TF: Mr. McGillicuddy

Tribulation Force, pp. 85-91

On Monday morning, before flying to New York, Buck Williams needs to meet with spiky Alice about the final details of his upcoming romantic farce:

Fortunately … he didn't see Verna until after he had dropped off his key to Alice and was driving out of the lot. Verna was driving in, and she did not see him.

Phew. After the way he's treated her, Buck knows that Verna wouldn't just look the other way if she were to catch him in a major violation of Global Weekly's ethics policy. And that's exactly what he's up to here.*

The problem is not that Buck is going behind Verna's back, but that everything he does for the rest of the day is paid for by his interview subject. This may seem relatively minor compared to his earlier ethical transgressions with the same interview subject — when he agreed to spike a story for Nicolae in exchange for a promise of personal safety. But the following pages offer a textbook case study in the sleazy quid pro quo of journalistic junketeering, with the perks of his jaunt to New York resembling a parody of a Jay-Z video. If Buck were a member of Congress accepting all of these undisclosed gifts he'd be looking at serious prison time.

Buck had no identification with the name McGillicuddy on it. At O'Hare he picked up an envelope under the phony name and realized that not even the young woman at the counter would have known a ticket was inside.

The young woman at the counter must be going mad with curiosity. A passenger walks up to an airline counter and requests the envelope left for them there — whatever could possibly be inside? It's so mysteriously cloak-and-dagger.

Also, it's been a few years since the last time I was in O'Hare International Airport, but I seem to remember there being more than just the one counter. Anyway …

At the gate he checked in about half an hour before boarding was to begin.

In the three weeks since the Rapture, Buck has been racking up frequent flyer miles. Each trip to the airport is a reminder of how much air travel has changed here in the real world since these books were written in the 1990s (particularly on today's anniversary). Buck's half-hour window doesn't allow enough time to get through security, one thinks, and then one remembers what it was like back then.

But then one also remembers everything that has happened in this story and how impossible it seems that a routine flight should be so very routine here at an airport where, three weeks ago, the runway was littered with the wreckage of dozens of planes. At the very least you'd expect that airlines would be making a show of the extra safety measures they've put in place to reassure passengers that the mass death of the simultaneous crashes less than a month ago would not be repeated. There ought to be redundant flight crews and automated emergency landing systems and that sort of thing just to convince travelers that it was again safe to fly. Most of all, there ought to be travelers who need such convincing. Yet no one seems the least bit jittery about getting back on a plane, even with the cracks and scorch marks still visible on the tarmac.

Buck, addressed as "Mr. McGillicuddy," is offered the "exclusive privilege" of boarding the plane before anyone else, the airline personnel treating him with the obsequious mixture of awe and fear reserved for VIPs and celebrities. They continue fawning on him after he boards, offering him breakfast and the customary early Monday morning bottle of champagne.

Buck had never been a drinker, so he declined the champagne, and he was too keyed up to eat. The flight attendant said, "Are you sure? An entire bottle has been set aside for you." She looked at her clipboard. "Compliments of N.C."

"Thanks anyway," Buck shook his head. Was there no end to what Carpathia could — or would — do?

"You don't want to take it with you?"

"No, ma'am. Thanks. Would you like it?"

The attendant gave him a stunned look. "Are you kidding? It's Dom Perignon!"

"Feel free."

This bit of regifting is probably the most generous tip Buck has ever given in his life. The flight attendant asks him to sign her clipboard so she doesn't get in trouble, and Buck Williams signs "Buck Williams."

"Um, sir?" the attendant said. "What is your name?"

"I'm sorry," Buck said. "I wasn't thinking." He took the clipboard, crossed out his name, and signed "B. McGillicuddy."

Suave. One gets the feeling that while traveling incognito, Buck makes air quotes with his fingers every time he says his fake name.

Normally coach passengers would steal glances at those in first class, but now even the other first-class passengers checked Buck out. He had tried not to be showy, but clearly he was getting preferential treatment.

This tells us either that Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins enjoy flying first class, imagining that the hoi polloi are straining their necks for a glimpse of their glittering selves, or else that L&J resent flying coach and spend flights bitterly trying to peek through the curtains at those enviable elites for whom several hundred dollars for a few hours in a wider seat with free drinks seems like a reasonable bargain. Either way, the authors seem to enjoy imagining themselves here as Buck imagining himself to be Richard Cory, fluttering the pulses of the people on the pavement.

He was waiting on board when they arrived, and during the flight the attendants hovered felicitously around him, topping off his drink and asking if he wanted anything else. Whom had Carpathia paid for this treatment, and how much?

Felicitous, solicitous … whatever. Worrying about choosing the right adjective is for those suckers back in coach.

On the question of "whom had Carpathia paid" for this lavish special attention, I'll take a wild guess and say, "the airline." That's usually how that works. But there's nothing troubling about the airline's role here — you pay them to schmooze and they'll schmooze. The problem here, rather, is that Nicolae is paying the airline a lot of money to schmooze Buck, and Buck is the willing recipient of all that largesse. Have a hand-rolled Cuban cigar, Nicolae offers, and Buck the objective journalist thanks him, lighting it with the flaming end of Global Weekly's ethics policy.

After landing at JFK:

… a uniformed driver strode directly to him as he appeared at the end of the jetway, reached for his carry-on, and asked if he had any checked bags.

"No."

"Very good, sir. Follow me to the car, please."

Buck was a world traveler and had been treated like both a king and a pauper over the years. Yet even he found this routine unsettling.

As a world traveler, Buck at least ought to know not to hand his luggage to somebody who never even asks for his name. The fake sky-cap scam may not be the most sophisticated or lucrative scam in the book, but it's beauty lies in its simplicity.

Buck follows the driver to a waiting limousine and gets inside.

As his eyes adjusted to the low light and the tinted windows, Buck noticed a man in a dark suit sitting with his back to the driver, staring at him. "You with the U.N.," Buck asked, "or do you work directly for Mr. Carpathia?"

The man did not respond. Nor did he move. Buck leaned forward. "Excuse me!" he said. "Do you –"

The man put a finger to his li
ps.

Aft
er the groveling, anything-we-can-do felicitude solicitude of the airline, this cryptic silence of driver and hired muscle is just weird. They were sent by Nicolae, of course, but they seem to be carrying on the whole "McGillicuddy" business, even though there's no reason for it at this point. (But then there was really no reason for it with the airline, either.)

Buck can't imagine that their showy silence and mysterious air is a good sign for him:

Buck wondered if this would be his last ride. … For all he knew, he could be on his way to his own execution. The only record of his trip was a mistaken signature on the flight attendant's clipboard, and he had crossed that out.

It seems unlikely to me that an execution would involve a lavish round-trip first-class ticket, complimentary champagne and a stretch limo ride all the way to the swamps of Jersey, but then unlike Buck I'm not a sophisticated world traveler. Maybe this five-star treatment is how the jet-set has people whacked. (Note to self: If you're ever going to get whacked, try to get whacked by these guys.)

We cut back to Rayford who has, meanwhile, flown to Dallas-Fort Worth airport to practice takeoffs and landings in Pan Continental's spiffy new 757s, which Rayford describes as "the Jaguar of airplanes."

The authors spend more than a page on this training session. They return here to the subtext established in the opening pages of the first book in which Rayford's large, powerful jetliner represents his correspondingly large and powerful penis. That makes this section, once again, unintentionally funny and we could dwell here again on that, chuckling over the authors' obsession with "thrust," but instead I think I'll cut L&J a break here.

This brief passage seems mostly just included as Jenkins' way of reassuring LaHaye that his very manly Mary Sue isn't being neglected in favor of his own, but for all that it's still a page in which we see a character at work on his job, putting in the time to get better at it. Such scenes are all too rare (unless the character is a doctor or detective) for me to discourage them with another string of "cockpit" jokes.

We cut back to Buck who, just moments ago, was worried he was on his way to a one-way ferry ride:

Buck Williams' limo was soon stuck in traffic. Buck wished he'd brought something to read.

Always good advice. Never, ever leave the house without something to read, just in case. You might find yourself like Buck here, stuck in the back of a limo in a traffic jam with no way to pass the time until your impending execution.

Buck might have taken this opportunity to check the locks and plan his escape, but instead he muses about the seemingly pointless show being staged by his host and his authors:

Why did this have to be so mysterious? He didn't understand the point of his treatment on both ends of the plane ride.

Neither Carpathia nor the authors ever offers a good explanation.

The driver "swept past the appropriate exit" for Nicolae's office at the United Nations so now Buck has no idea where they might be headed.

He hoped they were headed somewhere nice for lunch. Besides the fact that he had skipped breakfast, he also liked the prospect of eating more than that of dying.

Can't argue with that. If the choice is between "somewhere nice for lunch" and a shallow grave, I'll take lunch every time.

Back at DFW, Rayford has finished with his training session. His examiner is about as loquacious as Buck's companions.

His examiner handed him a business-size envelope. "So did I pass?" Rayford said lightly.

"You won't know that for about a week," the man said.

Ooh, another envelope. Could it be more airline tickets for Mr. McGillicuddy?

What's this? Rayford wondered, entering the van and tearing open the envelope. Inside was a single sheet of United Nations stationery, already embossed with Hattie Durham, Personal Assistant to the Secretary-General. The hand-written message read simply:

Captain Steele,
I assume you know that the brand new Air Force One is a 757.
Your friend,
Hattie Durham

Hopefully, Hattie didn't get too much of that fancy stationery printed up, because in just a few months she's going to need new letterhead embossed with Hattie Durham, Whore of Babylon.

But her note is confusing. "Air Force One" is, of course, the plane that flies the president of the United States. But while Hattie seems to be hinting she can land Rayford a job as the president's pilot, she doesn't work for the president, or the Secret Service, or the U.S. Air Force. She works for Nicolae Carpathia.

One of her duties for Nicolae, in fact, was to be on hand during his top-secret unveiling of his New World Order, at which he divided the globe into 10 princedoms ruled by his hand-picked lieutenants. Hattie may have been brainwashed into forgetting who pulled the trigger at that meeting, or that Buck was also present, but she still ought to remember seeing Nicolae abolish the sovereignty of every non-Hebrew-speaking nation on the planet. His doing so meaning, among many other things, that there no longer ought to be a plane called Air Force One for the American president to fly in, since there no longer is an American president, or an Air Force, or an America.

In the chapters that follow we learn that Hattie has, in fact, set Rayford up to be the president's pilot (or, rather, the pilot for the man who thinks he's still the president). But then President Fitzhugh — the ultimate (in every sense) lame duck — later gives the plane to Nicolae so that Rayford winds up being the Antichrist's personal pilot.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. This being Tribulation Force — the book in which Very Little Happens Very Slowly — Rayford can't take the job until he first spends several repetitive chapters laboriously insisting that he doesn't want it.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* From The New York Times' ethics policy, the section on "Paying Our Own Way":

30. When we as journalists entertain news sources (including government officials) or travel to cover them, our company pays the expenses. In some business situations and in some cultures, it may be unavoidable to accept a meal or a drink paid for by a news source (for example, at an official's residence or in a company's private dining room). Whenever practical, however, we should avoid those circumstances and suggest dining where we can pay our share (or, better, meeting in a setting that does not include a meal). Routine refreshments at an event like a news conference are acceptable, but a staff member should not attend recurring breakfast or lunch meetings unless our company pays for the journalist's meals. Whether the setting is an exclusive club or a service lodge's weekly luncheon, we should pay our way.

31. Staff members may not accept free or discounted transportation and lodging except where special circumstances give little or no choice. Such special cases include certain military or scientific expeditions and other trips for which alternative arrangements would be impractical — for example, an interview aboard a corporate jet where there is no benefit other than the interview. Journalists should consult responsible newsroom managers in advance when special circumstances arise.

And while we're on the subject, kudos to The Times for having it's ethics policy publicly available online. Here are links to many others, all of which contain similar language forbidding journalists from accepting free first-class airline tickets, bottles of Dom Perignon, limo rides or lunches at the Manhattan Yacht Club.

  • Not Really Here, who is still waiting for Raj to explain the sesame seed bun thing.

    @Tricksterson No no, Buck was molesting my cyborg horse. That’s why I fell off. Now let me dig myself out of here.. Good fight. Next time lets do ElvenWerewolfPirate against DwarvenVampireNinja. I call DVN
    No sense trying to type your way out of this one. I distinctly remember you saying, and I quote
    Tucks and rolls off of wildly bucking horse buck maintains grip on lance.
    Also, interesting that the horse started bucking wildly after inhaling psilcybized phlebotinum.
    Admit it, you lost. You fought dirty, and you still lost.
    Did you really think that your puny landmines could so much as make a dent in by Giant Robot’s phlebotinum-reinforce armor?
    And again, I ask the question, why was Buck holding your lance? It’s bad enough having to work with a mercenary, but one who has a, er, relationship with a LaJenkins Mary Sue hero…
    I’m finding you increasingly untrustworthy. And I control the ants.

  • Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG

    Damn you God of Typoes! That was supposed to be “but”, not “buck”. And I already admitted defeat.
    Of course I’m untrustworthy. Look at my name. I’m one of the many first born sons (some of them women) of the God of Lies. What do you expect. Not to mention I hang out with mad, homicidal clowns.

  • Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG

    Damn you God of Typoes! That was supposed to be “but”, not “buck”. And I already admitted defeat.
    Of course I’m untrustworthy. Look at my name. I’m one of the many first born sons (some of them women) of the God of Lies. What do you expect. Not to mention I hang out with mad, homicidal clowns.

  • chris the cynic

    That you’re the black (death) sheep of the family and thus honest.
    Not the [Black Death] sheep, the black sheep who happens to number among the death sheep.
    Or something like that.

  • Not Really Here, who is still waiting for Raj to explain the sesame seed bun thing.

    Tricksterson- yeah, you admitted defeat, and gave some lame-ass excuse about Buck molesting your horse, because you couldn’t deal with the fact that even using dishonorable tactics like bringing a rocket-powered flying horse to a giant robot duel, I beat you with superior skill, tactics, and weaponry.
    And now, I’m going to humiliate you.
    *ties Tricksterson up in a hot tub full of mayonnaise and jalapeno peppers. pelts him with garbanzo beans. calls him Betty.*

  • Not Really Here, who is still waiting for Raj to explain the sesame seed bun thing.

    oops, almost forgot
    *stuffs croutons in Tricksterson’s ears. calls him Betty again*

  • Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG

    Hmm, if it wasn’t for the jalapeno pepper I might actually consider that a turnon..
    Anyway what do you say to my proposed rematch somtime in the future, the ElvenWerewolfPirate vs DwarvenVampireNinja. I already called dibs on the DVN. But hen as winner of this battle I suppose you should get first choice.

  • Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG

    Hmm, if it wasn’t for the jalapeno pepper I might actually consider that a turnon..
    Anyway what do you say to my proposed rematch somtime in the future, the ElvenWerewolfPirate vs DwarvenVampireNinja. I already called dibs on the DVN. But hen as winner of this battle I suppose you should get first choice.

  • chris the cynic

    Don’t sell yourself short. People I know tend to give loser first choice, as a sort of consolation prize and a way to keep things interesting.

  • http://abelstales.blogspot.com damnedyankee, Captain of the SDF Yamato-Arcadia, Privateer of the Open Skies. Also.

    Thanks for the advice, GrossAdmiral, but remember, I’m not actually part (wink, wink) of Her Majesty’s Navy (wink, wink). I’m a privateer (wink, wink).
    Ow. All this winking makes my eyelid sore. Where’d I put that patch…?

  • hapax

    I’m a privateer (wink, wink).
    Y’know, now I’m kinda hoping that Fred puts off our weekly dose of LB:TF until Saturday. ‘Cause I really really want him to do the whole post in Pirate Speech.

  • Not Really Here, who is still waiting for Raj to explain the sesame seed bun thing.

    @Tricksterson- Hmm, if it wasn’t for the jalapeno pepper I might actually consider that a turnon..
    You can’t. I mean, if you leave out the jalapeno peppers, it would ruin the whole song
    And you can have the Dwarf Vampire Ninjas.

  • Not Really Here, who is still waiting for Raj to explain the sesame seed bun thing.

    oh, and damnedyankee, I’d like to see your Letter of Marque…

  • http://abelstales.blogspot.com damnedyankee, Captain of the SDF Yamato-Arcadia, Privateer of the Open Skies. Also.

    (feels his coat pockets)
    Must have left it in my other suit. Hang on, I’ll go get it. Go, um, play with Betty some more or something.

  • Jeff

    [[Pillage first, then burn.]]
    It’s {something} [Jeff whistles innocently], loot, pillage THEN burn!

  • hapax

    (With apologies to the recently deceased Mary Travers):
    Where have all the towers gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the castles gone?
    Long time ago
    Where has all the treasure gone?
    Burned by Vikings, every one
    When will they ever learn?
    Pillage before you burn!

  • Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG

    Yeah, well, they’re Viking. They’re lucky if they can tell the difference between the women and the goats.

  • Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG

    Yeah, well, they’re Viking. They’re lucky if they can tell the difference between the women and the goats.

  • Jessica

    So, I’m not at work, and can safely post my NSFW link:
    Latex dresses, just in time for Friday! If I don’t get raptured, I have a feeling that I’ll know why.
    Anyway, I move to make this the official uniform for the meta-hari of the great Floating Empire of Texas. Those that are uncomfortable with the uniform can ummmm, wear…. something else? I don’t want people to feel weird.
    Any chance that the new OWG will pay for these once Ako becomes the antichrist? I’d like one in black, and another in red. ;)

  • GrossAdmiral Herzog Hawker von Hurricane, ruler of the Queen’s Navy and all that.

    Yeah, well, they’re Viking. They’re lucky if they can tell the difference between the women and the goats.
    Posted by: Tricksterson, Commander of the Evil Clown Brigade, Keeper of the Death Sheep and Minion of MG
    —————————
    John Wayne as Ghengis Khan in “The Conquerer” (With Rita Hayward as a red haired Chinese princess)
    Best done with a John Wayne western voice.
    “Alright men, listen up. We’re going to attack this Chinese village. We’ll follow our usual battle plan. We kill the men, rape the women, enslave the children, sieze the gold, take the sheep, and set the huts on fire. And for God’s sake, get it straight this time!”
    ===========================
    The Royal Navy actually issued a Letter of Marque and Reprisal to steal sheep in the Caribean.
    As head of Her Majesty’s Texian Navy, I can issue letters of Marque to ‘Naval Auxilieries’. That is, if Her Majesty pleases.

  • PepperjackCandy

    Do those dresses zip all the way up the back, or do you have to fill them with baby powder or corn starch to put them on?
    And, hey! It looks like the armholes are actually large enough for me not to feel like my arms are getting sliced off.
    Do they come in a mid-thigh-length version?

  • http://abelstales.blogspot.com damnedyankee, Captain of the SDF Yamato-Arcadia, Privateer of the Open Skies. Also.

    The more sheep I steal, the fewer the newcomers will have on hand for killing us.

  • Jessica

    PJC–
    The dress is mostly backless, but you can get it back lacing or zip.
    I’m sure Syren makes the same style in a mid-thigh. Check out their website, should be http://www.syren.com
    Mid-thigh length is acceptable for members of the meta-hari, too.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The young woman at the counter must be going mad with curiosity. A passenger walks up to an airline counter and requests the envelope left for them there — whatever could possibly be inside? It’s so mysteriously cloak-and-dagger.
    And lets the Author Self-Insert live his Fantasy as a Master Spy Investigative Reporter in a Thriller. Buck Jenkins seems to have dueling priorities as he sits at his keyboard cranking out a 400-page volume every month:
    1) Rush to the next Item on the End Time Prophecy Checklist.
    2) Pad out the narrative to indulge my fantasy of being the GIRAT in the Big Intricate Conspiracy Thriller. (“De plane, Boss! De plane!”)
    The real kicker is I’m writing an intrigue-at-the-airport thriller scene right now — how to get three different characters through a spaceport and onto the same Firefly-equivalent (in a docking bay at the other side of the port) without any of the three running into each other. And shake the tail yet another party has put on them. Juggling at least four overlapping independent conspiracies in the overall novella. (Not my fault; my writing partner threw in the kitchen sink in the first draft.) Might make me take up serious drinking, but I prophesy I’ll probably do a better job of it than Buck Jenkins.

  • GrossAdmiral Herzog Hawker von Hurricane, ruler of the Queen’s Navy and all that.

    I prophesy I’ll probably do a better job of it than Buck Jenkins.
    Posted by: Headless Unicorn Guy
    ————–
    Can you damn yourself with faint praise?

  • hf

    Nobody else post in this thread for a second.

  • hf

    Lesse here:

  • hf

    Hmmm.
    How about this?

  • hf

    Ross fix

    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

  • Kit

    I want to play a game where we all try unnecessarily hard to get 666 comments for each post. That way, the crazies won’t simply think that we’re mean, godless little wankers, but actually signs or minions of the Beast.

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  • Anonymous

    I imagine the airlines making a big show of having pilots and copilots of multiple races and orientations in each cockpit to cover their bases, having noticed that virtually all of the vanished pilots were white and straight.


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