NRA: The night Chicago died

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 66

When we last left Buck Williams, he was standing in the parking lot of his newsmagazine’s office, watching the bombs fall on Chicago.

I’m not clear exactly where this office is, but it seems to be in the suburbs somewhere — near enough to Chicago that their power goes out when the bombing begins, but far enough away that Buck and his co-workers feel comfortable “climbing atop their own cars to watch a huge aerial attack on the city.”

So the GCW staff don’t seem to think they’re in immediate danger, but they still have great seats to take in the spectacle of World War III.

Witnessing that aerial attack, Buck says exactly what you’d expect him to:

“Who’s got a cell phone I can borrow?” Buck shouted over the din in the parking lot. …

A woman next to him thrust one into his hands, and he was shocked to realize she was Verna Zee. “I need to make some long-distance calls,” he said quickly. “Can I skip all the codes and just pay you back?”

“Don’t worry about it, Cameron. Our little feud just got insignificant.”

Verna is right. Personal conflicts mean nothing now. Her lawsuit regarding Buck’s workplace intimidation and violence can wait. Chicago is under attack. The newsroom has been cut off without electricity. Only one thing matters now for journalists like Buck Williams and Verna Zee: How can we file this story?

“Maybe you got lucky.”

Journalists, you have to understand, are first responders. And like all first responders, they have a duty and an instinct to run toward calamity. Police rush to restore order. Firefighters rush to rescue those in danger. EMTs rush to attend to the injured. And journalists rush to bear witness so that the public can know what is happening.

As it turns out, Buck and Verna are not really journalists. It never occurs to either of them that they need to be reporting any of this.

Nor does such a thought flicker for even a second across the minds of any of the other GCW staff there in the parking lot. None of them looks to Buck or to Verna — their bosses — for marching orders or assignments. None of the photographers even bothers to snap pictures of the view from there in the parking lot. After pausing for a moment to take in the sight of the third-biggest story any of them has ever witnessed, they all just wander off to their cars and head home.

The power’s out, after all, so the work-day must be over.

Buck never says a word to suggest that they might do otherwise. He doesn’t ask for volunteers to head into the city. He doesn’t set anyone to work to find an Internet connection or a backup power supply to let them begin reporting or broadcasting or printing. He never gives another thought to this job, just as he never gave another thought to any of his former colleagues in New York when that city was destroyed.*

“I need to borrow a car!” Buck shouted. But it quickly became clear that everyone was heading to their own places to check on loved ones and assess the damage. “How about a ride to Mt. Prospect?”

That paragraph is something of a break-through for Buck and for the authors, so let’s take a moment to celebrate this landmark moment in the series.

Something just happened that hasn’t happened before in these books. Buck doesn’t quite seem to realize it himself, but he’s just had an epiphany.

Once again, calamity has struck and once again Buck Williams is desperate to get home, to check on his loved ones and to assess the damage. But here, for the first time, Buck looks around and sees the other people around him. He suddenly realizes what he had never realized before — that calamity has struck them too and that, just like him, they also are desperate to get home, to check on their loved ones, and to assess the damage to their lives.

That didn’t occur to Buck early in the first book when the Event turned the world upside down. He raced across the rubble-strewn tarmac of O’Hare, viewing all the dazed and injured people around him as nothing more than obstacles in his path. Nor did it occur to him earlier in this book when O’Hare was destroyed and all the other cars rattled by the blast and fleeing along with him seemed to him as nothing more than traffic — more obstacles and not people just like him, trying just as he was to escape the destruction.

Yes, it’s a bit disappointing that this epiphany strikes Buck here only because he realizes that his urgent needs are not their priorities. He only sees their corresponding needs due to the inconvenience it entails for him.

But still, it’s progress.

“I’ll take you,” Verna muttered. “I don’t even want to see what’s happening in the other direction.”

“You live in the city, don’t you?” Buck said.

“I did until about five minutes ago,” Verna said.

“Maybe you got lucky.”

“Cameron, if that big blast was nuclear, none of us will last the week.”

Just like earlier, with the bombing of New York City and the airport, it seems the attack on downtown Chicago is employing perhaps-nuclear technology. At least with nuclear war you know where you stand, but the uncertainty that follows a perhaps-nuclear assault can be agonizing.

“I might know a place you can stay in Mt. Prospect,” Buck said.

“I’d be grateful,” she said.

Yep, Verna Zee is joining the gang, sort of. Her sudden transformation from cartoon workplace villain to sidekick might seem to strain plausibility, but then nothing about Jerry Jenkins’ portrayal of Verna so far has been at all plausible, so that’s not really a concern.

The important thing, though, is that readers don’t miss the lesson from this scene: Cities are dangerous places full of violence and lesbians. Stay in the suburbs and stay safe.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* Three months from now, salvage workers in the ruins of Manhattan will find the body of Stanton Bailey. The former publisher of Global Weekly was fired when Nicolae Carpathia took over the magazine, renaming it Global Community Weekly and putting Buck Williams in charge of it as his puppet.

Bailey had certainly been rich enough to retire, but he was a newsman at heart and he couldn’t just sit by while the new global leader made every news outlet an official mouthpiece for the new global government. He’d funneled his retirement savings into an underground alternative newspaper. That is where he’d been, at the offices of that little outlaw rag, when the attack on New York City had begun.

His body was found near that of a photography intern, an off-duty firefighter, and the old woman the firefighter had rescued from a crumbling building after the first wave of bombing. All four were killed when the bombers returned and destroyed the entire block. On the dead intern’s camera, the salvage crew found pictures of the firefighter carrying the woman to the street.

The firefighter’s name was Richard Czerwinski. The woman’s name was Sondra Jefferson. Neither of them had any ID on them when their bodies were found, but their names had been written — with proper spelling carefully recorded — in a notebook found in Stanton Bailey’s left hand.

Buck Williams had been warned about the coming attacks on New York City, and he could have warned his old boss to get out of there before the bombing started. The authors don’t tell us why Buck never warned his friend, but I think I know. Stanton Bailey wasn’t Buck’s kind of journalist. He couldn’t be trusted with secrets the way Buck could be. If Buck had told Bailey what President Fitzhugh had told him, then you just know Bailey would have leaked that to the public.

  • Ken

     I like that Mac explicitly contrasts Jesus’ behavior with what he would have done. Do RTC churches use “and live according to the example of Christ” in their liturgies?

    At a meta-level, it lets L&J indulge in that same behavior while (sort of) condemning it, and is a shout-out to the readers who would do it as well. Characters, authors, readers, all with but a single thought, sweet sweet revenge.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    David Hassid (gaaaahhhh haaaaaaaate!) has a sweet, intelligent, hard-working and very loyal secretary.  When David first meets Chang Wong, Chang sneers that she isn’t saved (she doesn’t have the mark of the believer on her forehead).  David responds that he’s “working on that.”  Except…we never see him working on it, and he abandons her when the Mark of the Beast is to be applied. 

    This is horrible of him for two big reasons: 1) she thinks he is dead, and she truly cared about him and 2) he has left her to get the Mark, as all GC employees must, and thereby be condemned to Hell, no tagbacks.

    Of course, Buck and Chaim and Alby all do the same thing (abandon the undecided to Hell, and on a much larger scale), but there’s something about the personal betrayal by David that just gets to me.

  • aunursa

    She actually dies before that from an alcoholism-related liver issue

    Alas, Verna is alive and appears well minutes before the earthquake.

  • aunursa

    Chang: I don’t miss anything, like the fact that she’s not a believer.
    Brave Sir David: I’m trying to figure out a way to work on that.
    Chang: You can’t let her in on where you stand for fear she’ll turn you in.
    Brave Sir David: Of course.From The Mark

    Looking ahead to Book #17, Eternal Destinations

    Tiffany:  [screaming in agony and wishing that someone had warned her to accept Jesus rather than the Mark of the Beast]

    David: Praise the Lord! I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Thanks to a dear friend who led me to Jesus.  Hallelujah!  Let’s all sing another song to praise our Lord!

  • Münchner Kindl

    Sorry about misunderstanding your nick, aunursa.

     

    David lay in bed with his laptop.

    Porn!

    Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes

    ugh. That hurts.

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

    And then on top of that he browbeats Chang, too. Hayseed is an ass to everyone. (-_-)

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

    As RubyTea and I have elucidated, there is something particularly rude and obnoxious about Hayseed’s behavior around people. He goes to considerable lengths to passive-aggressively let every unsaved person around him know he regards them with amusement and contempt even as he claims, in his mind, or to other saved people, that he’s going to try and be nice and try to ‘bring them to Christ’.

    Incidentally, his behavior seems very reminiscent of the BOFH, the caricatured system administrator who treats his job as a joke and the users he is nominally required to serve, as mindless morons.

    Did LaHaye or Jenkins meet a Christian sysadmin in the 1990s who all but literally crapped over anyone who came for tech support?

    Even Rayford and Buck seem less… hard-edged sometimes about their passive-aggressive contempt for others.

  • LouisDoench

     Are you sure? Perhaps you were only “nearly-vaporized”

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Good point: David is one of the most passive-aggressive characters in the series.  Much more so than (for example) Rayford, who has no qualms about being a dick to someone’s face.

    The real irony is that I have always assumed from the tone of the books that Jenkins really likes David, and really wants the readers to like him, too.  I think David is the hip, witty*, young tech-whiz that Jenkins wishes he could have been.

    (Please don’t get me wrong–I don’t think David is hip or witty.  I just think Jenkins thinks he is.)

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

     My Biblical knowledge isn’t real thorough, but offhand I can’t think
    of a single instance when God directly provided the faithful with
    blackmail material.

    Now I’m getting a mental image of an angel in a trenchcoat and sunglasses “accidentally” bumping into a believer on a crowded street in order to discreetly pass him a folder full of incriminating photos.

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

    Buck’s outing of Verna was inadvertent on Buck’s part but advertent on God’s part.  Which just goes to show that Left Behind God is a bigger asshole than Buck Williams.

    Now the subsequent blackmail, that was totally a Buck and God team up.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YFSNWTUMXUCUSUNFTORWBNJHHQ Jared

    True but aside from RTC’s, how many of the people that live in this world, (I’m starting to picture LaHaye & Jenkins as some kids with a copy of Sim City and a couple afternoons to kill) think the world is going to end instead of just going through bad times?

    The image of the people that inhabit this world as the virtual people of the Sim City world suddenly makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen population booms coincide with giant disasters. Nothing says “real estate boom” like Bowser walking through town

  • VMink

    There is anecdotal evidence based on Jenkins’ solo work ‘Soon,’ that Tim LeHaye actually was a moderating influence on Jenkins.

    Chew on that for a few moments.  Study the flavor of it.

    Tim LeHaye, Biblical fanfic writer, Bircher, and theological elitist and exclusionist, made these books more tolerable than if Jenkins had written them himself.

    (Seriously, Soon is a thousand flavors of D8 and will make you weep for humanity. Herb “Call me Cameron “Call me Buck” Williams” Katz is absolutely cuddly, and Rayford “Fully Loaded” Steele is a considerate and loving father, compared to the jackwagons Jenkins populates his world with.)

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Shameless plug:

    I read it so you don’t have to!

    http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/soon-the-story-so-far/

    /shameless plug

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Flash Fiction effort:

    Cameron “Buck” Williams pushed open the doors to the Chicago office, expecting to see a frenzied newsroom trying to report on World War 3. Instead, it was oddly quiet. He could hear sounds from the break-room, and headed over to investigate. The staff of reporters were huddled around a television set on the tabletop. Buck was momentarily stunned before fury replaced shock. He took two strides into the room and kicked the TV onto the floor where it exploded with a loud ‘pop’. He found himself shaking with anger, and shouting.

    “You are REPORTERS! JOURNALISTS! We do not WATCH the news, we REPORT the news! The single biggest news event of the last 18 months is happening less than 10 miles from here, and you’re watching TV?!?”

    The staff, some who had been crying, stared silently at him, none moving.

    “GET OUT! Get to your desks, grab your stuff, and either get to WORK or GET OFF THE PAYROLL!” Buck stormed out of the room, not waiting for a reaction. He stomped towards the office of Verna Zee.

    What the heck happened to Verna, Cameron wondered. When the Event happened, she had taken over running the office. Not officially, but because of her, the weekly got published on-time, and that kept the advertisers happy. After the acquisitions and mergers that pushed Buck into the publisher’s seat, he wanted to fire her and put his own impression on the magazine, but between the church groups, finding time for Chloe, and being at Carpathia’s beck-and-call, he simply didn’t have the time. The truth was that he had come to depend on Verna for getting the magazine published. Which, as he approached her closed office door he realized, was a pretty bad deal for her, since she never got a proper promotion or pay raise. He took a deep, calming breath, and opened the door. 

    Verna looked up at him in shock, an instant later hanging up the phone and turning off her computer monitor. Her eyes were red-rimmed and Cameron spotted wadded-up tissues on the desk. He was confused, but still fairly angry; dereliction of duty was a serious thing.

    “I just came in to find our staff watching TV. Not calling sources or getting information or working on leads, but watching TV. This used to be a  leading source of top-notch journalism, home to up-and-comers and go-getters who would be halfway to O’Hare by now. What happened?

    Verna gave him a confused, searching stare. Cameron said nothing, waiting for her answer. They locked eyes for a good ten heartbeats before she spoke.

    “What happened? What happened?! Eighteen months ago, this office was absorbed into the media arm of the Global Community. We were given clear directives passed down from Nicolae Carpathia, through your office, on what we were to report on, and how it was to be reported. Maybe you were too busy playing personal secretary to the Mountain Man to notice, but the last sixty-four issues we’ve published have been nothing but fluff and fancy for the new world leaders. Or maybe you just think that’s what journalism is: access to the powerful people and dictation for dictators!”

    “Me personally? I think it’s something more than that. So do a lot of the other folks in this office. So we decided to write the trash your boss asked, but also to report the truth, and use GC’s expense accounts to do it. We worked with other serious journalists to build a network up and down the coast for reporting and publishing underground newspapers that tell the truth.”

    Cameron said nothing; Verna was taking a big risk, telling him all of this if there had been memos with his name on them about how to report. Cameron realized that he didn’t know what had been said in his name through “official channels”, and shame made him bow his head. Verna kept on.

    “We had contact with some of the militias, but we couldn’t get very high. If we had even one high-level contact who might have warned us about the attacks, our people could have been moved to safety. We were getting ready for another print run; most of our people were at the airports, loading and unloading palates. When the government bombs where your subversive reporting network is, and then uses it’s state-run media to announce that it’s bombed the location where your subversive reporting network just happened to be without mentioning them, it’s not hard to get the message.”

    “Everyone that kept working in this office over the last year and a half was part of the cause. We all had friends at O’Hare helping us move contraband. And we’re all smart enough to get the message Carpathia sent today. So what happened? Today we found out just how clever we aren’t, how well hidden we weren’t, and how safe we aren’t. Now I have to figure out what comes next, because what came before is definitely over.”

    Before Cameron could speak, distant rumblings sounded, and the power went out. Verna was right: what came before was definitely over.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Just wanted to say that was excellently written! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Now I’m imagining J. Jonah Jameson or Perry White taking over Buck’s place in these novels.  That would be a change!

    (Would that make Rayford either Spider-Man or Superman, then?)

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

    Rayford Steele in no way is fit to breathe the same air as Spider-Man or Superman. :P

  • Sleepin0809

    Steve shows up somewhere down the line. SPOILER ALERT

    He’s horribly scarred, stuck in a wheel chair and missing 1/2 his face and has adopted a new identity. The trib force find him right as the ‘mark of the beast’ is being applied to all GC employees. Steve of course has become a believer and has his head chopped off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Oppen/594893122 Eric Oppen

    I was reading above about how the book of Revelations is a veiled slam at the Roman Empire, and thinking about how the Emperor Nero would have responded to the destruction of Chicago:

    “You FOOLS!” screamed Nero.  He yanked the laurel wreath from his hair and threw it on the floor, stamping on it in fury.  “You’ve just seen a city destroyed, and all you can think of is watching these ‘television’ devices?”  His face went nearly as purple as the stripe on his toga.  “Get out there and start helping people, or, by Jupiter Optimus-Maximus, I’ll have the lot of you  thrown to the lions!

    When Rome caught fire in his reign, Nero was down in Antium (modern Anzio) if memory serves (at least, he was out of Rome) but he hauled-ass for the city the second he got the word, and started organizing fire-fighting and rescue efforts.  Of course, afterward he did want to build himself a huge self-indulgent palace on the burned-out area, but at least during the fire he was on duty doing the things a Roman Emperor should have been doing.  He may have taken up his lyre at one point and sang something about the destruction of Troy, but, what harm did that do?   Not doing it wouldn’t have made the fire one whit less destructive. 


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