Scythe Goddard writes in his journal that most of the Scythedom's traditions and rules need to be changed. It's no longer reasonable to have a quota. He believes that the scythes who glean many will make up for the scythes who wish to not glean as often. Scythes will be able to help each other this way.
Here, Goddard shows that he knows how to make his twisted ideas seem palatable by insisting that he's being helpful and wants to make the Scythedom better. He's able to do this because nobody reads journals, critically or at all, so there's no oversight.
Three days before Winter Conclave, on the last day of the year, Goddard decides to glean once more, shouting at Volta when Volta points out that they've reached their quota. Goddard says that it's already the new year in PanAsia, so their gleanings will count toward next year. Everyone but Chomsky, who insists on using his flamethrower, packs samurai swords. Goddard instructs Rowan to bring an extra as he says that they're going to glean "rabble." The helicopter lets them down in a park, and Goddard announces that Rowan will perform his first gleaning. Rowan is distraught, but Goddard insists that nobody will care. Rowan wants to fail, as he knows it's the only way he'll be able to cling to humanity.
For Rowan, this moment is of the utmost importance: this is his coming-of-age moment, and, as he sees it, he doesn't want to participate at all, as gleaning will turn him into a monster. This shows how much Goddard has twisted Rowan's perception of becoming a scythe. Now, becoming a scythe is something just as horrendous to Rowan as it is to so many other people who don't understand what actually goes into it.
Goddard leads the group to a Tonist cloister and says they're going to glean them all. Rand and Chomsky grin, but Volta nervously suggests that this would show bias. Goddard and Rand shoot him down and draw their swords. Volta draws his and says quietly to Rowan that it'll be over quickly. Goddard tells Rowan to stay at the gate to keep people from escaping. Rowan intends to let people out, but they're too afraid of him to try to move past. He finally leaves his post and starts to wander through the building.
Volta's behavior again reminds the reader that he still isn't fully able to ignore his conscience, much as he seems to want to in order to keep Goddard's support and favor. The fact that the Tonists are afraid of Rowan impresses upon him that even if he knows he's still good inside, his association with Goddard means that most won't understand that.
Rowan finds Volta sitting against a column, crying and covered in blood. He kneels down and Volta explains that he opened a door he thought was an office, but it was a classroom with a dozen small kids. One boy stepped forward, held up a small tuning fork, and said that Volta wouldn't hurt them. Volta gleaned them all. He starts to sob, and Rowan sees that he has the boy's tuning fork in his hand. Volta asks who they are and who they're supposed to be, but when Rowan says that they can work together to stop Goddard, Volta says it's all over. Rowan realizes that the blood is from Volta's own wrists. Volta asks Rowan to call him his real name, Shawn Dobson, and asks Rowan to promise to be a better scythe. Rowan promises, and Volta dies.
For Volta, suppressing his humanity enough to glean a room full of children is too much for him to live with. Volta is only around 20 years old, so it's telling that killing children at this age is enough to make Volta want to die—according to Curie, most scythes don't self-glean until they're more than a 100 years old. This also represents a turning point for Rowan, as he sees right in front of him the lengths that Goddard will go to spread fear and corrupt his disciples.