moving West for another five cycles.

That would also explain why her aunt had been pushing them even harder than usual at home, Kiva reflected. Maybe Aunt Agnes’ future depended on how well the girls did, too. In Solasenda, not Moving Up made you invisible in the eyes of everyone who moved past you.

Kiva knew what that felt like. For the past two cycles she’d been the only trainee in her level to not make it into a Guild.

It isn’t fair, she thought to herself. All the others had bombed on three or even four tests and done really well on only one, but that had been enough to get them accepted.

Kiva, on the other hand, had scored “average” or “above average” on most of the tests, but not high enough on any one to be invited to join a Guild.

She hadn’t always felt so isolated, she reminded herself. When she’d been younger, there had been others like her still around, ones who weren’t always thinking about keeping up with the town’s relentless westward march and obsession with moving up, up, up. There was Cynder, who’d always rolled her eyes at Kiva as soon as a scolding Guilder’s back was turned. And Amian, who’d clearly wanted to fit in, but couldn’t keep herself from watching the clouds pass overhead, or a colorful bird flash by, or any of a hundred things that took her mind off of her training, things Kiva wanted to look at, too, but didn’t dare to.

And there were others, too, some of whom Kiva had called her

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friends, like Reckless Reggie. One by one, they’d all been kept back, then moved aside, then sent away.

All those who couldn’t make the cut had simply... disappeared, until Kiva was the only one left in her level who hadn’t Moved Up.

As a result, the other trainees in her level avoided her as if she had a contagious disease. So now, she had no friends left, at school or elsewhere. And outside of Guildprep, a girl as tall as she was without a Guild uniform attracted many curious glances and a lot of whispering. If Kiva wasn’t Selected this time, she’d become a town joke, or a Facilitator, which was pretty much the same thing.

There’s worse than that, a voice in her head reminded her. You could become a—

She shook her head violently, feeling suddenly clammy and cold. Why had she thought that? That would never happen to her! Her skills were getting better!

Better enough to be selected this time? To avoid becoming a Futuneer?

Kiva shook her head to get rid of that voice and the fear it brought to the surface.

She would do anything to keep that from happening.

She’d heard townspeople strain to make their family members being sent West as as Futuneers sound great:

“They’re charting our journey Westward!”

 

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