Flick, his driver, said, "Things didn't go so well, eh? At least thank several Gods you are alive."
Any in particular, or is the number what's important?
Still, Madison's down but not out. He asks who runs Homeview, hears an anecdote about Hightee Heller and her millions of fans that will surely be important later, and learns that Lord Snor right there in Palace City is the man to talk to. Finding him ought to be tricky, given all the buildings and residences, but the only people and vehicles around are Apparatus soldiers and tanks. The capital seems somewhat empty, in fact. Flick explains that what with Apparatus grunts bothering people with searches and such, the population has dropped from two million to a few hundred thousand. It's not quite a garbage dump yet, but give it time.
Eventually they arrive at a bright yellow building guarded by men in mustard yellow uniforms, the home and staff of Lord Snor. The guards are a bit confused by Madison's ID: "What the blasts is a PR man?"
"A special envoy," said Madison promptly. "I want to see Lord Snor."
"Well, you could be a special envoy from the thirteenth Hell," said the officer, "and it still wouldn't do you any good. You might even get into his quarters and you still wouldn't make it. He used to have a wife but she's gone home to her family.
So... he still has a wife, she's just elsewhere right now.
He's got a son but he's in page school."
"What's all this family got to do with it?" said Madison.
"Oh, that's the way things used to run around here. If you couldn't see the top man, you saw some member of his family and slid your message in on that channel."
Lovely. Strange men come by your house and, if you aren't home, decide to visit with your wife or children. No secretaries, no answering machines, just paranoia and a strong incentive to sit on the porch with a shotgun.
The housecarl tries to set up Madison for an appointment, but learns from the chamberlain that Snor is only seeing doctors, doctors bringing him little packages of white stuff. Dope, ya ken. So the master of public relations is shown off the property.
Gloom settled in on Madison.
The day he began to transact business through clerks had not arrived.
That was a horrible sentence.
And the top men? In sudden revelation, this deserted city was explained.
Wasn't it already explained? People got tired of being frisked by Apparatus thugs. Maybe it's more explained now. People got tired of frisking and crackhead neighbors.
Any minute he expected to see an I. G. Barben truck. Lombar Hisst had this place on dope! Did this explain the chief's interest in Rockecenter? Did Rockecenter have a connection to that Earth base in Turkey? No, he doubted Rockecenter even knew about these people. But they knew about Rockecenter.
Thrill as a character figures out what we've known since Book One!
Madison seldom cursed. He felt a bit like cursing now.
But still not enough to actually curse.
You could only deal with top men for the things he had in mind, and with insight he knew that from the Emperor on down, here at Palace City, he would be running into hopheads. Suddenly he understood a bit more about Lombar Hisst: the (bleeped) fool must be on amphetamines himself! A speeder! The signs of persecution were there, delusion was obvious. It wasn't to the point of feeling bugs under the skin or aging or losing one's teeth, but it would get there. And he probably had been crazy to begin with.
So he was probably already crazy, but you know he's on the drugs even though he's not displaying physical symptoms of drug use, because he's acting crazy?
A chill hit Madison. He had better get his job done on Heller somehow, some way, and get out of this place before Hisst reached raving paranoia and started to kill everyone in sight!
And here we are again, Madison thinking logically, drawing conclusions, realizing he's in danger, having his self-preservation kick in - and then he goes back to that damned Heller job!
Flick and Madison argue over housing - neither wants to sleep in the car, Flick's not willing to break into one of the empty houses in Palace City for fear of getting sent to Camp Kill, but Madison doesn't have a gun so they can't rob a store in Slum City either. Flick's actually in danger of starving to death because he's supposed to get paid by his boss, but nobody's given Madison any... how does this organization function?
Anyway, Flick asks if there's anything at all Madison can accomplish, and the publicist remembers that vow he made chapter before last.
It jarred Madison. Yes, there was something he could do. He could be a knight-errant. He could rescue Teenie; that had been allowed. He would do it even though the thought of sleeping three in an aircar presented new problems.
He mentally donned his plumed helmet. "Drive back to that park in front of the Royal Palace. I've got to rescue a girl."
Yes, it was a vow so important that he saved it for second.
Back to Chapter Two