On the topic of unlikeable characters returning to the story...
Lord Turn's all flummoxed about this Gris situation, since he's never had to deal with public opinion before, because after all how would the public even have an opinion without a PR agency? Now even his own family isn't speaking with him due to the injustice of having a monster like Gris behind bars. Which on second thought is a pretty good place for a monster like him to be. The protests certainly aren't about whether or not Gris got a fair trial, or even that he had a trial before being imprisoned - for all of Madison's hints about Gris' sensation crimes being too hot to bring to court, all the songs are calling for his blood. Voltar's evidently big on capital punishment.
Anyway, Lady Anthrite's little committee comes before Turn with their proposal, and while Turn is quite against it, Anthrite's legal scholars have discovered that there's no law against holding a marriage in a jail, so the only obstacle will be whether or not Gris agrees. Which brings us back to Gris.
Actually, Gris, these days, had put on some weight through lack of exercise, and food eaten regularly. Just now he was sitting in the tower cell wondering what to do with his time.
He had delivered the massive confession. For a couple of days thereafter he had worried a bit, thinking he would now be executed. Then he began to realize that judges take a long time to read things and maybe he had a few more breaths of life left to breathe.
So if those crowds howling for his blood would wait patiently for the judges to read Gris' confession, he'd end up executed just like they want?
The orders that he stay away from the window did not have to be repeated to him: he knew in his bones that Lombar Hisst would move the planet to get at him.
Well, send three assassins, anyway. Certainly not launch a "terrorist" attack on the prison, or have the place flattened by a falling spaceship in an "unfortunate accident," or arrange for a prison guard to tragically infect the whole place with a deadly plague, or poison the water supply, or anything involving effort or thought. Don't want to go through any extremes to kill this high-value target.
He had heard some crowd shouting something or other outside the prison on some occasions but he had not dared go to the window to look and he could not understand what they were saying: they were too distant. No information had come to him. He knew nothing whatever about the press campaign against him.
But he was still able to lament in that "confession" he just handed in how much trouble Teenie would cause him after being sent to Voltar. Gris is magic, see.
It's been a while since we've had a proper Hubbard Action Sequence, hasn't it? And while this isn't an action scene, if you squint it's kinda exciting, I guess?
A guard came in and pointed a weapon at him.
The room was suddenly full of women!
Gris's wits promptly went into a spin.
He recognized none of them.
Their gaze upon him was hostile in the extreme.
Panic gripped him and there was no place to run.
A hooded figure, very slight of build, advanced toward him. It came very close.
And then the hooded figure hands him a note, promising that "If you don't say yes I will tell them about the baby and they will tear you limb from limb." It is, of course, the Widow Tayl, who plays the part of sacrificial bride for her audience while jabbing a finger at the note. Gris is predictably dumbstruck, but then realizes that if he agrees to a future wedding date, he - who in his recently-finished "confession" begged his jailers to "Just execute me quickly!" - will be able to squeeze another month or so into his miserable life. He says "YES!" but before he can add more, Tayl announces that the wedding will take place that afternoon, and everyone leaves. Whoops.
"SACRIFICIAL BRIDE TO REFORM GRIS," read the headlines, and you can bet the crowd just eats that crap up.
But what attracted public attention, as Madison knew it would, was the probable fate of a beautiful woman. Thousands upon thousands of people began to gather on the lower slopes of the Royal prison. Many were weeping, none had any hope, all thought it was a cruel thing to do and all thought that the nobility of Pratia Tayl was beyond any possible estimation.
It's such a media event that Homeview is able to properly cover it without Madison's management. And then I get angry.
For Madison had another mission of his own. With Apparatus-provided credentials and in the uniform of a General Services officer, he was going to act as the "bridegroom's friend," a necessary personnel of the ceremony.
The guards searched him for weapons and poison and promised him that they would be watching through the slot with a gun on him if he so much as made a gesture at Gris. And they let him in.
Madison can get in! Not the three professional(?) assassins Hisst sent after Gris, but Madison! Using the Apparatus' own credentials! Were Lombar's crack professional killers thwarted because the guards were smart enough to check for knives? Did they have no excuse to visit Gris since he wasn't getting married? Hubbard, why is this stupid PR a better spy than your big bad intelligence agency?
Gris was lying on his bunk in a state of collapse. He had failed utterly to buy his month. The thought of being married to the Widow Tayl was only offset by the fact that he would not live very long anyway.
He's sad that he didn't get an extra month of life but happy that he'll be dying soon. This is not improving my mood, Hubbard.
The bunk was actually an inset ledge in the stone.
When a pad was on it, as now, it had only about four feet of clearance to its overhead.
You might be wondering why we need to know about this odd sleeping arrangement. Well, it's so when he recognizes his visitor as Madison...
In horrible shock he shot upright!
He hit his head!
Ta da. Physical comedy. Wasn't it worth it?
Gris is of course horrified to see Madison again, and when the publicist assures him that he's here to help, begs him not to act as his PR. But Madison insists that he's there to get Gris out of jail, and indeed it's thanks to his efforts that Gris is still alive. Though Gris is still highly suspicious that something horrible is about to happen to him, Madison explains that all he wants is for Gris to get to trial and accuse Heller as the source of all his problems, something Gris can totally agree with. But...
"They won't try me. They'll just execute me. And if I ever walk out of this prison, Lombar Hisst will have me cut down ten feet from the gate."
"Don't give it a second thought. I am Lombar's right-hand man--or he is mine, I forget which."
Again, Madison's schizophrenia. He's the masterly manipulative PR man who plays his boss Mr. Hisst like a fiddle, and yet he's doing all this because he's slavishly obedient to his other boss Mr. Bury, who as I must constantly remind you is thirty-odd light-years away and has no way of knowing how Madison's doing.
In the end, Gris agrees to go through with the wedding, then take the stand and accuse Heller of all the crimes he can think of, in the vain hope that his jolly good pal Madison will save his hide.
Madison had to keep his smile from spreading into a triumphant grin. Gris didn't even suspect how absolutely diabolical the real plan was!
Again, Madison's schizophrenia. He's the diabolical plotter about to deliberately wreck one person's life in a manner identical to how he "helps" another, simultaneously a cynical chessmaster and a staggeringly naive imbecile.
Tune in next time for yet another Soltan Gris shotgun wedding.
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