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One Sentence

I had other things I was going to talk about today, and I will tomorrow. But an update this morning has preoccupied me to such as extent that I can’t do anything else justice today.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of everything that Dave Kellett’s doing with Drive, and I’ve got plenty to be a fan of, seeing as how the story is maybe a third of the way told at this point. I have a million questions about the future Kellett’s laid out, the nature of the conflict, the structure of the society, and he’s politely deferred all of them.

But I’ve never had so many questions spring from a single sentence before.

Here’s what we know — the Jinyiwei are the secret police that even the regular secret police don’t know about; they are the Emperor’s all-powerful sword-hand, the instrument of his (or her, there have been Empresses in this Second Spanish Empire) will. The Emperor says fight and they fight, he says kill and they kill, he says utterly suppress and dominate an entire planet and it becomes their headquarters. At least, that’s the story up until six words are uttered by a woman high up (perhaps highest up) the malevolent food chain:

Can’t have the Emperor asking questions.

That line chilled me, more than the casual cruelty this woman is shown to have dished out on the page, more than the horrific injuries she’s apparently survived (presumably in the line of duty)¹. Because the Jinyiwei are meant to be the tool of the Emperor, but what do they actually serve? His will? What they think will best serve his will and don’t bother him with the messy details? What they think his will should be? Because by announcing that the Jinyiwei will take over the mission of the Machito’s crew, Ms Terrifying³ is directly countermanding the Emperor’s orders and condemning at least one member of La Familia to death.

So now I’ve got questions: To what extent is the Jinyiwei a loyal force verses an independent power center? How many members of La Familia serve in their ranks (I’m guessing a smart Emperor would want to keep possible rival claimants far away from secrets and skullduggery)? And if they’re so very, very good at being the secret police, how is it possible that the current Emperor was successful in his murder of the previous Emperor without their knowledge? Do they protect the Emperor as long as he lives and transfer their loyalty regardless of the circumstances of accession, or is it not possible to take the throne without their assent/active participation? There were hints before, but that’s exactly the sort of reputation a secret police would want to promote to make their job easier; this is confirmation straight from the viper’s mouth.

More than a single new antagonist, those six words have revealed an entire (likely thoroughly corrupt, with the idealistic weeded out early and fatally) power structure that probably holds an entire planet in a state of slavery and cannot be reasoned with or evaded — the Machito’s crew cannot come out this alive without effectively taking on the entire empire and doing so in such a thorough manner as to effectively smash all the existing power centers. Young ‘Nando is either going to die or take the throne; there are no other outcomes.

Oh, and Steve is totally doomed. He’s either a complete dick or redeems himself defying his superior. No way he can carry out the order to kill Taneel, ‘Nando, Cuddow, and the others.

The story has taken a darker turn, and the greatest threats to humanity are no longer their hubris, their recklessness with the Drive, the Continuum of Makers, the Vinn, or the Emperor’s quest for power. It’s a deadly bureaucracy that likely tells itself that everything it’s doing is for the greater good. The much-discussed banality of evil has rarely been revealed so efficiently.

And it’s all one strip after the story of First Minister Huggstable. I think that’s what they call turning on a dime.

Spam of the day:

3 zones of comfort to life, shape and support

Yeah, not really in the bra market right now.

¹ Even more than those glasses. Seriously, Kellett, what’s with you and the Far Side-style cats-eye glasses? Or are we meant to infer a relationship between this obvious antagonist and the kindly Captain Taneel²?

² Boo, by the way. Booooo.

³ Or El Puño, the Fist, to use her title.

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