Pressia Belze is a sixteen-year-old girl, and, as the saying goes, she's "sweet sixteen and never been kissed." But her not having been kissed is the least of her problems; when she was just a little girl, large-scale bombs called the Detonations swept the earth.
Only those who were in the Dome were safe from the Detonations, and those who survived them while outside of the Dome were fused to their nearest surroundings. Now, Pressia lives in a post-apocalyptic America. Her hand is fused with a doll head, and her grandfather's neck is fused with a fan. Things aren't exactly on the upswing for Pressia, especially because the OSR (a revolutionary group outside the Dome) takes custody of all sixteen-year-olds to use them as new recruits (or target practice). Gulp.
Meanwhile, Partridge Willux lives inside the Dome. He is a "Pure," as the people outside the Dome (who are called "wretches) call him. Partridge also attends the academy, where all kids are genetically coded to become physically and mentally superhuman. Oh, and his father is pretty much the leader of the Dome. Sounds like a pretty good life, huh?
Well, not exactly. Partridge doesn't like it in the Dome, and he hates his father. After his father hints that his mother is still alive and possibly outside of the Dome, Partridge decides to escape to find her.
Eventually, Pressia has to run away from her home to escape the OSR, and she ultimately runs into Partridge. The rest of the novel is an action packed, heart-wrenching adventure to find Partridge's mother. The two join forces with a tough-guy renegade named Bradwell and OSR officer turned-good guy named El Capitan (whose brother, Helmud, is fused to his back). Oh, and there are some feelings between Bradwell and Pressia—that "never been kissed" phase is thrown out the window by the book's end. But that's about the only cheerful thing you'll find.
Though Pressia and Partridge end up finding out they are half-brother and half-sister through solving a riddle from their mother, the hunt to find her ends in tragedy. After enduring almost certain death and immense pain, they find their mother Aribelle, only to see her and their older brother (who they thought was dead) blown to pieces by Partridge's father. Partridge swears revenge at the end, setting us up for the next book in the trilogy.
- The book opens with the main character, Pressia, lying in a cabinet that her grandfather made her. It's not very comfortable, but it's where she needs to sleep.
- She doesn't seem too pumped for her Sweet Sixteen, which is in two weeks.
- OSR (Operation Sacred Revolution) patrols the streets at night, which is why Pressia needs to stay hidden. OSR = bad guys.
- By the way, Pressia's grandfather has a fan lodged in his throat. Something isn't right here.
- They also live in the back storage room of a burned-out barbershop. What's going on?
- Apparently, if you don't turn yourself into OSR headquarters on your sixteenth birthday, they'll take you. Think about the reaping in The Hunger Games, but a little worse.
- Not everyone knows how to read, but Pressia was taught by her grandfather. She learned through "the Message," which reads: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. Buther grandfather hid the message somewhere, and no one speaks about it anymore.
- Quick aside: if it's randomly capitalized, it's important. That's not just a regular message, people.
- There are whispers (their way of saying rumors) that when OSR takes you, they teach you how to kill through live targets, and if you're too deformed from "the Detonations," you are a live target.
- (Notice how "Detonations" is capitalized.)
- There's an OSR list of those who need to turn themselves in, and Pressia isn't on it yet.
- OSR's mission is to take down the Dome one day. They order that all newborns are registered, and they do random house raids. Jeez, these guys are demanding.
- Back to Pressia: she makes little windup toys from pieces of metal and other materials she finds. Her favorite one is the butterfly.
- She has a pet mechanical-winged cicada named Freedle.
- Her grandfather used to work as a mortician, and people come to him because he knows how to stitch them up when they are injured.
- Back-story on The Detonations: they were over nine years ago. Pressia doesn't remember her mother or father, but her grandfather tells her about them a lot.
- Her mother was killed by a plate-glass window. She was Japanese. Her father was Scotch-Irish, and they live west of Baltimore, and north of DC. But none of these city names mean anything to Pressia because she doesn't understand them.
- Pressia was holding a doll when the Detonations occurred. Basically, the Detonations were radiation bombs, and everyone outside of the Dome was affected. The doll fused into one of Pressia's hands, so now she has a doll hand. Yikes.
- Pressia leaves her house with the intention of scavenging for materials.
- Our second main character, Partridge, is in Glassings' World History class.
- Glassings lectures about the Dome's history, and how it is a prototype for sustainable living after the Detonations. The people in the Dome and the "wretches" outside the Dome are governed by a "flimsy" military regime. Their hope is to one day take care of the wretches and start a new life.
- Partridge has a memory about a meal his mother made, but now instead of food he takes pills for optimal health.
- He's also dressed in "mummy molds," which are casts that cover parts of his body so only certain parts are exposed.
- During things called "coding sessions," academy boys are taken to rooms and given new skill sets.
- They get vertigo from these, but they get used to it. A little vertigo can't hurt, right?
- Glassings makes a comment about an ancient culture, saying "beautiful barbarism." Partridge notes that he shouldn't be making asides because the government might be watching.
- Dome officials enter the classroom and Glassings thinks they might be here for him for his "beautiful barbarism" aside. But they end up asking for Partridge, saying his father wants to see him.
- Partridge's dad, Ellery Willux, is pretty much the president of the Dome.
- Partridge also has a brother, Sedge, who also went to the academy. But later we find out Sedge died.
- Sedge was a "herd" member, and eventually entered the new elite corps called the Special Forces.
- Partridge remembers a time when he went swimming with his dad. His dad had six small scars in the left side of his chest over his heart, but they were symmetrical and not from an accident.
- He has a pretty bad relationship with his dad. His dad ignores him, and probably didn't even send the seventeenth birthday gift Partridge received — an expensive pen with an illuminated bulb.
- More memories: Partridge thinks about his mother and how she used to write riddles for Partridge to help him find hidden presents. She told him that his father used to do this too, which shocks Partridge because his dad is pretty cruel.
- They meet up, and an awkward conversation about school ensues.
- His dad says something is wrong in Partridge's "behavioral coding." Partridge knows that he has been thinking about his mother more, but instead, he tells his dad that he felt cold during class. Smooth.
- Btw, Partridge and Ellery are the only ones left in the family.
- Their conversation shifts from talking about some blueprint to his mother. Ellery asks about when she and Partridge went to the beach and the mother had Partridge swallow pills. They were meant to make the flu go away, but they made it worse.
- Backstory on the mother: she died trying to help survivors get to the Dome. Ellery barely speaks about her anymore, and he can barely mention Sedge's name.
- Another memory of Partridge: the "swan wife," a song his mother introduced him to. He talked about it to Sedge once, but Sedge said it was a girl's story.
- Ellery mentions how Partridge's mother has always been problematic, which upsets Partridge. Notice how he says, "has always been" problematic. Partridge wonders why that's not in the past tense. Hmm.
- Somehow, Ellery decides this is a perfect time for them to take a father-son picture. Flash. Kodak moment. End of chapter.
- Pressia is scavenging out by the market. She can hear people coughing, which is how you can measure death. It's pretty morbid.
- She sees two twins with mangled legs. They chant a very creepy song about burning a "Pure" and taking its body parts to make things.
- "Pure" is what people in the Dome are called.
- Pressia recalls a game called I Remember, where kids exchange memories. The more intimate, the more you're willing to put your trust into people. Pressia has memories, but she finds herself pretending to remember and using other peoples' memories instead.
- A girl asks her if she wants a Pure that is "toasted to a crisp." Pressia politely declines. Good move.
- Pressia trades one of her butterfly wind-up toys with a man named Kepperness—whose son was attacked by a "Dust," or those who are fused with the earth. Kepperness' son is most likely going to die soon.
- As Pressia leaves to go scavenge and she sees an OSR listing; it has her name, Pressia Belze, on it.
- She then sees a little boy scrape his knee and run to a house that's occupied by a "Groupie" — three ladies fused into one — who yells at Pressia for hurting the little boy. A wolfish beast suddenly appears and chases Pressia and the little boy.
- Pressia picks up the little boy and carries him to safety in a partially collapsed building. The boy bites her hand as hard as he can (thanks?).
- A trapdoor opens, the boy screams, and then he runs away. A man comes out of the trapdoor and asks if Pressia is there for the meeting. Meeting?
- Pressia sort of recognizes him, and since she's hungry and possibly going to be taken, she says she is there for the meeting.
- She notices a fluttering motion under the back of the man's shirt and suddenly remembers him. He's the boy with birds in his back.
Partridge (Metal Box)
- Partridge is on a field trip in the Personal Loss Archives. In the Archives, there are metal boxes that are labeled and alphabetized. They contain the personal items of the dead.
- Partridge finds Sedge's metal box, but doesn't open it. The box says, "Cause: Gunshot Wound, Self-Inflicted."
- Unlike before the Detonations, suicide doesn't have too dark of a stigma for those in the Dome. Sedge's suicide was tragic because he was young and strong, but taking your own life is seen as admirable.
- Partridge then finds his mother's box: Aribelle Cording Willux. He is eager to open it, and finds a birthday card with balloons on the cover, and an old photograph of him and his mother.
- He then finds a music box, and hidden under it is a thin chain of a necklace and a swan pendant made of gold with a bright blue stone for an eye.
- He puts all of the items in his pockets, and then slips the metal box back into its place. Sneaky.
- The meeting room is small and people don't seem happy that Pressia is there.
- She looks at the guy with the wings and remembers how he offered her grandfather a weapon for stitching him up. Her grandfather told him to keep the weapon and instead owe the grandfather a favor, which the boy didn't like.
- Pressia sees Gorse, a boy she knew when she was younger. He disappeared a few years ago with his little sister Fandra.
- A boy named Halpern, whose face is partially disintegrated from infections, asks if they can look in a footlocker in the room. The boy with the wings tells him to wait.
- The boy reveals that his name is Bradwell, and he is "one of the dead," or one who is listed as dead. So the OSR are not looking for him—score.
- He then starts to talk about "Shadow History," which Pressia describes as conspiracy theories.
- He talks about how the Detonations were planned attacks meant to separate the inferior from the elite. He calls it, "A clean slate."
- While he's talking, Pressia realizes that she's heard of Bradwell before. And since she has heard of him, OSR must know that he exists. Uh oh—get out, Pressia: get out.
- Bradwell goes on about how it's important to remember things that they don't want to, like how his parents (both were professors) were shot to death in their beds.
- After his parents were shot, he was shipped out to live with his aunt and uncle. His uncle was promised three spots in the Dome.
- But before they could get to the dome, the Detonations occurred and Bradwell was fused with a bird and his skin was burned and blistered. His uncle was fused with a car engine.
- After his story, they open the footlocker and take out pieces of paper. Pressia tries to leave, but Bradwell tells her the door is locked.
- She talks to Gorse (who she used to be friends with), and he implies that Fandra is dead.
- Pressia goes to the footlocker and looks at the images of the papers. They are filled with beautiful pictures of happy people in 3-D glasses and dogs in sunglasses and boxes with jewelry in them.
- Pressia gets mad at Bradwell and says these images are proof of the past. He says it's all a lie, and that Shadow History is the truth. Can't we all just get along?
- Pressia gets angry again and leaves.
- Bradwell lied about the door being locked. What a trickster.
- Silas Hastings, Partridge's roommate, is bothering Partridge about a dance they have to go to.
- Partridge has been avoiding Hastings recently because he wants to be alone with his mother's items. He also wants to study the blueprints that can be seen in the picture with him and his dad. Sneaky, sneaky.
- He uses the special pen to light up the picture..
- Hastings complains that Partridge hates him now, but Partridge tells him that he's just nervous about a special mummy mold session where he gets put under.
- Hastings turns pale and says that's how you get bugged, and become a spy without even knowing it.
- Plus, they could even put a "ticker" in Partridge, which is a bomb that's controlled via remote. If the person becomes a risk, the bomb can be set off —but Partridge says that's all baloney. There's no such thing as tickers. Right?
- Er, right?
- Oh, by the way: Partridge is planning on sneaking out of the Dome. That's probably pretty important, huh?
- He can go through the air-filtration system. He's been taking notes about how the system works.
- He wants to leave the Dome to find his mother, because he thinks she might be outside the Dome.
- The chapter ends with how he needs to concentrate on one thing: Lyda Mertz.
- A new character perspective, woo.
- Lyda is Partridge's date to the dance. She has a pretty big crush on Partridge, but she's very nervous while at the dance — especially because he acts like she doesn't exist.
- A creepy song about someone who is watching every step and every breath some else takes is playing.
- The food pills, or "bullets" as kids call them, are replaced by cupcakes. Yum.
- Lyda mentions how her wire bird has been chosen for display in an art show. Partridge doesn't care.
- When she asks him what's wrong, he accuses her of looking for people's problems just like her mother, who works in a mental rehabilitation center.
- Lyda storms off to the punch bowl and refuses to look back at him. The dance is going great.
- Apparently Partridge is pretending to be a jerk. It's all part of his plan to steal a key out of Lyda's pocketbook.
- While pretending to storm off to the bathroom, he runs into Glassings, who is the only adult he feels comfortable joking with. After a few awkward back-and-forths, Glassings tells Partridge that he knows he stole stuff from his mother's metal box.
- Glassings tells him he's not alone, but then tells him to hang around with Arvin Weed, a very smart boy in the Dome. Partridge is relieved Glassings doesn't know his full intentions of leaving the Dome.
- Partridge then enters the Domesticity Display in Founders Hall, which is what Lyda's key grants access to. Here, Partridge searches for a knife.
- But Lyda walks in on him snooping around.
- For some reason, she tells him she'll count to twenty and let him do what he wants to. He grabs the knife, and they walk back to the dance, hand-in-hand.
- Lyda and Partridge then kiss on the dance-floor.
- It's Pressia's sixteenth birthday. Nothing to celebrate here, folks: a sixteenth birthday is a bad thing in this world.
- She wakes up with Bradwell's voice in her head, asking her if she's sixteen yet.
- On the table are two presents; she didn't want presents, but her grandfather insisted he give her a special present. The other present is from someone else.
- And you guessed it— it's from Bradwell.
- The grandfather's present is a pair of clogs. Pressia doesn't seem to like them very much, but still puts them on. What a polite granddaughter.
- While she's "clomping around," her grandfather tells her about how she had a pony at her second birthday party.
- She then opens Bradwell's present: the clipping of paper from the footlocker with the people wearing 3-D glasses. She thinks it's some kind of cruel joke.
- Then she looks at the toys she makes, and for the first time she sees them as childish.
Partridge (3 Minutes and 42 Seconds)
- Vic Wellingsly, a member of "the herd," makes fun of Partridge on the way to the academy for having to go under. Tick tick tick.
- Since Partridge only told Hastings about this, he knows Hastings told the herd, which upsets him.
- Partridge is led to a small white room. He has second thoughts, but ultimately jumps into the air duct.
- He saws through filters like MacGyver and traverses the ducts like a contestant on Ninja Warrior.
- He describes the ducts as an obstacle course, which then triggers a memory of him running through an obstacle course before the Detonations.
- After a lot of pessimistic thinking about what it would be like to get chopped up into pieces by the fans, he makes it through to the end.
- Ever since she opened Bradwell's gift, she has been having more memories. One in particular is a lullaby about a girl on a front porch.
- There is a knock on the door, so Pressia hides in the cabinets. Her grandfather opens the door after realizing it's a woman who needs to be stitched up.
- The wounded woman claims there is a Death Spree occurring—a twenty-four hour period where OSR soldiers form tribes and kill people for sport. Whatever team has the highest body count wins.
- It's like real life Call of Duty… which is incredibly messed up.
- Pressia and her grandfather think the woman might be crazy.
- The woman says there are new whispers about a Pure boy being spotted outside of the Dome.
- Pressia and her grandfather are still doubtful, but Pressia hopes there is a Pure out there.
- A truck then rumbles in the alley and Pressia can hear a dog get shot.
- The woman sees that it's OSR; Pressia's grandfather then gives her the signal to leave through their secret passage.
- After much hesitation, Pressia draws a smiley face on the cabinet door with ash, and then leaves through the fake panel into the barbershop.
- She decides to go to Bradwell because he still owes her grandfather a favor. Plus, Gorse survived so maybe she could too.
- On her way out, she finds a small charred bell and picks it up. Symbol alert—ding ding ding.
- Outside of the Dome, Partridge finds himself looking for water because he drank all of his in the sandy dust fields. He thinks he sees an eye in the earth twice (probably because there was an eye in the earth).
- He thinks about Lyda; poor Lyda, she's probably being interrogated right now.
- A bunch of sheep (not your average sheep—these things have horns and spikes) drink water from a puddle. A shepherd sees Partridge, and when Partridge motions towards the puddle for water, the shepherd tells him the water would rot Partridge's stomach.
- Partridge follows the shepherd, who gives him water. The shepherd then asks if Partridge can stick around and work since the shepherd's wife is "fresh dead."
- The shepherd then notices that Partridge has no scars or blemishes, and Partridges runs like the wind.
- After getting away, he sees reeds on the ground. He parts them, only to see a human face. Ummm, what?
- And it's not just any human face; it's the shepherd's wife's face. Fresh dead.
- Lyda sits in a chilled, white padded room. Her mother is very critical of her mistake, but Lyda knows that she still loves her.
- Lyda thinks about how she stained her reputation and that no one would want their son to marry her anymore. Cheer up Lyda: at least you didn't get fused with something.
- There's a fake sunlight image of a window on the wall, and Lyda sees (or she thinks she sees) birds flutter past, which is odd because there aren't many birds in the Dome.
- Two doctors and her mother walk in for the evaluation. One asks about Ripkard Willux, otherwise known as Partridge.
- They interrogate her about the night of the dance, and she keeps seeing wings of birds in the fake window.
- They ask if Partridge kissed her and if he loved her. Lyda thinks about how he used her to get the knife, but doesn't know what he used it for.
- Lyda ends up lying because her mother seemed to signal for her to. She says that Partridge loved her.
- Pressia starts to make her way to Bradwell's house. Along the way she can hear the chants of Death Sprees in the distance. Her Grandfather referred to different chants as birdcalls (have you caught on to the bird symbol yet?).
- She arrives at the Rubble Fields, which used to be the heart of the city.
- An OSR truck drives up the street, and an officer with the neck bone of a dog instead of a knee exits the truck. Three officers then storm into a building.
- Meanwhile, Pressia sees someone with a scarf hiding their face and a hooded coat being ambushed by Groupies. We know that this is Partridge.
- The Groupies try to take his backpack, but when they push him back, he stands back up with super-speed.
- Pressia knows she should ignore it, but she can't help but try to save him.
- She throws one of her clogs at an oil drum, which makes a loud noise and scares the Groupies away.
- Partridge then runs up a hill and hides behind the OSR truck.
- But when the truck leaves, Pressia sees him without the scarf and hood—he's the Pure the old woman was talking about.
- Partridge looks up at the sky, then remembers when his mother told him the swan wife story.
- The Swan Wife story: a swan girl saves a young prince from drowning.
- He then steals her wings and forces her to marry him. He becomes the king and they have two kids.
- One kid is like the mother. The king puts her wings in a bucket and drops them down a dry well. The boy like the mother ends up retrieving the wings, gives them to his mother, and she flies away with him.
- Partridge once asked his mother, "Is my father the bad king." His mother said, "It's just a story," but, "Don't tell the story to your father."
- So yeah, we can pretty much assume the father is the bad king.
Pressia (Gray Eyes)
- Shifting back to Pressia's point of view: she sees Partridge go out to the middle of the street. She shouts at him to get out, and he seems relieved to see someone that isn't a beast.
- He approaches her and the first thing that comes to her mind is the creepy song about burning a Pure and taking its body parts to make things.
- Partridge asks her if she can take him to 1054 Lombard Street.
- After he retrieves her shoe for her with his superhuman speed, she agrees to find a map for him if he follows her to Bradwell's house.
- Throughout their conversations, she builds up guilt in him for being a Pure, giving her leverage in their newfound relationship.
- They see an OSR truck; Partridge reveals that they used to be called Operation Search and Rescue. Pressia makes him feel guilty for being educated, too.
- She asks him why he's outside the Dome, and he says that he's looking for "home."
- They decide to walk through the Rubble Field to avoid going through the streets. Pressia advises Partridge to follow her every move and not scream if he's grabbed by a Dust.
- And of course, he's grabbed by a Dust… and screams.
- Pressia tries to help him, but the only way he can defeat the Dust is to be brought down under the earth and fight it himself.
- Instead, he uses his super-strength to actually pull it out from underneath the earth (Pressia has never seen this before, and didn't think it was possible).
- After an epic battle-royal, Partridge is able to stab the Dust in its one human spot (on its chest) with his knife.
- The kids are all right. For now.
- Pressia and Partridge make their way to Bradwell's house in silence.
- Along the way, Partridge asks about the ash falling from the sky. After talking about the ash and the wind, Pressia asks him to play "I Remember," which he's never heard of before.
- While Pressia makes up a memory, Partridge reveals the truth to her about his mother and tells Pressia about the swan wife story.
- Feel bad about lying now, Pressia?
- Since the awkwardness has subsided a bit, Pressia asks him about his unnatural strength and speed; he tells her about his special coding.
- They reach Bradwell's home sweet home — a collapsed butcher shop.
- Bradwell lets them both in, though he doesn't know Partridge is a Pure yet.
- Bradwell gives them a lovely tour of the house, except it's not so lovely seeing that the basement is filled with sharp hooks and strange hybrid creatures that are skinned.
- Memory time: Pressia thinks about how she tried to cut off her doll hand once. It didn't go so well.
- She then spills the beans and reveals Partridge's identity. Bradwell is not a happy camper.
- After being interrogated for a bit, Partridge reveals how he is looking for Lombard Street (where he used to live) in hopes of finding his mother.
- Bradwell gets worked up again about the whole Pures are our enemies thing, and Pressia is able to "unglue" him a little, giving her more leverage.
- Partridge tells Bradwell he is a Willux; apparently Bradwell knows about his family.
- After more arguing, Pressia is able to convince Bradwell to find an old map. Partridge must be lucky because Bradwell knows exactly where Lombard Street is.
- The three load up on some weapons — mostly knives and a stun gun — and plan to move out to the church on Lombard Street.
El Capitan (Guns)
- New character perspective.
- We get background information on El Capitan, an OSR officer in charge of sorting out new recruits.
- When the Detonations occurred, him and his brother Helmud were riding a dirt bike. Helmud fused to El Capitan's back, creating the visual effect of a permanent piggyback ride.
- Bet you've never seen that before.
- If Helmud dies, so does El Capitan — he knows this, but still wants to roll over on his back one day to suffocate Helmud and end their suffering.
- By the way, El Capitan is just the nickname his mother gave him before she got sent to the asylum. Since his father, an ex-pilot in the air force, was gone, El Capitan was put in charge of the family (which only consisted of him and Helmud at that point).
- In present time, El Capitan is ordering his troops to find Pressia. This is a direct order from a higher up named Ingership, the guy who ordered the random Death Spree.
- Apparently, Ingership wants Pressia to be promoted to officer upon arrival. You know, being an officer would probably be better than getting shot.
- Oh, also, Ingership sometimes has El Capitan play The Game; when they let the weak recruits loose so El Capitan can hunt them.
- Out in the woods, El Capitan finds some sort of dead wild hen in a trap. There are three brown eggs (one speckled) under the hen.
- Then he hears a hum and his brother starts to cry on his back; all the sudden, he sees both human and nonhuman creatures shifting through the trees.
- Back to the Partridge Family (can we please call them that?): they're on their way to Lombard Street.
- They take an underground route and talk about Death Sprees. Pressia jabs at Partridge, telling him he'd be ten points if he were caught. Only ten points?
- By the way, there's a lot of humor in this novel even though it has a morbid undertone.
- They reach Lombard Street and climb aboveground; bits and pieces of buildings and streetlights are present, but the street as a whole is destroyed.
- Partridge nervously walks around looking for Ten Fifty-four Lombard Street, and then hears faint singing. Of course, he follows it.
- He goes inside the house with Pressia and calls out — a woman's voice answers and asks him for his name.
- After he tells the person his name and hands her the photograph, she lifts a tarp that's covering her face, which is covered in glass shards. Just an old lady.
- She convinces Partridge to take his scarf off, and then shakes her head and says, "You look like her." She's most likely referring his mother.
- The sound of the Death Spree grows closer, and just as Partridge and Pressia start to leave, the woman says, "He broke her heart," then starts singing really loudly.
- The chapter starts with the three running away from the Death Spree.
- Pressia trips and falls, and just as the Death Spree approaches, Partridge picks her up and carries her down a set of stairs to safety.
- Underground, there's a statue of a girl on the opposite wall; meanwhile, the Death Spree is marching aboveground.
- Bradwell points out that it would be ironic to be buried alive in a crypt. LOL: good one Bradwell.
- They suddenly hear a cheer, meaning the Death Spree found someone to kill.
- Once they feel safe, Partridge pulls out his mother's photograph, necklace, birthday card, and music box. Pressia and Bradwell point out that the music box is handmade.
- Morning comes and Pressia can now make out the name on the placard of the statue. It says, "Saint Wi" but the rest is lost. The rest she can see is "Born In… Her Father Was… Patron Saint of… Abbess… Small Children… Three Miracles… Tuberculosis."
- Partridge tries to exit to talk to the old woman again, but Pressia insists she go with him. Partridge pulls down on Pressia and accidentally exposes her doll hand (awkward).
- Finally Pressia climbs up and sees a few people on the road in front of the woman's house. On the ground is a pool of blood with shards of glass. Oof, it's the old lady.
- All the sudden, Pressia is lifted off her feet; she tries to fight back but it's useless. She sees the truck and realizes it's the OSR taking her away.
- Since Pressia hasn't come down for a while, Partridge gets nervous and checks to see if she's there. She's not, so him and Bradwell start freaking out.
- Bradwell gets furious and punches Partridge in the stomach.
- Bradwell blames Partridge for everything, and then starts asking him about what he knows. It occurs to him that Partridge might have been set up by the government in the Dome.
- When Partridge tells Bradwell that Pressia was trying to dodge OSR trucks, Bradwell seems certain that every event that has happened was pre-calculated.
- Back in the Dome, Lyda is still in the rehabilitation hospital.
- A guard comes in and tells her she's going to occupational therapy to make sitting mats.
- She and a redheaded girl are led into a room with a bunch of girls all making sitting mats.
- The redhead starts to hum "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Creepy.
- While they're weaving, a girl whispers to Lyda that everyone thought Lyda would be out of the hospital by now to give information. Even though Lyda argues that she has no info, the girl laughs.
- The redhead then tells her that Partridge is rumored to have escaped the Dome.
- Lyda feels sick to her stomach thinking about Partridge outside of the Dome. Nevertheless, she continues to weave and "keep at it."
- We shift to Pressia now in an OSR military base, though it looks like a hospital to her.
- The lights go on and she can hear gunfire outside, then a guard walks by and takes her to a secluded room.
- Pressia sees an older, larger man, and a smaller, younger looking man. But then she sees that the younger looking man is on the older man's back. It's El Capitan.
- El Capitan interrogates her, asking why she didn't turn herself in. Then, he asks if she can kill. She says she can try to learn how to kill.
- He hints that she's too small to really do anything, but tells her that her file says she has been ordered up to be an officer.
- Pressia seems confused, and El Capitan (and Helmud) tell her she's lucky.
Partridge (Shadow History)
- Back in Bradwell's Meat Locker, Partridge and Bradwell are searching for clues in Partridge's mother's things.
- Bradwell tells Partridge about the Before and how his parents were tagged at a young age to be recruits for the Best and the Brightest, just like Partridge's father.
- Bradwell has a sudden burst of anger and yells at Partridge for being a Pure. Real mature.
- After they settle down, Bradwell asks Partridge about his personal life and his mother.
- Partridge talks about how he was allowed a few personal items to bring to the Dome during the Before, and the Detonations hit when he was taking a tour in the Dome.
- He talks about how his mother hated his father, and about Sedge's suicide. Bradwell is incredulous that a Pure would commit suicide.
- Bradwell cracks the swan pendant in half, and Partridge attacks him.
- After another squabble, they look inside the pendant and see Japanese inscriptions.
- Bradwell translates it to "My Phoenix," which connects to Operation Phoenix, the whole mission of the people inside the dome.
- The mission: a new civilization would rise from the ashes like a phoenix.
- After finding a tracking chip in the birthday card, Partridge is forced to burn everything he has, even the photograph.
- He takes one half of the pendant and leaves the other half, however, to hopefully signal to Pressia (if she escapes) that they are still looking for her.
- Their next step is to go to the Meltlands to find a certain powerful woman.
- Pressia has a new green uniform, and an upper-arm band with a black claw emblem; she loves them, though that makes her feel bad.
- She asks a cripple what they are waiting for. He responds, "our orders."
- And what do you know, she gets invited to play The Game. Oooh, The Game sounds fun.
- Wait, no. We remember The Game. The Game isn't fun.
- She is escorted out into a forest and meets El Capitan. He hands her a rifle and tells her to practice shooting.
- Meanwhile, El Capitan is wondering out loud why they chose Pressia to be an officer.
- They hear a noise in the woods, and the first thing that pops into Pressia's mind is: Come out Come out wherever you are. Ugh, creepy.
- The noise is some sort of hybrid creature caught in a trap. El Capitan crushes its head with a rock, and Pressia is silently mortified.
- They then hear more noise; young men with broad faces emerge from the woods in camouflage suits.
- But these men aren't normal people—they have hyper-brains and hyper-bodies, much like Partridge, but stronger.
- El Capitan notes that they often become "bloodthirsty." When he says this, they all turn their heads and stare at Pressia. Whoops.
- All the sudden another sound in the woods grabs their attention and they run away. Phew.
- Directly after, they hear another noise from the woods; this time, the cripple that Pressia saw in the waiting room is impaled by a small metal trap.
- Unfortunately Pressia can't bring herself to shoot him, so El Capitan does it instead.
- The boy begged to be shot though, so that's a plus. Kind of?
- Partridge and Bradwell are making their way to the Meltlands by going through the market, but they want to make a quick pit stop at Pressia's place to check on her grandfather.
- While going through the marketplace, Partridge can't help but stare at the children he sees, since they don't have many in the Dome.
- When they reach Pressia's house, they find Freedle's birdcage empty on the ground, and the whole place is empty.
- Bradwell find the picture with 3-D glasses hung up on the wall; on the back of the picture is an original copy of "The Message," folded up.
- Partridge feels a chill on his arms because his father okayed The Message.
- Bradwell then picks up one of Pressia's butterflies, and imagines that the grandfather was taken.
- Partridge wonders if Freedle was freed (wordplay!).
- And then wonders if he really wishes he were back in the Dome or not.
- Back to poor Lyda, who is still in the rehabilitation hospital.
- Like she usually does, she looks out the window in her room. The redhead is there again, this time tapping the window with her fingers.
- At first, Lyda thinks she's crazy, but then she realizes that she's tapping to the rhythm of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." So now Lyda knows she's crazy.
- Disgusted, Lyda reaches under her bed, takes out her sitting mat, and rips the plastic strips apart. That'll show it.
- But then she starts thinking about the song; could it mean something? She goes through the lyrics, but resolves that there's nothing special about it.
- Except the fact that the alphabet is the same tune. Bingo. The redhead is trying to communicate with her.
- Lyda goes back to the window and spells out, very slowly, H-I.
- The redhead smiles, then spells out M-A-N-Y / O-F / U-S. / W-E / W-I-L-L. Then a guard walks by — ah, the suspense.
- After the guards pass, she spells out O-V-E-R-T-H-R-O-W, to which Lyda responds, G-U-A-R-D-S?
- Wrong. The redhead finally spells out, D-O-M-E, then T-E-L-L / H-I-M.
- All hail the magical powers of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
- On their way to the Meltlands, Partridge and Bradwell start to bond. Isn't that just precious?
- Bradwell talks about how his parents got him a dog.
- He named it Art after his parents' friend Arthur Walrond, who was a drunken scientist who let a lot of secrets slip.
- One drunken note in particular that Bradwell found read, The thing is—they could save them all, but they won't. This note bothers Bradwell.
- He also talks about how he thinks Partridge's father commanded the hit on his parents, and how the Detonations were just a plan to speed up the process of the world dying. Isn't this fantastic bonding?
- They also speak about politics, Hiroshima, and United States history. It's all good and well until someone shoots a dart at them off in the distance.
- Bradwell and Partridge try to run away from the darts, but Bradwell is struck in the shoulder.
- Partridge helps him rip the dart out, then looks up to see a large, battle-gear-wearing woman with a child peeking out from behind its leg. Oh, and the lady has a bike chain, a drill, and a chain saw for weapons. Totally not fair.
- Partridge thinks he can take her with his super strength, but then hundreds more appear, all mothers with children.
- By the way, the children turn out to be fused to the women. Yikes.
- Bradwell asks to see "Your Good Mother," and is promptly beaten up.
- Same with Partridge.
- The last thing Partridge remembers is thinking about the ocean.
- Back to Pressia: she's in a black sedan with Ingership, who has a bony face with a metal plate.
- El Capitan enters the car, but then Ingership kicks him out. Poor El Capitan.
- Eventually, Ingership and Pressia drive all the way out to The Deadlands, which Pressia thought stretched on forever.
- But eventually they reach farmland with recruits in green uniforms tending the rows.
- Ingership tells Pressia about the crops they try to genetically alter, and how they always mutate and can't be eaten. If they were edible, they could feed 1/8 of the population of the Dome.
- Ingership talks about one day the people in the Dome returning to the outside; Pressia thinks about how OSR is planning on overtaking the Dome and how they're building an army. At least, that's what she thinks.
- They arrive at Ingership's house, and Ingership's wife is making oysters. She looks like a Pure from a distance, but upon closer inspection, her skin is some kind of stocking made of thin, shiny material.
- Now Pressia is inside Ingership's house; it's beautiful, and there's a manila envelope on the table with "Pressia Belze" written on it.
- They start to eat eggs and oysters and drink lemonade, and Pressia tries to copy Ingership's manners to fit in.
- The wife starts to talk about politics; she used to be part of a group called the Feminine Feminists.
- Pressia is then shown into the kitchen, where the wife shows her different appliances. She turns on the sink, then gives Pressia a white card with a red line down its center and whispers, "I can help, but you must help save me."
- Confused, Pressia walks back into the dining room, where Ingership reveals that he and his wife are liaisons (go-betweens) between the Dome and the outside.
- He then tells Pressia that a Pure has escaped — and that the Dome was preparing for this to happen anyway — but they weren't able to equip him properly yet.
- Oh, so that's why they were trying to put Partridge under. (Right. Sure.)
- Pressia is given her mission: defend the Pure. Which she already did a little.
- All the sudden, she starts to feel a little woozy. Uh oh.
- The food she ate might've been poison. Just a little poison. Okay, maybe a lot of poison.
- But wait there's good news. Ingership hands her a picture of her grandfather being treated in the Dome.
- But of course, he's the "insurance policy" to make sure she does what she's told.
- Also, the three men with super strength who stared at Pressia in the woods during The Game? Those were Special Forces, and they've been assigned to protect Pressia. Wow, this mission is cool.
- Except, Pressia's starting to feel really dizzy now and just vomited. Maybe this mission isn't so great.
- She grabs a knife and tries to stab Ingership, but ends up getting him in the arm.
- It looks like he's about to fall on her now, but then he grabs his wife and yells, "Get me to the bucket! I'm burning darling."
- Then Pressia remembers the word "chandelier."
- We're just as confused as you are at this point.
El Capitan (Cap)
- Meanwhile, El Capitan is waiting for Pressia in the Deadlands, keeping an eye out for Dusts.
- He jerks his head around and Helmud's neck makes a popping noise. But don't worry, apparently his neck does that sometimes. He's a-okay.
- El Capitan and Helmud's relationship is pretty funny, even if it's a little dark.
- Finally the car drives up and El Capitan finds Pressia huddled in the corner of the back seat. She looks bruised and her eyes are red-rimmed.
- El Capitan picks up her manila envelope and finds a small device that tracks a blip (like that small dot you'd see on your iPhone's GPS app). The blip is Partridge.
- When Pressia talks, she nods the head of her doll hand — El Capitan recognizes this as a signal. When he asks her if she's okay, she says "yes" but shakes her doll's head "no."
- El Capitan then reads the mission in the envelope: he is to assist Pressia in finding Partridge and bringing him back to the Dome with his mother.
- They then converse about how the Dome isn't evil and that they won't have to fight them after all; but Pressia nods her doll head, signaling that they will fight.
- After Pressia exits the car to walk around a bit, El Capitan punches the driver, pulls him out of the car, head-butts him to the ground, and kicks him.
- El Capitan takes the wheels and starts to drive away, only to see the driver about to get killed by a Dust.
- Meanwhile, Bradwell and Partridge are being held captive by the heavily-armed women.
- Eventually the women escort the two down to a large basement. They ask why the men are there, and Bradwell explains how they lost Pressia.
- The women don't seem to care, but then Partridge reveals his face and they suddenly become interested.
- They converse about trading for Partridge, but Bradwell explains how they are looking for Partridge's mother.
- The women agree to tell their "Good Mother."
- While Bradwell tells the women to get word out of Pressia's disappearance, Partridge wonders if Bradwell has feeling for her.
- It makes him like Bradwell a bit more, even though he's offering a slice of Partridge to the mothers.
- Pressia is dazed, confused, she has a bruised cut on the back of her head, and she has a massive headache.
- She tells El Capitan that she knows the Pure and that they need to drive to Bradwell's place.
- After parking the car in a safe place, Pressia finds a metal spoke (a bar that supports a wheel) in the dirt that might have belonged to a motorcycle.
- Why is this important? Who knows. But seeing that the chapter's title is "Spoke," it probably means something.
- Pressia shows El Capitan the directions to Bradwell's butcher shop, and he takes off on foot.
- He gives her a rifle and tells her to protect herself in the car. And protect the car too. That thing is shiny.
El Capitan (Cooler)
- The butcher shop amazes El Capitan; no wonder Bradwell was able to survive all these years.
- But enough about the butcher shop. What about Pressia?
- El Capitan thinks about how she's waiting for him, kind of like how lovers would wait for each other before the Detonations.
- Usually, they'd wait too long and be killed by the blast.
- Speaking of lovers waiting during the Detonations, it reminds El Capitan of a song he heard from a man on the street. More singing means more importance.
- El Capitan searches the shop and finds a small metal box and Partridge's swan pendant. He puts them in his pocket hoping they might be significant. Hint, hint El Capitan—they are.
- More arguing between Bradwell and Partridge. What a happy couple they are.
- Finally Bradwell goes to sleep, but Partridge has insomnia.
- Eventually he dozes off, only to imagine Lyda counting to twenty again in the Domesticity Display.
- Then she kisses him like she did at the dance.
- Then he's a baby. Woah.
- His mother is holding him as her wings fly through the night.
- And then there's Lyda's voice again counting to twenty.
- Heavy stuff, man, heavy stuff.
- Of course we hope nothing happens to Pressia while she's in the car, but come on.
- You know something is going to happen at this point.
- A Dust pops out of the ground and tries to rip her out.
- It's able throw her out of the window, but she gains enough strength to shoot it with her rifle.
- All safe, right? Well, not exactly. There are always more Dusts.
- Pressia gets thrown to the ground by another Dust, and just as it's about to strike her, a meat cleaver slices through it. Thanks El Capitan.
- A battle between Pressia and El Capitan versus the Dusts ensues, and it seems like they are done for.
- A noise drums in the distance—pounding footsteps.
- One of the mothers with her child appears and grabs hold of Pressia.
- It looks like her own mother, and Pressia herself as the child.
- Pressia wakes up in a room with lawn care items. She must be in a hardware store.
- Oh wait. Nope, she's in the mothers' basement where Bradwell and Partridge are. That's a plus.
- Our Good Mother is finally revealed; once light hits her and makes the glass in her face shimmer, and she has a giant metal cross embedded in her chest.
- Our Good Mother calls the weapons underneath her (Bradwell's weapons) "gifts from the Death who brought us the Pure."
- Gifts? From the Death? Is Bradwell dead?
- Wait, no. There he is, being ushered in by other mothers. Apparently "Death" is how the mothers refer to men.
- Our Good Mother tells Pressia that they saved her and they're aiding Bradwell and Partridge partly because Pressia is female, and partly because Partridge is a Pure.
- They then find out Partridge's true identity, which always seems to set people off.
- Pressia also tells Partridge how she was given the mission to find him and his mother. So we're all on the same page here, good.
- Eventually Our Good Mother agrees to help under one condition: Partridge gives them a sacrifice.
- That is, he gives up his purity. Meaning, he cuts off his pinky. Eek.
- He really doesn't want to do it. He really, really doesn't want to. But he does it because he's awesome.
- Everything's all set, right? Well, everything but that chip lodged in Pressia's neck.
- Bradwell figures out that the chip is still working, so being tracked down by OSR might be problematic going forward.
- Looks like Bradwell needs to put his fake butcher-skills to the test.
- All he needs is a knife, alcohol, and clean rags. Ugh, why is Our Good Mother so gory?
- By the way, Our Good Mother has a child fused in her too. An infant, whose mouth is embedded in Our Good Mother's upper arm.
- Okay, this woman is definitely a symbol of Mary.
Pressia (Fairy Tale)
- Make sure you fasten your seat belts, because this chapter is about to get wild.
- So Pressia isn't too happy that Bradwell is going to surgically remove the chip from her neck. She tells him he can't do it.
- This prompts them to argue, and Bradwell accidentally says he only saved her because he owed her grandfather.
- Oof, wrong thing to say, Bradwell. He didn't really mean it that way.
- Tension fills the room and eventually Partridge gets them back to the subject of Our Good Mother.
- Bradwell insinuates that Partridge didn't tell Our Good Mother everything he needed to.
- It dawns on Pressia that the swan wife story might be what is important, so she prompts Partridge to tell it.
- We've heard his account of the story before, but not the whole thing. Remember, earlier he ended the story at the swan wife's child retrieving the wings from the well, giving them to his mother, and her flying away with him.
- Ah, but it doesn't stop there.
- The swan life takes the little boy to the good king's land and tells him about the bad king's plan to make fire roll down from the mountaintops and destroy everyone in its path.
- The good king falls in love with the swan wife and gives her a daughter—his gift to her.
- But they couldn't stop the fire in time, and the swan wife has to seek safety for her children.
- She takes the boy and returns him to his crib, and she gives her daughter to a woman to raise.
- When the swan wife tries to fly away for the last time from her son, he grabs her feet and begs her to burrow underground so she can watch him.
- She leaves her wings and crawls into the earth; and it is because of the boy's sooty hands that she has black feet.
- Oh, so the inscription about the phoenix in the swan pendant means his mother will return to him.
- And the pills? She was trying to make him resistant to coding. Ah, that makes sense now.
- But something isn't right according to Bradwell.
- Apparently he had heard that story before; it's a Japanese fairy tale.
- But there's no good king, or daughter, or fire, and the swan flies away at the end.
- So Partridge's mother was giving him a code, not just a bedtime story.
- Bradwell surmises that the good king was Japanese and knew what they were doing when it came to Hiroshima. And the swan wife was a messenger to him.
- Is your head spinning? Have you had a lightbulb moment yet? Well if you haven't, don't worry… because Pressia hasn't figured it out yet either.
- Why does OSR know Pressia? And why is she assigned to find Partridge?
- Bradwell has the answer: Pressia is the daughter from the good king. She's Partridge's half-brother. They're both children of the swan wife.
- Mind. Blown.
- Unless you picked up on it way earlier. If you did, then good for you.
- While you're trying to process all of this information, so is Pressia. Is her grandfather really her grandfather? Is her name Pressia? Who knows?
- One of the mothers walks into the room with the materials to dig the chip out.
- Bradwell apologizes for saying he only looked for her because of her grandfather. It's a fitting time to apologize, seeing that he's about to dig a scalpel through her neck.
- Partridge looks away and keeps asking Bradwell to be careful. Typical over-protective brother.
- But Pressia sits up before Bradwell can dig into her skin, and she asks Partridge if he remembers her from their youth. He doesn't.
- He wishes she knew Sedge, which bothers both of them. Now Pressia knows Sedge used to be her brother as well.
- Finally she readies herself for the chip removal. Partridge holds her head and Bradwell digs in.
- She screams and blood streams down her neck. Ick.
- She starts to drift in and out of consciousness, and asks Partridge if their mother sang lullabies. She did.
- The scene: Bradwell is raging around the room and his bird wings are pulsating.
- Pressia and Partridge talk about their mother, and Pressia realizes she is a bastard child. But she likes that title—it sounds tough.
- Bradwell finally has an idea, and asks Partridge what his mother wrote in the birthday card.
- The birthday card said: Always walk in the light. Follow your soul. May it have wings. You are my guiding star, like the one that rose in the east and guided the Wise Men.
- They conclude that they must go east.
- Bradwell adds that he is ready to go as well, and Pressia gets mad again because of his comment about the favor for her grandfather.
- He gives her the swan pendant and tells her to wear it as a necklace.
- Partridge agrees, and Pressia feels like she finally has something that is beautiful.
- Bradwell is having trouble sleeping on the floor, so Pressia invites him to sleep next to her on a pallet. Smooth move.
- She asks him to play I Remember. Another smooth move.
- He tells her that he lied to her once.
- But it's about how he'd been in the crypt as a child and used to pray to Saint Wi. So it's not too bad of a lie.
- Pressia tells him about how she tried to cut her doll hand off when she was thirteen.
- Bradwell then takes out one of Pressia's butterflies and gives it to her; he took it from her house when he and Partridge stopped by.
- Now that's the smoothest move yet.
Lyda (Little Blue Box)
- So what's been going on with Lyda during all of this?
- Well, she's still in the hospital, but the redhead in the other room is gone. The redhead must be crazy, Lyda thinks. Everyone here is crazy, except her.
- A guard comes in and tells her she is going to be escorted to the medical center.
- But they bring her to Ellery Willux's office. Oh boy.
- Willux tells her that Partridge is outside the Dome; he also has a pale blue box on his desk that seems ominous.
- Why did he summon her here? They are making her lure Partridge back to the Dome. So yes, that means she has to go outside the Dome.
- Willux then pulls up a computer screen that has a video of Partridge seen through a woman's eyes.
- From the recording, we can tell that there's a video mechanism in Pressia's eyes, and that they have been spying on them the whole time.
- Looks like Pressia took a knife to the neck for nothing.
- Lyda thinks about the dance and how Partridge used her to get the knife. But when she kissed him, he kissed back. She starts to smile.
- But the smiles all stop here. Willux hands her the pale blue box and tells her she has to deliver it to Pressia.
- Inside is a small fan with a dead motor. Ouch.
- If you don't get the reference, it means her grandfather's dead.
- Pressia, Partridge, Bradwell, and the mothers head out before dawn.
- Partridge wonders if his father sent him to find Pressia because his father still loves his mother. But he knows this is just childish desire.
- The mothers all have scarves to cover their faces and their children's faces.
- They reach as far as the mothers will go, but one of them grabs Partridge and wishes him luck. She also tells him to say thank you to his mother if he finds her.
- Partridge doesn't understand at first, but then sees the boy fused with her; it's a boy he used to be friends with.
- She is Mrs. Fareling, a woman who Partridge's mother helped out of the rehab center.
- Her and her fused son wish Partridge good luck again, and the mothers are gone.
- Lyda is being prepared to go outside of the Dome. The guards tell her she is the first female they have ever prepared to leave the Dome.
- After a guard pats her down, he says, "Tell the swan we're waiting."
- The swan? Hey we've heard that before.
- Lyda is left alone; she says "open" to the next three doors, and is facing the outside of the Dome. A real bird flies by — not just a fake one like in the hospital, a real one.
Partridge (Small Rib Cages)
- The chapter starts with some dark humor; the earth is quiet and Partridge points out that the Dusts might be having a feeding frenzy somewhere.
- Bradwell responds that, "maybe the Dusts are busy devouring a bus full of schoolchildren… wouldn't that be lucky?"
- A miniature Dusts rise up from the earth like a wave. Bradwell lets out a "barbaric yawp" and charges.
- Bradwell struggles to fend them off as Partridge and Pressia join the battle.
- They look like they're about to be defeated when a car appears out of nowhere. It's El Capitan.
- The car slams into the Dust waves and the three climb in; Partridge gets frightened by Helmud when he sees him on El Capitan's back.
- Bradwell's wings are damaged, and they talk of finding medicine from Pressia and Partridge's mother.
- Lyda is now outside, scared and very confused.
- She hears something from the woodlands: Special Forces.
- The Special Forces member is a creature though, not a human. It has long legs, guns for hands, and a long, thick-jawed face.
- She asks it questions, and it surprisingly responds with a melancholy human voice, and says that it knows her.
- The creature carries her for a while with super speed, and then sets her down for a while.
- She asks it how it knows her. It responds: "I was, and now I'm not."
- Lyda realizes that it used to be an academy boy, and that this creature is what they've transformed him into.
- As they drive along the Deadlands, Bradwell makes Partridge recite the riddle on the birthday card again for El Capitan. El Capitan's got nothing.
- Pressia looks at the blue eye of the swan pendant and thinks that maybe it's not really blue. Maybe you need some kind of 3-D lens.
- That's a pretty astute observation for someone who doesn't know about about 3-D glasses, huh?
- Partridge then teaches the bunch about 3-D glasses, and Pressia looks at the blue eye again. She positions it so it takes a different vantage point of the window.
- She reaches one angle that shows a small white light; Partridge then does the same thing.
- They decide to follow the light. Hopefully they get lucky, as El Capitan says (and Helmud echoes, "lucky").
- Helmud might be smarter than he seems, folks.
- The group exits the car and El Capitan tells everyone what plant not to touch.
- If Pressia's mother is out here, why hadn't she visited Pressia, or taken her back?
- Pressia wonders if her mother actually loved her enough.
- A hazy golden cloud then falls upon them; cicadas, just like Freedle.
- Good old Partridge point out the note on his birthday card: Follow your soul. May it have wings.
- Don't worry, we forgot about that part too. But maybe the cicadas are a signal from their mother?
- Pressia picks one up and it flashes her eye with a beam of light. It doesn't seem to recognize her retinas (maybe because of the camera installed in them).
- The cicada recognizes Partridge, however, so they follow the swarm.
- Partridge thinks about how he's now part of a herd. That is: Partridge, Pressia, Bradwell, and El Capitan.
- Off in the distance they can hear Special Forces. How did they get here, you might ask? Pressia's bug, of course.
- Don't worry though, everyone knows that she's bugged.
- … and that her head might explode at any moment because she was given a ticker. Yeah, that's what the headache is.
- They finally find the underground burrow they've been looking for, but just as they're about to dig into it, a Special Forces member appears and knocks down El Capitan.
- Lyda then appears with another member, and gives Pressia the pale blue box.
- Lyda says that they're waiting for the swan, and that's all she knows.
- Pressia reluctantly opens the box and falls to her knees, realizing that it's the fan that kept her grandfather alive.
- A soldier tells her to get up, reminding Partridge of when Sedge would tell him to wake up.
- Wait. Hold on. That soldier might be Sedge.
- Yeah, it is Sedge.
- Come on, you didn't think he was actually dead did you?
- Don't worry, we were just as surprised as you are.
- Pressia is in denial about her grandfather. She tries to convince herself that he isn't dead, but it's no use.
- The Special Forces give Partridge a decision to make: either find his mother and hand her over, or let Lyda die and have his mother taken anyway.
- One of the soldiers punches an entrance to the tunnel, and Partridge and Pressia are ordered to go in.
- While they're walking in the tunnel, they hear a man's voice yell, "This way!"
- They contemplate what they would do if they found their mother, ultimately concluding that they don't know what they'd do. So productive, these two.
- The voice yells, "This way" again, and then, "We're here."
- Partridge grabs hold of Pressia's doll hand as he would have her regular hand, and they get ready to follow the voice.
- Pressia and Partridge finally reach the man; his name is Caruso, and he's neither a wretch nor a Pure. He calls himself an American.
- Caruso complains about how their mother had a plan, and that Partridge and Pressia pretty much ruined it.
- Pressia warns him that she's bugged, but he doesn't seem to care much.
- Caruso reveals that Partridge was supposed to be the leader from the inside.
- He then pushes a button and a metal door folds to one side.
- They enter the room and find a long metal capsule with a glass cover. Their mother is inside.
- According to Caruso, their mother and Caruso are the only two survivors left in what used to be a haven for around three hundred people.
- Partridge approaches the capsule and sees his mother, the same person from the photograph, behind the glass.
- Her face is intact, but her body is ravaged. She has no real limbs, just materials that can substitute as limbs.
- The capsule opens and their mother opens her eyes. In a very touching moment, she recognizes Partridge and starts to cry. Partridge cries as well.
- He tells her that Pressia is there too; she is confused until she looks upon Pressia, recognizing her doll hand.
- Apparently, Pressia's real name is Emi Brigid Imanaka. Rolls off the tongue, huh?
- Their mother tells her she's missed Pressia (or Emi. Now what should we call her?).
- Partridge lifts their mother up and sets her in a motorized chair. She talks about Rapid Cell Degeneration, which happens after too much coding. The Dome must be suffering from it.
- She also reveals that she thought Ellery was dead the whole time.
- Before the Detonations, she and six other elite people made pulsing tattoos. She has the same six scars as Ellery did — remember when Partridge thinks about the scars on his father's chest when they were swimming?
- These tattoos would pulse if the person survived. Two were dead: one was for a man named Ivan, and one was for Ellery.
- It turns out that Ellery used a knife to extract all of the pulses, making it seem like not only he was dead, but so he wouldn't know if others were dead.
- Hideki Imanaka, Pressia's father, is supposedly still alive because his tattoo still pulses.
- Their mother then tells them the heartbreaking story of how she was caught in the Detonations.
- She was on her way to pick up Pressia from the airport.
- She tripped on the pavement right outside the glass window where Pressia was, got to her hands and knees, and then the Detonations went off. She was fused to the pavement.
- She talks about how she knew Pressia survived, but how she couldn't possibly take care of her. Then she announces that she needs to talk to Partridge alone so that the Dome can't hear what she says.
- Their mother doesn't have the reversal for Rapid Cell Degeneration, but she has one of the key ingredients for it.
- She tells Partridge about how his father took brain enhancements before they were fully tested.
- Get ready for some real evil stuff: his master plan was to use a certain formula to enhance the Detonations, which would then fuse survivors to the world around them and make a subhuman class that could be the "New Eden's" slaves.
- Twisted stuff right there.
- She shows Partridge drugs that can help rejuvenate her wounds; he asks why she doesn't take them, and she says it would be like hiding the truth.
- Partridge looks at his pinky and realizes what she means. He wouldn't want to have his pinky restored either.
- She then opens a drawer and pulls out a file of the names of people who are within the Dome that work for her.
- People like Arvin Weed's parents, and Glassings.
- In fact, Glassings was supposed to be the person that revealed to Partridge that he would be the leader from the inside.
- Their mother surprisingly doesn't seem reluctant to follow Partridge — she says she is ready to face Ellery because she isn't afraid of him.
- But she does need Partridge and the others to escape and ultimately fight back. She gives him fake pills so that they can fool Ellery into thinking it's the medication.
- Partridge then tells her about how the people from the inside sent her a message. Tell the swan we're waiting.
- She whispers, "The Cygnus," meaning "The Swan," and machine gun fire can be heard from above.
El Capitan (Above)
- Wondering what's been going on from above the hideout? Let's take a look at El Capitan's perspective.
- El Capitan looks at the solider who has Lyda — it's Sedge — and he feels as if Sedge still might have a human side to him.
- But then Sedge jabs a rifle into his ribs, saying, "I don't trust this one." So much for being a good guy.
- Sedge then orders the rest of the soldiers to do reconnaissance; after they leave, Sedge tells El Capitan to protect Lyda when they return.
- Hmm, looks like Sedge actually is still good.
- The soldiers return, and Sedge thrusts Lyda into El Capitan, then opens fire on the rest of the soldiers.
- An action-packed chapter ensues:
- The soldiers start to override their programming and fight back; Bradwell is able to shoot one soldier; Sedge blows two to pieces; El Capitan arms himself and Lyda. Things are going great so far.
- But then El Capitan is kicked in the stomach and is lifted off the ground because of the force. Bradwell shoots the solider who is down, but the soldier barely flinches. The soldier reloads its weapon and is about to shoot Bradwell, but then Sedge gets in the way of the bullet.
- The soldier who shot Sedge is now up but stumbling around. El Capitan jumps on its soldiers.
- All the sudden, Helmud (of all people) takes out a thin piece of wiry thread and begins to choke out the solider.
- Lyda delivers the finishing blow with a knife. Woo, Lyda.
- More dark humor: concerning the wiry thread, El Capitan asks Helmud, "Did you make this so you could kill me with it?" Helmud doesn't respond. His silence means yes.
- Instead of being angry, El Capitan is extremely proud of his brother for wanting to kill him. What a duo.
- Finally they see Partridge pulling himself up from the earth.
- So El Capitan and Helmud are bloodied and bruised, Bradwell is bleeding from his shoulder, and Lyda's white jumpsuit is covered in blood. Absolute carnage.
- Partridge runs over to Sedge, who is dying. Sedge whispers, "You're the one."
- Pressia and El Capitan are able to lift her mother out of the earth, and she crouches next to Sedge.
- Sedge is able to smile just before he dies, and his mother kisses him on the forehead. In a sad but touching moment, it seems like Sedge's death is at least redeemed a little bit because he can see his mother's face.
- But her kiss is followed by what sounds like the flip of a distant switch. Sedges head explodes, along with his mother's face.
- Partridge is spun into a frenzy. He can see actions, but can't hear anything. Everyone is shouting, including himself.
- He runs up to Pressia and demands her to open her eyes.
- He yells into them that he is going to kill his father, and that he knows he is there.
- The chapter opens with Pressia running over to her mother; her mother is still alive, but suffering.
- Pressia grabs a gun and shoots her. Now think back to how she couldn't shoot the suffering cripple during The Game. Things have changed.
- The whole group runs down the hill and to the car. Sad thoughts about her mother rush through Pressia's head, but we'll stay away from the sad stuff for now.
- They decide to make their way to the farmhouse, but on their way the Special Forces solider who got away comes back and attacks.
- The soldier grabs Bradwell from the car. Pressia can't bear to have Bradwell die too.
- After fighting out on the plains, El Capitan is able to steer the car back to the fight, and Pressia shoots the solider.
- Bradwell gets back in the car as the soldier is swallowed by the earth.
- Pressia makes sure to tell Bradwell not to die. Again, smooth.
- They make their way to the farmland, and Pressia catches sight of a small flag hanging out of a window—a blood-red stripe is down the middle, just like the red stripe on the card Ingership's wife gave her.
- The chapter opens with Partridge's thoughts; he's having a tough time admitting that his mother and brother are dead.
- He also couldn't tell his mother that Mrs. Fareling said "thank you." Gosh, this is sad.
- Lyda makes sure to tell Partridge about the girls in the rehabilitation center and how they want to overthrow the Dome.
- They pull up to the yellow farmhouse guarded by to OSR guards.
- The plan: get inside and trade the fake pills for the removal of Pressia's ticker. Oh, and Pressia should hold the pills to her head so they don't blow it up.
- Before he forgets, El Capitan gives Partridge his mother's music box.
- One of the upper windows in the house opens, and out pops Ingership. Hi Ingership.
- El Capitan shoots out some of the windows in the house, just for good measure.
- Ingership asks for the medication, and Bradwell counters with asking for the remote that explodes Pressia's head.
- Ingership disappears, and there's noise from the upstairs. A bloody hand towel, white face, and pale hand pressed to the glass appear.
- Inside the house, Ingership appears at the top of the stairs and orders the men to come upstairs while the women wait in the parlor.
- This, of course, angers Pressia, so she rejects his offer to stay in the parlor. Then Lyda chimes in, "We'll do what we want."
- They all walk upstairs into a room and the wallpaper is pale green with small boats.
- Ingership's wife appears; Pressia can tell she has a lot of scratches and bruises beneath her stocking.
- His wife is holding a metal box with a switch. Looks like it's the ticker switch.
- Ingership demands her to flip the switch—Bradwell tries to stop her—but he's too late. She flips the switch.
- Tick, tick. No boom.
- Lucky for Pressia, Ingership's wife stays true to what she said back when Pressia last saw her. She changed the wiring of the switch, making it turn off the bug. No explosion.
- So Ingership is pretty mad, which is pretty understandable. But then he grabs a gun and starts to threaten everyone.
- Ingership starts to tell Bradwell that the Dome knows who he is and everything about his parents. Now Bradwell wants answers.
- Just as Ingership threatens Partridge, his wife drives a scalpel into his back. Ingership: dead.
- For now, things seem like they're over. Pressia starts to softly sing the lullaby she knows.
- The chapter has a break for the first time in the novel. We then are given the perspectives of each character during Pressia's song.
- Lyda and Partridge hold hands and talk about the bird she made in the Domesticity Display.
- Lyda acknowledges that she can't return to the Dome. She's ready to stay with everyone.
- Ingership's wife thinks about the lullaby, and then she touches the wallpaper.
- Her father used to have a boat when she was a little girl. Her name is Illia.
- El Capitan looks at the soldiers and thinks about his last memory of his mother before she went to the asylum. "You're in charge 'til I come back, El Capitan." Then he thinks of Helmud; he loves him.
- Helmud's limited perspective comes to light now. It's based on senses, and how El Capitan's heart beats on top of his heart.
- Bradwell remembers how Arthur Warlord used to play the song in his convertible.
- Partridge feels like he needs to be alone. He goes into the other room where there are computers, and he sees his father's face on the screen.
- Partridge tells him that Ingership is dead.
- His father tells Partridge that he has Hastings and Arvin Weed, and that his mother and Sedge's deaths were accidents. We're all a family here, everything's all good.
- But it's not that easy. Partridge tells him, "This is only the beginning," and then walks out of the room, stands on the car, and looks out as far as he can see.
- Pressia finishes singing, and then Illia tells Bradwell that he reminds her of a boy she once knew. She leaves the room.
- Then Bradwell kisses Pressia. (Yes, finally.)
- Pressia gives Bradwell the bell she found a long time ago, and Bradwell lifts it to his ear. It sounds like the ocean.
- The novel closes with Pressia looking out the window and seeing Partridge shouting everyone's names. They could smell smoke, meaning something is on fire.
- Cliffhanger ending: you should tune in for the next book, Fuse.