The crowd was bustling with activity. Everyone was excited to hear what the mayor was going to say, and had their own opinion about what they thought that meant. All Reyna knew was that whatever the big announcement was…it couldn’t be good.

A group of people walked out on the stage in a single-file line and took their seats. As a man approached the podium, the audience quieted down.

“Welcome!” the man called into the microphone.

“Harrington is seated to the left of the speaker,” Beckham whispered down to Reyna.

“Do you think this has something to do with Visage?”

He pressed his lips firmly together. She could tell it was killing him not to be in the know. As a senior official, he should have been informed of what was about to happen, especially if it had something to do with Visage.

“Just stick close to me.” He pulled her closer to his body and reached for her hand. “There are too many people out right now, and I don’t want us to get separated.”

“Thank you all for coming this afternoon. It is my pleasure to introduce our very own Mayor Sky.”

As the mayor stepped up to the microphone, the audience broke into applause. He was well liked and had been elected over and over and over again by the people. Reyna didn’t really feel like he had ever helped. While she felt bad for Penelope’s situation, she knew she and her father were both beyond wealthy in a world where the poor were quite literally starving. Living on the inside with Beckham had really shown her the difference, and if she had the chance, she would vote him out of office in a heartbeat. Though she knew there would never truly be a better alternative in today’s environment.

The mayor waited for the immense crowd to quiet down again before speaking.

“Welcome!” His voice boomed. “It is both sad and troubling the circumstances with which I stand before you today. Our city has endured a great tragedy this weekend. I’ve spent my time meeting with the families of the victims of the underground fires, my daughter among them. It is with a heavy heart that your city government and I have had to come up with a drastic solution in these trying times.”

He paused for effect to let his words sink in. Reyna held her breath as she waited to find out where he was going with this.

“From henceforth all illicit activity will be severely cracked down upon for both humans and vampires. Many have let the animosity between our races drive them to violence. No matter the measures that we have already put in place, more death and destruction befalls the people of our city than ever before. The fires are just the tipping point to a horrible plague. My own daughter was burned!”

Reyna clutched Beckham’s hand tighter at the mention of Penelope. His face was drawn, and she wished she could make his worries go away.

“Your brother and sisters dead! We need to come together as one and stamp out the evil in this world. That should be our ultimate goal, and it was the goal in crafting this legislation. Today, I bring you a new plan to remedy the rising crime. The government must take responsibility for what has gone on, and today is the beginning of a new era!”

Beckham and Reyna glanced at each other. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking behind his dark eyes, but she knew that hastily drawn legislation couldn’t have been well thought out. Nor did she assume that meant it would truly benefit everyone.

“Your legislators have just passed a sweeping anti-crime bill that I have signed into law in response to the rapid increase in deaths within our city limits. As a result, we are immediately initiating these measures:

“First, our city has decided to commence the Census starting tomorrow morning at locations all over the city, including city hall.”

“What?” Reyna said in surprise. “I thought that wasn’t supposed to happen for a few months.”

“Looks like they’re in a hurry to get it started,” Beckham responded stiffly.

“Our city is thrilled to be the first in the country to herald in this new program. Each of you will be assigned a location to register in the city, and everyone must be tested for their blood type within a month. We want this to happen as quickly and seamlessly as possible, so we can report back all test results to the federal government and complete the national crisis database. Anyone who fails to complete the test will be heavily fined.”

The crowd rumbled with speculation. Some were outraged that they were being forced to participate in this. Others were frustrated that a blood type database was even necessary. Many of them mirrored Reyna’s own sentiment about the existence of a Blood Census. It could mean only one thing: Visage was in the government.