Kendra, Max’s room-mate, has a temp job for a Japanese scientist who is in town on a conference. The scientist is a geneticist whose company took a severely disabled child, Jude and, after working on him, turned him into a child genius. What intrigues Max is that they did this after the boy was born – and she sees an opportunity to correct her own DNA and her seizures.
Checking in with Logan, she gets herself some fake press credentials so she can visit the conference. She gets the afternoon off (and checks up with Original Cindy’s life) before going to the conference, introducing herself to Dr. Tanaka and wowing him with his knowledge to insinuate herself into the proceedings where Jude proves what an all round prodigy he is.
Max instantly see parallels with her own life – how Mantecore trained and shaped them, changed their bodies to make them more perfect then engaged in intensive training. Jude’s upbringing was kinder – but she can see the parallels. Then Lydecker enters the room and sits next to her - and makes nice. Though Max can’t stand him (obviously) and she’s visibly repulsed by Kendra’s suggestion that he’s hitting on her, she remembers her training. Deception is a tool and she can learn more about him by talking to him and his work with “gifted” children.
Her conversation is interrupted by the May 22nd movement lead by John Darius – a group of armed men and women who take over the room with the goal of “liberating” Jude. Hotel security manages to pass warning and the hotel is locked down; because she won’t be searched, Lydecker makes Max hide his gun. Outside, Max’s friends at Jam Pony and Logan and Bling all watch the news on the television.
Darius’s goal is to give Jude a real home rather than have him used as a “lab rat.” The police – Matt Sung – calls to negotiate but Darius says they will kill 1 hostage every hour until they get safe passage for his people and Jude. And the first hour’s up and they throw Dr. Tanaka off the roof of the hotel. Max and Lydecker have more sparring about the raising of children, whether they need comfort or to harden up and be ready to deal with the hard life of the post-pulse world. He speaks of the pulse as being a good thing since it strengthened people and made the world harsher.
Outside, Max’s friends at Jam Pony join the crowd outside the hotel. Logan talks to the military in charge of the negotiators and offers to speak to Darius since he’s interviewed him before and knows Darius. He offers to spread the word and Darius’s message rather than let the government bury it – but only if he lets the hostages go. In response, Darius agrees to the let women go – but not Jude. And Logan enters the building to speak face to face. Seeing Logan staying, Max decides to stay as well, knocking out one of the men guarding her.
Unfortunately releasing the hostages doesn’t go to plan as the military decides to snipe the guards and try to land soldiers on the roof. In response, Darius plans to kill Logan since he negotiated the women’s release, throwing him off the building like they did Tanaka. Except, Logan has Max there to dramatically bungee off the roof and catch him. Worse, the military intends to raid the building regardless of the hostages – the hostages are expendable.
Max is free and wandering the halls, taking down men, determined to free Jude. As the May 22nd men leave they start to take hostages to hide behind. Lydecker tries to make his move and is knocked down easily – and one of the kidnappers points a gun at the back of his head, ready to fire. Max watches… and saves him at the last second, breaking the shooter’s neck. She runs on, takes down Darius and takes Jude out of the building.
In the aftermath, several soldiers are beating Darius until Lydecker arrives and shoots him – so he won’t arrive in court looking beaten up. He asks for Jude so he can take him to Mantecore – but Max has already got him clear and into Logan’s contacts (ironically, the purported goal of the May 22nd movement)
Max is reunited with her friends and she and Logan discuss Lydecker –in particular that the way he spoke of his “special” children having “flaws” implies something far worse than Max’s seizures.
We also have some good depictions of Logan in a wheelchair and resenting it – including falling and then hiding the fact from max. he’d rather get himself up and back into his chair, even if he has to struggle, than face her pity or deal with her thinking him weak. It speaks a lot for how we view the disabled and how pity can be so erosive – and how even asking for reasonable accommodation and help comes with its own burden of shame. His resentment of the idea of a cure and his unwillingness to hope for one are also powerful.
Again, we have wonderful depictions of the dystopia without having to make a big song and dance about it – the shortages the restrictions. But we also see even better elements of class and how the pulse has hit different sectors of the population differently. While so many live in poverty, the exclusive hotel the conference is held in is barely affected. And, of course, the corporation Dr. Tanaka works for was able to, effectively, buy Jude from his mother who was a drug addict and a prostitute. For that matter, the fact he needed such severe medical care and would not have received it because his mother couldn’t afford it. He would have died if the company hadn’t bought him.
I’m not sure why Max didn’t let Lydecker die. I can understand compassion and not wanting the death on her conscience – but she did actually kill someone to save him. Squeamish about seeing someone killed – someone truly evil she has every reason to hate – so she kills someone else? I could understand if she didn’t snap his neck, but the killing raises a question of true motivation (despite Logan’s insistence of “life good, murder bad”)? Misplaced loyalty, training? She justifies it by her needing to get more information about what Mantecore did to the X-5s.