By Charles Matthews

Sunday, October 17, 2010

10. The Passage, by Justin Cronin, pp. 441-493

The PassageVI. The Night of Blades and Stars
[It should be obvious by now that the ten-pages-a-day pace a which this blog supposedly moves is a sham. I estimate we cover an average of thirty pages a day, and when the book is a page-turner like this one, the average gets higher. The truth is, I've read well ahead of the fifty-two pages covered in this post, having had a day with no other distractions, but summarizing several hundred pages in one post is hard to do. So I'm going to post only on what I think are normally readable chunks of the book from here on to the end. The good thing is that, having read so far ahead, I think I have a better sense of what's significant in the episodes I'm summarizing.] 

The routine of the colony has been unbroken for 92 years, eight months and 26 days until the Night of Blades and Stars, which "was, in fact, three separate nights, with a pair of days between." It begins with odd behavior by Jimmy Molyneau, who goes to Auntie's house (an unusual occurrence in itself), asks for a cup of tea and when he leaves makes sure she knows who he is, "In case anybody asks." He is "trying to decide whether or not to go to the Lighthouse, kill whomever he found there, and turn the lights off." Soo Ramirez is also behaving oddly. She has been indulging herself in reading a boxful of romance novels that she came across. Tonight she has brought one with her to the Wall.

Throughout the colony, people are having bad dreams, and wondering "Why did they feel like memories, and not just memories -- someone else's memories?" Little Jane Ramirez dreams of being eaten by a bear. Gloria Patal dreams of being covered by a massive swarm of bees and being afraid to move for fear of being stung by them. Others are not sleeping: Sara Fisher is watching over Amy, who does seem to be dreaming because of the way her eyes are moving behind her lids. Galen Strauss is standing watch on the Wall and brooding about Mausami and Theo while worrying about having to ride down to the power station in the morning. He decides to go try to talk to Soo and Dana Jaxon, who are also on Watch, to see if they can persuade Jimmy to send someone else. Peter and Alicia are playing cards while keeping an eye on the lockup. Sam Chou is on Watch and deciding not to have Caleb put outside the walls.

Michael Fisher is awake, trying to rig up an antenna to get a clearer signal from the transmitter removed from Amy. He has decided to hang a wire from the catwalk around the interior of the wall, which means he has to climb up there and do so without being caught by the Watch and the runners. He succeeds because Jimmy has killed Dana and Soo, so their posts are unattended. Then a runner cries out that the virals are "everywhere" and the lights go out.

A meeting the next morning is chaired by Walter Fisher and Ian Patal. Ian reports the facts about what had happened: The lights had failed because of a power surge and had been out for three minutes. Dana, Soo and Jimmy had died then, but because the Wall wasn't fully staffed, a pod had made it into the compound. Before they were repelled, three more Watchers had been killed and another, Sunny Greenberg, is missing. Old Chou is also missing. Sanjay Patal is ill and Walter Fisher is Head of Household. But the crowd is uncontrollable, and when Sam Chou points out all the disturbances since Amy arrived, they begin calling for both Caleb and Amy to be put outside.

Alicia runs to the front, jumps on a table and says, "All of you. This is my fault. It's not the girl they want, it's me. I was the one who torched the library. That's what started this. It was a nest, and I led them all right back here." The crowd attacks Alicia, but is held back by Peter and by members of the Watch. Ian declares martial law and an immediate curfew. Peter realizes that "by drawing the fury of the crowd down upon herself, she had deflected it away from the girl and bought them some time. Ian arrests Alicia for treason and she is taken away by Galen and Hollis Wilson.

Mausami is in the Sanctuary but has heard the news. Convincing herself that Theo is still alive, she decides that she is going to find him and tell him about their baby.

When the lights go out Michael runs to the Lighthouse and discovers that the main breaker is open. He closes it and restores power, then reports it to Ian, blaming it on a power surge but unconvinced that was the cause and unable to find any evidence that it was. Then he returns to work on his antenna. When he calls up the information on the chip that was removed from Amy, he runs to get Peter. They discover that the transmitter has been reporting Amy's vital signs "every hour-and-a-half for a little more than ninety-three years. Ninety-three years, four months, and twenty-one days, to be exact. Amy ... is a hundred years old." Michael also pinpoints the location of the USAMRIID facility as Telluride, Colorado, the center of the CQZ: "The Central Quarantine Zone. It's where the epidemic began. The first virals all came out of Colorado." Amy, Michael asserts, isn't a viral, but because of her slow aging and swift healing, he believes, "The Army did something to her." And, he adds, "Maybe she's the cure." He takes down a logbook from the time when radio was still permitted, eighty years ago, and points out that someone had picked up a signal from the same coordinates in Colorado and the notation: "If you found her, bring her here." And the signal is still transmitting:
"Because somebody's there, Peter. Don't you get it?" He smiled victoriously. "Ninety-three years. That's year zero, the start of the outbreak. That's what I'm telling you. Ninety-three years ago, in the spring of year zero, in Telluride, Colorado, somebody put a nuclear-powered transmitter inside a six-year-old-girl's neck. Who's still alive and sitting in quarantine, like she walked straight out of the Time Before. And for ninety-three years, whoever did this has been asking for her back."
Sara is brought to the Lighthouse because she knows the most about Amy. Although Sara thinks the idea of going all the way to Colorado is crazy, they begin to plan their escape, now that the lives of Caleb, Alicia and Amy are all threatened. Michael adds to the urgency by pointing out the problem of the failing batteries.

Sanjay is hearing Babcock's voice louder than ever. "The girl was there with Babcock and the Many -- what Many? he wondered." And Babcock begins to command, "Bring them to me, Sanjay. Bring me one and then another. Bring them to me that you should live in this way and no other." He dreams again of the woman, smoking, in her kitchen on the telephone. The voice commands, "Do it. Kill her. Kill her and be free." But when in his dream Sanjay attempts to stab the woman, some force stays his hand. 

Peter goes to see Auntie, who is "weirdly cheerful." She reaches under her bed and pulls out a shoe box full of maps that he recognizes as having belonged to his father. His mother had brought them to her, Auntie tells him. "Give them to him when he's ready, she said." He protests that she must have meant Theo, but she insists that his mother meant them for him. And he realizes that on her deathbed his mother had known who he was, that instead of "Take care of your brother, Theo," she had said, "Take care of your brother Theo." She had recognized Peter as the stronger one. Then Michael arrives with Dale Levine, who says that if they want to get Alicia and Caleb out, they had better do it "at first light," and he'll help them at the gate, because "They're going to get the guns."

Sara takes charge of getting Amy ready, now convinced of the necessity because her brother, Michael, was never wrong about things, and she wonders "what would become of her brother on that day" when he's wrong. In the lockup, Alicia has overpowered the guard, Galen Strauss. Peter and Michael show up and explain the plan to her and Caleb: They will get Sara and Amy from the Infirmary, then get horses from the stables. At sunrise, Dale will call an alarm about virals and in the confusion they will slip out the gate. But at the Infirmary they hear a scream and rush in to find Sara covered in blood and Amy crouched against the wall. They had been attacked by Milo Darrell and Sam Chou, the leaders of the mob that wanted to lynch Caleb. Ben Chou had been guarding Sara and Amy, and now Milo, Sam, Ben and Jacob Curtis are all lying there dead.

Now willing to risk going out through the gate now, Alicia takes charge of a change in plans. She sends Caleb and Peter to the Storehouse for supplies they need and they agree to rendezvous with the others. In the Storehouse, they discover that Old Chou and Walter Fisher have apparently hanged themselves. Peter tells Caleb to go ahead, and runs to Auntie's to retrieve the maps. When he joins the others at the cutout, where Alicia knows of the secret exit that the Colonel used, Mausami appears, carrying a crossbow and wearing a backpack. She asks Peter if he believes his brother is dead, and when he says no, she replies, "Neither do I." Alicia leads the way, and as Amy enters the tunnel she telepathically asks Peter where they are going. "'I don't really know,' he told her. 'But if we don't leave now, I think we'll all die here.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment