28: An Illusion of Paradise
Byron turned on his seat, lifted himself up so he was looking down on Chris, relaxing with his feet on the chair opposite. “And you, of course, would know all about hoarding the miracles of modern science. I wonder, how many impoverished families could you feed with your personal supplies? How many could you clothe and bathe and home? You, living your idyllic life in a manor fit for a king, while they cower in the dark, nothing to spare them from the pain of life but the bliss of the daily needle.”
Save for a Seelie weather forecast talking of storms moving down from the north, the carriage was silent. Even the Theatre staff had stopped their private discussions to watch the conflict unfold.
Chris dismissed Byron’s argument with a shrug. “No, seriously, go look up the Prometheus Clause. There’s a very good reason why we don’t hand out Seventh Terrace technology to anyone who asks for it. Have you seen what happens when you give people that kind of power? It’s not pretty.”
Dante’s fingers brushed against the Tablet in his cloak pocket. It didn’t say anything about a ‘Prometheus Clause’, but it did have plenty to say about outsiders misappropriating modern technology to manipulate the masses. After all, that was where all those stories of faeries and magic came from: significantly advanced technology, misused and misunderstood. It was strange to hear someone else refer to it, especially someone like Chris Shaw, who took such pride in his Malkuthian heritage he drove around town in a sleek machine and wore the City’s neon-trimmed fashions without restraint.
“I do not care for your rules,” Byron replied. “You hoard so that others think you saviours when you throw a scrap of food their way, but I see through your lies. People should have a choice. Give them the power to save themselves and, if they squander it on frivolous fashions and Cybersphere fantasies, let them suffer the consequences.”
“And I say we help people live within their means, rather than hand them the power to destroy themselves and everything around them.”
On one side, the self-righteous babbling of his friend, who wanted nothing more than true freedom for the masses, on the other side, the reasoned arguments of Malkuth, the ideology of the Saptamatrikas, strict control, obedience. Both had their truths, both had their lies, and both had their pains, their consequences. Dante couldn’t choose between them. And, judging from the silence, nor could anybody else.
Overhead, a disembodied female voice announced that they had reached their destination and the shuttle, with only the slightest of shudders, came to a standstill.
Sohrabarak al-Hakim rose from his seat with a clap of his hands. “As much as we encourage debate, I think we have more pressing concerns, yes?”
With a chattering of noise, the brief debate faded from memory as the initiates bundled themselves onto the platform outside. It was identical to the one they boarded at, with curved, featureless walls and strips of daylight lighting that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Torsten catacombs. It was a far cry from the island in Phoenix Rogan’s video. As the initiates reunited with their luggage, some were quick to voice their disappointment.
“Is this it?” asked Joel. “Where’s the beach?”
Doyle Kennedy agreed. “And where’re the babes?”
I’ll let you decide which side to take.