Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Typewriter in the Sky - Chapter Nine - The Waiting Game

So after a seventeen-page behemoth of a chapter, now we get four-and-a-half pages of Chapter Nine.  My guess is that Hubbard wanted Mike and Marion getting all kissyface to end a chapter and thought that tacking on this bit after a paragraph break would underscore the drama or romance or whatever, but there's no way of knowing.

We fast forward through a month and learn that Mike has been getting nothing but bad news - Bristol's pirates have massacred everyone in the fortress of Santa Ysabel, Terra Nueva has been burned to the ground and its inhabitants eaten by cannibalistic natives, and Father Mercy is outraged that the English are murdering Catholic priests and "exalting their blasphemous Protestant creed!"  All the while, Mike's scouts can find no sign of the pirates, only the aftermath of their vicious attacks.

Everyone's urging Mike to take action and deal with Bristol once and for all, but he coolly and calmly rebuffs them.  When Nombre de Dios' governor demands that el almirante sally forth to wipe out the pirates, Mike points out that the minute he does so, the local Indian spies will let Bristol know that it's a perfect time to strike, so he'll wait until he knows for certain where the enemy is before he leaves his headquarters, thank you very much.  When Fernando reports that the English are offering a bounty for Spanish heads delivered by their Indian allies, Mike deduces that it's a lie, and if he doesn't give Bristol any easy targets, his pirates will run out of gold and be forced to attack him here.  And as for Father Mercy's complaints about dead priests, Mike's response is to knock him to his knees, point his rapier at the padre's throat, and suggest that he go back to church to "Pray for the souls of the people killed by the buccaneers and add a prayer for yourself, thanking your God that He put me in between the buccaneer fleet and the shore here at Nombre de Dios."

It helps of course the Mike knows Bristol's real objective is to reclaim the Lady Marion.  And so he waits patiently for a month... another month?  Same month?  Well, after news of attacks continues to come in, I suppose Mike loses his patience and gives a letter to a suspected native spy, a message asking Bristol to "Kindly fall upon Nombre de Dios so that we can have done with you," with a P.S. that "The Lady Marion wishes to send her love." for that little extra 'up yours.'  Within "a few weeks" he gets an answer from Bristol, advising that his men are coming for Lady Marion and she ought to pack her bags.

Isn't it nice when people can be civilized and work out where and when they're going to kill each other?  It certainly saves time running search-and-destroy missions.

So while Mike waits for the final confrontation with Bristol, he has a candlelit dinner with Marion where he voices his hope that Bristol lives up to his reputation, "Or perhaps that the god in the case is witty enough to see the import behind this."  She's uncomfortable with his talk about God, and she also calls him Mike.  Hmm.  So is she doing that because our hero has told his literary lover his real (nick)name, or is it because Hackett is subconsciously equating Miguel de Lobo with his real-life friend?  Or is it both?

"Shall I order your bags packed, my dear?" said Mike.

"That little horse you gave me today is a darling," said the Lady Marion.

And so the matter stood.

She... didn't actually answer the question, Mike.

So that's our mini-chapter, Mike sitting around, stoically taking losses, waiting for the inevitable showdown with his nemesis.  Have to say, this story delivers where Mission Earth didn't - we're finally seeing what it's like to be a (designated) villain while the (designated) hero closes in on you, whittling away at your "evil" empire before assaulting your "sinister" lair.  And unlike the main character of that garbage, Mike is sympathetic and more competent than even the story requires him to be, thanks to his knowledge that he's in a story, and he knows who's writing it.

See what happens when you admit that an antagonist doesn't have to be an irredeemable moron for him to oppose the protagonist, Hubbard?  Ugh, this actually makes Mission Earth even worse because now we know that Hubbard was capable of doing things right, but still gave us Soltan Gris instead of expanding on what he started here.

Unfortunately, it sounds like all of Mike's efforts will be for naught.

And so Mike won a little more time - which proved his own undoing.

And now the POV is getting temporally displaced rather than drifting behind the eyes of the other characters.  Somebody nail that thing down.

Back to Chapter Eight

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