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EoA: Zero Hour

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 28-31 (Chapter Six)

Since the chapters are so short in this part of the book I can move a bit more quickly till we hit the central parts of the novel, which do actually have a fair bit in each chapter. 🙂

In Chapter 6, we move to Joshua Jordan again. We learn that he has made it to his R&D facility where his people have been working on this Return To Sender system. We also know from previous chapters that the initial commissioning experiment was supposed to be in a month from the day the nukes actually fell, so this constitutes a “trial-by-fire” method of determining if it works.

Phone action time!

“Just then his personal cell phone rang. He clicked the answer function on his Allfone as he headed for the executive suite.

‘Josh!’ Abigail shouted on the other end. ‘I just saw the headline on the crawler in Times Square–‘

‘I already heard…I’m at the office…we’re doing everything we can to stop it. Where are you?’

‘In the basement of a hotel just off the Square. Deb’s with me. Josh, is it true?’

‘Yes. But I’m counting on the Return-to-Sender, the jammer. I’ve got to believe we’re ready for this,’ Joshua said, trying to sound upbeat.”

Captain, I detect imminent abuse of ellipses in this sector. 😛

One thing I wonder about though is whether or not the new cell phone networks in the Not-Too-Distant-Future could be shut down and only law-enforcement priority channels opened up, because something like that makes almost perfect sense in an emergency situation like this to avoid saturating the network.

It’s not too important, but I note the robustness of the telephone networks in all LaHaye-inspired novels. 😀

As you can see, ellipsis abuse continues:

“‘I’ll see you tonight–you understand me? I promise…Abby…I love you…,’ Joshua assured as he burst into his office, his team already waiting.

‘I love you too,’ she said. ‘So much…so much…oh, Josh, I’ll pray for you that God protects…all of us…'”

There’s something I don’t like about that last sentence by Abby’s but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s surely something to do with the way women are treated in the LaHaye-verses, though.

Now for the gazillion-dollar question:

“‘I need an answer–concise and within the high range of probability,’ he began. ‘Can a single one of our jammers redirect not just one, but two nuclear warheads where their trajectory suggests a common target?’

After less than ten seconds of reflection, Ted, the senior engineer spoke up. ‘We tested those protocols. We have all the calibrations to make that happen–‘

‘But we’ve never fired a dual redirection system,’ Carolyn, the weapons physicist blurted out. ‘Not in a real-world test.’

‘Fine, but either our protocols are correct or they aren’t…,’ another engineer shouted.

‘And if they aren’t–,’ a second engineer started to say.

But Joshua jumped in.

‘If our calculations are wrong,’ he said, ‘then we’re all in trouble, along with several million Americans. Anyone here have any suggestions to increase the likelihood of success?'”

The answer, of course, is no. A note on mechanics: why do shouty people in this book trail off in ellipses instead of in an exclamation mark? ‘Tis a little annoying.

Joshua calls up the Pentagon, speaks with a guy named Major General Zepak. He gives the “go” to the Pentagon for his missile redirect system, and he and his team get patched through to a ship called the USS Tiger Shark.

They begin the process of arming the system to re-guide the missiles:

“In the Atlantic, a few miles off Long Island, Commander Bradley of the USS Tiger Shark waited in the weapons launch room with a direct line to the security phone in Joshua’s office. His naval weapons officer sat at a keyboard, typing in commands. As the officer hit each keystroke he called out the verbal cue. In Joshua’s office the design team listened and watched on the secure videophone, comparing the seaman’s verbal cues with the system protocol displayed on a large screen on one of the walls.

When he was done, Joshua started to type furiously on his laptop, setting the laser coordinates for the two nukes, using GPS data fed directly into his computer from defense satellites. With Ted and Carolyn looking over his shoulder, Joshua checked his work and leaned back. Then they reviewed his commands line by line.”

After that, it’s cliffhanger time as we round out the chapter with this:

“Joshua turned back to his laptop and punched a key. A red screen flashed ‘PROTOCOLS LOCKED. LASERS ARMED. READY TO FIRE.'”

And that’s that. Next chapter we get to see how the North Korean submarinebattleshipwhatever Daedong is doing.

Some general notes about this chapter: I realize my analysis is a lot shorter here, but part of that, I think, is that I discovered that it’s the more human and imperfect characters that seem to invite deeper analysis, as well as seeing the subcultural tropes used in books like these. Additionally when the book seems to warrant it, deep analysis of perceived familial and gender roles often provides some pretty illuminating insights into what LaHaye believes is appropriate for women and children.

Cal’s story, for example, also falls afoul of the “honor thy parents” theme often hammered upon by RTCs who use this as a cudgel to beat today’s youth over the head for the imagined sins of widespread disrespectfulness and failure to obey (never mind that the vast majority of teens probably do actually listen to their parents; it’s the statistical outliers who get the most press).

People who constantly go on about such things conveniently forget that they probably sneaked out behind the woodshed a time or two themselves. Deborah’s story, however, is implied to meet the standard of honoring one’s parents because she’s a military person who fulfills parental expectations.

And she likes girly things; so she not only fulfills “proper” familial roles, she also fulfills “proper” gender roles too; Cal, by contrast, is suspect because he likes being an artist, and we all know what that means. *nudgenudge*

A note on Josh and heroism in this chapter: note that his staff members don’t even rate last names. It’s he and his crew who will end up possibly being responsible for a miracle, but if the miracle pulls through, it’s Josh alone who gets all the fame and notoriety. His staff will almost surely be forgotten as a mere footnote.

This is similar to how CEOs are perceived in modern capitalist societies: they are treated as the equivalent of the feudal kings who waged wars and conquered large tracts of land; the actual lieges (i.e. the workers) who followed the orders without complaint and without whom the CEO’s brave battleskill would mean nothing are forgotten to history.

This book implicitly accepts that hierarchical mindset with respect to who shall get the glory. We know that when CEOs get the blame, they get a golden parachute and a slap on the wrist. Something tells me that even if Josh is going to become politically censured for this (as the back cover blurb implies), he’ll somehow Not Really Suffer That Much – kind of like how the Tribulation Force ends up in a lovely steel-girdered building with 50 magic SUVs that just happen to be fully gassed-up in the parking garage.

I’ll take that up more later as the book progresses. For now, go forth and comment. 😛

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8 thoughts on “EoA: Zero Hour

  1. GSM certainly has an “authorised calls only” mode. I assume the various CDMA standards have something similar.

    (These aren’t just coordinates, they’re LASER coordinates.)

    I feel that being “the guy who saved New York” probably gets you off a certain amount of political censure, even from the sort of RTC who would like it to be a second Sodom.

    But whoa, hold on a minute. They’re redirecting missiles to their launch site? Umph, maybe you could do that with a cruise missile, but with a ballistic that just ain’t going to happen. Neither sort is particularly renowned for accepting target updates after launch. Self-destruct commands, perhaps. I await with bated suspension-of-disbelief…

  2. Firedrake brings up an amazingly good point. Ballistic missiles are partly so deadly because there is no late-stage delivery system to malfunction. They are more akin to grenades than anything — you just need the launch system to work well, and then the warheads follow a ballistic, unpowered trajectory. How does Return To Sender return a ballistic weapon to its sender? Unless it involves tractor/pressor beams and other sci-fi tropes, then at best they might be able to cause the warhead to detonate higher in the atmosphere — which could be even more devastating!

    My suspenders of disbelief are waiting to be snapped. Which is a shame, since Cal Jordan — why is that name so familiar? — and his sweetie Karen sound like interesting characters.

    Which means they’re both doomed, of course.

    • You’re thinking of the Green Lantern Hal Jordan, probably.

      I know that was what came into my mind. That and how Sinestro would make an awesome anti-Christ

  3. …oh, Josh, I’ll pray for you that God protects…all of us…’”

    There’s something I don’t like about that last sentence by Abby’s but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s surely something to do with the way women are treated in the LaHaye-verses, though.

    Possibly it implies that God can only protect the women and children by using a man? She’d better pray for him, because without him, she’s toast.

    And as I think about it, I am rather surprised that Deborah is portrayed as being both military and girly. I thought that most RTCs, and fundamentalist conservatives in general, believe that the presence of women in the military, and especially at the service academies, is feminizing our troops and weakening their military preparedness.

    But perhaps Deborah is there to prove that a godly Christian, even with the handicap of being female, is still stronger and purer than her effete, effeminate godless classmates (or leaders- not the name of the general in the following excerpt from the Book of Numbers!). We’ll see.

    “”So she summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kadesh in (Southern) Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’ Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ And she said, ‘I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ “

    • Also, I think it’s the way Abby is portrayed as a helpless supplicant. My atheism is probably a factor here, because I don’t like the idea of believing that $DEITY will make things all right, because if things go right, there’s confirmation bias, and if things go wrong, well, you just didn’t pray hard enough or squeeze the rosary enough or whatever.

      • I’m probably reading way too much into the ellipses, but it reads to me like Abby was saying, “I’ll pray for you that God protects…all of us…not that all of us actually deserve it, mind you, but I’ll pray for the sinners anyway, because that’s what a Good Christian would do…”

      • What Joshua does: use the amazing laser missile-redirection machine to save millions of lives (I assume, I haven’t read ahead).

        What Abby does: pray.

        Well, you can call that complementarianism if you like. And sure, in this situation that’s all she can do. But somehow in RTC-land that’s the only sort of situation that ever turns up. And no matter how you feel about the power of prayer, I’m still going to find it more heroic to leap on board and stop the runaway train, or whatever.

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