The next morning, there’s a heavy fog. Everyone’s packing up and making ready to go. Gremlin goes to visit Carver, and pick up the mother in law and son. The old woman answers the door, and she is very obviously blind. She introduces herself as Louise, and asks Gremlin to wait at the door, as it’s dark inside.
She re-emerges with a large backpack, and a young boy of about 11 in tow. She says his name is Luke, and Gremlin introduces himself. Luke remains aloof.
Gremlin assists Luke in leading Louise back to the vehicles. Samson reluctantly relocates his things from the back seat of the Mustang to the bus. Gremlin makes introductions, and gets Louise and Luke situated. Upon hearing Samson’s name, Louise makes a remark about Delilah. Gremlin explains that Delilah is the name of Samson’s hammer.
Troy gets John to drive the bus. George is eager to meet the newcomers, but Troy says there will be plenty of time when they get to the fort.
The convoy rolls out, heading north along I110 through the ruins of Pensacola. The trip to Spanish Fort would have taken less than an hour in the Day Before, but now it will take quite a bit longer. Before long, they can see a panel van coming in the opposite direction. A hand reaches out the window with a white handkerchief. Gremlin pulls over, and the van pulls up. The driver, Sammy, knows Louise and they exchange pleasantries. Sammy warns about dust people up the road, but if they keep moving, they should be alright. Gremlin thanks him, and as they get on the move again, he gets on the CB and informs the rest of the crew. John asks Troy if they should assist the civilians. Troy says only if Gremlin says so.
A few blocks later, they come across a group of people walking along the side of the road. When they hear the engines, they turn and start yelling for help. “Someone help us, our friend is really sick!” Gremlin rolls up his windows and accelerates past them. Maude follows suit, but John rolls his window down and props his assault rifle up before Troy tells him to stand down. John obeys Troy’s order to simply drive through, and before long the dust people are stepping out in front of the bus, forcing John to simply run them down. This causes the robot a noticeable amount of unease, as technically they are still American citizens.
They get past the city, and turn left to get back on I10. The road is littered with dead cars, but the land on either side of the highway is completely featureless. No evidence remains that there was ever a town at all.
Once the road calms down a bit, Gremlin gets on the CB and introduces Louise to everyone. She gets on and displays a fair bit of knowledge of CB lingo from the Day Before. Samson asks her how old she is. She comments that in the Day Before it was considered rude to ask a woman’s age, but says she’s 78. She asks Gremlin to describe Samson to her.
Troy makes use of the time to futz with the coffee table. His aim is to install a kill switch on the power supply, in case ADA tries to intrude again. He has a discussion with John about discomfort, recalling John’s reaction to running down the dust people. Troy learns that they have something in common, namely that they’re both almost always uncomfortable.
Louise talks about her father, who was a member of a labor union. In the Day Before, the government branded them terrorists, and the National Guard executed them. A discussion of autonomous vehicles prompts Samson to comment that he doesn’t trust machines, and Gremlin explains about how they found John.
Samson asks who God is. Louise explains in as simple terms as she can, and also tells him about Plato and Socrates. Gremlin tells Louise about George’s mission to heal the land.
Troy checks on George. They were napping, but the noise has woken them up. He makes sure they’re fed, and gives some water to Janus. They discusses the mission. George attempts to explain how they know when they’re on the right track. Troy wonders if the world might be better off without people. He’s worried that even if humanity were to claw its way back from the edge of oblivion, there’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t just do it all over again. He gives the example of when a person is really sick, and they’re not going to recover. This certain strikes a chord with George. They realize that Troy hates himself, and dares him to find something about himself to love.
[And there’s George’s compel.]
Troy says he loves his hate and resentment, because it’s all he has. George says that Maude thinks she’s in love with him, but she’s not. They say he’s the missing part of her soul, and in the Maelstrom, they show up as one person.
The only remaining building out in the wilderness is a large concrete complex that used to have a large fence around it (spoiler alert: it was a prison).
Samson addresses Luke again, and advises him what he hears are stories to be told to his children years from now, but not to be spread to strangers. Louise very pointedly asks him to stop scaring her grandson. There’s a tense moment, and Gremlin gets the idea to move Luke to the bus. He floats the idea to Louise, and she’s agreeable and is ready to go with him, but Luke indicates that he wants to go on the bus alone. Gremlin is fine with that, so he gets on the CB to let everyone know, and pulls over. The others follow suit, and John actually puts the hazard lights on.
As soon as the bus comes to a halt, John opens the door, and Janus comes bounding out. After taking a moment to relieve himself, he comes up to Luke and sits, and they strike up an immediate rapport.
On the bus, John stands and salutes. Troy offers Luke some dried fruit, but Luke politely refuses. Gremlin introduces Luke to George, and explains that Samson is a bit scary, so he was hoping they could keep Luke company the rest of the way. George is quite happy to do so. Troy reminds Gremlin that he’s running out of places to hide Samson.# ontheroad