Days later, there is an earthquake. The people walking along the freeway scream, and some fall. Lauren helps an old man who has fallen to the ground, and then sees another older man smiling at her. He is black, and Lauren likes his smile, so she smiles back. Meanwhile, Harry has found a scrunched up rag containing rolls of cash. Lauren tells him to buy a gun with it. The group all survive the earthquake unharmed, but soon Travis spots a large fire in the distance. They begin walking away from the fire, but then hear gunshots. Suddenly, Lauren sees the same older black man from before; she notes that he is handsome. They begin talking, and Lauren makes a point of showing off her intelligence. The man walks alongside Lauren’s group and introduces himself as Taylor Franklin Bankole.
Perhaps as a result of the fact that she is now traveling as part of a newly-formed community, Lauren is more willing to trust strangers than when she first set out on the road. Her interest in Bankole is also clearly rooted in the fact that she finds him attractive. On one level, this seems like a dangerous and irresponsible way of deciding whether or not to trust someone. At the same time, however, Lauren’s instincts about people have been reliable so far. Is she pushing her luck, or making choices based on her skill at reading people’s personalities?
Lauren and Bankole discuss the fact that their relatives both changed their surnames to Yoruba names during the Black Liberation movement of the 1960s. Bankole is 57, one year older than Lauren’s father. While they are talking, Bankole hears shouts from inside a semi-collapsed house. They approach cautiously, and manage to pull two women from the rubble. Lauren can feel their wounds and wants to leave, but stays to assure the women that they are all right and to help them walk again. The women are both white and in their twenties; their names are Allie and Jill, and Lauren guesses they could be sisters.
Lauren may have decided to trust Bankole, but this does not mean she is willing to welcome just anyone she meets on the road into her life. Although Allie and Jill are in an extremely vulnerable position and have good cause to behave kindly to Lauren and her group, this is not enough to compel Lauren to trust them, and she makes sure to keep them at arm’s length. It’s also possible that part of the reason for her distrust is that, unlike Bankole, they are white.
Suddenly a man grabs Zahra, and seconds later another grabs Lauren. Lauren manages to stab her attacker, and kills him; she has never been in more pain in her life. She opens her eyes to see Harry and Bankole staring at her with concern. Harry tells her that the group are all right, and that the four attackers are all dead. They take clothes, money, two knives, a gun, and a radio from the corpses. They also find a box of pills, which they leave behind. The two women they’d saved from the collapsed house, Allie and Jill, want to join the group. They are on the run from their father, who pimped them out as prostitutes. When Jill asks, “Who are you guys, anyway?”, Harry replies, “Earthseed.” Lauren explains that they are traveling north in order to found a community, and Allie asks if they are a cult, adding: “Religion is dog shit.” Lauren reminds her that no one is forcing her to join them.
Allie and Jill are the first people to express direct hostility to Earthseed upon learning about it. Although belief in Earthseed is not required in order for people to join Lauren’s group, the derision with which Allie reacts to Earthseed suggests that she may be a liability to the newly-formed community. On the other hand, Allie and Jill’s traumatic life story perhaps explains why they react in such a negative manner to learning that the group practice a kind of religion. With all that has happened to them, who can blame them for reacting to Earthseed in a bitter, cynical manner?
Allie remains somewhat hostile, but agrees to travel with the group and to help and support them. Lauren welcomes her. She talks to Bankole, and reflects that she likes him “too much” and needs to be cautious. Later that day they reach Salinas, a city that is surprisingly free of destruction and scavengers. There is a large police presence, and heavily-armed security guards at the stores. The guards are aggressive, pointing their guns at the group and telling them to “buy something or get out.” However, the guards at the water station are more “calm and professional,” enabling the group to restock on water and even have a quick wash. Lauren purchases condoms and books, and Bankole spots an antique rifle that he wants the group to collectively buy. There is a debate over whether the purchase is worth it, but they eventually agree to buy it and practice shooting together.
The group is beginning to function less like a haphazard assemblage of stragglers and more like a real, productive community. The strength of their collective presence and resources allows them to do things such as take turns washing or buy the antique gun. While living in a large group inevitably creates certain issues, it is clear that the characters have a better chance of survival now that they are traveling as part of a community. In a chaotic and dangerous world, developing structures of shared responsibility and mutual support is vital to existence.