Theo, writing in his diary, describes the events of his first time seeing Xan in three years. He had no trouble securing an appointment with Xan, though he had to go through one of Xan’s many aides, all of whom are exclusively male—perhaps, Theo postulates, because “the loyalty Xan demand[s is] essentially masculine: hierarchical, unquestioning, unemotional.”
Xan’s brand of power is one that can only exist in an unquestioning vacuum. Theo knows that Xan has done a lot of work to ensure he is surrounded by people who allow his outsized power to thrive and even grow.
Xan sends a car and a driver to fetch Theo on the day of the appointment. Though Theo is expecting George, who had been his regular driver throughout his time on the council, a new man named Hedges has replaced him. Hedges tells Theo that George was in a car accident, but Theo does not quite believe him; George, Theo thinks to himself, was a “meticulously careful driver.” Theo decides not to ask any more questions, thinking that any further inquiries about George will be both unsatisfying and “unwise.”
The implication that something dark or nefarious befell George—a man Theo once knew quite well—doesn’t go any further than an implication, because Theo is both afraid to discover the truth and aware of the fact that even if he were able to discover it, nothing could be done about it.
Though Theo and Xan did not part on bad terms, Theo knows that Xan views his having left the Council as “inexcusable.” As he and Hedges near London, Theo thinks of his time on the Council, and the men and women who sat on it alongside him. Martin Woolvington heads Industry and Production, and is the member of the council “closest to a friend” of Xan’s; Harriet Marwood, the oldest member and the “universal grandmother” of the council, is in charge of Health, Science, and Recreation; Felicia Rankin, a distinguished lawyer, leads Home Affairs, which includes Housing and Transport; Carl Inglebach, Minister for Justice and State Security, is the most powerful member of the Council and an “administrative genius” who believes that trying to deny or change the world’s present predicament is “a waste of time.”
Theo was the one person in Xan’s group of “unquestioning” peers who defected from the Council—and because Theo is Xan’s cousin, he has the privilege of having been able to escape unscathed. The other Council members are different but united in their loyalty to Xan, and in the nature of their resigned attitude toward Xan’s total consolidation of power over the British government. Xan and all of the Council are an interesting mix of fatalistic and ambitious, resulting in a regime that will never relinquish its authority or change for the better.
The monarchy, Theo says, has largely faded into obscurity since Year Omega. The new King of England, due to be crowned when Theo sat upon the council, still hasn’t been. Xan told Theo that the people of Britain would “resent the expense of a meaningless ceremony.”
Though Xan insists that the common people would not welcome “meaningless” ritual, his isolation means he does not see the ways in which they do cling to vestiges of the past, as Theo sees each day.
Theo and Hedges arrive in London. Theo spots a group of flagellants, zealots who beat themselves with knotted cords. Theo asks Hedges if he believes in God, and Hedges replies that he thinks God, “not knowing how to put right the mess [of humanity],” has stricken the world with mass infertility. Hedges tells Theo that he hopes God “burns in His own hell.” The car has arrived at the building where Theo will be received. Hedges exits the car and opens Theo’s door for him, his face a “cold, immobile mask.”