TSoA: Chapter 42: The Big Bad

Well, I think it’s fitting to reveal the identity of our villain today, a very special day…


*noms chocolate cross*

Vern tears himself away from his drunken stupor at the hotel and actually manages to fly to the ark.  And no, we don’t get to see his reaction.  We also don’t hear about any ark artifacts he takes with him.  But we know he takes the entire team back to the other camp except Murphy, Fearless Gum-Popping Leader, and the Nerd.

…Murphy had been adamant.  They had achieved what they set out to do.  They had all the evidence they needed to prove the existence of the ark, and much else besides.

Remember this passage for the next book, everyone…

After all they’d been through, he was determined not to expose them to any further risk.

Oh, so NOW he’s concerned.  Also, how does splitting up the team (again) reduce the risk?  Isn’t this always the big mistake in slasher films?

Oh, well.  Murphy, Fearless, and the Nerd hang out on the ark.  (Wait, no Larry the Photo Guy?  You’d think he would be the first person Murphy would want to stay with the ark.), and Fearless starts screwing with the set of stuff that burned Token Turk before.  Fearless doesn’t touch the ouchie crystals–he instead messes about with metal rods inserted into the crystals, which make a burst of light when they touch each other.  The Nerd posits that the set is “some type of battery energy source.”  And from there, he thinks that the set, including the metal plates, is the Philosopher’s Stone—ALCHEMY!

But the Nerd thinks you wouldn’t want to make gold (or green) in this day and age—you’d want to make platinum, so you could make hydrogen fuel cells.

Murphy was already way ahead of him.  “So if the Philosopher’s Stone could convert base metals into platinum, whoever controlled it could control the world’s supply of renewable energy.  They would have the power to do whatever they wanted.”  [Emphasis mine]

Leave it to our RTC “hero” to make renewable energy the root of all evil.

Well, this has been fun and all, but it’s time for Murphy to head off to the “pickup site” all alone.

(Fearless salutes Murphy as he goes, making this the second time in as many books that a military man has saluted our hero for no apparent reason.)

Yes, you read that right—after suddenly coming to care about the “risk” to his team, Murphy heads off alone, leaving Fearless and the Nerd alone.

This may not be the best plan Murphy has had all day.

So, it’s down to Fearless and the Nerd.

Oh, I won’t keep you in suspense.


“I might as well tell you, since you’re not going to live to repeat it.  I’m employed by certain people within the CIA who have believed for a long time that the ark might contain some useful technology.  Technology that must at all costs be kept in the right hands.  We’ve been planning our own clandestine expedition to find the ark, but our information has never been good enough to pinpoint it.  Then up pops Murphy, and we decide the smart thing to do would be to piggyback.  Let him lead the way.”

He killed Señor SEAL, natch, and is planning on killing everybody else, one by one.  He calls this plan “a fairly tidy package,” but I’m gonna have to call bullshit on that one.  I suppose he means that the CIA could clean up anything, but aren’t there way too many loose ends here—families…not to mention that two of your intended murder victims work for ambassadors.

Fearless snaps the Nerd’s neck, and gets a round of applause from…TALON…who has been secretly watching in a secretive, Talon-like way the whole time.

Wait…how did Talon follow them all the way here without being spotted…OR DID HE GET THERE FIRST???

Talon, you magnificent bastard!

Talon and Fearless face off like the two macho beasts that they are.  Fearless tries to get all fancy-schmancy with kicks and stuff, but Talon is having none of it…not when he can employ Bob Phillips’ favorite move ever—THE REVERSE PUNCH!!!

I’m going to start a reverse punch count in the next book.

But for now, Talon smashes the crap out of Fearless’s chest, which promptly kills him because Talon is a stone killer.  (What, no Finger of Doom?  No high-altitude attack falcons?)

Sadly, no.  But the upshot of all this is that Talon is now on the ark, and has Tubal-Cain’s Singing Sword.

Which all sounds very bad-ass, except HOW IS TALON THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE???

My head hurts.

Posted on April 1, 2013, in Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. We’ve been planning our own clandestine expedition to find the ark, but our information has never been good enough to pinpoint it.

    I seriously don’t get this. Murphy didn’t “pinpoint” the ark. He didn’t even have a general idea of where it might be. All of his research led to “somewhere on Ararat”. And that’s exactly where the CIA was before Murph left.

    So if the Philosopher’s Stone could convert base metals into platinum, whoever controlled it could control the world’s supply of renewable energy. They would have the power to do whatever they wanted.

    Yanno, there’s a reason why step 1 in venture capitalism is to check every idea against the First Law. Obviously LaHaye and the RTCs (rock band!) don’t understand that reason.

    • They must have been thinking in terms of “If he could ferret out that statue head…”. Of course, by LaHaye’s lights, God wouldn’t let ANYONE “pinpoint” the Ark, or any other relic. Nobody gets to find ANY relic except by getting railroaded there by God.

    • Is there anything about the location and positioning of the Ark to explain why the CIA couldn’t just spot it on Google Maps? It’s a huge, intact wooden boat at the top of a mountain, right? Seems like satellite footage would spot it just fine.

  2. If Final Fantasy has taught me anything, it is that the bad guys can always teleport to the macguffin, but only when the good guy (and I use that term quite wrongly) has made his way through the secret door and all the traps. Nothing you can posses, and all.

    …But seriously, What Did Murphy Do? He went to “somewhere at Arreat”, where Obi-Wan told him where the ark was. Obi-Wan is the real hero here, and I wanna read about him instead. How did he find the ark? Did he know what is was? Was he played by Sir Alec Guiness or Ewan McGregor?

    • If Final Fantasy has taught me anything, it is that the bad guys can always teleport to the macguffin, but only when the good guy (and I use that term quite wrongly) has made his way through the secret door and all the traps.

      Seriously, between the Indy movies and the Uncharted games, I’m so accustomed to villains pulling this stunt that I don’t even question it anymore. It feels like a daring narrative twist when the protagonist walks out of the Macguffin Temple and the villain isn’t standing there with a gun.

  3. Okay, I admit it, my guess was wrong. I was sure it’d be Larry the Photo Guy, what with him hitting on Murphy’s gal. (Isis being Murphy’s gal by right of ‘I saw and secretly lusted after her first’.) Good job on the screaning there, Levi.

    Didn’t the CIA have the all-important Ark file, which they didn’t show to Murphy? And yet they still couldn’t find it without his “help”?

    And I say “help” because, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think these were the steps taken to find the Ark’s location:
    -Methusalem gives Murphy a hint to check St. Jacob’s monestary. A monestary on the slopes of Mount Arat. Founded by St. Jacob who allegedly climbed up the mountain to find the Ark many times. Yeah, no one ever would think to look into that.
    -Isis (not Murphy) does some research for a few hours and finds a trail leading to Erzurum.
    -Murphy doesn’t find anything useful in either location, though he almost blunders into Ark Artifacts were it not for Talon. The same artifacts, if I read the description of cyrstals and metal objects correctly, as the transmutation device. The same artifacts that the CIA want so badly. Which a random guy in the street tries to sell to Murphy after hearing rumors that Murphy was looking for the Ark. If any CIA man had made any inquiries after the Ark at any time in this city, they could’ve bought what they wanted.
    -Murphy and his team blunder around the mountain before running into a guy who tells them were to find it. Oh yeah, not like anyone couldn’t have done that. Maybe the first two CIAteams would make the mistake of saying they wanted the platinum-generating machines, but the third team should be able to say they believe in Jesus with a straight face. They’re spies dammit, pretending to be someone they’re not is their job.

    So, great help Murphy was to the CIA.

    This list also tells us something about this ‘adventure novel’. By some standards I suppose Murphy had adventures on this trip, between the climbing, the saboteur, the random evil muslims and the dogs. But except for the saboteur, none had any relation to his quest. When Indiana Jones has adventures on his quest, they are generally related to finding the MacGuffin, or to stopping the Nazi’s from finding it first.

    And side note, why did Obi Wan not ask the group this the first time he saved them from the dogs? Senor Seal might still have been alive if they could’ve made a bee-line for the Ark right after they met Obi Wan after he fended of the dogs.

  4. But with the above said, I do wanna say one thing I like about this scene. The Eeeeevil CIA who wants to take over the world with renewable energy** isn’t actually in league with the Eeevil Seven who want to take over the world with…. something.

    So far this book, and most reviewed RTC works, were set in a world were there were at most three groups. The RTCs, the Jesus-who’s-that?-bystanders who do nothing of importance and a single monolithic group of enemies of Born Again Bible Believing Christians. Everyone who opposes RTCs is shown to be on the side of that last group, either by choice, or (as in Paul’s and Shane’s case) because they are easily convinced by members of that group to work with them.

    This is the first acknowledgement that there are people with evil motives other than a desire to stomp out all RTCs. That there are more forces at work in the world than God and Satan, even if those forces will be swept away by the bigger conflict eventually. It’s why I enjoyed Wheel of Time books more than Lord of the Rings as a kid (okay, Sauraman kinda has his own agenda, but for all practical purposes he’s Sauron’s flunky. I was a kid when I read it and I’m bad with names, so it took me some time before I realized Sauron and Sauraman were two different bad guys).

    ** Because if someone can mass-produce clean energy STORAGE (not energy generation mind you) it gives them an unacceptable level of power. But a conglomorate of oil companies is fine, and the government is evil for trying to limit their power in any way. Drill baby, Drill!

    • I agree; the reveal that there are multiple antagonist factions, who are competing with each other as well as the heroes, is kind of fun and — dare I say it? — smart.

      Too bad nothing comes of it, as no sooner does Fearless reveal himself than he is killed by Talon, and all these revelations occur out of view of the main characters. So it’s a twist that really changes nothing. You could have dropped the CIA angle and had Talon be responsible for all the murders, and things would have gone just the same. Particularly from Murphy’s POV, because this all happened and was resolved behind his back. There was a mole, but it doesn’t matter.

      At least in LOTR (the book, if not the film), Saruman’s treachery against Sauron is a plot point, and the events of the story and the strategies of the main actors change because of it.

      • Very true, but in RTC fiction, I take what I can get. Babysteps people.

        Though YMMV, but I still find the LOTR comparison apt. Sauruman’s betrayal changes the heroes plan, but does it change Sauron’s much, or at all? Sauruman planned to keep the ring for himself if he got it, but he never did. And he attacked all the good guys much like Sauron wanted him to do anyway. I don’t think Sauron ever needed to put in any effort to twarting Sauruman.

        By contrast, in this book the betrayal changes only little of the heroes plans (If Talon could take on Evil Fearless, he could’ve taken Good Fearless + Nerd too. Unless Senor SEAL had been there too, maybe), but it does require the Seven to put in some effort to steal it. Granted, it only takes a single fight which Talon quite easily wins, but Sauron never even needed to dispatch the Nazgul to deal with his treachery.

        • Yeah, on consideration Saruman’s treachery doesn’t matter much, plotwise. (Although thematically it’s vital: evil’s tendency to betray and hurt itself recurs throughout the story.) After all, the movies completely ignored the issue and made Saruman a loyal servant, and the main thrust of the plot was unchanged.

          I still feel though that the Evil Fearless twist is a waste of time if our protagonists never find out. I want to experience the plot developments and shocking revelations through the characters, not have the author push the characters aside, cover their ears and whisper “Here’s a little secret just between you, me and Talon.” That could be fun in a more “literary” novel, I guess, but in TSoA it feels less like an artistic choice and more like authorial not-giving-a-crap.

          • AndrewTheEternal

            I was tickled pink that Jackson cut that cancerous subplot out of his movie. Tolkien let his thematic axe grind down what should have been a dignified and unnerving character betrayal(he was Gandalf’s superior, for Eru’s sake!) into Gollum with more delusions of grandeur. There is only so many times you can hear “He did something hopelessly shortsighted and evil” repeated by everyone even tangentially aware of Saruman of Many-Colors before the horror at a wise and learned ally turning against everything he supposedly stood for fades and you start asking why he was ever counted among the wise.

            I think one antagonist completely outclassing the other is done much better here. Talon obliterating Fearless makes Talon look competent; it doesn’t make us question why the CIA even bothered to employ that guy.

  5. Talon? Present at the mountain? Yeah, I’m gonna go with magic. Or Deus ex Authorica.

    • AR, that reminds me of something of two different books ‘authored’ by LaHaye:

      This book: One private company having access to materials needed for clean energy = bad.
      Edge of Apocalypse: One private company having access to a device that redirects nuclear weapons anywhere said private company sets it to = awesome!

      • I wonder if the “clean energy” vilification might be connected with the idea that limitless energy can be construed as being like unto God? Each redirected weapon, meanwhile, only ravages a (comparatively) small space. And it’s not like the Good Guys ™ are exactly free from the crosshairs of ravenous infidels…

        They’re free to mete out destruction to the Wicked ™ howsoever they like. But the necessities of life? That’s God’s purview alone.

      • A fun theory, but for my money the logic is this.
        Liberals are evil
        Liberals support enviromentalism
        Eviromentalists support clean energy.
        Therefor clean energy is evil. QE-fucking-D.

  6. Look on the bright side, if any of these people actually fires up the Stone, chances are the gamma radiation will cook ’em.

  7. I’m genuinely surprised that LeHaye slipped in the Philosopher’s Stone,but not surprised that he went on to say sustainable, clean energy is something Man Was Not Meant To Have.

    I’m just gonna say it: Crystal Skull was better than this.

  8. So Talon shows up after Vern flies to the site of the ark, yes? So I’m guessing Talon, who probably has at least 2 brain cells to rub together, just spied on Vern and waited for Murphy to call for a pick up. No need to face the dangers of the mountain when he can grab a nice comfy helicopter ride.

    I don’t think the CIA can fake belief. Not with Obi-Wan of the mountain anyway. But there are lots of pigeons, er, believers that they could set up. Why wait for someone credible to the rest of the world (according to the book) like Murphy?

    • Hmm, Ruby, do we ever get an ID on Obi Wan in the book? I mean, the real Obi Wan would’ve just mind-tricked them, obviously, but this is a knock-off Obi Wan. I suppose if he was an angel he could’ve known (in which case, thanks for warning us about the traitor in our midst Obi Wan Angel). But if he was a human, he was foolable.

      Well, probably not in this book though. In RTC fiction, RTCs are easily identifiable by their Passionate Sincerety(tm), and the writers probably can’t imagine anyone being able the fake that. But in reality, it’s pretty damn easy for any decent spy.

  9. You know, it’s always the case in stories like these that whenever there’s lost ancient technology, its powers are useful and miraculous even by modern-day standards. Limitless energy, a cure for cancer, whatever. All things still desirable and beyond our grasp in the 21st century.

    Just once, I’d like a MacGuffin whose supernatural powers would have been miraculous for the ancient time in which it was built, but kind of meh today. Like, all the powerful conspiracies compete for the world-shaking “Secret on Ararat”, and it turns out it’s an energy process that’s seven times more efficient than burning ox dung.

    If this hasn’t been a Venture Bros. gag yet, it probably should be.

    • “This miraculous metal is stronger and lighter than the best-quality bronze! I shall call it… steel!”

    • Or, something we DO have already, just doable in a more efficient and rapid fashion. Brine desalinization, maybe?

    • I think “The Salvation War” was actually based on that idea applied to the bible. Allegedly, the creators realized that most of the awesome miracles described in the bible (or in the popular folklore about the bible) might have been extremely impressive back when it was written, modern technology allows for equal or greater feats.

      So they wrote a story where god decides he’s had enough of mankind, and lets satan send his hordes of big, strong, lightning-throwing to wreck earth’s shit, only to find themselves quickly outgunned by human armies. And what unique abilities the demons have is quickly wasted when they start using it openly, since the human scientists tend to quickly analyze and reverse-engineer it.

      It’s a shame that they spend so much time describing those weapon systems in minute detail that I really fell it bogged down the story. And that’s comming from someone who’s checked wikipedia entries of tanks and planes in his spare time.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, April 5th, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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