Page 35


‘These are Stream events, which I’m sure you know.’
I nod once. Guild events are required viewing in every home. They usually consist of a lot of back-patting and flashes to the beautiful, important visiting politicians. Since the Streams come in automatically, my parents usually let them play while we continued our nightly chores and activities. When we were very young, Amie and I would squeal over the lush satin dresses and sparkling jewels worn by the visiting Spinsters. Now that would be me.
‘Remember the deal we made when we first met?’
I tilt my head at Cormac curiously and sift through my recollection of that night. I hate the fuzzy final memories I have of my retrieval and the last time I saw my parents, and if I could remember more from that night, I wouldn’t want it to be memories of Cormac.
‘Stupid Valpron.’ He tilts his head again and barks: ‘Penny, the head medic for the Lewys retrieval. Put in a removal request.’
I gasp, and in the corner Jost whips toward us but doesn’t come forward.
‘So incompetent,’ Cormac tells me, but there’s no anger in his voice. He’s already moved on. His poor secretary probably hates her job.
‘I told you I had someone you loved very much and you put on a dazzling show,’ he continues.
‘Too bad you ripped her,’ I say with only the slightest break in my voice.
‘No, not your mother,’ he says. ‘Your sister, what was her name?’
‘Amie,’ I tell him in a small voice.
‘She’s been rewoven, and I’m told she is safe and happy.’
‘Happy?’ I ask doubtfully.
‘We did some modifications on her.’
‘So you turned her into someone else?’
‘She’s in essence the same,’ he assures me.
‘But you took away her memories of my family. Of me.’ I can feel the tears drying up as I struggle with this new information.
‘One of our very best Spinsters in the Northern Coventry cleaned her thread,’ he says with a patronising tone.
‘What does that even mean?’ I explode. ‘First you alter my town, and now you cleaned her thread?’
‘It’s a process we’ve been using on deviants for years. If a child shows a predisposition to violence or mischief, we go in and map his or her brain. The method allows us to follow how the individual’s brain processes information, and then we isolate the problem areas and map where the issues occur in the individual strands.’
‘So you can see how their minds function and store memories, but how does that change anything?’ I ask, looking past him, afraid to meet his eyes.
‘We can often replace parts of the thread with artificial or donated thread material. It’s a science we’re still perfecting,’ he tells me. ‘But it’s usually very successful. It’s a lot like the renewal patching that strengthens and refines an individual’s threads. Someday, we’ll be able to completely control both techniques, eradicating behavioural issues and larger problems like ageing.’
I shudder at the thought, but I’m not surprised someone like Cormac wants to control ageing.
‘If Amie’s a completely different person, I’m not sure we have a deal any more,’ I hedge, hoping he’ll reveal more about where she is or what’s happened to her.
‘Screen,’ he orders, and a burst of colour illuminates the swirling marble mantel. ‘Location service.’
‘Clearance?’ a pleasant voice prompts from somewhere in the ceiling.
‘Cormac Patton.’
‘Lewys Subject Four. Amie?’ He looks to me for confirmation, and I nod.
The abstract pattern draws together and blurs, slowly forming the shape of a young girl. Her back is to us as she walks with another girl along a shady, tree-lined lane.
‘Visual realign. Face recognition,’ Cormac orders.
It’s not necessary. The girl’s hair is pulled up loosely and it curls into soft, golden tendrils at the backs of her ears. I turn from the screen as it flashes an image of Amie, laughing, with her new friend. Happy. My heart cracks along its barely healed lines and falls back to pieces.
‘No harm done,’ he confirms. ‘Do I have a date?’
‘Do I have a choice?’ I manage to ask.
‘Of course,’ he says. ‘Although, choose wisely.’
‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ I tell him quietly, holding back the tears in my throat. There’s no way he heard me, but he doesn’t ask again. I’m grateful for a knock at the door. I couldn’t handle being with Cormac much longer. Erik ducks into the room and strides over to him.
‘You’re Maela’s assistant?’ Cormac asks smugly, staring at his wild blond hair.
Erik, to his credit, smiles and extends his hand. ‘Erik, sir.’
Cormac stands and shakes his hand. Clapping a hand over his shoulder, he turns Erik to face me. ‘Escort Miss Lewys to her quarters. Oh, and Erik?’
‘Yes, sir?’
‘Keep your hands to yourself.’
‘Of course,’ he agrees, without missing a beat.
Letting go of Erik’s shoulder, Cormac turns back to the corner.
‘Bring my meal here and order my motocarriage for pick-up in an hour,’ he orders Jost.
‘Sir.’ Jost bows and moves across the room to exit. As he passes, he dares a glance at me. Beside me Erik bristles at Jost’s appearance. I hadn’t pegged him for an elitist.