Category Archives: The Secret on Ararat

TSoA: Chapter 52: The. End.

Okay, everyone, time to put The Secret on Ararat to bed.

Are you on the edge of your collective seat?  I know I am.

We last left the Seven skiing talking about how Talon did such a great job killing Murphy and everybody else on the “discovery team” except for Isis, who is a girl who doesn’t count.  (Hell, at least Talon gives Isis some respect—he thinks she died of exposure on the mountain.)

But no, Murphy, Isis, Vern the Vietnam (heh) pilot, and Evil Larry the Photo Guy have all survived, and Murphy has made a lame deal with the Turkish Sopranos, under which he gets first dibs on Talon, but must kill him.

We’ll see how well that turns out.

Murphy and Isis have tracked down (or been tracked down by) another member of the Turkish Sopranos.  We don’t know who this guy is or what he does, but we do know one important piece of information about him: he’s FAT.

We know this because he only appears for one and one-half pages of this novel, but is referred to as “the fat man” SIX TIMES.

Six.

So I guess he’s really fat.  Really really.  That is his one defining characteristic.

Fatty McFattypants reveals that Talon and some other guy (no doubt Evil Larry the Photo Guy) were seen in Istanbul, and that they bought tickets to sail to Romania on a “pleasure cruise.”  And if you think it’s odd that Talon would sail rather than take a plane, so does Isis.  But Murphy sets her straight:

“Why doesn’t he just get on a plane?” [Isis asked]

“Because that’s what we’d expect him to do,” Murphy said.

Um, Murph?  Talon thinks you both are dead.  YOU KNOW THIS.  The world does not revolve around your expectations, you narcissistic prick.

Portly Chubberston seems pretty blasé about not being able to kill Talon himself, which seems strange, what with him (Gutly Bigassingworth) being part of the Turkish Sopranos and all, but he is actually incredibly accommodating.

Literally.  He already has tickets for Murphy and Isis to board the same ship.

HOW CONVENIENT

And off they go.  At the docks, Isis is scared that Talon will recognize them, and has them both wear disguises, by which she means…hats.

Murphy, however, has remembered this time that Talon thinks they’re dead, and is nonplussed by the whole thing.

Which is a totally natural reaction when you’re about to go up against the guy who murdered your wife.

Once inside [their cabin] [Isis] bolted the door, then stacked a chair against it, just in case.

Murphy sat on the other bed and put his hands behind his head.  She had an awful feeling he was preparing to take a nap.

Yep, because when your friend is “slightly hysterical” with fear, the best and most sensitive option is to pretend that nothing’s wrong.

After all, Isis is just being a silly girl about the whole thing.  It’s not like Talon tried to kill her three times or anything.

Later that night, they go hunting for the hunter.

Well, Murphy goes hunting for the hunter.  Isis clings to him and trembles like the stereotypical Girl in an old monster movie.

A sudden laugh made Isis clutch Murphy’s arm.

…Isis starting at every little sound.

Her heart beating furiously…

…her eyes wide with fear.

She closed her eyes, trying to make herself invisible, not daring to move a muscle…

She couldn’t think.

Oh, how the mighty have been Stepfordized.  Hey, remember when Isis defeated those evil kidnappers?

Because it’s clear that Bob Phillips doesn’t.

I guess just so he can look awesome, Talon is “perched on the very top of the ship’s superstructure.”  Murphy spots him first, natch, and heads off…somewhere, leaving Isis all alone.

Sadly, Murphy didn’t learn from their little escapade of kidnapper-defeating that Isis is more than capable of holding her own.  Maybe they should have made a plan together to defeat Talon.

Then again, this is a Phillips book, not a Dinallo book, so Isis can’t kick ass any longer.

Murphy stealths away from her, and Isis stands there trembling.  I’m sure that if she could move, she’d break a heel.  Then Talon stealths to her side.  Now, an uncharitable critiquer might be tempted to interpret this as Murphy forcing Isis to act as bait.

So, yeah, Murphy basically forces Isis to act as bait.

With Talon at her side, Isis has no idea what to do.  After all, Murphy didn’t let her in on his little plan, and she has lost all ability to act independently, so she’s basically screwed.

She does manage to ask after Larry the Photo Guy, and, of course, Talon has already killed him by tossing him over the side of the ship.  Which sounds pretty exciting and no doubt required some ingenuity, inasmuch as they were aboard a pleasure cruise at the time, but we get nothing.

Time for action!

“What about the bronze plates?” [asked Isis, trembling]

[Talon] gestured behind him with his thumbs.  “Up there.  Safe in my rucksack.”

“Think again!”

Talon shoved Isis out of the way as he rushed to the guardrail and looked down.  Murphy was sitting on the rail at the stern, holding on with one hand as he dangled a rucksack over the churning wake.

Now, you may be thinking the same thing I was thinking: Oh, that clever Murphster.  He has no doubt removed the bronze plates from the rucksack, and is tricking Talon into thinking he is going to toss them!

[Murphy] shook the rucksack, and Talon could hear the bronze plates scraping together.

Or not.  Remember, kids, Good Christians don’t lie.  Ever.  Even when it comes to preserving the secret to unlimited energy for the entire world.

As you might imagine, Murphy makes as though to toss the rucksack, Talon makes a flying leap for them, and is dragged over the side by the heaviness of the plates.

Bye-bye.

Isis scrambled down a ladder and buried herself in Murphy’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

Of course.

So, with Talon and the bronze plates in the drink, we end on Murphy and Isis huggling each other in the pretty dawn light.

Wait, so they waited until FIVE A.M. to track down Talon???

Weird.  Especially because there were drunken couples carousing nearby just before this all went down.

Whatever.

And so, this concludes The Secret on Ararat.  Which secret will continue to be a secret, since it is now buried forever, and its treasures are at the bottom of the sea.  Except for whatever the team spirited away from the site.  Which we never hear about again.

SO!!!

Up next is my first ever GUEST CRITIQUE!!!

Followed by one or two more movie reviews by yours truly, before we get into the Good Christian Marriage and international espionage (heh) of Silenced, the next book in the Underground Zealot series.  If anyone would like a refresher, my full critique of Soon can be found here.

silenced

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TSoA: Chapter 51: The Seven, They’ll Ski at Nothing

We are at the penultimate chapter, guys!  After checking in with The Seven, we’ll move on to the final confrontation between Murphy and Talon.  (It is just as exciting as you might imagine.)

Then we’ll have a bit of a palate-cleanser before hitting the second book of the Underground Zealot series, Silenced.

This palate-cleansing period will include my VERY FIRST GUEST CRITIQUE EVER!!!

But for now, let’s see what the Seven are up to.

Remember, they’ll stop at NOTHING…including skiing.

No doubt, EVIL skiing.

This being the penultimate chapter, Phillips reminds us what The Seven (TSAN!) are up to:

No one would guess that they were part of a conspiracy that aimed to destroy the word [sic] monetary system, the rule of law, the Christian church, and the military power of sovereign nations.

Kinda interesting that Phillips thinks we need this little reminder.  But maybe he feels this way because the villains never actually DO anything.  They just sit around and talk about how awesome it will be when their scheme comes to fruition.  I’m not asking for much, Phillips—just show one of The Seven (TSAN!) influencing a vote in his own country, or using her power as a businesswoman to subtly influence the world market that she wants to destroy.

Also, gotta love how the bad guys only want to destroy the Christian church.  Because they don’t need to waste their time destroying all those other fakey religions.  After all, the adherents of those fakey religions know they’re not real, not like Christianity!

But no.  They’re skiing.

General Li was quickly closing the distance between them [himself and John Bartholomew] with firm strides, closely followed by Mendez, red-faced and sweating but clearly determined not to be beaten by his much fitter fellow conspirator.  Sir William Merton’s portly frame was unmistakable at the back of the group, gliding effortlessly over the snow as if by some diabolical magic.

A portly guy who’s also athletic???  Truly such a personage can only be the work of SATAN!!!

Bartholomew has brought them out skiing so he can have an “appropriate setting” in which to update them on Talon’s progress.  Sure, he could have just conference-called them, but it wouldn’t have been as awesomely evil as SKIING.

Bartholomew fills them in on Talon’s progress, including the Sorcerer’s Stone of Harry Potter, and the “fact” that the entire team, including Murphy but not including Isis (who is “no threat to us“) is dead.  Talon is supposed to rendezvous with the Romanian Seven Lady to deliver the plates.

Skiing was very important to this information.

TSoA: Chapter 50: Last Noah Chapter!

This is the very last time we’ll have a chance to visit with lovely Noah and his soon-to-be-incestuous brood, so it’s only fitting that the chapter recounts Genesis 8 and 9, in which the Noah-ians find their way to dry land.

There is a nasty wind blowing about the ark, so strong that nobody can even open a window.  Noah and his family fear they may have displeased God (as well they might, considering they have recently been given ample proof that God will drown babies in their cribs for the crime of displeasing him), so they all pray.

My NKJV Bible tells it this way:

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark.  And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.

-Genesis 8:1

Gotta love that God remembers Noah.

“Oh, yeah!  That Noah guy!  The one family I allowed not to drown in my worldwide deluge!  The folks who’ve been bobbing around in a gigantic, vomit-encrusted, dung-filled boat for the past five months!  Maybe I should do something about that…”

And the thing he decides to do is confuse and scare the shit out of them.

What, was God busy or distracted or something?  In the middle of an intense dungeon-crawl on WoW?  Engrossed in a Boardwalk Empire marathon?  What was so important that he forgot the only eight people on the planet?

Some omnipotent god.

So the waters recede (PHYSICS!) and the boat wedges itself into a mountain, and the Family Noah has to wait for another like, three months, before they get to leave.

This is when they do the whole send-out-the-birds thing, and God sends his pure sweet love on the wings of a snow white dove…

A song I wouldn’t know were it not for this episode of MST3K:

Finally, FINALLY, the damn bird stays gone (I love how everyone assumes the bird is just enjoying its new land-home, instead of imagining that the bird might have died), so they let the other animals go, too.

Only the sacrificial animals remained.  Noah and his family stepped out onto the sweet-smelling earth and immediately built an altar.  They thanked God that their ordeal was over at last and their new life could begin.

Wait…

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So, let me get this straight: God killed every single animal on the entire planet, except for the two-of-every-kind that he allowed to go on the ark.  But then he let some extra animals get on the ark, just so they could wait another ten months to be ritually slaughtered?  Is this for real?

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma.

-Genesis 8:20-21

Ah.  Well, I guess it’s real.  IT’S IN THE BIBLE.

But, I just…

HOW DOES THAT EVEN MAKE SENSE?

God…dude, did you not just have the blood sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices?  Can your bloodlust not be sated?  WHAT THE FRICKETY-FRAK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Jerk.

(Also, I cannot help but picture the bones of the bazillions of humans and other animals, strewn about the “sweet-smelling earth.”)

Then they see a rainbow.  Nobody knows what it is except for Noah, which I guess means that God magically grafted knowledge of rainbows onto Noah’s brain.

“Father, should I bring the things from the chest?” asked Shem.

“No, son.  Not yet.  We must first see where we shall live.  We need to explore the new country below.  But we will return someday soon for the golden box of Tubal-cain and the bronze plates.”

“Good old Tubal-cain, giving us these invaluable tools.  Too bad he drowned horribly!  Hey, maybe those bones over there are some of his?  Or his children’s!  Heh, it’s fun to think about.”

Also, since Murphy & Co. found the plates on the ark, are we just to assume that Noah and everyone else forgot about them?  Yeah, I can see how you could forget about indispensable tools in a world that has been wiped clean of every single vestige of civilization.

We leave the Noahites on the heartwarming (or something) note of Hagaba (I think she’s Japheth’s wife) announcing that she’s preggers.

And thus begins a long tradition of cousin-marriage.  (Or, I suppose, brother-sister-marriage.)  Hey, it’s not like these kids will have a lot of options!

TSoA: Chapter 49: Takes Way Too Long

It totally does.  Take way too long.  All you need to know is that Murphy and Isis leave Vern in the capable Bronze-Age care of Obi-Wan, and head back to that one town where they made the day trip, to find the guy who had the first (or is it last?) bronze plate with the secret of Harry Potter.

They find out that the would-be seller was murdered, and the last/first bronze plate stolen.

The only vaguely interesting part comes when they have a discussion with the dead guy’s cousin, who tells Murphy and Isis that his family has promised retribution on the killer.

Murphy thought he knew what kind of “family” the blonde man was referring to.

My, my, Murph…that’s awfully cynical for a good Christian man, eh?

So Murphy and the guy make a deal: Murphy and Isis will give a description of Talon to the guy, and if anyone in the family finds Talon first, they will hand him over to Murphy.  And when and if Murphy gets to Talon, he must kill him.

This seems like a fairly crappy deal for the blonde guy and his family (or “family”), but Isis’s concerns are more spiritual:

Isis looked at [Murphy], wondering what he was going to say.  She knew how powerful was the instinct for revenge when a loved one had been killed, but could he make such a promise as a Christian?

“I promise,” said Murphy.

I almost can’t believe it!  An actual moral conflict!

I may have to sit down.

Wait…I am sitting down.

Oh well.

 

 

TSoA: Chapter 48: Back to Stephanie

When we last left Stephanie, she was berating Michael Murphy at the grave of his “friend,” Hank Baines.

Now, she is enjoying a romantic evening with her boyfriend, Shane Barrington.

When she’d first agreed to become Barrington’s mistress…

Oh yeah.  She’s his mistress.  Even though she’s single.

How soon I forget.

We wouldn’t want to use words like boyfriend and girlfriend.  They might remind us that Shane and Stephanie are people, not Evil Pre-Saved Lying Liars Who Lie.

…each took a mouthful of the vintage champagne.

I have to hand it to Phillips: he has the ability to make drinking an awesome drink sound really unappetizing.

Shane has gone all romantic on Stephanie—decorating the entire top floor of his building with flowers.  And he gives her a special treat: the right to ask any questions of him.

I’d like to think Shane is doing this because he is coming to love and respect Stephanie more and more, and now considers her an equal partner—in his schemes, in his life.

I’d like to think so, anyway.  I am so rooting for these two.

Stephanie thinks that Barrington has been doing EEEEVIL things, and asks him some very important questions.

About Michael Murphy.

Because if there is one important subject in the world, it’s Our Hero.

Shane actually tells Stephanie the truth.  And, to his credit, he starts at the real beginning: not Michael Murphy, but The Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!).  He fills in Stephanie on the events of the previous book (interesting, he leaves out the part about impliedly-gay Arthur), and then reveals how Murphy fits into this:

“You see, these people I work for, these people who own me, are hell-bent on establishing a one-world government.  A one-world religion, too.  And people like Murphy, they see it all coming, in the Bible.  So they have to be stopped.  Before they can persuade people to resist.”

Yeah, because Murphy is doing such a great job with that.  I mean, I guess he and Bob dragooned Sherri into preaching to a random teenager, and childfree Murphy preached some parenting advice to Hank, but is that really persuading people to resist a one-world government and one-world religion?

Stephanie starts to panic at these revelations (EVIL!), then starts plotting her escape:

…she started to hear a voice at the back of her mind.  A voice of hope.  A little voice telling her that maybe this was her chance at redemption.  Her chance to prove that she wasn’t all bad…

WAIT A SECOND

Two pages ago, we are told that Stephanie had done multiple investigative reports on “rapists and serial killers.”  And now she thinks she is “all bad.”  Poor Stephanie…

…maybe she could make a difference after all.

Because hard-hitting reports on rapists and serial killers make no difference at all.

So sad.  My dreams of an Unholy Matrimony between Shane and Stephanie are being destroyed!

TSoA: Chapter 47: The Survivors

Taking a page from Murphy’s book, Isis opens her heart to her beloved at the specific time when he can’t hear her.

The only difference is that he wakes up at the end of her soliloquy.  Because Murphy’s a Manly Man.

“…But something made me climb up here.” [Isis said to the unconscious Murphy]

Heh…something.

Gee, Davey, do you think it was…God???

/Crow T. Robot

I wonder if there are Murphy/Isis shippers out there.

Isis looked at him as his chest gently rose and fell, and she brushed away a tear.

His tear or hers?  (I’m just kidding.  Being a Manly Man, I’m suprised enough that Murphy cried when his wife was dying.  Then again, Greg Dinallo was co-writer on that book.)

“I’m so glad I did [come back towards the ark].”

“Me too.”  [said Murphy, awake for the first time]

Isis manages to force-feed him a bit of the soup (apparently, it has “healing herbs” in it), and explains that Obi-Wan is off looking for survivors of the helicopter crash.  We also learn that this cave is just Obi-Wan’s summer home, and he has a bigger cave down the mountain.

Gradually, through the night, the herbs did their work.  By morning, Murphy felt as if he had a massive hangover and had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson, but otherwise he felt remarkably good.

Ah.  So other than the explodey-feeling head and the nausea and vomiting and the fatigue and the dizziness and the inability to concentrate and the pain and the achiness in every part of his body, Murphy feels just dandy!

When I was concussed, I doubt I could have walked across a room without fainting or puking.  Guess I’m just not the Manly Man that Murphy is.

In fact, Murph feels so fine and dandy that he insists that they do TWO HOURS of “strenuous hiking” to get to the Main Cave.

Even though they’re not entirely certain where it is.

…Isis spotted a wide opening in the mountainside, thirty yeards or so above the trail.

“This has to be it,” she said.

Oh.  Whew.  I was worried there.  For a second.

Obi-Wan’s Main Cave (which I guess is also his Man Cave) has a propane stove and pictures of the ark story on the walls, so you know that his cave is a home.

The cave also contains Vern, rescued from the Vietnam snowbank.  (In a refreshing touch, Murphy actually thanks Obi-Wan for saving him.)

Vern relates his perspective of the helicopter crash:

“[Larry and I] were talking on the satellite phones, and something he said just didn’t seem right.”

Note: Larry probably means this:

“Good-bye, Vern, thanks for the ride.”

-Larry the Photo Guy, Chapter 45

I’d probably be suspicious, too.

“Then he took out some sort of control box and I guess my instincts just took over.  I tried to take the chopper down into the gorge so an electronic signal wouldn’t reach it, but I figured it was going to be too late and I just jumped.  His voice choked with emotion.  “There wasn’t time to explain to [Token Turk and the Dick].  I was hoping they’d just follow me out, but I guess they…” He couldn’t go on.

“I guess they just looked at me like I was crazy as I threw myself out the door of my own helicopter.  Go figure.”

Also, exactly how long does it take to scream “JUUUUUMMMPPP!!!!”  Sure, they might not do it, but at least try, right?  You can “explain” later.

Murphy’s jaw was clenched in anger.  “[Larry the Photo Guy].  I was looking in the wrong place the whole time.

Murphy seems to be giving himself both too much and too little credit here.  Like any hero of a mystery story, his thoughts tended towards the wrong person (a careful reading of Chapter 38 presents Murphy as slightly more suspicious of the Dick than of anybody else, but he still resolves to “watch everybody like a hawk.”)  (Emphasis mine.)   Still, it wasn’t like he thought Larry was completely cleared of suspicion, especially given Larry’s crush on Isis.

And now it’s Murphy’s turn to reveal that two of their guys died on the ark.  (Still think splitting up the team was a good idea, Murph?)

Vern seems as confused as we are about the bad guys’ motives:

“And this Talon character—he wants to take over the world?”

Murphy looked grim.  “I don’t know what motivates Talon, apart from a love of killing for the sake of it.  But the people he works for, yes. … All I’m certain of is that they’re evil and they have to be stopped.”

Because they’ll Stop at Nothing!

Also, Murphy assumes that Larry was working for Talon, not the CIA.  Why he thinks this is left as an exercise to the reader.

Changing the subject, Murphy asks for Obi-Wan’s story.

“It is right you should know.  I am one of the guardians of the sacred ark.  For centuries my family has been doing this. … I will watch the mountain for two years and then someone will replace me for a while.  Then I will come back again.”

Ah.  So, as some have suspected, Obi-Wan is basically this guy:

Isis has logical questions:

“Why did you tell us where the ark could be found?  Why didn’t you just let us search like all the other explorers?”

To which Obi-Wan has the best answer of all:

[Obi-Wan] turned to Murphy.  “There was something about you and your…sincerity.  Your strength of purpose.”

PASSIONATE SINCERITY!!!

Murphy is also sincerely and passionately angry at Talon, who has left the ark buried in the now forever and ever.  (Um, so does this mean Obi-Wan and his family are off the hook for watching the ark now?)

He determines to head off on a quest to find Talon and re-secure the Secrets of Harry Potter’s Sorcerer’s Philosopher’s Stone, which Talon is carrying around in a backpack.

Amusingly, Murphy elects to simply leave his bestest pal Vern in the tender, Bronze-Age medical care of Obi-Wan.

And refreshingly, Isis exhibits some backbone and TELLS MURPHY SHE IS COMING WITH HIM TO HUNT DOWN TALON.

Not that any of us should get too excited.  It’s not like she helps or anything.

TSoA: Chapter 46: The Triumphant Return of Obi-Wan

HE’S BAAAAAACK!!!!!

Apparently, Obi-Wan is aware of every damn thing that has been going on.

He had seen the helicopter fly toward Camp 2 and then toward the gorge as he was climbing to the ark by a different direction.

Wait, Obi-Wan, why do you want to go to the ark now?  If you wanted to go to the ark, why not just lead the team there yourself yesterday?

Sigh.

Surely if it had fallen into the gorge, no one could have survived.

So, yeah, don’t help or anything.  Some Jedi Knight you are.

And yeah, Obi-Wan sees everything.

He squinted at the sea of white.  Then he saw someone in a white polar outfit zigzagging up the steep slope.  What is he doing up there?

Oh, I’m sure he’s just birdwatching or—WHAT DO YOU THINK HE’S DOING UP THERE???

Obi Wan heads into the ark, momentarily dismissing as Probably Nothing the man climbing quickly up the side of the mountain with a huge backpack.  The Jedi Master finds the bodies of Fearless and the Nerd.

Then he finds Murphy, still unconscious from his Railing KO.

With a huge effort, he hefted Murphy onto his shoulder…

Looks like Murphy might want to lay off the non-alcoholic cider.

He carries Murphy outside, where he laboriously creates a sleepling-bag-in-which-he-can-drag-Murphy.  I’ll be kinder to you than I was to myself, and spare you the details.  The pieces all click into place with Talon at this point, too, and Obi-Wan realizes he’s going to start an avalanche to bury the ark.

He manages to get Murph out of the way JUST IN TIME, and takes him to some cave that I guess is his home, because there are holders in the wall for torches.

[Obi-Wan] placed several thick furs over the sleeping bag before eating his soup and a hunk of dry bread.

Okay, the sleeping bag contains Murphy, but I amuse myself by imagining that Obi-Wan has anthropomorphized the sleeping bag, and just wants to keep it warm and comfortable.

Obi-Wan: You’re my new BFF, sleeping bag.  The only friend I need…

When he finished, his brow was creased in thought.  He had some hard decisions to make.  If Murphy regained consciousness during the night, he needed to get some warm liquid into him or he would surely be dead before morning.

Um.

No.

Obi-Wan?  Honey?  That is not how concussions work.  Take it from someone who has been there—you won’t die from a Grade III concussion due to lack of soup.  Indeed, such a concussion can lead to severe nausea, so unless you want to be wearing that soup, you might want to take it easy at first.

Being a good little RTC who has lived on Ararat for his entire life, Obi-Wan prays, and Isis immediately appears, having been led to this random cave by the Plot-o-Matic 9000 God.

Obi-Wan heads out to look for survivors of the helicopter crash, leaving Isis with instructions to force-feed Murphy soup if he wakes up.  So I guess it’s okay now, now that a lady-person has arrived to play nursemaid and wear the soup.

He turned before slipping out of the cave.  The woman was kneeling over the unconscious man, a look of infinite tenderness.

If anyone can save her, [Obi-Wan] thought, she can.

Yeah, screw modern medicine when you have a pretty little helpmeet to treat the sick with Bronze Age soup healing!

TSoA: Chapter 45: Guess Who?

Hey, remember the other members of the team?

While Murphy, Fearless, and the Nerd are at the ark and Isis is at Camp 2, our remaining players (Vern, Token Turk, the Dick, and Larry the Photo Guy) are…flying around.

We actually cut backwards in time here, to the guys as they are heading back to town.  As they get to a gorge, Larry the Photo Guy asks Vern to land the chopper so he can get some pictures of it flying against the backdrop of Mount Ararat.

And as Vern messes about in the sky, flying the Huey this way and that at Larry’s direction…

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Larry presses a BIG RED BUTTON and sends the Huey, along with Vern, Token Turk, and the Dick, into a gorge in a giant ball of flame.

And I know at least one of my loyal readers feels VINDICATED right now.

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Now, as to reader predictions, there were several with regard to Vern Teh Pilot—that he would survive by virtue of being a character with a pregnant wife, or that he would be martyred by virtue of being a character with a pregnant wife.

AND VERN SURVIVES!!!

His “sixth sense of a combat veteran” had allowed him to ditch the Huey a split second before the explosion, leaving the Dick and Token Turk to be roasted.

So, as Larry the Photo Guy hikes down the mountain and talks to his handlers (note: it is not clear whether Larry was hired by the CIA, the Seven (they’ll stop at nothing), or somebody else), Vern chills in a snowbank (HAHAHAHA GET IT???) and thinks about his time in Vietnam.

WAIT, WHAT???

Vern was in VIETNAM???

But…butbutbut…in Chapter 17, Murphy and Vern reminisced about being in Kuwait together, which makes a helluva lot more sense if we’re talking about two guys in their late 30s to early 40s.

But now, Vern, with a toddler son and pregnant wife is remembering his days in Vietnam?

How the hell old is Vern supposed to be?

Hey, LaHaye and Phillips?  My dad was in the Vietnam Lottery.  In 2004 (the year this book came out), he was 52 years old.  Not that there is anything wrong with having kids later in life, OR being friends with someone 15 years older or younger than yourself, but can we try for a little consistency here?  Kthxbai.

So, here are our standings:

Murphy: Railing KO, still on the ark

Isis: Very chilly, at Camp 2

Fearless Gum-Popping Leader: Working for CIA bad guys, martial arted by Talon, DEAD

Señor SEAL: Climbing rope cut by Fearless, DEAD

The Nerd: Neck snapped by Fearless, DEAD

Token Turk: On helicopter when Larry the Photo Guy exploded it, DEAD

The Dick: On helicopter when Larry the Photo Guy exploded it, DEAD

Larry the Photo Guy: Working for undisclosed bad guys, heading down Ararat

Vern: Survived the helicopter crash, having ‘Nam flashbacks in a snowbank

Talon: On his way to bury the ark in an avalanche

TSoA: Chapter 44: The Showdown

Having left Isis, and Evil-Fearless and Dead-Nerd alone, Murphy blithely makes his way back to the ark.  His mind is most certainly not on how he split up the team that he so very much wants to keep safe:

…he was thinking about Noah and how he must have begged people to come aboard and escape God’s judgment.  And yet, only eight people were saved in the Flood.

Murphy makes it sound like these were eight volunteers.  But no, they were Noah’s wife and their sons and their wives.  In other words, people not exactly in a position to say no.

He was imagining the awesome sense of responsibility…

…much like the sense of responsibility one might feel to the members of a “discovery team” that one had dragged onto a mountain.  I AM NEVER GETTING OVER THIS.

…and Noah’s sadness at his failure to convince more people of the truth of his message.

Oh, Noah’s a big sack of fail, granted.  Then again, it’s not like God spoke directly to anyone else about this flood.

Huh, it’s almost like God was setting Noah up to fail.

And he began to feel some of the same weight of responsibility himself.

Responsibility was a new feeling for Murphy, since he’s never felt it for his students or his team members or the woman he professes to love.

When the next judgment comes, we have to make sure more people heed God’s warnings, he thought to himself.

As opposed to thinking to someone else.

Back at the ark, Murphy actually has to think about what is going on in the NOW, since he discovers the Nerd’s murdered body:

Suddenly things started to click into place.

I like to imagine Murphy desperately trying to shove a square peg into a round hole here.

So [Fearless] had killed [Señor SEAL].  And now [the Nerd].  [Fearless] had seemed extremely interested in the Philosopher’s Stone.

Um, it’s the secret to alchemy, Murphy.  I’d actually be a lot more suspicious of somebody who wasn’t interested in it.

And then Murphy sees Fearless’s head, which, in a tribute to slasher movies villains, Talon has chopped off and posed on a beam.

Okay, okay, he also did it to test out the Singing Sword.

Then, in a tribute to stupid villains everywhere, Talon appears with the Singing Sword…which he promptly drops so he and Murphy can have a “fair” fight.

image

They fight like MANLY MEN for a minute, but Talon quickly tires of the whole “fair fight” idea.  So instead of grabbing the Singing Sword again, he deploys his throwing knives.

Because that makes a lot more sense than using his razor finger or a gun or the most magical, awesome sword in the history of the world.

Talon throws his blade and Murphy tries to pull a Neo/Hansel slow-mo duck…

But the Murph-ster just can’t compete with such bad-assery…

…without thinking he dived to his right, connecting with the safety railing guarding the central air shaft.  The ancient wood shattered like matchsticks and he tumbled down into the darkness.

RAILING KILL!

No, sadly, it is only a Railing Knock-Out.  And NOW Talon pays tribute to Bond villains—instead of finishing Murphy off when he has the chance, Talon just trusts that his plan to bury the ark in an avalanche will bury Murphy, too.

Talon sets off to plant explosives, secure in the knowledge that there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY Murphy can get out of this.

I’m not sure if this is better or worse than leaving his keys at the crime scene, but this really doesn’t make Talon the most respectable villain ever.

TSoA: Chapter 43: Isis All Alone

Since Murphy is so very concerned about the safety of his team, and especially Isis…he has left Isis all alone at Camp 2.

All by herself.  With no satellite phone, either.

Because he cares about her safety so very much.

Yeah, just…um…just go with it.

(Oh, and note that Fearless’s murderous plan as to Isis was simply to leave her to freeze.  Looks like he understood exactly how protective of her Murphy really is.)

So, instead of translating and studying the oldest writing known to man, Isis breaks down and packs up two of the six tents at Camp 2.  I realize this is no easy work, being on a mountain and all, but I kinda get the feeling that LaHaye and Phillips assigned her this task because it is “feminine” and “domestic.”

A blizzard kicks up, and Isis takes cover in one of the remaining tents, and I can’t help but feel that this is the very situation where it would help to have a mountaineering companion.

But no.  It is time for Isis to take her first tentative steps towards being a full-fledged RTC and helpmeet to her RTC Man.

Sitting alone in the raging blizzard…

She felt herself give something up—the pretense that she could control things, that she was in charge—and at the same time she felt herself inviting something else in.

Ha!  Silly nonbelieving Isis!  Thinking for a moment that she was “in charge” and controlling everything.

Wait…atheists don’t think that.

I hear this so often from RTCs online and on TV and radio.  “Atheists think they are their own gods, that they’re totally in control of everything in their lives.”

Well, except for the weather and everyday events and, oh yeah, THE THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS OF THE BILLIONS OF OTHER HUMANS ON THE PLANET.

Now, certainly these RTCs consider atheists arrogant and foolish, but they must also think that atheists have it really easy.

Weird.

Her thoughts turn, ever so naturally, to Murphy and how he was totally right about everything (of course he was):

[The ark] was proof that the Bible was literally true.  And not just the story of Noah and the ark.

It was proof that one judgment had come.

And that another was surely coming soon.

And that Murphy’s God is a sociopathic mass murderer.

Okay, Isis doesn’t think that.

But she should.

Instead…

If it came now, she wondered, would I be one of the ones on the ark?  Or would I be one of the foolish ones who stayed outside, jeering and laughing until the floodwaters swept them away into oblivion?

Would I be one of the lucky women, bound by marriage to the only man who got direct word from God?  Or would I be one of the millions who never even met this “Noah” person or heard about a worldwide flood that would kill anyone who had the temerity not to listen to one crazy old man?

Oh, Isis.  It saddens me, seeing you walk down this road.

And, proving that she is a much nicer person than RTC Murphy, Isis prays…for him.

If the judgment comes now, God, please look kindly on Murphy.  If I can make a difference by praying about it, please spare him…

It’s pretty interesting that Isis adds that bit—if I can make a difference by praying about it.  After all, isn’t Murphy’s God supposed to be all-knowing, to have everything planned out, to know already exactly what will happen?  I mean, he already knows what’s going to happen to Murphy—why would Isis’s prayer make a difference?

So, yeah, Isis prays for Murphy, but not for herself, even though she’s the one alone in a blizzard.  She falls asleep, and when she wakes up, the blizzard is over.

But her headlamp goes out.

And I just can’t help but observe that her situation might be improved if another human being was with her at Camp 2.

But she is alone.  On a mountain.  In the dark.

Because Murphy cares very much.