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.

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Posted on August 6, 2015, in Shadowed. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Well, I didn’t expect that. So, who’s going to be the new leader of Atheistopia? I’m betting Jenkins will have it be Ranold somehow.

  2. inquisitiveraven

    So, are they going to dust for finger prints or anything else. Because this sure looks suspicious as hell. quite aside from the rest of the displayed ineptitude.

  3. The most shocking thing here isn’t even the murder of Ball Dangler. Yes, it’s out of character, but you could make it work. Maybe Dangler was about to make some tragic mistake, one that would endanger all of humanity. And Ranold believed that the only way to stop it was for one man to do what had to be done, even if it meant being branded a traitor and murderer. Not a great story, but a passable one.

    No, what shocks me the most is the murder of Dick Aikman. Ranold brought him along because he needed someone he could frame for the crime he was planning to commit. It’s one thing to walk into someone’s office and shoot them. It’s quite another to sit next to someone for hours in an airplane, knowing that the only reason for him to even be there, is because you brought him along to be killed as soon as you reach your destination.

    And it’s not like Aikman is persuaded or tempted by something to accompany Ranold on his trip to Bern. Ranold is his boss, Aikman doesn’t really have the option to decline. And Ranold knows this. He is treating his subordinates like sheep to be slaughtered. “My plan requires me to kill one of my minions, now which one of them is the most expendable?”

  4. To be honest, if Jenkins had been a better, more empathetic writer, I would’ve bought this. He remembers how the horrible theists wiped out his army in WW3, has dedicated his life to stomping them out, and now the theists are back, have wiped out many more people including his family, and the political leadership seems more interested in learning the wise teachings of the chief murderer than, y’know, killing or arresting him. I could buy that he’d be driven to overthrow the government and assume control of the world himself to deal with this threat, however harsh and unproductive it might be. That’s kind of what the leaders of Mali’s military coup claimed they were doing.

    (And as far as being a man who always worked in the system: Yeah, while the system did what he wanted. “The system” has more fair weather friends like that. Look no further than Jenkins and palls, who were eager to support a constitutional amendment that’d make gay marriage illegal everywhere when that seemed feasible, now mewl about states rights once the federal ruling has gone the other way.)

    But of course, to sell us on why Ranold would feel the need for this drastic course of action, Jenkins would’ve actually had to show us how this recent slaughter upset and reminded him of those previous massacres. But Jenkins makes sure we all know that Ranold doesn’t care about anyone, not even his own dead wife and son. So he’s angry… just because. No reason other than “He’s an atheist!”. And the weird thing is, while Ranold is turned into a one-dimensional villain, previously one dimensional villains like Ball and Bia have been completely re-written to be reasonable. It’s all quite bizarre.

    • Such a good point! We could have been shown a Ranold driven to desperation. Instead, Jenkins is more concerned with showing us how he’s a slob who likes to eat, and would rather get it on with a coworker than mourn his dead wife. So he orders in a big platter of ribs for lunch and almost falls asleep at his desk, and 24 hours later, he assassinates the leader of the world. Not sense-making.

  5. Is any sort of motivation mentioned, or would that be too much like hard work?

    Isn’t Baldwin supposed to be a “bad guy” from the Christians’ PoV?

    Also, if your security allows itself to be blustered through, you need competent security.

    “Do you know who I am, sailor?”
    “Yes sir, you’re Admiral Rickover sir, and if you don’t show me some identification you’re about to be the deadest goddamn admiral in the US Navy SIR!”

    • I remember reading a novel that had a scene from a guard’s perspective where he let someone who was obviously his boss (the villain of the novel, incidentally) pass, “mumbling” an answer to the guard’s demand for a password. A few scenes later, the villain ended his orders with, “And execute the guard at the third checkpoint. He hesitated to challenge me, and then let me pass when I gave him the wrong password.”

      I don’t have a problem with Ranold killing Dengler; Dengler could hardly have made it more explicit that he was planning to hand over the world and as many people as he could bring with him to the monstrous leader of Paul’s terrorist organization. Aikman has no in-story justification, but considering who has and hasn’t needed actual reasons to kill people thus far, there’s probably something, even though something Jenkins himself would never think of as Aikman committing a crime.

      • Well, Aikman wasn’t in on the plan. Ranold just took him along to be the fall guy.

        What I will find hilarious (because I honestly don’t remember exactly what happens), is seeing how the international security team will react to Ranold being the only survivor.

        • Sorry, I was unclear. I mean that there is no obvious justification for Ranold killing Aikman, but that doesn’t mean Aikman isn’t actually guilty of something Jenkins wouldn’t consider wrong at all but anyone with a conscience would find horrifying.

  6. Patrick Phelan

    He didn’t really know why he’d concealed his gun, and made sure Aikman had, as well. He didn’t really know what had possessed him to send Dengler’s security away. He’d been acting on a feeling, nothing more than horrible intuition knocking the bottom out of his stomach. But he remembered the last time he’d had that horrible intuition, before Hawaii was consumed by water. He remembered the shadow of it before Los Angeles, and again when Berlitz (useless, certainly, a wife-swapping babbling monkey distracting Jae from what she could have become, but blood nonetheless) had stopped talking on that final call. He was no theist lickspittle, to bow to any voice in his head, but given history, it seemed reasonable to heed this hunch. And now…

    “I believe He will forgive us,” Dengler said, the tone of his voice indicating – almost as well as his words – that he’d broken completely. “I believe that we have been chastised sufficiently for our sins, and when I heard that still, small voice inside of me…”

    “Sir, all due respect, I can’t quite believe I’m hearing this,” Ranold said. “We went to war to stop this kind of thinking from poisoning this world, and since then, we’ve made advance after advance, we’ve had peace, we’ve been better. To just go back to that, that primitivism, goes against every one of our founding principles…”

    “Our founding sins, Ranold. I believe we can atone for them.”

    There was the glint of derangement in his eyes, a theological craziness. Paul had spoken of it, back when Ranold had thought he had a smart and capable son-in-law who also happened to be a horrible human being – it was one of the things he’d studied in his doctorate on religion and its effects. The madness of a convert, or a reconvert… Jerusalem syndrome, or Lourdes fever, or anything like that. Give Dengler a scourge and he’d whip his back bloody in the streets of Bern. “If I could remind you of the NPO motto, sir,” Ranold heard himself say. “We have it printed on the stock of our guns. Aikman?”

    Ranold’s men were always well picked. Anyone would think it crazy to pull a gun in the leader of the free world’s office, but men working under Ranold Decenti (he was thinking of Bia Balaam as a man, he realised, and then shrugged it off – so be it, he was an old-fashioned thinker) would think it crazier to disobey their leader. So Aikman pulled his gun.

    “Officer, put that away.” Dengler pushed his chair backwards as if that would give him protection. “I can remember the motto quite clearly without being prompted, and this is what I’m…”

    Intuition had told him to take Aikman, not Balaam or anyone else, to this meeting, and now he saw how intuition paid off. Aikman was a solid agent and a good man, but he never could get the hang of trigger discipline. Still had his finger on the trigger, just by habit. A quick pulse to Aikman’s skullphone, an override blazing it at full volume – emergency call, that no agent could easily ignore – locked up his jaw, and made the muscles in his neck bulge, and that muscle pulse went down his arm and constricted his hand…

    Ranold’s men were always well picked.

    “I, I, I…” Aikman said, looking down at the bleeding corpse in front of him, looking down at his own gun, and not seeing Ranold’s pointing directly at him. Inside, in that iron fortress of a mind where he hid those things he’d never tell anyone, not Margaret, not Jae, not even Paul when Paul had been the golden child, Ranold felt sick that everything had come to this… but his hand didn’t shake at all.

    “I’m sorry, boy,” he said to Aikman. “It’s you or everyone else.”

    Aikman half-turned before Ranold’s gun spoke three times.

    And, as if on cue, that brought the security back, storming in with their guns out.

    Ranold pocketed his gun, completely blase. “He said it was God’s command that the head of the evil be removed, just as…” He racked his brain to remember something Paul had said. “Just as Jael killed Sisera.” The similarity of “Jael” to “Jae” had stuck that story in his head. “I suppose it would have been a shiv if it hadn’t been a gun. Perhaps it’s for the best you boys didn’t search us, maybe he’d have gotten us both.”

    The guards gawped, wordless, thoughtless, unable to cope with the sight before them, the utter failure of their careers that Ranold had, not fully knowing why, orchestrated…

    “Well? Are you NPO or not?” Ranold snapped. “Lock down the building, declare a state of emergency, and bring everyone to high alert! I’ll…”

    Well, it could hardly be anyone else, could it?

    “…I’ll take over here,” he said, and then nodded, and it sounded more right the second time. “I’ll take over here.”

    • That is perfect! Exactly what I was thinking about. And the end result is still Ranold taking charge, probably with increased ruthlessness because of a “In for a penny”-mentality. Only now we can understand the villain’s motivation. A wonderful illustration of why Jenkins’ tribal sociopathy, that can’t accept anyone disagreeing with him without being pure evil, disqualifies him from writing decent stories.

      Making use of the skullphone that Jenkins keeps forgetting is a nice touch BTW.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for August 7, 2015 | The Slacktiverse

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