Mission Earth had been brought to a HALT!
Yaaay! The already sputtering plot is now dead in the water!
Wait, did I say Gris was jubilant? Because immediately after celebrating his victory with the line above, he says
But there was a danger that activity on their part might start it up again.
So the enemy is defeated and not going anywhere, but what if they start moving again? How suspenseful!
To make sure Heller and Krak's halting is permanent, Gris turns once more to Madison, who explains that he's got the Whiz Kid saga planned out for years, and will culminate when Miss Spread "claims he got other members of his gang to rape all the livestock," but a less sanguine Gris points out that one of the papers let the story fall off the front page. Madison replies that he'll use his connections to get that paper's staff fired, Gris points out that he can't just fire every editor in the country, and we get some absolutely riveting dialogue.
"Yes, I can!" he said.
"No, you can't," I said.
"Yes, I can!" he said.
In a way, this is a very empowering book, because it likes to remind me of all the productive things I could be doing right now instead of reading it. My desk is looking a little cluttered, I should put up those pens and papers. Could probably afford to dust it too. If the weather stays nice, I could try and get the cobwebs out from between the window panes. Maybe shelve some books, I'm letting them stack up in front of each other.
Anyway, Madison assures Gris that he's got everything under control, and sure enough the next day's headline reveals that the Whiz Kid, while robbing a train in Kansas like a modern Robin Hood, decided to force himself upon one Toots Switch, and to avoid violating the Mann Act while violating the girl, forced a parson passenger to marry them at gunpoint so the consequent consummation would be nice and legal.
Satire means you can make up stupid stories, stick them in an in-story newspaper, and laugh at the media for being stupid.
Gris prances around his (Pinch's) apartment in merriment, but checks on his foes and sees that they're showing no signs of having heard the latest development in the fictional Whiz Kid's imaginary exploits. So he calls up the lawyers from a few chapters ago to get them to deliver another suit to Heller's apartments and force the heroes to notice the elaborate web of lies he's weaving around them. The lawyers are hesitant because, even though the author forgot to tell us this two chapters ago, Heller was carrying and almost drew a gun the first time he got served by a shabby lawyer. But Gris gives them instructions for the lawyer to buzz in as Lombar Hisst.
Krak is the one who's at home for the call, and as Gris planned tells the butler to admit "Hisst." She's surprised when it turns out to be "the shabby man in the shabby coat with the shabby hat pulled over his eyes," and immediately realizes that something is amiss. Somehow this man knew a name that would make her see him, a name that only a handful of people on the entire planet know. And since she never trusted Gris to begin with, it seems likely that he's somehow involved with these shabby bearers of outrageous misfortune...
Wait, that's not what happens at all.
"You're not Hisst," she said.
"Madam, as a member of the household of Wister, I give you this. He has been served." He jammed the paper into her hands and fled.
Confused already by the false announcement, she opened the paper.
And there before her eyes was the Toots Wister nee Switch suit and all its gory details legally phrased.
And that's it. Krak's train of thought about Hisst getting namedropped doesn't even leave the station. She is immediately and fully distracted by a legal document alleging adultery, cries in the bathroom a bit, calls Mamie Boomp to sob about how "he was already married!" and gets invited to Atlantic City. She makes another call to schedule transportation, absently mentions that "If I only had my own ship I could go home," and the guy on the other end immediately sets her up with a personal luxury yacht that just came on to the market, courtesy of Gris' credit card of course. Gris moans about his security deposit for... it's been at least a dozen times by now, surely?
And know what? I'm gonna skip the half-page description of Krak's luxurious new yacht. Because it doesn't matter. It's not important. Nobody's sighing happily now that the Countess Krak has a boat with gold fittings in the captain's cabin and two swimming pools. Nobody's life has been improved by reading about Krak's fully-crewed two-hundred-foot floating palace. It's not advancing the story, it's not telling us anything about these fictional people, it's just treasure being dropped in the laps of the author's pet characters without action or effort.
To use a nerdy metaphor, this is a Dungeon Master running an all-NPC Monty Haul campaign. In front of a paying audience.
Krak's designated maid helps her pack, i.e. Krak sits on her mopey ass while the maid does all the work, and then she's driven to the docks and boards her nautical castle. Gris realizes that she might be heading out of range of our favorite plot device, the bugging equipment implanted in her skull, but Gris has a plan to deal with that problem:
Well, never mind. Maybe the yacht will blow up and sink. I had to look on the brighter side of things.
Yes, optimism! Optimism without action or thought. Just hope that your potential problems will spontaneously combust. That's how granddad licked the Nazis, that's how dad thumped the Commies, and that's how we'll clobber the Terrorists.
The chapter ends with Candy and Pinch sitting down for a meeting with Gris about their childrens' future. Gris protests that Rockecenter's policy is for employees to get abortions or pink slips, their choice, but these two rebel former lesbians have turned on Psychiatric Birth Control and are determined to experience "the joys of motherhood." To get around Rockecenter's policy, Gris'll have to marry them.
So Rockecenter ruthlessly orders his employees to terminate any pregnancies and tries to break their minds and twist them into horrible homosexuals, unless they get a loop of precious metal and a legal document, at which point he apparently shrugs and finds something else to do.
The main villain's idea of action is to tell other people to do stuff mixed with hoping that things will work out for him, the heroes are incapable of having an honest face-to-face conversation to clear up a pretty dumb misunderstanding, and the Big Bad's plan to depopulate the planet can be thwarted by a Las Vegas quickie marriage.
Mission Earth. Forty-eight Parts long now, and still going on stupid.
Back to Part Forty-Seven, Chapter Ten