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Silent footsteps fill the empty night. Adelina pulls her jacket tighter, afraid to let her milky white skin show.
It was her only weakness, really, the fact that she was albino. She had taken care of her left arm; in a drunken rage, her father had beaten her with a large piece of metal from his shop and crippled her. But that didn't matter anymore.
Hiding in the shadows of an alley, Adelina flexes her new arm. The metal fingers splay out smoothly. Here in the ruins of the once-great country Italy, she has found her home. While her father blames her for letting the mafia kill her mother and kicks out her brother, Raffeale, for joining a street gang, Adelina has waited. It took nearly a year, but she had saved up enough money to travel to Rome and have her arm fixed. On the way back, she had stopped at a tattoo parlor to get a small butterfly print on her left shoulder blade, just as her mother had.
But tonight, the gun strapped to her hip isn't just for show. If Adelina meets anyone in the waterlogged streets of Venice, she'll shoot. Ever since the great Catastrophe had torn the world apart, Italy had been run by the adrenaline in her people's veins. There is no order. Chaos reigns.
Relaxing, Adelina steps out to greet her brother. "Raffi. How are the boys in the gang?"
He doesn't answer, instead taking her bionic arm gingerly in his rough hands. His dark eyes glow with concern.
"I know you don't want me out here, but I have to. I have to find that man. The Black Serpent." Adelina narrows her surgically-altered purple eyes. "The bastard who killed mom."
Raffeale shakes his head. "Adelina, I don't know what happened to you. Just promise me you won't become like…" he pauses. "Like me. I kill people."
Adelina smiles sweetly. "Raffi, I know who you are. You act angry, like you hate me, like you hate Sergio." She refused to call her father by anything other than his real name. "I know you. You just want our family back."
"Out here, trust like that will get you killed." Without another word, Raffeale sloshes through the flooded, broken street.
"Don't mind him," a woman's voice purrs. "He'll be fine once he gets back to his boys."
Whirling around, Adelina pulls the gun from its holster, aiming it towards the voice.
A pair of sharp grey eyes materializes in front of Adelina. "Don't bother with that," the woman says, "because you're obviously new at it." Quicker than Adelina can respond, the woman has tossed the gun into the water and pulled Adelina's hands tightly behind her back. "Name's Ivy," the woman whispers into her ear, "and the Black Serpent is someone I'd very much like to kill."
Adelina waits, but the woman has nothing else to say. "Ok. Let's do it." Adelina agrees, ready to trust her with her life if it meant getting to the Black Serpent.
A gunshot rings through the air. Ivy collapses on Adelina, sending her onto her knees, chin deep in murky water.
"Leave my sister alone."
"Raffi!" Adelina gasps, Ivy's weight forcing her head closer and closer to the swirling water. Suddenly Ivy rolls over, coughing and gasping. Blood flows freely from her right arm. Raffeale grabs Adelina, pulling her down the street and into a broken down doorway.
"What are you thinking?!" he demands. "I just told you not to trust anyone."
Gasping for air, Adelina shakes her head. "I already told you. I want to get to the Black Serpent." With a sinking heart, she realizes that her new arm has shorted in the water. Past her fleshy elbow, she's just as much a cripple as she had been before the surgery. She strains, but the metal fingers remain curled in panic.
Raffeale groans. "Adi," he whispers, calling Adelina by a nickname she thought she'd never hear from him again, "you have to be more careful. You can't walk around a permanently flooded city with an arm powered by electricity and made of metal."
Adelina smiles, twirling her white hair with her good fingers. "Raffi, I'll be fine. I'm not a little girl anymore. I've lived with Sergio for years. I've been beaten for everything from you leaving to Mom dying to dirty dishes. I can handle myself."
Her brother shakes his head. "You're so much like Mom. You know that once the Black Serpent finds out about you, he'll be after you?"
"I wasn't ever caught up in the stuff Mom was. He has no reason to come after me."
"But you look exactly like her. He'll know you're her daughter. He'll think she left information with you." Raffeale sighs. "I borrowed some money from a shop the other day. I haven't spent it and I don't think the shop keeper wants it back," he grins, "so let's go to Rome and get your arm fixed up. Then we'll come back and I'll introduce you to the boys. We'll keep you safe."
Adelina picks up her gun from the water filled street. "This is where I belong," she thinks. "Picking up right where Mom left off. No Sergio. No rules. Just me, Raffeale, and this gun."
And for the first time since her mother died, Adelina knows where her place is.