Thursday, March 13, 2014

Part Eighty-Nine, Chapter Three - The Destruction of Earth

And now the promised entertainment, which may also decide the fate of five billion people - and more importantly, that of Heller's friends.

There's fifteen hundred seats arranged around the stage in that Palace City park, with room for thousands more to stand.  Hundreds of musicians from the Army, Fleet and Palace City military bands are playing that old classic, "Spaceward Ho!"  Hightee marches onto the stage in a hybrid Army/Fleet getup, and the whole Confederacy watches through the cameras, since "Aside from the interest of the moment, who would not watch and listen to Hightee Heller?"  Besides evil Apparatus criminals and the like.

While Jettero Heller swells with pride that his sister was able to assemble such a spectacle, wrote a song, put it to music, practiced, and put on a performance with all of two hours to prepare, Hightee Heller abruptly lunges forward with her Fleet-issue electrified dagger set to maximum power, so she's able to conduct the orchestra with the sparks and flames issuing from her weapon.

Enjoy the grand finale of Mission Earth: The Musical.

We'll end off our invasion
From the culture of contagion 
And blow the offending planet from the sky! 
You'll find our guns quite warm, 
But you've no time to reform, 
Or even to request the reason why! 

If the syllables don't quite match up, be generous and remember that this crap was just slapped together at the last minute.

Your psychology bends wills, 
Your psychiatry just kills, 
Your drugs that cause convulsions 
All must die! 
You should have taken warning 
In your very day of borning, 

And, uh, remember that this is being translated into English from an alien tongue, so obviously we might not have words for some Voltarian concepts, like the gerund form of the verb describing being born.

When you saw yourself begin to putrefy! 
We'll now use all our exterminant 
To blast you from the firmament 
And all your tricks of spying won't apply! 
We won't meet you later on, 
For you'll have no other dawn. 
Earth, you won't be missed!

There was a huge cymbal BANG from the band that went along with the last "Bye!"

But that didn't finish the song by a long way.  In fact, the program was just starting.

The author spares us the rest of it, probably because it's just the same song repeated over and over.  Also, it's no longer a mere musical performance, someone remembers that holograms exist and puts the words up against the sky via "electronic projection."  Hightee commands "SING IT, EVERYBODY!"  So they make it a sing-along and go through it again.

And again.  And again.  If I'm counting the cymbal clashes correctly, we're looking at something like eight repetitions. 

The crowds are totally into this, "Singing it with a wave of hate!"  Noble Stuffy looks at the screaming, frenzied mobs shouting along via Homeview and concludes that Hightee's going to cause another wave of hysterical riots.  When asked to stop his sister from succeeding where Madison and Hisst came so very close, Heller shrugs off his concerns with "Never been able to.  Can't start now."

Anyone in the whole Confederacy who was anywhere near a Homeview screen was singing that song!  It was swelling from the planets in a hymn of hate!

Hightee, an expert in judging audience reactions from the stage, was putting the whole Confederacy through it and through it and through it again to obtain the exact effect which she was watching for.  She took them up to frothing with that savage music and then took them beyond it.

Bet Madison's feeling pretty stupid for bothering with all that fake news coverage, when all he needed was to stick to his Heller musical idea to get results.  PR ain't got (bleep) on Rodgers and Hammerstein.

After the eighth repetition, the holographic words to the song disappear, which is okay since by now everyone knows it by heart.  The chorus marches in place "towards" a dot in the sky that soon grows into an image of Earth, as seen by the flight recorders of the late and lamented Tug One.  Heller is struck by the "filmy liquidness" of the planet, its "yellowish moon," and the "reddishly visible" continents of North America and Europe.  Guess the pollution was getting pretty bad, since the color green is never mentioned in regard to the planet, only blue, white and red.

Seeing it made him feel a bit bitter.  It was such a nice planet: too bad they had made so little use of the heritage Prince Caucalsia had given them--that made so many things similar culturally between Voltar and Earth.

Like monarchies.

Too bad they valued it so little.  It was a shame they had been so corrupted by their own primitives they had permitted themselves to go so far astray.

Ugh, democracies.  Which neanderthal came up with that nonsense?

The clutter of isms and hates could all be solved if they just realized that only a handful of men were using them for personal exploitation: their political creeds were just nonsense and lies manufactured for the benefit of the few, while pretending that they answered the demands of the many.

An evil genius of a neanderthal, that's who.

And the way that culture was fixated on material possessions as a single concentration excluded it from attainment of the real and valuable things in life.  A can of soup was equated on their communication lines--measured by volume of minutes--far, far more important than a man's soul.

If you'll remember, Heller spent a few days in Turkey, and the rest of it in the United States, with a bit of brief international travel here and there.  So he's judging the rest of the planet based on American consumerism and writing the whole thing off as a loss.  And apparently only ever saw soup ads on TV and never televangelists.

This big, contemplative paragraph is immediately followed by

Well, there it was, huge against the stars.

as a sort of mental shrug.  So obviously Heller isn't that torn up about Prince Caucalsia's legacy.

Then comes the grand finale.  When the hologram of Earth reaches its maximum size, Hightee signals for the music to change to "the martial clamor of attack" and tells everyone "Each one of you at your seat will find a pistol.  GET THEM IN YOUR HANDS!"  They're toys that can only flash and bang, but Hightee commands her audience to "START SHOOTING!"

So the chorus and the audience in the park all blaze away at a hologram with their pistols, then the tanks and cannons ringing the stage join in, and then a holographic fleet appears to help with the bombardment.  It is very much like a Hubbard Action Sequence, and arguably more important to the plot than any we've seen before.  Which is just sad.

Under the impact of this pounding, ABRUPTLY, WITH A DREADFUL BANG, THE PLANET BLEW TO BITS!

There was a sound like a dying scream. 

Should've been five billion dying screams.  But I guess it's easier to get people to "kill" a round rock than millions and millions of folks like them, no matter how irredeemably evil.

There was a guttering rumble.

Something small and charred seemed to fall upon the stage.

It lay there sizzling: a small, dead, shrivelled, smoking thing.

The music suddenly shifted to a dirge.

The dirge was slow and it was awful.

Swap out "dirge" with "book" and we can recap Mission Earth with a single sentence.

A blue spotlight hit the sizzling thing.

All other lights were gone.

Then, bathed in blue and with a solemn pace, thirty priests came forward from the dark.

With motions of timeworn solemnity, assisted by black burial servants

Wait, what?

who tonged the object into an open grave, the priests went through, with dirge choir music, the whole long litany of burial.

A scarlet devil suddenly appeared and scooped up what would appear to be a shrivelled, blackened soul.

He turned and dumped it into a flaming pit of a Hell. 

Any old hell will do, no need to get specific.

The lights were gone.  Hightee was gone.  The stage was empty and there was only the moan of the cold desert wind.

And so the chapter ends, with a genuine cliffhanger.  Or at least we're confused as to what just happened and what the point of it was, and won't be told until next time.

Back to Chapters One and Two 

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