Book 1, Chapter 13
Before Theo gets into the car, he is stopped by Xan, who asks him to go on a walk. Out of the blue, Theo asks him why he wants to be the Warden. Xan admits that at first he craved the power and knew he could run the country better than anyone else. After several years, however, he was enjoying it less and less but knew that no one else could do his job, not even the Council. Xan asks Theo who told him to come to the Council. Theo insists that he is not working with anyone, but Xan does not believe him. Theo makes one last-ditch attempt to persuade Xan to abandon the compulsory sperm testing and government-sponsored pornography centers. When that fails, Theo changes the subject and asks Xan about Woolcombe. Xan reveals that his father was secretly gay, a fact Xan carefully concealed even after his father’s death. Xan asks Theo what he would do if they were the last two men on earth, and Theo replies that they would drink, shout out the most notable names in human history, and then shoot each other, referencing their childhood fun on the bridge at Woolcombe. Before he leaves Theo, Xan asks him to tell his friends to be sensible, ominously warning Theo that he cannot afford to show mercy and that he will do what needs to be done.
The conversation between Theo and Xan adds complexity to their relationship and suggests that while Xan is upset with Theo for abandoning him, he still cares for his well-being. Xan is also revealed to be much more than a simple power-hungry and evil despot. Theo has already acknowledged that Xan’s policies enjoy public support, and Theo finds Xan’s seemingly reasonable justifications for his actions difficult to argue with. Xan’s revelation that he no longer actually enjoys power but knows that there is no one else to do the job well further complicates his position as the story’s “villain.” With the revelation about his father’s secret sexuality, we also see that Xan, like Theo, grew up estranged from his father in a dysfunctional home. Xan’s offhand comment that nothing he has ever done has truly managed to impress Theo suggests that, just as Theo has always viewed Xan as inherently superior, Xan may feel the same toward Theo. In part because they are so similar, Xan knows that Theo did not come to the meeting of his own volition. Although the pair acknowledges their shared history and special bond when they joke about the day on the bridge, Xan warns Theo that he cannot afford to show mercy. The fact that Theo believes he sees a “plea for understanding” in Xan’s eyes during this warning indicates that Xan truly does care what Theo thinks.