Having settled the matter of Teenie and the Catamites, Heller moves on to the subject of the second proclamation, "one of the principal instigators of Royal murder and governmental decay." Nothing about Lombar's other murders, but they weren't Royal and are therefore much less important.
This gets everyone quiet, but even so, the author hits the Caps Lock key when Heller tells a guard to "PRODUCE THE PRISONER LOMBAR HISST!" And so a Fleet marine yanks one of the book's primary bad guys in on an chain and shock-collar, clad in a bloodstained red uniform, looking "for all the world like an ape being led in on a leash."
Everyone starts screaming again, but with a different emotion, and Heller notices something wrong with Hisst's eyes: "They were always an animal yellow," because what kind of world would we live in if we couldn't determine someone's evilness just be looking at them, "but now they were flaring and strange." Lombar doesn't even react to the commotion he's causing.
"Lombar Hisst," said Heller, "you have been brought before this Officers' Conference that you may be charged and may plead any justification for your acts. I have here a Royal proclamation on which we may write your fate which, I must advise you, is being left in the hands of this conference. I can, however, relegate you to a full trial if you have any statement which might persuade us to do so. Some mitigating circumstance…"
Oh, nice. The onus is on the accused to come up with an acceptable argument for why they deserve a fair trial. Voltar Justice is the best justice.
The reason Heller trails off is because Lombar's been constantly muttering to himself. So he gets a marine to take a little "electronic speaker" over to the once-emperor.
Hisst's voice was very strange. He was saying, "The angels are calling. Please give me a fix. Oh, hear what the angels say. Give me a fix. The angels are calling. Please give me a fix. Oh, hear what the angels say. Give me a fix…"
LOMBAR HISST WAS INSANE!
Which we've known since, hmm, Book One? But this is after all the first time Heller and Lombar have met, so - wait, no, they had a boss fight a couple of chapters ago. Guess Lombar ranting and screaming like a madman, charging out of his command center, and spraying blastrifle fire from the hip as he tried to execute his subordinates didn't seem out of the ordinary then. But now, whoa!
Everyone grows quiet when it becomes clear just how loopy Lombar is, forcing the people of Voltar to ponder how the hell Hisst was able to plan and execute a plot that briefly had him on the throne. This is good news to Heller, 'cause he wants everyone calm and distracted so he can try to get out of blowing up Earth.
He declares that, while the prisoner is in no state to answer questions, they all know that "he sought to ascend the throne illegally and donned the robes of a monarch," so they don't really need a trial or evidence or anything. Again, Lombar's numerous murders and other crimes are not mentioned because again, they are not as important as stealing the throne. Or putting on a particular outfit.
So Heller cancels every order Lombar made, including promotions and promises of payment, and the former Apparatus head is declared a non-person outside of the law's protection. But because he's unresponsive, and Heller and the other Lords agree that Lombar is therefore crazy, they decide to ship him off to the Confederacy Insane Asylum for the rest of his life. This is completely different from a bunch of psychiatrists unilaterally ordering people thrown in an asylum, and I'm shocked you would suggest otherwise.
This goes well until
Suddenly Hisst whipped around. He roared in a deafening voice, "DOWN ON YOUR KNEES! DOWN ON YOUR KNEES, YOU RIFFRAFF! I AM THE GOD OF ALL THE HEAVENS!"
He had yanked the chain out of the hands of the marine!
You had one job, nameless extra.
He held it in the air before him. "I WILL STRIKE YOU ALL DOWN! WORSHIP ME! WORSHIP ME!"
Any hope Heller might have had that the population would be less emotional about Earth suddenly went up in smoke.
The first whisper ran through the hall, "The man is mad!"
And you only noticed this now?
Then a louder voice: "Use of Earth material has driven him insane!"
Then, "Look what Earth can do!"
Then a screaming shout, "We've been in the hands of a man driven crazy by Earth!"
It all came in a building rush of sound. And it was capped by the howling shout from a thousand throats, "KILL HIM!"
Yeah, when Lombar was babbling to himself quietly, nobody minded, but when he babbles to himself in all caps, the crowd goes nuts and rushes in to try and tear him apart. It's a proper Hubbard Action Sequence, a page and a half of one-sentence paragraphs describing the marines' efforts to keep the prisoner safe from the mob. Domestic Police are called in as reinforcements, three hundred Fleet spacers rush in with ropes, and it's a "SHAMBLES!"
Even Heller firing his phaser set to "Maximum Noise" can't stop the riot, but then he notices that somehow, the person half the room is trying to kill has managed to crawl away unnoticed. So Heller is able to leap forward and declare "I'VE GOT HIM!" And because Heller got involved, everyone instantly calms down and he thanks them for their assistance.
A sigh of relief came from the embattled throats. The riot was over.
I can just imagine all those idiots on the rest of the planet biting and scratching at their TV sets. "Grrr Earth made him do it kill him."
Tune in next week, when we go through all those Royal proclamations, and perhaps decide the fate of Earth once and for all.
Back to Chapter One