PROLOGUE

There's a strange stillness that follows the percussion of an explosion.

It's an eerie calm that succeeds the chaos of crumbling concrete. The sound of metal pipes bending and popping. The hollow, twine-like snaps of cables, foundation, and mortar collapsing. It was all so loud, violent, and horrible that when it stopped, the thing that struck her most was the silence.

It took a while for her senses to return. The first that did was feeling. The next was sight, and the last was hearing. She knew this when she identified the repetitive, shrill sound as her own breathing and did her best to slow it. She tried to embrace that peace. Own the quiet. Get a grip.

A woman betrayed is a creature captured in countless muddled emotions. A monster of hate, grief, revenge, regret, rage. The mad. The broken.

Her eyes danced about the wreckage to recant exactly where she believed she was: about twenty feet below the debris of a demolished building.

By evening, a form somewhat similar to a human's, though poorly held together, emerged from the broken concrete with an undignified grunt. Some time after that, she huddled in an alley— jittery and shy in the wake of city noises. Then, hours or eons later, the woman who wore more blood than skin happened upon the rail line that stretched far into the desert wasteland beside the city of Atlas.

Her city, where she would never be safe again.