Monday, March 3, 2014

Part Eighty-Seven, Chapters Three and Four - The Trial of Soltan Gris 2: The Page-and-a-Half Version

After having Madison punished with the promise of non-incestuous intercourse, Heller and Krak lead the manacled PR and his guards outside, where "a cold desert wind was moaning around the naked palaces," kicking up dust as the Army and Fleet marines secure the area.  Wonder if the palace experienced this sort of thing under the black hole's effects?  Was the weather pleasant and temperate under the time fcuk?  Y'know, since it was from thirteen minutes in the past, and everything was nicer then?

A legitimate Homeview guy assures Heller that all of Madison's commentary was caught and prevented from airing (which makes Madison deflate even more), but Heller is annoyed he's still being conversed with.  He asks "Since when did Homeview get so solicitous?" and is told that he's a public figure now, the journalist saw Lord Turn arrive, and wants to cover his meeting with Heller in case it concerns the Gris case.  "It's hot-spot news," see.

"I'm going to kill Madison," muttered Heller.

"Oh, good!" said the Homeview director.  "You're going to execute him right here in the park---"

"Shut up!" said Heller.  "It was just a figure of speech.  You and your sudden talk about 'public figure' and 'cover it' and 'spot news'!  You never heard of those things until this (bleeped) Madison came along.  Now you sound just like an ABC news crew." 

Executing criminals right in the park, though, that's apparently normal for Voltar.  This is a society where you can legally be tortured to death, after all.

The Homeview director insists that the public has a right to know what the de facto head of the Confederacy is going to do about the criminal whose offenses inflamed an empire, and Heller explodes, flatly rejecting any attempt to cover his meeting with Turn.  And then he threatens to appoint a Royal Censor "with powers to shoot directors!  Get out of here!"

"Crown, Your Lordship, sir!" said the director.  "Are you intimating that you are going to advocate a fascistic suppression of the Gods-given right of freedom of speech and press?"

Heller stopped.  Madison almost ran into him.  "Madison," said Heller, "if I ever felt any mercy toward you before, it just evaporated.  Just as I begin, quite unwillingly, a life as a 'public figure,' I find you'll be trailing me as a ghost." 

Remember when Heller restrained himself from killing Gris, even when it looked like the latter had caused the death of Krak?  Well, we just found the thing that upsets Heller more than a dead girlfriend: the First Amendment.

Still, our hero is able to restrain his blood rage, and instead introduces the Homeview director to another Earth concept, something called "invasion of privacy."

"Oh?" said the director, impressed.

"Yes," said Heller.  "Now, you tell them down at Homeview and tell anybody else that will listen that if I find you invading my privacy with cameras and crew, I'll sue you or them for a billion credits."

"My Gods!"

"That's some of the other half Madison didn't teach you."

"But what does it mean, 'invasion of privacy?'"

"Ah," said Heller, "it means anything I say it means any time I say it."

"My Gods!" 

The scary thing is that I can't tell if this is Heller being snarky by importing another of Earth's twisted ideas, or Heller being dead serious and wielding the weapons of the enemy for his own purposes.

Heller is nice enough to allow Homeview to cover the trial of Soltan Gris - or rather his next trial, since his previous charges were dismissed - but only because this may stop further riots.  The director bows and scrapes in "a truly impressed and worshipful voice" before scampering away.  Homeview has finally found a real man, able to take charge and put them in their place, a man who knows that while they may fight and resist, secretly they're thrilled to be stripped of their freedoms and dignity and dominated in such a way.

Heller turned to Madison.  He said, in English, "Top that one, you (bleepard)!"

Yay!  Authoritarianism has triumphed over the free press!

Now I think we know why the Apparatus was able to be so evil for so long without anyone noticing - Voltar's press is garbage.  They've somehow divvied up the population of 110 worlds into distinct reader demographics, so there's no general interest or public good to defend.  Worse, they hadn't even heard of such concepts, or investigative journalism, until Madison started frolicking around.   So they're covering nob parties and restaurants instead of what the government is doing.

On the other hand, why do the masses need to know what the government is doing?  They have no say in it.  Voltar is, ahahah, a perfect benevolent hereditary dictatorship.  All the Voltarian people need to do is continue to enjoy the song and dance of Hightee Heller, and occasionally enlist in the army to invade another planet.

Now, let's hastily deal with Soltan Gris.  Lord Turn's sitting on a wrecked Apparatus artillery piece, and invites Heller to join them while they chat about the fate of the second-most hated person in the galaxy.  And then the camera and lighting crews show up - apparently you can have a legal, Royal-approved trial anywhere you want, particularly here.  "Twice as legal to try him in Palace City, and good riddance!"

Earth trials are shams because the judge and lawyers decide the verdict beforehand, by the way.

Gris is hauled out in front of the cameras, through which all of Voltar is watching.  Heller pulls out the General Order the Grand Council made to send an engineer to fix Earth's environmental problems, an order which Gris, as was discussed in his previous trial, was ordered by his boss to sabotage.

"Aha!" cried Lord Turn, reading the order.  "Then the defense of Soitan Gris and his attorneys that he was only obeying orders doesn't hold!"


Lord Turn on page 37: "Unfortunately, there are a thousand court cases that hold that a man cannot be punished for doing his ordered duty."  Turn only got out of agreeing with Gris' defense by pulling a technicality out of his ass and finding him innocent in a different way.  But now "just following orders" doesn't work?  A guy caught between the orders of his distant, aging sovereign and his immediate, murderous superior gets screwed either way, huh?

Obviously I'm looking at this wrong: Royal orders trump anything else.

So Turn swirls his cloak dramatically, declares court is in session on this battlefield, and asks for the accused's plea.  Gris wails "Not guilty!" but Turn announces that he's finally gotten around to reading Gris' confession.  Nice of him to make that effort for the guy's second trial.

"You're as guilty as a murderer found standing with blood dripping from his knife.  You even attempted the life of a Royal officer!  I find you guilty as accused!"

Why do they even need Gris for this?

"You promised me leniency!" [Gris] cried.

"I don't think I did," said Turn.  "I just told you to write up your crimes so I could find out what the charge was."

"Mercy, mercy!" blubbered Gris.  "Don't sentence me to death by torture!  Spare me." 

Or kill him quick, like he begged in his confession.

"Oh, for Heavens' sakes," said Heller, disgusted.  He leaned over and whispered in Lord Turn's ear. Lord Turn nodded.

"Soltan Gris," said Turn, "I am empowered by law in such a crime to sentence at court discretion or death.  Your final execution will be done by hanging and exposure from a gibbet in the Royal prison until your body rots away..."

Gris fainted.  He fell with a clank and jangle of manacles.

A prison guard tried to get him to his feet and wake him up.  Gris just slumped.

"What a snivelling coward," said the judge.  "He couldn't even stay conscious to hear the rest of the sentence."

A full sentence that Turn jots down on some paper, which may be important later.

So the Homeview crews get their footage, thanking Lord Turn for what they hope is the start of a professional work relationship ("I was afraid of that," said Heller sardonically), Gris gets a hasty farce of a trial, Turn shakes Heller's hand and leaves, and we're a couple steps closer to the end of the book.

But there's still more to do: Heller orders some Marines to drag along Gris' dead weight.  "We have another call to make."

Back to Chapter Two 

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