Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Part Forty-Seven, Chapter Three - That Deadly Weapon, Morality

Right, let's see what we can do to get this plot moving.  Leave her in neutral and put your backs into it, lads.

Gris realizes that he might be putting the cart before the horse here, and that gathering intelligence is a waste of time if you have no way of acting on it - or to use his words, "It is no good, I discovered, to do a plan to use a tank and then have no tank to gather."  He looks around, but nobody's left a tank in his hotel room, so he concludes that he'll have to use his brains.

What he actually uses is the power of contrivance.  Gris just so happens to notice, underneath the cockroaches, an old newspaper that just so happened to be left in his room, and which just so happened to have a headline about someone's morality being called into question.

It was an omen!


I well knew Voltar customs were different.  The tremendous life expectancy there meant that one had to be pretty sure who he or she was marrying before taking the plunge: otherwise one could be stuck with an unsuitable partner for a century and a half.  So it was quite unusual for a man and a woman

And only a man and a woman, thank you very much.

to live together for anything up to two years before tying the final knot.

So... not all that different from Earth, then.

The only way you could get a "divorce" in the Confederacy was by finding the other partner guilty of bigamy or adultery and getting them executed, as the penalty for those was death.  So marriage was a totally fatal step.


But Earth customs, I knew

No, go back, why is Voltarian marriage absolute and final?  Why is the price for infidelity death?  And what do these things have to do with life expectancy?  What about the expected duration of a marriage makes it a capital crime to end it?  Why does the government feel the need to enforce these measures?  What is the reasoning behind them?  Religious?  Economic, so that voiding a marriage is viewed like trying to back out of a business merger?  Something even more nonsensical?

You're never gonna tell us, are you, Master Storyteller?

But Earth customs, I knew, were much different. One was expected to take the plunge without any data at all on the other person. They frowned heavily on loose living, no matter how much they practiced it.

It was a weapon.

I'm not sure the 60's and 70's happened on this version of Earth.  And I guess this is still satire and insightful commentary on modern society and all that junk, except it's coming from a perspective of vicious marital conservatism.  So what, we gonna say the Voltarians are right?  Death to adulterers?  Enforce "'til death do you part" with the electric chair?

Gris takes his new "weapon" to the office of our old friend, Madison the anti-publicist, who's complaining that he's lost the front page (oh noes!) ever since sending the Whiz Kid to Kansas.  Gris speaks for all of us and asks "What's this fixation on Kansas?" and Madison reminds us that he's trying to turn the Whiz Kid into Jesse James.  'cause when you hear about racecars and revolutionary fuel sources, you think of a train robber who died in 1882.

The bombshell is dropped - Gris reports that Heller is living with a woman, and they aren't married.  Madison thinks about it and admits that, amateur though he may be, Gris' idea has some potential.  So Gris runs back to his shabby hotel and gloats about being a spider and spinning his webs, before going back to staring at the viewscreens while Madison takes actions that he hopes will turn out to his benefit.  Like Books Three and Four all over again.

He catches Heller at a service station, joined by who the chapter will either refer to as "the gawky country boy" or just "the boy," not Richard, not Dick, not even Rockecenter the Second.  Geeseebee is of course gawking at the land yacht.

"Good golly!  Whereja get this big motor home?  That's the flashiest vehicle I ever see!"

Heller said, "I think my girl stole it."

It'd be nice to know how he said it.  With a wry smile?  A genuine grin?  A worried frown?  Sadly?  Approvingly?  Golly gee, it sure would be nice to have some way to identify with the character we're supposed to be rooting for, but we can't really empathize with him if we don't know what he's thinking or feeling.

Heller introduces Geeseebee to his "mob," and the kid is quite excited to meet "Bang-Bang Rimbombo, the most notorious car bomber in New York," because there are good murderers and bad murderers, and it turns out to come down to whether or not your outfit helps the people you don't kill get high.  He's also delighted to learn that all his pigs will be coming along too.  Then Krak walks into sight and gets out Gris' credit card to pay for all the diesel.

I turned the viewers off hastily.

But never mind, flies.  The web is spread and you are flying straight into it.

This web, with one strand in it, subcontracted to a second spider with an extremely hit-and-miss record when it comes to fly captures.  And I'm gonna watch you, and watch that other spider, and hope that you run into each other, like the master manipulator I am.

The attack might be slow but I was sure it would be deadly.  I knew Madison.  I had seen the gleam in his eye.  There would be a kill!

Yeah.  "Kill."  This guy's one success was convincing a mob boss to cut ties with Heller, which ended up merely setting him back a bit since he was able to become insanely wealthy with his magic telescope.  Again, Madison's ability to create an alternate reality for an imaginary Whiz Kid to play in only affects the plot when someone is stupid enough to believe it.

But as luck would have it, there happens to be someone close to Heller who latches onto ideas even though they aren't grounded in reality, then acts on them.  Someone who avoids attempts to clarify miscommunication.  Someone with a stubborn loyalty to worst-case scenarios and misunderstandings.  So the question is, how many chapters will it take for this person to read a newspaper?

Back to Chapter Two

1 comment:

  1. The stuff about divorce in the Confederacy contradicts the bit from book one where Gris meets that army officer who just got divorced, too.