"He was smart," whispered the Countess Krak. "The military didn't jump in until the last moment and so their loyalty to him is not proven. All his friends are rebels and that wouldn't go down well with the whole population. You were never other than loyal to Cling. Furthermore, you're very popular with the population. Mortiiy thinks of you as a brother officer he can trust and, if you look at it head on, he really owes his throne to you. He's a very clever man, really. And, of course, my Jettero is brilliant, handsome, charming…"
"And has a bad sense of humor," laughed Heller. "Well, anyway, I didn't start his reign with the slaughter of a bunch of little boys. Reigns that begin by ordering blood baths are pretty unlucky. Maybe," he added, looking suddenly bright, "maybe there is some hope for government. Maybe it can be run right!"
Um... you guys remember any indication that Heller had doubts about his government? Any sign that he was disillusioned with the imperial system, much less government in general? Sure, he just got back from Earth and its Rockecenteracracy, but he fixed that, and everyone knows Earth is stupid anyway.
Guess he's excited that the government is working the way it should, i.e. with him in charge.
Krak reminds him, however, that he's only handled one of the six items on Heller's agenda, because remember he was giving six blank documents by the new emperor, and you can't not use a proclamation. She asks if he'll be able to "face up to ordering and arranging the deaths of five billion people," and speculates that Heller's thinking about Bang-Bang and Izzy and those other friends of his among the billions of meaningless statistics. 'cause we all know, Heller's not the type of guy to spend too much time mourning the loss of a couple million strangers.
Heller reveals his plan to stall and dodge his duty: if he can kill time until "a real Crown" is appointed, Heller will be able to go back to Fleet and let someone else deal with Earth, dooming all his "friends" to oblivion indirectly rather than directly. Krak thwarts this by handing over a new proclamation: Mortiiy has promoted Heller to "first Lord of the land" and permanent Viceregal Chairman. This was, of course, an act of love on her part, as she doesn't want him doing something "silly" like trying to defy orders.
Heller's first response is to groan. His second is to accuse his future wife of having something to do with this. While his suspicion is pretty damn justified, in this rare case Krak is innocent, but she still threatens to tear up another proclamation if he tries to resign: the Royal order returning her title and estate on Manco. Hard to believe that this plot point was set up in Book One, and now is the first time Heller's seen it.
"But this is wonderful!" he said. "I am so happy for you!"
"I meant to tell you after this conference," she said, "to celebrate, I have even commandeered a palace for us."
Well of course they need a palace now, their gilded tugboat just exploded.
Tears were in her eyes. "Don't ruin it, Jettero."
He couldn't stand to see her cry.
But he can stand to see her sitting "as though in mourning, suffering and silent" because she thinks he's cheated on her, and won't attempt to dispel her fears until she's learned her lesson about questioning him.
Heller, suddenly mindful of the Homeview cameras, kisses her to hide her tears. The crowds of course cheer, because everyone's happiness is contingent upon the main characters'. But then Heller whispers his orders for Krak to fetch his sister and the Master of Palace City for an unexplained reason. "And get out of here. You win. I will do my job."
A trifle uncertain, feeling a little bit like Nepogat the Damnable who had betrayed Prince Caucalsia in the legend,
(Bleeping) Prince Caucalsia. The implications of the myth are stupid, the tugboat named for the legend is stupid, every time the name enters the story it gets a little more stupid.
the Countess Krak hastily vanished down the back steps of the dais.
She was telling herself that nobody could prevent the destruction of Earth anyway and there was no reason to let it commit another crime and shatter her coming marriage.
See, it's not that Earth is doing bad stuff, it's that Earth is doing bad stuff that's inconveniencing Krak. And so five billion people have to die.
Besides, even though Jettero liked the place, she had always been horrified at the primitive decadence of that culture, never able to understand how a planet so potentially beautiful could be so rottenly mauled by an uncaring power elite.
Did you not see what just happened to Voltar?
As she walked away on her errand, she said to herself, "It is totally beyond salvation: all Voltar is thirsting for its blood, no thanks to Madison. To blazes with Earth. I have saved Jettero."
And she can't make the connection that if Heller was able to remove those nasty Earth elements from Voltar, he might be able to do the same to Earth. For the past six or seven books we've seen how the author thinks a benevolent, wise alien might be able to cure Earth's ills and give it a future. But we're spending the last book under the assumption that Earth is irredeemable.
Back to Part Eighty-Seven, Chapter Six