Last Updated on April 28, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1490
Makepeace now had a room to herself in which to recover from her fever. Unmanacled, she could have escaped, but something stopped her.
She saw Shamsudin walking slowly outside her window. He was old and weak now and trying to conceal it, because old men did not survive here. Makepeace felt that Shamsudin's knowledge should have made him useful and wondered how she could convince the guards of this. He reminded Makepeace of her father, and his medical knowledge was invaluable.
When she was able to, Makepeace took her meals in the guards' mess. She was now one of the mid-level guards: they had a steam bath and a little shop but were subordinate to the guards who lived in the village. She also now had a gun, which would help her with her plan of escaping in the spring.
In February, Boathwaite said Makepeace would be one of a group of guards escorting some prisoners into the Zone. Each guard was to pick two prisoners. Makepeace chose Shamsudin and Zulfugar.
The chosen prisoners were marched out into a bright house where there was a refectory and an exercise yard. Zulfugar waved Makepeace over and gave her a black ball about the size of a walnut. It was a sort of mushroom, "good for the eyes," according to Zulfugar.
Boathwaite explained to the prisoners that being chosen for the Zone was a privilege. The guards who chose the prisoners were welcome to half their work.
Mr. Apofagato explained that the Zone was four hundred square kilometers of land in which prisoners would mine objects, including electric batteries. Apofagato had a map showing the sectors, which he made the prisoners copy before giving them "dosimeters," which calculated how much medicine each prisoner would need to counteract radioactivity.
Boathwaite explained that the workers would receive credits they could exchange for extra food and alcohol.
The next day, they left on horseback. Makepeace saw that Zulfugar and Shamsudin were looking unhappy. Shamsudin explained that Zulfugar had opened the badge he had been given and found it to be empty—it wouldn't really protect anyone from radiation. However, not wanting to let anyone know what had been discovered, Makepeace asked Tolya to provide Zulfugar with a new badge.
The group followed the winter road toward the Arctic Circle. Tolya had an implement which measured the "poison" in the soil.
One morning, the smell of smoke and the crackle of flames woke the group. Everyone was afraid of being poisoned, so they all moved north in the dark. The next day, Tolya and half the guards rode back to see who had set the fire. Makepeace approached Shamsudin and apologized for their situation, saying she had not known what the Zone would entail and she would not let him be hurt. Shamsudin said that was not in her power to promise, and when she slipped in the snow, she thought for a moment that he was going to strike her with his axe. But he did not.
Tolya returned with a Tungus boy, whom he said had set the fire. The guards beat him, which Makepeace said was stupid because now he would never say who he was working for.
The boy was told to sleep with the prisoners, and Makepeace wondered what was to come.
Afraid that Tolya would kill the boy, Makepeace took charge of him once the group set off the next day. Soon, they came upon the ruins of a huge glass and concrete city. There were tall towers with wires attached. Makepeace assumed a city like this had been the origin of the airplane.
The group entered the city, and Tolya provided meat and spirits to the other guards, and meat to the Tungus boy. They drank to the Zone. Makepeace set off alone to cross the bridge and look around; Tolya told her not to go beyond a pair of lampposts because the city was "poisoned." Makepeace realized that the prisoners had already gone into the poisoned area; Tolya said some, like Makepeace, were "saved," and some were not.
Makepeace returned to tell the guards about the size of the city, and about the furniture on the sidewalk and the posters. But darkness had fallen, so the guards talked about their lives. Tolya had trained to be a priest. Nobody had grown up in a proper city like this one.
Tolya said that the Zone had once been a big industrial city called Polyn. The city now visible was known as Polyn 66, and was incredibly advanced and secret, a hive of scientists. It had to be reached by air. Here, the scientists worked hard on forbidden knowledge. The government continued to supply it even when shortages came. the government, however, used anthrax to keep the city controlled, not wanting the scientists to become living gods.
Sometime after midnight when the others were asleep, Makepeace swapped her gun for Osip's better one, took the Tungus boy and Tolya's horse, and the pair fled into the city.
In the city, Makepeace went into an abandoned mansion, where she found a dead body and the remains of a pig. She continued up the stairs of the building and out onto the roof, from where she could see the prisoners working. Makepeace was melting snow in a pail when she heard shots ring out, as one of the prisoners tried to escape.
That night, she broke into an apartment in the house and found a neat bed and a girl's diary. This made her think about Ping. She also found a memory stone in a drawer.
Makepeace fell asleep on the bed and woke at the sound of her horse hollering; someone had been trying to steal him. She raced off after the thief and found that it was Shamsudin.
Makepeace fetched water for him and then put him to bed in the stairwell. By this point, all the other prisoners had died. When Shamsudin came around in the morning, Makepeace gave him food and told him he was free to go. The guards, unable to find Makepeace, had now set off.
The memory stone would not work, but it served as a mirror, so Makepeace kept it. She and Shamsudin left the Zone around noon, passing Zulfugar's body on the way. Shamsudin paused to say a prayer and buried the corpse, although Makepeace told him not to touch the body.
Shamsudin said that the prisoners had been split into pairs when they entered the city. Their maps led them to parts of the city where they were directed to break into storerooms and take batteries and other useful items. Zufulgar cut his hand open trying to find more material. Shamsudin ended up in a bunker. He thought he was lost, until he found a huge storeroom filled with flasks glowing with blue light. Shamsudin had taken two of these, and he held one up now for Makepeace. When he escaped the bunker, the flask seemed to heal the wound in Zulfugar's hand instantly.
Zulfugar then determined that he would go back and tell Tolya what he had found and demand more rations in response. However, when he turned to leave the city, a guard shot him.
On the third night of travel with Makepeace, Shamsudin caught a fever. The flask didn't work against it. However, when Makepeace inadvertently drew out the memory stone, it was alive again and showed a girl speaking. Shamsudin interpreted the Russian: "This is how I lived. This is who I was." This made Makepeace fear that the girl had known the end was coming.
A few days later, Shamsudin's fever was worse. Just before he died, moved by a fear of coming death, he and Makepeace made love. Then the fever worsened still further. Sores erupted on Shamsudin's face, and he died. Then the horse died.
This isolated section marks a turning point in Makepeace's journey. She has been elevated from prisoner to guard, and her desire to escape remains ever-present. However, unlike some who have been elevated to the position of guard, Makepeace has retained her humanity, which was instilled into her by her parents. She is concerned not only about the fate of her friends Shamsudin and Zufulgar, but also about what might happen to the young Tungus boy the group of guards encounter on their travels. Makepeace wants to escape from captivity for her own sake, but she also wants to help those who have helped her to escape with her. At the same time, she continues to think about Ping, who remains a touchstone in her life. Meanwhile, a second memory stone appears as a literal touchstone, which helps Makepeace begin to make sense of the world she is living in. It is increasingly clear that some sort of terrible incident must have occurred, which the inhabitants of Polyn 66 may have known on some level was coming.
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