Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 13

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Chapter 13

  • It's November and for the first time in forever Dan Gunn is clean-shaven. Peyton found some razor blades in the secret supply stash.
  • Dan Gunn has serious business on his mind: he wants to marry Helen. He knows she feels the same way, but won't commit because "'she thinks there's a chance Mark's still alive" (13.14).
  • All this month there have been planes flying low over the city, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. Is it an American plane? Or a Russian one?
  • After a week, one of the planes drops leaflets. The leaflets state that the U.S. Air Force is performing a survey of the contaminated zones. They'll be sending a helicopter for closer inspection at a future date.
  • The helicopter arrives in December—roughly a year after The Day. It loops around town as our squad waves from atop the Bragg abode.
  • To their joy, the helicopter lands right next to their house. It's like winning the human contact lottery.
  • Men in "silver-translucent plastic suits" emerge from the helicopter and test the grounds for radiation (13.45). Once they're content that it's safe, they take off their helmets.
  • One of the men is Paul Hart, who, if you have really good memory, you'll remember as the guy who was at Base McCoy when Randy met Mark.
  • Our heroes bring the military men inside and treat them to lunch and whiskey. The men are shocked to see booze—it's not even available in the places spared by the nukes.
  • Actually, based on what Paul's saying, Fort Repose has fared way better overall than a lot of those places, even though it's located right in the center of a huge blast radius.
  • They talk about everything that's happened, and Paul confirms that Mark did not survive the attack. Looks like it's wedding bells for Dan and Helen.
  • Before leaving, Paul tells Randy that he's been given permission to shuttle survivors out of town. And he can start with them.
  • Randy can't leave—this is his town, and his people, and "he knew he would not leave them" (13.90). Everybody gives the same answer. They're staying.
  • They do ask for a few supplies, however. Namely, a set of medical equipment for Dan, plus some shiny, non-broken spectacles.
  • As Paul boards the helicopter, Randy tells him to hold on for a moment. He has a question that's been eating at him all this time. Who won the war?
  • Paul's response is perfect: "We won it. We really clobbered 'em! [...] Not that it matters" (13.110).
  • What a wonderfully bleak way to end a wonderfully bleak book.

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