It's nearing half after eight, the "deadly zero hour" for the operation, this "rendezvous with fate." Bury and Gris meet up with Police Inspector Grafferty, who under Bury's orders has deployed every one of the city's squad cars to seal off the pier, and is quite surprised that tonight's events will be entirely legal. Though Bury does advise him to keep his men away from the Free Trade Zone - they both know that Americans won't stand a chance if brought up before the International Court of Human Rights.
Beyond the police cordon are sixteen M-20 battle tanks deployed in battle formation (on a New York street? Where is this staging area exactly, and how does it have enough room for nearly twenty tanks?), their NATO banners and pendants fluttering in the breeze. The "very British and smart" crewmen are all standing in front of their vehicles, and give a "Roy-all sa-loot! HUP!" when Mr. Bury identifies himself as the agent of Delbert John Rockecenter. Watches are synchronized, orders are given, and Mr. Bury hops in the lead tank's cupola while Gris rides on a track guard. Stealthily they...
Yes, sixteen tanks just "stealthily crept" into position merely fifty feet away from the entrance to Pier 92. They're approaching on an otherwise deserted street. Sixteen tanks, multi-ton behemoths of war with "roaring, snarling engines," are sneaking up on somebody.
It's pretty obvious Hubbard never gave this turkey a second glance after doing the first draft, but now I'm wondering if he even looked at what he was writing.
Do you like long, rambling speeches? Speeches that muddle Shakespeare and Paine up with hackneyed lawyering references? Speeches that are presented as one huge half-page paragraph?
Bury looked at his watch. We were in plenty of time. Bury looked down at me perched precariously on the tread cover. "Brilliant man, Hatchetheimer. He rapped off this plan, just like that. A masterpiece. I hope it works. Too bad he chose the wrong side more than three-quarters of a century ago.
Whaddya know, a clear suggestion of when the hell this story takes place! Yes, it's approximately... now-ish. Guess ol' Hatchetheimer was on Hitler's general staff at the tender age of 15 or something.
A loss to the world. Eighteen different countries want him as a war criminal. It makes it difficult to send him supplies for his terrorist activities.
In the next half hour, we'll know the best or the worst. The loosing of the dogs of war is always a chancy thing. But 'Cry havoc,' I say. When the court fails to return a favorable verdict, there is always the bazooka to decide the last event. You should remember that, Inkswitch. In your present position you have to get used to these times that try men's souls. In minutes now, this case goes to the final judge and we either stand, weapon-shorn, before the last tribunal or we will have that God (bleeped) Madison safely in our clutches. The prosecution rests."
With Bury's speech over with, Gris and the waiting tank crews spot boats no doubt deployed from that aircraft carrier (that was as of a few hours ago in drydock), and teams of Navy SEALS ghost into position near the warehouse in this Free Trade Zone. Bury confides that the real problem with Madison is his car, "an Excalibur. It's a replica of a 1930 open touring phaeton, mostly chrome."
Now that we're established to be in the 20somethings instead of the 1980's, all these strange affections for the culture of the 1930s make even less sense. If it's not Capone-era gangsters, it's vintage cars, or movie stars from the early Golden Age of Hollywood. It's not even a societal thing like the Fallout series' retro-futuristic design. There's only "normal" characters and those who like the 1930's, we haven't seen anyone with a fondness for Renaissance Festivals or any decade other than that of Hubbard's youth.
In due time a little old lady, Madison's mother delivering food, suddenly appears... she doesn't drive up, and she couldn't have come up the street without noticing the eighteen tanks, so who knows where she came from. She totters towards a huge shipping container resting on the pier. Then the operation begins and the SEALS open fire (with blanks) and fire a bazooka (not a blank) at the container. Immediately that Excalibur roars out to take a hail of gunfire, only to veer off when Bury orders four of the tanks to open up with their machine guns.
For trying to capture a guy in an open-topped vehicle, they're firing a lot of bullets at him.
Madison speeds up 12th Avenue, and Bury orders the tanks after it. Tanks. Racing after a car. Gris guesses their speed at "Eight? Ninety? A hundred!" For reference, one of the fastest tanks known today, the Leopard 2, has a listed top speed of around 42 miles per hour. It must be the future!
Or Gris is an idiot. That's probably the simplest explanation.
So the tanks are chasing this vintage super-charged car down the highway, occasionally firing their guns at the guy they're still trying to capture, and I guess this finally explains part of this sodding book's cover. But then the Excalibur suddenly slows and comes to a stop, followed by the tanks slewing to a halt. You see, crewmen from the aircraft carrier Saratoga installed those wires that snag and slow landing aircraft so they don't go over the side of the boat. On the highway. To stop this car.
Mr. Bury called up an ex-Nazi, ninety-year-old general for advice on how to catch this wily, dangerous PR agent, and the plan they came up with involved Navy SEALS and a police cordon and a friggin' armored company, and in the end they caught their guy thanks to a cable across the street.
Hey, Bury? You know what could've accomplished the same thing using equipment that doesn't cost billions of dollars? A SPIKE STRIP!
Or hell, intercept mommy's supper and drug it. Or capture momma and hold her hostage. Or send the SEALS in to nab him while he's sleeping. Or use a neutral third party to just pass along an offer of employment if you want this guy to work for you. Why in God's name does this require tanks?!
So Gris and Bury go to confront Madison, who speaks in press releases: "Banner Headline Obituary 18-point type quote MADISON DIES BEGGING FORGIVENESS unquote subhead 12-point ROCKECENTER FOREVER LAST WORDS unquote text quote Yesterday on West Side Elevated Highway comma J. Walter Madison" and so forth. But Bury tries to explain that Madison's not in trouble after all.
Madison is incredulous, and rattles off his list of failures, such as an eighteen billion dollar loss in Patagonia when Octopus Oil holdings were seized after the country's president committed suicide, and an attempt to win over American Indians that ended with them exiled to Canada (what?), not to mention that he just kinda ran over his mom in his escape attempt. But Bury reassures him that his mom's fine, and if he's at work tomorrow he'll have an assignment ready for him.
As Gris and Bury drop Madison off at his mom's condo, Bury explains things - they send Madison on purpose to, for example, get Indians exiled so their oil-rich lands can be seized, or bankrupt Patagonia after it attempted to pay for the appropriated Octopus properties, allowing the whole country to be taken over by the bank Rockecenter owns. Even though Madison is a terrible PR man, his bosses make good use of his ability to ruin his clients.
So why was he living on a pier in fear for his life? If he does the job his bosses want him to, why break the illusion that he's a good agent and drive him into hiding? Why isn't he being safely held in an office somewhere surrounded by sycophants that reinforce his delusion? And what about Madison is so dangerous that they needed tanks to capture him?
Riding back to the Bentley Bucks Deluxe, I knew I had been right. It had taken an aircraft carrier and tanks and the whole New York police force to get this thing started.
FOR NO GOOD REASON!
Not even the Gods could help Heller now!
So to recap, the Bad Guys' master plan to ruin Heller once and for all is to hope that he hires this terrible PR agent and follows his advice, thereby making a fool of himself. Not applying the same excessive force used to hire the PR agent against Heller himself, nooo! Just the PR agent, if Heller goes along with him.
And these Bad Guys secretly control the whole world.
And somehow following the ideals of the author who presented this scenario is going to prevent the future from becoming so stupid.
Back to Chapter Five