NRA: Stealing from the starving

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 74-89

I do not like Buck Williams. If he were a real person whom I met in real life I would not want to spend time with him. Ditto for Rayford Steele.

The heroes of a story do not have to be likable. I have liked many stories that featured protagonists I did not like. But what sets Buck and Rayford apart from all those other unlikable heroes in otherwise likable stories is that the protagonists here in Left Behind are unintentionally unlikable.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins want us to like Buck and Rayford. They expect us to like them — to admire them, to find them good, funny and fun, clever and charming. And yet Buck and Rayford do not come across as any of those things.

A bunch of government bureaucrats getting in Buck’s way.

Stranger still is that Buck and Rayford are most unlikable due to the very things the authors most expect will make us like them. That’s particularly clear in the pages we’re revisiting today. Jenkins seems to be working hard here to show us Buck Williams: Cool Guy. But what we find instead is Buck Williams: Big Jerk.

The context here is one in which Buck ought to have our sympathy. His wife is missing and in jeopardy and he’s racing to find her. That’s a situation in which I’m inclined to give a character every benefit of the doubt. Buck is facing an emergency, and the context of an emergency can make some otherwise jerk-like behavior seem excusable or even commendable. We can forgive a person in a life-and-death emergency for being rude, impatient or testy — that just shows they’re focused on the proper priority with an appropriate urgency.

But the underlying problem in this chapter — and all throughout this series — is that Buck responds to his own emergency without acknowledging that everyone around him is also facing the very same emergency and the very same stakes.

We can forgive a character who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving children, but we cannot forgive a character who steals that bread from someone else’s starving children.

For six pages, Buck races through traffic and that’s all the other vehicles and motorists are to him, traffic — objects and obstacles in his way. Buck’s aggressive disregard for those people is excused as a necessary expediency because his loved one may be in danger after his city has been destroyed. It does not occur to either Buck or Jenkins that everyone else on the road is in the exact same predicament. The sequence is thus presented as though everyone else were just commuting or running errands while Buck and Buck alone has an urgent need to get somewhere.

This disregard for everyone else becomes even sharper when Buck finally skids to a stop amidst “a busy force of emergency workers.”

Jenkins typed those words: “busy,” “emergency” and “workers.” And yet the meaning of those words do not seem to have registered with him. He presents them, and Buck reacts to them, as just another set of obstacles, just more annoying others getting in Buck’s way.

Jenkins even tells us that the scene includes “squad cars, ambulances, fire trucks” — so this is a crowd of first responders who are “busy” responding when Buck nearly runs them down. Yet Buck and Jenkins regard them as government bureaucrats.

This creates two unnecessary problems, both of which make Buck more difficult to like. First, it means he spends several pages interfering with these emergency workers who have to stop busily helping people in a war zone in order to deal with him. But secondly it also means that it doesn’t occur to Buck to enlist their help.

And this crew would have been very helpful. Buck knows Chloe was in a crash, so she may need the help of firefighters and EMTs. But he doesn’t know where the crash happened — so a police officer with a patrol-car radio linked to other patrol cars in the area seems like just exactly what Chloe needs right now.

Yet Buck doesn’t ask for their help. He doesn’t tell them that he’s trying to find his wife, that she’s been in a crash and may be injured. He doesn’t describe Chloe or her SUV or ask any of these workers if they’ve seen or heard of anything to match that description. All Buck thinks about, instead, is how to get past and away from these bureaucrats, these people in his way.

“I’m Cameron Williams, publisher of Global Community Weekly,” he tells them. “I report directly to the potentate.”

A young, slender cop pulled Buck’s real ID wallet from the hands of the woman officer. “Let me just have a look at this,” he said with sarcasm. “If you really report to Nicolae Carpathia, you’d have level 2-A clearance, and I don’t see — oops, I guess I do see level 2-A security clearance here.”

The three officers huddled to peer at the unusual identification card. “You know, carrying phony 2-A security clearance is punishable by death –”

“Yes, I do.”

The reader has to do most of the work in this series to construct the world of Nicolae Carpathia’s one-world dictatorship. Little scraps of information like this have to be collected carefully throughout these books in order to piece together the picture of life under the Antichrist. This is a significant detail, revealing that Nicolae is running a tyrannical police state of the sort in which impersonating an officer can be grounds for execution.

Informing us of that doesn’t seem to have been the purpose of including this detail here, though. The effect Jenkins is trying for seems to be, instead, to show us that Buck is cool. The police officers are awed by his security clearance, after all, so that must mean he is awesome.

“I borrowed this car from a friend named Zee,” Buck tells the officers. “You can check that for sure before you have it junked.”

“You can’t leave this car here!”

“What am I gonna do with it?” Buck said. “It’s worthless, it’s got a flat tire, and there’s no way we’re gonna find help for that tonight.”

“Or for the next two weeks, most likely,” one of the cops said.

So one of the world’s major cities can be rebuilt after a nuclear attack in about two weeks, but a car with a flat tire is beyond repair.

For all Buck knows, Verna has a spare tire in the trunk, but he decides to set out on foot without even checking. One gets the feeling that he’d have abandoned Verna’s car even if it had just run out of gas — “It’s worthless, the tank is empty!”

That “two weeks” bit highlights the weirdness of this entire scene, none of which seems like it plays out in the context of a nuclear war zone. The cop’s next question to Buck is: “So, where were you goin’ in such an all-fired hurry?” Set aside the oddness of a Chicago police officer talking like someone at an old-timey Wild West show, and just try to imagine anyone asking such a question makes any sense in the immediate aftermath of the obliteration of Chicago by perhaps-nuclear bombs. “What’s your hurry?” just isn’t a question most people would think to ask in a war zone.

Buck tells the officer he has to get to the Drake hotel, and he seems to mean it, even though this is the one place in all of the Chicago region that he knows Chloe can’t be.

“Where have you been, pal? Don’t you listen to the news? Most of Michigan Avenue is toast.”

“Including The Drake?”

“I don’t know about that, but it can’t be in too good a shape by now.”

“If I walk up over that rise and get onto Michigan Avenue on foot, am I gonna die of radiation poisoning?”

“Civil Defense guys tell us there’s no fallout readings. That means this must have been done by the militia, trying to spare as much human life as possible. Anyway, if those bombs had been nuclear, the radiation would have traveled a lot farther than this already.”

“True enough,” Buck said. “Am I free to go?”

Here are more details to try to fit into our picture of the world. Chicago police officers are still armed, so they must really be Global Community forces, since everyone else has been dis-armed by Nicolae’s OWG (except for militia groups, which have their own ultra-modern air force and nuclear arsenal, apparently). Chicago and/or the Global Community also operates something called “Civil Defense,” the function of which is unclear in a one-world government. I am having a hard time making all of these pieces fit together.

I’m also having a hard time figuring out Buck’s plan here. Chloe was just leaving Chicago on a highway when she crashed, so why is Buck headed all the way into downtown Chicago? And why on foot? How are he and Chloe going to get back to Mount Prospect? Or what if Chloe needs to be rushed to a hospital (if any non-nuked hospitals still stand)? Is he just assuming that his beloved Range Rover will still be able to drive?

Buck doesn’t think about any of that as he trudges inexplicably toward the hotel. He’s thinking about Verna. No, he’s not thinking, “It was so nice of Verna to lend me her car and I feel just awful that I won’t be able to return it to her.” He’s thinking, rather, that perhaps he should not have offered to help her in the first place.

It suddenly hit Buck that he had taken a huge risk. It wouldn’t be long before Verna Zee learned that he had, at least at one time, been a full-fledged member of New Hope Village Church. He had been so careful about not taking a leadership role there, not speaking in public, not being known to very many people. Now one of his own employees — and a long-standing enemy at that — would have knowledge that could ruin him, even cost him his life.

Buck’s cautious secrecy about his church is strange when we contrast it with Rayford’s missionary zeal toward his co-workers. Rayford’s outspoken proselytizing shows that Buck’s furtiveness is not necessary — Nicolae doesn’t seem to care that Rayford is a born-again Christian. It also underscores the selfishness of Buck’s attitude. He believes that Verna and Alice and the others will be damned to Hell for eternity unless he warns them not to take the Mark of the Beast, but he’s not willing to warn them if that means risking his “level 2-A clearance” and all the perks that go with it.

Worrying that Verna has learned all his secrets, Buck dials Loretta’s house and asks to speak to Verna.

Loretta said, “I’m just tellin’ her my story, as I assumed you wanted me to.”

Buck was silent. Finally, he said, “Put her on, would you, Loretta?”

This could have been a nice character moment — a chance for some gentle musing on Buck’s reluctance to see Verna converted and to have to then welcome her as a sister. But it’s not presented that way. It’s presented, instead, as an attempt to build suspense … Oh no! What if Verna learns the Jesus secret?!

Once he’s talking to Verna on the phone, Buck briefly behaves decently — offering to replace her car with an upgrade and asking if there’s anything she needs from the old one before he abandons it.

“Is there anything you need out of it?”

“Nothing I can think of. There is a hairbrush I really like in the glove box.”

“Verna!”

“That does seem a little trivial in light of everything.”

“No documents, personal belongings, hidden money, anything like that?”

“No. Just do what you gotta do. It would be nice if I didn’t get in trouble for this.”

“I’ll leave word with the authorities that when they get around to it they can tow this car to any junkyard and trade whatever the yard gives them for it for the towing fee.”

A hair brush isn’t a personal belonging?

Buck’s plan for abandoning the car recalls the earlier scene in which he elaborately arranges to have his rental car returned to the airport — less than an hour after he witnessed the destruction of the airport by a perhaps-nuclear bomb. Once again Buck seems serenely certain that a nuclear assault won’t have any bearing on the routine operation of towing companies or salvage yards.

Before he hangs up, Verna mentions that Loretta has “got some really strange ideas.” Buck pockets the phone, worrying that Loretta will tell Verna all about the Antichrist and the Tribulation Force and Bruce’s charts and all the rest. He thinks to himself:

“Either she becomes a believer, or I’m dead.”

This is why I don’t like Buck Williams. Even when the subject is somebody else’s eternal soul, he still thinks it’s all about him.

  • CE

    *Reads blog post* 
    I’m pretty sure there are anti-heroes that show more compassion than Buck and Rayford do. 

    Mild spoilers

    Snake Plissken showed a sliver of compassion to Maggie and Rorschach apologized once.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’d have voted for Nicky. When I read the series (as a Christian), he was the only one I saw in any favourable light. This was because it was explained to me that Nicky was essentially being controlled the entire time: Nothing he ever did was of his own volition, be it by Satan or god or whatever, and yet he was damned anyway. That angered me and made me feel sorry for him.

  • Twig

     That’s pretty much the least he can do, under the circumstances.

    This is Buck Williams.  It’s never the least he can do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

    My jaundiced observation of “Left Behind” was that is was a sort of ethnic cleansing fantasy, where the glorious, supernatural born-again race is snatched to that very exclusive Pearly Gated community of many mansions (no doubt antebellum style) while the unregenerate inferior race of all things darkness get what uppity inferior sorts deserve…all hell thrown at them for not doing exactly as they were told.

    (Thanks to Kenneth Copeland for the phrase “glorious, supernatural born-again race.” I saw him ecstatically proclaiming it while channel surfing once….and the next time I happened to be channel surfing, I watched him explaining to two Black men, if memory serves, why one shouldn’t take it the way I did. Shame on me…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

    Oh….on the Left Behind website, LaHaye claims that the Maya “no longer exist”…which is no doubt news to my Mayan neighbors and a good many people in Mexico and Central America.
    “Will the [Mayan] calendar expire and the world will end?

    Their calendar has already been called into question, and their race has expired…”

    From: How will the world End?
    A Conversation with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
    leftbehind.com

  • Lunch Meat

    Jenkins typed those words: “busy,” “emergency” and “workers.” And yet the meaning of those words do not seem to have registered with him. He presents them, and Buck reacts to them, as just another set of obstacles, just more annoying others getting in Buck’s way. Jenkins even tells us that the scene includes “squad cars, ambulances, fire trucks” — so this is a crowd of first responders who are “busy” responding when Buck nearly runs them down. Yet Buck and Jenkins regard them as government bureaucrats.

    Did Jenkins even consider what they might be “busy” doing? Does he think that EMTs, firefighters, and police officers hang out talking on their phones, setting up barricades and checking security clearances? I’m imagining Buck watching them pull injured people out of piles of rubble, and impatiently waving them over so he can get through. And then getting irritated that the screams of the wounded are so loud, and at the blood that the emergency workers are getting on his shiny 2-A clearance.

  • Loquat

    Schindler gets a scene, near the end of the film, where he looks at some of his expensive possessions and breaks down in tears, estimating how many more people he might have saved had he sold those trappings of wealth and power.

    You will never see Buck Williams wishing he’d sold his Range Rover or his penthouse so he could afford to get Jesus’s word to a few more people.

  • Shashi Sathiraju

    What really strikes me is just how off Buck is in regards to the whole disaster. We saw the effects of Superstorm Sandy, and that’s nothing compared to the firepower unleashed on Chicago in this book. And yet, somehow, Buck, a news reporter, can somehow out rank the emergency personnel who are working to restore some semblance of normalcy in an utter disaster.

    Astonishing. 

  • rm

    Anyway, if those bombs had been nuclear, the radiation would have traveled a lot farther than this already.

    I guess the radiation is also traveling on foot.

  • Some other guy

    no fallout readings

    Fallout readings?  Shouldn’t it be radiation readings? 

    I know again I am focusing on a simple thing but it is one of those things that makes think I am reading a book and causes you to lose your train of thought.

    I would have written something like
    The DOE boys were here and said the radiation levels are normal, they acted real suprised, they said all their teams are getting the same readings, no higher than typical back ground radiation.

    But then again the authors probably don’t even know that there is normal back ground radiation, research no time to do that and write everyday.

    Fallout is what they remember hearing about back in the fifties.

  • P J Evans

     The Mayan calendar still works fine, too. They just add another cycle to it and keep going.

    Now, Ellanjay may be called into question, because they clearly can’t be bothered to do any research…

  • Ken

    The sequence is thus presented as though everyone else were just
    commuting or running errands while Buck and Buck alone has an urgent
    need to get somewhere.

    Maybe they are just running errands.  These are, after all, people who by-and-large shrugged off the disappearance of all the world’s children within a few weeks.  Compared to that, the non-nuclear destruction of a major city isn’t that big a deal.

    I am reminded of Ted Chiang’s Hell is the Absence of God, set in a world where angels frequently appear. That means people don’t see the manifestations as particularly miraculous, and the general response is a vague annoyance at the property damage – none of it covered by insurance, of course, since it’s an act of God.

    (I would like to apologize for comparing Chiang’s story to LB.  If you’ve read it, you know it says more about faith in twenty pages than L&J manage in twenty books.)

  • Trixie_Belden

    Oh yes, but IIRC in the beginning of the movie, Schindler was pretty much just looking out for Schindler, and he initially sought membership in the Nazi Party because it was considered fashionable and would get him good connections.

  • matrixschmatrix

    There is no ‘least’ that our boy Buck can do. Fred identifies his conversation with Verna as showing a sliver of compassion- but in fact, he is apparently only asking her if there’s anything he can do so as to taunt her more effectively when he fails to do it. It’s actually significantly crueler than not saying anything.

    What’s really remarkable about Buck and Rayford, to me, is that they’re simultaneously as dickish and nasty as a Clint Eastwood character in a Leone movie _and_ unutterably lame. That’s actually kind of an accomplishment- they make for a far more effective negative example than a normal Travis Bickle or Tony Soprano, because there’s an allure to both of those characters, an aura of cool, no matter what horrible shit they do. These guys? Who on earth would want to imitate _them_?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, this makes me think of something.  

    People want to look smart.  At least, a lot of people do.  For some, like Ellanjay, that means speaking authoritatively and doubtlessly on a matter with sincere self-assurance.  That might seem like it makes you look smart, especially to people unfamiliar with what you are speaking on, but the problem is that when the content of what you say is untrue, you end up looking dumber than if you had said nothing in the first place, at least to those who actually know something about the subject on which you speak.  

    That is why you check your facts before giving a response, and that is why you cultivate a sense of honest intellectual humbleness, and admit when something is outside your scope of knowledge.  Being ignorant of something does not make you dumb, particularly if you can take steps to rectify that ignorance.  But pretending you know something you do not will make you look like a fool, particularly when you feel the need to save face by never backing down from an unsupportable position.  

  • Makabit

    Oh….on the Left Behind website, LaHaye claims that the Maya “no longer exist”…which is no doubt news to my Mayan neighbors and a good many people in Mexico and Central America. 

    Huh? Maya are all over the place. I had a kid in my class whose family spoke Maya at home, a couple of years ago.

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

    I guess it comes from all the “Mayan Empire no longer exists” stuff that floats around, and so folks think the Maya went extinct instead of becoming the local population instead.

  • Turcano

    Quite a few internet commentators (most notably Spoony) have pointed out that, in the movies, Bella is the true monster in a franchise centered around vampires and werewolves.  Apparently that portrayal was faithful to the original novels.

  • rikalous

    @CE: Rorshach was many terrible things, but stick him in a room with the Antichrist and Nicky wouldn’t live long enough to finish offering him a job. Heck, he’d probably go after God for kidnapping all those kids.

    They probably do in Japanese.

    Staring is jiiiii~, I know that much. 

  • Catherine A.

    That is so good!  I hadn’t thought about Atlas Shrugged and the Left Behind rigamarole  as having a similar contexts but they have.  Nicolae is reminding me more and more of The Brain in Pinky and the Brain.  Rayford and Buck are both being Pinky.

  • Aiwhelan

     In all fairness, you’d feel like a petty jerk saying “Can you go back to the car for my hairbrush before you rescue your wife?”

  • roisindubh211

     It’s all the more frustrating then that they’re so fixated on nuclear bombs, when they have someone’s real experiences in war to draw upon. Much better opportunity to “write what [they] know” than all the “sitting-in-traffic” and “phone tag” experience they’ve been so happy to draw upon…

  • Aiwhelan

     that would be a fantastic twist

  • Bificommander

    I like how Buck has no problem bragging about being the Anti Christ’s lackey. His real thought at the end of this post was probably “Either she becomes a believer, or I’m gonna lose my ability to tell policemen to take a hike because I’m so important.”

    Okay, so the official story that the policemen believe is that the militia sorta-nuked Chicago. Wasn’t Nicky’s official point of these bombings to make it clear that no one could oppose him? And yet he presents it to the public as a case where an extremely powerful militia is destroying cities left and right and he’s nearly powerless to stop them. In a real dictatorship, this moment of monumental failure would be the moment for at least some of the 10 ambassadors to prepare to backstab Nicky and replace him.

  • Bificommander

    I like how Buck has no problem bragging about being the Anti Christ’s lackey. His real thought at the end of this post was probably “Either she becomes a believer, or I’m gonna lose my ability to tell policemen to take a hike because I’m so important.”

    Okay, so the official story that the policemen believe is that the militia sorta-nuked Chicago. Wasn’t Nicky’s official point of these bombings to make it clear that no one could oppose him? And yet he presents it to the public as a case where an extremely powerful militia is destroying cities left and right and he’s nearly powerless to stop them. In a real dictatorship, this moment of monumental failure would be the moment for at least some of the 10 ambassadors to prepare to backstab Nicky and replace him.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     It would probably start out with polite chuckles and attempts to explain their side of things (“Yes, the militias weren’t actually using atomic weapons because they were interested in preserving innocent lives.”) and polite dodges.  They would become more and more irritated as time wore on as more posts are read, punching further holes in their explanations.  It would likely end in explosions and threats of legal action, or the authors angrily storming out of the room.  Pass the popcorn?

  • Carstonio

    I’ve read the claim that they abandoned their civilization, possibly due to environmental calamity. Droughts have destroyed many cities in human history. I would like to think that Mayans would have eventually gotten ahead of the Arabs and Europeans and Chinese in science and intellectualism.

  • veejayem

    “We can forgive a character who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving children …” unless of course you’re the kind of LB-fan or Romney-voter who believes that it is irresponsible of the poor to actually have children in the first place.

    I love to read, love books and my bookcases are crowded out. But I think I could find room for “The Heroism and Compassion of Buck Williams”. After all, it would be a very slim volume.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    This helps to halfway gel a concept I’ve had going in my head since the whole thing started.  It probably doesn’t match what’s going to happen in the rest of the series, and I’m not even sure it matches what’s happened so far, but here goes:

    The Kingdom described at the end?  It isn’t Jesus’ kingdom.  It’s Hell.  Buck and Rayford are actually in Hell.  They actually died early on somewhere, maybe even in the first book.  The events in the novels mostly consist of their “purgatory,” the place where they’re essentially given a final series of choices and tests to see if they’re worth  saving, or worthy of eternal damnation.  They blow them horribly, because in nearly every situation where they could exercise compassion, save lives or at least ease the suffering they see around them, they go on being self-righteous, sociopathic dickbags. By the time the series ends, they’ve firmly cemented their status as “damned.”  Everyone else who WASN’T a hateful douche has gone on to something better and brighter,  and these people have literally been left behind. 

    Hell is a very private, intensely personal place for each damned soul, with each person’s punishment and surroundings based largely on the personal fantasies of the people consigned there. Rayford and Buck may be essentially sharing a cell, perhaps because of their association and collusion during their own purgagory.  They’re only partially aware at any given time how awful their sterile, hateful new “world” is, perhaps only experiencing vague feelings of wrongness that only rarely erupt into full-blown horror. Each time it is, it’s erased so that they can experience it again, more fully next time.  Or perhaps it’s not even that–they have an eternity to experience Hell, so perhaps it will spin out the horror more slowly over a period of millenia of subjective time.  They have all the time in the world, after all.  No one else is experiencing their misery with them, and everyone else they see and interact with is no more than an elaborate simulation created for their benefit, based on the warped and monstrous theology they adopted for themselves. 

    If I were a better writer, I think that I could spin something out of this.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Yes, he did. He also bribed the officials, and both in the movie and the book there’s a scene at the end, where he breaks down realizing that if he had sold a bit more “unneccessary but nice and shiny personal belongings” he might have bribed an official for one or five or ten more lives. (I think it was the golden Party emblem or some decoration on his car). After saving over 1 000 lives, Schindler felt bad for not saving more.

    But then, he was not an RTC. He never repented of his personal faults of womanizing and liking the comforts of having money, and he probably didn’t say the sinners pray, he just went ahead and helped people while remaining a human person with faults.

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

    More Skewed Slightly to the Left, following directly from last time:

    “Fuckshit!”

    It wasn’t the flurry of emergency workers that caused Jane to cry out, nor was it the fact that they were filling the street, blocking her path, forcing her to bring the motorcycle to another screeching halt.

    It was that they included police.

    One of them approached the motorcycle.  She said, “What are you doing on the streets?”

    “His wife is missing,” Jane said, gesturing to Cameron, who was doing his best to be invisible, “Last anyone heard she was in the open.”

    The officer nodded, “Same as everyone else, try not to get-” she saw Cameron’s face.  “Aren’t you Buck Williams?”

    Cameron though of a lot of things he could say, but in the end it all boiled down to one simple truth: he wasn’t a good liar.  “Yes,” he admitted.

    “We have orders to arrest you.”

    Cameron was surprised, “They want me alive?”

    “Those orders came from the ones who dropped the bomb,” Jane said.

    “That’s not lost on us.  Good luck.”

    “To you as well,” Cameron said.

    “Cameron, notebook,” Jane said.  Cameron pulled the small notebook from his pocket and gave it to Jane.  She found an empty page and quickly wrote a number on it, then tore out the page and handed it to the police officer, “If you can find a working landline there’s non-governmental relief efforts being run from here.  If you could coordinate with them maybe together you can save more lives.”

    The officer took the page.  “Thanks.”

    “If anything official comes of me giving you that number I will personally hunt you down and kill you myself,” Jane told the officer.

    “Understood,” she said.  Then she waved them on, “Try not to get in anyone’s way.”

    “Will do,” Jane said.

    It was easier said than done.  Fire and ambulance workers were rushing to and from various buildings, in some places EMTs were just treating people on the pavement.

    Jane was able to navigate the ever changing crowd, and soon they were back to mostly abandoned streets and up to speed.  She considered shouting, “Carpathia is the Antichrist,” as they drove away, but decided it wasn’t the time.

    Cameron just hung on to Jane, afraid of falling off the bike.

    Eventually they reached their destination.  Chloe wasn’t there.  Nor was her contact.

    Once they were sure she wasn’t in one of the nearby buildings, Jane and Cameron met back at the motorcylce.

    “If she followed protocol,” Cameron said, “which she would, she’d be headed back to her own shelter.”

    Jane pointed, “That way,” and after a pause, “And more territory than we’ve already covered.”

    They got back on the bike.

    “We need to go slow enough to get a look around from here on out,” Cameron said.

    “I know,” Jane assured him, and so they began the longer journey, going slower.  The search for Chloe had begun.

  • Münchner Kindl

    That hairbrush thing really gets me.

    Actually, I see it as another snide barb of Haye Jenkins – look at those women, airheads who worry about easily replacable things instead of important things like documents* – that could work wonders for Right Behind:

    although Verna brushes it off as trivial, I’m sure there’s a story behind it. Did a lover (female or male) give it to her? Is it not a plastic brush from Woolworth, but with a carved wooden handle she was given in Africa after doing an excellent report during a crisis that spurned worldwide attention and thus help? Did she buy it 30 years ago with her first self-earned money after her first piece was printed? Is it an inheritance from her mother/ Grandmother/ aunt? Did it belong to a famous feminist / female reporter, and she bought it at an auction as good-luck/ reminder?
    Is it a gift for somebody, and she was just transporting it?

  • Münchner Kindl

    And Snake Plissken is (not only cool) drafted into a mission against his will.

    And Rorschach (in the movie, haven’t read the comic yet) is both utterly unlikeable and pitiful: he has an excuse for turning first into a vigilante and then a monster. He’s understandable without agreeing with it; and during the impossible decision on what to do about Ozymandis plan, he’s the one who makes a honest decision of dying for his principles that allow no compromise.

    And Rorschach would never have ignored others suffering, that’s what being a vigilante is about, punishing the bad guys in order to protect the innocent.

  • Münchner Kindl

    He was also (like many other Germans esp. in that area) convinced it would help his group.

    The important thing is that once he saw what the Nazi ideology really stood for, he changed his mind.

    Buck is probably not capable of recognizing what a Jerk he is, because now as RTC he feels justified being a jerk to non-saved.

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

    If he had an ounce of humanity (or, hell, manners), he would have called her at the moment he “had to” abandon the car (because ZOMG FLAT TIRE).  As others have pointed out, it’s simply an act of petty cruelty to call her after the fact and mention that btw, he left her car FOREVER.

    “Yeah, Verna, thanks for letting me crash at your place for the apocalypse.  Anything I can bring to you in the safe suburbs?”

    “Why, yes, actually, there are some irreplaceable photographs of my grandmother and the earrings my father gave me when my first article was published, if you don’t mind grabbing them.”

    “Oh, MAN, Verna, I totally forgot to mention that there’s a massive fireball where your apartment used to be.  Oh well, good thing you didn’t have anything important in there, like hidden money, eh?” 

  • Münchner Kindl

    I like that idea. It reminds me of an SF story* where a guy on a space ship got into a bar fight, and the aliens running the planet the bar was on detected aggressive tendencies. They had the best justice system ever (and with mind-reading truth-detectors) and sentence him to prison where nobody has ever escaped.
    In prison, he’s given a job, a house to sleep at and a task of bringing in some x 100 dollars each week. He can’t earn them, he can either steal them or worse. He talks to some other prisoners about why native aliens are living there, and why they are given criminal tasks, but nobody can explain, besides lots of theories.
    He starts becoming obsessed with killing his landlord, an older female alien, wringing her neck. The administrator puts more pressure at him if he fails his task, but he resists the impulses although it’s terribly hard.
    Then, he’s brought away and the whole thing explained: each prisoner is given a task that allows him to live out his impulses of theft, aggression, rape, etc. The aliens who are the victims … are actually robots, so they don’t take damage. The theory is if the prisoners live out their urges until they are satiated, they can safely be integrated into society again.
    Sadly, the narrator at this point snaps: all his resistance of his murderous urges was useless! He twists the words: the aliens outside the prion are robots, only inside are real, and kills the officials he’s been talking to.

    * The only plausible scenario where people disappear is aliens. God wouldn’t do these things, or we would fight against God for being bad.

  • Tricksterson

    I now I’m going meta here but I picture Verna saying that as a joke.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     That sounds like an absolutely, incredibly awesome story and I think I’d like to read it sometime.

  • PandaRosa

    At least I hope LeHaye is right about the calendar and the end of the world. I have a lot to do that day, and  it’s like having a flat tire in rush hour, having the world end would just ruin it for me.

  • http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/?zx=c2c4948a7233f8b6 Mouse

    If y’all are curious, in the kids version of the series, they have a conversation between Verna and Loretta. Naturally as TV Tropes would put it, Strawman has a point.

    http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/2011/06/brace-yourself-for-death-of-meta-verna.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Each of these diversions takes a little time, and Buck knows there’s a clock ticking. 

    NRA, the video game!

  • LunaticFringe

    Fuligin! I spot a Gene Wolfe fan.

  • GeniusLemur

    I’ll take a stab at it:
    The cop puts the gun to Buck’s head.
    Buck lunges at the cop as he grabs for his ID
    The cop misinterprets and pulls the trigger
    Buck “wakes up” in front of the devil
    Buck says “You can’t touch me, I have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ”
    The devil falls down laughing, then throws Buck into the deepest, foulest pit he has.

  • GeniusLemur

     It it’s impossible, why is it the philosophy of the modern Republican party?

  • WalterC

     Wouldn’t it go more like this?

    Buck says, “You can’t touch me, I have a personal relationship with the Lord,” and pulls out his “Jesus ID” card.

    The Devil scoffs as he takes it from him, saying, “Hey, if you really did have a relationship with the Lord, you’d have Level 001-Grace clearance, and, oops, I guess you do. You know, having a fake ID like this is punishable by reincarnation as a head louse…”

  • Tricksterson

    Nobody I knew in the 80s actually used the word “rad”.  “Dude” yes but usually as an insult.  Anyway these books were written in the Nineties.

  • fraser

     What Ken says about Chiang.

  • fraser

    After hurricanes, I’ve seen people, without any official direction, turn big intersections into a four-way stop–everyone takes a turn, everyone on the side streets eventually gets out.
    Buck wouldn’t stop.

  • Tricksterson

    You know, it’s funny.  Even within the context of their belief system these two never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  This was the last book in the series I read and I assumed they were going to save Verna in order to show that you can “pray the gay away” but no, they didn’t.

  • Tricksterson

    To whom do you refer?  The only other fictional Bucky I know of is Captain America’s dead sidekick.


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