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                        Van Hightower—the Director—had eyes and ears

                        everywhere. Which was the biggest reason I’d kept my

distance from his daughter over the past twelve months.

      That’s right. For one solid year I’d been watching Raine from my peripheral

vision. Sure, we’d been friends for years, we ate lunch together sometimes,

whatever whatever. But at some point she’d become more than whatever to me.

      For a minute there, back in that alley, I thought maybe I’d graduated into

more than whatever for her, too. But she held everything so close, kept her

emotions so boxed up. Somewhere secret, where I couldn’t see and feel.

      Which showed her intelligence. Of course she’d know how to protect

herself from Thinkers. From people like me.

      I had another reason to keep my distance from Raine, and her name was

Starr Messenger. We’d been matched since I turned fourteen—for almost three
years now—but she couldn’t stomach me and I didn’t like her much, either.

       Starr hung with the tech-science geeks, even though she clearly possessed

some high-class mind control. Her goal was a job in the Evolutionary Rise, and I

had no doubt she’d run the place one day. No one has eyes as sharp as Starr. She’d

spotted my near-obsessive crush on Raine after a single genetics class period. She

sent me an e-comm, commenting that I might want to “take the staring down a


       We never talked, never spent our time together falling in love. But that

hardly mattered.

       Starr held natural beauty in the bones of her face, and her hair fell in waves

as dark as the night. Her eyes blazed with power, almost violet instead of blue.

       Maybe I could love her—eventually.

       But she’d never be Raine Hightower. That much, I already knew. I’d always

wanted what I couldn’t have.


       I’d been stewing about coffee—coffee!—when Raine spoke. The way she

emphasized fly didn’t escape my attention. Neither did the fear/panic/desperation

pouring off her. At least until she controlled her emotions and swallowed them

whole. The girl could really tame her feelings when she wanted to.

       Plenty of other feelings buzzed in the alley. And they weren’t pleasant.

More like I-will-control-you emotions.

       I did the only thing I could with that much fear screaming through my

senses: I stumbled back into the café.
        I burst through the door, only able to say two words—“Director

Hightower”—before all hell broke loose. As I exhaled, the lights in the café were

extinguished. Someone grabbed my arm, yanked me back inside. The door banged

closed behind me, and the darkness blazed with the blue spots of guard-spider


        No one pushed past me. I heard footsteps, moving as if they’d evacuated

this space many times. My own panic mixed with the elevated emotions of the

other Insiders.

        “Let’s go,” Trek said as he moved in front of me. “Those beasties’ll buy us

some time. Gotcher board?”

        “Yeah,” I managed to wheeze. “But Rai—”

        “No names,” he interrupted. “She’ll be fine. It’s her old man.”

        She didn’t seem fine, even if it was her dad. Trek pressed something round

in my hand just as fluorescent rings burst to life on the floor.

        “Throw it!” he shouted over the other voices in the room, all issuing

locations to their ascender rings. “Catcha later!” He launched his ball straight at

the floor, where a blue ring grew. He stepped inside and said, “Camp A, tent 714.”

        And then he winked away in a shower of royal blue light. Around me,

people disappeared in red and orange sparks.

        I pinched the disc between my fingers, then chucked it at my feet. A

vibrant green circle appeared. Once inside, I tucked my board under my arm and

simply said, “Roof.”

        I hated traveling in any way besides flying and walking. But now, only green
existed in my world. Blinding, dizzying, puke-inducing green, as my particles

disassembled and reassembled on the roof.

       Finally the cold winter air pierced my lungs. I dropped my board, saying,

“Unfold. Power level ten.” I used my most authoritative voice. Before I could draw

another breath, the hoverboard grew to its full length, vibrating with the best tech

complete obedience will buy.

       The alley below burned with the brightest tech-lights I’d ever seen. Raine

bathed in them, clearly in need of help.

       Fear almost forced me onto my waiting hovercraft. I couldn’t fly away, but

I couldn’t afford to get caught out after curfew five hours before reporting to

“fulfill my duty” either.

       Raine shifted, taking one tiny step backward, while I seriously considered

leaving her.

       The barely-contained worry filtering from the alley told me that Raine

wasn’t as calm as she looked. One more step backward…

       I couldn’t just turn tail and leave. I swallowed hard against the memory of

the Director’s words on that blasted memory—you won’t be able to see him

again—wishing I’d never watched it.

       Raine took another step backward. “I think I left my board in the alley.”

       She needed a hoverboard, and I had one.

       “Slow descent,” I whispered, urging my board over the shallow lip of the

roof and down into the alley. “Hover, six inches.”

       Raine had mad skills on a hoverboard, so she’d be able to fly mine, even
with its tricked out features. Below me, her sheet of blonde hair spilled over her

shoulders. She hadn’t put her hat back on, another black mark on her record.

When my board sliced the tension between her and the Director, I ducked down,

using the shallow wall on the roof to conceal myself.

       Raine’s almost-maniacal laughter interrupted the hysteria gathering in the

back of my throat. “Here it is. So, can I go practice?”

       I didn’t hear Director Hightower’s response, but the lights below me

dimmed as he packed up his goonies and left.

       Raine leapt onto my board and became a smudge against the winter sky. I

ran along the roof and jumped the narrow gap between buildings, following her.

She couldn’t have my board, no matter how beautiful she was.

       I almost took a header into a flight of stairs watching her navigate, though

she did seem to be having a bit of trouble steadying my board. In order to keep

from maiming myself, I focused on the obstacles on each rooftop.

       At least until Raine slipped from the board.

       Gravity. Super.

       My board hovered there, as if she’d given it a command to remain

unresponsive. She raked her hands across it, shredding her gloves in an attempt to

stay airborne. I launched myself over the rooftop wall, groping for her hands as she

slid off the board completely.

       She actually pulled her hands away. Our eyes met before the distance

between us widened as she dropped.

       “Rescue,” I shouted to her retreating form. My hoverboard zoomed down,
obeying my command, and managed to catch Raine, slow her fall. But she still

crashed into the ground with enough force to render her unconscious.

       “Rise, half power.” I stepped onto my board and descended to Raine’s still

form. She wouldn’t wake up. She looked peaceful, the lines around her eyes

smoothed with the release of her cares. Her mouth hung open a little, and I

imagined—not for the first time—what she might taste like.

       Listen, voice-wonder, reign yourself in when you’re on the cache, all right?

Trek said in my head. Raine’s like, my sister or something.

       Raine’s no one’s sister, I chatted back, my fingers itching to touch her hair.

But I kept my hands to myself.

       Aren’t you matched to Starr? Trek didn’t wait for me to answer before he

continued. You have maybe five minutes before spider surveillance arrives at your

location. Wake her up.

       I shook her shoulder, said, “Raine, wake up.” Nothing.

       I’ve located a spare board. You guys pretty much have one choice—the sky.

Wake her up!

       Where’s the board?

       En route now, fly boy. Trek didn’t even try to hide his annoyance.

       Shut the hell up.

       Trek laughed and chatted, Use your voice.

       But I didn’t want to. I absolutely hated using my voice to get what I

wanted. Even when what I wanted was right, needed, essential.

       I nudged Raine again. She didn’t wake up. Calling her name repeatedly just
filled the sky with words, creating a deliberate target for the spiders Trek had said

were coming in what? Five minutes? My pulse bounced in my throat; my hands

shook as I all but slapped Raine, trying to get her to wake up.

       Incoming spiders, ninety seconds. Trek’s laughter had disappeared. Use the

damn voice, Gunner.

       Ninety seconds. Super. Sighing, and with no other choice, I employed my

voice. “Wake up immediately.”

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