If it sounds like I'm rushing through the first chapter, it's because I am. There really isn't a lot going on that's snarkworthy, so I'll just give you the gist for now.
So Natalie's washing her eyes out and sticking with her story as the deputy commander questions her. You'd think, given her weaksauce answers (when asked the handcuffs, she plays dumb and says she thought she had cuffed him), but as always Good triumphs because Evil is dumb.
Vicki is driving along following the instructions Mark had given her.
Meanwhile, after many long chapters of being ignored, we cut to Lionel, who is thinking about Judd, and tell me there isn't just the slightest bit of Ho Yay in all this. Before you accuse me of reaching, I'll admit that maybe I am, but I'm fully in favor of anything that adds more slash to the LB-verse.
Lionel Washington sensed an old feeling creeping up on him. Judd was at it again, doing what he thought was right and not caring about anyone else. Though they had fought during their time together in Israel and in New Babylon, Lionel liked Judd. It was impossible not to like him. But when Judd made up his mind, nothing and no one could stop him.
Don't ask me what Judd is doing that Lionel finds so objectionable. For the most part, all Judd's been doing is praying and trying to make arrangements to get back home. Though there was that conversation with that C.W. guy. Maybe that's it, but don't quote me on this: I'm not positive.
Lionel goes downstairs to the hotel buffet to get some breakfast. Conveniently enough, there's a television present allowing Ellanjay to do their favorite trick of having the characters witness world-changing events via TV.
Leon comes on screen and makes this announcement.
“I want you to know that I will no longer be supreme commander of the Global Community.”
Many around Lionel gasped and the room fell silent.
Leon smiled. “At the potentate’s request, I have accepted, with great enthusiasm I might add, the new position of Most High Reverend Father of Carpathianism. The former Enigma Babylon One World faith will be replaced with a more perfect religion, one that worships a worthy object. That is, the one who raised himself from the dead, Nicolae Carpathia.”
So like I said before the EBOWF plot point went nowhere and did nothing...what was the point of it in the first place? Why not just have Nicky establish worship of himself in the first place?
Frankly I don't blame all the NPCs for flocking to Nicky rather than to Zod. Nicky after all gave a demonstrable show of power that didn't involve killing people horribly. The only time Zod managed that was when he resurrected the GT and no one was at all affected by that.
Leon then discusses the mark.
“Every man, woman, and child, regardless of their station in life, shall receive this mark on their right hand or on their forehead. Those who neglect to get the mark when it is made available will not be allowed to buy or sell until such time as they receive it. Those who overtly refuse shall be put to death, and every marked loyal citizen shall be deputized with the right and the responsibility to report such a one. The mark shall consist of the name of His Excellency or the prescribed number.”
And everyone in this verse just goes along with it. You'd think given the vast amount of horror films about the anti-Christ out there that someone would be like, "Wait a minute..." and have misgivings, but the vast PMD literature doesn't exist in LB-verse. Even though from what I've heard from Fred, Ellanjay do crib quite a bit from other end-times fiction.
A reporter asks what about the Jews and followers of Token Jew*? Leon just chuckles and is like, "Oh those crazy rebels. They'll see that Nicky is Lord."
There is a "What about citizens' rights?" question but it is brushed aside pretty quickly. Frankly if the mark were marketed better than in the weaksauce way Leon is doing it, I could see citizens embracing it. Look at what they've been through in just three-and-a-half years. They've been repeatedly traumatized by disasters and events that make 9/11 look like a picnic in comparison. If there's anything that might make them safer, they would embrace it. Just look at how quickly the Patriot Act was passed following 9/11. It isn't hard to convince people it's in their best interest to give up their rights in a time of crisis. Sure, you'll have a few holdouts, but the majority would give in.
“The miniature biochip will go under the skin as painlessly as a vaccination. It takes only a matter of seconds. Citizens may choose either their hand or their forehead. The procedure will leave a thin, half-inch scar, and to its immediate left will be the home region number in black ink. Some may also choose the initials NJC or even the name Nicolae, which would cover the left side of the forehead.
“The embedded chip will not only give evidence of loyalty to the potentate, but also will serve as a method of payment and receipt for buying and selling.”
They mentioned earlier that children had to take the mark as well. I'm going to assume that most of them will still be covered by the "Age of Accountability" rule and won't be sent to Hell for all eternity when TurboJesus returns, but Chang Wong can't be the only person in the whole LB-verse who gets the mark against his will.
The chapter ends with this:
Lionel grabbed the tray of food and walked to the elevator. Fortunato could fool members of the press and other viewers, but followers of God knew what was about to happen. Those who took the mark would lose their souls for eternity. Those who didn’t would lose their heads. Simple as that.
Just out of curiosity, aunursa, do all the RTCs know about Chloe's Magical Co-op? If so, how's that even possible? Do Ellanjay think that RTCs have a hive mind and that all you need to tap into it is to become one yourself? Because if that's not the case, I can see a lot of Christians starving to death or dying, but then again, the desperately poor are already likely dead in the LB-verse. After all, all the water's undrinkable and this habit of stockpiling for disaster is something that only the relatively well-off can afford.
Next chapter, the GC have gotten a lead on Vicki and what follows is again, more cloak-and-dagger-stuff. Mark is trying to direct Vicki to the new hideout but horrors of horrors! The battery on her phone dies!
Judd and Lionel meanwhile are walking around, looking at statues of Nicky and prayer cloths of him as well, and talking. Lionel worries that meeting up with C.W. is a bad idea, but Judd thinks that he's genuine, because no one in the GC would ever think to pretend to be an RTC online in order to trap traitors to the cause. That's unpossible.
As, Judd is walking along, we get one of the few instances of mourning in this verse, plus some actually decent writing.
As Judd made his way to the park, he noticed freshly planted trees and a new water fountain. He sat on a bench and looked at the beautiful garden. The last time he had been in the area, Nada had been waiting.
He whispered her name and a wave of emotion swept over him. He had recently e-mailed Sam and asked him to pass along some questions to Nada’s mother. “Why did you choose the name Nada?” Judd had asked.
“In some countries the name means ‘hope,’ ” Nada’s mother answered. “That certainly fits her personality. She was full of hope and promise for the future. But in our part of the world the name means ‘giving.’ ”
Judd closed his eyes. Giving. That definition fit as well. Nada had given her life for him, jumping in front of a jailer just as the man’s gun fired. One moment she was full of life, the next she was on the floor, her breath and blood escaping like some wounded animal’s.
Once again, I want to give the authors props for having one of their protags show basic human decency.
The chapter ends with Vicki and Darrion and Charlie trying frantically to hide their car by piling stuff on it. Since, I've peeked at the wiki, plus since Vicki's not an NPC, I'm not the least bit worried so I won't try to recount it, even though they try at suspense by giving us a cliffhanger ending.
*Forgive me but I refuse to use the term "Judah-ites." It just galls me.