“What are your plans for them?” Elena sounded tired. She clasped her hands in her lap, and Patrick laid one hand over hers. He’d said nothing all this time, but now broke his silence.
“Yes, Harris. What do you intend to do with them? Continue to take them away from their parents? Keep them locked up for their entire lives?”
Like Elena, he sounded tired, but also as if something had broken inside him. Hannah tried to imagine what it would be like to have given up a child to be killed, terrible enough on its own, and then discover that the child had been alive all these years, and had grown up being treated like a lab animal. She shook her head hard, and closed her eyes, willing herself not to cry.
“How is it that you were allowed to do this?” It was Elena again.
“Well, that’s a long story, and it involves quite a bit of politicking. I don’t want to bore you with all the details. Let’s just say that if you gather enough political power, you can do a lot of things that aren’t allowed.” Harris sounded downright smug. “When I was made head of the research center, I set up the project with the help of a few center staff who believed in my goals.”
“What about your new project? Sarita didn’t tell me about this.” Patrick pointed at Michel. “Did she know about the throwbacks when she accepted your job offer?”
“No, she didn’t. They have nothing to do with her job. She’ll learn about them in the normal course.”
“You persuaded her to join you by keeping her in ignorance.”
“What difference does it make? That’s a different issue altogether. I offered her interesting work and she accepted. She doesn’t have to know every aspect of the project.”
“It’s a different issue? Do you think I’m so stupid that I can’t put two and two together?” He was furious, and Elena put out a hand to restrain him from getting up. She turned toward Hannah for a second, looking worried. Maybe she was regretting the decision to let her stay.
“We all know you’re far from stupid, Patrick. I still don’t understand what point you’re trying to make.” Harris no longer looked as if he was enjoying himself.
“Sarita brought me up to date on your findings about our population decline, about the council’s decision to change the recruitment procedures. To throw out every ethical guideline.”
“I fully expected she would. After all, I did hope she could persuade you to join us. But what are you getting at? Those ethical guidelines have failed to serve us. It was time for a change.”
“But the council didn’t know how much of a change they were agreeing to, did they?”
“What do you mean?” Harris tensed slightly.
“They think your whole plan is to infect people who’d been invited, but refused to join us. To allow barely trained Ancien to make their own choices and infect people who don’t even know we exist. Was that merely a coverup for what your real plan?”
“What are you talking about, Patrick? You’re not making any sense.” Harris’s tone was scornful, but Hannah could hear the underlying wariness.
You’re going to use the throwbacks to increase our population.” Patrick heard Elena gasp and turned to look at her. “He’s going to turn them loose on an unsuspecting population.”