This structure of paradoxes publishes magazines such as Slime, Tripe, Riffraff, Dirt Illustrated and Misfortune. Apparently in the grim dark future of 2010-ish, publishers will go completely negative and stop trying to hide the fact, while the reading public will lower their standards and willingly purchase a magazine entitled Slime. And I guess people are eager to read about Riffraff instead of Hollywood's latest batch of celebrities.
Bury and Gris take an elevator up an undisclosed number of floors and pass through a room reeking of marijuana and opium, as opposed to heroin, which still holds rural Virginia in its hoary clutches. There are people in there, in blindfolds, being led by others in blindfolds. Where are they going? Why have they all blinded themselves? No clue, they only appear for one line and have no further relevance to the chapter. But it's certainly some clever imagery used for insightful commentary! About how journalists are blind and helpless, reliant on editors who are also blind... or something.
Just visible past the drug haze are signs bearing the magazines' slogans: "All the News That Gives You Fits," "Unreality is the Only Reality" (what), "Slime, the Magazine That Doesn't Lie or Cheat Anyone But Its Public," "Always Check Your Facts in the Coatroom and Then Write Your Story," "They Want Blood, Give it to Them--Even If It Is Your Own." See, in the future readers will seek out publications that explicitly tell them that they will be lied to. Reflecting the magazines' priorities are the staff's doors - Libeller in Chief, Scurrility Editor, not to mention Head Pervert. In the future, instead of reading about perverts being put on trial, the reading public will want to read stories written by perverts.
It goes without saying that despite being able to identify the clouds of smoke as coming from heroin and marijuana, the drugs will have absolutely no effect on Mr. Bury, to say nothing of Gris, who is a Voltarian and as such particularly vulnerable to such drugs' effects.
We actually see some 2010-ish futuristic technology when Gris and Bury enter the office of the Owner-Publisher, who is out having an LSD-fueled gay affair with his psychiatrist. The room contains an unoccupied couch in place of a desk, and a console organ being played by a woman in a man's white-tie evening attire. As she presses the keys, instead of making music, the device projects an ever-shifting collage of images on a wall, pictures of corpses and graves, natural disasters and crashed vehicles, "a symphony of disaster." Gris finds it "rather appealing."
Unlike alien technology such as the Magical Telescope or Hypno-Helmets, Hubbard makes absolutely no attempt to explain how this If It Bleeds It Leads Pipe Organ functions, and Gris shows no interest in its workings.
Mr. Bury shoos the organist out and explains to Gris how journalism works: Rockecenter doesn't actually own any news corporations, instead they're all in debt to his banks, and as part of the terms of getting a loan or lease they have to take on a bank-selected director, who will then dictate what stories get printed and how they're spun. In this way they can also control the government by threatening to print embarrassing stories that cost elected officials their jobs. And Gris gushes on and on about how masterful this system of "closed circuit propaganda" is and how Lombar would be interested. He also presses a button on the keyboard and gets a nude woman being strangled to appear on the wall. "Not a bad looking girl, I thought."
I guess in the future the government has forgotten all the tricks like executive privilege or embedded reporters or selective leaking that it used to stay ahead of the forth estate in the 2000's we're familiar with.
Playing "Saint James Infirmary"... wait a tick, didn't someone sing that at the beginning of the last book? Yeah, Part Fifteen, Chapter One, it was on the radio in Heller's car! Back when Mary was still alive! So... huh. Is this a callback, or is Gris remembering a tune he heard secondhand several weeks ago, or did Hubbard forget he used this song already and is still cycling through the music of his youth?
Well, playing that song on the Grisly News Pipe Organ makes images of kaiju appear on the wall, and then Gris finds one key that triggers a rhythmic pulse of cascading blood, and then Madison walks in and Gris gets his first good look at him.
I was amazed!
Here was a clean-looking, rather handsome young man. He was impeccably dressed, quite conservatively. He had brown hair and very appealing brown eyes. He might well have been a model for a shirt ad. He seemed quiet, well-mannered, totally presentable.
Gris isn't gay, by the way.
Still talking in headlines - "Social notices. Madison arrived late and was deeply apologetic. Unquote." - Madison reports that he has his credentials as a Slime-Tripe reporter and has been put on a special independent assignment. Bury directs him to give Gris his contact information and assigns him to the Apparatus operative. The plan is for Madison, as a reporter, to go visit Heller and offer to assist him despite not being directly hired as a PR agent. Bury urges Madison to do his utmost to help Heller, which Madison is very enthusiastic about, vowing to make his client immortal.
As opposed to Bury and Gris making Heller extremely mortal, with the help of the eighteen tanks and aircraft carrier used to acquire Madison.
Madison leaves, followed shortly by Gris and Bury. Upon exiting the building, Bury checks the area for snipers, something he did not do before entering the building, or before leaving cover. He tucks his gun more securely in his holster, even though he did not draw it at any point during this chapter, nor was there any indication that he or Gris was in any sort of danger. Despite a whole third of last chapter being about Bury and Gris checking their weapons in anticipation of going on a dangerous mission, this chapter has been totally free of any threats or hints of conflict. Nothing but clouds of marijuana, blindfolded employees, and a woman on a holographic pipe organ.
The chapter ends with Bury giving Gris command of Madison for the near future, since Bury has to run off to Nova Scotia to convince the Canadian Governor-General to finish his genocide of the French minority so Octopus and seize the oil fields... wow. So a minority that makes up less than 18% of the province population is keeping Rockecenter's energy interests from rolling in? Go Francophones!
Gris, for once, is having second thoughts about this plan.
This Madison was obviously the nicest fellow you ever wanted to meet. He seemed even naive, taking a liking to Heller at once.
I wonder if Bury hadn't exaggerated the dangers in this fine young man. Maybe he would make Heller famous and successful after all!
Aw, that's sweet, the bad guy's falling for someone.
But now I'm conflicted. On the one hand, Madison is part of a scheme that is opposed to Heller, so it should be doomed to failure because you know, Heller. But on the other hand, Gris has now proposed that Madison might not hamper Heller, and because Gris is always wrong, Madison may now in fact pose a threat.
Back to Part Twenty-Seven, Chapter Seven