And what's our explanation for all this holographic stupidity?
General Loop, they all agreed, had been purloining government property and devices, and this made him a fellow criminal and so, somehow, made it all right. Whether he had done all this just to exercise a hobby or scare his fellow officers half to death was entirely beyond their interest.
Yeah, no real reason. Guy just liked his trapdoors and spooky holograms and nonexistant treasure. Or perhaps...
Madison had another theory--that manufacturers, knowing Loop was somewhat crazy, had installed the devices in the hope of getting a contract after showing what they could do. Madison had noticed different makers' names on the activating boxes; he didn't think any of this was in use or known to the government at all. He had not found a single Security Forces stamp on anything. If it were government property or even known to the government, it would have long since been taken out. But he didn't disagree with the crew; they needed all the solace they could get.
And there's our alternative: military contractors decided to show off to a retired, crazy old general instead of whatever military division would be interested in holographic devils. So, pointless stupid or purposeful stupid, pick yer poison.
Once everyone's had a good... afternoon's sleep? Madison assembles his "crew," all scrubbed and clothed and most importantly, not stinky! It's time to tell them what PR is all about, prepare them for the jobs he'll have for them.
Madison stood up very straight. His face began to glow. His own love of his subject took over. In a voice more suited to a cathedral, he said, "PR is one of the noblest pursuits of man!"
His audience was jolted. They stared at him wide-eyed.
Madison was off. His voice contained the caress of eulogy. "Public Relations is an art that FAR transcends mere painting and crass poetry."
The audience gawped.
"It is," crooned Madison, "the magic of telling people what to think and bludgeons them to change their minds."
A roustabout called out, "Now that's more like it. Do we hit soft to stun or hard to kill?"
Madison smiled a beautiful smile. "You always hit to kill."
The gang buzzed and nodded. "Got it," came from many voices. Then someone in an aside to his neighbor confided loudly, "That's what his Lieutenant Flick said last night. He's a killer! One of the greatest murderers of all time!"
And they all start chanting "The chief! The chief! The chief!" and Madison bows out without telling them what PR is or preparing them for the jobs they'll be doing. Gotta end these speeches on the high note, you know.
But he notices that Flick isn't there, asks the departing crooks about him, and learns that his driver is so sad he didn't even touch that driver footwoman he picked out as his personal whore, who complains that she can't do her job if he's suicidally depressed. So Madison goes to try and cheer him up, asking about any other life dreams he could pursue, and Hubbard? I know I gave Gris crap for mistreating his minions, like whatshisname the driver back in Book One. But you didn't need to go to the totally opposite extreme! A happy medium would've been fine!
In one of those plot-convenient coincidences, Flick's always dreamed of meeting Hightee Heller, the famous Homeview star. But of course there's no way he, a man able to strongarm someone with an infinite credit card, would be able to attend one of her public appearances or find a way through a crowd of competing fans. No, this dream, like his dream of robbing his own apartment, is doomed.
Madison went over to the window. The mammoth dome of Homeview was gleaming in the late day sun. Something clicked inside his head.
Could it be? My god, it's... INSPIRATION! Aw, it's been so long! How've you been, buddy?
Lombar was trying to find Heller. Madison also had to know.
Why? What about lying about a guy in the media requires you to know where he is? You did just fine back on Earth with a body double that looked nothing like Heller, and that was a planet used to PR. You need to find Gris, though, remember that promise to Teenie?
The orderly outline of a plan began to form on the glass before his eyes in Old Century 10-point type.
1. On some off chance, Hightee Heller might know where Heller-Wister is. If so, she might be tricked into telling Madison.
2. If she doesn't know, then she might have lines she can use--unwittingly, of course--to get somebody to tell her.
3. He would have to have an excuse to see her often so she could spill the information to him when she got it.
Didn't Lombar yell something about putting Hightee under surveillance or something? Couldn't Madison use some Apparatus assets instead of doing everything himself? Just askin'.
Then suddenly, the whole sheet jacked up and a banner, 22 point, all caps, seemed to flow across the glass:
BUILD THE IMAGE
BEFORE YOU FIT
HELLER TO IT!
It's even got a box around it in the book.
"YOWEEE!" shouted Madison. He sprang into the air, he danced around the room. He knew EXACTLY how to go about it now!
And it didn't even require a yacht.
Flick's confused, but Madison makes him promise that if he arranges that meeting with Hightee Heller, he'll give up trying to rob things, which Flick agrees to easily: "If I met Hightee Heller in person, I couldn't pull off no more robberies. I'd be a changed man!" Hellers are magic like that.
They get dressed and leap into action.
Madison rushed out, ecstatic with his plan.
Oh, he was really on his way now! The smell of eventual victory was in the very air! He could REALLY get on with his job with Heller!
Yes, now that all the nonsense with robberies and holograms has proved to be absolutely pointless, we can finally, finally progress with the thrilling main plot of a stupid publicist making up crap about a guy on another planet. It just took seventy-odd pages after Madison became the planetary PR Czar for things to get in gear.
We're about halfway done with the book and our villain hasn't done anything yet. But we're getting there! Incremental steps towards excitement after long, pointless detours, that's the Hubbard way.
Back to Chapter Four