- What was your first lecture?
- Swanti’s Biomathematics; however, its real lesson was humiliation. I walked to the lecture hall across dirty slush, hooded and unnoticed. But when I took off my cloak in the corridor, my Sonmi features provoked surprise, then unease. In the lecture hall, my entry detonated resentful silence.
It didn’t last. “Oy!” a boy yelled. “One hot ginseng, two dog-burgers!” and the entire theater laughed. I am not genomed to blush, but my pulse rose. I took a seat in the second row, occupied by girls. Their leader had emeralded teeth. “This is our row,” she said. “Go to the back. You stink of mayo.” I obeyed, meekly. A paper dart hit my face. “We don’t vend burgers in your dinery, fabricant,” someone called, “why’re you taking up space in our lecture?” I was about to leave when spidery Dr. Chu’an tripped onto the stage and dropped her notes. I did my best to concentrate on the lecture that followed, but after a while, Dr. Chu’an’s eyes roamed her audience, saw me; she stopped midsentence. The audience, laughing, realized why. Dr. Chu’an forced herself to continue. I forced myself to stay but lacked the courage to ask questions at the end. Outside I endured a barrage of aggressive snideries.

- Did Professor Mephi know about the students’ unfriendliness?
- I think so. At our seminar, the professor asked if my lecture had been fruitful; I chose the word informative and asked why purebloods despised me so. He replied, “What if the differences between social strata stem not from genomics or inherent excellence or even dollars, but merely differences in knowledge? Would this not mean the whole Pyramid is built on shifting sands?”
I speculated such a suggestion could be seen as a serious deviancy.
Mephi seemed delited. “Try this for deviancy: fabricants are mirrors held up to purebloods’ consciences; what purebloods see reflected there sickens them. So they blame you for holding up the mirror.”
I hid my shock by asking when purebloods might blame themselves.
Mephi replied, “History suggests, not until they are made to.”
When, I asked, would that happen?
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, 2004