They fly in that direction, and Nadia wants to inspect the land the pipeline will go over, making sure it's robot-friendly terrain.
They receive a message from Ann and Simon, who are trapped at Peridier Crater. Already heading that way, they launch a rescue operation posthaste.
En route, they spy another aquifer outbreak—huge amounts of water and steam are pouring into the ecosystem. They radio Ann to see if she knows about it, but she only says that aquifer isn't too big, compared to some.
Ann informs them they are breaking them open by reactor meltdowns, though, so add some lovely radiation to the mix.
The group finds the survivors in Peridier's physical plant. Another dome taken down by explosion.
Yeli wonders where Peter is, and Simon says he's on Clarke, trying to get a place on an elevator going down.
Nadia sets herself to the task of rebuilding Peridier. She gets the town working and tells them what to do, and a week later, they take off again with Ann and Simon joining their ever-expanding crew of world travelers.
While flying south, they learn UNOMA has taken control of Burroughs. They think about going there anyway to ask them to stop the attacks, but Nadia points out they can't work from a jail cell.
They fly to Elysium where they find another city in danger, so Nadia sets herself to work again, repairing the damage. She learns to tap into previously unconsidered ways to use her robot laborers, and the results are astounding—but still not enough.
The news from Earth is equally grim with war. Nadia throws herself deeper into the work. When she has the system running at full steam, with every robot busily repairing something, she tells the others she wants to go.
Angela and Sam stay behind while the First Hundred in the group go with Nadia.
They land briefly at Hadriaca Paera to fix a puncture, but they are soon off again. Despite their efforts, they fly from ruin to ruin.
Nadia distances herself from her emotions in her work, her focus preventing her from thinking or feeling much of anything.
The sun interferes with transmission signals, and the group is cut off from the news at a time when it's essential to not be cut off from the news.
At Hellas Basin, a lake has formed from a broken aquifer filling the Hellas mohole. They fly over it—the first lake on Mars. Nadia and Ann wonder what Sax is making of all this.
They don't have to wait long, though, and after a day resting, they pick up an SOS from none other than Sax himself. He was on his way to Cairo to meet Frank and Maya and turned right into the nuclear explosion that caused Hellas Basin to become a lake.
So Sax joins the crew and off they go. Next stop Bakhuysen, where they meet a group of refugees who follow Schnelling, a revolutionary leader from Korolyov.
The rebels give the First Hundred supplies and directions to a refuge en route to Pavonis. And the next day, the First Hundred are off again to wrack up those frequent flyer miles.
The night flights remind Nadia of her time with Arkady in the Arrowhead. A much simpler time when they only had to worry about Mars itself killing them and not deadly UNOMA missles.
In the morning, they land at the strip near Margaritifer station, the refuge, and are welcomed with enthusiasm. One of their welcomers, Steve, trained with Arkady on Phobos; he tells Nadia they heard he was in Carr last.
But why the upbeat spirits? They're celebrating Independence Day. Steve points to the television, telling them to watch as a countdown sounds.
They watch as the space elevator's cable snaps, and Clarke is sent hurtling into space.
Everyone is super stoked to see Clarke destroyed. Well, except for Ann who doesn't know if Peter is aboard the asteroid or not.
Sax wonders how they broke a practically indestructible cable. Ah, elementary, my dear Sax, they didn't break it—they simply detached Clarke from it.
As for the cable, it's going to fall in the only direction it can: toward Mars.
Sax absorbs himself in calculating where the cable is going to land and how hard. Steve mentions it's hard to calculate each time around. Yep: the cable is actually longer than the planet's circumference, so it'll wrap around the planet. It's pretty cool, minus all the death and destruction, that is.
Radio chatter picks up, updating everyone on the cable's landing pattern and whether or not they need to evacuate. When all is said and done, Sax mentions they now have an equator like what he imagined as a child, "[a] big black line running right around the planet" (7.3.148).
The group flies over and sees Mars's new equator. Nadia sees the thing as a tombstone while Sax watches a replay compilation video on television.
They make it to Carr, and the place is scorched black; the bodies have been burned to the point of being unrecognizable. Sax mentions the air must have been hyperoxygenated to make human skin combustible.
The six search for survivors. Nadia checks the dotcode tags of the bodies, until eventually, she comes across Arkady's.