So, we left off with everyone deciding that they need to get to a radio station that will, realistically, be of absolutely no use to them, for reasons more than explained by Trout Nation resident experts in the comments section last time. Thank you to everyone who took the time to teach us a lesson in radio communications, by the way, that was fantastic!
Anyway, now everyone is standing around Benji’s bright orange Mustang, which is too loud and conspicuous, and doesn’t have the room for six people. Benji suggests making two trips, because duh, two trips in a bright orange car that’s super loud is way practical, especially when you’re trying to beat the clock. Cy decides it will be easier to leave Benji behind, and Dr. Z steps in to create some weak dramatic tension:
Dr. Z sighed. “Whatever we do, we must do it now. I’m sure there will be more soldiers coming at any moment.”
Why is this weak? Because there should have been soldiers there already. Detective Rorschach or whoever he is got away; reinforcements should have already stormed the ship hours ago, while everyone was dicking around in the med center. The only reason they didn’t was because it would have been disastrous to the author’s plans.
Benji tells Cy there’s no way they’re going to take his car and abandon him in the woods, which might be macho caveman posturing over Rory, but it’s also pretty understandable. But then Dr. Z says he’ll just stay behind.
Okay, let’s talk about the stupid uselessness of Dr. Z, shall we? The only reason Dr. Z exists is to make the space rock plot. At this point he’s so bumbling and totally incompetent within the structure of the dilemma he created, he’s John Hammond surviving at the end of the movie version of Jurassic Park. Nobody needs him once the dinosaurs get loose, so why is he still there? He’s useless. That’s why Crichton killed Hammond off in the novel; once he created the park and people started dying, he was no longer needed. Dr. Z hasn’t made a single useful decision since he told Cy and Rory about the Majestic. And any suggestions Zoidberg has made could have easily been made by other characters. The moment the reader finds out that Cy knows far more than Dr. Z, Dr. Z has outlived his usefulness. They should have found Dr. Z dead at his house, leading to the confrontation with Ellie. With Dr. Z dead, it would have removed an ally and upped the stakes. We also wouldn’t be stuck with Dr. Z trailing along behind them, throwing out the occasional bit of dialogue to remind us that he still exists. Unless Dr. Z does something pretty spectacular that saves everyone and wraps up the plot, he should have been cut loose a long time ago.
We’ll see what happens.
For right now, though, tough girl Rory has the situation in hand:
“No one is staying behind. We can all fit,” I said. I took Benji’s keys from his hands and pushed a button on the keyless entry remote. The trunk popped open, and everyone stared at the empty space. I climbed in, lay on my side, bent my knees, and propped my head with my elbow.
“This is ridiculous,” Cy said.
Benji smiled at me. He broke something off his keychain and tossed his keys to Cy. “You wanted to drive, right?” He climbed in, too, and made a show of getting comfortable next to me.
I can’t remember if the specific year of the Mustang was mentioned, but the classic models did not have much trunk space. I looked it up. A 1970 Mustang convertible had like 8 cubic feet of trunk space. An average refrigerator has 18. A brand new Mustang would have like 13. Good luck, guys.
“What are you doing?” Cy growled. His patience with Benji was waning.
Right, because he was so patient before.
“It’s cold, and there are two too many bodies versus seats in the Mustang. I’m volunteering to keep Rory warm.” With that, he reached up and pulled down the trunk lid.
So, once they’re sealed in, Rory hears Dr. Z giving directions to the radio station and Cy and Apolonia talking in their language (she notes that it “doesn’t sound like a pleasant conversation”). There has been no mention of Tsavi so far, so who the fuck knows where she is or if she’s even in the scene anymore.
I wasn’t sure where the radio station was, but I assumed Cy would have to take back roads to get there. I didn’t realize until the ride began to get really bumpy that Cy was have to stay off-road until we cleared the roadblocks.
“I hope your car isn’t too damaged after this.”
Uh, I hope you don’t end up leaving your drive shaft on the fucking forest floor while Cy tries to drive an American muscle car through a bunch of trees and stumps and bracken. This car shit is KILLING ME.
Benji says he hopes they don’t get stuck or Cy doesn’t drive them off a bridge. This is an outcome I haven’t considered before, and it’s what I’m really rooting for now.
“Is that–ow!” he yelled. Cy had taken a bump too fast, and Benji banged his head on the trunk lid. He rubbed his head and then pounded the side of his fist against the interior wall of the trunk. “Take it easy! He probably wants to make sure we’re too rattled to cuddle.”
Finally, some childish, repetitive love triangle drama to break up the monotony of the space rock and aliens plot.
I smiled. “He’s got his hands full with the warrior princess.”
“Oh. I wondered if they were…if so, he’s doing a poor job of hiding it.”
“How he feels about you.”
Just in case you were wondering, gentle reader, Cy is definitely in love with Rory and not with horrible, awful Apolonia (for whom the book is inexplicably named) and everyone can see that, except Rory, so that definitely makes it so.
Benji tells Rory that he was worried she would leave on the ship with Cy and never come back, or the soldiers would shoot her or something, and that’s why he’s on her side.
“So, it wasn’t all an act then? You didn’t want the rock?”
Benji’s face compressed, and he leaned toward me. “I don’t care about the rock. You’re the only thing I’ve wanted since the day I met you.”
Okay, but why? Serious question: what about Rory at the beginning of the book would make anyone want to be around her? Especially when she continually tells people she doesn’t want to be around them?
Also, how can Rory see Benji’s expression if they’re in the trunk?
They try to kiss, but Cy hits a well-timed bump, and they arrive at their destination. I am continually perplexed at the distances in this book. If it was such a difficult trip in a conspicuous vehicle, but the drive only took long enough for Rory and Benji to have a brief conversation about her relationship with Cy, why didn’t they just walk? It couldn’t have been that far away.
Cy lets them out of the trunk:
“Are you okay?” he asked. “Sorry about the sharp turns. Helena is crawling with Humvees. We had several close calls. It’s not easy sneaking around in an orange sports car.”
1. No sharp turns were ever mentioned.
2. Why didn’t Rory and Benji hear anything about the close calls, when they could clearly hear the people in the interior of the car speaking only a page before?
3. I don’t remember if we ever figured out where they were before, but the town is called Helena? So they’re either in Montana or Alabama?
We followed Dr. Z to the front door of the radio station. None of us were surprised that it was locked, but Benji successfully picking the lock with some wire from his trunk surprised us all.
“What?” he said.
“Where did you learn to do that?” Cy asked. “That’s a fairly expert move for a conservative engineering student.”
Yeah, engineers are terrible with mechanical systems. Like these engineering students, who built a robot that can pick locks. Of course, an argument can be made that an engineer would probably build the robot to do the thing before even thinking about trying to do the thing themself.
Benji tells them that his father taught him lock picking and a bunch of survival skills.
“Do you always carry a lockpick in your trunk?” Cy asked.
“It’s two paperclips, one bent like so,” Benji said, holding out his hand. “They were in my backpack in the trunk.”
“Amazing coincidence, that’s all,” Cy seethed.
No, Scooby Doo‘s Velma always having a bobby pin in her hair, despite wearing a hairstyle that clearly didn’t require bobby pins in the first place, was an amazing coincidence. A student having paperclips in his backpack isn’t that big a stretch.
A raggedy, skinny gray cat meowed and rubbed itself against the wall of the station and then against Benji’s leg.
“Aw, poor guy,” Benji said. He tried to pet him, but the cat maneuvered out from under Benji’s hand and kept rubbing his side against Benji’s other leg.
“Looks like you found a friend,” I said.
“Animals and kids love me,” he said before smooching at the overgrown kitten.
What exactly is happening here? What does the kitten add to the story? Why is this happening?
THERE ARE ALIENS. AND THE GOVERNMENT IS AFTER YOU. AND THERE IS A DEFINITE CHANCE THE WORLD WILL EITHER BE DESTROYED BY A PARASITE OR DESTROYED BY SOMEONE PREVENTING THE PARASITE FROM SPREADING. WHY IS THERE A SCENE WITH A KITTEN?
Apolonia and Tsavi guard the door while Cy, Benji, Dr. Z, and Rory try to get the radio station up and running. Benji goes outside to look for an electrical box, giving Cy and Rory a moment alone for more romantic tension drama:
“Why are you so hell bent on hating him?” I asked.
“I’m just waiting for him to betray you.”
“You mean, us.”
“No, I mean, you. One can’t be betrayed by someone one doesn’t trust.” He sighed, frustrated. When he spoke again, his voice was calmer. “This is a bad idea, Rory. His father is Majestic. Benji has been raised with that allegiance, and you think one girl is going to make him switch loyalties?”
“Why didn’t you make him leave then?”
“Because you wanted him to stay.”
You know what, fuck it. I’m done looking for sense and logic in this book. Underlines = italics, you know the drill.
Cy checked over his shoulder, and then his eyes met mine. “I do care for you. When Tsavi, Apolonia, and I leave this planet, I don’t want you to be alone. If Benji is what he says he is, then you’re going to need him even if it makes me physically ill to put any thought in that scenario.”
This is some pretty impressive mental gymnastics. I hope he’s stretched. I think I understand now what Cy is saying: He’s going to be leaving the planet, so he wants Rory to have Benji in her life on the off chance he’s not going to betray her, even though Cy is 100% certain that Benji will betray her. But it makes him physically ill to think about Benji not betraying her.
Look, just because I understand what he’s saying doesn’t mean it makes sense.
“So, you’re allowing Benji to stick around because you want us to be friends just in case he’s not a lying Majestic minion?”
“Precisely, but not friends, an asset.”
“We’re already friends.”
“Yes, this concerns me.”
“I’ve already told you, Rory.”
“You care about me.”
You know what would make more sense in this conversation than Cyrus having this line of reasoning because he cares about Rory? If he would just come out and say that he wants Rory to have Benji in case anything goes wrong with Majestic once Cy and Apolonia leave. She could use Benji’s safety for leverage or something, since his dad is involved in Majestic. That would make far more sense than, “I want you to have this dude hanging around you, even though you might be evil, because god forbid you are left dude-less in this situation.”
And that’s the real problem with the love triangle in this book. All the characters are making bad choices because it’s unthinkable that Rory might end up without a boyfriend at the end.
“Let’s be honest. You don’t get to deny me Benji because you’re jealous. If you choose Apolonia, then you can’t claim me, too.”
He released my wrist, clearly disgusted. “You’re wrong. I wouldn’t do that to you or to her.”
“I guess one girl can make someone completely contradict everything he thought was right.”
“Now you’re comparing me to him?” Cy said, his face twisting to anger.
The beauty of this passage is that the reader isn’t supposed to realize that Rory is unintentionally comparing him to herself. See, Benji likes Rory. She’s the only girl he’s interested in. He’s not stringing anybody else along. But Rory is doing exactly what she’s accusing Cy of: keeping one on the back burner just in case the one she really wants doesn’t choose her. She goes on to accuse Cy of being jealous, and he has been jealous. But Rory can’t get too high and mighty about that, because she’s been seething ever since she found out about Apolonia’s existence.
And let’s remember that the only thing Cy has done to make Rory jealous is be engaged to someone else, long before he met Rory. It’s Rory who’s gone out and actually fucked somebody else.
Benji finds the electric box and the lights come back on. He comes back inside, cat in tow, interrupting the fight.
In that moment, I realize how close Cy and I were. He noticed it, too. In unison, we stepped back, putting distance between us, fidgeting and failing miserably at appearing casual.
Benji picked up on it, and his smile disappeared. “Everything okay in here?” The cat wriggled out of Benji’s grip and ran into the back of the building.
Why? Why is the cat still a thing?
Rory storms off into another part of the building, and Benji follows her, demanding to know what she and Cy were talking about. She warns Benji that if he humiliates her with betrayal, she’ll never forgive him. But it kind of seems like if Benji betrays her to the Majestic, she’s not going to be around long enough to be mad at him, anyway. He tells her that his father believes Apolonia et. al are only interested in the rock as a way to keep humans from protecting Earth from them, and Rory points out that Benji is pretty interested in this rock he claims to not give a shit about.
As they set up the radio station, this happens:
Every once in a while, Benji would take a break and try to coax the cat over to him. It looked as if it had already been electrocuted once, so I wasn’t surprised that it wanted nothing to do with Benji while he was wrapping the copper wire.
This cat better turn out to be an alien or a spy trained by the Majestic or something that would make it a necessary element to the story.
Benji clipped his wire. “There are several radio antennae on the north hills. This radio station must redirect to them. It’s possible we could divert the beam, redirect by linking the ground signal to the antennae. Hamech’s ship could intercept the signal. If we knew the ship’s trajectory, we could even point one of the dishes here in that direction and bypass the antennae all together.”
Radio people covered why this would be extremely unlikely in the the comments on the last recap.
Dr. Z points out that the only way that would work is if Hamech’s ship is monitoring those specific antennae, and Benji asks Apolonia if that’s a possibility.
“It is possible,” Apolonia said, her voice monotone. She was emotional all right with the one emotion she had–anger.
Just incase we’ve all forgotten, Apolonia is horrible and doesn’t deserve Cy the way Rory does. I mean, all Apolonia has done since she got there is be super angry about everything. You’d almost think dozens of people she cared about had been killed only hours before or something.
Cy and Dr. Z tell Rory she needs to rest. This constant need for everyone to rest, right in the middle of what should be urgent action, slows this book down almost as much as the love triangle does. Benji gets his emergency blanket from the car, and they get ready to go to sleep.
I returned his smile and felt my stomach flutter when I realized he was shifting to lie down behind me. The radio station was fucking freezing, but that wasn’t the only reason I wanted him next to me. Benji had been pursuing me a long time. It wasn’t until Cy came into the picture that I was able to feel anything. Ironically enough, it was for Benji. Now that that door had been opened, I couldn’t seem to get enough of him.
Now it’s time for a long conversation about their relationship. Benji asks if Cy leaving means something for them, and Rory says no, it just means Cy is leaving. She also tells Benji that she doesn’t know if they’ll work out, but she feels like they’re right together, or something. Benji suggests he and Rory could leave and not put themselves in danger anymore. Which is stupid, because if they leave and Apolonia and Cy and Tsavi fail in their mission, the entire planet is going to be overrun by horrific parasites. If they leave, they’re in more danger than they are just running around with the aliens.
I looked over at Cy and Apolonia, smiling at each other and stealing small touches every once in a while.
Huh. For someone who doesn’t have any emotions besides anger, Apolonia seems pretty happy to be with Cy, huh?
Rory tells Benji that Cy is her friend and she loves him, but she’s unwilling to say that she loves him as just a friend.
I turned on my back, looking up at him. “It’s different with you.” He tried to soften the tension around his eyes, but it was still there. I touched his cheek. “In a few hours, I’m going to tell Cy good-bye. But if I had to do that with you, I couldn’t do it, Benji. I couldn’t survive if you left me.”
Benji leaned down, touching his lips to mine. It didn’t matter who else was in the room or what they thought. The right pair of arms was around me, and that was all that mattered.
I don’t know. I think probably the alien parasite potentially taking over Earth kind of matters, but it’s never really treated that way by the narrative.
Then there’s more shit with the cat. Literally paragraphs of the cat.
Benji wants to name the cat Snuggles.
I frowned. “That is the lamest name ever.”
and after the cat actually approaches them, Benji says:
“See? He doesn’t think it’s a lame name.”
I’m pointing these out because there’s another “lame” earlier in the chapter, and it’s ticking me off. Even though I’m physically disabled and mentally ill, I’m generally not too freaked out about ableist language like “crazy” or “idiot” or “the meteor strike crippled the space station”, but there are a few situations that do make me furious and “lame” used to mean “stupid” is one of those. Especially because it specifically means not being able to walk due to disabilities affecting the legs. Like, sorry people who can’t walk are stupid? I feel like “lame” is one of those words like the r-word or “that’s gay” in terms of everybody knowing they’re wrong.
Before long, my body melted against Benji’s and I felt myself drift off. But I didn’t dream. It was just a warm, sweet darkness, the kind I had sunk into when I died. All I wanted was to lie still, heavy and relaxed against Benji. In that moment, it felt okay to just slip away even if it was forever. Staying there was easy. It was the waking-up part that was hard. This time though it was even harder.
My body lurched, and voices around me grew louder.
“Jesus! She was convulsing!” Benji cried, his hands hovering over me. “What…what do I do?”
Cy says Rory needs water, and Benji volunteers to go to a nearby gas station for it.
Cy touched my arm. “It will be over soon.”
My body lurched again. For someone who was so dehydrated, I seemed to be vomiting buckets. My palms were flat on the concrete, covered in whatever my stomach was rejecting. Maybe my whole body was rejecting what Apolonia had done to me. Maybe she had done it on purpose. Maybe she had been trying to kill me.
Of course it was something Apolonia did. Every woman in this book has wanted to kill Rory. And okay, that’s probably a natural reaction that anybody would have once they’ve met Rory, but I’m so finished with her assumption that all women are out to get her.
“What did you…” I said, but I couldn’t finish.
Once Apolonia recognized what I was accusing her of, her face finally flashed an expression–anger.
Of course it’s anger. You’re accusing her of poisoning you or something.
“You think I did this to you?” She took a step, but Tsavi held her back.
Let her go, Tsavi. Just end this for all of us.
“I saved your life,” she spit out. She looked to Cy. “This is who you are so fond of? How could you care about someone so weak? Look at her! Sweat dripping from her like an epocshta.”
Tsavi pushed her back, out of sight. I could hear them arguing in their native language.
Cy put a gentle hand on my back. “She’s just upset. I told you she’s emotional.”
Yeah, people tend to get, like, irrationally angry about being accused of murder. Silly, emotional, Apolonia and her mindless savagery.
Rory asks Cy what language they speak, because that’s of the utmost concern when you’re seizing and puking, and he tells her it’s Anhktesh. She’s all, “It’s beautiful,” or whatever, then throws up again.
“She didn’t mean to,” Cy said, a begging tone in his voice. “None of us could know it would have this effect. Please be okay,” he said before kissing the crown of my head.
Oh. So it was Apolonia’s fault.
I’ve probably used that .gif in an Apolonia recap before, but it’s really needed almost every time.
If I felt better, I might have appreciated Cy caring for me, even in Apolonia’s presence. Being near death was probably the only time she would allow it.
This is how petty Rory is. She’s convulsing and puking, but still has time to remind us that Cy is caring for her, and she’s won some kind of victory over his bitch fiancé.
Benji comes back with water and gas station snacks and sweatshirts. Apolonia gets Rory cleaned up–that bitch, how dare she–and Dr. Z, Cy, and Tsavi test the power to see if it will work.
But we need to know what the cat is doing. The cat is important.
The cat ran away when Apolonia gave me an improvised shower, but it returned when it realized Benji had food. Apparently, cats like pork rinds and Slim Jims.
With a new tarp beneath us and four extra-large C-Mart sweatshirts that Benji had bought from the gas station to use as a blanket, Benji, Snuggles, and I were huddled together again.
I hope that fucking cat gets infected by the alien parasite and kills you all.
A spotlight shone through the front window, and everyone who was standing ducked down. Apolonia, crouched and silent, walked across the room to look out.
Her body relaxed. “They are gone, but they might be back. We should stay hidden.”
The best way to do that, Cy decides, is to, you guessed it, sleep.
“Maybe we should all get some rest and try again in a few hours.”
Apolonia took a step toward him. She’d taken down her hair, and the black waves cascaded down past her shoulders, settling at her elbows. “I am not sure we have a few hours. I have been out of contact with Hamech for most of the day. If he tracks the Nayara to her last communication and sees that she is down…if he does not find me in the ship…the bodies…”
Oh, Apolonia. Don’t you realize what book you’re in? The science fiction is secondary to the real plot, which is just about Rory being a man magnet.
Apolonia nodded, still unsure. She and Tsavi made a pallet on the other side of the room. Cy made his a few feet away from the DJ booth and Dr. Z.
So, Cy sleeps far away from his betrothed, close enough to talk to Rory while everyone else sleeps.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better. I can admit now that I was afraid,” Cy whispered.
“That I was going to die or that Apolonia had tried to kill me?” I whispered back.
“The former. She wouldn’t hurt you. I know she’s–”
“Cold? Unfriendly? Hostile?”
All qualities that apply to Rory through this entire book, but they’re totally unacceptable in a romantic rival, even if that romantic rival is currently in a tense situation and has sacrificed the lives of her crew just to save the planet Rory currently lives on. But whatever.
Cyrus explains that he can’t sleep beside Apolonia because of some custom with his people, and how he and Apolonia met. He expresses uncertainty at the prospect of her still marrying him after they return to their planet.
“Why wouldn’t she?”
“My friendship with you…unsettles her.”
Cy looked down to the floor. “No.”
I smiled. It’s okay. I can see that you love her.”
“If I’ve…seemed confused about the nature of our friendship, please accept my apologies. Being here, so far from home, and spending so much time with you…you make it very easy to forget.”
There’s the validation Rory needs. Cy forgot about the woman he loved because of her.
“It’s so strange to feel so strongly about two women who are so different. Sometimes, I wish the situation were different. But it’s not, and it’s wrong of me to think that.”
“You don’t know how much I wish I could.”
Rory tells Cy that she loved her best friend as much as Cy loves her, and Cy says the way he feels about her is confusing.
“Love is the most overused word in the English language. It’s confusing to everyone. Some people live their whole lives and never get it right.”
“Thank you. I don’t think I would have truly understood if I hadn’t met you.”
“Well, how about that? I finally get to be the one to say, you’re welcome.”
And that’s it. That’s how the chapter ends. They find a cat, they don’t contact the ship, Rory pukes a lot, and there’s way too much talking about how who loves who. I look forward to the next chapter, when probably more stuff doesn’t happen, and maybe there will be a dog or a spunky orphan added to the mix.