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We get a little more back story in this section, but it's as bizarre as the rest of this narrative.
This is Part 5 of the novel, and Schusterman starts it off with a tiny excerpt that explains what an airline graveyard is, I guess for those of us who live in caves and don't know what one is.
This chapter is just a list of rules for the Graveyard, which the Admiral makes every Unwind kid memorize. None of them seem unreasonable, for a guy taking care of 432 kids in the middle of the desert. For example, boys don't live with girls, everyone has to work, no teen rebellion. The only one that might give us pause is Rule # 3: My Way is the Only Way. The Admiral is the boss, with no checks on his power or authority. Except, I guess, the check of teens rebelling, which frankly -- give the origin of some of the Unwinds -- is something he should be worrying about.
I can't decide if we're supposed to read the Admiral as a villain or not. Maybe it will come clear later.
Our main characters get assigned jobs. Risa is a medic, Connor does repairs. Roland, cast as our most apparent villain, gets assigned to helicopter maintenance. (The Graveyard has a helicopter, plus a pilot who flies the Admiral around.)
They're assigned these jobs by the Goldens, a group of five kids who are the Admiral's second in command. Don't get attached to these kids, btw.
Connor's point of view. He notices Roland building a coalition of kids around himself, via his evil manipulative ways. Connor builds a coalition of kids around himself too, but that's okay, because he does it with his natural integrity.
Also Connor is changing. Why? Because Risa. He thinks of Risa before he acts, and this makes him act more carefully and with more forethought. See? All bad boys need is a good woman to civilize them. (Also, that's the job of women: civilizing bad boys.)
We also find out about "Work calls," which are basically when the Admiral sells Unwind kids as slave labor to people outside the Graveyard. It's all work like cleaning houses and clearing land. The kids do not get paid, though they do get hidden from the Unwind Authorities.
Roland starts a rumor that the Admiral is also selling kids to the Unwind authorities, and benefiting by getting organs and such himself. Frankly, it's a believable rumor.
Lev is brought in with a new transport of Unwinds. Connor punches him and then hugs him. Later, Lev warns Connor not to punch him again. Connor says he'll only punch Lev when he has it coming. Lev accepts these terms.
Violence is justified if someone misbehaves, apparently.
The Admiral pretends his coffee pot is broken (he lives in an old Air Force One plane) as an excuse to get Connor to come "fix" it -- really to get enlist Connor as one of his spies. He shows Connor the bodies of the Goldens, and claims "someone" among the Unwind kids has killed them. A rebellion is brewing!
Or the Admiral killed these kids himself, a possibility that doesn't occur to Connor, and seems hella more likely to me. Connor suspects Roland, but how would Roland kill five kids who are older and better connected than he is?
The Admiral thinks Connor's constant fighting is just fine. He's using violence to "fix" things, see, so that's okay.
This comment does not set off alarms in Connor's mind. I don't know if we're supposed to think Connor is really smart or really stupid.
We find out the Admiral had his own son unwound. Once again, this sets off no alarms in Connor's mind. Instead, he feels pity for the poor Admiral who "had" to kill his own kid.
We also get some background about the "Heartland War," the big war between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice people which led to people being Unwound.
“There were dark days leading up to the war. Everything that we think defines right and wrong was being turned upside down. On one side, people were murdering abortion doctors to protect the right to life, while on the other side people were getting pregnant just to sell their fetal tissue….It was beyond madness!"
Wow, yeah, that does sound crazy. And I suspect this is one of the places which made the Library Journal call this book "fair and balanced."
But in fact, of course, while it is true that "Pro-Life" people are killing doctors and nurses and bombing women's clinics, no one on the Pro-Choice side is actually getting pregnant just to sell their fetal tissue. That's not just a lie, it's a vile and ridiculous lie.
Anyway, the Admiral says he helped write the "Bill of Life" because it stopped the Heartland War.
We brokered a peace by bringing both sides to the table. Then we proposed the idea of unwinding, which would terminate unwanteds without actually ending their lives. We thought it would shock both sides into seeing reason—that they would stare at each other across the table and someone would blink. But nobody blinked. The choice to terminate without ending life—it satisfied the needs of both sides.
This is insulting to both sides of this argument. It assumes that "Pro-Choice" people just want to kill children, and don't care how it happens. And it assumes "Pro-Life" people are fine with killing 13 year olds if those 13 years deserve it.... which, well, okay, that's not too far off the mark. But still.
The Admiral says this is why he had to send his son to be Unwound -- because he helped write the bill, and because his son was a trouble-making kid. The sort, the Admiral adds, that we would have once sent to the military.
I mean, boys will be boys, right.
But now, the Admiral says sadly, we just Unwind such kids. Boys cannot be boys anymore. It is so sad. (This does not fit with all the kids we've seen being raised to go into the Army, but go off, I guess.)
The Admiral says in memory of his son, he started this Graveyard, to save Unwinds. He says he's saved more than a 1000 kids so far. Given that there are 432 kids at the Graveyard now, this is also a red flag, but Connor doesn't notice anything. I guess he's bad at math?
Also we find out Connor knows some things about guns. How? Who knows.
We're 60% through the book. At least things are happening again now.