Have a splash of color.
A vast sea was on their left and they were speeding along the coast, a greenish surf drawing ribbons of foam upon the sand in the dimming light. Great scarlet clouds, far to the west, were catching the afterglow of the sun.
Presently, in the fading twilight, the beaches gave way to cliffs and black mountains began to silhouette against the stars. Suddenly Flick pulled his throttle back and pointed.
A huge ebony bulk lay just ahead, sprawling along the top of cliffs that fell a quarter of a mile, sheer, to the sea. Battlements that covered acres were blacker against an ink-dark sky.
Flick's dreams have led them to the Domestic Confederacy Prison, a former Army base now housing the Bluebottles' worst prisoners, an inescapable oubliette for all the scum the Apparatus doesn't take for itself. And it turns out any dope in a flying bus can land right in the courtyard without having to call ahead or anything.
At least the guards notice and advance warily with guns drawn, but Flick shows off Madison's identoplate - when's Madison going to get that back? - and explains that "PR man" means "parole officer" and demands to speak to the "warder." Technically he already is, but the guard knows that Hubbard actually means warden and so takes them to the guy running the prison.
Two thousand credits, a whole year's pay, is enough to make the warden compliant, and Flick is given access to the prison records and population. See, among his many dreams being realized these past few chapters has been to lead a crack gang of outlaws, so he's gonna recruit one from the lowlifes at the DCP. He's even going to draw up a list first.
1 Female for a footman in the car to fool with and feel up when I have long and tiresome waits.
5 More drivers for getaway and loot coaches and in case I get tired driving.
3 Chefs for cooking in relays 24 hours in case I get hungry at odd times.
1 Sealer to climb up walls and open windows and roof traps in places I think I might get dizzy or my shins barked.
1 Purse snatcher to get keys to houses and opening plates to avoid making noise by breaking locks.
1 Electronics security expert that knows all about security systems and can defeat them.
1 Salesman to fence loot for me so he gets caught and I don't.
1 Good-looking girl to clean up my room because I hate making beds. Ha. Ha.
6 Whores to sleep with and cook for the rest of the gang so they leave mine alone.
This. Is. Inane. Watching Hubbard dip into his boyhood fantasies of gangsters and outlaws wasn't enough, now we're watching a character in-story do the same thing! All we need now is for Flick to draw up a blueprint for the Best Treehouse Ever and blow forty thousand credits on the biggest, oldest space oak on Voltar.
I'm only going to comment briefly on how staggeringly dumb it is to try and recruit chefs from a prison instead of hiring chefs.
While Flick finishes up, Madison notices some odd symbols and categories on the computer screen, indicating felons with an advanced education, former circus performers and ex-Homeview cameramen. So the publicist makes his own list.
Two hours later and Madison's nauseated after having helped Flick interview 480 prisoners to pick 48 recruits, fourteen women and 34 men. By this point we've been repeatedly reminded that the Apparatus has a trademark stench associated with it, and how filthy and disgusting and unhygienic everyone involved with the group is, but it turns out Domestic Police prisoners can be dirty and stinky too. Hence Madison's tender tummy.
The warden warns them how dangerous this pack of killers is - especially the women - and muses how strange it is that the government pays the Bluebottles to prevent crime and the Drunks to commit it, funny old world. Then he gives a little speech to the scum squad, threatening them with terrible punishments if they ever end up back in prison, saying that they're only as free as Madison lives so they better do what he says, "You belong in Hells, not in free air," etc.
Then some Zippety-Zip airbuses pull up, and while everyone embarks, Madison checks the list he made to make sure he got everyone he needs. It's a good indication of how broken Voltar's legal system is, if there was any doubt after all that "if you try to pay with a counterfeit bill, you're executed" idiocy.
1 Director, ex-Homeview, who had been making porno movies on the side.
2 Cameramen who had been caught selling government supplies.
3 Set men whose sets, because they had sold the fasteners, had fallen down and killed actors.
1 Horror-story writer who had frightened an audience of children into convulsions resulting in deaths.
5 Reporters who had been caught accepting bribes to omit names, and other similar crimes.
1 Studio production secretary who had been accepting bribes to ruin the careers of actors.
2 Actors who had been doing long stretches for impersonating officers of various kinds to shake people down.
5 Circus girls, educated and statuesque, who, variously, had been doing time on long sentences yet to be served for rolling drunks, extorting money, setting up people for hits.
6 Roustabouts who had been doing lots of time for mayhem and assault, amongst other things.
2 Drivers skilled in heavy vehicles who had been doing twenty and thirty years respectively for pillaging their trucks.
2 Cooks, experienced in crew logistics, who had been doing time for selling stolen food.
This is the Domestic Police's most notorious prison, housing some of the Confederacy's worst criminals, and they've got people down here for selling stolen food. Y'know, maybe that's the point. Maybe the Confederacy is so pure and awesome and untainted by psychology that crime is so rare, petty theft is the sort of thing that makes you a master criminal.
Or maybe this book is stupid, one or the other.
All this to say, Madison is pumped, because if these vicious criminals, these embezzlers and pornographers, really concentrate, they can "lay aside the killer stamp" and appear honest and persuasive. With a bit of coaching, they may be something he could work with.
A glow of eagerness built up to a fiery excitement within him. What luck!
HE HAD HIS CREW!
The exact people he needed to get on with his job!
He felt he could rise to heights now never before achieved!
This might make sense. Hubbard wants to convey how PR crews are composed of circus performers and dirty secretaries - criminals, in other words - so he had to make the plot lead Madison to a prison, a slave to the whims of his driver, so that instead of using his unlimited bank account and media czar powers to get a proper Homeview crew, Madison would have to literally recruit a bunch of criminals.
On that thought, why couldn't Madison wait until the morning, go to Homeview, and use his unlimited bank account and media czar powers to recruit a proper camera crew?
Oh, how lucky Heller was, to have him for his PR!
He must not let anything stop him now!
Hilariously, the very first line of the next chapter is "There was a holdup on departure." It's so perfect that I'm sure Hubbard didn't plan it.
Back to Chapter Four