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

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