think it's okay to clap them in irons?  Also, "None will violate it for the men who conquer space are not the men who rule its petty planets and they know."  Hooray brave explorers, boo politicians.

So now, if any slavers show up over Sirius Sixty-Eight, and they just so happen to decide to raid the settlement of these specific Kufra, and they just so happen to examine the primitives' shrine or pay attention to their pleading, they'll read the note and turn around and go home, having wasted trillions of spacebux on an easy yet incredibly expensive space journey.

As opposed to Ole Doc giving the crew of the spaceship sending these guys home a little automated beacon they can put in orbit that will automatically radio any incoming ships a warning about the quarantine.  I mean, these space men do have generic communicators, so they must have radios in their spaceships, right?  Surely the super-genius Soldiers of Light have a better way to mark a quarantine than a single sheet of paper?!

Ugh.  Once the former slaves are on their way home, Ole Doc goes around using the "proper rays" to treat the survivors in Dorab.  The day is saved or whatever.  An awed Arlington douche apologizes for mistaking the 792-Earth-years-old Ole Doc for "some kid," but asks for more information about just what was going wrong with the slaves.

"I don't mind telling you," said Ole Doc, "now that they've gone.  Slavery is a nasty thing.  It is an expensive thing.  The cheapest slave costs far too much in dignity and decency.  For men are created to do better things than enslave others.  You'll work out your industries some better way, I know."

I'm really looking forward to the part where Hubbard explains why Ole Doc's relationship with Hippocrates, who he purchased and who treats him as a beloved master, is different and healthy.

The Arlington douche nods and agrees, but presses Ole Doc to answer the actual question.  So our hero explains that the various creatures in the galaxies can have very different metabolisms, such as Hippocrates, "My man there," and his gypsum-based diet.  He figured out what the Kufra eat when he found that cancerous liver, a cancer that had been healed.  It's not stated, but the conclusion is that the dead girl's liver had been given impromptu chemotherapy, because the Kufra have a plutonium-based diet.  So those "rather expensive slaves" were irradiating everything and everyone around them.

In other words, these spacemen don't have Geiger counters.  They don't take any steps to avoid falling victim to biological pathogens, and they have no way of telling whether the worlds they're exploring or the people they're meeting are hotter than Chernobyl.  The Universal Medical Society has created a terminally stupid galaxy, so their agents get to fly around solving problems that shouldn't exist in the first place.

The Arlington douche is very respectful and asks if he can give anything to Ole Doc in exchange for rescuing his people from their own idiocy, and Ole Doc initially shrugs it off before remembering that one of his fellows asked for a bottle of Mizar Musk.  And that wraps up our story,

Which was how Miss Rogers received a full hogshead of Mizar musk

Well, I say fellows, but since she isn't "Dr. Rogers," I guess the Universal Medical Society lets the girls stay in the kitchen while the boys do the real science.

and why the Soldiers of Light, wandering through a thousand galaxies,

It's almost like Hubbard is being stupid on purpose.

bear to this day the right to forbid the transportation of slaves from anywhere to anywhere on the pain of any one of those peculiar little ways they have of enforcing even their most capricious laws.

Grrrrr.  They don't bother to appeal to universal human rights or anything, the Soldiers of Light just can, if they feel like it, stop any slave trading they come across with one of their medical quarantines.  Nothing about stopping slave trades that are confined to a single planet, of course, God forbid these galactic medical overlords get political.

Every Ole Doc story I read, I hate these "Soldiers of Light" even more.

Back to Part Two 

No comments:

Post a Comment