Harry, who has a concussion, sleeps for most of the day and is slowly recovering. Zahra mourns her dead daughter, and Lauren mourns her family. Zahra tells Lauren how Richard Moss bought her from her mother when she was fifteen years old; despite the cruelty of her co-wives, she appreciated having enough to eat. Now she had lost all that.
The three discuss where they will go next. The Garfield family might be able to get Harry into Olivar, but he doesn't want to take the risk of becoming bound to a company town. Lauren wants to go north, up towards Canada. Lauren also tells Harry about the members of his family who died - he doesn't weep, but he shuts down emotionally.
The three decide that they will travel together. Lauren will pose as a man, and she and Zahra will pretend to be a couple (mixed race couples are singled out for special harassment on the streets). Lauren has a number of supplies that they will share or sell for other goods. Zahra has a impressive set of survival skills gained from her life on the streets, and Harry has the advantage of being a large, powerful man.
The three stop by Hanning Joss, a large secure store complex, to pick up supplies with the money Lauren was able to dig up from her garden. They purchase a number of useful things: ammunition for the guns, food, sleep sacks, sunblock, and other important items.
The three start to walk up the freeway that leads up to Oregon. There are very few trucks that run anymore, so mostly the freeway is filled with walkers, bicyclers, and others in a massive crowd. Many of them are families, but Lauren spots a few predators. She carries her gun where it can be seen, and Zahra and Harry brandish knives. Lauren also puzzles about whether or not she should tell Zahra and Harry about her hyperempathy - after all, it will become apparent if they have to fight any enemies.
Lauren, Harry, and Zahra walk along the freeway, along with thousands of others. Zahra and Lauren are suspicious of all strangers, including an elderly man who asks to use their fire to roast a potato. Harry criticizes them for their coldness, but Zahra explains how even little kids will trick people into giving up their food and water. This world is very different from that of the neighborhood. Earlier in the day, a large man eating peanuts as he walked had his snack grabbed from this hands, and while he was distracted, two teenagers cut the backpack from his shoulders. He was left with minor injuries, but completely without supplies of any kind.
Harry, however, still thinks this kind of behavior is too harsh, and Zahra and Lauren must persuade him that it is necessary to be prepared to defend oneself, possibly with violence. Zahra is finally able to convince him of this, and Lauren notices how gently Harry looks at her - he is starting to fall in love with Zahra.
Not long after, two threatening-looking men come to stare at Zahra. Lauren drives then off by taking out her gun. She leaves Zahra on watch with the gun - Zahra insists she was a good shot when she lived outside the walls, before Richard Moss bought her. (Lauren is still horrified at the idea that a person can be bought and sold.) Zahra and Lauren chat about the neighborhood - they never liked each other before, but now find a great deal of admiration for each other. Lauren promises to teach Zahra how to read and write. Lauren's watch is uneventful, and she hands responsibility over to Harry.
Lauren is awakened by the sounds of a struggle. Someone is trying to wrestle the gun away from Harry, so Lauren smashes the attacker's head with a rock. Despite the horrible pain she feels, she slices the man's throat to end his misery, despite Harry's protests. Zahra and Lauren strip-search the two dead men, finding knives, food, money, and strange pills; then they dump the bodies.
Seeing Harry's suspicion and horror, Lauren explains her hyperempathetic abilities. Harry understands now that harming the men also hurt Lauren, but he still insists that killing them wasn't the right thing to do. Zahra is more sympathetic: her mother took drugs too, and she hugs Lauren. To earn Harry's trust, Lauren also reads to him from the Earthseed Book of the Living that she has written.
The group sees a massive fire burning in the hills, which is probably another neighborhood being destroyed. This makes them mourn their old neighborhood and way of life, and they move further away.
That night, Harry volunteers to take watch and Lauren awakes to the sound of him and Zahra making love. Though she shares in their pleasure, Lauren is annoyed that they would risk their safety like this and angrily takes over the watch from Harry.
The group stops at a water station - a dangerous place, frequented by thieves and thugs who try to prey on all the people who must get their water there. Lauren sees a thief snatch a water bottle from a Hispanic women who is holding a baby and walking with her African-American husband, and she trips the thief and hands the water back to the woman. The family thanks Lauren, and begins to follow the group at a shy distance; as Zahra had previously observed, mixed-race families often catch hell out of the neighborhood.
On Highway 101, Lauren talks to Zahra about her late night antics with Harry. Lauren is worried that Zahra could not only expose the group to a night attack, but also that she risks pregnancy. Zahra does not share Lauren's concerns.
The group stops by the ocean, which they have never seen before - Zahra, Harry, and Lauren have spent their whole lives in the urban area of Robledo. The black man and Hispanic, along with their baby, camp nearby, although they do not make contact. Lauren wonders if they might make a good addition to her group.
At night, dogs roam the beach, sniffing at supplies. Suddenly, one of them grabs the couple's baby and tries to run away with it. Lauren shoots the dog, despite the pain it causes her.
The next night, the small family joins them. The man is Travis Charles Douglas and the woman is Gloria Natividad Douglas, and their baby is Dominic. Harry reveals that Lauren is female, which makes the newcomers trust Lauren's group even more. Lauren shares some of her Earthseed verses with the group.
The group, which now includes Travis, Natividad, and Dominic, rests on a beach in Santa Barbara after resupplying and washing their clothes at a local armed store. Travis expresses interest in Earthseed after Lauren reads them her poetry. Travis' mother taught him how to read and write; she was an educated woman but was forced by poverty to work as a maid, so she would borrow books from the library of her employer to read with him.
Travis and Natividad worked for a wealthy family; their employer's wife was kind to them, but when the employer made sexual advances towards Natividad, she and Travis left. Travis is intrigued by Earthseed, but also questions it fiercely - he has trouble comprehending the idea of change as a deity. Lauren argues that change is pervasive, and can be shaped; it isn't something that can be called upon to comfort, but understanding the nature of change is a necessary part of living a good life. Lauren considers Travis the first convert to Earthseed, and Zahra the second.
Lauren considers building a community. There must be others like Zahra, Harry, Natividad, and Travis walking the highways - good, decent people who are looking for a way to survive. Perhaps they can find their own piece of land and build their own community, defending it if necessary but generally living peacefully.
An earthquake hits. Lauren's group is startled, but no one is injured. Harry finds a bit of money on the ground; he wants to use it to buy shoes, but Lauren says she'll buy shoes for him if he purchases a gun - the group needs to be better armed.
They see a fire up ahead, possibly caused by damage from the earthquake. There is the sound of gunfire, and then hordes of scavengers descend in a small community. Lauren is disturbed by this, but there is little she can do.
Lauren starts talking to a man walking next to her about this scene unfolding below. He is an older black man pushing a cart, and though he is clearly poor, it is also apparent that he takes great care to groom himself well. They muse together about the state of the world, and he reveals that his name is Taylor Franklin Bankole. Lauren's grandfather and Bankole's father legally changed their surnames to African Yorubde names to reflect their black heritage in the 1960s, so the two bond over that. Lauren likes the look of the man and enjoys talking to him.
In a half-collapsed house, the group hears the sound of women crying. On Lauren's orders, the group pulls two slightly injured white women out of the rubble. Their names are Jill and Allie Gilchrist, and they are only slightly injured. They join the group.
However, Lauren's act of charity has made her group a target. Without warning, one man grabs Zahra while another snatches Lauren. Lauren stabs her attacker to death, and is immobilized by the pain. Bankole and Harry shoot the other three attackers, and the group is safe. They strip the corpses for the goods they carry, finding more money and knives.
After a conversation with Jill and Allie, Lauren discovers that the two women were trying to escape their father, who had forced them into a life of prostitution. Allie is skeptical of Earthseed, but she and her sister decide to join the group. Bankole also decides to join them, to Lauren's great delight.
The group stops in Salinas, were they resupply at a large armed store. On Bankole's recommendation, Lauren purchases a long-range Winchester rifle; Bankole insists that it's a good idea for the group to have a long-range weapon to take out snipers.
After being told in their walled community that all outsiders are to be feared, Lauren, Harry, and Zahra discover that there are actually many people who are very similar to them on the roads: scared, non-violent unless provoked, and seeking a way to survive. Through two separate acts of kindness, Lauren wins over the first members of her group, Travis and Natividad.
Lauren's compassion, which is an essential part of the foundation for her small community, is shaped by her experience of hyperempathy. Because she can experience the pain that other people feel, she can relate to them more easily and can see herself in their shoes. She is motivated to show kindness in unusual ways, even ways that are dangerous for her (such as rescuing Jill and Allie from the collapsed building). This earns the trust of the people she meets, who are unaccustomed to such kindness.
Lauren's strategy for convincing people of the truth of Earthseed is an unusual method of conversion. Lauren does not convert people to Earthseed by force or coercion, though that could be an effective strategy. Rather, she allows people to ask questions and she answers them fairly. She also establishes rules for mutual protection and provides firm and well-informed leadership.
Earthseed is not a system based on blind belief - rather, it is founded on actively engaged experience. Lauren's own personal life reflects this: her time in the walled neighborhood is an ongoing series of changes, many of them terrible losses, such as the deaths of her brother and father. However, through foresight and planning, she was able to foresee this eventuality and to prepare for it. Change is the only constant in life, but we do not have to be at the mercy of change.