During the night, there is more gunfire. For the first time, Lauren is able to ignore the sounds and simply sleep through it. In the morning, she notices that two people had snuck in and slept alongside the rest of the group in their camp. Lauren realizes that Jill had neglected her watch. The two intruders wake up: a young, brown-skinned woman with bedraggled hair and a child who could be either her daughter or sister. Frightened, the woman grabs the child and they curl up together in a ball. Lauren assures them that they won’t hurt them and asks if they want something to eat. The woman says that they can’t pay, but Lauren replies that this isn’t necessary.
The group continues to expand in a somewhat haphazard manner. Although there is increased strength and security in numbers, it remains the case that one slip is enough to endanger the entire group. Fortunately, the intruders who arrived while Jill neglected her watch are seemingly non-threatening. At the same time, even incorporating harmless individuals into the community could pose a threat to the group’s overall security.
Justin then walks over to play with the little girl, which breaks some of the tension. After they eat, the woman asks if she and the girl can come with the group, promising that they will work. Lauren calls the group to discuss this in private.
Members of the group need to have a certain level of physical ability, endurance, intelligence, and toughness in order to survive life on the road and not inadvertently endanger those around them.
There is some resistance among the group to the woman and child joining them; without thinking, Lauren mentions Bankole’s plot of land. Eventually they agree to take them, but Travis and Lauren stress that such a lapse in the night watch cannot be allowed to happen again. At first Jill is defensive, but eventually promises to do better next time. Lauren learns that the woman’s name is Emery Tanaka Solis; she is 23, half-black and half-Japanese, and formerly married to an older, Mexican husband. Tori, her daughter, is 9.
Themes of exclusion and inclusion again come into play here, as Lauren and the others must be ever vigilant about who to trust and who to reject or fear. The harsh reality of their world leaves no room for total openness or unguarded kindness.
Emery says that she and her husband had two sons in addition to Tori. The family worked as farmhands, but were paid in scrip and ended up in debt slavery. Emery’s husband grew sick and died, and shortly after the boys were taken away. Emery then decided to run away from the farm. She dreamed of getting her sons back, but didn’t know where they had been taken and soon realized that she could only take care of Tori now. They began walking north, and snuck into Lauren’s camp after finding themselves near a gang fight.
Emery and Tori’s story is strongly reminiscent of the era of chattel slavery in the United States. During this period, enslaved families were routinely torn apart, with children sold away from their mothers, never to be seen again. Just like an enslaved person in the antebellum United States, Emery has no power or resources to find her sons, and only a blind hope that they are still alive.
A few days later, another man, Grayson Mora, and his daughter, Doe, also join the group. Tori had befriended Doe, “pulling their parents together.” Grayson appears to like Emery, but dislikes the group overall. Lauren is suspicious of him. She believes that he and Doe were also debt slaves, based on their similarities to Emery and Tori. Unprompted, Bankole also remarks that there is something strange about Grayson. Bankole says it’s clear that Grayson doesn’t trust the group, and that the best way to win him over will be by being kind to the children. Lauren notes that the group is now like a modern-day underground railroad. Bankole points out that debt slavery also existed in certain parts of the country in the 1990s. He says that Emery’s sons were probably sold into prostitution, and Lauren adds that Emery must know this too. She concludes that if formerly enslaved people can be convinced to join Earthseed, they will fight harder for their freedom than anyone.
The addition of Grayson, Doe, Emery, and Tori to the group evokes an important connection to another part of American history—the underground railroad. As with the original underground railroad, Lauren’s group operates as an ever-evolving informal network of support in the face of extreme danger. There is also a significant resemblance between Lauren and the most prominent hero of the underground railroad, Harriet Tubman. Both are extremely strong-willed, fierce, and courageous black American women who put themselves at great risk in order to bring about a brighter and more just future.