NRA: A global broadcast

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 51-56

Last week, at the top of page 51, we saw Buck Williams happily accepting help from Loretta while simultaneously plotting to exclude her from his own plans for refuge. This week we begin at the bottom of that same page, returning to Rayford Steele’s perspective for a longish sequence in which he exhibits that same disgraceful combination of ingratitude and self-centered cowardice.

Rayford is in the pilot’s seat of his newest new plane:

The Condor 216 was outfitted even more lavishly than Global Community One had been, if that was possible. No detail had been missed, and the latest communications devices had been installed.

DEAR SPACE INVADERS: This belongs on your list of high-priority targets. (Photo by B. Kris for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.)

This ought to be foreshadowing. Jerry Jenkins’ effort to wow readers with his clumsy descriptions of the new plane’s “lavish” equipment doesn’t actually matter or mean anything here in Nicolae. It could have mattered, but it doesn’t.

Like all the pages of the plane’s unspecified specs sketched out earlier by Earl Halliday, this just turns out to be Jenkins’ attempt at Tom Clancy-style tech-porn. It’s only function here in the book is to allow Rayford to eavesdrop on Nicolae’s little speech to his “ambassadors” during the flight — a narrative convenience that could just as easily have been accomplished by having Amanda holding an empty drinking-glass to the door.

We get a couple pages of throat-clearing and padding as the plane takes off, including what proves to be some very confusing business about just where Amanda Steele is sitting in relation to the other handful of people on this super-jumbo-jet and a blow-by-blow account of Rayford’s initial use of the earphone eavesdropper thing-y that Halliday rigged for him:

Rayford sat back and pulled his earphone band toward the back of his head, as if pulling the phones off. However, they were still close enough to his ears so that he could hear and his copilot, because his own earphones were on, could not. Rayford pulled from his flight bag a book and opened it, resting it on the controls before him. He would have to remember to turn a page occasionally.

Jenkins takes great care to ensure that his readers are not themselves misled by Rayford’s clever ploy:

He would not really be reading. He would be listening. He slipped his left hand under the seat and quietly depressed the hidden button.

Rayford hears Nicolae say, “Mrs. Steele, if you would excuse us –?” And then his wife says, “Certainly.”

I assumed this meant either that Nicolae and his cronies departed to a meeting area elsewhere on the plane or that Amanda left them to go sit somewhere else. That assumption seems to be supported later on when we learn that Amanda, unlike Rayford, hasn’t heard a word Nicolae & Co. say during their meeting. But we also later learn that she’s been sitting right next to them the whole time. It is, as I said, confusing.

Rayford listens intently as the Antichrist and his henchmen launch into an expository discussion of their evil plans as explicit as the villain’s speech at the climax of any James Bond thriller:

Carpathia was saying: “Mr. Fortunato remained in Dallas briefly to arrange my next radio broadcast from there. I will do it from here; however, it will be patched to Dallas and broadcast, again to throw off any enemies of the Global Community. I do need him in on our talks, in the night, so we will wait on the ground in San Francisco until he is able to join us.”

As always in these books, a clear statement of travel itinerary must come before we can move forward with plot, character or theme.

“As soon as we leave the ground out of San Francisco, we will trigger both L.A. and the Bay area.”

“The Bay area?” came a heavily accented voice.

“Yes, that is San Francisco and the Oakland area.”

I’m not sure whether the indeterminately ethnic ambassador here is meant to be a stand-in for any readers potentially confused by the term “Bay area,” or if Nicolae’s proud sense of sophistication for knowing this is meant to be a stand-in for Jenkins’ own pride at employing what he seems to regard as esoteric local lingo.

In any case, what follows is Nicolae’s elevator-pitch for the Red Horse of the Apocalypse:

“What do you mean by ‘trigger’?”

Carpathia’s tone became grave. “‘Trigger’ means just what it sounds like it means,” he said. “By the time we land in Baghdad, more than Washington, New York, and Chicago will have been decimated. Those are just three of the North American cities that will suffer the most. So far, only the airport and one suburb have suffered in Chicago. That will change within the hour. You already know about London. Do you gentlemen understand the significance of a one-hundred-megaton bomb?”

There was silence. Carpathia continued. “To put it in perspective, history books tell us that a twenty-megaton bomb carries more power than all those dropped in World War II, including the two that fell on Japan.”

“The United States of Great Britain had to be taught,” came the accented voice again.

“Indeed they did,” Carpathia said. “And in North America alone, Montreal, Toronto, Mexico City, Dallas, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles* will become object lessons to those who would oppose us.”

Rayford whipped off his earphones and unbuckled himself. …

Having overheard the arch-villain’s scheme, our protagonist springs into action.

But before we can discuss what Rayford does, we first have to consider all the many, many things he doesn’t do.

Specifically, he doesn’t do what Jenkins — apparently inadvertently — seems to have set the stage for him to do. Everything leading up to this point suggested a classic “live microphone” scenario like the one — **spoiler alert** — that brings down Lonesome Rhodes at the end of Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd.

Here is what Rayford has at his disposal:

1. A live feed of the Antichrist candidly exposing himself as monstrously evil and the enemy of all humankind.

2. A cockpit equipped with every imaginable “communication device” — including, according to what Carpathia just told us, the capability to broadcast to the entire world.

3. A son-in-law and co-conspirator who heads up a global media company and is world-renowned as the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time.

That’s all pointing inexorably in a single direction — a much more interesting direction than anything we’ve yet encountered in this sad chronicle of the impotent bystanders of the Tribulation Force.

Instead of whipping off and unbuckling and leaping from his seat, all Rayford needed to do was punch a few buttons in the cockpit to ensure that he wouldn’t be the only person hearing Nicolae’s evil secrets. Instead of hearing those secrets and keeping them, Rayford ought to have been able to let the whole world hear them.

You know how that scene goes. You’ve seen it in a dozen different movies. We’ll keep Nicolae’s speech, verbatim, but rewind back to the beginning of it. We see Rayford flipping switches on the lavishly outfitted latest communications devices and …

Cut to: A greasy spoon diner on the side of a highway somewhere in the American west. A waitress, a short-order cook, and a handful of truck-driver-types stare in disbelief at the television above the counter, from which we hear the voice of the global potentate: “As soon as we leave the ground out of San Francisco, we will trigger both L.A. and the Bay area. …” The coffee the waitress has been pouring overflows and spills. “… ‘Trigger’ means just what it sounds like it means.”

Cut to: A black barbershop in, let’s say, Baltimore. The barber and his customers stand frozen as they listen to Nicolae Carpathia’s voice coming from the radio: “By the time we land in Baghdad, more than Washington, New York, and Chicago will have been decimated. …”

Cut to: A ramshackle trailer somewhere in the American South. We see a ragged couch with a threadbare afghan draped across the back, and the backs of the heads of a stereotypically “redneck” couple facing the television, from which Nicolae’s voice says, “Those are just three of the North American cities that will suffer the most.” The camera swoops in and around to reveal an impressive arsenal laid out on the coffee table and we see that the couple are busily loading guns like Burt and Heather Gummer.

Another radio, in an exotic-looking shop in some exotic-looking city, perhaps Istanbul. An exotically foreign-looking shopkeeper and his customers gape, wide-eyed as they listen: “That will change within the hour. You already know about London. …”

Another radio, this one in a street café in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the background just so nobody in the audience fails to understand what they’re looking at: “Do you gentlemen understand the significance of a one-hundred-megaton bomb? …”

And on and on, quickly skipping from scene to scene — Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, Rio — to show that they entire world is listening and hears Nicolae’s entire scheme.

We cut back to Nicolae, there on his plane, blithely carrying on without realizing that all his illusions are being stripped bare. He doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.

“… Object lessons to those who would oppose us,” he says. Then, suddenly, he understands, flying into a rage and lashing out in fury and palpable contempt for all the little worms, wretches and fools who have been following him blindly. And this too, of course, is broadcast before the signal is abruptly cut off, replaced all around the world by the familiar face and voice of the GIRAT, Buck Williams, who outlines to this heightened global audience all of the Antichrist’s plans for tyranny, the Mark of the Beast and all the rest.

Buck would have to go into hiding after that, of course. So would Rayford and Amanda, if we can figure out a way to get them off the plane. Maybe they could pull a D.B. Cooper and parachute away, or hide and then sneak out via the landing gear like Leo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can.

But then the Steeles’ escape would be the least of the plot challenges this would provoke. Such heroic action on Rayford’s part would change everything that follows, transforming this into a radically different series of books.

And that, of course, is why it doesn’t happen.

Tim LaHaye’s fatalistic theology and the Hobbesian, musical-chairs immorality of his political views won’t allow any such heroism in his characters or in his narrative.

Here, as ever with LaHaye, we can ponder cause and effect, chicken and egg. Are the authors and their protagonists so appallingly selfish as a consequence of being trapped in a world shaped by his fatalistic theology? Or is that fatalistic theology itself a consequence of LaHaye’s pre-existing appalling selfishness?

I think maybe it’s both.

Either way, the deterministic prophecies and theodicy of LaHaye’s vision won’t allow Rayford to try to thwart the Antichrist’s divinely appointed schemes. To do so would be for him to oppose the great Author of Evil himself, LaHaye’s God.

And so Rayford cannot be a hero. He cannot even try to save the world. He cannot be allowed to try to save Montreal or Toronto or Mexico City or Dallas or Washington, D.C. or New York or Chicago or San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Rayford Steele has just learned that millions are about to die in all those cities, and he has the ability to warn them. But he doesn’t try to warn them. He doesn’t even want to try to warn them.

All that the authors will allow Rayford to do is try to warn his own daughter and son-in-law.

Rayford whipped off his earphones and unbuckled himself. He stepped through the cockpit door and made eye contact with Amanda. He motioned her to come to him. Carpathia looked up and smiled. “Captain Steele,” he greeted him, “is everything well?”

So, again, Amanda was apparently sitting right next to Nicolae during his entire speech outlining his plans to nuke city after city. And yet, somehow, Amanda didn’t hear any of that.

“Our flight is uneventful, sir, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s the best kind of flight. I can’t say much for what’s happening on the ground, however.”

“True enough,” Carpathia said, suddenly sober. “I will soon address the global community with my condolences.”

Jenkins can’t resist showing us yet again that Carpathia is delighted at destruction while putting up a sham appearance of sadness. Carpathia claimed to be a pacifist, remember, and in the author’s minds, this is what all pacifists are secretly like — sneaky, disingenuous killers just trying to trick you into letting your guard down. In the authors’ minds, they’ve actually proved that all pacifists are really like this, because portraying it that way proves it to be so.

Rayford pulled Amanda into the galley way. “Were Buck and Chloe going to stay at The Drake again tonight?”

“There wasn’t time to talk about it, Ray,” she said. “I can’t imagine what other choice they’d have. It sounds like they may never get back to New York.”

That’s true — the perhaps-nuclear destruction of Chicago’s airport and of all of New York City have likely put a serious crimp in their travel arrangements.

“I’m afraid Chicago is a certain someone’s next target,” Rayford said.

“Oh, I can’t imagine,” Amanda said.

“I have to warn them.”

“Do you want to risk a phone call that could be traced?” she asked.

“Saving their lives would be worth any risk.”

Amanda embraced him and went back to her seat.

Rayford has a cell phone now too, suddenly, and he uses it to call the Drake Hotel.

Thus begins Jenkins’ elaborate attempt at sustained suspense. In Jenkins’ case, of course, that involves several pages of desperate phone tag.

This sequence is meant to be thrilling and nerve-wracking, but it’s hard to care much because it all involves characters who themselves don’t care much. Rayford doesn’t care about warning anyone except for Buck and Chloe. He doesn’t give even a second of thought to all of the other people in Chicago — his own neighbors. Nor does he care in the slightest about the lives or deaths of any of the millions of people in Montreal or Toronto or Mexico City or …

You know what? It’s too much work to try to list all of the people Rayford Steele doesn’t care about. Much easier just to list those very few he does regard as fellow humans: Chloe, Buck, Amanda and … Nope, that’s it actually. Just those three and no one else at all.

“Not even Loretta,” as his daughter might say.

The desk manager of the Drake Hotel is friendly and polite, eagerly providing Rayford whatever assistance he can. When there’s no answer in Buck and Chloe’s room, he asks:

“Would you like to leave a message on their voice mail?”

“I would,” Rayford said, “but I would also like to be sure that the message light is lit and that they are flagged down for an urgent message should they visit the front desk.”

Rayford is on the phone with this man, with this fellow human being and fellow Chicagoan. He’s talking to this man and could easily have warned him — could easily have told him exactly what tells Buck and Chloe in the message he leaves them:

“Don’t take the time to do anything. Get as far away from downtown Chicago as you can. Please trust me on this.”

He could have urged the desk manager to flee, to evacuate the hotel, the block, the entire city, to warn everyone he possibly could warn. The man would listen. He knows what has already happened to New York, Washington and London. He knows Chicago has already been struck twice. He would heed this warning. He would warn others. The housekeepers and bellhops and valets at the hotel could be spared. If they acted quickly thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, could be rescued from certain death.

But Rayford says nothing to this man, nothing to any of them. He doesn’t care about them.

The desk manager reassures Rayford that he will do everything he can to ensure that Buck and Chloe get Rayford’s message. “We’ll certainly do that, sir,” he says. “Thank you for calling The Drake.”

And Rayford says nothing.

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Aided Rayford’s desperate calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* I read that list and I have the same oddly mixed emotions I had watching Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s silly, but entertaining, 1996 summer blockbuster. In that movie, evil space aliens were methodically destroying all the great cities of earth. Except — as here — they didn’t quite get around to all the great cities.

Just like Nicolae, those space aliens neglected to destroy Philadelphia.

I’ve lived more than half my life here in the Delaware Valley, in and around the City of Brotherly Love. It’s a world-class city — a proud metropolis that can boast of a unique role in American and world history. It’s the home of world-famous icons like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the Rocky statue. Philadelphia is the fifth-largest city in the U.S. It’s bigger than Dallas — bigger than San Francisco and D.C. combined.

I find myself illogically and inappropriately offended at seeing our great city getting snubbed like this by space aliens and Antichrists.

I know there are many writers among the readers of these Left Behind posts, so here is my plea to you: Please, in your next apocalyptic novel, short story or screenplay, remember Philadelphia. When your alien spacecraft descend, or your zombie hordes shuffle, or your Old Ones re-awaken, or your post-singularity machines arise, think of Ben Franklin and the birthplace of liberty and pay us the respect of including our great city among your prominent targets. At least have the courtesy to have your aliens/zombies/Old Ones destroy Philadelphia before, say, Cleveland. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

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

    That, and the fact that this series tends to portray most male-female relationships are being generally paternal (in a condescending, authoritarian way, of course). It makes it hard to differentiate between a male-female romantic relationship and a parent-child relationship when in both cases the male figure is the authority and controls the female figure.

    It wouldn’t take that much work to merge the Chloe and Amanda characters together, for example. Ray talks to them in much the same way, and they have almost the same personality…

  • perfectblue

    Not to totally derail ANY sensible discussion whatsoever, but oh!  Tremors was on today and I was watching it thinking, this is a great movie.  It isn’t one of those movies where you’re shouting at the characters, they go about their business  with the monsters as normal people might.  I love the character bit of it.  Especially with Burt and Heather.  It’s constantly teasing about their over-preparation for the coming apocalypse.  They’re presented as a bit silly, but at the same time they sure kill one of the monster worms.  And the sequence where they deal with the monster invasion in their basement is the best part of the movie.  And it’s not even just that, they get into this argument with the less apocalyptic-minded neighbors in town and they have a gentle discussion about their differing viewpoints.  Hey, no need to get personal, just saying we have firepower.  It actually made me nostalgic for the days before the survivalists turned into militants.  And even as the monsters attacked, and they were clearly better prepared, there was no sense of “haw haw, the gun nuts knew what was up!”  Their lucky stash of weapons was just lucky, they had no idea they were preparing for the evil worm monster invasions.  I’m in my mid-thirties and I don’t know if it only exists in my head, the way the wholesome 50′s exist in the minds of conservatives, but I longed for the good-natured disagreement between the right wingers and single parents and immigrants and scientists and good old boys presented.  There was a time where a gun nut saying “Just a few household chemicals mixed in the proper proportions” didn’t send a thrill of fear down my spine, and not because I was more scared of the worm monsters listening to their movements.

  • http://twitter.com/Jenk3 Jen K

     Y’know, L&J could have had Rayford and Cam-Cam do the big broadcast…and have everyone not hear it.

    Or even better, do the montage, with Nicky’s dialog being played all over the world. Show people’s reactions. And then Nicky announces, “You think you can win that easily?  You think my words matter?  My words matter more than you think.  You will now forget what you heard about bombings.”  People look confused.  “The death and destruction is caused by dissidents.”  People are nodding.  “I will bring peace to us all.  The Global Community is one.”  People are nodding and smiling.  “Peace to you.”  

    How’s that for creepy?  Mind control. 

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

     Their lucky stash of weapons was just lucky

    Aside from its location :)

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

    That would be ten million tons of creepy and awesome.

    In the hands of a better author. :

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

    Ok, I’ll give it a shot:

    The entire world had stopped.  After eighteen months spent connecting even the most remote populations to the global communications network and teaching them a common language it seemed this was the moment everything had been building toward, a single revelation.  The knowledge that their benevolent leader wasn’t really benevolent.

    Both sides had stopped the fighting in the war torn streets of Washington, though no order had been given.  They stood peacefully listening to the recently installed emergency loudspeaker network.

    In the remote Amazon a tribe that first came into contact with the outside word a mere seven months ago listened to the signal in their new language, confident that this was why they learned the word “Megaton”.

    In the freshly constructed buildings of New Babylon rebellion began to form in the minds of the population as they came to understand that what they had been building was not peace.

    Then, the voice changed.  Everyone on earth knew that he was now addressing them, not some unseen interlocutor:

    “Do you think that I did not know you were listening?  I wanted you to hear and I thank those who sent the signal out.  They were working for me, even if they did not know it.  Why else would I have given them the ability to bring you this message?”

    What had moments ago seemed clear was now replaced by confusion.  The entire population of the world collectively held its breath, waiting to hear what would come next.

    “My colleague was correct, the USGB did need to be taught a lesson.  So too does the rest of the world.  We knew when we started this journey that peace would not be easy.  From prehistory war has been a part of the human condition, change is hard.  Sometimes it takes tough love.

    “As your leader I love all of you, even the ones in rebellion, and it pains me to see even a single human life be lost.

    “But those who would destroy our peace must be taught a lesson, as much as it pains me.  The world must be taught a lesson.  If humanity is to become a species of peace this lesson must be learned.

    “And, unfortunately, lessons of this nature are the hardest sort.  Punishment only works if it is swift, severe, and unexpected.

    “So our response has been immediate, London was the beginning and, though it pains me to teach this lesson, by the end of the day 99 other cities will suffer the same fate.  Ten cities from each of the ten regions of the world.

    “Is this severe?  Yes.  Unfortunately.  As it must be.  It is also, by necessity, unexpected.  Even those who planned to shatter our peace while the rest of us were content to live in it could not have anticipated a response such as this.

    “But, though it weighs on my heart like lead, this punishment is necessary.  It is why 10 percent of the world’s weapons were not destroyed.  So that the peace might be kept.

    “Today will be remembered by history as a dark day, perhaps the darkest day of all, but rest easy knowing that the destruction serves a higher purpose.  After today, who would dare make war?

    “Those cities we lose today are, of course, tragic in their ending, but it is simply the wages of peace.  And peace is something we can all believe in.

    “I have taken enough of your time.  Please excuse my interruption and go about your day.”

    The broadcast ended.  Most of the world returned to normal, content that the darkness of the day was necessary for a brighter tomorrow.

    Those on the streets of Washington remained standing as they had while they listened.  The fighting did not resume.  They lingered where they were, waiting for the higher purpose they had been promised.  Their imminent demise did not bother them.  It was simply one of the wages of peace.

    The few not under Nicole’s spell fled, as fast as they could, save for the ones that remained to beg their comrades to flee.  The begging had no effect.

    The wages of peace would be paid.

  • Ymfon Tviergh

     …Ten million tons of creepy, check. Brrr.

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

     Here’s another thought:
    “Mrs. Steele, if you would excuse us –?” Nicolai asked politely.

    Amanda’s eyes rolled back until only the whites were showing.  She stopped all movement except the beating of her heard and the expansion and contraction of her lungs.  One of the Ambassadors stood, approached, more closely examined her current condition, and then silently sat back down unsettled.

    At this point Amanda said, “Certainly.”

  • Austinkitty

    You know what other city gets ignored in disaster fiction? San Antonio. Why is this so bad? Because It has the most active duty soldiers for the US in one place. Ft Sam Houston, Lackland and Randolh AIr Force Bases, plus several supply depots, all neatly placed within easy distances of IH 35, and all have been there for at least 50 years. I still get steamed at “Red Dawn” for having the invasion route through Texas without even one sentence explaining why all those military bases didn’t react. I have finally decided that this is a clever ploy by the Pentagon to fool invaders into leaving most of our military intact, by having them forget where we keep all the good explode toys.

    Karen, who is too lazy to log in this am

  • Ken

    I recall someone saying that L&J have a subplot in one of the later books where Amanda is suspected of being Nicolae’s agent. True? If so, maybe her inattention to the meeting could be explained as part of that. (I’m sure it’s just incompetence – doubtless Jenkins had no idea he would have that later plot, considering he obviously doesn’t know what he’s going to do with Fortunato – but I’m feeling charitable.)

    If you want a creepy mind control plot, Ray should get Amanda aside and warn her, then she says “Ten ambassadors? Secret war plans? Ray, there’s only the three of us back there, and Nicolae is coordinating emergency relief with Mr. Fortunato.” Then Ray looks and he only sees the two men – but back in the cockpit, he hears the twelve talking again.

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

    I can see why a place full of active-duty soldiers is being ignored by the Global Community bombardment, since as of two books all of those soldiers are now loyal agents of Carpathia’s Unity Army.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Which is a rather odd expansion of its meaning

    It’s a lot less odd than the entire reversal of the meaning of the word “stench”. 

    I don’t think the word “decimate” has really been expanded anyway. The 10% was never the point of decimating a group. Terror, grief, a show of power, fear — those were the points. The fact that we need more than 10% of the males of a group to be killed before we decide it rates the sheer horror and destruction that the word “decimate” does contain says something about how the world has changed* — but the word is still totally apt.

    *And it’s not “we’re so much worse than those Romans”. If 10% of our male population here in the U.S. died all at once, we’d come through — our society would be shaken but we’d keep going, and we probably wouldn’t need a restructuring. If 10% of the free male population of a community in the time Rome was killed all at once, it would go a long way toward totally destroying that community, partly because there were fewer people to take up the slack, and partly because almost everyone who controlled the economy and society was a free male. The society would have to build up again, and they’d have to look anywhere they could for help, and that would make them more dependent on the very people who destroyed their community in the first place.

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

    Oh my :O It even has a Panem-esque “we did this because we love you all so very much” brutality underneath Nicolae’s words. :O

  • http://audioarchives.blogspot.com/ spinetingler

     No open research…

  • http://audioarchives.blogspot.com/ spinetingler

     I couldn’t help but read that in the voice of Khan…

  • J_Enigma32

     Ooh, ooh! Let me try, too:
    ——————————————————–

    Ray reached under his chair, gently flipping the switch. As he did, all the chatter from air traffic control was replaced; Nicolai Draculescu’s* voice filled his ears.

    “Gentlemen,” he said. Ray could visually see him expanding his hands, as if embracing the table and the expansive five course mean before them. “Welcome aboard Global One. I apologize for the… suddenness of this meeting, but we must discuss matters pertinent our current situation.”

    Ray felt himself tense up. The muscles in neck and shoulder snapped tightly, like a tightrope. There could be little good that became of this. ‘Matters pertinent to their current situation’ – he risked a glance at his copilot, to see if he had noticed, but continued to listen despite the electrifying sensation dancing up and down his spine and across his shoulders.

    Nicolai continued, speaking flawlessly in his unaccented voice. “My assistant, Mr. Fortunato, is currently in Dallas. His is preparing for my next speech to the Global Community, however; to throw off our enemies – of which there are many, not all of whom are immediately obvious, some of whom might even be within our midst…”

    Nicolai let it hang. Ray felt his heart thunder like a downpour of rain on a tin roof. Did Nicolai know? Could he know?

    “I seem to have lost my train of thought,” Nicolai said. “Never mind. Mr. Fortunato is in Dallas, as we speak, preparing for my speech. I, however; will be making my speech here, from this plane. After all, as the head of the Global Community, my importance is beyond measure. It is pertinent that I remain safe.”

    “What of your assistant?” The voice was was heavily accented German; likely one of the ambassadors. “Should Dallas come under attack, he may well be caught inside of it.”

    “He understands the risks that he takes to secure my personal safety and with me, the safety of the Global Community. I have another assistant that we must gather from San Fransisco – the director of our Pacific Peacekeeping forces – so we will be landing there temporarily to pick him up. Once we leave the Bay Area, however, we will trigger Los Angeles.”

    Trigger? Ray furrowed his brow.

    “By the time we land in Baghdad, more than just Washington, Chicago, and New York will have been destroyed. Those are just the first ones – the sacrificial lambs, if you will. More destruction waits us in the future.”

    As Nicolai spoke, Ray knew instinctively what to do. Although he would be putting himself at great personal risk, no risk was too great. He knew that an immortal life awaited him after death, anyway, but it didn’t await everyone. Everyone deserved the opportunity – the knowledge – and so he switched the feeds. In that instant, everything went live. Cameron would get the feed back in Chicago, and he would know what to do with it; he was an investigate journalist for a small-time local paper.

    Nicolai gave a confident chuckle. Ray could visualize the shadows as they danced across his pointed face, his eyes hidden under his brow and the distinctive widow’s peak standing out in sharp relief against the darkness that hid behind him.

    The world would know now.

    “Gentlemen, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of ‘Peace through Superior Firepower.’ This has long been the unspoken mantra of the Global Community; today, we put on display, for all to see, our superior firepower. The Tsar Bomba was constructed by the Russians during the cold war as a power play. I have, at my disposal, three of them.

    “However, I will not be using them. Rather, I would prefer that my attacks have the appearance of being strategic; so rather than attack with our large bombs – which I have reserved for a … later confrontation… I have instead ordered indiscriminate attacks with the United State’s collection of ICBMs. Wichita has been put on Alert, NORAD knows what to expect, and the button – speaking metaphorically, of course – has been pressed. They will appear strategic targets, but they are not. They will kill millions, but that’s a mere side effect.”

    “A false flag operation?” one of the heavily accented ambassadors said.

    “You’ll recall that there has been some… difficulty integrating different aspects of the global community. Nothing unifies people like an attack by an unseen force. Nothing can get people under one banner faster than an enemy that threatens their safety and security. Since the Global Community is about safety and security, and about letting countries and people keep their traditions and their way of life – in the line of other great empires, such as Persia – we need our own Greeks. We need something to threaten it. No such entity exists, so why not make it up?”

    Nicolai cleared his throat. That damned, pretentious monster. He was making it all up; to unify people against an enemy that didn’t exist. Ray scowled. At least the world was learning.

    ****
    The truck stop was in the middle of the sticks. Since the war had started, however, all traffic had ground to halt. The patrons were gathered around the radio that sat on the counter top, along with the cooks, in their dirty, grease-splattered white shirts – and the wiry and world-wear waitress.

    The closest patron, a young blond boy with a red and white striped shirt, climbed up on the tattered and aged stool – it hadn’t been fixed since it was installed, back in the fifties – and leaned froward.

    The music stopped, and then the voice of a strange replaced it. He cleared his throat.

    “Attention world. You probably don’t know who I am. That’s fine; up until now, I’ve been just like you – a person who goes about their life, living the best they can with what they have. My name is Cameron Williams, and I’m a reporter for the Chicago Southside Sun, a small news paper that doesn’t have a very wide audience. But, being a person like you, I’m here to give you very important information as it is given to me, live, from Global Community One – President Draculescu’s personal plan. None of what you are going to hear is fake, I promise you.”

    ****

    Several people ran over to the car, parked in the street. They had gathered around as it sat in the potholed street of the manufactured home community; the bright red Cadillac, and its owner, sat in the middle of the street, surrounded by neighbors.

    “We need something to threaten it,” President Draculescu said, his voice flowing like smooth poison from the speakers. “No such entity exists, so why not make up our own? Surely, you understand how important it is that we be united. It may cost a few thousand people. A few million people. But their lives are currency – well spent, to purchase an illusion of security no national debt can buy.”

    The owner of the car removed his glasses, looking over at his neighbors in horrified surprise.

    ****

    “This is just the beginning, mind you. Toronto, Mexico City, Chicago, San Francisco, Tokyo and other key cities are in the cross hairs. They will all become the currency that we need in order to pay the high charity for security.”

    The streets of Beijing were an unorganized disaster. The fact that their government had sold them out surprised nobody, but it was almost an unspoken certainty that Beijing was a large enough target to get on the list. It was absolute chaos as people raced to escape the city; the police and others helping control the flow of the disorganized mob, attempting to flee.

    Else where in the world, the thousands of guns that had been left setting around would find new use. A radio in a Moscow basement played Draculescu’s impromptu speech to a team of former KGB specialists, who had been turned down from the Global Government based on their associations with the Russian Mafiya. Those associations were now going to come paying back in full, especially as they loaded up their assault rifles. Now that the world could see what the leader of the Global Community was like – now that this truth had been laid bare before them – there was little else to do now but set aside the “I told you sos” (after all living under a dictator and working for one, you began to recognize what to look for) and pick up the guns to fight back.

    All over the globe, the community had been revealed for the fraud it was. The truth, it seemed, had finally gotten hold.

    ****

    Back at the truck stop, the little boy leaned froward, getting through the thick wall of truckers and other patrons.

    “This is our goal,” Nicolai said. “This is our new purpose. Just as the purpose for everyone listening now is to forget all that you heard. You should be waiting for my proper speech, after all. No eavesdropping; no,” he chuckled, “this is not the speech you’re waiting for.”

    The little boy watched as the audience zoned out. He reached over and shook one, but didn’t get a response.

    He looked back at the radio, as Nicolai continued talking. “No, those of you
    listening right now will go back to what you were doing – waiting
    anxiously for more news from the war, new information about the great
    enemy that the Global Community faces. You will not only forget
    everything you just heard, you will no believe anyone telling you
    otherwise.”

    They snapped out of the daze, and the trucker looked down at him.

    “What?” the trucker asked.

    “Hey! Did you hear the speech the guy just gave? He’s going to blow up cities!”

    “What are you talking about?” Another patron asked. “Who let that kid in here, anyway?”

    “But.. but… he did!”

    ****

    Ray shot up. What? What the hell?

    No. That couldn’t happen.

    Ray felt his blood freeze.

    “Captain Steel,” Nicolai said. “I have an … inquiry about the status of our flight. Could you meet us back here, please?”

    —————————————————–

    * Draculescu probably isn’t an actual Romanian last name. I remember the rules for them, but I couldn’t find any instance of Dracul as a first or last name, and it seems to be a title more than anything. However, since Jenkins decided he wanted to try and channel the infamous Dictator from Romanian, I decided to one up him. Not that it was very hard, mind you.

  • Makabit

    So, does anyone else suspect the explicit mention of San Francisco and LA as targets in this section is a bit of payback from L&J? I mean, think of it, when it comes to anti-christian evil and natural centers of support for the antichrist, Coastal California comes to mind immediately. Right? Right?
    But they couldn’t resist nuking Baghdad by the Bay could they?

    Oh, as a San Franciscan, I have no doubt. Even Bill O’Reilly couldn’t resist the fantasy of terrorists taking us out. The fantasy seems to be partly revenge for our decadent existence, partly some belief that we’re all starry-eyed peaceniks who will be horrifyingly, satisfyingly shocked that we weren’t spared by the evil in the world because we’re so nice.

    News for Ellenjay: the Bay Area is a major West Coast shipping center, we have two major power generating centers, the Livermore Labs, and even though we’re not longer a major military base, no one can resist the idea of taking out the Golden Gate Bridge. We KNOW we’re on the list. Nor do we think that al-Quaeda will leave us alone because they like gay progressives. We’re decadent, not STUPID.

    Still, the best GG Bridge moment ever in film was the X-Men movie where Magneto ripped it up with his mind. In contract, Nicky and his 100-megaton bombs…BORE-ING.

  • Nicolae Carpathia

    Are you kidding? Where am I ever going to find an enemy as useful to my evil purposes as Rayford Steele? I picked him as my chauffeur for a reason, you know.

  • Nicolae Carpathia

    (sorry I’m late, everyone, I was at a convention all weekend)

  • hidden_urchin

    Let me guess.

    The Evil Overlords Symposium that is held in Las Vegas every six hundred and sixty-six days?

  • James Schumacher

    It’s amazing how well Jenkins can write a perfect set-up and then completely fail to deliver.

    Normal Author: “And then the Hero fired chekovs gun, hitting the start of the rube-goldberg machine, which launched the sword high into the air and stabbed the villian through the heart in his moment of triumph, and his body bumped against the cancel-nuclear-strike button on the way down, saving the day.”

    Jenkins: “And then Rayford put chekovs gun on his desk and got out his phone to call Buck, while the rube-goldberg machine sat in the corner with it’s sword pointed directly at the the villian, who enjoyed his moment of triumph as the nuclear bombs blew up all the worlds cities.”

  • aunursa

    I didn’t suggest that you should kill Brave Sir Rayford on a whim.  I suggested that you should kill his wife on a whim.

    That reminds me: Why is Rayford filled with venemous hatred for you … when it turns out that God is the one responsible for murdering his second wife, and for separating him from his first wife?

  • PJ Evans

    the best GG Bridge moment ever in film
    I though it was running a Klingon ship (carrying whales) under it during a major storm.

  • Var Dev Null

    There’s something else Captain Steele could do: crash down the plane. Of course, that would be a complete selfless act that would require faith in that God doesn’t want the Antichrist to win…

  • Ouri Maler

    You know, I was used to the sociopathy of these protagonists, but it still manages to astonish me here.

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

    Transference?

    Carpathia is easy to hate because Rayford knows that, in the end, Carpathia will be defeated. Hating Jesus actually has risks; Jesus is all-powerful and omniscient, and he will rule the universe for eternity.  Ray’s just playing it safe.

  • aunursa

    Oh, I see.

    Yes, Anthony tried to fix the air. You remember that, Amy, don’t you? The choking? And all the people who were outside? Anthony is such a good, caring, helpful child, who might be listening, and that is why everything is just fine, just the way it is.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    The optimist believes this is the best of all possible worlds.
    The pessimist fears the optimist is correct.

  • lowtechcyclist

    The other thing Rayford Steele can do, besides broadcasting Carpathia’s secret meeting to the entire world, is point the plane’s nose straight down and get it in a wicked spin to boot, drilling that plane right into the ground and killing everyone on board, including Carpathia.

    He’s had similar chances to knock Carpathia off before, during the time he’s known he was ferrying the Antichrist around the world.

    Sure, Carpathia could control Steele’s mind once he realized what was going on, but (a) it’s quite possible for a pilot to put a plane in a spin he can’t bring it out of, and mind control doesn’t allow you to make your puppet do the impossible, and (b) I’ll bet mind control is hard to exercise when the plane you’re flying in is throwing you every which way, even if you’re the Antichrist.

  • http://twitter.com/MuseofIre MuseofIre

    The YA series “Undertakers,” by (my friend) Ty Drago, also features zombies rampaging through Philadelphia. I’m too wussy to read it, however, so I can’t tell you whether the Liberty Bell gets destroyed. My money would be on yes.

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

    One of the creepiest of those “Right Behind” vignettes I remember reading involved Rayford doing that very thing. He crashed the plane, everyone on board — including Carpathia and Rayford — was killed in the fiery crash. Then, to his horror, he feels his shattered bones healing, his burned flesh knitting itself back together, fresh and new. It was pretty freaky, and a fairly logical response from God to such a crude attempt at subverting his prophesies.

    Death would be no real barrier to a God capable of controlling life and death and reality, right?

  • Nicolae Carpathia

    An anime and gaming convention, actually… which is close enough, so, yeah.

  • ZashikiWarashi

    Huh. I was at a convention all weekend too, but for anime, fantasy and sci-fi.

    Anyways, I was looking at the list for the different districts on the Left Behind wiki, and they’re listed as such-

    United North American States

    United South American States

    United Great Britain States

    United European States

    United African States

    United Pacific States

    United Asian States

    United Indian States

    United Russian States

    United Holy Land (Carpathian) States

    Can you tell that the authors are American? Have they not made it obvious enough? And I’m sure a name change like this would just thrill Russia…

  • Ima Pseudonym

    I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what would happen.  

    Why did a couple of billion people disappear, directly or indirectly causing the horrific death of many millions more?  Because that’s what TortureGod said would happen.  Because that’s what It said It would do, and It always does what It says.  But why did It say that?  Because that’s what It wanted.  It needs no other reason than that.  It needs no further justification, and it feels no urge to explain Itself and Its whims to insects. It can do anything It wants, but this is the way It decided on, so this is how It murders the world and then recreates the playset in Its image.  It can do anything It wants, and It will.  Those people who died during the Rapture will be tortured for all eternity, burning and screaming while being forced to proclaim It as their lord every last second for the rest of forever with It in their heads just soaking up their misery like a sponge, because that’s what It likes to do people who displease It.  It needs no other justification than that.  That’s going to happen to billions, all the ones who died throughout history without saying the magic spell that would have bound them to Its will.   That’s going to happen to most of the people who survived Rapture Day, because that’s what It said would happen to everyone who didn’t bind themselves to It.  Nicolae Carpathia is no more a servant of Satan than Satan is His own agent–both of them are toys It created for Its amusement to wile away eternity with.  It gave Nick Grand Teton’s creators the idea and the impetus, and if they hadn’t created him It would have found some other way.  It’s everywhere, since it has an infinite attention span, and everything that happens does so because that’s the way It wanted.  And after It comes back in Its TurboJesus avatar, It’s going to be in everyone’s head, watching and listening to every last thought, word and deed, while It sits in Its throne and warps the world in ways It finds amusing.  Some of Its favorite toys will get to come back to the physical world with their minds freshly scrubbed of everything It finds offensive and reshaped into perfect extensions of Its will as a reward, if they were really good.

    I’m sure It picked Rayford and his merry band of tools very carefully.  They’re so self-absorbed and fundamentally cowardly that it never seems to occur to them that they can do anything to thwart the process (other than the occasional “If Only I…” fantasy).  Or maybe it’s even more basic than that–maybe they MIGHT have been able to rebel before they said the magic words that let Murdergod in, but afterwards, It’s carefully rubbed away any trace of them that might have been able to offer resistance even to that extent.  As Fred has pointed out on many occasions, the Tribbles seem to have suddenly become part of the subculture without any real tutoring right from the beginning, so maybe It started erasing and replacing parts of them from the start.  That does seem to explain where the Meta-characters went–they’ve been overwritten.

    So, no, I think even if Rayford somehow managed to summon the strength of will to do what you suggested and try to slam the plane into an alp somewhere, it wouldn’t make any difference.  TortureGod would simply resurrect them all and make it Not Happen, and probably punish Rayford for trying it–right before It wiped away any lingering last trace of personality capable of doing anything other than salivating over the shiny new toys and the status it gets by being Carpathia’s personal pilot.  More likely, he wouldn’t even get THAT far–something would happen to prevent him from doing it, and if he persisted in trying, he’d be removed (most likely in a very lethal way) and replaced with someone more malleable.  It all makes sense if you assume that Ellenjay’s God is a Lovecraftian elder horror. 

    tl;dr:  TurboJesus is a reality warper. 

  • http://inquisitiveravn.livejournal.com/ Inquisitive Raven

    Way back when this blog was on Typepad, a commenter linked to a Marvel comics fanfic called “Polarity,” about the response of a minor supervillain to a zombie apocalypse. The author of that fic is now working on a sequel. He does not not forget about Philadelphia…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    As a Canadian, I kind of dislike how we’re just sort of ignored when it comes to US authors or TV show writers discussing nuclear attacks. Hello? We’ll suffer, too, and likely worse, because we’ll get colder winters!

    Hey man, you got Montreal and Toronto. The friggin entire eastern hemisphere (and going another way, the entire southern hemisphere) is routinely ignored or handwaved as “and some other places that no one cares about”. Asia alone has more than half the world’s population, but hitting any Asian cities would require assuming that your readers can name more than Tokyo and Beijing.

    This really is pretty much a North Atlantic war.

  • Tomas

    Re: Philadelphia in apocalyptic fiction.

    Frank Miller features Philadelphia in his Give Me Liberty series of stories.  At one point, the U.S. is being torn apart by civil war and a super soldier goes awol in order to single handedly save the Liberty Bell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/macrophotographer Kurt Story

    “Do you gentlemen understand the significance of a one-hundred-megaton bomb?”
    Yeah–it’s comical bad-guy ‘secret weapon’ fodder. There’s a reason nuclear powers don’t build huge, single warheads like Tsar Bomba–and what might that be, Mr. Antichrist?


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