Category Archives: Silenced
Okay, you guys, I can take a hint!
As of this writing, the poll is as follows:
The Love Dare: 26.83%
The Europa Conspiracy: 17.07%
I, Saul: 4.88%
Day-um. Shadowed just had a runaway lead that I did not anticipate. I figured it would be a toss-up between The Love Dare and The Europa Conspiracy.
Then again, I can understand wanting to tie up Paul Stepola and throw him in a river.
Or tie up the Underground Zealot series and put a bow on these critiques. Whichever. 😉
As you no doubt recall, Silenced ended with God instituting his holy reign of terror, silencing (har) millions upon millions of firstborn sons by slaughtering them.
Because Paul Stepola asked him to do it.
In the extremely helpful What Has Gone Before opening section, Jenkins gives us a recap of the world he has built and the characters who inhabit it. As a quick reminder to everyone, it is now late January, 38 P.3., which is 2048.
Paul, Jae, and Straight have certainly made an impression on the loyal readers ’round these parts, but just in case anyone has forgotten who is who, Jenkins lays it out, in a style reminiscent of middle school social studies textbooks:
When he completed his graduate studies in religion, Dr. Paul Stepola‘s wife, Jae, urged him to pursue work with the National Peace Organization. Her father, retired army general Ranold B. Decenti, had helped build the NPO from the ashes of the FBI and the CIA.
Terribly proud of this part, the entire letter to Chancellor Ball Dangler is reproduced. Just so we can remember what an evil, threatening dick Paul is.
Then the second half of the last chapter is reproduced in (almost) full.
Just so we can remember what an evil being Paul’s God is.
So, gird your loins, ladies and gentlemen! Once more unto the breach of the USSA and Paul Apostle!
On the plane back to the USSA, Jae reveals why she had no concern whatsoever about the fate about to befall her beloved brother:
“I do not believe this slaughter is going to take place. If it doesn’t, it will tell me a lot about your fellow believers and the effectiveness of their prayers. If it does, besides being the most shocked person in the world, I can’t promise how it will make me feel about God. I suppose I will have to believe He is real, but I would have a hard time understanding Him or liking Him much.”
Paul worried about Jae…
He’s worried about Jae??? Jae will be fine, Paul. How about sparing a bit of worry for your brother-in-law, a person you claimed to love back in Chapter 1:
“I know Berlitz is a strange bird,” [Jae] said, “but I love him.”
“And that’s reason enough for me to as well.” [said Paul]
But is a few short hours, Berlitz will die and be sent to an eternity of torture in Hell, for the crime of being raised in a secular world by secular parents, and having a brother-in-law who doesn’t care enough to warn him about the murders he knows are coming.
Let’s unpack the rest of Jae’s comment, though. She says that if the slaughter doesn’t come to pass, it will tell her a lot about believers and the efficacy of prayer. But that’s true either way, no? Jae already knows that her husband and thousands of his “brothers and sisters” are praying for the mass murder of millions of innocents, including children. (Granted, according to Jenkinsian “logic,” the smaller children would probably Pass Go and go straight to Heaven, but not the kids over the magical age of twelve.) Why do the murders not have to come to pass in order for Jae to know that these people are horrible sociopaths?
And then Jae says that if the murders do happen, she will be the most shocked person in the world. I doubt that, as almost every family in the world is likely to suffer at least one unexpected death. But whatever, I’ll forgive her hyperbole since she doesn’t believe it will happen.
And she will “have to believe,” but would have a hard time understanding or liking God. Overstatement followed by understatement.
Besides, Jae has already prayed to God, though she hasn’t “made the transaction” and prayed the sinner’s prayer. So she’s not officially RTC yet, though her attitude about her husband others like him show her most of the way there.
Oh, and Paul still could not give less of a shit about this whole situation. After noting that the slaughter will take place at midnight, Bern time, and that is 6:00 p.m. in D.C., Paul simply sleeps the sleep of the sociopath for the rest of the flight.
They arrive in D.C. in late morning, meaning Paul still has hours to talk to Berlitz, but he just could not possible care less. They basically do nothing all day until the kids come home from school and Ranold comes home from work. Berlitz and Aryanna are going to come over for dinner and celebrate.
In the meantime, Ranold offers Paul a drink, and I think it’s important to note that one of Paul’s final actions in this book is to tell yet another lie:
“I got a little shut-eye on the plane, but alcohol would probably put me out for a week.”
Liar. Paul slept for almost the whole flight, and won’t drink at all now, because good little RTCs don’t drink.
Paul is checking his watch again and again (superspy that he is), and Ranold notices (because he actually is observant) and thinks that Paul just wants to watch himself be the hero on the news again. So, with only a couple of minutes left until the mass murder, they plant themselves in the living room.
Paul drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair.
“Man, I cannot wait for everyone to croak!”
And he doesn’t have long to wait…
At six straight up…
DAMN, I hate that turn of phrase. “Six straight up”??? It’s six o’clock, you jerk!
…it was as if the power went off in the house.
And the power has gone out everywhere, all over the world. So God did a momentary blackout so he could carry out all the murders.
If there’s anything fortunate about this, at least God killed them quickly. The first death we see is the news anchorman, who is slumped over his desk when the TV comes back on, and then Aryanna calls from the car–
Margaret answers the landline, and when Aryanna tells her that Berlitz is dead, his poor mother faints.
(By the way, Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!)
Berlitz was driving, and slumps over when the lights go out (even the headlights of cars), and Aryanna, because she is apparently a FRAKKING BADASS, takes control of the car and steers it to safety.
Gorramitall, Aryanna, why isn’t this book about you?
Paul and Ranold both get skull calls, as the women, Aryanna and Jae, are left to handle the actual crisis.
Enzo Fabrizio has called Paul to gossip. As you would at such a moment.
“It’s happened, Paul. Are you watching the news?”
“Yes, Enzo, I’m just sipping a virgin daiquiri in front of the tube. Because this worldwide crisis has NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on my actual life and the people I profess to ‘love’.”
Bia has called Ranold. Tai, her son in college, has died. It’s a sad commentary on Bia’s life that the only person she can call for moral support is Ranold, who is himself processing the death of his only son.
People’s actions (and inaction) here rather call back to the crisis of Soon, when L.A. is dessicated. Ranold is stopped for a moment by a panic attack, Bia springs into action. Paul does absolutely nothing.
Here, Ranold is paralyzed for a moment, the women do everything they can (Aryanna, you frakking rock) and Paul does absolutely nothing.
Ranold’s shock is short-lived, however:
“I’ve got to get to Berlitz and help Aryanna,” he said.
GOOD MAN, Ranold.
“Paul, will you come?”
Paul doesn’t even get the chance to say no; Jae says it for him:
“Let him stay with Mom, Dad,” Jae said.
Then Paul makes one of the bigger dumbass mistakes of his life: he tells Ranold RIGHT NOW what’s happened.
“Ranold,” Paul said. “it’s happened.”
You’d think Ranold would realize kinda what’s happened. Both his and Bia’s sons have died at the same moment. He may not think God is behind it, but surely he must think that the Christian terrorists are carrying out their evil plot.
“The curse. The plague. The warning from the underground.”
“Well, okay, not so much a ‘warning’ as it was the fervent mass prayer that millions of innocents die. Isn’t God just the best???”
“What? What?” Ranold looked wildly at everyone in the kitchen, his eyes finally landing on Connor. “But, but your son, your firstborn is fine!”
We’ll get back to this.
The kids burst into tears. Ranold stormed out.
Jae helped her mother into a chair and fanned her. “You kids help me with Grandma. Now! Get me a glass of water. Paul, you’d better check the news.”
Yes, five-year-old child, help me with a grown woman in shock. Paul, go do nothing.
Why does he need to check the news? They both know what’s happening.
(Let’s also note that despite Jae’s prediction that she would be “the most shocked person in the world,” she is handling this with aplomb. You go, girl-who-is-not-quite-yet-RTC.)
So Paul, on the advice of both his buddy and his wife, goes and watched TV. What a helpful dude. Of course, he immediately sees that this is happening all over the world, including to Ball Dangler, who lost his firstborn son.
And on that note, the book ends. Boom.
Much like the cliffhanger ending of Soon, which ended exactly post-“miracle.” So stylistically, I can’t fault the stories for that.
But that firstborn thing…
Ball Dangler’s eldest son (he has four sons and no daughters) is dead. Okay, makes sense. Berlitz is dead. Again, fair enough. He is older than Jae.
Why is Ranold shocked that Connor is alive. Remember, Brie is two years older than her brother.
To my secularly-raised mind, Paul and Jae do not have a “firstborn son.” They have a firstborn daughter and a secondborn son. They have no child who could be affected by the “plague.”
But, I’ve been wrong before, so I checked with reliable sources.
According to my sister-in-law’s Sunday School classes (she was raised Catholic), Connor would be included in the plague. Because he is the first son in the family, and because daughters don’t count, don’tcha know.
It actually makes perfect sense to me that Jenkins/God would think this way. So, let’s roll with it.
So, that’s the children. What about their parents?
Because Connor is not in the crosshairs because Paul is a Christian.
But Jae is not. She might have prayed once and might believe in God, but she doesn’t actually come to Jesus “all the way” until Chapter 4 of Shadowed.
So, daughters don’t count, and mothers don’t count.
Everyone’s shocked, I’m sure.
This is also driven home by the fact that Paul himself is spared the plague. His mother was an atheist and his father was a Christian. Then again, this could also be because both his parents are dead. (Chalk it up, once again, to my secular upbringing, but I just think that people are still their parents’ children, even when the parent is dead.)
(On that note, I was really worried for Ranold earlier in the book, as it is strongly implied that he is an only child. But, presumably, his parents are dead, so he is also spared the plague.)
In conclusion, in order for God to bring the Hellhammer down on your sorry ass, you need to be the oldest boy in the family (but not necessarily the oldest child, and your father must be an alive non-Christian.)
Another note of interest: I know that Jenkins thinks that RTC-ianity is the only real religion, but perhaps even in Atheistopia, there are secret underground Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and pagans. Their firstborn sons are dead, too, and roasting in Hell.
So, that’s Silenced. Worse and even more depressing than Soon.
Before we move on to some awesome Christian movies, let’s have a secular moment of silence (or Silenced, if you will) for poor Berlitz Decenti. And a moment of respect for the awesomeness of his wife, Aryanna.
Okay, that’s done. On to Belle and the Beast!
Paul and Jae, after a near-sleepless night of debating the Bible, head to Bern and a lunchtime ceremony honoring Paul. Vibishana is there, though there is no mention of him receiving a medal, even though it was he and his team who carried out the actual operation. Bia is there, and, like Ranold (who is still in Washington) has been totally convinced of Paul’s loyalty by the death of Magnor.
Having wasted yet more hours before the slaughter, Paul finally asks for a private word with Ball Dangler. (Let’s remember that Paul has had the man’s private skull number this whole time. Mere hours before her only and beloved brother will die and go to Hell forever, and Jae tells Paul that her “role today” is to be “the proud, dutiful wife.”
Jae and Paul have agreed to use the bug Ranold gave her so that she can listen in on Paul’s and Ball Dangler’s conversation. I can’t really see that this is the hot issue, again, seeing as how Berlitz has mere hours left on this planet, but Jae only thinks:
Here was a story for her grandchildren someday.
“Hmmm, too bad my brother will never have a chance to have grandchildren, what with God planning to smite him and all. Oh well!”
Jae may not have Prayed the Magical Prayer yet, but I see that her RTC sociopathy is proceeding apace.
Paul weirdly assumes that Ball Dangler has a constant recording on in his office. Even more weirdly, Dangler does, “exclusively for my reference, specifically my memoirs.” Paul asks that the recording be turned off, though what that will get him is beyond me. Either he comes out as a Christian and is screwed whether the conversation is recorded or not, or he hides it, is still seen as a hero, and the recording is still moot.
Paul starts slowly, all things considered, explaining that Magnor “was not really part of the rebel underground and was even seen by them as a charlatan who gave their cause a bad name.”
Because their cause had such a good name when all they were doing was praying for the dessication of L.A.!
Ball Dangler, no fool, then asks the obvious question: if Magnor didn’t write the manifesto, who did?
Jae held her breath. Did Paul have to say?
Nope! Because Paul is well-versed in the RTC art of telling-not-quite-the-whole-truth.
“That came from devout members of he true underground, sir.”
“I certainly had no hand in such a thing! Perish the thought! Even though admitting it just might help convince you, given how much you respect me.”
Paul explains that the Christians think God will do the killing—that they’re planning on keeping their own hands clean as their thug does the dirty work. Okay, he doesn’t say that in so many words, but we all know that’s what’s really going on here.
Ball Dangler remains unimpressed:
“…with [Magnor] gone and the rest counting on God to do their work for them, need I worry?”
“Whether you worry or not is up to you, sir. I just felt it my duty to be sure you were fully apprised.”
This must be some strange new definition of “fully apprised,” of which I am unaware. Because in order to fully apprise Ball Dangler, Paul would have to admit that he is a Christian, has experienced a Real, True Miracle in his own life, was behind the dessication of L.A. (an event which actually happened), and that he penned the manifesto, not just “devout members of the underground.”
But no, Paul’s work here is done! He’s informed Dangler that the manifesto was authored by “devout” Christians (and how is it Paul’s fault if Dangler doesn’t immediately divine that it’s Paul, personally?), so, if anything, Dangler is even less concerned than before. Because Paul hasn’t said anything about the God that he knows dessicated L.A.
Eh, sucks to be a firstborn son, amirite?
Ball Dangler, having not been told much of anything by Paul (what, not willing to speak truth for your faith, son?), says:
“I have already announced that the threat ended with the death of Styr Magnor/Steffan Wren. I still believe that, and I would not want the world to needlessly fear otherwise. Would you?”
Sounds like Dangler is a man of honesty, conviction, and integrity. Let’s see if Paul is, too.
“Want them to needlessly fear otherwise? No, sir.”
“Find a way to keep ‘living a lie,’ without literally lying? Yes, sir!”
And on that note, having helped the evil atheists NOT AT ALL, Paul and Jae head back to the good ole USSA.
Coming in Part 2 of this final chapter—The Actual Mass Murder.
As we saw, Paul took his sweet time getting back to the wife he swears he is more devoted to than ever before (not that that’s saying much) but he is finally there.
Tired as he was, he was through playing games.
So, what, if he was less tired, he would continue playing games?
Jae was going to get it all, both barrels.
Perhaps not the best metaphor to use when thinking of the wife you’re abused for the last decade, Paul. Just a bit of advice.
Probably also not the best metaphor to use mere hours before your god (at your behest) murders millions.
She could turn him in, leave him, or whatever…
Gee, I can see how much he really cares about this relationship.
…but he was no longer going to live a lie with her.
What a stand-up Christian guy. Only took him seven months of living a lie to come to this conclusion.
Inexplicably, Jae immediately asks for an explanation—not of Paul’s religious views, but of the sting of Magnor. Exciting though that was(n’t), this just doesn’t seem like the hot issue to me. Nor, indeed, to Jae, who said a mere fifteen pages ago:
As soon as he walked through that door, she would put it to him. She wanted to know [whether he was a Christian]. He had to tell her.
But hey, what’s the life and death of her family when she could hear an exciting adventure story that she’s already heard twenty times on the news?
But, to give Jae just a bit of credit, she finally calls Paul on it. Directly!
“I know, you know,” she said.
She pulled back and nodded. “You’re a good mole, Paul. Maybe the best there ever was.”
“But you’re not that good. You’re turned, changed, flipped, haven’t you? You’re a believer.”
Nice work, Jae. Only took you 333 pages to say it to him. What an open and loving and trusting marriage you have.
“I know a different man when I see one.”
Not that different, c’mon. He’s not actually cheating on you anymore. Physically, at least. That’s it. He still wants Angela, he still thinks you don’t deserve honesty, and he’s still scared shitless of you.
Oh, and he carried the luggage once.
And because we all know that women are always more at fault than men, Jae apologizes to Paul for showing his dad’s letter to Ranold.
Forgive her? Paul nodded. Sure, he’d forgive her, but did she realize what that could mean for him?
Sure, he’d forgive her, but not really. But he’d kinda forgive her, since women do silly, stupid things sometimes. And don’t even realize what those silly, stupid things could mean for the important men.
But they quickly move on to the even more important issue: Jae wants to understand how Paul became a believer. So he tells her a totally untrue story, retconning Soon.
…the more [Paul] was exposed to [underground Christians], the more he persecuted and yes, even killed some of them, the more he wondered what was so wrong about wanting to believe in something beyond one’s self.
Actually, I remember Paul cheering on the beating-to-death of St. Stephen mere moments before he was blinded. After that, his only exposure to underground believers was Straight. So this was hardly a case of the beauty of Christianity slowly working on Paul. Indeed, the only conflict he felt was the discomfort that whole time was knowing his own lionized dad was one of those loser freaks.
Jae was amazed when Paul began quoting verses about salvation by grace through faith, and that it couldn’t be earned by works so no one could boast. The same verses had jumped out at her.
Ah, those verses about people being judged by the thoughts in their heads, and not their deeds? Yeah, those jump out at me, too. Probably not for the same reasons.
And Jae gets Paul to admit that he authored the manifesto.
And one of Jae’s last few sparks of compassion and reason flickers, as they discuss the upcoming mass murder that’s being prayed for by good Christians around the world.
“I need to tell you, Paul, that this alone is enough to make me doubt the existence of God. … I mean, besides sounding ludicrous, does it sound like a loving God?”
“I’m no expert, Jae. I’m new to this, and I don’t want to sound glib, but it sounds like a just God who has finally lost patience with a disbelieving and mocking world.”
You don’t sound glib, Paul. (And I’m not even sure if “glib” is even what you mean.) You sound like a hypocritical, narcissistic asshole.
Once again, let us remember that Paul had a personal medical miracle, plus unfettered access to the forbidden Bible, plus a Christian mentor who devoted himself entirely to Paul’s conversion. Three things the rest of the citizens of the planet have not had.
But it’s all okay, because with less than a day left until God’s threat is carried out, Paul tells Jae that he’s going to tell Ball Dangler that the threat wasn’t Magnor’s, but God’s. Because that is just the kind of guy Paul is. Much like when he gave L.A. less than a day to overthrow the Army before unleashing dessication on innocent citizens.
Oh, and he’s going to wait till the next day, so it’ll actually be much less than 24 hours.
They stayed up most of the night, reading, discussing, arguing. Jae was unable to get past the unloving, spiteful (her word) nature of the plague some believers were asking God to mete out to His enemies.
Ha! Gotta love that Jenkins gives us that parenthetical. Because only a silly, untutored atheist would ever think God spiteful. Just because he’s going to commit mass murder. Silly Jae!
And I find it hard to think of people who have never been exposed to Christianity as anyone’s “enemies.” Let alone the babies and small children who will die. (Though I can only assume that Jenkins thinks anyone under the age of twelve will go to Heaven.)
Next time, the very belated warning to Ball Dangler plus the actual plague/mass murder! All in one final chapter!
Hey guys, sorry for the delay in posting lately. Life has been crazy busy, but is slowly returning to normal.
And it’s time to get Styr Magnor—I hope everyone is ready for this nail-biting mission of stinky clothes!
The worst part [of the mission] was…Paul was in league with the sworn enemy of his soul.
That’s the worst part of the mission–the people he’s working with. Not the fact that he is going up against a mass murdering madman and might never see his kids (Paul pauses, trying to remember their names). Nope, it’s the other members of the team, who are also putting their lives on the line. And Ball Dangler is presumably included, since he has made it his mission in life to see Magnor hang (wow, what a horrible guy that Dangler fellow is!).
Nope, the sworn enemy of Paul’s soul isn’t the terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the destruction of irreplaceable monuments. Nope, the sworn enemy of his soul are the atheists who want to capture said terrorist.
Paul is our hero. So easy to forget.
…ridding the world of Magnor was the right thing to do.
Gee, Paul, thanks for the concession.
As he’s pondering on working for these horrible atheists who want to capture a mass murderer (I mean, the mass murderer in this book who isn’t named God), Paul gets a skull call from Lothair (ChappellShow’s second-in-command):
“…I believe [God] gave me something for you. I don’t get it, don’t know why, but Chapp agreed it was worth sharing with you if you had time to hear it.”
“How long is it?”
“Just two verses.”
I actually don’t blame Paul for being impatient right now. He is kinda on the NPO’s dime and on his way to the sting and all.
The verses are 1 Kings 18:36-37. Weirdly, when Lothair “reads” them, he leaves out the first few words about evening sacrifices. Maybe Jenkins didn’t want his readers to think about the pretty big sacrifice that is about to happen. Or maybe he doesn’t want us to remember how common blood sacrifices used to be for the followers of the One True God.
These verses actually seem fairly dull to me, but Paul is all but brought to his knees by how “powerful” they are, and asks Lothair and everyone to pray for Jae.
Paul needn’t worry, because back in the hotel room…
…Jae found herself prostrate on the couch, compelled to pray for Paul.
It is so strange that again and again in these books (not to mention the Left Behind series), people are “compelled” to pray so often. I thought the loving God didn’t want us to be robots, forced and programmed to do his bidding. But this isn’t Jae’s free will talking—she even feels “conflicted” over whether to pray at all.
But prayer God wants, and prayer he will get. Even if he has to compel it.
And she’s “prostrate on the couch,” too. That’s like SUPER prayer. (Again, a not-uncommon occurrence in the Left Behind series—the Trib Forcers mush their faces into the carpet while praying.
(Insert dirty joke here.)
“God, protect him. Be with him. Bring him back to me.” Tears welled and sobs racked her throat. Jae couldn’t stem the tide. “God, please!” she wailed. “Please!”
“Please, God, bring back my emotionally abusive husband! He carried the luggage one time last month! How could I ever get along without him???”
You know it’s Real True Praying when you cry. And when God compels you to do it.
Honestly, the sting itself is pretty boring, too, but here are the highlights:
The place was already wall-to-wall people, mostly drunk men and a few women who had seen better days.
That’s always nice. Good to see Paul’s Christian love and charity progressing apace.
…Paul forced himself not to cough, despite the thick blue cloud that permeated every inch of breathable air. Pipes, cigarettes, and cigars contributed…
Color me surprised that polluting smoking products still exist in Atheistopia, where every vehicle is environmentally friendly and cancer has been all but eradicated. Shouldn’t there be some healthy and sweet-smelling alternative?
And where’s my synthehol?
Styr Magnor/Steffan Wren finally arrives, and because we must know immediately, he’s five feet, ten inches tall, 225 pounds.
I’ve noticed that Jenkins generally has very tall and lean heroes, while villains are usually shorter and more solid. Doesn’t help Jenkins’ cause that I tend to like guys with some meat on their bones.
Paul nearly panicked…
Wow, you can really tell this guy used to be Special Forces.
But he manages to pull himself together, and when Magnor sits down at the designated table, Paul knocks over a glass, and one of the actual trained SWAT members throws a flashbang…
…and Paul rams the guy head-on, for reasons best known to himself, since the SWAT dudes and dudettes have the place totally surrounded and covered.
Then they shoot Magnor dead. A lot.
Back in the hotel room, Jae has fallen asleep after her exhausting compelled prayer session. She awakens to the news report of the death of Magnor, and of course knows it was Paul. Interesting note: since Magnor claimed credit for the “your firstborn sons will all die” threat, and neither Paul nor anyone else in the underground has corrected anyone, Ball Dangler now claims that the threat is no more, because THAT MAKES SENSE.
God is awful. So is Paul. So is the rest of the Christian Underground.
Paul, if course, decides that he needs to speak to Jae face-to-face, and ignores her message (on “his answering device“) in favor of being congratulated first by Ball Dangler (who invites him back to Bern) and then by Ranold (who seems to now be convinced that Paul is a good ole trustworthy atheist after all).
“Hug and kiss the kids for me, will you, Dad?” [said Paul]
“Oh, sure.” [said Ranold]
I love how Jenkins tries to make Paul look like the Concerned Caregiver here, and Ranold like the Cold Jerk, when it’s Ranold and his family who have volunteered to spend time with these kids over the past days, and Paul who has spent the last eight years barely interacting with these children.
Meanwhile, Jae is getting pissed. Neither Paul nor straight are answering their skull phones.
They are out of their heads, HAR.
Next time, Paul and Jae have an actual conversation!
Perhaps the most supernatural event to occur in this book.
A thought has occurred to me as I near the ending of the book, guys. I’ll get to it in a few minutes, and it will become clearer as The Big Event draws nigh.
In the meantime, Jae arrives in Paris and spends an entire page putzing around the hotel room. Paul, who is “busy” with the SWAT dudes and dudettes getting ready to nab Styr Magnor, has left Jae instructions to watch the TV news. The bores the crap out of poor Jae, so she decides to nose around in Paul’s computer instead.
She shouldn’t be snooping, Jae decided, but on the other hand she was here on the NPO’s nickel, and that was what they expected of her. That was, plainly, rationalization…
A distant memory made her wonder if Paul had ever changed his password. He had once used her first name, followed by the last digit in the year of each of their births—his, hers, Brie’s, and Connor’s. She tapped it in. Bingo.
Paul is the most incompetent super-spy in the history of incompetence. I mean, seriously? He keeps his password the same for this many years, and it’s something that anyone, let alone his wife, could crack in three minutes?
So of course, Jae happens upon Paul’s drafts of the Christian manifesto.
She could come to no other conclusion than he had flipped.
OH, YOU THINK???
Jae moved in and out of the various rooms in Paul’s suite, banging the walls, pulling her hair, grunting in frustration. Why couldn’t he be here? Why did he have to be gone? Why could she not know where he was?
God, women are so whiny all the time. Good thing Jae has a Christian husband’s strong hand to guide her.
Of one thing she was certain, there would be no more cat-and-mouse games between them. As soon as he walked through that door, she would put it to him. She wanted to know. He had to tell her.
I find it hilarious that Paul continually congratulates himself, and Jae is continually grateful, for Paul’s changed-man-edness, yet this is the first time Jae determines that they should have an actual direct conversation.
Speaking of manliness and womanliness, Paul is planning things out with the “major general of the International Government of Peace, in charge of special weapons and tactics.” He’s an Indian man named Garuda “Gary” Vibishana, and has the following strange take on the site of the meet-up with Styr Magnor:
“…I cannot be [inside the pub] unless there are customarily people of color in that establishment. I’m guessing there are not, and thus I would stand out.”
“I’m afraid that would be an understatement,” Paul said. “A blue-collar pub would likely be a holdout against political correctness and diversity.”
Okay, first of all, is Paul saying that political correctness and diversity are good things? Because he might have to turn in his RTC card now.
And isn’t it just like those silly blue collar workers, eh? So unenlightened. It’s not that I’m surprised that Paul is this classist, given his covetousness and near-worship of the rich, but this is pretty blatant.
(The above link reminds me that I like to picture Berlitz Decenti being played by Martin Freeman.
And finally, why wouldn’t this working-class pub in London have patrons who are people of color? Especially Indians, who are the largest group of people of color in the city. Remember, Atheistopia is a liberal paradise, with stupendous medical advances and an end to homelessness. The world is united—one government, one currency. And Paul and Gary still think it impossible that a dark-skinned man would patronize a pub?
Oh, and not only are blue-collar workers insular and bigoted—they also smell bad!
Because Paul’s stinky clothes make a comeback:
Paul dug through he stuff and pulled out the bag containing what he called his drinking outfit.
“Perfect,” Vibishana said. “It even smells.”
“That’s from wearing it during half a dozen workouts and never washing it.”
That is so gross. How has Jae ever shared a bed with this man?
Also, these two men think that an Indian would be less accepted at a pub than a white man who smells like a hockey bag?
But race relations and foul clothing aren’t the only things Gary Vibishana discusses:
“My best camouflage is a slight limp,” the Indian said, “making me look less than masculine. Harmless.”
Because disabilities make you look, what, womany?
Okay, fine, I’ll play along. But first, check this out:
(Approximately 298,000 times manlier than Vibishana and Paul combined.)
(See all those people frozen in place, Vibishana/Paul/Jenkins?
That man in the wheelchair did that.)
But who cares about stereotyping the disabled when there’s more clothes drama??? The SWAT team assembles and is comprised of both Manly Men and members of the weaker, womany-er, child-bearing-er sex.
…the personnel—men and women—immediately stripped to their underwear where they sat and changed into their getups.
So Atheistopia is basically Battlestar Galactica.
Paul was intrigued by where they found to hide their firepower.
Oh, was he? I’ll just bet he was, eh? Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more.
So, they’ll all hang at the pub (I guess Vibishana is the only person of color on the team of thirty) and Paul will knock over a glass when he sees Magnor sit down. I don’t care.
Back in the hotel room, Jae muses:
Was this how God revealed Himself to her? By discovering that her husband was a secret believer? And what did that prove? Because Paul had turned, did that make it true? Did that make God real?
Oh, I’m sure it does, Jae. After all, it’s important for you to submit to the headship of your husband, so whatever he believes must be true.
And this brings up my thought from the top of this post:
As far as Paul knows, Jae is still an atheist, albeit one who is listening to the New Testament. And the clock is ticking on God’s judgment on the firstborns of nonbelievers. So why isn’t Paul terrified for the fate of his son, Connor? (Indeed, he hasn’t spared a thought for the boy in…well, longer than I can remember.) Connor, after all, is 50% the child of a nonbeliever. Shouldn’t Paul be just a tad concerned at this point?
He’s not, and I have my suspicions why, but I’m looking forward to seeing your reactions as the judgment goes down, and some males (but not others) go down with it.
Ranold drops Jae at the airport (two hours from D.C. to Paris, we’re informed by the ever-helpful Jenkins), and gives her a bug to plant on Paul. (Since the bug Bia planted was such crap.)
“And what about my allegiance to Paul?”
Ranold sighed. “If he proves worthy of it, then it’s not misplaced, is it? If you find he’a not worthy of it, I’m trusting you to act the way you would with any other traitor to the cause of liberty and freedom.”
Cue the theme music. [thinks Jae]
YOU DO NOT TALK THAT WAY ABOUT RANOLD!
Oh, and Jae? I have a great theme song for you and Paul.
Meanwhile, Paul calls Ball Dangler’s private skull phone. Inexplicably, the chief of staff answers this, because Dangler’s too busy with the media. I don’t get how any of this is even possible, but the important part is that Paul gets to berate the hapless chief, because “I need to talk to [Dangler] right this second.”
On the short flight (damn, you could make a day trip to Europe!), Jae prays. We all knew this was coming, but that makes it no less tragic.
God, she said [to herself], if there is a God, would You reveal Yourself to me somehow?
Jae didn’t know what else to say. In her listening one night, a verse had flown by that struck her as odd. Well, they all struck her as odd. It was something about never being able to please God without faith. And that anyone who wanted to come to Him had to believe there was a God. She would have to find it and listen again, because she was certain there was some kind of promise about how God would reward those who sincerely looked for Him.
Jae had added the condition “if there is a God,” and she wondered if that proved she didn’t have faith, that she didn’t really believe there was a God, that she was, in essence, hedging her bets. But what about that promise?
It is indeed a conundrum, Jae. Almost as though the God of the Bible is a big jerk with a narcissistic need to have everyone think exactly as he wants them to.
But it couldn’t be that, right?
Paul gets on the line (or skull, whatever) with Ball Dangler, and they have the following exchange:
“First, sir, I know that you understand many of the intricacies of international intelligence and espionage, but I would like the liberty of walking you through a few reminders. May I?”
Oh, yes, DOCTOR Stepola, please do condescend to me. It’s not like I have anything more important to do with my time on one of the most momentous days of my career.
Not to spoil the fun, but Paul doesn’t reveal any great “intricacies” of espionage and intelligence. He just reveals that Styr Magnor is Steffan Wren of Angry Storm. And then he asks to be put in contact with “your top military strikeforce leader” so they can take him down. Dangler agrees, because he’s just that kind of dude, and he’s been blinded by Paul’s “brilliance.”
“…we will remove the threat that looms at midnight tomorrow.” [says Dangler, who still thinks Magnor is just going to start murdering young men]
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. [Paul thinks, like the snide jerk he is]
Haha, still sucks to be you, Dangler! Your son’s gonna die, and my bully’s gonna be the biggest on the playground. Sure, I could reveal I’m a Christian and take credit for my own manifesto and try to mitigate the damage my God’s gonna do just me for, but where would be the fun in that?
The rest of the chapter is really boring, as Paul makes contact with the main SWAT dude and they plan to secretly meet Magnor at the pub. With stealth and stuff. It should be interesting. It’s not.
Sorry for the delays in posting lately, guys. Got some stuff going on, so we’ll be taking a few baby steps towards the horror of the end. But it’s coming. God’s big bullying climax is coming.
“Ranold,” Margaret called out, “the message light is blinking on the phone.”
The message is from Bia.
International counter-terrorism: best left to answering machines.
Bia’s carrying the Idiot Ball right now: she totally bought Paul’s “Bia’s great and loves her kids” fake-out. Seems a bit out of character for Bia to fall for such an obvious ploy, but she is a woman, amirite? So much as mention her kids, and she’ll be putty in your hands.
Jae realizes what Paul was doing, but is pissed:
[Paul] was a master, but if his brilliance had cost her the chance of seeing him over there, she was not going to be happy.
For those keeping track, this is the second time in seven pages that Paul has been called “brilliant.” Repeat a lie enough, right?
But Ranold is still suspicious, because fool him once… (Also, though he doesn’t actually say so, I suspect that he hasn’t forgotten that Paul has been jealous of Bia since the moment they met.)
Ball Dangler makes a statement that they’re not going to negotiate with terrorists (meaning Styr Magnor, but he might as well be talking to Paul and Co.), and Paul reflects on Dangler:
…while Paul was diametrically opposed to his worldview, it had not always been that way.
“Good thing I stuck Jesus into my heart six whole months ago! Otherwise, my kid might be dead tomorrow! Oh well, I guess that’s just what everyone else (who’s grown up in a world where religion is outlawed) gets! Sucks to be you, almost everyone on the planet! Can’t make an omelette, right?”
Styr plays some more Telephone with ChappellShow, with Paul directing ChappellShow’s end of the conversation. It’s all pretty boring and redundant, but ChappellShow manages to set up a meet with Styr at a pub in Shoreditch.
So soon we get to see Paul’s mad spy skillz in action again!
Hey guys, sorry for the delay—hopefully this extra-long chapter makes up for it!
This chapter bounces around a bit, reminding us of little bits that we need to be thinking of in light of the upcoming slaughter. (Or “holocaust,” as we might have it—after all, that’s how Paul refers to the killing of FIVE Christians in Soon.)
Jae convinces “the kids” that it’s okay she’s going to Europe because she’s going to try to convince Daddy to come home. I’ll note something here that has struck me in the past—it’s usually “the kids,” rarely “Brie and Connor.” When I think of how may parents referred to my brother and I, growing up, it was usually the reverse: “Ruby and Angus,” not “the kids.” Maybe it’s no big deal, but it feels to me like just another way to think of the kids as props (especially props to keep Jae and Paul’s marriage together, because you absolutely can’t divorce if there are kids, right?).
Anyway, Brie and Connor are mostly okay, since they’re still riding the wave of happiness from Uncle Berlitz and Aunt Aryanna taking them to the football game. That is so incredibly sweet. I kinda love both Berlitz and Aryanna, and am sad that Berlitz was created to be destroyed by God/Jenkins.
It’s especially sad in light of the fact that this seems to be the only attention that Brie and Connor have enjoyed from adults in a long, long time. Berlitz and Aryanna seem charmed by the kids, and genuinely interested in their lives and happiness. Meanwhile, Paul can barely remember their names and Jae is simply too preoccupied with her own unhappiness and, oh yeah, the fact that she’s still married to a serially-cheating asshat. (Only difference is, now Paul’s cheating on her with Jesus.) Oh, and also the fact that Jae has been tuning out the kids to listen to the New Testament, but surely that’s not neglectful!
Warning Paul about the bug had been the right thing, regardless [of Jae’s own uncertainty]. Jae was his wife, first, and even if it turned out he was guilty of treason, she owed him the benefit of the doubt initially.
Ah, what a good little RTC wife.
Also, I’m trying to think of a time when Paul gave Jae “the benefit of the doubt” about ANYTHING…and nothing is coming to mind. Hell, Jae is giving Paul the benefit of the doubt when it comes to TREASON, and Paul didn’t give Jae the benefit of the doubt when she cleaned up stuff he had thrown on the floor.
After a bit of a break, Jae is back to the New Testament, now in Hebrews.
How Jae wished God would talk to her that way, and even wishing it made her realize she was making a huge assumption: that God was real.
Really? Hell, I could wish that a leprechaun would leave a pot of untaxed gold on my doorstep, but that doesn’t mean I am assuming that leprechauns are real. Kinda depends on the wish, no? I could wish to win the lottery, which is real, and I could wish for a pet wolpertinger, which is not. For someone with an advanced degree, Jae’s reasoning skills need a bit of a brush-up.
But Jenkins is going to get this girl RTC’d, gorramit, SOMEHOW.
The rest of Hebrews 1 is about how angels aren’t God, which I don’t care about, and I guess Jae doesn’t, either, since Jenkins just quotes the whole section and then cuts to the next scene, with no comment from Jae.
But who has time to think about the Bible when we can hate on Bia Balaam?!
Paul takes Bia to the airport in the pre-dawn hours (really, no electric airport shuttle service in four-star Atheistopian hotel?).
“You look great,” he said, and she did, especially for that time of day. She was not a young woman but her unusual height made her look perpetually trim.
Okay. So, if Paul’s only measurement (har) of womanly beauty is trimness, shouldn’t Bia look great all the time to him?
(Honestly, I think Paul has been attracted to Bia for a long time. He just won’t admit it, even (especially) to himself. In my experience, when a man is not attracted to a woman, he just stops thinking about her looks. He doesn’t spend all his time cataloguing her every hairstyle and outfit and nuance of expression. The asshat doth protest too much, methinks.)
They chat pleasantly on the way to the airport (oh, wow, Paul is such a great double agent!), and on the way back, Paul muses about Jae some more:
Niggling at his brain was the prospect of Jae’s showing up late that afternoon. He longed to see her, to hold her, touch her, kiss her. What he really wanted to do was tell her the truth about himself.
Much as Paul claims, again and again, that he’s a changed man who cares about his wife more than ever before, what he wants to do to her (not with her, mind), is look, touch, talk at. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing at all for a man to want to kiss his wife after a week or more apart. Not at all. But Paul doesn’t want to have a conversation unhindered by miles or bugs or nosy relatives. He doesn’t want to interact with her as a partner in their shared lives. Nope, it’s still All About Paul—what he wants to do and what he wants to say. Jae’s needs and desires remain irrelevant.
But he had no idea whether it would be prudent. Was she really believing in Paul at this point, or was that just something she had to say? She had saved his life by warning him of the bug, but she remained the most dangerous person in his life.
AND HE STILL DOESN’T TRUST HER AFTER ALL THIS.
He prayed for her as he drove.
You smug, condescending ass.
Over at the French Super Sekrit Hideout, ChappellShow is upset because Styr Magnor called yesterday and he (ChappellShow) hung up on him per Paul’s instructions. (I don’t know how you “hang up on” someone on a skull phone call. There are a series of finger taps, as discussed in the first book. Do you clap your hand to hang up on someone?
Kinda sad, really. So much drama has been lost from our lives because we can’t plunk the phone back into the cradle, angrily or otherwise:
So Magnor has not called ChappellShow Back yet, so ChappellShow has no idea if he’ll have anyone to take to the Spring Formal.
But Paul knows what’s truly important right now:
“What’d you think of the manifesto?”
“Brilliant. That your work?”
So humble, he is. Oh, and we learn something new about the French underground:
“All our groups get printable versions [of the manifesto], our e-mail contacts get a Net version, and all our press contacts get both.”
The French Underground Christians have press contacts.
Okay, so why then does Straight know next to nothing about them? Why aren’t they better organized, more vocal? What a bunch of idiots.
Of course, just at that moment when Paul arrives, Styr Magnor calls back.
[ChappellShow] hit a switch on his earphone that allowed Paul and Lothair to hear without it sounding to Magnor as if he was on a speakerphone.
EARPHONE WUT??? Look, you jerks, do you have skullphones or don’t you?
As they talk, Paul realizes that Styr’s voice sounds familiar, and that he hates Chancellor Ball Dangler. Styr hates Ball Dangler, that is. Though Paul hates him, too.
…Paul was desperately trying to remember the name of the Scandinavian cell group that vehemently opposed Baldwin Dengler’s appointment as head of the International Government.
Ah. So Magnor is really involved in a political grudge, and is a political terrorist, not a religious terrorist.
So that’s one less religious terrorist we have, just leaving Paul and Straight and…well, every other Christian who’s sign on to the “brilliant” manifesto.
And then it came to Paul. Angry Storm the group called itself. They had pushed for the mayor of Oslo, Erik Buri, to assume leadership of the International Government, and he had come within a few votes of recalling Dengler and doing just that. They vowed revenge, even though the Dengler choice would prove providential, as Buri died two years later.
That seems like a weird reading of “providential,” unless Atheistopia expects its elected officials to be immortal.
Paul grabbed a pen and a notepad and scribbled Angry Storm to show Chapp. But as he wrote it, something else hit him. He played with the letters.
Oh. Of course he did. This is a Jenkins hero.
Okay, guys, take a guess right now if you like, before reading the next paragraph…
Styr Magnor was an anagram for Angry Storm.
OF COURSE IT IS.
“Huh,” Paul thought. “And Stepola is an anagram for Apostle. My world…imploding…”
And wait, so this Scandanavian dude anagrammed his name into English? WHY???
Paul crossed it out and wrote, CR, ask the origin of his name.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you, Styr. What is the origin of your name?”
Okay, to be fair, it probably is difficult to work such a question gracefully into a conversation about international terrorism.
But Magnor bites:
“Magnor means ‘fighter.’ It describes me perfectly.”
“I don’t know. It’s from Norse legend.” It was clear Magnor was bored with this and even suspicious.
GEE I WONDER WHY
And what the hell difference does it make? He’s the political guy or not, no matter what the name really means. And those are real names, so what is Paul trying to do?
The conversation ends with nothing really changed in the relationship, and the Christian terrorists still having no idea where the now-possibly-political terrorists are. But at least we know Styr Magnor isn’t RTC? I guess?
The announcement is made, the manifesto goes out, Ranold is pissed but fighty (love that dude), and Paul and the other terrorists snack on fruit and cheese because it’s France.
Styr gets back in touch with ChappellShow. He knows that the manifesto is (sorta) ChappellShow’s doing, but claims credit for it himself. There is panic in (some of) the Atheistopian citizenry, “who feared a repeat of the L.A. fiasco.”
Yep, a “fiasco.” That’s what I always call it when millions die.
Then again, plenty of eeevil atheist citizens tell Ball Dangler that he should just sit back and let 40 hours pass, then laugh together at the mean ole religionists and their failed campaign of terror.
Too bad they don’t realize they’re the mob in an Apocalyptic Novel with a thuggish god.
Paul Googles around (since I guess he has nothing better to do, and finds out that “Magnor” means “supporter of Erik.” This sounds wrong to me, especially since my own quick Googling reveals that Magnor does indeed mean what Styr said: fighter. So maybe it’s a misprint, and Paul means that Styr means “supporter of Erik.” But either my Google-fu is off today or I’m just lazy, because I’m not seeing that either.
That cinched it for Paul.
He knew who Styr Magnor was.
Goody. I can’t wait until Paul has his final showdown with Styr Mag—
In a passage that mirrors the one in Soon, the manifesto against the evil atheists is written.
But Paul has Grown in the Faith, I guess, seeing as how he’s penning this one all by himself (the Soon manifesto having been written by “Old Carl”:
This he would send to Straight, who would run it past the underground leadership in Detroit, Washington, L.A., Bern, Rome, Paris, and all the other contacts around the world. Each faction would be free to copy, forward, and disseminate the document as far and wide as they dared, including to all the major news organizations in their respective countries.
Straight has never even spoken to anyone in any of the European underground factions. Just saying.
We aver that the current world system, which has banned for nearly four decades the practice of religion by people of faith…
Wait, so the practice of religion would be fine by people of no faith? Glad they put this non-writer in charge of the statement.
…is an abomination in the sight of almighty God.
Too bad God let it happen, and has let generations of children grow up with no access to religion, only to be dessicated…wait, this is coming out wrong.
We ask that you rescind immediately the decree announced today and put a moratorium on laws prohibiting the practice of religion until you can determine how people of faith can peaceably live in this society without fear of reprisal.
Okay, this seems a pretty reasonable request. I can’t see how—
We are beseeching our God to act in judgment, should this request not be carried out within forty hours of when the decree is announced, or midnight, Bern time, Tuesday, January 22.
FORTY HOURS??? Less than two days?
Okay, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. This is actually an improvement (by a factor of FOUR) on the timeline in Soon.
We respectfully warn that you will regret ignoring this request…
This is some new, passive-aggressive permutation of “with all due respect,” is it? Bless their atheistic hearts.
We refer you to the Old Testament account of the ten plagues that God unleashed against Egypt. There are those among us who are asking God to eschew the first nine plagues…
There we go, guys! This is what we’ve been building to! Kill the firstborn!
Gee, isn’t it FUNNY how we’ve been introduced to a lot of young men who didn’t make an appearance in Soon? (Berlitz and Taj especially, though BallDangler also mentioned that he had four sons.)
…and to refrain from hardening your heart…
“It’s almost as though we feel it was unfair of God to harden Pharoah’s heart the first time around, as though God was stacking the deck or something…nah, “God is never wrong.”
Short of this, we fear that God may not limit this plague to the seat of government but rather that it will affect the entire world.
We hope…er, fear—FEAR, that’s it…that God will rain his deadly judgment down on the entire planet.
To our brothers and sisters around the globe, we remind you that you need not feel bound by the Old Testament caveat of protecting your own households by sprinkling blood on your doorposts to identify yourself. We believe the blood of Christ has already been shed on your behalf and that God knows his own.
“Also, that whole ‘sprinkling blood’ thing is just GROSS. Geez, God, what were you thinking?”
After finishing the manifesto, Paul actually has a very brief moment of almost-remorse.
Paul didn’t know how to pray—that God would do it or not do it. Such a catastrophe would eliminate any hope of these millions of slain firstborn ever entering the kingdom.
I’ve probably just been listening to too much Christian Talk Radio, but I feel like the RTC answer to this is that God would have already planned that all those firstborn sons would not be among the “elect” in the first place. They would never have chosen to become RTCs.
(Of course, these firstborn sons, many raised in a world which has outlawed religion, have had so much opportunity to learn about Jesus and convert.)
Anyway, Paul’s brief moment of near-humanity is spoiled by stupid ole Jae, who calls Paul at that very moment…to warn him.
Kinda sad, really. The Christians are praying for millions to be killed, and atheist Jae is risking her freedom (or, at the very least, her relationship with her parents) to save one horrible asshat.
Jae also mentions that she will be in Europe soon, and tells Paul about the entrapment with Calandre and the bug.
“Paul, hear me. I’m on your side. I believe you’re playing up to the underground to infiltrate them. If I’m wrong, well, then you’re going to take me down with you.”
“Just like you’ve always done…”
Now knowing about the bug, but not wanting to make the sounds of finding it, Paul decides to “use it to his advantage.” First, he calls Straight to warn him that he (Paul) is bugged. Then he calls Bob Koontz (yanno, his boss in Chicago, the guy he should be reporting in to regularly?) to say nice things about Bia Balaam:
“I know Decenti sent her to keep an eye on me, but the more I think about it, the less it bothers me. She’s good people, and if I were in the old man’s shoes, I’d probably do the same. Did you know she’s got kids?”
“I didn’t, Paul.”
“Yeah. A grown daughter and a son at Georgetown. Pretty proud of ’em, and rightfully so. Well, hey, just wanted to keep you in the loop, Bob.”
“Sorry this is the first time I’ve ‘kept you in the loop’ since leaving Chicago, Bob. And hey, that Bia, she is some incredible gal, eh? I’m sorry for every dirty look and snide comment I ever made about or to her. Sorry, am I speaking too softly? Feels like I’m kinda speaking softly. BIA BALAAM IS THE BEST. Oh, and have I mentioned to you lately how much I love my wife? I love her so much, I would never dream of banging some hot French chick while I’m here. So, hey, go atheism. Um, bye-bye, Bob.”
Paul is such an amazing covert operative. How did Atheistopia ever suspect anything?