Because of the shooting and fire taking place behind them, Lauren's travelers fear to rest, and they continue on.
Lauren listens to a radio earpiece that warns of chaos in the Bay Area. Addicts running wild are setting fires, scavengers are stealing from what's left of the middle class, and so on. Not good.
So the group studies Lauren's maps and plots a different course.
The new route is less populated than the earlier path.
Our heroes make it through San Juan Bautista (that's a town) and camp out east of the area, exhausted.
Sunday, August 29, 2027
Lauren wakes in the middle of the night to the sound gunfire. Zahra tells her to stay down.
Lauren sees two groups chasing each other, both firing their guns. Lauren wants to stay out of the way but discovers that Bankole—who she had slept beside—is gone.
The gunfire causes an abandoned truck on the highway to explode, and the gunfight seems to end.
Everyone who's around reports that they're okay, but Lauren is worried about Bankole. She and Harry go to look for him—and find the old man out in the trees with an orphaned child whose mother was hit by a stray bullet.
Bankole carries the child back to the group's camp.
A shadowy figure moves near the burnt-up truck, perhaps investigating the crying of the two children (Dominic and the new orphan).
Natividad gives the two kids her breasts for nursing, and this quiets them.
The group is now safer, but they're still debating whether they should move or stay put. They decide to stay where they are, with some people staying up to keep watch.
Lauren kisses Bankole, and he thanks for her for checking on him.
The group finds out that the orphan's name is Justin Rohr. He's three. Lauren finds important papers on his mother's dead body, as well as several thousand dollars. But the group can't figure out anything about Justin other than the fact that it seems his mother was heading north with him in search of a better life.
Justin travels well enough with the group, but he misses his mother. He adopts Allie as a substitute. She used to have a child, but her father killed the baby by punching it to death. Wow, scary. After he did that, the sisters burned the house down and ran away, possibly killing their own father.
Lauren suggests they harness Justin with a rope for safety. She says her group will help Allie with parenting Justin.
The group passes through Hollister, where they resupply, and where people seem to be in better shape.
Lauren is refreshed by the evidence of human community.