Silenced: Chapter 9: Rome Believers

At exactly the moment that Straight is avoiding Jae’s very straightforward (HA!) questions about the Bible, Paul is also trying to reach Straight to talk about meeting up with the Rome underground.

…he reached only Straight’s answering device.

What, his answering device embedded in his skull, like the phone itself?  Whatever, man.

Straight whines at Paul when they finally talk:

“Paul, between babysitting you and Jae, I’m getting precious little of my own work done.  Good thing I’m not on salary.  I’d have been fired today.”

“Yeah, Paul, that three-minute conversation with Jae left me with almost no time to harass patients!”

And because Straight has no respect for personal boundaries, and because he’s posing as Jae’s friend while spying on her for Paul, he reveals that Jae has been reading Acts.

“I should have left the Gospels there for her.  That’s where she should start.”

That is just hilarious.  At this point, I will recommend one of the first “anti-apologetics” books I ever read, Ken’s Guide to the Bible.  One point he makes is that the Gospels, which basically are the Bible to many American Christians, comprise only a small fraction of the Bible.  (In my New International Verson, the Gospels are just under 10% of the pages.)

Yeah, the book doesn’t really get good until page 550 or so.

To give Straight just a bit of credit, he calls Paul on this silliness, though nobody called Tsion ben-JewishGuy on it when he created his “guide” to reading the Bible in the Left Behind series, and poor Hannah Palemoon did it “wrong.”

“Yeah, you’re right, Paul.  I think Jae is too much for God to deal with.  Probably hopeless.”

“All right, Straight.”

Heh, I see Paul’s patience with Straight is wearing thin, too.  I’d feel bad for him, having to interact with this jerk all the time, but they sooo deserve each other.

It seems that the Rome underground doesn’t trust Paul, since Death has a habit of following him around.  They’re also arguing amongst themselves over Magnor, and whether he’s “one of them” or not.  Paul and Straight both think “not.”

“You want a guy on our side who kills innocents?  I don’t.  That’s not of God.  Even in L.A., God struck down the opposition.  His own were spared.  We lost brothers and sisters in the Bio Park there [sic], and also in Paris and London.”

So, there you have it.  The children and the poor and the hospital patients in L.A., they weren’t innocent.  They weren’t God’s “own,” so it’s absolutely okay, good in fact, that they died horribly.  Their deaths should be celebrated as the miracle they were.  It’s only when Christians die (and go right to Heaven), that there’s a problem.

It really is shocking, sometimes, how the RTC mind works.  These little passages, spoken by our heroes, characters we are supposed to take at their word, really shed a lot of light on things.

They kvetch about Rome some more, then hang up (so to speak).  Paul stands around and feels sorry for himself.  He feels “fatigue,” since he’s had a long day of sifting through the horrific remains of a terrorist attack…

Oh, wait.  That wasn’t him at all.  Never mind.

Then Straight calls him back, and it’s worth noting that the skullphones have no caller ID.  That is, Paul doesn’t know who’s calling until he answers the phone.  So really, the skullphones are less useful than our current cellphones.  Especially for Paul, living his super-secret “double life.”

Anyway, Straight has heard from a friend of a friend of a friend the very specific instructions for Paul to go meet with the Rome underground.  Because you always want to get your important spy information fourth-hand through skullphones with no called ID.

Paul is supposed to go sit at the gorgeous Trevi Fountain.  In the middle of the night.  In the rain and cold (it’s still January, remember).  And two guys from the Rome underground (of course they’re both men; don’t be silly) will meet him.

“They’re giving us only first names.  A big, bald guy named Baldassare and a small, thin man with a limp.  Calls himself Calvino.  You much of a linguist, Paul?”

“What?  No.”

“What do I look like, Straight, some kind of international secret agent or something?”

“Baldassare’s the bald guy, making his name easy to remember, but Calvino means ‘bald,’ and he’s not.”

“Just like my nickname is Straight, and I’m–uh, never mind.”

So Paul sneaks out of the hotel like a sneaksy Hobbit, wearing…

…a plastic coverall that would protect him, including his head.

Because he might melt, otherwise.

He didn’t like the smell or the confining nature of it…

…because now it was harder to do cartwheels.  Also, Paul, I thought you liked your clothes stinky.

Paul steps in a few puddles and is pissed off about it, because secret agents are noted for their low frustration tolerance when in deep cover.

He was going to be in a mood when he met Baldy and Limpy.

WHAT???

He was going to be in a mood when he met Baldy and Limpy.

WHAT WHAT WHAT???

This is a sentence that actually exists.  From OUR HERO.

And, indeed, Paul is in a mood.  (Though one could argue that everyone is in a mood all the time, good or bad.)  He is in such a mood that five pages are spent on the encounter between Paul and Baldy and Limpy.  As these two men, untrained in espionage, just secret believers trying to keep themselves and their compatriots alive, fumble their way through signals and friskings, Paul sighs and rolls his eyes and inwardly sneers and outwardly condescends and just generally makes himself the biggest ass on the planet.

All this from a secret agent who doesn’t even speak a second language.

FINALLY, the three are picked up in a car by the head of the Rome underground, Enzo Fabrizio.  Paul is immediately impressed because the windows are tinted and the lights don’t go on when the door opens.

Also, presumably, because Enzo has a driver.  So we know he’s not some lowly peon who has to drive his own car.

Enzo is all smiles and handshakes and apologies.  This all, of course, was Not His Fault, but the fault of the “faithless, untrusting, and rude” underground believers who didn’t immediately trust Paul with their lives, sight unseen.  The bastards.

So, we know Enzo is to be trusted, because he trusts Paul.  He doesn’t even say anything about the smell of Paul’s coverall, because he’s that kind of guy.

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Posted on October 20, 2013, in Books, Silenced. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. An answering machine on your skullphone is very useful for when you’re out of your head.

  2. I think Paul needs to get more crank & prank calls, and more arguments over the phone, so he can slam the receiver down on a conveniently-handy hard heavy object each time, just like they did in the good ol’ days.

  3. Jenkins, once again you fail at Italian names, and as I am half Italian-American (northern Italian thank you, not southern or god-forbid, Sicilian) I take passionate, personal offense:

    1) Baldassare. Seriously, Jenkins, even for you this is Epic Fail. You just took the words “Bald ass” and added “are” on the end because it looked “Eye-talian,” and never mind that usually words ending in “are”, “ere”, or “ire” are verbs. Not names, verbs. (And no, there is no verb “baldassare” in Italian. Yet.)

    2) Calvino. Does Not. Mean. “Bald.” Calvino is the Italian form of the name “Calvin.” CALVO means “bald” in Italian. . . . however, research tells me that the name “Calvin” is French and does in fact translate into “little bald one” so I grudgingly grant Jenkins half credit for accuracy.

    .
    OK, righteous indignation over, RTC beliefs concerning the smiting of non-believers is nauseating. I think I would be more upset and sickened but Fred’s critique of Left Behind has built up a pretty good mental callus.

    • There do seem to be a reasonable number of Italians with the first name Baldassare on Wikipedia.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Once more, Jerry “Buck” Jenkins demonstrates his tin ear for character names.

      And his “See How Clever I Am?” approach to ethnic names. “Baldassare — Bald Ass Are — Get It?”

  4. A quick Internet search tells me that Baldassare is the Italian form of Balthazar, so I guess I learned a thing today?

  5. While writing comments, or reviews of the Apocalypse movies (oh yes, I’m working on the second movie, you aren’t rid of these movies/me yet) I sometimes worry that my interpetations of the RTCs actions or intentions are overly pessimistic. I suspect that, since I don’t know all the subtle details of their beliefs, that they do have a non-sociopathic explanation for their attitudes towards non-RTCs.

    And then I read crap like this, and I stop worrying. Evidently, some of these people really do have such a seething contempt for the unsaved. Perhaps some of these fictionalized RTCs, or their authors, do have nobler motives than I give them credit for, but it’s clearly not a given that they must have a justification.

    Seriously, it is breathtaking how un-evangelical Jenkins is. Now I long for the previous chapters where it sounded like Jenkins had completely forgotten about L.A. “It doesn’t matter how many unsaved die, but the death of a believer is inexcusable”.

    And the weird thing is, you could actually make a very interesting stories about RTCs who really act as people who know they go to heaven and are motivated by the intense desire help unbelievers get to heaven too. Especially in a (allegedly) dystopian setting, where the unbelievers are persecuting them. The unbelievers can be amazed by their mercy and dedication, trying to reach and save them even as the unbelievers kill them. Because, from the RTC’s point of view, if 10 of them die to save the soul of just 1 person, it’s still a net-win. The RTCs trade in the dystopian world for utopian heaven, so they don’t lose anything, and there’s now one more person who avoids hell.

    But no, the RTC tribal mentality is so persistent that all their fiction is set as “Us vs Everyone else”. And they’ll gladly ignore the core of the beliefs (that worldly suffering is irrelevant compared to whether you go to heaven or hell) their fictional characters are risking their lives for, if it means they get to stimulate their audience’s martyr fetish.

    • I think that this sort of thing is what happens when you get an echo chamber where only Approved Speech is an acceptable thing to listen to. Walk up to an RTC on the street and ask him if he approves of the slaughter of non-believing children, and he’ll be horrified. (Even LaHaye insisted on vaporising the kids rather than putting them through the Tribulation.) But get into a situation where each writer wants to prove he’s more passionately sincere than the next guy…

      Similarly with martyrdom, and this problem isn’t unique to RTCs. As a religious manipulator you want people to think martyrdom is great, so that if they’re actually oppressed they’ll go to the stake yelling “God is great” rather than saying “yeah, no problem, all hail the EBOWF”. But that can very easily slip into wanting to become a martyr even if you’re not being oppressed at all, which to my mind is rather missing the point.

    • I get what the authors were trying to accomplish here. Paul and Straight are engaging in some deductive reasoning to determine whether Styr Magnor is a trustworthy ally or just some terrorist loon. It’s evidently the case in this universe that genuine miracles, like that in L.A., don’t hurt the faithful. But Real True Christians were known to have been killed in Magnor’s attacks, therefore his work must be unsanctioned.

      It’s sound enough logic. It’s just expressed in the most callous and assholish way imaginable.

      • Remember, Paul’s plan A was to shut off the water supply to LA by mundane means. Only when he was told this was impossible and someone meant praying, the entire underground went “Oh yeah, we have an all-powerful deity on our side, whom we are sure will help us if we just ask. Funny how that never occured to us these past decades.”
        But the original plan WOULD have hit the RTCs just as hard as the heathens*. So, yeah, Paul can’t complain about that true believers would never do something that hurts other true believers.

        *Though the known RTCs could have been given a head’s up to buy bottled water… but then the Atheistapo might catch after the attack and hunt down everyone who bought bottles in bulk right before the water was shut off)

  6. This is a much smaller problem than the howling horror of justified genocide, but I wonder about this:

    “We lost brothers and sisters in the Bio Park there [sic], and also in Paris and London.”

    There were secret zealots among the victims of all 3 attacks? That sounds statistically unlikely, unless the bodycount was in the hundred’s of thousands, or if there are a lot more zealots than I thought. I got the impression that there were just a handful of holdouts in atheistopia, no more than 0.1% or so. Is either the number of victims or the number of zealots ever mentioned in the books?

  7. He was going to be in a mood when he met Baldy and Limpy.

    Paul acts as if being in a bad mood is different from how he is pretty much ALL THE TIME.

    You want a guy on our side who kills innocents? I don’t. That’s not of God. Even in L.A., God struck down the opposition. His own were spared.

    I read all 16 Left Behind books, and that still made me cringe horribly. Ugh.

  8. Oh dear Lord. Really? You cut off the water supply for an entire city and you say only the unworthy were killed? Either that shows a monstrous lack of awareness, or a monstrously low opinion of Others. Either way, the only adjective I can use is ‘monstrous.’

  9. Huh. Atheistopia is really dropping the ball here, now that I think about it. If this really were a super-evil government paranoid about the possibility of secret Christians, who are concerned about loyalty oaths and traitors in the thrall of a millennia-old memetic virus, one of the first things they should do is monitor all the phones belonging to my own field agents – especially the skull phone, what with its delightful illusion of privacy.

    And which you can never truly shut off without a bullet to the brain, allowing you to be forever tracked by the system. Hey, how’s that for a Mark of the Beast, Paul? How sure are you that you’re really saved?

  10. I should feel bad about somewhat validating Jenkins on this, but I’m basically using the skull phone in a near-future game I’m working on. Not that it’s all that original, honestly. An implanted long-range communicator of some sort is reasonably common in certain strains of science fiction and actually quite convenient. But it does have downsides. And I have no intention of glossing over those downsides.

    Also, rereading Jenkins’ description of how the phone is supposed to work is actually really stupid. It screams of “I want this implanted, but not too implanted” – stuck in fake(?) molars and triggered by fingertip implants and working through transduction of sound waves across bone? How crude. And talk about a recipe for a headache – just get on the line for five minutes with a big talker, or if the other person has a handheld phone and is in the presence of something that makes a lot of noise. Imagine a baby’s shriek rattling across your skull and physically into your brain when you call that friend to congratulate them on becoming a new parent.

    That said, I’m going to stop hassling Jenkins on the phone porn. US society has been nearly as telephony obsessed as Jenkins has for a while now. Look at the crazes for every new version of the iPhone, just to start. I’m ready to call Jenkins oddly ahead of his time in this one area. No less ridiculous, but still unfortunately accurate.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, October 25th, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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