As you recall, last week, Judd and Lionel finally made it to the states, but horrors of horrors! They were captured by bounty hunters in South Carolina.
Most of the first chapter of this book is taken up with the bounty hunters arguing with one another. I suppose all these arguing scenes are supposed to reveal character and further build tension as to what's going to happen to Judd and Lionel, but given that I've read the Wikipedia page on this series...yeah...Even if I hadn't read the Wikipedia page, I still wouldn't feel any tension because we're up to book 35 AND NONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS HAVE COME TO ANY LASTING HARM! With, of course, the exception of Ryan, but Ryan was the kids series' Butt Monkey so I don't know if he counts. Bottom line when it comes to these books: once you've figured out each character and the role they're supposed to play in the plot, then you can pretty much predict everything that will happen to them from here on out.
We get a brief interlude from Vicki. She's all concerned and upset unlike the rest at the Wisconsin hideout who are kind of "Meh" about it. I suppose it'd make sense they'd be kind of "Meh" about the whole thing. Given the massive deaths over the past few years, there's gotta be some massive cases of PTSD going on, but on the other hand, none of the characters act like they're suffering from anything worse than a stubbed toe, so yeah...Also, I guess it'd make sense that, unlike Vicki, they're not immediately going "OMG! We've gotta rescue them!" given that they know whatever happens to Judd and Lionel, they'll immediately get bamfed into heaven. They've said The Prayer; they've purchased their one-way tickets.
Somehow Lionel got a hold of a pocket knife. He tries using it to cut the plastic ties holding him and Judd but fails. I'll give the bounty hunters credit for not being completely rock-stupid like pretty much all the characters in this series, in that they didn't choose something that Our Brave Heroes could easily cut through.
The chapter ends with Judd thinking about Vicki and praying, wondering naturally how this fits into God's big plan. We do get another mention of Bruce "Useless" Barnes. Apparently, Bruce was fond of saying, “Pray as if everything depends on God, but work as if everything depends on you.” This saying made me raise an eyebrow and I consulted Google to find out who originally said it, but I couldn't get a definitive answer. Just know that this saying, like the RTC's favorite saying "God helps those who help themselves," isn't actually in the Bible. BTW, if you know the original author of the RTC's favorite saying without googling, congratulations, you win a No-Prize. You may dedicate it to anyone you like. I just find it funny how RTCs credit God for helping them with little stuff like finding a parking space, yet when they meet someone in real trouble (like say, poverty), they whip out that saying.
Next chapter, Judd is all "I don't wanna die!" He tries to reach for Lionel's knife, but fails. Lionel, however, is calm, saying that God is running the show and he's taken care of us thus far, so he'll take care of us to the end. Yeah...I don't really need to point out the myriad ways God has shown his love for his people again, do I? Though this whole series makes a lot more sense if you substitute "the authors" every time they say "God."
Lionel admits that before they left Petra, he had a dream about a sharp blade dripping with his blood. Judd's like, "Why didn't you tell me?" Lionel's response makes me smile. He says, essentially, that before he had a dream that he was riding in the pouch of a kangaroo over an ocean, so there was no reason to tell him the dream about the blade.
The truck they're riding in comes to a stop. Weapon fire breaks out and we cut to Vicki.
Vicki is in tears, blaming herself because she was the one who told Judd to take that flight to South Carolina. Shelly tries to comfort her, saying they've just got to trust God, and we get the first indication of some kind of PTSD in this story.
“Trust God?!” Vicki screamed. “We trusted God for Bruce, and look what happened to him. We trusted God for Ryan, and he still got trapped during the earthquake. We trusted God for Natalie and Zeke’s dad and Chaya. There’s a long list we’ve trusted to God, and they’re all dead.” Shelly looked at the floor, and Vicki shoved her face back into the pillow. “He and Lionel are going to die and it’s because of me.”
And another mention of Ryan! I suppose this passage isn't too bad--a workmanlike demonstration of PTSD--but I do have to point out how apparently only the proud owner of a set of ovaries gets PTSD. Apparently manly RTCs aren't at all affected their comrades dying in droves.
Shelly's like "It's all part of God's plan and he's in control." But Vicki continues to behave like a human and isn't comforted by Shelly's platitudes.
“It’s too hard! I don’t want to be part of his plan anymore. I don’t want to hide or worry about how we’re going to eat or if the GC is going to come rushing in on us any moment. Why does God expect so much?”
Applaud this brief moment where a teenager under a mountain of stress, actually behaves like a teenager. I assure you, it won't last long. It is a little weaksauce because you know the writers would never go so far as to have one of their protagonists renounce God or say anything close to this awesome speech by Mister Smith from the sadly short-lived TV series, Jeremiah.
“I can’t do this anymore. You hear me? I can’t do it anymore! I didn’t ask to be the chosen. I don’t want to be the chosen, I’m tired of being the chosen. So choose somebody else for a change! You got nothing to say? I know you can hear me. Pick now to go quiet? Well damn you. Damn you for doing this to me. And damn me for not blowing my brains out. That’d really mess your plans up, wouldn’t it? I don’t want to know what I know! I shouldn’t have to know the things I know, not if I can’t do anything about it!”
BTW, if you haven't seen the series "Jeremiah," the whole thing's available for free on Hulu. Go, watch, and see how it succeeds in every way unlike Ellanjay who fail in every way.
Shelly utters a few more platitudes, hugs Vicki, and says she'll stay with Vicki until they hear more about Lionel and Judd.
The Judd section begins with a sentence that makes me say, "What?!"
Judd flinched when shotgun pellets slammed against the truck bed and left dents in the metal.
I said "What?!" because I thought they used laser weapons in the LB-verse, but maybe Nicky only lets his followers use them and RTCs must make do with ordinary guns. Or maybe this is like the Power Rangers SPD-verse and lasers come out in pellet form? Yeah, I realize no one but me will get that reference but hey, it made me smile.
I'll sum up this boring action scene. Turns out Tom (who had escaped earlier) and Luke have come to rescue them. They shoot Albert (aka One Arm) provoking this brief inner monologue from Judd.
Albert lay on the ground, holding his stomach and panting. Judd felt a strange mix of anger and pity toward the man. A few months ago Judd would have prayed for him and tried to convince him of the truth about God. Now that Albert had the mark of Carpathia, Judd knew his fate was sealed. He felt sorry the man had no chance for heaven, but he was mad at him for trying to harm believers.
Me, I'm kind of confused by this whole thing, mostly because Ellanjay, who can't bear for their characters to have any shades of grey, but did they kill the guy or not? Given that he was a threat to them, I suppose it'd be justified if he did die, but the way they act later, cuffing him up...I'm reading and rereading trying to figure out whether they actually shot them with actual bullets or if they used lasers (which would totally contradict the first sentence of the Judd section) or what in Glob's name is going on here? To soothe my anguished soul, I'm going to post a clip from The Ember Island Players.
Anyway, to sum things up, Tom and Luke free Judd and Lionel and make it to the South Carolina hideout.
Judd sat with his back to the shack, his head in his hands. He had been prepared to die, to give his life, and God had used Luke to spare it again. He patted his pockets, forgetting Max had taken his cell phone.
Again, common motif in RTCianity: God gets credit for all the good (even though, Luke was the one who did all the heavy-lifting) and none of the bad. When a firefighter rushes into a burning building and saves a dozen children, God was acting through him. If a serial killer rushes into a building and kills a dozen children, then there's blather about free will and how God's totally not responsible for this.
The chapter ends with this line:
Lionel smiled at Judd. “Who did you want to call?”
And if you can read this without shouting, "Ghostbusters!" than you're a stronger person than I am. But seriously, I think I'll end my snark there for this week. Thought about throwing on a third chapter given how skimpy this snark was, but decided against it.