Home > Archenemies (Renegades #2)

Archenemies (Renegades #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer

CHAPTER ONE

ADRIAN CROUCHED ON THE ROOFTOP, peering at the delivery entrance behind Gatlon City Hospital. It was early morning—the sun hadn’t risen yet, though hints of light were turning the sky from charcoal gray to pale violet. The dimness made it difficult to see anything ten stories below, beyond a couple of vans and a supply truck.

“I have eyes on the getaway vehicle,” said Nova, who was watching the quiet streets through a pair of binoculars.

“Where?” he asked, leaning toward her. “How can you tell?”

“That van on the corner.” She swiveled her view from the vehicle to the hospital door and back. “Nondescript, blacked-out windows, engine still running even though it’s been parked since we got here.”

Adrian sought out the van. Steam was rising from its exhaust pipe in great white clouds. “Is there anyone inside?”

“One, in the driver’s seat. Could be more, but I can’t see into the back.”

Adrian lifted his wrist toward his mouth, speaking into his communication band. “Sketch to Smokescreen and Red Assassin. Suspected getaway vehicle is parked at Seventy-Ninth and Fletcher Way. Set your stations to the south and east escape routes. Still waiting on internal recon from Monarch.”

“Roger that,” Oscar’s voice crackled back at him. “We’re on the move.”

Adrian tapped his fingers against the rooftop ledge, wishing the back entrance to the hospital had better lighting. There were six street lamps, but three of them were burned out. Shouldn’t someone have taken care of those?

“Can I see?” he asked.

Nova held the binoculars out of his reach. “Get your own pair.”

Though he wanted to be irritated with the response, he couldn’t help a twitch of a smile. It was fair enough, he supposed, as Nova had spent twenty minutes that morning explaining to Oscar all of the modifications she’d made to this particular pair of generic binoculars. They now sported autofocus and stabilization functionality, motion targeting, night vision, a video recorder, and computerized lenses that could display GPS coordinates and weather forecasts. And because that evidently wasn’t impressive enough, she’d also added software that combined targeted facial recognition with the Renegades’ prodigy database.

Evidently, she’d been working on them for months.

“Fine, I will get my own,” he said, pulling his fine-tip marker from the sleeve of his Renegade uniform. He started to sketch a pair of binoculars onto the side of a metal utility box. “Maybe I’ll give mine X-ray vision.”

Nova’s jaw tensed. “Were you always such a one-upper?”

He beamed. “I’m only kidding. I would need at least some basic knowledge of how X-ray vision works. But I’m definitely giving them that motion-targeting feature you talked about. And ergonomic handholds. And maybe a flashlight…” He finished his sketch and capped his marker. Pressing his fingers against the metal surface, he pulled the drawing from the utility box, transforming it into a functional, three-dimensional reality.

Kneeling beside Nova again, he adjusted the width of his new binoculars and peered toward the street. The van hadn’t moved.

“There’s Danna,” said Nova.

Adrian swiveled his view toward the delivery bay, but the doors were still closed. “Where—”

“Third story.”

He readjusted and saw the swarm of Monarch butterflies pouring out of an open window. In the darkness, they looked more like a colony of bats silhouetted against the building. The butterflies converged over the hospital’s parking garage and morphed into the figure of Danna.

The communication band buzzed. “They’re heading out now,” came Danna’s voice. “Six altogether.”

“Seven with the driver,” Nova corrected, as the van pulled forward. It turned the corner and came to a stop in front of the delivery doors. Seconds later, those doors were thrown open and six figures came pouring out of the hospital, loaded down with enormous black bags.

“Citizen status?” asked Adrian.

“All clear,” replied Danna.

“Roger. Okay, team, we are cleared to engage. Danna, stay on—”

“Sketch!” said Nova, startling him. “There’s a prodigy.”

He blinked over at her. “What?”

“That woman—the one with the nose ring. She’s showing up on the database. Alias … Hawthorn?”

He racked his brain, but the name wasn’t familiar. “Never heard of her.” Adrian watched through his binoculars again as the figures threw their haul into the van. The woman with the nose ring was the last to climb in. “What’s her power?”

“Evidently she has … thorn-covered extremities?” Nova shot him a baffled look.

Shrugging, Adrian spoke into his wristband again. “High alert, team. The targets have a prodigy with them. Stay with your assignments, but proceed with caution. Insomnia and I will—” A bang startled Adrian and he turned to see that Nova was already gone. He lurched to his feet and peered over the side of the building. The sound had been Nova landing on the first level of the apartment’s fire escape. “… take the north post,” he muttered.

Tires squealed. The van lurched away from the hospital. Adrian raised his wrist, adrenaline coursing through his body as he waited to see which direction …

The van took the first left.

“Smokescreen, you’re up!” he yelled.

Tossing aside the binoculars, Adrian raced after Nova. Overhead, Danna swarmed again and chased after the van.

Nova was halfway down the street by the time Adrian dropped down from the fire escape, his boots pounding on the pavement. He raced after her, his long legs giving him some advantage, though he was still trailing behind when Nova jutted her finger to the right. “You head that way!” she yelled, taking off in the opposite direction.

A block away, he heard the screech of tires again, this time accompanied by the slamming of brakes. A cloud of thick white fog could be seen rising over the roof of an office building.

Oscar’s voice came through the wristband. “They’re reversing—heading north on Bridgewater.”

Adrian turned the corner and saw red taillights blazing toward him. He reached for a piece of white chalk in his sleeve, pocketed beside the marker. Crouching down, he drew a hasty nail strip on the asphalt. He finished the illustration as the smell of burning rubber invaded his nostrils. If the driver could see him in the rearview mirror, he showed no sign of slowing down.

Adrian tugged on the drawing. The four-inch spikes emerged from the ground, and he lunged out of the way seconds before the van blurred past him.

The tires blew with a series of deafening pops. From behind the blackened windows, Adrian could hear the occupants of the van cursing and arguing with one another as the deflated wheels dragged to a stop.

The cloud of butterflies swirled overhead and Danna dropped down onto the roof of the van. “Quick thinking, Sketch.”

Adrian stood, still gripping the chalk. His other hand reached for the Renegade-issued handcuffs clipped to his belt. “You are under arrest,” he called. “Come out slowly with your hands up.”

The door clunked open, parting just wide enough for a hand to emerge, fingers spread in supplication.

“Slowly,” Adrian repeated.

There was a hesitation, and then the door was thrown open the rest of the way. Adrian spotted the barrel of a gun moments before a volley of bullets started to pepper the building behind him. He yelped and dived behind a bus stop, throwing his arms over his head. Glass shattered and bullets pinged against stone.

Someone shouted. The gunfire stopped.

The rest of the van doors were flung open in unison—driver, passenger, and the two at the back.

All seven criminals emerged, scattering in different directions.

The driver bolted for a side street, but Danna was on him instantly: a cyclone of golden wings one minute, and the next, a zealous superhero, clamping one arm around the man’s throat and throwing him to the ground.

A woman from the passenger seat sprinted south on Bridgewater and vaulted over the strip of nails, but she hadn’t gone half a block before she was struck in the face by an arrow of black smoke. She dropped to her knees, choking. Still struggling to breathe, she offered little resistance as Oscar emerged from behind a parked car and clamped cuffs around her wrists.

Three more thieves rushed through the van’s back doors, each weighed down with their bulging plastic bags. None of them saw the thin wire strung across the length of the road. Their ankles caught, one after the other, sending them crashing into a heap on the asphalt. One bag flopped open, spilling dozens of small white pill bottles into the gutter. Skipping out from behind a mailbox, Ruby made quick work of binding the three, then went to retrieve the red hook at the end of her wire.

The last two criminals emerged from the side door. The woman with the nose ring—Hawthorn, according to Nova’s binoculars—was gripping the automatic rifle in one hand and a black garbage bag in the other. She was followed by a man with two more bags flung over his shoulder.

Adrian was still crouched behind the bus stop when the two shot past him into a narrow alley. He sprang to his feet but hadn’t gone two steps before something whistled past him and he saw a glint of red from the corner of his eye.

Ruby’s spiked bloodstone sliced through the bag over the woman’s shoulder, cutting a narrow slit into its side. But her wire was too short. The woman was just out of reach. The gem rebounded, clattering to the concrete. A single plastic bottle tumbled from the tear in the bag.

Growling, Ruby reeled the wire back in and began to swing it overhead like a lasso as she charged forward, preparing for another throw.

The woman stopped suddenly and turned to face them, aiming the gun. She released another round of bullets. Adrian threw himself at Ruby. She cried out in pain as they both tumbled behind a dumpster.

The gunfire stopped as soon as they were under cover. The criminals’ footsteps clomped away from them.

   
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