"It was hours later and the hangar presented a very strange sight," Gris says, which is odd language for someone purportedly giving an account of his past actions from a prison cell. Heller's managed to climb up and "somehow" switch off that airtight hologram of a mountaintop, no doubt making the locals freak out about sudden vulcanism. I'm sure back in Book Two they explained that spaceships could go through it anyway, or that they conspicuously caused the mountaintop to disappear whenever a ship tried to land, but I'm not going to check because either outcome is stupid.
Krak's standing guard with a blastrifle, Prahd's come in to tend Gris' wounds, Gaylov is still tied up, and Heller's set up a table and chairs in the middle of the hangar. All the officers, still tied up, are situated around it, while the rest of the similarly bound base personnel are dumped nearby. The debilitating effects of an opium overdose are easily dispelled by Prahd's "oxygen respirator." Nobody's got the shakes or anything, all it takes is a blast of sweet, sweet oxygen and they're at 100%.
Couple of things on the agenda of this post-opium-high, captive conference. First Heller whips out his Grand Council mission papers, reading them out loud "in a very official voice" and passing them around, in order to convince everyone that he has no intention of killing them (drug overdose notwithstanding). Then he declares that this base has been dealing in illegal contraband, and he's putting a stop to it.
"You can't!" said Faht Bey.
"Oh, yes, I can," said Heller. "Under my own cognizance and as a Royal officer of the Fleet enforcing His Majesty's regulations, I am commandeering this whole base in the name of the Voltar Fleet."
So, uh, why now? You knew about the drugs half a year ago. You knew the Apparatus wouldn't be doing anything good with them. So why let it keep going on for months and months while you loafed around in a whorehouse or puttered about on a racetrack? Why didn't you call a meeting after finding the drugs, whip out the paperwork, and then gone on with your mission, but with the additional support of the commandeered base?
"The Chief of the Apparatus would kill us!" said Faht Bey.
Heller reversed the hand blastgun and pointed it at their faces. "I think there will be some changes on Voltar when I return," said Heller. "But if there are not, you could always say you were forced to do it at gunpoint."
Hero bravely threatening helpless prisoners...
Oh, wait, it's okay because right afterward, he unilaterally declares that they're all working for the Fleet now, and will get paid accordingly. Even Prahd! And because the Fleet is so wonderful, even employees with no prior legal status, like these schmucks, will get full amnesty and recognition under the law.
All the base personnel are agape with unspeakable delight, and then Faht Bey asks about Gris. Heller declares he'll be taking "that creature" to Voltar for trial - he's talking about Gaylov, as a witness - and with such testimony, the courts will surely make "short work" of Soltan Gris.
They suddenly began to cheer, and even the cordwooded crew began to yell with delight. The hangar practically exploded with their joyous shouts.
At length Faht Bey looked around and shouted, "Do we accept his deal?"
The din was deafening!
"Then untie us so we can get to work!" cried Faht Bey. "We got to get this place so it looks like the Fleet!"
Good lungs for a bunch of folks recovering from a powerful soporific.
And Gris? Gris is disdainful of such traitorous riffraff, but knows that he's the one who's winning here. After all, Lombar controls Voltar, not the council. So he'll just go along like he's cooperating, they'll fly back to Voltar, and then whammo! Lombar will execute him alongside Heller and Krak for his staggering incompetence!
Heller's actions would not be condoned. They thought I was their prisoner. Actually, they were mine.
I would manage it so that I would be taking this Royal officer they were so stupidly applauding back to his death. And their own demise would soon follow! They were double-crossing Lombar Hisst, who now controlled Voltar.
Yes, two paragraphs after reminding us that "Lombar controlled Voltar now," Gris makes sure we know Lombar Hisst is the guy who now controls Voltar. And yes, he's still not thinking of any way to save his own skin, he's fully preoccupied with getting other people killed. So either his character has become fatalistic and vengeful after failing so many times, or he's being stupid as usual.
Back to Chapter Six