Sorry for the lapse in recaps. I hope you found something just as boring and frustrating to read in the meantime. Shall we get right to it, then?
I found myself in Wonderland, a place where the impossible wasn’t pretend anymore. A time when death was temporary and believing that humans were the only intelligent beings was nothing less than arrogant. Secret government organizations and spaceships. The end of the world.
If only the reader had been likewise plunged into this fascinating new world. Alas, we’re still at the radio station.
When I peeled my eyes open, it was the first time that my dreams were more realistic than real life.
Your dream was literally everything happening in your real life.
Benji is doing the lay-all-over-the-heroine-like-a-blanket thing popular in so many NA novels these days, and the aliens are all up and working on getting the radio station going. Rory asks how things are progressing.
“Almost there,” Apolonia said, a trace of a smile on her face.
“Would you care? If we were blown to smithereens?” I asked and immediately regretted it. “Wow. I don’t even know why I said that.”
Cy makes a remark to Apolonia about how Rory loves danger, and Apolonia says “clearly,” and they’re both smiling at each other about it, so like, they’re making run of Rory right in front of her and it’s about time Apolonia got to do that. Rory asks if everyone is in a better mood because they got coffee or something, and Tsavi says they’re in a better mood because they’ve been watching Rory and Benji cuddle on the floor.
So, first of all, weird. Second of all, they’re probably actually happier because Rory was unconscious for a few hours and they didn’t have to be around her.
My cheeks instantly set fire. “Glad we could entertain you.” Embarrassing, yes, but it was good to see Apolonia and Cy in a better place.
Is it, though? Is it really, Rory? This book seems to be narrated by one of those people who decides that they don’t like the past anymore and they don’t want to be held accountable for it, so they just pretend it never happened and think that will fool everyone else into forgetting, too. We have been here from page one, Rory. We know for a fact that you don’t want Apolonia and Cy to be in a “better place.”
Dr. Z wakes up and farts and Apolonia looks at him in disgust, but I can’t tell if it’s from the fart or because we’re going to find out that Dr. Z was part of the Majestic all along later or whatever. It seems like that foreshadowing is way too subtle for this book. They talk about transfiguring the signal to a microwave frequency or or something, but Rory is, as usual, not involved:
I had been sick and cold since we’d arrived at the radio station and hadn’t eaten any real food in almost twenty-four hours. I was happy to let them figure it out.
What happened to not needing food because of your eternal sadness? I thought stress made you not eat, and you’re under a hell of a lot of stress, or should be, by now.
Here’s a problem: the second more aliens were brought into the story, Rory became superfluous. What has she done, since Apolonia showed up? She’s hidden behind a desk, she’s blacked out and needed healing, she’s puked everywhere, now she’s too sick and tired and hungry to participate in the major plot elements. Rory needs to be able to do something, anything, to advance the plot. She needs some kind of ability the others don’t have, or at least be involved in what’s happening to make the action move forward. This is the girl who ran into an alien space ship under attack because she thought she could help. Now she’s like, “Eh, let them do it.” That doesn’t exactly make for compelling reading. So, Writing Tip: actually make your protagonist a part of the action. Don’t let them stand back while everyone else does the interesting things.
“The moods seem strangely upbeat,” Benji said quietly.
“Last night’s spooning likely satisfied the warrior princess that I wasn’t after her fiancé.”
“Oh. So, they’re engaged?”
She’s so glad to see them in a “better place” that she’s insinuating she has doubts as to their engagement.
She tries to change the subject by asking Benji for some water, and he hands it to her, pointing out that she does need people.
“It’s not a good thing.” I glanced at Cy. “As you can see, they just leave.”
What a shitty thing to say to Benji. First of all, Cy has done nothing for you, other than get you involved in this bullshit to begin with. He even withheld information that would have kept you and Dr. Z safe. Seriously, all Cy had to do was tell his long, drawn out alien parasite monologue to Dr. Z in the first place, and Dr. Z probably would have believed him. Cy caused this entire problem. Second, Benji has betrayed his own family and a scary government agency to protect you. You didn’t ask him to, but he did. You know how he feels about you and you’ve told him you return those feelings. And you’re still going to sit there and be like, oh, poor me, my space boyfriend is leaving me?
Oh my god, Benji is Mickey and they’re trapped in an eternal goodbye scene at Bad Wolf Bay.
Benji asks Rory if he’s earned a first date, and she says no, because she fucks on the first date. So, we’re back to “I’m too tough for you,” Rory, then? I need to put on a helmet if we’re going to whip back and forth like this.
Rory goes off to sulk about how shitty everything is for her, because we haven’t done that in a while:
Any moment, Cy and the professor would make the magic connection to allow Apolonia to make contact with her father. They would save the world without anyone knowing. Hamech would float down in his king-sized space module and pick them up. They would locate the rock and then dispose of it at the Bad Rock Disposal. Cy and Apolonia would be married quickly after that–however long it took them to get home–and they would have two-point-five beautiful and hostile alien babies.
Dr. Z would go back to campus and find something else to obsess about. Benji would go back to living alone at Charlie’s–unless he kept the cat–and I would keep being Dr. Z’s research assistant…and maybe even grow out my hair. Maybe.
Gosh, I hope we find out. So far, Rory’s indecision about her hair is the most fascinating thing happening in this chapter.
How could we experience something so life-changing, only to return to our mundane existence? Although, maybe it was more likely that the professor, Benji, and I would be arrested and sent to federal prison, but not before Apolonia’s daddy blows us all to hell.
Well, you wouldn’t have to worry about prison, then, would you?
For some strange reason, I was more okay with the latter. I glanced over at Benji. No, it wouldn’t be okay. Maybe it just made more sense for something bad to happen to me.
That. I vote for that ending.
Dr. Z gets the microphone working, and Cy starts speaking Ahnktesh into it, but that’s the exact moment a bomb or something goes off and suddenly soldiers are shooting at them.
Tsavi was already outside, using her strange weapon to take out the knees and shoulders of the soldiers shooting at us. She grabbed my arm and pulled me across the alleyway to the next building. It was still dark in the early hours of the morning.
Benji stayed behind, trading punches with a soldier and finally getting him on the ground. I glanced back, pulling away from Tsavi, to see Benji grab the soldier’s weapon and then run to catch up. By the time he joined us, the ringing in my ears was beginning to subside. Tsavi was barking orders at Benji, who was holding an AK–47 as if he’d held one since birth.
Have I complained about the guns in this book yet? I feel like this is something I would have complained about, if it had already been mentioned. The U.S. military doesn’t use AK-47s. I’m sure if someone went digging, they could find evidence of them being used at some point in time (I guess some soldiers had them in Vietnam), but we use M-16 and MK types.
Writing Tip: Now, let’s look at those last two sentences:
By the time he joined us, the ringing in my ears was beginning to subside. Tsavi was barking orders at Benji, who was holding an AK-47 as if he’d held one since birth.
This is something I have to keep a sharp eye out for when I’m editing my work. I tend to do the “ing” dance. Everything is happening. So, let’s rewrite this to make it read a little differently:
By the time he joined us, the ringing in my ears had begun to subside. Tsavi barked orders at Benji, who held an AK-47 as if he’d held one since birth.
Do you see the difference? In the first example, the actions take a backseat to the subjects of the sentences. This is a form of passive voice known as “past continuous”. Passive voice isn’t necessarily evil (though a lot of writing tutorials will tell you differently), but it doesn’t have any place in an action scene. I don’t care what Tsavi was doing. I want to know what Tsavi did. Because what she was doing seems a lot less urgent compared to what she did.
I’m not a natural teacher, so let me try it this way. Imagine your friend calls you up, and she’s pissed off at someone at work. She starts the conversation all, “First of all, let me tell you what this bitch did.” Oh shit, that bitch did something. What did she do? What’s going to happen next? Is your friend going to get fired or possibly arrested? Should you make popcorn? Now let’s imagine your friend calls you up and says, “First of all, let me tell you what this bitch was doing.” Oh man, I still want to know what this bitch was doing, but since “was” has become involved, it sounds like the action has been at least partially resolved or has ceased, and some of the urgency has been removed, since the bitch is no longer doing it.
Hope that helps.
Benji, Tsavi, and Rory are separated from Dr. Z, and they have to make a run for it. Benji shoots a guard, and Rory thinks:
He looked less like the Benji I knew and more like the soldiers I saw in the Nayara.
Which originally made me think, “What? the soldiers you saw in the Nayara were dead in piles,” and then I was like, “Oh, you mean the soldiers who followed you onto the Nayara. Got it.”
Italics = underline, you know the drill.
“Your dad taught you how to shoot one of those?” I asked.
“He taught me to shoot a lot of things,” Benji said so quietly that it was barely audible.
If you’re not a reader in the U.S., you probably won’t get how not-weird or suspicious it is that Benji’s dad taught him to shoot a rifle. And that’s what an AK-47 is, it’s a rifle. In theory, if you can aim and shoot any rifle, you can fire an AK-47. And a lot of us in the U.S. know how to shoot a rifle, and were taught by our parents. It is what it is, but I’m usually thrown off by how surprised characters in movies, books, and television shows are when they see that someone else knows how to shoot a gun. It’s a fairly common skill here. If Benji were able to clean, reassemble, and load an AK-47 blindfolded, I might be like, “Wow, something is fishy,” but it doesn’t strike me as something all that unusual if it’s just “I picked up this gun and shot it.”
“You didn’t bring us out here to kill us, did you?”
Benji stopped and looked down at me. “What?”
“We’re separated from the others. You could kill Tsavi and me, and you could tell them any story you wanted.”
Do it, Benji. For all of us.
“I’m sorry,” he said, frowning, “but what’s it going to take for me to dig up that seed that Cyrus planted? Do you honestly think I could ever hurt you? Kill you, Rory? Seriously? That hurts.”
I looked down at his rifle. “You’re carrying a huge, crazy-looking gun. You took out a highly trained soldier to get it. I don’t know what to think, except that there’s a whole side of you that I don’t really know at all.”
Oh my god, why are we doing this again? Okay, Rory. Let’s look at the facts:
FACT: I still don’t think you’ve told Benji about what happened to you and your family, so it’s not like he’s the only one hiding a past.
FACT: Cyrus was a frigging alien on a mission to steal your boss’s space rock, but you trust him unconditionally despite the fact that he’s put you in danger by withholding that information.
FACT: Benji has killed one soldier, while Apolonia has killed many, and you still trust the aliens more than you trust Benji.
FACT: In any other piece of media this formulaic and cliche-ridden, the killing of one of his father’s soldiers would be proof of loyalty to the audience and the other characters.
But don’t let that get in your way of hurling unnecessary drama into a flight sequence and bogging the whole goddamn thing down.
Benji searched my eyes for a moment and then touched my face gently. I opened my mouth to speak, but he put his mouth on mine, slow and tender. His mouth was warm and soft, exactly the way I remembered. He pulled away, touching his forehead to mine. “You know me. I’m the guy who’s been following you around, gladly taking your crap for two years. I’m not any different, except maybe not as pathetic as you thought.”
I shook my head, but the rest of my body was frozen. “I never thought you were pathetic. Too happy, yes.”
“Too happy?” he said, raising one eyebrow.
He grinned. “Maybe it was just being around you.”
Tsavi sighed, clearly uncomfortable witnessing our exchange.
Alternate theory: Tsavi remembers the danger you’re all in and is just as frustrated as the reader that, once again, what should be a high-tension action scene has been interrupted so Rory and Benji can have a serious talk about their relationship and come to a resolution that will only last until the next time they have the same serious talk about their relationship.
Luckily, all the fighting happened while we were watching a repeat of The Rory Doesn’t Trust Benji Romantic Dramedy and Musical Variety Hour, so anything interesting is over and we’ve missed it. Tsavi tells them:
“Okay, you two. It’s time to circle back. I haven’t heard gunfire in a while, and I just saw a fleet of military Humvees driving east.”
Tsavi knows what a Humvee is? Also, Tsavi has a concept of direction on an alien planet as described by their magnetic poles? I thought she was a ship doctor. Their training must be really thorough.
They head back to the radio station:
More people were in the street, looking stunned and confused, pointing at the hole in the KIXR building.
Tsavi stopped and climbed into the backyard of a house sitting across from the radio station. There was no car in the drive, and the lights were dark.
Raise your hand if you thought this radio station was way out in the middle of nowhere, then went back and looked for a description of houses and things nearby it, only to come up empty. It’s in the middle of a neighborhood? They drove there in a bright orange Mustang that’s still parked there. Benji went out and got snacks. Did they think no one would notice they were there? I was thinking this was some radio station way outside of town in a field or something.
Benji goes to his car to check for GPS devices (should have done that earlier, genius) and bombs.
“I don’t believe it,” I said, seeing the ugly, smelly cat. It was rubbing against Benji’s green sneakers, which were poking out from under the Mustang as he searched the underbelly of his car.
“Wasn’t the cat inside when they blew up the front half?” Tsavi asked, bewildered.
I wasn’t even going to make a nine-lives reference. It was too easy.
Now, before you go, “WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THE FUCKING CAT AGAIN!” like I was, Benji comes back to tell them:
“No explosives. I did find a tracer though. That could explain how they found us.”
“Could?” It “could” explain how they found you?
Anyway, the cat actually does serve a purpose to the plot, as Benji also found some string and secured the tracer to the cat, instead. They meet Cy, Apolonia, and Dr. Z at the car, and Dr. Z is injured now. So, he’s old, he’s tired, and he’s injured. The liabilities on this guy keep stacking the fuck up. Let’s get rid of him already.
Dr. Z and Tsavi sat in the back. Apolonia sat on Tsavi’s lap, and I sat on Cy’s lap while Benji drove. Benji didn’t seem happy about the new seating arrangement at all, but Cy and Apolonia weren’t comfortable with the lap situation. Tsavi paled when we suggested she sit on Cy’s lap, and there was no way I was going to plant my ass on Apolonia’s thighs.
I AM SO GLAD I KNOW WHO FEELS WHAT WAY ABOUT WHOSE LAP THIS IS REALLY GOING TO BE PERTINENT INFORMATION WHEN WE REACH WHATEVER DOESN’T HAPPEN IN THE NEXT CHAPTER.
So, the radio station has been a bust (good thing we wasted a whole chapter there!) and the only other radio station is on campus.
Cy thought for a moment. “We are running out of time and options. We still don’t know where the specimen is, and Hamech could be heading toward the Nayara at any moment.”
…then why didn’t you leave someone to wait at the Nayara? Someone who can explain everything. Someone like, I don’t know, Tsavi and Dr. Z, who both have very little to contribute to the group?
Rory suggests they go to the warehouse where the soldiers took Cy, in the hopes that they’ll have equipment they can use to contact Hamech.
“What if you’re wrong?” Cy asked. “What if we get there, and they’ve gone? That’s not exactly a plan.”
What if you get there and they haven’t gone? So much of this plot hinges on the government agency being as stupid as the ragtag band of heroes. The entire military isn’t going to abandon a black ops site to go running after six people. They’re going to send some soldiers after them and leave the others to protect the warehouse. So I don’t know what, exactly, they plan on doing when they get there, but I do know (thanks to a reader email) that when they arrive there will be another beautiful woman for Rory to hate, so stay tuned.