Armada Chapter 9: Zack Falls in Love Immediately

Zack and the other recruits (who he informs us are a very diverse group of people!) take an elevator down to a big auditorium.

I also spotted people in business suits, fast food uniforms, surgical scrubs, and one dazed-looking middle-aged woman who was wearing a wedding dress and still clutching her bridal bouquet.

They couldn’t have let that poor woman change? Or let her wait until after her wedding? Get it together, secret government organization.

In the auditorium, Zack spots and falls in love with a seemingly quirky gal:

She was just off to my right, sitting all alone in a deserted row near the back, taking brazen pulls from a chrome hip flask painted to look like R2-D2. Even seated, I could tell she must be a few inches taller than me. Her pale, alabaster skin contrasted sharply with her dark clothing— black combat boots, black jeans, and a black tank top (which didn’t fully conceal the black bra she was wearing underneath). She had a spiky wave of black hair that was buzzed down one side and chin-length on the other. But the real kicker was her tattoos, on each arm: on the left was a beautiful seminude rendering of the comic book heroine Tank Girl, adorned in postapocalyptic rock lingerie and smooching an M16. On her right bicep, in stylized capital letters, were the words EL RIESGO SIEMPRE VIVE.

Seeing her was almost as jarring as when I’d first glimpsed that Glaive Fighter the previous afternoon. I had fallen for Ellen gradually, over a period of months. But this— this was like taking a lightning bolt from Mjolnir straight to the forehead.

okay that's enough

What is really beautiful about this moment is that even though she reeks of being another character who will speak only in pop culture references (mostly Star Wars ones), we don’t know that for sure yet. We can still hope she’ll be slightly different than everyone else in the books.

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m having a private conversation with my droid. Isn’t that right, R2?”

Well, at least as far as Star Wars references go, it’s not so bad. It’s not a direct quote or a, “Hey! You’re doing this thing that one of the characters from Star Wars did! I have drawn a connection.”

Zack and his love interest banter a bit, and she’s one tough-talking, smart cookie. She’s able to disassemble and reassemble her Qcomm in seconds! Girl after my own heart.

She expresses interest in him, telling her flask that she must be dreaming that a cute boy is talking to her. It’s all coming up Zack today, guys.

I do like that they manage to joke around without it being just one big reference-off, but I find their banter to be…pretty lifeless?

“I’m not old enough to drink, anyway.”

She rolled her eyes at me. “They’re about to tell us the world is ending, you realize?” she said. “You don’t want to be stone-cold sober for that shit, do you?”

“You make a compelling argument,” I said, taking the flask from her.

As I raised it to my lips, she began to chant “Breakin’-the-law-breakin’-the-law.”

I gave her a pleading look. “Please— don’t make me shoot this out my nose, okay?”

I think that might be a reference, but either way, what she said isn’t all that funny, and nothing about this is making me embrace this budding love story.

They introduce themselves, and we find out her name is Alexis, but she prefers Lex. Duly noted.

Lex explains that she works for a software company in Texas. Uh oh, she didn’t bring a jacket with her! Zack saves the day and lends her his fathers jacket, which she loves, so that’s all you really need to get on board with this.

During their conversation, Zack starts to realize that his relationship with Ray might have been unique. I am actually pretty curious to find out more about that because it really is unclear if other recruits had similar situations going on.

More importantly, they discuss their “call signs”.

“How good are you at it?” I asked. “Are you one of the Thirty Dozen?”

She nodded. “I’m currently ranked seventeenth,” she said, far too nonchalantly. “But I’ve been as high as fifteenth. Those standings fluctuate a lot.”

I whistled low, impressed. “Damn, woman,” I said. “What’s your call sign?”

“Lexecutioner,” she said. “It’s a portmanteau. What’s yours?”

“IronBeagle,” I told her, wincing at how dorky it sounded in my ears. “It’s a—”

“It’s fantastic!” she said. “I love that flick, as cheesy as it is. And my grandma used to play that Snoopy vs. the Red Baron album every Christmas.”

I did a double-take at her. No one had ever gotten the Iron Eagle/ Peanuts mash-up in my call sign without me first having to explain it to them— including Cruz and Diehl. I felt a strong urge to reach out and touch her shoulder, to confirm that she was real.

No one has ever gotten the Peanuts portion of that reference? I don’t believe it. A Beagle…THAT MUST BE SNOOPY! BY GOD! I mean, I get Beagle sounds like Eagle…but how the fuck is this specific to Snoopy? I’m so sorry Zack is burdened by explaining this great reference until the end of time.

Lex is super impressed by Zack’s ranking on Armada, but before they can discuss this more…

Then they showed us the most disturbing government training film in history.

Have fun with that tomorrow, Matthew.



  1. wordswithhannah Reply

    and one dazed-looking middle-aged woman who was wearing a wedding dress and still clutching her bridal bouquet.

    If her name is Donna, it’ll all be worth it. (But only if he doesn’t hold the reader’s hand and explain exactly why that’s funny.)

    I can’t believe I just read someone explain that their username, which is very obviously a portmanteau, is, in fact, a portmanteau. Look, either the readers are all inescapable nerds who’d be very familiar with the concept of smooshing two words together to get a new one or they’re all idiots. Cline has to pick one. I don’t think I’ve had an author take this much time out of their story to explain their story since Twilight.

  2. Cara Reply

    I love that Zack’s love interest is basically Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, but I can’t imagine why Enoby Darkness would be interested in bland main character Zack.
    Also, nitpick: it seems like Zack is describing Lex as he saw her at the time (as he does everything; idk what this POV is called, exactly) but he gives a detailed description of both her arm tattoos. How did he see both of them simultaneously?

  3. gasolinespider Reply

    *Hopes against all hope that Lex is not the love interest/not the only main female character/maybe instead becomes good friend of Zack who is presented as someone who is a peer instead of just a “cool, geek girl”*


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