Man, yanno how wives are, right? Always whining about their little problems. Wahhhh, my brother’s dead, whiiiiine, my family wants me in prison, boo hoo, nobody told me about the funeral just because I’m an international fugitive from justice.
Jae just goes on and on about her piddly little problems to her long-suffering husband. Geez, lady, just because you and your tiny children are on the run from the cops of the whole planet, it’s always something with you, isn’t it?
Jae, for reasons that make no sense to me because of the aformentioned on-the-run-from-the-law thing, calls her sister-in-law, who spills the beans that Berlitz’s memorial service already happened, and Jae Plus Family were cordially not invited.
She whines to Paul, like wives do:
“…he was my brother! I would like to have known, to have been thinking about him when they were. And Daddy has my cell number.* He could have called, could have tried to say the right things.”
“Now you’re dreaming.”
She shot Paul a look, and he realized she didn’t need his editorializing. She didn’t want this fixed. She wanted to be heard.
Yep, yanno how manly husbands are: always wanting to fix things. (How Paul or Jenkins thinks any could fix this problem is a question for the ages. Also, what would Jae have been thinking during Berl’s service? How much it sucks that a just and loving God sent her awesome brother to Hell for all eternity? Something like that?)
So, that’s our lesson for today, boys and girls. Wives want to whine about their emotions, husbands want to fix problems. A lesson on marriage from Jerry Jenkins.
*Speaking of, he forgot again. Jae doesn’t have a “cell.” She has a skull phone. I can’t believe we all remember this, but Jenkins just can’t.
Not that Jae could try to fix Paul’s problems even if she wanted to: he won’t tell her what they are! The elders, in their infinite holy wisdom, have decided to keep the Mass Exodus a secret until the last minute. That seems like a great way to engender trust in those uder you.
Paul wants to tell Jae, what with them being in love and all (har), but considers this situation akin to when he knew state secrets when he was in the NPO.
Paul found his first inclination was to pull Jae aside and start her thinking about their own details. How lightly could they pack?
Really, dude? You arrived like, four days ago with TWO SUITCASES. I don’t think packing light is really an issue.
(Even if it was, why are all these fugitives so bad at being fugitives? Shouldn’t they be ready to move at five minutes’ notice, all the time?)
Paul also takes some time out of his busy schedule to ruminate about how much he wants to punch Ranold. Of course, being the manliest of men, Paul’s feelings are natural and just mainfestations of righteous, justice-driven anger. As opposed to Jae’s, being fluffy womany feelings as they are.
This man was going to push to far someday, and Paul might just have to take him on.
I have a feeling Paul is a keyboard warrior of the first order.
Also, Ranold just falsely accused his only daughter of murder and had a memorial service for his unloved dead son without mentioning it to said fugitive daughter. What more does Paul want? (Then again, these are slights against a woman, which are, of course, not serious the way slights against a man would be.)
(Paul also assures himself that he’s not being unfair for wanting to take on an “old man,” because Ranold was a badass in his youth. Basically, this is a whole page is taken up with Paul having a one-man dick-measuring contest in his head.)
And in order to make Jae feel a little better, he reminds her that Ranold’s new job appointment is only interim.
“They don’t hand out jobs like that to old men, even as undermanned as they are.”
They don’t? Hey, Jenkins, I know that Hollywood has taught us all that positions of power at the top of organizations are most often given to 27-year-olds, but that’s not actually true in the real world. If anything, I would think Ranold would be just right for the job. This is Atheistopia, remember, where cancer has been cured and pollution has ended. I’m sure lifespans are at least a bit longer than they are today, and Ranold is only in his early- to mid-sixties. And he was one of the founders of the NPO. In essence, his entire career has been leading to this job.
But I’m sure Paul knows best.
Speaking of age, Straight is kvetching about his. And he’s a few years younger than Ranold (60 exactly).
It’s 2047 and the map and calendar were changed in 2010, so Straight was 23 when it happened. So it may actually be realistic that he thinks of Michigan as Michigan and not Heartland. Still, seeing as how Paul calls it Michigan, too, I’m not inclined to cut Jenkins slack this time.
Now, it’s not like I have any sympathy for Paul in general, but it’s kinda…in poor taste, perhaps?…for Straight, whose cover is secure, to whine to Paul about how he’s feeling tired and stressed. Paul, after all, is an international fugitive, in hiding with two very small children.
And Straight has so much reason to be happy! He’s turned the Evil Doctor of Death on to two hospitalized government agents, who have been made “logy and slow to perk up.”
The Evil Doctor of Death has also told Straight of two terminal patients (presumably not Atheistopian employees, since we are not told so), “both of which could provide great identities.”
Speaking of sensitivity and compassion, Paul and Jae finally get around to telling the kids that Grandma died. Brie asks if they’ll get to see her again in Heaven, and Paul reports that not everyone gets to go to Heaven. Because Jesus punishes people for the thoughts in their heads, don’tcha know.
The kids are pretty much okay with this, though, seeing as they now have Jesus in their hearts. Another two bite the dust.
Yanno, it really does shock me that the Columbia underground, located in the same city as the NPO headquarters itself, doesn’t have a better escape plan. And they’ve been given a free WEEK AND A HALF to execute!
Pudgy Jack has Greenie coordinate the “mass exodus,” even thought they still have absolutely no idea where they’re going.
WHY NOT??? They have literally had decades to work all this out. There should be contingency plans for the contingency plans. There should be regular drills, a chain of command, different people assigned to different things. Seriously, what is going on with these people?
By their own admission, they are less prepared for a raid by the Eeeevil Atheistopians than I am, right now, sitting here in my little apartment drinking my tea, for the zombie apocalypse.
But never mind! Something far more important is about to happen: Paul is going to speak with Bia Balaam!
After days of putting her off and deliberately ignoring her attempts to contact him, Paul calls Bia himself.
He was disappointed when her machine picked up. He hoped if she was there she would recognize his voice.
…and not just dickishly refuse to answer the call out of spite, like he has for the past two days.
Paul natters at Bia a bit, and she reveals information that should really frighten Paul more than it does: that the NPO has known for quite some time the exact location and population of the Columbia underground, thanks to poor ole Roscoe Wipers.
Notably missing from the conversation is any sympathy on Paul’s part regarding the death of Bia’s beloved son. Nope, Paul is much more interested in whining to Bia about how he has “endured [Ranold] for years.” Wow, poor guy.
The only mention Paul makes of Taj is to ask Bia if it is “the loss of your son that’s caused this flip?” Wow, sensitive, Paul. (Also, I love how Paul and Bia and Jenkins have all forgotten about Bia’s surviving daughter, a college professor.)
I’m not sure what answer Paul’s looking for, here. Would it be a bad thing, in his eyes, if Taj’s death caused her to acknowledge the existence of God? I mean, wasn’t that one of the points of God’s horrific massacre?
But Bia says it is “that and a lot of other stuff.” Again, so sensitive. And the call ends on Bia saying she may call Paul for “clarification” on how to Make the Transaction and become a Christian. And here I thought it was supposed to so simple a child could do it.
“You know where to reach me.” [said Paul]
Yeah, if I deign to answer the call that is.
Paul’s news [that there will be a raid in ten days] devastated the elders.
WHY? The raid is TEN DAYS away and they have two people on the inside (Felicia and Bia). Hell, anything can be accomplished in ten days when you know what’s coming. What a bunch of idiots.
Hilariously (or insultingly, however you want to take it), Greenie refers to the February 8th raid as “D-day.” I’m going with insulting, myself, since I just can’t get over that kind of self-absorbtion after your god annihiliated millions of unbelievers for the crime of not believing.
And Paul explains the reason for the long wait: Ranold’s trip to Bern. Why the trip should take ten days (when, by Jenkins’ own admission, travel times by land and by air have been halved in Atheistopia) and why Ranold cannot direct the raid from Bern, are never explained.
Felicia and Harriet Johns have a little conversation, notable because it is yet another instance of that device that Jenkins thinks is so terribly clever: RTC character lies to the face of a nonbeliever by saying very obvious “double-meaning” things:
Harriet Johns had called [Felicia] in first thing. “Seen this yet?” Harriet said, waving a printout before Felicia had even sat.
“What is it?”
“Zealot underground propaganda. If you’re thinking about getting saved, here’s how.”
Felicia looked at it and shook her head. “It’s nothing I need,” she said.
And finally, Our Ranold starts vague planning meetings with trusted NPO higher-ups, including Bia. No need for a rush on this operation after all…give it a week or two, I’m sure it’ll be great. He sees that Bia is not herself, though he chalks that up (not entirely incorrectly) to grief about her son.
Man, not that we should be blaming Ranold, really—it’s Jenkins who is moving things along at a snail’s pace—Paul and Greenie and Jack chat some more about their vague plans to get the thousand or so people out of the Columbia underground. Fortunately, they have Arthur Demetrius’s money to help them, so there’s really no reason to worry.
Oh, and Pudgy Jack isn’t the only one with a stupid and nasty plan. Greenie himself was fantasizing about a scheme to “plug the Potomac, create our own little drought.”
SERIOUSLY??? No wonder these people need a god to do their work for them.
Also, cruel much?
Man, this middle section is dragging. I’m going to try to pick up the pace myself, see if we can find a bit of interest or action.
Chapter 24 is pretty short after the excitement and horror of our last installment. Jae and Angela Bond as Wimmins:
“You’re out of sorts today,” Angela said. “What’s up?”
What’s up? Oh, nothing much. My mother died in my arms and my brother was murdered by the god I now worship and my husband is wanted for treason and our family is in hiding. Anyway, what’s up with you, my dear?
WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK IS UP, ANGELA???
Angela isn’t the brightest bulb of them all, is she? Then again, Paul always does like them when they don’t exercise their brains too much…
Jae points out (sucks that she has to point it out to the thick Angela), that she’s just a bit bummed that she can’t go to funerals for her mother and brother (she leaves out her grief, if indeed it even exists, that they’re both roasting in hell right now). Angela, ever the soul of sensitivity, counters with the point that if her father had died in the mass slaughter, she wouldn’t have been able to attend his funeral.
Except that Andy Pass didn’t die in the slaughter. He died in a napalm-barrel incident at the beginning of Soon, and Angela did go to his funeral.
Nice gal. Then, in order to cheer Jae up, Angela says that Brie and Connor are “close“…to becoming Christians, that is. Not that anyone needs to be concerned. Brie’s free pass to Heaven is good for another four years, Connors is good for six. So where’s the rush?
Meanwhile, Ranold is showing just how much regard he had for said dead mother by fantasizing about Bia Balaam. I’m not sure what Jenkins finds more distasteful: that Ranold doesn’t give much of a care for Margaret, whom Jenkins himself described as pretty useless, or that Ranold has the hots for Bia, whom Jenkins has described as everything a woman shouldn’t be: tall and angular, professional and ambitious.
Oh, and granted, Ranold might not be so attracted if he knew Bia was attempting to conspire with the enemy…
Lest you think we’ve heard the last of the horror that is Doctor Assface deliberately withholding medical care from atheists so they’ll heal slower, another underground Christian has thought of a way to make the whole thing even more terrible.
A few interesting points:
-Abraham still operates under his code name, while knowing everything about Straight and his life.
-He is also the first person in this series to refer to Straight as “Dr. Rathe.” But there is so little description of how the characters are speaking that I don’t know if this is supposed to be a respectful acknowledgement of Straight’s Ph.D. in history, or an ironic reference to the simple fact that Straight volunteers at a hospital.
But I’m stalling. Based solely on Straight’s retelling of the conversation, Abraham concludes that Doctor Slow-the-Atheists “sounds credible,” but that the relationship between he and Straight should be more “reciprocal.”
“And what do I want from him?” [asked Straight]
Abraham offered a weary smile. “Think, man. What do we most need?”
“Brother, I haven’t thought clearly for days. Forgive me and tell me.”
Abraham sighed. “You say this doctor assured you he doesn’t do any real harm to these patients, which would violate his oath. …”
I see we’re still going along with this fiction that slowing a patient’s recovery by days, perhaps weeks, is not doing any “real harm.” You guys just keep telling yourselves that, I guess.
“…But surely a percentage of his cases are terminal nonetheless. It would seem a small thing for him to let you know who those are early enough that you can take advantage of the information.”
“And appropriate their IDs.”
Good, Straight. Don’t use the word “steal.” Because stealing is wrong and stuff.
Abraham clapped a hand on Straight’s knee. “See, you’re not so tired that it has completely clouded your judgment.”
It will never stop blowing my mind that Jenkins doesn’t see how monstrous this all is. These are supposed to be the GOOD GUYS. The GOOD ones.
Meanwhile, a far less monstrous man, Ranold, has been named “interim head of NPO USSA.” So he heads to the White House (or rather, just to the West Wing, since the rest of the place was destroyed during WWIII and Atheistopia was too busy curing cancer to rebuild).
Jenkins once again manages to confuse himself a bit here—the governor of the Columbia Region (hey, at least he didn’t call it “Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia”!) was the last vice president of the United States, yet his duties are “largely ceremonial,” yet it was his decision to name Ranold as the head of the entire CIA/FBI…
I’ll admit I don’t get it.
Anyway, Ranold likes the guy much more than Ball Dangler. And despite Ranold getting a bit too big for his britches and interrupting the guy (“Haywood Hale,” if you please), he manages to save himself, and it is strongly implied that Ranold and Haywood are, at the very least, more simpatico than Ranold and Dangler.
Meanwhile meanwhile, Pudgy Jack is having a meeting of “the elders” of the underground, complete with flipchart, with Bible verses allegedly greenlighting his brilliant flood-the-entire-planet-except-L.A.” plan.
So in one chapter, we have two different sets of Christians plotting how best to destroy the people who survived the first massacre, who still have the temerity not to side with those who prayed for the deaths of their loved ones.
Shockingly enough, after all that’s happened and all he prayed for, Paul thinks this is a step too far. Or, at the very least, that Jack is starting to sound mildly unhinged.
Though Paul thinks this mostly because they have “more pressing business“—they have to get out of their underground bunker before the NOP raids them…in ten days.
I can’t even begin to imagine what would take them ten days to get ready. Just go get ’em, yanno?
Both sides in this conflict just suck.
Felicia and Cletus read the newspaper to each other over dinner. This seems a tad odd as Felicia clearly has purchased an actual paper newspaper, when in the first book, Soon, a character expresses surprise that a younger man would even know what a book is. Hell, nowadays, plenty of big cities have reduced their print editions to a couple of days of the week, the rest available via online subscription.
Anywho, the scene has nothing to do with Felicia and Cletus and how they’re coping. It just has to do with how Trudy was right and the world is coming to see that it is best to capitulate to terrorists. As several of you pointed out last time, that’s exactly what happened after 9/11, right?
Jenkins, surprisingly, gives credit where it’s due to the atheists-no-more:
“I was an atheist who is now an agnostic. But that sounds foolish even to me when the promise of a curse, a plague, has been carried out before my eyes. Hear me: I will not worship this vengeful God. But neither will I ever again pretend He doesn’t exist and has not the power to squash me like a bug.”
Well, on second thought: this guy does confirm that atheists are only pretending not to believe in God.
Jenkins also makes sure to point out that Christians are “the new minority, the new oppressed.”
When I have the power to call down death from the skies, I’m sure I will feel, if nothing else, really oppressed.
Also, I wonder how these now-agnostics would react if they knew that even as they spoke of conciliation,the Christians were brainstorming even more ways to slaughter them all.
Still, Felicia feels bad for the poor widdle RTCs, because the atheists’ reactions are focused only on God’s wrath, not his love and mercy.
Meanwhile, Ranold is a bit of his own oppressed minority: one of the few people who actually wants to get some shit done, even if it is the apocalypse and all. And he’s ready to head to Switzerland to see the leader of the free world in person, to either “talk sense to the man or muscle him out of the way.” And when it becomes clear that Ball Dangler has only one issue on his mind (talking to Paul), it’s kinda hard to blame Ranold.
Meanwhile meanwhile, Paul has been noodling (GORRAM, I hate when the word “noodle” is used as a verb) the idea of contacting Bia Balaam. After extensive praying about it, he…decides to play games with her. He decides to “leave the burden on her,” which translates to her calling him again and again and again, and he never actually answering. So finally, she reveals that she knows exactly where the underground is and who all is there, and that an attack is planned.
Well, hell, I’m glad someone besides poor Ranold is interested in taking some actual action beyond writing letters to the editor.
But that’s not the most exciting part. Felicia is so upset that the atheists didn’t see God’s infinite compassion when he killed every firstborn son on the planet, that she enlists Hector Hernandez to send Paul’s instructions on how to
“switch teams“ receive Christ as their savior to every computer on the planet. And I dunno, didn’t a bunch of Atheistopians just say that they had no intention of ever worshipping such a god?
Weird chick since she converted, Felicia is.
One little subplot tacked onto the end of Chapter 20 and then, inexplicably, broken up and continued in Chapter 21, has to do with our favorite new RTC, Felicia. She has hunted down one of the IT guys who is trying to hack into the underground’s network.
OR IS HE???
In fact, he is, of course, not trying. Or perhaps he is “slowing” progress. Either way, he vaguely hinted to Felicia that he had sympathies with Paul. So when Felicia accidentally startles him in his cubicle and he spills his coffee, he…draws a fishie in the spill.
And because Felicia is so well-versed in Christian symbology…
…she immediately gets the reference.
They’ve barely begun a conversation when a female security guard named Trudy shows up…but she’s a secret believer, too!
Fun! And all the secret believers at the Chicago NPO bureau have a monthly secret meeting—at a seafood restaurant!
(By the way, this doesn’t exactly speak well of them, of Paul, or especially of Straight. Paul could have had an entire network of support, from basically every department at his workplace, over the whole course of the last two books, and NOBODY KNEW WHO WAS ACTUALLY A SECRET CHRISTIAN.)
Worst spygames ever.
Trudy mentions that the newspapers have been full of:
“Editorials, opinions, letters to the editor—everybody’s ready to cut the underground some slack.
…even unbelievers are getting on the bandwagon. Nobody wants a repeat of what just happened.”
Well, I can think of one or two people who do want a repeat of what just happened…though even worse.
Aside from that, although I can imagine some people being so blinded by fear that they want to cut some slack to the worshippers of this murdering god, I can imagine many more people who would be so angry about that little matter of husbands and fathers and sons dying that they would never consider such a thing.
Speaking of Pudgy Jack, he’s still obsessed with this plan, and wants to set out on a little crusade to the other underground RTC locations, “to encourage them, tie them together, and rally them to pray for one more dramatic act of God.”
Because, after all, it has been nearly one whole week since the deaths of millions upon millions of innocents.
Paul was fighting him, agreeing with Greenie that if the slaying of firstborn sons around the world had not reached the hard hearts of the people, nothing would.
Well, yeah, that’s Jack’s whole point, Paul. They’ve got hard hearts (just because they were raised atheist and then a god murdered their loved ones), so they deserve to drown or die of thirst. That’s Jack’s kind of logic.
And lest we think too well of Paul, he’s against this plan mostly because he doesn’t want to leave Jae. This is a much bigger reason for him than preventing the deaths of billions of people.
Just as Pudgy Jack is outlining his latest idiotic scheme to Paul (I’m actually not sure how much sympathy Jenkins wants us to have for Pudgy Jack and his world-destroying scheme), Paul gets a skullphone call (left on his skullphone voicemail) from Bia Balaam.
And bizarrely, Jenkins immediately attempts to retcon Paul’s opinion of Bia:
…Bia was everything the former Paul Stepola would have admired in an NPO chief: ruthless, cold, cruel, ambitious, condescending, sarcastic.
Except that Paul hated Bia Balaam at first “sight” (since he was blind at the time).
Why the retcon? Well, that’s an interesting question. I’m willing to bet that a big part of the answer is that Bia has been brought low. And if here’s one thing Paul likes, it’s when a woman is made to feel pain. Here is part of her message:
“I am going to betray the NPO, betray my government, and go against everything I ever knew, was ever taught. … I’m conceding. You win. Your people and your God have proven themselves, at least to me. I have lost my son, my everything, and I have nothing more to lose, nothing more to offer. No way I’ll risk my daughter’s life for a cause I no longer believe in.”
I have lost everything…except my daughter. I have nothing more to lose…except my daughter.
Meh, what’s a daughter when you have a son, amirite?
Also, chalk up yet another person who doesn’t want to follow their beloved child to Hell.
Oh Bia. Bia, Bia, Bia.
So it’s come to this: me, sitting here, enjoying my usual post-Easter 75% off chocolate cross.
I suppose, if I wanted to attempt some sort of death, I could muse about the similarities: I don’t understand why anyone who holds a cross sacred would eat it when rendered in chocolate, and I don’t understand why the chacaters in these books are heroes of the faith.
Especially this particluar character: the Operating Room Man.
I mentioned that this was the one bit that stuck out to me. In a series of books full of horrific, sociopathic assholes that might, once in awhile, make even Rayford Steele blush, this guy.
My mouth dropped open when I first heard what this guy was doing. It was the audio version, and I was in my car, and I had parked and was listening for a good stopping place before I got out. Surely, I thought, surely this character was meant to be wrong. Surely Straight would be appalled, would set him straight (har) that this was not the way of a Real True Christian.
But it is. It is.
And they just jump right into it! (Well, they jump into after their stupid game of skullphone tag, and after they’re sitting down in the hospital cafeteria.)
“We need to trust each other,” [Dr. Gregory Graybill, The Operating Room Man] said.
“Do we?” Straight said. “Why is that?”
“Because I know you are a believer.”
“You know nothing of the sort,” Straight said. “You risk your freedom and your life by even talking like this, so I urge you to tread carefully.”
Is it just me, or is this a real departure from Straight’s usual speaking patterns? Hell, he suddenly sounds like he’s got a bit part on Game of Thrones.
“The time is long past for that,” Dr. Graybill said. “If it makes you feel more secure, I’ll declare myself first. I am a believer. I work with like-minded physicians to determine who’s with us and who isn’t. When the enemy is under our care, we slow them a bit.”
At this point, one might think, he’s not saying what I think he’s saying, is he?
“You slow them?”
“We do not violate the Hippocratic oath, but let’s say it takes these people longer to get back to work than some others.”
This doctor, this DOCTOR makes sure his patients are atheists, and then doesn’t treat them properly so that they are slow to get back to their lives. And he’s a friggin’ SURGEON. Can you even imagine how much people must think he sucks, with the vast, vast majority of his patients being “slowed.”
This just freaks me out to no end. We all have our horrors that are truly, personally horrifying, and for me, it’s malicious doctors. I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day with that, but I’m betting it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve had one or two significant encounters with life-threatening injuries in my life, and had nothing but excellent doctors. But the idea of my orthopedic surgeon “slowing” me for the crime of being an atheist, making my mobility maybe 10% or 20% less than it is…
I was also under the care of an “operating room man” as a week-old infant…and the only daughter of an atheist.
I’m sure, under the tender ministrations of Dr. Gregory Graybill, such a baby would be fine, though. Just fine.
And at that moment, when I was listening to this for the first time, I was sure I knew what was coming: Straight was realizing that this Graybill asshole was No True Christian, because a True Christian would never withhold medical care for the crime of being an atheist in a world where religion has been outlawed.
Is this what The Incident had accomplished? It made the underground reckless?
That is what concerns Straight. Not that a whole group of doctors has been denying proper medical care to 99% of their patients, but that now one of these doctors was actually fessing up to being a believer.
And to top it all off, not only does Dr. Murderous Graybill want to continue his campaign of “slowing” the helpless men, women, and children on his operating table, he wants to let Straight in on the fun!
“You know before we do whom we’re dealing with.”
As a former hospital volunteer myself, I highly doubt that, but whatever.
“I’m guessing you have a better handle on who’s who, whom we should target for, shall we say, more deliberate care.”
Target for more deliberate care. He is a monster.
I mean, I really hate to Godwin up a post, but Dr. Gregory Graybill’s “deliberate care” would fit in just fine here.
And lest we think Straight is some kind of paragon of humanity…he jumps right in. With the caveat that he is still quite interested in saving his own skin, and doesn’t quite yet entirely trust The Operating Room Man:
“If you get news about an incoming patient or two, you can breathe easier and act accordingly. If, instead, you are arrested, you’ll know how grievously you have misread me.”
Won’t it be wonderful when the Christians win this war? Then they can show the atheists what true love and compassion are.
Back at Felicia’s house, she and Cletus head to bed. And despite waking every hour to make sure Cletus hasn’t committed suicide or something else inconvenient like that, Felicia feels “rested” the next morning. As you do when you’re a Christian and your kid is roasting in Hell forever:
“My heart aches. I’m scared. And yet I have a deep peace. I can’t explain it.”
Nor can I, other than to simply conclude that Felicia is a monster who doesn’t give a fig about her own kid.
Cletus is still alive the next morning, which is apparently all she expects. Oh, and he thinks she’s crazy for feeling peaceful at a time like this, so we can see that Cletus is definitely the rational person in this marriage. For the time being, at least, since I can only assume Cletus will turn, too. (I honestly don’t remember and haven’t peeked ahead to see.)
Bizarrely, Felicia heads right back into work in the morning. Even more bizarrely…
She had talked Cletus into calling in sick, trying to get some rest, and planning to get back to his teaching and coaching within a week. Felicia had sensed in him a flicker of life. All she wanted was that he somehow distract himself from his loss.
Huh? Okay, logistics out of the way first: we are told that it is Thursday morning now, and that the slaughter took place Tuesday evening. So either Jenkins counted one too many nights, or I counted one too many, because I was convinced that it was Friday at least.
Also, why haven’t all the schools been closed, at least for the remainder of the week? You’d think with so many students, parents, teachers, and staff dead, and almost everyone else in mourning for probably multiple people, it would only make sense to close.
But if the schools are open, why would Felicia think the most productive thing would be for Cletus to stay home? Cletus teaches middle school students. Vulnerable, sensitive, right-on-the-cusp-of-puberty students who are in the throes of massive grief. If anything could help “distract him from his loss,” you’d think it would be helping out kids.
When Felicia gets to work, she finds that Harriet Johns has been appointed to replace the murdered Bob Koontz. Harriet left L.A. and went to San Francisco after the dessication, and just now got posted to Chicago.
Harriet came off alright back in Soon, notwithstanding that she’s a hellbound atheist. Here, though, Jenkins just can’t help himself: the female of the species in a position of power is inevitably a heartless shrew.
“I might have thought you would be on time every day,” Ms. Johns began, “this soon after The Incident.”
Felicia had just hung up her coat and was fewer than twenty minutes behind schedule.
“Forgive me,” she said. “My husband and I lost a son.”
“You have my sympathies, but of course you know that we in positions of trust must separate our personal and professional lives, and that you are hardly alone in your grief.”
Well, what else can you expect from a professional atheist lady, amirite?
(Although it’s kinda funny that Jenkins wants us to dislike Harriet for wanting people to be at work, when Felicia has been voluntarily working late the past two days since her son died.)
Anyway, Harriet goes on to question Felicia about how much she knows about Paul and his whereabouts. Good little insta-RTC that she is, Felicia is now an expert in the Jenkinsian art of fudging answers to direct questions:
“You remain loyal to Agent Stepola?” [Harriet asked]
“I remain an employee of the National Peace Organization.” [Felicia “answered”]
“And if you hear from Agent Stepola?”
“I will do the right thing.”
“Very good. And have you heard from him?”
“If I had, I would have done the right thing.”
Of course, with decades of service in the NPO, Harriet isn’t suspicious of such evasive answers at all.
Meanwhile, in another stupid conversation not far away, Ball Dangler has contacted Ranold. Ranold assumes he is in line for a promotion, and I have to say, it’s not an unnatural assumption, given the thinning of the atheist ranks around the world, but Dangler, of course, is only interested in the most important person in the entire whole world: Paul Stepola.
Ranold offers to just give Dangler Paul’s skull phone number, but far be it from a Jenkins character to take the simple and efficient route to anything:
“General, please. I think we both know he is not likely to accept a call originating from Bern.”
Well, maybe. Except for Jenkins forgetting that in previous scenes, he established skull phones don’t have any kind of caller ID…
Ranold tells Dangler this, and though I’m sure Jenkins means it to be a lie, it has enough of the truth in it for me to think it simply how Ranold is rationalizing things in his own mind:
“You know he brainwashed my daughter into murdering my wife.”
“Terribly sorry to hear that.”
That just sounds like the lamest response ever, I’m sorry. Especially since Ranold jumps right in with condolences for Dangler’s own son.
Changing the subject back from dead family members to much more important matters (Paul), Dangler has the balls (or the idiocy, whichever) to say that Paul tried to warn him about the coming slaughter.
Speaking of balls, it takes a lot of them to retcon your own story like that, since Paul did the crappiest “warning” job in the history of mankind.
Needless to say, Ranold is pissed. And who can blame him? He is still trying to fight against this horrific mass murderer, and everyone around him is throwing in the towel. Has to be upsetting.
Still, it is terribly important to remember that Ranold is the bad guy. Because he’s an atheist who doesn’t like Paul and stuff.
Next time, back to Straight and “the operating room man.”
Okay, I don’t think Ranold sucks, obviously. I think Ranold is basically the hero of the story, being the only person so far who has a rational reaction to finding out there is a vicious, mass-murdering god up there: resolve to fight him no matter what. But Jerry Jenkins for sure thinks Ranold sucks, and his entire purpose in Chapter 19 is to tell us that. He especially feels the need to remind us of Ranold’s suckitude, since we haven’t even seen him since Chapter 5, when he was dealing with the few moments right after both his son and wife died.
Oh, and for those who are keeping an eye out for references to Ranold’s shocking weight (which honestly sounds to me like he’s just a strapping guy with a big build), we have this:
…he shaved and showered and dressed in a suit tailored for his massive frame.
I’m pretty sure that Ranold’s weight and/or eating habits are referenced every single time he makes an appearance. But we’ll see as we go along.
And references to Ranold’s weight always make me spare a thought for poor Charlotte, currently having her chubby ass roasted for all eternity in Hell for the crime of being raised in Atheistopia.
But the real point of this chapter isn’t Ranold’s humongous girth, but his heartless attitude towards his loved ones. He takes care of Berlitz and Margaret’s bodies, and considers it not a tragedy if they don’t get buried in the near future, seeing as how millions upon millions have died in the past three days.
And he looks back on Margaret and Berlitz with realism: he thinks Margaret was “boring.”
This is, of course, completely in contrast to Our Hero, Paul, who…okay, he also thought Margaret was boring.
So you can see how much more awful Ranold is than Paul.
And Ranold considers Berlitz a “loser,” what with his multiple marriages and non-military career, while Paul…okay, he didn’t specifically use the word “loser,” but he certainly seemed to think little enough of the brother-in-law…little enough that it didn’t even occur to him to warn said BIL about the coming slaughter.
Jenkins also drops in, rather out of nowhere, that Ranold had repeatedly cheated on Margaret.
Just like Paul, except for how Paul had a change of heart and abjectly apologized and begged Jae to take him back—
Oh wait. Paul never did apologize to Jae for his decade of affairs.
I know I keep asking this question, but why do people like this even get married in Atheistopia? Jenkins could have had so much fun showing the evil atheists and their evil ways, like the lives of never-married, serially-monogamous. In fact, wouldn’t it have reinforced the point that evil atheists don’t give a crap about “traditional” marriage, and are just in pursuit of our own ever-changing desires?
Hell, Ranold himself admits that he “could pay for the services [Margaret] rendered, in the home and in the bedroom.” So why would such a man as this even bother to get married? (I’m sure Jenkins would never watch the work of such a nonbeliever, but Joss Whedon of course explored the idea of a world in which someone wealthy and powerful like Ranold could, legally and without shame, hire the services of a respected prostitute.)
All that to say, as usual: I don’t get Jenkins worldbuilding.
And the hits just keep on coming: after several days of basically humoring Aryana in her grief, he blows her off entirely, even telling her to her face (well, over the phone, skull or otherwise) that he never bothered caring about her, since she was Berlitz’s third wife and he figured she’d go the way of the other two.
This actually is in contrast to Jae, who liked Aryana and thought her Berl’s best choice for a wife. Though Jae made that assessment and built that relationship back when she was an atheist, and hasn’t spared a single sympathetic thought for her grieving sister-in-law since coming to Jesus all the way.
It’s funny to consider that Berlitz and Aryana, people whom everyone else saw as silly at best, had the happiest and healthiest marriage of just about anyone we’ve seen in this entire series. (With the possible exception of Enzo and Maura Fabrizio in the last book, though I have to deduct points because he is a murderer, and she badgered him into faith.) But Berlitz and Aryana, unlike Ranold and Margaret or Paul and Jae, seemed genuinely love each other and (gasp! choke!) enjoy each other’s company.
Talk about you “traditional” marriages.
Anyway, Ranold continues his reign of awfulness by being rude to his driver, insisting that the man carry his bag from house to car and not just sit in the car and honk for Ranold to come. Which, honestly, I rather prefer, it being a more direct approach, to Christian Paul’s smug condescension and lecturing to those he perceives as “under” him.
And…that’s it. A chapter to remind us that Jenkins doesn’t care for his designated bad guy.
Oh well. I guess it’s only fair, since we’ve spent three books cataloguing how much his designated good guys sucks.