Supernova (Renegades, #3)

Her teeth ground.

Adrian sighed and looked down. For the first time, Nova noticed something in his hands. A sphere with a small crown on one side and an open seam around its circumference. Nova recognized it immediately—one of Fatalia’s mist-missiles, or so it had been, before she had stolen it from the artifacts department. She and Leroy had reconfigured the devices to release a gaseous form of Agent N, the noxious substance that had been developed using Max Everhart’s blood. Though harmless to civilians, it was poison to prodigies. As soon as they inhaled, imbibed, or were injected with the substance, they would permanently lose their powers.

As Nightmare, Nova had detonated two of the devices in this lobby. Those, along with a stolen dart loaded with Agent N, had resulted in both Gargoyle and Aftershock being stripped of their abilities. She had orchestrated the neutralization of Frostbite, too, though she didn’t need Agent N that time. She’d simply dragged the girl closer to Max and let the Bandit do what he needed to do.

Now she found herself staring at the shell of the device, already forming a series of lies she could tell when someone bothered to check them for fingerprints. She had touched the mist-missiles one day while working in the vault … that must have been before Nightmare stole them …

But the lies were flimsy.

The higher her lies piled up, the more precarious they became. Sometimes she felt that if she dared to exhale fully, the whole thing would topple.

“It looks like one of Fatalia’s mist-missiles,” she said, keeping her tone even.

“That’s what Callum said, too,” said Adrian.

“Callum? Is he here?” Nova’s thoughts turned back to the night before, when she had left Callum unconscious in the vault.

Adrian nodded. “He went back upstairs to check if the mist-missiles are missing.”

“Maybe Nightmare took them when she took the spear.”

Adrian’s brow furrowed over his dark-framed glasses. “I don’t think so. Mack Baxter said Nightmare had some sort of bomb filled with Agent N. That’s how she was able to neutralize Trevor. I think this is one of those bombs.”

Nova silently cursed Aftershock and Gargoyle, even if she couldn’t blame them for telling the truth. “Well, maybe she was inspired by the mist-missile design. She is supposed to be some genius inventor, right? She must have created these herself.”

Adrian hesitated, and she could see him battling with his own thoughts. Finally, he conceded, “Maybe. We’ll see what Callum finds.”

Unconvinced.

Nova wouldn’t have been convinced, either. No matter how hard she tried to deflect scrutiny away from herself, her arguments just weren’t all that convincing these days.

“The thing is,” said Adrian, tossing the empty device into the air and catching it again in his palm, “if Nightmare was setting off Agent N bombs … it would have affected her, too. Why wasn’t she afraid of losing her powers?”

“She wears a mask, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t a gas mask.”

She shrugged. “We don’t know that.”

“Okay, but she was also right next to Max when”—Adrian cut short, his gaze darting toward the blood on the floor—“when he was draining Genissa of her powers. He should have been draining Nightmare, too, but she ran out of here like nothing was wrong. No one is immune to Max.”

“Your dad is.”

He scowled. “No one other than Captain Chromium.”

“I’m just saying, there might be ways around Max’s ability and Agent N. Maybe Nightmare found something … like you stumbling onto that Vitality Charm.” The Vitality Charm was an artifact Adrian had discovered that could protect a person against disease, poison, and just about anything that would weaken them, including substances like Agent N. The artifact that was, even at that moment, tucked between the worn mattress and the wooden floorboards at Nova’s house on Wallowridge. “There could be dozens of artifacts that would protect someone’s ability and we just don’t know about them.”

“And you think that Nightmare and I happened to each find one around the same time?”

“Sure. Maybe.”

“Or…” Adrian’s voice dropped to a whisper, though all of the nearby Renegades were too busy sweeping up glass and pulling debris from the wreckage to care about their conversation. “Maybe Nightmare has the Vitality Charm.”

Nova had expected this rebuttal. It made so much more sense than her argument, after all. But she kept her expression neutral. “Don’t you have it?”

Adrian grimaced. “No. Pops had it last. I gave it to him so he could visit Max. You know, outside the quarantine for once. But now it’s missing.”

“So … you think she stole that from the vault, too?”

“It wasn’t in the vault. Simon swears he brought it back to the house. That’s the last we’ve seen of it.”

She cocked her head to one side. “So you think Nightmare broke into your house?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. In theory, she could have done it while we were all at the gala, but there’s nothing on any of our security cameras. And that doesn’t explain how she would have known about the charm in the first place. I haven’t told anyone other than you and Max, and I know my dads didn’t, either.” He rubbed the back of his neck, and she could tell he felt a little guilty to even ask—“You didn’t mention it to anyone, did you?”

“Of course not,” she said. “But Tina and Callum knew about the charm, too, and Callum can’t keep his mouth shut around anyone. Maybe they let something slip, not realizing how valuable it is.”

“Yeah. Maybe. I was actually hoping the team could get together later to discuss what we know about Nightmare. Maybe there’s something we’ve overlooked. It’s just … there seem to be some pretty strange coincidences.”

“She’s an Anarchist,” Nova said, daring to settle a hand on Adrian’s forearm. She felt his muscles tighten briefly beneath the fabric of his uniform. “She’s devious and cunning and probably has a lot of connections in the world of … villains that we know nothing about. If she could do all this, if she could even steal Ace Anarchy’s helmet, then who knows what else she’s capable of? Finding that charm or figuring out some other way around Agent N—none of it seems like a stretch.”

Adrian stared at her hand for a moment, before a wisp of a smile crossed his lips and he settled his own fingers on top of hers. His other hand, still clutching the mist-missile, dropped to his side. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said. But just as Nova’s heart began to flutter, he added, “I’m glad you’re on my side.”

She allowed a wisp of a smile in return. “What other side would I be on?”

“Adrian! Nova!”

They turned to see Ruby and Oscar slipping through the crowd. Ruby latched on to Adrian’s other elbow. “How’s Max?”

His jaw flexed. “Still in critical.”

She shook her head. “I am so, so sorry. She’s a monster, Adrian. How anyone could do that to Max—!”

Nova winced.

“I hate to say it, but I’m not surprised,” said Adrian, as if this had been an inevitable attack. “Of course Nightmare would try to kill Max. Any of the Anarchists would. It’s because of him they were defeated in the first place. They’ve probably been plotting his murder for the last ten years.”

Heat rose in Nova’s cheeks. The more she heard about Nightmare’s attempt to kill Max, the more she wanted to scream the truth. It was Genissa who stabbed the kid, not Nightmare. She would never hurt him. Hell, she’d tried to save him!

But she bit her tongue. There was no point in trying to argue Nightmare’s innocence. They wouldn’t believe her, and it would only raise suspicion.

“We’ll find her,” said Ruby. “We’ll put an end to this. And Max—he’s going to be fine. He’s a strong kid.”

“I know,” said Adrian. He sounded grateful and like he wanted to believe her. Like he’d been telling himself this same thing all night. But there was still an echo of doubt beneath his words.

Nova exhaled slowly. Adrian had come to her house early that morning, after the dust had settled, to tell her about Max being in the hospital and about Nightmare stealing the helmet. He had seemed so defeated, and yet, at the same time, bolstered by a new desire for revenge. She shuddered to remember his words, spoken even as she held him against her, trying her best to comfort him.

I’m going to find Nightmare, and I’m going to destroy her.





CHAPTER TWO




“I HEAR NIGHTMARE really whupped Frostbite and her crew,” said Oscar as he took in the massive amount of destruction to the lobby.

“More or less,” said Adrian. “Frostbite, Gargoyle, and Aftershock were all neutralized.”

“I hate to say it, but … I mean, that’s sort of a point in Nightmare’s favor, right?”

Ruby smacked Oscar in the shoulder. “She almost killed Max, you dunce!”

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