As to the "why", X = 9**9**9 == 9**(9**9) = 9**387420489. Nine to that power is a number aproximately 1.2 billion bits long. (log(9)/log(2) * (9**9)). So, for all intents and purposes, it's infinity.
Since it's odd, -X will be negative infinity So, it avoids the (possible?) non-portability of a raw 'inf' or '-inf'.
Update: Duh, Ben. Re: strikeout. Plus it's specifically negated. I was thinking (-9)**9**9)
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