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Renegades (Renegades #1)
Author: Marissa Meyer


PROLOGUE

NOVA HAD BEEN COLLECTING SYRINGES from the alleyway behind the apartment for weeks. She knew her parents would take them away if they found out, so she’d been hiding them in an old shoe box, along with an assortment of screws, zip ties, copper wires, cotton balls, and anything else she thought might come in handy for her inventions. At six-going-on-seven years old, she’d already become aware of how important it was to be resourceful and thrifty. She couldn’t exactly make a list and send her dad to the store for supplies, after all.

The syringes would come in handy. She’d known it from the start.

She attached a thin plastic tube to the end of one and stuck the opposite end of the tube into a glass of water she’d filled up in the bathroom sink. She pulled up the plunger, drawing water into the tube. Tongue sticking out through the gap where she’d recently lost her first tooth, she grabbed a second syringe and affixed it to the opposite end of the tube, then dug through her toolbox for a strip of wire long enough to secure it to the pulley system she’d built at the top of her dollhouse.

It had taken all day, but finally she was ready to test it.

She tucked some of the dollhouse furniture onto the elevator’s platform, picked up the syringe, and pressed in the plunger. Water moved through the tube, extending the second plunger upward, and setting the complicated series of pulleys into action.

The elevator rose.

Nova sat back with a grin. “Hydraulic-powered elevator. Success.”

A cry from the next room intruded on the moment, followed by her mother’s cooing voice. Nova looked up at her closed bedroom door. Evie was sick again. It seemed she was always running a fever these days and they’d run out of medicine for her days ago. Uncle Alec was supposed to be bringing more, but it might be hours still.

When Nova had overheard her father asking Uncle Alec if he might be able to find a children’s ibuprofen for the baby’s fever, she’d considered asking for more of the fruit-flavored gummies he’d given her on her birthday last year, too, or maybe a pack of rechargeable batteries.

She could do a lot with rechargeable batteries.

But Papà must have seen the request brewing in her eyes, and had given her a look that silenced her. Nova wasn’t sure what it meant. Uncle Alec had always been good to them—bringing food and clothes and sometimes even toys from his weekly spoils—but her parents never wanted to ask for anything special, no matter how much they needed it. When there was something specific, they had to go into the markets and offer up trades, usually the things her father made.

The last time her dad had gone to the markets he’d come back with a bag of reusable diapers for Evie and a jagged cut above his eyebrow. Her mom stitched it up herself. Nova watched, fascinated to see that it was exactly like how her mother sewed up Dolly Bear when her seams came open.

Nova turned back to the hydraulic system. The lift was just shy of being level with the dollhouse’s second floor. If she could increase the capacity of the syringe, or make some adjustments to the lever system …

Beyond her door, the crying went on and on. The floorboards were squeaking now as her parents took turns trying to comfort Evie, pacing back and forth through the apartment.

The neighbors would start to complain soon.

Sighing, Nova set down the syringe and stood.

Papà was holding Evie in the front room, bouncing her up and down and trying to press a cool washcloth against her flushed brow, but it only made her wail louder as she tried to shove it away. Through the doorway into their tiny kitchen, Nova saw her mom digging through cabinets, muttering about misplaced apple juice, though they all knew there wasn’t any.

“Want me to help?” said Nova.

Papà turned to her, distress shadowing his eyes. Evie screamed louder as he forgot to bounce her for two whole seconds.

“I’m sorry, Nova,” he said, bouncing again. “It’s not fair to ask you to do it … but if she could just sleep for another hour or two … rest would be good for her, and Alec might be here by then.”

“I don’t mind,” said Nova, reaching for the baby. “It’s easy.”

Papà frowned. Sometimes Nova thought he didn’t like her gift, though she didn’t know why. All it had ever done was make the apartment more peaceful.

He crouched down and settled Evie into Nova’s arms, making sure her hold was secure. Evie was getting so heavy, nothing like the tiny infant she’d been not quite a year ago. Now she was all chubby thighs and flailing arms. She’d be walking any day now, her parents kept saying.

Nova sat down on the mattress in the corner of the room and stroked her fingers through Evie’s baby-soft curls. Evie had worked herself into a tizzy, big tears rolling down her plump cheeks. She was so feverish that holding her felt like holding a miniature furnace.

Nova sank into the tossed blankets and pillows and placed her thumb against her sister’s cheek, scooping away one of the warm tears. She let her power roll through her. An easy, gentle pulse.

The crying stopped.

Evie’s eyes fluttered, her eyelids growing heavy. Her mouth fell open in a shuddering O.

Just like that, she was asleep.

Nova looked up to see her dad’s shoulders sink in relief. Mom appeared in the doorway, surprised and curious, until she spotted Nova with the baby tucked against her.

“This is my favorite,” Nova whispered to them. “When she’s all soft and cuddly and … quiet.”

Mom’s face softened. “Thank you, Nova. Maybe she’ll feel better when she wakes up.”

“And we won’t have to start looking for another place to live,” Papà muttered. “Charlie’s kicked people out for less than a crying baby.”

Mom shook her head. “He wouldn’t risk angering your brother like that.”

“I don’t know.” Papà frowned. “I don’t know what anyone would or wouldn’t do anymore. Besides … I don’t want to be in Alec’s debt any more than we already are.”

Mom retreated into the kitchen to start putting away the cans and boxes she’d scattered across the linoleum, while Papà sank into a chair at the apartment’s only table. Nova watched him massage his temple for a moment, before he squared his shoulders and started to work on some new project. Nova wasn’t sure what he was making, but she loved to watch him work. His gift was so much more interesting than hers—the way he could pull threads of energy out of the air, bending and sculpting them like golden filigree.

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