Anyway, for a brief instance, the GC does demonstrate a basic level of competence. I know, I'm shocked too. Granted it dissipates pretty quickly as yet another Deus Ex Machina intervenes before the characters suffer so much as a bruise, but still. Like I said, I keep thinking I should have named that tag "Villain Always Has a Point" instead of "Strawman Always Has a Point." I've said it before and I'll say it again: this series forces me to side with Satan simply because the heroes are such reprehensible people.
Because you know I love pop culture references, think of the beginning (with the GC demonstrating basic competence) as being like the beginning of Star Wars: Episode IV, where the stormtroopers swoop in and kill everyone aboard Princess Leia's spaceship. They get that one scene of competence than spend the rest of the movie being the idiots who smack their heads on door frames and couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat. Thing is, Star Wars had a sense of fun about the whole deal and had characters you could actually care about, especially Han Solo. :pauses to drool: If you were to ask me who my childhood crushes were, I'd say my first crush was either Han Solo or Tommy Oliver. Yes, that Tommy Oliver from Power Rangers. C'mon, he's awesome!
But I should probably stop talking about Star Wars and childhood crushes and get back to the business at hand.
Judd is all bent out of shape that the GC is swarming the hideout and arresting everyone inside, even though the RTCs are a terrorist group that has repeatedly tried to undermine Nicky's regime and made numerous threats on the lives of Nicky's supporters, siccing God on anyone who dares to oppose them.
Okay to be fair, Nicky is hardly a shining beacon of democracy, but at the same time...it's an old rule I have, regarding stories with heroes and villains: you should be able to tell the difference between the two. If the city of Petra is supposed to be a micro-version of the Kingdom of God, given that previous snarks have demonstrated that Petra is about democratic as North Korea, you know that if Token Jew and his merry band of RTCs were in power, they'd be imprisoning and torturing and executing their enemies as well. But they'd be doing it in the name of TurboJesus, which makes it okay.
As though having heard all my complaints about how for all their bluster, the RTCs are surprisingly afraid of martyrdom, Ellanjay do have Judd narrate about how he's totes not afraid of dying, though he will regret
Anyway, before the Deus Ex Machina steps in and makes all this completely pointless, I thought I'd quote some of the stuff with the GC demonstrating basic competence. Because I feel like celebrating whenever any character does that in this series.
A man with several military medals pinned to his uniform stepped forward, hands clasped behind his back. “I suppose you’re wondering why your little operation didn’t explode when we entered, hmm?”
When no one answered, the man gave a fake smile and continued. “Well, I’ll tell you. After your two friends gave us trouble, we found your guns.” He motioned overhead. “When we uncovered your entrance, instead of barging in, we called in the bomb squad.” He pointed to the side of the house, and Judd saw a gaping hole. “We made a new entrance—hope you don’t mind—found your little bomb, defused it, and waited. What a shock when we heard you enter through the sewers.”
And here's the second example:
The officer squinted. “You have no guns, you have no contact with other rebels, and you have no chance of escape.” He held up a small computer device. “And in this tiny drive I have all the information from your computers. Your contacts, your plans. Everything.”
Helga gave the man a worried look. “Our files are encrypted. You’ll never be able to—”
“With the resources of the Global Community? I’m sure our tech crew will have this figured out by my morning coffee.” He turned to Westin. “You’re crazy to think you can defeat us.”
Okay, I admit in both of those passages, the GC are doing stuff that a Elementary School Hall Monitor would know to do and the second one, given how heavy it is with the "Bwaah-Bwaah!" the guy was basically asking for a Deus Ex Machina to smack him upside the head, but really, I treasure any moment where either side demonstrates basic competence. Though given my love of eighties cheese, yes, I did spend the entire segment picturing the Unnamed GC guy as Cobra Commander.
That's one of the things that really bothers me about the series, not so much that it's bad, but y'know, that it's not entertaining in its badness. Say what you will about how pretty much all those cheesy eighties cartoons existed as twenty-two minute toy commercials, but at least, the people involved, well, they probably knew this was a step above dinner theatre, but hey, a paycheck is a paycheck. Plus, the thing that distinguishes Ellanjay's bad art from all other bad art is, they actually believe this shit will happen at some point in the future, even the part where the Leader of the World rides a giant pig. Say what you will about G.I. Joe and its merits or lack thereof, but I don't think anyone who produced or watched the show, feels like it's an accurate portrayal of the U.S. military. Though given the Right's kneejerk response to anything is either invasion or more guns, maybe I'm wrong there.
Westin is all "Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." To which Unnamed is like, "Yeah, I actually saw someone rise from the dead, so you're little shtick ain't impressing me much," which I have to say, is a very reasoned response. Yeah, the RTCs can chest-thump about how Jesus came back from the dead, but all they've got, are testimonials, many of which were written years after the events depicted, actually happened. Whereas for those of you who've forgotten, Nicky did actually come back to life, sat up in his coffin in front of a massive crowd and a whole lot of cameras. Can't blame people for siding with Nicky given that his side has more solid proof backing up its claims right now.
Anyway, here comes the Deus Ex Machina to save our heroes once again and keep them from experiencing any actual consequences to their actions.
The group had all been cuffed except for Judd and Gunther when the lights went out. Literally. Peacekeepers dropped their weapons and reached to rub their eyes as headlights on the GC cars went dark. Flashlights were useless to the officers. Streetlights disappeared. Judd had seen power outages before. Once his parents had been away and the power went out while he was watching a scary movie in the basement. It had taken him several minutes to find his way upstairs, and it had terrified him.
But this was different. Lights on phones, radios, the dashboards of the squad cars—everything was dark. The incredible thing was, Judd could still see. Everything was a hazy brown, and he could only see about twenty feet, but he could see.
So okay, basically Zod's latest disaster is making everything go dark: no sun or moon or any form of light whatsoever. I suppose I could try to tackle the science of it all, but given that Ellanjay's response to everything (including why everything and everyone isn't dead, despite multiple bombardments from space rocks and poisonings of the world's water supply) is "Goddidit!"
But anyway, what follows is an action scene where Our Heroes take advantage to escape. It's boring as hell, so forgive me for fast-forwarding through it.
Westin pointed to the lead officer, and Judd angled toward the man who sat mumbling on a smoldering piece of wood. He had put his pistol back in its holster and was staring into the darkness.
Westin grabbed the gun and Judd expected the man to lunge or shout, but he just kept mumbling. “My wife. She doesn’t know where I am. We should get word to the others not to come out, not to go into the dark.”
Judd took out his pocketknife and carefully cut a hole in the man’s right front pocket. The computer drive fell out. The Peacekeeper reached for his holster, but the gun was gone.
“You looking for this?” Westin whispered, cocking the gun close to the man’s face. “Not dancing in any blood now, are you?”
“Please,” the man cried, “don’t take my gun.”
Judd picked up the computer drive and took a few steps back. Westin joined him, emptying the gun and tossing it back at the feet of the Peacekeeper. The man picked it up, pointed it at his own head, and pulled the trigger. He pulled again and again, until the clicking of the gun mocked him. The man broke down, falling to the ground and jerking with sobs.
Before anyone says anything, I'm not stupid, I know Ellanjay totally intend for us to be on the side of Judd and laugh at the pathetic GC officer he has completely at his mercy, but I just can't. I'm having uncomfortable flashbacks to another piece of shitty literature. For those too lazy to click on the link, it goes to a snark from Christopher Paolini's Eragon series, specifically a chapter from the third book, Brisingr. Paolini suffers from a similar problem as Ellanjay in that he's written what he thinks is a dashing hero, but is in actuality, a heartless sociopath. It's heavily debated among the anti-fans of Paolini's series (a group that's almost a big as the actual fandom) as to which is Eragon's worst Kick the Dog moment. For me, it's totally the part in the link, because wow...
Though like I said before, in Paolini's defense, I will say that while his books are crap (and they only get more incoherent further in when he tries to turn them into something more than Star Wars in Lord of the Rings clothing) at least, he doesn't honestly believe the stuff in his books will actually happen at some point in the future.
Word of advice to aspiring writers: if you want us to sympathize with your heroes, DON'T HAVE THEM BEHAVE LIKE ABSOLUTE SOCIOPATHS TO SOMEONE WHO IS COMPLETELY AT THEIR MERCY! IT DOESN'T MAKE THEM LOOK BRAVE OR COOL ANYMORE THAN MAKING WATSON A COMPLETE PUNCH-DRUNK IDIOT MAKES HOLMES LOOK BRILLIANT!
Anyway, Judd and the others make it back to the hideout and destroy it, taking with them a laptop. But fear not, Judd does get to talk to Vicki, while continuing to demonstrate what an absolute fucking sociopath he is.
Judd looked at the Peacekeepers, many of whom were on the ground, screaming and cursing God. They scratched at unseen sores and rubbed their aching bodies. The pain that began as an itch soon turned so intense that the Peacekeepers crawled beside rocks or cars and tried to rub up against them for relief. Men chewed their tongues until blood ran down their chins. Some found rifles on the ground and turned them on themselves, hoping to end their agony.
For those of you wondering what Bible verse they use to justify this, don't worry: Vicki has the answer. I suppose I could point out that really six years in and you still haven't memorized all this shit that's going to happen to you?! You're still going "Durrr...I wonder what this Act of God is all about?!"
But I know that's the least of this series' problems. That kind of complaint is basically the equivalent of going to a porno and your biggest quibble being the characters' taste in wallpaper. Given that one of Fred Clark's earliest Left Behind posts was on the pornographic aspects of the Left Behind series, that metaphor seems a lot more accurate than I originally intended. I'd honestly thought I was just making a one-off funny line.
Though Left Behind serves much the same purpose as porn, allowing its readers a nice fantasy world where they're always right and always get whatever they want and everybody exists to serve them. [/Digression]
Judd heard a click of computer keys. “Here it is. It’s in Revelation, chapter 16.” Vicki read the verses, her voice trembling. “ ‘Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. And his subjects ground their teeth in anguish, and they cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they refused to repent of all their evil deeds.’ ”
For those of you wondering, the verses Vicki cites (because context is for wimps!) are 10-11. For those of you, who like me, believe in context, here's the rest of Revelation, chapter 16. Once again, I regret that I don't have Fred's theological training so I can't properly tear into this, but then again, I'm just waiting for the part with the hundred pound hailstones mentioned later. Because like I said, my knowledge of physics is limited to "Gravity makes stuff fall down" level, but even I know that if the Earth was to be bombarded by massive hundred pound hailstones...yeah, I think life on this planet would become even more moot than it already should have!
But I'm one of those weirdos who believes that the Book of Revelation was written by John as a blistering critic of the cruelties of Rome and how they'll totally get what's coming to them, so what do I know? I mean, it's not like Nero, aka the Emperor of Rome, was massively persecuting the Christian Church at the time of John's writing. Oh wait...
Vicki's all "Get out of there" and the chapter ends. And I think that's as good a place as any to leave y'all for the week.