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Free Study Guide: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - Free BookNotes

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ALAS, BABYLON: FREE STUDY NOTES / PLOT SUMMARY

CHAPTER 13

Summary

One morning in November, Randy and Dan are talking. Dan tells Randy that he is in love with Helen. He would like to marry her, but Helen is reluctant to remarry until she is certain that Mark is dead.

Later in November, a low-flying plane flies over the town and drops leaflets. The leaflets announce that the planes are government planes conducting atmospheric surveys. This is a preliminary step to the government providing relief to the Contaminated Zones.

In December, a helicopter lands on the lawn outside the house. The men inside are dressed in full contamination gear and take air samples. They check Randy with a Geiger counter. Once they are satisfied that he is clear, they call a colonel down from the helicopter. The colonel is Paul Hart, whom Randy last saw that December day when he met Mark for lunch at McCoy Air Base. Paul is now in the Decontamination Command, the largest and most important military command. Paul tells Randy what he has been doing since "The Day" and gives him some important news - Fort Repose is in the middle of the largest clear area in the Florida Contaminated Zone.


Helen asks Paul about Omaha and SAC headquarters. Paul tells her that there were a few survivors from SAC, but Mark was not one of them. Helen is now certain that Mark is dead. Paul tells Randy that it will be a very long time before anyone in the country has electricity again. With ports destroyed, the country’s best chance for electricity, ironically, is nuclear power. Before the country can be of much help to the people living in the Contaminated Zones the government has to get the clear areas back in working order. Some of the Contaminated Zones will take a thousand years to bring back to normal.

America is now, at best, a secondary power; more accurately, it is a tertiary power. America has a population about the same as France had before the war. South America and south Asian countries are helping the U.S. with lend-lease programs and foreign aid. Hopefully, Venezuela could provide oil for the U.S., although it was unlikely that anyone would see gasoline available for civilian use in their lifetime.

Paul offers to take Randy and his neighbors out of Fort Repose and relocate them in a clear area. All refuse. As Paul is about to leave, Randy asks Paul to bring him supplies for the doctor. Helen remembers that she has a prescription for Dan’s glasses. She gives the prescription to Paul to have filled.

Finally, they ask the unanswered question: who won the war? Paul tells them that the U.S. won the war, for all that it mattered now. Paul leaves and Randy “...turned away to face the thousand-year night.”

Notes

Helen will not marry Dan because she had heard too many stories of presumed widows remarrying, only to find later that their presumably dead husbands were alive. Situations like this were a mess for all involved, and Helen will not consider herself a widow, free to remarry, until she knows for sure that Mark is dead. Several chapters earlier, Lib tells Randy that she was making a special project of getting Helen and Dan together - it would appear that her project succeeded.

The first low-flying plane was conducting atmospheric surveys, mapping clear areas in the Contaminated Zones. The second plane was conducting more detailed surveys in addition to dropping leaflets. Ironically, the leaflets would soon find a new use - toilet paper.

Finally, word from the outside comes in the person of Paul Hart. In Chapter 2, Paul was Randy’s escort at McCoy when Randy went to meet Mark shortly before "The Day". Now, Paul is a full colonel in charge of providing recovery assistance to the Florida Contaminated Zone. He had specifically asked for Florida, hoping to find some word of his wife in Orlando. When he flew over the remains of Orlando, he could not even find where his house once was, much less any information about his wife.

Paul provides them with information that they have not had since Sam Hazzard’s radio went out in May. They have had no way of knowing what shape the rest of the country was in, or even who won the war. Paul tells them all that he knows, and this encourages Randy and his neighbors to face the difficult challenges that lie ahead.


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