Part Four

Chapter Eight – First Skirmish

Sarah’s upset because she lied to everyone about what God told her to do. Goel, but it’s the same basic thing. So she continues to rationalize. Even though she already rationalized it away last chapter, she keeps on doing it.

Finally she goes to see Valar, who’s watching the guards through a porthole. He asks her to call him Val, because all his friends do. Aww, isn’t that sweet? I wonder, though, what prompted this sudden change. After all, they’ve been as thick as thieves for the past twelve days, why hasn’t Valar asked her to call him Val before?

Sarah asks him what he knows about Goel. Valar says that he’s heard the stories and songs, but he always figured Goel was just a myth people made up to give them hope. Sarah says that he’s real and she’s met him, and Valar says that if she says that, he’ll believe it. Sarah goes on to explain all the times that Goel has bailed them out whenever they royally mucked things up, and finally explains what Goel told her to do – leaving out, I assume, the part about leaving in secret and not telling anyone – which includes Valar. But Valar agrees to take them.

Later, they meet the rest of the Sociopaths. Val’s brought a map, which is shown in the book, and I have to say it is probably the worst map I’ve ever seen, even worse than the one and the beginning of the first book. As an added bonus, it doesn’t even match up with the description.

Val explains why they can’t use the most direct route, and says they’ll have to take a roundabout way to get to the Citadel of Neptune. There’s also something on the map that’s shaped more or less like a hook. It says right next to it “Hook Reef”. Makes sense, no? But Morris feels the need to explain it further:

“What’s this hook-shaped thing?” Jake asked.

“That’s called Hook Reef. It’s a huge coral reef, and it is shaped like a hook.” (page 71)

No shit, Sherlock? What next, you’re going to explain to them that this map-shaped thing that looks like a map is, in fact, a map?

Val finishes up by saying that the guard changes in ten minutes and that will be their only shot at leaving. We then flash forward to the Sociopaths, who have gotten down to the airlock, changed clothes, dressed in their suits with oxygen masks, and are now sitting, mounted on sea beasts, in the preceding ten minutes. For some reason the sharks have now changed to sea beasts.

They start out and are immediately challenged by a guard. It says that a voice ‘called out’ but I’m guessing that since they’re underwater they only heard him over the radio. Which makes me wonder: are all the radios kept on the same frequency, and if so, can’t everyone else hear the Sociopaths leaving? But Valar explains that they’re heading out on a training mission, and the guard lets them pass.

They go on for hours. It’s very dark and scary. And then suddenly lights switch on and they hear a shout over the radio. It’s outpost guards, working for Aramis. Who must have radios sent to the same frequency as their enemies. But then Valar says that the guards can’t hear them talking, because they’re on a different frequency. So: the radios are set to a frequency that they can all use to communicate but they can also hear what the guards say, even though the guards cannot hear them. How…nice.

The guards have spear guns aimed at Valar. And then suddenly Abbey speaks up and says she has an idea. Sarah is surprised because this is Abbey’s first idea, ever. Abbey says that she’ll fall off her sea beast and when the guards come to catch her, they can nail the guards. So she falls off and immediately starts to sink. So much for neutral buoyancy. One of the guards immediately starts swimming after her. Reb slips off his beast, swims around, grabs the spear gun out of the hands of the other guard, turns it around, aims it at the guard, and tells the guard not to move. Because the guard can totally hear what he’s saying. And because 14-year-old boys are masters at quickly and easily disarming trained underwater soldiers.

The other guard grabs Abbey and starts hauling her back up. And we get quote weirdness:

But suddenly his spear gun was ripped from his hand, and he was pinioned by two strong young men while a young women pointed his own spear gun at him (page 76).

Why Morris doesn’t say who does what, I don’t know. Nor does he explain how a 13-year-old girl can pull a weapon from the hands of a trained adult male soldier. Nor does he explain why he used the word ‘women’ instead of ‘woman’. Nor does he explain how two guards managed to get the upper hand on eight people in the first place – when all eight of them are carrying spear guns.

Valar says that have to kill the guards. But Sarah says that Josh always carries cord in his pocket. Because…he always does, and the scene requires it. Even though his bathing suit might not actually have pockets. So they tie the guards up to a chunk of coral and leave them to be found by the next guard patrol. Or the next patrol of hungry sharks. The two guards, of course, are shocked because they expected to be killed. After the Sociopaths head off, they share a little moment about how the Sociopaths must not be as vicious as they’ve been told. It’s very heartwarming.

Chapter Nine – “Kill All the Sleepers!”

No, I’m not making that chapter title up.

We open with many paragraphs talking about how awesomely evil Elmas is and what a great questioner he is. About how just threatening to take people to the Tower made them confess. About how Elmas designed most of his equipment himself, and how be brags about making fathers turn in their own children, and stuff like that. It’s still completely unconvincing.

So Elmas is sitting around at his desk and in come three of Lord Necros’ personal guards. They’re wearing skintight black leather. And all I can think of is the chafing in some very unpleasant places. The guards tell him that he’s going to the Tower, grab him, and drag him along. And Elmas’ own guards do nothing. Because no one screws with the guards of Lord Necros. If I were Elmas, I would hire some new guards.

They reach the Tower and there is actually a moment of inspired genius, which makes me wonder just where Morris nicked it from:

“Why, you ought to look on this as an opportunity.” The chief guard grinned. “After all, you’ve only had other people’s word for how good your ‘instruments’ are. […]now…you’ll be able to explain firsthand exactly how they all work!” (page 80)

It’s glorious. Sadly, we don’t get to experience any of the torture itself. We flash forward. The torturer assures Lord Necros there is absolutely nothing Elmas will not tell him. Elmas is lying on the floor twitching and shaking and crying like a little bitch. Necros yells at him and asks him why he hasn’t done what he promised and recaptured the Sociopaths. And while I enjoy seeing Elmas suffer as much as the next bloke, this entire scene doesn’t even make sense. When we last encountered them, Necros told Elmas to carry out his plan. He didn’t give him any sort of time limit. And admittedly, it has been twelve days of a whole lot of nothing, but there is really no reason for Necros to suddenly start torturing Elmas and demanding to know why he hasn’t recaptured the Sociopaths.

Elmas assures Necros that they have Aramis under their control and he’s going to succeed very soon. So Necros lets him go and the scene ends. So really…the entire preceding scene was completely pointless except as a rather lame attempt to ratchet up the tension, which, as it happens, this book is completely devoid of. So yeah…it was pointless.

We then cut over to Duke Lenomar, who has received Elmas’ message. He reads it and then plots for a bit. The narration tells us that he’s a genius and has risen from very low to being Aramis’ most trusted advisor. It would be a lot more convincing if Morris hadn’t just tried it with Elmas. He’s apparently never heard of showing rather than telling, and until I see some evidence of Lenomar’s brilliance, I’m not buying it.

Lenomar goes into to talk to Aramis about the Sociopaths. Aramis thinks they aren’t dangerous. I wonder how these people even know the Sociopaths are around. Maybe the news came over the wireless. But Lenomar says that the Sociopaths have some kind of power.

“Anyone who can escape my lord Elmas is not a fool” (page 84).

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. How about ‘anyone who can’t escape Elmas must be a fool’?

They talk a little more and Aramis says that sometimes he thinks he was wrong to lead the revolt. Lenomar freaks out because Aramis is slipping out of his control. So he whips out a glass and fills it up and adds a few drops from a special bottle and gets Aramis to drink it. Then he says “You are sleepy” over and over again for about three minutes until Aramis falls asleep. Then he tells Aramis that King Cosmos is evil, he’s going to destroy Atlantis, Aramis is the rightful ruler, and all the Sociopaths have to die. He repeats this a few dozen times and finally when Aramis wakes up he says the same thing.

…that’s it? Pure mind control? Not even the most subtle bit of trickery where he has Aramis convinced that he’s actually doing the right thing? He has Aramis doped out of his mind and this guy managed to convince half of Atlantis to successfully revolt with him? Something about this isn’t making sense, and the fault lies solely with Morris.

Lenomar goes to the door and tells the guard that Aramis has ordered every available mariner to go out and start searching for the Sociopaths. And when they find them, to kill them all. At once! It’s very dramatic.