Our hero, naturally, is unconcerned.
"Look at the backfeed monitors," said Heller.
They all did.
The crowds in the streets were thinning.
THE PEOPLE WERE GOING HOME!
The civilian Stuffy, and even the gathered admirals and generals, are all stunned. Bis, whoever the hell he is, smugly states that they obviously don't understand "the business of a combat engineer," but then asks Heller to explain what happened anyway. What follows are some of the dumbest paragraphs in the entire story.
Heller sighed. Then he said, "I set it up with Hightee. And she certainly carried through. The credit is hers. All I did was take advantage of a cautionary theorem in Advanced Symbolic Logic: The apparency of an answer can be mistaken for the answer. A parallel is that the apparency of a result can be mistaken for the result. This once, it seems to have worked. The bulk of the people of the Confederacy will now think of Earth as dead. Those who don't won't be able to find anybody else all that interested.
The people of the Voltarian Confederacy are so tapioca-brained that they've mistaken a musical performance for reality. They worked themselves into a screaming frenzy over something, saw it explode, and promptly forgot about it.
Also, from the "this once" comment, it sounds like Heller wasn't sure this would work.
"If you noticed, Hightee even let them sing too long. They got tired of it. They have also worked their spleen out quite thoroughly. I trust we have replaced mass hysteria with mass agreement, and mass agreement is the true substance of reality. Frankly, it's only combat engineer elementary mathematics."
110 worlds' worth of idiots think a planet has been destroyed, so that is now the truth. It's elementary mathematics, my dear Watson.
You might be thinking, "gee, this all sounds awfully close to what Madison was trying." After all, Madison even came up with a musical of his own that was supposed to mold the feeble-minded public into thinking Heller was some sort of cowboy train-robbing outlaw, changing reality through the consensus of idiots. To the author's credit, Noble Stuffy points this out. To the author's detriment, he has a terrible counter-argument for the accusation.
Bis let out a snort. "Noble Stuffy," he said, "Fleet combat engineers have been defeating and stampeding mobs of enemy people since before Madison's race learned to wear fur pants. Just yesterday, Jet defeated fifty thousand Apparatus troops in this very city, using a population-control weapon, all by himself. How'd you think we retook the place with no real casualties or destruction?"
Stuffy gawped. "I didn't know that."
"NOT for publication," said Heller.
So the explanation for why Heller's manipulation of the masses through the media is different from Madison's manipulation of the masses through the media is: Heller was doing it first. Even though the processes are functionally identical, one man was using the unholy practice of PR and the other was using advanced combat tactics. Also, did you hear how many people Heller routed using his scary bombs? What a guy!
Having declared that they've "chilled the mobs," Heller turns everyone's attention back to deciding the fate of the real Earth and how to execute His Majesty's orders concerning it. A mere half-dozen people are now in the conference hall, looking over Earth's capabilities once again.
A nameless Fleet admiral concludes that since our planet has satellites, we could develop space travel, and therefore must be exterminated. But Heller disagrees, citing "gross faults" in Earth science that of course will never be overcome to allow practical interstellar travel, and more importantly he knows that only two things motive our thinking: "one is commerce, the other is war." Our puppetmasters can find no profit in space ventures, and since "such research does not lead to internal superiority in war they curtail it."
Guess Heller/Hubbard didn't notice the Outer Space Treaty or consider how important a satellite might be for a modern military. I mean, even in last book we had Voltar's orbital defense grid threatening to drop a warhead on craft entering restricted airspace. Guess none of those aliens thought humans would get the same idea.
Heller's not done with his soapbox either.
"But actually, there is another factor which defeats them at every turn and that is an oddity in leadership. Even a casual study of their history shows that they only worship and obey leaders who kill: Caesar, Napoleon, Bismarck, Hitler, Eisenhower are just a few names. They revere scientists the same way: the biggest known names basically made it possible to build the biggest weapons. Einstein, for instance. It's a pretty primitive attitude.
Your new emperor is a bloodthirsty idiot who mowed down bystanders for being in the way and started a vicious civil war out of misplaced paranoia and daddy issues. Your civilization is built around expanding and conquering other worlds because a sacred schedule told you to.
"They actually revile and degrade and kill decent men who try to help them. It's as much as your life is worth to try to do anything for them that will benefit all.
Guess "they" in this case is the old power elite, 'cause once Heller came into the identity of Rockecenter's heir, I don't remember him having any non-Gris problems. He certainly got along well with the mafia, Izzy's business, the FBI, those engineers, county clerks of rural Virginia...
"I doubt they could attain space travel before such ills as bad leadership, socialism, inflation and other things ate them up internally. They are actually totally incapable of doing something nationally just because it is the sensible thing to do or because it's fun. It always has to have a twist, such as who can make a million from it or who will it do in. They're pretty mixed up. As for achieving real space travel, I don't think you have a thing to worry about."
So we're stuck with our fake space travel, sadly. What kind of lame rocket uses fuel instead of time for an engine, anyway?
The still nameless admiral can only remark "No wonder the Emperor wants them disposed of!" Tars Roke the Royal Astrographer agrees that Earth is "a clutter of primitive and modern, but the think [sic] they use in utilizing the modern is primitive," a culture doomed to self-destruction. The still nameless general suggests biological warfare: "we lay in a barrage of germs and defoliants and just bullet-ball the place: no landing." Wait a minute, why didn't you suggest that two chapters ago, when we were talking about the feasibility of an orbital bombardment?
Heller points out there would still be survivors of a biological attack and Earth would remain on the Invasion Timetables, while an admiral adds that in that case they'd be invading a planet with potentially mutated bio-weapons flitting about. On top of that the empire is still scheduled to invade the planet Colipin next month, the first we've heard of this. You'd think that the imminent invasion of another world would be mentioned at some point, but I guess everyone was distracted what with the civil war and paramilitary coup and The Outlaw musical.
(editor's note from the future: I checked The Invaders Plan and the Grand Council session there, and while there was an ongoing operation against Cliten that resulted in heavy losses and was in danger of going behind schedule, their only other planetary concerns were a tax revolt on Kyle and Mortiiy on Calabar - no mention of this Colipin. Also, it was another conversation that stressed the immutability of the Invasion Timetables, which we just learned could in fact be tweaked, and have)
At any rate, mustering up a force capable of destroying Earth would be a right pain in the ass, and any troops who went there might come back reeking of psychology or PR. So Heller, his heart hammering but outwardly cool, makes a suggestion.
"Well, gentlemen," he said with a sad shake of his head, "the only way I can see out of this is simply to proclaim that Blito-P3, Earth, doesn't exist."
There was a stunned shock.
They thought it over.
Heller waited with bated breath.
The general looked at him. The admiral looked at him. Captain Roke looked at him. Bis looked at him. Noble Arthrite Stuffy looked at him. Their eyes were round.
But for the lack of exclamation marks or all-caps, this would count as a Hubbard Action Sequence.
Heller quickly scribbles up a draft of the sixth and last Royal proclamation, declaring that due to Earth's "elements of criminality" that risk contaminating invasion forces, the planet is hereby a "nonplanet," so that "It is therefore proclaimed that said planet DOES NOT EXIST AND IT WILL NOT EXIST FROM THIS DAY FORWARD FOR VOLTAR, FOREVER!" A shocking final plot twist that you might have guessed the first time you read the forewords denying the existence of Earth. But try to act surprised anyway.
The others nod their agreement, and Heller hides his elation that "Izzy and Bang-Bang and Babe and five billion people" would be spared, despite belonging to a society that he has constantly denigrated for the past couple of chapters. Everyone draws up the formal declaration, signs it, and then Heller tells Noble Stuffy that as Royal Censor, it'll be his job to obliterate all mention of Earth from Voltarian records, "AND THAT INCLUDES EVEN THIS PROCLAMATION!" A task which will be made easier since everyone on Voltar is convinced that they saw the real planet Earth explode on stage during Hightee's singalong. Presumably His Majesty will never flat-out ask if Heller killed Earth like he wanted.
And there you have it: Heller bamboozled the entire Confederacy through not-PR into thinking Earth was destroyed, therefore weaseling out of his orders to kill his friends and five billion extras. At no point did he try to defend Earth society, nor could he find any redeeming features worth mentioning. He did not explain how while on Earth he was able to neutralize the evil mastermind controlling the planet, or how he was in position to use his unlimited power as the fake Rockecenter heir to pull the plug for good on the evils of psychology and PR and drugs. He didn't mention how his friends and allies were more or less aware that they were being fed lies by their overlords, and would be able to rule themselves if given the chance.
Heller, once again, failed to communicate, relying on deception and tactics that beggared belief to decisively and unsatisfyingly solve his problems. We should have expected nothing less.
That looks like it for Mission Earth. Earth is saved from alien destruction so it's free to explode on its own due to its depravity and cultural problems. The only evidence that Earth exists is locked in a lead case in the Royal Historian's office. Voltar is free to continue conquering planets according to schedule.
Heller is the de facto ruler of the Confederacy, as celebrated and beloved as a non-Emperor noble can be. Krak has had her hereditary title and lands restored, so she and Heller are set to lounge about in a castle on Manco. Gris and Madison are the prisoners of Queen Teenie, who has been "punished" with exile to a tropical island filled with adoring sex slaves. Crobe and Hisst get to spend the rest of their lives in a space asylum for maximum irony.
We've resolved all the conflicts, dealt with all the bad guys, and the good guys have been showered with praise and wealth and power. The story's over.
So... why are there 116 pages left in the book? Oh, son of a
AND THAT IS THE COVER-UP!
A WHOLE PLANET!
Don't doubt me. I have seen it! The Royal Historian and Censor, my great-uncle Lord Invay, was out to lunch! Now, how's that, dear reader? Does it make me the investigative reporter of all time or doesn't it? The answer is yes, yes, yes! I knew you would agree!
It's mothercrunching Monte Pennwell.
He spends a page or so continuing to rant that Voltar is "BEING DEPRIVED OF A PERFECTLY GOOD PLANET TO INVADE!" and must be told about Earth. He also thinks Heller is the story's villain for ordering the biggest cover-up in Voltar's history, vows that the truth will be revealed, and urges his countrymen to action.
My message to you: SWEEP ASIDE THIS COVER-UP AND INVADE!
NOT THE END
Monte explains that he showed what he had written so far to his driver Shafter, who reminded Monte that he "left it at ten thousand feet" by omitting some things he learned over the course of his investigation into Earth.
So, as Shafter is my best critic--the only one I have so far--I sweated and slaved and added an "Envoi." All for you, dear reader, so you won't be left ten thousand feet up with no landing in sight. Read on. Be careful not to crash! Readers are valuable!
Much like how Battlefield Earth featured an early climax against the book's first villain, a bunch of filler, a second climax against another villain, a long, dull conference to decide the fate of a planet, and then an overly-long epilogue that slipped in some exposition that would have made the first half of the book more meaningful, Mission Earth has a bloated "where are they now?" sequence to detail the fates of the cast while Monte tells us more about his thrilling personal problems and adventures in amateur investigative journalism. It's not enough to assume that Heller and Krak get to live happily ever after, the author felt a need to go into more detail about just how happy they ended up a hundred years later.
And so, despite the story being over, the book continues.
Back to Part Eighty-Nine, Chapter Three