John Cruise — better known as the superpowered delta Patriot — only wanted to serve his country, which has suffered under martial law since the assassination of the First Lady back in 1963. For years, he did so as a member of Delta Prime, the federal paramilitary organization dedicated to keeping deltas and the rest of the population in line. Then, during the Bicentennial Battle, Chicago disappeared in a blinding flash of light, taking the world's most powerful deltas with it, along with Patriot's wife.
Today, in 1999, Patriot leads a group of rebel deltas known as the Defiance, all of whom are on the run from Delta Prime. He hopes to find a way to break scores of their imprisoned friends out of New Alcatraz, the only place on the planet strong enough to hold them all. But then, while rescuing college student Lisa Stanski from a pack of Primers, the unthinkable happens.
Patriot gets caught.
Now it's up to the rest of the Defiance, including Lisa, to figure out how to break Patriot out of New Alcatraz before his old pal Ragnarok, now the leader of Delta Prime, has him executed without trial, under the direct orders of President John F. Kennedy himself.
"Matt Forbeck kicks off his Brave New World trilogy in great style with an action-packed narrative that is also full of a variety of interesting characters set in a setting as unique as it gets."– Abhinav Jain at The Founding Fields
"Couldn't put it down. This book drew me in and kept me there, so much so that I immediately read the next two in the series. If you like superheroes, strong and compelling characters, and fast paced action, this is the series for you."– Scott James Magner
"Anyone who thought Austin Grossman's SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE was the best supers-story they'd read in narrative form should read this and learn that Matt Forbeck can write far more engaging stories."– Steven Schend
JULY 4, 1976: PATRIOT
I bolted into the hollow interior of the Statue of Liberty through its feet, coming up by way of the large base beneath it, and charged up the metal frame stairs that lined its walls, my heavy boots clanging on them with every step. The composite plates of my Delta Prime armor made slipping through the narrow stairwell tricky, but that's why I'd spent so many hours training with the damn stuff on. I preferred to enter the scene of a crime in progress with a bit more subtlety, so the noise made me cringe inside, but I didn't have any good reason to try to be quiet. The terrorist waiting up there for us knew we were coming.
I felt the power building in my hands, plasma crackling between my fingers, wanting me to show it the way out. I let it grow but held it in check, readying it like a cocked pistol — if a pistol could blast apart a car. I wanted to let it loose, but there wasn't that much room inside the statue and my target hadn't shown his face yet.
Booster came pounding up the stairs behind me and nearly tripped me up. I turned and put out a hand to signal him to slow down. "I don't need your help here, Billy," I said. "You magnify my blasts in here, and I'm liable to kill all the hostages."
He held up his hands to show agreement and gave me a wild grin from under that shaggy brown mop of his. An automatic pistol wobbled in one of them. "I got your back, Cruise. No powers. Not from me."
I glanced past him to Porter, who held a gun just like his, standard issue for Delta Prime. She carried it in both hands, pointed at the floor. I never worried about her in the field, not once.
"I could pop in there and take him out, John," she said. "One shot."
I waved her off. "You'd be going in blind. Let's see what we can find out about this jackass first."
They both nodded at me, and I started climbing the stairs again, leading the way. Our footsteps echoed against the hollow insides of the copper statue. I'd been here before, as a tourist, and it had always been crammed full of patriotic gawkers like me. I'd never seen it this empty. It felt like charging through a ghost town.
"Park service did a good job of getting everyone out," Booster said, echoing my thoughts.
"Everyone but the dozen people trapped up there in the crown," Porter said.
I stopped cold, putting a hand behind me to keep Booster from running into my back. He wasn't so thoughtful for Porter, and she grumbled a quiet complaint. I sniffed at the air.
"Smell that?" I said.
Booster crinkled his nose and nodded. Porter narrowed her eyes. "Mustard gas," she said.
A gunshot rang out overhead and ricocheted around in the statue's interior. I ducked back, trying to make myself as small a target as possible. Powered up, my skin could stop a bullet, sure, but that didn't mean it wouldn't sting like hell. Besides, I didn't want to give the man up there the satisfaction of hitting me.
"Don't come any closer!" the man who'd fired the gun said. "You do, and I'll gas every damned one of these sheep to death!"
I peered up through the metal struts that braced the staircase in place, and I spotted him. Six foot tall, skinny, and a shock of dark red hair cropped close on the back and sides but left free up top, brushing over ice-blue irises. Desperation danced in those eyes, or maybe it was madness. At that moment, I don't suppose it mattered.
I pulled my open-topped mask down to hang around my neck. The original Patriot had handed the design down to me himself, along with his name. It wasn't much more than an American flag bandana tied around my forehead and draped down over my face, but it did the job. Best of all, it didn't cover my hair, which meant I could tolerate wearing it on sweltering July days like this.
I didn't yank down my mask for comfort though, nor to get a better look at the perp. The eyeholes in the mask — one of which cut through a single white star on a blue field, while the other split a set of red and white stripes — were plenty big for that. I did it to show him I was human as anyone, even him.
"There's no way out of here." I did my level best to keep my voice solid and strong. I didn't know who we were up against or how powerful he might be, and I didn't want to find out in a fatal way. I'd only been with Delta Prime for a few years, but I'd seen enough bad guys kill people with their powers to make me cautious.
"Don't you think I know that?" The man's voice cracked as he shouted down at us. "Don't you think I planned it that way?"
I shrugged, even though I knew the man couldn't see it. He'd ducked back through the doorway that led into the observation platform inside the statue's crown.
"Just keep calm!" Booster said.
I motioned for him to cut the commentary. I was in charge of this show, and he knew it.
"What's your name, pal?" I kept my voice low and easy. I didn't want the guy any more agitated than he already was.
"Call me Renegade," he said.
Booster arched a sarcastic eyebrow at me. Porter saved me the trouble of smacking him.
"All right," I said. "Renegade. What's your plan here?"
"What do you mean?"
"What are you hoping to get out of this? You don't just walk into a national monument and grab a bunch of hostages because you're bored."
"I have gas," Renegade said.
I shot Booster a look before he could snicker.
"I mean, I produce poison gas. That's my delta power."
"And?" I could almost hear the gears grinding in his brain. "And I want a million dollars and a fully fueled plane waiting for me at LaGuardia. And a helicopter to take me there!"
"I can take him." Porter held her voice to barely a whisper, but I still worried how well it might carry in that coppery echo chamber.
I signaled for her to hold on. In the silence, I could hear a boy whimpering up in the crown. A mother tried to hush him, but he just couldn't help himself. I had to put an end to this soon, but I didn't want to lose anyone in the process — not even this so-called Renegade.
"What's your real name?"
"Just get me my plane!" Renegade's voice shook as he spoke, and he appeared in the doorway again, his gun pointed right at us. "And my money!"
"Sure," I said. "But it's going to take some time. Even Delta Prime can't pull something like that out of petty cash."
I held my hands out, my palms open and empty. I took a step up toward him and let him train the gun on my chest. It would hurt if he fired, I knew, but better he shot me than anyone else. I could take it.
I took another step up.
"Don't come any closer!" he said.
"You don't need that gun," I said. "You could just use your gas to kill me, right? To kill us all?"
"Right!" The gun shook so hard in his hand that I worried it might go off. "Damn right!"
"Who'd you kill?" I took another step up.
"I didn't —" He wiped his nose with his sleeve. "I — how did you know about that?"
I took two steps forward this time. "It's all right. I'm sure it was an accident."
I could see his face clearly now. That wasn't snot he'd wiped from his nose but mustard gas leaking from his nostrils and one corner of his mouth. The scent of it — even from so many feet away — made my eyes sting.
I wanted to help him out. I'd seen guys like him all too often, ones who had awakened to their delta powers before they realized it and hurt the people around them. I'd seen the tragedy play out too many times, and there wasn't a damned thing fair about it — especially for guys like Renegade. I mean, when you start exhaling poison gas without any kind notice, it's easy to see how everything can go bad in an instant.
Once Renegade saw what he'd done, he'd probably figured that being drafted into Delta Prime was off the table. Running meant that he'd be chased for violating the Delta Registration Act, but that probably seemed like nothing compared to being brought up on murder charges. And so, in his despair, he decided to kill himself or get rich trying.
"We can help you," I said. "You just need to let these people go. Then we can sit down and figure it all out."
For a moment, I thought he'd go for it. He lowered the barrel of his gun, and he nodded at me. The madness began to drain from his eyes.
Then I felt the plasma build in my hands, hot and fast. I tried to tamp it down, snuff it out. I mostly managed it, but the air between my fingers gave off a telltale crackle.
I knew without even turning around what had happened. Whether he'd meant to or not, Booster had used his power on me, magnifying my own abilities. Under most circumstances, I wouldn't have minded that at all. He'd probably thought he'd pump up the hardness of my skin, making me bulletproof enough that any slug our hostage-taker might fire would bounce right off me. He'd just done it without warning and at the worst possible moment.
Renegade's gaze darted down to my hands, and he must have seen a faint nimbus of a fiery glow leap from them. Terrified, he snapped the gun straight up at my chest again and fired.
He unloaded three shots straight into me. Whether I wanted the assist from Booster or not, his powers did the trick. The slugs didn't do much more than tickle me, although the impact knocked me back a few steps before I managed to grab onto a railing and catch myself.
Someone up in the statue's crown screamed as I struggled to regain my footing. I stared up at Renegade and saw him draw in a huge breath. I steeled myself for what I knew would come next: a poisonous cloud of yellowish gas that would kill every single person inside the statue, except Renegade.
That would include me, of course. I might have been able to bounce a shell off my chest at that point, but that didn't keep me from having to breathe.
I brought my fists up and pointed them at Renegade as the plasma built up in them. I knew I'd never make it — I'd never get off a good blast before the man exhaled and murdered every one of us — but I had to try.
That's when the roof of the Statue of Liberty ripped off and disappeared into the sky.