Authors: Chelsea M. Campbell
Tags: #superheroes, #Young Adult, #action adventure, #teen fiction, #family drama, #contemporary fantasy, #coming of age
The Betrayal of Renegade X
Chelsea M. Campbell
1st edition published by Golden City Publishing, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Chelsea M. Campbell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
The Rise of Renegade X
The Trials of Renegade X
The Betrayal of Renegade X
Fire & Chasm
Growing Up Dead
Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye
FOR CHLOË AND KAREN, WHO GAVE ME ENDLESS PEP TALKS AND KEPT ME FROM GOING TOO CRAZY.
NLY ONE MORE WEEK of school,” Gordon says at breakfast Monday morning, ruffling my hair and beaming at me like I just won the Olympics or something. He sounds both proud and relieved, like me getting through one whole semester at Heroesworth means he hasn’t completely failed at being my dad. Or like maybe he thought I would flunk all my classes, or blow up part of the school, or do something else that would get me kicked out again.
Which is understandable, all things considered.
“I just want you to know how proud I am of you,” he says. “How proud
are.” He means him and Helen, my stepmom and the mother of my three half siblings.
“You did good,” Helen says, grinning and squeezing my shoulder on her way to stop Jess from taking off her shoes again.
“It wasn’t that hard,” I tell them. “Blowing things up and getting expelled is
Amelia slumps into the chair across from me and glares. “He’s not even getting straight
s,” she whines. Amelia also goes to Heroesworth with me. We’re in the same grade, but only because she got accepted slightly early. But that means it’s her first semester there, too, only no one’s acting like she deserves a lifetime-achievement award for it or anything, on account of her always getting good grades and never having been expelled. And I happen to know that she’s not getting straight
s right now, either, so I don’t know why she thinks that’s a requirement for praise.
One benefit of being the black sheep in the family—or in this case, being the only half villain and going to an all-hero school—is that everyone expects me to screw up. So when I don’t, it’s like I performed a miracle.
Alex, my nine-year-old half brother, looks up at me adoringly and says, “I can’t wait to go to Heroesworth, just like you!”
I gave him a dollar to say that. Though he’s laying it on a little thick, which isn’t what I paid for. I guess I can’t expect quality at such low prices.
But apparently Amelia didn’t notice how fake that sounded, because her mouth drops open and she gapes at me. Then her eyes narrow and her nostrils flare in and out. She grips her fork like she wants to stab someone with it—probably me—and jams it into her stack of pancakes. “
go to Heroesworth, too,” she says. “Or did everyone forget?”
Helen gives her a sympathetic-yet-unenthusiastic smile. “We know, honey. But Damien’s...”
“A screwup?” Little bits of pancake fly out of her mouth while she talks.
Gordon and Helen cringe at that, even though it’s kind of true. Maybe a lot true. They both look to me, to see how offended and possibly horribly discouraged I am, now that my jealous little sister let the cat out of the bag. Like maybe I didn’t know I wasn’t a saint until just now.
I lean back in my chair, showing them how un-freaked out I am by that. “Amelia, I forgot. What’s your grade in Intro to Heroism again?”
The blood drains from her face and she bites her lip. “That’s the
class you’re getting an
in. It’s not that great.”
“You didn’t answer my question.” Not only am I getting an
in that class, but Amelia’s getting a
. Which really,
pisses her off.
“You still have to pass the final.”
Piece of cake. Me and Riley have totally owned every mission in that class so far, no thanks to the rest of our group, and tonight won’t be any different. Our current bad guy we’ve been studying through the school’s criminal database and tracking around town for the past couple weeks is a kidnapper and a blackmailer with a record of not always keeping his victims in one piece. Or alive. Tonight, we catch him and get him off the streets once and for all, and that moment can’t come soon enough.
“So do you,” I remind her. “You never know—your
could become a
.” Another mission means more fieldwork, which means Amelia messing up and not getting full points.
She lets out a little squeak of outrage.
Alex rests his chin in his hands and gazes up at me again. “You’re the best brother in the whole world.”
I make a slicing motion with my hand, trying to indicate he should cut it out. I only paid for one compliment, plus I don’t want anyone getting suspicious.
“We should do something special next weekend,” Gordon says. “To celebrate.” He looks at me when he says it, clearly meaning to celebrate my lack of screwing up, though then he glances guiltily at Amelia and adds, “To celebrate
of you.” Which just makes it that much more obvious that he hadn’t meant her originally.
“Maybe we’ll go out to eat Saturday night.” Helen clears her throat. “You can bring Kat. If you want.”
Which is a big deal for her to say, since only a few months ago, she wouldn’t even let Kat in the house. Kat’s a supervillain, and the granddaughter of Helen’s nemesis. The one she defeated and killed years before we were even born, in the fight where she lost her superpower. She never got over it, and she’s not exactly thrilled about me dating his direct descendant. Though at least I’ve finally convinced her that Kat’s not evil.
“Thanks, but we kind of already made plans.” Kat gets home from school on Saturday for winter break. I haven’t seen her in weeks, and what we have planned isn’t really rated for a general audience. “You guys can go without me, though. I don’t want to get in the way of your happiness.” I try to look as angelic as possible while I say that, like I really do care about them having a good time and not like I’m just hoping to luck out and get the house to myself.
“Yeah, right,” Amelia mutters.
“Another night, then,” Gordon says. “We’ll figure out a time that works for everyone.”
It was worth a try. “Thanks, Dad.”
“No problem, son.”
Amelia pretends to gag in disgust.
Helen gives her a sharp look, silently scolding her for it. “You two better get going. You don’t want to be late for school.” She scoops up Jess and makes her put on her coat, telling Alex to grab his stuff and meet them in the car.
Gordon’s phone rings, and he heads into the living room to answer it.
“I hate you,” Amelia whispers, once we’re alone. “And they’re only being so nice to you because you messed up so much and they think you’re a loser. You know that, right?”
“Wow, Amelia. You have such a sweet personality. No wonder you’re so popular.”
Her mouth turns extra sour at that. “You’re barely passing this semester.
the one who’s doing really well. I’m getting almost straight
s, and I’m treasurer of costume club.”
“Good for you. And I wouldn’t call three
s and an
‘barely passing.’” I might count the
I’m getting in our history class, but I don’t see any reason to mention it.
“It’s only one semester. You still have three left to go.”
“I just mean that maybe they shouldn’t be celebrating just yet. Because you still have a long way to go before you graduate, and just because you made it through one semester—which is supposed to be the
one—doesn’t mean you’re not going to fail later on.” She shrugs, as if that’s really obvious information and she just happened to be the one to tell me.
“Your faith in me is astounding.” And I’m pretty sure one semester not guaranteeing my future is
Gordon and Helen want to celebrate—because there’s a chance it won’t ever happen again. Which is where they’re wrong, because I’ve got this Heroesworth thing figured out. I might not get straight
s or have any extracurricular activities—not any school-sanctioned ones, anyway—and I might not fit in with all the
-bearing douchebags at that school, but I’m getting by. Which is good enough for me, and apparently it’s more than good enough for Gordon and Helen.
“I was supposed to go to Heroesworth first,” Amelia says, sounding more hurt than bratty for once. “I was always the oldest before. And now Dad doesn’t even care if I follow in his footsteps or not. Just because you’re older, and a boy.”
“Maybe they’ll do graduation in reverse alphabetical order and you’ll get your diploma a few minutes before me.” Since we have different last names.
She snorts. “
you even get yours.”
“And anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not following in his footsteps. That one’s all yours.”
“You’re going to Heroesworth.”
“Yeah, but I’m not joining the League afterward.”
She gets this look on her face that’s half satisfaction and half disbelief. “Why wouldn’t you want to join the League?”
“Uh, for all the obvious reasons?” Like that I’m half villain, I don’t agree with most of their stupid rules, and I don’t believe that signing their stupid League Treaty and promising to obey said stupid rules actually means anything. “The real question, Amelia, is why would
“Because everyone joins up. Duh. Mom and Dad joined. Plus, all my friends are going to. And Zach.”
“Yeah, but working in the League is pretty much all fieldwork. And we know how good you are at that.”
She tries to kick me under the table. “It’s only been one semester. I’m still
“Only one semester. That means you’ve still got three more left to go. Fieldwork classes are required. And this is the easiest one. It’s only going to get harder from here.”
She scowls. Her chair screeches against the floor as she gets up from the table. “I’m going to school.
walk with me.”
“I’m just saying that just because you made it through one semester doesn’t mean you’re not going to fail later on. Someone told me that. I can’t remember who, but they sound like words to live by, don’t you think?”
rian, my least favorite member of our group, folds his arms and stands in front of the doors to the abandoned factory. His breath fogs in the cold night air. “We’re not going in.” He says it like he means it, like even after a whole semester he
thinks he calls the shots. Because having an
on his thumb supposedly makes him better than me.