|Adam Ewing •|
1 & 11
2 & 10
|Luisa Rey •|
3 & 9
|Timothy Cavendish •|
4 & 8
5 & 7
In this, the third story, Rufus Sixsmith reappears again, the same man to whom Robert Frobisher corresponded in the previous chapter. Now, however, Rufus Sixsmith is at the end of his life and has had an illustrious career as a physicist. As the story begins, he is on a balcony having a mental duel with himself. He is obviously conflicted about something, but the reader doesn't yet know what about. He spies a young woman in an adjacent balcony. She, too, seems conflicted.
By chance, Sixsmith and the young woman, Luisa Rey, arrive at the elevator at the same time. A random meeting becomes more personal when the elevator is stopped for forty minutes due to a power outage. As they wait for the elevator to begin again, Luisa tells Sixsmith about her famous father, a former police officer and renowned Vietnam reporter, who had recently died. Luisa is a reporter for a gossip magazine, Spyglass.
Sixsmith shows her a picture of his niece, Megan; he alludes to his ethical dilemma, and is on the brink of telling her the problem that is consuming him when the elevator begins again.
In the offices of Spyglass the next morning, amidst the usual magazine room chaos, Luisa suggests to her boss, Don Grelsch, that she do an expose on Seaboard Corporation's HYDRA project. She tells him of her meeting Sixsmith and what she believed he was about to tell him. Grelsch reluctantly agrees to the project, but gives her only a few days.
Luisa drives out that day to Swannekke Island, the site of the HYDRA project, in hopes of meeting Sixsmith again. At the entrance of the facility, she meets a group of protestors as well as the company's PR liaison, Fay Li. Luisa tells Fay Li that she's there to do an article on the Swannekke Island facility.
Joe Napier, the Seaboard head of security, watches his many security cameras and marvels at the facility's getting eleven out of twelve scientists to go along with the unsound and potentially dangerous HYDRA project. Sixsmith, of course, is the twelfth.
Meanwhile Alberto Grimaldi, the CEO of Seaboard Corporation, is addressing a press conference and extolling the virtues and safety of the HYDRA project. In the middle of his address, Luisa Rey sneaks off to find Sixsmith. Bluffing her way into his office, she finds instead of Sixsmith, an engineer named Isaac Sachs going through the scientist's office drawers. She identifies herself as Sixsmith's niece and is on the verge of learning what has happened to the scientist when Fay Li arrives and escorts her out of the office wing.
Sixsmith is holed up in a small hotel. He is watching T.V. and sees Grimaldi lying about the project's safety. "When the hydrogen buildup blows the roof off the containment chamber?" Then what? He asks the television. His telephone rings with an anonymous warning that "they" have found him, and that Sixsmith should leave the country immediately.
At the airport, Sixsmith mails the key to his expose to Luisa Rey, unbeknownst to her. He finds that his plane has been delayed until the next morning, and there are no other flights leaving before then. He gets a room at the airport hotel and nervously awaits the next day. He takes out a sheaf of letters written to him in the 1930s by his friend Robert Frobisher (the letters from Zedelghem). Before going to the hotel restaurant, he stows the nine letters he's already read in the hotel's Bible and takes the rest to dinner with him.
While Sixsmith is at dinner, the "fixer," Bill Smoke, lets himself into the room and waits. When Sixsmith returns, Smoke shoots Sixsmith once in the temple and stages it to appear a suicide. Luisa learns of Sixsmith's death from the paper the next day and in addition to being shocked, she doubts it is truly a suicide.
Luisa visits the scene of the crime, claiming again to be Sixsmith's niece. She is given the nine Frobisher letters, which housekeeping had found in the Bible. Back at the magazine office, her editor is less than enthusiastic that she is spending so much time on the Sixsmith story, but agrees to a few more days. Reading about Frobisher's "Cloud Atlas Sextet" in his letters to Sixsmith, she enlists the aid of a local record dealer in obtaining a copy.
The next day Luisa visits the Swannekke plant again, saying she is still working on an article about the plant. On her way in, she meets with the head of the anti-nuclear protesters who are camped out in the lawn of the facility. The woman, Hester van Zandt expresses her skepticism about Sixsmith's suicide and tells Luisa another story about the elderly woman who refused to sell the land adjacent to the plant and who was recently beaten into a coma by unknown parties. Hester suspects that Seaboard was behind the assault.
While Luisa is talking to Hester, the Seaboard group - Joe Napier, Fay Li, Mr. Grimaldi, and Bill Smoke, are discussing Luisa and whether she poses a threat to them. Fay tells the group that she's invited Luisa to visit the plant, stay the night at their on-site hotel and attend the banquet that night. That way they will be able to keep an eye on her.
Meanwhile, Isaac Sachs, the young man Luisa found in Sixsmith's office on her first visit to Swannekke Island, is struggling with his conscience. He, too, knows the dangers inherent with the HYDRA project and is debating whether he should say something to Luisa.
At the banquet, Luisa is playing the "ditzy" reporter, hoping to get a chance to talk candidly with other dissident Seaboard employees. She meets Sachs at the banquet and joins him later in the hotel bar. Gradually, Sachs steers the conversation around to Sixsmith's HYDRA report. He hints that he knows of this report but stops short of telling her where to find a copy. They agree to meet for breakfast. The next morning Sachs sends his apologizes via Joe Napier. It seems that he has been called away on the company jet on Seaboard business. Later that evening, Luisa is still at the Seaboard facility when she receives a call from Sachs, telling her in code that he has left a copy of Sixsmith's report in her car. Although it's very late, Luisa decides to get out of the Seaboard compound right away.
She is followed out of the plant by Bill Smoke, who has overheard her telephone conversation. As Luisa goes over the bridge leading out of Swannekke Island, Smoke rams his car into Luisa's Volkswagen and sends her careening into the water. The chapter ends with Smoke leaning over the guardrail, admiring his work.
In the first few lines of the second "Luisa Rey" chapter it is revealed that Luisa survives her car plunging into the water. She pulls herself from the wreckage of the underwater car, but returns to the car to look for the Sixsmith report. Gasping air from an air bubble inside the car, she tries in vain to retrieve the report. She fears that she's waited too long and will drown while looking for the document.
Meanwhile, Isaac Sachs is flying back from his meeting in Philadelphia and is pleased (and relieved) about his decision to give Luisa the report. Flying with him are the company president, Alberto Grimaldi, and nine others. Suddenly, a suitcase bomb stowed in the baggage compartment explodes, and the plane is consumed in flames. Lloyd Hooks gets the message during a speech from Bill Smokes that Luisa, Sachs, and Grimaldi are all dead.
Luisa makes it to the surface, helped by the protestor, Hester Van Zandt. Luisa decides to let the Seaboard people think that she is dead and plans to stay with her mother for a few days. Hester's friend, however, betrays her to Joe Napier at Seaboard. When Luisa stops by her apartment to pack a few thinks, Napier is there waiting for her.
Napier tells Luisa that he's there to warn her, that her father, Lester, saved his life and he owes him enough to protect his daughter. Luisa doesn't know who to believe, but she listens. Meanwhile, in Luisa's mother's house, Bill Smokes is charming the lady of the house and pretending to be a junior partner in a local law firm. Luisa has never met him face-to-face, so she is not alarmed to see him at her mother's fund raiser luncheon. She does, however, notice his intense stare. It is here that Luisa learns of the plane crash that killed Sachs and Grimaldi.
The next day, in the Spyglass newsroom, the buzz is that the magazine is being sold. Grelsch, their boss, arrives and confirms the rumor. Luisa is too stunned by the events of the past few days to much care.
Napier learns the news of the plane crash and is understandably stunned. He is called into the office of the Vice CEO and offered a generous early retirement package. In the span of a day, he has gone from insider to liability. He decides to take the offer and be done with the goings on at Seaboard.
Luisa, meanwhile, has tracked down a copy of Frobisher's "Cloud Atlas Sextet." When she goes to pick it up, it is playing on the record shop sound system. She swears that she has heard the recording before, although it's nearly impossible that she could have. Returning to the office, Luisa learns that she's been fired, orders of the new owners.
Napier heads out of town to his cabin, set on enjoying his retirement, but he's haunted by the happenings at Seaboard; the murders of Grimaldi, Sachs, and Sixsmith and the attempted murder of Luisa. After only one night, he packs up his gear and heads back into town to help Luisa.
Seaboard announces that Lloyd Hooks, the energy guru and political enemy of Grimaldi's, will replace him as head of Seaboard. Luisa learns that Hooks and Seaboard's vice CEO are also principals of Trans Vision, the new owner of Spyglass. It becomes clearer to her why she was fired. As she is cleaning out her desk, a folder is delivered for her. Inside is a note from Sixsmith with a key to a safety deposit box containing a copy of the Seaboard expose'.
As she reaches the bank to retrieve the report, Fay Li (the Seaboard PR director) is watching her from across the street. Fay Li, accompanied by two Chinese assistants, gets to the bank vault ahead of Luisa. Fay has sold out to a rival company and is dreaming of how she will spend the five million that the report will earn her. Luisa is startled to find Fay in the vault and Fay uses Luisa's confusion to get the key from her. Fay opens the strongbox, but as soon as she removes the report, the box explodes, presumably rigged by Bill Smoke.
Luisa is thrown free by the explosion and, regaining her bearings, heads towards the lobby and away from the bank. A rescuer takes her hand and helps her from the building, but Luisa is wary. How did this person get to the scene so quickly? All of a sudden she is being forced into a car. At the last moment, her abductor is shot dead in front of her by Joe Napier.
Luisa runs off with Napier, but the two are followed by Bill Smoke. After a chase all over downtown Buenas Yerbas, they escape. Napier tells her that he had to come back to help her because of her father. He tells her that he's arranged for her to meet Megan Sixsmith, Rufus' niece, at a local museum and that maybe she can lead them to another copy of the report. Megan tells her that there is likely to be another copy in Sixsmith's yacht, Starfish, which is moored at the local marina.
At the yacht, Napier and Luisa easily find the report. As they are preparing to leave, a shadow fills the doorway and two shots ring out. Napier falls to the floor, bleeding copiously. Bill Smoke walks into the light. As he is preparing to kill Luisa, Napier rallies all of his last energy and shoots Smoke. In a moment, both men lay dead on the floor of the yacht.
Luisa and Hester van Zandt make the Sixsmith report public. Hooks and many of the other Seaboard executives are indicted. Hooks skips bail, but is eventually re-arrested. Luisa writes to Megan and requests the rest of Sixsmith's letters from Frobisher.
- This is the only one of the six tales told from more than one point of view.
- Sixsmith, whom Luisa meets in an elevator in the beginning of the chapter, is the same man with whom Frobisher corresponded in "Letters from Zedelghem." One learns that Sixsmith, now an old man, still keeps the well-read letters with him always. After he dies, Luisa finds half of the letters and eventually obtains the rest of them from Sixsmith's niece.
- This tale is set in California and occasional mentions are made of a nearby town called Ewingville (named after Adam Ewing), where Luisa's mother lives.
- Sixsmith's niece, Megan, is also a physicist, and has finished radioastronomy research in Hawaii, possibly working at the sam facilities found by Zachry and Meronym in Sloosha's Crossin'.
- There's also a probability that the ship that they (Megan Sixsmith, Luisa Rey and Joe Napier) passed by before the Starfish is the same ship occupied by Adam Ewing, this can be referred to when the writer stated that it is from the nineteenth-century ship named The Prophetess and Luisa felt a throb at her birthmark.
- After Luisa orders a copy of a vary rare pressing of Cloud Atlas Sextet, the clerk goes back to listening to Por que lloras blanca nina.
- When Rey talks with Issac Sachs, Sachs says he became a scientist "because... it's like panning for gold in a muddy torrent." This connects with Adam Ewing's San Francisco at the time of the gold rush.