Authors: Cheyanne Young
Copyright © 2013 Cheyanne Young
All rights reserved.
Interior Design by Angela McLaurin, Fictional Formats
Cover images from Kesu at Shutterstock.com
Metro font from Jovanny Lemonad at FontSquirrel.com
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems -except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews-without permission in writing from the author at [email protected]
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
The humans turn sixteen years old and call it a Sweet Sixteen. I call it Villain Ass-kicking Day. There will be no streamers, glitter, and pop music celebrating the day I turn sixteen, and there sure as hell won’t be any frosting-covered cupcakes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I pull the covers up over my head and then shove them back down again, unable to get comfortable in my bed. Now that I’m officially sixteen, my power is fully developed. I twist my hands in front of my face, feeling the power reverberate through them as chills prickle down my neck.
What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m broken? What if the Hero alarm goes off and I can’t remember how to fight?
I shake my head and check the time on the Biometric Engineered Earth Positioning Receiver strapped to my wrist. Powers don’t just quit working. They are a part of me; a part of every member of the Super race. Oh, and it’s one-fifteen in the morning, a whopping sixty seconds after I last checked the time on my borrowed BEEPR.
With a groan, I roll to my back and stare at the smooth white celling in my bedroom. Shadows of the moon shining through the Grand Canyon paint a familiar picture on my wall. I don’t know how the examiners expect me to sleep on my birthday. This is the day I’ve trained for my whole life. If only the timing of Hero exams weren’t a big secret, then maybe I could get some sleep.
Blurry images dance across my subconscious—floating bits of dreams that disappear before I can grasp them in my mind. My wrist vibrates, emitting an all-familiar sound. My eyes snap open. The BEEPR displays the message I’ve waited sixteen years to see.
HERO MISSION RECEIVED.
I’m on my feet two seconds later, mask lowered over my face, jaw set. Power courses through my chest, pumping though my body faster than the blood in my veins. A chill trails down my fingers and toes. It isn’t fear that pulses through me. It’s confidence.
I twist the borrowed BEEPR around my wrist so I can view my mission details on the touchscreen. Messing with it will cost precious seconds, but I only have to put up with this one time. After today, I’ll have my own BEEPR.
After today, life will be perfect.
My footsteps echo off the smooth stone walls as I run through tunnel after tunnel, following the BEEPR’s instructions until the blue dot turns green. I kick through the tall steel door in front of me, expecting to see the Atrium. Built into the side of the Grand Canyon, the Atrium is the center of King City. It’s where the miles of underground corridors all come to a stop.
Some of them aren’t totally underground; the main corridor to the Atrium has polished limestone walls to the left and a sharp three-hundred-foot drop to the right, enclosed with a wall of glass. It’s a gorgeous view and I’ve grown up making trips to the Atrium with Dad and Max. But this isn’t it.
This is a … carnival?
Words flash across the BEEPR and I commit them to memory. My first mission is to save one human and capture two villains. Excitement zaps through me until I’m no longer flesh and bone, but pure adrenaline. These two bastards will wish they’d never turned evil when I’m done with them.
My boots step cautiously on the gravel as I survey my surroundings. I’m in a narrow pathway between two rows of carnival game booths with twinkling yellow lights and colorful painted signs. Gigantic stuffed teddy bears sway in the gentle breeze, their stitched-on smiles waiting anxiously to be won and taken home. Tacky music plays somewhere in the distance. The cheerful tune is nothing but creepy when I’m the only person around.
Sixteen years of Hero-training philosophies, rules, and even my own Hero daydreams flood into my mind. I’m in a modern working carnival with zero visitors and not a carnie in sight. This is a set up.
“Show yourself,” I say, stopping in front of a booth with balloons taped on a dartboard. My voice is strong and unwavering; exactly the way a Hero’s voice should be.
He doesn’t make a sound but prickles of energy dance up my left shoulder, hinting that he’s close. I cross my wrists in front of each other and retrieve two black hooks. Once activated, their chemical components will make any Super’s power seize up in their veins, freezing like glass. Any unnecessary movement and you’re dead. I need to make this count.
“I said show yourself, coward.” I turn my head toward the power. My fingers grip the hooks patiently, not wanting to release them until the perfect moment.
“That’s no way to talk to your elder.” He steps out from behind an oversized scale with the words ‘guess your weight’ above it in blinking lights. The time it takes me to recognize him as Bammer, the world’s most pathetic villain who typically picks on homeless humans, is exactly how long it takes me to fling my hooks.
They shoot through the air with a
. Each hook wraps around his wrists, their full magnetic power harnessing onto the power in his veins and bringing him to the ground. He lets out a groan, from either the debilitating magnetic force or because his head bashes into the ground when he crumples.
I walk up to him. He doesn’t move. My BEEPR blinks orange when I scan it over his body, sending word back to Central that there’s a rogue Super ready for punishment. Well. That was easy.
A satisfied laugh escapes me. I just bagged my first villain in under sixty seconds. It’s as if I’ve been doing this my whole life.
Time to capture the second one.
Sensing no other power in my vicinity, I run through the game booths toward the rides. Every ride is in motion, spinning in circles or flipping over and over, despite having no riders in the restraints. The clanking of metal on metal in the giant mechanical gears sends my senses on a loop. I fixate on the grinding lull of each ride.
Enchanting lights flicker and swirl around each two-person cage on a ride called The Zipper. The massive steel circle of the Ferris wheel lights up in green, blue, purple, and red starbursts that start out small, and then grow until they’re as big as the wheel itself. Carnivals are beautiful when there’s no one around trying to sell cotton candy or swindle the humans in a rigged game that gives three throws for a dollar.
A scream bursts through the air and I spin toward the sound. A single human, a woman from the sound of her shrieks, stands in a ride called the Gravatron. It’s a large cylinder with no roof that spins fast enough to make your body stick to the inside walls with centripetal force. Then it tilts left and right, making you think you’d fly out if not for the restraints. My best friend Crimson and I tried it once but the G-forces that make humans squirm did nothing to us.
The second villain mans the ride’s control board. My stomach drops as I take in his pearly white suit and bald head. Snapback is not an easy villain to defeat.
“Step away,” I demand. “You’re caught. Might as well give up.”
“Nice try, rookie.” The shrill tone of his voice haunted my nightmares as a kid. But I am not afraid now. He presses the red button in the center of the control board. The ride slowly cranks to life as the human lets out another panicked scream, her arms flailing wildly around her.
She’s in her early twenties probably, with dark brown hair sticking to the side of the wall. She screams—yet again—as the ride accelerates. Besides making her a bit dizzy and ruining her good hair day, I don’t see why she’s a victim. I mean, not unless her lifelong goal was to avoid carnival rides. But whatever the reason, if my BEEPR wants me to save her, I will.
I keep my voice light as I close the distance between us from thirty feet to about ten. “Some evil plan you’ve got here. Putting a human on a ride that was
for humans?” I snort. Snapback focuses on his prey as she spins around and around, his eyes wide with pleasure as he delights in her fear. What a sick jerk.
For a tiny second, I think this may be an easy capture. Too bad I wasted my only set of hooks on the first villain. I take a deep breath and think out my attack. I play it cool by stretching my arms in front of me, acting as if I’m not scrambling for ideas in my head. I clear my throat. “What are you going to do? Spin her until she throws up?”
The close proximity of my voice surprises him and he whirls around, fixing me with an evil glare. I lunge toward him, grabbing a metal awning with one arm to pull my body in the air. He grabs for my legs but I kick him in the jaw before letting go. I concentrate all of my power downward as I land with my feet on his shoulders. His back slams across the control board with an eerie