Friday, January 31, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Five - The Verdict of the Trial of Soltan Gris

Headlines continue to scream the sordid tales of the Apparatus, crimes that of course went unsolved until now, because sloppy, shabby drunkards are great at confounding forensic investigators.

The book speculates that the Domestic Police is too busy putting down the daily riots raging "throughout the Confederacy" to start arresting Apparatus officers, or is possibly intimidated since there's a comparable number of Apparatus troops being left in reserve despite the imminent invasion of Earth.  Which means... let's see, only four million Apparatus troops total... Google says there were 680,000 law enforcement officers in just the US as of 2006... well that doesn't make much sense.  Either the Apparatus is sacrificing a quarter of its already undermanned invasion force to keep order on the capital planet, or the Domestic Police is abnormally small.  Or maybe Voltar's just better than Earth and doesn't have as much crime.

Madison's still trying to cope, but he remains confident that this'll all work out for him in the end, just you wait and see.

Once again he reworked his schedules of release but this time marked the dates plus one, plus two, plus three and so on.  It was "plus" to the day they sentenced Gris.  The way this was dragging out, he had no real idea when that would come.  Usually it was good PR to drag a trial out, on and on.  In fact, the thirst for press by judges and government was one of the reasons for long trials on Earth.

Didn't you know?  The government's practically a bunch of PRs themselves, always wanting attention.  Another string connection to make on the Mission Earth Conspiracy Wall.

Even though Madison admits that the situation is now "kind of desperate," the public "out of control," he's sure that once the trial is over everyone will be open to his next exciting story, something so sensational that our interest must build for another two chapters before the author reveals it to us.

And then it all ends "rather abruptly."  On the sixth day of covering the new evidence, Gris' lawyers stack their 2,094 remaining cases in a pile for interested parties to examine, promising that "Many are far WORSE than those already evidenced to this court."  In Mission Earth, you see, it can always get worse.

The lawyers reveal that the Apparatus recruits from prisons, which we've known since Book One and come to think of it ought to be a hard fact to cover up, especially since the records show that over 30,000 convicts ended up as Apparatus officers.  But the 30,000 the lawyers are interested in are special: they were married before going into jail, and after getting new identities and working in the Apparatus, they married again.  All the rape and murder was one thing, but bigamy too?!

"Hah!" snarled Lord Turn, "just because you have found 30,201 bigamist Apparatus officers does NOT get THAT filthy beast off in THIS court!"  And he pointed to Gris.

Gris sat there.  The skateboard scar which gave him a perpetual scowl was at variance with the terror in his eyes.  The judge had not heretofore referred to him as a beast.  He was certain now that he would be convicted and he made a feeble "why try?" movement toward his attorneys.

I mean, sure the judge shouted at him, and insulted him, and flew into rages in the courtroom, but up until now things could've gone either way, right?

The eldest attorney actually smiled at Turn and at the cameras and crowd.  "Oh, we admit quite freely that our client is a beast."

There was an instant roar of approval from the mob in the courtroom.  It was probably echoed by every crowd in front of Homeview sets across Voltar and would be echoed throughout the Confederacy when the signal finally got there.

It's almost enough to make you feel sympathy for Gris, had the author not made him utterly unsympathetic.  At this point I'm expecting Prahd's cellology to wear off and Gris' dangly bits to shrink back to microscopic size, so someone can pull his pants off on Homeview and further humiliate him before the whole Confederacy.

Gris' awfulness aside, his attorneys insist that he's only "a beast in a herd of beasts and maybe even a lesser beast at that!"  For instance,

"I," shouted the Gris attorney, "have not told you the worst!"  He picked up the last four folders.  "THESE contain the names of 6,086 Apparatus officers who have been remarried as many as eighteen times!"

It was like a shock wave.  There is no divorce in the Confederacy


and bigamy is death,


so what he was saying was that 6,086 Apparatus officers had each one, since they were already married before joining the Apparatus, incurred the death penalty up to eighteen times.

Just so I can calibrate my moral compass: how many razed villages equals one duplicitous marriage?  Does it count as rape if the state forced you into the marriage in the first place?

Only some of these tens of thousands of wives were murdered by their husbands, the rest were simply ditched while the Apparatus officers went on to remarry as part of the agency's plan of "familial infiltration," or the strategic bagging of a widow or daughter - for example, Gris going after Tayl for that hospital on her property.  'cause really, why would you ever bother to build your own infrastructure if you could just get one of your ex-con employees to gain the trust of someone so his "friends from work" could use that launch pad in the back yard or whatever?

Once again, nobody noticed this - no women figured out they'd all married the same man, no sloppy agent ever blew his cover while drunk with his "wife," no daughter accidentally uncovered top secret files in daddy's office - until Gris' stash were nabbed.  Because I guess he felt the need to document his entire agency's grand strategy in case he needed to blackmail the Apparatus itself?

All this to say, Team Gris is ready to make their closing statement.  They - oh, wait, uh... is this it?  Anyway, the defense team declares that they've now proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Apparatus is a bunch of criminals, criminals who commit terrible crimes like bigamy, crimes that were ordered by their bosses.  And,

"As you yourself stated in this very court last week, Your Lordship, and according to all law and regulations, a man cannot be punished for doing his duty.  Jettero Heller was doing his duty.  Soltan Gris was only doing his duty.

Oh boy...

"Therefore, we solemnly and courteously request that you find Apparatus Officer Soltan Gris personally innocent of his crimes by reason of extenuating circumstances.  He was only doing his duty."

Well, um.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the author agrees with this sentiment.  Obviously Voltar has never had anything like the Nuremberg Trials.  And obviously these aliens define "duty" as "what my superior told me to do, not what my organization is supposed to be doing, or what is even morally right."

This argument goes over badly with the crowd, and Lord Turn can only curse and sit for three minutes, rubbing his temples while he ponders.  Madison, briefly recognizing the reality of the situation, tries not to throw up at the prospect of Gris being declared innocent.  Eventually the judge stirs.

"It is not given to me to set precedents.

I thought that's what judges did?  They refer to previous judge's cases, and future judges may refer to their own rulings?  Who does set the precedents, then?  PR?  Psychology?

Unfortunately, there are a thousand court cases that hold a man cannot be punished for doing his ordered duty.  If such were not the law and regulation, a man could find himself killed by his superiors if he did not do something for which he could be killed by the law. 

Yeah, I mean, if your sergeant orders you to massacre a village, and threatens to kill you if you don't, it's every soldier's duty to save his hide and murder innocents, y'know?

Unfortunately also, in a nation often at war, a superior cannot be punished for issuing an order which involves a capital offense if executed.

This at least explains why the Confederacy is able to invade planet after planet without any moral dissonance: no war crimes.

Some day the Grand Council or an Emperor may resolve this, though I doubt it, for it is dangerous ground.  The best guarantee of integrity is to ensure that only decent men, men like Royal Officer Jettero Heller, have authority."

You don't need confusing laws that restrict people's behavior, just recognize the inherent superiority of those like the magnificent Royal Officer Jettero Heller and let them do what they know is best.

This is all actually irrelevant, though.   See, rather than agreeing with Gris' lawyers' argument that he's Not Guilty on grounds of "I was only following orders," Turn does something else, first complimenting Gris' attorneys...

"You were undoubtedly very competent judges in the Domestic Police and you, sir, were undoubtedly a highly competent Lord's executioner.  You have bamboozled me into listening to you day after day.  Fortunately, we at the Royal Courts and Prison are answerable only to the Emperor.  That does not put us above the common law.  To keep the Emperor from making any mistakes, we have to be versed in the nicest legal points anyone ever heard of."

And he suddenly pulls a three-thousand-year-old legal precedent out of his Royal Judge ass.  Don't misunderstand, he's not above the common law, he merely has access to more laws than anyone else, legal precedents that he only brings out in certain situations, to get the outcome he wants.  They're all on the books upstairs, in the exclusive Royal prison nobody's allowed to visit.  Take his word for it.

Anyway, Manda v. Boont, a property battle that brought up questions of an heir's legitimacy, established "that registry of conception was a legal substitute for marriage."  The Former Widow Tayl's three-month-old son was conceived before Gris went to Earth, she did the paperwork, so that counts as a marriage, so the ceremony in the prison a week or two ago was redundant, so Gris is declared "innocent of the charge of bigamy in this prison."

Or in other words, Gris is still Not Guilty, but in a way that makes the entire trial a waste of time.  Thanks, Hubbard!

The shock of it was such that there was hardly a breath drawn for half a minute.


The angry mob nearly tears Gris apart despite the security force's best efforts, but then Lord Turn adds that he's keeping Gris in his custody, until Royal Officer Jettero Heller's Royal Officer status is clarified, and because Royal Officer Jettero Heller may have additional crimes to try Gris for.  "It is quite probable that Soltan Gris will not escape severe punishment or even execution yet."

Even though it looks like "I was just following orders" is a valid defense, so what could they possibly get him with, if the capital crime of bigamy doesn't stick?

A catatonic Gris gets dragged back to his cell, the angry mob starts chanting "Death to the Apparatus!" and Madison realizes that Teenie might not be happy that he didn't get Gris delivered like he promised.

Madison, watching Gris go, was in a turmoil of his own.  He was scared stiff at what Teenie might be thinking or planning now.  He had NOT gotten her the custody of Gris.

Yeah, we... we just read that, Hubbard, thanks. 

But wait, was there a loophole open?  He wondered and then shuddered.

He was suddenly aware that he didn't have much time.  Public reaction might boil over.  Lombar might be upset by all this.  Teenie would be screaming.

Then suddenly he began to smile. 

Please stop suddenly doing things.

He still had power.  He would bring this off to glory yet and bring it off with a BANG!

Heller on a burro with a sombrero!  The crowds love it!

So that was Gris' trial.  We learned a lot about Voltar's legal system, and how it sucks, and these aliens' morality, which is questionable if not horrifying.  Gris remains in limbo, though his unique brand of half-assed villainy just doomed his entire organization, and Madison has broken with tradition by wrecking his employers with his PR schemes instead of his "client."  Heller's outlaw status is just as confused as his Royal Officer status, but not to worry, that's not going to cause any obstacles or anything, since public opinion doesn't really matter.

'cause sure, everyone hates the Apparatus now, and everyone knows how ridiculously evil they are.  But the plot can't progress until Heller gets involved.

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Four - The Trial of Soltan Gris, And Everyone Else

Gris has been building a stockpile of blackmail material on his fellow officers, but that's pretty par the course for the Apparatus.  The real twist is that...

But Gris also seemed to have been using it to amplify or illustrate points he had learned in Earth psychology and psychiatry, for some of the notes on the edges of the evidence said, "Proves he was oral erotic" and "Typical sado-masochism" and "Using a Knife Section knife in that way definitely demonstrates penis envy" and other things of a like manner.  Also it is possible that Gris, naturally lazy, never bothered to catalogue or sort what he collected, much less use it.

He's not just a loathsome intelligence agent, he's an amateur psychiatrist intelligence agent diagnosing his blackmail victims!  Could there be anything wor- ooh, close call there.  You really have to watch your words around this author.

Well, it was all there now, the labors of ten years.  They were the rewards for continuous snooping and prying into things that never could have been his concern.  They also explained, to some degree, why he never had any friends: The names on those notes and photos and recorded strips read like an officer personnel roster of the whole Apparatus.

It says so here in the court proceedings: unlikable.  Liked by no one.  A bitter, unlikable loner- wait, I already used that line in a chapter title.

The defense attorneys have everything all alphabetized, and start going through their buffet of evidence.  An Apparatus agent was ordered to interrogate a village on Mistin (must be near Flisten), however that works, and he of course raped all the women and castrated the men "in a gory bout of sadism" and then burned the village down anyway.  An Apparatus general on Modon kidnapped some nearby village women for a party, raped them, flogged them to death, buried them in a shallow grave in the basement, reburied them weeks later after they started to stink, and then executed some locals for the crime.  A group of Apparatus officers raped the "young children" of a man they were extorting money from, disemboweled his pregnant wife in front of him, and chucked him into a river after he went insane from the experience.  The Apparatus' mad doctors kidnapped a whole orphanage to turn into circus freaks with a snake's body or "the haunches and genitals of a snug."  I'm not sure exactly what a "snug" is, but it's bound to be something horrible if the Apparatus is involved.

Lovely stuff, and nothing that should surprise us at this point.  But you might be wondering what the mass-murder of villages on distant worlds or the mutilation of children has to do with Gris' bigamy charges.  The answer will be revealed next chapter.

While the sordid tales create loads of "HEADLINES!", Madison mourns, because they aren't his headlines.  Voltar's media, recently trained by him to sensationalize "sex and blood" almost as much as the book's author, spends days screaming about the Apparatus' crimes, instead of covering the manhunt for the outlaw Jettero Heller.  There is of course a hilariously ironic moment where Madison protests that this Apparatus coverage "is just sensationalism.  It is pointless" but to no avail.  How ever will the Army or Fleet or Domestic Police go after a criminal without the media telling them to do so?  How else is a world's dictator going to get anyone to do what he wants?

But despite Heller almost falling out of the public eye, despite the attorneys and journalists taking over the trial and running in a different direction, Madison "did not, however, for a moment, doubt that he could, sooner or later, triumph."  It's all going wrong and he's lost control of the situation, but his victory is still inevitable, dammit.  Be excited!  Feel dramatic tension that the bad guys might carry the day!  Worry that good may not be able to triumph over evil, even as you watch evil defeat itself!  This is still a tense and exciting spy thriller, not a foregone conclusion!

As an aside, this chapter neatly illuminates the story's problem with psychology, and not the "I HATE PSYCHOLOGY!" type of problem.

We're repeatedly told that psychology is all bunk, sex-crazed, evil, and responsible for all of Earth's degeneracy.  However, we've seen a lot of Voltarian society by this point, and lo and behold it has it's share of sexual deviants and monsters in human form as well, even though the planet was free of psychology's taint until Gris got involved.  So, Hubbard: if there's rapists and sadists on both planets, but psychology is only on one of them, is it really to blame for these problems?

On top of that, if mental health is all phony, why do so many deviants in these books happen to align with psychological descriptions of mental disorders?  Hell, the author keeps using clinical terms to describe Lombar's megalomania.  If psychology doesn't have any answers, why does the author keep referring to it?

Back to Chapter Three 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Three - The Trial of Soltan Gris, Concluded?

Back to the courtroom.  The odd thing is that, even though this is a Royal building dedicated to Royal functions, the author describes "From the high windows, the morning sun sliced down through the centuries of dust in muddy shafts."  Could it mean that cleanliness isn't an accurate measurement of godliness?  Is it possible for something or someone to be dingy or smelly but not evil?

Also, there's vendors selling stuff to the trial's audience.  Hot dogs, Soltan Gris voodoo dolls, the author doesn't say.  Point is, I think it somewhat undermines the solemnity of the situation.

Madison informs Gris' lawyers that it's time to wrap things up and have him make his guilty plea, since "It's all fixed in the judge's chambers," but the attorneys give him a cool look and reply that they intend to do their job defending their client.  Madison is briefly annoyed to be treated with such contempt, but immediately decides that they're putting on a performance for the Widow Tayl's sake.

Lord Turn enters to jeers and shouts, and announces his plan to end the trial early.  Gris... oh, really?  Is that why - okay, remember way back in Voyage of Vengeance, I think, when Gris tripped on Teenie's skateboard and hit his chin on the floor?  And I complained that it was pointless physical "comedy" in a largely pointless book?  Well, Gris is described "sitting there in his black Death Battalion colonel's uniform and, despite his skateboard-scar scowl, was looking far more nervous than ferocious."  So maybe that stupid bit with Teenie's skateboard was so that when he was dragged to the stand in his trial two books later, he'd be able to look fearsome despite being Soltan Gris.  It's just another moment suggesting that the author is capable of foresight and planning when it comes to plot points, he just wastes this effort on incredibly inconsequential details.

Turn demands that Gris "TAKE THAT STAND" to clear up the last lingering question the judge has, specifically why he kept insisting that everything was Heller's fault.  "WHAT DID HELLER DO?" in other words.  So Gris is prodded into place, and reluctantly reminds everyone of the Blito-P3 situation, how Heller was ordered by the Grand Council to "repair the planet's atmosphere and rotation so it would last until time came to invade it a hundred and some years from now as per the Invasion Timetable."

Note that Gris is somewhat inaccurate here, and Heller annihilated Russia in his efforts to keep the planet's magnetic poles from wandering due to fluctuations in the inner core, not to fix anything wrong with the planet's rotation.  One would hope that, even if a book's author had only a long-distance relationship with science, he could at least keep his misconceptions consistent.

Under Lord Turn's screamed orders, Gris explains that Heller did nothing more than what the Grand Council ordered him to, "And I did everything I did because I was trying to stop him.  So you see, Jettero Heller caused all my crimes!"  At this point you may have noticed a flaw with Madison's plan to paint Heller as an outlaw through Gris' testimony, but oddly enough the publicist ceases to exist between the beginning and end of the chapter, and has no reaction to these developments as they happen.

Lord Turn looked like he himself was going to explode.  "At last we have it!" he finally roared.  "You blasted criminal!  Jettero Heller was just doing what he was ordered to do. THAT doesn't make him a villain!  He did nothing but do his duty!  You can't find a man guilty for that!  YOU have been impugning his character!  You have been engaging in vicious inference!"  

And the trial is suddenly about Heller's honorable reputation.  And the judge seems more furious that Gris is daring to suggest that Heller is anything other than an exemplary officer than that he's wasting time in a trial that supposed to be about bigamy charges.

Also, this is a really shouty, angry judge.  Aren't trials supposed to be about impartial justice and logical deliberation?  Or maybe that's just how things work on our backwards, corrupt planet.

In a rage, he shouted, "THAT ENDS THIS TRIAL!  I----"

The Gris attorneys were on their feet like a pack.  "Your Lordship!" shouted the eldest one, "We have not completed our defense!"

I'm sorry, I haven't played the Ace Attorney games.  I think this is the appropriate music, though.

Lord Turn is like c'mon, you've been at it for weeks, but the lawyers are like dude, we've only been presenting the evidence against our client (for some reason), not the evidence he collected himself, so we've totally got some more stuff to do.  And Lord Turn is like no way, and the lawyers are like way, and Lord Turn is like bogus.

A bunch of minions roll in "carts absolutely groaning under their loads of boxes," all the blackmail material Heller had grabbed from Gris' office and sent in by his Fleet buddies.  And the lawyers insist that this is all related to the bigamy charges somehow, so according to the rules, Lord Turn has to let them present it.

Madison finally reaches "a state of alarm" now that the lawyers are going off-script, and that evidently Heller's messing with Madison's PR campaign: "It was eerie, like suddenly finding a tiger was behind one's back when you thought he was on the other side of the mountains!"  But it doesn't last very long.

Then he relaxed a bit.  After all, there wasn't any possible way this new evidence could affect the overall scene.  And these attorneys didn't have the remotest prayer of getting Gris off.  He stretched out his legs and yawned.  

And what does Gris getting off... unfortunate choice of words, have to do with making Heller a famous outlaw?  Why no reaction to Gris' testimony making Heller very much not an outlaw?  Why the confidence that the evidence he hasn't seen won't do anything he doesn't want it to?

Things would go on, just as he had planned.  After all, these people were only puppets dancing on the end of his strings.  It was he who was the master of Earth PR, not them.

If you haven't noticed by now, nothing about this book is doing much to suggest that villainy will indeed be victorious and doom the planet.  Instead, it looks like things are continuing to go wrong for the bad guys, the good guys are continuing to outmaneuver them, and the antagonists are so deep in denial they can't see the pyramids or sphinx.

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Two - When Capital Punishment Isn't Enough

The narrative now shifts to Lord Turn, and I guess Hightee Heller was able to tell Monte Pennwell all about what the judge was thinking and feeling a hundred years ago, at the moment she was being spirited away from Voltar by her brother.  Turn is "to put it bluntly" stewing in his own personal Hell Nine, having been disowned by his family first for sheltering the loathsome Gris, and now for presiding over the overly-long trial protecting Gris from justice.  The audience in the courtroom shouts like an angry mob every time Gris takes the stand or gives testimony, and it is of course impossible to declare a trial closed to the public.

And then a guard reports that Madison has landed, the man who dropped Turn into this nightmare in the first place, and Turn says "Oh, good.  Maybe he can shed some light that will help end this awful case.  Show him in!"  There's probably not a Hell Ten, so it's not like things could get any worse.

Madison bears news about Heller, who is on Calabar... literally hours after appearing on Voltar to rescue his sister... I guess this is why we weren't told how long it takes to fly between the two planets in the tug?  Anyway, Madison's other news is that Lord Turn no longer has to hold Gris prisoner, because Heller's Royal officer status has been revoked.  Trial's over!

"Now see here, young man, this trial is not finished. The evidence is not all in."

Madison smiled. He was playing this by the Earth court system: All charges and sentences there are arranged in the judges' chambers. The trials are just for public show. It's who tells the judge in private what to do or what secret deal is made that decides anything and everything about a case from beginning to end. He was confident he could make this work on Voltar.

Had Hubbard spent so much time overseas that he forgot about trial by jury?  This obviously doesn't apply here, Voltar is so medieval it's lucky to even have judges, but I distinctly remember some judges in criminal cases on Earth asking a group of twelve people whether they've reached a verdict.

Madison points out that Turn's reputation as a judge has been taking a beating, so it'd be best to just give Gris his sentence and end the trial quickly.  The problem is that the angry mobs outside wouldn't accept a mere execution, and in this case Voltar's laws disallow torture in cases of bigamy - sure, they'll kill Gris for the high crime of having multiple simultaneous marriage certificates, but they're going to be civilized about it.  Fortunately, Queen Teenie is not civilized, and Madison promises that her sentence for Gris will include "a lifetime of exquisite torture, done by an expert" sure to satisfy the Voltarian public.

To recap, Turn initially ignored Teenie's demands to release Gris because as "royalty" from a planet outside the Confederacy, she had no legal standing.  Then it was pointed out that Gris was a bigamist, in which case Gris' marriages on that planet outside the Confederacy could be used against him in court.  Then when it came time to pass sentence Turn was prepared to execute Gris because Voltar's laws didn't allow him to be tortured to death, but now he's happy to do so to comply with Earth laws, which are again not part of the Confederacy.

My point is that despite Voltar's fetish for inbreds with crowns, the only thing they're ignoring from our foreign, soon-to-be-conquered planet is its royalty.

So Turn is in favor of handing Gris over to Teenie's loving care, assuming he finds him guilty - the trial's not quite over, after all.  Madison leaves with a grin on his face, and calls Queen Teenie to advise her to "Sharpen up the pokers and flex the hot tongs."  She threatens to go after his toenails if he again fails to deliver.

It didn't dampen Madison's glee a bit.  Getting Gris into her hands was just a byproduct. 

But just last book you claimed that you couldn't properly get Heller until the Gris trial stjhn.  Excuse me, little aneurysm there.

Heller's status as a Royal officer could only be cancelled under the Emperor's seal as a final result of court-martial.  Madison couldn't obtain that.  But just as he had whittled away Heller's reputation in the court by innuendo, he was going to get his Royal officer status disbelieved in the same way.

He was certain now that Lord Turn would add a line in the Gris sentence that said, "In view of the fact that Heller's Royal officer status has been cancelled, I hereby remand…"  And Madison would publicize that in such a way that the whole world would accept it as a fact.  After all, who had access to the truth?

The guys checking the records?

So Madison's latest plan hinges on a judge saying something that Madison merely hopes he will say, and then everyone reading about it in the paper will believe it and never bother to make sure that an official sealed cancellation of Heller's status was issued.

That is a Gris-like level of optimism, here.  Hinging a scheme on the assumption that a lot of people will behave exactly the way he expects them to, without any input from him, because that's the only way his plan will work.

It was the final expert touch of a PR.  The Fleet, the Army and now the Domestic Police would all be on Heller's trail.  The general warrant would be considered valid.  He would be an outlaw indeed!

Trying to unravel the story-writing process here - it seems obvious that Madison's inexplicable obsession with Jesse James, El Cid, and other famous outlaws can be explicable'd by the author's need to have Madison work to undermine Heller's Royal officer status now.  I'm just wondering why that was the only way for Madison to make Heller an outlaw.  Isn't it enough that Heller's working for the wrong side?  Couldn't Madison paint him as a rogue agent who needed to be apprehended, regardless of whether the official paperwork has gone through yet?  Or couldn't Madison have discredited the king as part of his work for Lombar, turning Heller's Royal status, even if it was still official, into a liability?

I guess the author decided that Heller needed to be officially, legally better than everyone else, and Madison's attacks on this status was the worst thing such a villain could do.  It's not like Madison's doing much to paint Heller as a villain beyond that "Outlaw" play that aired exactly once, and Gris' insane testimony that everything he did was somehow Heller's fault.  Instead Madison's plan is to make people think that Heller's royal status was revoked by repeating that rumor in the media, so Lombar can "legally" order people to apprehend Heller, thereby making Heller an official outlaw.

Step three: profit.

It was preparation for his final action.  But that would not come yet.

Oh, what headlines were in the making!

"What headlines!" is these last two books' equivalent to "I'VE GOT YOU NOW, COUNTESS KRAK!" or "I really need to come up with a way to stop Heller!"

Back to Chapter One 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter One - The Army Has a Fleet, the Fleet Has Spies, and the Spies Have an Army

From Lombar's office, Madison flies off to pay a visit to Lord Turn.  He does so in the Model 99, that gilded, angel-encrusted flying bus, and since none of its special qualities come into play during the journey, one might wonder why the narrative calls for Madison to fly a luxury bus instead of a vehicle that didn't require a couple of chapters' worth of sideplot to acquire.

The airlanes between Joy City and Government City are a mess, which Flip the driver puts down to the Army - they're not just enforcing the restricted airspace around the grounded Fleet facilities, but are packing up to head to Calabar.  Which implies that, despite its name, Voltar's Army has enough spaceworthy vehicles to launch an invasion without the support of the Fleet.  If this sounds stupid, keep in mind that the US Navy operates 3,700 aircraft, the US Army has over 127,000 "pieces of floating equipment," the US Air Force talks about "cyberspace superiority," and the US Marine Corps drives the same tanks as the US Army.  If this still sounds stupid, you have more sense than the people keeping the American armed forces divided into arbitrary and archaic branches.

Madison takes it all as a sign of the success of his latest PR "coup," which ironically was used to help a dictator take over the government.  Now it's revealed that the head of General Whip presented to Lombar Hisst in front of the cameras last book was in fact a fake, if you hadn't guessed already.  Madison imagines that the real General Whip must've run and hid after seeing the results of his "execution" on the TV; there's certainly no way he might be rallying the Army against the Apparatus, much like how the Army could only be going to Calabar to fight the insurgency rather than join it.

It's not a spoiler if it's obvious, right?

Madison looked down at the Government City streets.  He was very amused.  Mobs dotted the pavement here and there: broken windows were visible, riot police were darting about.  Voltar was looking more like Earth every day.  He felt a surge of pride: It showed what superior technology could do.  Voltar was wide open to Earth-type PR and he was a genius at applying it.  The old masters of his craft would be proud of him. 

I'm not sure what "superior technology" he's talking about - the putty head of General Whip?  Other than that, he's been working through newspapers and television networks indistinguishable from their Earth counterparts.

Also, think back and try to find a scene set on Earth that resembled this one.  Turkey was pretty chill until Gris started blowing it up, and even New York was well-behaved before Heller kicked off that whole energy crisis or set off bombs and such. 

The airbus comes in for a landing at the Royal prison, directed to the courtyard with such speed that Flick wonders whether his "Chief" really had committed a crime, to which Madison chortles that yes, he just decapitated a general

"You're fooling us," said Cun.

"Nope," said Madison.  "Held the sword myself when we cut his head off."

He really laughed out loud when they gave him a look of awe.  That wasn't all he was going to kill today.  He was going to end this Gris situation and give Teenie her revenge.  He was going to kill this trial by killing the status of Heller.  Then he could really loose the dogs on Heller's trail.

So he couldn't properly start on Heller headlines until he started Gris' trial, and then Gris' trial was the ultimate way to make Heller headlines, and now he needs to stop the Gris trial so that he can properly make Heller headlines.  Ow.  Ow.  Stop it.

Back to the start of the book 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not So Much a Throne Room as a Throne Porch

I was going to do a post-book wrap-up of Villainy Victorious, until I realized that it doesn't have any specific flaws so much as it has amplified examples of the problems plaguing Mission Earth.  So screw it.  Let's dive right into The Doomed Planet.

I like the cover art, oddly enough.  We've got some dressed-up red dude in a crown who happens to be chained to his throne, a look of either misguided triumph or mild constipation on his face.  A fleet of utterly generic and nondescript spacecraft fly in front of a crumbling stone statue of a hand grasping planet Earth, a call-back to the cover of The Invaders Plan.  Also, there looks to be a fiery explosion or splash of lava at its base, possibly as a reference to the cover of Dianetics.

Since my attempt to identify the person on the cover of the last book turned out to be inaccurate - guess it was Madison, not Gris - I'm not gonna bother with this guy.  Especially since I can't remember any characters appearing with red skin, despite all the "high yellows" and whatnot we've seen.  Judging from the symbolism, it's tempting to assume this is Lombar Hisst, who has either chained himself physically and metaphorically to the throne of Voltar, or has found himself imprisoned by his attempts to take over the empire.  But again, I don't think Lombar is red.

The quotes on the back cover all look like repeats, but at least the plot synopsis is new.

The Nerve-Shattering Climax
to the biggest
science fiction series ever written!

Man, when all you can say about your ten-book series is that "it's big," good grief.

As the mighty Voltarian Confederacy crumbles in flaming combat, riots and civil war, Jettero Heller and the beautiful Countess Krak struggle desperately to save it from ruin.

But if Voltar is to survive, then Earth must surely die.

Neither can live while the other survives, you see.

I guess this refers to Lombar's attempt to smash up the planet whose drugs he's dependent upon?  It's not like the two planets have anything else to do with each other.

And all Heller's friends there will perish.  

And seven billion other sentient beings, but they aren't Heller's friends, so who cares?  You might as well get all weepy about Russia.

The web of political intrigue draws ever tighter as Heller races against the clock to rescue both cultures from extinction.  Will he make it?  Find out in L. Ron Hubbard's grand finale of the Mission Earth series: The Doomed Planet!

At this point I'd settle for a "grand as in size" finale.  What's the Mike Nelson quote?  "At this point, any ending would make me happier than I've ever been."

The post-cover praise for this book is different: each quote is preceded by a bolded, enlarged, one-word compliments from the full line.  For example:

"GRIPPING"     "One of the most gripping storytellers in science fiction..."

Ever read the Riverworld books?  Fascinating premise, interesting stuff.  Made me want to design a custom map for Civilization.

The biggest news between the cover and the first proper chapter is the map section: there's only one, and it's of Voltar.  Could it be that our own humble homeworld doesn't appear at all in Mission Earth's grand finale?  Guess it really is a doomed planet.

In the Voltarian Censor's Disclaimer, Lord Invay introduces the last volume of "this overwrought, extravagant, hyperbolic work" as further proof that Earth doesn't exist.  I choose to interpret this as an editor apologizing to the reader in his own way.

54 Charlee Nine once again remarks that he's (she's?) never seen anything like this "Earth," introduces the book's final Key, and departs with "Good luck.  It's up to you now."  Bye, Charlee.  You had a few annoying moments, but for the most part you were a rare not-awful character, even if you aren't a proper part of the story and were invented as a framing device.  Said Key features Earth characters like Babe Corleone and Bang-Bang, so maybe it survives after all?  And we just don't need to know where anything is?

Part Eighty-Two opens with... a bit of an oversight, ha.  It's the "Monte Pennwell addresses potential publishers" framing device, where the amateur historian/investigative journalist/git with a typewriter talks about how shocked he was at this great cover-up, before recapping the previous book.  The problem is that his name isn't actually at the bottom of it, and he never introduces himself at any point.  Whoopsie!  With no author, I guess we can't publish this after all.  What a shame.

Let me remind you what happened so you can appreciate the rest of my book.

Lombar Hisst had addicted every Lord of the Grand Council to drugs.  The Emperor, Cling the Lofty, was close to death when Heller kidnapped him.  Lombar Hisst had installed himself as Dictator and millions of people were rioting in the streets.  Teenie Whopper was creating catamites out of the sons of all the Lords. 

Oh hey, Teenie got a mention.  She sort of disappeared towards the end of last book, didn't she?  But I can't help but feel like this plot summary is overlooking someone... someone involved in a trial, maybe?  Well, it can't have been important.

Madison's dream had come true!


Heller was an outlaw! 


The manhunt was on!

Though they have a good idea of where he's hiding out at.

And now, dear publisher, editor and reader, here is the final, true story of what REALLY happened!

As opposed to the official line that nothing happened.  No, all those billions of citizens freaking out about the arrest and near-execution of Hightee Heller didn't happen.  No, there wasn't a succession crisis a hundred years ago, involving a rebel prince on Calabar.  No, the Apparatus didn't do a terrible job of seizing power while the Fleet and Army stood around with their thumbs up their arses, despite all those newsheets and archived Homeview footage of "Dictator Hisst" waddling about.

How the hell did they "cover up" this garbage?  Is there a "Redflash" device that erases memories?  Or were there mass executions?  Or maybe everyone on Voltar was so embarrassed that Lombar Hisst and the Apparatus managed to plot their way into power that they all tacitly agreed never to mention it again.

Back to Part Eighty-One, Chapter Six

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Part Eighty-One, Chapter Six - Pour Encourager Les Autres

I think if I ever publish a story, and I include in it a character who exists to be kidnapped by the bad guys, I'll make sure that character's rescue takes more than seven pages, and doesn't occur in the chapter immediately after the kidnapping.  Otherwise, what's the point?

"I can't imagine how it happened," said a stunned Lombar in the safety of his dungeon office at Government City.  "Heller is still on the loose!"

Well, you let Madison move the prisoner to a huge, open public area for the sake of spectacle, instead of keeping her in the dungeons of Spiteos, where Heller would probably be unable to swoop in with a spaceship and pick her up in a manner of seconds, though since this is Heller we're talking about there's no telling what he'll pull out of his ass.  And you didn't provide air cover, or bring along any defenses beyond some tanks - which credit where it's due proved unusually capable of hitting airborne targets - and some soldiers bogged down in crowd control blocks away from the prisoner.

Oh hey, how'd that Blueflash take out the tank crews?  It's 100% effective right through armored windows?  And nobody was looking down at their guns or whatever when Heller flashed them?  What about an automated weapon system?  We've got a robotbrain in the translatophone but not assisting the military vehicles?

"It's simply that people don't realize yet," said Madi­son, "that you mean business.  They didn't do the job properly.  They let you down."

"That's true," said Hisst.  "I have been too weak.  I have tolerated the riffraff too long.  Now they are rioting in the streets."
"Things have gotten up to a point of national emergency," said Madison. "You need people around you you can trust."
"Trust somebody?" said Lombar, for this was a brand-new idea.

So he doesn't trust Madison, he just doesn't question anything he does, or criticize him, or link the fact that Madison comes up with these plans to their failure.  Despite being hyped as the sort of boss who gets all Darth Vader on his minions if they screw up.  Huh.

Madison steps out for a moment, asking some Army officers who happen to be in the next room who the most popular commander is, and is told that would be General Whip, the military genius whose men know he won't spend their lives needlessly. Madison sends for the guy, who turns out to be "a tough old campaigner but he had a nice smile.  His high forehead showed lots of brains."

The film crew takes a lot of pictures, and a "logistics crew" inspects the guy closely, which will be significant later, so pay attention.  Lombar brings the guy in and orders him to go after Heller, Whip replies that he's not going after a Royal officer without a Royal order, Lomber reminds him that he's dictator of Voltar, and Whip shrugs and leaves.

Two hours later, some of Madion's actors disguised as Army men come with a message for Madison, which he relays to Lombar: General Whip went back to his office after Lombar gave his ineffectual orders, and began to laugh at him.  Lombar is dismayed!  Luckily Madison draws up an order for him to sign: "BRING ME THE HEAD OF GENERAL WHIP."  Some time later a bunch of women (actors) come in claiming to be the wife of General Whip et al., pleading for his life, but then a pair of blood-coated Army officers (actors) come in, kneel before Hisst, and present him with what must be the head of General Whip!

And it's all staged, and all on camera.  Now everyone knows Hisst means business, eh?

"I think," said Madison, "that when they see that on Homeview, there isn't a single officer out there who won't obey you.

Certainly not gonna spark a civil war or anything, once the loyal Fleet and Army services see the vile Apparatus, which has claimed increasing power without the proper Royal paperwork, are going after their beloved officers.

At least Madison could acknowledge this and say something like "a civil war is the perfect way to make Heller famous!" but I guess he's currently in Clueless Mode as opposed to Scheming Mode.

Please sign this."

Hisst read it.  It said:


He signed it with a flourish.

...You mean to tell me that Lombar saw Heller swoop in, make a fool of him in front of everyone, and saunter off without any consequences, but only now is ordering a hunt for him?

Madison grinned.  The manhunt he had envisioned would now take place.

The heat and beat of the elation within his veins was close to ecstasy.


We can only assume he's keeping a huge scrapbook of newsheet clippings he plans on showing to Mr. Bury once he returns to the post-apocalyptic ruins of Voltarian-occupied Blito-P3.  Or is he just going to tell Mr. Bury about all the wonderful headlines he made on this fantastical alien world?

Will Earth survive
Hisst's final rage?

You mean the "rage" that Hisst ordered a hundred pages ago?  The invasion of the woefully undermanned and already exhausted Apparatus forces, an invasion contingent on getting the Fleet and Army to bail them out on Calabar?  How's that going, by the way?

Or do you mean the "rage" of the Death Battalion that showed up to beat up Captain Bolz and got wiped out by a bunch of sand bombs?  The dead rage, in other words?

Find out in
the final book of
Volume 10

I'm not sure what to think here. This book assured us that villainy would be victorious, but it's hard to feel like Lombar has cinched things, or even that Madison has accomplished much.  Certainly there was a bunch of stuff about Heller in the news, via Gris, but unlike on the backward and stupid Earth, nobody seems to believe that Heller's running around robbing banks or whatever.  Lombar did some things and claims to be dictator of Voltar, except nobody but the Apparatus accepts his authority, and Heller keeps thwarting him at every turn.

So maybe the final book's title is meant to be ironic, or sarcastic?  You know, like all the blurbs on the cover promising "entertainment," "humor" and "action?"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Part Eighty-One, Chapter Five - That Was Fast

After all that effort to make Gris the entire Confederacy's hate sink, coverage of the trial is shoved aside for the next three days in favor of the Hightee Heller situation.  Madison - not Lombar - orders all military channels to carry an ultimatum:


Which Madison leaks to the papers on Wednesday night anyway.  I can only assume the days of the week are a translation convention, and the execution is really scheduled for Terlsday or something like that.  Though it might've been nice for Madison to discuss scheduling a story or such for Wednesday only to be reminded that he's on an alien planet by one of his coworkers.  Or at least an alien planet different from the Earth presented in these books.

After the leak airs, there's riots everywhere, the Apparatus, Army and Domestic Police have their hands full keeping order, and then it's the big day.  And we shift into present tense for some reason.

Hero Plaza is a circular expanse.  It is two hundred yards in diameter.  There is nothing there but clear pave­ment since it is often used for affairs of state.  In the exact center is a completely plain circular pillar fifty feet tall and about twenty feet in circumference, led to by three circular steps.  The only decoration or inscription is on the front edge of the top step: it says Dedicated to the Heroes of Voltar.  Madison had chosen it carefully.

Kind of a boring monument.  Also, only three steps to get to the top of a fifty-foot platform?  And why tell us the circumference of a circle when we're probably only interested in its diameter, and not in doing geometry to determine that?

The eight avenues leading out of the plaza are blocked by Apparatus tanks, and then Heller's sister, Hightee, gowned all in white, the dress' shoulder artfully torn, "without her gloves now," and golden hair "like a halo," is chained to the pillar.  She shouts a warning into the microphone of Madison's camera crew, telling her brother, Jettero that "They mean to kill you!" before a Death Battalion general clamps her mouth shut.

And then things started to go slightly wrong.  Possibly the crowds-which, despite roadblocks, had gotten into the boulevards-had been in the grip of unreality.  This couldn't possibly be happening: it was too monstrous.  But when the Apparatus general had dared to actually touch Hightee to silence her, a roar and mutter had begun to rise.

It would've been nice to establish that Voltar has very sensitive norms regarding bodily contact, or something like that.  Maybe try to explain why this is a big deal for a better reason than that it's happening to the beautiful and talented Hightee Heller, Jettero's sister.  Just a suggestion.

There must have been a hundred thousand people in those boulevards. There were only two or three thousand Apparatus troops forming barricades to block them.

The barricades buckled.

There was a roar of Apparatus stunguns.

Missiles flew from the crowd!

Apparatus troops charged them!

The Domestic Police were conspicuously absent. The Apparatus knew very little about crowd control.

But they're planning on invading an alien planet with a mere four million men.  And hope to rule a 100-world empire.

For twenty minutes there was hand-to-hand fighting.

The crowd in three boulevards managed to break through the barricades.  The tanks at the plaza end had to swivel their turrets about and fire.

Then the boulevards were full of stunned and bleeding bodies, civilians and Apparatus alike.

Two Apparatus relief regiments came in and boxed the mobs in the streets from the far end.

All said, it takes until past 10 o'clock for order to be restored.  They had tanks, they were up against a bunch of unarmed civilians instead of gun-toting militias defending their homes against alien invaders, and the Apparatus still struggled.  But remember, we're supposed to be deeply concerned at the notion of these guys invading Earth.

Madison evidently picked this plaza because there's plenty of room for Hightee's brother, Heller to land troops if he feels like it, and Madison's not worried for his own safety since Heller can't use artillery for fear of hitting his sister, Hightee Heller.  He's more concerned of "getting into the cameras" and plans on hopping into a tank when the action starts.

Madison had his eye on the big clock in a tower a thousand yards away.  He supposed that Heller would wait until the last minute.  At least he hoped so.  He had no slightest notion that Heller would surrender.  Besides, it would have wrecked his plans.

And I can't help but wonder - I'm sorry, Hubbard, I really ought to be passively enjoying your work instead of thinking so much - whether Madison strictly needs Heller for this.  The publicist has a pretty clear idea of what he needs Heller to do, and back on Earth he was smart enough to hire a "body double" to do exactly that.  He now has unlimited funding and an empire at his disposal, so why doesn't he do the same thing here?  Use "cellology" to make a credible faux-Heller and have him running around, robbing banks and all that stupid stuff?  Obviously Madison has no problem with repeating himself, since he's doing the same damn things on Voltar that he did on Earth.  Did it just slip his mind?

Then Madison heard it.

A sort of booming sound.


Madison looked up.  For an instant, he could see nothing.  Then he glimpsed a blur that was travelling high at some ferocious speed.  What was it?  Some strange kind of racer?

His view was suddenly blocked by a swinging gun.  The tank was pointing at the sky.

A cry rose up from the held-back mobs.

It could only be Heller.  But the high ship was going right on by!

Thousands of ground troops, nearly a dozen tanks, but the Apparatus has no aircraft to help secure this area?  Is this regular Apparatus incompetence, or is Madison deliberately making things easier for Heller?

The tanks shoot at the passing ship, but their... projectiles pass right through it, it's an illusion.  Then one of them adjusts its aim, "THERE WAS A HUGE EXPLOSION IN THE SKY!" and pieces of non-illusory spaceship rain down on the plaza.  The barely-contained crowds loose a "shrieking moan," Heller's sister, Hightee, bursts into tears.  Flames shoot up in the distance as the ship crashes "apparently into a warehouse," certainly not a residence or hospital or anything, that's something one of Gris' out-of-control vehicles would do.

Madison looked at the tanks.  He felt that his plans for great PR were gone.  He supposed that Heller had been killed.  It would make such brief headlines!

...That's it?  That's the reaction to the apparent death of the guy you're trying to make famous?  That's your response to all those weeks of planning and manipulation coming to such an unsatisfying end?  And you don't even mention Mr. Bury, whose favor you hoped to gain from all this nonsense?

It's... we're supposed to believe that Madison is so obsessed with Heller that he'll continue doing the Wister-Heller case even after being brought to an alien civilization, so eager to please his Earth boss that he thinks Mr. Bury is more interested in how famous Heller is on another planet than he is that Madison visited another planet.  And this is Madison's response to Heller's unsatisfactory demise?  He's sounds disappointed that a restaurant closed down!

But then he saw a tank officer pointing.  The arm was stretched upward.

A thousand small objects were drifting down out of the blue. They were above this whole area

Yeah, a weird thing about this chapter is the use of "this"es.  Madison refers to "this tank" when he plans on hiding during any fighting, and now there's this "this."  Like the verb tense shift in that descriptive paragraph earlier, I can only assume that the author gradually dying while writing the story had something to do with it.

Hmm, I made myself sort of sad.

and made a mile-diameter circle of their own.

They came lower and lower.  A tank suddenly opened up to try to shoot at least some of them out of the sky.

Madison saw a distant one wink.

Then he had a sudden impression that all the world had turned blue.  Painfully, unbearably blue!

He went unconscious.

Only because cameras kept running would he find out what happened then.

It's a Blueflash, of course.  You know, the magical blue light that knocks people out.  The light Heller used during his landings on Earth.  The light that you'd think his fellow aliens would figure out countermeasures for, or plan against.

Surely Heller isn't the only person in these books who has one?  Didn't the Apparatus use it at some point?  Hell, why didn't the Apparatus use it two pages ago when they were in danger of being swamped by an angry mob?

Everyone within a mile of the site gets KO'd, then a gas bomb envelops the whole plaza in a fog, so we get audio only of the rest of the rescue.

Then there was the pulsing sound of spaceship drives.  That first ship must have been a drone.  Heller's had not been touched. 

Oh thank the wood gods!  Imagine if Heller and Krak had to drive around in a spacecraft that didn't have marble floors and golden toilets and a 3D theater system. 

There was the thump of a landing in the mist.

Then the click of airlock latches.

Heller's voice!  Very softly, "Oh, I am so sorry I had to knock you out."

Shortly another click of latches.  Then a throb of drives.

Half an hour later, Madison came awake.

The mist was gone.

There was nothing in the plaza but two broken chains.


Oh, I thought you said "nothing but Hightee in the plaza" there, thanks for clarifying.

The only thing remaining is a note pinned to the column, a doctored "excursion ticket" reading "A ONE-WAY TRIP TO HELL NINE FOR LOMBAR HISST."  Madison is all too happy to get it on camera, start some headlines about


Madison had done it.  He had converted Heller into an outlaw that could now be chased by every active unit in the whole Confederacy!

Which, since the Fleet is on a lockdown enforced by the Army, consists solely of the Apparatus.  So Madison has succeeded in getting Lombar, who hates Heller, to hate Heller, and send the Apparatus after him, which is what he already ordered.

What, in this 459 page book, did Madison actually accomplish?

Back to Chapter Four 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Part Eighty-One, Chapter Four - How Many Death Battalion Troopers Does It Take to Arrest One Actress?

To sum up Chapter Four's three pages in as many words: they arrest Hightee.

To go into a bit more detail: Hightee has a thing where she steps out of the Homeview dome and accepts flowers from some of her fans and notables, a "little ceremony that took place several times a week."  She is of course unguarded because nobody on Voltar has ever dared to put an unwanted finger upon Hightee Heller, or "even frowned at her in public."  No crazed fan has ever tried to kidnap her, no nutcase has attempted to kill her just to make a name for themself, no rival actress has ever hired a thug to splash acid on her gorgeous face.  Voltar is such a wonderful planet... with a backwards, feudal society... in a mindlessly expansive empire... being taken over by the most incompetent spy agency in history...

Anyway, this time one of the "fans" is actually a Death Battalion colonel in plainclothes, hiding a gun in his bundle of flowers.  He pulls his blastgun and announces Hightee's arrest, making sure to crush the flowers under his boot so that the director of the film adaptation can do a slow-mo, symbolic shot of tyranny triumphing over beauty.  And then the two hundred Death Battalion troopers that were somehow hiding in the shops lining the street jump out and aim their weapons as well, because the Apparatus is all about inefficiency and stupid displays of villainy.

A pair of "ushers" rush out to try and save Hightee, those heroes, but master plotter Madison anticipated this, and not only has a camera crew in place, but also hired two actors dressed as Apparatus agents to... tag along with the Death Battalion, I guess?  And the Death Battalion didn't notice?  Madison's flunkies manage to rush in and smack the pair of protestors with blood bags so "It looked exactly like they had been killed!"

The Battalion scoops up Hightee like luggage, haul her into their vehicles... that suddenly are in the scene.  Huh.  The book didn't mention them arriving.  Guess nobody noticed a bunch of APCs parked in front of Homeview, like they didn't notice two hundred soldiers hiding in the Space Starbucks and Space Dillard's.

I'm not sure what the point of the bloodbags was, since the Apparatus makes sure to knock down any pedestrians around them, "who had stopped, stunned, in the street" on their way out.  Guess Madison didn't want to rely on the Apparatus to provide a bloody scene, and felt the need for some guaranteed bleeds so his story would leads.

With a shattering roar of takeoffs, the street was empty except for pedestrians collapsed upon the walks.

We get nothing about numbers, either.  Since it was over so fast, I'm assuming there can't have been too many civilians about, or else we would've had a drawn-out brawl.  So presumably the street population was 90% Death Battalion or something.

Then people began to run out of the building and out of the shops.  They looked around.  They stared at the sky in horror.  A woman began to scream.

And come to think of it, shouldn't people have noticed the Apparatus Stink hanging about all those loitering "customers?"  How are these guys supposed to be able to sneak up on anybody or disguise themselves if their Evil BO gives them away?

Madison had the cameraman fade out on the crushed bouquet.  It looked as though the battered flowers bled.

He was grinning. It had been carried live, as a special, over all Homeview.

Aw, Hubbard!  If you have Madison do that in-story, the director of Mission Earth; The Movie can't very well do the same thing without looking like a tool, can he?

Well, Madison got his headlines - "HIGHTEE ARRESTED BY HISST," "BILLIONS MOURN," etc. - and less importantly Lombar now has bait for a Heller-centric trap. Villainy is indeed victorious, evil has triumphed, etc.  Good place to end the book now that we've set up the "Rescue Hightee" arc, yes?

But the book has two chapters left.  So, what does that tell us about the longevity of this brand new "Rescue Hightee" subplot?

Back to Chapter Three

Monday, January 20, 2014

Part Eight-One, Chapter Three - Opening Night

So far Madison has been using the tactic that, "according to his notebooks," is called invidious association, which Wikipedia is unfamiliar with.  Basically his - well, officially Gris' - lawyers are using a legal loophole to call all sorts of witnesses to give sordid testimony about Heller, because they have the right to finish making their case before explaining how any of it is relevant to the charges they're supposedly defending.  I'm mildly curious as to whether or not this is a real thing, but it doesn't matter - either Earth and Voltar legal codes overlap in this case, or once again the world behaves as the plot mandates.

At any rate, it's time for Madison to "advance his program a notch."  Bam!

The image of Heller was becoming surrounded in mystery.  Now it was time to begin to give it more substance.  To a master of PR like Madison, it was just child's play.  The next move, while the trial continued, was to begin the image remold.  It was time to release the musical.

Tch, not even ominous italics, or conspicuous capitalization.  It was time to release... the musical.  It was time to release The Musical!  Poor showmanship from a master of PR like Madison. 

The Outlaw is all ready to go, but when Madison calls Hightee she's reluctant to put on the show due to its "political connotations and the political scene looks pretty rocky."  Probably too much to ask that anyone get suspicious that Madison had this thing ready to go just when Hellermania is reaching its peak.  I mean, Hightee even recognizes that Madison's pretty deep with all this Apparatus stuff, and notices how Lombar Hisst seems to do whatever the publicist tells him.  But we can't let anything like common sense or pattern recognition get in the way of our story.

Just to keep up appearances, Madison asks whether Hightee's heard anything about Heller, and she confirms that he's on Calabar by mentioning that some Fleet observer swears that the way a fuel dump on that planet blew up was textbook Heller.  So there's a brain teaser for ya: think back to all the things Heller's blown up - that parking garage, his apartment building, the marina, that skyscraper, the stretch of highway - and try to spot some common element that could be viewed as Heller's signature style.

Hightee doesn't believe that Heller would associate with rebel scum, and still has concerns about putting on the show.

"If you can guarantee nothing will happen to members of the cast.  We're dealing with Apparatus thugs, you know, and I don't want my friends knocked around."

You're dealing with an Apparatus thug, you know.

The shameless Madison said, "I absolutely guarantee on my honor as a gentleman, nothing at all will happen to the cast and no harm will come to you.  Hisst just needs a bit of slowing down, that's all."

I like it when the story explains how I should be reacting to the characters in it.

After this, Madison hurries to get Homeview on the case, with "spot ads" and everything for... the musical, soon to be broadcast live and free to every planet in the Confederacy.  The promos promise new "downbeat" music, and Hightee "takes her life in her hands to bring it to you," which has freaked out more than a few of her billions and billions of fans.  Some even get physically ill at the mere thought of anything happening to Miss Heller.  But at least nobody seems to be worshiping her yet,

The next evening Madison visits Lombar, complains that despite his protests, those stubborn fools at Homeview are causing trouble, and turns on the TV.  There's one last promo for The Musical, then the news.

As a lot of day programming was given over to the trial, the news itself could get on with other matters.  Mention was made that the fighting on Calabar seemed to be diminishing as Apparatus troops pulled out.  Several papers were speculating on the target of some punitive strike, guessing at which of several unconquered planets.  One said that a race had developed a new and devastating weapon and needed preinvasion chastisement and a usually informed source mentioned that it might be Blito-P3.  Lombar grinned like a toother at that: Madison had told him that such a leak "prepared the public mind."

I'm pretty sure that should be "unusually informed source," but other than that, I like this.  It's smart, it's sneaky, it's worthy of Dick Cheney.  I just wish the bad guys would do more of this sort of thing instead of thinking up stories about how Bandito Heller rode into Mexico on a burro and ravished a peasant girl who now wants to marry him.

The Musical starts, and of course Lombar "seemed to find the antics of the red Devils and the abuse of the people a source of gratification.  He hadn't really grasped the import of the play."  He only begins to catch on that the story may be about him after the protagonists rob something called a "train" and pull out some of the devils' clothing, which happens to be Apparatus uniforms.

And of course there's a song, it's a musical!

Hightee, at that point, throws back her head and laughs.  Then she draws a six-gun and fires it in the air to attract the attention of peasants in the nearby fields.  These all run up and Hightee sings them a song.

Also, why have we suddenly shifted verb tense?

With the crazy downbeat rhythm and singing as only Hightee could sing, the ballad went:

The Devil's going to get you
If you don't watch out.
The Devil's going to cheat you
Before you know he is about.
He's going to hit you,
With a great big stick.
He is going to smash you
With a fist that's quick.
But if you saw the Devil
When he was skinned,
You would really find,
He was just a bag of wind.
For the Devil was bred
In a lowly slum

I'm not going to put up with eternal torment from anyone other than a Royal devil, thank you very much.

And every unknown father
Was a gutter bum.
The point of this song
Should not be missed.
I am singing about
(mouthed only) ______ _____!

Of course she's mouthing "Lombar Hisst."  Then she and the other performers proceed to inflate the Apparatus uniform, shoot it up with their evidently real pistols, and burn it on stage as an effigy.  Hisst has a seizure and falls out of his chair, even through the part where the two outlaws are hanged, and the portraits of Hightee and Heller look down on the stage from heaven.

When the show is over and Madison turns the TV off, he speculates that Heller must have put Hightee up to this.  But he has an idea on how to get Heller to show up and face Lombar's justice.

Lombar looked at it.  A savage look replaced the shock that had been dominating him.  "That's brilliant!" he said and signed it, stamped it.

Madison took it back to see that it was all in order.  It said:



Really, the only shock is that it took this long before Heller's sweet, innocent sister wound up kidnapped by the bad guys.

"Make sure you get that executed!" said Lombar with a ferocious snarl.  "I've never been so affronted in my life!"

I'm not sure if I've ever used "affronted" in casual conversation, much less coming out of a frothing rage.  But then again, Lombar is a gutter-born idiot, so it's... perfectly natural for him to... ahem.

"I knew you'd see your way out of this," said Madi­son.  "You can now ignore the details.  Leave the rest up to me."

J. Warbler Madman was about to pull off the PR caper of the age.

Yeah, yeah, PR master, sure.  But what about this qualifies as an "image remold?"  What exactly was the image of Heller that the Gris trial was establishing, beyond bleating repeatedly that "it's all his fault!" at the end of every grisly account of Gris' crimes?  More to the point, why did we need to go through the bother of establishing one image only to recreate it?  Heller already was a famous soldier/athlete/pilot/brother of an actress.  Why couldn't we have gone right to The Musical and given an outrageous account of Heller's actions on Earth without a circuitous plan to use Gris' trial to do the same thing?

Also, while it's nice to show how manipulative Madison is for being able to play his boss like this, every scene with the two of them is a reminder of just how inept and hopeless Lombar is.  The recurring question is how the hell Lombar managed to get so far in his schemes without someone like Madison holding his hand, giving him tips from Villainy 101.

Back to Chapter Two

Friday, January 17, 2014

Part Eighty-One, Chapter Two - The Trial of Soltan Gris, Abridged

We've now reached the trial of the books' primary character, a chance for the villainous Gris to finally get what's coming to him, so of course we're going to skim it.

A trial which, by Voltar standards, should have taken ten minutes was, artfully, due to Madison's careful coaching, being dragged out Earth-style for days and weeks and, he hoped, months.

And it gave headlines every day and provided hours of Homeview.

Gris' not-attorneys, veteran judges and executioner that they are, use every trick and defense they've ever heard to make the trial as drawn-out as possible.  They call in witness after witness who go on at great length and detail of Gris' numerous crimes, which are often reenacted for the court.  They even dig up some corpses and haul them in to stink up the place, for what I'm sure is a good reason.

And Gris?  Still self-destructively stupid.  Still going along with Madison's plan to commit suicide on the stand so that Heller's name gets in the news.

Gris was becoming more confident, even cockier, in the limelight.  When, after a day or two or even three was spent upon a crime, he would again be put upon the stand, he would confess that the evidence was true, that he had done it and that as an Apparatus officer he pleaded guilty to it BUT he would qualify the statement by declaring each time, "JETTERO HELLER MADE ME DO IT.  IT WAS ALL BECAUSE OF HIM."

So the viewing public is going nuts, enough for tanks to be parked around the courthouse now, and Lord Turn is going nuts because he fails to see how this helps Gris' case, and the Fleet is going nuts after hearing what the Apparatus is up to through Gris' testimony, and Lombar is getting worried because a Fleet deputation is on its way to his office.  He begs Madison for help, so Madison gets a pre-signed declaration from the Council, readies his camera crew, and prepares a speech for his "boss."

The Fleet heads are met with a wall of bluster, as Lombar harangues them for daring to question the Dictator of Voltar, and unleashes a load of new edicts:

"A) No officer or personnel of the Fleet may mention the name of Jettero Heller.
"B) No officer or personnel of the Fleet may speak ill of the Apparatus.
"C) No officer or personnel of the Fleet may complain about myself, Lombar Hisst, in any way, or ques­tion any order that I issue, no matter how or where.
"D) Fleet officers must salute any officer or personnel of the Apparatus.
"E) Any offender against these regulations shall be docked a year's pay.

"The deputation before me is dismissed.  Get out of here at once!"

An officer points out that this decree lacks the magical Royal seal to make it official, immediately placing him in violation of Section C, so that Hisst produces another prepared proclamation putting the Fleet on lockdown under Army enforcement.  And the Fleet guys, who just pointed out that Lombar's orders are illegal, and despite hearing about the Apparatus' misdeeds in the news, and despite outnumbering the shouty twerp in front of them, comply and leave.

Good thing Heller decided to keep the Apparatus coup secret, who knows what sort of trouble would've been caused if that got out.

Lombar was ecstatic.  "They obeyed!" he said to Madison.  "Did you see their faces?  Almost purple!  But they are cowed!  Why, I suddenly realize

Hubbard, you hurt me.

I can use them to relieve the Apparatus on Calabar and begin to organize the invasion of Blito-P3 in earnest!"

You just confined them to their ships and naval bases.  They hate your guts.  And you think they're safe to use in battle.

"Oh, yes, indeed," said Madison.  "Today you've taken a giant step forward to assuming total power and the Crown."

"I certainly have," said Lombar, expanding.  "When we capture Rockecenter and put him back on his throne there, I'm going to have to tell him what a truly magnificent aide you are."

And now we finally have a logical motivation for Madison to be doing what he's doing: Hisst promising to ensure that Madison is richly rewarded as part of the Apparatus regime on Earth after using his PR to make Lombar an emperor.  Unfortunately, but predictably, the author did this bass-ackwards, so that Madison has been spending the book pursuing that same goal with absolutely no guarantee that he'll ever see Earth again, under the bizarre logic that this is what his former boss (who's still on Earth) would want him to do.

Madison grinned.

This was cream on top of cream.

Yes, his homecoming would be glorious.

He just had to make sure that he had finished his job with Heller.

Which has nothing to do with making Hisst emperor.  Immediately after coming up with a new justification for his behavior, Madison is falling back on his Heller obsession.  Well, the end of Book Nine is probably too late to hope for any character development, much less glimmers of intelligence.

Back to Chapter One 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Part Eighty-One, Chapter One - The Trial of Soltan Gris, as Promised in Part Sixty-Four

It took 112 chapters, and it's not technically covering the crimes Heller arrested him for, but Gris is finally getting his day in court!

It's another case of "there's no law against it" as the newsheets get the police to help bully their way into the courtroom to provide live coverage of that most exciting of events, a bigamy trial.  See, before Madison came along and PRed everyone, Voltar's media had never been allowed in a courthouse, but now they're "jamming cameras into people's faces, hitting mouths with microphones, telling people to look this way and that, colliding all the while with press photographers and stumbling over reporters."  Six thousand spectators have crammed themselves into a grand chamber that should only be accommodating four thousand.

Try not to wonder why they built a courthouse with stadium seating in a society that never had this much interest in legal proceedings before.

Gris is dressed in that Death Battalion colonel's uniform, complete with red gloves, upon the insistence of his Tayl (Madison)-appointed defense attorneys.  Or I should say, his two former Domestic Police judges and a Lord's executioner, because those are "the closest anyone could get to a criminal defense attorney on Voltar."  On a planet with separate laws for separate classes and a love of capital punishment for crimes like possessing counterfeit currency, this is not in the least bit surprising.

He's terribly afraid and confused, so Gris freezes up when ordered to take the stand, eliciting "a storm of animal sounds from the assembled."  The author doesn't specify which animals, so feel free to imagine whatever grunts or squeaks you find the most comical. 

Gris is eventually prodded into place so Lord Turn can begin the trial, concerning accusations of Gris' "false and felonious bigamy committed in this prison," which as I've failed to wrap my head around is a capital crime.  But hey, let's consider another reason this is skull-poppingly bizarre: when "Queen" Teenie tried to strut in and exert her authority, Lord Turn turned... her down because she didn't have any legal standing, since there were no treaties with her planet.  Similarly, if Voltar has a "life, liberty, and pursuit of what happiness can be found in a setting devised by L. Ron Hubbard" clause in its constitution, it obviously doesn't apply to people outside the empire, who are fair game for conquest and subjugation.

But marriages on those planets still count!  Yeah!  Voltar doesn't recognize your Royal title, and doesn't recognize your right to live, and certainly doesn't give a damn about your sovereignty.  But it will honor a marriage from any planet in the galaxy, no matter what bizarre wood gods presided over it, because marriage is a sacred rite worth executing people over if they refuse to cohabitate and raise a bastard like a proper loveless family.

Gris' stage fright is such that he can only sit there gaping like a fish for a bit, prompting another chorus of chipmunk and dolphin noises, as well as a hail of empty chank-pops and snacks.  But then... wow, it's been so long, but our old friend is back.  "INSPIRATION!"

Which is to say, Gris decides to do what Madison wanted him to do all along.  He was inspired to finally follow someone else's idea.  "I accuse Jettero Heller!  He is the cause of any crimes!"

This of course shocks the audience, and annoys the judge, since Heller is completely unrelated to the charges Gris is currently on trial for.  But Gris insists that Heller is to blame for everything.

A buzz of confusion went through the room.

Lord Turn said, in an incredulous voice, "You accuse him of causing you to commit bigamy?"

Gris glanced toward his attorneys.  They were all nodding at him.  Madison, on the bench behind them, was grinning.  Gris said, "Absolutely.  He refused to follow orders.  He went absolutely wild.  Jettero Heller put me in a position where all I could do to defend myself was to get married again."

Please note that Gris doesn't trust his not-quite-defense attorneys, as he knows Madison was involved somewhere.  But he's still willing to do exactly what Madison wanted him to do, and make the guy grin with approval at his actions, despite knowing all too well how Madison tends to "help" people.

Ah well, it wouldn't be a Hubbard novel without plot-mandated idiocy.

The buzz in the room rose in volume: it was becoming a roar of confusion.

Lord Turn hit the gong again.  "Clerk," he said to his scribe at a lower desk, "this prisoner is being willfully digressive.  Strike those remarks from the record."

But Madison's grin widened.  They might get struck on the record but they had been carried by Homeview all over Voltar and would be all over the Confederacy.

Yes, Gris' not-attorneys promise that they have a whole host of witnesses to explain the circumstances of those multiple marriages and why we should totally be sympathetic towards Gris.  The first brain teaser is to figure out who could be called in at this point who hasn't been killed off or driven into Heller's camp.  The second mental exercise is to think of anyone who would have testimony capable of helping Gris' case, but that's a waste of time since Madison is behind this, so of course the witnesses are going to hurt Gris.

Madison's spirits soared into Heaven Number Sev­en.  

I guess this is a subtle clue that the alien historian who "wrote" this is projecting onto a historical figure who most likely would not share his religious beliefs, rather than just another lazy cultural reference the author will never explain.

It was exactly what he had planned and hoped for.  He had brought off a PR man's dream.  He almost chortled aloud with delight.  Miles and miles of headlines stretched before him like a roaring river of the blackest ink.

And all for Heller!

So is Hubbard arguing that he was the Gris figure in his bigamy scandal?  That he was set up by some PR mastermind/idiot to take the fall as part of a campaign against some dashing hero?  Probably not; Heller is presumably who Hubbard (thinks he) identifies with, and we already had a couple of chapters about Heller being accused of bigamy.

Guess it's easy to get confused when the author recycles subplots.

Back to Part Eighty, Chapter Eight

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Part Eighty, Chapter Eight - Insincere Greetings and Salutations from Jettero Heller

I guess Monte's speaking to us again, because this chapter kicks off with

One cannot help but wonder, dear reader,

I have serious problems with a book like Mission Earth trying to chum it up with its victims.  It's almost necessary to read the words as sick sarcasm, like a serial killer talking to the latest girl locked in his basement.

what the course of history might have been if Captain Snelz had not thought of the man he did when asked to design a way to get the message into Lombar's hands.  If he had only told Heller the name that had popped into his mind, the fate of Earth might well have been quite different.

For the man Snelz had thought of was J. Walter Madison!

Dun duh duhn!  A revelation so dire that it's shockingly not rendered in all caps.

See, Hisst is bloody impossible to keep track of, since he's off cutting amphetamines from ingredients shipped... seriously?  Hisst brings in truckloads of "Lactose, Epsom Salts, Quinine, Baking Powder, Photo Developer, Insecticide and Strychnine."  Hisst cuts up the amphetamine capsules and mixes them with the additives.  There's no mention of this other stuff being brought in through the Earth shipments, but Voltar presumably doesn't have a use for photo developer anymore.  So Hisst isn't just shipping in drugs to distribute as finished products, he's tweaking and experimenting with dosage and additives and stuff.  But he's still dependent on Earth for his supply!  He's not going to see if he can reproduce these drugs on Voltar!

It's like if the Japanese bought a pair of muskets from the Portuguese sailors who washed up on Tanegashima in 1543, carefully disassembled and examined the guns, tinkered around with some modifications, and then put in an order for a lot of a thousand to be delivered yearly.

Anyway.  Lombar's busy doing that, and also so paranoid about assassins that he never lets anyone know his schedule, but Capt. Snelz has noticed that Madison seems to have the run of the place, coming and going in his angel bus at all hours.  And though he knows that Madison is a fraud, liar and no friend of Heller's, he's going to entrust this vital message to him because Madison is an untrustworthy twerp - Snelz hopes that the publicist will be killed for delivering such a dangerous message.

Which isn't to say that Snelz will be doing this task himself.  Instead he dresses one of his soldiers up in an outfit like Madison's "gray shimmercloth" suit, and orders him to make the delivery, on pain of getting chucked in that chasm next to Camp Kill.  Yes, Snelz is trying to incriminate Madison based on mistaken identity, the cunning bastard.  Excuse me, (bleepard).

Luckless Soldier does so, sticking the very important envelope on Lombar's desk.  But shortly afterward, to Snelz' horror "THE MODEL 99 LANDED!"  And so, the avoid the embarrassment of Hisst's clerk realizing he checked in "Madison" twice, we get a tepid little action sequence.

Snelz shoots out the lightpost over Madison, causing Madison to... run for the zipbus to Lombar's office.  Good plan, Snelz.  Luckily the faux-Madison was already hiding behind some boxes since he saw the elevator coming his way, and was thus able to slip past the real Madison undetected.  And when Madison is asked "Forget something?" by Lombar's clerk he doesn't really notice, or even give any indication that someone just shot at him.

So did that sequence we just read even happen?  It had no effect on the story, the characters aren't reacting to it.  Madison doesn't mention it at any point after the narrative switches to following him.  Did Hubbard accidentally leave in bits from his first draft when he went back and revised I can't even finish that sentence.

Madison goes into Hisst's office, sees the super top secret Heller letter, "quivered with greed to know" what was in it, and unseals it, damn the consequences that he doesn't know about.


Greetings and salutations and all that sort of thing, none of them sincere:

You have known for some time the company I've been enjoying as I left you the present of my baton.

Playing up your sloppiness as some sort of personal challenge.  Smooth, Heller.

As you know--for you keep saying so on Homeview--His Majesty is suffering from an indisposition, and we really do not want to trouble him with such a small matter as signing and sealing a Royal proclamation declaring you a traitor and a menace to the state.

However, we can promise you that in the event you seek to use the Army or the Fleet in attacking Calabar, the proclamation will be issued and that will be the end of Hisst. So my advice to you is simply to fly into a few rages, shoot some of your own staff and let nature take its course.

Hoping not to have the
pleasure of seeing you
hanging on the gallows,

Jettero Heller

So, why do this?  Why can't Heller just use the royal stamp to release a proclamation explaining the situation and exposing Hisst's schemes?  Sure, he'd probably get in trouble for forgery, but if anyone could get away with such a heinous crime it'd be Heller.  Or maybe he could make a video of himself describing the Apparatus' scheme and showing His Majesty's condition, exposing Lombar for a liar and getting the Fleet and Army firmly on his side?

But we might as well list all the better ways for Heller to ensure his message reached Hisst.  Instead, Madison reads it and learns the truth of the situation, why Hisst always looks "extremely cagey" when there's mention of Royal proclamations.  He concludes that Heller is indeed a true outlaw for sneaking into the base with this letter, that Heller doesn't want anyone to come after him, and so therefore Madison must do exactly that.


Oh, what headlines all this would eventually make!

Not right now, of course, but later when he had his campaign all worked out and perfect.

Man, what can I say at this point that I haven't been ranting about for half this miserable book?

If he had had any slightest doubt before, that he would make his goal, he had none now.  He would, for sure, return to Earth in glory--if, of course, there was anything left of it.

He knows?!   No ambiguity now, Madison is fully aware that an alien race is on its way to flatten Earth?!  And he's still trying to complete the Wister-Heller job so he can go back to his boss who will most likely get killed in the alien invasion that destroys the society Madison left?! 

I don't have words to properly convey my emotions at this point, so just try to picture someone doing his best to eat a computer keyboard.

Madison pockets the letter and kicks around Hisst's office for an hour until his boss shows up, so he can show him the latest newsheet clippings and photos of Lombar looking angry and imperious.  And then he leaves.  "HE DID NOT SAY ONE SINGLE WORD ABOUT THE HELLER DESPATCH!"  Just in case you were wondering whether he'd steal the letter but go on to tell Hisst about it.  Idiot.

And Snelz, watching from outside, having faced no consequences for shooting up his workplace, assumes that the delivery went on as planned.

For a second time, a message which would have forestalled an invasion of Earth had been stopped en route.

Thanks to the awesome power of contrivance.

And not only that, this one had fallen into the hands of a man to whom it gave total power: J. Walter Madison, who could use it in any villainous way he chose and at a moment when he considered it would be the most advantageous in a headline.

So Madison, who is already trying to make Heller a famous outlaw, will use the letter to make Heller a famous outlaw.  Oh no.

KNOWLEDGE WAS POWER!  And Madison now knew that he was the only one on Voltar with the vital, pivotal information that the Emperor was on Calabar and Heller was holding him a captive!


A sort of story that would make the book's current villain entirely superfluous... man, even on Voltar we're only dancing around the real plot.  Book Nine and the Heller vs Apparatus conflict is still being pushed into the background so the author can satirize the media.

But not for now.  No, no, not for now.  This one had to be built up to with the biggest BANG this universe had ever heard!

We're not doing this thing until the newspapers are all talking about Bandito Heller's rape victims/wives. 

As he returned to Joy City, the glee in Madison threatened to bubble out and explode!

The fate of two empires was truly up for grabs!  And J. Warbler Madman was the one who would do the tossing!

That... what?  Toss the... thing up for grabs... toss fate?

And on that confusing note, the chapter ends.

Back to Part Eighty, Chapter Seven