Seven months later, in July, 2027, Laurens neighborhood is overrun by thieves and pyro addicts. (Pyro is the drug that makes people want to start fires.) As everything burns, Lauren escapes, shooting one of the pyros in the process. She does not know what has happened to her family. She walks through the dangerous streets and then several miles in the direction of the hills, before taking refuge in a garage of a ruined house, where she spends the night.
In the morning, she returns to the neighborhood to see if she can find her family. All the houses have burned down and the ruins are still smoking. There are corpses in the street and looters are scavenging in the rubble for anything valuable. Lauren goes to the ruins of her house, where she finds a few items of clothing that have not been burned. She puts them and a few other items into her emergency pack. She also takes some outer clothing for Cory and her brothers, and finds the money that the family had hidden under a lemon tree in the garden. As she leaves the neighborhood with other scavengers, she sees the corpses of Richard Moss, Robin Balter Michael Talcott and many others. But there is no sign of anyone from her own family. She decides to return to the garage where she spent the night, and on the way she meets Zahra Moss and Harry Balter. They are ragged and spattered with blood. Zahra says that all Laurens family are dead. She saw them being killed. Zahra, Harry and Lauren then spend the night in the garage.
In the morning, Zahra tells the story of how they escaped. She saw her daughter killed, and she herself was being raped when Harry rescued her. They fought off two men and escaped.
The three survivors discuss what they are going to do. Lauren says she plans to head north to Canada, and Harry says he wants to go north too. Lauren explains that she wants to travel as a man, since that will be safer. She is tall enough to pass for a man. The three of them agree to travel together.
The next day they go to a store and buy supplies with the money Lauren has in her emergency pack. Then they walk down the freeway and turn west. They plan to connect with U.S. 101 and follow it all the way up to the coast in Oregon. There are many other people walking on the freeway (even though technically it is against the law), as well as many on bicycles, and a few cars. Whole families are on the move, with their belongings loaded in carts and wagons. Lauren, Harry and Zahra are on the lookout for danger. Lauren carries a gun; the other two have knives.
They walk for a week, camping at night. Sometimes strangers come and ask whether they can share their fire. Lauren and Zahra send them away. Harry is more trusting, and Lauren explains to him that they have to be ruthless. They are in a very dangerous situation; anyone could turn on them and rob and injure them, leaving them helpless. When two big men approach them, looking for trouble, Lauren threatens to shoot them, and they retreat. At night, Laurens group sets up a watch, rotating in three-hour shifts. Zahra asks Lauren to teach her how to read and write. Although they never liked each other much when they lived in the neighborhood, they are now getting to know each other better and beginning to develop a bond. At midnight, Lauren wakes Harry and he takes his turn as watch. She is awoken by the sound of gunfire and a fight. She sees Harry fighting for his life with another man, and intervenes by hitting the intruder in the head with a rock. Another man is lying dead, killed by Harry. Over Harrys protests, Lauren cuts the throat of the man she has just injured. She feels she has to do this because as long as he is alive there is a possibility that she will feel his pain, and this will be disabling for her.
After they strip the bodies and take whatever is useful, Lauren realizes that the time is right for her to explain to Zahra and Harry that she is a “sharer,” that she feels the pain of others directly in her own body. She thinks that Zahra and Harry may abandon her as a danger to themselves, but they react favorably to the news. Harry then asks her what she writes in her book every night. Lauren replies that she writes her thoughts, and he ask to read some of them. Lauren reads aloud some passages about God as Change, so that Zahra can also hear them.
These chapters show the final breakup of the old community and the first seeds of the new one that will assemble around Lauren. The task of building a new community is a difficult one, because Lauren and her friends are pulled in opposite directions. In order to survive, they must be ruthless; they must be prepared to forget some of the rules of civilized behavior that they were brought up to observe. Lauren understands this better than Harry. It is she who insists that they must think like a pack of animals to ensure their safety. But at the same time they must also respect and understand each other. When Lauren and Zahra develop mutual understanding, and when Lauren reads to her and Harry about Earthseed, it is the first small step to rebuilding a community out of the ashes of the old one. It is also a big step for Lauren, because for the first time she acquires some followers. Now that she has been put to the test, her qualities of leadership are emerging strongly. She may not fully realize it yet, but she is in effect founding a new religion.