Chapter Two

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Hey, Wattpad! Welcome to Dominion City! Here's Day 2 of the 10 Days of True Born. Let me know how you like it! (See introduction for details)


By your eighteenth birthday you're supposed to know.

They're supposed to tell you.

Splicer. True Born. Laster.

Margot and I, though, all we seem to be getting for our eighteenth birthday, still over a month away, is another round of Protocols at the Splicer Clinics. The rain comes down in stripes as we're bundled into our father's shiny black Oldworld car and stall at the sooty iron gates surrounding our home. Two sentries ride shotgun on the electric gate. They hold machine guns with one hand and iron pegs with the other as the gate slowly glides open. Fritz, the one with the steel-colored flattop, is our newer merc, ex-army. Shane, the one with the Celtic knot work bulging over his biceps and the crazed glint in his eyes, has been with our father since we were girls. He's one of only a handful of people in the world Margot and I trust.

I spy the first sign as the car crosses through the gate and wades into a sea of people. Evolve or Die. I don't understand these signs. Father says they indicate that a lot of rabble have gone mad.

The boy holding it up can't be more than twelve, but you can never tell these days. He's got the startlingly gaunt frame of the starving or sick, his face smeared with dirt and desperation. Chances are he's either a goner himself or his family has been wiped off the map and he's providing for himself.

Sometimes they get religious, the orphans. Sometimes the zealots get them. He aims a look right at us, at me, as we drive by. I want to sink down in my seat and never be seen again. But of course, that's impossible even if our father would allow it.

Is he out there? I search the crowds for a particular face, a face I haven't been able to get out of my mind for the past few days. It's been a constant knot within me. At night I've unraveled those moments on the stairs again and again, wondering for the billionth time who the stranger could be. A preacher's man? A merc? Though if the stranger protects one of my classmates, I'd likely have seen him after school when all the mercs come to pick up their charges. More importantly, what is he? I know most of the Splicers in the city, so he'd likely not be one of us. A Laster? Surely he's too vital, far too arrogant....

As I pick over the moments feverishly, I wonder if I should tell Margot about what happened. No, I remind myself. That would give the man more importance than he deserves. I'll likely never cross his path again. Somehow the thought doesn't lend me comfort.

A creeping sensation pokes at me. Margot hasn't moved, but I catch the flick of her eye in the opposite direction.

There, on top of a burned-out car the color of storm clouds, a man wearing a long, dirty white robe smiles gently down at the crowds—weird enough for these times. A shiver crawls up my spine as he watches us, his eyes piercing black under thick, bushy eyebrows. His smile grows thicker, kinder.

"Who is that?" I say under my breath. Only Margot can hear me. We're quiet-quiet. It's a game we've practiced our whole lives.

"Preacher man," she murmurs. You don't usually see the preachers. More often than not they stay hidden in the basements they call churches. The government frowns on the preacher men, calls them "seditious." This one, though, seems bold as daylight. It's a thought that jolts another shiver down my spine.

Our father shifts on his seat, a grim expression stamped across his stern, handsome features. As always, he's impeccably dressed in his gray pinstriped suit and black overcoat. He holds his gloves absently across his lap. He's never apart from these shiny black leather gloves, so soft they feel like butterfly wings. Margot thinks he needs them like he needs the car, his suit, the towering gates around our house: totems to keep him safe from the rabble. Even sitting across from us he doesn't notice our eyes drifting to the lone figure atop the carcass of a car. All around the preacher man, milling and standing and sitting, are people. Dozens of people, some missing limbs, most with a look in their eyes I'd as soon call frantic. Lasters.

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