Synopsis: Damian and Jon had gotten the hang of working together as the Super Sons. Just as Damian thought that he could make this team-up work, he runs into an unexpected snag: Jon has a crush on him.
In addition to the three standard weapons–the M-60, M-16, and M-79–they carried whatever presented itself, or whatever seemed appropriate as a means of killing or staying alive. They carried catch-as-catch-can. At various times, in various situations, they carried M-14s and CAR-15s and Swedish Ks and grease guns and captured AK-47s and Chi-Coms and RPGs and Simonov carbines and black market Uzis and .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handguns and 66 mm LAWs and shotguns and silencers and blackjacks and bayonets and C4 plastic explosives. Lee Strunk carried a slingshot; a weapon of last resort, he called it. Mitchell Sanders carried brass knuckles. Kiowa carried his grandfather’s feathered hatchet. Every third or fourth man carried a Claymore antipersonnel mine–3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades–14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade–24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorus grenades. They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.
Keith takes the ride of his life. Shiro loses his mind
“Uh, hey? Guys? Why is this box ticking?” Hunk asks over the radio.
He’s on the other side of the warehouse, opposite where Keith is directing clean up. Drug busts are nasty, every time, even when they go point-by-point according to plan. There are too many variables, like the bloody gash Lance is currently sporting over one eye. The medics have him propped up in the corner, applying field dressing; he’ll live, but no one wants to meet a bullet face-first like that.
(Shiro is going to yell at him for it. He always yells when they do something to make his hair go more grey.)
“Ticking how?” Pidge asks over the comms.
Hunk hums. “Like bad ticking? Like something that’s on a timer, and I really don’t want to be here when it stops?”
Keith has only been paying half attention to their conversation, busy counting boxes and marking off paperwork, like that’s going to head off the five days of reports that bookend every case, but ominous ticking sets alarm bells off in his head. The operation they’re dismantling is slick and professional and definitely not above booby trapping a warehouse just to fuck with their day. With everyone’s day.
He shoves his paperwork off on the nearest grunt and runs over to where Hunk is nervously hovering over his cardboard box. “What have we got?”
Hunk motions at the box and looks at him a little helpless. “A box?” he offers.
Hello friends and welcome to another
edition of Wacky WWII Hijinks! Get hype, today we’re gonna learn
about rad spy shit
okay, first some
background: the OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, was an American
intelligence agency during WWII that was in charge of clandestine
shit like espionage, propaganda, and counter-intelligence. It was run
by a dude called “Wild Bill” Donovan, because that’s the kind of
name people had back then somehow
the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, was a British organization
in charge of espionage, sabotage, and assisting local resistance
groups in Europe. It didn’t have a director with a weird nickname,
but it was sometimes called the Baker Street Irregulars, which
honestly I think is even better
as you can imagine,
these two organizations came up with a lot of weird shit to help
their agents infiltrate into occupied Europe, so let’s get to it
this one comes to us courtesy of the SOE and were intended for use in
boiler rooms, because the british figured that anyone finding a gross
dead rat while stoking a boiler would probably just chuck the corpse
into the fire and be done with it. Except this time the boiler would
Rat asses, as you can see from the pencil fuse in the image, could
also be rigged for timed explosions instead, for those occasions when
you’re on a tight schedule about raining down petrified rat entrails
in your enemy’s basement
unfortunately (???), the RATS, EXPLOSIVE, never saw actual combat
use, as the first box the SOE dropped into Europe was intercepted by
the Nazis, who probably had a read good “what the FUCK”
moment when they opened it
along similar lines but far less fucking weird were coal
bombs, which were essentially the same thing as the rat bombs but
with hollowed out coal instead. Both the SOE and OSS actually used
Poop bombs (lol)
they then went a bizarre step further and developed mule dung bombs
for use in Africa- “specially sculpted” replicas of mule poop
that were packed with explosives. These weren’t meant to be chucked
into boilers, but rather left around for enemy forces to drive over.
Here is an actual American soldier talking about collecting mule shit
for war purposes, from O'Donnell’s book Operatives, Spies, and
Mule turds were to be found in great abundance…we added a few
samples of local mule dung, and this was carefully packed and sent to
London. We took care to explain that the full, rich horse dung of the
British countryside would not do in Morocco; it was the more watery,
smaller mule type that would pass there without suspicion. Also, it
was important to have it a deep sepia color, sometimes with greenish
shades, the product of straw and grass, not of oats and hay. In due
course of time the British London office made up explosive turds from
these samples, and we used them to good effect later in Tunisia.
You do you, mule-poop-connoisseur-OSS-agent.
this is not an actual picture of a bat bomb, but I found it while
googling for images to use and I love it okay thanks
anyway are you sensing a theme here?
This one was, surprisingly, not the product of OSS or SOE, but of an
American dentist named Lytle S Adams. Everyone needs a hobby I guess.
The idea behind bat bombs was that you take a bunch of bats
(specifically Mexican free-tailed bats), tie some little bombs to
them, and stuff them into a plane. Then the plane flies over Japan
(because Japan has a lot of wooden buildings and therefore is
particularly susceptible to incendiary use), and drops the bats. The
bats fall down to building-level, then start flying around looking
for somewhere to hide because they are having a seriously bad bat
day. In theory, the bats would fly up into the eaves and roofs of the
buildings, at which point the timers on their little bombs would go
off, sending both bats and buildings up in flames.
This idea actually, somehow, made it into the testing phase, but was
never used because honestly what the fuck
guess what it’s another bomb! In this case, a plastic explosive that
looked like flour (hence the name) and could even be baked into
something resembling food products, although just a tad more
poisonous than most food you find outside of school cafeterias. Aunt
Jemima was easy to smuggle through enemy lines due to its innocuous
appearance, and the OSS sent a bunch of it to Chinese resistance
fighters against the Japanese
“wait what?”, I’m sure you’re saying. “finally something that
doesn’t explode and it’s…just a totally normal thing?”
yeah. Here’s the thing: if you sent an agent or resistance fighter
into occupied territory, there was a pretty good chance they were
gonna get frisked at some point, because that was a pretty routine
occurrence in places like occupied France. If said agent/resistance
member were carrying, say, a map showing escape routes or a code
sheet for them to use to send information, and they got searched,
either that paper is gonna be found with their other papers or, if
hidden on their person, make a pretty distinct crinkling noise when
the Gestapo agent gets friendly with that area. Plus, you know, paper
doesn’t do great when wet
the solution to this was printing stuff on silk, like this:
this is Leo Marks, the creator of the silk code keys and one time
pads that SOE used for their agents, holding a one time code pad that has
been printed on silk
these silk documents could be sewn into an agent’s clothing while
still being totally undetectable to a pat-down, or even hidden
somewhere like rolled up in a thin tube and then stuck inside a
shoelace. If you went a step further and printed the document using
invisible ink, agents could carry maps around in plain view as
handkerchiefs or have their codebook printed directly onto their
underwear, because hey why not
I know it sounds boring after all this exploding wildlife, but
silk-printed documents were hugely important to covert
operations during WWII
should not be guns but are, in fact, guns
tbh I’m just gonna let the pictures speak for themselves on this one
apparently there was an umbrella one too but I couldn’t find a picture of that one
you’re dropping people into enemy territory to gather intelligence,
you need some way to communicate with them. This was a problem, since
cell phones hadn’t been invented yet and radios at the time were
like, fucking huge, which
is not great when you’re trying to hide them from the Gestapo
got around this problem by creating the suitcase radio, which is
exactly what it sounds like- a big old radio disguised as a suitcase.
Obviously they weren’t gonna stand up to any examination more
rigorous than “yes that is suitcase shaped”, but it allowed
agents to at least walk around in public with it without attracting
too much attention
keeping with the “problems with radios” theme, we have the OSS’
Joan-Eleanor system. See, normal radio frequencies were monitored by
both sides in the war, which was Not Great. It meant both that radio
transmissions could be intercepted by the enemy (and subsequently
decoded, like Germany’s Enigma messages), and also that you could use
radio direction finders to pinpoint the location of a broadcasting
radio. Every time a covert agent turned on their radio to report
something, they ran the risk of being located and hella murdered
the Joan-Eleanor (or J-E) system, in contrast, was a Very High
Frequency (VHF) system. VHF bands couldn’t be easily monitored,
unlike the frequency bands used by other radios.
Why? I actually have no idea. Listen I just read things and ramble
about them on the internet, I don’t know jack shit about radios
anyway, as a result the system was hard to detect but very short
range, so it worked by giving the agent on the ground a hand-held
transmitter (the Joan), that talked to a bigger transceiver (the
Eleanor) that was in a plane. At prearranged times the plane would
fly over wherever the agent was and they could have an undetectable
it’s a compass! It’s a button! It’s a compass hidden inside a button!
okay this one isn’t technically equipment, but it’s cool and
was used by spies so you can deal with it
it turns out that during the war pretty much everyone listened to the
BBC, even at risk of arrest in occupied territories. The SOE used
this to their advantage by working with the BBC to broadcast
seemingly meaningless words or phrases at certain times, which were
actually pre-arranged coded messages or orders to agents or
if an agent had to win over the resistance’s trust or prove they were
actually spies and not just random dudes, they could ask the person
whose trust they were trying to win to provide them with a personal
word or phrase. Then the agent could radio the SOE, give them the
word/phrase and ask it to be broadcast at a certain time, which the
other person would hear, and bam best friends
is there anything more quintessentially spy? agents were often supplied with a little vial of invisible ink before being dropped into occupied territory, for communications outside radio broadcasts. the ink could be developed (made visible) by means of chemicals or exposure to ultraviolet light (some invisible inks are developed by heat, but the SOE at least avoided those because of the worryingly high risk of accidental exposure. “whoops I sat to close to the fire and now everyone can see I actually drew little devil horns on this poster of Hitler you gave me”)
REAL COOL FACT: Josephine Baker, the famous Black singer, was actually a spy for the French Resistance during the war, and smuggled information during her concert tours of Europe by writing it in invisible ink on her sheet music! wow!
okay I’m gonna stop now because I keep thinking of more shit to add
and if I do this will literally never end (sorry). For further
reading I recommend the O'Donnell book mentioned above and Leo Marks’
Between Silk and Cyanide. Also apparently H. Keith Melton’s
OSS Special Weapons & Equipment is really good, but I
haven’t read it personally (though I totally stole the pictures of
the OSS guns from there, hooray the internet)
“For almost 25 years, virtually every bomb constructed by the Provisional IRA and the groups that splintered off it has contained Semtex from a Libyan shipment unloaded at an Irish pier in 1986.”
-Tom Harnden, The Telegraph
Semtex is a commercially manufactured, military-grade, plastic explosive containing RDX and PETN. It was invented in the late 1950s by Stanislav Brebera, a chemist working for Synthesia, a industrial chemical manufacturer in the former Czechoslovakia.
Plastic explosives are highly versatile weapons to guerrilla fighters because of their stability and difficulty to detect. Semtex can be easily transported, stored, divided, and deployed without risk of accidental detonation by changes in temperature, pressure, moisture, or other environmental conditions. Semtex must be triggered by a detonating device so it won’t explode if exposed to open flame, intense light, electrical, magnetic or other forms of radiation. It’s waterproof. It’s very malleable, almost like putty, making it idea for hidden and improvised bombs. In addition to its stability, Semtex is far more powerful than fertilizer-based explosives, i.e., to achieve the same blast yield of a 1lb slab of Semtex might require fifty or a hundred pounds of fertilizer-based explosive packed into barrels or other large containers which would be difficult to transport or conceal, and might leak material or prematurely detonate if not handled with extreme care.
With Semtex you can shake it, bake it, bop it, pull it, twist it, pop it in your pocket and take it for a walk into a bank or police station and leave it concealed. There it will patiently wait for its primary detonator to be triggered remotely, most commonly by radio frequency transmissions which the RDX and PETN explosive material themselves are unaffected by. Most of us have seen the hero in a show scrambling to remove detonators on charges so we almost intuitively know it can be easily disarmed and even recovered for reuse, but which is not to say steps cannot be taken to prevent the detonators from being removed once the charges are planted.
In response to international agreements (resulting from the Pan Am Bombing) the manufacture of Semtex began voluntarily adding chemicals to Semtex in 1991 to aid in its detection. However, by that time tonnes of Semtex-H originally sold to Lybia was already in the hands of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
After the tragedy of the Omagh Bombing (in which Lybian Semtex may have been used) there was a renewed call for peace leading to the Good Friday Agreement. However, after a few years the Real IRA (a splinter organization of the PIRA which had carried out the Omagh Bombing), became dissatisfied with British commitment to the peace process and the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive government. They began a renewed military campaign in Northern Ireland, and the English mainland. This campaign would reveal publicly that the Real IRA was still in possession of significant amounts of Semtex (originally provided to that organization by the defection of Provisional IRA quartermaster Michael McKevitt in 1997).
March 4th, 2001 [GIF/PICTURED]: Acting on a warning sent to a London hospital by Real IRA, police were attempting to disarm a car bomb outside the BBC’s main news centre when it exploded. Although Semtex was not publicly confirmed as the explosive in this bombing, a little over 1lb of unexplored Real IRA Semtex would be recovered by police after a failed improvised-rocket attack on the Strabane RUC station a couple months later in the same campaign.
After the commitment of Sinn Féin and the IRA to seek their goals through ‘exclusively peaceful means’ and the decommissioning of arms in 2005, as well as the death of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime in 2011, it seems unlikely Semtex will be used by dissidents in any future large-scale bombings. Furthermore, sympathizers in the United States and revolutionary allies such as the Basque separatist group ETA in Spain have also supplied the IRA with the slightly more effective plastic explosive C-4). Semtex also has an approximate shelf-life of 10 years, meaning old stocks are now very ripe.
However, small amounts of Semtex have been used by radical groups like Continuity IRA in improvised devices and rocket attacks. And, as recently as September 2015 caches of up to a pound of Semtex have been discovered or seized (although the combat effectiveness of those materials is now questionable).
-Based on exerts from The Wicklow Connection: A Timeline of Semtex Proliferation During The Troubles by Daniel O'Handley
The Foxes and Hounds Affair episode rewatch + trashy commentary
AKA: Illya Thinks About Napoleon All The Time, And Everybody Knows It
Merlin: If you will stand here, and think of a secret. Some little secret, which perhaps only you know. Illya: …… Merlin: You think of something very, very secret. Oh, you think of a man! A Monsieur Solo, who is on vacation while you must work.
ILLYA’S VERY, VERY SECRET THOUGHTS ABOUT NAPOLEON? OH, PLEASE, TELL ME MORE.
Merlin uses his mind-reading device to read an audience member’s mind during his evening show. The audience member turns out to be T.H.R.U.S.H.’s Victor Marton (played by the brilliant Vincent Price).
Victor is, of course, here for the mind-reading device. A chase follows, in which poor Merlin gets shot and falls to his death. Victor glances disinterestedly at Merlin’s body, then looks up at Illya, who’s on the fire escape.
“Close, Mr. Kuryakin, very close!” Victor calls. He gives Illya a little wave. “Good to see you again, by the way!”
There’s a fun little chase scene with Illya rolling around and jumping over staircase railings. In the end he drops the case, but gets away. T.H.R.U.S.H. opens the case to find…that it’s empty.
Victor: My instinctive dislike for that young man is growing into a sincere and honest hatred.
Agent Cantrell has the mind-reading device and is trying to get back to New York. Mr. Waverly decides to use: (1) a poor random innocent who has no idea what’s going on, and (2) Napoleon, who’s been away on vacation and thus has no idea what’s going on, to decoy T.H.R.U.S.H. away from Cantrell.
A brilliant and cunning plan? Illya’s expression says it all.
Enter Napoleon, who walks into Del Floria’s only to find that the secret entrance isn’t working and Del Floria doesn’t seem to know who he is. I’m convinced that Mr. Waverly came up with this half-assed plan for the sole purpose of pranking his top agent.
Napoleon: What’s the matter? Didn’t we pay our rent this month? Del Floria: Hey. Perhaps you’ll tell me, what is it you want? Napoleon: What I want is to get into my office.
T.H.R.U.S.H. grabs Napoleon and shoots him up with truth serum, but since Napoleon actually doesn’t know anything, it doesn’t get them very far. Napoleon finds this hilarious. (Also, he’s adorably obnoxious as all hell when drugged up on truth serum, hahaha Napoleon ilu
Victor Marton, meanwhile, is taking a break from cordially sniping at Lucia Belmont to pay Del Floria’s a visit.
Victor: Victor Marton, to see Alexander Waverly please. Del Floria: O__o Victor: Oh, come now, my friend. Do you announce me, or do I march in there and pull that silly little knob, hmm?
I will never get over how Victor can just stroll into U.N.C.L.E. HQ for tea with Waverly whenever he pleases. He even gets a visitor’s badge and everything!
T.H.R.U.S.H. grabs Illya and injects him with truth serum as well, which, uh-oh, because Illya actually does know where Cantrell is.
Lucia: The electronic thought translator. Where is it? Illya: … Lucia:Where is it? Napoleon: Fight it, Illya! Do something - think of girls!
Right, of course that’s going to work. Illya’s expression at being asked to think of girls is not encouraging.
Napoleon, darling…shouldn’t you know better by now, hmm?
butt.gif, or: Just Because I’m Trapped in a Filthy Prison Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Look Bloody Amazing, an Autobiography by Napoleon Solo.
Lucia Belmont very nearly gets away with the the thought translator, except she steals Victor’s plastic explosives handkerchief, sneezes into it and blows the thought translator, her minions and herself to kingdom come.
“Gesundheit,” mutters Napoleon.
(Everyone is staring at the carnage except Illya, who is staring at Napoleon, so clearly things are more or less back to normal.)
Despite the ridiculous plot, this is a really fun episode with lots of hijinks and one of the most entertaining T.H.R.U.S.H. villains ever (thank you, Vincent Price!).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be in the corner wondering how well Illya would have held out against that truth serum if he’d been focusing on his very, very secret thoughts of Napoleon instead of thinking about girls. (…although then perhaps THRUSH would have ended up learning truths of an entirely different variety.)
welcome to endless summer, where the are made up and the choices do matter because you either miss out on clues and/or relationship boosts. generally speaking, endless summer has some of the most important diamond options out of all of the choices series. i’ll try and tell you which ones are the most important.
#32: ‘I think I’m in love with you and I’m terrified’
Gaby jerked the steering wheel and ran off the road just as
the car behind went careening down the hill before them. It came to a deadly stop
at a stone wall with a plume of flames and heat that Illya could feel on his
Gaby hummed in satisfaction.
“How did that happen?” he asked, shocked.
“While you were entertaining them with your fists I packed
their boot with the plastic explosives and cut the brake lines.”
Illya stared at her, wide-eyed and short of breath.
“I think I’m in love with you,” he uttered. “And I’m
Me Little Armalite: The arms smuggling campaign of the IRA
The Troubles were an awful time in Irish history, from the late 1950′s all the way to the 1990′s saw some of the bloodiest fighting in Irish history, from the Provisional Irish Republican Army butting heads with the RUC and British Army to the Ulster Defense Force and Ulster Volunteer Force fighting the various IRA factions across Northern Ireland, and fighting for that long began a large chain of arms shipment campaigns to the IRA.
In the early days, the IRA were poorly armed, usually armed with weapons from earlier campaigns. This included MP40 submachine guns, Lee Enfield rifles, Thompsons dating back from both WWII and the Irish Civil War and other wise. Various raids on British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary armories were coming up with some weapons, but not enough to arm them for a larger conflict.
The IRA then began working on a massive arms shipment campaign with old IRA contact George Harrison and arms dealer George de Meo. NORAID, the
Irish Northern Aid Committee served as a sort of slush fund for the deals helmed by Joe Cahill. Around 1 million dollars were spent buying almost 2,500 guns for the IRA, including CAR-15′s, original M16′s, Browning Hi-Powers, S&W Revolvers and most famously, the AR-18.
The Armalite AR-18 was an attempt by Eugene Stoner to make a cheaper version of his AR-15 for sale to 3rd World Countries, however the large manufacture of AR-15′s effectively nullified that idea and the AR-18 slipped into obscurity, had the IRA not smuggled them. The AR-18′s were heavily used by the IRA during The Troubles and became one of the most iconic rifles of their campaign alongside the AR-15. Many IRA soldiers nicknamed the AR-18 the “Widowmaker” and the name stuck.
Other shipments came in through other members of the IRA like Gabriel Megahey as well as one from the Boston Winter Hill Irish Mob. However during the 1980′s, the FBI began cracking down on these shipments, arresting most key members such as Cahill, Megahey, Harrison and de Meo.
Enter Muammar Gaddafi. The IRA and the Libyan Government began to grow close with visits by Joe Cahill in the early 1970′s. Gaddafi had allowed the IRA to begin getting ComBloc guns as well as US made ones such as the RPG-7, the AKM and the DShK as well as millions of funds to the IRA to buy weapons. Following a small contact cut from 1976 to 1981, the shipments began again and intensified in 1986 following the US Air Force bombings of Benghazi and Tripoli, something Gaddafi saw as an attack by both the US as well as England, who allowed the US to use their air bases for the attack.
The weapons he supplied also upgraded as well, including MP5′s, various Glock, Beretta and Taurus handguns, FN MAG machine guns, flamethrowers, Strela 2 and SAM-7′s and probably the most infamous, Semtex.
Invented in the Czech Republic in the late 1950′s, Semtex is one of the most common plastic explosives ever made. While some of it’s first sales were 10 tons of it to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Libya bought around 500 tons of Semtex and donated it to whoever they felt like needed it, and the IRA were one of the most common users of it. A large amount of bombings in Northern Ireland and abroad were linked to a Libyan Shipment of Semtex in 1986.
However in 1987, one of the ships smuggling weapons, the MV Eksund was intercepted by the French Navy in the Bat of Biscay. One IRA member Gabriel Cleary was caught on the ship as well as 36 RPG’s, 20 SAM rockets, and around 1 million rounds of ammunition. This raid effectively ended Libyan supplies to the IRA, though many commanders said the Libyan supplies were actually larger than the main IRA forces.
The later years saw a number of other oddball guns show in the IRA’s arsenals. Belgian FNC rifles became somewhat common, smuggled through The Netherlands, G3 rifles also came in from a Norwegian contact smuggling AG-3 rifles from the Norwegian Police and Army. Many arms came through the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the late 1970′s and 1980′s before drying up in the 1980′s as the PLO forged ties with the Northern Irish Government.
One of the final shipments were of a number of original model Barrett M82 and M90 .50 BMG caliber anti-material rifles that were heavily used in the South Armagh Sniper Campaign in the 1990′s. One smuggled in pieces over, the other sent intact. These sniper teams, named “Terminator” and “Goldfinger” by the press at the time began sniping around South Armagh, killing 7 British soldiers, 2 RUC constables and wounding one. This attack served as the last IRA assault in Ireland and claimed the life of the last British soldier killed during the Troubles.
“South Vietnam 1967: Bennie Joe Tate ‘cooking’ lunch with C-4 plastic explosive as Rick Jeanette sits right beside him doing some foot care. That’s life in the ‘boonies’ under hostile conditions.” - Joe Hare, 28th Infantry Regiment, USA
The Discotheque Affair episode rewatch + trashy commentary
We start off with a nondescript cleaner’s van making a delivery that is decidedly not cleaning supplies. Among the haul are various types of ammo, grenades and sticks of plastic explosive decorated with a little T.H.R.U.S.H. logo.
Napoleon strolls into the cleaner’s, where the dude at the counter is arguing with an angry lady who wants a refund. Counter dude pulls out a gun and tries to shoot Napoleon, but Napoleon, at his smooth and snarky best, drops him with his tranquilizer gun first.
Napoleon manages to shoot a few of the T.H.R.U.S.H. team but the rest hop into a van and take off. Illya, however, is waiting outside with a…bazooka? Omg, my violent bby.
Back at the cleaner’s, poor Napoleon narrowly avoids being blown up by a bomb and ends up with his arm in a cast. :( He tells Mr. Waverly that it’s just a sprain, but Illya comes in and blithely comments on Napoleon’s broken arm. Napoleon stares up at Illya in chagrin.
“I…didn’t know it was classified information,” mutters Illya.
T.H.R.U.S.H. Central, worried about U.N.C.L.E. potentially disrupting the transfer of their security files, decides to bug Waverly’s office via an adjoining brownstone. When an U.N.C.L.E. agent wanders in and discovers them installing the bug, they kill him up and wall him in behind the fake wall containing the bug. Ewww.
Thanks to the bug, T.H.R.U.S.H. manages to intercept three of U.N.C.L.E.’s couriers, and Illya is dispatched to investigate.
Napoleon, meanwhile, is arguing with a tenant of the U.N.C.L.E.-owned brownstone, Sandy Wyler, who’s protesting the rise in rent, and thus discovers the fake wall (and the unfortunate U.N.C.L.E. agent’s body behind it) –
– JFC ILLYA, HOW IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO CONCENTRATE ON ANYTHING WITH YOU DOING THAT HNNNGGG
ANYWAY. Where was I.
Our boys have Sandy repaint her wall, disrupting T.H.R.U.S.H.’s bug. Carver lures Sandy out of her apartment with the promise of a job while Napoleon and Illya cuddle up cozily in a car outside, ostensibly keeping watch but really just looking like they’re on a date or something. Actually, stakeouts probably count as dates for them.
I swear, it looks like we cut over to this scene right after Illya pulls the “yawn-and-sneak-your-arm-around-your date” move.
Illya goes undercover adorably playing groovy music in Carver’s club, where Sandy is dancing.
There is a lot of Illya looking seriously cute in this episode. I heartily approve.
Illya sneaks into the basement room Sandy told him about, and finds that the T.H.R.U.S.H. security files are stored on, uh, records. (…did T.H.R.U.S.H. not have the budget for a microdot…)
Carver captures both Sandy and Illya while Napoleon rescues Farina from Tiger Ed. Bondage!Illya below, just because.
Farina shows Napoleon a back way into the building, but betrays him to get back into Carver’s good books. Napoleon gets tied up too, but slips his arm out of his cast and frees Illya, then Sandy. They rush upstairs to find Carver about to escape, just as Mr. Waverly shows up with reinforcements. Carver is taken into custody, but the T.H.R.U.S.H. records have gone up in flames from Carver’s exploding record.
Mr. Waverly: “Where’s all the smoke coming from?” Illya: “Oh, downstairs. I’d better call the fire department. Mr. Solo will give you all the details, sir.” *RUNS AWAY* Mr. Waverly: “Yes. What about those T.H.R.U.S.H. records, Mr. Solo? Illya: *blatantly hiding at the telephone* Napoleon: “What…the…oh yes, well, the, um, the records. They won’t do, er, T.H.R.U.S.H. any good, either. Sir.”
Later, Sandy tells our boys that Freddie proposed, and she accepted.
“Well, congratulations,” says Napoleon. “I think you’ll find marriage a nice change of pace,” THEN TURNS TO STARE SIGNIFICANTLY AT ILLYA. Man, I love how subtle this show is. Not.
Finally, our boys get a call from Mr Waverly, who sends Illya on an assignment to Prague while telling Napoleon very pointedly that he’s supposed to be on vacation because of his arm.
…but because Napoleon clearly can’t bear to be separated from Illya for even a second, off he goes with Illya anyway, orders be damned.
It had not been an easy few days. I don’t know what happened maybe Jump-Mart had a clearance sale on crazy juice and plastic explosives. A few first timers, Cinderblock, and Johnny Rancid made for almost 4 days of nothing but running from one disaster after another. There was barley time for grabbing something to drink and power bars between something exploding, something getting robbed, and someone trying to release all the I-pads from the apple store. (Seriously the dude thought that they were alien robot babies or something. We found him in front of the place yelling “Run! be free!”)
“Okay guys, time to get to the training room” Robin said the rest of us were barely standing in the kitchen. We had just stumbled into the room. Even Star didn’t have the energy to float and held onto the fridge for support. Me, I was basically lime Jell-O.
“Good one Rob” Said Cyborg as he nearly collapsed leaning across the table.
“I am serious” He said putting his hands on his hips in what we all call his inspiring leader pose. “Just because were a little tired that doesn’t mean we can to slack off on our discipline. Now come on let’s go.”
At this point I was thinking of filling up the sink and shifting into a trout, having a nice long snooze surrounded by cool water sounded great, till Robin’s crazy hit my ears. “Robin, dude we are falling apart here”
“Beast B-” Robin was caught off by
“NO!” Raven growled. I had never heard her voice like that. It was like a thunderclap and gears getting stripped. Between exhaustion and more exhaustion, she had gone unnoticed standing in the center of the kitchen. “I haven’t slept in 4 days, I haven’t meditated, and I haven’t eaten.” At this point everything started moving, every appliance starting dancing, the cabinet doors started to vibrate, I am pretty sure I heard half the glass in the tower windows starting to crack. She raised her head a wild look in her eyes, all four of them burning red. “I am about ready to pull this whole tower out of the ground like a tent stake! And you want me to do jump squats!?”
“Rave-” Robin tried
“SHUT UP!” She snarled. That’s when I heard what sounded like far away thunder turned out it was just a fracture in the tower foundation. “Not another word, not another syllable, not one more order for 8 hours! I do not care if my father, Darkside and Doomsday all show up at once to destroy the world if you say one more thing I will beat them to it!”
She turned to Starfire pointing two fingers. “You! take your boyfriend away and occupy him!” Her attention then came to Cyborg “You! I don’t care what you do until then but in 8 hours Waffles happen!”
Cyborg squeaked a hasty “Yes ma'am”
Then she turned to me, I was sure that I was out of panic adrenaline, but Raven proved me wrong. She always did bring out the best in me.
“And YOU! My bedroom. Now!” The woman I loved said before turning on her heel and marching away.
I just stood there stunned for a minute. I turned to the others in time to see Robin open his mouth and Starfire clamping her hand over it. Star shook her head slowly kissed Robin on the forehead and lead him out of the room.
Cyborg forced himself upright. “If you survive, I will see you in the morning” he said as he passed me leaving to recharge.
When I got to Raven’s room the best-case scenario I had in my head was that she was going to take out all that pent up rage out on me, either as a ritual sacrifice or as a human fuck-toy. Either way I was sure that I was not going to survive, made peace with my maker and opened the door. I was never happier to be wrong in my life.
Raven was fast asleep. Face-down on the top of her comforter still in her clothes. It looked like she had just enough steam to make it to her room and fall onto her made bed before she crashed. Relief hit me like a tidal wave, it was good to have my heart slow down.
My own sleeping beauty was down for the count. In the kitchen, she was a force of nature, in her bedroom she looked like a little girl tuckered out from too much play. Raven didn’t react as I untied and took off her boots, or got her undressed. I pulled open the covers and I picked her up to put her into bed properly. I tucked the comforter around her before pulling my own clothes off.
The days were catching up to me quickly and I knew I would be out as soon as my head hit the pillow. I climbed into my side of the bed and laid on my back keeping my distance to not disturb her. I woke up hours later finding Raven clamped onto me. Her head resting on my shoulder and her arm around my chest hugging me like I was her own green teddy. I kissed the top of her head with that violet hair witch I adore, and re-closed my eyes. Raven would let me know when the day started and I was good with that.
I wanted to explore how Raven would react if pushed a little to hard. :) How would she treat her friends and her green snuggle buddy. One of these days I might tire of writing bbrae fluff, but also one of these days we will colonize one of Neptune’s moons. That will most likely happen first.
Oh, I know it very much looks like one. There’s a gun poking
out from the bottom right quadrant of the screen, and on occasion you may be
called upon to shoot it at somebody. At your command is a squad of
interchangeable burly American men, who will do their best to follow your
orders—or at the very least, try not to get in the way too much—and most
missions are rife with the deafening clatter of confined submachine gun fire,
punctuated by overlapping barked orders and screams. It has the punishing
damage model of a tactical shooter, the realistic spaces of a tactical shooter,
and the po-faced no-nonsense attitude of a tactical shooter, along with numerous
other qualities shared with Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike and goodness knows
But SWAT 4 isn’t really about
any of those things. They’re ancillary elements at the most, which is
fortunate, because giving orders is a clumsy menu-driven nightmare and the
weapons are about as useful in your hands as a succession of aggravated
iguanas. A rifle in full-auto firing mode might as well just eject its magazine
onto the floor, given the odds of it hitting anything you point it at, and by
the time you’ve marshalled your squadmates into position, whatever advantage
you hoped to achieve has probably long since passed. You have snipers
positioned around some levels, peeping into windows, but they don’t do anything
on their own except announce when they spot something; you have to bring their
view up on a picture-in-picture display, telekinetically wrest the gun out of
their hands, and take the shots yourself. If SWAT 4 was a tactical shooter, it
would be an utterly intolerable one.
Fortunately, SWAT 4 is actually about doors.
Doors. They’re a simple fixture, at least in contemporary
settings. Hinges, frame, lock, handle. Just a thing that buildings have, so
ubiquitous they might as well be invisible. Most games model them that way:
press A to open, press A to close. Maybe there’ll be a lockpicking minigame, if
someone really doesn’t want you getting in there, or maybe you’ll have to go
hunt down the key. Doors are temporary obstructions at most—one step removed
from literal ‘gating’—and often amount to little more than set dressing. This
is reasonable. This is acceptable.
What you need to understand about SWAT 4, though, is how its
missions unfurl. Being a good cop—and, crucially, an alive cop, who brings in people alive,
to the fullest extent possible—means staying in control of the situation. If
you have civilians running around like headless chooks, suspects hiding
god-knows-where and your squad scattered all over the shop, things are
inevitably going to go wahoonie-shaped. You need to be disciplined and
methodical; acutely aware of which spaces are unsafe, securing the area one
step at a time, moving from room to room and sweeping them thoroughly. To this
end, you must master the breach.
You know, the breach; the moment when half a dozen armoured
cops suddenly storm into a room brandishing guns, screaming at everyone to get
on the ground. A disorienting whirl of action where everything goes from order
to chaos and back again in the span of a few crucial seconds. Carried out
correctly, it means taking everyone by surprise and having the weapons safely out of
their hands before they know what’s going on; carried out incorrectly, it means
a lot more yelling, and gunshots, and possibly cleaning up. How you choose to
execute the breach is the primary factor that decides its outcome, and the
conduit through which it is carried out is, invariably, one or more closed
So what’s it going to be? You can, of course, just open the
door, run inside blindly and hope for the best, if you’re the kind of person
who crosses the street without looking. On the other hand, if you’re feeling
cautious—and it should go without saying, I hope, that it pays to be
cautious—you can take a moment to stick a fibre-optic camera under the door
frame and take a peek first, to scope out the situation as much as your
viewpoint allows. From there, you can make informed decisions about how your
team’s going to burst in. Will it be a quick ‘open, flashbang, clear’? Or
perhaps, depending on who’s watching the far side of the door, the precious
second or two taken for a grenade to skitter across the floor is too much to
ask for. It might be wiser still to try another door, and wedge this one shut
so nobody sneaks up on you.
As in life, though, some doors are locked. This doesn’t
present much of an obstacle to you, an officer of the law, but once again there
are decisions to be made. Lockpicks are discreet and work without fail, but are
a bit slow in a pinch. A flashier option is to blow the door wide open with a
parcel of plastic explosive, which has the added bonus of momentarily disorienting
anyone near the entrance, but can hurt or kill anyone too close to the blast.
For a safer and far faster approach, you can simply shoot the lock off with a
breaching round—a special shotgun round designed to not ricochet or hit things
behind the door, as shells are wont to do—but it won’t give you the same
breathing room, and leaves you standing in the open doorway holding a shotgun like an absolute lemon.
But I didn’t drag you this far to gush sickeningly over police violence,
strangely enough. SWAT 4’s doors are important because they’re a prime example of how
modelling complex interactivity—even in something otherwise perceived as
relatively simple—can alter the focus of a game for the better. We’re used to
our environments being simple models, because time and resources are finite
things, but the right verbs in the right place can transform an otherwise
familiar formula into something strange and different. Could SWAT 4 have done
something similar with windows? Walls? Why not go deeper down the rabbit hole,
and let the player open doors to specific angles, or target the hinges instead
of the lock? Potential for complexity in the mundane is everywhere, and can be
fleshed out to create new experiences without disrupting the delicate mechanical
frameworks we rely on for stability.
And that’s what they are: frameworks. Rigid structures that
define a rough outline sufficiently enough to stop the whole thing collapsing
in on itself, allowing creative freedom elsewhere. A first-person shooter doesn’t
have to be about first-person shooting, as inane as that may sound; it can be
no more than the formula that allows a game to explore something only
tangentially connected. With every intricacy afforded to it, something as
trivial as a lump of wood with a handle on it can grow ever more central to the
experience, until it becomes the prominent feature on which everything else
(ahem) hinges. Doors. Door puns. Love ‘em. Goodnight.
(Aka the one where they stop Phase 2 and Jeller finally get their act together)
Delayed by long work hours, an interstate trip for a traditional Indian engagement ceremony (which was AWESOME), and not in the least by my complete inability to deal with any of this episode at all ever.
Bestie! So yesterday I was thinking a lot about "The Drowned Man" as a chapter, and considering whether I would rank it among the best of AFFC (certainly)/ASOIAF (probs?). But since you're infinitely better at themes and ironborn stuff than I am, I wanted to hear you wax about it 😊
Hey Nina <3 hell yes, I loooooove “The Drowned Man.” Within AFFC specifically, I’d rank it second only to “The Princess in the Tower,” and it’s definitely in my top ten ASOIAF chapters somewhere. The Stand summed it up nicely in this description of Euron’s true identity forerunner Randall Flagg:
When he walked into a meeting, the hysterical babble ceased–the backbiting, recriminations, accusations, the ideological rhetoric. For a moment there would be dead silence and they would start to turn to him and then turn away, as if he had come to them with some old and terrible engine of destruction cradled in his arms, something a thousand times worse than the plastic explosive made in the basement labs of renegade chemistry students or the black market arms obtained from some greedy army post supply sergeant. It seemed that he had come to them with a device gone rusty with blood and packed for centuries in the Cosmoline of screams but now ready again, carried to their meeting like some infernal gift, a birthday cake with nitroglycerine candles.
I’d probably call “The Drowned Man” the central chapter of AFFC, as Attewell argued RE Catelyn III ACOK. All the moods and ideas of the book are as one here: the comprehensive expression of the feast, the crows, and how we got ourselves to the point of watching the worst of said crows descending on said feast. That element of playing witness is very central to the chapter, because for all the political and metaphysical implications at play, “The Drowned Man” is ultimately rooted in our POV character.
Aeron Greyjoy’s story is a religiously-inflected gauntlet of nightmares, designed to pierce his external performance (the Voice of God) and his inner defenses (the fog of repression surrounding his abuser, rendered as desperate mantras and flashes of imagery). The chapter opens with Damphair acknowledging, well before Dragonbinder and Euron’s triumph, that his armor is down:
Only when his arms and legs were numb from the cold did Aeron Greyjoy struggle back to shore and don his robes again.
He had run before the Crow’s Eye as if he were still the weak thing he had been, but when the waves broke over his head they reminded once more that that man was dead. I was reborn from the sea, a harder man and stronger.
This follows directly not only on him fleeing the feast tent in “The Iron Captain,” but also on his solo ruminations in “The Prophet,” in which Euron functioned as an offstage catalyst to Aeron’s fearful inner journey, helping us understand them both. That earlier chapter is at heart about measuring the gap between Aeron’s public persona and his inner demons, come home to roost. He starts off as secure as he can be (on the surface, which is all he allows himself to access), sure in his god, sure in himself, sure that CPR constitutes a miracle; he’s demanding imperiously of nobles if they’ve been drowned properly, aware of his cultural cachet and seeking to increase it.
And then, his “mighty pillars” come crashing down, and he is a child again, listening to his bedroom door squeak open.
Aeron was almost at the door when the maester cleared his throat, and said, “Euron Crow’s Eye sits the Seastone Chair.”
The Damphair turned. The hall had suddenly grown colder. The Crow’s Eye is half a world away. Balon sent him off two years ago, and swore that it would be his life if he returned. “Tell me,” he said hoarsely.
So as with Arianne’s queenmaking in Dorne, while the kingsmoot is at one level a collective expression of cultural defiance and a self-conception as separate from mainland Westeros, it’s also a deeply personal, intra-familial maneuver. Arianne’s rebelling against what she believes to be her father’s betrayal, and Aeron’s taking refuge in tradition as a defense against his abuser’s return. The Dornish plot, for all its many aspects and resonances, boils down to Doran and Arianne facing each other down across a cyvasse board, and the Ironborn plot, while also a social and cultural interrogation, takes as its engine Aeron’s fear and hatred of Euron.
Perhaps consequently, the peace and strength Aeron finds in the sea is the fragile, flickering heart of his character (more than ever in “The Forsaken”). It is genuine and moving, despite the lack of actual divine communication.
No mortal man could frighten him, no more than the darkness could, nor the bones of his soul, the grey and grisly bones of his soul.
Memories are the bones of the soul: such a lovely weaving-together of the ethereal and the concrete! By repeatedly using the bones of Nagga’s Hill to symbolize Aeron’s internal struggle, GRRM links the overarching political ramifications of the Ironborn plot to the one-on-one confrontation of Aeron and Euron. His eye for the personal inside the large-scale movements of the plot is for me what makes all the new POVs in the Feastdance work so well; Cersei, Brienne, Asha, Arianne, Quentyn, and Jon Connington also have this kind of searingly intimate moment that draws you in so close it’s as if they’ve been POVs since book one.
And so the politics can begin, GRRM setting the scene in patient, exquisite fashion.
Dark clouds ran before the wind as the first light stole into the world. The black sky went grey as slate; the black sea turned grey-green; the black mountains of Great Wyk across the bay put on the blue-green hues of soldier pines. As color stole back into the world, a hundred banners lifted and began to flap. Aeron beheld the silver fish of Botley, the bloody moon of Wynch, the dark green trees of Orkwood. He saw warhorns and leviathans and scythes, and everywhere the krakens great and golden. Beneath them, thralls and salt wives begin to move about, stirring coals into new life and gutting fish for the captains and the kings to break their fasts. The dawnlight touched the stony strand, and he watched men wake from sleep, throwing aside their sealskin blankets as they called for their first horn of ale. Drink deep, he thought, for we have god’s work to do today.
The sea was stirring too. The waves grew larger as the wind rose, sending plumes of spray to crash against the longships. The Drowned God wakes, thought Aeron. He could hear his voice welling from the depths of the sea. I shall be with you here this day, my strong and faithful servant, the voice said. No godless man will sit my Seastone Chair.
It was there beneath the arch of Nagga’s ribs that his drowned men found him, standing tall and stern with his long black hair blowing in the wind. “Is it time?” Rus asked. Aeron gave a nod, and said, “It is. Go forth and sound the summons.”
In ASOS (oh man spoilers), a lot of powerful people died. AFFC is about the aftermath, examining how the survivors deal with death politically and personally, how the dead are both omnipresent and yet powerless to determine their legacy, and how all of this ultimately amounts to a rolled-out red carpet for the Others. In the specific case of the Ironborn, what we’re dealing with is the reckoning–or lack thereof–with the costs of Balon’s Old Way in the wake of the king’s death. We’ve already seen that dynamic at work in the first three chapters of this storyline, all of which comes to a head here…but before the Greyjoys, we get the other contestants, starting with our favorite candidate:
“The ironborn must have a king,” the priest insisted, after a long silence. “I ask again. Who shall be king over us?”
“I will,” came the answer from below.
At once a ragged cry of “Gylbert! Gylbert King!” went up. The captains gave way to let the claimant and his champions ascend the hill to stand at Aeron’s side beneath the ribs of Nagga. This would-be king was a tall spare lord with a melancholy visage, his lantern jaw shaved clean. His three champions took up their position two steps below him, bearing his sword and shield and banner. They shared a certain look with the tall lord, and Aeron took them for his sons. One unfurled his banner, a great black longship against a setting sun. “I am Gylbert Farwynd, Lord of the Lonely Light,” the lord told the kingsmoot.
Aeron knew some Farwynds, a queer folk who held lands on the westernmost shores of Great Wyk and the scattered isles beyond, rocks so small that most could support but a single household. Of those, the Lonely Light was the most distant, eight days’ sail to the northwest amongst rookeries of seals and sea lions and the boundless grey oceans. The Farwynds there were even queerer than the rest. Some said they were skinchangers, unholy creatures who could take on the forms of sea lions, walruses, even spotted whales, the wolves of the wild sea.
Lord Gylbert began to speak. He told of a wondrous land beyond the Sunset Sea, a land without winter or want, where death had no dominion. “Make me your king, and I shall lead you there,” he cried. “We will build ten thousand ships as Nymeria once did and take sail with all our people to the land beyond the sunset. There every man shall be a king and every wife a queen.”
His eyes, Aeron saw, were now grey, now blue, as changeable as the seas. Mad eyes, he thought, fool’s eyes. The vision he spoke of was doubtless a snare set by the Storm God to lure the ironborn to destruction. The offerings that his men spilled out before the kingsmoot included sealskins and walrus tusks, arm rings made of whalebone, warhorns banded in bronze. The captains looked and turned away, leaving lesser men to help themselves to the gifts. When the fool was done talking and his champions began to shout his name, only the Farwynds took up the cry, and not even all of them. Soon enough the cries of “Gylbert! Gylbert King!” faded away to silence. The gull screamed loudly above them, and landed atop one of Nagga’s ribs as the Lord of the Lonely Light made his way back down the hill.
Y’all know in your hearts he was telling the truth, too. But srsly, we said our piece on Gylbert Farwynd: he’s Good Euron, down to the eyes, creating a mirroring effect. The kingsmoot ends as it begins, with someone promising to elevate the Ironborn above this “dry and dismal vale.” But GRRM knows how to use contrasts as well as parallels—just look how he follows up Gylbert’s vision.
Aeron Damphair stepped forward once more. “I ask again. Who shall be king over us?”
“Me!” a deep voice boomed, and once more the crowd parted.
The speaker was borne up the hill in a carved driftwood chair carried on the shoulders of his grandsons. A great ruin of a man, twenty stones heavy and ninety years old, he was cloaked in a white bearskin. His own hair was snow white as well, and his huge beard covered him like a blanket from cheeks to thighs, so it was hard to tell where the beard ended and the pelt began. Though his grandsons were great strapping men, they struggled with his weight on the steep stone steps. Before the Grey King’s Hall they set him down, and three remained below him as his champions.
Sixty years ago, this one might well have won the favor of the moot, Aeron thought, but his hour is long past.
“Aye, me!” the man roared from where he sat, in a voice as huge as he was. “Why not? Who better? I am Erik Ironmaker, for them who’s blind. Erik the Just. Erik Anvil-Breaker. Show them my hammer, Thormor.” One of his champions lifted it up for all to see; a monstrous thing it was, its haft wrapped in old leather, its head a brick of steel as large as a loaf of bread. “I can’t count how many hands I’ve smashed to pulp with that hammer,” Erik said, “but might be some thief could tell you. I can’t say how many heads I’ve crushed against my anvil neither, but there’s some widows could. I could tell you all the deeds I’ve done in battle, but I’m eight-and-eighty and won’t live long enough to finish. If old is wise, no one is wiser than me. If big is strong, no one’s stronger. You want a king with heirs? I’ve more’n I can count. King Erik, aye, I like the sound o’ that. Come, say it with me. ERIK! ERIK ANVIL-BREAKER! ERIK KING!”
Erik Ironmaker, clearly the Tormund of the Ironborn, is thoroughly grounded in the “dry and dismal vale.” His platform is that he represents the masculine ideal of the Ironborn, full stop. But Asha spots the same problem as Aeron, and gives it voice:
“Erik!” Men moved aside to let her through. With one foot on the lowest step, she said, “Erik, stand up.”
A hush fell. The wind blew, waves broke against the shore, men murmured in each other’s ears.
Erik Ironmaker stared down at Asha Greyjoy. “Girl. Thrice-damned girl. What did you say?”
“Stand up, Erik,” she called. “Stand up and I’ll shout your name with all the rest. Stand up and I’ll be the first to follow you. You want a crown, aye. Stand up and take it.”
The aforementioned masculine ideal is past its sell-by date. Erik wants the crown as a symbol of a life well lived (by his standards), but Asha’s implicitly arguing that this is a debate about the future, not the past. (Of course, her platform has its own blind spots. More in a bit!)
Next up is Dunstan Drumm.
He climbed the hill on his own two legs, and on his hip rode Red Rain, his famous sword, forged of Valyrian steel in the days before the Doom. His champions were men of note: his sons Denys and Donnel, both stout fighters, and between them Andrik the Unsmiling, a giant of a man with arms as thick as trees. It spoke well of the Drumm that such a man would stand for him.
“Where is it written that our king must be a kraken?” Drumm began. “What right has Pyke to rule us? Great Wyk is the largest isle, Harlaw the richest, Old Wyk the most holy. When the black line was consumed by dragonfire, the ironborn gave the primacy to Vickon Greyjoy, aye … but as lord, not king.”
It was a good beginning. Aeron heard shouts of approval, but they dwindled as the old man began to tell of the glory of the Drumms. He spoke of Dale the Dread, Roryn the Reaver, the hundred sons of Gormond Drumm the Oldfather. He drew Red Rain and told them how Hilmar Drumm the Cunning had taken the blade from an armored knight with wits and a wooden cudgel. He spoke of ships long lost and battles eight hundred years forgotten, and the crowd grew restive. He spoke and spoke, and then he spoke still more.
And when Drumm’s chests were thrown open, the captains saw the niggard’s gifts he’d brought them. No throne was ever bought with bronze, the Damphair thought. The truth of that was plain to hear, as the cries of “Drumm! Drumm! Dunstan King!” died away.
On the one hand, he’s absolutely right that the Greyjoys owe their primacy to the very polity against which they’re leading rebellions. On the other, he gets bogged down and fails to offer an affirmative case for something better, reflected in his paltry offerings.
These candidates provide context for the main act: the three Greyjoy candidates. That Victarion has nothing to offer but this…
“You all know me. If you want sweet words, look elsewhere. I have no singer’s tongue. I have an axe, and I have these.” He raised his huge mailed hands up to show them, and Nute the Barber displayed his axe, a fearsome piece of steel. “I was a loyal brother,” Victarion went on. “When Balon was wed, it was me he sent to Harlaw to bring him back his bride. I led his longships into many a battle, and never lost but one. The first time Balon took a crown, it was me sailed into Lannisport to singe the lion’s tail. The second time, it was me he sent to skin the Young Wolf should he come howling home. All you’ll get from me is more of what you got from Balon. That’s all I have to say.”
…resonates with Erik Ironmaker’s pitch. Victarion is the status quo candidate. He’s this guy:
(gif by stevemcqueened.tumblr.com)
Something is rotten in the state of the Iron Islands, and Vic can’t identify it, let alone deal with it. Again, the personal and political are intertwined: deep down, Victarion Greyjoy knows he’s unhappy, but can’t conceive of what to do about it. “Balon 2.0” is enough for many of the captains and kings, but not a majority, because Balon’s failures are becoming harder and harder to ignore.
So how does Balon’s chosen heir respond?
“Nuncle says he’ll give you more of what my father gave you. Well, what was that? Gold and glory, some will say. Freedom, ever sweet. Aye, it’s so, he gave us that … and widows too, as Lord Blacktyde will tell you. How many of you had your homes put to the torch when Robert came? How many had daughters raped and despoiled? Burnt towns and broken castles, my father gave you that. Defeat was what he gave you. Nuncle here will give you more. Not me.”
“What will you give us?” asked Lucas Codd. “Knitting?”
“Aye, Lucas. I’ll knit us all a kingdom.” She tossed her dirk from hand to hand. “We need to take a lesson from the Young Wolf, who won every battle … and lost all.”
“A wolf is not a kraken,” Victarion objected. “What the kraken grasps it does not lose, be it longship or leviathan.”
“And what have we grasped, Nuncle? The north? What is that, but leagues and leagues of leagues and leagues, far from the sound of the sea? We have taken Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, Torrhen’s Square, even Winterfell. What do we have to show for it?” She beckoned, and her Black Wind men pushed forward, chests of oak and iron on their shoulders. “I give you the wealth of the Stony Shore,” Asha said as the first was upended. An avalanche of pebbles clattered forth, cascading down the steps; pebbles grey and black and white, worn smooth by the sea. “I give you the riches of Deepwood,” she said, as the second chest was opened. Pinecones came pouring out, to roll and bounce down into the crowd. “And last, the gold of Winterfell.” From the third chest came yellow turnips, round and hard and big as a man’s head. They landed amidst the pebbles and the pinecones. Asha stabbed one with her dirk. “Harmund Sharp,” she shouted, “your son Harrag died at Winterfell, for this.” She pulled the turnip off her blade and tossed it to him. “You have other sons, I think. If you’d trade their lives for turnips, shout my nuncle’s name!”
“And if I shout your name?” Harmund demanded. “What then?”
“Peace,” said Asha. “Land. Victory. I’ll give you Sea Dragon Point and the Stony Shore, black earth and tall trees and stones enough for every younger son to build a hall. We’ll have the northmen too … as friends, to stand with us against the Iron Throne. Your choice is simple. Crown me, for peace and victory. Or crown my nuncle, for more war and more defeat.” She sheathed her dirk again. “What will you have, ironmen?”
Asha comes the closest to Grandpa Quellon’s reformation, but she’s got a fatal blind spot regarding Balon’s wars and their effect on both the North and the Ironborn. The former are not going to accept the latter’s control of the Stony Shore, let alone forge an active alliance against the Iron Throne, especially after what Theon did at Winterfell. Asha doesn’t even stop to consider the Northern perspective on the Ironborn, the cost and consequences of her family’s actions in Stark territory—she just assumes she can create a lasting peace through hostages. But she can’t. The North wants Theon Turncloak’s people gone, which is why Stannis and the Boltons are both trying to win over Northerners by fighting Ironborn. Asha’s ADWD chapters are all about her facing this:
Asha smiled back. “Mormont women are all fighters too.”
The other woman’s smile faded. “What we are is what you made us. On Bear Island every child learns to fear krakens rising from the sea.”
The Old Way. Asha turned away, chains clinking faintly.
Of course, Asha’s also running up against the patriarchy, and many of the captains and kings associate giving up any conquest with a “craven’s peace.” So I’m not entirely blaming Asha here, as again she’s much closer to a sustainable path than her (kraken) uncles, but she fails to offer a sufficiently powerful counter-narrative, and so leaves the door open for Euron. In the moments before he begins his pitch, chaos reigns.
Men began to shove at one another. Someone flung a pinecone at Asha’s head. When she ducked, her makeshift crown fell off. For a moment it seemed to the priest as if he stood atop a giant anthill, with a thousand ants in a boil at his feet. Shouts of “Asha!” and “Victarion!” surged back and forth, and it seemed as though some savage storm was about to engulf them all.
That is the war; that is the feast; that is everything the Others need. So what better “savage storm” to interrupt this “squabbling over spoils” than the apocalypse?
Sharp as a swordthrust, the sound of a horn split the air.
Bright and baneful was its voice, a shivering hot scream that made a man’s bones seem to thrum within him. The cry lingered in the damp sea air: aaaaRREEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
All eyes turned toward the sound. It was one of Euron’s mongrels winding the call, a monstrous man with a shaved head. Rings of gold and jade and jet glistened on his arms, and on his broad chest was tattooed some bird of prey, talons dripping blood.
The horn he blew was shiny black and twisted, and taller than a man as he held it with both hands. It was bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled.
It was a terrible sound, a wail of pain and fury that seemed to burn the ears. Aeron Damphair covered his, and prayed for the Drowned God to raise a mighty wave and smash the horn to silence, yet still the shriek went on and on. It is the horn of hell, he wanted to scream, though no man would have heard him. The cheeks of the tattooed man were so puffed out they looked about to burst, and the muscles in his chest twitched in a way that it made it seem as if the bird were about to rip free of hisflesh and take wing. And now the glyphs were burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire. On and on and on the sound went, echoing amongst the howling hills behind them and across the waters of Nagga’s Cradle to ring against the mountains of Great Wyk, on and on and on until it filled the whole wet world.
Such are the bones of Euron’s soul. This is what the inside of his skull looks like: an LSD-soaked portal to hell, driven by blood sacrifice and a keen understanding of the sweet spot between fear and awe. This horror-tinged passage is supposed to feel jarring, like something out of a completely different genre; Euron’s not really a part of the debate he just interrupted, but is rather out to hijack it for his own apocalyptic ends. (Remember: what is signaled by three horn blasts? “Others.”) Look at what he’s disrupting: a “giant anthill.” Damphair’s kingsmoot was made to be bulldozed; it’s a fragile gathering of fragments against the ruin. The weaknesses were there to be exploited…but of course, Euron has to put on his pirate suit to do so.
The Crow’s Eye stopped atop the steps, at the doors of the Grey King’s Hall, and turned his smiling eye upon the captains and the kings, but Aeron could feel his other eye as well, the one that he kept hidden.
“IRONMEN,” said Euron Greyjoy, “you have heard my horn. Now hear my words. I am Balon’s brother, Quellon’s eldest living son. Lord Vickon’s blood is in my veins, and the blood of the Old Kraken. Yet I have sailed farther than any of them. Only one living kraken has never known defeat Only one has never bent his knee. Only one has sailed to Asshai by the Shadow, and seen wonders and terrors beyond imagining …”
GRRM consistently uses the “smiling eye” as a microcosm of Euron’s public face, and the Crow’s Eye as a microcosm of the self he keeps hidden from his fellow Ironborn (other than Aeron). I’m the ultimate pirate, guys, nothing else to see here—just look at my eyepatch, and don’t worry about what I’m hiding underneath it. Indeed, Euron knows his audience well, constructing his argument patiently; only after establishing his Old Way bona fides can he then take the next step.
“My little brother would finish Balon’s war, and claim the north. My sweet niece would give us peace and pinecones.” His blue lips twisted in a smile. “Asha prefers victory to defeat. Victarion wants a kingdom, not a few scant yards of earth. From me, you shall have both.”
For all Euron’s skills, he only wins because both Vic and Asha’s platforms are riddled with flaws—and not only that, the flaws compound each other, allowing Euron to link them together rhetorically as insufficient. This resonates with the captains and kings because the Balon-Aeron-Victarion agenda has immense cultural appeal but has blatantly failed to deliver on its promises, while Asha’s platform would push the Ironborn in a better direction but isn’t convincing enough (emotionally or pragmatically) to be an effective rallying point. Euron, ever the postmodern magpie, steals the most appealing aspects of both and frames it as the ultimate Ironborn dream of conquest. My brothers’ dream has fallen miserably short in reality, and my niece is telling you stop dreaming. The former cannot defeat the greenlanders, the latter is telling you to admit that—in a way that won’t bring peace anyway! I will be the best of both worlds, doing what the former cannot and the latter wants to give up on. In short: Euron tells the Ironborn that they’re losers but can be winners if they follow and imitate him, whereas Victarion won’t admit they’re losers and Asha won’t let them win. It’s such a potent appeal to cultural self-conception and resentment that it even sways Damphair, if only for a moment:
“We are the ironborn, and once we were conquerors. Our writ ran everywhere the sound of the waves was heard. My brother would have you be content with the cold and dismal north, my niece with even less … but I shall give you Lannisport. Highgarden. The Arbor. Oldtown. The riverlands and the Reach, the kingswood and the rainwood, Dorne and the marches, the Mountains of the Moon and the Vale of Arryn, Tarth and the Stepstones. I say we take it all! I say, we take Westeros.” He glanced at the priest. “All for the greater glory of our Drowned God, to be sure.”
For half a heartbeat even Aeron was swept away by the boldness of his words. The priest had dreamed the same dream, when first he’d seen the red comet in the sky. We shall sweep over the green lands with fire and sword, root out the seven gods of the septons and the white trees of the northmen …
But the rest of the crowd, of course, sees only the “smiling eye.” Our POV knows better, and being in Aeron’s head primes us to see the cracks in Euron’s facade, the tears in his pirate suit. Only Aeron recognizes, at chapter’s end, that Euron is out to dethrone the gods.
Even a priest may doubt. Even a prophet may know terror. Aeron Damphair reached within himself for his god and discovered only silence. [Because that’s the name of Euron’s ship, you see] As a thousand voices shouted out his brother’s name, all he could hear was the scream of a rusted iron hinge.
Euron cares not for the Seastone Chair, nor even the Iron Throne, not really. So what is he in this for?
“Crow’s Eye, you call me. Well, who has a keener eye than the crow? After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and their thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying. Those who follow me will feast until the end of their days.”
There it is, right? AFFC summarized: “all of Westeros is dying.” The war has rendered Westeros a fit meal for Euron…and the Others. And indeed, the “anthill” of the kingsmoot is a perfect microcosm of that political impotence in the face of the abyss. That’s the message “The Drowned Man” communicates: we let Trump Euron happen. As I’ve argued before, the essence of great horror isn’t that the monsters are at the door. It’s that we’re going to let them in.
Collodion was an early type of plastic explosive, and a component of later explosives such as gelignite. It is a solution/suspension of nitrocellulose in solvents (such as ethanol or ether). It congeals into a translucent plastic substance. It was used in the Fenian dynamite campaign of the 1800’s, as well as the IRA S-campaign of the 1900’s.
Besides its explosive use, it has also been used as a wound dressing and in the manufacture of early movie film.