Renegades, p.1
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       Renegades, p.1
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           Marissa Meyer
Renegades


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  Table of Contents

  About the Author

  Copyright Page

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  For Jeffrey, the first hero I ever had

  CAST OF CHARACTERS

  THE RENEGADES: SKETCH’S TEAM

  SKETCH — Adrian Everhart

  Can bring his drawings and artwork to life

  MONARCH — Danna Bell

  Transforms into a swarm of monarch butterflies

  RED ASSASSIN — Ruby Tucker

  When wounded, her blood crystallizes into weaponry; signature weapon is a grappling hook formed from a bloodstone

  SMOKESCREEN — Oscar Silva

  Summons smoke and vapor at will

  THE ANARCHISTS

  NIGHTMARE — Nova Artino

  Never sleeps, and can put others to sleep with her touch

  THE DETONATOR — Ingrid Thompson

  Creates explosives from the air that can be detonated at will

  PHOBIA — True Name Unknown

  Transforms his body and scythe into the embodiment of various fears

  THE PUPPETEER — Winston Pratt

  Turns people into mindless puppets who do his bidding

  QUEEN BEE — Honey Harper

  Exerts control over all bees, hornets, and wasps

  CYANIDE — Leroy Flinn

  Generates acidic poisons through his skin

  THE RENEGADE COUNCIL

  CAPTAIN CHROMIUM — Hugh Everhart

  Has superstrength and is nearly invincible to physical attacks; can generate chromium weaponry

  THE DREAD WARDEN — Simon Westwood

  Can turn invisible

  TSUNAMI — Kasumi Hasegawa

  Generates and manipulates water

  THUNDERBIRD — Tamaya Rae

  Generates thunder and lightning; can fly

  BLACKLIGHT — Evander Wade

  Creates and manipulates light and darkness

  WE WERE ALL VILLAINS in the beginning.

  For hundreds of years, prodigies were feared by the rest of the world. We became hunted. Tormented. Feared and oppressed. We were believed to be witches and demons, freaks and abominations. We were stoned and hanged and set afire while crowds gathered to watch with cruel eyes, proud to be ridding the world of one more pariah.

  They were right to be afraid.

  Hundreds of years. Who would have stood for it?

  Ace Anarchy changed everything. He united the most powerful prodigies he could find and together they rebelled.

  He started with the infrastructure. Government buildings torn from their foundations. Banks and stock exchanges turned to rubble. Bridges ripped from the sky. Entire freeways reduced to rocky wastelands. When the military sent jets, he plucked them from the air like moths. When they sent tanks, he crushed them like aluminum cans.

  Then he went after the people who had failed him. Failed all of them.

  Whole governments, gone. Law enforcement, disbanded. Those fancy bureaucrats who had bought their way into power and influence … all dead, and all in a matter of weeks.

  The Anarchists cared little for what would come next once the old world crumbled. They cared only for change, and they got it. Soon, a number of villain gangs began to crawl out from society’s ashes, each hungry for their own slice of power, and it wasn’t long before Ace Anarchy’s influence spread across the globe. Prodigies banded together for the first time in history, some full of wrath and resentment, others desperate for acceptance that never came. They demanded fair treatment and human rights and protection under the law, and in some countries, the panicking governments hastened to cater to them.

  But in other countries, the rebellions turned violent, and the violence dissolved into anarchy.

  Chaos rose up to fill the void that civilized society had left behind. Trade and manufacturing ground to a halt. Civil wars erupted on every continent. Gatlon City was largely cut off from the world, and the fear and distrust that prevailed would go on to rule for twenty years.

  They call it the Age of Anarchy.

  Looking back now, people talk about the Anarchists and the other gangs like they were the worst part of those twenty years, but they weren’t. Sure, everyone was terrified of them, but they mostly left you alone as long as you paid up when it was your due and didn’t cause them any trouble.

  But the people. The normal people. They were far worse. With no rule and no law, it became every man, woman, and child for themselves. There were no repercussions for crimes or violence—no one to run to if you were beaten or robbed. No police. No prisons. Not legitimate ones, anyway. Neighbors stole from neighbors. Stores were looted and supplies were hoarded, leaving children to starve in the gutters. It became the strong against the weak, and, as it turns out, the strong were usually jerks.

  Humanity loses faith in times like that. With no one to look up to, no one to believe in, we all became rats scrounging in the sewers.

  Maybe Ace really was a villain. Or maybe he was a visionary.

  Maybe there’s not much of a difference.

  Either way, the gangs ruled Gatlon City for twenty years, while crime and vice spread like sewage around a backed-up pipe. And the Age of Anarchy might have gone on for another twenty years. Fifty years. An eternity.

  But then, seemingly overnight … hope.

  Bright and sparkling hope, dressed up in capes and masks.

  Beautiful and joyous hope, promising to solve all your problems, rain justice down upon your foes, and probably give a stern talking to a few jaywalkers along the way.

  Warm and promising hope, encouraging the normal folks to stay inside where it was safe while they fixed everything. Don’t worry about helping yourselves. You’ve got enough on your plate, what with all the hiding and moping you’ve been doing lately. You take a day off. We’re superheroes. We’ve got this.

  Hope called themselves the Renegades.

  PROLOGUE

  NOVA HAD BEEN COLLECTING SYRINGES from the alleyway behind the apartment for weeks. She knew her parents would take them away if they found out, so she’d been hiding them in an old shoe box, along with an assortment of screws, zip ties, copper wires, cotton balls, and anything else she thought might come in handy for her inventions. At six-going-on-seven years old, she’d already become aware of how important it was to be resourceful and thrifty. She couldn’t exactly make a list and send her dad to the store for supplies, after all.

  The syringes would come in handy. She’d known it from the start.

  She attached a thin plastic tube to the end of one and stuck the opposite end of the tube into a glass of water she’d filled up in the bathroom sink. She pulled up the plunger, drawing water into the tube. Tongue sticking out through the gap where she’d recently lost her first tooth, she grabbed a second syringe and affixed it to the opposite end of the tube, then dug through her toolbox for a strip of wire long enough to secure it to the pulley system she’d built at the top of her dollhouse.

  It had taken all day, but finally she was ready to test it.

  She tucked some of the dollhouse furniture onto the elevator’s p
latform, picked up the syringe, and pressed in the plunger. Water moved through the tube, extending the second plunger upward, and setting the complicated series of pulleys into action.

  The elevator rose.

  Nova sat back with a grin. “Hydraulic-powered elevator. Success.”

  A cry from the next room intruded on the moment, followed by her mother’s cooing voice. Nova looked up at her closed bedroom door. Evie was sick again. It seemed she was always running a fever these days and they’d run out of medicine for her days ago. Uncle Alec was supposed to be bringing more, but it might be hours still.

  When Nova had overheard her father asking Uncle Alec if he might be able to find a children’s ibuprofen for the baby’s fever, she’d considered asking for more of the fruit-flavored gummies he’d given her on her birthday last year, too, or maybe a pack of rechargeable batteries.

  She could do a lot with rechargeable batteries.

  But Papà must have seen the request brewing in her eyes, and had given her a look that silenced her. Nova wasn’t sure what it meant. Uncle Alec had always been good to them—bringing food and clothes and sometimes even toys from his weekly spoils—but her parents never wanted to ask for anything special, no matter how much they needed it. When there was something specific, they had to go into the markets and offer up trades, usually the things her father made.

  The last time her dad had gone to the markets he’d come back with a bag of reusable diapers for Evie and a jagged cut above his eyebrow. Her mom stitched it up herself. Nova watched, fascinated to see that it was exactly like how her mother sewed up Dolly Bear when her seams came open.

  Nova turned back to the hydraulic system. The lift was just shy of being level with the dollhouse’s second floor. If she could increase the capacity of the syringe, or make some adjustments to the lever system …

  Beyond her door, the crying went on and on. The floorboards were squeaking now as her parents took turns trying to comfort Evie, pacing back and forth through the apartment.

  The neighbors would start to complain soon.

  Sighing, Nova set down the syringe and stood.

  Papà was holding Evie in the front room, bouncing her up and down and trying to press a cool washcloth against her flushed brow, but it only made her wail louder as she tried to shove it away. Through the doorway into their tiny kitchen, Nova saw her mom digging through cabinets, muttering about misplaced apple juice, though they all knew there wasn’t any.

  “Want me to help?” said Nova.

  Papà turned to her, distress shadowing his eyes. Evie screamed louder as he forgot to bounce her for two whole seconds.

  “I’m sorry, Nova,” he said, bouncing again. “It’s not fair to ask you to do it … but if she could just sleep for another hour or two … rest would be good for her, and Alec might be here by then.”

  “I don’t mind,” said Nova, reaching for the baby. “It’s easy.”

  Papà frowned. Sometimes Nova thought he didn’t like her gift, though she didn’t know why. All it had ever done was make the apartment more peaceful.

  He crouched down and settled Evie into Nova’s arms, making sure her hold was secure. Evie was getting so heavy, nothing like the tiny infant she’d been not quite a year ago. Now she was all chubby thighs and flailing arms. She’d be walking any day now, her parents kept saying.

  Nova sat down on the mattress in the corner of the room and stroked her fingers through Evie’s baby-soft curls. Evie had worked herself into a tizzy, big tears rolling down her plump cheeks. She was so feverish that holding her felt like holding a miniature furnace.

  Nova sank into the tossed blankets and pillows and placed her thumb against her sister’s cheek, scooping away one of the warm tears. She let her power roll through her. An easy, gentle pulse.

  The crying stopped.

  Evie’s eyes fluttered, her eyelids growing heavy. Her mouth fell open in a shuddering O.

  Just like that, she was asleep.

  Nova looked up to see her dad’s shoulders sink in relief. Mom appeared in the doorway, surprised and curious, until she spotted Nova with the baby tucked against her.

  “This is my favorite,” Nova whispered to them. “When she’s all soft and cuddly and … quiet.”

  Mom’s face softened. “Thank you, Nova. Maybe she’ll feel better when she wakes up.”

  “And we won’t have to start looking for another place to live,” Papà muttered. “Charlie’s kicked people out for less than a crying baby.”

  Mom shook her head. “He wouldn’t risk angering your brother like that.”

  “I don’t know.” Papà frowned. “I don’t know what anyone would or wouldn’t do anymore. Besides … I don’t want to be in Alec’s debt any more than we already are.”

  Mom retreated into the kitchen to start putting away the cans and boxes she’d scattered across the linoleum, while Papà sank into a chair at the apartment’s only table. Nova watched him massage his temple for a moment, before he squared his shoulders and started to work on some new project. Nova wasn’t sure what he was making, but she loved to watch him work. His gift was so much more interesting than hers—the way he could pull threads of energy out of the air, bending and sculpting them like golden filigree.

  It was beautiful to watch. Mesmerizing, even, as the glowing strips emerged from nothing, making the air in the apartment hum, then quieting and darkening as her father let them harden into something tangible and real.

  “What are you making, Papà?”

  He glanced over at her, and a shadow passed over his face, even as he smiled at her. “I’m not sure yet,” he said, his fingers tracing the delicate metalwork. “Something … something I hope will put to right some of the great injuries I’ve caused this world.”

  He sighed then, a weighted sound that brought a frown to Nova’s face. She knew there were things her parents didn’t talk to her about, things they tried to shelter her from, and she hated it. Sometimes she would overhear conversations between them, words passed through the long hours of night when they thought she was asleep. They whispered about falling buildings and entire neighborhoods being burned to the ground. They murmured about power struggles and how there didn’t seem to be any safe place left and how they might flee the city, but that the violence seemed to have consumed the whole world now, and besides, where would they go?

  Only a week ago Nova had heard her mother say—“They’ll destroy us all if no one stops them…”

  Nova had wanted to ask about it, but she knew she would get only vague answers and sad smiles and be told that it wasn’t for her to worry about.

  “Papà?” she started again, after watching him work for a while. “Are we going to be okay?”

  A figment of copper energy spluttered and disintegrated in the air. Her father fixed her with a devastated look. “Of course, sweetheart. We’re going to be fine.”

  “Then why do you always look so worried?”

  He set down his work and leaned back in his chair. For a moment she thought he might be on the verge of crying, but then he blinked and the look was gone.

  “Listen to me, Nova,” he said, slipping off the chair and crouching in front of her. “There are many dangerous people in this world. But there are also many good people. Brave people. No matter how bad things get, we have to remember that. So long as there are heroes in this world, there’s hope that tomorrow might be better.”

  “The Renegades,” she whispered, her voice tinged with a hint of awe.

  A wisp of a smile crossed her father’s features. “The Renegades,” he confirmed.

  Nova pressed her cheek against Evie’s soft curls. The Renegades did seem to be helping everyone these days. One had chased down a mugger who tried to take Mrs. Ogilvie’s purse, and she’d heard that a group of Renegades had broken into one of the gangs’ storehouses and taken all the food to a private children’s home.

  “And they’re going to help us?” she said. “Maybe we can ask them for medicine next time.


  Her father shook his head. “We don’t need that sort of help as much as some other people in this city do.”

  Nova’s brow furrowed. She couldn’t imagine anyone needing that sort of help more than they did.

  “But,” her father said, “when we need them … when we really need them, they’ll be here, all right?” He swallowed, and sounded more hopeful than convincing when he added, “They’ll protect us.”

  Nova didn’t question it. They were superheroes. They were the good guys. Everyone knew that.

  She found Evie’s pudgy fingers and started to count off each knuckle, while running through all the stories she’d heard. Renegades pulling a driver from an overturned delivery truck. Renegades breaking up a gun fight in a nearby shopping district. Renegades rescuing a child who had fallen into Harrow Bay.

  They were always helping, always showing up at just the right moment. That’s what they did.

  Maybe, she thought—as her father turned back to his work—maybe they were just waiting for the right moment to swoop in and help them too.

  Her gaze lingered on her father’s hands. Watching them mold, sculpt, tug more threads of energy from the air.

  Nova’s own eyelids started to droop.

  Even in her dreams she could see her father’s hands, only now he was pulling falling stars out of the sky, stringing them together like glowing golden beads …

  * * *

  A DOOR SLAMMED.

  Nova awoke with a start. Evie huffed and rolled away from her.

  Groggy and disoriented, Nova sat up and shook out her arm, which had fallen asleep beneath Evie’s head. The shadows in the room had shifted. There were low voices in the hallway. Papà, sounding tense. Her mom, murmuring, please, please …

  She pushed off the blanket that had been draped over her and tucked it around Evie, then crept past the table where a delicate copper-colored bracelet sat abandoned, an empty space in the filigree waiting to be filled with a precious stone.

  When she reached the front door, she turned the knob as slowly as she could, prying the door open just enough that she could peer out into the dim hall.

 
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