So it's been what, a year? And if I remember correctly he's written a whopping one report. So is he due for another one soon? Might that give Gris a chance to see where Heller's hidden that platen of his? Or have we dropped that subplot entirely?
Anyway, Gris is disappointed to spy Krak and Heller listening to Rigoletto, an opera "where everyone kills everybody and even drowns them in a sack still singing," instead of the news on the Rolls-Royce's radio. They drive from their ultra-luxurious non-shabby fully-butler'd apartment to their not-quite-as-luxurious but still tastefully-decorated offices in the Empire State Building, and completely ignore the stacked and folded morning papers waiting for them there.
Heller makes a business call to Florida, trying to reconcile his spore factory's needs with local ordinances about the permissible height of smokestacks in swamp properties. He needs his "propulsion stacks" to be five hundred feet high, because of "impulsion."
"They've got to blow rings," he said. "Big green rings of spores. If they are not propelled high enough, they won't reach the stratospheric winds. One goes every minute and if the stacks are any shorter, the perfection of the ring will foul and the resultant tumble will impede successive firings. They have to be five hundred feet tall."
Since we're talking about magical green spores being fired out of towers by alien science, there's not much you can say here - maybe he can't reduce the firing rate for some reason, and maybe the magic spores being fired in a ring formation as opposed to a rhombus shape is absolutely critical. And hey, near the equator the stratosphere starts about ten miles up, so Heller needs every foot of "propulsion stack" he can get.
Krak meanwhile is giving a lecture to fifty of the country's best electrical engineers, gathered together under Power, Power, Power Inc. She tells them all about beaming electricity through microwaves, which might be new to them (it shouldn't be), and then tries to explain to these certified electricians that "if we regard power as a stream of water which yet can be beamed and focused, we can see that a central collection station in a country may receive power from a source and then deflect and focus it to subreceivers which, in turn, can focus it upon consumption units." Standard Voltarian power distribution stuff, even Krak can talk about it.
And Gris freaks out, because this threatens Rockecenter's energy monopoly built on wonderful, polluting coal and petroleum. "So what if, as the environmentalists said, Rockecenter practices were wrecking the atmosphere? The environmentalists were missing the whole point! The action was PROFITABLE and that was everything!"
But here's the thing - Krak is talking about microwave energy transmission. As in, you shoot electric energy to another point without using wires. But correct me if I'm wrong, that electricity still has to come from somewhere, right? And Heller hasn't talked about shooting a solar collection satellite up into orbit to beam down some energy to microwave around. So unless Rockecenter's invested heavily in power lines, this shouldn't threaten him much. (editor's note from the future: as it happens, Heller does have plans for a satellite, but we'll have to wait for Book 8 to experience that stupidity)
Which isn't to say that Heller doesn't have an alternative fuel source that does threaten Rockecenter's energy monopoly. He brought out that magic carburetor as early as Book Two. But this microwave energy isn't nearly as big a deal as that.
So half an hour later Krak is done, and she and Heller chat about those backward engineers "shedding a few prejudices about energy," and they do get out a newspaper, but only to use as a plate for cat food.
The only one reading that newspaper was the cat!
Then I knew what it was. It was a policy they must have. A conspiracy! You could only be happy on the planet if you never read newspapers or listened to the news.
But not watch the news on the TV, evidently. Huh. And no mention of TVs in Heller's apartment or office. That seems a... rather significant oversight.
And while this was perfectly true, it gave them no license to gang up on me.
That beautiful story was failing!
Operation: Hope They Read a Newspaper And Believe It is in peril!
She was going right on helping Heller to undermine everything worthwhile: MONEY!
Between the two of them they were going to salvage life on this planet! Oh, the villainy of it!
I knew I would have to act!
And not the "give Madison a newspaper idea and hope for the best" kind of act, no. Gris is going to go talk to an entirely different set of people and then hope for the best.
Back to Chapter Six