Page 84


‘Do you know yet why a Creweler is so integral to the continuation of Arras?’ he asks.
I’m confused by the sudden shift in conversation, but I regurgitate what I’ve learned from Enora and Loricel.
He puts up a hand to halt my description. ‘Yes, that’s what a Creweler does, but why we need her is something else entirely.’
‘To protect the innocent,’ I murmur.
‘Yes, but such a concept is vague to someone too young to know true tragedy,’ he says.
My parents. Enora. My sister rewoven into a stranger. How can he suggest I don’t know about tragedy?
He watches my reaction to this proclamation, but when I don’t respond, he wets his lips with his tongue before he continues. ‘You think you know loss, but before Arras and the Guild of Twelve, wars spilled blood all over the Earth. Entire generations of young men died so that other men could gain more power.’
I bite my tongue and stare back at him. Loricel has already told me all of this, but to my astonishment, I realise that he believes what he’s saying. As though he’s different from those evil men.
‘Dictators murdered women and children for having different skin colours or holding different beliefs.’ He pauses and moves a step closer to my chair. ‘Because we didn’t have the capacity to control peace.’
Control – the word that haunts me. That’s the true difference between Earth and Arras. Men like Cormac can remove taints and troublemakers and differences much more efficiently than our ancestors on Earth.
‘And are your choices better than theirs?’ I ask, gripping the arms of my chair firmly.
‘I make choices for the good of the many,’ Cormac says, but his eyes flash and he switches tactics. ‘In Arras, we ensure food is administered and available to everyone. There’s no risk of famine. We control the weather and avoid the dangers of too little water as well as the hazards of unregulated weather conditions. In the past, humanity was at the whim of nature, but now nature serves us.’
‘Perhaps there was a purpose to the natural order of things,’ I say in a soft voice, but he ignores me.
‘Families don’t watch their loved ones decline and individuals are free from the fear of unexpected death,’ he continues. ‘We’ve cured most serious illnesses with renewal technology—’
‘And the ones you haven’t?’
‘Our citizens are relieved from their pain,’ he says without missing a beat.
‘You mean you kill them,’ I accuse.
‘We remove them from a conscious state where they would exist in pain. We’ve streamlined the burdens of old age.’
My hand aches where my grandmother’s fierce grip clasped it, and I shake my head at his lies. There’s no way he’s younger than she was. The Guild’s interest lies in removing the unnecessary matter in the weave. ‘Have you ever lost anyone?’ I ask.
‘Not the same way you have,’ he admits, ‘but you should know better than anyone the pain of unexpected death.’
‘Unexpected death’ is such a political way to put it. ‘No, have you ever lost anyone to removal?’ I clarify.
‘We don’t lose in removal. We control,’ he says, his jaw muscles twitching. He’s a bit too fond of that word. ‘And yes, I had both my parents and my wife removed.’
‘Wife?’ I gasp. Cormac Patton: the ultimate bachelor. The idea of him settled down with one woman is incomprehensible.
‘I was married when I was very young,’ he says in a casual tone. ‘As you know, it’s expected that citizens form domestic units by age eighteen. I was no exception.’
Except that he’s always been the exception. The man flashes across the Stream with a fresh new girl at every Guild event. He’s the guy my father half-jokingly referred to as a lucky bastard every time we tuned in.
I try to picture the type of woman he’d marry. In my head, she’s a cross between Maela and one of the vapid rebound stewardesses. Insipid and evil – Cormac’s perfect cocktail. ‘What happened to her?’ I ask him.
‘She fell ill before renewal technology caught up with certain psychological ailments. I chose not to prolong her suffering.’ His tone is detached; he’s stating facts, but the muscles in his jaw tense and the veins from there to his shoulders go taut. This isn’t something he wants to talk about, which makes it the number one thing I want to discuss.
‘But she wasn’t dying,’ I say, my lip trembling.
‘No,’ he says, ‘but she was not a functioning member of Arras, and her condition prevented me from serving the Guild to my full capacity.’
I turn my head, afraid my eyes will give away my burning disgust. He got rid of her so he could advance politically and enjoy the benefits of being a widowed bachelor. ‘I guess that’s why you enjoy casual relationships with so many women,’ I say in a cold voice.
‘That’s the thing, Adelice. The time has come for the family unit to be promoted again in Arras,’ he says, switching on his politician’s smile.
‘I wasn’t aware it had stopped being promoted,’ I say, thinking of the marriage profiles advertised in the daily Bulletin. By now I would be attending courting appointments and searching for a compatible match. The thought sends a tremor through my chest as I imagine the life I never had.
My jibe only launches him into more rhetoric. ‘Our laws help us maintain the family, but there are an increasing number of unnatural threats to the traditional family dynamic.’