Since then I've been absorbed by the drones. If these little flying machines collect information for Dominion's government, why didn't they notice that an army of Lasters had crawled up to our gates and hurled magic bombs into our bedrooms? Why didn't our mercs use the footage to keep a better eye on things—why couldn't they stop the attacks on our school, for instance? Who keeps watch over their feeds?

I can't ask. Not yet.

"It only makes sense that Nash has a backer. The question is who. We'll stick close to him until we've figured it out. Are you listening?" Storm waves a hand before my face.

"He's going to die," I blurt out, turning my attention from Dominion's crumbling skyline to the giant man beside me.

I don't mean to be so blunt about it. But in a city where death creeps the streets, there's no point in tiptoeing. I feel Storm's gunmetal gaze on me, hot as coals. He leans back in his seat but says nothing.

"I know..." I start trying to put into words a lifetime of impressions that I've kept, like a locked box, between my sister and me. "I told you. I can usually tell. Not just intuition. It's part of my...special gifts," I end lamely. "Nash is a goner."

Storm continues to study me with restless, glittering eyes. The city seems abandoned, streets rolling out like a bone-strewn desert. Occasionally I glimpse a dog-size rat. They survive by eating through any dead left on the streets past dark. Sometimes before dark. Fewer bodies have been left on the streets as of late. Owing to the fact that the preachers are hiding in the walls like mice, Mohawk told me just this morning.

Maybe it's true, I think. I trace the outline of a pitch-black window through the glass. So many of the windows are empty and dark. It can't all be because the grid was destroyed.

I don't know when it became the tradition to ring the bodies with pebbles, but I know the street kid gangs still do it. You can hear them singing as they complete their enchantments, begging their gods to turn them into True Borns. As though that would magically wall away death.

"How soon?" Storm's question catches me off balance. I pull my eyes back in time to see Jared through the rearview, raking over me with a scowl.


"How soon?" he repeats gently.

They don't usually ask about time. They usually assume the worst—as they should.

Still, knowledge like this is not an exact science. I sift through my memories. "The longest stretch I've gone between a knowing and a dead man is about three months."

Storm nods. He's dressed in his finery for this evening's outing: black tux, crisp white shirt. His hair has grown longer these past few months and now falls over his collar. During the day he'll pull it into a short ponytail. Every woman at tonight's reception will be swooning over him and jealous of me, his escort. But they won't know, will they? I muse. They won't know that Nolan Storm keeps his heart for his tribe, not a lone Splicer woman. Any woman who would be swept into Storm's life will be a strategy, all mapped out in his campaign for the True Borns. Just like me.

"Does it matter? To your plans, I mean."

Storm considers the question carefully before answering. "Everything is a moving piece. You need to consider the movement of one before you can think of moving another."

I nod. "You sound like my father."

"Your father has a terrific head for strategy, I'll grant him that."

"And just what is your strategy, Storm? What do you hope to accomplish?"

Storm's head drops. His spectral crown of bone illuminates the air before me as he chuffs a laugh. "I thought you knew."

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