Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 5

By Pat Frank

Chapter 5

  • Randy is woken in bed by a deep rumbling "increasing in crescendo until the windows rattled" (5.1). Probably just a passing semi or something, right?
  • He runs outside and is shocked to see that it's bright outside—and not from the sun. There's one big orb of light coming from the south, and another from the east.
  • These, as Randy will later learn, are the nukes that were dropped on Miami.
  • Helen, Peyton, and Ben Franklin join Randy outside. They hear planes fly overhead (hopefully from their team) and worry about what's to come.
  • They don't wait long to find out, because there's another huge explosion and the sky is flooded with white light once again. This one's closer, coming from the direction of Tampa.
  • Peyton screams that she can't see. That's not good. Helen rushes her into a dark room and places a washcloth over her eyes.
  • Another explosion rocks the house as Helen cares for Peyton. Randy decides to find Dan Gunn and see if there's anything he can do to help.
  • Randy passes an upturned sedan with a dead woman lying beside it on the way into town.
  • He listens to the radio as he drives. There are occasional broadcasts on the "Conelrad" emergency broadcast system, but the only news is no news. Jacksonville has completely lost contact with the rest of the country outside of Florida.
  • Fort Repose is nuts. There are "a dozen cars [...] lined up at Jerry Kling's gas station" (5.78).
  • The inn, where Dan Gunn lives, is even crazier. Most of its residents are out-of-town visitors, so they've been caught even more unaware than local residents.
  • Dan's been caring for the inn's residents, who are having heart attacks like they're going out of fashion. Stress'll kill you, folks.
  • The doctor has tons of medical business to take care of, but he gives Randy some eye drops and promises that Peyton's vision will clear up. He assures Randy that he'll drop by the house later.
  • On his way home, Randy passes "a dozen convicts" armed with weapons (5.125). Oh, this really is turning into a Mad Max scenario.
  • He also passes Florence and Alice, though the two older ladies are far less intimidating. For some reason, they've both decided to head into work today.
  • Florence, for one, knows that the telegram operator is the most important person in town when a crisis happens. She's practically buzzing with her own sense of importance.
  • She sends a telegram to Jacksonville for orders, but is told to sit tight. Only "official defense emergency messages" are worth sending to HQ at the moment (5.148).
  • We've got a bad feeling about this.
  • Edgar Quisenberry, banker extraordinaire, arrives at Western Union later that morning. He demands that Florence send a message to the Federal Reserve Bank in Jacksonville for help.
  • There was a rush on the bank earlier that day, and Edgar had naively allowed his customers to take out all the cash they wanted. That is, until he realized he was almost out of money. Then he began to freak out.
  • A similar thing has happened across Fort Repose: stores were overwhelmed by the morning rush and are now practically out of supplies. Doesn't bode well.
  • After being refused by Florence, Edgar decides to close the bank for the time being. He drives home in a daze. All of his money—suddenly gone. Suddenly worthless.
  • Now that the full extent of the situation is sinking in, Edgar is beside himself. He finds an old pistol, loads it, and...well, we think you can guess how this ends. Edgar Quisenberry is no more.

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