Now that the instrument's ready, Madison follows Hightee into some domed acoustical musical studio, where Jarp has attached Madison's drawing of a piano's keys to an electronic device. It's suspended five feet off the ground, so Madison has to explain that you sit down to play the piano, making Jarp remark that this "must be awfully lazy music." Then we spend a bloody page on Madison tinkering with the sound settings so the thing almost approximates a piano. I guess some Space Jazz is creeping into the story here.
Madison starts off with an attempt at "Beale Street Blues," because why the hell not, but makes a lot of nervous mistakes and gives up. So he tries to play "Scott Joplin's music they had used in the movie The Sting. It seemed very appropriate." This goes better, and thus warmed up, Madison moves onto the material he's assembled for the musical: "The Outlaw," a cover of "The Trickster Rag" from a musical Wikipedia hasn't heard of called The Con Man. Because on an alien world, Madison is safe from copyright law. Just not Mr. Bury, who is a wizard.
Madison plays the notes, and Hightee does the singing.
We hunt him here,
We hunt him there,
For he is hiding everywhere:
In your favorite boudoir,
If you hear a randy snore,
Don't look further anymore:
If you step into a bank
And see the muzzle of a tank,
Don't ask who you have to thank:
If there is a town to steal,
If the jewels are very real,
If the beauty has appeal:
He'll take anything you've got,
Your money, girls, the whole lot,
And leave you tied up in a knot:
He will use the smartest lure
To take riches from a boor
And give it to the very poor:
So for this man, strike up the band,
And give to him a helping hand,
For he will give us the whole land:
And she makes it all the way through without laughing or getting confused or giving up in disgust, good for her. She even thinks it has an "amazing downbeat." Oh, and in the stage version Hightee will of course be dressed up like a black-hatted cowboy, "holding up" the audience while not-Heller robs them.
A guy named Tink suddenly walks in, because Jarp was getting too much dialogue. Madison instinctively knows this must be Hightee's bandleader.
"Primitive," said Tink. "It probably came from the backwoods of some planet like Flisten and then got refined a bit. Drums. You know, comes from beating sticks on logs. And the downbeat is probably some kind of a charge motion at a wild animal. Hunter enactment dances. You know, chug chug CHUG, chug chug CHUG."
"You are absolutely right," said Madison. "Except it comes from the blacks of Africa and it got to New Orleans and caught on all over the place. It's called jazz."
Both of you can just go to Space Hell.
Jarp and Tink talk about how crazy that "chorder-bar" sounds now, Madison tries to explain what a honky-tonk piano is, but Hightee has to leave for a gig. Madison offers to escort her to the garage, and she is of course thrilled by the "MODEL 99!" airbus he rides in. This reminds Madison that Flick exists, and he decides "he could at least use this meeting to prevent further robberies" by having a blushing Flick show off the vehicle before driving Hightee to her appointment.
They fly to Joy City, and land at the studio, and Hightee declares that she's so impressed by Madison's music and niceness that if he can "get the writer to do the rest of the book and I'll do the show." Hurrah, she fell for it, or whatever!
While Flick once again babbles about Hightee, and how showing her a bus and driving her to a destination has totally reformed his criminal character, Madison ends the chapter on a high note. Or an ominous note. Or a stupid note.
He had a stage image being manufactured by the most popular star on Voltar, the guy's own sister! And he would soon, with other media, fit Heller to it.
So why was the Heller operation back on Earth limited to newspaper headlines? Where was the Whiz Kid movie?
He would soon put an end to this mediocre hero worship Heller now experienced and push Heller's name to the heights of true immortality.
And he began to hug himself.
Man, Gris did that too. And I think I remember Terl doing it back in Battlefield Earth. I've never done this. Did Hubbard ever sit in his room, hugging himself after seeing fundraising totals? Or is that behavior he thought only a villain would engage in?
He had a bonus! When the musical had been aired and when she had found Heller for him, he would have another headline. It would run:
HELLER BURNS TEMPLE
ROBS SACRED IDOL
OF PRICELESS EYE
TO GIVE PRESENT
TO HIS SISTER
Sure-fire! She would even have shown the evidence on Homeview. He could use the story on an off day when he didn't have more exciting news to print about Heller.
Why does he need to know where Heller is to make up stories about temple robberies? Couldn't he say that Heller robbed the temple back on Earth? And what's Hightee going to do when she finds out Madison is lying to her and defaming her brother?
No? Nothing? No forward planning at all?
He was REALLY making progress now!
Progress towards... well, no mention of Bury. Guess PRing is its own reward.
Back to Chapter One