Lina comes home from her messenger job one day to find the apartment torn apart because Granny's looking for something.
Problem is, Granny doesn't know exactly what she's looking for—only that it's important.
As Lina starts to clean up, she asks where the baby is. Granny forgot her down in the shop.
Lina finds Poppy tangled in a hank of yarn, and rescues her. Not good. Granny is still riffling through things up in the apartment.
Granny explains that her father had heard her grandfather (the seventh mayor) saying that something was lost and he couldn't find it. Lina chalks it up to the ramblings of an old man.
The next day, Lina stops at their neighbor's place. Mrs. Murdo lives alone, and doesn't work anymore since her shop closed. She's a kind woman, so Lina asks her to look in on Granny and Poppy while she's gone, and Mrs. Murdo agrees.
Lina has to carry a message to the greenhouse, which makes her sad because that's where her father worked before he died.
Clary, one of the greenhouse workers, has always been friendly to Lina, so they talk a bit (not about happy things, but about the fact that a bunch of potatoes are dying mysteriously, and potatoes are a staple of Ember's cuisine).
Suddenly, they hear a strange sound, like someone wailing. It gets louder, until a man stumbles out of the darkness.
They recognize a guy named Sadge, who works in the Supply Depot. Between sobs, he tells them how he went outside of Ember, to see what there was in the darkness.
He basically had a panic attack out there and ran back to Ember before he could get lost or fall in a hole or get eaten by monsters.
Clary calms him down and sends him on his way. Lina has heard of similar ventures out into the Unknown Regions, all of which have failed. Part of the problem is that none of the lights in Ember are portable; they're all fixed to buildings.
Lina asks Clary what she thinks about the Unknown Regions, and whether Ember is the only light in a dark world.
Clary answers that she doesn't know, but that she does know that life comes from inside a seed somehow, so they (the people of Ember) must have come from somewhere, too. They may not have the answers yet, but those answers have to be somewhere—maybe even outside of Ember.
Before Lina leaves, Clary gives her a little bean seed and tells her to put it in dirt and water it. There's life inside the seed, which will emerge as it grows, so maybe that's some kind of clue to help Lina get thinking.