Hightee's willing to put up with Madison for a bit longer, but wants to walk and talk since she's been sitting for so long. Naturally, the minute they step outside they're "instantly" surrounded by a retinue of songbirds, because Hightee's secretly a long-lost Disney Princess. She's also so damned talented that she writes her own material, which is why she's surprised when Madison announces that he's brought her next musical in his briefcase.
Madison hadn't known that: on Earth artists didn't write them; they just sang and acted in them.
Or star in pet projects they happen to be funding, so that others can milk them for millions.
But he plunged ahead. "Well, the order to do it comes from Lord Snor himself. He's a great admirer of yours, as they all are. When he heard one of the songs from it, he said, 'THAT'S HIGHTEE!'"
"He did? That's funny. He's as deaf as a rock."
"To everything but a bone-phone," said Madison hastily. "They put bones into the probe, I mean prones into the bobe...."
As best I can tell, Madison's referring here to headphones that work by transmitting vibrations into the bones of the head, rather than through the eardrum, so that the deaf can get some use out of them. Of course, this raises the question of why Voltarian space magic can turn even a scrawny twig like Gris into a sexual tyrannosaurus, but can't fix deafness. Even Earth invented the hearing aid.
Hightee laughed. Then she said, "I'm sorry I got you all flustered. Maybe Lord Snor did wake up and listen to what goes on on Homeview. Stranger things have happened."
So she kinda catches him a lie, but is okay with it and hears him out anyway.
Madison asks for a piano so he can demonstrate, revealing that when he was talking with those media men the other day, he never inquired about what instruments might be available. Hightee and some guy named Jarp who works for her or something have never heard of a "piano," and first think it's some sort of "primitive mouth instrument" after Madison describes its keys like "ivory teeth." They spend a couple of paragraphs working on the notes for this relative of a "chorder-bar," and are surprised to learn that it operates "mechanically" instead of through synthesized electronic music. Jarp guesses it "must be a blood brother to one of those stick harps they once had in the back country of Mistin. Used to jump around naked beating them before they did their spring mating." Hightee hopes that Madison's musical isn't about the spring mating.
Eventually, after Earth's feeble attempt at music has been put in its place, Madison abandons his original idea and gives Hightee a spoken treatment of the next smash musical to sweep Space Broadway.
See, on this fantastic world called Terra ("Oh, I like fantasy. Prince Caucalsia made a great hit."), the whole planet is ruled by a cruel horned monster in a red suit ("You're describing a Manco Devil.") who steals all the people's food and money and kicks them and stuff ("How awful!"). But one day a nurse accidentally or something switches out the Manco Devil's son for a human child, who grows up and realizes that all this stealing and kicking is bad ("Good for him.").
It's really tempting to read Hightee's commentary as sarcasm, but I'm almost positive she's being totally sincere.
When Madison describes how the not-devil son robs trains on behalf of the people, Hightee gets confused until she concludes that Madison's talking about "a space-liner between planets." So no physical musical instruments on Voltar, or linked mass transit, interesting... And she's not too hot about the robbing either.
"You mean the fellow goes CRIMINAL?"
"Well, he HAS to," said Madison.
"Oh, I don't think that would go down well. People despise criminals."
No public sympathy for those who revolt again authority figures, no matter how bad...
Madison said, "Well, this isn't really criminal. It's in [sic] a good cause. He robs the trains and he gives the money away to the poor and they DON'T STARVE!"
"Listen," said Hightee. "It's the people who raise the food. If they didn't raise the food, they couldn't buy anything with the money the hero gives them."
You know it's a bad story when Hightee Heller can find the plot holes.
"Oh, the Devils grab the food and the people have to bribe them to get it back. So suddenly the Devils find out WHO the bandit is. A Devil's own son! So they declare him an OUTLAW! And there's a lot of fighting and the Outlaw escapes."
"Hurray!" said Hightee.
I think she's got the childlike vacuity to pull that off. Unlike mob boss Babe Corleone and her shout of "YIPPEE!"
Hightee spots another problem, the lack of a part for her in the story, so Madison quickly decides that the Manco Devil stole a brother and sister for the... nurse to switch out, whatever. Anyway, sister not-devil will sing all the songs while brother not-devil shoots people, in addition to the normal singing extras.
"So there're a lot of choruses."
"Exactly!" said Madison. "Now the last scene when they hang him is the great one. All the people are there watching him choke out his life on the scaffold--"
Note that Madison never had to stop and explain what a "hanging" is. So Voltar doesn't know squat about non-synthesized instruments, doesn't know what a train is, can't fix a man's deafness, and doesn't have much sympathy for rebels no matter who they're revolting against, but they know all about hanging someone from the neck until dead.
"And the sister comes in and sings a great song, a kind of a dirge. And then the Devils realize that she was the one who tipped him off all the time and they hang her on the spot!"
"Yes. Right alongside her brother on a second scaffold. And then two graves open up and huge skeletal hands come out of them and grab the bodies off the scaffolds. And then the people all rise up and sing the song she had been singing and remember the Outlaw forever!"
So yeah, that's my musical! You - which is to say, your character - and your/her brother are declared outlaws, horribly executed, and dragged presumably to hell. Sound fun?
Hightee Heller was staring at him, wide-eyed.
Madison held his breath. Would she fall for it?
What the hell do you mean, "fall for it?" What's the trick? Is the "deception" that this is basically a story about Earth, which she knows nothing about? And why are you in sneaky mode, Madison? You were in normal "getting my client killed is the best kind of fame!" mode for most of this.
A speaker underneath a flowering tree opened up and interrupted them. "Hightee, the instrument is ready."
And the author kills his own cliffhanger chapter ending. Remarkable.
Back to Part Seventy-Five, Chapter Seven