Yes, all according to plan.
The three named characters and some faceless Fleet marines load up and drive off to Government City, and it's only then that "qualms began to hit" Gris. Can he, a spectacularly incompetent spy who has consistently and repeatedly failed for the past seven books, pull this off? If he screws up he'll be hauled off to the Royal prison, where not even Lombar's influence will be able to free him. Even though the guy basically runs the Confederacy and can get his puppet emperor to sign any Royal pardon he likes...
Hubbard, this source of tension isn't working, maybe you should have Gris worry about Krak shanking him with that electric knife? Wait, that wouldn't work either, I'm all for Gris getting shanked.
They reach the office, Heller finds the building's "central communications conduit," and uses suction cups to a fix a "field coil" over it, fooling the circuit into thinking it's complete even after he snips it. Since he's using Voltarian gadgets to do it, I don't think this is a case of Heller's FBI training from Book Two making a reappearance, again leading me to question why those two investigators who arrested him decided to give him a crash course on security cracking in the first place.
With the security disabled, Heller orders the marines to "shoot to stun" if Gris tries anything, and they all enter the dank, dusty, cluttered, smelly Apparatus offices. "Oh, office of bitter memory and pain, office of nightmares and overwork, office of travail--I had not missed it even a little bit." Gris' empty cup of hot jolt is even where he left it back in Book One.
And then the cunning starts. Krak orders Gris to produce the papers, and he starts poking at the floorboards as if trying to remember where he hid them, but he feigns distraction. He's got terrible diarrhea, he tells his captors, what with weighing one fifth more than what he did on Earth. Gravity-Induced Bowel Movements. The Space Squirts. Krak's a stone cold killer, but not quite cruel enough to watch Gris crap his pants, so she lets him into his office bathroom.
Remember way, waaaaay back in Book One, when Gris set up an escape route from his office, in case of... something? No? Perfectly understandable. We were all impatient for Mission Earth proper to start, blissfully ignorant of just what Hubbard had in mind for us. And after book after book of death and depravity on Earth, memories of Voltar tend to get fuzzy.
But yes, Gris had set up a secret door leading to a ladder accessing the office roof. He pops it open, then breaks the bathroom window, a window made of "silent-break" glass. Then he goes through the hidden door, closes it behind him, gets on the roof, and hides under an eave to shield himself from "overfly view."
I SHOUTED A DWINDLING SCREAM!
A silent second from below.
The sound of someone trying to open the toilet door!
The crash of a gun butt against the lock!
The rip of a shattered bolt!
He didn't fake the sound of breaking glass, though. Nobody gonna catch on that? No?
Against all odds, Gris pulls it off. Everyone assumes he killed himself rather than face trial, and the fast-moving River Weil at the bottom of the gorge right outside the office makes recovering a body quite impossible. Yes, Heller concludes that Gris is "probably dead."
In two pages delivered more or less in script format, Heller and Krak waste no time in carrying on without him, ordering all his accumulated blackmail material on his Apparatus coworkers seized as evidence, something I'm sure Lombar will appreciate. But there's no sign of what they actually came for.
Krak: "There's no proclamations in the outer-office files. Just trash. Oh, blast, where could those things be?"
Heller: "He could have been lying."
Krak: "Not the way I got the information."
Oh, so Heller doesn't know how his girlfriend operates? He never saw the hypnohelmets in her purse? I thought for sure he'd been in the same room when Krak zapped someone... Well, I suppose that's fair. Krak conceals the full extent of her crimes against free will, Heller doesn't mention that time he killed a hundred million people.
Anyway, they can't find those pardons, so there's only one course of action left to them - they'll have to risk sneaking into Spiteos and get Krak's copies. A bit dangerous, but Krak knows exactly where to go, so they'll be in and out in no time.
I was hugging myself with ecstasy. It was even better than I had ever hoped for!
Krak and Heller were delivering themselves straight into the open jaws of death!
Which you could've done last chapter by claiming your copies were at Spiteos too, instead of trying to get Krak and Heller killed over the phone.
Speaking of which, can you spot how Gris' plan is already being derailed?
Back to Part Sixty-Five, Chapter Five