The first chapter begins with an action scene, which like I said before, would be suspenseful if I gave a shit. To be fair, this time one of them, Lionel, does come to some lasting harm, but given all the other previous action scenes I've suffered through in which nothing happened...yeah, it comes across as "too little, too late." Besides the only differences between Lionel and Judd is that Judd is older and Lionel is Black. Someone wanna tell Ellanjay that being Black isn't a personality trait?
Okay enough stalling.
Judd escapes the rockslide. He walks around looking for Lionel, growing increasingly worried as he hears no response. He freaks out when he hears a hiss and leaps fifteen feet to the ground. If they hadn't mentioned a specific number, I wouldn't be fussing over this but since they did (and since as I told aunursa, this series gives me nothing else to think about), I have to raise an eyebrow. Y'see when I was eighteen, I fell ten to twelve feet out of a tree and broke my femur. They had to put a metal rod in it to put it back together and I was on crutches for four months afterwards.* So yeah, I've got to question the idea that Judd could make that leap and be fine afterwards. They say something about his knees aching but I'm still calling bullshit here.
Interspaced with all this stuff about Lionel and Judd, is mentions about Vicki and Cheryl. Cheryl is justifiably freaked out and is demanding pain medicine. Vicki wants to give her an aspirin. But Josey vetoes this, pointing out, in a rare show of rationality, that it could hurt the baby and they don't have to equipment to monitor Cheryl's condition. But Cheryl won't stop freaking out, so Josey and Vicki give her a piece of candy, hoping that maybe the placebo effect will help a little.
Judd finds Lionel. Lionel is pinned by a massive boulder on his left arm. Judd tries and tries to find a way to move it, talking all the while to Lionel in order to keep him calm. Eventually Judd realizes that he'll need some kind of mechanical help to remove the boulder. He tries calling the various safe houses he and Lionel had been to, but gets no response.
So he decides to do the only thing he really can do in this situation: pray.
“God, you sent that angel, Anak, to Vicki and the others. It would only take one finger for him to lift this rock and help Lionel. Please, I need your help. I need to get Lionel out of there, and there’s simply no way.”
Now I'm going to spoil it for you: Zod doesn't help them. In fact, according to the wiki, Lionel escapes by cutting off his arm. Granted he gets it back when TurboJesus comes to slaughter everyone, but yeah, remember kids, Satan uses his supernatural powers to save people, which is evil, whereas Zod uses his to murder as many people as possible, which is good. Yeah, the mythos behind the Old Gods makes a helluva lot more sense here. H.P. Lovecraft may have been super racist, but at least he didn't claim that Cthulu and the others did what they did out of love for humanity.
Judd manages to, in the midst of all this, call Vicki. Yeah, because she'd be a whole lot of help in a situation like this. Granted she does have connections to other Tribbles who might actually know something, but the more cynical side of me wonders if Judd was more concerned about how this might affect his chances with Vicki than anything else. Because all Jenkins's protagonists are assholes. If you don't believe me, read Rubyfruit's snarkings of the adventures of Paul Stepola. Even the biblical Paul wasn't as big an asshole as Paul Stepola!
The chapter ends with Judd applying a tourniquet to Lionel's arm and continuing to talk to him.
The next chapter begins with Vicki trying to help Cheryl through her labor. There's not really much to snark here. I admit, this is one of the rare occasions where Ellanjay actually do something right in that both Vicki and Cheryl are justifiably freaked out. Vicki admits that even despite all the research she'd done on the Internet, she feels helpless and wishes she could do more to help. Again, I wonder why Judd's still considered the leader of the YTF, given that he and Lionel have been off gallivanting on another continent away from most of the group, while Vicki's been doing the heavy lifting in getting everybody together. I haven't done a conversion count but I'll bet good money that Vicki's racked up more converts than Judd as well. But then again, Vicki doesn't have a penis so she couldn't possibly be a good leader.
After tying the tourniquet, Judd leaves Lionel to go get help at the safe house they'd just walked away from. I suppose this could count as an asshole move on Judd's part. My limited knowledge of first aid says it's probably not a good idea to leave an injured person behind unless you have absolutely no other options. Yeah, about all he could do with Lionel is provide psychological comfort, but hey, that little bit might make all the difference. I'm wondering though, given that he's called Vicki and told her what's going on, WHY THE HELL HASN'T SHE MADE ANY CALLS TO GET HELP FOR HIM AND LIONEL?! Granted, Judd and Lionel are out in the wilderness** so yeah, there'd probably have to be search parties organized in order to find them, but surely some of the Tribbles have some useful skills in this area? Even if they're not totally skilled in Wilderness Survival, one of their super-hackers could probably track the cell tower which registered Judd's call and they can start from there. I may not be an expert on First Aid or Wilderness Survival/Rescue, but I'm fairly certain the sooner you can send out search parties, the better. With every hour they waste dicking around doing nothing...yeah, Lionel should be grateful all he lost was an arm, given how bad his rescuers suck at their jobs.
The next section focuses on Lionel and I have to confess, we get some good writing. Well, okay, good might be too strong of a word, but given how bad this series is, these brief moments of adequacy are like a drop of water in the desert.
Lionel's trying to think about the pain and trying to stay awake, worried that if he gives in and goes to sleep, he might not wake up. I suppose I could wonder why he's so worried about dying given that he knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he'll get bamfed into Heaven after all this, but still, he's seventeen, alone in the wilderness, and in a lot of pain, so I do feel for him a little. After I broke my leg, all I could do was bawl like a baby, even though I knew I wasn't likely to die from what I was going through. Besides, it's kind of nice, as Lionel, in order to keep his mind off the pain, starts thinking about his family for the first time in how many books.
He tries to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and finds himself thinking about food, about how it's been so long since he had a juicy cheeseburger. Apparently, since, y'know the whole Mark of the Beast deal, the Tribbles have had to pretty much survive solely on what they could scrounge up or what the Co-op provides which means, usually something out of a can, or something stale. I could question why everybody isn't surviving on canned food, given that Wormwood's poisoned all the water, killing all plant and animal life, but dammit! Let me enjoy this bit of adequate writing in peace here!
He also reflects on how his life has changed.
How long had it been since he had eaten at a restaurant, walked through a mall, shopped for clothes, or listened to music on the radio? How long since he had done anything normal? The disappearances of his family had been a little more than four years ago, but it seemed like a lifetime.
Four years. Lionel was now seventeen. He should have been looking for his first car, stashing cash to buy some old beater he could call his own.
Yeah, I know, standard post-apocalyptic trope where the character reflects on how much things have changed since the catastrophe happened, but given how rarely the Tribbles demonstrate human reactions, this is refreshing.
He thinks some more about his family, but then hears the sound of wildlife and freaks out. Again, these rare bits of realism in the story...I attribute it all to the Ghostwriter, valiantly trying to tell a decent story despite the boundaries set forth by the almighty Ellanjay. Granted there's only so much the Ghostwriter can do, given that most important trait of any Ellanjay ghostwriter is how well they kiss Ellanjay's asses, but still.
Lionel receives a phone call from Chang. Rather than ask Lionel any useful questions that might help rescuers find him, Chang decides to tell him that the safe house Judd's heading towards is scheduled for a midnight raid by the GC, so Judd's walking into a trap. All Lionel can say is "We have to pray Judd sees them before the GC does" and we get this headdesker of a paragraph.
He put his head on the backpack, closed his eyes, and thought about the people in Salem. He and Judd had stayed with them longer than anyone else on their trip north, and though tempers had flared at times because of the close quarters, Lionel had a deep respect and love for the people.
Yeah, we can really feel the love Lionel has for these people with whom he hasn't exchanged a single word with and whom he doesn't even bother to name. I suppose in a better written series, this could be a sign of Lionel's PTSD kicking in, but yeah...
The chapter ends with Lionel freaking out as he finds himself face to face with a snake.
*You wanna know the worst part of this injury? Granted being on crutches for four months really, really sucks, but for me, the most irritating part was having to explain my injury to everyone. I knew it would happen. It's a human response: when you see someone hobbling around on crutches, the first thing you wanna know is, "What the heck happened?" And I'd have to say, "I fell out of a tree," which led to their immediate response which was, "What were you doing in a tree?" Believe me, the temptation to lie, after awhile, was strong; the only reason I didn't was because I knew I could never keep my stories straight.
**I could point out, like I have so many times before, that there shouldn't be much wilderness left, y'know, with all plant and animal life dead, but yeah, I think you've gotten the message by now.