NRA: What does the Antichrist want?

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 99-101

Rayford Steele is eavesdropping on his boss as they fly over the Pacific.

His boss is Nicolae Carpathia — the potentate, global dictator, Antichrist and random destroyer of cities. In the previous scene, Nicolae gave the order for the destruction of San Francisco and the bombs began to fall. Rayford got even with him by accelerating abruptly during takeoff, causing Nicolae to fall in the aisle of the plane.

Causing someone to trip because they just killed a few million people doesn’t really make things even, but Rayford is still enormously pleased with his tiny act of revenge, and the authors are still basking in it here in the following scene.

“I was so excited and so full of ideas,” the potentate said, “that I could not stay seated. I hope I do not have a bruise to show for it.” His lackeys all roared with laughter.

Nothing funnier than the boss’s joke, Rayford thought.

Perhaps soon the cumulative effect of all these bitter, disapproving thoughts directed his way will begin to take a toll on Nicolae. Rayford and Buck have to hope so, because so far, such silent disapproval is the Tribulation Force’s only strategy against the Antichrist.

“We have so much to talk about, so much to do,” Carpathia continued. “When our compatriots join us in Baghdad, we will get right to work.”

This is it — this is his big chance, what Rayford has been waiting for for more than a year.

The whole point of Rayford’s elaborate eavesdropping system — more than that, the whole point of his taking a job as the apparently loyal servant of the Antichrist — was to gather information on the Antichrist’s plans. For many months now, Rayford has served as the personal pilot for a man he believes is evil incarnate, all so that he would have a chance to eavesdrop on exactly this conversation, the one that begins, “We have so much to talk about, so much to do.”

Rayford didn’t learn of Nicolae’s plan to destroy a dozen airports (and their surrounding cities) until it was too late for him to plan a response. But now, it seems, the Antichrist is about to lay out his nefarious agenda for the coming months and Rayford, secretly listening in, will be collecting valuable intelligence for the Tribulation Force.

Or not.

Rayford heard the unmistakable voice of Leon Fortunato. “Potentate,” he whispered, “we’ll need replacements for Hernandez, Halliday, and your fiancée, will we not?”

Hernandez was the co-pilot who flew with Rayford from Dallas to San Francisco. He was just killed in the destruction of the airport there. Halliday, Rayford’s old pilot friend, had been hired to help design Nicolae’s new plane, after which — for reasons never explained — he was to be killed as well. Nicolae’s fiancée, of course, is poor Hattie Durham, who also works as his personal secretary.

Rayford sat up. Was it possible? Had they already eliminated those three, and why Hattie Durham? He felt responsible that his former senior flight attendant was now not only in Carpathia’s employ, but was also his lover and the soon-to-be mother of his child. So, was he not going to marry her? Did he not want a child? He had put on such a good front before Rayford and Amanda when Hattie had announced the news.

Carpathia chuckled. “Please do not put Ms. Durham in the same category as our late friends. Hernandez was expendable. Halliday was a temporary necessity. Let us replace Hernandez and not worry about replacing Halliday. He served a purpose. The only reason I asked you to replace Hattie is that the job has passed her by. …”

So, no, Nicolae isn’t planning to have Hattie killed. The authors have worse things in store for her than that.

Nicolae and his new right-hand man, Fortunato, continue discussing personnel issues for another page or so. “I would like you to handle finding new secretarial personnel,” the global potentate says to the second-most powerful man on the planet.

And this, apparently, was the “so much to talk about, so much to do,” that Nicolae mentioned.

Poor, expendable Hernandez was a lower-level pilot who worked for the Global Community one-world government. The leader of that OWG is here concerning himself personally with the job vacancy created by Hernandez’s demise.

So the global potentate micromanages the entire world, with him apparently needing to be personally consulted about every job opening anywhere on the planet. But it’s even worse than that. Nicolae and Fortunato spend all this time discussing the need to replace this Dallas-based pilot without ever pausing to consider that, oh, by the way, we also just nuked the airport in Dallas, so all of our other pilots there are probably dead, too, and that airport will need to be rebuilt, along with the airports in New York, London, Washington, Toronto, Chicago …

While eavesdropping on this top-secret meeting of the OWG personnel committee, Rayford is also apparently listening to “the news” in the cockpit:

The destruction of the San Francisco airport and much of the Bay Area had already made the news.

“The news” there probably means those omnipresent GCCNN Radio people again. I feel bad for those folks. When the bombs started to fall on San Francisco, they had to get to work, grabbing their microphones and cameras and heading into danger. Meanwhile, at Global Community Weekly’s San Francisco office, everybody just took the rest of the day off.

This is the third or fourth time that Jerry Jenkins has informed readers first about the destruction of an airport and then, as a footnote to that, about the slaughter of millions of people in the surrounding area as well. This weird priority of airports over people seems like a device a better writer might borrow and repurpose as a way of deliberately highlighting the obtuse narcissism of a protagonist. I think that would be effective, since it’s quite effective here at unintentionally highlighting the obtuse narcissism of both Rayford and the authors.

Rayford saw the fear in [co-pilot] McCullum’s eyes. Maybe the man would have felt more confident had he known that his ultimate boss, Nicolae Carpathia, had most everything under control for the next few years.

Last week we looked at a scene that stood out from the rest of this book because, for once, Buck Williams wanted something. He was searching for Chloe and wanted to find her. Briefly, for a handful of pages, we thus had a plot and a character we could understand: Man searches for lost woman.

Here we’re told that the Antichrist has “most everything under control.” He rules over the entire world with absolute power. He has “so much to talk about, so much to do.”

But we still have no idea what the Antichrist wants.

The authors themselves don’t seem to have any idea of this either. And since Nicolae is the antagonist driving the plot of this story, that means we also don’t have any idea of what that plot is. He’s the title character of this book, but we can’t begin to understand his character either. We don’t know what he wants.

The authors told us all along that Nicolae’s professed idealism was a bogus charade. Now, with the mass-murder of his bombing campaign, they have shown us that — shown that all his talk of peace, harmony and global unity was just a deception to enable his rise to power. Now that he has that power, he has no intention of using it to promote peace or harmony or any of that other stuff.

OK, but what does he intend to use his power for? What’s his plan? Why does he do what he does?

The authors don’t tell us because they don’t know. And they don’t care. “Bible prophecy,” they insist, tells us what the Antichrist will do. And if we already know, step-by-step, exactly what he will do, then we don’t need to know why.

And that leaves us with a character who has no character driving a plot that has no plot. We plow our way through the prophecy check list, each inscrutable act following the other, but we can never understand why any of this is happening other than the author’s assurance that it all must happen because it was all foretold.

Rayford knew that Hernandez was doomed as soon as he left the plane in San Francisco. He even briefly thought of maybe half-warning the young pilot to get out of the city before it was destroyed, but then Hernandez was slightly discourteous to him, so he abandoned him to his fate. Now though, overhearing Nicolae Carpathia describe the man as “expendable,” Rayford is horrified:

He was hearing things he never wanted to hear. … Life had become so cheap that in a matter of hours he had lost a new acquaintance, Hernandez, and a dear old mentor and friend, Earl Halliday. …

He turns off the intercom and heads for some rest in his “lavishly appointed” pilot’s “chamber.”

Rayford removed his shoes and stretched out on his back. He thought about Earl. He thought about Amanda. He thought about Chloe and Buck. And he worried. And it all started with the loss of Bruce. Rayford turned on his side and buried his face in his hands and wept. How many close to him might he lose today alone?

That reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Ray Bradbury. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, he wrote:

A stranger is shot in the street, you hardly move to help. But if, half and hour before, you spent just 10 minutes with the fellow and knew a little about him and his family, you might just jump in front of his killer and try to stop it. Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know is bad, or amoral, at least. You can’t act if you don’t know.

Bradbury there, in five sentences, pinpoints everything that’s wrong with Rayford Steele. And with his creators.

  • LL

    I think I know the answer before I ask this question, but is there in there anywhere a realization by the authors that the antichrist chose Rayford (seriously, I can barely type that name with a straight face) because he seems like the kind of guy who’d gladly help the antichrist? 

    In other words, RayRay thinks Nicowhatever chose him because he’s such an awesome pilot, but it’s really because RayRay is exactly the kind of corporate tool who will fit right in with the minions of hell. 

  • Magic_Cracker

    I think the cray-cray supervillians with a grudge against Batman (e.g., Joker, Two-Face) would leave the city alone. The greed-motivated supervillains like Penguin or Black Mask would battle for control of Gotham’s rackets at first, but eventually things would settle back down.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    If Nicolae really had a cat in these books, L&J would have had him name it “Lucy Fur”  so that the protagonists could give each other knowing glances behind the backs of the ignorant unsaved liberal idiots cooing and scratching its chin.

    The cats in my house have loosey fur.  They leave a halo of it on my lap when they get off of it.  I suspect they only get up there because petting exfoliates their shedding.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Well, that is also a reoccurring moral theme examined in the Batman mythos, particularly by later interpretations: to what extent is Batman shaped by the foes he fights, and to what extent are those foes made by him?  

    It makes for an interesting quandary, and why a series like that can have a lot more depth than its surface would suggest.  Heck, I have known people who enjoy Batman on the basis that he tends to have the most interesting rogues gallery.  

  • Dogfacedboy

    “The AntiChrist has a CAT?!?! About time! Don’t need to hear another word about anything else, just fill me in about that Cat! :)”

    It’s the Basement Cat.

  • fraser

     Or performing anti-miracles: Convincing everyone to hide their loaves and fishes so that abundance becomes scarcity.

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

    The thousand injuries of Fortunato Rayford had borne as he best could, but when he ventured upon mass murder Rayford vowed to think unkindly on him. You, who so well know the nature of Ray’s soul, will not suppose, however, that he gave utterance to displeasure. At length he would stew impotently; this was a point definitively settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. Rayford must not only stew but stew with impunity.

    Thread winner.

  • fraser

     ” So, was he not going to marry her? Did he not want a child? He had put
    on such a good front before Rayford and Amanda when Hattie had announced
    the news.”
    Yes, it seems to reaffirm everything Fred’s ever said about the religious right’s fixation on premarital sex as the Big Bad.  

  • aunursa

    Later in this book, the Tribbies plead with Hattie not to abort the antichrist’s child.

  • fraser

     Sinestro made the same point in his first appearance–he can attack Green Lantern, but GL can’t strike if Sinestro’s just twiddling his thumbs.
    But that’s not really a problem for a lot of super-heroes–Superman does a lot to help out people even when there’s no super-villain in sight. And the same point could be made about cops and mystery stories–until there’s a crime to solve, there’s no action. But the cop/detective is still the protagonist.

  • fraser

     Now I’m thinking of Blofeld and his cat. Nicky does not do well by comparison.

  • Grumpy

    The title of this post reminds me of a blog which I started reading, coincidentally, yesterday: What Does the Protagonist Want? http://www.toddalcott.com/

  • fraser

     Good point. I think it’s supposed to be an improvement by deepening the characters, showing they want more than money, but it doesn’t usually work.
    It does with Luthor (Silver/Bronze Age version) because the best stories show this is not healthy–he can’t let go of his hate and doesn’t want to.

  • Grumpy

    Heh. I think I was reading the same post yesterday.

  • fraser

     I don’t think the Joker. For all that he hates Batman (and perversely enjoys battling him) he’s (as Steve Englehart once put it) a time bomb that’s going to go off every so often.

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

    As a result of which, Hattie takes their advice, ultimately giving extremely painful birth to a stillborn, deformed baby of “indeterminate” sex.

    So we can all see that it would have been much worse for Hattie to have had an abortion…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Later in this book, the Tribbies plead with Hattie not to abort the antichrist’s child.

    Seriously!?  Because I am thinking that if there were just one circumstance in which a RTC might think abortion excusable, it would be in ridding the world of a literal child of evil.  

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

    Yep, that’s the one.  Thanks for having that at hand!  Specifically, it was The Avengers part 6.

  • Turcano

    You have to remember, these are people who think it’s bad to lie to the Nazis to protect Jews, but it’s okay to lie to each other about science.  It’s a fucked-up subculture.

  • aunursa

    is there in there anywhere a realization by the authors that the antichrist chose Rayford (seriously, I can barely type that name with a straight face) because he seems like the kind of guy who’d gladly help the antichrist?

    Nicolae: I also want to let you in on a little secret, something that has not been announced yet. Ms. Durham has assured me that you are a man who can be trusted, a man of your word, and as of recently also a religious man.”

    Brave Sir Rayford nodded, unwilling to say anything.

    Rayford: I’m at your disposal. I do need to be home before we leave Saturday, however.
    Nicolae I like your style. You are at my disposal. That is nice… I like you, and I believe we can work together.

    from Tribulation Force

  • http://twitter.com/AbelUndercity Abel Undercity

    I don’t know if it’s still canon (what with the New 52 reboot and all), but prior to Batman, Gotham was the stomping grounds of the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott.  In the event of Batman’s death, another hero would likely fill the void left, rather than leave Gotham’s citizenry at the whims of his rogues gallery.

  • fraser

     There was actually a Wolff and Byrd plotline with that concept.

  • fraser

     Robin did the same thing after Batman’s supposed death in Final Crisis.

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

    He felt responsible that his former senior flight attendant was now not only in Carpathia’s employ, but was also his lover and the soon-to-be mother of his child.

    I know I’m always nitpicking the little things when there’s so much big bad, but really…senior flight attendant? Is it really necessary to include that part in this particular context? I think Jenkins’s obsessions with telephony and airports are rivaled by his obsession with titles. Sort of a jet-setting 18th-century aristocrat permanently on the phone?

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

    Well, even in Rayford’s old nature, he would never lust after anyone so lowly as a junior flight attendant.  I mean, if he’s going to leave his “attractive enough” wife, it has to be for someone with some status; someone who can be put on a pedestal just high enough to see up her senior flight-attendant skirt.

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

    And it all started with the loss of Bruce.

    Wait, what? 

    It all started with the loss of his wife and son. Not flippin’ Bruce, a dude he only knew for a short time. But Rayford doesn’t even spare a thought for his wife and son. They may as well have never existed.

    A writer who forgets that he’s killed off his protaganist’s wife and child is not a writer. I don’t think such a so-called writer can even be called a human being in a sense the rest of us can understand.

  • JoshuaS

    I didn’t really pick up on that either, and I’m human! If Rayford is a paper-thin character, and Nicolae is a talking plot device, then Irene and Raymie are even less than that — they’re backstory. Not even interesting backstory — Irene’s thing was that she introduced Rayford to PMDism, and Raymie… Raymie could be cut entirely without affecting any aspect of the story or characters.

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

    Oh, lord, they totally would have. (-_-)

  • JoshuaS

    Why? Nicolae may be evil, but he is fully human and there is no particular reason why his child would turn out the same as he will. (And even if Nicolae Jr. is evil, who would care? The world’s going to end — by the time he’s old enough to walk, the world would explode.)

    It’s interesting though — Hattie ends up miscarrying — her unborn child dies in the womb. But this character is never seen in the afterlife, unlike the children of all the other important characters in the series.

    I know it’s just an oversight, a consequence of aggressively sloppy writing and utter carelessness, but it gives the impression that they didn’t really consider the unborn child to be a person, with a soul able to pass into the afterlife…

  • aunursa

    The only other newbie on the crew was a young flight attendant named Hattie Durham, who looked enough like the infamous Trish that Rayford had to once again slug it out with his conscience over the Christmas party fiasco a few years before. Hattie was introduced to him by his favorite senior flight attendant, Janet Allen. When she sent Hattie back to her chores, Janet whispered, “Just between you and me, Captain, she’s a little ditzy.  Ambitious, though, I’ll give her that. Wants my job on an international route.”

    “Think she’ll make it?”

    “I’m not sure she knows when we’re in the air or on the ground just yet.”

    from Prequel #1, The Rising

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

    You’re not the so-called writer. It’s the writer’s responsibility to remember these things. While readers often misread, forget, and misinterpret, it should be completely impossible for a reader to ever forget that Rayford lost his wife and son if the writer is writing at all. That anyone possibly can is the fault of Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye and no one else.

    One does not write a story in which the protaganist’s wife and child are killed, and have those facts be anything but centrally important to the story. It is simply not done. Jenkins is neither a writer nor an acceptable human being.

  • Launcifer

    Obviously Bruce was the drummer who died in a weird telephone-related accident while pruning his rose bushes one morning. Rayford wasn’t always an airline pilot: once he was the singer in a middling NWOBHM-ripoff heavy metal band. That’s how he met Buck, actually. Buck’s not a hotshot reporter – he’s the poor, washed-up sod from Kerrapp!I who’s so desperate to keep his job he gets all the crummy the stories that the reporters won’t touch.  He also plays keyboards in the church band,  though nobody knows. They usually just leave him out in the corridor with a Cassio and let him noodle away, maybe leave the door open so that people can hear.  

    Conversely, Nicolae isn’t even the antichrist, at least not deliberately. He’s the lead singer in the second most successful Led Zeppelin tribute band to come out of Romania. That’s why he’s obsessed with aeroplanes – he read that Zep’ used to charter the Starship when they toured the US and he wanted to be just like his heroes, bless ‘im. The mind whammy thing? That’s an accident, kinda like his very own backward masking unit – except it’s real, obviously. Some idiot made a bootleg of one of his band’s gigs (let’s call ‘em Let’s Zep! or something), whacked it up on youtube and, next thing he knows, it’s all gone viral and now there’s some guy who insists on being called “Buck” like he’s something out of an old eighties sci-fi programme trying to get an interview.

    He doesn’t have any idea how he got a standing ovation from the U.N either. He just found himself there, standing next to that Bonio fella (poor Nic’s already worn out four copies of The Joshua Tree he liked it that much) and he started naming all of the countries he could think of because he didn’t know what to say when they plonked him behind the lectern. All of a sudden people are cheering him on like he’s the king of the world, so he just carries on calling out countries he can find on a map. Mr Carpathia (though he’s since changed his name to “Mt. Doom”, because it sounds more rock and rool) still thinks he only got to be Secretary General because of all that revision he had to do once for a fifth form geography test.

    That business when those two guys committed suicide right in front of him? Another accident: he was just trying to branch out and get with the times. How was he to know that Bullet in the Head would have such literal repercussions?

    *takes a breath*

    O-kay, I have absolutely no idea where any of that came from, but I’m so glad it’s now everyone elses problem and not rattling around inside my head like it has been for the past two hours.

  • Launcifer

    And I broke the formatting. *headdesk*

  • Baby_Raptor

    He doesn’t need security personnel. He has everyone but the RTCs mind-whammied into worshiping him, and the RTCs aren’t going to raise a finger because prophecy. 

    Having security anyway would make for convincing storytelling, but this is Ellenjay. 

  • LC

    Out of curiosity, is there another Armageddon/Eschaton that has quite the same sort of “checklist” mentality as this one? I mean, I know there are signs of the end times in a lot, but does anyone know of any others that have turned into quite this systematic series of ticks on a ledger?  And I’ve always assumed there are alternate arrangements of the ticks even here, correct? Doesn’t the timing or even existence of the Rapture change in a few versions?

    I was wondering if you could write an end times story along a different checklist that might even be open to some question as to whose end time story it was.

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

    Some idiot made a bootleg of one of his band’s gigs (let’s call ‘em Let’s Zep! or something)….

    I think that considering the implications of the name, “Kingdom Come” would be just right.

  • Launcifer

    I was toying with the idea of a Stairway to Heaven gag, but I couldn’t find a way to make it funny. Maybe Nicky’s just the Hammer of (the) God(s) and there’s nothing he could do about it.

  • TheBrett

    If only Rayford was more noble and self-sacrificing. I can just imagine the scene that might ensue:

    Rayford: *Does everything necessary to lock in the plane for a collision with the ground, after broadcasting Carpathia’s treachery to the world before the nukes fall.Carpathia: Blah Blah Blah How could you betray me? *Mind control!* *Mind control fails!*

    Rayford: It ends now, Nicolae. May God have mercy on your soul, because gravity will have none. 

  • GeniusLemur

     And after he’s seen Nicky nuke city after city, he’s shocked, shocked that Nicky might not marry his pregnant girlfriend and/or not want a child.

  • GeniusLemur

     It isn’t just Ray. Everyone in these novels has completely forgotten the rapture and all the people lost in it.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     IIRC, an element of the backstory to ‘Birds of Prey’ (A series about the lovechild of Batman and Catwoman) is that there’s an entire generation of metahumans who sprang up in Gotham as a result of the dalliances  of the various supervillains who’d come to town to fight Batman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    There’s an episode of Batman:  The Animated Series – which may or may not be an adaptation of an existing story; certainly there are elements of Morrison’s Arkham Asylum in the episode – that touches on that idea.

    I forget some of the specifics, but Gotham has a new DA who is making that very claim.  The inmates at Arkham decide to put her ideas to the test, and they end up taking over the place – with the help of the Mad Hatter’s mind-control devices – and they kidnap the DA and force Batman to surrender himself into their custody so that he can be put on trial for his crimes against him.

    The twist is that the new DA is forced to serve as Batman’s defense attorney (Two-Face is the prosecutor).

    In the end, the new DA concludes that while the inmates might have used different methods and found slightly different targets, with or without Batman they all would have turned out pretty much exactly the way they did and been just as much of a danger to society.  In fact, they’d likely be worse without Batman, given how ill-equipped conventional law enforcement is to deal with them.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And then you get things like ‘Cry for Justice’ where the superheroes get fed up with the fact that they have to wait for criminals to actually commit crimes before they can go after them, and decide to just go after criminals who haven’t committed any crimes yet. For Great Justice.

  • Kiba

    But we still have no idea what the Antichrist wants.

    Well obviously he wants to destroy all the airports. Not sure why but, man, does he ever hate those things. 

    (I am Nicolae Carpathia and you are the airport that killed my father. Prepare to die. **drops nuke**)

  • Launcifer

    Maybe it’s not the airports he has a problem with so much as the quality of departure lounge coffee?

  • Photon

    Well, “some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They
    can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just
    want to watch the world burn.”

    IMO Nicolae’s large scale actions seem indeed pretty Joker-like. But as a person he doesn’t seem like that, more the calculated evil ruler. You could of course say that he has a Joker-motivation and only pretends to be a politian.

    Still, Kiba’s theory holds water too…

  • everstar

     I really read that as “the tribbles plead” etc.  All I could think of was Hattie being mobbed by distressed furry purring things.

  • Kiba

    “You call this swill coffee?” He yelled as he threw the cup against the wall. “This blasphemous transgression against the holy bean can not stand!”

    Stalking angrily out of the departure lounge he snarled to his aid, “I’ll show those heretical bastards. When we are clear I want this place reduced to ash. I will leave them howling in despair in the brilliant radioactive blow of the rubble. I’ll teach them to profane the most holy bean that way!”

      

  • Veylon

    You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to simply have Nicolae be a post-Millenialist type who’ll happily use end-justifiies-the-means logic to justify his actions to build a blasphemous-sounding “Heaven on Earth”. Throw in a few Illumanati and/or Masonic catchphrases and you’re good to go. If you need to have the guy do something irrational, have some ritual/symbol/rule of his belief that demands it of him. This should be the easy part.

  • Tricksterson

    Which raises the question, why doesn’t anyone in these books have a pet?  Were they all Raptured too?


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