TF: A person of action

TF: A person of action December 19, 2011

Tribulation Force, pp. 445-450

Stymied by traffic jams and nuclear war, our heroes will be forced to hike half a mile on foot to reach the just-bombed hospital where their friend Bruce Barnes was lying in a coma.

“I’m going,” Rayford said.

“Me too,” Buck said.

“We’re all going,” Chloe insisted, but Rayford held up a hand.

Silly little girl, this is a man’s job.

“We’re not all going. It’s going to be hard enough for one of us to get past security. Buck or I will have a better chance because we have Global Community identification.”

What does “get past security” mean here? Is this part of the military response to the insurgency? Or are military checkpoints some previously unmentioned aspect of life in Nicolae Carpathia’s “Global Community”?

“I think one of us with an ID should go, and the other should stay with the wives. We all have to be with someone who can get past the red tape if necessary.”

“I want to go,” Buck said, “but you make the call.”

“Stay and make sure the car is positioned so we can get out of here and get to Mount Prospect. If I’m not back in half an hour, take the risk and come looking for me.”

Those GC ID cards are a nifty perk of being top-level employees of the Antichrist, ensuring that Rayford and Buck can always “get past the red tape.” (That totalitarian police state can be such a nuisance.) But you know what’s an even sweeter benefit from their jobs working for Nicolae? Not having to do them. We discussed Buck’s journalistic negligence last week, but Rayford is also remarkably unconcerned with having to check in with his boss. He’s in charge of Nicolae’s plane. Nicolae’s plane is being targeted for attack by insurgents. But he’s in no hurry to call the office.

“Daddy, if Bruce is any better, try to bring him with you.”

“Don’t worry, Chloe,” Rayford said. “I’m ahead of you.”

I think he’s a bit ahead of himself as well. Last he heard, Bruce was in a coma. It’s not clear, then, just how Rayford — alone and on foot — is planning on bringing Bruce back.

Buck, meanwhile, is chafing at not going along with his father-in-law. Just staying back and waiting is fine for “the wives,” but not for a manly person of action like himself. And, yes, Buck actually thinks of himself in exactly those words, “person of action”:

As soon as Rayford had jogged through the muddy weeds and out of sight, Buck regretted agreeing to stay behind. He had always been a person of action, and as he watched shell-shocked citizens milling about and commiserating, he could hardly stand still.

Reading that description of Buck Williams here — “a person of action” — makes me wonder if Jerry Jenkins remembers anything at all of what he typed in the previous 446 pages of Tribulation Force, or in all of the previous volume. In those hundreds of pages, the only evidence we’ve ever seen that Buck Williams is a “person of action” is from several scenes like this one, in which Buck sits passive and inert, but stews over how hard it is for him to do so because he’s “a person of action.”

Throughout these books, every time Buck fails or refuses or chooses not to act he mutters about how this angers him, because deep-down he knows himself to be a man of action. And the converse is also true: Every time we hear Buck congratulating himself for being a manly man of action, we see him failing or refusing or choosing not to act.

Rayford clears a hill and gets his first glimpse of the hospital:

Part of the full height of the structure was still intact, but much of it was rubble. Emergency vehicles surrounded the mess, with white-uniformed rescue workers scurrying about. A long stretch of police barrier tape had been stretched around the hospital campus. As Rayford lifted it to duck under, a security guard, weapon ready, ran toward him.

“Halt!” he called out. “This is a restricted area!”

For those keeping score, the following is a list of entities that remain armed after the implementation of the Antichrist’s global disarmament plan:

  1. Global Community “peacekeeping” forces (the OWG military);
  2. Israel — the one country still separate from the OWG;
  3. the former country of the United Kingdom;
  4. the former country of Egypt;
  5. several American “East Coast militias” (the Cambridge Regiment, the Suffolk County Reserves, the New Haven Patriot Corps, etc.);
  6. the security staff of Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill.

One has to admire the efficiency of this hospital security staff. It’s only been a few hours since the building collapsed, but they refused to be distracted by the cries of the wounded and promptly sprang into action, stringing up an impressive amount of crime-scene tape, declaring the scene a “restricted area,” and guarding the perimeter against potential rescue workers or other intruders.

“I have clearance!” Rayford shouted, waving his ID wallet. …

“Wow! Clearance level 2-A. You work for Carpathia himself?”

Rayford nodded.

“What’s your job?”

“Classified.”

“Is he around here?”

“No, and I wouldn’t tell you if he was.”

I know what you’re thinking — Rayford only has clearance level 2-A? It doesn’t sound like it, but that’s actually the highest level. The only person with clearance level 1-A is Hattie Durham … if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge.

Rayford headed toward what had been the front of the building. He was largely ignored by people too busy to care who did or did not have clearance to be there. Body after body was laid out in a neat row and covered.

And here, just pages from the end of this book, we encounter the rarest of creatures in the Left Behind universe — actual human beings behaving as actual human beings. This includes the woman who is probably my favorite character so far.

An EMT tells Rayford that only three survivors have been found so far among the rubble, and Bruce was not among them:

[Rayford] strode to the makeshift outdoor morgue where several EMTs moved among the remains, lifting sheets and taking notes, trying to reconcile patient and employee lists with body parts and ID bracelets.

“Help or get out of the way,” a heavyset woman said as she brushed past Rayford.

See? I like her already. Her very first sentence is the one thing that desperately needed to be said to Rayford Steele 800 pages ago.

“I’m looking for a Bruce Barnes,” Rayford said.

The woman, whose nameplate read Patricia Devlin, stopped and squinted, cocked her head, and checked her clipboard. She flipped through the three top pages, shaking her head. “Staff or patient?” she asked.

This is intended, I think, to heighten the suspense over Bruce’s fate. That’s what the authors want us to be thinking about here: Bruce’s fate. They’ve just told us that Washington, D.C., and London have been destroyed with millions dead.  Our hero is standing amidst the rubble of what used to be a hospital, where again hundreds of people have been killed. But the authors want us focused on Bruce, who here is supposed to play the role of those adorable dogs who miraculously survive in bad disaster movies.

But I can’t think about Bruce Barnes here. I’m far more interested in Patricia Devlin. Her very presence in this story means that she is one of the left behind, a “bad person” and an unforgiven sinner who deserves the wrath, punishment and suffering that Tim LaHaye’s God has planned for her. And nothing in her brief appearance suggests that she is, like Rayford, a “Tribulation saint” — meaning that in the authors’ view, she will be subjected to that wrath, punishment and suffering for all of eternity.

And yet here she is, keeping her head down and soldiering on in the face of unfaceable carnage and devastation. Rayford is there because his friend was one of the hundreds of people inside the hospital when it was struck. Patricia is there because hundreds of people were inside the hospital when it was struck. Rayford can leave as soon as he confirms what happened to his friend. Patricia won’t be leaving any time soon.

“Patient. Brought into the emergency room. He was in a coma last we heard.”

“Probably ICU then,” she said. “Check over there.” Patricia pointed to six bodies at the end of a row.

She’s brusque at first, because she doesn’t have time for this interruption. But after a few more pestering questions from Rayford, she softens, taking time she doesn’t have and can’t afford in order to show kindness to a stranger.

“If he’s out here, hon, he’s confirmed dead. If he’s still inside, they may never find him. … You want I should check for you?”

Rayford’s face contorted, and he could hardly speak. “I’d be grateful.”

Patricia Devlin moved quickly, surprisingly agile for her size. Her thick, white-soled shoes were muddy. She knelt by the bodies one by one, checking, as Rayford stood ten feet away, his hand covering his mouth, a sob rising in his throat.

Again, whatever suspense Jenkins intended here over the fate of Bruce Barnes is lost on me due to the unexpected puzzle of encountering a real human-seeming character in these pages — a real human-seeming character I actually kind of like.

Jenkins seems to have liked her too. It’s possible that was intentional — that Patricia Devlin is based on someone he knew and admired, and that she appears here as an affectionate tribute to some real-life friend or acquaintance of his. Or maybe she just showed up. Characters do that sometimes — they just introduce themselves and start talking and all the writer can do is race to write it all down. That’s happened to most writers at some point, but I wasn’t sure it would ever happen to Jerry Jenkins.

At the fourth body, Miss Devlin began to lift the sheet when she hesitated and checked the still-intact wristband. She looked back at Rayford, and he knew. …

“Could you check for a pulse?” Rayford managed.

“Oh, sir,” she said, deep sympathy in her voice, “they don’t bring them out here unless they’ve been pronounced.”

“Please,” he whispered, crying openly now. “For me.”

And as Rayford stood in the bluster of suburban Chicago’s early afternoon, his hands to his face, a woman he had never met before and would never see again placed a thumb and forefinger at the pressure points under his pastor’s jaw.

Without looking at Rayford, she took her hand away, replaced the sheet over Bruce Barnes’s head, and went back about her business.

And there is the difference between Miss Patricia Devlin and the other characters surrounding her in these books — she has business to attend to. She’s busy. She’s what a “person of action” actually looks like.

How fitting, then, that she should shoulder her way unexpectedly into this book in this particular scene in order to preside over the death of the hapless Bruce Barnes. Bruce should have been busy. Better than anyone else, he knew exactly what was coming. It was all clearly spelled out for him in the Rev. Billings’ notes — so clearly that there was no need for him to fritter away more than a year locked in Billings’ old office re-reading and re-re-reading those simple notes. Yet beyond the crudest of crude plans — dig a hole and hide — Bruce never got busy acting on what he knew.

“Help or get out of the way,” Patricia said. Bruce never did the former so here, at last, he does the latter.

After Patricia strides off in her thick — maybe even sensible — shoes, Jenkins reverts to form. He slathers on the bathos in the final two pages, still trying somehow to sadden us with the news of Bruce’s death while distracting us from the millions of other deaths he barely notes in passing. Rayford kneels among the carnage, weeping, but weeping only for one out of all the millions dead.

Rayford’s legs buckled, and he knelt on the muddy pavement. Sirens blared in the distance, emergency lights flashed all around him, and his family waited less than half a mile away. It was just him and them now. No teacher. No mentor. Just the four of them.

Manly men can still weep manly tears, you see. You can weep for a friend and still be a manly man, provided you still make sure “the wives” know their place.

Buck was nearly ready to go after Rayford when he saw a tall form appear on the horizon. From his gait and the slump of his shoulders, Buck knew.

“Oh, no,” he whispered, and Chloe and Amanda began to cry. The three of them rushed to meet Rayford and walk him back to the car.

The Red Horse of the Apocalypse was on the rampage.

That’s the final line in the book. It sounds wonderfully ominous if you don’t think about it much. The Red Horse of War is on the rampage — deadly, global, unending war.

But who, exactly, will be fighting this war? It still takes two to tangle, right? But the Brits and the Americans, the Russians, Ethopians and Egyptians have all been wiped out. Even the Upper West Side Militia has been neutralized. Apart from the Global Community military, the only army still around is Israel’s, and apparently the prophecy doesn’t allow the Antichrist to attack them for another 24 months. So how much of a war can the second seal bring if there’s no one left for Nicolae to fight?

The rider on the red horse seems to have galloped past while our heroes were stuck in traffic. It seems we plowed through 430+ pages of meetings, phone calls, job interviews, cookies, phone calls, romantic confusion, misogyny, plane travel and phone calls only to learn that instead of some serious John-the-Revelator-style devastation we’re only going to get one lousy seal, related to us second-hand and after-the-fact.

On the book jacket, we were promised this about our heroes: “Their task is clear, and their goal is nothing less than to stand and fight the enemies of God during the seven most chaotic years the planet will ever see.” But instead of fighting the enemies of God, they just secured themselves cushy little clearance-level-2A jobs with Enemies of God Inc., from which they then managed to be on vacation when finally, after hundreds of pages, the second seal hits the fan.

The actual task of the Tribulation Force seems to be killing time and running out the clock until the second Second Coming. That seems appropriate, since this book was written by two men whose belief system says that the primary task of Christians in the real world is killing time until the first Second Coming.

I feel like there should be more to say here at the end of Tribulation Force — that not providing some deeper insight at this milestone is woefully anticlimactic. But then, having waded through 450 pages of pointless treading water only to arrive here, maybe anticlimax is the most appropriate response.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Next week is the holidays, so let’s plan to take that as a break from this series before returning in the new year with the direct-to-video epic movie adaptation of Tribulation Force. After that, it’s on to Book 3: Nicolae, in which I hope we don’t have to wait another 450 pages before we get to see some serious famine and pestilence.

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  • Anonymous

    Oh yes indeed. Cats are most definitely persons of action, they’re just biding their time, bwahaha. Of course they’ve been biding away for a very long time now but at a given signal ~ the tug of a pull-ring on a tin of cat food, maybe ~ you’ll see them leap into action and it won’t be pretty. 

  • Anonymous

    I’d argue Mal for Type III, actually.  We are talking about the guy who kicked a prisoner into the engine, after all.

  • Caravelle

    Just staying back and waiting is fine for “the wives,” but not for a manly person of action like himself.

    Hah, you ticked on the “the wives” thing too :)

    Our hero is standing amidst the rubble of what used to be a hospital,
    where again hundreds of people have been killed. But the authors want us
    focused on Bruce, who here is supposed to play the role of those adorable dogs who miraculously survive in bad disaster movies.

    This makes me so angry at Jenkins because it reminds me of the infinitely better disaster book The Cloud, by Gudrun Pausewang, that ripped my heart out when I read it as a child. It’s about a young girl living with her family in the vicinity of a nuclear station, and what happens after that nuclear station blows up. It’s GRIM.

    SPOILEEEEEERS
    Vg vaibyirf ure yvggyr oebgure qlvat va na nppvqrag nf gurl rfpncr jvguva gur svefg srj puncgref. Naq ure abg xabjvat jung unccrarq gb ure cneragf naq nhag sbe gur jubyr obbx, fbzrubj ubcvat gurl zvtug unir fheivirq, ohg bs pbhefr vg gheaf bhg gurl QVQA’G, gurl qvrq cerggl rneyl ba, gur nhag IREL rneyl ba orpnhfr fur jrag evtug vagb gur zvqqyr bs guvatf gb gel naq uryc crbcyr, juvpu ol gung gvzr univat urneq fb zhpu nobhg ubj njrfbzr fur vf vg’f BS PBHEFR FUR QVQ, naq bs pbhefr fur qvrq.
    Naq gurer’f gur cbfg-genhzngvp qrcerffvba, gur ybfvat sevraqf gb enqvngvba cbvfbavat be qrcerffvba, orpnhfr bs pbhefr gurer vf.
    END SPOILERS

    Jenkins is hardly the first person to write a cozy catastrophe, but grrr. I don’t know if I should be angry or glad that Jenkins reminded me of that book, because on the one hand it made me sad but on the other it was awesome. But thinking of that story and reading about Rayford makes me feel as if Jenkins is spitting in the eye of those characters I grieved for, as well as all characters in well-written disaster fiction, and oh yeah actual people in actual disasters.

    And now I feel guilty, because it’s kind of easy to dump all the sins of bad writers everywhere on Jenkins. Oh well.

    (edited for remembering the existence of rot13)

  • Anonymous

    And police tape around the hospital? A hospital that’s just collateral damage, and of no  particular importance in the big picture? Is that normal? Is that possible, given the number of people who need to get in and out of the site as fast as they can? Is it all just there to remind us how privileged and important Rayford is?

    Maybe it’s to keep the hospital from getting swarmed by a combination of concerned family members/the slightly injured/rubberneckers?
    Or maybe it’s for a more malevolent purpose entirely?

    And aren’t those sorts of rankings pretty much a “within your area” clearance?  As in, Ray ought to be able to make sure the plane’s been maintained properly, and maybe see that the plane has been properly secured.  But when they fly to, say, London, Ray should know when to be ready to leave – not whether Nikki’s staying in town or driving somewhere else, what hotels Nikki might be at, who Nikki is meeting, or what the agendas will be at those meetings….

    Maybe it’s a universal clearance?  That would be stupid, but consist with stupid dictatorships and stupid authors.  Sorta like how most movie doctors seem to have a doctorate in SCIENCE?

    That’s the thing. You CANNOT play that line straight.

    You can also play it as planning.  Sorta like the ‘if I’m not back in five minutes, send in the Marines’, but smaller scale.  I’d call that ‘playing it straight’.

  • JenL

    You can also play it as planning.  Sorta like the ‘if I’m not back in
    five minutes, send in the Marines’, but smaller scale.  I’d call that
    ‘playing it straight’.

    But that requires a scenario where escalation is plausible and called for.  Maybe the bomb squad is on the way, but may not arrive in time, so Riggs goes in to try to defuse the bomb.  “If the squad arrives before I come back out, send them in.”  Or the Marines are present and able to go in, but you’re trying to talk the target into surrendering peacefully.  “I’m going in alone, unarmed – if I’m not back in 10 minutes, send in the Marines.” 

    When there are 4 of you, 2 of whom have been dismissed as “Teh Wifes”, and 2 of whom are equally competent (in that you both have ID badges you are willin to waive) and equally incompetent (at everything else) — what’s the 2nd guy to do that the first guy didn’t (or do more successfully)?  “If I’m not back in xxx minutes, come after me” might as well be written “If I don’t make it back, sacrifice yourself so we can die on the same hill – you couldn’t survive the guilt of outliving me anyway”…

  • Just popping in to say happy holidays to all, and congrats to Fred for finishing the book!

    If anyone hasn’t pointed it out yet, you never take a pulse with your thumb. (You’re more likely to count your own pulse, not the patient’s.) And you especially don’t take a pulse in that finger-and-thumb-on-both-sides style, especially not on somebody who was in a coma (head injury?). If Patty wandered into Jenkins’ mind (the poor damned soul – her, not him), then she had just left a role as an unidentified medical worker on a 1970s soap opera. Yes, I know, the list of stupid unrealistic things in these books is already longer than Revelation itself, but we can add that too.

  • JenL

    If anyone hasn’t pointed it out yet, you never take a pulse with your
    thumb. (You’re more likely to count your own pulse, not the patient’s.)
    And you especially don’t take a pulse in that
    finger-and-thumb-on-both-sides style, especially not on somebody who was
    in a coma (head injury?). If Patty wandered into Jenkins’ mind (the
    poor damned soul – her, not him), then she had just left a role as an
    unidentified medical worker on a 1970s soap opera. Yes, I know, the list
    of stupid unrealistic things in these books is already longer than
    Revelation itself, but we can add that too.

    We’re told her “nameplate” read Patricia Devlin, but not what logo (or employer name) was on it and nothing about a job title.  Her job could be collecting parking fees for all we know… 

  • If all of the medical staff are dead or injured into unconsciousness maybe Patricia has been forced to pick up the slack with nothing but her knowledge of 1970s soap operas to guide her.  No one ever trained her how you take someone’s pulse, but she’s doing her best.

    Or, for that matter, she seems to be dealing with the dead, people are only sent her way if they’re already dead, you probably don’t need knowledge of how to check a pulse to do that job.  She doesn’t know how to take a pulse, she doesn’t need to know.  She’s humoring Rayford so go away and let her deal with her, apparently morbid, task.

  • or perhaps she knows full well, but is making a big theatrical show of it as she checks the pulse of a man who has been dead for hours, to give a little closure to the guy who’s interrupting her work

  • Anonymous

    Truly, they were … a Tribulation Force.

  • Michael Busch

    I was thinking it would be an opening episode when Everyone Meets Everyone, where the villain isn’t a serious threat and is even comical, to free time for Whedon to introduce us to all of the back-and-forth between the main characters.

    But Kick The Dog works too.

  • I think I may have just figured out how to make the horribe, horrible problems in these books actually make (some) logical sense.  All one has to do is realize that these books aren’t narrated by some omnisciant narrator, but rather that these are actually the surveillance reports of a group of four enemies of the state by the GC Secret Police.  

    If the books seem to revolve around our protagonists, that’s because a surveillance report wouldn’t be much good if it didn’t focus on the subject(s).  If there are an incredible number of telephone calls, well, that’s because much of the surveillance data came from wiretaps.  If the subjects never seem to do much of anything, that’s because they know (or at least strongly suspect) that they’re under surveillance, and so are extremely careful to make sure that nothing important that they do is found out by the GC.  If there’s no world-building, or explanation of how Carpathia takes power, it’s because everyone who’s going to be reading the report already knows all of that, and sees it every day.  (The lack of any possible hint of the loss of a third of the world’s population, including all the children, is largely a political and propaganda move.)  If the characters are self-absorbed/sociopathic/downright evil when we do see them, it’s a combination of them playing a role for the benefit of their watchers and the system itself.  Carpathia does nasty things to any member of the secret police who doesn’t provide enough information and analysis of the subjects’ motivations in their reports.  The kind of people who have gravitated towards the secret police are naturally the worst of a world already dominated by those left behind, so when the author of the report tries to fill in the missing pieces, he ascribes to the characters his own self-absorbed/sociopathic/downright evil actions and motivations.  Perhaps even God is given the same treatment; maybe He isn’t actually the TurboJesus we’ve all come to know and hate, but that’s how the author of the report sees Him, or sees the TF seeing Him, or thinks Carpathis is most likely to want to see Him portrayed.  

    (I’m not sure about the time skip.  Maybe Carpathia pulled the surveillance for another project of his, or maybe the TF actually managed to lose their watchers for a while, and the spies just didn’t want to admit it.)

    Now, I’m not quite sure what good all this does anyone.  Apparently the author of this surveillance report isn’t actually good at making a report that’s interesting to read – maybe his bosses don’t like it very much if he doesn’t produce a high enough word count or skips even the smallest detail of the subjects’ days.  We still don’t get to see even a hint of all the wonderful work that the TF might be doing behind the scenes, or their actual Christian character.  In the hands of a better (real) author, doing a book in this style intentionally, one might.  Not so here.  Right Behind anyone?

  • Anonymous

    Fred, congrats on finishing Book 2!  Looking forward to the movie analysis!

    I definitely had a “Wait, that was the whole book?!” moment when I read the end.  I remember my sixth grade English teacher outlining the parts of a plot: Intro, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.  I think Jenkins must have missed that lesson.

    Wasn’t this series originally supposed to be a trilogy?  And then the authors decided that they had so much to say that they had to spread it out into twelve books.*  How did nobody notice what a bad idea that was?

    *I think I read that in an interview somewhere.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the image was appropriate.

  • JohnK

    It wasn’t a bad idea at all. They made millions off what was essentially only about four months of work (spread out over several years, of course).

  • In a story of mine, the protagonist loses her husband and son. She’s pretty much operating on adrenaline/autopilot for the next two days, and while automatically performing a mundane task she drops something, curses, and then automatically reaches for the “swear jar” to drop a quarter in it. That’s when she completely collapses into a sobbing heap.

  • What people don’t understand about we persons of action is that we
    actually spend large amounts of time holding perfectly still. To the
    ignorant, it appears as though we are utterly passive.
    But really, we
    are engaging in the advanced calculations necessary to plot the course
    of our next Action Event. We allow nothing to interrupt us – not our
    jobs, not our families, not even the screams of people who are bleeding
    to death in front of our very eyes.

    Of course! Buck is a Slann!

  • I thought people might be interested to know that there’s an updated version of the mapplet that Fred linked to in last week’s TF post that calculates the pressure wave and fallout.

  • Launcifer

    I’m so tempted to ask if that means Buck’s building a Starboat, but I’m afraid the reference is depressingly obscure.

    That did make me chuckle, though. Now I’m wondering how much more credible this might have seemed if someone had swapped Nicky World’s Edge Mountains (Sorry, couldn’t resist) for a Warhammer villain. Hell, just swapping the guy for the 128mm model would have worked for me. Not Archaon though, he makes Nicky look competent.

  • I could see where the high security clearance would be necessary for Rayford: he’s dealing with not only the Big Cheese’s itenerary, but also the security precautions to protect both his passengers and the plane (along with all the countermeasures that are available aboard ex-Air Force One).  Not exactly something you want in the hands of someone you can’t rely upon.

    But then again, this is Rayford we’re talking about here.  A man who isn’t exactly quiet about being a double agent (which is effectively what he is).  Nicolae really needs to get on his HR staff about those background checks.

  • I’d give him one episode of Firefly before Mal kicked him through the engine intake. ;-)

  • “I have clearance!” Rayford shouted, waving his ID wallet.

    The guard, a tall black man wearing a beret with the Global Community seal on it, looked suspicious as he inspected the ID.  “Level 2-A clearance, eh?” he asked.  “I’m going to have to verify this with Central Command.  Come with me, please,” the guard ordered.  “Bokuto, this is Lawrence.  I need relief at the Zone 3 checkpoint–I have a potential trespasser I’m taking in for questioning,” the guard–Lawrence–spoke into his radio.

    Moments later, the second guard–Bokuto–appeared.  He also wore the same black beret as Lawrence, but wore a slightly different uniform. 

    “But I work for Carpathia himself!” Rayford protested.

    Lawrence looked at him with contempt.  “A 2-A clearance may get you into the executive washroom but it does not get you into a disaster area without further authentication!”

    “This is ridiculous!  I’m going to–” Rayford said as he tried to rush past the checkpoint.  Lawrence’s automatic rifle, leveled at Rayford, said otherwise.

    “Now your wait has just become much longer, my friend,” Lawrence said as motioned Rayford down on his belly.  After a very thorough search–during which Rayford noticed his cell phone, wallet, and several other personal items were confiscated–Lawrence handcuffed Rayford.

    Just then the other guard–Bokuto–arrived.  Rayford noticed offhand that of the guards had the same berets and insignia but different uniforms.  They had apparently been drafted from former national militaries into GC service. *Damn foreigners on American soil!* he thought as Lawrence led him away at gunpoint.

    Walking with his hands cuffed behind his back proved difficult for Rayford in the debris-strewn parking lot.  He almost tripped three times, with only Lawrence’s firm and not-so-gentle grip keeping him on his feet.  On the way to the command post, the two passed dozens and dozens of the walking wounded–patients, staff, and visitors–who were themselves assisting with triage while trying to stay on their own feet and keep their bloodied bandages in place.  Rayford could hear nothing distinct above the sounds of ambulances and fire trucks continuing to arrive at the stricken hospital.

    The command post was set up in the hospital gift shop, which had remained mostly intact after the attack.  Other than the cash register–which was bolted down–the counter had been very roughly cleared of the usual packs of gum, cough drops, and various other overpriced sundries.  In their place was a bank of handheld radios, a laptop computer, and an ID card scanner.  Two additional GC guards–in different uniforms from both Lawrence, Bokuto, and each other–stood at the door as the site commander stood up.

    Lawrence saluted the commander, palm out in the British fashion.  “I arrested this man trying to crash the Zone 3 checkpoint, sir,” he said.  “These items were on him.”  Lawrence dumped out the contents of a small bag onto the counter–Rayford’s personal items.

    “Thank you, Corporal, you may return to your post,” the commander said as he returned Lawrence’s salute.  Lawrence left the command post.

    “To whom do I have the *pleasure* of speaking,” Rayford sneered.  “If Carpathia hears of this–”

    “I am Captain Singh, Mr….Steele?” the commander replied.  He was a 40-ish looking Indian man with a thick beard, wearing a turban in place of the usual beret.  The turban was badly skewed and looked as though Captain Singh had himself been taking a personal role in the rescue efforts.    “And if the Potentate does hear of this, I expect you shall be receiving a reprimand for exceeding your security privileges.”

    “A *reprimand*???  Who do you think you are?”

    “I am the site commander for this incident.  And your ID card tells me that you–” Singh paused as he ran the card through the ID reader–“are a pilot assigned to the Potentate’s personal retinue.  An esteemed position, I am sure, but it does *not* give you the right to refuse the lawful orders of one of my sentries!”

    “But my business is important!”

    “Look outside that door, Mr. Steele.  I see doctors, nurses, paramedics, and firefighters with far more important business than yours.  You have three choices–you can leave quietly, and we can forget this unpleasantness.  Or you can go out there and offer whatever meager service you may be capable of.  Or we can continue this conversation in a detention facility.  The choice is yours.”

    Rayford looked at Singh and the two guards flanking the doors as Singh answered one of the radios.  “I’ll go…but you haven’t heard the last of this!” he threatened.

    “I suspect not,” Singh deadpanned as one of the guards led him back to where he came from.

    ***

    Elsewhere in the remains of the hospital, Patricia Devlin was exhausted.  She had already finished a double-shift when the attack came.  *Who in God’s name would attack a hospital?* she thought to herself more than once as she checked the ID of the bodies–and occasionally pieces of bodies–the orderlies brought to her end of the hastily-assembled triage unit.

    “Finish that one up and take five, Pat,” Marcia Hardaway, her nursing supervisor, told her.  Marcia was hard at it herself at the other end, ensuring that the bodies were removed as quickly as possible to make room for more.

    “Are you sure?  I can’t leave–”

    “You can’t help these people any more than you have, and you’re certainly no help to anyone if you pass out!”  Seven other hospital staffers had collapsed so far, in addition to the casualty count from the attack.

    Patricia looked at the plastic patient ID bracelet, then filled out the toe tag: “BARNES, B.”  Without a second thought, she pulled a sheet over the deceased’s head and took her break.  *They aren’t leaving anytime soon,* she thought to herself.

  • WARNING: this comes from TVTropes’ “Sliding Scale of Anti-heroes” DO NOT GO LOOKING THIS UP.

    Too late, had to look it up half a year ago while writing the page for The Last Chancers to figure out where on the scale the protagonist fit.  

    Turns out he was type V, with almost all the sociopathy but not with any particular sadism.  

  • or the part where Buck threatens to out his editor so that she’ll keep his secret

    Oh, but didn’t you know? He totally didn’t actually in any way threaten Verna Zee, at all, no sir, because QUILTBAG people are incapable of spotting veiled threats about their orientation, or recognizing when such threats exist because it’s all in our overworked imaginations.

    (PSA: The above is a sarcastic summary of a response once made to me which ended with “You’re reaching”)

  • The surveillance-agent perspective? Genius. Brilliant!

    Someone pleeeeeeeeeeeease write something like this? Pretty please with whipped cream and chocolate fudge?

  • I also really like the “delayed grief” as a character device, as it allows a writer to establish both a character’s strength and their weakness in the same story element.  We see them press on in the face of difficulty, which allows us to admire their fortitude, then we see them break down and grieve, which allows us to empathize with their humanity.  

    Without the former, a character might seem weak (we tend to judge fictional characters more harshly about such things than we do real people) and without the later the character looks like a jerk (we need to see them express some feeling for those departed to keep them from looking callus.)  

  • JenL

    But then again, this is Rayford we’re talking about here.  A man who isn’t exactly quiet about being a double agent (which is effectively what he is).  Nicolae really needs to get on his HR staff about those background checks.

    Do we have any actual reason to believe Nicolae’s gotten around to hiring an HR staff yet?

  • JJ Gauthier

    Even when I was 12 and liked the Left Behind books, I thought TF was incredibly anticlimactic after 400 pages of running around in circles.

    At least in Nicolae, stuff occasionally happens.

  • That did make me chuckle, though. Now I’m wondering how much more
    credible this might have seemed if someone had swapped Nicky World’s
    Edge Mountains (Sorry, couldn’t resist) for a Warhammer villain. Hell,
    just swapping the guy for the 128mm model would have worked for me.

    I’d go with Mannfred Von Carstein. He actually does evil mastermind stuff.

    Or Grey Seer Thanquol if we’re going for the comedy alternative to Nicky Annuli Mountains.

    Not
    Archaon though, he makes Nicky look competent.

    Or Warhammer 40k’s Abaddon the Despoiler, for that matter.

  • Anonymous

    Wasn’t this series originally supposed to be a trilogy?  And then the authors decided that they had so much to say that they had to spread it out into twelve books.

    Behind the Scenes of the Left Behind Series with Jerry Jenkins
    We initially thought there would be one book covering the Rapture—seven years of tribulation and a hint at the millennium. We knew we weren’t going to cover the millennium in detail, because it’s a time of peace, and without conflict there’s no fiction.But I got halfway through the first book and realized I’d only covered two weeks! That’s when I knew it was not going to be done in one book. We went to a trilogy, and soon it was six and then seven. We finally settled on 12 to get through the tribulation period, and later decided to write a prequel and a sequel.

  • Anonymous

    The above is a sarcastic summary of a response once made to me which ended with “You’re reaching”

    And an inaccurate summary.  But hey, don’t let anyone stop you from nursing an old grudge.

  • Or Warhammer 40k’s Abaddon the Despoiler, for that matter.

    Eliphas the Inheritor is quite obviously and overtly evil, but he has this kind of dark charisma that keeps you admiring him all the same.

  • Nyder

    By chance, just the other day I received an instance of a case of a hero being heroic by doing nothing. It was a documentary on the lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement, in which the occupiers had determined beforehand that they would follow the principles of Gandhi and would offer no resistance, no matter what happened. So viewers were then treated to a heartbreaking description by one of the occupiers of what it felt like to watch your girlfriend being beaten up by racist thugs, but being unable to retaliate, because to do so would be to break the agreed principles (and also to give your enemies ammunition to use against you– “see, judge, I was just defending myself against this crazy [racist term deleted]”). Which made me wonder if Buck’s continued inaction was meant by LaJenkins to be seen in the same light, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what he would be gaining by not acting, whereas there’s a clear point in the case of the lunch counter occupier.

  • Did my ears catch the whiff of an apology for straight privileged dismissiveness?

    Oh, I didn’t.

    My mistake, then.

    *PLONK*

  • GeniusLemur

    If you tell the Commissar you need to wait for confirmation, you might be shot, but the smart guard will know that and be ready. “Sir, it’s dangerous in there. I can’t risk your safety.”

    Of course, if he knew Rayford, he’d know he was safe regardless. After all, punishing insolence involves lifting a finger, so obviously Rayford would never do it.