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the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

"One day, a baby was born in a hospital. It was a day like today - raining, warm, static in the air. She had blue eyes, and short blonde hair, and weighed eight pounds. She had no obvious genotype abilities. Her parents called her Hazel. An hour later on the same day another baby was born in the same ward. Another girl. She had brown eyes, brown hair and was closer to seven pounds. Her nose was wide and short, whereas the first baby's was long and pointed. Again, no evident physical genotype. No fur, no horns, no specific skin type or an above average number of limbs.

"All the babies born that day looked different. Different faces, heights, weights. But they were all the same - same genotype, same abilities, same core physiology. All the babies the following day were the same. All week. All month. All year, every year. Always the same.

"Plavtok wrote a thought experiment three centuries ago. What if genotype didn't shift on a daily schedule? What if variety wasn't dictated by your birth date but by the combination of your parents' genes? What if your genetic make-up was determined by random chance? Plavtok imagined this to be a chaotic state, with every single child possessing wildly different characteristics. He couldn't imagine a society that could accommodate such unpredictability.

"And our society relies on predictability. When you saw me get up on stage, you knew what I could do. You know the lines of work for people like me. I see a lot of you are apocri, and here you are in a worker's club. We all live by our genotypes. Most of us, anyway. We're each individuals, but the moment we're born we know the general path of our lives.

"Plavtok had it wrong. The babies born in that hospital all looked different, but they were all the same. They were all born equal and identical, but you could still tell their faces apart. Different and the same. Each of them could be whatever they wanted to be, and they all had the same chances.

"This sounds, of course, like a story from another world. But it has lessons for us. The Manifold teaches that we are all different, but are connected by similarities. Identity, ability, diversity, variety and uniqueness. Those are the five pillars of the faith. And those were the governing principles of this country, until the revolution.

"Until the wings.

"You're right to look alarmed. They permit you to attend your churches, so long as church matters are kept within those walls. You're allowed to have faith, so long as it doesn't encroach on your work. You're allowed to follow the principles, as long as they don't conflict with the wings' right to rule.

"What they don't permit is discussion. Thought. That's why I'm here. I'm a gardener, and I'm planting a seed, here tonight. It's an idea, and together we can help spread it-"

That's when a bottle flew spinning out of the audience and hit me square in the face, shattering and sending wine and glass cascading around my head. Having dual eyelids helps in situations like this, but I was still momentarily blinded.

I felt someone grip my arm. "Come on," said Marv's voice, "I think you lost the crowd." He dragged me off stage and into the darkness behind the curtain.

"How was I?" I asked, blinking away the wine.

"Until you provoked a riot? Yeah, okay."

"You could do with laying off on the metaphors," Furey said, emerging from the shadows of backstage. "It was pretty flowery, even before you got to planting seeds."

"They need inspiring," I said, wincing as I pulled slivers of glass out of my face.

"Being less patronising would be a good start, then," she said. "You're a mess, we need to clean you up before we get back on the street."

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