Home > Archenemies (Renegades #2)(7)

Archenemies (Renegades #2)(7)
Author: Marissa Meyer

“Someone like Hawthorn?”

Adrian didn’t try to disguise his bemused grin. “Was she around back then? I haven’t had time to confirm that yet.”

Simon lifted a finger, nearly jutting it against Adrian’s nose. “I’m only going to say this once, Adrian. Do not try to go after Hawthorn by yourself. Or any of the Anarchists, for that matter. You understand? It’s dangerous.”

Adrian pushed up his glasses and opened his mouth to speak.

“And don’t try to tell me that dangerous is how superheroes are supposed to operate.”

Adrian snapped his mouth shut.

“We have methods in place for a reason,” Simon continued. “To help mitigate threats and damage. If you hear something about Hawthorn or any other villain, you call it in and wait for instructions. I want to find out who killed your mother as much as you do, but I’m not about to lose you in the process.”

Adrian forced himself to nod. “I know, Pops. I’ll try to be less … reckless.”

“Thank you.”

Adrian pressed his lips into a thin smile, biting back the words he really wanted to say. The suspicions that had been filling his head for weeks.

Despite the bomb that had supposedly killed her, despite the amount of destruction that had been wreaked at the carnival fun house that day, despite the fact that Adrian himself had witnessed the fight between Nightmare and the Detonator … despite everything, he had doubts.

His dads would call it denial. His team would call it his typical, uncanny optimism.

But Adrian couldn’t help it.

The truth was, he did not believe that Nightmare was dead.

CHAPTER FIVE

ADRIAN AND THE TEAM had been left off the patrol schedule for the rest of the week, owing for time to “recover from injuries and trauma,” so there was no reason to head into Renegade Headquarters in full gear today. Normally he wouldn’t have had to come in to headquarters at all, except that morning the Council had sent out a global communication to all Renegades in the Gatlon City division, requesting their presence at a mandatory meeting.

It was a mysterious message. Adrian couldn’t recall there ever being a meeting for the entire organization. Sometimes they implemented new rules in the code and summoned the patrol units to discuss them, or had department meetings with the administration, or the research and development teams, and so on—but everyone?

Unfortunately, his dads had already gone when he woke up, so there was no hope of needling information out of them.

Adrian turned a corner, walking beneath a strip of construction scaffolding as he approached the north side of headquarters. It was an overcast morning and the top of the building was lost in clouds, making the skyscraper appear endless.

His attention caught on a vehicle parked at one of the side entrances. It was an armored van, its back doors heavily fortified, and its sides lined with short, tinted windows. The side of the van read CRAGMOOR PENITENTIARY: PRISONER TRANSPORT.

Adrian slowed to a stop. Cragmoor was a prison located off the coast of Gatlon City that had been built to hold prodigy criminals, as most civilian prisons weren’t sufficiently equipped to handle a wide array of extraordinary abilities.

Maybe they were picking up a prisoner from one of the temporary holding cells inside headquarters. Although transfers like that were generally made at night, when the streets were empty of curious onlookers.

He continued walking, gazing into the windows of the van as he passed. He couldn’t see into the back at all, and the driver’s and front passenger’s seats were empty.

Shrugging to himself, Adrian made his way to the front of the building, where tourists were gathered around the main entrance, snapping photos of everything from the revolving glass doors to the nearby street sign and the place where the building disappeared into thick cloud cover high above. Adrian wove his way through the crowd, ignoring a couple of gasps and one low muttering, Was that Adrian Everhart? The fame wasn’t really his, anyway. People didn’t care so much about Adrian Everhart as they did about the son of Lady Indomitable, or the adopted son of Captain Chromium and the Dread Warden.

Which was fine. He was used to the attention, just like he was used to acknowledging that he’d done little to earn it.

He shoved through the revolving doors, smiling at the fellow Renegades he passed and jovial Sampson Cartwright at the information desk. He surveyed the lobby for any sign of Oscar or Nova, but when he didn’t see them, he headed up the curved flight of stairs to the sky bridge that connected to Max’s quarantine.

Max was almost always inside the glass gallery during the day, working on the extensive glass model of Gatlon City he’d been constructing for years, or watching the TV screens that dotted the lobby’s many pillars, but today Max was nowhere in sight. He must have been back in the private quarters tucked behind the enclosed rotunda.

Raising his hand, Adrian thumped hard on the wall. “Hey, Bandit, it’s me. Are you—”

Max appeared all at once, standing mere inches in front of Adrian on the other side of the glass.

Adrian yelped and stumbled backward, colliding with the sky bridge’s handrail. “Great skies, Max, don’t do that!”

Max started to laugh. “Your face!”

Glowering, Adrian pushed himself off the rail. “Very clever. I’m sure you’re the first prodigy with invisibility to ever do that to someone.”

“Originality is overrated,” said Max, pressing down his sandy-blond hair, though it puffed right back up again. His goofy grin didn’t fade. “That was so worth it.”

As his heart rate returned to normal, Adrian found himself starting to smile, even as he shook his head. Max was only ten years old, but he could be uncannily serious for his age. It was refreshing to see him pulling a childish prank and getting such an enormous kick out of it.

“I’m glad to see you’ve been practicing,” said Adrian.

“I’m getting really good at the invisibility thing. And also, I was able to fuse a penny to a nickel, which is cool because it’s harder with two different metals. Your power, though?” Max made a sour face. “I drew a worm yesterday and all it did was wriggle around for, like, five seconds, then died. I mean, come on. A two-year-old could draw a worm.”

“You didn’t get that much of my power,” said Adrian. “Maybe you’ll never be able to get your drawings to do much.”

Max grumbled something that Adrian couldn’t make out.

Max had been born with the rare gift of power absorption, meaning he stole the powers from any prodigy he came in close proximity to, hence why Adrian had long ago dubbed him “the Bandit.” Most of his abilities had been taken when he was just a baby: metal manipulation and matter fusing from his birth parents, who had been part of a villain gang; invisibility from the Dread Warden; and even telekinesis taken from Ace Anarchy himself during the Battle for Gatlon. Max had been too young to remember any of that, though. More recently, he got a touch of Adrian’s ability when Adrian had pulled Nova out of the quarantine that kept Max separate from the rest of the Renegades. Max said that he was sleeping less lately, which probably meant he’d gotten a bit of Nova’s power, too, though he had no interest in staying awake twenty-four hours a day, even if he could. He got bored enough as it was in his solitude.

For years, Max would experiment with his abilities only in secret, keeping the extent of them private, even from Adrian. He had been surprised to learn that the kid was actually a lot more talented than anyone had guessed, largely thanks to his own self-training. Adrian knew Max felt guilty for having a lot of the powers he had—like he didn’t have a right to any of them. But lately he seemed more eager to practice, and even to show off a little bit. Adrian was happy to see it. Max was the closest thing to a little brother he’d ever known, and he hated to think that Max might feel guilty for something he couldn’t control. No prodigy should be made to feel guilty for what they could do.

“Where’s Turbo?” Adrian said, scanning the city at Max’s feet.

“In the top of Merchant Tower.” Max gestured to one of the taller glass skyscrapers. “I made him a little bed in there and now he sleeps, like, all the time. I think you might have made him part sloth.”

Weeks ago, Adrian had drawn a tiny dinosaur, a velociraptor, to prove to Nova that Max hadn’t taken his powers from him. The creature had disappeared for a while, then one day showed up unexpectedly inside the pastries case of the small espresso stand in the lobby. There had been a great commotion over it and a lot of screaming, and someone from the janitorial crew ended up chasing the creature around with a broom for almost twenty minutes before Adrian heard about it and claimed the dinosaur as one of his creations. Max had asked if he could keep it, and just like that, he inherited a thumb-size pet.

“Eat, sleep, hunt,” said Adrian. “That pretty much covers all the dinosaur instincts I know of, so I doubt he’ll ever do much more than that.”

“If by hunting, you mean gnawing on the leftover meat from my dinners. By the way…” Max gestured to something over Adrian’s shoulder. “Did you know you’re dead?”

Adrian turned to see one of the screens playing a video of the Sentinel being thrown off the barge and disappearing beneath the water. It had been recorded from Nova’s fancy binoculars and was the clearest footage that anyone had managed to catch of the Sentinel so far.

“Were you worried?” said Adrian.

“No.”

“What? Not at all?”

Max started to respond and Adrian knew it would be to deny it again, but he hesitated and admitted, “Maybe for about five seconds or so, but I knew you’d be fine.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Adrian glanced around and, though the sky bridge was empty, lowered his voice. “Of course, we really shouldn’t talk about this here.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Max, unconcerned. He was the only one who had figured out Adrian’s identity, a conclusion he reached after watching Adrian leap more than halfway across the quarantine in an effort to save Nova. It really was a shame that he was stuck in here all the time, because the kid would have been a great investigator. “Do you ever think about telling them?”

   
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