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

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