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‘In narrator Frey, Westerfeld presents a strong, complex heroine who

learns to be her own person, not just a carbon copy. Themes such as
up to its explosive finale, which will leave readers looking forward to the
next installment.’
Publishers Weekly

‘Impostorsisafast-paced,action-orientedstory  .  .  .  itexplodesintoagreat
new story arc, perilously endangering all the main characters until the
very end.’
Good Reading

‘An absorbing, thought-provoking novel . . . [Impostors] is thoroughly

enjoyable as an action-packed adventure story but thoughtful readers
may engage with the underlying issues.’



into some really thorny questions of human nature . . . a superb piece
of popular art.’
New York Times

‘Teens will sink their teeth into the provocative questions about invasive
technology, image-obsessed society, and the ethical quandaries of a
mole-turned ally . . . Ingenious.’
Booklist (starred review)

‘An excellent futuristic thriller that also leaves the reader with plenty
to ponder’

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To everyone searching
for family

3:28 pm
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Everyone sees what you appear to be,

few know what you really are.
—Niccolò Machiavelli

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My engagement bash is the talk of the feeds.
It should be.
My dress is spectacular—an azure sheath orbited by hovering
metal shards. My publicity team designed it, using crowd metrics and
flash polls. It was big news, Rafia of Shreve letting randoms choose
her outfit.
But the dress is nothing compared to my fiancé: Col Palafox, the
first son of Victoria. The leader of a guerrilla army, until a month ago,
when he attacked my father’s city and lost everything.
Our families are at war, you see. Col is our prisoner as well as my
betrothed. Engagements don’t get much better than this.
The feeds love it. They’re calling us the most logic-missing couple
of the mind-rain. The scandal of the season.
Wait till they watch me kill my father on my wedding day.
Wait till they find out that I was never really me.

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‘Rafia?’ my room asks. ‘Dona Oliver is here to see you.’
Rafia isn’t my name, but I answer, ‘Let her in.’
The door slides open. My father’s secretary wears a distracted
look, her eyes glinting with data. All those details swirling around the
party, like the hovercams around this tower, waiting for luminaries to
‘We’ve added something to tomorrow’s schedule,’ Dona says.
‘A public appearance, just the two of you.’
I try not to flinch. ‘Dad and me?’
She shakes her head. ‘You and Col, so the citizens of Shreve can
see you together. Give them your best smile, he said.’
‘This one?’ My lips curl, a perfect imitation of my twin sister.
But the smile doesn’t impress Dona. Her eyes clear of data, and she
lowers herself into the chair where I used to sit and watch Rafi do her
I keep my gaze on the mirror, letting a drone layer my foundation
in smooth strokes. Dona stares at me, a little uncertain.
Maybe because Rafi would never allow a machine to do her
‘It’ll be okay,’ Dona finally says.
She’s wrong.
I’m a prisoner in this tower, just like Col. There’s a bomb collar
around my neck, like the one around his. Spy dust watches my every
move, tracks my every glance. Sooner or later, I’ll choose the wrong

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dress or make the wrong joke and someone will realize I’m not my big
sister, Rafia.
She’s out in the wild. Free at last, but hunted by my father’s forces.
They think she’s me, and have orders to kill her on sight.
Everything is a long way from okay.
‘We’ll have a dozen guards around you,’ Dona goes on. ‘A hundred
security drones overhead. You’ll be just as safe as when Frey was here
to take your place.’
That’s almost funny. Dona thinks I’m scared of a crowd of ran-
doms, because I don’t have a body double anymore. But it was me in
front of those crowds.
I was born to be sniper bait. My body resists sitting here motionless,
letting a drone spray on my makeup. Dodging bullets was better.
And I miss my sister. Rafi deciding on our makeup, our hair. Telling
me the gossip from a party the night before, trying to give me a life.
Living in her shadow wasn’t so bad. Pretending to be her is a hun-
dred times more lonely. In this whole city, only Col knows who I
really am.
I hope Rafi’s okay out there in the wild.
‘I’m not afraid of crowds,’ I say.
‘Maybe something else is making you nervous.’ Dona’s voice
goes soft, as if the spy dust won’t hear. ‘Like marrying a boy you
hardly know?’
Wrong again—Col and I love each other. We fought a war together.
He was the first outsider to know my secret. I was there when his
world crumbled.

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Here in my father’s tower, we see each other only at formal dinners
and publicity events, never alone. Me playing the haughty Rafia, him
the humbled prisoner. But the air still sparks between us.
I’ve fooled everyone else; he recognized me in the first five
It was worth it, staying here to save him.
‘He really does seem to like you,’ Dona says. ‘That’s more than we
could hope for . . . given everything.’
I give her one of Rafi’s sidelong looks. Everything includes my
father’s missiles destroying Col’s home and family. The army of Shreve
occupying his city. Our forces still hunting his younger brother.
My publicity team was worried that our engagement would look
like a sham, a spectacle to make the world forget my father’s crimes.
But it turns out people live for stories about lovers whose families are
at war.
‘Col’s not a problem,’ I say.
‘You hardly know him, Rafia. And marriage is serious.’
‘So is war. Allying our houses will end this one. Maybe the world
will start to forgive us for invading Victoria.’
‘I know you’re doing the strategic thing,’ Dona says. ‘But that
doesn’t always make it easy. This must be scary.’
I put on my sister’s imperious voice. ‘I’m not afraid of some boy.’
‘You’ve changed,’ Dona says gently.
Those words freeze me. I stare at the mirror, watching the drone
sculpt my face with artful lines.
I am Rafia of Shreve.

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I am always watched, but I am never seen.
‘It’s no wonder, of course,’ Dona continues. ‘Your home was
invaded. You were forced to admit your oldest secret in front of
She means my speech with Rafi, the night Col was captured. We
sisters stood together in front of the hovercams, revealing at last that
there were two of us—the heir and the body double. Explaining
that our father used his own daughter as a decoy for snipers and
That speech was supposed to make the city rise up against him.
But speeches don’t win wars, it turns out.
‘What does that have to do with Col?’ I ask.
‘He came along just as all your certainties vanished. When you
felt most exposed.’
I laugh. ‘You think I have a crush on him?’
‘You persuaded him to accept your hand in marriage. That took
some work.’
‘Hardly.’ One of Rafi’s shrugs. ‘Dad would’ve executed him. Col’s
lucky he’s more useful as a son-in-law than a corpse.’
‘But you still had to convince him, and your father, and the rest of
the world that you wanted to be together. Maybe you convinced your-
self too.’
I close my eyes, letting the drone work on my lashes while my
heart settles in my chest.
Dona has seen the way I feel about Col.
She was always the most thoughtful of my father’s staff. Not just a

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thug. I will need her on my side in the all-important seconds after he’s
dead. For now, she needs to think that Rafi remains as selfish as
‘I have plans for that boy.’
‘I’m sure you do,’ she says. ‘You’ve worked hard on your part of the
She means my deal with my father—I get to marry Col, to keep
him alive, as long as I’m the perfect daughter. Go to my classes. Do
what Publicity tells me. No public mention of Frey.
‘But sometimes the heart makes its own plans,’ Dona says. ‘You’ve
fallen for him.’
I keep my eyes closed, letting the drone work. She must have
watched us in those early days—Col pretending to resist my offer of
marriage, like a defeated, sullen captive. At first, we insulted each
other, then we argued the merits of an alliance, only letting ourselves
flirt a little at the end.
It made my skin hum, keeping a secret together while the spy dust
But something true must have slipped out, caught by Dona’s
sharp eyes.
‘Believe what you want,’ I say. ‘That boy is a means to an end.’
‘Of course, Rafia. Sorry to presume.’ She stands up, adding lightly,
‘By the way, he wanted to see you before the bash. He’s waiting on the
eighth-floor terrace. Alone.’
I open my eyes too quickly, and the drone pings its disapproval.

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My eye shadow is smeared, just a touch. Brain-missing of me, but
the promise of a private moment with Col makes me want to run
to the stairs.
Dona smiles, noticing everything. ‘Don’t do your hair yet. It’s
windy out.’
Spy dust doesn’t work well in the breeze. But I stay in character—
cursing softly, flicking the drone aside to inspect its work.
‘Tell Col I’ll be there in forty minutes.’

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On my way to see Col, I step across the red line like it’s nothing.
Growing up, only our tutors and a few of my father’s closest advi-
sors knew there were two of us. I stayed hidden in the secure part of
the tower, my world bounded by colored markings on the floor. I was
trained to walk and talk like Rafi, to stay in her shadow, to kill.
A deadly secret in the shape of a girl.
But now that I’ve taken my sister’s place, I can go anywhere. The
staff looks down at the floor as I pass, clearing my way with small
backward steps. They remember Rafi’s temper tantrums, her rage at
being the first daughter of Shreve—his daughter. Or maybe they
sense something nervous-making about me now, the killer inside.
I’ve changed from an invisible girl into someone dangerous to
look at.
When we were little, Rafi was always beside me, telling me what
to wear, which rules we could break. She knew the servants’ names,
and how to stand up to our father.


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She always promised that after he was gone, she’d reveal me to the
world. That was all I wanted back then—to walk freely in my own home.
But not like this, alone.
Without Rafi, I don’t belong here anymore.
I only see her on the feeds now. Out there in the wild, with the
rebels and what remains of Col’s army, Rafi records herself every few
days. She calls on the world to punish our father’s crimes, telling them
to boycott everything Shreve makes.
Pretending to be me.
The impersonation is uncanny. Like she’s been practicing all along.
Watching her is dizzy-making, like leaving my own body and see-
ing myself from the outside. All those years of me copying her walk,
her stance, the way she raises her eyebrows—that whole time she was
watching me too.
And I have to ask myself . . .
Was it this unnerving for Rafi, watching me impersonating her?

Col waits on a high stone terrace that overlooks the gardens. We’re on
the private side of my father’s tower, where newscams aren’t allowed
to fly. The late-winter sky is pale blue. No clouds, just spirals of birds
coiling up from the forest.
Col isn’t dressed up yet—tonight he’ll be in a silver knee-length
suit, its threads programmed to reflect the colors of my dress. But he
looks beautiful in his rust linen jacket and . . .


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When did I start paying attention to clothes? I used to only care
about improvised weapons and my enemies’ weaknesses.
Maybe after a month of pretending to be Rafi, I’m turning into
her. Studying for interviews, trying to impress my tutors, taking on
every duty my father asks of me. Sometimes in bed at night, my mus-
cles ache from standing like her all day.
But it’s worth it to keep Col alive.
‘You look lovely,’ he says, taking my hand.
He plays his role well, enthralled by me reluctantly, someone who’s
fallen for an enemy’s daughter. We have to stay in character, even out
here in the breeze. Security can still listen through the walls, the win-
dows, the smart fibers of our clothes.
‘Thank you.’ I push my hair behind my ears. ‘But they’ll all be
staring at you tonight.’
‘Don’t be silly, Rafia. You’re the belle of this ball.’
I keep my eyes fixed on the horizon. I want to look at him, kiss
him. But the real Rafi wouldn’t give Dona the satisfaction.
And every time we kiss, my father might be watching.
‘The people of Shreve have always been fond of me,’ I say. ‘But
now that they know about Frey, what if it’s her they love?’
‘Maybe it doesn’t matter.’
A frown crosses my face. ‘Are you saying we’re interchangeable?’
‘Hardly. Frey isn’t like anyone else.’
‘She had an unsual upbringing.’ I try to sound flippant. ‘Strange
hobbies as a child.’


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‘I know. We fought a war together. Your father should be afraid
of her.’
‘He is.’ My laughter sounds like a bubblehead’s. ‘But Frey won’t
bother us.’
‘Don’t be so sure. She’s as fierce as she is beautiful.’
Fierce. One of our words, like steadfast. I flush under my party
makeup, trying to think what Rafi would say.
‘Are you trying to make me jealous, Col?’
He shrugs. ‘You’re more like her than you realize.’
‘We’re opposites. She’s a warrior. I’ve never even punched anyone!’
He gently curls my fingers into a fist. ‘There’s plenty of time to
His touch makes me shiver, and I watch the military hovercraft
circling overhead, just to have something to look at. I want him to
keep saying these things about me, so I tell myself it’s what Rafi would
want too.
‘I’ve always meant to ask . . .’ I give him one of Rafi’s dramatic
pauses. ‘When you two were playing soldier together, were you ever
more than just comrades-in-arms?’
Col hesitates, glances at the tower behind us.
‘Not that it matters,’ I add. ‘It wouldn’t be the most awkward thing
in our past. The point of this wedding is to get beyond all that.’
I come to a halt, flustered by how the words all that compare to my
father’s crimes. Rafi is never flustered.
‘Your sister and I were allies,’ Col says.


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Such a neutral word. Anyone listening would think we weren’t
even friends. But that was our first promise to each other—to be allies.
‘I’ve been meaning to apologize,’ he says. ‘I laughed when you pro-
posed to me. That was rude.’
I shrug. ‘Under the circumstances, it must have sounded odd.’
‘It took a while to understand.’ He takes my hand again, firmly this
time. ‘You weren’t just saving me from execution. You really do like me.’
Rafi would look away, so I do. ‘It’s a sin to waste good breeding.’
He nods. ‘I’m just saying, I see you for who you are. You aren’t your
I turn to him. ‘Col.’
His lips barely move, mouthing my name.
I have to look away again. It’s madness, playing games like this,
hoping the dust won’t catch it.
But something tightly wound inside me loosens a little.
I am seen.
The scars of war spread out beneath us—gouges in the earth where
invading Victorian craft fell during our attack on Shreve. The hedges
where my own hovercar crashed still haven’t regrown.
We almost won, almost ousted my father from power, only to fail
and wind up here. Two prisoners.
But at least we showed the citizens of Shreve that my father isn’t
invincible. We infected his surveillance dust that night—the system
still crashes once a week or so, giving the citizens of Shreve a few
precious hours of privacy.


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My plan hinges on my father being weaker now. And, of course,
on everyone thinking that I’m the spoiled Rafia, not the trained
killer, Frey.
‘About our appearance tomorrow,’ Col says lightly.
‘Yes. Dona just told me about it.’
‘We should wear something special.’
I’m not sure what he means. My staff always chooses Col’s clothes,
walking the fine line of making him desirable without anyone forget-
ting that he’s our prisoner.
But then he glances at my necklace—the bomb collar.
He wears one too, a thick gray ring of metal around his neck. If we
try to escape this tower, the collars will detonate, turning us into a
fine mist of blood and meat. Now that I have no body double, my
father likes to be certain that no one can ever steal me away.
But there’s something he doesn’t know. On the night of the attack,
we cracked the code that unlocks the collar. The key is hidden in the
trophy room.
Col doesn’t know about the key either. So why is he staring at
my neck?
‘Something less formal?’ I suggest.
‘Exactly—I don’t want to look stuffy.’
I nod, still uncertain of what he’s trying to say.
Then he steps forward, as if hugging me good-bye, and murmurs
so softly that the wind takes it away . . .
‘Dress to move.’


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‘Entrance in ten minutes,’ Dona says. ‘Are you ready?’
‘Me or them?’ I ask.
There are five people fussing around me—sewing the bottom of
my dress, adjusting my jewelry, checking the batteries on my lifters,
fixing my hair.
No one answers.
The party thrums the floor beneath our feet, shakes the walls
around us. Light pulses through the slim gap between the double
doors waiting to let me in.
I get that tickle in my stomach. All those eyes on me, just like in
my nightmares. Will they see through my act and finally realize that
I’m Frey?
‘Ready,’ someone finally says. One by one, the others repeat the
word and take a step back.
‘Final dress check,’ Dona says. ‘Spin it up.’


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Maltia, my sister’s fashion mistress, waves a hand, and I feel my
arm hairs start to tingle. The magnetic lifters woven into the fibers of
my dress are coming to life.
A small galaxy of metal shards detaches from the hem, rising into
the air. At first it’s shiny chaos, but soon the shards find their proper
orbits. I’m standing at the center of an intricate mechanism, as if a
solar system has formed around me.
Dona takes a moment to drink it in before she speaks again.
‘Proximity check?’
Maltia steps closer, inside the orbiting metal. The shards sense her
and react, slipping from their paths to envelop her as well. For a
moment, we’re together inside our own private celestial clock. It’s
oddly intimate, but Maltia doesn’t meet my eye.
As she steps out again, my satellites artfully avoid her.
‘Perfect,’ Dona says, and they all clap for me, as if I had anything
to do with this dress. ‘Entrance in four minutes.’
I look around. ‘Where’s Col?’
It comes out too eager—Dona gives me a look. She’ll be watching
us tonight. But I have a plan to convince her that my feelings for Col
are purely mercenary.
‘On his way,’ Dona says. ‘Which reminds me, one last jewelry
At these words, the others lower their eyes.
Dona steps forward, parting the orbiting metal around me. She
holds up a wafer of flat circuitry, presses it against my neck.


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The bomb collar makes a soft click.
I stand there, stunned, as Dona pulls the collar open. Its weight
lifts from my shoulders, my heart, my future.
But the feeling only lasts a moment—then another click.
When I look in the mirror, I see that she’s slipped on a jewel that
matches my dress. As if the collar was decoration.
Col comes in, flanked by two bodyguards. They look like soldiers
stuffed into formal wear, but Col was born to dress this way. The
morning suit and tie are a dull gray at first, but the threads turn
reflective as he draws near. The color of my dress glints along his body.
He hesitates, wary of the satellites in orbit around me. But when
he reaches for my hand, the shards adjust, taking up stations around
his arm.
Col glances at the jewel around my neck and smiles.
‘Lovely necklace,’ he says.
‘Thanks. It’s the same old thing, though. Just a new stone.’
‘Entrance in one minute!’ Dona calls.
Col adjusts his cuffs, his eyes on my collar again. ‘You aren’t
bored of it?’
‘A family heirloom. I don’t go anywhere without it.’
He takes my arm in his, straightening to make our entrance.
‘Family is important,’ he says.
Dress to move, he whispered on the terrace.
Is he planning an escape tomorrow?
There’ll be soldiers, security drones, half the Shreve military on


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standby. Neither of us is armed with so much as a pulse knife, and the
collars will kill us on command.
That’s why I’ve given up on running away. There will never be
any freedom while my father still breathes. The only solution is for
me to end him with the whole world watching, and then declare
myself and my sister rulers of—
‘Smile, you two,’ Dona says. ‘Entrance in five, four, three . . .’
The doors swing open, and a wave of sound rushes over us, a gal-
axy of light, an ocean of eyes and hovercams.
I barely have time to put on Rafi’s smile.


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After a moment of applause from the crowd, my sister’s friends swarm
us. Their possessive bubble surrounds me, a human version of my
metal satellites.
‘You’re so beautiful, Rafia!’
‘I love that dress.’
‘So brilliant—letting the randoms vote on your outfit!’
‘Can I touch one of your little planets?’
I’ve studied Rafi’s friends my whole life, so I’d know who to wave
to in a crowd. But before this month, I never really talked to them.
As part of my deal with my father, my presence is required at all their
I used to envy my sister for her friends, but every minute with
them is full of terror that I’ll say the wrong thing.
I know their faces, their names. But they’re strangers to me.
Their eyes shift from me to Col.
‘So this is the boy you’ve been hiding,’ one says—Katya, who


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changes her face once a week. For this party, her little finger has been
surged into a tiny snake.
‘I can see why,’ Demeter says. ‘He looks even better in person.’
‘Rebel boys are so rugged,’ Sirius says, his flash tattoos spinning.
‘Should I get one too?’
They all go silent, waiting for me to respond with something cut-
ting. To remind them that they’re just rich kids, while I am the first
daughter of Shreve.
The attention freezes me, like when my father expects Rafia’s wit
from my mouth. But then Col pulls me close, and the metal shards
take up orbit around us both.
‘Did you say rebel?’ he asks. ‘I’m the first son of Victoria.’
Sirius frowns at him. ‘So?’
‘Rebels don’t have cities,’ I tell him. ‘Col, these are my friends.
Apologies that they’re so manners-missing.’
I wave my hand. Suddenly polite and obedient, they step forward
one by one to introduce themselves.
‘So this is real between you two?’ Sirius asks. His dark eyes are full
of glitter implants. ‘That’s what everyone’s asking.’
‘Of course it is.’ I idly brush one of my satellites aside. ‘As real as
having my own city.’
This takes a moment to click. It’s Demeter, whose mother com-
mands the Shreve police force, who speaks up first.
‘You’re moving to Victoria after you’re married?’
‘We’re going to rule Victoria,’ I say.
Katya’s eyes glisten with sudden tears. ‘You’re leaving us!’


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I shrug. ‘Who says you can’t come along?’
Demeter sputters, then grins an apology at Col. ‘Sorry. But that
place is so culture-missing.’
‘When we’re done with it, Victoria will be the envy of Shreve.’
I wave my hand at the party—the safety fireworks, the fountains of
bubbly, the hoverdancers over our heads. ‘None of this matters when
the whole world hates us.’
Now my sister’s friends are scandalized. A little nervous, even,
uncertain if I’m setting a trap. Maybe they’re checking to see if the
dust has crashed again.
It hasn’t, but Katya decides to be brave. ‘Raffles is right. My school
in Paris won’t accept Shreve trade credits anymore. They make us
pay tuition in gold, like smugglers!’
‘We can’t buy decent caviar anymore,’ Demeter says. ‘No one
wants to sell to us!’
‘I wasn’t invited to the London Equestrian Ball this year!’
‘My publicist told me to stay home tonight! She said coming to this
bash wasn’t worth the reputational—’ Sirius freezes, his flash tattoos
spinning with terror.
I ignore the insult, taking Col’s hand.
‘We’re going to rebuild Victoria, make it the best city. The rest of
the world will adore us for it.’
There is a moment of cautious silence. Then Katya starts clapping,
her eyes brimming again. ‘I knew you’d fix this, Raffles! I’ll follow
you anywhere!’
The others join in the applause.


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Of course, I’m saying all this for the dust, for Dona, not these bubble-
heads. But some of it is even true. We’re going to rebuild everything
in Victoria that my father destroyed. After we’ve destroyed my father.
‘Won’t living in a foreign city be nervous-making?’ Demeter asks.
‘Is it even safe?’
‘With Col beside me? Victorians love him.’
‘Not them.’ She leans forward to mock whisper. ‘Your sister.’
Another hush comes over our little bubble—Rafi’s friends remem-
bering that there were always two of us. One sister invited them to
dinner, gave tasteful birthday presents, let them bask in her fame and
power. The other, they only brushed shoulders with on the dance
floor . . . but she was a killer.
And none of them ever noticed.
‘Frey would never hurt me,’ I say firmly.
Hearing my name entrances them. At all those parties, we’ve
never really talked about me. My father’s publicity machine has
spread the rumor that the whole speech was faked. That Rafi was
drugged, and Frey was a Victorian agent with impostor surge.
No one close to him believes it.
‘What was it like, having an extra you?’ Katya asks.
‘I wish my parents had made me a secret twin,’ Demeter says.
‘Someone to take my exams!’
‘She’d probably fail them. Remember that speech? Frey was
so dirty.’
‘Still, if you needed a kidney transplant—no waiting for one
to grow!’


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It’s my turn to say something bubbly, but I can’t. After everything
our father has done to us, they still see Frey as an accessory. A spare.
Suddenly I need to leave.
I manage a smile. ‘We have to mingle now, bubbleheads. Don’t be
‘You should talk, Raffles! You went missing for the whole war!’
‘You’re so much better now.’
‘Love the dress!’
I guide us out of the VIP area, my fingernails in Col’s arm.
My heart gradually settles. It’s more crowded out here, but no one
knows my sister personally. People offer their congratulations with-
out swarming us.
‘Your friends seem nice,’ Col says.
He shrugs. ‘I’m used to awkward conversations with your crowd,
Rafia. But it’s even stranger now that . . .’
His voice trails away. Now that I’m the captive of my family’s mur-
derers. And engaged to their daughter.
‘They’re just bubbleheads,’ I say.
That’s what Rafi always called them when she got home from par-
ties. I thought she was just trying to make me feel better for having no
friends of my own. But she was right.
The whole time we were growing up, I never saw that she was as
lonely as me.
Does Rafi have new friends now? Somehow I can’t imagine her
enjoying the company of rebels and Victorian resistance fighters.


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‘I’ll get used to them,’ Col says.
‘Don’t bother. None of them are brave enough to follow us to
‘Maybe Victoria will come to them.’ He gestures at someone
approaching us. They’re wearing a dress almost as magnificent as
mine. It’s built from whorls of high-res flatscreen fabric that shows
clouds rolling across a dark sky, a human-shaped storm blowing
straight at me.
It takes a moment to recognize them—the last time I saw Yandre,
they were wearing a sneak suit and body armor.
A rebel commando is here at my party.


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