Krak has to go do other things, so she leaves Gris "on public display!" in the hangar, tied to a chair. All the base personnel find excuses to come by and gawk at him, whispering things like "You can tell a lot from faces: look at that scowl," which is totally unfair because that line on Gris' mouth is an injury from tripping on Teenie's skateboard. Prahd even comes by to give him another check-up with everyone watching, and when he declares that Gris is fit to travel, the hangar fills with cheers.
And Heller, working on the tug just a few feet away from Gris, does his best to ignore him. When Gris complains that he feels like one of Crobe's circus freaks, Heller directs his inquiries to the nearby guards. See, the folks in the base - and plenty of Turks outside it - hate Gris so damn much that the only way to keep him alive long enough to see trial is to make sure he's within Krak or Heller's presence, because only the respect these people have for "the officer and his lady" is enough to override their murderous impulses.
I think the implication is that the only reason anything good happens around this base is due to Krak or Heller's direct presence. Without them, its people would go back to being murderers who would tear apart a prisoner without a trial, but, thanks to the innate superiority of Jettero Heller, the Apparatus scumbags are able to function as members of society.
The weird thing is that the guards don't even mention how Heller's a Royal officer. We can only speculate about what paragons of service the soldiers would be if they focused on Heller's Royal credentials rather than his mere rank.
But there's more to this chapter than humiliating Gris or basking in Heller's awesomeness, we've got exposition to deal with. At this point Gris ceases to exist beyond a glorified prop, sitting silently in his chair, not even bothering to add his thoughts to his "narration."
Izzy calls on Heller's personal space-phone, and Heller's nice enough to answer it within sight and hearing of the book's narrator. Izzy's just here to say that he's nervous about how well everything's going. He sure is happy that Krak is alive, Fate (not God) must be kind after all, but...
"Well, bad news first. When Russia blew off the map, of course that killed all threats of international holocaust,
Of course. No other potential foes, no global hotspots outside the USSR. Russia's the only thing standing between us and world peace.
so the price of gold went down.
Hmm? No sudden spike in gold prices following the shock of one of the planet's largest economies being suddenly flattened? I can't remember a time there wasn't ads on Fox News urging us to buy gold or silver due to whatever the market/government did last week.
I was going to sell that weighty lot you gave me but it's only worth about six million now.
And wait, wouldn't that affect Gris' gold certificates or - no, I shouldn't be thinking about that subplot, it's over now.
Do you think I should hold on to it?"
"That's up to you," said Heller. "Is Russia that bad?"
"Oy, Mr. Jet. Russia ain't. And every one of its satellites has thrown off the yoke. It just shows you that there's a God in the heavens after all."
A hundred million people died. Must be a God after all.
Hastily, Heller said, "How are the options?"
That's about the extent of his reaction to the reminder that he wiped out tens of millions of people in an act of monumental stupidity. A fun game is to flip ahead in this book to a scene with Heller and see if he acts any differently than he did last book, before he bathed in the blood of the innocent.
After that there's some stock market stuff. Thanks to that fake radiation Heller shot at the world's refineries, and Miss Simmons screaming about it, oil stock is tanking. In two weeks when the stock options come into play, Maysabongo Oil will buy all the world's oil companies. Izzy doesn't mention the global energy crisis undoubtedly resulting from all this, or the oil companies' frantic efforts to figure out why every time they refine some crude it reads as radioactive, or the economic collapse of countries dependent on petroleum exports.
Remember, everything is going as planned. Apart from Russia, that was just serendipity.
Since all is well, Heller announces that he'll be leaving for an unspecified while, so Izzy will be in charge of the grand undertaking. Izzy immediately concludes that he's done something wrong, and begs "DON'T LEAVE US, MR. JET!" And Heller gets all choked up and promises to call Izzy back, and wanders off looking all sad, and I do think he's having a bigger reaction here than he did after his accidental genocide.
Next Heller talks with Faht Bey for two pages. Mission complete, something about this base stinks, I'm going to get to the bottom of it, don't send any more drugs back home, get these old freighters working while I'm gone. Finish the current run of criminal plastic surgeries since you agreed to the job, but don't take on any more. Help Prahd be a doctor, run a local school. Be excellent to each other.
Faht Bey blesses and swears eternal loyalty to the magnificent Jettero Heller, and Gris pops into existence to nearly vomit in disgust, then fantasize about vengeance. Yeah, he'll send a Death Battalion to flatten targets until the planet capitulates, then hand it over to the Apparatus' puppet.
I could just see Rockecenter now. There he was all ragged and forlorn, huddling in an alley amongst the garbage cans, and I would come up to him, splendid in a full-dress Voltar uniform, flanked by good criminal Apparatus aides,
Because bad is good and good is bad in the Apparatus.
and I would say "Delbert, do you remember me?"
He would gasp and grovel and say, "Good God! Inkswitch, my family spi!"
I would say, "No, Rockie old boy. I've come to put you back on the throne of Earth, the place from which you fell."
And he would start babbling his gratitude while an aide supported his head to give him water and another bathed his wounds.
We're reading a fanfic within a fanfic.
Then together, arm in arm, we would walk forth, deaf to the piteous screams of the maimed and dying, and treat the riffraff to a holocaust the like of which had never been seen before.
Specifically a revenge fic.
And out of the gutters that ran with blood, Miss Pinch's pale hand would rise up and she would cry, "Forgive me, Inkswitch! Forgive me, for I did not know . . ."
And Gris will look down and whisper, "No."
Somebody was shaking me.
"Wake up." It was Heller's voice. "Get in the tug. The sun is rising and we are leaving for Voltar within the hour."
The author has forgotten that he last left Gris tied to a chair in the middle of the hangar. Gris can't get in the tug until Heller unties him, and he'll probably need to go potty first.
I smiled. That was all I needed to make my dream come true.
Some people follow their dreams, others are forced to constantly adjust their dreams based on their latest failure.
Back to Chapter Two