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:

ARREST HIGHTEE HELLER AND HOLD HER.  THEN BARGAIN WITH HER BROTHER AND GET HIM TO COME IN.  THEN KILL THEM BOTH.

LOMBAR HISST

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

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