Apologies for the absence, but we’re back with a bumper update in our worldwide The Passage readalong with Fantasy Faction. The past few weeks we’ve been busy reading (or re-reading) The Passage in the spring sunshine because things have gotten very dark. Everything has started to unravel and the stakes couldn’t be higher for The First Colony. Warning for spoilers for everything in the first forty-three chapters of The Passage.
Don’t forget to join us in our Goodreads group for all the discussion as we continue our readalong. Over to David Zampa from Fantasy Faction . . .
Chapter 35: Recap
Auntie writes in her memory book, the latest of twenty seven total volumes, at the outset of “the Night of Blades and Stars”. She expects Peter to call on her shortly, and recalls, amid other intrusive memories of her youth, Prudence Jaxon appearing at Auntie’s door with only a month of life remaining before she would succumb to cancer. Prudence entrusted a box to Auntie’s care for Peter, with instructions that “He has to come to it on his own.” In her mind, what Auntie’s about to do for Peter mingles with a memory of her departure from her parents on the FEMA train, a lonely child, with nothing left of her parents but a picture her mother had slipped into her pocket during their hug goodbye.
But it’s Jimmy Molyneau who arrives to see her, not Peter. She’s confused, having thought for some reason that Jimmy was dead. His mind is muddled as he tries to make conversation, not remembering why he came, and he requests a cup of tea. Despite feeling annoyance toward her visitor, Auntie obliges. He finishes his tea and excuses himself, saying only that his name is Jimmy Molyneau, “In case anybody asks”, before walking out the door.
The Night of Blades and Stars is actually three separate nights, though it is misremembered as one, and dozens of little events are happening at once in the Colony, many independent of one another.
Old Chou wakes. He is compelled to go to the Storehouse, as is Walter Fisher on the other side of the Colony, both affected most strongly by “a feeling of lost souls”, possibly brought on by contact with Amy. Sara Fisher and Peter Jackson were also both affected, but in a different way: they experienced momentary communion with dead loved ones.
Jimmy Molyneau fails to report to the catwalk, and Ian is deputized to serve as First Captain while he’s gone.
Jimmy is lingering in shadows, fighting an inexplicable compulsion to go to the Lighthouse, shut down the lights, and murder anyone inside. Instead, he climbs the Wall, searching for Soo Ramirez.
Soo is brooding on the loss of her position as First Captain. She blames her recent fall on reading books. Specifically, a collection of period romance novels she’s recently discovered and enjoyed. The night Amy appeared at the Wall, Soo had been reading one such novel in the Armory, instead of manning her position. Jimmy arrives at her location, interrupting her thoughts.
Many of the colony have had recurring dreams all their lives, of the kind that have been referenced before, such as Sanjay Patal’s smoking woman in the kitchen. The Colonel dreamed of a girl, alone in the dark. One part of Sanjay’s dream apparently becomes violent, but he’s never remembered that part of it. The dreams feel like the memories of others, and on this night the entire population of the Colony experiences them at once.
In the Sanctuary, Little Jane Ramirez dreams of a “bear” which is actually the viral form of Arlo Wilson. She dreams the attack, and the death of Teacher, reimagining the event as a fairy tale, complete with a friendly, fairy tale bear. The bear becomes sinister, and threatens to devour her. Teacher’s corpse then appears in the dream and threatens her, then attacks her. She realizes all the other Littles have already been eaten just as the bear finally devours her.
Jane’s father, Rey Ramirez, is at the power Station choosing to electrocute himself to death rather than give in to his compulsive urges to sabotage the Colony.
Gloria Patal is at home dreaming of a swarm of bees that fly in and land on her, so that if she moves, they will kill her. She hears Sanjay leave the house, and the bees prevent her from speaking or moving until he’s gone. She then awakens, but she’s forgotten about both the bees and Sanjay.
Elton dreams of an anonymous sexual encounter with a woman. Though she’s never spoken to him before in the dream, this time she whispers a warning that an intruder is in the Lighthouse with him.
Sara Fisher is awake in the Infirmary, but she is watching Amy appear to dream. She’s convinced Dale not to tell anyone of Amy’s ability to heal, to let the girl rest. She senses, inexplicably, that Amy is dreaming about snow.
Galen Strauss is stationed all the wall, contemplating his marriage to Mausami. He knows the baby is Theo’s— Finn Darrell told him of Mausami’s affair at the station—but has been going along with the lie because of his love for Mausami and the hope that he can still make her love him back. He’s afraid of having to go to the station in the morning, because his eyesight is degenerating rapidly, and is already far worse than anyone else knows. The blindness causes him to be perceived as stupid, though he is not. He contemplates asking Jimmy to see reason and not send him, though Jimmy has thus far not shown up on watch. Galen also considers leaving his post to ask Dana to intercede on his behalf, since she is Household now. He thinks he hears Jimmy and Soo talking, and leaves to go see them.
Peter and Alicia are in an old FEMA trailer, playing cards.
Sam Chou is also still awake. His wife, Sandy, is filling the role of Teacher until someone else is found, and he’s reconsidering his outburst over Caleb. He’s calm now, and can’t believe his own actions. He and Milo had spoken about it later, and Milo had also seemed to have abandoned his rage. His attention turns to Amy, and the threat she represents. If she, a Walker, could have survived outside the Colony even after all this time, it meant there were likely others, possibly many others. An influx of Walkers could strain the Colony’s resources. He decides to speak with Milo about doing something about Amy, come morning.
Michael Fisher is astounded by the implications of the data contained in the chip removed from Amy’s neck, and has decided to risk running an antenna from the roof of the Lighthouse up to the top of the Wall. There is no watcher on Firing Platform Eight, which seems lucky. He runs his copper wire into the titanium allow catwalk, hoping to turn the entire perimeter of the Colony into a giant antenna.
Firing Platform Eight is empty because Dana Curtis has been killed by Jimmy, along with Soo Ramirez before her.
Galen Strauss witnesses the murders occur, but cannot see clearly enough to tell what was going on due to his advanced glaucoma.
During Soo’s murder, Jimmy mentions that it was Amy’s eyes that had caused his confusion, or at least, he thought it had been. He reveals his infection, and strips off his clothes as he kills her. As Soo dies, she hears Kip Darrell raising the alarm, but the lights have now gone out.
Chapter 36: Recap
The next day, a meeting is called in the Sunspot, where Walter Fisher and Ian Patal are the only remaining members of the assembly, with Walter now acting Head of Household. As First Captain, Ian is now in charge. Sanjay and Old Chou are missing. The Colony is on the verge of panic, and it’s palpable. Many family members of the night’s victims are present, representing Old Chou, Soo Ramirez, Dana Curtis, Jimmy Molyneau, Kip Darrell (the young runner), Phillips, Strauss, and Greenberg.
The meeting begins with a recap of the facts of the night: To their knowledge, the lights outage was caused by a power surge that had flipped the main breaker, though they do not know the exact reason the surge occurred. The outage had lasted less than three minutes, before Michael could reset the system. During this time, the walls were breached, and Jimmy Molyneau, Soo Ramirez, and Dana Jaxon were all seen being dragged away. (There is no indication anyone is aware of Jimmy’s infection.) A small pod of virals then attacked Platform Six, the same place where Arlo Wilson had killed the female viral with the distinctive hair sixteen days prior. While this pod provided a distraction, another attacked the unmanned Platform Nine, successfully scaling the Wall. Here, Gar Phillips, Aidan Strauss, and Kip Darrell all fell before the pod was repelled. Sunny Greenberg is also unaccounted for from this engagement, presumed lost. Old Chou is assumed to have roamed out to the wall during the breach, and been taken. No virals were killed. Sanjay has “taken sick”.
Disagreement breaks out from the crowd, and Sam and Milo begin to challenge Ian’s leadership. The mob rage builds, and soon turns once again to Amy. As the crowd is moments away from a frenzy, Alicia draws their attention, claiming responsibility for the attack herself due to her involvement in torching the library. The mob rushes her, successfully distracted from Amy. The Watch storms in and restores order. Ian orders martial large, and the suspension of the Household. Alicia signals for Peter to slip away and go save Amy as she is arrested and charged with treason.
Chapter 37: Recap
Mausami Patal is restless in the Sanctuary. She comes to a decision that she is unwilling to give up on Theo, and the life she would have had with him had he returned from the ride. She forms a plan to wait at the cutout until dawn, then slip out of the Colony. Given her recent behavior, the others would believe she is suicidal, and would not guess her true plan to locate Theo. Firm in her decision, she settles in to finish knitting her baby booties so she can take them with her.
Chapter 38: Recap
Michael is recalling the events of the night before, of the blackout and subsequent rush to discover the cause. He recalls meeting Elton when he returned to the Lighthouse, and discovering the system had not crashed, then the open breaker. He made up the story of a power surge to tell Ian, so that no one would investigate the Lighthouse, though he knows it was not the cause, as it would have been logged in the system.
Once Ian is gone, Michael performs a full check on the entire system, and finds nothing wrong. He asks Elton if anyone had come into the Lighthouse who could have tripped the breaker, but Elton says he was asleep, and couldn’t have known.
Michael returns to work on the radio. The spool is undisturbed where he left it last night. He splices the wire to complete the connection, the returns to the Lighthouse to check the frequency and puts on the headphones.
Two hours later, Michael finds Peter in the barracks. Peter is melancholy, blade in hand, though Michael has no idea why. Michael tells him he has to hear about the transmission—he says it’s about Amy.
Chapter 39: Recap
Back in the Lighthouse, Michael and Peter examine the pieces of Amy’s transmitter, starting with the nuclear battery, pointing out that it’s been inside her for a very long time. Michael show’s Peter the information he gleaned from the chip, the two partitions of data. Some data on the first partition, the smaller one, is truncated, but there’s still a lot to be learned. He reorganizes the characters to show the military’s abbreviations for Amy’s identification. Michael figures “Amy NLN” stands for “Amy No Last Name”. The weight listed allows him to determine it was recorded when she was five or six years old, which is when the transmitter was placed.
Michael then explains that this is longer than a mere ten years by shifting focus to the second partition, which contains sixteen terabytes of data. He pulls up data string that he is able to identify as vital health measurements, including body temperature, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, etc. They guess that she was a patient. More importantly, Michael is able to use the amount of data on the chip to determine that it’s been recording Amy’s vitals for ninety-three years, which would put Amy around a hundred years old.
Michael recognizes the acronym on the chip for United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases. They determine that it’s also a locator device, which has recorded coordinates of Amy’s location over the years. Michael uses the first set of coordinates to determine the location of the facility where Amy originated in Southwester Colorado. He points out to Peter that this area was the Central Quarantine Zone where the viral epidemic began.
They begin to discuss the nature of the virals. They figure out that Amy is a person infected with the virus who was not turned into a viral. Michael suggests she might be the cure. Peter is skeptical.
Michael had checked their log book, and shows Peter that they received a signal from the Colorado coordinates eighty years ago, a distress beacon in Morse code: “If you found her, bring her here.” Michael then explains that he used his antenna to discover that the signal is still transmitting to this day.
Chapter 40: Recap
Peter is digesting the information. He neglects to report for duty to the Watch. He’s scouting a way to get in to Amy at the Infirmary. Despite the heavy guard, Sara is still permitted to freely come and go. Peter follows her and approaches when she’s outside alone, and brings her to the Lighthouse. They give her the same explanation of Amy that Peter received. Sara questions the feasibility of travel between the Colony and Colorado, but Michael explains how vulnerable the Colony’s batteries are, and shows that the stakes are too high to not attempt to go.
Sara is still doubtful the trip is realistic, but she points out that if they’re going to go, they’d better not wait too long, given the danger Amy is in at the Colony. Despite the mounting evidence pointing to what they need to do, Peter still feels something is missing from the picture. Elton says they need to talk to Auntie.
Sanjay Patal can’t sleep. He feels Amy’s presence in his mind along with Babcock and the others. He had left his house the night before to try to find Old Chou, feeling compelled to do so. Once he’d faced the lights, however, the compulsions became scrambled. He remained disoriented until Gloria found him. She’d stirred him asking “what did you do?” and Sanjay didn’t remember, but felt from her expressions that it was something terrible. In the morning, he remembered, and determined he was going insane. Now, he’s refusing to sleep to prevent his mind from wandering once again out of his control. Gloria asks him if she should tell Ian and Ben about the guns, but he does not speak, too afraid to break his control.
Left alone, Sanjay finally closes his eyes, and Babcock is immediately there, taking him to the dream of the kitchen and the smoking woman. This time, he sees the part of the dream where he wields the knife to kill the woman. He thrusts, but his attack is halted by an unseen force as the woman laughs. He wakes as Gloria comes over in response to his distress.
Sanjay asks for Jimmy, and Gloria reminds him that Jimmy is dead. Sanjay then remembers all the deceased. He believes the world is a dream and Amy is the one dreaming everyone. He asks Gloria for help.
In Auntie’s kitchen, Peter asks how she’d known about Amy. She speaks cryptically to Peter at first, refusing, as usual, to give a straight answer. Peter asks if Amy is a chance at salvation. Auntie says that depends on him, and leads him back to her bedroom to show him something. Along the way, Peter sees some of her personal effects, including the picture Auntie had found in her pocket on the train. It shows Auntie’s parents, pregnant with her. Peter wishes he had a picture like that of Theo.
Auntie retrieves the box from Peter’s mother, a shoebox full of maps, all the way to the Central Quarantine Zone. Peter doubts his mother, insists that she must have intended for the maps to go to Theo. Auntie promises there’s no mistake. He has a realization, thinking back on his mothers last words, that they were not “take care of your brother, Theo,” but rather, “take care of your brother Theo.”
Michael interrupts by knocking from the porch, he asks to speak to Peter outside, where Dale Levine is waiting. He tells them he will help them at the gate if they want to get Alicia and Caleb out at first light, and that he will help them at the gate, because Sanjay and friends are going to get the guns.
Chapter 41: Recap
In the Infirmary, Sara says Amy’s name to her for the first time in many years. She considers outfitting her with new clothes, and a haircut. Sara has become more hopeful the more time she’s spent with Amy. She had kept a secret from Peter: The night of the blackout, Amy had sat up moments before, with a low moan. Sara had risen to check on her, but received no response. Then Sara sensed the commotion outside, and noticed the darkness, but could not look away from Amy. She saw Amy fighting internally as surely as the others fought outside. In a couple of minutes, the fight ended. Amy had laid back down.
Voices on the porch interrupt Sara’s memory. Ben is guarding the door, speaking with someone she couldn’t see. Just as she tries to get a view of who it is, Ben raises his cross to engage.
Peter and Michael approach the lockup to free Alicia and Caleb, and discover there is no guard. They enter to find a bound guard—Galen Strauss—against the wall, and Alicia pointing a cross at their backs, already free. They tell her Ian is going for the guns, and explain the plan, first to go to the Infirmary for Sara and Amy, then to steal mounts. Dale would call sign just before first bell on the Wall, and they would slip out toward the power station. Alicia commends Dale and Michael’s on having “stones”, and they leave.
When they reach the Infirmary, the door is open, unguarded. They hear Sara scream.
Peter enters to find the room filled with bodies, Sara alive, but bloodied, Amy huddled on the floor. The bodies are Ben Chou, Milo, Sam, and Jacob Curtis. They try to make sense of what happened. Ben’s cross killed Jacob, who is holding a pipe that could have killed Sam and Milo. Ben died by a blade. Sara can’t say what happened. Alicia insists they leave immediately.
They revise their plan. Caleb and Peter will go to the Storehouse to get supplies and clothes for Amy. Alicia will lead the others to the rendezvous.
The lock to the Storehouse is hanging open, the door ajar. Inside they discover Old Chou and Walter Fisher hanging dead from the rafters. They decide to move more quickly. Once supplied and outside, Peter decides to split off to go retrieve the maps. Auntie is on the bed when he enters, seemingly asleep, but she called to him as he leaves. “You go on now, Peter. You’re on your own time now.”
Peter catches up to the others at the cutout, is intercepted by Mausami Patal coming out from the undergrowth, ready for travel. Mausami insists on coming with them, and asks Peter if he believes Theo is dead. He says no, sees the way she’s favoring her belly, and realizes he’s going to be an uncle. After a brief objection, Alicia agrees to let her come.
As they leave, Amy asks Peter where they’re going. He tells her he’s not really sure, but that he thinks they will die if they stay.
Peter emerges from the other side of the tunnel, and soon they hear the calls of the watch before the Morning Bell. Peter notes that they will give chase on horseback when they find the bodies. Alicia agrees. They have to get to the guns first.
Chapter 42: Recap
They approach the station from the rear without incident, but as they draw near, Alicia realizes the fence is off. The gate stands open, and a dead jenny lies on the ground inside. Sara estimates it’s been dead a couple of days. Caleb confirms it was killed the same way as Zander’s jenny in the field.
Another body lies close—Rey Ramirez. It’s been burned nearly beyond recognition, kneeling against the fence. The fence must have shorted when he held it. They move on, into the station. There’s no sign of Finn. Alicia leads them to the back, and they discover the guns, still in their boxes. Alicia points out they should go to the bunker from here, the source of the weapons, and stock up.
Caleb appears to warn everyone that someone is coming, and they exit, armed, to find Hollis riding through the gate. He expresses his intent to join them. He knew where they were going because he used to ride with Peter’s father.
They gather in the control room to load their gear, and Peter shows the maps to Hollis. They plan out a two-day ride to the bunker, Hollis mentioning that there are vehicles there, with fuel, that he and Peter’s father had never managed to get started, but that maybe Caleb and Michael could succeed where they failed. Hollis can’t advise past the bunker, however since it’s as far as he’s ever gone.
As they prepare to depart, Hollis notes that the other Colonists should have been in sight by now, that he didn’t think they were far behind him. Alicia says the group should not go back. They’re on their own now.
Peter realizes the party, now eight strong, is depleted, running on little sleep. They had seven hours until darkness fell, to cross twenty-five kilometers. Alicia offers the party one last chance to stay behind at the relative safety of the station. No one does.
Galen Strauss is riding in pursuit. He and his party have a directive from Gloria Patal to bring her daughter home, and to kill everyone else in Peter and Alicia’s party, without mercy. The Colonists ride as an angry mob. He considers that Sanjay could have calmed them, but he was in the Infirmary, unable to function. Galen also briefly reflects on how peculiar Jacob Curtis’s contribution had been to the Amy’s escape. Mar Curtis and Elton had both been killed by the mob, thrown over the wall, and Galen figures it’s only a matter of time before they turn on him, too. He wants control, to work with Ian to reestablish order, and to do that, they needed the guns. He and his party of five—including Emily Darrell, Dale Levine, Hodd Greenberg, and Cort Ramirez—are charged with retrieving them.
He is resigned to this being the end of his relationship with Mausami, without ill will on his part. He wishes them well.
They approach the ramp to the Eastern Road. Galen’s head is pounding, and he noticed a difference in his vision, and well as some nausea. He reaches the top of the ramp, nearing the station, and turns to speak to Dale, only to find his party is nowhere to be seen. He hears a sound approaching, wet sounds of bodies being torn apart.
Chapter 43: Recap
The party made it to safety—the Joshua Valley Fire Station—before nightfall, with minutes to spare. Hollis sweeps the building, finds it clear, and they settle in to rest and recover thanks to the water tank. They bolt themselves in.
Stored here are more supplies recovered by Peter’s father, including grenades, fuel and most important, rations. They eat, and settle to rest, though Peter notices before falling asleep that Amy appears to be waiting for something to happen. Soon, Hollis is above him, waking him up, ordering him to get his gun and come, quietly. A pod of six virals are prowling on the roof, and most certainly able to smell the horses, they have to know the party is here.
The virals begin to test the building, pounding, trying to get in. Amy walks to the barricade, crying. They soon notice she’s sleepwalking. She turns, returns to her cot, and goes back to sleep. The virals have gone, leaving the rest of the party dumbfounded.
They depart at daybreak, freshly rested, to cross open desert. Hollis guides their way, pointing out the necessary markers they’ll need to locate the bunker. The party speculates about Amy’s dismissal of the virals, unsure what to think. Hollis mentions the rumors that were circulating around the Colony before he left, that she is a sign of the end of humanity and the Colony.
Amy has difficulty walking in the sun, despite being heavily bundled in clothing. Maus has to ride, to keep pace. They put their hopes in acquiring a vehicle at the bunker, and Michael to get it running.
They march through the desert, Peter noting how easily it would be to get lost, though Hollis directs them with confidence. The travel on foot begins to wear them down, water running low, but they are within fifteen kilometers now. The timing is close, but they should make it.
Soon they read a sign informing of proximity to the Marine bunker which warns of mines in the area. The party is not to leave the road. Here they pass a number of buses marked “Desert Center Unified School District”, as well as a helicopter. Inside they find two slims, and take their dogtags. They realize this base, these soldiers are the ones they used to hear stories about. The army that was supposed to come back and save them, but never did.
Something feels wrong. They look around, and Amy is missing. Peter’s anxiety mounts as they search, until they eventually locate her sitting inside one of the buried buses. Peter goes inside to get her. Amy resists a moment, sitting right behind the driver’s seat, and then seems ready to leave again. She offers no explanation for the pause.
Hollis’s guidance takes them the rest of the way to the bunker’s hidden entrance. He opens the secret door to allow them to enter, then switches on lights, which Hollis informs them are powered by a solar array on the other side of the mountain.
They explore the bunker, and its powerful contents. They have no idea what an RPG is, but they’re ready to try them out.