In the morning, everyone awakes to find that Greaser and the Lost and Found have already left.
Samson awakens to the sounds of hand tools being put to good use. Amy’s girls have thrown themselves into the task of making at least part of the city habitable. They have already set up a makeshift security checkpoint at the road coming down off the bridge. He finds George sitting in the middle of the lobby, along with Amy and her bodyguard. He approaches and feeds Janus the leftovers from his burger from the night before. He asks to speak to George in private. They exit the building and take a walk.
They turn down a shady one-lane side street. Samson hands George his satchel with all his possessions, as well as his knife, and asks them to keep them safe for the time being. George is confused by the gesture. He explains that he’s spent a long time being a dangerous man. He’s looking to make himself useful to Amy’s girls, and he wants to present himself in the least threatening light as possible. George says they think he’ll do fine.
Troy and Gremlin examine the van, and estimate they can get it barely running in a day, or 100% in two days. Gremlin’s willing to just get it rolling, and worry about improving it later, hoping that they can barter for parts at the market in Pensacola.
Troy heads to the lobby, and sees that the main project is getting access to the power plant, which Amy has worked out is in the basement. He asks Maude about her infrared eyes, to see if maybe she can get a better read on the reactor based on the heat coming off of it.
He borrows a walkie-talkie from one of the girls, and asks them to power up the railgun. Koh says they’re already working on that. He tells Maude to start scanning for differences in heat. She can see the power lines in the walls, but they’re very faint. Whatever line is feeding the railgun is heavily shielded.
Gremlin wanders into the lobby to try and see if there’s any work for him. He’s approached by one of the girls who sets him on scavenging duty. The robots did a good job of keeping everyone out of the city, so whatever the weather hasn’t claimed is still out there for the taking, under the kudzu. The salvage team is mainly looking for auto parts, but they’ll take anything useful they can find. Gremlin is offered first pick of whatever he finds, and he says he’s only interested in parts for the VW van. He heads off to join up with some of the girls hanging out by a 4×4.
Samson wanders around trying to find work, but time and again all he gets are polite refusals. He doesn’t press the issue, and each time he’s turned down, he politely thanks the for their time and moves on. He makes his way in a wide circle around the encampment, until he comes across a woman manning a cart-mounted flamethrower and carrying a machete. He offers to help, and she accepts.
They get busy defoliating everything they can find at ground level: cars, dumpsters, mailboxes. It’s very repetitive, mind-numbing work, but he’s used to that. For her part, the woman seems content to work in relative silence.
Troy and Maude aren’t having any luck finding the main power lines, or the reactor itself. Troy tries to find a quiet corner of the lobby to open his brain, but keeps running into girls working, so he eventually has to go outside. He heads across the street, gets comfortable, and opens his brain.
He very nearly trips over a dark-skinned young man sitting on the pavement and thoroughly engrossed in a handheld computing device of some sort. Troy looks up at the buildings around him, and he sees a very localized bubble around him, inside which his surroundings appear as they did in the Day Before, with no kudzu on the buildings. He turns his attention to the young man’s display. It appears to be a 3D model of the city, which he manipulates and turns around, every once in a while glancing up at the city around him. When he finally notices Troy, he looks up and adjusts his glasses. He says he’s a student at the university, and asks Troy if he works at the broadcast station. When he notices Troy’s prosthetic leg, he asks if he’s a veteran.
Troy asks about his work on the computer, and the man is eager to explain about it; he mentions the effects of the tides on electromagnetic fields. It’s part of a project for school. When Troy mentions the power grid, the man explains that when the reactor was built, the sewer system and the water lines in the city had to be redesigned. He shows Troy on the map where the cooling towers are. He explains how the cooling lines are running parallel to the municipal water lines. He also says that the primary substation is below the TV tower, and the main conduits are shielded inside the central column. He explains that the power system is distributed; in the case of a cyber attack, ADA can shut down specific sections of it. When Troy asks about ADA, the man says that other than what you can read about in OMNI magazine (which is that it was designed to help protect humanity), it’s a closely guarded secret, and he wouldn’t want to jeopardize his student visa talking to random strangers about it. He only knows about it because his boyfriend worked on the project and told him about it.
He gets to his feet and introduces himself as Pradeep. As he turns and walks toward the university building, he reaches the border of Troy’s bubble and fades out of existence.
Gremlin does a decent job of collecting salvage, but a lot of the day is eaten up dealing with problems arising from the heat wave that’s going on.
Troy returns to the lobby too late to warn the girls about the water lines, as they have just broken through to the sublevel, and the lobby begins flooding. Work in the lobby is canceled as a series of pumps are deployed to deal with the water. However, in the aftermath of that debacle, they find the main power conduits behind a panel inside one of the elevator shafts. The girl he’s talking to wonders how the plant’s being cooled, so Troy relays the information on the water lines that he learned from Pradeep. She acknowledges that Troy definitely did them a favor, and in return they can certainly spare some resources to help get the van fixed.
There’s some worry about possible radiation from the reactor below, so Troy finds Maude and gives her a couple of iodine tablets. She’s actually a bit nervous about it, and asks how she can know if she’s poisoned. He runs down the warning signs to look for. She mentions that this is what caused the Big Day. She talks about missiles, bigger than what Brother Zachariah has in Salt Lake City. Troy says that ADA was connected to the reactor as well. Maude comments on the fact that ADA keeps coming up. He says what he learned from Pradeep, how ADA was designed to protect humanity, but he doesn’t trust it. His aim is to learn as much as he can about it before they have to deal with it in Texas.
Everyone finds each other in the evening, after the day’s work is done. Some basic lighting has been strung up, but it’s very localized. Samson saves some of his food for Janus again. George is a buzzing bundle of energy, and goes on at length about the plans they have worked out with Amy for the mural that they’re going to paint to cover over the plain featureless granite of the lobby walls.
Troy asks Gremlin how he made out. Gremlin recounts how he and the girls he was with headed to the south side of town, and came across lots of military vehicles. At one point, they had found a mostly intact tow truck, which the girls are very excited about. They also came across corpses, many of whom appear to have been executed. Some seem to have been lined up and shot, while others were strung up similar to the ones they saw on the bridge. Each one was accompanied with a square piece of thin metal, upon which were etched by a mechanical hand, detailing the particular individual’s crimes. Gremlin drops one of them on the table.
Samson sees that George has been working in their sketchbook, and they’ve recreated the image in the hologram in Samson’s new bible. He asks about the plans for the mural. There’s some discussion of what the city was like in the Day Before.
They discuss their relative experiences regarding childbirth. Samson says he’s never seen a baby being born; it wasn’t his job, so Leon kept him away once his part was done. Gremlin has never seen it either (for completely different reasons). Troy and George have both seen it, and Troy mentions that it’s becoming increasingly rare. However, when the conversation turns to cannibalism (specifically the issue of purposefully raising people as cattle), George gets upset and abruptly takes off, with Janus following along after.
Maude takes no small amount of pleasure in pushing Samson’s buttons, and soon he too goes to find a quiet spot to be alone. After speculating on the likelihood that George is going to find trouble by going off on their own, Maude heads off to make sure they’re alright.
Soon after, Troy excuses himself and goes to find Samson. They talk about Maude, cannibalism, their various experiences in being slaves.
Gremlin turns in early. He’s had a long day, and he didn’t deal with the heat as well as Samson. He sleeps in the back seat of his car. Samson finds an abandoned building to crash in. Troy, Maude, and George all sleep on the bus.
At some point during the night, Troy wakes up and sees that Maude is still awake as well. He gets a read on her, and figures out that she’s got family on her mind. All the talk of babies definitely hit a nerve. She pushed Samson’s buttons because she takes great pleasure in forcing other people to show her their cards without having to show hers. However, he also sees something akin to sibling rivalry going on there (it specifically reminds him of his interactions with his own sister), because Samson is the new guy, which suggests she considers herself more a member of the group than she’s willing to ever let on (and also considers Samson part of the group).
He advises her to go easy on Samson. She says she was just looking for his weak spot, and now she’s found it. She runs down the rest of the gang. If she wanted to kill Gremlin, he wouldn’t ask any of the rest for help. With George, it’s the opposite, she’d have to fight off a whole army. When Troy asks about his weak spot, she says she’s already figured that one out.
The next morning, Samson finds George with some of Amy’s girls at breakfast. When the girls see him approach, they politely excuse themselves and give George and Samson some privacy. Samson apologizes. George says it’s okay, friends fight sometimes.# ontheroad