But before we get to talking about RTC hangups regarding sex, we start off with Judd and Westin, who are basically hiding in a hole-in-the-ground, just like they've done for 90% of this series. Because we could follow Klaus and Rainer, aka those guys who are taking on the GC in order to keep them from finding their hideout, but that level of excitement might actually raise the readers' pulses a little and we can't have that.
But horrors of horrors! The only TV they have done in the hole-in-the-ground is broken, so Judd and Westin can't watch the GC broadcast and make sarcastic quips about it. Quelle horror...
Ellanjay, as though anticipating my complaints about Judd and Westin are the least interesting characters right now (because they could be doing something, anything besides squatting underground), do have Westin make a token protest about how he didn't feel right having others fight for him. Surprisingly enough, Judd doesn't chastise him for forgetting the sacred RTC duty of Doing Nothing, but as you probably guessed, the complaint is dropped pretty quickly and nothing comes of it. Spoiler alert: Judd and Westin accomplish Jack in this chapter. I know, you're shocked too.
Westin quotes a passage from Psalm 147 and talks about how he used to believe he was hot stuff, but now has decided that if God wants to use him, he'll let him use him however he wants. In his words: "If it means I’m flying supplies, that’s great. If it means I’m holed up in this dark, stinky septic tank, that’s okay.”
Yeah...I suppose I could point them towards this poem by St. Teresa of Avila but given that Teresa of Avila was :gasp: a Catholic and RTCs have traditionally held a dim view of Catholics (though Roe vs. Wade has forced the two sides into an uneasy alliance), I don't think they'd get the message. Because even though I know the PMDs believe that this cockamamie scheme must go forth, that God cannot change his mind (though chapter four of Jonah proves that he can), but even still, the Tribbles could be doing stuff, besides making disdainful comments while hiding away from Nicky. But everyone knows that all that BS about feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, clothing the naked, and visiting the imprisoned, would only cut into valuable gloating time.
Eventually the rest of the German believers show up and we hear about the fate of Klaus and Rainer. Of course, it's told secondhand, robbing it of any emotional impact and you can't help but think that it would have been more exciting to ACTUALLY WITNESS IT FIRSTHAND RATHER THAN SPEND A FEW PAGES WITH JUDD AND WESTIN CONTEMPLATING THEIR NAVELS! But as one of those heathen Methodists, my judgment might be faulty.
I'm going to quote the conversation about Klaus and Rainer's fate. I weighed out whether or not to promote them to the League of Awesome Characters Who Are Totally Off on in their Own Books Doing Awesome Stuff While the Tribbles Dick Around Doing Nothing (League of Awesome, for short), but while they're much more interesting than the Tribbles, didn't see enough in their short appearance onscreen to warrant adding them to the League of Awesome. As of right now, the League consists of Taylor, Hasina, Joel, and Dr. Rose. If anyone knows of any other characters to add to the list, let me know.
“We need to stay here for a while,” Gunther said. “The Peacekeepers are back, but we’re hoping they won’t find our hideout.”
“What about Rainer and Klaus?” Westin said.
“But not before they took a half dozen GC with them,” a younger man said.
“What happened?” Judd said.
“Rainer and Klaus tried to get the GC to chase them away from the safe house,” Gunther said. “It worked for a while, but then the GC surrounded them. After a firefight, the GC won.”
“We’re kicking ourselves for not going to their rescue,” Helga said. “We should have at least used the remote guns.”
“You know that wouldn’t have done any good,” Gunther said.
Judd thought of Rainer’s wife. They were together now, reunited in heaven.
“Why didn’t you set off the booby traps?” Westin said.
Helga sat forward and took some beef jerky from a tin. “We left the entrance on automatic. If the GC find it and crawl inside, the whole place will go up. All the evidence will be destroyed.”
Uh, Helga, I know I keep harping on this point and I keep wanting to hit up aunursa and find out if the series ever bothers to address my reoccurring complaint, but why exactly do the RTCs shy away from martyrdom? They have what none of their readers ever get: actual proof that all this shit is real. They know that when they die, they can spend the rest of the Tribulation living it up in Heaven as opposed to squatting in a hole and eating canned food on Earth, in addition to numerous other perks given to those who die before TurboJesus comes. So like I keep saying WHY AREN'T THEY ACTIVELY SEEKING MARTYRDOM EVERY TIME THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTS ITSELF?!
After that conversation, we cut to Vicki and here's where we get into all that stuff about sex and consent that I was mentioning earlier. Once again, I apologize for the repetitiveness of it all, but then again, Ellanjay are much more repetitive than I am. Plus, I like to think my rants are more enjoyable to read.
Vicki's wringing her hands about how she can't contact Judd when one of the YTF, Shelly, emerges from the background. Increasingly I start to wonder if the Minor Characters don't just clump together into a big cloud, breaking off from the Collective only when the script says it's their turn to be onstage and say a few lines.
If you're wondering, Shelly's turn onstage involves her relationship with Conrad. Aka that relationship that is never seen and the only reason I know the existence of it, is periodically Vicki narrates about it. First time it was mentioned, was several books back where she said that Shelly and Conrad were getting close. Since we never actually saw them interact with each other, I keep debating whether this relationship qualifies as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment or is more a case of Strangled by the Red String. Yeah, I don't know what I did in the dark days before TV Tropes either.
Anyway, that was the extent of their mentioning of Conrad and Shelly's relationship until the last book where it was mentioned that they were fighting. Like I said, it was quickly brought up and no one bothered to explore it any further. I had no idea why they were fighting. Their sudden anger towards one another was as inexplicable as their love for each other.
But Vicki finally asks "What's going on between you and Conrad?" And I'm fighting the urge to have Shelly say, "The writers decided that they didn't want to share a solid-gold Humvee so they brought this up again to pad out the book." I know, you're getting tired of all the jokes about padding, but dammit! They make it so easy! Lesser writers follow the rules of fiction where there's a clear narrative arc with a rising action and a climax, followed by falling action and a denouement. Lesser writers actually understand the principle of Chekhov's Gun in that if you mention a plot element, it has to pay off at some point down the road. Or in other words, HAVING ALL THIS PERTINENT CHARACTER/PLOT DEVELOPMENT COME WAY THE HELL OUT OF NOWHERE AND HAVE NO BEARING ON ANYTHING THAT IS TO FOLLOW, IS REALLY SHITTY WRITING!
Well anyway, here's Shelly's tale of woe:
She paused a moment more, then looked at Vicki. “We were fixing up one of the cabins with Charlie—this was before the heat wave and before Judd came back.
Charlie ran for some supplies, and Conrad asked if he could kiss me. I got kind of uncomfortable. We had both said we wouldn’t put ourselves in a situation where we were alone together, you know, so we wouldn’t be tempted. When I hesitated, he thought I didn’t like him anymore. Then I tried to explain and things really got bad. I know it was only a kiss, but I just didn’t feel right.”
“You guys talked after that, right?”
“Shouted is more like it. He said if I didn’t trust him that we should break things off and just be friends. But we haven’t been, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
I suppose I could make the obvious point of how of course, they just kissed. Because one of the rules of Christian Fiction is, "You can't have any of the characters, even the bad guys, commit any sins, especially not the heinous act of intercourse."
But if Ellanjay had allowed it to get any further, like have Conrad cop a feel or something, then once again, they'd find themselves in uncomfortable territory. On one hand, Conrad is a teenage boy and we can't expect a teenage boy to do something as gauche as control themselves and respect their partner's wishes, but on the other hand, Shelly was probably tempting him, what with her being all female and whatnot. It was her fault for being by herself and advertising how blatantly female she is, what with her ankle-length skirt and those bumps in her shirt.
:headdesk: And people say feminists are the ones with regressive views of men. Funny thing, RTCs, we feminists actually believe that men are something more than a mangy alley cat driven to screw everything in sight. We actually believe that they are capable of controlling themselves like humans do. But then again, we're just weird that way what with our insistence that it's consent that matters when it comes to sex, not the participants' gender/marital status, so what do we know.
“I think you did the right thing saying no,” Vicki said. “Something in your gut told you it didn’t feel right.”
“But Conrad’s nice. He would never do anything—”
“Doesn’t matter,” Vicki said. “If you feel something’s not good and you push that down, you stop listening to the voice God gave you.”
“What do you mean, ‘voice’?”
“I think God gives us something inside that tells us when things don’t feel right. The times when I got into the most trouble, before I became a believer, were times when I didn’t listen to that feeling, that voice that was telling me to watch out. And I know a lot of other girls who’ve had those same feelings but didn’t listen to them because they were afraid they’d hurt somebody’s feelings.”
In the interest of trying to be a little less relentlessly negative, I will say that at least they didn't have Vicki say something about how she shouldn't have been alone with this guy or tempted him by being all female. But what they do have her say...it's not much of an improvement. Because what if Shelly hadn't been able to get away? What if Conrad had tried to take it further and didn't back down as soon as she started objecting? Do I need to go any further with this line of thinking?
Vicki advises Shelly to talk to Conrad, saying that maybe he feels as bad about all this as she does. Then Shelly, recognizing that Vicki is a Main Character aka someone who matters above all else, turns the conversation back to her. And I have a feeling this is the extent of the Shelly-Conrad subplot. Next time they bring it up, I bet it'll be a one line deal where Vicki makes some off-hand statement about how they were fighting but they've totally made up now.
Vicki talks about Token Jew's latest missive about all the children in the millennial kingdom and all that. Vicki seems quite excited about taking care of the kids and that's about it.
We cut back to Judd. Judd and the Germans have been doing nothing but hiding for two days. Since the story has given me nothing else to talk about, I'm forced to start thinking about logistics. Like what are they doing, bathroom-wise? If they're going with a traditional septic-style system (because you know Ellanjay would look at you blankly if you brought up composting toilets), well, those will still have to be periodically cleaned out, so they're still connected to the grid. I suppose I could try to guess how many people are hiding down there, so I can make some guess at how long before the system fills up and the ration situation, but this is probably one of those things that only a Doomsday Prepper Buff* like myself would care about.
Anyway, the alarms aren't working at the hideout and the chapter ends with this futile attempt at suspense.
A group rushed down the hall, and Judd thought someone was coming with food. Then he heard the click of rifles and shouts from the kitchen. Helga jumped up and darted for the hall but stopped dead in her tracks.
A GC Peacekeeper stuck a gun through the door. “On the floor! Now!”
Yeah, I'm not even going to bother to read ahead for next week, because we all know this will come to absolutely nothing, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER TIME A TRIBBLE WAS CAPTURED BY THE GC! BECAUSE ELLANJAY APPARENTLY BELIEVE THAT THEIR AUDIENCE CONSISTS OF ELDERLY HEART PATIENTS WHO CAN'T HANDLE ANY EXCITEMENT!
Though to be fair, that might be an insult to elderly heart patients.
Anyway that's it for this week. Take care of yourselves until next week.
*Please don't judge me: we all have our guilty pleasures. If you're wondering, most of those people on the show, I just think, "Boys and their toys," some are deluded psychos (Tyler Smith, season three), but there are a few where you're like, "If something goes down, I totally want this guy on my side."