Supernova Page 2

“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.


“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!”

“No, I know. But if anyone was going to get neutralized, I can’t say I’m sorry it was Genissa and her minions.”

“It’s okay,” said Adrian. “I’m not too upset about that, either. And like you said, Max is going to be fine.” He paused before adding, quietly, “He has to be.”

“Holy smokes, what is that?” Oscar barked. He lifted his cane, as if prepared to stab something on the shattered tile floor.

A tiny creature was scuttling toward them out of the mess of broken concrete and plaster—a fierce little velociraptor, no larger than Nova’s thumb.

“No way,” muttered Adrian. “Turbo!” He crouched and scooped the creature into his palm.

It screeched and bit him.

“Ow!” Adrian yelped, dropping it. It landed on the floor and darted between Oscar’s legs.

Nova leaped after it, grabbing the creature by the back of its neck. It made a pathetic mewing sound and flicked its clawed arms at her, leaving tiny nicks on her fingers. “How is this thing still alive?” she asked.

It seemed like ages ago that Adrian had drawn the small beast onto Nova’s palm, in an effort to prove that his powers hadn’t been drained by Max when he’d gone into the quarantine to rescue her.

Adrian bent down to inspect the tiny dinosaur as it squirmed in Nova’s fingers. “Alive, but not doing so hot. Look, he’s turning gray. And see how his movements are sort of awkward now, more like a machine’s? That always happens when I draw animals. Still—he’s lasted longer than I would have thought.”

“Excuse me,” said Oscar, eyeing the creature with trepidation. “But what is it?”

“A velociraptor,” said Adrian. “I drew him a while back, and Max has been keeping him as a pet. His name is Turbo. Here.” Stooping down, Adrian took out his marker and drew a palm-size cage on the white tile. With a swipe of his fingers, the cage emerged into reality, a three-dimensional carrier for a very small dinosaur. He held open the door while Nova dropped the creature inside. “I’ll take him to Max at the hospital. He’ll be happy to see him when he wakes up.”

When, Nova couldn’t help but note, and for the first time, Adrian sounded truly optimistic about the possibility of Max coming out of his coma. Perhaps he was seeing Turbo’s survival as a good sign.

“He’s probably hungry,” said Ruby. “I mean, your drawings still need to eat, right?”

“I guess so.” Adrian looked like he’d never given it much thought. “Max used to share snacks with him.”

Ruby nodded. “I’ll run up to the cafeteria and grab him … I don’t know, chicken strips or something. I’ll be right back.”

She was gone before anyone could speak, darting between the Renegades who were milling around the destroyed lobby.

“Uh…,” started Adrian, too late, “I don’t think they’ve reopened the cafeteria yet…”

“She’ll find something,” said Oscar. “They have turkey jerky in the lounge vending machines.” The second the elevator doors closed and Ruby was no longer in sight, Oscar eagerly spun on Nova and Adrian. “Okay, now that she’s gone, I need to talk to you guys. I mean, I know with Max and Nightmare and everything, this may not be the best time, but I was up all night thinking about what you said at the gala, and I have a plan.” He fixed his attention on Nova, and she stiffened in response, wondering what on earth she had said. Though the gala had been just the night before, only a couple of hours before she’d broken into the HQ vault, it felt like weeks had passed since then.

“A plan for what?” she asked.

“You know,” said Oscar, insistent. “Telling Ruby how … how I feel about her. Nova was right. I’m awesome, and I am ready to sweep her off her feet.”

“Oh, that.” Nova glanced at Adrian, who appeared equally relieved that Oscar’s plan was for something so mundane. “That’s great.”

“Yeah, go for it, Oscar,” said Adrian. “Way to take the plunge.”

“Thanks, man. So, I’m calling it…” Oscar lifted his hand, as if highlighting invisible words in the air. “Operation Crown Jewels.”

Nova and Adrian gawked at him, speechless for a moment, before Adrian cleared his throat. “Uh … what?”

“You know. Crown jewels … rubies … get it?”

Nova’s eyes narrowed skeptically. “Isn’t that a euphemism for…”

Oscar waited for her to finish, looking so adorably emphatic that she stopped herself. “Never mind. Just … why is there an operation name?”

“Because I have ideas,” said Oscar. “Like, a gazillion ideas. This is going to be a calculated, multistep strategy.”

“So you’re not just going to ask her out?” said Adrian.

Oscar snorted. “Please. Ruby deserves better than that. There will be serenades, gifts, cloud writing … you know, some real grand gestures. The stuff girls go nuts for, right?” He looked at Nova, but she could only shrug. He sighed. “Okay, so I thought we’d start with a poem. I wrote it at, like, five o’clock this morning, so keep that in mind. But I was thinking of leaving a card on her doorstep some morning this week. Here’s what I’ve got so far.” He cleared his throat. “Rubies are red, your eyes are blue…”

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