Charlotte Blackburn—Beautiful, intelligent, a gifted tinkerer—lives in a cloistered world of wealth and privilege beneath the Electric Tesla Dome that shields survivors of The Great Calamity. But when her father is abducted, and a strange sickness starts transforming men into vicious monsters, she discovers that technology is no protection at all.
Ashton Wells has a dire mission: Secure Colonel Blackburn and deliver his research to The Order of the Sword and Scroll. But the plan goes awry, and he is left with nothing but the colonel’s daughter who has a target on her back and is willing stop at nothing to rescue her father—including handing over to the enemy the only means to stop the monstrous plague.
Branded as traitors, Ashton and Charlotte brave the treacherous floating sky ports of Outer City to hunt down the elusive inventor who is the only person able to activate the strange device that harbors the secret to their salvation.
With the government closing in, a rebellion brewing in the streets, and terrifying Tremblers attacking the innocent, the two must work together to stop their fragile world from crumbling once more into destruction.
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New York City-State, October 1885
Ashton Wells sprinted through the fog. It drifted in the alleyway, swirling aloft a prone figure just ahead. He skidded to his friend’s side as filament lamps sparked and sizzled in the misty night casting the grisly scene with wavering shadows.
Agent Roland Cavendish slumped unnaturally against a wood crate, eyes clenched. He panted, pain twisting his face into a grimace. “Ash, it’s darker than I imagined.” Roland coughed, pink froth bubbling at the corner of his mouth. “Blackburn. G—get to Blackburn before it’s too late.”
“Where have you been?” Ashton eased closer, his throat tight with worry. His gaze went to Roland’s chest, to the burn trail left by the charge. The heat of the surge left a dark and jagged scald along the armored vest, boring through to Roland’s heart. Crimson seeped between the cobblestones, the edges of the blood going white with frost. Ashton stifled a groan. “I’ve been tearing this city-state apart for two days searching for you!”
“My contact never showed.” Roland arched, pain wracking his body. He grabbed at Ashton’s coat with a fist. “Blackburn, he has to stop it, Ash. There is no time to waste or the blight gets us all.”
“Easy.” Ashton pulled a kerchief from his pocket using it to stem the flow of blood. “What are you talking about? Why did you disappear?”
“The Governors, keep Blackburn from them.”
“Colonel Blackburn?” Ashton asked, surprised. “Why him? What did you discover?”
“It’s the c—cold,” Roland rasped, his eyes going glassy as his hand drifted down. He opened and closed his mouth twice and was still.
Ashton eased his friend down. Standing, he pulled the tracer gun from the holster at his hip, and revved the gear works with his thumb. They glowed bright purple with a building charge. Tiny sparks arched from the weapon to the grounding rivets on his gloved hand. He had to find Blackburn.
A surge from the Tesla Dome’s grid covering the city sent the incandescents inside the steam carriage flaring bright. The sparks rattled my already frayed nerves and I shifted in my ball gown frowning at the tingle of residual charge. Tiny arcs hissed softly from the window frame to the clasp on my bracelet. Struggling to slip the mechanized opera glasses into the silk drawstring pouch on my lap, I sighed with frustration. They still wouldn’t fit.
“Stop fussing or you’ll wrinkle your ruffles to oblivion, Charlotte,” my Aunt Sadie said from across the carriage.
“I can barely breathe,” I muttered, picking at the gum ribbon lining my bodice. Electric resistant properties aside, it added to my constriction. I smoothed a palm down the aluminum chainmail bodice as I shifted for deeper breath.
“Well, you look like a dream,” she said and smiled. Tucking a graying lock back into her severe bun, she nodded with approval. “You needn’t worry about catching any less than your fair share of attention at the Unity Ball tonight.”
“That is exactly what worries me,” I whispered to myself.