Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist: pp. 4-7
For the past year and a half, Rayford Steele and Buck Williams have been working for the Antichrist.
Unbeknownst to their diabolical boss, the two men are double agents. Their carefully guarded secret is that, while outwardly seeming to be nothing more than capable assistants to Nicolae Carpathia, they’re also members of the Tribulation Force — the underground resistance cell pledged to oppose him. So the whole time Rayford and Buck have been working for the Antichrist, they’ve covertly been disapproving of everything he’s done.
It is risky, working in such close proximity to the Antichrist — particularly since he possesses supernatural powers of mind control. But it’s a risk our brave heroes are willing to take because the Tribulation Force needs them right there, at Nicolae’s side, disapproving of him there in the very heart of darkness.
Our heroes also have another secret. It, too, is one they have kept now for more than 18 months. That secret is that Rayford Steele and Buck Williams know each other — that, again unbeknownst to the Antichrist, Buck is in fact Rayford’s son-in-law.
It can’t have been easy keeping this secret for so long, but keeping the truth about their friendship and kinship hidden from Nicolae was vitally important, because …
Um … well, because … uh …
I need help with this one. Anybody have any theories or explanations for this? We’re about to read of the elaborate lengths to which Buck Williams must go to guard this secret, but why he’s keeping it a secret I just can’t figure out.
Sure, at this point, after a year and a half of hiding the truth and pretending not to know one another, I suppose they’re stuck with it. If Nicolae suddenly learned, now, that our heroes have been deliberately preventing him from learning that Buck is married to Rayford’s daughter, then the Antichrist would have reason to become very suspicious of them. So after all this time they have to play along with the awkward trap they’ve set for themselves. It’s like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry was dating Aretha or Celeste or Mulva or whatever her name was.
But why did they start keeping such a thing secret in the first place? Where would the harm have been in Nicolae’s knowing that his pilot and the editor of his newsweekly were friends?
Concocting additional, unnecessary secrets is a bad idea for double agents because once those otherwise harmless secrets are revealed, it will invite closer scrutiny more likely to reveal the necessary secrets that must be kept.
But this unnecessary secret isn’t just pointless, it’s also unbelievable. Consider, first of all, that Hattie Durham has been working this whole time as Nicolae’s personal assistant and best friend with benefits. And Hattie knows all about the friendship between Buck and Rayford, and almost certainly knows about Buck’s marriage to Chloe. She was there, having dinner with both of them the night that Buck and Chloe met. She credits herself with getting the two of them together as a couple and takes great pride and delight in tracing the progress of their relationship.
Given that, if you think about it, it was kind of mean of them not to allow her to celebrate with them. I get that her past pseudo-relationship with Rayford would have made her presence at the wedding awkward, but they could at least have sent her a card and a photo. She’d have gotten real joy out of that and it wouldn’t have cost them anything.
The Tribbles have all talked a great deal in these books about their desire to “witness” to Hattie and to help her convert and “get saved,” yet at every turn they’ve also clearly signaled to her that they don’t like having her around. That’s a lousy way to treat someone and thus also a lousy approach to evangelism. (Here is where the footnote that became the previous post would have gone.)
And remember all that business with the anonymous flowers and the hijinks with Rayford’s airline training? Hattie’s elbow-deep in their private business. She has to know that Buck and Chloe got married. And if she knows, then Nicolae knows too.
Even if Buck and Chloe didn’t invite her to celebrate their happiness, she’d be celebrating it anyway, on her own. “Nicky, dear,” she’d say, excitedly, “Guess what?” Or else maybe she’d be hurt or resentful over being snubbed from the celebration and her preternaturally sensitive boyfriend would ask her what was the matter. Either way, Hattie knows their secret and therefore Nicolae also knows.
So this unnecessary secret seems as impossible as it is illogical. It serves no purpose other than to introduce danger and risk to the work of the Tribulation Force.
And that’s my best guess as to why our heroes are struggling to keep such an unnecessary secret. It’s Jerry Jenkins’ only option for introducing danger and risk to the work of the Tribulation Force. For all the book-jacket marketing, there aren’t many thrills in these thrillers. The Tribbles are not, in fact, ever seen to be doing anything at all like “standing and fighting the enemies of God.”
As double agents, Rayford and Buck have successfully infiltrated Nicolae’s inner circle, but once inside they don’t do anything. They don’t try to interfere with his plans. They’re collecting intelligence, I suppose, but for what? They don’t have any plans to put this intelligence to any use. Plus they haven’t really learned anything they couldn’t have learned from staying home and studying the charts and check lists in Pastor Billings’ old office.
What would happen if their secrets were revealed, if they were exposed as double agents? No amount of torture by the Antichrist’s most fearsome interrogators could force them to divulge their secret agenda because they don’t have any agenda beyond watching closely while harboring a secret disapproval.
There’s no drama to be had from such an agenda, no suspense or thrills or danger. So Jenkins spices up his tale by layering on an unnecessary secret and then describing our heroes’ efforts to protect it.
That’s what’s going on here, as the armed soldiers of the Antichrist approach the Tribbles’ rental car.
Buck Williams … had no idea how Global Community forces had tracked down Rayford, but one thing was certain: it would not be good for Buck to be discovered with Carpathia’s pilot.
“Ray,” he said quickly, “I’ve got one set of phony IDs in the name of Herb Katz. Tell ’em I’m a pilot friend of yours or something.”
I like to think that this is Buck’s real name, and that “Cameron Williams” is just the professional name he adopted because his agent convinced him it would have “wider appeal” on a theater marquee.
“OK,” Rayford said, “but my guess is they’ll be deferential to me. Obviously, Nicolae is merely trying to reconnect with me.”
World War III has just arrived and Rayford guesses that soldiers will be in a “deferential” mood. My great uncle was stationed at Pearl Harbor when World War II arrived there. “Deferential” was not a word my great aunt used to describe his mood that day.
As it turns out, though, Rayford is right. In the world of these novels, nearly everyone is deferential to him because he’s the world-famous celebrity pilot of a world-famous celebrity airplane.
And if you think about that for a moment, that’s the perfect way out of this trap of the unnecessary secret. It provides a simple explanation for why Buck would be “discovered with Carpathia’s pilot.” He can just say he’s interviewing Rayford for a profile in Global Community Weekly.
They’d need to work out a cover story for the timing of Buck and Chloe’s wedding, but it would still seem more plausible than trying to pass Buck off as “Herb Katz,” a pilot who just happens to be a dead ringer for world-famous celebrity journalist Buck Williams.
The two uniforms now stood behind the Lincoln, one speaking into a walkie-talkie, the other on a cell phone. …
Buck … switched his phony papers with his real ones. Chloe looked terrified. Buck put his arm around her and drew her close.
So if the soldiers should look in the direction of the car, they’ll see Rayford’s pilot friend “Herb Katz” snuggling with his daughter in the back seat.
Walkie-Talkie approached the driver’s-side window. Rayford lowered it. “You are Rayford Steele, are you not?”
“Depends on who’s asking,” Rayford said.
Rayford had expected the soldiers to be deferential to him, and they are. They are polite, respectful and measured, despite the chaos around them. But he acts like a jerk.
This is, depending on your perspective, either evidence that Rayford is a jerk, or else that he is a really cool guy and the manliest man’s man ever. Buck goes with the second one.
“This car, with this license number, was rented at O’Hare by someone claiming to be Rayford Steele. If that’s not you, you’re in deep trouble.”
“Wouldn’t you agree,” Rayford said, “that regardless who I am, we’re all in deep trouble?”
Buck was amused at Rayford’s feistiness, in light of the situation.
“The situation” is the advent of World War III. Despite the outbreak of war and thus probably of some kind of martial law, Rayford opts to treat these armed soldiers as — to use his own phrase from a few pages ago — “nobodies-trying-to-be-somebodies.” Very amusing.
This condescending scorn seems to be Rayford’s usual way of interacting with “uniforms.” He and Buck — and the authors — seem to think that he is free to behave this way because he’s “feisty,” and not mainly because he’s a wealthy white guy.
The soldier asks to see some ID, and:
Rayford appeared as agitated as Buck had ever seen him.
This is what happens when you remove the Hands of Calming from his shoulders and thigh.
“Sir, you must understand the position I’m in. I have Global Community potentate Carpathia himself patched through to a secure cell phone here. I don’t even know where he’s calling from. If I put someone on the phone and tell the potentate it’s Rayford Steele, it had blamed better be Rayford Steele.”
In the first book in this series, written in 1995, cell phones were all but nonexistent. In this, the third book, written in 1997, they begin to appear as uncommon, fancy devices wielded by elites.
I’m not criticizing Jerry Jenkins here. We’ve tracked his strange obsession with telephony for more than 900 pages now, and that’s still kind of hilarious, but I do have genuine sympathy for his plight in beginning a series of a dozen “near-future” novels in 1995. Jenkins probably should have known more about cell phones than he did when he started writing that first book, but basically he wrote one book every year from 1995 through 2007 — a period in which commonplace technology changed dramatically. In 1995, Google was nonexistent. In 2007, it was indispensable.
That would have been a challenge even for a skilled writer who cared about what he was doing. Jenkins had to figure out how to adapt to these changes as the series and technology both progressed. His approach seems to have been just to incorporate the new technology into the story as though it had always been a part of the world of these books. As this passage shows, that doesn’t always work seamlessly, but I’m willing to cut him some slack on this point. No matter how long it takes him to finish A Song of Ice and Fire, this isn’t a problem that George R.R. Martin will ever have to face.
Rayford leaves the car for the first phone call of Book 3, and:
Walkie-Talkie … leaned in and spoke to Buck. “Sir, in the even that we transport Captain Steele to a rendezvous point, would you be able to handle the disposition of this vehicle?”
Do all uniformed people talk this way? Buck wondered. “Sure.”
Amanda leaned over. “I’m Mrs. Steele,” she said. “Wherever Mr. Steele is going, I’m going.”
“That will be up to the potentate,” the guard said, “and providing there’s room the chopper.”
If it turns out there isn’t room on the chopper, she can always sit in Rayford’s lap. He likes that.
If you are actually wondering how everyone will fit on the helicopter, who carries the bags, and what the first leg of the Steeles’ multi-vehicle, multi-stop flight plan is like, in detail, then you should read pages 6 and 7 of this book. I would try to summarize them here, but I’m afraid I couldn’t do them justice.