We can’t yet know exactly what shape the splatter is going to take, of course, but it’s obvious that the shit is getting very close to hitting the fan. And I expect things to get pretty ugly for Slaine when it does – his house of cards is about to encounter a stiff wind. The final test for his character, I suppose, will be in how he responds when it happens.
Not unexpectedly Mazuurek is proving to be an important piece of the puzzle, though here too it’s not so easy to know how things are going to turn out. Slaine has been making the flashier moves lately – taking over an empire and all – but Inaho’s use of Mazuurek to set the fox amongst the chickens is looking pretty shrewd. Clearly he took a risk here, because he had to gamble on Mazurrek’s character being the right sort for his plan to work, and not even Inaho’s cybernetic eye can see that much, I don’t think (even if it can act as a lie detector).
I haven’t quite figured Mazuurek out yet. In a sense it’s clear he’s a pretty smart guy, but I also think he’s kind of dumb, too. His method of getting to the truth about Asseylum quickly and with certainty was undeniably a clever one, and no one can deny his courage in walking straight into the lion’s den. But I think he’s being cocky here, setting himself up for a fall – impatient for the truth and virtue to win the day. Mazuurek is an idealist, clearly – but perhaps not practical and careful enough to be ideally suited to the situation he’s in. My sense is that Barouhcruz is biding his time waiting for the chance to strike back at Slaine, and sees Mazuurek as a powerful potential weapon to use for the purpose – but he’s irritated that Mazuurek is moving so quickly and recklessly.
The thing is, Slaine’s entire power base is, as we say in politics, a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s built upon the cooperation of people who all have reasons to hate or at least contest him, and his web of lies is stretched to its limit. Lemrina is in love with him, but will surely react with full “Hell hath no” fury when she discovers what’s happened with Asseylum (who she knows Slaine truly loves). Eddelruito is already chafing at what Slaine is doing to her mistress even before Mazuurek’s elegant and devastating end-run directly to Asseylum’s memory. And to the other VERS nobles, Slaine is still “vulgar trash” – they cooperate with him now only because he’s having success in battle, and no one wants to be caught on the wrong side of the power that’s on the ascendancy. But the minute Slaine’s iron grip on power begins to rust, those nobles will turn on him like a pack of effete wild dogs.
Compared to the delicious tragedy brewing on Slaine’s side of the narrative divide, things on Inaho’s side are rather tame at the moment. Not content with saving the day in combat, he returns to save the Deucalion with science after its systems are sent akimbo by an attack from the lightning landing castle. And it’s obvious that something big (though hopefully not Valvravean) is brewing with his eye, though that’s the stealth plotline for now compared to Slaine’s rise and fall. It seems clear from the latest battle – massive territory surrendered, though Inaho and the Deucalion do survive – that even with Inaho it’s an uphill struggle for Earth to survive, much less win, when the Martians actually cooperate and attack in numbers. Will there be something on the battlefield that turns things back in Inaho’s favor, or will he be forced to keep playing defense until Slaine’s grip on power begins to weaken and the Martians slip into internal dissent?