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Hal Spacejock Just Desserts - Original Outline

Warning ... spoilers abound!

This is the draft outline for the 2007 edition of Hal Spacejock Just Desserts. The finished book differs from the outline, but there are still plenty of spoilers here. Don't read the outline if you intend to read the novel! (If you HAVE read the novel, this outline should make for an interesting comparison.)

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The Oxed system consists of three planets: Plessa, Jordia and Cathua. The latter two have been cutting their own throats for years to win trade deals with Plessa, the largest and richest of the three. Plessa plays one against the other to get the best prices, and her officials live like royalty on bribes and inducements.

Albert Wallis is a native of Cathua who once lived on Jordia. He had extensive business holdings, all of which were confiscated after yet another falling out between the two planets. He was repatriated to Cathua but his sister, married to a junior Jordian politician, remained on Jordia.

Over the past twenty years Wallis has risen through the ranks of the Cathuan government, lying, cheating and backstabbing his way almost to the top. Unfortunately a close-knit family group holds the highest positions, and they're entrenched so firmly that Wallis can't find a chink in their armour. They're convinced their superior relationship with Plessa thanks to their campaign of bribery, corruption and subsidies will eventually ruin Jordia, delivering all of Plessa's trade into their hands.

His brother-in-law faces a similar situation on Jordia. Set in their ways, the government of that planet is bribing Plessa just as much, and are just as certain they're about to ruin Cathua.

Wallis realises that by simultaneously removing the heads of both governments, he and his brother-in-law can step in and set up a lasting bond between the two planets, where both working together can turn the tables on Plessa. Let the arrogant Plessans be the ones offering bribes and incentives!

Wallis's plan is missing one vital ingredient: a trusted lunatic with the means to top the Jordian president without blame falling on Cathua. He finds that lunatic in Jasmin Ortiz, who is attending a regular meeting of Cathuans repatriated from Jordia. Her parents lost everything, and she's one of the few at the meeting genuinely fired up and seeking revenge. Unstable, ruthless, and an officer in the armed forces - she's Wallis's ideal tool for getting rid of the Jordian president, giving his brother in law a clear run to the top. A small team loyal to Cathua will fly out, land in secret and knock off the Jordian head of state in a ruthless strike. Jasmin gets her revenge - and Wallis's brother-in-law, tipped off with the details of her mission, will round up and dispose of the 'renegade terrorists'

Simultaneous with this operation, Wallis must kill the Cathuan president. This must be done as far away from his own backyard as possible, and in a manner which doesn't implicate him.

The Cathuan president is lagging a populist opponent in the opinion polls and will try anything to win votes. During a crisis meeting Wallis suggests the President visit Jordia. It's laughed down by others present, but the President knows Wallis has contacts there (one of the reasons Wallis is excluded from the inner circle) and wants to hear the plan.

Wallis explains he can set up a PR visit to a Jordian robot factory, the first act of goodwill between the planets for some years, and during the visit the President will uncover the theft of Cathuan tech by the Jordians. The President is stunned - you have evidence of this? Wallis says no, but he will when he's finished planting it. The President is elated. Uncover a threat to Cathuan like this and the public will re-elect him as a hero. Real life intrigue and espionage - his opponent will have nothing on him. (Recurring joke where the Pres wants to broaden his role, and speech, upon discovering the Cathuan tech. Wants to wear the right stuff, asks whether he'd look more studious in glasses, that sort of thing.)

Wallis organises a special robot which will terminate the President upon hearing a certain phrase, and then coerces Hal and Clunk into smuggling it to Jordia.

Hal and Clunk are on Cathua after Hal fritzes a vital circuit making coffee. Free agents and owners of the largest, fastest, most modern ship on Cathua, they're naturals for Wallis's plan to smuggle his crate to Jordia. Unfortunately they won't budge until the ship is repaired, no matter what threats he employs. Hal spends time ordering a replacement for the coffee maker from Hand-E-Goods, while Clunk thinks he's ordering parts. (Hal receives 100 coffee makers and a huge bill by mistake.) Eventually Wallis smooths their passage to Plessa, where they can obtain spares needed for the Volante.

However, when they return the ship is missing. What happened is that Jasmin gathered her reluctant men at the spaceport (reluctant because there's a big game on the weekend, and the 'training mission' overlaps with it) but as they were preparing to leave for Jordia they discovered their ship had broken down. The largest, fastest, most modern ship available was ... the Volante. The men object so Jasmin shoots the mouthiest one. It's only a stunner, but her action motivates the rest nicely.

Hal and Clunk assume Wallis took the ship because of their tardiness taking his crate. They discover the Volante flew to Jordia and set off in pursuit, taking the crate with them. Their intention is to trade - if the crate is that important, Wallis will give them back the Volante.

During Jasmin's trip to Jordia she changes the Volante's name and makes it seem to be coming from Plessa - covers her tracks and avoids the trade embargo between the two planets. Changes name (whirring letters) to Levante. Navcom changes it to GetLost. (other name, Stolen, other name, Suspect, other name, etc) Jasmin's guy engaged in a constant battle. The Navcom also gives her and the men hell. You thought Hal had it bad ... that's got nothing on fountains of waste whenever someone tries to use the toilet, the autochef's steam 'n' bake maneouvre, sudden gravity reversals and loud alarms every few minutes for everything from rat infestations to perfume overloads. The only thing the Navcom can't do is kill Jasmin and her men, but that would have been kinder. Two or three vignettes featuring hapless men being dealt with for imagined slights against the ship. (E.g. Carving name in paint with pocket knife. Jet of steam burns large N on him.) This can be no holds barred super funny.

the Volante finally arrives on Jordia with a jumpy, angry crew. Jasmin and her men set up base. The Jordian President is tracked, his schedule uncovered. The assault on his private residence is planned. The details are communicated to Wallis. He gives them a specific time for the assault. It's in broad daylight.

As the President is leaving for Jordia, he suddenly orders Wallis to go with him. He knows Wallis is thick with the Jordians and will make a useful advisor during the trip. Wallis is reluctant to go, given his plans, but cannot refuse.

Arriving on Jordia, Hal and Clunk overfly a military base and are shot down. After crash-landing on a beach they call Wallis, who denies taking the Volante. (Snatches of fairground music) He calls back a few minutes later, having established that Jasmin took the vessel, and agrees to exchange the ship for the crate. To effect the exchange they must deliver the crate to Herlion Robots.

Hal and Clunk go off together to find a truck. Find the fairground, where they See small stuff in the carpark, but spot a large truck powering the ferris wheel. They 'borrow' it and are pursued back to the ship by enraged fairground people. They lock themselves inside the hold. Siege. Hal - start the engines and drive them off with clouds of sand and smoke, then make a run for it. Clunk goes off to see what he can do and is stunned to discover it might actually fly.

Wallis excuses himself from the robot factory trip. Something he ate disagreed with him - says he'll remain in his room. He takes a briefcase from his cupboard, carefully, then takes the service lift to the basement. Uses a fast car to get to the factory.

Jasmin and troops getting ready. Tense. Deal with guy who comes selling raffle tickets.

H&C lift off and fly towards the rendezvous. On the way, Hal meddles with their cargo, losing it out the back and unbalancing the ship, sending it plunging into the forest. Clunk drags him clear and the ship explodes.

They put the crate on the truck and drive it to the meeting place. Their crash landing attracted attention. Peace force car tears past. They meet Wallis, who gives them a case of cash and the location of the Volante. Hal opens the case and checks the contents, and then Wallis ushers them out. In the truck, driving off, Clunk sniffs an unusual chemical compound. Hal says it's the smell of money, but Clunk grabs the case and chucks it out the window. Hal angry, until a big explosion blows the windows out.

Wallis orders his people to set up the crate with the robot, then leaves in his car.

H&C head back to the factory and sneak inside. (Good reason why they wouldn't go straight to the Volante. Money? Wallis? Revenge?) No sign of Wallis but they see the crate being wheeled into a room. Wait until it's clear and enter.

The Cathuan President arrives at the robot factory for his tour.

H&C find the robot in a line up, and it attacks Clunk. Stuff it in the crate and Clunk takes its place. Pres enters, says piece, chaos.

Jasmin gets the signal to go. During the assault, her troops are more interested in listening to the progress of their sports team than Jasmin's instructions. As a result, they fall like flies, until only Jasmin and the mouthiest guy remain.

People flee the robot factory. Pres wants to know what's going on, Hal points out explosion in crate and says guy called wallis gave them an exploding briefcase. Call goes out to stop Wallis. Is he aboard the Volante? Do they know this? Who knows? Warning for Jordian Pres. Can't raise his residence.

Jasmin and her accomplice about to complete their mission, but are trapped & captured.

Clunk and Hal return to the Volante to examine the damage. Courier arrives with payment and an invite to a gala breakfast the next morning. Clunk uses the payment to order food to replace that eaten by Jasmin's troops (and Hal). (The reader should feel the book is winding up here. Rewards, relaxed.)

Next morning, the replacement food arrives. Clunk takes the time to fix up the hold before Hal wakes up. They get dressed for the breakfast and leave.

Jasmin escapes and returns to the Volante for weapons. It's her last chance to get at the Jordian president. When she gets to the ship there's no sign of Wallis, but she finds the squad's weapons tidied away in a cupboard.

At the breakfast Clunk hears Ortiz escaped. With Wallis still on the loose, there can only be one target - the Volante. He grabs Hal and they return to find the ship still there, but the weapons Clunk tidied up have gone, their truck has gone, and a stolen car is sitting alongside the ship. They can't drive to the palace in time and can't get through the automated answering service. But Clunk has an idea. They take off, track the truck with the ship and overtake it.

Ortiz climbs the hill (what about security?) and is preparing to fire. Sees a shape in her way - it's Clunk. He and Hal arrived aboard the Volante. Hal takes the launcher off her and accidentally fires on the Palace.

Several hours later. Back aboard the ship Hal is toying with his flashy new medal, bigger than Clunk's, rewarded for saving the Jordian President. The mechanic arrives to fix the ship, and they discover the part is wrong. Hal secures a replacement and the ship is fixed.

Hal gives Clunk his medal, and they lift off for Cathua to fix up the crooked Hand-E-Goods merchant.