This chapter is dramatic.  Oh, the drama; there is much of it…but I guess that’s what romance novels are all about, so it’s about time.

It's a dramatic llama.  I have to.

It’s a drama llama. I have to.

It starts with Wanderer seeing the thing Jeb hyped up at the end of the last chapter, which is both not as cool as I was hoping it would be and very awesome for people in their situation, at the same time.  I can definitely see why it would be everyone’s favourite part of the place, since it makes it much easier for them to do that whole “not dying” thing.

The surprise is…a natural hot spring/river system!  It takes Meyer about a page to get to revealing that, because she takes some time to describe how thick the air is  and the sounds Wanderer hears, which initially she had thought were voices, but then discovers is actually just the sound of the water moving.  Not going to say I believe she’d have to get as close as she does before she’d figure it out, but hey, *insert excuse for Wanderer here*.

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The room with the hot spring also has one of those bright ceilings again, and I really, really would like an explanation for all this light now, please, Meyer.  Not sure what the holdup is on that.

Meyer spends a while describing how the rivers look and sound, and Jeb tells Wanderer that she needs to be careful because of how hot the streams are and how fast the current is.  Apparently that’s been a problem before. A deadly problem.  Dun dun dunnnn!!

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That scares Wanderer, of course, but Jeb is reassuring and awesome again, and points her toward the bathroom.  There’s a long description of what the setup for the ‘bathtub’ and the ‘toilet’ are, and then Wanderer’s bitchy thought:

His voice had assumed a complacent tone, as if he felt credit was due to him for nature’s creations. Well, he had discovered and improved the place – I supposed some pride was justified.

Uh, yeah, maybe a little.  The whole “We’ve dug the floor out” bit speaks to at least a little work on his part, not to mention the planning, the work he’d have to do to make sure everything was safe, even seeing the possibility for it in the first place, and being smart and capable enough to take that from idea to execution.  Not to mention that he’s described the area it’s in as “black as pitch“, which means the job would have been far from an easy or safe one.  So, yeah, a little bit of credit is due, and it’s not all “nature’s creations“.

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Anyway, Jeb gives Wanderer a flashlight, and it makes her sad because it reminds her of when he used it to see her eyes in the desert.  She doesn’t know why that makes her sad, but I think there are a couple of pretty obvious reasons.  For one, back then she had hope that things would be better when she found the people she was looking for despite her being an alien, not the way they are now…and also, probably a part of her is actually sad that he discovered she was an alien, because if he hadn’t (or if she hadn’t been one), everything would have been perfect.

Regardless, with the flashlight and a warning not to try to use the river to run away because the water doesn’t come back aboveground, Wanderer is off to the bathroom, fighting paranoia that someone is hiding in the shadows waiting for her all the way.  She has a panic attack, but manages to achieve her goal, and then she’s back with Jeb again, and very relieved to be.

Why this crazy human should be such a comfort to me, I couldn’t understand.  I supposed it was like Melanie had said, desperate times.”

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Or, y’know, maybe it’s because he’s been NOTHING BUT FUCKING NICE AND GENTLE TO YOU, AND LOOKED OUT FOR YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.  Couldn’t possibly be that, could it? You know for a fact that he doesn’t want to kill you and won’t do so unless Jared makes him, and in the meantime, he won’t even let anyone else get close enough to you that they might…so why wouldn’t you feel comfortable with him??

Also, again, why the hell is he a “crazy human”?  Is this back to the whole description of him, a few chapters back, as being a nut and a loon and whatever else, because of what he believed about the aliens? If so, we already fucking know that wasn’t him being crazy; he was RIGHT! And even if it was mental illness that led to him finding this place and making it into what it is, I’d say he deserves more fucking respect than to be called a “crazy human” at this point, Wanderer! Ugh.

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Jeb takes the flashlight and they head back, Jeb talking all the while about how great the caves are, how nice it is to have a community again after so long, how sorry he is for the fact that she has to sleep in an uncomfortable little hole, how “motivated” Kyle is, that he’s going to try to find a better place for her to stay, and how she doesn’t have to stay in the hole when he’s there, she can sit with him instead.

This whole spiel seems to make Wanderer finally realize that humans aren’t as bad as she’s been made to believe, but she’s still worried about what’s to come for her.  She thinks about how there’s no guarantee that Jared won’t decide her secret is more important than Stryder’s body, but I have no idea why she’s thinking that, since that would imply Jared will give her up to Doc, which he didn’t even allow in the first place.  What she has to fear from Jared is that he’ll have her killed, not give her to Doc.  If he’d been willing to do that, he would have done it already.

Jeb and Wanderer pass back through the big room again, and everything is much the same as always, what with the hatred and murderiness, and Wanderer feels that Jeb won’t be able to protect her for long.  They go back through the tunnels toward her ‘cell’, supposedly going a different route than before, and Wanderer fears that Jared will be there when she arrives, because she knows he’ll be angry that Jeb took her out.

When she arrives, there is, indeed, someone there…but it’s not Jared.  Who could it be?!  Kyle, Ian, Brandt?  Sharon, Maggie?  Jamie?  Jamie! Yep, it’s Jamie.  Tall, skinny Jamie.  Wanderer pretty much collapses, and Jeb is annoyed that Jamie has somehow been told about her presence so soon.  Jeb is annoyed in a very stereotypical country fashion, which is annoying itself and seems out of character considering how smart he’s proven to be, but he’s annoyed nonetheless.

At this point, Wanderer describes herself as being “locked in the fiercest battle of my life – of every life I’d ever lived“.  That seems a bit (okay a lot) overdramatic to me, but the battle she refers to is trying to keep Stryder under control so she doesn’t either say something to Jamie or rush to touch him again, as she did with Jared.  Stryder’s ambition to do those things is stronger with Jamie, and presumably with more strength in her body in the first place, but that still doesn’t explain why she’d still be this stupid, after this many experiences since Jeb found them.

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Regardless, Wanderer manages to keep her under control, though I hate the way all of that and Stryder’s response to being pushed back are described.  Wanderer feels guilty for having to hold her back, because she knows it hurts Stryder, and oh my god empathy finally.  There’s a paragraph here about how connected Wanderer feels to Stryder now, and more about how glad she was when they were facing death that she would not have to be the one to kill Stryder, and awwww, all the Stryder love from Wanderer.

Once again, Meyer explains to us why it’s necessary that Wanderer hold Stryder back, despite that even Stryder should have figured it out by now, as I’ve said, no matter how emotional she is…and we, as readers, certainly already know why and don’t need it explained again.  Still, Wanderer has to convince Stryder to trust her, and Stryder reacts stupidly.  It really does seem like Meyer has reversed their roles now, and I still really do not like that.  Stryder is not this stupid.

Wanderer longs for Jamie as much as Stryder does, supposedly, though no that’s not true at all, and it makes her weak in the knees again, and she starts crying. Jamie acknowledges Jeb, and hearing his voice makes Wanderer realize how old he is, and that she reported his existence to the Seeker on his birthday.  Ouch.  Apparently Stryder had been dreaming of him because it was his birthday and she was missing it, and that’s the dream she had that Wanderer emailed the Seeker about.

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Now…that’s kind of sad, because the dream was about her meeting Jared, and Jamie was only vaguely mentioned in it, so apparently Jamie is so important to Stryder that Wanderer has to hold her back, but not important enough to be worthy of an entire memory related to himself on his own birthday.  This poor kid; he’s getting the short end of the stick in every respect.  But maybe it’s just because she was trying to keep him secret, and that was the smallest way he could seep in.  That makes it slightly less terrible, but is also not really believable at all, for various reasons.  Ahh, this is so sad for him.

Anyway, Wanderer cannot believe she was so callous, so hey, maybe she can really become self-aware now, and realize what a bitch she’s been every time she had the opportunity.  That would be nice.

Jeb and Jamie have a bit of back and forth about why Jeb didn’t tell Jamie about Stryderer, and this upsets Stryder, so she starts crying.  Distractingly loud, apparently.  Man, that would suck.

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Jamie reveals that he just wants to talk to Stryderer, which Jeb allows, with the warning that Wanderer doesn’t say much, since she hasn’t said anything except for “No” since asking if Jamie was safe, I don’t think.  Jeb sits down, and Wanderer tries not to look at Jamie though he’s looking at her, and then decides it’s best if she sits down too.

Jamie approaches Wanderer and kneels down beside her, and I think that makes him the bravest since Jeb…or possibly even braver, since he (as far as we know) has no weapon.  I like this kid.  He questions her, and she responds with only gestures, no words, with some help from Jeb to explain who hit her. He even touches her neck, at one point, and just…yeah, this kid has some balls.  Love it.

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He continues questioning her about her memories, asking if she remembers who he is, and she starts responding with actual words, though few.  He asks her what happened to Stryder, and she explains briefly, then slips up in telling him that she was placed in Stryder’s body to tell the Seekers how Stryder had survived so long.  Apparently this is important information to Jeb, but I don’t really see why it’s important or how that’s a slip up, since I can’t see why else they ever would have put her in a damaged body, so we already know this.  Is it somehow going to be more relevant now than it was when we first figured it out?

Jamie asks why she didn’t just let Stryder die, and Wanderer reveals that it wasn’t her decision; that she was in a hibernation tank in deep space when it happened.  Jeb and Jamie are both surprised by this, meaning that the humans still know alarmingly little about the aliens after six years or whatever it’s been, which again seems horribly unlikely, but there it is anyway.  Learning this leads Jamie to ask where she comes from, which she only answers vaguely, and then Jamie’s next question is interrupted by Jared’s sudden arrival.

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Jared is understandably angry to see Jamie with Wanderer, and starts to yell at Jeb for allowing it, but Jamie interrupts and yells at Jared instead, for not telling him about her.  Jeb stands up, and as he does, his gun rolls toward Wanderer, who moves away from it.  Jared, on the other hand, lunges toward it and freaks out at Jeb for being so careless, despite that (as Jeb retorts) Wanderer is obviously not interested in the gun and would never touch it.  He makes the point that she’s no Seeker.

Jared continues to freak out, and Jamie tries to back Jeb up, but Jared just freaks at him too, and then Wanderer has some completely irrational thoughts:

How could they scream at each other this way? They were family, the bonds between them stronger than any blood tie.

Uh, no.  For one, they’re not family, and though yes there would be bonds between them after this length of time, and Jared might have even felt like he was in a parental role toward him, Jared is only freaking out because he believes he’s doing what’s best for Jamie; he’s just not thinking it through fully enough. He’s trying to protect him, however ill advised his actions are.  And Jamie is trying to defend those who have done nothing, while feeling betrayed that Jared didn’t tell him. Everything between them is entirely justified, and Wanderer should not still be so naïve after everything she’s seen, felt and been through to this point.

Come on now; you should know better.

Come on now; you should know better.

Stryder tries to reassure Wanderer by saying Jared can’t hurt Jamie (that it’s “not possible“, which is bull; Jared definitely would hurt Jamie if he thought it was short term pain for the sake of Jamie’s ultimate protection), but that’s just more naïve bullshit from her too, and I don’t know why any of this is supposed to be believable.  This is not how people think, no matter how in love they are.

Wanderer panics about how they never should have gone there because they’ve made Jared and Jamie unhappy, and I’d say “unhappy” is an understatement, but they should have been able to predict that something like this would happen anyway.  I mean, they were in the desert for days; at some point it should have occurred to one of them, at least, that maybe this wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows.  Though I guess I’ve just mentioned how naïve they both obviously are, so that kind of logic probably isn’t even possible for them.

Jared and Jamie argue more about how Jared should have told him and shouldn’t have hurt her, and Jamie obviously strikes a chord with Jared when he asks if the bruises on Stryderer’s face and neck bother Jared.  Jared yells at Jamie to leave, threatening him if he doesn’t abide, but I kind of like how he does it, because it’s still caring and considerate.  That sounds weird, but it’s true.  He is in pain, and it’s hard, but he’s trying not to lose it completely, and is offering to talk to Jamie about it another time.

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Jamie apologizes and agrees to leave, but says he won’t promise not to come back, and Jared basically brushes that aside and tells him to go.  Poor guy.

Jamie leaves, and Jared tells Jeb to leave as well, which he protests against initially, but then does.  On his way, though, Jared asks Jeb if he would shoot Stryderer if he (Jared) asked him to right that moment, and Jeb says that he would have to, because he follows his own rules.  He warns Jared not to ask unless he’s sure he means it, and then he’s gone.

While Jared is watching Jeb leave, Wanderer scrambles back into her hole, and that’s the end of the chapter.  See?  Drama.  Lots of it.  But it introduced Jamie for the first real time, and I like him so far, and it showed some real emotion from Jared that wasn’t anger, so I guess in all, it’s a win.  The book can’t really help but go somewhere from here.

…I hope, anyway.

(See Mike’s take on this chapter at http://emptystress.wordpress.com!)

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