The Circles of Power
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|The Circles of Power
(Les Cercles du Pouvoir)
|Series||Valérian and Laureline|
|Translator||Timothy Ryan Smith|
|Preceded by||The Living Weapons|
|Followed by||Hostages of the Ultralum|
Valérian and Laureline have brought their crippled astroship to a repair yard on the planet Rubanis. They are quoted a price of seven hundred thousand bloutoks for the repairs but have no money. They are approached by the three Shingouz who advise them to visit Colonel T'loc, the chief of police, who has a job for them.
Taking a taxi cab, they are driven first through the anarchic traffic of the First Circle of the city, where they have left the astroship, and then into the Second Circle which is much less chaotic thanks to the floating mines that keep the traffic in check. From there, they proceed upwards to the orbital station where Colonel T'loc has his headquarters. With the taxi left waiting, they are brought to T'loc's office. The colonel tells them that he is concerned about trouble that is brewing in the Circles of Rubanis. The police force are too busy lining their own pockets to deal with the situation and so T'loc has turned to Valérian and Laureline to help him. He describes the five Circles of Rubanis: the First, dedicated to heavy industry; the Second, designated for business and the Third, dedicated to shopping and entertainment. The Fourth Circle is dedicated to the aristopatrons: the leaders of the religions, the public service and business. It is from this Circle that T'loc receives his orders via a machine in his office. No orders have been received for a long time. Valérian and Laureline ask to examine the machine but T'loc forbids it saying that to open the machine is to risk their lives. T'loc doesn't know where his orders come from and this troubles him. He wants Valérian and Laureline to investigate the Fifth and final Circle – the Circle of Power, a Circle that no one enters and offers them seven hundred thousand bloutoks. Valérian and Laureline ask for expenses on top of what's offered but T'loc refuses. Valérian moves to open the machine and T'loc pulls his gun on him warning him that if the machine is opened the Scunindar virus will spread. T'loc relents and agrees to double their risk bonus and gives them an up front payment – a Grumpy Transmuter from Bluxte, able to duplicate any currency it is fed.
Given a contact name to start their investigations from T'loc's deputy, Indicator Croupachof, they ask their taxi driver to take them to the Third Circle. As they fly through the Second Circle, they are attacked by a woman driving a black limousine. The driver manages to evade her and she crashes her vehicle. Landing in the Third Circle, Valérian, Laureline and the taxi driver make their way to the bar where they are to meet their contact. Waiting for their contact, they find that the Shingouz are also in the bar – it is their job to introduce the contact. The contact arrives and demands 100 Ebebe pearls for the information. Laureline puts the grumpy to work and the contact tells there is a way into the Fifth Circle through an old, abandoned entrance. Suddenly they are interrupted – Na'Zultra, the woman in the limousine who attacked them, enters, accompanied by her henchmen and swinging a cretiniser whip. Valérian and the taxi driver duck under the table out of the influence of the whip but Laureline and the Shingouz are mesmerized. The contact tries to escape but is shot. The henchmen grab Laureline and make off with her. Valérian tries to follow but is too late.
The taxi driver, who is called S'Traks, offers to help – he thinks he can find Na'Zultra through the mechanics who will be sent from the Fourth Circle to recover her crashed limousine. Valérian and S'Traks return to where the wreck of the vehicle lies and hide themselves inside it. Just as S'Traks planned, the recovery vehicle arrives and takes them into the Fourth Circle. As they explore, a group of aristopatrons – priests, high officials and businessmen – come marching by. S'Traks is shocked by their appearance – their necks have elongated and their heads have shrunk. Ambushing some stragglers, Valérian and S'Traks steal their clothes in order to disguise themselves and follow the crowd.
Elsewhere, Na'Zultra is interrogating Laureline. Na'Zultra explains that she intends to seize power on Rubanis and demands the information that Laureline got from the contact. Laureline tells her that Na'Zultra had killed him before he could say anything. Unsatisfied with Laureline's answers, she reveals that she has a machine similar to the one in Colonel T'loc's office. Na'Zultra explains that the Scunindar virus affects the mind and orders her henchmen to strap Laureline into the machine. Before they can switch on another of Na'Zultra's men arrives to warn her that two intruders have been detected at an aristopatron meeting. Realising that it must be Valérian and S'Traks, Na'Zultra departs with her men leaving just one guard to look after Laureline who is still strapped into the machine. Left alone with the guard, Laureline offers to make him rich if he will release her. Intrigued, the guard undoes the straps and Laureline shows him the Grumpy Transmuter. The guard asks Laureline to get the Grumpy to transmute some Glods from Vlago-Vlago. While the guard is distracted watching the Grumpy going about making the Glods, Laureline sneaks up behind him and knocks him unconscious.
Exploring the corridors of the Fourth Circle, searching for Valérian and the way out, Laureline finds a group of aristopatrons connected to a series of the machines that release the Scunindar virus. Moving on further she finds Valérian and S'Traks, pinned down by fire from Na'Zultra and her Vlago-Vlago mercenaries. Laureline manages to distract Na'Zultra for long enough to enable all three to make their escape using the recovery vehicle.
Some time later, Valérian, Laureline and S'Traks ponder their next move. Laureline will try to find out more about the secret entrance to the Fifth Circle while Valérian will report back to T'loc on their progress and S'Traks will recruit a team to take on Na'Zultra's mercenaries. In the depths of the Third Circle, Laureline meets with the Shingouz again. She notices how entranced the population are by the screens that located all around the Circle. The Shingouz explain that they are another variation on the machines Laureline saw in the Fourth Circle. Laureline asks the Shingouz if they can find the ancient service entrance to the Circle of Power. They tell her of an old real estate salesman who lives in the Second Circle who may still have a set of plans for the Fifth Circle.
Arriving at police headquarters, Valérian notices Croupachof's surprise at seeing him again and realises that it was he who warned Na'Zultra. Meeting with T'loc, Valérian asks why he has been sent on a useless mission since T'loc not only already knows that the aristopatrons have succumbed to the Scunindar virus but that he also has an antidote. Valérian points to the machine and asks to use it – he will protect himself from the virus by using T'loc's antidote.
Elsewhere, in the First Circle, S'Traks is assembling his army from the best pilots in the city.
Arriving at an office in the Second Circle with the Shingouz, Laureline visits Dr. Zoump, the real estate salesman who may have a map of the Fifth Circle.
Valérian, connected to the machine, is presented with a series of strange images including that of the mysterious Hyper-Prince. Switching off, Valérian asks T'loc if he is aware that they are putting together an expedition to go into the Circle of Power and find out who is transmitting the images. T'loc replies that he does and that he is also assembling a team of his own. They will move once the entrance has been located. T'loc gives Valerian the agreed fee of one million, seven hundred thousand bloutoks. As Valérian is picked up from T'loc's headquarters by S'Traks, he notices the large armada of police vehicles that T'loc is assembling. S'Traks replies that his team is even larger.
In the Second Circle, Dr Zoump hands over the map in return for a fee. Leaving his office Laureline and the Shingouz just miss Na'Zultra and Croupachof who are also seeking the map.
Valérian is reunited with Laureline and the Shingouz at the rendezvous point where the S'Traks' has assembled the team for the assault on the Circle of Power. They take off, closely monitored by both Na'Zultra and her mercenaries and T'loc and his police force. Finding the entrance, Valérian, Laureline and S'Traks punch their way in. All they find is a derelict room with automatic cameras transmitting the images of the Hyper-Prince and the Scunindar virus. Before the cameras lies the Hyper-Prince. Valérian, unaffected by the virus, snatches the ring from his finger and the Prince crumbles to dust, his ring of authority – a viral sapphire from Scunindar – no longer potent. At that moment both T'loc and Na'Zultra burst in. Fighting breaks out between S'Traks' men and T'loc and Na'Zultra's. Valérian, Laureline and the Shingouz make their escape as war breaks out all across Rubanis.
Some time later, their astroship repaired and refitted, Valerian and Laureline depart Rubanis. The Shingouz offer one last piece of information: who is winning the battle on Rubanis – S'Traks!
- Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent from Galaxity, future capital of Earth, in the 28th century
- Laureline, originally from France in the 11th century, now a spatio-temporal agent of Galaxity in the 28th century
- The Shingouz, a group of three aliens who trade in information
- S'Traks, a cabdriver on the planet Rubanis
- Colonel T'loc, chief of police on Rubanis
- Indicator Croupachof, aide to Colonel T'loc
- Na'Zultra, an ambitious power-hungry mercenary. Heads a band of mercenaries from Vlago-Vlago
- Dr Zoup, a former real-estate salesman
The planet Rubanis in the Constellation of Cassiopeia, previously seen in Métro Châtelet, Direction Cassiopeia and The Ghosts of Inverloch. Since The Ghosts of Inverloch, Colonel T'loc has relocated his headquarters to an orbital platform. The robot thanatologists seen in The Ghosts of Inverloch seem to have disappeared. As in previous albums, the never-ending traffic congestion is a hallmark of the planet.
Rubanis is composed of five distinct circles:
- The First Circle. Where all of Rubanis' heavy industry is located. The most anarchic part of the planet.
- The Second Circle. The business district. More regulated than the first circle. Floating mines keep the traffic in order. However, businessmen flinging themselves from their buildings when the stock exchange crashes can cause a hazard to traffic.
- The Third Circle. Where merchants, amusements and arts congregate.
- The Fourth Circle. Home to high priests, respected public officials and the business aristocracy.
- The Fifth Circle. The mysterious circle of power.
- Colonel T'loc previously appeared in The Ghosts of Inverloch where it was revealed that he had the Scunindar virus. The antidote he now possesses presumably comes from Orq-The-Healer whose location T'loc was given by the Shingouz in that album.
- A Grumpy Transmuter from Bluxte was first seen in Ambassador of the Shadows.
- A cretiniser whip was first seen in On the Frontiers.
- This album was a major influence on the 1997 Luc Besson film The Fifth Element. Jean-Claude Mézières was contracted in 1991 to provide concept art for the film. He produced concepts for the futuristic New York, with its flying cars, as well as the Fhloston Paradise space-liner. When the production on the film was suspended in 1993, Besson turned to making the film Léon and Mézières returned to Valérian where he reworked several of the concepts he had been working on into The Circles of Power — most notably the flying taxi cabs. When the album was finished in 1994, Mézières sent a copy to Besson who was so taken with the cab-driving character of S'Traks that he rewrote the script of The Fifth Element, changing the occupation of protagonist Korben Dallas from a worker in a rocketship factory to cab driver. The film resumed production in 1996 and was released in 1997.
- The Circles of Power was translated into English by Timothy Ryan Smith and published, along with On the Frontiers and The Living Weapons in the same volume, in November 2004 by iBooks under the title Valerian: The New Future Trilogy. The pages were shrunk from their normal size to US comic book size.
- In 1995, this album was nominated for a Haxtur Award for Best Short Comic Strip, at the Salón Internacional del Cómic del Principado de Asturias (International Comics Convention of the Principality of Asturia, Spain).
- Mézières (2004), p. 65
- Mézières, J-C. (1998), Les Extras de Mézières No.2 (Mon Cinquieme Element), Dargaud, Paris, ISBN 2-205-04751-5
- Mézières, J-C. and Christin, P.(2004), Valerian: The New Future Trilogy, trans. T.R. Smith, iBooks, New York, ISBN 0-7434-8674-9
- The Fifth Element (1997), film, directed by Luc Besson, France: Pathé.