So far, our mental image of Carlson is of a radical mad-scientist type. The guy who worked with him (Our Hero’s Father) has Carlson pegged as a somewhat pathetic anarchist would-be rebel without a clue, an ivory tower liberal who desperately wants to be a social justice ally. (Who is primarily frustrated by not being considered a social justice ally of the groups he wants to defend.) Someone we are primed to dislike intensely because he is an ivory tower academic liberal.
Our Hero’s Father, Jacob Stone on the other hand, is self-defined as an absent minded professor and a slightly pompous, distant authority figure. The elder Stone has basically turned his son Isham into a weapon to be directed at the villain of the piece! Isham doesn’t mind very much, as he is completely on board with the entire killing Carlson thing.
This is going to be important later.
This chapter opens up with Isham finishing his report to his father. They have a heart to heart chat about Carlson being the first man Isham had ever killed. We learn that the Techno community has a rival community referred to as Agros. The Agros hate the Technos, who blame them for Musky raids. (While buying the tools and anti-Musky weaponry that the Technos produce.) The conversation wanders onto the subject of revenge. Jacob Stone feels that even if killing Carlson at this point is revenge, it is revenge intended to serve as a warning to anyone who would impose their values on others. (The foreshadowing is going to sneak up on you and hit you in the back of the head if the iron doesn’t get you first.)
Then Isham kills his father by rigging a poison-gas trap in the bathroom.
This next chapter is a transcript of a recording that Isham makes for his teacher Colacci. The transcript is a detailed explanation of what actually happened after Isham blacks out. It is also a detailed confession of why he felt that he had to kill his father.
Our Hero wakes up! He is briefly under the impression that he had been found by his teacher, Colacci. He is somewhere between grateful for the back up because otherwise he’d be dead and disgruntled because his teacher felt it necessary to back him up, as you are when you are the second best assassin in the world. However, it is not Colacci but Carlson who has taken care of Our Hero Isham. Isham of course does his damndest to strangle Carlson but it is difficult to commit murder when you are recovering from gangrene and a recent amputation. Yes, Our Hero is now a one armed bandit.
Carlson having apparently tended to his injuries does not do very much to sway Isham from his mission. He hauls himself more or less upright and goes staggering off in search of Carlson. He finds the mad scientist and attempts to pretend that he does not know who Carlson is, in order to get close enough to kill him. Isham realizes that this is not going to easy, since he has already tried to kill him. They talk, with Isham pretending not to be and assassin and Wendell being very forthright about whom he is. The chapter ends with Isham being a very confused guy.
On side B of the tape, we learn that Isham grows increasingly reluctant to kill Carlson the more he interacts with him. Carlson does not seem to be in anyway “evil” enough for Isham to justify killing him. Adding to the reluctance is the way Carlson inadvertently reminds Isham of his father. Eventually, Isham finds a reason to kill Carlson: it turns out that Carlson has been attempting–and has mostly succeeded–in communicating with the Muskies. Outraged, he confronts Carlson with the intent to kill him.
But the mad avenger decides he needs to question the mad scientist.
What we learn is a reflection of the history created by Jacob Stone. It turns out that our mad scientist is an absent minded professor manipulated by an assistant into creating the virus and inadvertently starting the war with the Muskies. That assistant was Jacob Stone. Wendell’s horror and despair at what happened apparently protected him from the Muskies, who seem to respect deep heart felt despair. Wendell has been attempting to open up diplomatic relations with the windriders but for the most part, has been mostly unsuccessful.
Isham Stone is completely horrified by the revelation that his father is the one who set off the plague. He does not want to believe that it is possible, but Wendell makes a very convincing case. A crucial aspect of the story is that the “proof” that Jacob Stone is the one who set off the plague is that he deliberately destroyed his ability to smell. Therefore, Isham deliberately created a gas trap that could be detected if you had a sense of smell to kill his father.
The transcript ends with Isham telling his teacher Colacci exactly where he’s living, and states that he is attempting to learn to communicate with the Muskies.