As the Symphony leaves St. Deborah, Kirsten, Dieter, and August discuss the quote “survival is insufficient.” The quote, which originates from Star Trek, perfectly encapsulates their plight. “It’s got to be one of the best lines ever written for a TV show,” August says. As they walk and reminisce about past comforts of the modern world (such as air conditioning) they discover a stowaway in their midst.
Eleanor, as they discover the girl is called, is twelve and was betrothed to the Prophet. The prophet has four wives and has dreams that God has told him to repopulate the earth. She ran away since her parents are dead; she also reveals the Charlie and Jeremy left St. Deborah to find the Museum of Civilization. The Symphony at first considers leaving her behind, but ultimately decides to keep her in their midst.
Eleanor explains how the Prophet rose to power; he grew up at the Museum of Civilization before traveling through the South and Virginia, a part of the country notorious for being dangerous and violent. He eventually arrived in St. Deborah with a band of nineteen followers and lived peacefully in the home and garden department of Walmart, before beginning to preach his visions in the town. When a flu wiped out the mayor, the Prophet married his wife and moved to the center of town, revealing his appetite for power and various weaponry in a few short weeks.
Two days out, they arrive at a resort town that has burnt down in a fire. After doing some chores, Kirsten leads an expedition into a school to scavenge for supplies. In the bathroom, they find a skeleton with a bullet hole in its head, but nothing else of note.
The section is intercut with an interview between Kirsten and Francois Diallo, who questions her about the knife tattoos on her wrist. She refuses to answer; it seems it is too painful a subject.
As they camp, Dieter and Sayid take off scouting down the road while August and Kirsten take the night guard duty. During their watch, Kirsten and August both get a sense of unease. Feeling as though they are being watched, they take off to look for Sayid and Dieter and find that they have disappeared with no sign of a struggle.
The Symphony debates what they should do in order to find the missing pair. As they follow protocol and search the area, the Clarinet also disappears. August and Kirsten split off from the group, venturing away from towns. On their way, they meet Finn, a former resident of St. Deborah who took his family and ran away when the Prophet rose to power. He has a scar on his face. They then find an abandoned house which they explore. Inside are the husks of the dead occupants, and August searches for TV guides while Kirsten searches for a book called Dear V. which she had misplaced years before. Dear V. outlines the letters Arthur sent to his friend known only as V. which she published when he became a celebrity. It was called “unsparing” in his evaluations of his friends and family.
In the letters, we see Arthur’s innermost thoughts: the way he finds Clark less interesting as he grows up, his growing apart from Miranda towards Elizabeth, Elizabeth struggling with alcohol. We see Clark, whose job is helping company CEOs getting anonymous honest feedback from his employees, wondering what sort of harsh unsparing thoughts Arthur Leander wrote in his letters to V. about him.
The structure of the forgoing sections, which overwhelmingly limit themselves to the story of a single character, is broken here. We see the Symphony, but also sections from Dear V., an interview with Kirsten, and Clark’s reaction to Dear V. There is a general sense that the disparate stories are starting to intertwine. Clark is now linked to Kirsten and the Symphony in a way that he wasn’t before, and we start to suspect that there will be more surprise plot twists to come.
The backstory we learn on the Prophet and the clues we get as to Charlie and Jeremy's location point to the fact that the Museum of Civilization is going to be consequential in the plot. Little has been revealed about the location except that it is an airport. What type of museum it is and whether or not it is a benign or malevolent place is unknown. There is a sense that the journey will culminate here.
A device that Mandel borrows from Shakespeare is the appearance of letters, written by the characters, to reveal information. In the book Dear V. Arthur shares his private innermost thoughts with his unresponsive childhood friend. Here we get insight into the way he really feels about Clark (namely, that he's a little boring), the anniversary dinner party with Elizabeth and Miranda together (it was ill-advised), and even Victoria (he cares more about her than she does about him.) This window into Arthur's mind is important to Kirsten and instructive to the reader.
They way the Symphony deals with emergencies shows what a well-oiled machine it has to be to survive.The protocols in place when they lose Dieter and Sayid include a thorough combing of the area and a designated plan to move on and wait for them at their last agreed upon location (in this case, the Museum of Civilization.) These rules have flexibility however, as shown in the collective dealing with the question of what to do with the stowaway Eleanor.
Kirsten’s decision to leave the Symphony behind with August is a dangerous one, but also one that allows for more of her personal quests to be fulfilled. She wants to find more information about Arthur and maybe even another copy of Station Eleven. The mystery of the location of her friends is framed in the mind of the present-tense story, but how Arthur’s life unfolds is on Kirsten’s (and thus the reader’s) mind.