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.


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.


  • 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.”


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.

Posted on January 22, 2013, in Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. [complete tangent of a comment]

    “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.”

    Well, then there’s always Game of Thrones. I tried reading A Song of Ice and Fire or Fire and Ice or whatever the hell it is, and decided 100 pages in that I needed to start a list of characters. There were 325, interspersed throughout the book. Many were just mentioned in passing. Some were mentioned in passing and then suddenly became important later in the book and we were supposed to remember who they were (“Oh, right, Harwin! Whose name sounds nothing at all like other characters Harrion, Helman, Hosteen or Hullen!”). HOW I HATE THOSE BOOKS.



    This scene reminds me of that.


  2. Levi doesn’t approve of Isis? The list of reasons Levi needs to die horribly just keeps on growing, doesn’t it?

    I tend to be bad with names, and given this hemogenized crew, my troubles will be compounded. So here’s my cheat sheet, and may it help out others too in the chapters to come:

    Blake – the Fearless Gum-Popping Leader
    Salvador – Señor SEAL (*cringe* yes, it’s racist. I’m so sorry! I only hope it’s not as bad as I think the book will be with him)
    Wendell — NERD!!!
    Mustafa – Token Turk
    Darin – the Dick
    Larry the Photo Guy

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

    Uh…since when do professional diplomats act like right-wing pundits who’ve just hit the mute button on their opponent’s mic?
    I definitely don’t consider myself to be an expert, but even I know the Turkish military is a large and professional organization with an ethos that is legendary in their country (Normally, when an army launches a coup against a democratic government, it’s the end of democracy. Not so in Turkey.) Yet here we have an alleged ‘assistant to the ambassador’ speaking of the country as though it was some tin-pot dictatorship propped up by little more than US money and the epic facial hair of its leader.
    Oh wait! I forgot! Turkey’s a brown country! It’s a well-known fact that all brown countries survive only through the benevolence of the White Christian West, or by sponsoring terrorism.
    (BTW: According to wikipedia, Turkey has invested heavily in a modernization program for its air force and is currently a “Level 3 Contributor” to the F-35 program. Who’s footing the bills now, white boy?)

    • He should be saying that to Levi. The US actually pays a fair share of Israel’s military.

      But we can’t be bringing that up, because the US paying to protect Israel until such time as Jesus can come around to slaughter its inhabitants is the natural order of things.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Uh…since when do professional diplomats act like right-wing pundits who’ve just hit the mute button on their opponent’s mic?

      Since they’re in CHRISTIAN Fiction, of course.

      I definitely don’t consider myself to be an expert, but even I know the Turkish military is a large and professional organization with an ethos that is legendary in their country (Normally, when an army launches a coup against a democratic government, it’s the end of democracy. Not so in Turkey.)

      As I understand it, legal military coups are actually written into the Turkish constitution. If a group like al-Qaeda or Muslim Brotherhood gains control of the government, the army can legally mount a coup to keep the country from falling to the extremists.

    • I’m pretty sure, also, that the first thing you learn in Diplomat School is to not say “you people” so much.

  4. Bets on who dies first? Because you just know Talon’s going to have to kill at least one, ideally in some absurdly complicated fashion, to inform the rest that shit has gotten real.

    I suspect it’ll be one of the non-white guys – I lean towards Salvador, as any remotely sensible killer will want to get the trained soldier types out of the way first, but Mustafa also seems like a solid contender. Wendell the engineer and Larry the photographer are also possibilities – science and art types are always getting separated from the group when they think it’ll be okay to investigate something interesting without telling anyone else first. Darin and Blake seem unlikely.

    Also, I officially predict that someone will die saving Isis and/or Murphy.

    • I’ve got 10 virtual bucks* that the victim will be Isis, because of Stepfordization and Manly Murphy Don’t Need No Rescuing, and the casualty will be . . . (eenie meenie miny mo) . . . Salvador.

    • Who dies first is a tough question, because the entire team is composed of cannon fodder, who will not be allowed to steal the spotlight from Two-Fisted Action Professor Murphy. Everyone except Murphy and Isis is doomed; the only question is the order. Here are my picks!

      1. MUSTAFA: Ethnic, non-action guy. Only necessary to get the team into the country; will be murdered with Darin shortly after.

      2. DARIN: Dies alongside his comic foil Mustafa. Will reappear when Murphy needs bureaucratic favors in a later book, the authors having forgotten they killed him in this one.

      3. SALVADOR: Ethnic guy. Will die to prove how much of a badass Talon is.

      4. WENDELL: Wimpy scholar, needed to get the team on/into the mountain. Soon afterwards, killed by a spike trap.

      5. BLAKE: Cool, professional, and doomed. He dies protecting Isis from the mole.

      6. LARRY: The mole. Murphy kills him.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Who dies first?

      How about the HACK that wrote this drek?

  5. One of the traditional ways for a training sergeant to turn a bunch of raw recruities into soldiers is to get them to focus their hatred on him rather than each other or the army in general. Murphy has so far been doing a great job of getting me to focus my hatred on him…

    Levi doesn’t approve of Isis because she’s a rival for Murphy’s affections…

    If you’re looking for a vaguely Middle Eastern ish country that has survived only because of huge US military and political aid, Israel would surely be a better bet…

    OK, seven person team.

    Blake – fighter
    Salvador – fighter
    Wendell – thief (climbing)
    Mustafa – magic-user (charm person)
    Darin – magic-user (offend person)
    Larry – illusionist (phantom images)
    Isis – cleric (what’s the betting she’s the only one who can do first aid?)
    Murphy – all-class munchkin

    A bit heavy on the M-Us, but could be a worse balance, I guess…

  6. That Other Jean

    So, who is actually doing the archaeology on this “archaeological” expedition? Does anybody there know one end of a trowel from the other? I really can’t see Manly Man Murphy on his knees in the dirt.

    • The manly men of the special forces brigade can just wail at the ground with pickaxes. All the relics Murphy cares about have divine protection anyway, so they can’t get damaged, and any relics without divine protection are obviously unimportant or tricks from satan to make people think there’s anything in history that isn’t told in the bible.

    • Archaeology consists of solving word puzzles and going into conveniently pre-excavated chambers. Goodness, haven’t you seen those documentary films with Harrison Ford?

  7. Imagine Lord of the Rings if we were near the end of The Two Towers and Frodo was still in Bag End deciding what to pack and which hobbits to bring along. Also the Black Riders have murdered half his friends. And Gandalf made him wrestle a troll.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ruby, everybody…

    Recently, I have read a LOT of bad fanfic. (Random searches at FIMFic will do that to you; all I can say is Sturgeon’s Rule applies and then some.) And TSoA is worse.

  9. Sometime amateur mountaineer/hiker checking in:

    I have been reflecting on Murphy’s state of fitness for getting up Ararat and I have some good news: he’s going to die.

    Out of this group, the army guys should be fit enough to attempt a climb like Ararat, and if Wendell’s a regular climber he’s probably going to be ok as well. Murphy, on the other hand, is going to be in big trouble.

    Climbing up Great Big Mountains is really, really not just going for a walk. There is NO AIR up there and it’s incredibly demanding on the body. The main training you need to do is cardio.

    A while back I looked into climbing Mont Blanc (didn’t go in the end for reasons completely unrelated to fitness) which a bit of cursory Googling tells me is not as high as Ararat, but harder climbing because of all the snow, so I reckon it pretty much evens out. Standard advice is that you shouldn’t even think about it if you’re not capable of doing hard cardio (running, swimming or cycling, working quite hard and not just pootling along) for an hour. Minimum training is an hour of aforementioned cardio three times a week for three months before you take on the climb.

    As I recall, Murph’s fitness regimen consists of martial arts and learning some nifty moves from Levi (not that there’s anything wrong with doing martial arts but if you want to climb a Great Big Mountain it’s not what you need). We have NEVER seen him pounding the pavements or riding his bike.

    Like I said: he’s going to die. Talon doesn’t even have to kill him. The mountain can do the job all by itself.

    • I have some good news: he’s going to die.

      Yay! I bet Talon will be okay up there; he looks like he keeps in good shape. Not sure how well his pet birds will manage, though.

      This issue led me to a new question about the physical ramifications of a literal flood: what happened to the atmosphere. There’s not much air on the peak of Ararat normally, but of course it was sea level when Noah parked there.

      At its height, sea level during the Flood was some 6 miles higher than usual (based on the height of Everest). That’s a lot of air being displaced by water in a very short time. What are the ramifications of that displacement for the Earth’s atmosphere? Does the troposphere “puff out” another 6 miles all around, and so on with the stratosphere, etc.? How much heat is formed by the friction of all this air rushing outwards? Would Noah have observed sea-level air pressure to be perceptively less, on account of the atmosphere being spread over a planet now slightly larger in surface area?

      • The total volume gain caused by the magical^Wdivine creation of water is around 4.9×10^18 cubic metres, compared with about 5.2×10^19 cubic metres for the atmosphere as a whole (at least up to the Kármán line, which is as good a number as any to pick out of the air – sorry). Call it a bit under 10%. Adding that much volume above 100km would bring the top of atmosphere up by about 5.8 miles. (I’m ignoring terrain above sea level, obviously.) What I don’t know is how the atmosphere would then behave; I’m shaky on gas dynamics.

        I can say that the energy needed to lift the entire mass of the atmosphere six miles is around 470 ZJ (470 x 10^21 J), which is roughly what you get by converting 5,700 tons of mass directly into energy – or chilling the entire atmosphere by 40-50 degrees C.

        Let’s look somewhere else. The rain is presumably coming from space, let’s assume escape velocity. That’s 4.9e21kg of water, at 11km/s, which adds about 300 x 10^27 J of energy to the equation. Lifting the atmosphere is trivial when there’s that much energy being fed in! It’ll also heat things – if all the energy heats the atmosphere (e.g. the water breaks up into small droplets as it goes through, and arrives at water surface level as rain – which doesn’t seem too implausible) then the air temperature goes up by… oopsie… 29 million degrees C.

        That’s about twice the temperature of the centre of the sun.

        Not quite high enough to ignite the atmosphere in a Teller-esque fusion cascade – that would take another order of magnitude or two – but really, gopher wood ain’t going to cut it.

        • But… but… it’s all magical everything-proof wood. Because god!

        • Thanks, Firedrake. It is a testament to how the internet has shaped our lives that I know I can ask an outlandish scientific question, and somebody out there will be able to answer it.

          Noah’s flood may be terrible science, but it is AWESOME science fiction.

        • Now I’m picturing Noah’s ark sitting at the bottom of the ocean because Yahweh accidentally boiled away all the oceans.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, January 25th, 2013 « The Slacktiverse

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