On board the Messiah, the crew is discussing their state. Repairs to the long-range communications will be hazardous due to hull damage in the areas of the spacecraft where they are located. There is limited life-support functions left. The Messiah will need to get close to Earth again to re-establish contact.
The Orion propulsion module is still intact, but using it in order to get back to Earth sufficiently in advance of the comets will be risky because of damage to the spacecraft command module's radiation shields. As the crew ponders, Commander Monash, in sickbay with his eyes bandaged, says he feels they should try it. Tanner orders the Orion boosters engaged and the Messiah begins to race home.
Jenny is taking a walk through a park in Washington with her mother. It is just over one month before the comets are due to impact. Robin has reconciled herself to her impending fate. She's donated all of her antiques to the Ark, and takes comfort in her contribution to the preservation of human arts. Jenny, however, is guilty. She's been pre-selected because of her national status as a now well-respected news anchor, but she can do nothing for Robin. However, Robin says she's at peace with herself and is happy knowing that Jenny will live.
Leo goes to the Hotchner house, where Chuck is chaining up a motorbike he'd bought and is now quizzical over, knowing he will have no use for it. Vicky is on the porch watching a portable TV, where Jenny is delivering news coverage. As impact looms ever closer, society is teetering ever more precariously on the brink of total anarchy. A rental operator attempted to over-gouge prices on vital tools at absurdly outlandish rates, and was killed by an angry mob.
Property and stores are being looted at increasing rates by both individuals and organized gangs. Many shop and store owners have completely abandoned these stores to the looters. Law enforcement attempts to curb and rein in this free-for-all looting and hoarding, are unable to keep up with the increasing volume. As Leo helps Chuck bar up and board up his home, he starts to ask Vicky about Sarah.
Anticipating Leo's question, Vicky says that Sarah is up on a nearby hill by herself. Chuck has excused her from attending school any further. Leo goes to Sarah with good news. He's talked to local civil defense liaisons, who have said that if Sarah marries Leo, she will be eligible for participation in the Ark evacuation.
Sarah takes this news tentatively, saying she only wants to go if her parents can be included. Leo says his influence and fame come into play at this point; he's talked to appropriate liaisons, who have ensured that the whole Hotchner family will be able to be included in the Ark. As days continue to pass, Jenny continues to report on how law enforcement and fire fighters have abandoned all attempts to rein in looting of businesses in order to finish preparing and stocking both the Ark and all local shelter units. Robin is seen applying makeup and donning a formal dress and jewelry, making herself stately and beautiful. Leo and Sarah are married by a civil justice as their parents look on. Vicky has delivered her baby; Sarah now has a baby sister.
President Beck is seen at his desk in the Oval Office, deep in contemplation. Robin sits down in a comfortable armchair and lets her head tilt back, as if letting herself drift off to sleep.
The Messiah crew is asleep in their bunks, except for Commander Monash, who is still laying in the infirmary. He is stable, but permanently blind from his injury. Captain Tanner goes there to keep him company and talk. He explains his nickname of Fish-- his given name, Spurgeon, rhymes with sturgeon. The nickname was coined on his very first day at Naval Academy. As he and Monash bond, Tanner begins to read the novel Moby Dick to him, much to Monash's amusement.
August 12th arrives. All individuals and families selected both by pre-selection and the lottery are on street corners to be picked up by military buses to be transported to the Ark. The Beiderman and Hotchner families wait side by side with minimal belongings packed. As Leo shows his identification and marriage license to the bus official, everyone prepares to board. But to Leo's horror, the FCDA officials he talked to have left Chuck and Vicky Hotchner, and the baby, off of the boarding list.
The official's orders from his superiors are not to admit anyone on the bus who isn't on the boarding list. He cannot let Chuck or Vicky on. Sarah, breaking into tears, refuses to leave her parents despite her father's attempts to push her on with Leo. The bus crew has no time to sit and argue, they force Leo, his parents and young sister on board the bus and take off. Even though she refused to leave without her parents, Sarah cannot help but run a short distance after it, crying to Leo.
Jenny is in the MSNBC offices when a phone call arrives for her. As soon as she is asked if she is the daughter of Robin Lerner, she, and everyone who overheard her repeat the question asked of her, all turn grim. Robin has died, and Jenny is being asked to positively identify the body and collect the jewelry Robin was wearing when she was found. Robin's cause of death is not stated but it is safely presumed she took her own life so her final moments and death would be peaceful and painless.
After identifying Robin's body and collecting the jewelry, Jenny sits on a street bench. It is nighttime, and rain pours heavily down from the sky. Jason, who had also been notified, happens to pull alongside Jenny in his car. Jason urges Jenny to get in and he'll drive her home; Jenny is wearing no protective rain clothing.
Caring nothing about herself right now, Jenny laces into her father, taking out all her long pent-up frustration at Jason having left Robin in the first place, out on him. She gloats when Jason mentions that Chloe, frightened for her own life, has ran home to her mother, abandoning Jason. Jenny cruelly tells her father that she feels like an orphan before hailing a cab and riding off.
The Beiderman family arrives at the Ark cave.
As everyone on the bus debarks and starts to be ushered into the cave facilities, Leo suddenly stops.
His parents turn around and Leo grimly announces he is going back for Sarah. He is determined in this over his mother's frantic protests. Don pulls off his watch and rings so Leo will have something to trade. They tearfully hug him before he sets off in pursuit of Sarah.
Jason goes to see Jenny at the MSNBC offices. He tells her he's leaving Washington, but he has something for her; proof she isn't an orphan. He's brought several photographs taken at the family beach side house when Jenny was a child. Jason is holding her on his shoulders. Robin isn't in the photographs because she took the photos with her camera. It was a beautiful, happy day. Jenny seems nostalgic about the pictures but protests she was only 5 years old when the photos were taken, so she couldn't be expected to remember the day in question. Jason gives Jenny the photos to keep and says goodbye emotionally.
Leo has gotten himself a ride with a number of individuals in the loft of a private truck heading back to Virginia Beach. They are listening to a radio broadcast; the Titan missile strike has just been launched at the two comets, that are now 14 hours away from impact.
Jenny goes on the air for a news report to cover the missile strike. The comet will interfere with visual tracking, so once again the country must sit and wait until military radar can see if the comets have been pushed sufficiently off course to miss direct impact.
Cut to President Beck at the Oval Office to deliver the results. For the first time, Beck is wearing only a pullover shirt and sweater; no dress shirt; tie, or suitcoat. The missiles have failed to deflect the comets off course. Earth has exhausted all options to prevent direct impact, and massive casualties are now inevitable. Beck delivers the dire statistics forecast for the impact: Beiderman, the smaller fragment of the comet, will impact at 4:37 Eastern Daylight Time, striking in the Atlantic Ocean a short distance off of Cape Hatteras. A massive tsunami will be formed, racing toward the US Eastern Seaboard faster than the speed of sound.
As it approaches the shallower waters off the coastline, it will slow somewhat, but wave height will build up to several thousand feet. All settlements on the east coast, including the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Savannah, Charleston, Charlotte, Washington, Atlanta and Miami, will be wiped out. Beck tells everyone in these cities that have any means of hurrying westward to leave immediately.
The main body of the comet, Wolf, will strike land in Western Canada several hours later. This will be a full Extinction Level Event. Within two days after impact, dust and debris will fill the sky and create an effect similar to a 'nuclear winter' that will make the skies dark for two years. Without sunlight reaching Earth's surface, all plant life will die, followed by all animal life.