Numbers Raging (#3)
Numbers Raging (#3)
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With NORA on the brink of war and Vance's settlement tearing itself apart, Treena and Vance must face the most powerful and deadly foe they've encountered yet--and the stakes couldn't be higher.
- Love triangle
- Protective hero
- Happily ever after
IT’S VANCE AND TREENA AGAINST THE WORLD.
Treena is frustrated. The council has rejected her war preparations at every turn and Dresden is backpedaling on his promises. Treena’s secret followers push her to unseat Dresden and take control—something she refuses to consider now with NORA on the brink of war.
Meanwhile, drought has made Vance’s settlement’s future bleak and infighting has begun. Joining NORA seems inevitable, but Vance refuses to give in—not if it means putting his younger sisters and his people in danger. Then Treena asks him to join her at the peace convention overseas, forcing Vance to choose between his responsibilities and his heart.
Now Treena and Vance must navigate the political undercurrents of a strange new country, stay together despite their enemies’ determination to tear them apart, and convince an indifferent world to help them fight the most powerful and deadly foe they’ve faced yet.
Sneak Peek: Chapter 1
Sneak Peek: Chapter 1
I stood atop the Council Building roof and stared far beyond NORA’s borders, letting the fierce wind whip my hair into my eyes. Lightning flashed over the desert before me, a brilliant electric show branching across the heavens—flashing, then leaving behind a greenish residue in the night. Or maybe that was just a trick of the eye.
A dry storm, of course. We hadn’t seen rain here in decades.
My body went tense as another branch of liquid fire struck the ground, then another. I counted to ten, but no thunder sounded.
“Do you think we should be up here?” Maizel asked, giving me a petite frown beneath her curly red mane. Red numbers—a bright 498—glowed in her forehead. One of my father’s spies. She’d been living in the slums the past few months, dodging the soldiers who came for her, and generally wreaking havoc to the system whenever possible. For my purposes, she was perfect.
A guy about our age of Asian descent stood behind her, arms hanging awkwardly at his side. Chan Norwell. He wore a red 487. He hadn’t spoken a word since they’d arrived. Dad insisted Chan was a victim of NORA’s Rating system and one of my most skilled followers. I wasn’t quite sure what his skills were. What was clear, however, was the connection between these two. He watched Maizel with a fondness that made her grin every time their gazes locked.
It made my chest hurt.
“We’re safe here,” I muttered. “The lightning is too far away.” It looked so much closer from up here. Everything did, even the mountains I couldn’t see but knew were there, far across the plains. Mountains I’d climbed to be with Vance just ten weeks before. The journey had been in vain. I’d ended up right back here, his absence more painful than ever.
Maizel was watching me now, much like a nurse eyeing an unruly patient. “Look, you going to stare at the pretty lightning all night, or do you have orders for us? Because Chan and I are busy. You know, lots of spy stuff to do.” She turned to the guy behind her and shrugged, pulling the slightest of smiles out of him.
That was another thing Maizel was good at—being herself. She didn’t hover and grovel like the others did. “Sorry. Just a lot on my mind.”
She sighed. “You’re feeling sorry for yourself again, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question. “Look, I know your guy is far away, and I know things aren’t going so well here. But trying to get yourself struck by lightning won’t help anyone. You sure you don’t want to have this ultraimportant conversation inside? You know, where there’s no danger of dying?”
I shook my head. “Nope. Precious is downstairs. Probably searching every floor, angry that I escaped again.”
Maizel clasped a knuckle to her mouth. “Am I imagining things, or did you just call the emperor’s spy Precious?”
“He follows me around like a pet, so I gave him a pet name.”
“Well, why not just order the guy away? You’re a councilwoman. You can do anything you want.”
I’d once thought that way too. Council members were one step below the emperor, owning mansions and shaping the direction of the country with a flick of the wrist. At least it was that way for the other eleven council members. But it was different for me.
The throne Dresden held now was rightfully mine. He and I both knew it, and many of our citizens knew it too. That made me both indispensible and dangerous.
First he’d placed my quarters just one floor below his, then he’d begun visiting me randomly throughout the day to make sure I wasn’t wandering the city. Any guests had to be approved by him. And now there was Dresden’s spy, the “bodyguard.”
Which was why I had to meet with my spies on the rooftop at midnight.
“Does the emperor know you’re gathering followers?” Maizel asked in a low voice.
Honestly, I had no idea what Dresden knew. His grip on the throne was more solid now that I was back and had publicly thrown support behind him. The rioting of my supporters had fizzled immediately, but if Maizel and Jasper were right, those followers were simply biding their time. They expected me to take the throne back sometime soon, and they wanted to be a part of it.
If only Dresden were our greatest threat right now.
I cocked my head toward the rooftop door leading inside. Still quiet, but not for long. Precious was sure to find me soon. “I’m meeting with the council tomorrow for a vote on my new bill. Meet me outside the history museum afterward, and I’ll brief you on their decision. You need to head straight back to my father and tell him. No one else.”
“Is this your evacuation proposal again?”
She rubbed her arm uncertainly, then glanced behind me at the sky.
“Is something wrong?”
“I just—” She paused, then let out a long breath, her words spilling out with it. “I’m wondering why you’re doing this the long way. If you asked them to, I bet a third of the country would escape tonight into those tunnels you’re digging outside the border wall. Seems silly to be messing with legislation when an army is coming to decimate us and all that, you know?”
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that argument. It probably wasn’t even the hundredth time.
But I couldn’t fracture the country like that. Dresden would wage war on my followers, and there would be even more violence, more pain. Even if we escaped, we’d live with the guilt of leaving such an enormous percentage of our countrymen behind.
So many had already died to help me. I refused to let that happen again. Either we got everyone to safety or we would die together.
“I know,” she said quickly. “I just need to trust you. So I keep hearing. I just don’t see why you don’t overthrow the emperor and make an executive order.”
I flinched. “I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Her voice had an edge to it. “With him gone, we could evacuate in peace. You’d have access to NORA’s food and water stores to bring with us. We could actually save everyone.”
“You forgot about the council, Maizel. Even Dresden can’t just lay down orders. He has to convince two-thirds of the council first.” I knew firsthand how difficult that was. The week I’d returned, I’d presented a plan to announce our imposing threat so the people could prepare, but the council shot it down immediately and issued an order of strict silence.
We don’t want nationwide panic, they insisted. We have to handle this delicately. Which basically meant keeping everyone in the dark so they could fight about millions of lives behind closed doors.
“Besides,” I continued, trying to convince myself, “Dresden finally made the order to bring in the outer cities. The first wave of new citizens arrived this week. At least we’re moving in the right direction.”
I sounded far more optimistic than I felt. To avoid the dreaded “we’re going to be attacked” panic, Dresden had informed the country there was a problem with the water outside the capital city and ordered the occupants of border cities to move inward. They were being housed in warehouses and community buildings in the suburbs for now.
Ten weeks, and that was all Dresden and the council had done so far. Most citizens still didn’t know we faced a threat. Sometimes I wondered if Dresden even wanted us to survive this.
“Not his most brilliant moment, though,” Maizel said. “How about we gather everyone in one place so they’re easier to destroy?” She snickered. “Well, just think about it. Your dad agrees with me.”
She didn’t understand. My father, Maizel, none of them. They hadn’t been there that night when hundreds of people died trying to overthrow the empress, my best friend Tali among them. Or when the Eastern Continental Alliance attacked the settlement and killed Vance’s mother and a third of their settlers.
People like Maizel and Jasper could close their eyes at night without being accosted by the carnage and with wide-eyed corpses who would never see their homes again. They could lecture me all they wanted, but they didn’t have to live with the guilt.
I couldn’t be responsible for another war. Not when I was trying so hard to stop this one.
“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. There’s also the Nations for Peace convention to think about.” It was two months out, but much still needed to be done. Dresden had already requested an invitation for me, which we expected to receive any day. There was also the question of the evidence Vance and I had been gathering to plead our case once I arrived.
And if I failed overseas, there was still my evacuation plan. The council’s repeated rejections hadn’t stopped me from acting, although the need for secrecy had slowed us down somewhat. It had taken five weeks of preparations with Vance to get Mills’s tunnel machine working and transported here without discovery. A team of Vance’s settlers was now digging a network of underground tunnels. If we came under attack, it would be a safe place for evacuees to hide as they escaped. Hopefully.
But the actual digging was moving far too slowly. Three weeks, and the machine had only dug two-thirds of a kilometer. Not nearly long enough to transport five million evacuees.
Maizel nodded reluctantly. “Well, good luck tomorrow, then. Sounds like you’ll need it.” She grinned and glanced at the guy behind her. “And don’t worry about Chan—he’s loyal. I swear he won’t tell a soul. I can barely get the guy to speak to me.”
I forced a smile and turned back to the lightning. The storm was dying down now. There were several seconds between flashes.
Was Vance watching the same storm right now? No, that was silly. He was much too far away to see this. His absence colored the world in shadows, a darkness I couldn’t define but could feel much too acutely. I could barely remember the heat that swept through me at his touch, the warmth I felt under his gaze.
Maizel went to leave, then hesitated. She turned around and faced me again. “For what it’s worth, we’re doing all this because we believe in you, all right? It’s admirable that you’re trying the peaceful route. It’s not what I would do, personally, but I get it. I just hope you can abandon the pointless stuff and take charge when you’re needed, because I guarantee that day is coming.”
When I didn’t answer, she turned and bounded away, leaving me alone with the gathering clouds.