In the aftermath of the Integral’s test flight, D-503 anguishes over how things actually played out, but he forces himself to be rational and goes into detail outlining to his readers exactly what happened.
Some of D-503’s former rationality reemerges as he makes a point of detailing the events of the Integral’s test flight.
D-503 writes about the Integral’s test flight: on the day of the test flight, D-503 boards the Integral. He feels morally conflicted about lying to the other personnel onboard the spacecraft and helping MEPHI take away the One State’s control over their lives. D-503 relates the workers on the Integral to figures in the tragic story The Three Released. In this story, three workers are given a month off work. Overwhelmed and unable to deal with their newfound freedom, they waste away and eventually commit suicide.
The story of The Three Released is meant to teach ciphers that they should be grateful for the structure and comfort the State offers them—the alternative to structure might be freedom, but freedom comes at the cost of misery, listlessness, and tortuous uncertainty.
D-503 leaves to check the engine before the Integral’s launch when he is struck by the realization that he is mere minutes away from making the decision to betray the One State. He doesn’t know if I-330 is there yet. He hears an explosion as the Integral takes off. As the aircraft leaves the atmosphere, he imagines he is flying into a new, “upside-down” world. D-503 goes to the wardroom to look for I-330. He finds S, who tells him that I-330 is in the radio room. D-503 goes to the radio room and sees I-330 and two others wearing “winged earphone helmets.”
D-503’s reflection that he is flying into a new “upside-down” world reflects the unknown, alienating territory into which he is embarking through his new association with MEPHI. In acknowledging that he is making a conscious choice to betray the One State, he demonstrates a refined awareness of the agency he possesses as an individual with the ability to act on desires and make decisions.
D-503 returns to the command room. He calls to the engine room to stop. The Integral slows to a halt then begins to drop “like a rock” to the ground. 12:00 draws closer, and D-503 compares himself to the rock and I-330 to the Earth: “I was a rock flung by someone, and this rock absolutely had to fall and smash on the ground into smithereens…” D-503 messages the engine room to “slow ahead” and the Integral stops falling.
In comparing himself to the Integral, D-503 retreats back to his old habit of externalizing his irrational choices. By stating that he is “a rock flung by someone,” he implies that his current situation is the result of actions done to him rather than by him. He’s conflicted about this impending decision to help MEPHI out of love for I-330 and wants to repress the fact that he desires to do so.
It’s almost 12:00 and everyone onboard convenes on the deck to look out on the mysterious “over-the-wall-world” beneath them. Someone behind D-503 says they saw a face through their binoculars. At 12:00, One State loyalists intervene before D-503 and MEPHI can make the move to steal the Integral. Angrily, I-330 asks D-503 if he betrayed her. He insists he did not. Later on, D-503 remembers seeing U looking through the pages of his records he’d left on his desk and realizes she must be the informant.
When I-330 accuses D-503 of betraying her and MEPHI, it shows how there is a degree of uncertainty inherent in all human relationships: I-330 values free will and individuality, but these things come at the cost of unpredictability and betrayal.
Horrified, D-503 gives the order to stop the engines and the Integral begins to fall. The Second Builder intervenes with D-503’s attempt at a suicide mission and instructs the engine room to “Reverse—full speed!” The Integral stops falling, which is the last thing D-503 remembers.
The failure of MEPHI’s mission makes D-503’s decision to betray the One State even more difficult for him to accept, and he would rather end it all than admit that his irrational behaviors can have unpredictable, uncontrollable outcomes.