An earthquake hits in the morning. In the calamity, Lauren goes to help a stranger back to his feet. This wins her a smile from another stranger, an old man who's pushing his belongings in twin saddlebags hanging from a cart.
Along the roadside, Harry finds a ball of money. He says he'll buy shoes with it, but Lauren tells him she'll buy his shoes, and that he should use the money instead to buy a gun. He's grateful.
Walking along, our heroes pass a burning house. Zahra suggests that the group go scavenge, but Lauren tells everyone to continue moving forward. Then they hear gunfire.
It turns out that the roadside community is trying to fight off some travelers who want to take advantage of the confusion from the earthquake and fire to steal from them. Lauren and her group keep walking, trying to stay out of the way of danger.
Lauren thinks the roadside community should have prepared better for attackers—they should have prepared explosive defenses or hideouts in the hills, for instance.
The walker with the saddlebags cart tells Lauren that he thinks the whole world has gone crazy. Lauren finds him attractive and tells him she's read that the whole world goes crazy every three or four decades.
From his nicer clothes and haircut, the old man seems to have once had money. His name is Bankole, he's 57, and he and Lauren share in common the fact that they're both descended from men who had their names legally changed to African surnames.
With Bankole now walking with them, Lauren's group hears two girls calling for help from the rubble of a house that had collapsed in the earthquake. Lauren decides her group should go check on them.
With Harry and Bankole standing guard, Lauren, Travis, and Zahra dig the two women out from the rubble. They're in pain and shock, and Lauren feels pain with them through her hyperempathy syndrome.
The two women's names are Allie and Jill. Lauren's group persuades them to leave before scavengers come to attack. Already a dozen people are standing around watching.
In fact, the group is attacked.
A man grabs Zahra, and another man grabs Lauren.
Lauren stabs her assailant and shares his pain in response.
The man urinates on Lauren as he dies. Nasty.
Harry and Bankole help Lauren up, and it turns out that Zahra is okay.
The others in the group killed the attackers—several men.
The group takes twenty-five hundred dollars and some weapons from the four corpses. The corpses are also carrying boxes of pills, which makes Lauren think of her brother Keith. She wonders if the attackers were pyro face-painters.
Allie and Jill want to stay with Lauren's group. They're sisters, 24-25 years old, poor, and running away from a life of prostitution—their father was their pimp. Harry introduces the group to them as Earthseed.
Lauren explains that they share some ideas and want to found a community up north, where jobs pay salaries and water is cheaper.
Allie asks if Earthseed is a cult and acts standoffish, saying religion is phony or crazy. She also asks if they have to join the religion to travel with the group—Lauren says no.
Lauren asks if the sisters will stand with her group if there's trouble—after all, Lauren's group helped them—and after some tension, Allie says they can pull their own weight and help friends.
Lauren thinks the sisters should be watched but might eventually be worth something to her group.
Bankole walks up to Lauren. She thanks him for helping during the attacks. He says he cares what happens to strangers—such as Allie and Jill—and is glad to see that Lauren's group cares, too. He asks if he can travel with them; Lauren tells him that he has been, and that he's definitely welcome. She realizes that she's attracted to him. Oooooooh.
The group reaches Salinas, a small city that seems untouched by scavengers and the earthquake.
The group resupplies and washes up at a water station—yay—and then passes through a small street market.
There, Bankole sees an antique rifle for sale. As Lauren and Harry buy books, Bankole haggles the price of the gun down and suggests the group buy it, saying they need a long-range weapon. He says he can teach them how to use it.
The group discusses the potential purchase, and Lauren agrees to buy it.
Bankole buys the cleaning kit and ammunition, and then they leave town.
Now only Bankole and Lauren have fully loaded guns.
As our heroes walk out of town, they can hear gunfire behind them.