Friday, December 20, 2013

Part Seventy-Eight, Chapter Two - Old News

Wonder why Heller feels the need to keep his video phone secret?  He's already beaming energy from a spatial anomaly and was seen flying around on a space sled.  Compared to that, a phone with both audio and visual is pretty mundane.

Anyway, Faht Bey is on the secret viewer-phone, and while he doesn't have any news about a certain patient of Dr. Prahd's, he does need to see Heller in person as soon as possible.  Heller and Krak spend taxpayer money on a superfast Air Force plane instead of using that luxury spaceship we spent so much of Book One on.  Krak insists on coming along because she just knows something terrible has happened, but once they arrive in Turkey she stays back at the villa instead of coming with Heller to Faht Bey's office to see what's the matter.  Huh.

Turns out the Blixo came in last night, presumably after leaving Voltar shortly before Heller and Krak did their in-and-out at the imperial palace, and was carrying Odur as a courier.  Of course it's impossible that anyone beamed any messages to it, or used a faster ship to catch up and hand over some more recent correspondence.  So we've got some out-of-date old mail to read!  We can learn for the nth time what that evil Apparatus was up to!

The first letter is to Gris, ordering him to make a report on Earth's defenses, "numbers of troops and populations to be slaughtered," potential pockets of resistance, and so forth.  I'm pretty disappointed Gris had to flee the planet, because we missed out on watching him scrambling around the world like a headless chicken, desperately trying to gather information about the world's militaries, getting distracted by a pair of breasts, and slapping together an inaccurate report at the last minute after receiving a few death threats to do his damn job from an anonymous assassin.  Then the Apparatus forces would've shown up, bombed Chicago to take out Al Capone and his deadly gangsters, and gotten their asses handed to them.

The second note is an announcement to the Apparatus general staff that Lombar Hisst had determined that "forces are internally at work on reference planet inimical to our interests," so if the shipments of drugs ever stop arriving from Earth, all the forces on Calabar are to redeploy and launch a Class One assault!  And that's... worse than a Class Two?  Everything on Earth is to be annihilated except for the opium farms on Afyon and the I.G. Barben pharmaceutical factory in New York.  Just a vast, corpse-choked wasteland dotted by those two little drug oases, because again, the Apparatus doesn't want to produce any of these vital resources on one of the 110 planets in the Confederacy, it demands that it be totally dependent on imports from those specific companies in those specific parts of Earth.

You know the situation is serious because Hisst declared that these preparations would take place without the cooperation of the Army or Fleet, and worst of all, would "Ignore the Invasion Schedule."  Yes, things are so dire that these aliens are going to plan a war based on their needs and the current situation, not according to a timetable drawn up by some dead bastards thousands and thousands of years ago.

Since the Blixo put in, Captain Bolz came along too, and he's under guard and furious that everyone in the base is now wearing a Fleet uniform.  He explains that when he arrived on Voltar, the drugs were on his ship's manifest, but of course not in the cargo hold, because Heller knows drugs are bad should be decriminalized and stopped the Afyon base from shipping any more home last book... wait, no, Bolz wasn't at the base when Heller took over, because he's outraged everyone's in Fleet uniforms.  So he missed out on an amphetamine shipment because he stuffed his cargo bay full of contraband "whisky" instead of the vital supplies he was supposed to be delivering.  Thus continuing the theme that the Apparatus is too incompetent to pose a threat to anyone but themselves, regardless of what the author insists.

Finally we meet the person carrying some of these messages, our friend the catamite Odur, who is convinced that Heller is going to use his Royal Officer authority to execute him, begs him to deliver that "magic mail" so his mother doesn't get killed, and when it turns out nobody has to die after all, spills the beans on Gris.  He was supposed to pester Gris to finish his report and return with it, and had a message that Gris was due to be Apparatus Chief once Lombar promoted himself to rule the Confederacy, which we've known since like Book One.

With that interview concluded, Heller bumps into Krak, who suddenly is in the base, and just finished interviewing KGB Colonel Gaylov nee Utanc for reasons that will be revealed soon and are appallingly stupid.  Heller gives her the news - Krak's "woman's intuition" was right, Lombar is "crazy insane" (the worst kind of insane!), and the Apparatus is on its way to blow up the planet except for two tiny parts that produce drugs.

"Then we've got to get off it right away," said the Countess.  "We and you-know-who must not be here when they crack it up."

"And waste all the work I've been doing for a year?" said Heller.  "This is a nice planet."

"Opinions differ," said the Countess Krak.  "Psychology, psychiatry, perversions beyond belief and a population that doesn't even raise its voice when some nut like Rockecenter is ruining it.  It's not worth saving, Jettero.  We'd better get a move on."

Guess Krak lived a sheltered life, free from the knowledge of what Queen Hora got up to with shock collars and electrified whips on her private island.

Heller wants to stand and fight, of course, protecting His Majesty and planet Earth alike.  The question is how much time he has to prepare.  Faht Bey estimates it'll take three months for the Apparatus forces to make the voyage, since it'll take a few weeks for the first post-Heller-takeover freighter to deliver its cargo of not-drugs to Voltar.

But Heller counters that they may not even have five days, and that Bolz's cargo of not-drugs could have triggered the Apparatus invasion.  Which would mean that, after receiving no drugs, the Apparatus sent back some messages warning of the consequences of a missed drug shipment, as well as an order for its agents to create a detailed invasion plan of Earth, and at the same time dispatched that invasion fleet which would arrive less than a week after the Earth base got those messages warning of the invasion fleet's arrival.  Which is a whole new level of stupid, and absolutely in character for these chuckle(bleeps). 

"Steady, steady," said Heller.  "I admit this is quite a problem.  We've got to make sure Prahd's patient is secure, we've got to move this base and we've got to safeguard this planet."

Why do you have to move the base?  It's one of the two places they are explicitly not going to blow to hell.

"What?" said the Countess Krak.  "Try to stand off the whole Apparatus fighting force?  Please, Jettero, please.  Don't try to save this planet!"

"Come on dear, you already killed a hundred million of these savages, what does the rest matter?"

"I'll come up with something," said Heller.  "And make no mistake.  Whatever else happens, I am going to make every effort to save this planet."

Just fly around in your tugboat and use your hologram to make everyone shoot each other.  Or bring a comet nearby and wait for the enemy ships to crash into it.

"Oh," said the Countess Krak in a voice of despair, looking at the set expression on Heller's face.

Of course, you may have noticed that they're all fixated on the Apparatus fleet invading because of the drugs, and not Krak and Heller's raid on Voltar, which is what they were worrying about causing an invasion up until now.  Or you might remember that Lombar ordered a reprisal in the last book after Heller slung his spaceship into the ground.  In other words,

None of them knew that none of their estimates were correct.  Just four days short of arriving, an Apparatus Death Battalion was approaching with orders to find any hostile influence at the base and destroy it.  That happened to include, at that instant, every Voltarian on Earth excepting only the Blixo, its crew, Captain Bolz and Oh Dear.  This was no major invasion, not yet, but it could be the preliminary of mass slaughter.  Lombar would go crazy for revenge against the planet for getting in the way of his ambitions.

The wings of death hovered over Earth.

Which is to say, over the Voltarians on Earth, and screw those guys.

So that's the chapter, a bunch of out-of-date letters and stuff we already knew about.

Back to Chapter One 

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