The second book is called Locksmith's Journeys. It reveals how and why the portal was created, and whose hands it passed through. It also reveals the nature of the disaster that destroyed the human race. Here are some quotes from it.
It was nearly midnight when Locksmith finished the last of his homework and studying. Exams were coming up next week, and the teachers seemed to be openly fighting each other for shares of their students’ time. (Strange to be worrying about passing tests when the human race was in jeopardy, but there he was.)

A few weeks ago, he and Gary had hidden five quarters where they wouldn’t be found for a hundred years, then gone through the portal and brought them back. They’d done this again and again until they had thousands of quarters, adding up to $640 each. This had seemed like a good idea at the time.

For some reason, the first thing he thought of was the cartoons he’d watched when he was younger — the ones with superheroes and good versus evil and stuff. There was always that one scene where the hero could just kill the bad guy and be done with it, but he never did, because (he said) if he did, he’d be just as bad as the bad guy.
Of course, even in cartoons this didn’t really work — the bad guy always got away and came back next week and they had to do the whole thing all over again. Even as a child, Lock had wondered why somebody didn’t just call up the hero and say, “Look, we trust you. We don’t think you’re about to start robbing banks or trying to take over the world or whatever. Now this time, please finish him off so the rest of us can get on with our lives.” The people who made the shows were definitely trying to teach some kind of lesson, but Lock couldn’t tell what it was.

“I mean, he starts off halfway sane, but then he just gets weirder and more paranoid and before you know it he’s fallen off the map. Like the time he started talking about these Dutch paintings and the merchants who paid for them, then he got going on the national debt, and finally he was saying the Asian central banks were bribing the Federal Reserve by shipping them girls from Thailand…”

“Be quick, be discreet, be casual… just don’t get caught,” said Mom. Lock nodded and was out the door.
He walked towards the school, glancing from side to side. When he saw a red station wagon in the next row, he meandered over in that general direction. Another couple of casual glances showed that it was a Volvo, and that the last two digits of the license number were indeed 7 and 1. Lock almost turned and headed straight for the school right there, but thought better of it and decided to keep going as if he hadn’t found what he was looking for — or, for that matter, been looking for anything at all. Chances were nobody was even watching his little performance out here, but there was no point being careless. He took out his phone and speed-dialed his mom.
“It’s here,” he said.

Taking the English exam, Lock realized how much he’d missed by joining classes at the beginning of April. He’d read Gary’s notes, and a few of the earlier stories, but it seemed there were still a few gaps in his knowledge. Still, at least he could give answers to questions about the stories he’d read, unlike those godawful “discussion questions” in the textbook. (Math was easier — you got it right or you didn’t, but either way you didn’t have to talk about your feelings.)

“Portal or no portal, sooner or later everybody comes to terms with the fact that nothing and nobody lasts forever. What they usually decide is that just because something is temporary doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.”

Gary’s handwriting was tiny, but very clear — better than that of most teachers, although Lock suspected they still complained about it. (More than once over the course of his schooling, Lock had gotten an assignment back from a teacher with a note he couldn’t read, and when he’d asked the teacher about it, the teacher had said, without a hint of embarrassment, “It says you need to work on your penmanship.”)

The minute she poked her head in the doorway, the sharp smell of vomit hit her nose. The door had been pushed off the other side of the portal, and there was no one in there. What was there was… the weirdest and most disgusting thing she had ever seen in her entire life.
It was a blob of thick yellowish… fluid. Mostly fluid, anyway. Lee had no trouble figuring out what it was. It was rising into the air above the portal. It slowed down, then stopped and hung in the air for a fraction of a second, then fell through. Then it rose again, and fell again. Moving of its own accord, it looked horribly alive.
Lee watched for a moment, fascinated in spite of herself. The chunderbolt (that was the only word she could come up with for it) was already spreading out, forming elaborate little patterns of arcs and droplets in the air that might have been beautiful if they had been made of something else. Still, it was surprisingly small — but then, Lee had never seen it quite like this. Usually it was splattered all over the floor or the toilet.

“If you think about it,” he said, “we see into the future all the time. When you walk down the street, or ride your bike, you look ahead, and you’re seeing where you’re going to be a few seconds from now… suppose you’re riding your bike and you see a pothole in the street up ahead, right where you’re about to go. You don’t just go ahead and hit it, right?… And when you move, it’s not in front of you any more. You’re not going to hit it. It hasn’t disappeared — it’s still real — but your worldline doesn’t intersect with it anywhere. And if you were never going to go down that stretch of road again… But you can’t go to the future and see the changes you make until after the point where you’ve already made them in the present. Does that make sense?”
There was a long pause.

“I know what you mean,” said Gary, “but on the other hand, has any other animal ever set up a wildlife preserve? Or put hunting and fishing restrictions on itself? I mean, can you imagine lions having a bag limit on the number of zebras they kill?” They all shook their heads.
“Animals have been hunting and competing each other into extinction for billions of years,” Gary continued. “That’s what evolution is all about. Our problem is, we’re way too good at it. But we know we’re too good at it, and we can at least try to dial it back. As far as we know, we’re the only species that can do that. I mean, we can actually value other species for their own sake.”
“Well, we don’t do it often enough,” said Tara. “Or not enough of us.”
“Exactly. We don’t live up to our own ideals, but we’ve still got the ideals. So you can say ‘we’re horrible, we’re destroying the earth, we deserve to die’ but the minute you say that, you’re actually kind of saying the opposite, because if we were really that bad, you wouldn’t be saying it, because you wouldn’t… care…” He looked around at their bewildered faces. “I think I need to come up with a better way of putting that.”
“If my head explodes,” said Tara, “I’m totally making you clean it up.”

"What we're doing — keeping this whole thing a secret — is wrong," said Lucy. "I mean morally, ethically wrong, not just… you understand there's a difference between trying to do the right thing, and trying to get the right results?" Lock nodded, although this sounded like something he’d have to think about a lot more before he really got it.

Note: The following is an assessment of a sequence in Locksmith's Journey's in which Locksmith, learning to fly, enacts a "stall and recovery."
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