Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part Seventy-Two, Chapter Two - Meet the New Boss...

Right, let's get to this great meeting of destiny and all that crap.

On every hand the pomp of millennia rose: the golden ropes curved in intricate patterns along jewelled friezes depicting parades and battles down the ages; the glowering eyes of long-dead monarchs frowned at Madi­son as he went along the curving hall.  The consciousness reached him

I think this is a clear case of thesaurus fail.

that he was dealing with power ensconced in the awesome traditions of history far longer than man, on Earth, had even known how to use an axe of stone.

And look at how little they've accomplished!  Still monarchical, still place great importance on feudal titles and noble blood, and pursuing an empire solely because a piece of paper tells them to.  Take away their magical space science and they're about as socially sophisticated as the old British and French colonial empires in the early 19th - wait, no, those two were actually democratic and responsive.  Plus the French got rid of their king.

Right, Voltar's like the old French colonial empire, if Clovis I had left behind a note saying "don't go ten years without conquering someone."  And the French had lasers.

Madison comes to a huge fancy antechamber, now set up like an office with a desk in the way of the door.

At the desk sat a huge man, rather swarthy, an odd sheen on his skin.  He was dressed in a scarlet uniform, corded round with gold.  His eyes had a crazy light.


Wonder how Madison knows this?  Hisst could be in the room behind, and this could be his secretary.

Hisst immediately asks if Rockecenter's doing okay, Madison says that as far as he knows, yeah, and when asked for more decides to gamble that the Apparatus is a bit out of touch with Earth; which is to say he lies.  So Madison talks about how he would push around presidents and prime ministers on Rockecenter's behalf, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for his vital services.  He's Rockecenter's "top PR man," you see.

Hisst frowned.  This is what the investigators had run into and hadn't solved.  "What is this thing you call PR?"

"Well," said Madison, "I noticed, talking around, you don't have a very good image."

Hisst looked angry.  "Nothing wrong with my image!  I'm six foot three inches tall.  I weigh 271 pounds----"

"No, no," said Madison.  "The way people think of you. The image of you other people carry in their minds."

See, in all of its history Voltar hasn't discovered the importance of public opinion.  Also, despite trying to learn all he can about Earth so that he can use the same techniques to rule Voltar, Lombar never solved the mystery of PR, which was arguably more important than drugs in Rockecenter's scheme or world domination.

Madison explains that having a good public image can prevent the riffraff from rising up and hitting you with sticks, which paranoid old Lombar is quite worried about.  Then Madison talks about how he was Rockecenter's greatest confidante, how the ruler of Earth would put his socks up on the desk and chat with him over scotch and soda.  And there's a bit here I actually like, Madison using the bizarre "open our coats" idiom he heard from Flick to try and get Lombar to confide in him.

Lombar's eyes got a bit crazy.  The sheen on his face was more pronounced.  He leaned forward and spoke in a whisper.  "It isn't that I want it so much.  It's that I have an order about it.  In spite of my being a commoner and the fact that all the Lords hate me, I am destined to become Emperor."

Madison was instantly alert.  Ah, he could deal with this.  He had heard of it before about Rockecenter.  "A call from...?"  He left it hanging in the air.

Lombar whispered, "The angels."

Mad knew he had it made. 

I doubt he calls himself "Mad," though.  Why, that'd be like admitting he's crazy or something, and we all know that psychiatry set him right by making him sleep with his mother.

So Madison explains that those angels called Rockecenter to do the same thing to Earth, yep, he even heard them.  And then he introduces Lombar to the idea of becoming Emperor by acclamation, using the dark powers of PR to make the masses love him.

This is really a different side to Madison than what we've seen, isn't it?  We've seen him often convinced that he was going to be killed for his failure, fleeing or moping appropriately.  And the biggest part of his previous depiction was that he was completely deluded, convinced that he's doing his clients a favor by fabricating crimes to get them in jail, or trying to spark a thermonuclear war over their antics.  But now he's become clever, manipulative, deceitful.  Must be a side-effect of the hypno-helmet, overwriting his old characterization.

Madison asks if there's any other problems his PR mastery could solve, and Lombar of course doesn't mention the whole thing with the emperor and the royal jewels, but growls about Gris being out of reach for his just execution, making Madison remark that the man kept getting in the way of his work back on Earth, in order to suck up to Lombar.

"Well," said Madison, "that's a PR problem, too.  There are ways.  Any other problem?"

"Heller!  That (bleeped) Royal officer!"

Madison felt like somebody was giving him candy on a silver platter.  The whole room went brighter.  But he said calmly, "On Earth he went by the name of Wister."

Lombar, who had never bothered to listen to anyone before, seized upon the information like a starved hound!  THAT was the missing piece of the puzzle of why his strategy had failed.  "Aha!" he cried.  "Gris didn't carry out my idea with the birth certificate!  It went wrong because that (bleeped) Gris didn't follow my plans for Heller!"

Was nobody on Earth sending back regular reports?  Bloody Dagger aka Captain Stabb was supposed to be keeping an eye on Gris, but did he not have to let his boss know how badly Gris was doing?  And why didn't Gris have to make periodic mission reports? 

Madison's hopes soared to seventh heaven.  Oh, what a chance was opening up in front of him!  He could finish the job he had been hired to do! 


He could go home to plaudits and glory!

What makes you think the aliens who abducted you are going to let you go home?

But he made himself look very calm.  "Well, Wister-Heller is a PR problem, too.  If you really want these things handled, just give me the account and let me get to work.  Just give me an office and a budget"

Lombar cut in.  "Not so fast, Madison.  Things are pretty delicate around here.  I don't know a thing about PR."

So Madison educates him.  There's a TV handy, playing a convenient newscast about Apparatus troops fighting Prince Mortiiy on Calabar.  Madison explains that the reporter needs to be talking about Apparatus troops fighting to make the Empire (not Confederacy?) safe, with images of Lombar leading them spliced in even though he wasn't on the planet.  If the media won't cooperate, make them play such messages.  And after enough of seeing Lombar acting like an emperor, the riffraff, and even the Lords, will start assuming he is emperor, common status or not.

Lombar shook his head.  "Madison, those Lords would never bow."

Madison continued to appear calm.  He wasn't.  He was playing for very high stakes.  He would get another chance at Wister.  If he succeeded, Bury would have to admit he had done his job.  If he worked Hisst properly, he could be sent home.  He would be on top again!

This is really kind of remarkable.  Madison is manipulative enough to play on Lombar's emotions and insecurities, trying to get hired as his personal PR manager.  He could use that position, of #2 to the man who runs a 110-world empire, to have access to more wealth and power than all of Earth combined, and be set for life.  But instead, Madison wants to go back to Earth and convince Mr. Bury that "yeah, I got swept up in a galactic plot, traveled to another planet, and found out that the target was in fact an extraterrestrial spy, but I handled that Wister job, boss!  He's huge on Voltar!"

So Madison proposes that if he can get pictures of Lords bowing to Lombar on Homeview, he'll deserve a PR position and an unlimited salary.  Lombar laughs and refuses to pay him anything, though he does agree that Miss Teenie Whopper can become Madison's assistant, and he will hire the guy if he achieves that PR coup - again, without any money.  And the guards come to throw Madison out.

As it stood, right at that moment, dear reader, Madison's apparent failure with Lombar left Jettero Hel­ler fairly safe;

Jettero Heller can drown in a toilet for all I care, dear writer.

the empty chamber back of Lombar would sooner or later get exposed and the histories of Voltar and Earth might have righted themselves.

'cause you'd think at some point a palace janitor would try to clean it.

Madison's chances of getting much further now looked thoroughly zilch.  But only at that moment, dear reader, only at that moment.  Huge and diabolical forces, already at work on two empires, were about to get a hefty push!

Well, one empire right now, Heller's busy saving the Earth and all that rot.

So the Apparatus flies Madison and Teenie from Earth to Voltar.  They hypno-train them in the language.  They make Madison an ID.  They give him a personal car and driver.  They take him to see the boss.  And they don't pay him, or give him an apartment, or anything but that driver and a rude dismissal.  After he's talked with the head of the organization and learned of his delusion, his scheme to seize power.

I guess I'm not fit for a job in the intelligence community.

Back to Chapter One 

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