Supernova (Renegades, #3)

The power grid was disrupted, plunging whole swaths of the city into blackness. It was like watching someone flick off the lights neighborhood by neighborhood.

From the sudden blackness came screams. The screams of people who appeared at their apartment windows and saw the ground suddenly too far away. The screams of those below as they sensed the ominous weight of the buildings above them, with nothing to keep them from falling.

It was the screams that made the Renegades in the wasteland hesitate. They turned to see what was happening. To their city. To the people they’d sworn to protect.

A strange sense of déjà vu flickered through Nova’s memory, and she thought of the night she had caught Max practicing his telekinesis in the quarantine. She had seen him lift up the miniature glass buildings of his miniature glass city, letting them hover weightless in the air around him, almost exactly as Ace was doing now.

Nova had been surprised at the time that Max was powerful enough to lift so many glass figurines at once, a feat few telekinetics could have mastered.

But this …

She stared at Ace Anarchy, her uncle, and her anger and loathing were momentarily dwarfed by fear. Of who he truly was. Of what he could do.

Thanks to her father and his weapons.

Thanks to her.

She stumbled forward a few more steps. She was far closer to Ace than Max was, and she didn’t know how close Max would have to be in order to have an effect on her uncle.

Her fingers twitched, tempted to make contact, to put him to sleep.

But what would happen to the city if she did? Without Ace, it would come crashing down. All those buildings, all those lives. There would be no stopping it.

“Great powers,” she whispered, realizing the terrible inevitability of it. Ace was going to destroy the city. The few who survived would have no reason to stay, surrounded by rubble and ruins. Gatlon would become nothing more than a forgotten legend. A nighttime story to warn children of the dangers of power—having too much of it, or having not enough.

She remembered Callum’s words, as if he were standing right beside her. He killed and he destroyed and he left the world in shambles.

Nova tried to gather her emotions into a tight ball and spoke with all the calmness she could muster.

“Ace,” she started, taking another step forward. “Think about what you’re doing. You love this city. You want to rule this city. If you destroy it, then what’s been the point of any of this?”

He chuckled deeply. Though she couldn’t see his face, she could picture his expression—a cruel, crooked twist to his lips. “Oh, my wise young niece. You saw what I could do to this cathedral, and that was before I had this gift. Before I understood what was possible.” He clicked his tongue. “I can destroy this city. Tear it apart brick by brick. And when I am done … I will rebuild Gatlon to fit my vision of perfection.” He tilted his head back, as if basking in sunlight that wasn’t there. “The world will have learned its lesson. No one will dare stand against Ace Anarchy.”

The star in his palm pulsed, and one final tower rose up toward the sky. The tallest building in the city. Renegade Headquarters, its glistening glass facade an icon of hope to the world.

Nova watched its ascent, dwarfing all that surrounded it.

“Hang in there, Max.”

Adrian’s voice startled her. He and Max had covered half the distance but were still at least fifty paces away. They both looked ready to collapse.

How much farther did they have to go? How long before Ace felt the slow drain of his abilities?

It wasn’t going to be enough. They wouldn’t make it in time.

In the wasteland below, the Renegades were divided. Some had taken up the charge again, but Nova knew they would never make it in time to stop Ace. Others were rushing back toward the city, desperate to help the people caught up in Ace’s approaching catastrophe, but what could they possibly do against such power?

She reached for the pouch on her belt and wrapped her fist around the projectile inside.

She calculated the distance, focus shifting from Ace to Max and back again.

Clenching her fist around the dart, Nova lunged.

The needle was inches from Ace’s shoulder when he turned and grabbed her forearm, locking her in a debilitating grip. While his other hand remained outstretched, holding the star toward the city, he forced Nova’s fist to eye level, studying the syringe. The bright yellow liquid sloshed inside. He frowned.

“That is not the neutralizing agent,” he said.

“No, this is one of Leroy’s,” said Nova. “This one is Agent N.”

She drove her other hand forward, jamming the dart into Ace’s side.

Ace released her arm and drew back. In the same moment, Nova reached up and snatched the helmet from his head. Ace cried out in surprise but she was already sprinting, both arms crushing the helmet to her chest.

Her feet were lifted into the air as Ace summoned the helmet back to him. Nova held tight, curling her body around it as the helmet flew back to Ace, taking her with it. She somersaulted in the air. Her shoulder crashed into Ace, knocking him against a column.

Nova fell to the ground, but her body had dulled to the constant battering and she stayed folded around the helmet, bracing to be thrown halfway across the roof again.

But another attack did not come.

Daring to lift her head, she saw Ace examining the fingers of his open hand, his face wrinkled, his hair gray and unkempt.

Agent N was working.

She had no time. Springing to her feet, Nova swiped one hand at her uncle’s, snatching the bracelet from him.

He hardly seemed to notice.

In the distance, the first buildings began to fall, slipping from the sky.

“Adrian!” she screamed, hurling the helmet as hard as she could across the roof.

Adrian caught it one-handed. “What—”

“For Max! Quick!”

Even as Adrian’s face tightened with confusion, he planted the helmet onto Max’s head. The kid gasped, both hands reaching up to pull it off.

“The city!” Nova screeched.

Max froze. He looked out at the city. At the hundreds of structures that were slipping from Ace’s control, being claimed by gravity, starting to plummet back toward the earth. A strip mall struck the ground with concussive force. A bank tower speared through Mission Street, forty floors of glass and steel caving in on themselves.

Max recoiled from the sight at the same time he lifted his arms toward it.

The crumbling buildings slowed their descent, and gradually stilled.

Max groaned. His entire body shuddered.

“Adrian, this too!” Nova threw the star.

Adrian caught it and immediately dropped it with a yelp, shaking his hand as if it had burned him.

He looked at Nova and she looked back, baffled.

Setting his jaw, he went to pick it up again, but Max stretched out his own hand and the star leaped into his grasp. There was a flash, and Nova saw those flickers of energy again, swirling through the wasteland like a brewing storm.

Max’s limbs stopped trembling as the star lent him strength.

In every direction, the buildings haltingly, tentatively, began to settle themselves back onto their foundations.

Nova exhaled, feeling the first wave of relief, when her fingertips began to tingle. She gasped and looked down at her open palm.

A sensation of fragility streamed through her limbs, even as a foggy, sleepy weakness seeped into her mind. It felt like powerlessness. It felt exactly like when she had once gotten too close to Max inside the quarantine.

She pressed a hand to the Vitality Charm under her shirt. It should have been protecting her, but …

The helmet.

It was amplifying his powers.

Perhaps the charm could no longer protect her.

Max, focused on resetting countless buildings back in place, seemed oblivious that he was even doing it. Nova took a step back, then another, wondering if she had the strength to get away from him before he absorbed everything.

She didn’t get far.

Nova yelped as her feet were suddenly lifted from the ground. Ace had one hand on her upper arm, the other scooped beneath one leg as he lifted her over his head. Nova screamed, thrashing in his hold, swinging her arms in an attempt to find skin, any skin.

Adrian screamed her name, but she barely heard it over her own panic. Ace stormed toward the edge of the roof and she realized that he intended to throw her over the side.

She used every technique she knew, kicking and flailing, trying to curl herself into a smaller target or rock her body from side to side. But her thoughts were too frantic, too scattered, and Ace’s grip was iron, his own scream an animal’s wail as he reached the ledge and prepared to heave her to the ground eighty feet below.

Something glinted in the blinding floodlights, driving straight toward them.

Nova felt the impact slam into Ace’s body. She heard his strangled cry.

His grip loosened, and Nova arched her back, rolling out of his hold and landing on all fours at his side.

Her jaw fell open.

Ace Anarchy stood at the ledge of his cathedral. A god among men. A revolutionary. A visionary. A villain.