Chains and Memory

Manifestation was only the beginning.

Chains and Memory

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Release Date : January 5, 2016

ISBN Number : 9781611385694

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Manifestation was only the beginning.

The Otherworld has returned — bringing with it the sidhe, the source of humanity’s psychic powers. Some mortals welcome these creatures of legend, some fear them . . . and no one is ready for the change their presence will bring.

Last autumn Kim and Julian stood at the center of that storm. Now they face a challenge closer to home: a battle over the laws governing wilders, the closest genetic relatives of the sidhe. Many feel that change should wait until the current upheaval has ended . . . but Kim sees opportunity in the chaos, a chance to free Julian and all his kind from the chains of the deep shield that locks their gifts away.

The roots of that shield run deeper than she knows. The quest to destroy it will lead her and Julian back into the world of the sidhe, where they will uncover ancient lies, face betrayal on all sides — and gamble everything on the possibility of freedom.

Book 2 of the Wilders series

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I’d met senators before. Jie Yin had been an acquaintance of my mother’s since high school; I still remembered the time she spilled ice cream down the front of her dress at my parents’ Labor Day barbeque, and I helped her sponge it off.

Meeting a senator on Capitol Hill was an entirely different thing.

Julia Ramos was not an old friend of my mother’s, and her office stood behind a silver-lined iron fence positioned to disrupt any incoming magic. My visit was not a social occasion. Ramos was one of the people who held my future in her hands.

I’d been to her office twice before, both times in the company of my mother, who leveraged her friendship with Senator Yin to get an introduction. This time, though, I was on my own. The Dirksen Building sprawled to either side of me as I came up the front steps, a blocky, mid-twentieth-century structure that made only passing nod to classical elegance. The effect wasn’t exactly friendly.

Or maybe that was just my apprehension talking. Ramos wouldn’t have asked me to come by after work unless she had major news.

The guards must have been told to expect me, because I got through the security screening in record time. I almost wished it had taken longer; my feet dragged as I climbed the stairs. Major news could be good or bad. I’d been sorely tempted to pull out my tarot cards and ask which way things were headed, but it was hard to get clear indicators on a question too close to yourself, and questions didn’t get much closer than this one.

A lot of people had already gone home, but there were still plenty of staffers pulling late hours for their bosses. I passed half a dozen people on my way to Ramos’ office, and if five of them were too well-disciplined to double-take at the sight of me, I knew all six recognized my face—or rather, my eyes. No doubt they all knew what Ramos was working on. I wondered if I’d be the main topic of gossip over the coffee maker tomorrow.

It was a relief to pass through Ramos’ door at last. Her personal assistant Eduardo greeted me and nodded toward the inner door. “She’s waiting for you.”

At least I wouldn’t have extra time to fret myself into insanity. On the other hand, it also meant I didn’t have time to compose myself. Drawing a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and went in.

Julia Ramos was a tiny woman, barely higher than my shoulder, with hair more black-streaked grey than the reverse. She carried herself with a presence three times larger than her body, though. I imagined she had to, if she wanted to get business done on Capitol Hill. And she didn’t flinch from anything: when I came in, she rose and shook my hand, in a grip no less firm for being so small. My touch had to make her skin crawl—she was a baseline, no psychic gifts at all—but she showed no sign of it. “Kimberly, thank you for coming. Have a seat. Would you like Eduardo to get you a drink?”

“Just water, thanks.” I said the same thing every time I came. My mouth was dry with nerves.

Fortunately, Ramos didn’t beat around the bush. She picked up a thick file from her desk and said, “This is what we’ll be taking to conference tomorrow morning. Do you want to read it? The part that has to do with you, that is.”

The ice rattled as I took my glass of water from Eduardo. You would think, with me specializing in divination, that I would be okay with the idea of somebody holding my fate in her hand. But it was like Schroedinger’s proverbial box: I might be free or I might be trapped. I wouldn’t know until I opened the folder.

Or until I asked. “No, thank you,” I said, clutching the glass in both hands. “Just—can you summarize it?”

“What’s in there isn’t what we hope to end up with anyway,” Ramos said, tossing the folder onto a table. “We have to leave ourselves room to bargain. So there’s a few pie-in-the-sky elements, which we’ll end up conceding to Atwell and his crew—very reluctantly, of course—and when all the horse-trading is done, we’ll have something we can all live with. At least, we can hope so.”

I understood the political realities. Ramos and her people could write up my dream law, word for word . . . but it would never pass. The House and the Senate were far from agreeing on anything right now, my own situation least of all. The conference over this bill was going to be a nightmare.

Ramos gestured me to one leather-upholstered chair and settled into another. “The basic thrust of it is this. The people who wrote the original text for SUPRA assumed that anybody with a Krauss rating above point five was born that way—and mostly they were right. There were still a few wilders left who survived getting their gifts during First Manifestation, but by then most of them had passed away. Which meant everybody was willing to ignore the few leftovers and worry about writing a law that would apply to the children born in the future.

“But we can’t assume that anymore, which means we need to adapt our laws to suit the new reality. So what we’re proposing is a newer, more flexible definition for what constitutes a wilder. Or rather, doing away with ‘wilder’ as a single legal category, and creating several new groupings in its place.”

I nodded. I’d read through the text of the original Supernatural Powers Regulatory Act several times, to the point where I could quote parts of it from memory, but I preferred to deal with the plain-language version. “What will the categories be?”

She began ticking them off on her fingers. “The first category will cover everything from infants born with psychic gifts—in other words, wilders as people are used to thinking of them—up through any child who acquires an abnormally high Krauss rating before the usual manifestation of gifts at puberty. They will become wards of the state, as usual.” She paused, eyes flickering upward in a way that said she was suppressing a frown. “I’m hoping to get rid of the current provision about their families. There was no reason other than hysteria and prejudice to write that into SUPRA, and it will be much less traumatic for the older children if they don’t lose all contact with their birth parents.”

That would be a substantial change from the current arrangement. I’d asked Julian once whether he wondered about his birth family, and he’d shrugged it off with a total and apparently sincere lack of concern. He had a family: all the rest of the Fiain. They mattered more to him than the people who contributed DNA before handing him over to the state. But if the Centers started taking in children who had grown up in normal households, the close-knit bond between wilders might start to fray.

Ramos continued on, not pausing for digression. “The second group are children whose Krauss rating becomes elevated after ordinary manifestation, but before the age of majority. They’ll be handled on a more individualized basis, depending on circumstances, but the general idea is that they go away to boarding school. Although the Centers will be responsible for training them, those children will not be wards of the state, and will retain contact with their families even if the first category doesn’t.”

I couldn’t help but blow a breath out at that. This was what Ramos thought she could get through conference? She was a lot more optimistic than I was. Atwell wasn’t technically an Iron Shield, but he spent a lot of time listening to that crowd. They wouldn’t like seeing our current procedures revised this radically.

If I was being honest with myself, it made me afraid for my own chances.

“And so,” Ramos said, “we come to you.”

*

About the Author: Marie Brennan is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for inspiration. She recently misapplied her professors’ hard work to The Night Parade of 100 Demons and the short novel Driftwood, and together with Alyc Helms as M.A. Carrick, she is the author of the Rook and Rose epic fantasy trilogy, beginning with The Mask of Mirrors. The first book of her Hugo Award-nominated Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent, A Natural History of Dragons, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. Her other works include the Doppelganger duology, the urban fantasy Wilders series, the Onyx Court historical fantasies, the Varekai novellas, and over seventy short stories, as well as the New Worlds series of worldbuilding guides. For more information, visit swantower.com, Twitter @swan_tower, or her Patreon.

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