With my chin raised, I turned to face the others, pointedly ignoring Knox. Bad day or not, if this was how he was going to be, then screw him. “Daxton died last year, in the explosion that killed his wife and son.”


“He’s been Masked,” I added as if Knox hadn’t said a word. “The impostor is actually a V. I don’t know who he is or where he came from, but the real Daxton’s dead.”

Sampson looked back and forth between me and Knox, disbelief coloring his sharp features. “Is this true?”

Reluctantly Knox nodded, his jaw tight and his fists clenched. “Yes. I found out shortly after it happened. No one else knows, and it needs to stay that way. If Celia finds out—”

“We would all be marching on Somerset before the night was out,” said Sampson gravely. “But even if we cannot tell her, this changes everything, Knox.”

“We can’t go to the media. You know we can’t,” said Knox. “We’d be throwing away our contacts’ lives—”

“I’m not suggesting we do,” said Sampson. “I am, however, suggesting we discover who this man truly is. If we can find proof, we’ll have leverage against him. He knows the Shields won’t follow an impostor. The Ministers of the Union would revolt. We would have the ability to effectively strip him of his power completely and give the country something to unite against, all in one fell swoop.”

“Why don’t you just kill him?” I said. “Wouldn’t that solve everything?”

“We already tried that, remember?” said Sampson, eyebrow raised. I scowled.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I grumbled.

“Like what, Kitty?” said Knox. “Like if it wasn’t for you, this mess would’ve been over with months ago?”

I bit the inside of my cheek hard enough to draw blood. I’d been the reason the assassination attempt hadn’t worked. I’d stupidly let Celia talk me into helping her out, and instead of giving Daxton the full dose, I’d chickened out and given him half. “Give me another syringe. I’ll kill him this time.”

Sampson shook his head. “We never approved an assassination in the first place. That was Celia’s idea.”

I glanced at Knox, but he wouldn’t meet my eye. Sanctioned by the Blackcoats or not, he’d been the one to supply Celia with the poison.

“There must be something we can do to get rid of this guy,” I said. “He’s one man. He’s not invincible.”

“You’re right, he is one man,” said Sampson. “And if by some miracle we managed to get around his heightened security and succeed, the government would live on without him. No one would ever know he was Masked. Right now, he’s more valuable to us alive as someone for the people to rally against. Dead, he’s a martyr, and we cannot instigate real change within order. We must take advantage of the chaos revealing his true identity would provide. Besides,” he added, leaning in closer to me, “Greyson is next in line, and he’s an unknown. A weak, inexperienced unknown at that. He would crumble under the pressure from the Ministers within days. Celia is far too unstable to take control of the country by herself right now, not to mention everyone thinks she’s dead. That leaves you, Kitty. Do you want to be Prime Minister?”

I frowned. “I’d rather go back to being a III.”

“Then, while I thank you for this additional insight, why don’t you let us try things our way for a while?”

I stared at my hands, fighting the instinct to keep arguing. Unlike Knox, Sampson wasn’t in a piss-poor mood, and I had to trust one of us knew what we were doing.

“So, what now?” said a woman with a scar running down the side of her face. “How are we going to figure out who the Daxton impostor is?”

“We get boots on the ground and dig,” said Sampson. “There must be a paper trail. Augusta wouldn’t have allowed a stranger into a position of power without having some leverage over him.”

“If it ever existed in the first place, Daxton would have made sure it was destroyed by now,” said Knox, his expression stormy.

“That would be the logical thing to do,” agreed Sampson. “We still have to look.”

“But the chances of any evidence still existing—”

“Kitty,” said Sampson, interrupting him. I snapped my head up. “If you had something to tie you back to your old life, would you keep it or destroy it?”

I blinked. It was a stupid question, but he had no way of knowing that. I clung to the things that made me feel like Kitty Doe as if my life depended on it. “I’d hold on to it,” I said. “I’d keep it secret, but I wouldn’t destroy it if it was the only evidence I’d ever existed in the first place.”

He gave me a small smile. “Exactly. If the impostor has found it, there’s a good chance he kept it. Knox, that’s where you come in. Do you think you can get close enough to find it?”

“I’ll try,” he said, lacing his fingers together so tightly that his knuckles turned white.

“You’ll do more than try. If we know who he is, that could give us enough power to make all the difference in this war. An armory isn’t always made up of guns and knives. Sometimes information is the most powerful weapon of all.”

Knox scowled deeply, but at last he said to Sampson, “If this gets me killed, I’m blaming you.”

Tags: Aimee Carter The Blackcoat Rebellion Science Fiction
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