Monthly Archives: January 2013

TSoA: Chapter 31: Romantic Haggling

Guys, I am SO EXCITED about the bets on who is going to die first.*  I will ask that any of you who have read the book NOT reveal anything ahead of time, and I will do the same.

Hey, you know what the best thing to do is, after you’re just introduced six new characters?

Forget about them for two chapters!

Seriously.  This chapter is about Murphy and Isis going antiquing, and the next is a Noah chapter.

But first, some snuggly time with Murphy and Isis.

*gag*

Yep, the story skips right over the training on Mount Rainier (which “had been tough”—I’ll bet!) and moves on to the car trip from Ankara to Erzurum.

And apparently Murphy and Isis have a car to themselves, because while he drives and she sleeps in the back, he feels free to open up to her (Out loud!  But not so loud that she can hear him!) about his feelings.

Ah, I see how it is.  A Real Man can open up about his feelings, but only while the other party is not conscious and listening.

“After you shot that guy in Washington—after you saved me—I finally realized I’d been kidding myself all along.  I didn’t want you with me so I could protect you.  I mean, I do want to protect you, but that wasn’t the real reason.”

Well, hey.  Sappy, but…wow.  Murphy is actually admitting that Isis can take care of herself and him, too.

Oh, wait.  She’s unconscious.  Forget it.

“I could have told Levi to keep a watch on you.”

Heh, yeah.  Given Levi’s feelings about Isis, I’m sure that would have worked out just swell.

“No, the real reason was because…because I couldn’t bear to be apart from you.  Because…”  His voice lowered to a whisper.  “…I’m in love with you.”

SHE’S ASLEEP

Curled in the backseat, Isis’s eyelids flickered briefly, but they remained closed.  A single tear slowly made its way down her cheek.

OH COME ON

BULLSHIT

Grrrrr…

Isis and Murphy’s first stop (Where’s the rest of the team?  Don’t know, don’t care.) is the local museum, where some old curator shows them, apparently out of the goodness of his heart, a box of shit belonging to Sir Reginald Calworth, some apparently made-up dude who traveled to this monastery in the 1800s and heard all about the ark.

The old dude opens some ancient trunk in the basement (really) and all that’s in there is an Aladdin’s lamp from the monastery, because thieves and stuff.

Oh well.

Out on the street, some guy (since he’s “a thickset, unshaven man,” we know not to trust him), stops our Dynamic Duo and tells them that he has shit from the monastery.

“Erzurum is not so big place.  Easy to know everything.”

Okay.

He has a carved box that used to belong to the bishop who was around at the time that Calworth visited.

I don’t care.

Isis reads some manuscripts that state that the items in the box (“several small vases contaning what looked like crystals, and some curious instruments that looked somewhat like sextants or theodolites“) came from the “sacred ark.”  Murphy wants to buy the whole box from the hairy guy, who offers it for the low, low price of only one hundred thousand American dollars.

But, with his magnificent American negotiating skills, all Murphy has to do is threaten to walk once, and the guy gives him a discount of…90%.

Ninety.

So, we’re still at ten thousand dollars, an amount that seems enormous to me, but doesn’t cause Murphy to so much as bat an eyelash.  He offers (with all apparent sincerity) to return the next morning with the cash (WHERE IS HE GETTING ALL THIS PHAT LEWT???).

But the unshaven guy won’t live to see the awesome moolah—his head is blown off by a sniper almost as soon as Murphy and Isis leave.

I’m tempted to imagine it was Murphy, killing the guy so ha can take the artifacts without having to pay, but we all know it was Talon.

Well, that whole interlude was pretty pointless.

.

*Yanno what else I’m excited about?  THIS:

Saw Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters this weekend and it is fun and awesome.  Witches explode, Jeremy Renner takes his shirt off, all kinds of cool shit happens.  Yes, it could have stood to be about fifteen minutes longer (fifteen minutes of character-building, please), but it was still a gorram great time at the movies.  Renner and Arterton do a great job as the brother-sister team, actually acting like a brother and sister.  (Why does this seem to be the most difficult relationship to portray accurately in movies?)  Anyway, WATCH THE MOVIE!  So much fun.

TSoA: Chapter 30: The Rest of the Team

Finally, FINALLY, we are actually starting to prepare for the preparation of the trip to Ararat that might actually take place sometime in the future.

That’s right, we’re 60% done with this book, so that means it’s time to…introduce five new characters at once!

Look, I have no problem whatsoever with a big cast, but you should introduce at least most of them sooner than halfway through your story, so we have time to get to know them.

Especially since, in this case, they are all men, all within the same age range (I’m figuring mid-thirties to mid-forties) and several of whom share similar backgrounds.

IT IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT TO TELL SOME OF THESE GUYS APART, SO I SHALL PREPARE A LIST.

Murphy has inexplicably left the decisions about team members entirely in the hands of Levi Abrams, ex-Mossad badass, which is doubly weird since Levi isn’t even going on the trip.

But before Levi can tell Murphy all about the new men for the team (of course there won’t be any women; don’t be ridiculous) he has to get in a “veiled remark” about Isis.

Levi Does Not Approve of Isis.  Whether this is because Isis is a gi-irl, or because Murphy has a crush on her, or both, Levi does not say.

Anyway, on to the new guys:

  • Colonel Blake Hodson, “Ex-Army Ranger.”
  • Commander Salvador Valdez, “Ex-Navy SEAL.”  (Question: shouldn’t we be saying “vet” instead of “ex”?)

These two guys are “security” for the team.

  • Wendell Reinhold, Ph.D. in engineering from MIT.  “Good on mountains.”

Let’s just say I have my doubts.  Foremost is the doubt that the name “Wendell” is being used ironically.  Nerd alert!  (Especially since the two security dudes sport the manly names of Blake and Salvador.)

  • Mustafa Bayer, who, in addition to fulfilling all the aspirin needs of the team, works for the Turkish government in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • Darin Lundquist, Special Assistant to the Turkish Ambassador.

These two guys are for “politics,” one representing Turkey, one the States.

Presumably because the Turkish government has heard about Michael Murphy, and how he treats artifacts from countries not his own.

Finally,

  • Larry Whittaker, photographer.

Also, we’ve already been introduced to Murphy’s old pal (who didn’t attend Laura’s funeral), Vern Peterson.

So, holy shit, that’s a lot of dudes.  Regular hot dog cart…

And they’ll all get to know each other (saaaayyyyy…) at the Mount Rainier Mountain Climbing School.

There is a cool webcam of Mount Rainier here.

One thing Stephanie Kovacs had wrong: During the memorial service Murphy wasn’t thinking about Mount Ararat.  He was thinking about Mount Rainier in Washington.

Oh, well, thank goodness.  And here I thought Murphy was being insenstitive.  But no, it turns out that he was thinking of a TOTALLY OTHER MOUNTAIN inviolved in his “great adventure“…during the funeral of his “good friend.”

At the climbing school, Valdez, the SEAL, wants to know why he and the other tough guy are even needed on this trip.  Murphy hedges TWICE before realizing that he has to actually (gasp! choke!) be honest with the other members of his team.

“The fact is,” Murphy [said], “somebody knows about this expedition and doesn’t want it to succeed.  Right now I can’t tell you who that somebody is.  But I can tell you that they are ruthless and will stop at nothing to get whatever it is they want.”

STOP AT NOTHING

Other things that are established:

  • Wendell, the Ph.D., establishes his nerd credentials by being “boyish” and wearing “old-fashioned round spectacles.”

(The book calls the men by their last names, but Isis by her first name.  So I shall henceforth call all the team members by their first names, in retaliation.)

  • Blake, the Ranger, wears mirrored shades all the time and chews gum…all the time.
  • Darin is a dick, who, when Mustafa mentions the Turkish military, says:

“Let’s not forget who foots the bill for all those planes and missiles you people are so proud of!”

Nice.  So, basically, everybody hates everybody else.

[Murphy] had two days on the slopes of Mount Rainier to turn these people into a tightly knit unit.

And I’m sure that will be no problem.  Murphy has great people skills.

TSoA: Chapter 29: Dark Girlfriend

Remember Stephanie Kovacs, Dark Mistress to puppet-of-The-Seven Shane Barrington?  Well, LaHaye and Phillips are on board with this description, calling Stephanie

…the mistress of one of the world’s most powerful media magnates.

I suppose, like TV Tropes, they see the word “mistress” as far more dirty than the word for what Stephanie really is: girlfriend.  Seeing as how Stephanie is single and Shane has been divorced from Ambiguously-Gay-and-now-unambiguously-murdered Arthur’s mother for many years.

Shane assigns his girlfriend to cover the murder of Hank Baines, which is inexplicably being called “a random drive-by shooting.”  Stephanie’s initial report, which went out one full day after the actual shooting, “had once again given Barrington Network News the jump on all the competition.”

Seriously?

A report given one day after the event gave BNN the jump on everybody else?  Even the local TV news reporters, who could have been there in minutes and gotten footage of the emergency workers and, no doubt, an on-the-spot interview with Michael Murphy, who surely would have been sticking his face in every camera he could find and expounding on his Biblical theories about the shooting?

Okay, I could understand if Stephanie’s was the first in-depth, investigative report.  Perhaps The Seven could have told Shane some exclusive-but-false fact, something to make BNN stand out and simultaneously throw both reporters and officials off the scent.  But that’s not what we’re told here.

A mere forty-eight hours after the shooting, Hank is being buried, which seems super fast for the victim of a crime which is no doubt still being investigated.

Stephanie sets up “as close to the graveside as possible without upsetting the mourners too much.”  She sees plainclothes officers keeping an eye on everything, and Pastor Bob Wagoner giving the service, which seems odd because Hank’s wife and daughter were the ones who attended his church, not Hank.

Okay, maybe that doesn’t seem so odd, after all.

After the service, Stephanie starts to walk in the general direction of Hank’s wife.  Murphy, who never learned what a fake-out is, intercepts her to self-righteously expound on the press “hounding” people.

its_a_trap

It is all as Stephanie planned.  She wanted to talk to Murphy in the first place, and knew just how to get him in front of her fastest: act as though she wasn’t interested in talking to him at all.

I know that statement analysis is not hard science, but it’s still kinda interesting to read Murphy’s responses while considering it.

“Professor Murphy, you were the last person to see Hank Baines alive, is that right?” [Stephanie asked]

“I was present when he tragically lost his life, yes,” he said.

WHO TALKS LIKE THAT??  This was a simple question, why not just give a simple answer?  Yes, he was the last person to see Hank alive.

“Would it be correct to say you were friends?”

“Yes.”

See?  Simple answer to a simple question.  Was that really so hard?

Now, in all fairness to Murphy, Stephanie then spits out a rapid-fire series of questions, culminating with:

“Tell me, do you feel any sense of responsibility for his death?  Do you think it was appropriate for you to be here today?  Can you explain why your fingerprints were on a gun found at the scene?”

Well, at least the last question is an easy one to answer: “My fingerprints were on a gun because Hank was shot, so I grabbed his gun to shoot at the shooter.”

Plus, Talon was shooting at them with a sniper rifle, so there’s no way Murphy could ever be implicated in Hank’s death.

But let’s see how Murphy answers:

“I’ve come here to pay my respects to a fine man and a good friend.  I think it would be tasteless and inappropriate to speculate about the perpetrator of this tragedy at his graveside, don’t you?  I have given the police and FBI the fullest possible statement.  Perhaps you should ask them.  Thank you very much.”

Geez, Murph, a “no comment” would have sufficed.

Murph turns to stride away purposefully, but Stephanie has one last question to ask his retreating form, this one about his “clandestine expedition” to find Noah’s ark.

Ha-HA!!!  Zing, Murphy!

He tried not to looked [sic] fazed by the question.  “Like many archaeologists, I’ve been fascinated by stories of the ark since I was a boy,” he said.  “It would certainly be a great adventure to try and find it.  Now I’m afraid I have to go.”

Huh.  Well, Murph, I guess speculating about the cause of Hank’s death is tasteless and inappropriate, but speculating about great adventures by his grave is just peachy.

And wow, what a denial, eh?  Surely Stephanie’s viewers will now assume that Murphy is not planning a clandestine expedition after all, right?

Stephanie rocks.  I do so love when people make Murphy look like a fool.

TSoA: Chapter 28: Michael and Hank, BFFs

Shouldn’t it be BFsF?  I wouldn’t know; the acronym was before my time.  I had a best friend growing up, not a BFF.

Anyway.

You’d think Murphy and Isis would be gun-shy of cabs after the last chapter, but no.  They catch one and hightail it to the nearest police station.  (Insert suprise that neither of them has a cell phone here.)

Murphy was not entirely surprised when the squad cars returned and the captain told them not a single word of their story checked out.  There were no bodies.  No weapons.  Not a trace of blood anywhere.

Spooks, Murphy thought.  Boy, these guys are professionals.

Wow.  Yeah, I guesses.  Look, I don’t expect the cops to go all CSI on us, but really, no blood?  And wouldn’t Murphy have blood on himself, what with Isis shooting that one thug?  For that matter, wouldn’t they be able to tell that Isis had recently fired a gun?

Bah.

Anyway, things get weird: Murphy turns to Hank Baines for help.  And Hank Baines’ first response is to contemplate how the Forces of Darkness might be keeping tabs on…Hank Baines.

Yeah, an hour after Murphy and Isis were almost killed, Hank combs his own home for bugs.

His wife and daughter aren’t at home when he does this.  Maybe they’re at the funeral of his only child’s best friend.

What a great husband and father Hank is.

Hank finds that all his phones and his computer have been bugged.

What a great FBI agent Hank is.

Hank and Murphy then play a game of cat-and-mouse with each other.  Meet me here, call me there, SOMEONE MAY BE LISTENING.

In the meantime, Murphy discovers that his office was ransacked and his Noah’s ark files were stolen.  Just imagine: YEARS of Bible verses on PowerPoint, gone!

Their spy games take them to an abandoned carousel in a park (seriously) and neither of them see any danger in having their conversation in the middle of nothing…well, except the graffiti-covered van that just so happens to be in the abandoned parking lot next to the abandoned carousel.

Surely nothing bad can possibly come of this!

Murphy actually does the nice thing first and asks after Tiffany.

“[She’s] great.  She’s out of the hospital—she’s been home for about a week.”

Yeah, apart from watching her best friend die, she’s terrific!

And apart from the fact that her father isn’t there for her in her time of need…

Now that they are at the SUPER DUPER SEKRIT CAROUSEL OF DEATH, Hank can fill Murph in on all the Sekrit Squirrel information he got from his bad-ass computer usage.  (Um, wasn’t Hank’s computer bugged?)

“I used my FBI clearance to get into some of the computers at Langley.”

image

Not sure that’s how it works.

Hank tells Murphy about how astronaut James Irvin was interested in the ark.

“He was convinced that there was something on the mountain.  There were references to that and to some other information he must have had access to.”

WOW.  Your mad hacking skillz have served us well, Hank.  So now we know that Irvin thought he knew something.  Great.

And then Hank is shot.

By somebody (GUESS WHO!!!) in the graffiti-covered van that JUST SO HAPPENED to be at Hank and Murphy’s little secret hideaway.

I told you nothing bad would come of it!

Murphy dodges away and hides betwixt the carousel horsies, but then doubles back to snatch Hank’s gun.  (Trust me, Hank’s in no position to use it himself.)

Murphy gets off a couple of shots at the van before Talon (oops, gave it away!) speeds away, leaving Murphy utterly unscathed and Hank with a pumping chest wound.

Which, admittedly, is probably the way The Seven wanted it.

But…yeah, Murphy is alive, but why kill Hank?  Hank was helping Murphy find the ark (kinda), and that’s what The Seven want, too, right?  For Murphy to lead them to Biblical artifacts, so they can then dispose of them.

That has to be what it is, because any organization with the power of The Seven could kill Murphy in about three seconds, right?

Right?

Sheesh.

Buh-bye, Hank.  Buh-bye.

TSoA: Chapter 27: Isis Kicks Ass (No, Really)

Murphy is still “quietly fuming” (hell, I’m surprised that he’s quiet about it) as they leave the CIA building.  But Isis actually talks him down:

“You and Welsh have a history.  I just think he’s stonewalling because he doesn’t like you.”

Of course, sensible though Isis is, we know she’s wrong.  It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya!  A conspiracy with UFOs and international bankers and black helicopters to keep the ark a secret!

To further placate him, Isis suggests a little tour of Washington before Murph catches his flight back to North Carolina.  (Wait, he flew all the way there when he wasn’t even assured he would get what he wanted?  The hell?)

So, why is it that the action sequences slow this movie down?

-Tom Servo, MST3K, #516 Alien from L.A.

Isis quickly sees that their cab is not going towards the Washington Monument, as she had directed.  (Take Murphy to the most phallic monument in the world—sounds appropriate to me!)  Then the cab stops and two big goons with guns squash in with Our Heroes.

A word Levi had spoken sprang into [Murphy’s] mind.

Spooks.

Which meant he would need to be careful.

Um, Murph, you’re already in a cab with two armed thugs.  Methinks the time to be careful has already passed.

The goons blindfold them and take them to what looks like an interrogation room.

And let’s just say that Murphy doesn’t have the mad manipulation skillz of Black Widow:

“Considering how many important people you’ve riled up, you don’t look like much,” [the goon] said.

Side note: I’m like it that Murphy gets insulted a lot.

“Which important people would that be exactly?” Murphy asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.

The man scowled.  “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I’m the one with the gun.  That means I get to ask the questions.”

HA!  Murphy got told!

Not that it much matters, because the goons are only supposed to kill them, not interrogate them.

But it’s okay because ISIS SAVES THE DAY AGAIN.

I can’t even believe I’m writing this in this book, but she does.  She fakes a seizure, distracting the goons for a moment.

“I hope you’re doing what I think you’re doing,” Murphy muttered under his breath…

Oh fer…

MURPHY, GET WITH THE PROGRAM!

a.  Isis travelled to other countries with you, just the two of you—don’t you think she would have mentioned a seizure disorder?

b.  Whether she’s faking or not, does it really matter at this precise moment?

Anyway, Murphy goes with it, kicking the one goon where the sun don’t shine, while Isis JUMPS onto the other one, holding on with her handcuffed hands.

But in a second, one of the goons gets the drop on Murph, so ISIS SHOOTS HIM IN THE HEAD.

Er, the goon.  Not Murphy.

Unfortunately.

And from a “fighting stance,” Murphy dispenses the last goon, and they beat cheeks out of there.

I…just…

WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE???

DID I PICK UP A DIFFERENT BOOK BY ACCIDENT???

*checks*

Nope.

Wow.

TSoA: Chapter 26: Supermodels and the CIA

Happy New Year, all!  Thanks for bearing with me through my New Year’s Celebration World of Warcraft post-Wintermas hiatus.

But now I’m BACK, and ready to hop right back into the hunt for Noah’s ark!

For anyone who needs a quick catch-up after our two Wintermas books, here is the last chapter and here is the complete critique up till now.

Though the last chapter has no relation to this one (not that there’s anything wrong with that)—Murphy is going to the CIA to get the file on Mount Ararat before the expedition (finally!) gets going, and Isis is going to pick him up at the airport.

Murphy still has no intention of revealing his attraction to Isis…to Isis.  And I’d appreciate this impulse if it read more like Murphy feeling delayed guilt about his dead wife, and less like Murphy being a controlling asshat:

Murphy spotted her… [but she doesn’t see him yet]

He stopped, drawing out the moment.  As soon as he greeted her, it would be all business.  That was the way he’s decided it had to be.

I like the set-up of this relationship, I really do.  Murphy was very happily married to Laura, and considered Isis a slightly weird professional colleague.  But now that he is single once again, he’s starting to see a whole new side to Isis.  Maybe she’s not quite as odd as he thought, or maybe her weirdness turns out to be charming.  That was certainly where this appeared to be going in the first book.

But not now.  Now we just know that Isis is gorgeous, and thus is worthy of Our Hero:

Dressed in combat pants and a tight-fitting green t-shirt, sneakers, no makeup, she looked like a supermodel trying to blend into a crowd.  And failing.  Big time.

Combat pants and tight t-shirts?  That’s sure a far cry from the oversized fisherman’s sweater from the first book.

Mind you, the first book called Isis beautiful, but pointed out that it took some close looking to notice.  But this starts a trend that will continue through the rest of the series—people frequently mistaking Isis for a model.

Because only someone who looks like a model is good enough for Murphy!

By the way…Isis is wearing combat pants and a tight t-shirt to her meeting at the CIA?

Really?

Guess so.

Their appointment is with one Carlton Stovall, and we can see immediately that he is an ineffective, cowardly sort of man…

…a short, slightly overweight, and balding man with a bland smile.

Appearance, you see, is reality.  Plain, “mannish” women like Bia Balaam are evil.  Gorgeous women like Laura Murphy and Isis McDonald get the prize of a Good Christian Warrior-Man like Michael Murphy.  And chubby, balding guys are of no help to anyone, ever.

Murph asks for the file on Noah’s ark…

“…how about the Ararat Anomaly File?  That ring any bells?”

Suddenly Stovall wasn’t laughing anymore.  The blood drained out of his face.  He began to stutter in reply, but Murphy cut him off.

Of course he did.  Interrupting people is Murphy’s greatest weapon.  He rattles off some stories I don’t care about, about the CIA taking pictures of the ark in the 1970s.  (Suuuuure they did.)  So Stovall, being the chubby, balding nebbish that he is, needs to get his superior.

WHO IS AGENT BURTON WELSH

Remember Welsh?  From the first book?

One of the few characters who doesn’t immediately start kissing Michael Murphy’s ass, and thus is shown to be Evil?

Well, here he is, having transferred from the FBI to the CIA.

Welsh explains it all!

“You see, all of those items have been reclassified as secret documents.”

Super Duper Ultra Secret Squirrel Documents!

“That’s impossible,” Murphy said, getting out of his chair and standing toe to toe with Welsh.  Isis put a restraining hand on his arm, worried that he was going to lose his temper, but he didn’t seem to notice.

Hmmm, seems Murph is still working through those anger issues of his.

Murphy pleads FOIA, but Welsh isn’t buying it.

Murphy jabbed a finger at him.

Anger issues, Murph.  Anger issues.

“You’ve told us plenty, Welsh.  You’ve told us we’re right.”

Isis: Hey, leave me out of this, Murphy!

“The CIA has all this information but they don’t want it to get out into the public domain.  It’s a cover-up!”

It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya!  U.N. black helicopters!  Secret files!  Sasquatch!

But here’s the best part: remember how Welsh won the staring contest with Murphy back in the first book?  Well, he once again demonstrates his awesomeness here.  Instead of rising to Murphy’s childish bait, he simply tells Murphy there’s nothing he can do…and leaves, as the steam shoots out of Our Hero’s ears.

I love Agent Welsh.