Supernova (Renegades, #3)

Nova swallowed.

“After the Day of Triumph, I did my best to destroy Ace Anarchy’s helmet,” continued the Captain, “but it was indestructible. The Council and I decided it would be best to tell the world that the helmet had been destroyed, to ease the concerns of our people while we worked on rebuilding society. I convinced myself the helmet would be safe here at headquarters.” A flash of resentment curled his lip. “But it seems I was wrong. Nightmare did come for the helmet, and she did manage to escape with it last night.” A rustle of chatter flooded the room, but the Captain lifted his hands. “Listen to me. We must remain calm. Let me remind you—the Anarchists may have gotten the helmet last night, but they lost their leader. Without Ace Anarchy, that helmet is nothing but a costume accessory.”

Nova wondered if he believed that, and how many of the Renegades would believe him.

She didn’t know much about Ace’s helmet, but she had always assumed that it would amplify the powers of any prodigy, just as it had amplified Ace’s. Otherwise, why would the Renegades have been so determined to destroy it, once they believed that Ace was dead?

Nevertheless, the Captain’s words had an immediate effect. The crowd hushed. “I implore you,” he went on, “for now, news of this theft cannot reach the general populace. Do not speak to the media. Do not tell anyone. The last thing we need is for mass panic to spread while we’re on the verge of finally subduing the threat of villainous prodigies everywhere. From this point, we have two immediate matters of business to address. The first is undoing the damage that was wrought on our headquarters last night and initiating new security protocols. For that, my fellow Council members and I will be reaching out to our international syndicates, enlisting the help of any prodigies with powers that lend themselves to construction and repairs, and we will be assigning those in our home organization tasks based on their skills in the days to come. We are grateful for all your cooperation as we rebuild. If you have any thoughts on this project, I encourage you to speak with Kasumi, who will be heading up this undertaking.” He gestured at Tsunami, who bowed her head in return.

“And, second,” the Captain continued, “by the end of today, we will have a date scheduled for the public reveal of Agent N, after which all active patrol units will be equipped with the substance. This will allow us to defend ourselves against future such attacks, and convey to our citizens how very seriously we will be dealing with prodigies who choose not to follow our code of protection and honor.”

Nova squeezed Adrian’s forearm, though she didn’t realize she’d done it until he took her hand, lacing their fingers together.

“Additionally, we have decided that part of the reveal will include a public neutralization of all prodigies who have been heretofore convicted of villainous behavior … including Ace Anarchy himself.”

Though a chill ran down Nova’s spine, his statement was predictably met with applause—albeit somewhat nervous applause. Agent N had seemed like an exciting development to most of the organization when it had first been unveiled, but that was before some of the substance had fallen into Nightmare’s hands. That was before three of their own had been neutralized, right here in this very lobby.

Now it seemed that everyone was feeling a bit more apprehensive about the Renegades’ newest weapon.

“And what about the patrols who refuse to cooperate?” rang out a voice, shrill and spiked with anger.

A flurry of interest passed through the crowd as Genissa Clark, formerly known as Frostbite, picked her way through the rubble. Rather than the usual Renegade uniform, she was wearing drawstring pants and a loose T-shirt from the medical wing. Her bare arms were littered with bruises and scratches from her fight against Nightmare.

Nova tensed upon seeing one of the prodigies she had fought the night before. Though she had been hooded and masked, her heart still pounded to think that Genissa might have recognized her.

Genissa wasn’t alone. The rest of her team followed in her wake: Trevor Dunn, who had been Gargoyle before his powers had drained away. He was still taller than an average man, but not as gigantic as he had been before, and his skin showed no hint of stone. Then there was Mack Baxter, no longer Aftershock, who moved with a peculiar gait, like he was so used to making the ground shake from his steps that he would have to relearn how to walk now without the ground swelling up to meet him.

Of their team, only Stingray—Raymond Stern—remained a prodigy. Nova had put him to sleep in the surveillance room before she disabled the security cameras, and he had missed the rest of the battle. His barbed tail slid behind him, scattering bits of glass as it flicked back and forth.

“What did I miss?” whispered Ruby, appearing behind them. She had an open bag of turkey jerky.

“Uh … we’ll explain later,” said Adrian, taking an offered piece of jerky and stuffing it through the bars of Turbo’s cage.

“Genissa,” said Thunderbird, stepping to the front of the balcony. “You have not been given clearance from the healers to—”

“Screw the healers,” yelled Genissa. “What are they going to do? Bring my powers back?” She snapped her fingers—as if ice crystals might burst from their tips—but of course, nothing happened. Her scowl deepened. “You said yourself. The effects of Agent N are irreversible. So I don’t see much point in lounging around in a stuffy waiting room just so someone can pat me on the head and tell me it could have been worse. I could be dead.” She paused in the middle of the room, where the red-tiled R had been decimated by one of Aftershock’s quakes, and let her gaze travel around the gathered Renegades. “But let’s all stop and ask ourselves … really, would that be worse?” She returned her attention to the Council. “I’m not convinced.”

“Genissa—” started the Captain.

“Frostbite,” Genissa snapped in return, her nostrils flaring. She drew herself to her full height, her bob of white-blonde hair swinging against her shoulders. “We were here, on duty, protecting your organization. Your headquarters. I believed in the Renegades. I would have done anything to protect what we stand for. And look where it got me. Where it got us!” She gestured behind her at Mack and Trevor. “We stood up against Nightmare. We risked our lives, because that’s what superheroes do. But it wasn’t exactly a fair fight, was it? Because somehow, she had Agent N. She had your weapon.”

Nova’s jaw tensed, irritation flooding through her. How convenient for Genissa to skip over the fact that she, too, had Agent N at her disposal—and illegally, as the Renegades weren’t yet supposed to have access to it. Nova guessed Frostbite had swiped some during their training sessions, and she hadn’t hesitated to shoot Nightmare with a dart full of the stuff last night. If Nova hadn’t been wearing the Vitality Charm, she would be just as powerless now as they were.

“I want to know how,” Genissa continued. “How is it that you manage to develop a substance that can sap our enemies of their powers, only for it to fall into an enemy’s hands before we’ve even made a public announcement about it?”

Captain Chromium cleared his throat loudly. “Gen—Frostbite poses a fair question, and we will be investigating this at length.”

“Oh, you’ll be investigating it?” Genissa flung her arms to the sides and faced the crowd. Though the Renegades closest to her backed away, it was clear that they were hanging on her every word. Expressions were full of pity for the three former prodigies. To lose their gifts—it was what they had all feared from the start. “Just like you investigated Nightmare’s death after the Detonator supposedly blew her up?” Genissa said. “Or how about your investigation into the death of Ace Anarchy? Forgive me if I question your ability to figure out how Nightmare had access to Agent N, much less how you plan on keeping anyone else from getting it and turning it against us, just like she did.” Her voice rose as broken glass crunched beneath her feet. “It’s time we face the truth. Our leaders are incompetent. The Council is playing with things they don’t understand, things they have no real control over, and worst of all, they are risking our lives and our abilities in order to do it!”

Nova traded stunned looks with Adrian. But while she imagined that Adrian was shocked that anyone would dare speak to the beloved Council that way, she was shocked to think that she actually agreed with Genissa on something.

“That’s enough!” barked Blacklight, but he was silenced by the Captain lifting an arm across his chest, blocking him from moving to the front of the balcony.

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