Edge of Apocalypse: pages 101-106 (Chapter Twenty)
We meet with a few people; this chapter kind of sets the stage for what they’ll be doing later and why they’re important to the story as pertains the intrigues surrounding the RTS-RGS system.
First up is a man named Hamad Katchi, and he’s in Davos. Allegedly he’s a former weapons dealer, as discussed in this part of the chapter:
“‘Mr. Katchi,’ the reporter continued, ‘you were at one time one the world’s most notorious arms dealers. Supplying advanced weapons systems to a wide variety of countries, rogue nations, and terror groups–‘
‘Correction. I have never done business with terrorists,’ Katchi retorted with a smile. Now at the elevator’s entrance, he paused, then turned. ‘Besides, I am now out of the weapons business completely–‘
‘I understand,’ she replied. ‘Still, there are many who believe your decision to align yourself with the Society for Global Change, the organization you cofounded with Caesar Demas, was to camouflage your past–‘
‘I am now fully committed to building peace, rather than expanding war,’ Katchi stated. ‘You may have heard the story already. How the death of my own brother was caused by one of the very same weapons systems that I had sold. Therefore, several years ago I chose to redirect my energies into humanitarian causes. Now, please, I am sorry, I have another commitment…'”
Maybe he’s sincere, maybe he’s not. After a quick trip up the elevator, we’re seeing him talking with Mr. Demas.
“Demas and Katchi began perusing the bathroom, flinging open every stall door to make sure they were alone.
Then Demas walked over to the two hand dryers on the wall and punched them both on until the sound of their roaring filled the room.
He leaned over to Katchi and spoke directly into his ear.
‘I have given the order for the messenger to stand down. At least temporarily.'”
And at this point we learn that Katchi and Demas are both in on the two-pronged strategy to get RTS-RGS. Obviously if they can’t get it by means of diplomatic channels, less diplomatic ones will do.
I remind readers of this blog that, again, the basic premise of this book is fundamentally flawed. It presupposes a relationship between a military contractor and the Pentagon which would never exist in reality, and creates a highly artificial conflict between a Senator and the contractor for the sole purpose of pushing a particular world-view, a particular gestalt, if you will.
This cultural gestalt is one that assumes the primacy of the military, the venality of liberal politicians, and the unquestioned rightness of the United States remaining Number One by keeping all the Number Twos right where they remain, even if this might exacerbate world tensions.
Now, all this said, it is not in dispute that the US, like any other nation, both actively maintains espionage and counterespionage networks and can couple these with military research and development to maintain a technological edge in being able to defend itself from attacks, or to be able to go on the attack.
But there is a very clear principle that goes back centuries: the United States is ultimately under a civilian government. Its military is responsible to that government and must follow the orders given it by the civilian leadership. This contempt for civilian oversight, while muted in Edge of Apocalypse, does peek through in the way that Jordan prima-donnas his way through the hearing in closed session.
I’ve pointed out before that the simplest resolution would have been to establish that the Pentagon knows about the project, details have been classified according to whatever regulations govern military contracting under such circumstances, et cetera and so on. But no, Joshua Jordan gets to childishly go OOH BUUUUUUURN with his “Well gosh golly gee, I don’t trust a mother’s son of any of ya on this here committee.” (paraphrased, of course)
And that right there is why I say contempt for the legally constituted authority of the civilian government is in this book. Further, given that apparently there is a heavy evangelical Christian strain running through the US armed forces I can only conclude that books like this would, if evaluated closely, come perilously close to actively encouraging military officers to commit sedition.
Thus, the cultural gestalt I mention above is also fundamentally an authoritarian one. We’ve seen this indirectly in the Jordan family’s relations among one another: authority derives from being older, and is rigidly structured along hierarchical lines. This means that the “right people” should give the orders, and the “wrong people” should be disobeyed even if they are nominally in position to give orders.
So even though this is a kind of mystery/spy-thriller type book, let’s not forget that the conflict is essentially manufactured to help push Tim LaHaye’s* agenda.
Now, back to the book. The last part here is the segue into meeting the next person:
“‘Really? I would have waited. I know your reason. You are banking on the U.S. caving in. Well, maybe they will. And maybe not. I think you should have put the messenger securely in place first before delaying his mission–‘
‘Why? So he could be poised to grab the RTS information first? Then bypass us and sell the data directly to someone else? Hamad, I thought you were smarter than that.’
‘Even if the United States decides not to share the RTS specifications, then, per our plan, our man will still be able to get his hands on the designs anyway.’
‘Yes,’ Demas replied, ‘but by that time I will have my own people in place around him to make sure he doesn’t go rogue on us…'”
The no-honor-among-thieves trope makes itself known here, by the way. It’s not a bad notion here, all other flaws of the book aside. Internecine conflicts among criminal factions can be an interesting source of plot advancements, as each group vies for its own slice of a pie they want to divvy up.
We move now to Canada. 🙂
“At that same moment, on the other side of the Atlantic, cars were stacked up in a long line at the Canadian-U.S. border. Those wishing to cross from Lacolle, Quebec, to Champlain, New York, could expect delays of up to forty-five minutes. The U.S. customs officers were carefully checking passports of all incoming drivers.
Behind the steering wheel of his rental car, the Algerian took a few moments to examine himself in his rearview mirror. He had Yergi Banica’s passport open on the seat next to him. He glanced down at the passport photo and then up at his own face in the mirror.”
And we meet back with Atta Zimler. He’s making sure he can slip into the USA; due to the greater volume of land traffic between Canada and the USA odds do go down that the Customs guy will bother to check the passport carefully. However, this also means LaHaye and Parshall are trying for another little bit of button-pushing here: Canada lets just any old terrorist in so they can get to the US. I note with some irritation that it was a Democratic politician cited there who put forth the theory, but I’m really not surprised in the end; Democrats trying to act like Republicans are just sad.
I remarked once that Canada is sometimes practically like outer space as far as some Americans are concerned, and one of those times is when Americans act like they think no other country has an interest in keeping the United States safe. Europe does, to an extent, as does Canada. Even Venezuela; oil purchases by the US keeps that country afloat.
Zimler inches toward the border guard…
“Zimler’s Allfone started ringing.
He glanced down and saw the word “Restricted,” but he didn’t answer it. He had more important business right now. No suspicious movements. He was in plain view of the border guards with only two cars between his and the checkpoint.
No message was left on his Allfone. He muted the ringer.
Now just one car remained between Zimler and the border stop.”
That’s actually pretty smart. One thing US Customs officials get pretty touchy about is if you act like you’re trying to be sneaky about something. My personal experience is that they generally like to bark at you when they ask questions. They also stand over your car because the difference in height is an unsubtle expression of power differences.
Zimler’s also put on some music to keep himself calm before he has to chat with the official. Another car later, and it’s the moment of truth.
“But the music was not merely for pleasure. It would also help him focus. Lower his heart rate. Help loosen the facial muscles, creating a relaxed expression. Everything had to look normal.
His car was next. He pulled up to the window.
‘Good afternoon,’ Zimler announced, confidently holding out the stolen passport to the U.S. border official.
The official smiled. Then studied the passport. Then he looked hard at Zimler. ‘What brings you to the United States?’
‘I have always wanted to visit America,’ Zimler said in a polished Romanian accent. ‘Now is my chance. Business mostly. I will be studying some documents at Library of Congress for my research.’
The border guard smiled but didn’t take his eyes off Zimler. ‘May I ask why you didn’t fly directly into the United States from Romania, Mr. Banica?'”
Zimler would have needed an entry visa, being from “Romania”. That having been said if he got the necessary Canadian permissions in time I don’t know how much the US guy would have decided to bend the rules. Starting here would probably have been a good idea for LaHaye and Parshall; note that Romania is not listed under the Visa Waiver Program as of 2010.
Had I been Zimler, I would have come prepared with Canadian documentation and practiced my Quebecois French accent. Canadians are almost always routinely allowed into the US without needing a visa and often go for tourism purposes. In fact, Quebecois often go up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and “snowbirds” going back and forth from Florida are very common.
So chances are “Banica” could have been very annoyingly tied up in a lot of bureaucratic hassle before being allowed through, even though he disarmingly offers the following:
“‘Well,’ Zimler said with a slight laugh, ‘the flight into Quebec was cheaper, of course, than direct flight to Washington. But if you want to know secret…I have always wanted to see New England. I can catch a little of it coming in from northern part of state of New York while I drive. I just hope now I’m able to find gas station that has petrol…you know, with your president’s rationing plan…’
The border guard smiled back and then handed the passport back to Zimler. ‘Have a good trip, Mr. Banica.'”
He gets a call back on his cell phone, and with that we move to Rotterdam.
In his Europoort office in Rotterdam, Petri Feditzch was flicking the end of another cigarette he’d just lit. He was looking out of the grease-streaked window toward the junction of the Rhine and Meuse rivers. He had decided to wait awhile before connecting with Zimler. Just in case Petri’s superiors changed their minds and decided not to delay the project after all. Such an occurrence would have required making multiple contacts with Zimler rather than one. And that was something Petri wanted to avoid. His days with the KGB had taught him a few things about the more perverse side of human nature. Dangerous, unpredictable people must be managed in a simple manner. Unnecessary complexity, well, that was not a good thing–especially when negotiating with a sociopath like Zimler. Keep things straightforward. Predictable.
This not only gives us some back story on Feditzch, but also Zimler. This becomes important later on as we see what Zimler gets up to.
“‘Good,’ Petri said. ‘In that case I have a message for you.’
There was silence.
‘My superiors want you to delay the project.’
There was more silence…then an exhale of disgust.
‘I don’t like delays. I rarely tolerate them.’
‘I understand. But in this case, it is critical, I’m afraid.’
‘For how long?’
‘I’m not sure.’
There was another pause. The former KGB agent knew Zimler’s seething anger was about to be directed at him.
‘I am on a very strict timeline,’ Zimler snapped. ‘Cretans like you can’t appreciate that.’
Petri took another drag on his cigarette, then simply replied, ‘I was to deliver the message. I have done that. Your instructions are unequivocal. You must halt the project until you receive further instructions from me.'”
I think Parshall meant to write Cretins and not Cretans; otherwise I suspect he’s accidentally offended every citizen of Crete. 😉
We also see here why Demas took precautions. Apparently Zimler is known to be a bit of a loose cannon, even though he’s good at what he does.
“As he drove, Zimler reached over to his briefcase and pulled out a file with one hand and laid it on the seat next to him. He flipped it open. Joshua Jordan’s picture was there. Along with the other documents he had been given by the late Yergi Banica. There were also several new clippings about Joshua and the RTS controversy.
Zimler didn’t need much time to ruminate on Petri’s call. He would not delay his mission. He refused to be treated like a schoolboy waiting for the teacher to give him his next assignment. Who did they think they were dealing with?
He already knew exactly what he was going to do and how he would do it.”
And that’s that for this chapter.
Next chapter promises to be another trip into the political bizarro-land LaHaye and Parshall inhabit, and it promises to be one of those blink-stare-and-pinch-yourself kind of situations.
* LaHaye holds a doctorate and I should be calling him Dr. LaHaye; that said, most literature I’ve seen does not specifically mention his degree, so I will follow that de facto convention.