We learn a tiny bit more about the mysterious creature called a "snug," insomuch that Monte's injuries are mistaken for a mauling by one, necessitating some shots for a snug-bite. The side-effects of this treatment are worse than his actual injuries, but on day four he feels well enough to continue his amazing investigation, yellow bruises and ruptured veins be damned.
You see, last chapter cut off at the most dramatic moment ("I had found Soltan Gris!"), but Monte didn't up and leave immediately after that revelation. Instead he blackmailed Prahd into writing him a note saying he was a medical inspector, because of course that's all you need to identify yourself as one, a memo on the official stationary of the King's Own Physician. The threats were that Monte's great-uncle Lord Dohm in the Royal prison might be interested in Gris' whereabouts, which is pertinent, and that angry mobs might burn down Minx Estates if they heard about Gris, which is much less pertinent. If it's been a hundred years since his trial, and people had already forgotten about Dictator Lombar Hisst less than a decade after the near-collapse of the Confederacy, who's going to care about Gris?
Anyway, Monte's off to track down the last of the bad guys.
I was heading for the Confederacy Insane Asylum on the chance that Doctor Crobe and Lombar Hisst were still alive! If there had been a cover-up on so many other things, might it not be true that their TRUE condition might also be masked? Perhaps they had just been the victims of political opportunism and chicanery! It might be that they were illegally held!
What a coup if I established THAT!
If I'm following Monte's logic, the fact that someone who orchestrated a cover-up is continuing that cover-up, and some prisoners blew themselves up, and another prisoner was smuggled to a new prison without the authorities realizing, all raise the possibility that everything he's read to compile Mission Earth is a lie and maybe Crobe and Hisst weren't a mad doctor and ineffectual dictator, respectively. This sounds pretty stupid, but then again he is an investigative reporter. You know how those are, always imagining or inventing scandalous claims while investigating you or your religion. Riffraff.
The important thing is that we'll be getting a good look at the proper treatment of the mentally ill - not the torture chambers maintained by despicable Earth psychology or psychiatry, but the product of enlightened, benevolent doctors.
The Confederacy Asylum is far, far to the north. There is a wasteland there that borders a vast ocean near the northern pole of Voltar, a dismal place, covered most of the year with ice.
It was the autumn season and the quarter of the year which covered the north with perpetual night had not quite arrived, though Voltar's sun was awfully low on the horizon on these brief, remaining days.
After an overnight stop at a midway air hostel, we arrived in the twilight of a 10:00 A.M. dawn. As far as one could see, there were small huts and buildings.
Well this is odd. I was expecting to read about a mental hospital, but it looks like some passages about Soviet work camps have gotten spliced into the book by mistake.
At the reception center is a charming fellow named Neht, and he almost falls out of his chair at the sight of Monte's stationary, indicating that he's probably a political appointee rather than a technocrat. But when Monte says he's here to investigate allegations of mistreatment, Neht is not at all threatened.
To my astonishment, his alarm did not just switch to charm. It went right on to laughter. "I can't imagine where that came from," he said at length. "We have a staff of physiological doctors unrivalled in skills. You will forgive my seeming mirth. Actually, it is relief. There has been criticism of a different kind: that our employment of gerontological technology on inmates adversely affected our budgetary burden. No, no, inspector, you will not find mistreatment here. The bodily illnesses of the insane--and they are many--are extraordinarily well cared for. And I can assure you that this task is performed, despite its difficulties: you see, the insane do tend to bash themselves around. But we patch them up, regardless. You see, we are forbidden by law to tamper with their nerves or damage them, but I assure you that, when they get ill or even scratched, they are cared for at once."
You can see the Hubbard Logic here - since, as we all know, psychiatry is an excuse for perverts to chop apart captives' brains, proper mental health is exactly the opposite, and is forbidden to mess with nerves. And if quack psychiatrists try to twist people by treating mental issues, real therapy ignores the mind and maintains the body. And since Earth mental health is all about killing people, the perfect Voltarian mental health system is about working to extend patients' lives.
"You spoke of gerontological technology," I said. "Are there abuses there?"
"Some say so," replied Neht. "But personally, I am proud of it. By extending age in inmates, it can be argued that the cost of running this place is heightened. But you must realize that, despite the short northern growing season, we actually EXPORT food to northern government installations: the inmates, many of them, seem to find relief in working outdoors despite the weather, as it gets them out of their cells.
Yes, it's better to do arduous physical labor in a frozen wasteland than stay in the "cells" of this perfect mental healing facility!
So, what does it matter if we extend age? Sometimes, though rarely, aging is attended by calming reflections, if senility does not set in. Just the other day we discharged a man who had reached 195. He said his wife would be dead by now, so there was no one left to keep him insane and he went away as happy as could be."
See, insanity isn't caused by childhood trauma or brain chemistry imbalances, it's caused by other people! If your wife is driving you crazy, get yourself institutionalized into a bleak work camp until she dies of old age, so you can declare yourself sane and live out your last half-dozen years in peace. Because you can't divorce her or anything, this is Voltar after all.
Regardless of how wonderful things are at the space asylum, Health Inspector Monte insists that he be allowed to look around, touring the "barracks" and talking to the "inmates." Not "patients," it's always "inmates." There's a guy who thinks Monte is a cloud, a guy who writes him an invisible check, and a guy pushing a wheelbarrow upside-down because otherwise people would put things in it. There's no description of any doctors or therapists working with the mentally ill, but Monte notes that they all seem healthy and uninjured, and the facility is nice and clean, so hooray!
Still, Monte's not making any progress toward his real objective, so he uses his cunning as an investigative journalist to say how he hasn't seen any elderly inmates, accusing the staff of killing them off. While Neht goes through the records, Monte makes another remark about political prisoners. Neht insists they have none, Monte conjectures that they must've killed them, and drops the names of Crobe and Hisst. Neht puts them into the computer, "AND THERE THEY WERE!" Amazing! We were told that Crobe and Hisst had been sent to the space asylum, and Monte found them in the space asylum!!
Monte demands that he be allowed to "inspect them," but Hisst's file has a Royal notice saying "INCOMMUNICADO: May only speak to Crobe," while Crobe's has "INCOMMUNICADO: May only speak to Hisst." Nevertheless, Monte claims that his not-fake Royal orders supercede the last administration's Royal orders and threatens to report that the asylum is keeping not-insane political prisoners. Naht tries to insist that the two are "as mad as mad," but Monte retorts that could only be proven with an unbiased interview. Naht agrees.
I swelled with elation. Investigative reporter skills were absolutely fantastic!
Here came my next coup!
His great coup of... finding more evidence that the cover-up he already has a lot of evidence for did indeed happen. Or maybe he's just hungry for an interview.
So is there any particular reason the best site for the Confederacy Insane Asylum was in Space Siberia? Space Florida sounds like a more relaxing and restful place. Hell, Space Kansas would be better than the arctic. Or did all the tropical paradises and beautiful hills get snapped up by hostage queens and other useless nobles?
Back to Part Ninety-One, Envoi II-xii-xiv