Lauren hears on the radio that as a result of the earthquake, the entire Bay Area is in chaos. They therefore decide to avoid the area and walk up the center of the state instead. They walk all day and camp just east of San Juan Bautista.
Lauren wakes in the early morning to the sound of gunfire. Two armed groups are shooting at each other and running from the highway. Laurens group stays down to avoid being seen. A burning truck explodes. No one in Laurens group is hurt, but Bankole is missing. Lauren goes to look for him, and some minutes later he returns, carrying an injured child whose mother has just been killed. The boy is about three years old, and his name is Justin Rohr. Allie takes charge of him.
They reach San Luis Reservoir. Many people are squatting there in improvised shelters, and they stare at the Earthseed group as they arrive. However, there are no incidents, and Laurens group rests at an isolated campsite. Lauren chats to Bankole about Earthseed, and she does not worry too much that he does not take it very seriously. She does not expect him to. Bankole, who is a doctor, tells her that his wife was murdered five years ago by junkies who broke into their home when he was not there. When his community in San Diego was burned down he took to the road and headed north. He says he has no particular destination in mind, but Lauren does not believe him. Nonetheless, the two of them like each other, and they go to an isolated spot away from the others and make love. Bankole, who is fifty-seven, is shocked when he finds out that Lauren is only eighteen.
Lauren continues to teach Zahra how to read, and Allie and Jill join in. They could read a little but had never learned to write. There is another discussion about Earthseed, in which even Harry joins in.
In September, after over a week of walking, they pass Sacramento. There are more horrors. They see human bones on the highway, a big dog with the bloody hand and arm of a child in its mouth, and a group of young teenagers who are roasting a severed human leg.
Bankole wants Lauren to leave the group and go with him. He tells her he has a safe haven in the hills on the coast near Cape Mendocino. He owns three hundred acres there, and his sister and her family live there. It is good for farming. Lauren declines the invitation, telling him that although she would like to go, she is serious about founding Earthseed. Bankole has little interest in Earthseed, but he does want Lauren. He even says he wants to marry her. He adds that the others in the group can come to his land as well. There is room for everyone. Lauren tells him that she is a “sharer.” Bankole knows about hyperempathy syndrome, but he has never seen a case of it. She tells him that if he were injured and in pain, she might not be able to help him, since she would be disabled by feeling his pain. Bankole says he has some pain medication, and that he will teach her how to use it on him or anyone else. If she can manage that, her own pain will diminish too.
With the addition of Bankole, Laurens group becomes balanced generationally as well as racially. Bankole, as an educated, professional, older African-American, adds the wisdom of age to the group which is otherwise composed of people younger than twenty-five.
The group is also starting to function more as a community of people committed to taking care of each other in a world in which selfishness and anarchy rule. This can be seen for example in the way that Allie adopts the boy Justin. As she sees this, Lauren says to Jill, “And taking care of other people can be a good cure for nightmares like yours and maybe hers.” In spite of the strain of all they have been through, they are holding on to their human values, showing compassion when they can and standing for life rather than death. Bankoles rescue of the small child is another example of this.
The terrible consequences of failing to maintain their humanity are apparent when they see the young teenagers eating roasted human flesh. Refusing to sink to the level of animals, Lauren and her friends represent the continuance of civilization and the possibility of new life.
Lauren also shows how committed she is to her idea of Earthseed when she is offered a temptation. This occurs when Bankole offers her the chance to leave the group and go with him for security and protection. For the new religion of Earthseed, this is rather like the incident in the New Testament, when Jesus is tempted by the devil. But Lauren passes the test with flying colors. It never occurs to her to abandon her group just because she has an opportunity to do so. In this she shows herself as a true leader.