Friday, February 28, 2014

Part Eighty-Seven, Chapter Two - It Sorta Rhymes With "Genius"

The Emperor is off having a good cry, while the assembled Lords and notables are all "upset because the Emperor had looked upset."  Gotta hand it to Voltar, it's good at training sycophants: Mortiiy's only been on the throne for a few hours now, and people are already basing their thoughts and feelings off of his.

Except for Heller, of course.  He hasn't yet had a reaction to his orders to destroy the planet he killed so many people trying to save, instead he's thinking about how hard it would be to get the general staff to agree on an invasion plan in the best of times, to saying nothing of these strained circumstances.  He stalls for time by spotting the Master of Palace City, pretends that the guy was giving him some sort of signal, and so adjourns the meeting for two hours so everyone can get some refreshments, thus leaving the Master to hastily plan how to scrounge up a serving staff from the local Lords' estates.

Then Heller turns to his archnemesis, that most hated of foes, Soltan... er, Madison, excuse me.  Wow, Gris stopped being relevant a long time ago, didn't he?  Heller gets Madison to confirm that he trained his film crew in the dark arts of PR, then orders that they all be put in electric shackles.

"At once, Your Lordship," the marine captain said.  "Can I raise the voltage a bit above the usual?  They wounded some of my men."

"No torture," said Heller, "although I must agree with you, it's tempting."

Our hero.  Madison tries to defend himself, arguing that PRing isn't a crime, but while Heller agrees that on Earth "you can start whole wars and ruin reputations and lives, and PRs just strut and laugh about it.  But here a million casualties aren't looked upon so lightly."  Hey.  Hey Heller.  See if you can finish this sentence: "fifteen million _______s."  Eh?  Eh?

Madison insists that if he hadn't put Lombar on the throne there wouldn't have been a popular uprising against the Apparatus, but Heller counters that if Madison hadn't gotten involved, Cling would have eventually recovered, declared Mortiiy his successor, "and there wouldn't have been a single shot fired."  Yep, the Apparatus and Hisst would've surrendered without a fight.  Gumdrops and chocolate milk for everyone.  And Madison, bless his heart, still thinks he's going back to Earth, and that Mr. Bury will surely understand that he tried his very best to make Mr. Heller-Wister nice and famous on an alien planet, despite failing to do so on Earth.

And so begins Madison's trauma.  Heller reveals that Mr. Bury works for him now, he has no plan of "inflicting" Madison on Earth again, and that last PR campaign was so effective that Mortiiy wants to blow up his homeworld.  I'm not sure why he needs to tell Madison this, 'cause the guy was in the same hall as him, but maybe the acoustics were bad.  And anyway, Madison didn't seem concerned with Earth's fate when the Apparatus was talking about invading, so why would he care now?

Then Krak shows up, and recognizes Madison as the fellow who she thought drove into a river.  And then, well, Krak has a good memory.  She also read lots of Earth newspapers during her stay on the planet.  So she tells Madison that she remembers reading something in one a few days after his reported death, something about his mommy.

"My mother?" said Madison, suddenly ashen.  "She died of grief over that death report?"

"No," said Krak.  "She got married in one of the happiest weddings I've ever seen photographs of!"

"Oh, my God!" said Madison and began to crumple. 

The author won't let his heroes physically torture Madison, but he'll contrive events so that they can psychologically destroy him.  "The woman Flip," that criminal camera crew member who's always wanted in Madison's pants for some reason, swoops in and embraces him, while Krak wonders why he's reacting so badly to her attempt to reassure him that he hadn't "ruined his mother's life with grief."  Guess she didn't consider that hearing Mommy had a fabulous wedding just two days after she thought you died might be a bit discouraging.

The woman Flip

The narration refers to her this way three of the four times her name appears in this chapter.  Is this a brain thing, I wonder?  The result of an elderly, dying author?  Or is Hubbard merely being nice and differentiating the woman Flip from the man Flick, because goodness knows I keep getting the names mixed up.

kissed Madison.  He stirred.  His eyelids flickered open.  He looked up at her.  She kissed him again.

"I've got you," said Flip with greedy eyes.

"Oh, my God," he wept, "there goes my genius!"

So... humor from female-on-male rape?  The figurative cherry on Madison's sundae of trauma?  Or is the author being benevolent here, and thinks he's doing Madison a favor?

Hubbard, at least in these books, is nice enough to ensure that all of his characters are getting some, even the worst of the villains.  They might not want to be getting some, and the some that they are getting may turn out to be an underage girl, a still-cooling corpse, or a transvestite KGB colonel, but nobody in this story is going home with blue balls, no matter how much they might deserve it.

Back to Chapter One

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