Angel in the Maze
Author: 3jane

Chapter 6
Phase two

‘Comrades! Listen carefully. This could be a seminal moment in Architect history, if we handle it right!’ Ramir calls.

They’re in the room at the back of the community hall, sitting round the metal table strewn with Ramir’s books and papers and blueprints. There are only eight of them, as well as Ramir. Mihan, Nagy, Cephall, Einor, Cave, the accountant Phi Tyndell, Ramir’s secretary Rufilla busy typing out the minutes, conservative in her high-necked grey jacket, and Vagus small and twitchy in a corner. Ramir gets to his feet and stands in front of them.

‘Comrade Murat told me this morning that we now have over 500 people who call themselves members, comrades. Is that not a remarkable statistic?’

There’s sparse but enthusiastic applause to this. Ramir smiles benevolently and Mihan is seized round the chest by the familiar swooping sensation that he gets when he’s close to Ramir.

He’s on a higher plane than us. He’s something different, something better.

‘In my meditations I was told by the Creator that when the Order was big enough, Phase Two is to begin. Comrades, let us not simply believe in the Well-Paved Road, let us act on those beliefs! Activism is the way forward. We’ve sat still and waited long enough, it’s now time to move if we’re going to make any sort of change at all.’

‘How are we to act without getting done in by Calvinus and the Industrial Front? To them we just look like another union, and we all know what happens to unions,’ Nagy replies. Mihan can barely believe Nagy’s daring: Ramir could go either way at such a remark and no one ever knows which it will be. He breathes again as Ramir smiles.

‘Ah, Comrade Murat, your realistic viewpoint is so enlightening. Where would we be without your pithy observations?’

Nagy grins sheepishly amid the laughter. Ramir gestures at them expressively.

‘Seriously, comrades; you know what to do, I’ve told you often enough. Question everything unless you know it is done properly, with the correct attitude, the correct procedure and the correct techniques. That is activism, comrades: not just listening to me, but really living it; try and be an Architect in every action, every word, every thought, and you’ll notice the difference, I promise you. Follow the Way with every fibre of your being, comrades!’

I do, Leader Ramir! Can you not see me trying?

Mihan’s desperate to communicate this to Ramir without words, perhaps through some sort of spiritual telepathy, his face electric with the effort, but there’s no obvious response, or did those powerful eyes flash his way, just for a second? He imagines it. I know what you’re going through, Mihan. I know it’s hard, but you’re doing very well. Just believe, never doubt yourself, never doubt me and you will see the light.

‘Our quest starts here, comrades. We’ve got an agenda, haven’t we? I, for one, will stop at nothing’ he emphasises the word with a stab on the table with one finger, ‘to get it realised. We’re here for a purpose, otherwise I never would have left Jerboa. You all know why we’re here, working so hard and giving so much of our time and energy, on what might to some’ he glares at Vagus, who pointedly looks the other way ‘seem pointless pursuits. Comrade Igrain. In your personal opinion, what is the point of being an Architect?’

Mihan’s throat goes dry.

I’m going to say the wrong thing. Creator help me.

‘To – to make the – the world a productive, fair, rewarding place to live, and to build the Creator’s Master Blueprint on earth to the best of our abilities,’ he gabbles, frantic to get it all out. He’ll show them he believes, how much he cares, how it’s everything to him.

‘Spoken like a true Architect, comrade. This is the sort of attitude we need among our proletarian members: which leads me to what I was originally going to talk about.’

Ramir sits down and gets out Blueprints, flicks to the middle, the bit about factories and workers. Mihan can’t stop grinning. Praise from that mighty eloquence, for his humble efforts! How sweet life is!

‘We’ve got a large number of factory workers and machinists in the Order, as Comrade Nagy will verify, and we need to concentrate on them if we’re to retain their support. This means we go to factories, we preach there, right under the capitalists’ noses. I know it’s dangerous, but think of the image we’ll get! They’ll see that our way is the best one, particularly once we leave and the capitalists vent their spleen on the workers for listening to us.’

‘Then the workers get hurt and abused for the sake of a few big words,’ Vagus says suddenly, fixing Ramir with his little eyes. The table goes dead quiet, and all they hear is the clack of the typewriter keys. Vagus doesn’t seem to notice his mistake.

‘Are you questioning my judgement, Comrade Vagus? Have you got a better idea?’ Ramir hisses at him. Mihan grimaces in sympathy, knowing the feeling when your instinctive response blurts out and you don’t mean it to.

‘No, I was – ’

‘Well don’t interrupt! If you disagree with the Master Blueprint then I think you’d better get out of here before something bad happens to you. We don’t have slackers, we don’t take the soft option and we don’t get cold feet! Understood? That goes for everyone!’

Ramir eyes them all forbiddingly before sitting down again and sighing.

‘You’re obviously blind to the finer nuances of liberation, so I’ll spell it out for you, but next time don’t object to something you don’t understand. We’re being cruel to be kind, because it’s a good analogy for believing. We show them the benefits of the Well-Paved Way, they all love it, but there’s the reminder that it was painful to get here, and it will be more painful if they don’t go on believing, because they’ll be back in a mess like this – with no rights and no voice, oppressed on all sides by corruption and poverty.’

Ramir’s voice is shaking with emotion. Mihan watches enthralled. He wants to go out there with Creator’s blessing and do it right now, get into a factory, defy the Seneschal and open people’s poor tired eyes to the wonder in the world.

‘We’re just going to look like another union; arrest isn’t going to get us anywhere, apart from in a lot of debt if we keep having to buy each other out of jail – and besides, buying your way out of trouble’s the very thing we’re against, isn’t it?’ says Nagy. Ramir snorts.

‘Then why am I bothering? What’s the point of talking about getting rid of all the corruption if we’re afraid of the way it treats us? I’m ashamed to call you comrades at times like this, you gutless bunch of malingerers. Where are your principles?’

His voice has risen to a shout and his power’s out now: when he’s angry, there’s no stopping him. Nagy looks suitably shame-faced.

Now, Mihan! Do it now! Show your love!

‘I’m with you one hundred percent, Leader Ramir!’ Mihan cries, jumping from his chair. ‘I’ll take anything Security throw at me, any torture, any punishment, I know the Master Blueprint is worth the pain!’

He’s stood up, he expects he looks stupid and yes, Vagus is torn between laughing and sneering, but he doesn’t care, it’s just so good to have confessed how he feels at last. Tyndell and Cephall get up too, they stand near Mihan.

‘We swear as well, Leader Ramir! We’re with you too!’

Then Einor, flushing, grinning, then Cave shambles up to join them with a sort of blind devotion in his ugly face that Mihan recognises instantly, it’s something he’s felt himself more than once. He towers over everyone else but he seems small and pale next to the dynamo of Ramir. Now there’s only three still sitting; Rufilla quickly leaves her typewriter and goes to stand up. Vagus drags himself over last, shrugging. Nagy is left sitting down, looking rather vulnerable amidst all the empty chairs. Rufilla, edging past Ramir, goes back to her typewriter with a murmured excuse.

‘Well, Comrade Murat?’ Ramir says a little threateningly, elated with his control over the others. Nagy nods engagingly.

‘Oh I’m in, of course I am. I was just speculating – ’

Ramir scowls and he hastily adds, ‘But there’s no need; I believe, of course I do. I was kind of… heh, you know, erm… testing my own faith, actually. Yes, er …’

Clever response, Nagy. But there’s no need, your faith is strong, if you’d only trust it and stop trying to undermine yourself with clever politicking all the time.

That’s what it’s all about; in the pursuit of rationality, of precision, of correctness, we have to let go of doubt and fear and just believe in what we do, believe that we’re guided by the Creator and with Him we can do no wrong.

Yeah. That’s what it’s about.

‘Well, that’s agreed. Being as it was an example of committee vote, it’s time to talk about that issue. Please sit down. Comrade Antira, are you getting all this?’

‘Yes, Leader,’ Rufilla replies eagerly, her fingers whizzing over the typewriter keys. As far as Ramir remembers, she’s never made a mistake, at least not an obvious one.

‘Who thinks committee rule is the best way to do things? I expect quite a few of you. Bearing that in mind, answer me this now: which is better, the Well-Paved Way or rule by committee?’

Faces turn and look at each other, some frown, some nod and smile.

‘The Way, of course,’ answers Nagy. ‘But if we all share the same belief, what’s wrong with a bit of internal democracy?’ He freezes. ‘Oh heavens, no, I didn’t mean – ’

‘Rufilla, leave that in please. I know perfectly well what you meant, Comrade Murat, and I know the answer as well. Does anyone else?’

‘Ignorance is strength,’ Cave grunts.

‘That’s the right sort of idea. If everyone has a say, then all we’ll do is argue, without stopping to consider whether we’ve really got as much of a point as we think we have. Have I ever read you the Thirty-fourth Blueprint?’

‘Is that the one about praying to free the technical mind of its natural inhibitions?’ Mihan pipes up, hoping he’s right. Ramir snorts and Mihan cringes. What an idiot.

’Why would that be that relevant now, Comrade Igrain? And no, it’s not that one. I’ll read you the Thirty-fourth, if none of you know it.’

He flicks open Blueprints Set A and turns to about a third of the way through.

‘If it comes from the Creator or it comes from stable foundations, trust it without question to stay upright to the end: it will not let you down. If it comes from mankind, from unknown or unstable foundations, test it until it crumbles, or it proves itself a sound and impenetrable structure. Only then can you be sure of it.’

He sits silent, letting them digest it, marvelling at how good his own words sound.

Ramir, they are My words, the Creator booms in his head. Of course they sound good. I would not give you this inspiration if it was not going to work. Practise what you preach.

‘So… if we are a committee, flawed thought could be the basis for our action, but if the Master Blueprint rules us we can do no wrong. Is that it?’ Einor says hesitantly.

‘Precisely, Comrade Lanegan. And the other thing is, committee rule is so slow. We want to change things, not sit around arguing about how we’re going to go about changing things and by the time we come to some sort of consensus we’ve all been hauled off by Security. That’s no way to be. If you think about it, the Great Council was a committee once, and now look at it! What a mess! Just trust me on this one, I’ll lead you through it alright. We’re going to make the world of difference around here.’

‘Is that the only copy of Blueprints? Surely there ought to be lots?’

‘Patience, Comrade Igrain, patience. If we have lots now, we’ll get done for distributing anti-state propaganda. Let’s wait until we’re sure of our support.’

‘How will we be sure?’

‘How is agreement usually formalised? Oaths, contracts, pledges. They’ve got to be serious about believing, otherwise we’ll only get troublemakers who won’t conform. Conformity is what we need; Northbridge has been a big shapeless mass for far too long. It needs to be streamlined, moulded, made efficient again. You’re all from industrial or technical backgrounds, more or less, you all know what potential this place has, if only things were done in the right way, by people with the right mindset. You’ve heard it all enough times, now get out there and do it! I suggest you do it in pairs, comrades: strength in numbers, as we know from the Tenth Blueprint. Meeting closed.’


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