Well, here we are again. Let’s get right down to it. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of lap-sitting and seating arrangements that need sorting out.
They stop the car half a mile from the warehouse, so nobody will hear the engine, and they all get out.
I climbed out of the passenger-side door, and Cy followed, quickly leaning the seat forward for Apolonia and Tsavi to climb out. Benji struggled to help the professor.
“Maybe Dr. Zorba should sit in the front next time?” Benji said.
Told ya there would be seating arrangement discussion.
The warehouse is all lit up, so they don’t know how to get into it without being spotted. While they’re formulating a plan, Dr. Zoidberg continues to be more useless than the real, actual Dr. Zoidberg:
“Rory!” Dr. Z said, almost too loudly. He bend over and put one hand on his forehead. Silver was lying over on her side, wet and muddy. The professor sat her upright and pushed the kickstand down with his boot. “This is unacceptable!”
“Shh!” Cy said, holding out his hands. “I understand you’re upset, but we can’t get caught over a moped.”
“Silver is not just a moped! I saved for months for her. She is garage kept. She’s nearly fifteen and look at her! Perfect condition. That doesn’t just happen, you know.”
Mopeds are usually between three and six hundred dollars. How little is this top scientist, who goes on filed missions to the arctic and who has tenure at a university major enough to have a lab in which super rare space rocks can be studied, making annually that he has to save up for “months” to buy a moped?
Also, remember when I said Dr. Z had outlived his usefulness and should have died a long time ago? This only reinforces my point. Dr. Z has done nothing useful that the others have not been able to figure out for themselves, and now his behavior puts them all at risk of getting caught. Maguire has fallen into the trap that a lot of writers fall into, and that’s assuming that something cute or funny or zany has to happen in every single scene. We’re at 85% into the book; the only things that should be happening right now are things that will advance the story toward its climax. Writing Tip: Don’t keep a character around to provide comic relief once their usefulness to the plot has waned. It usually results in that character slowing the story down as the author attempts to justify the character’s presence with “wacky” behavior incongruous to the plot.
They walk across the field, but before they can get too close to the warehouse, it’s time for another Rory and Cy relationship moment:
He fidgeted. “I need to tell you something.”
“If it’s about Benji–”
“It’s not,” he said, cutting me off. “It’s about you. Thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done since the day I met you up until this moment. Despite the…circumstances…you’ve been a true friend to me, Rory.”
I’m glad we’ve stopped the forward momentum of the plot yet again, this time to rehash a conversation we’ve seen three times already, at least. I was getting whiplash from the break-neck pace the story was moving at.
Because Benji is with them, and because the author is trying to keep the love triangle alive for as long as possible, this happens:
“If we could go back to the beginning, I’d do it all again. I just…I know you can’t stay. I just know what it feels like to miss someone, and I’m not looking forward to it.”
Cy wiped a speck of mud from my cheek with his thumb and flicked it to the ground. “Part of me wishes I could stay.”
I glanced over to Benji, who was failing at pretending not to be watching us.
Underlines are italics, as per always.
I know what’s happening here. Maguire is best known for pioneering the New Adult genre. It makes sense that if she wanted to try out science fiction, she would genre blend it with New Adult to pull in her existing readership. That’s not unusual for an author to do. But she’s so busy trying to cram in all the things that made her New Adult novels popular that she’s sacrificed all the action and the urgency you’d expect a story about a space parasite and a government conspiracy to have. If we just took the science fiction plot, here’s what we’ve got:
- A mysterious rock lands on Earth.
- A professor manages to smuggle it back to his lab.
- An alien arrives to destroy the space rock.
- The government is looking for the space rock.
- If the government gets the space rock, a parasite might take over the world, ending life as we know it.
- The aliens might attempt to destroy the space rock by blowing up Earth, ending life as we know it.
- The protagonist has to get the space rock away from the government and to the aliens before any of that happens.
- In doing so, the protagonist will avenge the death of her family by the same government organization that took the rock.
And if we took just the romance plot, here’s what we’ve got:
- The protagonist has a dark and tortured past and can’t trust anybody.
- A guy likes her, but she’s not sure she likes him back.
- She’s also attracted to this other guy, who is engaged.
- The engaged guy is unavailable, but the guy who likes her might not be trustworthy.
- And the engaged guy seems to like her, too.
- Who does she pick?
Those are two separate books. They should have stayed separate, because they don’t all fit into one. I’m not saying there’s no room for subplots in a story, just that the biggest, most complex storyline should be treated as though it’s the biggest, most complex storyline. This entire time, the space rock has just been a thing in the background that moves them around from point A to point B while they work out their love triangle. We’re at the college, having a conversation about our relationship. Oh no, something something space rock! We have to move to this second location, where we will have another, nearly identical conversation about our relationship. Oh no, something something else space rock! We need to go on this space ship, to introduce yet another element of this love triangle and have more conversations.
With all that out of the way, Cy tells Rory the plan. The aliens are going to go into the still occupied warehouse alone and wrap up everything on their own, which basically will end up leaving our protagonist nothing else to do. Which obviously can’t happen, because then the story is over and there’s no resolution. But hark! What is that sound I hear upon the horizon? Could it be…
Before he could speak, a loud rumble echoed from miles away, and after a few seconds, the ground shook. Two pillars of fire and smoke snaked up to the sky, looming over the tree line.
“No,” Cy whispered, staring at the dark columns.
“What is that?” Benji asked, subdued panic in his voice.
That, Benji, is deus ex machina. Hamech has shown up, and his grand entrance results in the government people leaving the warehouse, making it much easier for the aliens to sneak in:
The warehouse transformed from being a glowing beacon of light to a red-and-blue strobe-covered hub of activity. An alarm sounded, and soldiers rushed out to fill every Jeep. They left the property spinning their wheels.
Okay, but surely not every soldier has left, right? Some people are still behind, guarding things, right?
The armed guards who were walking the grounds had disappeared. They’d all probably left in the Jeeps.
This is so convenient! Because now, Tsavi, Apolonia, and Cy are able to go on ahead and leave the humans waiting.
Yup. The protagonist of this novel is going to sit in a muddy field and wait while someone else does the plot stuff. What is she going to do while she waits?
Have another conversation about her relationships, of course!
“You’re not scared for Cy?” Benji gripped his rifle, keeping his mouth tight in an attempt to conceal how it made him feel to ask that question.
I glanced at him from the corner of my eye. “I think there are more important things…”
So do I, but that’s not going to stop you two.
“No. Not really. Not to me. There’s an alien parasite in front of us and an alien invasion behind us. Things are blowing up. People are dying. I’d kind of like to know.”
“What? Is it you or him? You want me to choose out here in the field?”
“Then, what do you want me to say?”
“That you don’t want him to stay.”
“You just don’t get it,” I said, shaking my head. He didn’t know what it was like to lose someone. He had no idea how it felt to say good-bye.
Benji knows exactly what it’s like to say goodbye. He’s just turned his back on his father and his family to help you. He’s straight up betrayed his father for you, and you’re going to say that he doesn’t have any idea what it’s like to lose someone?
Oh, that’s right. No one’s pain can even touch yours, Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. Only you feel things deeply, because you’re. so. dark.
“I see the way he looks at you. I hear the way he talks to you, the things he says. He loves the woman I love. It bothers me,” he said through his teeth.
“He doesn’t love me! I’m different from what he’s used to. I intrigue him. You see how Apolonia behaves. He got confused. But he loves her!”
“And you,” he said, not missing a beat.
Keep in mind that while this is happening, there are explosions in another part of town big enough for them to see, and aliens trying to infiltrate a government black site yards away, we are watching a repeat of the Benji and Rory jealousy hour.
“What about that wouldn’t matter? Because he could decide at any moment to put you on a ship and take you away from here? Away from me? Probably just out of spite because he hates me. He always has. Do you have any idea how that feels? For someone else to have that kind of power…to destroy you?”
“If I left, it would destroy you?” I asked staring at him.
His eyebrows were pulled in, and his entire face was taut with anguish and worry. He did understand, after all, how completely a good-bye could change someone. How it could change everything.
She tells Benji she “kind of” loves him, and then there are more explosions. Dr. Z–because he’s still there, listening to yet another intensely personal conversation about the Rory/Cy/Benji love triangle–notes that the aliens will be at the college soon, and he should head back there to warn everyone. Instead of letting him go and cutting his dead weight from the group, Rory tells him that everyone is home for Thanksgiving, anyway, and they’ll probably hear what’s happening and evacuate on their own. She wants him to see with his own eyes that Brahmberger isn’t in the warehouse. But Dr. Z is adamant, and while even bigger explosions are going off in the city, he leaves.
Benji and Rory decide to go into the warehouse, to help Cy and Apolonia and Tsavi.
It was the same door I’d snuck into when I followed Cy there nearly two days before. I couldn’t believe that only forty-eight hours had passed. It felt as if I’d been running for my life for months.
It’s felt like months for us, too, Rory.
“I feel like we should have gone with Dr. Zorba,” Benji said.
“We can stop this from here.” I touched the knob and pulled open the door, standing rigid when the barrel of a handgun touched my nose.
“Easy,” Benji said. His rifle made a cracking noise as he dropped it to the ground.
The woman holding the gun to my face narrowed her eyes at me and then glared at Benji. “Oh. You are in so much trouble,” she said.
“Shut up, Bryn.”
My face screwed into disgust. “Who is she?”
Benji sighed. “My sister.”
Yes! Absolutely, let’s just introduce a new character 87% into the novel. Why not?
Bryn is, of course, part of the CIA. She pushes her gun into Rory’s temple and says that Benji has ruined his father’s career.
Bryn wore green fatigues and a matching cap, her golden blonde hair shooting out in a short ponytail at the nape of her neck. Her high cheekbones and almond-shaped green eyes made her look more supermodel than soldier. Her perfect teeth reminded me of Benji’s, and I started to wonder if his perfect looks were genetic or if, being second-generation Majestic, they had been engineered.
She has a gun to your head, Rory. Is now really the time for a long description of how hot she is?
Bryn smiled. “You’re nothing. And tonight, it’ll be as if you never were. So, be a good ghost and shut the hell up. You’ve done enough to piss me off today.”
I moved, slapping my hands together and simultaneously grabbing Bryn’s gun and pointing the barrel at her forehead.
“Whoa!” Benji said, barely having time to react. “What was that?”
Selective memory self-defense. It only works when there’s a hot girl in the scene and the reader needs to be reminded that Rory is more tough and special. I’m waiting for the part where Rory manages to disarm Apolonia, because it seems unlikely that such a thing won’t happen.
“What else don’t I know about you?” Benji asked, watching me hold the gun in awe.
You actually already know this. She slammed you into the ground because of her self-defense training, remember?
Bryn tells Benji that their father is being held upstairs, and that she can’t take them to the space rock because she doesn’t have clearance. She thinks Benji has been brainwashed by Rory and the aliens, and they’re just going to kill him when they get what they want.
Bryn’s lips formed a hard line, and she closed her eyes. “You’re going to have to kill me. I’m not taking you to my dad.” She opened her eyes once to look at her brother. “I’ll never forgive you for this, Benji.”
It doesn’t really matter, does it? You’ll be dead. “Never” is a very short amount of time at this point.
He snarled back at her. “You will take us to Dad, so we can get that rock off this planet before it kills us all, or I’m going to kick your ass, you spoiled, close-minded, snotty little bitch!”
Bryn’s eyes popped open, and we both stared at Benji, stunned. I’d never heard him swear or yell, and by Bryn’s expression, she hadn’t either.
I smiled at him. It was kind of sexy.
It’s sexy for a guy to call his sister a bitch and threaten violence against her? Granted, these are tense circumstances, but we’re talking about one of the romantic leads in the story seeing his sister with a gun to her forehead and using the opportunity to call her a bitch and threaten to beat her. All of that “sexy” assertive aggression could have been conveyed without tacking on the bitch part.
And is it just me, or does this author, much like E.L. James, have a real issue with blonde women? So far, there have been two in this story, they both been called bitches, and Rory has pulled a gun on both of them.
Oh my god, what if it’s the same blonde that wronged E.L. James?
Just then, Benji blanched, and less than a second later, he dived for his sister and slammed her to the ground.
I didn’t have time to react or ask what was going on before I had my answer. Apolonia’s sword his the wall, just on the other side of where Bryn’s neck would have been.
Rory tells Apolonia that Bryn is Benji’s sister, because it’s only okay for Rory to use violence against her, I assume. They run through the building, which is empty.
“Where is everyone? Did they all leave for Nayara?” Benji asked.
“No, some stayed behind, but we corralled them into the courtyard,” Cy said.
Benji and Bryn traded glances. “Did you kill them?”
“Not all of them,” Tsavi said. “But some didn’t give us a choice.
Bryn freaks out and gets all hysterical about whether or not they killed her dad, and Rory tears off on her own for some reason. Probably because she’s so amazing and confident and brave or whatever.
A boom, this time much closer, shook the building. Without a second thought, I bolted out the door and ran down the hallway, opening doors and trying to find an office with a window. Unable to find one, I ran to an exit door on the east side, which led to a metal railing that spanned the length of the building. Each end turned into stairs that led into the courtyard.
Since when do warehouses have courtyards?
The remaining men, most of them in white lab coats, were standing among lifeless soldiers, facing in the direction of Helena, their faces lit by the glowing annihilation.
How are they staring at Helena? They’re in a courtyard. Aren’t they just seeing another wall?
Hamech’s ship is flying over the city, and fighter jets are shooting at it and all is chaos and fire. I’m still stuck on the part where Rory can somehow see the ground and the city and the ship and everything while she’s in a courtyard.
It was overwhelming to see that much destruction and death. Where the earth wasn’t orange with fire, it was red with glowing embers. Wind whipped through the blaze, making the inferno rise in pillars, as if it were reaching out from the pool of flames, trying to climb back into the ship. Fiery debris fell out of the sky like rain, and the early morning clouds were red, reflecting the devastation below. A quiet college town the day before, Helena now rivaled the bowels of hell.
So I mean, clearly she has an unobstructed view of what’s going on, and the guys on the ground have the same view, I guess, from the way they’re staring, so…I mean, is something partially enclosed on three sides actually a courtyard? And again, why does a warehouse even have a courtyard?
I realize that I’m ignoring the overall important part of the plot here, but if the author is allowed to do that, so am I.
Benji runs through the door after Rory:
“My God,” he whispered. “It’s all gone.”
And that’s the end of the chapter.