From the small radio she pulled off one of the attackers, Lauren discovers that the entire Bay Area has been plunged into chaos as a result of the earthquake; pyro addicts are setting fires everywhere and street gangs are attacking civilians and stores. The group decides to take another route north.
One morning, the group is awakened by a fierce battle that ends with the explosion of a truck. Lauren cannot find Bankole anywhere, which makes her frantic. She eventually finds him with a child who is clinging to the corpse of his mother, who was hit by a stray bullet. The child is three years old, and is hysterical for his mother. By searching the woman's body, the group discovers that the child is named Justin Rohr. There is no information about any relatives or a destination, so the group decides to take charge of the little boy.
Justin is particularly drawn to the sullen Allie, who takes him in and treats him as her own. Jill whispers to Lauren that Allie had a son once, but their pimp father killed the child. The two women set fire to the house when their father was passed out drunk, and fled three-hundred miles away. However, they still fear that their father could find them again.
The group stops at the San Luis reservoir, which is already overrun with squatters. They find a small space uphill, and camp there.
Lauren spends some time with Bankole, to whom she is becoming increasingly attracted, and even tells him about Earthseed. Lauren explains that, although Earthseed shares some features of Eastern religions and existing philosophies, it is something entirely new. Community is of central importance to Earthseed; it is there that one learns to shape God with forethought, care, and work, and to take actions that benefit the community. They should also work toward the goal of planting Earthseed among the stars. Bankole is somewhat skeptical, but he accepts her ideas politely.
Bankole also reveals that he is a doctor, and that his wife was killed by attackers who broke into their home five years ago. When his community in San Diego - like Lauren's - was burned down, he took to the road and headed north. He insists that he has not particularly destination in mind, but Lauren does not believe this.
The two go to an isolated spot and make love for the first time. Both of them pull out condoms to use. Bankole is stunned, however, when he discovers that Lauren is only eighteen - he is fifty-seven. Still, the two like each other very much.
Lauren continues her literacy lessons with Zahra, and Allie and Jill join in as well. When Jill and Allie ask questions about Earthseed, it is Harry, Zahra, Travis, and Natividad who answer them.
It is now September. Outside Sacramento, Lauren sees a number of disturbing sights: a dog with a child's arm in its mouth, and a group of young teenagers roasting a severed human leg.
Bankole reveals that he does in fact have a destination: he owns land on the hills near Cape Mendocino, and his sister and her family currently occupy the area. The land is good for farming, and safely ticket away from major thoroughfares.
Bankole invites Lauren to come with him to this land and live there with him. However, Lauren is clear that her great commitment is to Earthseed. Bankole wryly comments that he knows his rival. Lauren explains that she wants to found the first Earthseed community, and in fact has already begin this work by creating her small group. Bankole accepts this, and asks Lauren to marry him.
Lauren has one last thing to tell him. She explains that she is a hyperempath, and that she shares the pain of others. Bankole is not put off by this, and finds her condition rather interesting from a medical perspective. He also says that he has some pain medication, and he can teach her to use it if needed. If she can lessen the pain of others, she will have less trouble sharing in their agony.
Lauren's old neighborhood was divided by petty disagreements and arguments, and it took a very strong personality - her father's - to make people come together and see the value in acting as a community. In Earthseed, Lauren seeks to build a community according to the truths that she has noticed in the world. She realizes that life (and God) is change, and she wants people to adapt themselves to this truth.
Lauren experiences a moment of major character development: she begins to fall in love with Bankole. She had a boyfriend back in the walled neighborhood, a boy named Curtis whom she wanted to marry, but he was never the partner to her that Bankole is. She never told Curtis about her dreams of Earthseed or about her hyperempathy, both of which she confides in Bankole. Though Bankole is not a believer in Earthseed, he accepts Lauren's beliefs and supports her.
The ever-practical Lauren may also have less emotional reasons for choosing Bankole. She has suspected that he does in fact have a destination, and her instincts (which may be sharped by her experience of other people's mental states through her hyperempathy) proves correct when he reveals that he owns land in northern California, which is currently occupied by his sister and her family. He invites Lauren to live with him on this fertile land, in an area with plentiful water. Additionally, his skills as a doctor will be extremely useful in this dangerous and violent world.
Author Octavia Butler frequently uses aspects of the African-American historical experience in her stories, and the northward journey to freedom of Lauren and her group echoes the Underground Railroad trodden by escaped slaves who fled north. In both cases, freedom lies north after a long and perilous journey. Lauren becomes a kind of Harriet Tubman figure, conducting people to safety.
Lauren's community is truly diverse, including people of many different ages, genders, and races. In this post-apocalyptic world, people frequently divide themselves on the basis of race, and mixed-race couples are often singled out for special harassment. Instead, Lauren's group finds strength in their diversity.