TF: Stuck in traffic

Tribulation Force, pp. 440-443

When we last saw our heroes they were in a dire predicament. Traffic leading up to their exit of the tollway was at a standstill and it seemed they would have to exit onto Route 53 and then backtrack for miles.

Oh, and also Washington, D.C., has been destroyed.

Still stuck in traffic, they desperately try to find a local news station:

“Put in on ‘scan,'” Chloe suggested. Finally the radio found an EBS station and Amanda locked it in.

I hope that by quoting only a couple of sentences from that section I haven’t made it seem less dramatic, because this is one of the most dramatic searching-for-the-news-on-a-car-radio scenes in any book in recent memory.

A Cable News Network/Global Community Network radio correspondent was broadcasting live from just outside Washington, D.C. “The fate of Global Community Potentate Nicolae Carpathia remains in question at this hour as Washington lies in ruins,” he said. “The massive assault was launched by east coast militia, with the aid of the United States of Britain and the former sovereign state of Egypt, now part of the Middle Eastern Commonwealth.”

Those expository little tidbits about the shape of the new confederations under Nicolae Carpathia’s one-world government are useful information. Sticking them into the middle of a news report on the outbreak of World War III, however, may not have been the most artful way of conveying that information to readers.

The remarkable thing here, though, is what doesn’t happen in this scene. Buck Williams is the publisher, top editor and star reporter for Global Community Weekly, yet he gives no thought to getting in touch with his office. I don’t know what the Weekly had planned for it’s next cover story, but I’m thinking the destruction of Washington, D.C., might require a change of plans. Yet like everyone else in the car, Buck just sits passively, listening to the CNN radio (?) report. He doesn’t frantically pull out his cellphone to call his close friends Steve Plank or Chaim Rosenzweig to get the inside scoop on the biggest breaking news story since the Event itself.

Yes, I realize that Buck doesn’t have a cellphone. We’ve discussed that before, but since then 18 months have elapsed in our story and Buck has been promoted to his new position as one of the world’s media elite. In 1996, when Tribulation Force was first published, cellphones were not yet as ubiquitous as they are today, but surely the publishers, top editors and star reporters for Time and Newsweek had them.

Again, though, the really strange thing here is not that Buck Williams does not have a cellphone. The really strange thing here is that Buck Williams isn’t wishing that he had a cellphone as he sits, stuck in traffic and unable to do his job as the biggest story in the world unfolds.

The CNN radio report continues:

“Global Community peacekeeping forces immediately retaliated by destroying a former Nike center in suburban Chicago. Reports from there indicate that thousands of civilian casualties have been reported in surrounding suburbs, and a colossal traffic tie-up is hampering rescue efforts.”

“Oh, dear God!” Amanda prayed.

It’s not altogether clear there whether Amanda’s prayerful cry is due to the news of the thousands of casualties or to the news about the scope of the traffic jam.

The hilarious awfulness of the mention of that traffic jam — by this reporter in this context — takes a moment to sink in. This reporter, remember, is broadcasting live from the outskirts of what used to be Washington, D.C. That city now “lies in ruins,” and this reporter is braving the chaos, flames and destruction to bring us the first heart-stopping account of that astonishing, horrifying news. And somehow he manages to work in a reference to the very traffic jam our heroes are sitting in.

One might imagine that the destruction of the former American capital might also lead to a “colossal traffic tie-up” all along the East Coast, and that this might also “hamper rescue efforts” in that city of 600,000 people. The reporter, on the scene there in Washington after somehow navigating that traffic himself, makes no mention of that. Yet from the front lines of World War III, he reports on traffic conditions a thousand miles away.

We’ve often discussed the staggering self-absorption of the main characters in these books. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Buck and Rayford when they act as though the world revolves around them. But they can’t help it, because thanks to the authors, their world does revolve around them. Nothing matters to the authors except that which directly affects our heroes. No one matters except those who directly affect our heroes. If Buck and Rayford don’t care about someone then they authors don’t care about them either, and vice versa. And we readers are expected to share this disregard.

The reporter babbles on a bit about some other news from the second seal of the apocalypse:

“Other attacks we know about at this moment,” the reporter went on, “include a foray of Egyptian ground forces toward Iraq, obviously intending a siege upon New Babylon. That effort was quickly eliminated by Global Community air forces, which are now advancing on England.”

The Egyptians’ planned siege might have worked, too, if only the Antichrist’s fighter jets hadn’t destroyed their battering ram.

These strange and random-seeming little details of the war are included because, according to Tim LaHaye, they fulfill “Bible prophecies.” In this case, I think it has something to do with Ezekiel 30:10: “I will also make a multitude of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” LaHaye’s strictly literal interpretive scheme, of course, means that this doesn’t refer to Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 605-562 BCE, but rather to the future Antichrist who will create a global capital on the site of the ruins of that empire. And, obviously, the proper chronological reading of scripture is to locate the events described in Ezekiel 30:10 as occurring immediately after the events described in Revelation 6:4. Obviously.

Once it seems clear that the intrepid radio reporter isn’t going to provide any further information about the traffic in suburban Chicago, our heroes lose interest in his account of the outbreak of global conflict and return their focus to more urgent matters:

“We’ve got to get to Bruce,” Chloe said, as Rayford inched along. “Everybody’s going to be taking 53 north, Dad. Let’s go south and double back.”

But then the reporter — the same reporter there on the outskirts of the rubble of Washington, D.C. — starts talking about the other urgent question on everyone’s mind all over the world: What about Nicolae Carpathia’s beautiful airplane?

“Global Community intelligence today uncovered a plot to destroy Potentate Carpathia’s plane, which may or may not have contained Carpathia when it was flown to O’Hare International this morning. That plane is now airborne, destination unknown, though Global Community forces are marshaling in New York City.”

At this point I’m almost surprised that the reporter didn’t say, “when it was flown to O’Hare International this morning by ace pilot Rayford Steele.”

Amanda grabbed Rayford’s arm. “We could have been killed!”

When Rayford spoke, Buck thought he might break down. “Let’s just hope I didn’t fulfill Earl’s dream by getting him killed,” he said.

“You want me to drive, Rayford?” Buck asked.

“No, I’ll be all right.”

Apparently Rayford is only just now realizing that when Nicolae asked him to fly the plane to Chicago as a decoy to mislead rumored insurgents, what he actually meant was that he wanted Rayford to fly the plane to Chicago as a decoy to mislead rumored insurgents.

Buck never got around to telling Rayford that those insurgents were more than a rumor. He had been told about the planned attack on Nicolae, and he knew just when it was going to occur, but somehow he forgot to mention any of that to his father-in-law, Nicolae’s personal pilot. Buck’s offer to drive seems like an awkward attempt to change the subject before anyone says something like, “If only we had had some way of knowing that insurgents were planning to attack Nicolae’s plane today …”

And then, abruptly, Jerry Jenkins decides to sprinkle in a misplaced, misbegotten and mishandled attempt at humor:

The radio announcer continued: “We’re on standby for a lie feed, excuse me, a live feed from Global Community Potentate Nicolae Carpathia …”

“He had that right the first time,” Chloe said.

The wit involved in constructing that joke and the evident pride in its execution makes me realize who it is that Jerry Jenkins frequently reminds me of: David Brent.

While waiting for the live feed from the leader of the world, the CNN radio reporter — still the same reporter — continues to neglect the carnage all around him in the smoldering ruins of Washington and, instead, adds more detail to his report on the Chicago suburbs:

“GC peacekeeping forces spokesmen say the destruction of the old Nike base was effected without the use of nuclear weapons. … There is, we repeat, no danger of radiation fallout in the Chicago area, though peacekeeping forces are not allowing automobile traffic near the site.”

I’m fascinated by the image of this reporter, standing on the outskirts of the shattered capital city but neglecting to report on that while compulsively discussing the traffic in Chicago. I’m imagining that this reflects some new technology in the “not-so-distant future” world of Tribulation Force.

Think about it, if we speculate about possible developments based on our current technology and cultural trends, we can imagine a world of the not-so-distant future in which “the news” would become a personalized, idiosyncratic stream of information tailored to each individual. In such a world, the “news” that you would read, hear or watch would be different from the “news” I would consume. It would be shaped to meet our personal needs and preferences, based on location (not just our addresses, but using GPS tracking in our phones, tablets, etc.), and based on a host of data mined from our browser histories, digital TV and radio habits, our social media “likes” and our responses to a steadily evolving series of interface surveys.

So if, in such a NSDF world, you were stuck in traffic due to the outbreak of World War III, your personalized news reports on the start of the war would be interspersed with practical information on your personal traffic dilemma.

If that were what Jenkins were portraying here, then the characters’ behavior and reactions would also make more sense. Because a story involving that sort of technological development wouldn’t be a story about technology, but a story about people — the kind of people such technology might foster and the kind of people who might incline toward such technology. It would likely be a satire chiding an increasingly self-absorbed culture of people stunted by a myopic epistemic closure. And while that isn’t the authors’ intent, it often seems like we’re reading that kind of satire.

But despite its being set in the not-so-distant future, Tribulation Force doesn’t include any such speculative creativity regarding possible technological or cultural changes. That results in a “future” that seems weirdly behind the times. It’s only been 15 years since the book was first published, but the future it describes already seems quaintly 20th-century.

Part of the blame for that rests with Jerry Jenkins, who doesn’t seem to have expended any real effort or imagination in creating the world of his novel. But I think the blame also has to be shared with his co-author and with their intended readership. Tim LaHaye would not have allowed any such inventiveness by Jenkins. And their intended readers would not have understood it.

Consider one of the classic clichés of “futuristic” possibilities: the flying car. If Jenkins had tried to give Buck Williams a flying car, LaHaye would have vetoed the idea. His “Bible prophecies” don’t say anything about flying cars, so flying cars cannot be permitted in this story. LaHaye allows some strange and largely unexplained future developments in these books — such as Rosenzweig’s miracle formula, or the even more miraculous peaceful quadrupling in size of the nation of Israel — but only when those developments are items from his prophecy check list.

That distinction is also what the intended readers of these books are expecting. Any additional creative touches from Jenkins would likely be interpreted by those readers as official parts of LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy.” If Buck Williams were allowed to zip around in a flying car, those readers would begin to view flying cars as a necessary sign of the Last Days. “But pastor,” they’d be saying, “we know the Rapture can’t come yet because we haven’t got flying cars.”

And that’s a shame. Because if you’re the greatest investigative reporter of all time and you’re hopelessly stuck in traffic while the biggest breaking news story in the world is unfolding a thousand miles away, then a flying car would probably come in handy.

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  • Anonymous

     It would be shaped to meet our personal needs and preferences,

    So lots and lots of LoLcats….

    Tim LaHaye would not have allowed any such inventiveness by Jenkins.

    To be fair it’s not like Jenkins shows all that much (or any) inventiveness on his own. 

  • Anonymous

    The Left Behind site currently features a 1 minute video ad – LaHaye & Jenkins’ wet dream fantasy of how the series has changed the world and affected millions of lives as no other book of its kind has.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The Left Behind site currently features a 1 minute video ad – LaHaye & Jenkins’ wet dream fantasy of how the series has changed the world and affected millions of lives as no other book of its kind has.

    I guess Real, True, Christians measure success in terms of how many “come to Jesus” moments they can inflict on other Real, True, Christians.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Oh.  My.

    Per my earlier statement, I want to see a change to the list that appears below the images of the books:

    Are you ready for the moment of truth?
    •Political crisis
    •Economic crisis
    •Worldwide epidemics
    •Environmental catastrophe
    •Mass disappearances
    •Military apocalypse
    •Flying cars

  • nanananana

    Yup,I thought when he mentioned Nike last week he had just mistyped Nuke X(

    Our main heros sitting in a car eagerly changing channels on the radio? Sounds like a good synopsis of the whole series really.Could sum it up just fine.

    Newt Gingrich:You’re child is a spoiled brat unless they’ve gone to bed a few nights hungry.Stravation and low standards of living build character! And it’s proof that America is the bestest best country in the world! Not like those lazy socialist country with low poverty rate.Fuckin’ pansies.

    Chris:…I love you.

  • Anonymous

    Bear in mind that Jenkins considered the Left Behind series to take place — not beginning in 1995 — but sometime during the first half of the 21st century.

  • Lori

     Bear in mind that Jenkins considered the Left Behind series to take place — not beginning in 1995 — but sometime during the first half of the 21st century.  

     

    Bwah, hah, hah, hah. 

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    And this is reconciled with the “could happen before I finish this sentence” thing how?

  • Anonymous

    For example… (italicized text added in the newer edition)

    Finally in the terminal, Rayford found crowds standing in line behind banks of phones, their cell phone networks apparently overloaded.

    From Left Behind: The Remake

  • Anonymous

    Did they bother to fix anything else? I mean, the real problems?

    Because, judging by this quote alone, it just adds an extra level of awfulness. As in, they figured the phones and the use of marks in Europe warranted a revision, but things like Bruce the Hole Dwellin’ Bible Hobbit catching a coma virus in Indonesia didn’t.

  • Amaryllis

    Finally in the terminal, Rayford found crowds standing in line behind banks of phones, their cell phone networks apparently overloaded.

    From Left Behind: The Remake

    But…when’s the last time you saw “banks” of public phones anywhere? My local airport has some scattered phones with TDDs for the hearing-impaired, but I wouldn’t call it “banks.” It’s more probably that Rayford would find those crowds mobbing the one lone phone in each concourse.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “So we can assume that Northwest Community is not, in fact, a smoking crater, and is accessible, which would suggest that the surrounding area is not mainly smoking craters.” 

    This would assume that the violent state destruction of a working hospital is considered a bigger deal than smooth traffic flow, which in this universe is at least equal in importance to the destruction of Washington DC.

  • Anonymous

    Er what?  We’re given nothing in narrative to support that anything’s happened to the area.  Our prota- useless lumps first became aware that something happened due to a traffic snarl.  There can’t have been a bombing, they’d have… okay, I take that back, they could miss not only a bombing but an entire parade of line dancing hippos dressed like Lady Gaga… but there should be something, anything to suggest that there’s been an event in their vicinity.  An event that happened practically on top of their destination.

    Either nothing happened in Chicago at all, which leaves us with very disturbing possibilities regarding those supposed casualties.  (And just how do you fake destruction of a populated place short of committing actual destruction?) Or the useless lumps are the most unobservant people ever and the narrative isn’t much better.

  • kbeth

    The reporter’s narration of events doesn’t actually strike me as all that weird. The events themselves are nonsensical, as is the reporter being able to broadcast at all. But given those, and given that L&J do hint that not many people are broadcasting, I’d imagine that you’d want the guy to be periodically updating people on what’s happening everywhere. When huge attacks happen, everyone’s first instinct is to know if they’re happening anywhere else (I remember lots of people being worried about the Sears Tower during 9/11, just because it was a tall building in the US), and if this guy doesn’t talk about them, how else is anyone going to know? It kind of makes sense to me to have the traffic report in that context, albeit as “We’re anxiously awaiting any updates and will relay them to you immediately, but right now all we know is that the devastation has caused huge traffic jams near all the affected areas, hampering rescue efforts,” which is obviously not what’s happening here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Not to keep harping on the flying car thing, but it just occurred to me that it really would be appropriate to include flying cars on the End Times Checklist. 
    After all, Moller International has been releasing updated predictions as to when the “Skycar” will become commercially available with at least the same frequency with which Camping has been releasing updated predictions about when the Rapture will occur.

  • The Lodger

    Archbishop Al is in the flying car business? (grin)

  • Benjamin Lee

    The radio could have been a really nice image, but they should have done it the opposite way.  They shouldn’t have had to look for one station that was broadcasting the news, every station should be broadcasting this news.
    “Breaking news from Washington!”
    *flip*
    “We have reports that the attack originated from a Nike base…”
    *flip*
    “I know you all wanted to listen to Stairway to Heaven, but we’ve got an emergency broadcast here”

    *flip*
    “We’ve got a lie feed, sorry, live feed from the Potentate”
    *flip*

    Same content, still keeps our heroes at a safe distance from the destruction, but much more of an impact.  Of course, this still doesn’t explain why everyone is fixating on Chicago instead of Washington DC.

  • P J Evans

    In 1996 – heck, even before that – farmers had mobile phones. Because if you’re out in the south forty and you need something right now, you’re not going to park the tractor and walk to the barn or the house. (And if the tractor’s just rolled over on you, you might not be able to walk out.)

  • Anonymous

    The focus on traffic could work in a situation like this if it were framed like the characters are thinking about traffic because they’re too numb to wrap their minds around what just happened.  Kind of like in Hitchhiker’s guide where Arthur Dent can’t wrap his mind around the world exploding, so he thinks about not being able to eat at McDonald’s anymore.

    An attempt at fiction:

    “Oh dear God!” Amanda said. 

    The four of them listened in silence to the continued crackle of the announcer’s voice as reports of the tragedy poured in. Hospitals blown apart.  Whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble. The skeleton of a woman had been found wrapped around an infant’s corpse, a futile attempt to shield her baby from the blast.

    Each member of the Trib Force looked around the car and saw their own fear reflected in one another’s eyes. They had known this was coming, had spent the past eighteen months preparing for it, and yet nothing could have prepared them for this moment, for the realization that this was happening,and all they could do was sit in traffic and pray.

    “We’ve- we’ve got to get to Bruce,” Chloe said numbly, as Rayford inched along.  “Everybody’s going to be taking 53 north, Dad. Let’s go south and double back-”

    “Damn it, Chloe!” Rayford slammed his hands against the steering wheel.  “Don’t tell me where to go!  The first thing everyone will do when theysee traffic is go south!  It’s probably already backed up!  Why bother changing the course if it won’t help anything?!” He was shaking.  Amanda put a steadying hand on his.  Chloe looked like
    she was about to cry.

    Rayford took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Chloe.  I shouldn’t have snapped like that. We’ll take your exit.”

    “It’s ok, Daddy,” said Chloe quietly.  In the background, the radio reports continued to pile up like bodies on a battlefield.

    “You want me to drive, Rayford?” Buck asked.

    “No,” Rayford shook his head.  He had to remain calm, had to see his family through this.  “No, I’ll be all right…”

  • carovee

    phoenix_feather, nicely done.  So many people have rewritten scenes from the book if I had the time I’d try to put them all together. It would make for a much, much better novel.

  • Joshua

    Like Zaphod, Our Heroes are the centre of the universe. If you shoved them into the Total Perspective Vortex, they’d come out validated and more insufferable than ever. Also like Zaphod.

    The only real difference is that when it happened to Zaphod it was funny.

  • Tehanu

    The massive assault was launched by east coast militia, with the aid of
    the United States of Britain and the former sovereign state of Egypt … Global Community peacekeeping forces immediately retaliated by destroying a former Nike center in suburban Chicago.

    Haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if anybody else thought this was weird — if it was “east coast militia,” why would they retaliate against Chicago?  Buck & Co. certainly don’t seem to have noticed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    It was an East coast militia because East begins with the letter ‘E’.

    I know it sounds weak but this is the closest thing this book comes to a recurring stylistic theme.

  • Anonymous

    If Jenkins had tried to give Buck Williams a flying car, LaHaye would
    have vetoed the idea. His “Bible prophecies” don’t say anything about
    flying cars, so flying cars cannot be permitted in this story.

    Err … the “Bible prophecies” don’t say anything about regular cars, or airplanes or even phones, so why are they permitted?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Because you have to understand that “Bible prophecies” aren’t really a real thing and they can say anything that you want because they don’t exist. The Bible doesn’t really mention the United States at all, not even in the Apocrypha. Finland comes up a lot for some reason, as do Etritea and the Maldives.

  • Anonymous

    The Bible doesn’t really mention the United States at all, not even in
    the Apocrypha.

    When I was young, I sat through more than one sermon (and have since heard more than one PMD opine) to the effect that the US does not appear in the Bible because it will get knocked out by a nuclear, excuse me, nucular, attack by one or another Evil Commienist Country. Seriously.

    Finland comes up a lot for some reason, as do Etritea and
    the Maldives.

    What??? Eritrea I can see. Part of the same obsession with Ethiopia, which pretty much represents all of that part of Africa. But Finland? I don’t recall the ancient Hebrews spending a lot of time there. Or knowing anybody from there. Or Michael the Archangel being summoned from his ski vacation there to come back to Israel and smite somebody. Or the angel of the Lord saying unto Gideon, “Oh, for crying out loud! Grow some sisu, willya?”

  • Albanaeon

    Now there’s an idea for a PMD book. 

    God, trapped into a “biblical” scenario is forced to eliminate all the things that don’t appear in the checklist.  The horror and suffering that occurs as a modern society is blinked back into an iron age level of technology to suit the apparently developmental stunted whims of a petty tyrant god.

    Of course, without the phone fetish to fall back on, L&J would have to try writing a story, and who knows what would happen then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    In other words, S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series.  Ironically, Stirling (who is as atheist as atheist gets) presents a much more compassionate picture of Christianity than L&J do.  Probably because he’s orders of magnitude better as a writer.

  • Anonymous

    How great would it have been if Buck was totally nonchalant about the attack?

    “The massive assault was launched by east coast militia, with the aid of the United States of Britain and the former sovereign state of Egypt…”

    “Oh my God!” Chloe said.
    Buck flipped through a notebook full of phone numbers. “Oh yeah, I’d heard that was coming up soon,” he said.
    The other passengers stared at him, gape-mouthed. “What do you mean, you heard?” Amanda asked.
    Buck shrugged. “Oh, I got a call from former President Fitzhugh, you know, just a casual chat, and he said he was maybe planning something.”
    “Something as in, a nuclear attack on Washington DC?” Rayford asked.
    “Yeah, something like that. I had Carpathia on the other line, so I couldn’t stick around to chat. You know how it is.” Buck reached the end of his notebook and flipped back to the beginning.

    “Global Community intelligence today uncovered a plot to destroy Potentate Carpathia’s plane, which may or may not have contained Carpathia when it was flown to O’Hare International this morning.”

    “You knew all this time?” Rayford asked. “I fly that plane! I could have been…!” He bit the end of his sentence off with a growl.
    “Hey,” Buck said, putting away his notebook. “Let’s concentrate on the real tragedy that’s occurring here.”

  • Anonymous

    And then they chuck him out of the car.

  • Anonymous

    No flash fiction this week. And one nice thing about this comm is that we do look out for another, so I’m cashing in. My father had a devastating stroke on Sunday and now we’re waiting for an answer that is going to be awful regardless, only just varying degrees of awful. I’m not a religious sort, but any good thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

  • Kiba

    @  Jessica_R
    Sending good thoughts to you and your family.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh no! I hope your father’ll be okay, Jessica_R. :(

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m really sorry to hear that, Jessica. Good thoughts coming your way.

  • hapax

    Strength and good thoughts to your father and all your family, Jessica_R.

  • esmerelda ogg

    Oh, Jessica! Here, have an armload of good thoughts.

  • Persia

     You’ll certainly have mine. Sympathy ‘like’ clicked.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Hopes and good thoughts being sent your way.  Wish I could do more.

    Since people discussed the total perspective vortex, here’s some excerpts from the radio show with the names changed:

    Many stories are told of Buck William’s journey to New Babylon. Ten percent of them are ninety-five percent true, fourteen percent of them are sixty-five percent true, thirty-five percent of them are only five percent true, and all the rest of them are… told by Buck Williams.

    Carpathia: The Vortex is in the heaviest steel bunker ahead of you. 
    MAN: [Blood-curdling scream] 
    Buck: The universe does that to a guy? 
    Carpathia: The whole infinite Universe. The Infinite suns. The Infinite distances between them, and yourself. An invisible dot on an invisible dot. Infinitely small
    Buck: Hey I’m Buck Williams man! You know? 
    Carpathia: That is precisely the point. 
    […]
    Carpathia: There. The Vortex. The Total Perspective Vortex. Enter, Williams! Enter the Vortex! 
    Buck: Okay, okay. 
    [The Vortex starts up]
    […]
    [The Vortex door opens]
    Buck: Hi.
    Carpathia: Williams! You’re…!
    Buck: Fine, fine. Could I have a drink please?
    Carpathia: You’ve been in the Vortex?!
    Buck: You saw me kid.
    Carpathia: And you saw the whole infinity of creation?!
    Buck: The lot baby – it’s a real neat place you know, heh-heh.
    Carpathia: And you saw yourself in relation to it all?!
    Buck: Yah, yeah, yeah.
    Carpathia: And what did you experience?!
    Buck: It just told me what I knew all the time: I’m a really great guy! Didn’t I tell ya baby, I am Buck Williams!!

    Having been through the Total Perspective Vortex, Buck Williams now knows himself to be the most important being in the entire universe – something he had hitherto only suspected. It is said that his birth was marked by earthquakes, tidal waves, tornados, fire storms, the explosion of three neighbouring stars, and, shortly afterwards, by the issuing of over six and three-quarter million writs for damages from all the major landowners in his galactic sector. However, the only person by whom this is said is Williams himself. And there are several possible theories to explain this.

    Chloe: Dad?
    Rayford: Yeah?
    Chloe: He’s totally mad, isn’t he?

    Some things that stand out if we wanted to Buckify the dialog are his reactions to being in the vortex, Zaphod thought the universe was neat, Buck doesn’t seem to have any such appreciation for it. Zaphod wanted a drink, Buck would not. Buck would have opened up with, “I am the most awesome person EVER!” rather than waiting to be asked. Also, before going in, Zaphod was nervous, Buck probably wouldn’t be as he would know, all the while, that he’s the most important person evah!

  • Anonymous

    Sending good thoughts to you and your family. I hope it will not be as awful as expected.

  • Anonymous

    Very best wishes, Jessica. We went through this a few years ago. It’s rough. One (i.e., any individual or the family as a whole) does make one’s way through it, for what that’s worth. Good thoughts and supportive wishes to you and your family.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I’m so sorry.  I hope the news turns out to be better than expected.

    *offers hug*

  • Anonymous

    Jessica, I’ll be praying for your father and the rest of your family.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Jessica_R: Sympathies and good thoughts.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That is unfortunate to learn, Jessica.  I hope that the degree of awful errs on the side of mild.  My sympathies go with you and your family.  

  • Rikalous

    Hopeful thoughts sent Jessica-wards. May all the awfulness be minimized.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be sending good thoughts your way, Jessica_R.  I hope everything turns out better than expected.

  • P J Evans

     Oh, dear Ghu. {{{Jessica_R}}}

    (Been there, done that; I’d say it was awful except that dead is better than vegetable, IMO. And I learned that ‘dead weight’ is a descriptive phrase, even when the weight is still breathing, more or less.)

  • Leila

    I’m so sorry Jessica, like the others have already said, I hope the outcome is better than expected. Hugs to you and yours and good thoughts as well.

  • Dan Audy

    That’s terrible Jessica, I remember how devastating a less severe bad news wait was on my family.

    My thoughts are with you and I hope the news is merely unpleasent rather than completely miserable.

  • Amaryllis

    I’m sorry to hear it, Jessica_R. Sending sympathy and good wishes to you and your family.

  • Lori

    Jessica: I’m sending good thoughts for you and your family. I know how difficult it is to deal with a parent’s illness and I’m hoping for a good outcome for all of you.  

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the good thoughts everybody. 

    As for the actual topic, again, if our heroes acted like heroes nobody would be getting hung up on the cellphones or lack thereof thing. We’d either be rooting for them as they got out of the car and started helping people as they made their way to Bruce. Or more likely, being actual heroes, they would be on the run, perhaps crouched around an old transistor radio getting the news. As when you’re a hero you don’t accept a cushy position of privilege and hush money and do absolutely nothing except maybe remember to treat your female boss like garbage. 

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    All sympathies to you and your father.  Good luck.

  • The Lodger

    Also, I’ll be praying for your father.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Or more likely, being actual heroes, they would be on the run, perhaps crouched around an old transistor radio getting the news.

    I’ve been thinking of this somewhat.  In my story A World Without God at this point the protagonists would be hiding out in the woods.  They would have spent most of the 18 months trying to oppose the regime in secret, but would have gone too far to keep their opposition a secret before the war started.  Which made me wonder how they’d even know.

    The narrator is a psychic of a sort, so I was thinking perhaps a great disturbance in the force.  A Star Wars novel, I, Jedi if I recall correctly, had a scene where someone learned that a planet was destroyed by being bombarded with the final moments of everyone on the planet all at once.  It occurred to me that I might do something like that for my character (though obviously on a more city sized scale.)

    For our heroes from Left Behind, something more like this might make sense:

    They’d been debating since the planes flew overhead.  The only way the phone would still work is if the government had left the account open in hopes of tracing it, that meant losing their hiding place.  They weren’t sure whether it was worth the risk, but in the end they simply had to know what was happening.

    So Chloe was climbing a tree.  They’d picked this spot because it was so far from everything, a perfect place to hide until the heat died down.  A downside was that it was so far from everything.  There was no reception on the ground, but at the top of some of the taller trees they thought there might be unobstructed connection with the nearest tower.

    Several times she reached a branch, checked the phone, and found there was no signal.  She was running out of tree, and running out of patience, when she finally got what she was looking for.  The connection was tenuous, and slow, but she started loading a  news page.

    “Oh my god!” Rayford herd Chloe say high above him.  Then he heard, “Shit!” followed by the sound of breaking branches, a sound moving closer to earth.  Chloe was falling, Rayford rushed to help her, tripped on a root, and fell on his face.  He looked up in time to see Buck and Amanda awkwardly catching Chloe.

    They laid her down on the ground, Amanda asked, “Are you ok?”

    “It’s started,” Chloe said.

    “Are you-”

    “It’s started!” Chloe said while showing Amanda the phone.  Amanda froze in shock.  Soon they’d all seen it, a half loaded page, at it’s center a picture and a caption.  The picture was a mushroom cloud, the caption was Washington D.C.

    Chloe had surivived the fall with remarkably few injures, she was bruised all over and her attempts to slow her fall had dislocated a shoulder, but she was prepared for the hike out.  The gather the few supplies they had gathered, and headed for the car they had hidden, from there they would go to the nearest city.  There would be wounded in need of helping.

  • Tess Cameron

    We actually *do* increasingly live in that narcissistically myopic world of homogenized tailored news, which suggests that we actually *are* increasingly the sort of people who care only for news which serves our specific purposes or confirms our biases. Which is probably good news for people like Ellenjay. See the video below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOE1HFEL8XA

  • Anonymous

    Thoughts and prayers for you, Jessica.

  • Anonymous

    Best wishes and thoughts to Jessica_R and her father. I hope the outcome is better than it might be.

  • Nomuse

    So, what, the next attack will be launched by France allied with Finland,  Germany working with Greece, then Holland combined with New Hampshire, the Hebrides, and…I got nothing.

  • Anonymous

    Hungary?  Then Iceland and Iran.

  • Anonymous

    And Idaho.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, Jenkins could have easily help to contextualize this by simply calling it a “Nike missile base.”  

    Most of the ambiguity is gone right there.  

  • Alicia

    That would require revising and editing, which is a sin right up there with adultery, paganism, and saying “Happy Holidays”.

  • nanananana

    It all makes sense! The anti-christ’s obsession with alphabetical order was actually hinting at how he’s gonna start a war!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Borthwick/1343164902 Chris Borthwick

    Did anyone explain what the militia (and the ex-president, who wasn’t drawn as a psychopath) thought was the point of their bombing Washington?   Was it just a rather overdone assassination attempt, or was there some real rationale for offing a million souls?
    Or is it intended to be Nicky who does the bombing, under cover of a militia fabrication?  I’m really not following.

  • Anonymous

    Well, the ex-president told Bucky he was planning something, so it can’t be just a fabrication.  Unless he was mind controlled into telling Bucky that.

    Over all, though, I’d say these books specialize in anti-sense.  You may hurt yourself if you try to follow any of the “logic” in them.

  • Anonymous

    “It’s not altogether clear there whether Amanda’s prayerful cry is due to the news of the thousands of casualties or to the news about the scope of the traffic jam.”

    ## Neither. She’s probably devastated at losing her last chance of getting a pair of Nikes

  • P J Evans

    I’m surprised they didn’t go for flying cars: they could be covered by the story of Ezekiel seeing the fiery wheel in the air.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    mmy: I love that story about what happened in Ontario. It is good to know people don’t leave each other in the lurch in moments of crisis. :)

    Unlike, say, that self-important ass Rayford Steele.

  • Anonymous

    I wasn’t sure at first whether they meant the shoe or the missile either.  My first mental image was of thuggish One World stormtroopers gunning down innocent civilians at the Niketown flagship store in Chicago.  Brutal retalitory attacks on the population  seem like a anti-christ-y thing to do, even if it doesn’t quite flow logically as revenge for levelling DC.  

    But a Nike missile installation?  Why attack a weapon base that had been decomissioned at least a quarter century earlier?  Since most of the 20 sites would have already been gone it’s not great way to show off your firepower (“Wow!  You leveled…a place that was already leveled.”)  If you had to pick a military site in Chicago at least pick something that was in use at the time of global disarmament.  I don’t know, something like the Navy boot camp in North Chicago, or maybe one of the National Guard armories.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    But a Nike missile installation?  Why attack a weapon base that had been decomissioned at least a quarter century earlier?  Since most of the 20 sites would have already been gone it’s not great way to show off your firepower (“Wow!  You leveled…a place that was already leveled.”)  If you had to pick a military site in Chicago at least pick something that was in use at the time of global disarmament.  I don’t know, something like the Navy boot camp in North Chicago, or maybe one of the National Guard armories.

    I think that the reason the militia was using it was because it was decommissioned.  An old decommissioned base that they could use as a hidden armory.  Of course, the only Nike base that they could be referring to has been turned into a golf course and National Guard station, so there is not exactly a lot left intact to hide their smuggled arms in.  

    Hey, that gave me a thought.  Some of that facility is a National Guard base, but with the elimination of 90% of the world’s military, such a base would be likely to be retired, no?  If they had not bothered with a tear-down operation (and with the timetable Nicky set out I can see that step having to be dropped for expediency) then there is a perfectly serviceable abandoned base for the militia to occupy.  

  • E-foster

    oh i posted that as a reply to someone on page 1, seems kind of redundant on page 5 though :/

  • Izzy

    Hugs to Jessica–hoping for the best for you and yours.

  • Mau de Katt

    Think about it, if we speculate about possible developments based on our
    current technology and cultural trends, we can imagine a world of the
    not-so-distant future in which “the news” would become a personalized,
    idiosyncratic stream of information tailored to each individual. In such
    a world, the “news” that you would read, hear or watch would be different from the “news” I
    would consume. It would be shaped to meet our personal needs and
    preferences, based on location (not just our addresses, but using GPS
    tracking in our phones, tablets, etc.), and based on a host of data
    mined from our browser histories, digital TV and radio habits, our
    social media “likes” and our responses to a steadily evolving series of
    interface surveys.

    That was actually one of the more disturbing things I found in the movie Minority Report.  Tracking cameras were everywhere, and they tracked a person by their retinas.  Advertising (and so presumably news and entertainment) played constantly as you walked around or drove around, and it keyed off your retina prints to change based on your personal activities and preferences.  “Good to see you again, Mr. Smith; Levi’s Button-Fly Jeans in size 36M are now on sale at Joslins. It’s been 6 months since your last purchase; shall we reserve a pair for you?” etc etc.

    So having the radio say “Good afternoon, Global Air Force One Ace Pilot Rayford Steel.  The road ahead of you has been closed due to the total annihilation of the city by aerial bombardment.  We advise you to take the next exit and backtrack three streets to Exit 14.  And Washington D.C. has been destroyed, so your flight out next week has been delayed by two days.  Have a nice day!” actually makes some sort of sense, in a backwards, very twisted way.  And in a totally different story….

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    GC General Staff Officer: “We’ve located the rebel base.  They’re using an old Nike facility outside Chicago.  Shall I order the strike?”
    Carpathia: “Just do it!”

    (couldn’t resist!)

  • http://www.iki.fi/wwwwolf/ Urpo Lankinen

    When we last saw our heroes they were in a dire predicament. Traffic
    leading up to their exit of the tollway was at a standstill and it
    seemed they would have to exit onto Route 53 and then backtrack for
    miles.

    Oh, and also Washington, D.C., has been destroyed.

    Yay! Supermutants in the Capital Wasteland! Let me guess, the designers of Fallout 3 were debating whether or not to use the fast travel system in the game, and someone brought up these books. The words “logistics-heavy narrative” started to get thrown around.

    Global Community peacekeeping forces immediately retaliated by destroying a former Nike center in suburban Chicago.

    The Global Community Peacekeeping Forces are not a nice army! A nice army would have “immediately neutralised a terrorist-controlled missile site before the terrorists would get a chance to destroy another city with the remaining missiles”. In other words: don’t the fine author gentlemen read news? The armies always give stuff a positive spin. “Immediate retaliation” sounds bloodthirsty.

  • Anonymous

    If you’re thinking of switching to linux, it would be wise to spend some time googling to make sure there are linux drivers for all of your hardware. And if you already use linux (or a mac), you want to avoid devices that say “made for windows” because chances are, there won’t be a linux (or mac) driver available, and then your printer will turn out to be an oversized paperweight that doesn’t print. Before you buy a printer (or anything really), type the name of the printer and “OS X” or “linux” or “Ubuntu” or whatever into google, to find out whether it will work with your computer or not.

    If you don’t know what a driver is, you shouldn’t be thinking about switching to Linux.

    I suppose I am another of those mutants who likes military logistics.  Hell, that is the whole reason I play computer strategy games.  The right context can make logistics very gripping.  Unfortunately, L&J enthusiasm for phone calls and itinerary is mired by their inability to actually write anything interesting.

    I don’t mind logistics, myself, I just don’t really like having to manage the whole darn thing myself.

    Holy hell.  Bob Collins was still alive in 1996.  WGN was the most important radio station in Chicago.  Hell, it was the most important radio station in the Midwest.  And yet Jerry Jenkins invents a radio station in spite of the fact that he’s pretty much set it out so that Nicholae didn’t supplant the media at all, he just bought all the existing outlets.

    Presumably WGN Radio is no longer functioning (or just overriden), hence why the Emergency Broadcast System is active…

    This suggests the more sensible tactic of a strikeforce and not a missile.  Which brings us back to: how’d we get these civilian casualties again?

    Perhaps a particularly psychotic strike force?

    The AGM-129B is a non-nuclear variant of the AGM-129A that was under development in the early 1990s.  It utilizes stealth technology and can be launched from a B-52 up to 2,000 nautical miles from target.  One of these would have done the job without having to send in any ground forces.  Whether Fitzhugh was stupid enough to surrender an AGM-129B (or a B-52 for that matter) to Carpathia is another matter, but in this series the characters’ stupidity does seem to rise to the occasion.

    The B-1 seems like a better fit.  The B-52 is a high-altitude strategic bomber with no stealth capability, while the B-1 is a high-speed stealth strike bomber.

  • P J Evans

    The B-52 is a high-altitude strategic bomber with no stealth capability

    And a heckuva wingspan, and eight engines, mounted as four pairs. It’s known as ‘aluminum overcast’ because of that wingspan. They have one at March Field Museum. It’s the one in camo in the middle. (The smallish black one in the lower left is a Blackbird.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The AGM-129 series was designed specifically for the B-52 to grant it a long-range strike capability, mitigating the fact that the B-52 is 1) subsonic and 2) has a radar signature the size of Rhode Island.  The B-1 OTOH is not a stealth vehicle (that distinction belongs to the B-2 Spirit) and as of 1995 the B-1 was downrated to conventional ordnance only.

  • Anonymous

    The AGM-129 series was designed specifically for the B-52 to grant it a long-range strike capability, mitigating the fact that the B-52 is 1) subsonic and 2) has a radar signature the size of Rhode Island.  The B-1 OTOH is not a stealth vehicle (that distinction belongs to the B-2 Spirit) and as of 1995 the B-1 was downrated to conventional ordnance only.

    Huh, I seemed to remember the B-1 being a stealth vehicle.
    In any case, you only really need conventional weapons for a strike mission, and I believe ‘downrated’ only means that it doesn’t typically carry it, not that it’s actually incapable.
    An F-117 maybe?  They have a small loadout, but you only need one shot.  Also a lot easier to conceal, since you need to hide it from the GC levy…
    It *can* also carry the B-61 nuclear bomb.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    An F-117 would actually be a better choice for a tactical strike (they did rather well in Iraq and Bosnia doing exactly these sorts of missions, the Chinese Embassy and one lost aircraft in Bosnia notwithstanding).  But nowhere in any of this is the notion addressed that the United States is the only operator of any of these planes, and the only user of any of this ordnance.  The Russian air force was destroyed early on in the story, and the Chinese in 1995 didn’t have anything even remotely capable of doing this sort of job inside US territory.  The other countries with equipment capable of doing this are primarily traditional US allies with professional militaries who really don’t like firing on civilians.  So unless a foreign aircraft was launched from an American or Canadian base, we’re talking about American pilots firing on an American city–they’re the only ones with the training.

    I know that the authors almost worship the excluded middle fallacy–that in their view there is no middle ground between ‘RTC’ and ‘absolutely depraved’ but to have the United States military operate contrary to its oath to defend the country is an insult to everyone in uniform.  Good job, authors! :-P 

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.condrey Steve Condrey

    The B-1 was originally designed to carry up to 40 1.4-megaton nuclear gravity bombs.  The bomb compartment configuration also includes the arming mechanism.  All of this would have to be reinstalled and revalidated prior to the mission–not cheap and not easy to hide, given the number of people involved.  I agree with you on the F-117–the B-1, B-2, and B-52 were designed as city-killers, not bunker-killers.  Of course a *good* (in the literary sense only) Antichrist would not hesitate to nuke Chicago off the face of the Earth as an example.

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    It’s beginning to sound like Tim LaHaye’s “bible prophecies” are in some ways as narrowly parochial as Then Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.  Agnes was essentially omniscient, but she the only visions she wrote down in her book were those that directly impacted her own descendants.  LaHaye’s prophecies aren’t just aimed only at those living in the far future, relative to when they were made: they’re primarily aimed at and about Tim LaHaye, and the few people he knows well enough that they actually exist as people, rather than objects, in his narcissistic little mental universe.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    WAIT A MINUTE — WW3 GOING DOWN, SECOND HORSEMAN SADDLED UP AND GOING “HI HO SILVER!” AND BUCK IS STUCK IN TRAFFIC OUTSIDE OF CHICAGO?

    IS THIS THE SETUP FOR CHICAGO TAKING A MEGATON-RANGE NUKE HIT SO BUCK CAN MAKE HIS HEROIC CAR CHASE MOVE OVER THE MEDIAN AND DO THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT SCENE FOR THE LAND-ROVER COMMERCIAL?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I’m fascinated by the image of this reporter, standing on the outskirts of the shattered capital city but neglecting to report on that while compulsively discussing the traffic in Chicago. I’m imagining that this reflects some new technology in the “not-so-distant future” world of Tribulation Force.

    More like Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, GCAAT, is from Chicago and everything has to revolve around him.  Kind of like rewinding paleo-history to the Burgess Shale, starting the biosphere all over again, and being primarily concerned with its effects on the British Monarchy. 


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