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The Passage Readalong: Chapters 44-54

passage recap photoWe’re back with a bumper update in our worldwide The Passage readalong with Fantasy Faction. The past few weeks we’ve been busy reading (or re-reading) The Passage and things have gotten very dark. Today we join Peter, Amy and the rest of the First Colony as they begin their journey across the US. Warning for spoilers for everything in the first fifty-four chapters of The Passage.

Don’t forget to join us in our Goodreads group for all the discussion as we continue our readalong.  Over to David Zampa from Fantasy Faction . . .

 

Chapter 44 – Recap

Meta-data from the “Third Global Conference on the North American Quarantine Period Center for the Study of human Cultures and Conflicts at the University of New South Wales, Indo-Australian Republic, dated over a thousand years after the viral outbreak, introduces a journal entry by “First Family” member Sara Fisher.
Sara begins with a recount of her stop at the army bunker in California, expresses doubt that her journal will ever be read, but Peter has encouraged her to keep it in someone wants to know, some day. They have been at the bunker for two days, and she lists amenities such as electricity, plumbing, and a cold shower. She describes the bunker’s three main chambers: A store room containing weapons, a garage for vehicles, and a third room full of rations, clothing, and medical supplies. She found the notebook and pencils in this room.

Michael and Caleb are going to attempt to fix one of the Humvees. Peter thinks they’ll need two, but Michael doubts there will be enough parts for more than one. Sara notes that Alicia can’t help more than to hand them tools, and expresses approval at her removal from an authoritative role, unconsciously revealing her narrative bias.

Sara states for the record that the Army who built and stocked the bunker is dead, then provides a description of Amy, explaining how the girl’s appearance led to their journey.

Sara’s role is to help Hollis, Amy, and Peter take inventory of the contents of the bunker’s supplies, particularly hoping to find walkie-talkies, which Michael hopes could still work, provided the existence of chargeable batteries. Sara hopes they find soap, in particular. They discover inventory lists, with bin locations matching many of the shelves,  though not all. Many, they discover, have been mislabeled. Sara expresses surprise to learn that Amy can read as well as any of them.

Two days later, Michael and Caleb are still working on transportation. Michael now thinks he can fix two, maybe. The rubber parts are the issue, many of them deteriorated. Michael is happy enjoying the work.

Sara has been able to salvage some medical supplies, including bandages, splints, and a blood pressure cuff, which will be useful to monitor Maus’s pregnancy. Maus’s current blood pressure is 120/80, and Sara encourages her to drink more, though the frequent urination causes inconvenience.

Today Hollis took everyone outside for firearm and grenade training, since they had enough ammo. Hollis warns everyone that he thinks the area south is full of mines, speaking mostly to Alicia, who has been taking a horse out to hunt in the mornings. Peter had found a deck of cards earlier, and they all played go-to after dinner. Despite no one explaining the rules to her, Amy won most of the hands.

The entire party now wears quality leather boots, except Caleb, who retains his overlarge sneakers, for luck.

The next day, no progress has been made on the Humvees, and morale is slipping.

After the boots, the most valuable equipment they’ve found are glowsticks for emergency light. Caleb opens one glowstick and smears it over his face, as a joke. Peter is the only one who didn’t find it funny.

Sara plans to boil water for a bath tomorrow, and give Amy a haircut.

The next day, Michael fails an attempt to start one of the Humvees, and must now start again from scratch. Michael says it was likely due to bad gas, but Sara can tell her brother doesn’t know. The barracks’ old plumbing also fails today, causing the toilets to back up. Sara now gives Hollis a haircut, and silently wishes she could get him to shave his beard. She understands, however, that he keeps it as a reminder of Arlo.

Two days later, Sara lets a horse stray into a landmine while grazing on her watch. Unable to safely approach, Hollis euthanizes the animal from a distance with a rifle. Her name was Sweetheart. The party’s time at the bunker is stretching, and Sara is now discouraged with staying there.

Sweetheart’s body is taken overnight, revealing the presence of virals in the area. Peter decides to close the doors an hour before sunset each night, to be safe. Sara worries as Mausami’s pregnancy begins to show. Assuming Theo most likely dead, she sympathizes with Mausami at the prospect of having a baby in this situation.

The next day, Sara discovers a crate containing empty body bags. She repacks the crate, and tells no one it’s there. Michael says he will be ready to make another to start a Humvee tomorrow.

Three days pass. The first Humvee is repaired, and Sara has been learning to drive, along with everyone else in the party. Michael and Caleb complete repairs on the second Humvee today. Michael thinks they can carry enough diesel to make it to Las Vegas, but they will have to find more.

The next day begins with shuttling the Humvees back and forth to the fuel depot to fill the tanks and extra cans. Party morale is rising. Sara and Peter will each drive a Humvee containing two groups of four, and Hollis and Alicia will each man fifty-caliber machine guns mounted to the tops of the vehicles.

Michael has fixed them walkie-talkies, though they will likely possess limited battery life. Peter wants to bypass Las Vegas, thinking backcountry routes are safer, but Hollis argues the Las Vegas route is faster, and the interstates follow the easiest terrain. Alicia sides with Hollis, and Peter finally agrees. The party is leaving far better equipped, now wearing full military clothing. Peter gathers them all together around a map and shows them their route, then breaks out a bottle of whiskey to share, in celebration. Amy also drinks, and Hollis jokes that it might make her speak. Sara notes that it’s the first time she’s ever seen her smile. She feels a sense of family has developed between them in the time they’ve spent in the bunker.

They depart at first light, and make it to Kelso without incident. The landscape seems barren of life, apart from lizards and spiders. All buildings are gone, except the army depot. There is no water, so they are using what they have in supply tonight. In the event of an attack, they will be exposed, and Amy will be their best chance to survive.

A pod of three virals attack in the night. Two are killed by the party, and one flees. No one is lost, but Hollis sustains a gunshot wound to the arm. Alicia thinks it was her, but Hollis claims it was self-inflicted when he was trying to reload. Sara believes he’s saying this to relieve Alicia’s guilt, and can tell he’s in a lot of pain. Sara uses the remaining time until dawn to write. Their plan is to make it to Las Vegas in time to find shelter, though they all know nowhere is really safe from here on out.

Sara doesn’t mind—she is content just being with the rest of the party, secure in their purpose. She thinks it’s different to be afraid when there’s hope something will come of it. She writes, “All those years, waiting for the Army, and it turns out the Army is us.”

 

Chapter 45 – Recap

The party approaches the ruins of Las Vegas from the southwest corner, near Paradise. The road is lost in rubble, and they’re navigating by binoculars and sunlight, with fuel running low, looking for the remains of McCarran International Airport. They spot the airport’s fuel tanks, and what they believe to be the overpass at Highway 215. They find the bridge in shambles, and cars and debris rendering the highway below completely impassable, so they attempt to find a way around. Heading east, they come to an intact bridge, which they cross one Humvee at a time, hoping it will hold. Guessing they are on Las Vegas  Boulevard South, the airport, with its fuel tanks, should be due east.

As they travel, they begin to pass long dead Army vehicles facing away from the city, including an upside down tank, which appears to have sustained explosive damage.  Alicia tells them to slow and proceed with caution as they come to a line of sandbags against a concrete barrier, topped with coils of wire—the city’s defensive perimeter.

Alicia directs them west, away from the airport, where she thinks she sees a break in the wall. The night is coming, and Peter feels the stakes of his decisions rising. After briefly considering stopping to find shelter for the night, Peter finally agrees with Alicia to attempt to go around the perimeter. Once through the gap, they manage to relocate Las Vega Boulevard, and begin to pass signs identifying buildings that were once great landmarks—Mandalay Bay, The Luxor, New York New York—though to the party they have no significance. The rubble grows denser, forcing Peter to slow the Humvee to a creep. He determines they won’t make it through via this course, and asks Caleb to find him another route. Caleb directs him west, onto Tropicana. Soon this road disappears, too, into a mountain of rubble. They pull back to the intersection and attempt to go north once again, but eventually find the way blocked by a second perimeter of concrete barricades. Peter tries one more route, east this time. This, too, proves impassable, and Peter determines it was a mistake to attempt to pass through the heart of the city. There is no way they can reroute back around before nightfall. Now they are trapped.

Alicia spots what appears to be the most solid building in view, a large white tower, and they make for it. After carefully navigating the debris, Peter is able to pull right up to the base of the building. They grab what supplies and weapons they can carry as Caleb and Michael search for a way into the boarded up building. They yank plywood off of a window, break the glass, and are met by a strong stench on the air from within—a tart, chemical scent, vaguely biological.

Peter and Alicia enter first, leaving Hollis to bring up the rear once everyone else is in. They head deeper into the building until they come to a set of metal doors chained shut through the handles. They break through the chains and enter a lobby, or possibly a chapel, with angels carved into the molding that give Peter an ominous feeling. They seek stairs to take them to higher ground, pass an set of gutted designer stores, noting that while some are looted clean, the impractical wares of some remain, such as shoes a person can’t walk in easily, and bags too small to carry anything useful.

They pass into a large, dark open area, break their light sticks, and move forward past slot machines—whose function is lost on the party—and many, many slims. A group of slims are lined around a table, all holding a set of two cards, as if they’d died playing a game. In the center of the table is a heaping mound of valuables, as well as a gun with ammunition. Peter senses with certainty that there’s something here for him to find, but they don’t have much time, and must push forward. to higher ground.

Peter notices someone missing, and turns to find Amy has wandered into a gift shop. She comes out visibly excited, holding a snow globe containing a miniature replica of the building they’re in, which is labeled, “Milagro Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.” Michael explains that the smell is sewer gas, mostly methane, coming up from under the hotel, ready to explode.

Using an elevator shaft to bypass debris, they find their way to the sixteenth floor, where they found the ambassador suite level, and broke in. They manage to find a suite without any slims inside, and set up camp. In the view from the window, they identify the miniature Eiffel Tower, and are confused that it’s not in France.

Alicia and Sara take first watch, but Peter can’t sleep. He offers to take over for Sara, but she unhappily rebuffs him, and he feels he did something wrong. Instead, Alicia takes the opportunity.

Left alone, Sara begins to confront Peter regarding their love triangle with Alicia, but just as Peter’s about to realize what she’s talking about, she spots a danger out the window. Amy enters the room, clutching the snow globe. She starts to pull Peter away from the window moments before a viral blasts through. Amy and Peter roll away. Sara is gone.

Alicia and Hollis enter, but the viral has disappeared. Michael runs in, distraught. Chaos ensues, but Hollis calms them. He says he will get Sara back, that he saw where they took her. It’s not up for negotiation. One by one, the others decide they’re going, too. Peter gives Amy Alicia’s spare gun.

Peter and Alicia know it’s a trap, that all the blocked roadways had led them here. But Peter is determined to get Sara back, regardless, as he should have gone after Theo. They crack glowsticks and descend the tower the way they’d come. Mausami is carrying two packs—one Sara’s, for when they save her.

They make a plan to break out of the building and quickly transfer to the Humvees, with Michael taking over Sara’s driving seat. Alicia scouts outside first, but soon runs back, shouting at them to run away. Floods of virals charge toward them, storming their location. They retreat inside, through the window into a restaurant, then into the kitchen.

A viral follows them in, a female. Peter stumbles, grabs a pan with a copper bottom, and holds it up in defense. The viral pauses, entranced by her own reflection, moans mournfully in vague recognition. The air is so dense with methane, it’s almost unbreathable. Peter lobs a grenade to ignite the methane, and he and Alicia escape out a door to a loading dock as multiple explosions rock the building. Alicia sustains a laceration to her thigh, Peter to his head. The explosions continue. The building will fall soon, and they have to get away. They scout twelve virals between their position and the Humvees—the others appear to have temporarily retreated from the flames.

They have no idea if the others made it out. They pull the pins from grenades, prepared to die rather than become virals. Headlights interrupt their moment. They are saved by a masked woman driving a truck with a plow on front labeled, “Nevada Department of Corrections.” The rest of the party is already inside the truck. The unnamed woman shoves them in, too, and the truck begins to move.

 

Chapter 46 – Recap

Theo is alive, dreaming of the fat woman in the kitchen. He’s aware of it, but the more he tries to wake, the deeper he slips into it. He wakes up, unable to remember the dream, only the feeling remained.

He’s in a prison, his captors unknown. They bring him food and keep him alive, though he doesn’t know why, or even how long it’s been. The last thing he remembers from before was flying out of the mall. Boots approach, his food slides in, and a voice speaks to him. The speaker knows Theo’s name, and says they talked when Theo came in. At that point, the voice says, Theo knew who the speaker was, but not anymore, it seemed. Theo sees a message on the wall, “Ruben was here.” He asks who Ruben was. The speaker says Ruben is history.

The speaker asks how Theo has been sleeping, if he likes the fat lady. Just like that, the memory comes back, and Theo knows the dream. The speaker says they’ve all been through the dream, says it gets better after Theo kills her with the knife. That’s the turning point.

Theo attempts to grab the speaker’s foot through the food slot, but the speaker crushes his hand, taunting and pinning him. The speaker says they aren’t friends yet, but there will be. That, believe it or not, there are things worse than it.

 

Chapter  47 – Recap

Michael is riding in the back of the stranger’s truck with the rest of the party. Alicia is seriously injured, pale from blood loss. On the floor next to him, Amy is the only one of them able to sleep. Michael is mourning Sara, remembering running after her only to be surrounded by virals. He remembers the stranger saving them. He had been stunned by a viral when the stranger intervened. Amy pulled him toward the stranger, surprisingly strong.

It’s morning now, and the truck is slowing. Amy wakes up. Caleb peers out the compartment’s lone window, a small porthole, and says he sees a structure. The truck stops, and their saviors become captors, seizing all their weapons, then the trip resumes for some time, even as the compartment becomes dangerously hot. The truck descends, possibly underground, and when it stops, a person who identifies himself as Olson Hand. Michael then sees Theo’s face before blacking out.

He wakes in an infirmary, where a nurse offers him water. He recalls dreaming of the fat woman. The nurse offers to let his friends come in and explain where he is. Peter enters and introduces Billie, the nurse. Peter excitedly offers to show him around, while Michael feels a panic response as he recognizes Billie as the woman who drove the truck, feeling she tried to kill them. Peter’s good cheer feels bizarre.

Peter explains that the place they’re in is called the Haven, formerly a prison. Alicia is apparently recovered, along with everyone else. The prison houses over three hundred Walkers, with resources and livestock to support them, and there is supposedly no viral threat in the area. Michael’s head won’t allow him to sit up, and Peter tell him he had a seizure, though he does not remember. He’s been unconscious “three, make that four” days. Peter’s expression seems vacant to Michael. He begins to confront Peter, only to be interrupted by Alicia entering, equally cheerful as Peter, being playfully chased by a blue-eyed man named Jude Cripp. Better still, Peter informs him that Sara is alive, and she’s here.

Sara and Hollis have now joined the others at Michael’s bedside. Sara had apparently been found by Hollis and Billie the day after the party’s escape. The two had returned to attempt to salvage the Humvees (which were irrecoverable), and discovered Sara unconscious in the adjacent building where Hollis had seen the virals take her. She was unhurt, apart from a sprained wrist.

Everyone is relaxed and laughing, which still feels strange to Michael. Jude explains they were there because they still send regular patrols into the city to scavenge supplies. They were three blocks away in a fortified basement shelter under one of the casinos when the explosion occurred. Michael points out the time discrepancy, because he remembers that they were outside the Milagro when Michael came out, prior to the explosion. He remembers distinctly.

Hollis backs up the Havener’s version of the timeline. Jude quips that he wouldn’t second-guess this kind of luck. Michael knows the story still doesn’t add up. The Haveners would never have abandoned a fortified shelter in the middle of the night to run toward a burning building being swarmed by virals. Plus, they had to have come from the east due to all the other roadways being blocked, but Michael had come out the Milagro’s south exit.

Michael feels pressured by his friends, and eventually gives up attempting to flush out the truth. Peter says Michael should rest, mentions that Olson Hand, the man in charge of the Haveners, is going to show Peter and Hollis around Haven’s fields. As everyone leaves, Sara runs back, kisses Michael on the forehead, and tells him to rest and get his strength back, that it’s “what we’re all waiting for.”

Left alone, Michael examines the note Sara had stuffed into his hand. “Tell them nothing.”

 

Chapter 48 – Recap

The third night after their arrival, the Haveners had held a celebration. Peter and the others from the First Colony were able to see all of Haven at once, and the holes in their story had begun to show.

Olson’s claim that there were no virals was dashed by the fact that the virals from Las Vegas, only two hundred kilometers away, had followed them the entire way to Haven. In addition, its only defensive perimeter was an insubstantial metal fence that would never stop a viral from entering. Hand had revealed that the flamethrowers were their only real weapons—the shotguns had run out of ammo long ago.

Peter finds Olson to be extremely confident with his own authority. His aides, Billie and Jude, and Gus, engineer and driver of the truck, appeared to be the entirety of his command structure. Olson has no formal title. Olson and most of the men wear their hair in long ponytails, while the women and children are closely shorn. His temperament is more father-figure than leader. He has a daughter named Mira, who initially helped attend to Michael in the infirmary.

Their guns had been confiscated upon entering Haven, though Olson had assured them if they eventually elected to leave, the weapons would be returned to them.

Olson had explained Haven’s history: Much was supposedly unknown, due to the stories changing over the passage of time. The initial settlers had come from Las Vegas during the last days of the war, and discovered, he claimed, that the land provided a natural barrier from the virals. Haven was sustained by a spring that provided water for irrigation, as well as to cool some buildings. They scavenged most of what they needed from the prison, including the orange jumpsuits nearly everyone wore, and the rest came from nearby towns. They had sent out search parties over the years to try to find more survivors to lead them to safety, but had not found anyone in many years. Hand considers it a “miracle” that Peter and his friends are here. They had been isolated in huts for the first three days in mandatory quarantine.

When Hollis and Billie had gone to attempt to retrieve the Humvees, it had been left ambiguous whether, if they were recovered, they would be used for Haven or returned to the First Colonists.             Peter had told Olson that they had left the Colony in California to look for survivors. He did not mention the bunker, hoping the omission would imply that the settlement they’d come from had been well armed. So far, Olson accepted this cagey explanation.

Most of Haven’s inhabitants had remained unseen for the first two days. They had only observed irrigation, a herd of a few hundred head of cattle, and the occasional passage of work vehicles.  The story of Sara they had told Michael had been the truth, but the circumstances of her survival were still deeply puzzling.

Their initial happiness at finding the settlement was soon replaced by unease. Two orange suited men named Hap and Leon stood watch on them, and their only other human contact had been a group of four children who regularly came out to play within sight, unsupervised by adults.

Olson claimed Haven got its fuel from a railway depot, though the only train track into the prison appeared to lead straight up a mountain. During this conversation was when Peter had realized they would need to steal a vehicle and fuel in order to leave.

Amy did not sleep while in Haven. She sat all the time, as if in deep concentration.

On the third day, Olson had come to end the quarantine, along with Billie and Jude. Peter’s instincts told him something was off about Jude. Olson never gave him an order, entirely addressing Billie and Gus and various others who came and went. They had taken them to the celebration, where all the people of Haven were apparently awed by their presence. Yet, it all felt staged—a performance intended to disarm them.

Olson had approached Peter at the celebration at ask about Amy’s inability to speak. He asks if she is otherwise “alright”. Then points out that Mausami is pregnant. He says “your women” who can bear children are a “great prize”, and people will want to know. It was then Peter realized many of the Haven women were pregnant, too. Yet something was off, as he looked at them all. No one so much as told them their name.

 

Chapter 49 – Recap

There are no young boys in Haven. It was hard to tell at first, due to the close cropped hair.

It’s the fourth day, and Michael is now awake. Five of the First Colonists are gathered in one of the two quarantine huts to meet, while Amy and Mausami are in the other. They plan to sneak out and steal a vehicle, then to either head for Las Vegas, or up the train tracks to the mountain for fuel. Alicia maintains that the guns they’d seen had always been loaded, and that there must be an armory somewhere. Even if there wasn’t, the weapons the First Colonists had brought with them had to be somewhere. They decide it’s likely in the prison proper, and Hollis determines to scout it tonight.

They ask Sara how long Michael will be unable to travel, and she is unsure. She doesn’t believe his injury to have been heat stroke, as his symptoms don’t seem to make sense. She guesses a couple days, maybe more.

Alicia expresses impatience due to Jude’s continuous advances. She says she thinks she saw Liza Chou today, Old Chou’s niece who was lost on Dark Night, killed or taken up. She feels strongly in the identity, due to a matched scare on Liza’s cheek. Liza was pregnant. They note that the children they see are always the same ones, as if to present that Haven contains more of them than there truly are. They all connect that they are having the dream of the fat woman in the kitchen, identically.

In the infirmary, Mira comes in with a tray of food for Michael. She watches him eat, then sexually accosts him. “Poppa says I can have a baby. If I have a baby, I won’t have to go to the ring.” Olson has given her leave to have anyone she wants, and she wants Michael.

Billie and several strong men storm the room, sending Mira home. They seem to know with certainty that the advances were all Mira’s. Mira says, “He’s not for the ring,” to which Billie responds, “He will be, if you don’t get out of here.”

Billie orders a man,  Danny, to bring the truck around, then drugs Michael into euphoria. She asks if he can truly fix anything, and the tells him to come with them and do exactly as he’s told.

 

Chapter 50 – Recap

The baby’s kicks awaken Mausami from dreams of birds. Amy is sitting on the bunk next to hers. Amy wants to feel her belly, and Mausami lets her. Amy tells her telepathically that Theo is here, in Haven.

 

Chapter 51 – Recap

Babcock is self aware. He knows who he was before, and who he is now. He feels the “Twelve” original virals within him, under his control, as he feels the “Many” millions of virals also under his sway, a part of him. The dream of the fat lady is his, and he shares it with all of them. He had lived in the town of Desert Wells before he was infected.

The fat woman in the dream was his mother. She had beaten him, burned him. He’d killed her in the kitchen with a knife. He was tried as an adult, and sentenced to death.

Babcock reveals that the reason behind his always leaving one prey out of ten alive is instinctive, to insure propagation  of his kind. But the millions of virals had begun to starve out, all human prey exhausted. He has ordered the remaining humans to be captured alive and brought to him, where they “dream the dream with him, and when the dream is done, become his also”, feeding him when needed, and bringing others to him. This is the only way he suffers humankind to live. Those who do not use the knife within the dream, who refuse to kill the fat woman, are killed as an example to those who remain.

He knows of Amy. She makes the virals want to remember who they are, makes them want to die. He senses her close. She is here with him. He senses the threat she poses, that she can destroy everything he is. He alerts the virals she is here.

 

Chapter 52 – Recap

Peter and Alicia have discovered Michael’s disappearance, and the First Colonists are searching for him. Olson is less than helpful. He advises them to go back to their huts and wait for Michael’s return, that Michael must have wandered off to go exploring. He doesn’t seem concerned whether they believe the lie or not.

Two guards are watching them. Peter sends for Maus and Amy to come ready with their packs, though they will not depart without Michael. A moment later, Caleb returns to report that the hut is empty. Maus and Amy are gone.

In the back of the truck, Michael still feels the effects of the drug. He remembers passing through a checkpoint when they departed the infirmary, that the guards questioned Billie traveling out on the night of the new moon, that she wouldn’t make it back in time.

The truck stops, and Billie lets Michael out in front of a metal shed. Gus comes out to meet them, covered in grease. Gus tests his engineering knowledge, and despite Michael’s inclination not to cooperate, his instincts urge him to trust Billie and Gus. Gus leads him into the shed, which houses power generators, and a diesel locomotive train, similar to the one that brought Auntie to the First Colony. They present Michael with the remainder of the repairs, and give him three hours to complete them.

 

Chapter 53 – Recap

Theo is dreaming Babcock’s dream. He resists, and wakes up. The presence outside his cell encourages him to kill the fat woman, then asks him about Alicia. He discusses both her and Mausami lasciviously, and in the process informs Theo that Mausami is still pregnant. Theo remains uncooperative, and the person, presumably Jude, shifts focus to Babcock, whose name Theo recognizes from the dream. Theo falls asleep, and lands again in the dream.

This time Amy is there, telling him not to give up. He wakes. Jude is angry, and implies they’re done with Theo, and says they will have Mausami and Alicia regardless.

 

Chapter 54 – Recap

Peter realizes it’s the new moon. The remaining First Colonists silently overcome their guards, capture a gun, and escape their huts. They head to invade the prison. All the buildings they pass are empty. They break into the prison’s garage and find a Humvee with a fifty caliber gun. Olson catches them, and surrounds them, along with six armed men, but tells his men to lower their guns. He says he does not know where Amy and Mausami are, but that Michael is with “us”. He says for everyone to stay calm and not shoot, and that he will tell them about Babcock.

Back in the train shed, Michael is working to fix a short in a control panel. He’s performed many fixed, though there are undoubtedly many, many more repairs to be done that he would never have time to diagnose. Gus fires the starter, and the train’s engine comes alive.

 

Chapter 55 – Recap

The First Colonists have no choice but to take Olson at his word. Together, the two groups will storm the part of the prison known as the ring, once the central courtyard. Olson’s group will take the ground entrance, and Peter and Alicia’s group will enter through the roof. They expect a crowd of Haveners to be inside, and Babcock to enter through the roof. Four head of cattle and two human sacrifices would be driven from the opposite end, a gift for Babcock.

Thanks to Olson, Peter is developing a new understanding of Babcock and the virals, that they are all Babcock, and extension of him. The first settlers in Haven weren’t settlers, they were children, and Babcock was waiting for them. The hotel in Vegas was a trap  deliberately designed to bring in new humans. Olson’s own son has been sacrificed in the past, the boys’ mother also sent by Jude to the ring, for objecting. But this is their rebellion. Olson, Gus, Billie, and everyone who wants to be free is determined to kill Babcock so they won’t be hunted down. Olson has eleven men. A small group has attempted to kill Babcock years before, but it was a failure.

Olson does not know who has been chosen for the ring, but Peter assumes it’s Mausami and Amy. His main priority is rescuing them, but Olson points out there no matter what, they have to kill Babcock, or nothing, not even the train, will save them.

At his resting place, Babcock begins traveling to the ring, which he telepathically communicates to Jude. He enters the crowd and rends apart the livestock. Then Jude leads out the humans. Babcock feels Amy’s presence, then. He identifies her as having been transformed by the virus, but that she is independent of his control.

Peter is in the ventilation shaft when the slaughter starts. He peeks out to see the floor is covered in blood. He wills Amy to help. He leaps from the shaft, losing grip on his pistol on impact. He catches sight of one of the human sacrifices in the ring: Theo. Nearby, Babcock is devouring the last cow.

Jude taunts and levels a shotgun at Peter’s head as more men loyal to Babcock filter into the ring. From above, Hollis drops Jude with a shot to the head.

Mausami is watching the events unfold in the ring from the crowd. She sees Babcock drain the last cow, then spots Theo being driven forward through the flames. The second sacrifice is brought in—it’s Finn Darrell.

Liza Chou appears before her, recognizing her, grabbing for her and raising the alarm.  Mausami pulls away, and runs to save Theo, but she is side tracked to the fuel pump. She kills the guard watching it,  then hears Peter yelling at Theo to run. Mausami pulls the largest lever of the pump as a bullet hits her thigh. Closing the lever has cut off the ring of flames.

Babcock is exposed, swollen like a tick, standing three meters tall. He strikes Finn next, ripping him apart. Mausami collapses from her leg wound. Babcock turns to Theo, but Amy rushes out to stand between them.

Overhead, Alicia is attempting to line up a shot on Babcock with an RPG, unable to get a clean shot. Peter and Hollis hold off the Haven loyalists. Peter screams at Amy to move, but she holds her ground, facing off in a standstill with Babcock.

Olson is corralling as many fleeing humans as possible into the tunnels.

Mausami enters the ring, trying to draw Babcock’s attention, but Babcock leaps onto the catwalk above. Alicia uses the RPG to bring down the catwalk, which tumbles to the ground.

In the alley, Leon is face down in the dirt, bound from when Hollis had jumped him. He attempts to rally himself, to stand and attract someone’s attention to come untie him. He soon spots his friend, Hap, running away nearby, but Hap doesn’t stop. Whatever Hap was running from then kills them both.

The catwalk impacts the ground, and Peter, Hollis, and Alicia fall to the ground. They stumble to their feet. Amy is helping Mausami up. Mausami insists they help Theo first, despite her leg wound. Caleb mourns Finn Darrells corpse. Peter and Caleb support Theo, and they run away, as a group.

They run out of the tunnel where Olson is directing survivors to the train. Alicia hands Mausami off to Caleb. She and Sara begin heading against the flow of the crowd. Peter tries to call them back, but Michael comes in the train, blaring its horn. As he passes, the train slows to a crawl, but Michael shouts that they can’t stop—they have to keep moving. One by one, the party climbs onto the train in motion, starting with the wounded. Peter realizes, in a moment of clarity, that he had succeeded in taking care of his brother, as their mother had wanted.

Billie is there, exclaims when she learns that Babcock is still alive. Michael searches for Sara, and Peter assumes she and Alicia are on another car of the train. The virals begin pursuit. Michael resists accelerating without being sure if Sara is safe. Billie reaches past him and pushes the lever forward anyway. Billie and Gus go to fight on top of the train, handing Peter a gun on the way. They jump train cars to reach range to engage the virals, of which there are hundreds. Billie and Gus fall in the first engagement. Peter loses his shotgun. Something impacts the front of the train, then they enter a tunnel.

Peter retreats back inside. Hollis and Caleb help him in, where he sees Olson Hand nearby. Peter grabs him and confronts him, realizing that the old man must have known Theo was a sacrifice, and had sent Peter and his friends in as a distraction. Another crash hits the front of the train, and Olson is ripped out of Peter’s grasp. Out the window, Peter sees the Humvee keeping pace with the train, Sara driving, Alicia firing the gun against pursuing virals. Alicia shouts for them to get out, that the virals are in the boxcar behind them. Olson shoves Mira forward, yellow at them to take her to the engine, where it’s safe.

Sara draws the Humvee up next to the train for them to jump across. None can manage it, so they climb back onto the roof to leap across to the engine. Mira freezes with fear, and is lost to a viral. Virals swarm the third car as the Humvee draws near the train, in the machine gun now depleted. Alicia and Sara transfer to the train to keep from being overrun. Peter tries to account for Amy as the engine lurches forward and the remaining cars crash away, killing everyone aboard.

The train comes to a stop near Caliente, within sight of Utah, where the train tracks ended. They rest for a night, and Peter tells Olson about Mira. Amy is alive and with them. She was the one who had blown the coupler, releasing the remaining boxcars, thus saving all their lives, though no one could explain how she’d known what to do. Peter wonders what she silently told Babcock, when she’d faced him.

They take inventory of supplies. Some guns and ammunition, a short supply of water, and no food.

Theo sleeps a great deal, though he wakes long enough to recount his story as best he can, catching the others up on where he’d been. Sara cleans and dresses Mausami’s leg wound, which the bullet has passed cleanly through. With luck, she will walk in a day or two.

After much debate, they all vote to press on to Colorado, despite their new disadvantages in the form of wounds and lost resources, as well as Mausami’s advancing pregnancy.

That leaves Olson, who has been a broken man since their escape. He’s been sitting, staring back the way they’d come, likely now a suicide risk. They leave him be, for now.

Caleb notices a hinged panel hanging from the bottom of the train, and tries to open it, and finds it stuck. Peter watches as it flies open, revealing Jude hiding within, half his face blown apart. They reach for weapons, but Jude fires first. Caleb takes a shot to the chest, as Peter and Hollis riddle Jude with bullets. Caleb dies in seconds. Alicia takes it hard. She snatches up a pistol, crosses to Olson, and whips him across the face, demanding an explanation. Olson explains that Jude was “familiar”. A viral without being a viral. Alicia points her gun at Olson’s head and pulls the trigger, but the chamber is empty. Defeated, she breaks down.

Olson leaves in the night. They bury Caleb, and erect a makeshift memorial. Peter says they should get going. Michael laments that against forty million virals, they have no chance. Amy speaks up, the first time any of them have heard her utter a word, to say he’s wrong. She says there are not forty million. There are twelve.