The princess is in remarkably good health, but Ole Doc finds a spot on the still nameless baby's lungs. No bacteria for him, though... her? Huh, the story not only fails to name this royal child, we don't even get its gender. Can't Ole Doc tell?
Our hero advises his patient-prisoners to hold their noses, then throws a thumb-sized bomb to the floor, releasing "A dense white cloud, luminescent with ultraviolet light" that fills the chamber. Yes, the smoke is glowing with light of a wavelength shorter than that of visible light. Or in other words, it's shining with invisible energy.
This upsets the guards, who rush in, stick gun barrels into Ole Doc's ribs, and haul him up to the throne/powder room. Ole Doc, Soldier of Light or no, is a little creeped out now that he knows what's behind the mirrored curtains, "For it seemed that black rods of evil were thrusting out from it." And Ole Doc is not interested in black rods thrusting themselves at him, evil or otherwise, no sir.
Anyway, he reports that the patient will recover, "No thanks to you," which makes the guards nervous but only gets a laugh from the curtained throne. But then he adds that "you might be interested to learn that diseases are no respecters of rank and glory and that I scent yet another in this very room." Yes, he smells the smelly smell of schizophrenia, "dementia praecox with delusions of persecution," a lethal illness that "destroys both victim and executioner."
Her Majesty responds with silence, and not thoughtful or fearful silence, but "the silence of ignorance." So Ole Doc has to explain some more.
"It is a dreadful thing, born from psychic shock.
Just ignore all that stuff in the Wikipedia article about prenatal factors, substance abuse or an urban environment.
I scent here a broken schizoid of the persecution type,
a paranoiac as dangerous to herself as to those about her." Ole Doc thought he spoke plainly and for the life of him, after what he had witnessed below and seen outside, he could not have refrained from this. But plain as he thought it was, only some annoyed glimmering was transmitted.
"I think you mean to be insulting." The curtains shifted.
"Far from it," said Ole Doc. "I only wish to help. I speak of a thing which I know. Here, I will show you."
And then it gets weird.
Ole Doc turns to a guard, uses sleight-of-hand to whip out a little spinning disc, holds it under the guard's nose, and speaks "in a fierce, rapid voice." He palms the disc before anyone else can see it, and the next thing we know, the guard is running around on all fours going "Bow wow! Woof!" and sniffing boots.
The story never out and admits it, but I can't help but feel like our hero has hypnotized someone here. Sure, we're not told that there was a spiral on the disc, and it's weird that Ole Doc was aiming it at his victim's nose instead of his eyes, but he just went and turned someone into an animal. Combined with his yammering about paranoid schizophrenics, it's almost like our hero is some sort of psychologist or something. But that can't be right, this is an L. Ron Hubbard story!
Ole Doc turns to Her Majesty and uses a man running around on all fours as proof that schizophrenia is contagious, that "merely shoving" at a soldier turned him into a puppy. The mad queen orders the poor man removed and demands to know whether anyone else shows symptoms.
With something like disgust when he realized the mentalities with which he dealt, Ole Doc faced Sir Pudno.
"I see traces of it here."
"No!" bawled Sir Pudno, backing and stumbling.
But the disc appeared and Ole Doc's voice was harsh if almost unheard even by Sir Pudno.
"Woof! Bow wow!" said Sir Pudno and instantly began to gallop around the room.
And another one bites the dust. The rest of the guards scream and flee, Her Majesty yells for them to stay, Ole Doc cautiously approaches the curtain and starts talking about how hard it must be to go through what she has and - bing, little spinny disc.
It does not take many years for a powerful personality to acquire the trick. Ole Doc, in a purely medical way, had been practicing it for the past seven hundred. One gets a little faculty that way. And the little disc spun.
Sure is lucky that the one-way glass around the dais doesn't mess up the... hypno-rays or whatever.
When he hears a sigh behind the curtains, Ole Doc pulls them back to behold the throne, a bed, some furniture, a dresser whose mirror has been replaced with a portrait of the queen as a young woman, and of course what's left of Her Majesty.
Had he not known the things she had done, pity would have moved him now. For the sight he saw was horrible. The bomb, six orbits ago, had left but little flesh and had blackened that.
She's so horribly injured, in fact, that we might wonder how, on a world that can't handle tuberculosis, she survived the bombing in the first place. Even though we really shouldn't and ought to just focus on finishing the story.
Ole Doc throws another smoke bomb (of medicine!), deploying a cloud of a nameless narcotic to finish what his spinny disc had started. Then he gets out a nonspecific "catalyst," his "all-purpose knife," and with Sir Pudno growling at anyone trying to enter the room, Ole Doc goes to work, using the portrait on the dresser as a reference.
The catalyst went in with every thrust of the knife and before he was finished with the back, it had already begun to heal and would only slightly scar. The shiny grease was the very life of cells and hurled them into an orgy of production.
Cosmetic surgery, ladies and gentlemen! That's how we're saving the planet this week! Cosmetic surgery that allows new, healthy cells to grow as if by magic, since there's no mention of Ole Doc setting up some intravenous feeding to provide the raw materials for this cellular regeneration. Or maybe she's gonna come out looking like a supermodel, all physically "flawless" but skeletal from starvation.
It takes three hours, what with all the cartilage and eyelash follicles and optic nerve repair, but I guess Sir Pudno is a good guard dog because nobody disturbs the surgery. When he's done with the knife work, Ole Doc props Her Majesty up and talks to her as her scars fade and her eyes slowly clear.
It was a good thing Hippocrates was not there.
No argument here!
Hippocrates would have said a thing or two about the unmedical quality of some of Ole Doc's statements
You mean the lies?
and Soldiers of Light are not supposed to stray from medicine.
It was time now to do other things.
Sir Pudno reportedly "barked his compliance" when ordered to gather some workmen, there's no mention of Ole Doc undoing his mind (bleep)ery or the effect wearing off at any point, and in fact that sentence where he "barked" is the last time he appears in the story. So since we aren't told otherwise, I'm afraid we have to assume that he'll continue to think he's a dog for the rest of his miserable existence.
Anyway, dudes come in to restore all the paintings and mirror to the throne powder room now that Her Majesty isn't caged in her ruined husk any more. And whenever someone demands to know on whose authority they're acting, "Ole Doc only had to shove a hand inside the curtains and a signature came out." The story assures us that this "was an opportunity which he did not abuse," and also that Ole Doc's enjoying himself. Which kinda makes it sound like he's abusing the opportunity a little.
A properly dressed, shaved and non-tuberculosis-y Prince Rudolf is brought up along with Princess Ayilt and their - oh, it's a prince. Way to let us know at the last minute. They're all quite surprised to be rescued from a miserable death to be placed on a pair of restored thrones, and are just full of questions, but all Ole Doc has for them are orders. In five minutes they're going to be declared the proper king and queen, Her Former Majesty is going to be shipped off to a luxurious villa for an early retirement, and nobody's going to mention the past six years to her. Because... well, he doesn't have to justify his orders, he's a doctor.
Ayilt says Ole Doc "must be an angel."
"Others think very differently, I fear," said Ole Doc with a grin. "Charge it up to the Soldiers of Light, the Universal Medical Society.
I thought they explicitly didn't accept any fees?
And never breathe a word of how I've taken a hand in politics here.
When anyone asks where the old queen went or why she looks hot again, just shrug.
Now, any questions?"
They looked at him numbly but there was life and hope in them once more. "We have inherited a terrible job, but we'll do it," said Rudolf, pumping Ole Doc's hand.
That wasn't a question.
And that's about it. Pauma stands "looking obediently at Ole Doc until, after a few swift words, he broke the spell," but before the new monarchs can say anything to her the doors bust in and a crowd of common folk and loyal soldiers come rushing in to greet everyone. Somehow making a madwoman beautiful again and bringing two nearly-dead prisoners out of the dungeons has led to "fled garrisons and a populace burst from the bonds of slavery." The former queen does nothing but admire herself in a mirror. Ole Doc leaves, passing dead guards and broken shackles as he helps himself to a "small two-billion-foot-thrust pile" from the supply stores near the hangar. There's environmental symbolism when the sky is brighter because Algol's smaller star is no longer blocking the brighter star. And Hippocrates bitches at our hero when he gets back to the Morgue.
"One would think piles were hard to get!" he complained.
"This one," said Ole Doc, "was."
And three sentences later they leave, as Ole Doc sings "Fiddler of Saphi" some more. And the story comes to a sudden and unsatisfying end.
So the machine to make someone crazy that the former queen wanted? Irrelevant and not followed up on. Those pirates who came in and incited the Mongolians to revolt? Presumably still out there somewhere. Queen Pauma, whose tyrannical and insane six-year-reign nearly destroyed the system? It's not really her fault, and now that getting her good looks back has fixed all her mental problems, she gets to live the rest of her life in a private mansion, free of any consequences. The armies of convicts and rebels that brought Algol to its knees? Scampered off the minute they heard two royals had taken power, never to trouble anyone ever again. The populace who was brutalized for most of a decade? Just needed to hear that the right two people had sat upon the right two chairs to rise up and take their nation back.
And the kicker is, if Pauma was doomed because of her Convict Blood, how are her kids supposed to be any better?
Monarchies are stupid.
Wait, was Pauma even cured? Because Ole Doc diagnosed her the same time he was BS-ing about a mental illness being communicable, and secretly hypnotizing hapless guards to prove his point. So was he lying about the cause of her madness as well? So is she still insane, but was just hypnotized into passivity so her son and daughter-in-law could take over? And now she's set to terrorize everyone around her during her future of house arrest? What's to keep her from returning to power?
And did she strictly need the surgery? If Ole Doc was willing to lie, why not just declare her insane and use his medical authority to bring up the rightful rulers from the dungeons? Is he obligated to give nosejobs and fake boobs to any homely women he comes across during his travels?
And why couldn't he just hypnotize the grunts who stopped him from getting the stupid pile at the story's start? I mean, he's clearly willing to break the law and violate minds. So why wait?
Ugh. Next time, Ole Doc, just remember to fill up the bloody tank.
Back to Part Two