Silenced: Chapter 16: Doing Your Job

Paul continues his conversation with ChappellShow, who has himself had conversations with Magnor.

For the first time since he’d left the States, Paul was onto something.

Damn.  Can you imagine how much Paul might be able to get done if he actually, yanno, did some work?  Instead of wandering around and praying with underground believers and…wandering around…

Paul really has done nothing, hasn’t he?  He really should have just stayed in Chicago, for all the good he has done both the NPO and the underground Christians.

We learn (unless we knew already, and I’ve forgotten and am too lazy to check) that ChappellShow’s wife and kids were killed by the “gendarmes.”  Seems that ChappellShow initially liked Magnor’s vengeance-talk, but eventually accepted that “vengeance belongs to the Lord” (Exhibit A: dessicating L.A. and all the children there who totally deserved God’s wrath) and tried to cut off contact.  But, like some weird terrorist stalker, Magnor still calls sometimes.

Paul recites part of Psalm 20 to ChappellShow, which I guess is kinda fitting and all (except for the part about burnt offerings), but really?  Paul had to fly halfway around the world to do this?

***

Back in D.C., Ranold has brought Jae to NPO headquarters, where they meet up with Bia Balaam:

The rawboned Bia Balaam, whom Jae would have described as the woman with no lips…

Wow, Jae.  Catty much?

…seemed overdressed for the occasion.  This was a Saturday morning, off-work hours, and she was dressed in a copper lamé dress and heels, pushing her well over six feet tall, her silver hair up and festive.

I dunno, I kinda love that Bia is confident enough in herself to celebrate her unusual height.  Also, catty much, Jae?

And those eyes.  Jae decided that if she had eyes that matched her hair color as eerily as did Ms. Balaam’s, she certainly wouldn’t do a thing to try to enhance them.

CATTY MUCH, JAE???

If we were meant to see this as an insecure Jae being threatened by the sight of a woman as confident and comfortable with herself as Bia, this might work.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re supposed to agree with Jae that Bia is not only a horrible person, but doesn’t know how to dress herself properly and is also too tall and has gone gray OMG.

Ranold, because he is awesome, apologizes for taking up Bia’s time, when she could be spending it with her son, who is home visiting from college.  Hmm, it’s almost as though several characters have previously-unknown-to-us sons in this book.  Go figure.

Just the knowledge that Bia Balaam was a mother slightly softened Jae’s impression of her lack of humanity.

Yep, because if there’s one thing that makes a person undeniably human, it’s the ability to spawn.  Such an unusual characteristic!

And especially strange in a book that tells us that certain people (Ranold) are bad parents and shows us that other people (Paul) are bad parents.  I’m surprised that Jae, raised by (so we’re told) a bad father and ineffectual mother, would just accept that having a kid makes a person sufficiently human.

Anyway, Ranold begins a presentation on Paul’s overall shittiness, complete with slides!

First came shots of him as an almost gawky military man before they had even met.  No body fat.

Huh.  Maybe we have a small piece of the puzzle of why Paul is so obsessed with other mens’ BMIs.  Sounds like somebody is missing his pre-fat days.

Fast-forward to Andy Pass’s funeral and Paul hitting on Angela.

Had Jae been so cold that day that Paul was on the prowl?

That is so sad.  Sure, Jae’s a catty Mean Girl to Bia, but she’s still blaming herself for Paul’s serial cheating.  Jae, honey: Paul was never not on the prowl.

The awesome Ranold has been suspicious of Paul for so long that he even had pictures taken of Paul when he was chatting with Trina Thomas about his dad’s letter.  Jae, never one to let another woman simply exist, decides that Trina “looked like a floozy.”  I would love to read this as being Jae being threatened by the existence of a highly-educated woman in a position of great responsibility who by the way is in the same workplace as her ever-philandering husband, but I kinda think we’re meant to agree that Trina is a floozy.

On to their lunch, which we are told lasted three hours and involved a great deal of wine (mmmm, wine), and ended with a kiss (ewwwww).

Oh, but here’s the kicker: at Ranold’s behest, Trina was playing Paul the entire time.  Happily married, she pretended to flirt with him and actually reported back to Ranold every single thing that Paul said.

Trina Thomas, you frakkin’ rock.  Seriously, kissing Paul Stepola is officially Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

Ranold, eminently fair to the end, reports that Paul actually did good work in San Francisco and Texas Gulfland, which is really fair because mostly it was other people, specifically cutie Larry Coker and level-headed local chief Tick who did most the work.

Then we get to Straight, “a man we have yet to figure out” because it’s not time for the NPO to be on to Straight.  That’s the only reason I can think of because seriously?  Ranold was having Paul monitored in his own office, but didn’t notice that Paul took an unscheduled field trip to the very headquarters of the Heartland underground, one that lasted for hours?

Look, either Ranold is a top-notch operative leading a team of well-trained investigators, or he’s an idiot leading a team of Keystone Kops, but not both at the same time, surely?

Ranold has no suspicions about Paul’s operation in New York, which actually seems realistic to me: Paul made his first convert there, the head of the very organization Paul was investigating, and the one person with the money and power to cover up Paul’s subversion and his own.

Less believable is Ranold’s thought process about L.A.: his suspicions “crescendoed” there, but ultimately decided that Paul had “merely pretended to flip.”  This despite the fact that Paul spent almost all his time in the company of underground Christians, and one of them is tortured into confessing…about Paul.

I have to wonder, yet again, how Paul kept his Christian Water-Midas Touch a secret from his family and co-workers after the dessication.

Ranold fast-forwards to the present, and notes that Paul “continues to make initial contacts with local authorities, make cursory investigations of the affected sites, and begin his own investigations independently.”

Cursory” seems a very generous term for how much Paul has been working.

And I just find it hilarious that the NPO has been working so much harder than Paul all this time.  Then again, Bia reveals their plan to start to “shadow him much more closely.”  Damn, if only they had started sooner, they could have found the one-person-every-five-minutes Rome underground.  But, again, it wasn’t time for the underground to be found yet.

Jae has been listening to all this, blaming herself for Paul’s serial cheating and feeling sympathy that the NPO has been monitoring him, just because they’re an international security organization that strongly suspects (correctly, lest we forget) that one of their own has gone over to the side of the enemy.

Those bastards.

As Ivan pointed out, Stockholm Syndrome is a much better term to apply to Jae than to Paul, and thus it is no surprise when Jae responds to this whole presentation by saying:

“Let’s say I deal with the domestic issues.  They’re my business anyway.  Putting those aside, is there any scenario in which Paul might prove you have misjudged him?”

Oh, let me point something out here.  We’ve been told that atheists are amoral jerks with no respect for marriage.  This is a view that Jenkins himself holds.  Yet, to a person, every atheist thinks that Paul is a total ass for cheating on Jae.  They care about these “domestic issues.”  Hell, they care a lot more than Christian Straight, who thinks Paul should treat Jae with respect so that Jae will reciprocate.  Because marriage works best when the two parties keep a scorecard.  Only way to be fair, really.

Bia answers Jae’s question: Paul can only clear his name if he “personally” beings down Styr Magnor.

OH WON’T THEY ALL BE SURPRISED WHEN PAUL MANAGES TO DO THIS, WHICH HE WILL BECAUSE MAGNOR IS NOT A REALLY REAL CHRISTIAN.

So sad.

And I feel so bad for Ranold.  He’s spent over a year putting this all together, and Jae is still defending her asshat, cheating, traitor husband.  Because that’s what a good little woman does.

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Posted on January 25, 2014, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Well, for once I can’t fault the zealot’s honesty when ChappelShow discusses Styr’s actions. He didn’t turn away from Styr’s path of bloody indiscriminate revenge because he realized it was wrong or made them just like their enemies, but because he figured it was god’s job to casually slaughter the unbelievers, not his.

    True, the former is much more traditional for characters we’re supposed to sympathise with. But given their actions so far, the zealots really can’t claim not to be believing the second. Though frankly, even that interpetation relies on ignoring that the first book suggested that the L.A. massacre happened only because the zealots specifically prayed for it to happen.

    And thank you Jenkins, for adressing one of my other problems with these books: Now I feel less sorry for Jae. Judgemental Harpy. If she keeps this up, she deserves Paul.

    Seriously though, what kind of brutal evil secret police is this that they gather a papertrail this long on Paul’s unreliablity and yet are still pussyfooting around. Kill him. Now. That’s what Ranold and Bia did to all the other RTCs in LA, and neither of them seems to like Paul enough not get rid of him. Make it look like an accident if you have to. Or, y’know, shove that loyalty test the big boss just thought up under his nose.
    “Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. “
    The Godfather.

    • Maybe Ranold wants to avoid his daughter going into mourning. If he convinces her Paul’s a bastard before he has an accident cleaning his gun, it’ll be easier for her to move on to someone who isn’t a shit.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Seriously though, what kind of brutal evil secret police is this that they gather a papertrail this long on Paul’s unreliablity and yet are still pussyfooting around.

      Two words: SCRIPT. IMMUNITY.

      One of the signs of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu/Ensign Nancy.

      • I’m wondering if this is in part Jenkins thinking of St. Paul as The Greatest Christian of All Antiquity(tm). If Stepola is to properly signify his namesake, then HE must be The Greatest Christian of All Near-Future(tm), lest Jenkins be accused of diminishing St. Paul by proxy.

    • They’re the most honest and honorable Atheist Secret Police in the multiverse!

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Damn. Can you imagine how much Paul might be able to get done if he actually, yanno, did some work? Instead of wandering around and praying with underground believers and…wandering around…

    Paul really has done nothing, hasn’t he? He really should have just stayed in Chicago, for all the good he has done both the NPO and the underground Christians.

    He is either an Author Self-Insert strutting around telling us how important he is or he’s nothing more than a roving POV for a completely plot-driven story, existing only to witness the plot events. (The latter is characteristic of Christian Apocalyptic, where the Seven Last Years before The End run completely on rails.)

    Or he could be an empty suit for readers to self-insert. Jenkins has done this before; one essay I can’t find on the Web any more went into detail about how Jenkins’ lack of description or generic description depends on the reader to self-insert and fill in the details. While this is a known trick in fiction (leading the reader to self-identify and pulling him into the story), Jenkins (as in so much of his hackwork) doesn’t know when to stop.

  3. It seems to me that the only real difference between Approved Terrorism and Bad Terrorism in these books is that the former uses the God Bomb to do it while the latter uses conventional explosives.

    Bia: “yeah, I’m dressed like this because I was out all night and I haven’t had time to go home and change since Ranold called me in to see you. Better be worth it.”

    If the NPO is meant to be an Evil Secret Police, then being a man they can’t figure out is already enough justification for a one-way trip to Headquarters. As we see them here, they’re just working stiffs trying to do their job and being very bad at it. This is the Anti-Christian Persecution the RTCs are so scared of? I’m with Ivan: these writers just haven’t done their research in what a police state is actually like, which is weird when they believe they’re living in one.

    • These writers just haven’t done their research in what a police state is actually like, which is weird when they believe they’re living in one.
      Maybe that’s the answer. They never bother to check what life is/was like under Stalin, Pol Pot or Kim Jung Un when writing about dictatorial regimes that oppress religious groups. After all, they know exactly what that’s like. And since their cousin is still employed by the police despite his RTCianity, police states are apparently very careful about persecuting RTCs in their ranks.

  4. I must say, I’m curious what Styr’s deal will turn out to be. My first guess was “false flag by NPO”. But now we know that he’s been connected to the zealots (whether they want to or not) for years, and that the NPO wants him caught. So that theory seems unlikely. If he was an NPO agent trying to discredit the zealots, they wouldn’t give the job of finding him as a loyalty test to a potentially untrustworthy agent. It’s extremely likely that Paul will find evidence that it was an NPO job. If he was really disloyal, he’ll leak that info. If he wasn’t disloyal yet, he might very well become so after finding that out. *cough* Revelation *cough* MacEviltonsadumbass *cough*

    But then, what is Styr’s story? It would be pretty interesting if he started as a proper RTC, and continues to think of himself as such, but became too obsessed with revenge against the atheists. But I sincerely doubt Jenkins would write that. I’m not even sure he thinks it’s possible that someone who once properly accepted Jesus in his heart could ever turn evil. Plus, the notion that continuously railing against perceived persecution and preaching that all non-RTCs are evil and deserve brutal punishment might lead someone to become a terrorist who hands out that persecution himself… I don’t think Jenkins is interested in exploring that too deeply.

    • My bet is Generic Mad Bomber.

      ‘And so he says to me, he says, “You want to be a baaaaad guy?!” and I say, “Yeah, baby! I want to be bad!” I says, “Surf’s up, Space Ponies! I’m making gravy without the lumps!” Ah ha ha ha ha haaaaa!’

      (Sadly, much too nuanced a character for this story.)

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, Febuary 1st 2014 | The Slacktiverse

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