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Madison's other news is that Lord Turn no longer has to hold Gris prisoner, because Heller's Royal officer status has been revoked.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 

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