Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Part Eighty-Six, Chapters Six and Seven - The Root of All Evil (Involves Clowns, of Course)

So imagine you're working in the Imperial Palace, and several weeks ago things went to hell.  A bunch of criminals in official uniforms took over and let the place rot around them, and you were eventually imprisoned in the Royal basements.  Then there was a horrific battle going on above you, with a mountain torn out of the ground, terrifying explosions, spaceships falling out of the sky onto the capital, the works.  And then you're finally rescued by Jettero Heller, only so you can get up there and clean the Grand Council hall after the "last druggy days of Hisst" left it a dusty shambles.

Heller also laments that the Apparatus nicked all the "gold and jewelled clothes and diamond-studded banners" that once decorated the hall, but soon is distracted by the sheer volume of people filing in - high-ranking officials, military commanders, etc.  Also, Madison's film crew is there, despite Flick's pleas that they make a run for it since their careers are over - Homeview's showing celebrating crowds in the streets chanting praises of Emperor Mortiiy, after all. 

"That's the point!" said Madison.  "We've lost our riots!  You'll never make a PR man, Flick.  I've lost client exposure.  Somehow I've got to try to make it up and repair the image!"

"You're crazy," said Flick.

"Of course," said Madison.  "That's why I'm a genius.  As soon as this conference convenes, I can keep a running commentary going and, hope against hope, regain the initiative!  All is not lost, Flick.  Don't despair.  I've still got a chance to make Heller an immortal outlaw yet!" 

So Madison's openly crazy now.  Or maybe he admitted that before.  Which doesn't really jive with psychology's lies about curing people of mental illness, but then again inconsistent characterization is Madison's characterization now.

The new Emperor enters the chamber and immediately shows how qualified he is for the post by failing to call the assembly to order.  So he takes the only logical action.

"Heller!" yelled Mortiiy, "For Gods' sakes, get up here on the dais and take the post of Viceregal Chairman of the Crown!  Maybe you can be heard above this mess!" 

Yeah.  You might be more surprised that Heller wasn't adopted by the dying king, but hold that thought.

Heller blinked.  It was the most senior aristocratic post of the realm.  But, obediently, he jumped up on the dais beside Mortiiy.  Heller raised his voice, using the piercing tone of a Fleet officer, "The meeting is called to order!" 

This is pretty bizarre.  The books' been beating in our heads with the notion that Royal bloodlines are imbued with all the natural qualities of benevolent leadership, and here we have a monarch deferring to someone with the special Fleet training to yell very loudly.  So Navy trumps Royalty in the end.

Heller drew his hand blastgun, set it to "noise" and fired it in the air. There was instant quiet.

"The meeting is started!" said Heller. 

Mortiiy couldn't do that, see.  Also, if guns have a "noise" setting, could you set them to that "sonic saw-toothed wave for terror" and make anyone you shot at run away?  Or is that too sophisticated for a handgun, and something you could only cram into thousands of tiny bombs?

Madison's just thrilled that Heller's drawn his gun and uses it as a gavel, gushing "The outlaw Heller is calling his bandit crew to order!" and getting the cameraman to zoom in on the weapon.  Meanwhile, Mortiiy is starting his speech: Empire of 125,000 years, never before seen this sort of disorder (despite admitting to past civil wars), a million dead in the streets (that few?  Heller killed way more than that!), tens of billions of credits in property damage (or two hundreds of billions of US dollars).  Before starting a new government, Mortiiy wants to "root out this disease" that caused all this chaos and destruction, so it will never happen again.

Everyone's quick to snarl the name of the hated Lombar Hisst, but Mortiiy suspects there's more to this than one man, and asks for more information.  And so an Apparatus clerk who knew Hisst when he was young comes forth - none other than Old Bawtch.  And he explains that "it was the freaks" that started it all.

Brace yourself, this is going to get really stupid.

Once upon a time, Young Bawtch was putting away some survey pictures...

"I was filing a pack of photographs from a circus run by P. T. Barnum.  It had a two-headed calf (that's an animal) and a boy with a dog face (a dog is another animal) and two women joined physically called Siamese twins and some others, and this young Hisst picked them up and began to laugh.  And then he said, 'With cellology we could go that one better' and he took the whole pack.

"Then the next thing I knew, he had fished a criminal cellologist named Crobe out of a prison and they began to make freaks and sell them to circuses. Those were the first freaks ever exhibited." 

The circus.  The (bleeping) circus is what started all of this.

The worst part is that, if Hisst had just stumbled upon a different set of pictures, we could've had the Apparatus running around in rainbow wigs, white makeup and big red noses.  That'd add a whole new dimension of terror to the Death Battalions, don't you think?

"How disgusting," said Mortiiy.  "'P. T. Barnum', you say?  That doesn't sound very Voltarian.  I never heard of any circuses by that name."

"No, Your Majesty.  I didn't make myself clear.  The freak idea came from Blito-P3.  Locally there, they call it Earth."

This is going to be a theme for these chapters.

The circus got Hisst very interested in Earth, and soon he was rising through the Exterior Division Intelligence, a special division had been created for that planet, and then the whole organization had its name changed to the Coordinated Information Apparatus.  It's not the author's shallow parody of the CIA, see, it's a character's in-story imitation of that organization.

Bawtch goes on to explain how the Apparatus ripped off the worst of Earth's government agencies - the Provocation Section was inspired by the KGB, the Death Battalions came from the SS, from the CIA came the idea of "an independent military force that would fight wars without the approval of the government," and the FBI showed them "the pattern they use of ruling the whole land by blackmailing legislative representatives and keeping those bodies in a state of terror by manufacturing crimes that never happened--called Abscams."  Sting operations are a type of state terror, right?

Everyone snarls with anger upon hearing that all these groups came from the same planet, and Madison is all too pleased to remind his live audience that Heller spent a year or so on Earth.  Then Bawtch reveals the real reason Hisst was so interested in Earth: the Rockecenter family

"They sprang up from a man who was a servant-raper about a century ago.  The fellow sold a poison called crude oil for a cancer cure.  He was a commoner.

Disgusting!  If you're going to rape servants, at least be of Royal blood so you can have some bastard pretenders to the throne for your heirs to struggle with.

He brought up his sons to be thieves and one of them made a fortune out of this crude oil and then, by manipulating it and banks and taking over and using Earth intelligence services, he made himself and his generations that followed virtual emperors of the planet.  Hisst was fascinated.  He had never imagined before that it could be done.  He himself was a commoner from the gutters of Slum City and he dreamed that if he followed this pattern, he could become Emperor here.  And he did, even if very briefly."

"You say all this happened," said Mortiiy, "on the planet Earth?  Incredible!  What a weird place that must be!"

It's even weirder now, let me tell you.  For one thing, a whole country - well, just ask the guy next to you about something called Russia.

With all that settled, Mortiiy is confident enough to open a vote to abolish the Apparatus forever "and prohibit use of these criminal patterns of intelligence from Blito-P3," which passes with overwhelming assent.  Yep, it's back to good old-fashioned drive-by scans of the planets you're going to conquer in the name of your ancient ancestors. 

And meanwhile Madison is still providing commentary that Heller used the name Rockecenter on Earth, and studied Earth intelligence.  "He was feeling very hopeful now.  He was building Controversy.  He was getting Coverage.  His Confidence was rising."  This will not matter.

Back to Chapters Three, Four and Five

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