TF: Gang of Four

Tribulation Force, pp. 248-251

Even with mind-control and other supernatural powers, setting up a one-world government would seem to be an enormous logistical challenge. It would require, among many other things, a massive bureaucracy in every nation, province, city and town.

Granted, in some countries where an authoritarian regime has already been in place, the pre-existing bureaucracy might serve this role with only relatively minor adjustments. In places like Burma or some provinces of China, it might be possible to enlist that existing bureaucracy into the service of your new OWG with little more than a memo informing provincial officials that they will now be receiving orders from Central Office X rather than the former Central Office Y.

Unfortunately for any prospective OWG dictator (but fortunately for the actual world) such places are rather few in number. And even many of the more authoritarian states that do exist wouldn't be susceptible to such a smooth transition. Saudi Arabia and Iran, for example, already posses some of the infrastructure and apparatuses (apparati?) of police states, but their religious ideologies could not easily be replaced — or reconciled with one another. In such places the existing authoritarian bureaucracy would be more likely to form the structure for organized resistance to a OWG than to set the stage for its takeover.

So for most of the world, the massive Antichrist-OWG bureaucracy is going to have to be created from scratch.

What I'm getting at here is how enormously labor-intensive Nicolae Carpathia's Antichrist OWG will need to be. Just consider the Mark of the Beast and what it would require to administer that to the 4 billion or so people remaining on earth in which no country has a reliable post-Event census. That's going to require an army of loyal bureaucrats functioning as a kind of global census bureau/IRS/DMV. This vast bureaucracy will have to be staffed very quickly — we've only got a seven-year window before history runs out — and that staff will have to be maintained somehow throughout the coming End Times plagues and their relentless fractioning of the population.

That Mark of the Beast bureaucracy will have to serve alongside and in addition to the actual WG of the OWG. Nicolae Carpathia's goal here isn't some loose federalism or something like the EU writ large. He wants a centralized global dictatorship micromanaging every aspect of every life everywhere. In every village or hamlet on earth there will need to be officials who serve in a long, unbroken and unfailingly loyal chain of command that reaches all the way to Nicolae at the top. And those officials — and ultimately Nicolae himself — will be held responsible for every problem and every solution in every place on earth.

Former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode likes to joke that being a big city mayor is a tougher job than being president, because no one calls the president to complain if a pothole goes unfilled or if trash pickup is late. This is pretty much the job Nicolae is angling for — mayor of the world. He's going to have to make the trains run on time everywhere — even in places where they don't have trains. And every intractable global problem, every insoluble dispute, every hot-spot and trouble-spot on the globe will become his problem.

Kashmir, for example. And California's budget. And Iraq's electrical grid. Somalia. Afghanistan. Waziristan. All his to deal with.

This is one reason I'm not worried about the rise of a global dictatorship. Anyone smart enough to be able to attain such a position wouldn't be stupid enough to want it.

Anyway, I bring all this up because today we're reading passages in which both Rayford and Buck encounter the woeful structural inadequacies and general unpreparedness of the nascent Carpathian OWG.

Rayford agrees to pilot Air Force One for Nicolae's trip to Israel, but only as a trial-run during which he will deign to allow the secretary-general of the United Nations and the president of the United States to try to talk him into accepting the pilot's job against his better judgment. Nothing demonstrates humility more than insisting that world leaders must beg you to work for them.

Rayford's boss, Leonard Gustafson, has already arranged to have him picked up at Baltimore-Washington and driven to the White House for his job interview. Before flying to BWI, he stops by his mailbox and finds this note:

"Thanks for your endorsement on my early promotion. I really appreciate it. And good luck to you. Signed, Captain Nicholas Edwards."

And here I thought that the only correspondent who used "signed" as a valediction was Epstein's mother. Edwards was the first officer who had filed a religious harassment complaint against Rayford. This note is either an ominous reminder that Nicolae has manipulated Gustafson into paying off Edwards to drop his complaint or else, since it's also God's will that Rayford pilot Air Force One, it's a comforting reminder of benevolent providence, demonstrating that the Holy Spirit has moved Gustafson to pay off Edwards to drop his complaint. Mysterious ways and all that.

Rayford arrives at the White House where:

… he was quickly whisked through the gate. A guard welcomed him by name and wished him luck. When he finally got to the office of an assistant to the chief of staff, Rayford made clear that he was agreeing only to fill in as pilot for the trip to Israel the following Monday.

"Very good," he was told. "We have already begun the character and reference check, the FBI probe and the Secret Service interviewing. It will take a bit longer to complete anyway, so you'll be in a position to impress us and the president without being responsible for him until you've passed all checkpoints."

So my friend Dave used to work for this IT company that landed a contract with a local nuclear power plant. Turns out that you can't work on the computers at a nuclear power plant without an FBI background check (probably prudent, that). This meant that I was interviewed by the FBI for about half and hour on the phone. Their questioning was impressively, somewhat creepily, thorough — particularly the last bit, where they asked me for the names of other people who knew Dave. I couldn't come up with anyone they didn't already have on their list. As far as I could tell, they had an exhaustive list of anyone and everyone he'd ever spoken to and they intended to interview all of these people.

That, in my experience, is what an "FBI probe" is like. I'm guessing the background check for the president's pilot is even more thorough than the background check for an IT subcontractor at a nuke plant. And I'd guess the Secret Service process is even more thorough than that.

I'm not sure that Rayford or his co-conspirators in the Tribulation Force or the authors have really thought through what it might mean for Rayford to face that level of scrutiny. The FBI is going to be interviewing Chloe, Bruce and Buck, asking all of them about their meetings together and what they talk about in them. And they'll be interviewing Earl, Nicholas Edwards, Hattie, Loretta and everybody else who's ever worked with Rayford at Pan-Con or sat near him at New Hope Village Church.

At least that's what the real FBI would be doing. Here in LB-world, their background check seems to consist only of a computer check to make sure that Rayford doesn't have an arrest record or any outstanding parking tickets.

Rayford doesn't seem at all worried by the prospects of these investigations. He's just surprised that the White House is more concerned with secu
rity for the president than for the U.N. secretary-general.

"You can authorize me to fly the U.N. secretary-general with less clearance on me than you'd need for the president?"

"Precisely. Anyway, you've already been approved by the U.N. …"

"By whom?"

"By the secretary-general himself."

Here in reality, there's nothing odd about the idea that White House staff wouldn't feel particularly responsible for an international diplomatic figurehead whose every step is subject to U.S. veto power, but in the alternate universe of LaHaye World, the secretary-general of the United Nations is the Most Important Person in the world — ouranking every head of state including the American president, and it troubles Rayford that the U.S. Secret Service isn't also protecting the Romanian president.

It's worth noting, again, that this idea of the secretary-general outranking the president isn't part of LaHaye's fictional story of the rise of the Antichrist. This is how LaHaye believes the real world really works. He believes that the U.N.'s relationship to any given (non)sovereign state is roughly analogous to the relationship between Washington, D.C., and Trenton, N.J.

That neither the U.N. nor any of its member states perceive their relationship this way because it is not, in fact, the case does nothing to lessen LaHaye's insistence that this is so.

What mainly strikes me here, though, is that Nicolae still doesn't have his own versions of the FBI or the Secret Service. He's still handling his security background checks the same way he seems to be handling everything — either first-hand personally, or else by delegating it to Hattie, Steve or Chaim Rosenzweig. At the very least you'd think he'd have brought over a few dozen minions from the dark days of his early political rise, but no, he doesn't even have a basic entourage of thugs from back in Cluj. It's just the four of them.

The guy really needs to get cracking hiring that massive OWG bureaucracy.

Buck Williams also doesn't have an entourage or a full staff, but he doesn't need one. He's got Marge Potter to handle all his basic research and to line up all the interviews he has planned for his string of religion stories. We cut back to Buck's point of view with those five words we've come to love:

Buck was on the phone …

That's our Buck.

Buck was on the phone to Marge Potter at Global Weekly headquarters in New York when he heard the news. The entire world would go to dollars for currency within one year, the plan to be initiated and governed by the United Nations, funded by a one-tenth of one percent tax to the U.N. on every dollar.

"That doesn't sound unreasonable, does it?" Marge asked.

"Ask the financial editor, Marge," Buck said. "It'll be gazillions a year."

Actually, the world's GDP in 1996 was around $34 trillion, so 1/10 of 1 percent would be about $34 billion. And that's assuming the disappearance of all children and hundreds of millions of adults and the abrupt abolition of all military spending hasn't had any negative effects on the world's economic growth. And assuming that the devaluation and abandonment of all but one of the world's currencies over the next 12 months wouldn't have any negative effects either (which seems an unlikely assumption).

I'm not entirely sure what a "tax … on every dollar" means or how such a thing is to be assessed or administered. My point here, though, is that assessing and administering this tax while overseeing the rapid global conversion to a single currency seems like more than Nicolae, Hattie, Steve and Chaim will be capable of handling on their own.

This seems to me like another project that will require yet another army of bureaucrats and technocrats and the determined work of a few million other people who aren't botanists, PR men or flight attendants.

Tribulation Force and this entire series of books was written by and for people who are terrified of a OWG and who are certain such a thing is an imminent reality. But every mention of it here in these books just provides further evidence that such a thing is unimaginable. Precisely unimaginable — the authors are unable to imagine for us a plausible OWG. They cannot imagine how such a thing might come to be created nor how such a thing might be sustained, and their every attempt to imagine such things only reinforces their actual impossibility. And yet they are still terrified.

  • Lori

    Fraser: I can’t even remember the exact dates of some of my jobs from my twenties
    mmy: Ask me who won Wimbledon in any particular year and I will probably know the answer. Ask me how Aragon and Arwen were related and I can tell your the details. Ask me what year I started working at a particular job and I am lost.

    It’s my understanding that “I don’t recall the exact dates” is considered a legitimate answer to “When did you work there?” and to most other questions. You can’t use it too often, but being truthful about not knowing is generally considered better than fudging. They’re well aware that unless you’re a compulsive record keeper or have literally been dreaming of a security clearance since you started kindergarten there’s stuff you’re just not going to remember.
    IME if you sit down and start writing up a timeline you can work out a lot of the dates. Several classmates and I did that and I was surprised by the amount of detail I was able to figure out. I was also surprised by the amount of stuff I couldn’t remember at all, like the addresses of most of the places that I’ve lived.
    Of course my recession-induced financial woes are such that none of it is relevant to me any more. There’s no way I’m going to be able to get even a very low level clearance so I’m in the process of figuring out a whole new post-graduation career path.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Probably the most infamous question on the form they make you fill out (It’s mentioned, and mocked, in an episode of The West Wing) is the “Have you ever belonged to an organization which advocates the violent overthrow of the US government?”
    (The question is not intended to catch out very stupid terrorists. The idea behind the question is this: if you say no and it turns out that you are a member of such a group, they don’t need to actually prove that you are a terrorist. You lied on the form, and that’s sufficient grounds to fire (and I think even incarcerate) you.)

  • Vermic

    unless you’re a compulsive record keeper or have literally been dreaming of a security clearance since you started kindergarten
    … either of which, I’ll wager, is a red flag all by itself. “All my life, I have been planning for the day when I’ll have access to the President” is probably not a statement likely to allay the security concerns of one’s interviewers.

  • http://animated-discussions.blogspot.com/ Froborr

    Probably the most infamous question on the form they make you fill out (It’s mentioned, and mocked, in an episode of The West Wing) is the “Have you ever belonged to an organization which advocates the violent overthrow of the US government?”

    So, does that mean Republicans are no longer allowed to work for the government? Or is it only Tea Partiers?

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    IME if you sit down and start writing up a timeline you can work out a lot of the dates. Several classmates and I did that and I was surprised by the amount of detail I was able to figure out. I was also surprised by the amount of stuff I couldn’t remember at all, like the addresses of most of the places that I’ve lived.
    A lot of memory is kept in mental rooms linked by association. It’s kind of amazing how well it works. Like, the little Rush: “Presto” anecdote in the other thread–I know I started college the summer semester right after I graduated high school; I went to Advance the 4 summers prior to that; I had that roommate in my 3rd and 4th year; I’m class of ’94… therefore, whoops, I got the year wrong, it was 1992 not 3.
    Which is all very logical, and relies on knowing some dates absolutely (my birth, my high school graduation, my college graduation, the year I got married, the year I moved or quit a job etc) and knowing other things by sequence and/or by interval, and counting forward or back from the closest related absolutely known year or age.
    Sometimes it’s much more nebulous than that. I know I can’t be the only one who can recover a thought that slipped my mind by physically returning to the place where I had that thought. I had a particularly annoying episode of that the other week–my husband kept trying to get back to the Netflixed stuff he was watching, but every time I got back to the kitchen I remembered one more thing I’d meant to tell him. The PS3 pause button got quite the workout.
    Which is all a long-winded way of saying “Associative memory in action is fascinating, isn’t it?” Someone should follow up with an explication of the Roman Room memory technique and whether the recent “Leverage” episode did a good job of using it.

  • Will Wildman

    So, does that mean Republicans are no longer allowed to work for the government?

    Well, technically they don’t want to overthrow it. They just want to kick out anyone who doesn’t think a shotgun is an appropriate accessory for ‘formal wear’ and then dismantle anything that might reduce the upper hand maintained by white men. (Favourite Jon Stewart quote ever: when noting that Democrats are called to prove their patriotism and Republicans aren’t, he explained “Everyone knows Republicans love America! They just hate everyone living in it!”)

    Or is it only Tea Partiers?

    That is actually a really good point. But this question is only for staffers, not elected officials, isn’t it?

  • Lori

    The question is not intended to catch out very stupid terrorists. The idea behind the question is this: if you say no and it turns out that you are a member of such a group, they don’t need to actually prove that you are a terrorist. You lied on the form, and that’s sufficient grounds to fire (and I think even incarcerate) you.

    There are also several questions on the form of the sort common on long psych surveys which are designed to identify lying rather than to actually illicit needed information. If you trip over those you’re not getting your clearance.

    … either of which, I’ll wager, is a red flag all by itself. “All my life, I have been planning for the day when I’ll have access to the President” is probably not a statement likely to allay the security concerns of one’s interviewers.

    True enough. There’s longterm career ambition and there’s “sleeper agent”. You definitely want to stay on the correct side of that line.

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com Geds

    Which is all very logical, and relies on knowing some dates absolutely (my birth, my high school graduation, my college graduation, the year I got married, the year I moved or quit a job etc) and knowing other things by sequence and/or by interval, and counting forward or back from the closest related absolutely known year or age.
    My system relies on remembering when I graduated from high school, what car I was driving, when I was at Western Illinois University, and a certain period of time when I was dating a particular girl. At first it was just high school, then the cars came in, then the girl. As I move forward I just continually add in new associations.
    It was easy enough at first, too, as I had a habit of getting cars that only lasted a year or so and I switched jobs several times, so I could triangulate when something was fairly easily. So I knew that if I was doing Job X and driving Car Y, that meant that it was some time between, say, July of 1999 and January of 2000 or whatever. It got more complicated as I started keeping jobs for many years and driving the same car for many years. The easiest new delimiter, of course, is that I moved from Chicago to Dallas in January of this year. I bought a new car in March, though, so there won’t be too many opportunities for me to say, “Oh, yeah, I was living in Dallas and driving the Cavalier, so that must have happened ___________.”
    Still, as far as saying, “I moved in January 2010, it’s now March of 2013, and I know this thing happened a year and a half after I moved, so it fits [here] in the timeline,” it’s not that complicated.
    But, yeah. Associative memory. It’s goofy.

  • http://www.angelsparrow.com Angelia Sparrow

    Question: Could Nicky not have been laying the groundwork through Infernal Power and Influence well before he ascends on the scene?
    Why does he need to be limited to that 7 year schedule? Can’t he have already had most of this in place before the Rapture and just hits on the Rapture as a proper time to move, while everything is in confusion?

  • Lori

    But this question is only for staffers, not elected officials, isn’t it?

    Yes, the question is asked of anyone being reviewed for a security clearance. You have to get clearance to be on staff, but elected officials do not. It’s a weird double standard. One on hand getting people to vote for you doesn’t exactly prove that you’re trustworthy (see Fred’s current comments about Michelle Bachmann). On the other hand using the clearance process to deny a duly elected person the ability to take their seat in Congress would lead to all sorts of problems. The latter is almost certainly far more of an issue than the former, so the process is unlikely to ever change. Wingnuts have been bitching about it recently because the Dems are back in power and everyone knows the Democratic Party is riddled with communists and Islamofascist sleeper agents. Once the GOP is back on top they’ll stop complaining because of course even the nuttiest of the Tea Partiers aren’t a problem.

  • http://sugarbang.blogspot.com/ JessicaR

    I understand about having focus characters in a story. But such boring focus characters? And more importantly focus characters who all know each other and live almost together and work together?
    How better this could have been if Buck was an actual globetrotting heroic reporter. He was covering a coup in Central America when the Event happened. Stranded and without a translator he makes his way back to New York. Trying to get in touch with anyone, and slowly putting together that something Much Bigger Than We Can Possibly Understand is going on. Converting to RTC-anity allong the way.
    The first novel ends with him back in New York. He’s there when Nick Mystery Mountain is making his U.N. speech. He grabs the mic, denounces Nick as The Antichrist and flees for his life. A scrap of paper with an address for a little church in Chicago his only lead to a possible temporary safe haven.
    …Meanwhile Chloe the graduate student is finishing her doctorate at Stanford. In physics no less, and when the Event seems to be the biggest thumb your nose at physics in history she is quickly snapped up by a hastily put together goverment task force to look into what caused the Event and can it be reversed, along with dozens of other scientists.
    She realizes The Truth and coverts half her lab before she as well must flee into the night. A believer’s whisper of “Get to New Hope Church” her only direction to where safety might lie.

  • Dav

    A lot of memory is kept in mental rooms linked by association. It’s kind of amazing how well it works.
    Yeah. My links are really wonky, though. Like there’s one link about a residence that only gets associated with “spiders” because there really were an astonishing number of spiders living there. Like going through the front door was like that scene in Indiana Jones with the tarantulas.
    It would be more HELPFUL if it was linked to, say, time, or classes I took, or the ice cream parlour down the street, but no.
    Could Nicky not have been laying the groundwork through Infernal Power and Influence well before he ascends on the scene?
    You mean before he rose to power in Romania?

  • Will Wildman

    Could Nicky not have been laying the groundwork through Infernal Power and Influence well before he ascends on the scene?
    Why does he need to be limited to that 7 year schedule? Can’t he have already had most of this in place before the Rapture and just hits on the Rapture as a proper time to move, while everything is in confusion?

    Sure, but I’m pretty certain the prequel trilogy disproves that theory. Probably because L&J (and probably a lot of PMDs generally) don’t really do the ‘long term thinking’ thing.
    Also, people have been suggesting that he doesn’t know he’s only got seven years, but I thought he did – his plan is to fulfill all the prophecies to draw TurboJesus out of hiding and then kill him (somehow). Or is it Satan who knows that, and Nicky thinks he’s just been given a free ride to global dictator for life?

  • Firefall

    It occurs to me that this pile is getting rather large. Maybe we should try to increase the other pile: narrative message board comments that contain less and worse research, world-building, character development, empathy, emotion, insight, and craftsmanship than the entire Left Behind series. I’m thinking this might be a harder challenge for people.

    Lets see …
    OMG1!1!! The Whole World is Raptured Except me!! I am the OWG all by myself. The OWC must be whatever is left in my wallet! I must be the AntiChrist!! Great, now to conduct a swindle and take control of the Electoral College, because that controls all elections in the whole wide world. So …. how do I start this mind control gizmo again?
    [I may have underdone the exclamation point usage]

  • Pius Thicknesse

    @JessicaR: Damn it, even that thumbnail synopsis of a way better Left Behind scenario had me riveted. I want to read THAT book, damn it. :P
    Actually, being as my primary interest is science, is there any chance I might persuade you to allow me to flesh it out at all? :D

  • http://www.angelsparrow.com Angelia Sparrow

    Before the UN, sure, before Romania.
    This guy is the ANTI-CHRIST, one-third of the Anti-Godhead. Why is he futzing with flower deliveries and personal interviews?
    He has it all ready to go. He has been collecting loyal operatives since pre-school, has been building a power-structure since his early teens, getting chummy with the right sons of world leaders at his elite boarding school. He did a wandering-year, maybe two, where he scoped out a lot of major countries and mind-whammied a lot of people.
    It’s all in place, like the Disciples of the Watch in Omen III. Operatives behind every seat of power, good friends in all the right places.
    (or am I overestimating LaJenks Storytelling capabilities? I mean, I’m a third-rate hack who writes gay politcal thrillers set in a dark future. Surely they HAVE to be better.)

  • Pius Thicknesse

    @Angelia Sparrow:
    The trilogy front-end seems to be a rather hurried patch job, but even there the obtusely anviliciously named characters continue to exist, such as Reiche Planchette, et cetera.
    Oh, and Nicky Elephant Butte’s parents genetic origins? A GAY COUPLE ZOMG OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH
    You can practically hear the “This is totally massively against nature and therefore Satanic” gong being rung again and again.

  • The Old Maid

    Official double wedding Countdown: 174 pages

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p011570656a00970b sofia

    @Daughter: Leon shows up in the third book, so we’ll be getting to him within a few years.

  • http://sanchezkisser.com/blog Keith

    A friend of mine applied for a job as archivist for the Department of Energy, mostly managing records and helping historians find documents for their tedious books on the WPA that no one will read. Not only did she have the same FBI probe Dave the IT guy did, but they wanted to fast track her into the position, so the DoE flew her out to a security office in Nevada where she was escorted to a remote location and given a four hour long polygraph test (because the DoE has some archived material on the Manhattan Project).
    Most people don’t understand the security measures involved in working for the government. This is why we have Birthers who think that some sleeper agent from Kenya could accidentlaly be elected President of the US. They don’t understand that Barrack Obama is one of the most vetted men in the world. His birth certificate has been reviewed and verified by no fewer than six government agencies, including the Secret Service, whose primary job is investigating counterfitting.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/inquisitiveravn Inquisitiveravn

    re: apparatus
    English usage doesn’t always follow the usage in the original language, but if firefighter usage is any indication, “apparatus” is both singular and plural. In this case, apparatus refers to the vehicles used by the firefighters.

  • Vermic

    Or is it Satan who knows that, and Nicky thinks he’s just been given a free ride to global dictator for life?
    I too am fuzzy on what our current, pre-Indwelling Nicky is supposed to know and not know. He’s aware that he has mind control powers, at least (I assume?), and must have wondered where they came from.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    @Vemic: See, if Nicky were a libertarian, he’d just assume that if he had mind control powers, he’d somehow earned them through hard work.

  • http://sugarbang.blogspot.com/ JessicaR

    @Pius Sure go ahead.
    And yes I’ve always wondered how much Nicky knows about the Grand Scheme. Once Satan takes over I guess you can chalk it up as yet another “Up Yours God!” go round between The Prince of Darkness and his mortal enemey. But before? How interesting it would have been to have Nick be a tragic figure who honestly thought he was going to save the world. Or even just an entertaining pulp villian.
    But a clever villian who is constantly not following the prophecies, or does just to smoke out and smash another group of believers. Somebody with some flair and a plan besides “I’m going to draw on TurboJesus first. No really, that’s my plan. I’m going to shoot the Son of Man before he can shoot me. I forsee this ending amazingly well and nothing going wrong. At all.”

  • Thrifty

    Like hapax I do not have a shoppers club card.
    The people I know who do have such cards have filled them out was random info. A popular address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and popular telephone numbers are all in the 555 exchange.

    *slaps face* Why didn’t I think of that?
    I have 6 of those cards: Acme, Pathmark, Shop Rite, Super Fresh, Safeway, and Giant (Delaware).
    Shop Rite doesn’t give you cards; you just get those stupid thigs that attach to your key ring.
    I sorta like to collect these cards. I wish I hadn’t thrown out the cards from Kroeger and Harris Teeter from when I lived down south.

  • Will Wildman

    I too am fuzzy on what our current, pre-Indwelling Nicky is supposed to know and not know. He’s aware that he has mind control powers, at least (I assume?), and must have wondered where they came from.

    According to the prequel trilogy, he’s already had dealings with Satan and all that giving-in-to-temptation stuff. I’m just not sure how much of the plan he’s in on.

    “I’m going to draw on TurboJesus first. No really, that’s my plan. I’m going to shoot the Son of Man before he can shoot me. I forsee this ending amazingly well and nothing going wrong. At all.”

    Hah! Yeah, it’s really disappointing that The Adversary can’t come up with a better plan than “First I’ll play along with my enemy’s plan, then I’ll wing it!” He could at least try to break the prophecies or convince humanity that God is evil or something – Christ Clone was more plausible, although I got the impression that the Antichrist in that story was less interesting in defeating God and more interested in damning as many people as possible within the time limit.

  • Vermic

    “I’m going to draw on TurboJesus first. No really, that’s my plan. I’m going to shoot the Son of Man before he can shoot me. I forsee this ending amazingly well and nothing going wrong. At all.”
    I’ll admit, though, that this would be completely hilarious if it worked. The sniper crouches into position: bang, Jesus goes down. “We figured out his weakness! It turns out you can just shoot him!” Cue million years of darkness.
    See, if Nicky were a libertarian, he’d just assume that if he had mind control powers, he’d somehow earned them through hard work.
    Heh.

  • paleotectonics

    Slightly OT – Read Peter’s Evil Overlord List, and think of Nick Tetons. Fun!
    http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

  • paleotectonics

    Slightly OT – Read Peter’s Evil Overlord List, and think of Nick Tetons. Fun!
    http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

  • paleotectonics

    Double – sorry (hangs head in shame).
    Bugger! I’m thinking of adjusting this mother’s board. Possibly with a moving car and an open window.

  • Mark Z.

    I too am fuzzy on what our current, pre-Indwelling Nicky is supposed to know and not know. He’s aware that he has mind control powers, at least (I assume?), and must have wondered where they came from.
    Since he was genetically engineered and raised in some kind of Evil Laboratory of Evil, I’m intrigued by the option where he’s not aware that he has mind control powers. He’s a sociopath because he’s never needed to understand anyone else–nor could he, even if he tried, because everyone around him just does what he expects. Nor is he ever going to try, because as far as he knows he’s an excellent judge of human nature already. It makes him tragic, or at least pitiable. In the alternate ending, someone finally succeeds in explaining his situation to him and he retires to a Zen monastery to learn the art of observing-without-expecting.
    This also explains all the times we’ve yelled “Dude, you have mind control powers! Why do you need to do (cartoonish supervillain/crime-boss thing)?” He doesn’t know he has any powers. All he knows is that acting like a Bond villain works for him.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @Lori: It’s my understanding that “I don’t recall the exact dates” is considered a legitimate answer to “When did you work there?” and to most other questions.
    Yeah, I found out that most of the time I could reconstruct things (that happened the summer after Federer upset Sampras at Wimbledon or that happened the year that Brust published Lord of Castle Black) and with other things I was just brutually honest. Not sure how long I belonged to that political party but I remember what it was that angered me so much I cut up my party card and sent it, with a letter of explanation, to the party leader. So you can narrow things down. As for the missing birth certificate (when asked by the Canadian government to account for all the ones issued) I spoke to an official and explained that I was fairly sure that one had been issued when I was a child since I know I had a passport as an infant — but my mother insisted that she hadn’t any copy of my birth certificate. My mother was in her late 80s at the time and the government official didn’t even attempt to nail her down on that.
    I think if I was a security expert I would tend to be very leary of anyone who didn’t have at least some memory glitches.
    But I really do have some problems remembering things that you think would be memorable — I am rather like my Dad that way. He can’t remember the order in which his siblings were born. As he says, it isn’t like it makes a lot of difference does it?

  • http://nymonsters.wordpress.com Ian Perez

    So on the Archie comic book Sonic the Hedgehog–based on the (in)famous videogame series–big bad Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik institutes his own insta-One World Government. Fortunately, unlike Nicky Tal Tal Heights, he had a bureucratic ace-in-the hole: the ability to turn people into mindless, subservient robots. Even then, he had his regional sub-bosses and security force in the form of SWATBots.
    Anyway, despite heavy resistance, Dr. Eggman managed to keep his empire through the years–even after a world-wide event turned all the animals he’d “roboticized” back into flesh and blood, he kept control of a good 90% of the world…in theory, at least.
    Eventually the readers learned that between his backstabbing subordinates, the various pockets of resistance, and his own World-Conqueror A.D.D., the only part of his “Eggman Empire” solidly under his control was his capital city, and even then he has to contend with the fact that none of his sentient subordinates are loyal to him.
    The point? That a series aimed at 7-14-year olds, starring a blue hedgehog, a two-tailed fox, and something called an “Eggman Empire” that is not the world’s most awesome breakfast diner franchise, is still more realistic than Left Behind.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5ea6499970b Michael Rinschler

    Kárpáty

    Well, Karpaty (sans accents) is the Czech / Slovak spelling; although the accents make me think of the Hungarian Kárpátok as well. And there is a significant Hungarian minority in the Carpathian portion of Romania… Though in that case his name would be Kárpáty Miklós. Make of this all as you will, unless you’ve already been mind-whammied, in which case…

  • Random One

    I’d recommend The Wheel of Time as a semi-serious attempt to show how one person with a few trusted friends can bully bureaucracies into something resembling a one-world-government… Only, in those books, he’s The Chosen One of myth and legend, and he still has a *bloody* hard time of it…

  • Saffi

    RodeoBob: The authors of Nonzero pointed out that …
    The “authors”? The “authors”? Make that “author,” as in singular, as in Robert Wright, one of the best non-fiction writers going these days. NonZero was a fascinating tour of the past dozen millenia or so, and aside from the way he interpreted human history through the lens of game theory, he laid out some much needed exposition on areas of history that general education leaves most of us pretty blank on. Last year’s The Evolution of God is a must-read for anyone interested in the development of scripture, or for anyone who needs ammunition in the fight against mindless selective literalism. And 1994′s The Moral Animal is a description of evolutionary psychology (the intelligent kind, not the deterministic straw-man kind) that becomes in its final chapters a discussion about ethics, and is simply the best philosophy book I have ever read.
    _______________________
    Cat Meadors: (He gives no opinion on Mr. Cheney as a person, but did appreciate the fact that he hardly went anywhere, thus making himself a pretty easy guy to guard.)
    Cheney was easy because he is a coward, plain and simple. 9-11 made him panic, and he spent the next seven years taking it out on the rest of the world, like a fourth-grader who gets beaten up by a bigger kid and then responds by beating up a kindergardener. Sure, he had other reasons for his War Crimes and other impeachment-worthy behavior (for instance: contempt for democracy, greed on behalf of his friends in Corporationland, and either a) the racism that allowed him to conflate a few disaffected Saudis with anyone living east of Bulgaria, or b) the criminal disregard for human life that allowed him to do so for corrupt political purposes even though he knew it to be a Lie). If I had more room I could describe many other reasons for the actions of this despicable waste of oxygen, as could anyone here.
    But not enough people remember that he’s also a coward.
    _______________________
    Caravelle: The West Wing talked a lot about the Secret Service…Bartlett goes all angsty about how he insisted on some crowd-friendly measure against the Secret Service’s recommendation,
    Bartlett stews, he doesn’t angst. The character you’re thinking of was Toby Ziegler. I remember the scene you’re talking about because it showcased one of my favorite characters: Secret Service Agent Ron Butterfield. The man didn’t get many lines over the course of seven years, but whenever actor Micheal O’Neill was in a scene you couldn’t take your eyes off of him.
    _______________________
    Daughter: Wouldn’t a libertarian argue that the early pioneers worked together to build farms not because they supported some communitarian ideal, but because they freely chose to help each other, which humans will tend to do if they aren’t forced? And that today, people don’t do that because they think the gov’t will take care of everyone else’s problems, so why bother?
    He or she might, and if so, he or she would be Wrong. “Collective efforts” doesn’t just mean stuff that one person does for another out of the impulse to generousity. It includes benefits that would be very difficult if not downright impossible without coordination at the city, state or federal level. Collective efforts make possible protection from armed bandits and high-level fraud, and they coordinate a transportation system that brings reasonably-priced goods that can’t be made locally. They provide relief from state-wide or national disasters like the periodic swarms of Rocky Mountain locusts in the 1800′s, including the food relief during the famine – yes, famine, people dying of hunger by the hundreds or possibly thousands, and everyone else left emaciated and everything – caused by 1874-76 swarms*. Collective efforts provided for the enforcement of quarrantines against various infectious diseases* that plagued the nation’s ports throughout the 19th century but which didn’t spread to the interior (or at least not as far into the interior and not as frequently as they might otherwise have done). Collective efforts established state colleges throughout the West, the kind of institutions that take a lot more a bunch of neighbors getting together. And these are just a few examples from my immediate recollection.
    And as for anyone who thinks “other” people will turn into lazy, conscienceless drones in the face of the misfortunes of others just because they figure “the gov’t will take care of everyone else’s problems”? Such attitudes make me wonder about the conscience of the person making this claim (assuming that they really believed it), and whether a person would ever be moved to help a stranger, regardless of whether a government program available or not.
    Then I would ask them about how they would select for someone whom they wouldn’t help unless “if they aren’t forced.” Would any of the criteria for worthiness of help include whether or not they belonged to the “right” race, religion, family status, military history, political affiliation, economic class, or perceived coolness? And would the exclusion of these pariahs from help be suspended after a level of intensity in their suffering had been surpassed, or are they just 100% SOL?
    And finally I would tell that person to go check out http://www.volunteer.gov/gov to see just how many people already give of their time and talent, even though in many cases there’s already a government program addressing the same need. (Oh, and did you notice the .gov domain? Guess who coordinates this network?)
    The world cannot be reduced to a three-variable model, and human psychology cannot be plotted on a two-dimentional graph. Libertarians make me tired.
    * Ever wonder where the nickname “Bug-Eaters” for Nebraskans comes from?
    ** I’m thinking about yellow fever, but there are no doubt others.

  • Erl

    WARNING: GIANT WALL OF TEXT. I had a bit too much fun with this one.
    He’s a sociopath because he’s never needed to understand anyone else–nor could he, even if he tried, because everyone around him just does what he expects.
    This possibility was raised in another thread, where the described parallel was autism. Either way, it envisions an entirely different Carpathia, though the extant disorders certainly do not encompass his condition.
    If his telepathic manipulations are unconscious, irresistible, and manifest at birth, then it’s almost impossible to imagine the development of a personality this ordinary–unless, of course, our narrators are unreliable, and Nicolae forces them to imagine him normal. Regardless of how he appears, it’s easy to imagine that Nicolae would not develop normal language faculties, in much the same way that most children do not learn to sign–his other faculties would far surpass them, rendering them superfluous and vestigial. But supposing even that language is so natural and ingrained as to be inevitable, Nicolae’s childhood will still differ tremendously. Regarding his psychology, he will never experience the separation from his caregivers ordinary infants do–his mother or surrogate will be powerless to stop breastfeeding him. His diaper will be changed religiously, but it will be neigh impossible to clean, inoculate, or examine him medically without his consent. Even if he is a fairly obliging infant–an odd description for the antiChrist–his care will suffer. Likewise, he will suffer a plethora of minor injuries, as his parents will be unable to keep his fingers from the stove, knife, or socket.
    As he ages, his teething pains, for example, may perhaps lead to massive stress-induced mental illnesses among his caregivers, depending on the proportionate force of the emotions Nicolae can induce in others. His intellect will be impossible to measure effectively for some years, and he will probably fail to develop ordinary learning or knowledge habits, preferring to exploit the knowledge and thought processes of adults around him. He will outsource his math homework–not that he will ever be assigned math homework, nor could it be collected, nor graded–to his peers and elders.
    The toll on his parents in particular will be immense. While the worst they were subjected to was uncontrolled mood swings of indeterminate power, as Nicolae begins to have higher-order thoughts, their frontal lobe functions will be subsumed to his. Much as it will be easier for Nicolae to unconsciously compel them to do his math homework, it will be easier to force them to analyze social situations, and perhaps even process his feelings and relationships. This process may eradicate their personalities in short order, leaving them empty husks, existing only to perform functions–physical or mental–that they already know how to perform on Nicolae’s behalf.
    Hopefully he will allow them to perform the tasks of the house; otherwise in short order the bills will pile up and the food will run dry. Perhaps a median level will be found, where the bills are ignored until the power is cut off, and then the Dad puppet is dragged out of endless lego games, propelled by the faint memory of adult tasks, to negotiate once more with the power company. Savings will deplete, as both of his parents are compelled to stay home all day.
    It will be impossible to instill any ethical sense or code of conduct in him. He will do as he pleases, and the world will adjust itself to permit that. Those outside the area of effect of his control will see him as a natural leader, if oddly withdrawn, for whenever he seeks control he will receive it.
    He will be tremendously, inexplicably lonely. He certainly won’t have the self-awareness to discover, let alone analyze his predicament, but neither will he interact with any equal. Again and again he will try to enter the fellowship of his peers, and again and again he will find their society revealed (as he understands it) to be a dumbshow, a puppet theater, propelled by a mysterious director when he does not involve himself, with control devolving to him when he does. He can have no friends.
    His philosophical position, if it may be called such, will be peculiar. He may become a solipsist, believing–within reason–that he is the only real person in a world of shadows. (Hence the similarity to the sociopath, who believes that he is the only person who counts.) Alternately, he may ascribe the actions of others to some other great power, and thus become quite religious–in his universe, there is only him, and God. However, God will not speak to him, and thus, he may become a misotheist, despising the deity whose handiwork is apparent, but who refuses to speak to him.
    This situation will continue, generally worsening and undetected, until puberty. Depending on whether or not he has developed an oedipal complex (or whatever its equivalent when a male is raised by two gay men)–his fathers will not demonstrate any sexual affection towards each other, nor any rivalry for the affections of each other, but both will always be present and caring–his first sexual experiences are likely to be incestuous. Of course he will not conceive of loving sexual relationships between equals. He does not particularly believe in love, or equals. Thus, if his sexual experiences ever leave the household, he will engage in systematic rape, further complicated by the apparent consent of each of his victims.
    He may depart for college, though the decision is more likely to be made on a whim than after serious consideration. However, it is more probable that he will not leave his home. It has grown to obey his wishes perfectly. His parents minds are fully comprehended, familiar, and under his control. He may simply remain in his childhood house, a stunted hermit crab within a habitual shell, fostering the increasingly unsanitary and dangerous condition of the place until it kills him. There will be a spat of newspaper clippings, each entirely confused as to the situation, the family-sponsored funeral, and ultimately the condemnation and foreclosure sale of his dilapidated home.
    If he ever leaves his household, it is unlikely to be in a traditional way. Perhaps he will colonize his neighborhood, spreading his field of influence wider, and wider. Perhaps he will become a drifter, making his way across the globe entirely on the basis of those whims.
    If the latter, he will exist solely as a string of odd anecdotes, with thousands of families and individuals struggling to rationalize why they gave so much up to so unpleasant a stranger. Ultimately, he will die–of old age, disease, or accident. He is unlikely to have satisfactory documentation or money, and he will be buried in an unmarked public grave.
    If he does the former, he will drag his town slowly off the map, as it grows into an extremely elaborate feeding mechanism. In this scenario, he may not be ambulatory, having grown morbidly obese at any point in his childhood where his fancy for treats outpaced his desire for moving play. Depending on the spread of his influence, he may become a problem of national security. His growing impact will likely be considered the spread of a new disease, but the hazmat suits of the CDC will not protect their agents against his malign powers. Eventually the town will be cordoned off. He will either be shot from afar as he tries to escape, or again starve to death.
    TL;DR:
    Dude’s gonna be fuuuucked up. But he certainly won’t take over the world.
    Of course, if his powers develop later, he may be more psychologically normal. An amusing possibility is that they appear with the onset of puberty, such that he becomes convinced that he is sexually compelling to the utmost degree–not realizing that there is a simple coincidence between his desire for sex and his power to compel. In theory, if they develop late enough, and slow enough, we might have a person more like a classic sociopath, who has a complete and ordinary upbringing, a fully comprehended theory of mind, a potent ability to manipulate others, and an utter lack of compunctions about doing so. Such a person might go very far in politics. But I think the theory above is more interesting to consider.

  • Anonymous

    I came across this conversation a year too late, but I am wondering if you know/remember where the other thread that you mentioned was.  I’d really like to read some of those theories, especially the one on autism.  Ever since I read the bit in the prequels where Nicky’s unable to understand grief, I’ve always thought of him as more of a tragic character than anything (if not tragic, at least pitiable in his isolation from other people).

    Also, forgetting the whole Rapture/Apocalypse bit, I think the scenario you described would make an awesome story on its own.

  • Anonymous

    I came across this conversation a year too late, but I am wondering if you know/remember where the other thread that you mentioned was.  I’d really like to read some of those theories, especially the one on autism.  Ever since I read the bit in the prequels where Nicky’s unable to understand grief, I’ve always thought of him as more of a tragic character than anything (if not tragic, at least pitiable in his isolation from other people).

    Also, forgetting the whole Rapture/Apocalypse bit, I think the scenario you described would make an awesome story on its own.


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