Whispers of the Darkness

The world is changing-the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now kids are disappearing.

For Marinette and her brother Nino, life turns upside-down when they are hauled out of bed one night, separated from their parents, and thrown into a secret compound for no reason they can comprehend.

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1. Prologue

Mari POV

It's overwhelming. A city's worth of angry faces staring at me like I'm a wicked criminal—which, I promise you, I'm not. The stadium is filled past capacity. People are standing in the aisles, the stairwells, on the concrete ramparts, and a few extra thousand are camped out on the playing field. There are no football teams here today. They wouldn't be able to get out of the locker-room tunnels if they tried.

This total abomination is being broadcast on TV and the Internet too. All the useless magazines are here, and the useless newspapers. Yep, I see cameramen in elevated roosts at intervals around the stadium.

There's even one of those remote-controlled cameras that runs around on wires above the field. There it is—hovering just in front of the stage, bobbing slightly in the breeze.

So there are undoubtedly millions more eyes watching than I can see. But it's the ones here in the stadium that are breaking my heart. To be confronted with tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of curious, uncaring, or at least indifferent, faces... talk about frightening.

And there are no moist eyes, never mind tears.

No words of protest.

No stomping feet.

No fists raised in solidarity.

No inkling that anybody's even thinking of surging forward, breaking through the security cordon, and carrying my family to safety.

Clearly, this is not a good day for us Dupain-Chengs.

In fact, as the countdown ticker flashes on the giant video screens at either end of the stadium, it's looking like this will be our last day.

It's a point driven home by the very tall, bald man up in the tower they've erected midfield—he looks like a cross between a Supreme Court chief justice and Ming the Merciless. I know who he is. I've actually met him. He's Hawkmoth.

Directly behind him is a huge N.O. banner—THE NEW ORDER.

Imperiously, Hawkmoth raises his hand, and his hooded lackeys on the stage push us forward, at least as far as the ropes around our necks will allow.

I see my brother, Nino, handsome and brave, looking down at the platform mechanism. Calculating if there's any way to jam it, some means of keeping it from unlatching and dropping us to our neck-snapping deaths. Wondering if there's a last-minute way out of this.

I see my mother crying quietly. Not for herself, of course, but for Nino and me.

I see my father, his tall frame stooped with resignation, smiling at me and my brother—trying to keep our spirits up, reminding us that there's no point in being miserable in our last moments on this planet.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm supposed to be providing an introduction here, not the details of our public execution.

So let's go back a bit....

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