Friday, May 25, 2012

Part Twenty-Six, Chapter Two - The Rockecenter Story

We go from Gris deciding to get to work in the last chapter to Gris sitting for an interview with one Senator Twiddle, as though he teleported to the capitol building.  "The ease with which you can get to see a United States Senator is mind boggling.  You just tell his secretary that you are the head of a local labor union from his home state and bango, there you are in his presence!"

Twiddle, a man of "a patrician if someone alcoholized countenance," was revealed as a Mafia contact during Gunsalmo Silva's interrogation, while Gris knows him to be a loyal supporter of Delbert John Rockecenter.  Gris asks if he can get a face-to-face meeting with Rockecenter to pass on some dire information, but Twiddle balks at this.  This Rockecenter is a dangerous fella, so dangerous in fact that Twiddle spends half the chapter giving an impromptu lecture on the Rockcenter family history to a patiently listening Gris.

I got two questions for this chapter.  First, Rockecenter's company is doing lots of business with the Apparatus, right?  Getting all those drugs to Voltar to get everyone hooked and under Lombar Hisst's control?  So presumably there's some way for the Apparatus to get in touch with these people.  Why then does Gris have to go through a mob contact in the US Senate? 

Second, Gris seriously doesn't know about Rockecenter the man?  I can buy him not being familiar with the family story, but you'd think he'd at least know a little about the linchpin of the Apparatus' schemes on Earth and beyond.  Why isn't Gris the one telling us this as he drives to a meeting with Mr. Bury, Rockecenter's attorney?  Is this whole chapter set up just so the author can make fun of a senator who says "don't quote me" five or six times during his story?

Anyway, here's The Rockecenter Story: they were originally the Rochengenders (according to Babel Fish, "skate towards that"), a German family that immigrated in the 1800's and made money selling crude oil as a cure for cancer.  Oh, and the patriarch was wanted for rape.  You know, to establish that these guys are bad blood even in the beginning.  As Twiddle puts it, "The family proceeded to go downhill while their finances went uphill."  We're not told what they did to make them worse than a rapist snake oil salesman, but just accept that every single member of this bloodline is a villain and we can get done with this chapter all the faster.

The next generation, after changing their names to Rockecenter, expanded the crude oil business and found new ways to use it when the automobile was invented, managing to dodge a Congressional attempt to break up their monopoly in the early 1900's.  The next generation expanded into drugs, and the one after that into politics, but the fourth generation "started to go to pieces" because wealth only lasts three generations (due to socialists).

But then Delbert John Rockecenter emerged to turn the family's fortunes around by remembering its founding principles: "Be moderate.  Be very moderate.  Don't let good fellowship get the least hold on you."  And "Trust nobody."  This involved price-gouging everybody and ruthlessly crushing any competition and murdering his Aunt Timantha to claim her inheritance, so I guess even moderates can be hardcore.

"Now, you may think he's old to look at him.  But don't let that fool you.  He's a powerhouse of cunning!  He's the most rapacious (bleepard) I have ever met.  He is as crooked as a corkscrew.  He has my undying support!"

O... kay.  Well, at least Senator Twaddle (?, NJ) is open about his evilness.  None of that "ends justify the means" stuff or a subplot about being blackmailed into compliance, Twaddle knows Rockecenter is a slimeball, and supports him for it.

So Twaddle finishes his story with "And that's the man you're asking to see personally," reassuring Gris that not even heads of state get to see Rockecenter whenever they please.  But he'll pass along Gris' message to Rockecenter's attorneys.  Then Gris reveals that he can already talk to Rockecenter's attorneys through his Mafia contacts.

Then why is Gris here?

Gris' comment about the Mafia gives the senator pause: "The unions and the Mafia.  I should have known."  After asking if Gris is sure there's a serious issue, and being told about the possible alternate fuel source threatening Rockecenter's oil monopoly, the senator agrees to set Gris up with credentials as a Senate Investigator.  This - and not Gris' membership in a smuggling operation connected with Rockecenter's pharmaceutical interests - will guarantee a meeting with the man himself. 

Heller, I said to myself, your chin is almost under.  All you need is one firm push to grease your hair with boiling oil.

Now all I had to do was pry Utanc out of Washington.

Oh, yes, let's not get carried away and move on to the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist.  More time wasted with Utanc, please.

Back to Chapter One

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