NRA: Life during wartime

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

This one time I flew into Chicago to catch a connecting flight to Appleton. I was supposed to have 40 minutes to make the switch, but delays leaving BWI meant I’d only have about 15 minutes to get to my gate on the opposite side of the airport. I raced down the walkway and …

Oh, nevermind. That’s a boring story. Almost everyone who has ever flown has a version of that same story, and even calling it a “story” seems like a stretch. The logistics of commercial passenger air travel can often be stressful, but that doesn’t make them interesting.

Poor Jerry Jenkins does not realize this. “Write what you know,” the old adage says, and what Jenkins knows is business travel as a commercial airline passenger, so that’s what he gives us here in Nicolae. As a result, his account of World War III ends up being less exciting, and less eventful, than even my non-story about that time I just-barely caught my flight to Wisconsin.

It’s not just a cell phone, babe, it’s a UNIVERSAL cell phone.

When this series began, Rayford Steele was a pilot for a commercial airline. Three books into the series, he still seems to be one, even though now he’s flying the global potentate on the one-world government’s equivalent of Air Force One. Ferrying around the Antichrist and his retinue of global princes on Nicolae Carpathia’s shiny new plane doesn’t turn out to be any different than Rayford’s old days punching the clock for Pan-Continental. The arrival of the potentate’s plane doesn’t disrupt any airport’s usual routine. And neither does World War III and the destruction of Chicago, New York, Washington and London.

That gives a surreal quality to this chapter’s focus on the mundane details of life-as-usual at a major airport. It makes Jenkins’ attention to detail come across as inattention. The more he adds realistic touches based on his own experience as a business traveler, the more unreal his story seems.

It’s not just the story, setting and events that are unreal. It’s also Rayford’s behavior and the choices he makes.

Thanks to the eavesdropping system installed by his friend Earl, Rayford was able to overhear Nicolae outline his attack on the cities of North America. Amanda, who was seated next to Nicolae as he laid out that plan, was inexplicably unable to hear him. So now Rayford knows that San Francisco is set to be destroyed shortly after his plane refuels and takes off. But Amanda has no idea.

This is information Amanda needs to know. She’s about to get off of Nicolae’s plane to try to catch a flight out of San Francisco to someplace nearer Chicago. Rayford knows that if her flight doesn’t leave the airport before he takes off, then Amanda will be killed in the ensuing attack. Her life may depend on her knowing that. But for some reason, Rayford refuses to tell her:

Just before the initial descent into San Francisco, Rayford huddled with Amanda. “I’m gonna get that door open and you off this plane as soon as possible,” he said. “I’m not going to wait for the postflight checklist or anything. Don’t forget, it’s imperative that whatever flight you find is off the ground before we are.”

“But why, Ray?”

“Just trust me, Amanda. You know I have your best interests in mind. As soon as you can, call me on my universal cell phone and let me know Chloe and Buck are all right.”

Rayford has this pattern of saying, “Just trust me,” or “I can’t tell you why” even when he very well could explain further. That makes it seem like he’s testing Amanda’s loyalty and willingness to give him her blind trust. Kind of a high-stakes test, too.

Frustrated was too mild a word for the way Rayford felt as he landed the Condor 216 in San Francisco and taxied to a private jetway.

Beaten-to-death is too mild a description for Jenkins’ over-reliance on this construction.

Rayford knew beyond doubt that shortly after takeoff toward New Babylon, San Francisco would be devastated from the air the same way Chicago had been. People would die. Business and industry would crumble. Transportation centers would be destroyed, including that very airport. Rayford’s first order of business was to get Amanda off that plane and out of that airport and into the Chicago area.

Now you understand Rayford’s great frustration — an airport is about to be destroyed and there’s nothing he can do to save it.

He didn’t even want to wait for the jetway to be maneuvered out to the plane. He opened the door himself and lowered the telescoping stairs to the runway. He motioned for Amanda to hurry. Carpathia made some farewell small talk as she hurried past, and Rayford was grateful that she merely thanked the man and kept moving. Ground personnel waved at Rayford and tried to get him to pull the stairs back up. He shouted, “We have one passenger who needs to make a connection!”

Rayford embraced Amanda and whispered, “I checked with the tower. There’s a flight to Milwaukee leaving from a gate at the end of this corridor in less than 20 minutes. Make sure you’re on it.” Rayford kissed Amanda and she hurried down the steps.

What follows over the next several pages is a detailed account of Rayford’s stalling the airport crews and slow-walking his “postflight checks” to ensure that Amanda catches that flight to Milwaukee. This is interspersed with scenes of Buck’s high-speed wandering around the Chicago highways, but there’s about five pages of material here in which Jenkins attempts to build suspense around Rayford dawdling and killing time until Amanda’s flight takes off safely.

Bombers are striking cities across the continent. The destruction of San Francisco is imminent. All of those “ground personnel” and helpful folks in the control tower whom Rayford stalls over the next several pages will meet a fiery death moments after he takes off. But Jerry Jenkins decides that the best way to ratchet up tension in his thriller is to have Rayford double-checking items on his postflight list while saying things like, “Safety first.”

The tower tells Rayford that Amanda’s flight is “behind schedule about 12 minutes.” This news is meant to intensify the suspense here, but it only serves to remind readers that everything in this chapter is impossible.

Amanda is buying a last-minute ticket from San Francisco to Milwaukee. It’s a routine flight between the two cities, so it’s more or less running on schedule.

But how likely is it that routine flights into Milwaukee would be running on schedule if O’Hare International in Chicago were shut down? With that airport closed, one would expect a ripple-effect of delays and cancellations all over the country.

Particularly since O’Hare isn’t the only airport shut down at this point in our story. The airports are also closed in three other major cities. Factor that in and it seems even less plausible that Amanda could just skip up to the counter and grab a seat on a flight to Milwaukee.

Now factor in why all those airport closings have occurred. Most flights in and out of Chicago, New York, Washington and Dallas have been cancelled, delayed or re-routed. The others were incinerated by the perhaps-nuclear bombs that destroyed those cities.

In what universe could it possibly be true that such things could occur without any disruption of normal commercial flights from San Francisco to Milwaukee?

A single small conventional explosion at a single airport would likely create havoc and massive delays at airports all over the country. Here we have full-scale, perhaps-nuclear aerial assaults destroying at least four major cities and their airports with no disruption at all in passenger travel in other cities.

Or set aside the nuking of Dallas, Chicago, New York and Washington — that’s too vastly absurd to contemplate. It was just in the previous chapter that we read of Rayford’s escape from Chicago to a military air base near Dallas. During that flight there was talk of being on the alert for hostile insurgent aircraft.

I still can’t make sense of this talk of a militia air force. I can’t figure out whether this is actually part of Jenkins’ preposterous plot or if it’s only meant as Nicolae’s preposterous cover story scapegoating the militias for the assaults carried out by his air force (which we’ve been told, repeatedly, is the only remaining air force in the world). But whether there are actual enemy fighter planes in the sky or whether Nicolae is just lying to the public by pretending there are — either way that ought to mean that routine flights from San Francisco to Milwaukee would be cancelled.

Amidst all this howling absurdity and impossibility, we do see one brief glimpse of something like humanity in our hero. It’s just a tiny flicker, and he quickly suppresses it, but for just an instant as he chats with his co-pilot it occurs to Rayford that this man is about to die. He’s leaving the plane to be replaced by Rayford’s usual partner. Shortly after this young copilot exits the plane, Rayford will take off and then the bombs will fall and this man will be killed along with the ground crew now fueling his plane and everyone else at this airport and everyone else in this city.

It even half-occurs to Rayford that he might have a chance to do something or to say something that might save this man’s life — that he could warn his co-worker of what is about to happen to San Francisco.

“What’s going on?” his copilot asked. “I want to switch places with your guy as soon as I can.”

If only you knew what you were walking into, Rayford thought. “Where are you headed tonight?”

“What possible business is that of yours?” the young man said.

Rayford shrugged.

Hey, he tried, right? Make some small talk about the guy’s plans for the evening, then maybe swing the conversation around somehow to suggesting that maybe those plans should include running as fast as he could to get his loved ones and flee the city in the next half hour. But then the guy had to be all snippy and rude and disrespectful.

Shrug. Oh well. Now he’ll get what’s coming to him. He’ll soon see that he should have been more deferential and respectful to Tim LaHaye Rayford Steele.

This is one of the most pernicious running themes in these books. Extreme suffering is always deserved. People are rude or impatient, or they fail to show the proper deference for Rayford and Buck, and thus those people deserve death. Note the way the authors call attention to the copilot’s youth there — “the young man.” That’s not to heighten our sympathy for the tragic death of someone so young. It’s to reinforce the disrespect he’s showing to the older, more experienced pilot — to reinforce that he deserves to die. That means Rayford doesn’t have to care about him anymore and you, dear reader, should shrug off his death as well.

Rayford shrugged. He felt like the little Dutch boy with his thumb in the dike. He couldn’t save everyone. Could he save anyone?

He doesn’t continue thinking about this long enough to attempt to answer that question. “Could he save anyone?” No. Because he doesn’t try to.

He’s nothing like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. That boy sacrificed himself so that everyone else could flee to safety. Rayford is fleeing to safety, and he’s willing to let everyone else be sacrificed to ensure that he gets away.

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  • frazer

    Can’t believe I’m first.  Great, as usual.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

    The amazing thing here is not how bad LaJenkins’ writing is – we’re used to that. The amazing thing is that there could have been a great story based around trying to rally people against the murderous tyrant and prevent the vaporization of cities. Oddly, it never occurred to LaJenkins that such a story might deserve being told.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The amazing thing is that there could have been a great story based around trying to rally people against the murderous tyrant and prevent the vaporization of cities.

    Ellenjay’s God, you mean?

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

     Yeah, pretty much. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.paxton.94 Susan Paxton

    I’d like to see what a good science fiction writer could have done with this scenario, instead of a hack who thinks phones are Cool.

  • hidden_urchin

    People would die. Business and industry would crumble. Transportation centers would be destroyed, including that very airport.

    Note that this is a standard rhetorical triplet.  Traditionally, one arranges such triplets so that they build to a climax with the most powerful statement coming last.  Considering Jenkins is trying to build tension in this scene I think it is safe to assume that he intended to use the triplet in the standard manner.

    We now know where people rank as compared to industry and transportation networks in Rayford’s world.

    If this were written from Buck’s perspective it would read

    Business and industry would crumble. Transportation centers would be destroyed.  Telephone networks would go down.

    Oh, the humanity!

    Yeah, these three sentences don’t say good things about our Hero and since Rayford here is supposed to be a pargon of virtue I’m not thinking it says great things about the authors.  Alternatively, Jenkins is just a horrible writer and managed to screw up a very simple rhetorical device.

  • TheBrett

    At least he put “people would die” first. With Rayford, you half-expect him not even to mention that.

  • Caravelle

     The problem is, once you’ve said “people will die” going on to talk about the impacts on commerce and industry and transport just seems so petty and redundant (any disaster that kills large numbers of people also tends to have adverse effects on commerce and industry); to me it comes across as trivializing the “people will die” bit in retrospect. I mean, usually that kind of list will be given in order of increasing importance.
    And the unsettling thing here is that you kind of get the impression it was.

  • Monica Swanson

    The other possibility is that he was going for the humorous variation, where the most trivial consequence is listed last (known on TvTropes as “Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking”).

    Wait, no. Rayford is just an awful, awful fictional person.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Note that this is a standard rhetorical triplet. Traditionally, one arranges such triplets so that they build to a climax with the most powerful statement coming last. Considering Jenkins is trying to build tension in this scene I think it is safe to assume that he intended to use the triplet in the standard manner.

    Hey, clever people: I was trying to remember something the other day, which hidden_urchin’s comment reminded me of, and I’m sure someone here will know.

    What’s the linguistics term for when you build up towards a crescendo in a list of things then abruptly end with something minor? Tom Stoppard liked to do it. You know, Hamlet is talking to himself, stabbing his elders, planning patricide and going hatless in public.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Bathos

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Thanks.

    There’s some other word on the tip of my tongue but there must be crossed wires betwixt two parts of my brain.

  • Dash1

     Bathos is the general category but includes other things. I don’t think there is a term for the specific phenomenon of achieving a bathetic effect by setting up a climax via rhetorical triplet but making the last one the least impressive.

    I like the TV Tropes term for the specific phenomenon.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    What’s the linguistics term for when you build up towards a crescendo in a list of things then abruptly end with something minor?

    Dr. Rocketscience already properly named it “bathos”.  TVtropes just calls it “Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking“.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    It’s older than that, being from Aesop, his fable about the Mountain in Labor, where, after major earthquakes and upheavals, the mountain opens up and out comes… a little tiny mouse. Also known as “Much Ado About Nothing”, which is where Shakespeare got the term.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Y’know, I deliberately avoided linking to TV Tropes. Now, you’ve doomed us all!

  • Persia

     And don’t forget, the Rapture was not that long ago. All those consequences continue to be not so bad.

  • Splitting Image

    Rayford was ably depicted in this episode of Seinfeld:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueh_1PeJhaQ

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

    Rayford is a bit worse than that. George’s histrionic screaming at least alerted other people that there was a problem. 

     Rayford is the kind of person who, noticing a fire about to consume a building in an inferno, would quietly pack up his possessions and slip out through a side entrance, making small talk with any doomed occupants of the building he comes across but never even attempting to warn them. 

  • aunursa

    That’s true.  And Rayford would feel really, really awful about the fact that he can’t save anyone else.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     GOD:  Dude, I made a point of sticking you near him.  For months.  He never had you frisked for weapons, you could come and go as you pleased, he made you his personal pilot for fucks’ sake!  You had instant access to every last plan he had and a ready-made network to try to get some sort of warning to as many people as possible, and you didn’t!  WHAT MORE DID YOU WANT, AN ANGELIC CHOIR OVERHEAD SINGING “IT’S TIME WE OFF THE ANTICHRIST” COMPLETE WITH A FIREWORKS DISPLAY AND A NEON SIGN??? HELLO??”

    Brave Sir Rayford:  But…but…Your plan…GOD:  …was for you brain trusts to do your level best to try to save as many innocent victims as you could while trying to turn the bad guy into worm food! Brave Sir Rayford:  But…that would have meant lying and MURDER and those things are SINS–GOD:  Did I fucking stutter?  What part of ANTICHRIST was not clear to you?  You could still have slipped a ton of useful info to the resistance and kept millions of people alive.  Or helped misappropriate resources for disaster relief.  Or just flat-out told people what was happening and told them how to protect themselves, that might have been helpful too.  Instead you spent all your time sitting on your ass like some sort of weird growth except for the times you were going gooey-eyed over every new toy your boss tossed your way and going “Durrh hurrh, look at me, I’m Nicolae’s Personal Pilot!’  That is, when you weren’t looking around with those great big empty eyes and thinking, “Woe is me, I can’t do anything!”  Brave Sir Rayford:  (incomprehending) but…but…Your plan…GOD:  (Sound of a very, very large head slamming into a desk over and over for several minutes.) You know what?  Screw it.  Just…screw it.  I’m sending you back…Brave Sir Rayford:  YAY!GOD:  …as a black lesbian Unitarian.  In sensible shoes.Brave Sir Rayford:  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…!

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Holy crap, Disqus ate my spacing!

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

    Well, you don’t want Disqus to go hungry, do you?
    Alternatively: Disqus demands a sacrifice!

  • flat

    As a former dutch boy (now a dutch adult) I have only one thing to say to Rayford.

    FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MaryKaye

    This book was written before 9/11, I guess, because after 9/11 the man on the street knows that a major air-related enemy attack causes *all civilian planes to be grounded*. 

    Of course, it wouldn’t have taken much work to figure this out pre-9/11 either.  I can’t believe how detached from reality this is getting.  It reminds me of the story (Zelazny, I think?) in which the main character has a paranoid fantasy that the world around him is just a movie set being tossed up for his inspection and then torn down.  At the end of the story comes a point of view shift to a member of the crew that is, in fact, doing just that. 

    So there *is* no Chicago except when the main characters are there….?  How else to explain that its destruction seems to have no effects whatsoever?  You can return a rental car to O’Hare station!  You can get a flight to Milwaukee and it’s hardly even late!

    The US is so interconnected that Hurricane Sandy had a direct effect on custodians here in Seattle (we canceled seminars because speakers were trapped in airports on the East
    Coast, so the rooms didn’t need to be set up).  Nukes…it’s some work to even imagine, but even a very little work should convince you that there would be ripple effects worldwide. I’ll grant you that Nicolai might not give the order to ground all civilian planes the way Bush did, because he knows there is in fact no attacker…that is, if he doesn’t care who believes him when he says there was an attacker.  But then you just get into the equal illogic of why on Earth he is doing this….

    I’m croggled.  This has taken a whole new step downward, and I didn’t think it could.

  • dj_pomegranate

    I’m croggled.  This has taken a whole new step downward, and I didn’t think it could.
    It’s amazing that a book can be so bad that I (and I’m sure many others) say something to the effect of “I didn’t know this book could get WORSE, and yet…!” every single week after reading Fred’s installment. 

  • Becca Stareyes

     That was my thought; post-9/11, this seems even more surreal because anyone old enough to read this blog remembers what happened then.  I remember a professor getting a ride back from a conference in Minnesota because he couldn’t make the Minneapolis-Lincoln flight, one that had nothing to do with New York, DC, or the East Coast at all… except that all the planes were grounded.  Or, what a snowstorm in Denver (or a hurricane in NYC) could do to travel.  Or, hell, all the times I had to sit by the gate because the plane I wanted to take was part of a cascading series of delays and the airport was trying to shuffle planes around to minimize the problem. Nothing makes you realize how interconnected our travel networks are is when something breaking somewhere in the midwest affects a trip up the East Coast. 

    Well, maybe it would seem surreal except that ‘life on autopilot’ seems to be the theme of these books.  Even as you have the Antichrist starting World War III, the authors just seem to assume they can write about the ordinary day-to-day lives of Rayford Steele, Jerkass Pilot, or Buck Williams, Asshole Reporter, unless things are actively blowing up in front of them. 

  • Lliira

     It’s not just post-9/11. Jenkins has to have known what a mere snowstorm at O’Hare could do to air travel across the country. Delays in O’Hare mean delays everywhere in the midwest and along the east coast. O’Hare is just so central, so important to air travel. I assume delays throw a spanner in the works out west, too, because the delay of one plane tends to have a domino effect even on people who don’t need that plane.

    Jenkins is supposedly from Chicago. This is something he knows and has experienced first-hand far more often than I had by the time he wrote these terrible books, and I experienced it multiple times by age 20, both first-hand and waiting for relatives. Forget imagining a different world, Jenkins is incapable of noticing the simplest and most central things about the world around him.

  • Elizabeth

    >> It reminds me of the story (Zelazny, I think?) in which the main character has a paranoid fantasy that the world around him is just a movie set being tossed up for his inspection and then torn down.  At the end of the story comes a point of view shift to a member of the crew that is, in fact, doing just that. 

    It was a Philip K. Dick story – the master at paranoia and perspective shifts. Unlike EllenJay, you actually feel in tune with the major character and feel as he feels – even when what he feels is profoundly weird and unsettling, and even when the major characters are profoundly unlikeable. If you haven’t read the original “Minority Report”, do so. The ending is totally different and much more, er, Dick-ish.

  • Steve Morrison

    Heinlein also had a story called “They” with a very similar motif.

  • fraser

     THere’s also Keith laumer’s Night of Delusions in which every time the protagonist exposes the illusion he’s trapped in, there’s another illusion behind it.

  • aunursa

    It reminds me of the story (Zelazny, I think?) in which the main character has a paranoid fantasy that the world around him is just a movie set being tossed up for his inspection and then torn down. At the end of the story comes a point of view shift to a member of the crew that is, in fact, doing just that.

    That is similar to the basic plot of the Twilight Zone episode A World of Difference.  The main character discovers that his office is a movie set, and he is told that he is an actor playing a role in a movie.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Well, Rayford is the man who started the Left Behind series by walking through a devastated airport past crumpled airports and moaning victims, feeling nothing but irritation because all this mess was getting in his way. Hasn’t changed much, has he?

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    Good think L&J weren’t in charge of the DOT on 9/11…

  • KarenH.

    I was just checking on some points of accuracy in the timeline on 9/11–and really the leadership throughout the US failed in some seriously major ways. But they were STILL miles ahead of anything Rayford could have managed, even from the glass enclosed nerve center that was the AntiChrist’s cockpit.

  • flat

    Now we have the formalities out of the way I had to think about a videogame.

    I am not a gamer and I only followed playthroughs on youtube, but when I saw fall of cybertron I was impressed about how you got a feeling that the world is ending and that there is only one spaceship left for the autobots.

    But that they have an enormous problem because they have lost the energon reserves that was supposed to be the fuel of the ark.
    It is an action game but it is interesting how important something like fuel logistics is on the autobots who want to leave as fast as possible because they all know that they can’t last forever.
    And what sacrifices need to be made to evacuate cybertron.
    And when you compare the situation the autobots are in and read left behind you can only cringe.

  • TheBrett

    I’m not so sure Rayford shows even that glimpse of humanity. There’s no real indication of concern in the part you excerpted, just an unspoken shrug and his usual small pleasure in having privileged access to information. There’s no “you need to get out of the city” or even a “listen buddy, I heard that . . . “.

    I wonder who has been the less human character throughout this book – Buck or Rayford? Buck put up a pretty big lead with his behavior in Chicago in getting the Mega-Car of 1997, but Rayford is gaining on him.

  • flat

    by the way dykes don’t work that way: if there is some water coming through it, it means the whole dyke is about to collapse.
    It means in layman terms you get the hell out of there and you call the dutch waterboard.
    And wait afterwards to see the political clusterfuck for who is responsible for that dyke.

  • Michael Pullmann

     At least Jenkins correctly used “devastated” instead of “decimated”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    Living language etc etc.

  • Michael Pullmann

     Ignorance isn’t evolution, etc. etc.

  • Nomuse

    Only once can I remember that being used right in a recent work.  The Master (in Doctor Who, natch):  “Decimate them.  Kill one out of every ten.”

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

     Fallout: New Vegas also gets it right, but they kinda have to, what with one of the factions being completely obsessed with the Roman Empire.

  • everstar

    When I saw that episode, there was just enough of a pause between sentences for me to turn to my friend and say, “They never use decimate correctly.”  Then when he did I threw my arms up and cheered because I am at all times ruled by my grammar pedantry.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     For my part, I’ve developed a strong anti-pedantry about “decimate”. Because people keep acting like “Well decimate isn’t so bad, because it’s only one tenth!”  Which would make it “still worse than any of the major things that have killed off people in history.”  “Decimate” means “Kill so many as for it to be shockingly horrific in scale,” and if you think ten percent doesn’t cut it, that’s your problem. Complaining about it strikes me as being like complaining when someone uses “Sinister” to describe an evil  right-handed person, or “Hysteria” to describe someone whose uterus hasn’t gone walkabout.

    (The Master’s use of the word was excellent, IMHO, not because he used the word in the literal sense of its latin root which isn’t actually part of the modern english definition of the word, but because he conveyed just how jaw-droppingly horrific the idea of killing off ten percent of the world population is.)

    (Also, really? You stopped to complain about the usage? I thought everyone saw that coming from a mile away. The way he hammed up saying the word? Seemed absolutely clear that he was about to make a big production out of how he literally meant one tenth.)

  • everstar

    I didn’t say one-tenth wasn’t horrible; doesn’t it stem from the Romans calculating that one-tenth of the populace was the most people you could kill to make an example without causing a retaliatory uproar?   I take your point about hysteria and sinister but I’m probably still going to gripe because I’m annoying like that.  And yes, I did complain about the usage, because I’m not as perceptive as you are and didn’t see it coming.

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

    Actually, without being familiar with the particulars, the one-tenth ratio isn’t something you could really calculate as such.  It could only be found by trial and error, a simple form of the scientific method.

    And then I thought about the implications of that….

  • Caravelle

     … I know nothing on the subject beyond what one can learn reading Asterix, but wouldn’t it have been less of an optimally-calculated number and more a feature of the Roman army really liking tens, to a point only rivalled by Revolutionary France ? That’s what the whole “Decurion”, “Centurion” thing was about, right ?

  • Newbiedoobiedoo

    @ross:  For my part, I’ve developed a strong anti-pedantry about “decimate”. Because people keep acting like “Well decimate isn’t so bad, because it’s only one tenth!”  Which would make it “still worse than any of the major things that have killed off people in history.”  “Decimate” means “Kill so many as for it to be shockingly horrific in scale,” and if you think ten percent doesn’t cut it, that’s your problem. Complaining about it strikes me as being like complaining when someone uses “Sinister” to describe an evil  right-handed person, or “Hysteria” to describe someone whose uterus hasn’t gone walkabout@rraszewski:disqus .

    Garfield the cat: You carried the Black Death. As I recall, half of Europe died.

    <Mouse: Picky, picky, picky.

  • GeniusLemur

    Rayford’s universal cell phone? Didn’t Buck just get cell phones for Rayford and Amanda? Wouldn’t Buck know if they weren’t needed? So…

    Did Rayford just spontanteously generate a cell phone?

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

    Rayford crapped one out like Jenkins does these books. In short, it’s sloppy writing mechanics and continuity. (-_-)B

  • Magic_Cracker

    It’s not really a universal cell phone. The Doctor only told him it was to get Rayford to shut up (“And stop calling me that, will you? I’m a Time Lord, not the Lord and He’s not coming back till 1226 ZL anyway, and only then for a cream tea… only place in the universe you can get a cream tea — one with cream or tea, anyway…”) Then he,  Verna, and her sensible shoes skippered off 21 months into the past to investigate that “electromagnetic event” he’d been hearing about.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    He’s had that for a while. It’s not really clear if he got one on his own, or if Jenkins forgot that Buck and Ray hadn’t seen each other in person yet.

    I like to think of it like a glitch in a video game. Somewhere along the line, Ray tripped a flag at the wrong time and now he has something he shouldn’t. Clearly, this product was not thoroughly playtested.

  • aunursa

    Wait ’till you see the cell phones that Buck Chloe purchased…

    He set the stacks to one side and laid out the five deluxe universal cell phones Chloe had bought. Fortunately, they had been packed in spongy foam and had survived her accident.

    He had told her not to scrimp, and she certainly hadn’t. He didn’t even want to guess the total price, but these phones had everything, including the ability to take calls anywhere in the world, due to a built-in satellite chip.

    Nicolae, p 112

    (Too bad he didn’t get one for Chuck Noland.)

  • GeniusLemur

     Kind of makes the super-computers Buck just bought redundant, doesn’t it? You know, the ones with with video conferencing and satellite links and video
    conferencing and oodles of computing power and video conferencing?

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

    He didn’t even want to guess the total price, but these phones had everything, including the ability to take calls anywhere in the world, due to a built-in satellite chip.
     
    This seems to be a recurring theme.  Everything the Fab Four ever purchase has to be the biggest, best, fanciest, most expensive thing they can get at the mall.  Which is still conducting business as usual.  Sheesh, you would think they could just go around picking up cell phones out of the rubble.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sheesh, you would think they could just go around picking up cell phones out of the rubble.

    That would be STEALING which is WRONG.

    Except when rich folk use exorbitant interest and hidden fees and accounting tricks to steal from the poor. Then it’s just good business practice.

  • Tricksterson

    Yes, out if his forehead like Zeus with Athena.

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

    Shortly after this young copilot exits the plane, Rayford will take off and then the bombs will fall and this man will be killed along with the ground crew now fueling his plane and everyone else at this airport and everyone else in this city.

    It’s been quoted before, but Douglas Adams gets this so epically right:

    There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab — the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone.  Nelson’s Column had gone! Nelson’s Column had gone and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry. From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind — his mind, stuck here in this dank smelly steel-lined spaceship. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.

    Now, flip that around from past tense to future. Nelson’s Column will be gone, the stranger ahead of him in the supermarket will be gone, and our protagonist is still just as numb as Arthur, but where Arthur is a sympathetic character facing the unfaceable Rayford is just a colossal ass.

  • Dantesque17

    It’s like “Ulysses” if Leopold Bloom never left the Dublin Airport.

  • aunursa

    I repeat my point from a previous thread.  Why does Amanda need to take a flight to Milwaukee?  Supposedly it’s so that she can check on “Rayford’s people.”  But that was entirely unnecessary.  Amanda could have checked on Buck, Chloe, and their friends from church (since those are the only people they seem to care about) with a few emails or phone calls

    The only reason for the unnecessary “Will her flight leave in time?” tension in this chapter is that Jerry Jenkins decided that he needed to add unnecessary tension to this chapter.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    This whole book is an object lesson in poor planning. If your narrative is more complicated than “Protagonist X travels to Y to cause/avert Z”, you need to sketch it out. Otherwise, you run the risk of producing a terrifying chimera of a story.

  • Dash1

    How to tell Our Genial Host how much I appreciate these posts? Hmm. An idea: Christmas is coming; Fred has kids and no job. It would be good if  he could make some plans now about the Christmas budget. I realize many people on this board don’t have the financial leeway to toss anything in, but for those who do, this would, I suspect, be a good time for it. 

    I’m in, anyway. And lo, there appeareth unto me a “Donate” button in the . . . um . . . yeah, that would be the east. Ish. Sort of the east. Southeast. TOYMMV (The Orientation of Your Monitor May Vary). Anyway, there’s a “Donate” button. Give it a thought.

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

    I’m doing a snark of the For Kids! version of this series and I continue to be amazed at how the infrastructure in LB-verse remains standing even after nuclear strike, flaming hailstones, a mountain crashing into the sea, all the water being turned rotten, and a massive freeze. They’re still getting telephone and internet after all this.  Ellanjay must be baffled by the fact that so many along the eastern coast remain without power after one measly hurricane; after all, according to them, isn’t the almighty Internet and telephone towers impossible to take out?

    Oh, and for those interested, I’ve started up my blog again. Go nuts.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    Well, if phones and computers stopped working, it would make communications difficult. Who ever heard of a story where the characters face challenges?

  • http://twitter.com/Guywhowrotenecr C.D. Gutierrez

    It’s a bit of a tangent, but I had the same problem with the book of Exodus. God wipes out the Egyptians crops, livestock and food stores, and still by the time Pharaoh changes his mind, the Israelites have to worry about the army coming after them? A ravenous horde of starving Egyptians bent on cannibalism, that I could believe, but there’s no way the social structure will remain in place when everyone’s facing starvation.

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

    At least the Christ Clone managed to make a delayed arrival work because it occurred before the worldwide catastrophe.

    I could envision a “Skewed to the Right (Middle? Left?)” version of this:

    – Rayford lands the plane, pulls Amanda aside, tells her to find a car with the keys left in the ignition – drive like hell somewhere safe and use a throwaway long-distance dialling prepaid card (they had these things in the 1990s, I used quite a few of them for a while when I had to let my phone get disconnected because I couldn’t pay the bill) to contact Buck, if the circuits weren’t busy.

    – Rayford then frantically tries to figure out how to make the takeoff fail and look like an accident. Since he knows all the preflight and postflight procedures like the back of his hand, he figures out how to make an innocuous error that looks like an accident made in the haste of getting the World Leader someplace safe.

    – The plane fails to take off, preferably explodes, but it does something. The copilot twigs onto what Rayford was hinting at, bails out of the plane posthaste, acting like he’s panicked, and disappears, shuffling his way across the scrub brushlands until he finds a road, then commandeers a car and takes off for parts unknown.

    And voila, there’s a vignette that actually has TENSION.

  • Dylan

    Rayford has this pattern of saying, “Just trust me,” or “I can’t tell you why” even when he very well could explain further.

    First thought: people who want to have control in a situation or jerk other people around emotionally will often misuse privacy/secrecy like this to do so.

    In this case, that seems pretty in-character for Rayford.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    I see what’s happening here. This is a clear case of the plot getting in the way of the story.

    Here’s what I think happened: Someone (probably LaHaye) decided that, what with this being the “War” part of the series, there needed to be bombings, wide-scale destruction, that sort of thing. And since one of the characters was a pilot, there also had to be “tense” plane-hopping scenes. Of course, there’s a conflict there – the conflict that everyone else is pointing out, that those planes would not and could not be flying around like normal.

    Unfortunately, no one noticed this. So, when Jenkins sat down to actually write it, he ran into a snag. It’s possible that he didn’t notice it, but I bet he did and just opted to barrel forward. It’s not like he views himself as an artist or storyteller, he’s just a line worker pounding out widgets in book form. Coming up with a plausible explanation (or, God forbid, going back to the planning phase) would have taken up time that he didn’t have.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Something tells me that if Young Man had asked Rayford about his evening plans, Rayford would have responded with “What possible business is that of yours?” and then mentally congratulated himself on putting Young Man in his proper place.

  • http://mistermunshun.blogspot.com/ Carl Eusebius

    “Write what you know,” the old adage says, and what Jenkins knows is business travel as a commercial airline passenger, so that’s what he
    gives us here in Nicolae.

    Stephenie Meyer does that very same thing. Research, people! You’re not writing your autobiography here. Good fiction writing is hard work. Long, arduous work. Researching and writing and checking and re-checking and continuity and believability and consistency and authenticity. If you skip all that and just shoehorn in your own life experiences–well, you can write a best-selling series of novels, so I guess they’ve got me there.

    Look at how long it takes George R. R. Martin to write a novel and compare that to Jerry Jenkins bashing out this crap in 4 weeks.

  • hidden_urchin

    Now you’ve got me imagining a LB-ASOIAF crossover.

    ” Jesus is coming.”

    HA!

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    It gets worse in the prequel novels. All of these books are clearly set in or around the year in which they were published. In the first prequel, we flash 20-30 years to see Ray as a child, so were looking at late 60’s/early 70’s. Jenkins is about the right age to describe a childhood of that era, but he seems to forget that it is a flashback, so young Ray owns a home video game console and a cell phone.

    How do you even miss that? And if that’s not bad enough, don’t forget that Ray apparently had access to technology as a child that he did not have as an adult, so even if you buy their “near-future” narrative and give Ray a 90’s childhood, it still makes no sense.

  • aunursa

    In the first prequel, we flash 20-30 years to see Ray as a child, so were looking at late 60’s/early 70’s.

    Although Left Behind was published in 1995, I read somewhere that the authors consider that it takes place sometime during the first half of the 21st century.  The Rising begins 33 years before Left Behind.

  • aunursa

    Ray apparently had access to technology as a child that he did not have as an adult

    Reminds me of the difficulties in producing Star Trek: Enterprise, which was a prequel to the original series.

  • Jon Frater

    For that matter, it took Thomas Harris 25+ years to crank out four books about Hannibal Lecter, arguably the most memorable serial killer in print.

  • Lliira

    Actually, neither Jenkins nor Meyer write what they know. Meyer is as good at writing the way teenagers act as Jenkins is at writing how airports operate. They transparently never bothered to know anything, even when they experienced it themselves.

    Also, George R. R. Martin is not a good comparison. He is certainly a better stylist than either of the other mentioned writers. And that — is all.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “People would die. Business and industry would crumble.”
    Yes, let’s give him credit for listing the people first this time. But this is still a very weird set of priorities. I imagine Rayford, looking over the rubble-dusted, irradiated hills where San Francisco once stood. “My God!” he cries. “This will completely disrupt the business operations of Charles Schwab!”

  • Lunch Meat

    Apologies for the off-topic post, but I know we have several Texan slacktivites here, and I wanted to share about a bill that was just introduced in our House. HB 201 will allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both of their names listed on supplemental birth certificates in Texas. More information here, and if you want to write to your reps about it, I have some sample letters here

  • Kiba

    I live in Irving so I’ll definitely write (and I’m positive my Gram will too) asking for this to be supported. 

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    Also, with the whole Amanda thing– Amanda is Rayford’s *wife*. Rayford is currently flying Nicholae’s plane. Nicholae has frequently shown he cares for “his people”, bumping people like Rayford and Buck out of harm’s way. The *real* waste here is that two stammered words to Nicholae would be enough for Nicholae to say, yes, of course, your wife will be escorted to safety as promptly as possible, backed up with the full powers and resources of the Antichrist. Even if it weren’t the case Nicholae likes to make a show of his personal generousness in the face of genocide, though, you would have to be basically the worst evil overlord ever if you allowed the beloved of your *pilot* to be killed *while the pilot is flying your plane*. Even if he does not seek revenge, this will disrupt his ability to discharge his responsibilities as a pilot. And even if you DID have an evil overlord who callously shrugged as his underling’s wife is bumped off his personal plane, and into certain death– the laws of narrative force you to kind of make a *deal* of this, I.E., give Nicholae a chance to on camera be in a position to be aware that he is callously letting Mrs. Steele die, and wave aside, thus demonstrating both his indifference to life and his own self-destructive arrogance. Nicholae is setting himself up for a fall by damaging his own minions and you need to recognize that in the text.

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

     “I’m gonna get that door open and you off this plane as soon as possible,” he said. “I’m not going to wait for the postflight checklist or anything”

    Oooh! What a renegade! Disregarding the post-flight checklist like that! That’s so…. wait, what’s a “postflight checklist”? What’s on it? How long does it actually take? 

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

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 259 pages

  • Anon

    Also when Puddy doesn’t care that Elaine’s hell-bound…

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

    Two things about this post remind me of other works of fiction (one better than this, one not):

    Rayford has this pattern of saying, “Just trust me,” or “I can’t tell you why” even when he very well could explain further.

    This sounds suspiciously like Jenkins is trying to pull a Don’t Tell The Captain What’s Going On, as seen on Star Trek: TNG and even, IIRC, Firefly. 

    The scene: Picard is somewhere that is not the bridge.  Riker calls him to the bridge not by telling him what’s going on, but by saying, “Captain, you should see this.”  So Picard goes to the bridge and he sees what is going on.  Thus Picard and the audience are surprised at the same time.

    On a TV show, it’s a perfectly acceptable way of showing instead of telling.  In this story, where we already know what’s going on, it just seems stupid.  And yes, like the sort of relationship “test” that jerks do.

    But then the guy had to be all snippy and rude and disrespectful.

    Shrug. Oh well. Now he’ll get what’s coming to him. He’ll soon see that he should have been more deferential and respectful to Tim LaHaye Rayford Steele.

    Heh, just like the train scene in Atlas Shrugged.  As hundred of people are about to die horrible deaths, Ayn Rand “reminds” us that each and every one of them deserves to die, because they hold political beliefs with which she disagrees.  So, fuck ’em.

  • aunursa

    Riker calls him to the bridge not by telling him what’s going on, but by saying, “Captain, you should see this.” So Picard goes to the bridge and he sees what is going on. Thus Picard and the audience are surprised at the same time.

    That’s pretty much the only reason that Rayford and Buck, and later David Hassid and Chang Wong, are employed by the Global Community.  It has nothing to do with trying to sabotage Nicky’s plans for global domination.  The only reason is so that the readers can see Nicky and his minions without having to show things from Nicky’s point of view.

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

    I defy anyone to name me one time, ONE, when Hayseed’s “genius” hacking and computing skills sabotage anything of Nicolae’s.  Or when they save the life of anyone who is not already Saved.  It never happens, yet everyone gushes about how Hayseed is the second most valuable Tribber after Tsion ben Jewishguy.

    Ye Gawds, but I hate Hayseed.

  • GDwarf

     

    I defy anyone to name me one time, ONE, when Hayseed’s “genius” hacking
    and computing skills sabotage anything of Nicolae’s.  Or when they save
    the life of anyone who is not already Saved.  It never happens, yet
    everyone gushes about how Hayseed is the second most valuable Tribber
    after Tsion ben Jewishguy.

    I have trouble seeing any of the tribbies as good hackers, for two reasons:

    The first is that they’re too obsessed with the rules. A good hacker is someone who knows the rules…and then looks at everything the rules don’t say, take for granted, or otherwise miss. The tribbies either contemptuously ignore rules or stick to them rigidly. They never push and prod, try to see what they can get away with, experiment, nothing.

    The second is that they’re as personable as a mouldy banana. The best and easiest way to get someone’s password? Ask them for it. Do a bit of talking to convince them you’re from IT, or whatever, as well, but most people will give you access to high-security systems without a second-thought if you know the lingo.

    Now, there’s the whole technology aspect and code writing and understanding how to use the systems you have access to and so on, but that’s of far more use for mass hackings, the kind where you want to infect a million computers, or whatever. The personal hack is almost always the confidence game, and I just can’t see anyone on the TF pulling that off.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    True in real life, but we’re talking 90’s Hollywood hackers here. There’s no cons, no intel gathering, no pre-planning, you just tap-a-tap-a-tap until everything breaks.

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

    True in real life, but we’re talking 90’s Hollywood hackers here.
    There’s no cons, no intel gathering, no pre-planning, you just tap-a-tap-a-tap until everything breaks.

    Surely Jenkins couldn’t have been THAT unimagin– never mind.

    I just realized Hackers, the movie came out around the time he started mashing keys on his typewriter.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I just realized Hackers, the movie came out around the time he started mashing keys on his typewriter.

    The consensus of my friends and I after seeing that film was, “Angelina Jolie makes an awesome Romulan.”

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

    Hayseed doesn’t even need to do many confidence games–he’s the head of IT.  (Well, his title is apparently Director of Purchasing, but really he is Dude in Charge of Computers.)  So he already has access to pretty much everything.  Yet he still foils not a single one of Nicolae’s plans.*

    It occurs to me that at one point, a plane of Nicolae’s and some equipment is destroyed, but 1) this is done incidentally to getting the four Tribbers (and nobody else) out of New Babylon forever and 2) it was entirely Hannah Palemoon’s idea.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Heh, just like the train scene in Atlas Shrugged. As hundred of people are about to die horrible deaths, Ayn Rand “reminds” us that each and every one of them deserves to die, because they hold political beliefs with which she disagrees. So, fuck ’em.

    It seems I’ve been unfairly harsh to Ayn Rand. Having not read the book, just hearing about her “philosophy” second hand, I had assumed she’d think that every one deserves to die because they are not her. So, fuck ’em. Seems she might be deeper than I thought.

  • Greg Dahlager

    The militia I belong to doesn’t have an air force per se, but we do have a number of naval attack aircraft aboard our two nuclear super carriers.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Reads first paragraph, makes a mental note not to tell that story again. Onto second paragraph

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Forget comparisons to traffic chaos caused by a single extreme event in one city.

    The disruption to flight schedules shown here is less than you get with a decent morning fog.

  • P J Evans

    The disruption to flight schedules shown here is less than you get with a decent morning fog.

    I had it happen to me with an evening fog in Portland(Oregon). I was supposed to  catch a flight to San Francisco, but the fog prevented it from coming in. So they loaded the people going to SFO, and the people whose New York flight also couldn’t come in, on a flight to Seattle. Which didn’t have fog.

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

    “Just trust me, Amanda.”
     
    Don’t worry your pretty little head.  Leave the thinking to me.
     
    If only you knew what you were walking into, Rayford thought.
     
    Gee, if only someone would warn him or something.
     
    Nothing but a trashy novel without all the illicit sex and curse words.
     
    What the heck is a universal cell phone anyway?

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

    A universal cell phone? Clearly, one of these. X-D

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    The strange thing is… all Rayford had to do is refuse to take off!  Just take your hands off the wheel, or better yet pull the switch that dumps all the fuel.  Nicholae has to either call off the bombing, or die with the rest of them.  Oops, can’t do that, though because then he’d lose his prestigious position.  Sorry Amanda.

    “People are rude or impatient, or they fail to show the proper deference
    for Rayford and Buck, and thus those people deserve death. ”

    I’ve noticed this in several movies.  I’m thinking of the scene in Jurassic Park where the lawyer gets eaten by the T-Rex.  Everybody cheers when that happens, and that’s always bugged me.  Yes the guy was a prick, but does that merit being eaten alive?

     

  • quietglow

    I tend to think in lines like: as it was a dinosaur movie, *someone* had to get eaten by a dinosaur.  But I think it’s also the switch from “kids in danger” to “man who just abandoned kids to save himself placed in same danger.” He wasn’t just rude, he was FYGM personified.

    Not that it couldn’t still bug you, I just think there’s a lot of factors adding up.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I’ve noticed this in several movies.  I’m thinking of the scene in Jurassic Park where the lawyer gets eaten by the T-Rex.  Everybody cheers when that happens, and that’s always bugged me.  Yes the guy was a prick, but does that merit being eaten alive?

    Incidentally, that character survives in the book, where his characterization is much less irritating.  He acts out of more genuine concern about the safety of the operation and the investors’ interests, and is more helpful and competent when the bad stuff starts goes down.  

  • Tybult

     Yes the guy was a prick, but does that merit being eaten alive?

    Listen. I didn’t watch that movie to see PETA activists singing kumbaya with diplosauruses.
    I paid American dollars to watch motherfuckers being eaten by dinosaurs, and that’s exactly what I got.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Word.

  • Carstonio

    The issue is who gets eaten, and whether this panders to audiences’ prejudices. I liked the Jaws approach where the character who becomes chum is a parody of machismo, because his fate becomes a lesson in the foolishness of that value system. It would have been different in Jurassic Park if the lawyer had been trying to evict the dinosaurs. But instead, it was “no one likes lawyers so let’s get a cheap laugh.”

  • Carstonio

    Perhaps Rayford’s lack of concern is his knowledge that San Francisco is about to get its “just desserts.” I’m expecting scenes of granola-munching intellectuals and gay pride parades just as the bomb drops.

  • Albanaeon

    Flash Fic

    “The Program”

    “Surely, he’s gonna notice this?”

     Met shook himself from his torpor of gazing at the screen as Rayford played out his checklist for the eighth time.  It was not entirely unpleasant.  “What?”

    Raph’s face weirdly enough, had an earnest innocent cast of youth to it.  Which was in full play here.  “He’s a pilot.  He’s gotta know that with airports across the world are now radioactive craters, his wife getting a plane that quickly is just not happening.  Doesn’t he?”

    Met sighed.  “No, he’s not.  They never notice.  “Buck” didn’t notice that car dealerships and nuclear holocaust don’t mix.  Ray didn’t notice that he’s proselytizing under the nose of the evilest person in history and doesn’t even get a reprimand.  Hell, they don’t even notice that the children are gone and no one cares.  What makes you think a little thing like the plane shouldn’t possibly close to on time in Armageddon?”

    The youthful face grew even more puzzled.  “I thought we are trying to demonstrate that humanity has a future?”

    “Yes”

    Anger crossed his face.  “Then why are we testing these two dipshits.”

    Met suppressed a snort that the subjects could elicit such language from the most angelic of them.  Not that he could blame him. 

    “Look.  As you know we were coming up on review time and the Big Guy wanted a check on the progress of the human race.  He wanted to know that somehow humans had become *more.*”

    “I know that,” Raph bit out.  “But it doesn’t explain why we chose these two… *people* to represent humanity this time out.”

    “Well, let’s review shall we?”  Met held up his hand.  “First, Eve and Adam.  Perfect humans direct from His image.  One talking snake and a temper tantrum later, we have this fricken review process.  Two, after completely forgetting to tell anyone what the rules were, we get stuck trying to piece the entire ecosystem back together from what could be stuffed on a little wooden boat.  Remember that?” 

    Raph’s grimace told him that he quite clearly remembered that bit of fun.  “Thought so,” Met grinned humorlessly.  “So after much complaining, we finally convinced Him so let us do the reviews and report it back to him.  And here we are.”

    Raph’s face darkened.  “You still haven’t explained to me why these two.  If we are trying to show Him how improved the humans are, after getting The Rule and The Deal and everything, shouldn’t we get someone well… good?  There’s lots of them down there.”

    “And risk another Lot fuckup?” Met nearly yelled.  “Best man of the city, we heard.   This will go perfectly we said.  We’ll find a good person in the midst of the worse humanity had to offer and He would have to agree.  And when does he do a progress report?  In the middle of the “best man in town” handing out his daughters to a rampaging gang.  Comets and fire and salt and wine later, and we’re lucky to not have a little boat to deal with again.”

    Met shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair.  “No this time, I decided to try something different.  We’d go with the worst.  We’d find the most conceited, cowardly, despicable people we could find and test them.”

    “But how will that help.  Are we really going to have to piece together DNA sequences again?” Raph asked plaintively.

    “No see here’s the genius of it.  We get the worst people ever and place them in a situation where eventually they will HAVE to do the right thing.  We’ll make it so that doing the right thing is EASY.  Just crash the plane.  Or don’t leave the airport.  Or don’t take the job as a minion of evil.  Or hell, turn to the person beside them and saying “Hey, that man’s evil.  You shouldn’t listen to him!”  That easy.  Just show one, single redemptive quality and we can show the Big Guy that even the worst humans on the planet have a spark of goodness.  He’d have no choice but to agree and our review process is good for millenia.  And we don’t have to repair the damage the ‘omnibenevalent’ one does when he finds that humanity still hasn’t gotten it.”

    Raph was staring at the screen.  “What exactly is so hard with “Love one another?”” he asked dejectedly

    Met turned back to his screen.  Rayford was writting off his co-pilot to nuclear and Buck had totaled his borrowed car in a medevac station. “I don’t know and I can’t say it’s looking good.  You might want to brush up on genome resequencing…”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Heh, your story reminds me of this strip.  

    “We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to screw up the least.”  

  • Jessica_R

    Heh, just today, well yesterday now, I got to see if I could make it across the entirety of Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 10 minutes. But Surly Young Pilot has possibilities… 

    What the Water Gave Me 

    It was the Golden Gate Park he’d miss the most, he tried to keep his hands steady as the thought of every leaf and petal and the statues in the Japanese garden about to become cinder and splinters. And Astarte dead too. 

    He’d been in charge with leading The Harvest of the north part of the city, the resistance taking whoever they could convince to come with them into the redwood forests further north. Amanda had come to smuggle the southern delegation out, to Milwaukee and the woods beyond them, most of the Chicago cell had fled there too. 

    San Francisco was too dangerous, it’s location on the Bay made it impossible for Nicolae to control every move of its citizens and so it had to go. He was playing a bolder hand now, The Silk Suit Man flicking cities off the map like ants on a picnic tablecloth. 

    He’d remembered walking into the hangar to find Amanda waiting, ash pale. She had an unearthly calm telling him about the events in Texas. Wandering into a feast that was simply a group of men batting and smacking at the empty are like it was the greatest delicacy, slurping and licking their chops while the The Silk Suit man laughed and laughed. She seemed to actually see the one wine glass before her again, the one The Silk Suit Man handed to Astarte, Astarte knowing full well what it would mean to drink it. 

    “Michael, I wanted to cry out and warn her, but she cut me off and drank it in one gulp.” Amanda had started to cry then, so had Michael. 

    “Someone carried her out, I don’t know if he even intends to give her a decent burial.” 

    Michael felt that aching mix of rage and helpless that had become too familiar. “I don’t know if we’re just trying to cut shadows with scissors Amanda, but I want to be even just half as brave as she was, and so we’re going to load this plane.” 

    Amanda’s eyes cleared and that sentinel sharp cast to her features returned. Michael knew she’d told the radio man to tell her useless toad of a husband that her plane was “delayed” giving them time to load her plane with the south side group and send them on. Amanda would take an old cargo plane with the rest of the airport personnel who hadn’t fled days ago. Not all were resistance, some were even loyal to Nicolae, but it was the presence of these that would keep their plane from being attacked. 

    The group appeared at the back of the hanger, led by an elderly Asian shopkeeper, they were mostly kids Michael realized, kids left behind taking care of kids as quite a few held ones born after The Event. They were a quiet group, hiding their fear for the sake of each other, they filed onto the plane and Carolyn began to hand out popsicles earning a few tentative smiles. Michael walked off to his assignment. 

    He kept his hands on the wheel as that would keep him punching this jackass in the mouth as he ordered people overworked by all reasonable definitions to protect his wife, “And you didn’t even tell her what’s going on you sonaofabitch,” he thought. 

    Rayford finally took notice of him, Michael had been sent to if he could get any information out of him about Nicolae’s next moves. Michael was growing more and more doubtful. Rayford’s gaze took note of the lack of gray in his hair, the smooth skin around his eyes, the prayer bead bracelet Ang had given him around his wrist. Rayford’s mouth tightened. Michael decided to make the first move. 

    “What’s going on?” Michael asked. “I want to switch places with your guy as soon as I can.”Rayford smirked at the younger man, he asked him with the air of someone extending a tremendous favor,  “Where are you headed tonight?”“What possible business is that of yours?” Michael immediately wished he’d been able to bite his tongue until he’d been able to fake a reasonable politeness. That did it, Rayford looked disgusted and was obviously going to take revenge in not even telling him about the coming bombing of the city. Rayford shrugged and went back to barking orders at the tower. Michael sighed, he looked down and his eye was caught by a strange button on the console. Rayford was preoccupied with his headset and so he pushed it. Nicolae’s voice filled the cockpit, Michael stared at the speaker in shock. Rayford still hadn’t noticed, Michael decided to believe in God for the moment and quickly began to copy everything he heard in shorthand in a little notebook he kept in his shirt pocket… 

  • The Other Weirdo

     “The Harvest”? Is this some new Buffy the Vampire Slayer story line?

  • Kadh2000

    I wrote this last week, some Election Day thoughts from the various characters.

    Rayford and Amanda enjoyed a last minute together before the jetway was maneuvered out to the plane.  “Today would have been election day,” she murmured. 

    “What?”  Rayford was busily trying to tell her how to get out of the airport and the question distracted him.

    “It’s November 6.  I wonder if Old Fitz would have won reelection.”

    Ray snorted.  “The way this year went?  Not a chance.”

    She nodded and he brought her back to his plans for getting her on a flight to Milwaukee.  “Who did you vote for?  I voted for Grayson,” she said.  “I worked on his staff in Boston.  Helped to host a two hundred dollar a plate dinner for the campaign.  I really believed he would pull off a last minute upset. “

    Rayford wished she would stop interrupting him.  “I did too,” he answered her before she finished speaking.  In truth, he hadn’t voted at all.  Back then he had been a Democrat and would have gone for Fitzhugh, but he had never really found the time to vote.  Irene had always tried to get him to come with her to vote.  Now that he finally would have voted for the right candidate, the one the preachers had all spoken for, he didn’t have the chance.  God sure had shown the country what it was like to follow a Democrat’s platform.

    ….

    Buck was talking to Chloe on the phone.  “I miss elections, Clo’ ” he told her.  “They were my favorite part of the year.  I wrote the truth, and my opinions were cited everywhere.  People at GW used to call me ‘kingmaker’ in election year.   I had free dinners from more congressmen than I can count.” 

    He became aware that she was screaming.  At first he thought she had wrecked his new car.  “I never got to vote,” she sobbed.  “When I was at Stanford, it was all we ever talked about.  How we were tired of all the negative campaigning and we were going to make them tell the truth and we were going to change the world.  We weren’t going to listen to the guy who told us who to vote for because he was best for the rich, or for business, or ‘our people’ or anything.  And it was you!  You were that guy we were going to go against and win!  Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck you!  And I told you, it’s Chloe, with an ‘e’.  Fuck you!”

    Buck wasn’t sure what to say.  He knew she would get into heaven.  Chloe had said the prayer.  But she had cursed so many times, it had to mean something.  She screamed again and the line went dead.  All Buck could hope was that she hadn’t backslid to the point of not being right with God.  He decided to pray, but then realized someone might see him.

    Hattie Durham sat alone in the bed she shared with Nicolai and sobbed.  It was big enough when he was there, but when she was alone, it was enormous and empty and cold.  It would have been Election Day, and so she sobbed.  She remembered going with her mother to vote and holding onto the hem of her mother’s coat.  There had been the clicking sounds and then her mother had pulled the lever and the curtains would open and they would leave.  She had always asked to pull the lever and he mother had always told her it was against the law for someone else to pull the lever for her vote.  Elections were too important, her mother had said, to do it wrong.

    That had stuck with Hattie.  She had looked forward to voting when she grew up, and getting to pull that lever herself.  She had voted in every election, but had never pulled that lever.  She had been in the airline business for all of her adult life.  She had always cast absentee ballots.  And now she would never vote again.  She squeezed the hem of the blanket and pretended for just a moment that it was her mother’s coat.

    Nicolae listened to his pilot babble about the airport while his wife reminisced.  If Rayford would only ask, he would make certain that Amelia was on the first plane out of the city.  The American elections had always amused him.  Now he watched the ‘good people’ obey his orders, or run and hide, and bury the truth about their god without him having to intervene.  It had only been the ‘bad people’, the ones that supposedly already were doomed, that had fought against him.  He wondered if either of his pets had ever voted… Rayford hadn’t and Buck had only voted for the ones he had gotten something from.  He supposed it explained why they couldn’t act against him either.  That his enemy had chosen such champions gave him great hope for the final battle.

    Verna looked in the general direction of her home.  “Fair and unbiased.  Fair and unbiased.” There weren’t any blue states.  There were plenty of red states, but not in a good way.  “Fair and unbiased.  We lost.”

  • KarenH.

    Although LeHaye couldn’t have known it at the time of writing this book, even in the complete chaos as 9/11 took place, with virtually all key agencies and players either believing the attacks were an accident, or somehow part of a previously scheduled terrorist drill, the time between the first plane hitting the WTC and US airspace shut down completely to all civilian air traffic was a little more than an hour.

    And the targets on 9/11 weren’t airports.

    If I’m remembering the timeline in NRA, hasn’t it been days now? Surely if the Anti-Christ wanted a seemingly obvious way to figure out how to find this enemy militia airforce wreaking havoc, if he took the civilian flights out of the air, it would make his job just eversoslightly easier, right?

    Kinda makes you wonder if LeHaye and Jenkins had to be sedated in the aftermath of 9/11, what with the total lack of air trvel and the nearly complete lack of telephones (in the wake of the destruction of a major telephony grid in Building 7 at the WTC).

  • Tybult

    One of the princes leaned over to whisper in Nicolae’s ear. “Why do you keep him on? There’s about a thousand other pilots who could do his job.”
    They watched as Rayford booted Amanda out the hatch, down the inflatable ramp, and slammed the cabin door shut afterwards.

    Nicolae steepled his fingers and inhaled sharply. “He is… an unstoppable engine of destruction. Consider this:
    “If I drop a nuclear weapon, it explodes, like this,” he made an exploding motion with his fingers, “and is gone, forever. But Captain Steele… he lasts for decades, and is a personal affront in a way a thermonuclear weapon can never be.”

    As he spoke, Rayford moved towards the cockpit, stopping only to berate a stewardess about the inerrant truth found within the King James Bible. She slumped down, dispirited, and Rayford careened onwards towards the cockpit.

    “This morning, he parked his Lincoln SUV on top of a baggage handler. Then he got out, pulled the fur coat off of his wife, set it on fire, and together they hurled Bibles at refugees running across the tarmac until I sent soldiers to drag them into the plane.
    “In short, the King of Heaven has crafted the perfect argument for his nonexistence, or at the very least his disenthronement.”

    “And Williams?” asked the prince.

    Carpathia’s eyes narrowed. “Williams is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, coated in a thick, bomb-proof glaze of stupidity.”

  • Ken

     Sort of like that bit at the start of Good Omens, where the demons are sharing what they’ve done that day.  (Bit of a SPOILER coming).

    “I tempted a priest,” says one.  “I tempted a politician,” says another.  “I shut down the London cell phone system for half an hour at lunch time,” says the one who knows most about humanity – because that gets lots of people angry, and they all take that out on someone else in some petty way and add a little tarnish to millions of souls.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    “”I still can’t make sense of this talk of a militia air force. I can’t
    figure out whether this is actually part of Jenkins’ preposterous plot
    or if it’s only meant as Nicolae’s preposterous cover story scapegoating
    the militias for the assaults carried out by his air force (which we’ve been told, repeatedly, is the only remaining air force in the world).

    Honestly, Ellenjay could have had a field day with one simple idea from Orwell’s playbook.

    Sure, there’s a resistance.  It’s ran completely by the State, and serves as a way to collect malcontents who want to tilt at windmills and fight the System together in one place so they can be monitored, used, and eventually disposed of.  They’re recruited, led into pulling off terrorists attacks against low-importance targets for the express purpose of generating constant general panic for a while and give a pretext for heightened draconian security measures and oppression, and when the resistance fighters finally become inconvenient, they’re simply arrested, tried and executed in a big dog-and-pony show to show the citizens that their leaders are protecting them, which would have had the added bonus of making the Antichrist’s regime look even MORE machiavellian and inhumanly twisted (I’m sure that Nicky would find the whole thing incredibly fun).  Lather, rinse, repeat.  They can even purposefully leak rumors as to the resistance’s real nature in order to choke recruitment by the REAL resistance, since no one could easily tell who’s real and who’s actually working for for bad guys.  There could be more than one false resistance, and some of them could well be equipped with high-tech military hardware. 

    As usual though, they miss this opportunity too. 

    By the way, how do you do HTML here?  What’s the magical spell for, say, block quotes? 

  • EllieMurasaki

    <blockquote>text to be blockquoted</blockquote>

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Oh thank you!

    text to be blockquoted

  • Ima Pseudonym

     And it worked.  Awesome!

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

    Ok, I guess this goes between On the Plane with Nicolae and Before the Potentate’s speech.  Um, or not, this is added after I wrote the below and then realized I duplicated things and gave different reasons for certain events.  But, um… Greek myth never matches?

    As Rayford exited the cockpit with Nicoale four armed guards joined them.

    “It was a good plan, I suppose,” Nicolae said, “crash the plane before we’re out of range of San Francisco and my forces can’t very well bomb it until I’m accounted for and out of range.

    “Your mistake was in thinking that just because I can’t read your mind means I can’t tell what you’re going to do.  I let Amanda sit in on our plans because, well… seeing her face as we discussed them was precious.  Seeing her try to hide her astonishment, outrage, despair, and so forth was so very nice.

    “Now, she was the only one in the room, which means that the sudden release of the news of which cities were  targeted is due to her, so what better than her being killed in one of the cities?

    “Rayford stopped walking.  Four weapons were suddenly pointed at him.  Nicoale had also stopped and gestured for the weapons to be lowered.

    “Relax, there is something better.  You did not just kill your wife.  I just wanted to see your face when you thought you did.

    “I got her onto a good military transport, she left before we did.  We can deal with her later.  Dropping a bomb on her is so… quick.  She’ll be safe until I decide what to do with her.”

    Relief and dread battled inside of Rayford.

    Nicolae continued, “That list of cities was real by the way.  Why use a lie when the truth will do?

    “I see your confusion, you never were the smartest, were you?  Whatever air force the resistance can muster, from museum pieces to crop dusters with guns hastily attached, will concentrate on the defense of those ten cities.  So all I need to do is defend my bombers and then I’ll rule the skies over North America.

    “I wish I could have done it for the whole world, but if I gave away too much information it would be clear that I was leaking it on purpose.  Talking about the region I was in made sense, revealing targets in other regions would tip my hand.”

    Nicolae stopped at a door, opened it, and gestured to the lavish room behind it, “After you.”

  • Anton_Mates

    He felt like the little Dutch boy with his thumb in the dike. He couldn’t save everyone.

    But…the little Dutch boy did save everyone.

  • Jessica_R

    I think it bounces back to how L&J don’t seem to understand that what makes people likable. The heroes have the best, most shiny toys, so they must be cool awesome guys right? Verna drives a beater, so she’s a terrible person, that makes sense right? Not realizing the bounce back that Buck and Ray drooling over the biggest bone makes them repulsive, while it actually reflects nicely on Verna that not only would she lend her car, her job is obviously more important than having this year’s model. 

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

    People would die. Business and industry would crumble.
    Transportation centers would be destroyed, including that very
    airport.

    At the risk of sounding juvenile: Jenkins to LaHaye: “Ohhh man, I just logistics’d all over my pants.”

    Anyway,
    Steele is stalling the plane. Why doesn’t he just use this to his
    advantage? “Whoops, this awesome communication system just had a minor
    malfunction. Now the bomber crews don’t know when Nicolae takes off.
    Maybe they’ll withdraw – city saved! Or maybe they’ll drop the bombs in
    schedule anyway – no more Antichrist!”

    What am I saying? Making
    the most advanced phone system in the world
    malfunction? The authors cannot, emphatically
    cannot, tolerate such unthinkable horrific
    fantasies.
     

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

    With the disclaimer that it’s been years since I studied this sort of thing.

    Romans decimated their own.  A legion fucks up big and you lined them up, counted to ten, killed that person, counted to ten, killed that person, so on, until you’d killed one tenth of the legion.

    See if the remaining 90% ever fuck up like that again.  The point was to be horrifying and arbitrary.  The point was to make them more afraid of Rome than they were of anyone else.  The point was to make them realize that it could have been them.  The point was to maintain most while killing enough to make the threat extremely real to those who survived.

  • Turcano

    Even with that elaboration, you still haven’t got to the truly horrible part.  You did not kill the 10% selected to die; you made the other 90% do it.

  • Emma Kennedy

    Except that IIRC the Romans didn’t line up and have every tenth man killed. I think it was a lottery system – taking balls out of a bag, if you got a white ball you were safe, if you got a black bag then you were to be beaten to death by your mates.

    Hence black balling someone. (Possible urban legend)

    Simon Scarrow has a legion decimation in one of his Eagle series.

  • Lawrence090469

    “What possible business is that of yours?” the young man said.
    This needs more discussion. No one talks like this in real life. I am a strong introvert, and I just don’t like people all that much. And I was never so young or inexperienced or clueless that I spoke this way to a co worker, much less a superior. Even if I wanted to. Is this how the authors see those who are outside their sect? Not just mistaken or uninformed, but assholes?

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

    When the question is inappropriate, it’s a reasonable answer even to a co-worker; and we’ve already seen Rayford be a jerk to fellow pilots. I’m sure he has a reputation and everyone knows to shut him down fast because the most innocent answer will be used as an opening to pompous asshattery.

    I’ve got a co-worker like that. Any bit of casual conversation turns into “how I’m so much better at that than you” or “that’s such a waste of time”. Actually he’s so oblivious to social cues that he’d probably also see “What possible business is that of yours?” as an invitation to expound on it.

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

    “Sinister” is derived from a word for a left-handed person, by the way.

    Holdovers:

    (R) – rectus
    (S) – sinister

    as identification of enantiomers in organic chemistry.

  • P J Evans

     I believe it’s possible to  be sinister, gauche, and left-handed all at the same time, in descending order of difficulty.

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

    Staggered and eclipsed are all by their lonesome. :P

  • everstar

    Right, that’s what Ross is calling me on: if I were being consistently pedantic, I’d be annoyed by someone describing a right-handed person with shady motivations as sinister because etymologically speaking they should be left-handed.  Although in these modern times, I daresay some would take more offense at being described as rectus.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CE6FTHLHRMXUGOOGCMG3ROXBH4 David

    The strange thing is… all Rayford had to do is refuse to take off!  Just take your hands off the wheel, or better yet pull the switch that dumps all the fuel.  Nicholae has to either call off the bombing, or die with the rest of them. 

    He can do better than that without outward disobedience.  Soon after takeoff, declare “We’ve got a warning light up here in the cockpit.  We’re going to have to circle around and land again…”