Chapter Four – Captured
The shock of seeing Raiders kill people sends Josh into depression that last for days. No joke. This is, of course, the same person who immediately got over the fact that his parents and relatives and all his friends and everyone he had ever known had died in a nuclear holocaust. He got over this in minutes. This is also the same person who has killed people with an edged weapon, has seen many many people die horrible deaths, and has never had much of a problem with it. Until now. There’s some lines about how Sarah understands, and how she’s known Josh the longest. Unfortunately there aren’t any that explain what Sarah understands, which would actually be informative and provide some insight into Josh’s obviously twisted psyche.
Sarah and Josh talk. Josh is worried. He says that maybe Jake is right, and maybe they should just leave. This is the leader of the Seven Sociopaths, the saviors of Nuworld. Called to spread Goel’s good news and help those in need. And the minute there’s a bit of danger he wants to skip out and leave everyone to their fate.
They talk about how they don’t know what to do if Goel isn’t around to give them exact instructions. I’m guessing it would be more or less the same thing they’re supposed to do all along: help people out. And then Josh and Sarah talk for even longer – off-screen, of course – and finally Josh comes to a decision that’s a full 180 from where he was: he wants to go to the Citadel. Where the Raiders are. We don’t know why Josh has changed his mind, Morris just tells us he has.
He tells the rest of the Sociopaths. Dave agrees. Jake puts up a huge fuss but eventually Josh convinces everyone except him and Abbey and since the Sociopaths always have to stay together, Jake and Abbey will be coming along anyway. Chief Ali thinks they’re crazy, but he gives them supplies anyway.
We cut forward five days. They’ve now run out of water and haven’t found any of the oasises that are marked on their map. Personally, if I were heading out across the desert I’d bring enough water for more than five days, but then, I do like to plan ahead for these sorts of eventualities. So everyone plods along and they’re almost unconscious and falling off their camels. It’s supposed to hype up the tension but it’s ridiculous. They’ve been without water for a day, possibly two. Morris makes it sound like they’re on the edge of death.
Suddenly the Raiders appear. The Sociopaths jump off their camels and put their hands up. The Raiders sweep down and their wings immediately fold up into tiny little bits onto their back. And Josh takes a look at their wings. Now, the full description of how these wings “work” isn’t given until much later in the book but I might as well rip it apart now. Basically, the wings are fifteen feet from tip to tip and there’s a harness that you wear with tiny little cables running to your wrists and ankles so you can control where to go. Morris throws in a reference to Leonardo da Vinci and calls it good. I call it utter bullshit.
Basically, even on the off-chance that these primitive, post-apocalyptic people could put together a design that was basically a fancy hang-glider, that’s all it would be. You’d still be subject to all the laws of physics and gravity and little unbeatable things like that. Here, these wings let them do anything. Straight up? Straight down? Absolutely. They can take off at a moment’s notice and there is always a perfect bit of wind that allows them to go exactly where they want with clinical precision. Let’s say that four Raiders stood together and each held a line that was attached to a 150-pound load and unfolded their wings while standing on the ground in the middle of the desert. Would you expect a passing breeze to instantly lift all four of these full-grown, well-muscled men up into the air and carry them off exactly where they wish to go? Furthermore, would you also expect that an intensely complex system of cables designed to influence flight through tiny body movements would also mysteriously not steer them in the wrong way when said flyer needed to shoot with his bow and arrows, or throw a spear? And lastly, do you find it logical that these wings would allow a 200-pound man to hover in midair like a helicopter while sword-fighting another man? If so, then the rest of this book should make perfect sense.
Josh explains that they’re servants of Goel. The leader – a chap named Darkwind – says that Goel is their enemy. This sounds like a good excuse to slaughter all of them, but apparently having slaves is more important than letting servants of your hated enemy into your homes. So they tie the Sociopaths up and carry them off.
Josh angsts for a few moments and then we cut over to Jake, since this is his adventure, after all. He angsts for a little bit and then decides – somewhat uncharacteristically – that they’re all going to make it anyway. Wow. I wonder if he’s becoming an optimist?
Jake is thrown to the ground. He doesn’t like this treatment, so he yells at the Raiders and calls them ‘birds’. One of them punches him and tells him that if he doesn’t shut up they’re going to chuck him off a cliff. And how I wish these weren’t idle threats. See, personally, if I’d just been captured and told I was going to become a slave by a powerful tribe who have displayed for me that they have no qualms over brutally murdering others, I would be treading extremely softly. Not talking back, agreeing to everything I was told in a soft tone of voice, things like that.
Because in the real world, behavior like Jake’s usually leads to his head being chopped off to set a good example for the rest of the slaves.
Dave tells him to shut up and not anger anyone, and Jake, remarkably, sees the wisdom in this…which makes me wonder why he didn’t already see it ten minutes ago.
They’re presented to the chief, whose name is White Storm. Josh asks if he can speak. The chief agrees. Josh explains that they’re the Seven Sociopaths. Immediately the chief gets a dreamy look in his eyes and says he’s heard a song about them, which Josh quotes. He tells the chief that he wants peace between the Desert People and the Raiders. Darkwind immediately shouts him down. See, the chief is actually a decent, stand-up guy, and if he had his way, there would probably be peace and bunnies and unicorns and warm happy feelings all around, but unfortunately, like most chiefs of post-apocalyptic tribes, he has no real power. Everything’s run by the insidious henchmen just below. And considering that he has “Dark” in his name, I think it’s pretty clear that Darkwind is actually evil.
Finally the chief says to divide them up fairly. A chap named Sure Flight divides all of them up, finally leaving Jake for last – since Jake is going to be his slave. And Jake suddenly decides that he’s not going to ever let a complaint escape his lips.
…why, exactly? I mean, this is all to the good, and Jake is actually showing some maturity and making decisions that are actually good and show a bit of foresight, for once, but there’s no reason for this change.
Jake follows Sure Flight along until he reaches their cave. And….
This was not a handmade cave but one that had obviously been created the action of wind (page 45).
I’ve never heard of caves being created by the wind. A few minutes of research says that most caves are not formed by wind, but in places with strong wind and plenty of sand, it can hollow out small, extremely shallow caves. Unfortunately, the caves here are huge, big enough for several people to comfortably live in, so Morris is still wrong.
Suddenly Sure Flight’s daughter walks in. Her name is Lareen, which sounds extremely out of place compared to all the other names, but what were you expecting, consistency? And Jake’s first thought is how attractive she is. And y’know, for a series that poses as Christian youth lit., Morris does a remarkable job of objectifying every single female character we’ve ever seen.
Sure Flight tells Lareen that Jake will be her slave. Hilariously, Lareen begins feeling Jake’s muscles and complaining about how flabby he is. And then she asks what it’s name is. Jake angrily says that he’s not an it, and his name is Jake Garfield. And so they call him Garfield for the rest of the book, which really cements his image in my mind: orange-haired, lazy, and obnoxious.
Lareen picks up a stick and informs him that it’s used on children and slaves who don’t do as they’re told. With considerable effort, Jake manages to restrain himself. Sure Flight takes off to a council-meeting. Personally, I wouldn’t leave my beloved daughter alone with a recently captured slave, flabby or not. But that’s just me.
Lareen asks Jake where he’s from. He tells her about the Sociopaths and they discuss having peace with the Desert People. Lareen says that there could never be peace between them. And wow…this plotline isn’t sounding familiar at all.
Lareen tells him that his main job will be fetching water. She leads him for a long way, explaining to many armed guards along the way that this is her new slave, its name is Garfield, and it will be fetching water. And rubbing the lotion on its skin. She shows him the well and makes him carry water all the way back and yells at him periodically. Jake doesn’t argue and does exactly as he’s told. Ten trips later the water reservoir is full and Lareen tells him to entertain her. Jake tries to sing a Beatles song. He sucks at it. Then Lareen starts singing the song, and apparently she’s memorized it after hearing it once. Which makes me think that Jake must’ve been singing the song in the Nuworld language, which means that apparently he’s translated the Beatles and still manages to make it rhyme and flow perfectly.
Finally Lareen starts to teach him how to cook. Jake falls asleep halfway through.
A couple days later Jake bumps into Reb at the well. Reb is sporting a spectacular welt on his face and complains a lot. We get the obligatory line about how they’ll never get out of this mess, which I’m pretty sure has been in every book thus far.
Jake’s on his way home when he overhears a couple Raiders talking. He stops and listens in, and recognizes one voice as Darkwind’s, and the other one is quickly named as Nachor. They’re plotting to join the Shadow Wings. To do that, they’ll have to kill Chief White Storm, and Sure Flight, and everyone who’s not keen on joining the other tribe. They fly off. Jake thinks for a moment and decides that ‘Shadow Wings’ sound like servants of the Dark Lord to him. Because good guys never use words like ‘shadow’ or ‘dark’.
He goes back and follows Lareen. They see some people making wings. He asks if the women get to fly. And we get a truly nonsensical exchange:
“Of course! Don’t be stupid,” Lareen snapped. “Only the best of us women get to fly.”
“I don’t see why a woman couldn’t fly as well as a man,” Jake observed.
Instantly Lareen turned to him and opened her eyes wide. That seemed to be a new thought to her (page 56).
…I’m sorry, what? Did we not just learn that flying is more or less a gender-equal sport? That both men and woman get to fly? Yes, it’s only the best of the women, but I’m assuming that if any of the men were fat, lazy, uncoordinated, or unfit for flying in any way, they wouldn’t be allowed to fly either.
They go down and gather firewood – apparently there’s trees growing around this giant rock in the middle of the desert – and suddenly Lareen screams. There’s a coiled snake there. Jake dives forward and knocks her out of the way and the snake bites him in the leg. He picks up a stick and bashes the snake over the head and kills it. Lareen gets up, shaking, and pulls out her knife.
She quickly administers the only foolproof anti-snake-bite cure available in fiction: she slices across the snakebite and squeezes the venom out. Then she takes off to fetch help.
We cut forward. Jake wakes up. Lareen and Sure Flight and an old guy who’s apparently a doctor are standing there. They tell he’ll need to sit around for a couple days and rest. Lareen takes care of him. She asks him why he helped her out. Seizing his chance, Jake takes the opportunity to wax poetic about Goel. She listens. Eventually Jake asks her about the Shadow Wings. Apparently they’re another tribe. Sure Flight thinks it would be a bad idea to alliance with them. For no apparent reason. But okay. And finally Lareen says that he saved her life, and she’ll never forget it, and can she do anything for him?
Of course, Jake says. He asks her to look in on the rest of his friends and make sure that they’re getting along and not being mistreated too much. Also, could he possibly get an audience with the chief of the tribe to tell him about a plot to kill him, which could, conceivably, get all of the Sociopaths out of slavery and set the tribe on a path to righteousness?
No, wait. That’s what I would do. Instead, he asks her to please not hit him with her stick anymore.
The sad thing is, these are probably some of the best chapters in the book.