Shadowed: Chapter 32: Taking Care of the Ladies

Before we begin: I was thinking about Cletus’s suicide, and if memory serves*, Cletus makes the third Jenkins character to commit suicide.  The first was Rayford Steele’s co-pilot, Chris Smith, in Left Behind.  The second was Jim Hickman in The Mark.

*I haven’t read the entire Jenkins oeuvre, so it’s perfectly possible there are others.

All three men, obviously, were non-Christians.  And all three committed suicide after the deaths of people they cared about.  Chris’s little boys were Raptured and his wife killed in an accident immediately thereafter; Jim inadvertently got a friend and coworker killed by Nicolae Carpathia.

Perhaps Jenkins is growing as a writer.  This is, after all, the first time we have seen any kind of emotional reaction to a suicide, beyond a “meh, sucks to be him.”  I mean, Cletus is still roasting forever in Hell, of course, but at least Felicia is a bit put out by the whole situation.

***

Anyway, speaking of an emotional reaction to a death, Paul is having one.  Or at least, it’s as emotional as he is capable of being.  He talks to Jae for the first time in five chapters:

“I was thrilled with what God did in Los Angeles.”

Wait a sec.  I know you were celebrating that, but isn’t it now supposed to be a bad thing that is all Bia’s fault?

“He proved Himself, made me feel proud to be on the winning side.”

Being on the winning side is a HUGE deal for RTCs, make no mistake.  I hear Christian radio preachers talk about it not infrequently, and Tsion ben-JewishGuy brings it up in his internet messages to the world:

“I would not want to be [in the Tribulation world] without knowing God was with me, that I was on the side of good rather than evil, and that in the end, we win.”

Assassins

Paul continues:

“I can’t say I felt the same about the slaying of all the firstborns.  I reacted the way most of the surviving victims did.  Rocked.  Devastated.”

Liar.

And of course, it all comes down to Paul’s precious feelings:

“Look what’s happening to my friends, my colleagues, even to new believers.  Can I in good conscience point them to God when this is the kind of result they can expect?”

Jae, bless her heart, reminds him that, oh yeah, she is a new believer, and has suffered her share of difficulties, what with the dead brother and dead mother and children in hiding and all.  Paul doesn’t so much blow her off as simply ignore her silly, womany whining, instead choosing to focus on Bia.

Jae tries again:

“I’m getting cabin fever,” she said.  “I know that sounds minor, compared with everything else, but—”

“Yeah, it does.”

Oh, screw you, Paul.  Get over your obsession with other people’s fountains before you criticize others for minor things.

And hey, it’s not like I’m any great fan of Jae’s right now, but it isn’t such a petty thing that she has cabin fever.  She’s lost her brother and mother and is on the run, so it actually makes perfect sense to be driven closer to the edge by the fact that…there is nowhere to run.

But Jae actually tries to get involved in doing something for others, suggesting that both Bia and Felicia simply come underground with them.  Of course, since the Zealoteers have inexplicably decided to keep the news of the Most Anticipated Raid in History a secret, Jae doesn’t know that they’ll have to change lodgings soon.

And Paul immediately spills the beans.  Jae, shockingly enough, takes the news in stride, simply assuming they’ll go the Michigan Heartland salt mines.

But again, what it all really comes down to is Paul’s feelings:

…for the first time in his life, Paul let his guard down and allowed himself to be vulnerable in front of his wife.  He told Jae how worried he was that he—always lauded for his ability to maintain high-level confidentiality—had now told her two things he shouldn’t have.  [The first thing was that Ranold was going to Bern as interim NPO chief, though why that was a secret is beyond me.]

So Paul’s big confession of vulnerability is all because he’s not living up to his own standards of manliness.  It’s not, for example, that he’s terrified for the safety of his wife and children.  Such thoughts as those seem not even to have crossed his mind.  Nope, it’s all about his self-image.

Also, is keeping high-level information a secret really something that people are lauded for?  I always kinda assumed that it was something that was just expected of people like FBI agents and undercover cops and military intelligence personnel.  Hell, I’ve had jobs in the past where I wasn’t allowed to talk about certain things.  Nobody ever “lauded” me for keeping the information under wraps…it was just assumed that if something is part of your job, you do it.  Weird.

And Jae actually says in so many words “Get your mind off yourself and onto these women.”

Wow.  Seriously, wow.

She kinda leaves the whole Bia issue for Paul to deal with, and as for Felicia, Jae simply suggests that they get her in touch with Straight.  I wonder if Straight will respect Felicia’s personal space as much as he did Paul’s.

***

As for Bia…

Paul himself met Bia Balaam at one of the secret entrances to the underground but didn’t even let her put her bag down.  “We have no one else inside NPO USSA,” he said.

Well, except for Felicia and Hector and Trudy and apparently the not-insignificant number of others who have been hiding out right in the heart of the NPO for years while Paul played his little spy games.

Anyway, Bia immediately agrees to head back into the enemy camp, and persuade Ranold that she is on his side as the assassin of Ball Dangler.

Btw, so she showed up at the underground with a bag, fully intending to disappear forever.  Looks like Jenkins really did forget that he created Bia a grown daughter who is probably as grief-stricken and scared all the other atheists right now.  Because nobody has so much as mentioned Leya in this book.

And, over a cell phone conversation, Bia does indeed manage to put Ranold’s mind at ease.  After all, he wants to make her his Dark Mistress.

Shadowed: Chapter 31, Part 2: Tried Everything

So in a couple of super-short sections, interspersed with the Zealoteers debating about what is to be done with Bia, she who is “pretty much solely responsible [along with Ranold] for bringing the drought upon Los Angeles,” we discover the ultimate fate of Cletus.

I won’t keep you in suspense.  It’s Hell for that dude.

Felicia gets a call from the middle school where Cletus works, because he hasn’t shown up.  It’s been a mere thirteen days since The Incident, so I am still a bit surprised that places like schools are open, but whatever.

Felicia rushes home, despite Harriet Johns’ warning that leaving work early like that “will have to go on your record.”  Shadowed sure is going out of its way to make Harriet a bitch, despite her relatively sympathetic treatment in Soon.  Although, I wonder…in Soon, one of Harriet’s big problems was with the way Bia treated her.  And now that Bia is on the road to being RTC, perhaps Jenkins has decided that he needs Harriet to be a bitch.  Because the idea of two high-powered career women with whom the audience can sympathize is just ridiculous.

When Felicia gets home, she finds “two squad cars, an ambulance, what looked like an unmarked police car,” and damn, that seems like a lot of manpower for a suicide that, again, has occurred only thirteen days after The Incident.  Weren’t we told not too long ago that people couldn’t even be buried for weeks, possibly months, because of the lack of manpower following the deaths of millions where they stood?

Cletus killed himself via the lock-himself-in-the-garage-and-turn-on-the-car method.  Okay, please forgive me, but I’m going to be insensitive for a moment here: is that even possible to do with cars that are powered with solar, electric, and/or hydrogen power?  I honestly don’t know—what I know about mechanics could fit comfortably in…well, maybe not the head of a pin, but certainly a small box.

I’ll try to be sensitive, too, and wonder about something that I don’t think Jenkins did: would such a suicide really be so uncommon at this moment in history?  We’re talking about the two weeks following the catastrophe of millions of men and boys and little babies just dying, all at once, all at the same moment.  It would certainly be possible for a woman to lose father, husband, brother, and son, all in the same instant.  I can only sadly imagine that there would be quite a few suicides going on.

Felicia immediately asks if there was a suicide note, which strikes me as a bit odd—is she really confused over why Cletus was despondent?  Does she not intuit that the death of their only child, followed by her own conversion to the worship of the being that murdered that child, might leave Cletus just a bit upset?  Really?

Guess not.  She reads the note, in which Cletus says he is “sorry,” but “tried everything, even praying.”

And the fact that he still killed himself, after the praying, obviously means he is being roasted in Hell.

Sorry.

But I’m sure Felicia, like Paul and Jae and Bia and Straight and all the other RTCs, will end up being perfectly fine living with the knowledge that the people she loved most are doomed to never-ending torment.

After all, she’s got hers.

Shadowed: Chapter 31, Part 1: The Oppressed

With Ball Dangler sadly dead, someone has to step up.  And it’s not Ranold…

The vice chancellor, the previously anonymous, almost invisible Asian woman few had ever heard of before, moved into the leadership role.

Yeah, nobody had ever heard of her.  Least of all Jerry Jenkins, who introduced her in one sentence, nine pages ago.  Her name is Hoshi Tamika, btw.

Also, I don’t know what dictionary Jenkins is using, but she certainly wasn’t anonymous.  No more than Joe Biden is, at least.  And as politically ignorant as much of the United States is, I bet most Americans can name the Vice President.  Why “few” would know the name of the second-in-command of the planet is best left to Jenkins’ imagination.

Anyway, the death of Ball Dangler is making even more people around the world call for amnesty with the believers.  Because not only have these terrorists prayed successfully for their thug god to slay their children, one of their number has assassinated the leader of the free world.  So the only logical solution is to make nice with them, right?

Paul foresaw—for the first time in his life—the possibility that the oppressed, the distressed, the disenfranchised might actually emerge, squinting, from belowground and take their rightful place in society.

Yeah, the people whose sons are still alive, they’re the distressed.  The people who have a vengeful god on their side, ready to slaughter millions of innocents on request, they’re the oppressed.

Also, this sentence makes it sound like Paul’s been waiting for this his whole life.  He’s been waiting a little over half a year, in fact.

Three days later, Monday, February 4, Paul, Jack Pass, and Greenie Macintosh spent hours in the TV room, watching coverage of the investigation of the murder while planning the exodus from Washington to the Heartland salt mines.

Hey!  Jenkins remembered that it’s Heartland, not Michigan!

But holy crap, they’re still planning?  How did they get along all these years without an exit strategy in place?  Hell, you’d think every single person in that labyrinthian underground lair would have a BOB ready at all times.  They’ve had three decades to prep, yo.

Bia places an emergency skull phone call to Paul.  Since she’s the one who gave the Special Stone to Ranold, and now he’s requested an airport pick-up, she has concluded that since she’s the only person who can link Ranold to the stone, he’s going to kill her.

Personally, I think Bia may be overstating things.  Now, she doesn’t know this, but Ranold has the hots for her.  So I imagine he would be unlikely to off her like that.  More likely, he would want to make her his Dark Mistress.

Second, if he did off her, that would be the second of his closest subordinates to die under strange circumstances in 72 hours.  People might start to look a little more closely at those circumstances.  Just sayin’.

So the guys debate what should be done with her…

The men the Columbia underground had taken to calling The Three Zealoteers stood watching the TV screen.

Man, for guys who need to plan the evacuation and rescue of hundreds, they sure spend a lot of time in front of the TV, don’t they?

Also, The Three Zealoteers?  REALLY?

Yanno, Jenkins, just because a punny nickname occurs to you, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Pudgy Jack is all for taking in Bia, but Greenie, in a classy display of Christian love and compassion, is against it:

“You realize she and Decenti are pretty much solely responsible for bringing the drought upon Los Angeles?”

Wait one damn second, Greenie.  Firstly, I thought the drought was something to celebrate.  And B, if any one human person can be said to be responsible, it would have to be Old Carl, who penned the “bold manifesto” that called for believers to pray to their thug to dessicate L.A.

So I have to say that Bia is off the hook on that one.  Sorry, dude.

Greenie’s secondary argument is that Bia “knows where we are” and thus could endanger them.  Except I think at this point, dead people know where you are, Greenie, and in any event, you should have been gone days ago, and will be gone soon if you have two brain cells to rub together.  So again, not seeing a problem.

Sigh.  I mean, is it just me?  Do secret underground cells responsible for the safety of hundreds of civilians normally debate endlessly like this instead of just taking action, and/or running like hell?  It’s not like they’re planning to take a stand, after all.

Mal:  And I never run away from a fight!

Inara:  Yes, you do.  You do all the time!

Mal:  Well, yeah.  But I’m not backing down from this one.

-Firefly, Shindig

And…that’s how they leave it for this chapter.  We’ll have to wait to find out their Final Answer on the Bia question.

Next time: Cletus also has a Final Answer.  To a very different question.

Shadowed: Chapter 30: Have You Ever Prayed?

While Our Ranold is busily assassinating the leader of the planet, Paul and Bia are busily having an incredibly important conversation on the importance of prayer:

“Have you ever prayed, Bia?” Paul said.

“Not once, ever.”

“Not even by accident, when your life was one the line, anything like that?”

Hey, remember, Bia, there are no atheists in foxholes!  That’s what the RTCs say, anyway!

“No.  When I’m in trouble, I talk to me, to myself.  I say, ‘C’mon, Balaam, do what you need to do.’  I never pray.”

Huh.  Was that Jenkins actually admitting that atheists don’t pray, that we’re not actually lying when we say we don’t believe?  Wild!

Anyway, Paul quickly schools Bia that she should talk to God just like she would talk to anyone else.

That’s it.

***

On the other side of the world, another non-prayer, Our Ranold, is putting on the performance of a lifetime, as some security personnel finally show the frak up in the office of the leader of everyone.  He drops some compliments to Ball Dangler, mentions that his son and wife died in what they are all now calling “The Incident,” and blames himself for not picking up on poor Aikman’s intentions.  The “investigators,” who are there at the very moment the security guys and Dangler’s assistant are, find the little stone that Ranold planted on Aikman.  It’s the symbol of the Columbia underground, like the penny is the symbol of the Sunterra underground.  So all in all, Ranold has covered his bases quite well.

***

Felicia and Cletus are still debating.  And Cletus may believe in God “because I have no choice,” but still hates him.  Thus making his response the most logical one around.

Shadowed: Chapter 29, Part 2: Ranold’s Character

I think we can all agree that regardless of what Jenkins tells us about Paul Stepola, what he shows us is something quite different.  We’re told that Paul is a “changed man,” newly in love with his wife for the first time in…ever, a man filled with the love and spirit of his loving God.  What we are shown, however, is a man who enjoys being seen as a loving husband (he carries some of the luggage!), but who shares no more with his wife than he did when he wasn’t a believer.  A man so puffed up with his own importance as New Convert that he’ll lecture believers who have lived a double life for longer than he’s been alive.  And whose greatest achievement in life is in praying for his sadistic thug of a god to massacre millions of innocent men and boys.

So not so much changed, despite what we’re told.  And yet, Paul is a rather consistent character, from what we see.  He is, as we have so often observed, an asshole of the first order, atheist or Christian.

I say this because in this chapter, we see Ranold perform an action so astonishingly out of character that it makes my head spin.

To review Our Ranold: he commanded the entire force in the Pacific during WWIII, only to see it wiped out when a tsunami destroyed Hawaii.  From there, he was instrumental in building the NPO from the ground up.  During the most recent crisis with the underground Christians, Ranold led raids and basically ran the whole show.  He’s always worked within the system he built, fiercely loyal to his nation and to the humanist underpinnings that have kept it war-free.

Which is why it’s so crazy that he assissinates the leader of the free whole world, Ball Dangler.

YUP

Our Ranold assissinates the chancellor of the whole entire planet.

That’s…well, that’s something, I guess.  Something to convince us that Ranold is totally evil, having killed one man, as opposed to Paul, who planned for and prayed to his thug to kill millions.

Not that I’m discounting the killing of any one person, mind you.  I just don’t think Jenkins sees how odd this all is.

And, as I said, so very out of character.  Ranold is a guy who works the system.  He always has been.  Hell, Jenkins has taken great pains to paint an actual backstory for Ranold, and this all just doesn’t fit.

To the details: Ranold and Dick Aikman, the member of the inner circle of whom Ranold was suspicious, fly to Bern.  All the way along, Jenkins goes out of his way to show Ranold being rude to Aikman in little ways, to make sure we know he’s a jerk.  Funny, but when Paul is dismissive to those below him, it is presented simply as a sign of Paul being the better, more spiritual man.

Arriving at international headquarters, Ranold and Aikman bluster their way through security, making sure their loaded guns are not discovered.  Ranold has made it all out to Aikman that being searched or questioned in any way is beneath their dignity.  It all ends with the two men alone with Ball Dangler in his office.  (Really?  These unsearched men?  And no handlers or secret service or anything?  Right.)

After their last conversation, in which the leader of the planet made it abundantly clear that his highest priority was talking to the most important person around (Paul, natch), Ball Dangler is actually quite a bit of a dick to Ranold.  Really quite nastily and childishly rude (“Your boss is not a pleasant man, is he?” he asks poor Aikman).  Not befitting the leader of the planet, methinks.

And Ranold asks Aikman to show off his gun to Ball Dangler.  You’d think the mere mention of such a thing would lead to the pressing of a panic button and the arrival of approximately 872 men and women with even more guns, but, like an idiot, Dangler goes along with the whole thing, like it’s perfectly expected and natural for a visitor to show off a gun in his inner sanctum…

And Ranold grabs Aikman’s gun and shoots Dangler, then shoots Aikman with his own (Ranold’s) gun, then yells for help.

It is a sad testament to Jenkins’ writing of schemes and action that I am sure this plan, possibly the most hare-brained in all Jenkins works, will go off without a hitch.

Shadowed: Chapter 29, Part 1: Catching Up with the Converts

This chapter is a long one, following not only Ranold’s master plan (anybody guess what he’s up to?), and following recent NPO converts Bia and Felicia.  So we’ll deal with the ladies first…

Jenkins actually remembers this time the skull phones that he invented, and Bia calls Paul in the middle of the night, waking him via “tone in his tooth.”  Bia has vague updates about Ranold (nothing Paul really needed to know, just that Ranold’s getting paranoid), but the real issue is that in reading “this document of yours, the salvation thing,” Bia thinks is it “too easy.”  Paul makes her reread the passage about being saved by grace through faith alone, and no need to do good deeds, etc.

Not for nothing, but Paul is an excellent example of a Christian who’s never done a single good deed in his entire life.  Hell, Bia’s problem is that she wants to do some good deeds and “earn” her way, but Paul talks her out of it, since no amount of good deeds will make up for all the bad things she’s done.

Makes sense.  Paul was a jerk when he was an atheist, and he’s a jerk now that he’s a Christian.  For Bia, still out in the world as she is, she might make people suspicious if her behaviour suddenly changed.

(Not for nothing, but Paul was a rotten parent both before and after he got saved.  The last book made a big deal about how devoted a parent Bia was to her two grown children.  But now, since her son’s death, she hasn’t mentioned her daughter even once.  I figure this is more a function of Jenkins forgetting she existed, rather than Bia neglecting her.)

***

Meanwhile, Felicia and Cletus also can’t sleep.  Cletus is still pissed (and who can blame him?).  Felicia is mad at God, too, but only “part of [her].”  She’s mostly angry at herself for being “so blind and stupid all these years.”  Yeah, for not believing in a god that is invisible and silent and in whom it is illegal to believe.  

What fools atheists are, amirite?

And—

Wait a second.

Okay, I turned the page, and that is IT.  Nine lines of Felicia and Cletus talking about their comparative anger at God, and it just cuts off at the page-turn.  Last line, from Cletus:

“Part of you [is angry at God].  All of me is.”

Deep.

Well, I guess that makes it that much easier for me to get to Ranold’s big plan this weekend!

Shadowed: Chapter 28: How to Hate Ranold

Hi, kiddies!  Been awhile.


Sorry.  Been a crappy couple of weeks.

But, better now.

And ripping apart some RTC lit is a great way to treat yo self—so let’s get to it!

Yanno, every now and then, Jerry Jenkins seems to fear that his readers might forget that they’re supposed to hate Ranold.  After all, Ranold is an overbearing, hard-driving guy who is ambitious to a fault and thinks he’s always right.

And Paul is the one with those qualities that we’re supposed to like, gorammit!

So, Jenkins makes sure that we note that Ranold is also paranoid.  So paranoid that he wakes in the middle of the night, concerned about the trustworthiness of the men in his new “trusted inner circle.”

Just so we’re clear, he doesn’t doubt Bia’s loyalty for a moment.  It’s the other guys.  In particular, a youngish guy called Dick Aikman.  Out of an abundance of caution, he leaves a “phone message” for Bia, telling her to get lie tests and loyalty oaths done on everyone.

Oh, and Jenkins makes sure to let us know that Ranold has a midnight snack while he’s up.

‘Cause he’s fat, ha!

The next day, Bia successfully talks him out of the whole loyalty-testing idea, arguing that it will be bad for morale.  Also, it’ll out her as a believer (she tactfully leaves this last bit unsaid).

So Ranold goes and has LUNCH (’cause he’s still fat, you see, and it gets funnier all the time!).  Delivery from a ribs place, which leaves him feeling “logy.”

Ranold is of my generation, and I don’t think I have ever heard anybody even close to my age use the word “logy.”  Just sayin’.

Anyway, this exciting chapter ends with Ranold inviting Aikman to go Bern with him as his bodyguard.

And thus I am on the edge of my seat!

(Actually, I really should be.  Because believe it or not, Ranold actually has a plan.  Or rather, Jenkins is going somewhere with this.  I’m as shocked as you are.)

Shadowed: Chapter 27: Marriage Lessons

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.”

RTC love!

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.

RTC compassion!

***

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.

Shadowed: Chapter 26: Mass Exodus Planning

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.

Shadowed: Chapter 25: Devastated

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.

Har har.

***

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.

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