Also, am I the only one wondering if Lionel got the Chuck Cunningham treatment? Because we haven't seen hide nor hair of him in ages and I'm wondering if Ellanjay or the ghostwriter just flat-out forgot about him. Not that I'm a huge fan of his character, but it's a telltale sign of bad writing when the writer can't keep track of one of the main characters in their book.
The chapter begins with Vicki, Darrion, Mark, and Shelly getting together and talking about Nicky's speech. Naturally, they're offended by it, but we don't dwell on this long as they receive a phone call from Conrad telling him that Melinda is nowhere to be found, which forces them to conclude that she disobeyed them and came to the school.
Next section has Judd bravely watching television. Lionel makes a brief appearance at the beginning as he and Sam are talking about the new schools, but the bulk of this section is devoted to Judd watching television. Naturally, Nicky makes an appearance and gives this speech:
There is probably no one more dangerous on the face of the planet as this religious zealot, Tsion Ben-Judah. The man tried to kill me before thousands of witnesses at Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem more than a year ago. He is in league with the two old radicals who spit their hatred from the Wailing Wall and boast that they have poisoned the drinking water. Is it so much of a stretch to believe that this cult would wage germ warfare on the rest of the world? They themselves clearly have developed some antidote, because you do not hear of one of them falling victim. Rather, they have invented a myth no thinking man or woman can be expected to swallow. They would have us believe that our loved ones and friends are being killed by roving bands of giant horsemen riding half horses/half lions, which breathe fire like dragons. Of course, the believers, the saints, can see these monstrous beasts.
Have to give Nicky props for finally showing some basic villain cred in blaming a hated minority. Yes, we could quibble as to whether or not RTC-ianity really qualifies as a hated minority but in this universe they do, so give Nicky props for choosing to focus everyone's hatred on the RTCs. Just as I want to throw a parade everytime the RTC characters demonstrate basic decency, I also wanna do the same whenever the villains demonstrate basic villainy.
So Vicki goes looking for Melinda only to run into a morale monitor. The morale monitor asks what she's doing and Vicki b.s.es about wanting to find her friend so she doesn't miss Nicky's speech. But when she is asked Melinda's name, Vicki blanks (she knows Melinda wouldn't use her real name but doesn't know her alias). She takes of running and the Morale Monitors come after her.
Meanwhile, Mark is in the arena looking for Melinda when a guy named Dr. Neal Damosa comes up to give a speech. I have no idea if this character appears in the adult books but props for giving a villainous character a decent name. But anyway, Mark and the other RTCs get a taste of the horrible persecution that awaits them when Damosa calls an RTC by name, questions him, then has him arrested. The section ends with Melinda being pulled onstage.
Vicki rushes into the auditorium and sees Melinda on stage. Apparently, the morale monitors had set up a booth and offered free materials from Token Jew; when Melinda stopped to take a look, they arrested her. Frankly I'm not sure how I feel about this villainous scheme. It's better than very evilly allowing their enemies to gather at the Teddy Kollek stadium in Israel and very evilly broadcasting their evil message worldwide so millions can convert, but not by much.
The chapter ends with Judd and the others in Israel seeing the 200 million horsemen ready to attack. Me, I'm just wondering if these are the same horsemen as the lion-headed snake-tailed flying people killers as earlier.
Vicki is trying to think of how to save Melinda when she is recognized. She takes off running, gets caught, and falls down. That's seriously all that happens.
Meanwhile, Judd watches the 200 million kill people with a dispassionate eye, not even bothering to shed tears or try to revive them or anything. Again, when the anti-Christ is the most sympathetic character in what is essentially Christian fanfiction, you've failed miserably.
Vicki scrambles to her feet and tries to run away, but the GC is hot on her trail. Luckily Mark shows up and manages to distract them with a "She went thataway!" bit causing me to headdesk. I think the thugs in a Bugs Bunny cartoon would be smart enough not to fall for that.
Vicki runs and hides in the bathroom only to be saved by an RTC named Natalie, who is working as a morale monitor. They meet up with Melinda who is handcuffed next to a dead morale monitor. Now you'd think being stuck next to a dead person would be somewhat traumatizing, but Melinda isn't the least bit shakened by the experience.
Even though, I'm grinding my teeth at the sheer inhumanity these characters are demonstrating, I will give them one thing: Mark does scream, "We have to help them!" when the plaza explodes. It's such a small thing to celebrate but given how inhumane eveyone is in the Ellanjay-verse, I have to celebrate whatever I can.
Vicki and the others try to help as many of the others trapped inside as they can, but eventually they have to leave, but horrors of horrors! They've got a flat! But Mark has an idea and that's where the second chapter end and I think I'll end my snark there. I know this is kind of a short one, but there's a lot going on in the next few chapters and I don't want this snark to be too long.