Written by New York Times best-selling author Christopher Golden, Runaways: An Original Novel is a fresh take on the Marvel fan favorite. Including the first issue of the revived Runaways comic series written by Rainbow Rowell and with art by Kris Anka, it's easy for fans of the comics, fans of the new Hulu TV show, and first-time readers to all enjoy this new take on an old classic.
Turns out murderous Super Villains don't make for good parents. The Runaways had no choice. They had to kill them. Well, more or less. Now Nico, Karolina, Gert, Chase, and Molly are on the run again, hiding out and trying to regain a sense of normalcy. But kids with super powers don't get to be normal.
The city is overrun with criminals, each faction bent on murdering them for one reason or another. It's only when the Runaways uncover the truth behind their parents' past that they realize the evil isn't just in L.A.
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Nico Minoru woke up alone in a dusty room from a dream in which she'd been watching her parents help murder a teenage girl. Her heart was thundering in her chest, her breath catching, and the mask of confidence she always wore shattered. Her right hand shook as she covered her mouth and slid even lower into the sofa where she'd fallen asleep. She steadied her breath, slowed her heart, forced the expression of naked horror on her face to subside into nothing. Confidence. Competence. Calm. Nico.
The dream didn't come every night. Not anymore. But every time, it hit her the same, whether it had been three nights or two weeks since the last one, because the scene unfolding in her dream wasn't just a nightmare. ... It was a memory. She'd stood with her friends, who'd barely been her friends then, and they'd watched their parents murder that girl. Nico had seen the knife go in, seen the blood and the little O of pain and surprise formed by the girl's lips, and the bottomless sadness in her eyes as her life had slipped away.
Then she had run. She and her friends–they'd all run away.
Their parents were all dead now, but in a way they would be running from that moment forever, like their lives were one big haunted house they all shared, and that murdered girl wandered its halls as the ghost of everything they'd thought their lives might be.
Nico sat up, and the book she'd been reading tumbled off her lap to the floor. She picked it up, scowling in disgust. She didn't have room in her life now for sorrow or self-pity. All she'd wanted this morning was a little peace and quiet, but she had not slept well last night, and so when she'd come upstairs for some alone time, some time to read her book, she'd drifted off instead.
No more naps, she promised herself. I don't ever want to sleep again.
If there was a bright side to having dead parents, it was being able to sit inside all day reading gloomy Scandinavian mystery novels. When she'd adopted a neo-goth style, changing her clothes and makeup, she'd heard whispers behind her back at school–and some obnoxious comments to her face–suggesting that it was anything from a poseur facade to a cry for help, but all she'd been doing then and now was letting her exterior finally reveal the interior. She'd always been a girl who liked to sit inside and read novels about grim murders. The fact that she now got to do that very thing inside an abandoned insane asylum only made it that much better.
Rancho Los Hermanos Hospital had been closed for fourteen years, surrounded by corrugated metal fencing topped with barbed wire. Inside, the walls were covered with graffiti, and the evidence of vandalism was scattered everywhere, but the layer of dust that covered even the freshest graffiti was a decade old. Nobody had dared to come to this nuthouse in ages, mostly because after its closure, the former Hydra safe house in the subbasement of the place had been seized by S.H.I.E.L.D., who'd kept it running for a while before budget cuts had caused the whole thing to be shut down.
The squatters and street kids and junkies who tended to break into places like this had been kept away in the S.H.I.E.L.D. days by a subsonic aversion signal broadcast from every corner of the building. Thanks to Chase, they'd managed to get that signal turned back on, and it worked like a charm, causing anyone who came too close to feel a subconscious discomfort and the desire to be somewhere else. If only she'd had one of those back when she'd still been forced to go to high school every day. Hell, she'd have liked one as far back as the third grade.
If you knew it was there, and could endure feeling squirrelly and irritable for the first few hours, you could get used to the aversion signal. Now Nico and her friends had the nuthouse and the half-stripped-of-equipment S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house in the subbasement all to themselves. It wasn't cozy downstairs, but there was power and running water, and they had beds to sleep in. It was a place to crash, a place they could be together without people trying to drag them back into the loving arms of Child Protective Services.
Thanks to Chase, she thought. It made her smile to think of how much she and the others owed to Chase Stein. Even when she'd had a crush on him, she knew her interest had been purely shallow. Cute, sure. Hair a little too long, kind of broody, slightly older than she was, the kind of guy who would definitely have drawn her attention at school–yes to all of that. But she'd never thought of Chase as especially brilliant. And yet he had been the one to find them this place, and the one before that, and the one before that, determined to keep them all together.
Yeah, Nico and the others owed Chase a lot. Though she figured they'd paid him back many times over by keeping him alive. Nico, Karolina, and Molly had powers. Gert had a psychic bond with Old Lace, her genetically engineered dinosaur from the future. Chase had a toolbox and a hacker's instincts, and he'd been loyal to them. Even after he'd turned eighteen, old enough that he could've stopped being a runaway and gotten himself a job and a life without worrying about ending up in jail or foster care, he'd stuck by them. Nico knew part of the reason was that Chase had totally fallen for Gert, but she didn't think that was the only reason.
The five of them were in this together, and Chase believed that as much as anyone.
Karolina lay on her back on a beach towel, eyes closed and half-asleep. If anyone had suggested to her a year ago that she'd be able to go through the things she'd been through, end up sunbathing on the roof of an abandoned mental hospital, and still be able to feel a sense of peace in her soul, she'd have laughed. Her life had changed so dramatically. Her parents had brought her up to respect and care for the less fortunate, but they'd also given her a life of rare privilege. They'd both been actors, absurdly attractive, and she'd inherited those genes. Obviously.
They weren't human genes, of course, so it was a bit like cheating. Karolina was still trying–and failing–to get used to the idea that her parents had come from another world, that she herself was an alien. In her mind that meant little green nighttime abductors like the ones you saw in the movies. But a little green nighttime abductor wouldn't look nearly as good in a bikini as she did. Or feel tormented by the discovery of their otherness the way she did.
Sunbathing, though ... this felt good. She'd found the tiny bikini and a few old beach towels in a Salvation Army store. Karolina had never needed to worry about money before she'd learned the truth about her parents, but she'd risen to the challenge of bargain hunting. Bikini acquired, she'd scouted the hospital's roof for the best spot to avoid any chance of being seen, and left the world behind. As with others of her race, the Majesdanians, Karolina absorbed solar radiation and stored it in her cells. She could repurpose it in a variety of ways, which made lying there baking in the sunshine extra pleasurable. Though the bracelet she wore allowed her to suppress the colorful lights that emanated from her whenever she used her powers, she could still feel her body charging with the sunlight, flowing with a sense of well-being that nothing else could provide.
Karolina drifted, content and sleepy and relaxed for the first time in–
"Hey, Karolina, when do you think I'll get boobs?"
Blinking, thoughts fuzzy from near-sleep, she opened her eyes. Even with her sunglasses on, the glare was bright. She tilted her head to the right and saw eleven-year-old Molly Hayes sitting on her own beach towel, a blue-and-red thing with Captain Marvel on it. Molly loved Captain Marvel, partly because she could punch really hard, but also because whenever they saw news footage of her she seemed like a boss, and Molly liked the idea. Molly could also punch really hard, and if Captain Marvel could be a boss, she figured maybe she could be a boss someday too.
When Karolina had showed her the towel, that day after she'd gone into the Salvation Army store, Molly had squealed with happiness.
"Wait," Karolina said now, "did you just ask me about boobs?"
Molly pointed at Karolina's chest. "When do you think I'll get them?"
Karolina sat up, fully awake now. "It's different for everyone, I guess. Could be this year. Could be a slow thing. Might take a long time. Sorry I can't be more—"
"Do they get in the way?"
"In the way of what?"
Molly shrugged. "Just ... in the way. Gert said hers hurt sometimes when she runs, and that just seems stupid. Like, who designed boobs anyway? I know you're gonna bring up moms nursing babies, but what if I never have babies? I think they should only grow when you want to have a baby. I mean, obviously boys like them, but who really cares what boys like?"
Karolina smiled. "On that, we can definitely agree. But look, Mol, we all grow the way we're meant to. Tall or short, curvy or not, it's more important what's between your ears than—"
"Nico's boobs aren't very big. Maybe I'll get boobs like hers. So they won't hurt when I run."
Karolina couldn't help but laugh. Molly crossed her arms and gave her a withering glare.
"I'm going to guess that you're bored," Karolina said, rising from her towel.
Molly threw up her hands. "Yes. Definitely. And you know the solution to boredom? Mint chocolate chip ice cream."
"I think we can arrange ..." Karolina began, but her words trailed off and she turned to look across the roof, beyond the vent housing and the stairwell entrances and the massive air-conditioning units and chimneys.
"Kar, what's wrong?" Molly asked, and Karolina heard her scuffling to her feet.
"Do you feel that?"
Karolina tried to explain, but realized Molly couldn't have felt the same thing she did. The sensation came from within her, a kind of heat in her flesh and bones, as if the solar radiation inside her was being amplified and somehow siphoned at the same time. Just a little, in a manner so small that she wouldn't have noticed if she'd been distracted by almost anything else.
"Stay here," she said.
"Pfft. You know how good I am with being told to stay here."
A moment later they were padding across the roof together, foolishly barefoot on the old roof, but not wanting the noise of their flip-flops to give them away. The sun had heated the roof, so it seared the soles of their feet, but Molly was a trouper.
"It's getting hotter," the younger girl said. "And it's not just the sun."
Karolina didn't reply, but she knew Molly was right. Whatever she'd sensed, whatever had gotten her attention, it was raising the temperature at the back of the hospital.
They reached the edge of the roof. Keeping low, side by side, the girls looked over the side. Karolina's eyes went wide and her breath hitched in her chest, but it was Molly who spoke up.
"Yeah," Karolina agreed.
Someone had melted a hole through the back fence. The hole was about seven feet high and three feet wide. About the right size for someone, or something, to walk right in. Karolina hung her head farther over the side of the roof. She couldn't be sure, but she thought maybe there was another hole below them, burned right through the outer wall of the hospital.
Whatever had come to find the Runaways, it was already inside.
As she jumped up, she slipped off her bracelet and a rainbow of light began to glow from within her. Sparks and streaks of light wreathed and danced around her body.
"Don't say it."
Karolina glanced at her. Sometimes Molly seemed very young, but they had all been through a lot and she'd been forced to grow up quickly. She was also a mutant, and the strongest among them. The urge to keep her out of danger was strong, but they couldn't afford to leave her behind.
"Let's go," Karolina said.
Molly threw her fist in the air. "Yes!"
Karolina grabbed her and dove off the roof, taking flight in a wave of vividly colored light, no longer caring who might see them. She carried Molly with her, praying that she was doing the right thing and that they were strong enough to face whatever had come to hurt them.
She didn't think she could handle losing anyone else.
The five of us, Nico thought. Once upon a time there'd been six of them. Six Runaways. It was like that in her head–capitalized. They weren't just runaways, they were the Runaways, like the all-girl punk band. Not a Super Hero team or anything like that. Their parents had been criminals, an alliance of evil nasties who'd called themselves the Pride. They'd been a disparate group, each of whom brought different strengths to the table, and each of whom had been recruited for supposed greatness by the Gibborim, a trio of Elder Gods of the Earth who promised the usual bells-and-whistles package of immortality, power, and wealth in exchange for one ritual human sacrifice a year.
They hadn't been Super Villains. They'd been murderers. Serial killers who'd basically worshipped the Gibborim, even though the Gibborim had an endgame. They were trapped in a pocket dimension and needed to accumulate the power generated by those annual sacrifices to get back to the real world. The Pride had been organized-crime figures, a kind of enhanced L.A. cartel, so feared that every criminal kicked a percentage of profits up the chain to the Pride, and nobody with nefarious intent dared to operate in the greater Los Angeles area without their blessing.
No, the Runaways weren't Super Heroes any more than their parents had been Super Villains. They had responsibilities, things they believed in, a reason for helping people, especially kids like themselves, street punks who'd gotten in over their heads or who had parents doing them wrong. They weren't just fighting crime to fight crime, they were trying to survive, and maybe make up for some of the horrors their parents had been responsible for. To them, that was enough.
The five of us, she thought again. Because they'd lost the guy they'd all thought of as their leader, Alex Wilder, under circumstances none of them wanted to talk about. They'd defeated the Pride, yes. And their parents had died in the process. They weren't just Runaways now, they were also orphans.
Nico missed the life she'd had before, when the worst thing in her world had been the daily frustrations she wrote about in purple and red ink in a black journal, letting her clothing declare to the world just how misunderstood she felt. And yet she wouldn't have wanted to go back to that time. She knew some of her friends wished they could return to the innocence of those days, but she couldn't say the same. If they'd never learned the truth, the Pride would still be running their secret criminal empire in L.A., still worshipping the Gibborim and murdering kids no older than their own children. Her parents had gotten what was coming to them.
So why did she have to fight not to cry sometimes, late at night, when she knew everyone else had gone to sleep? Why did she have these nightmares?
With one finger holding the page in her book, Nico exhaled loudly and gazed around the dayroom. Ratty armchairs, three torn and stained sofas, a few wheelchairs, and two broken Ping-Pong tables were about all the room had to offer. Dust motes floated all around her, invisible except in the shafts of sunlight that poured through the windows in the west wall. It was late afternoon and the light had taken on a golden hue. Two of the windows had been boarded up, but there were five that remained unblocked. They were dirty and had barred grates that would have kept angry inmates from shattering the glass. Several had broken panes, no doubt the result of rocks tossed over the fence outside or from vandals who'd gotten inside, back in those early years after the closure.
A quiet place. Perfectly gloomy. Nico settled back on the sofa she'd chosen days ago as her reading spot and focused again on the page. Her thoughts had drifted, so she had to read page 117 again. The best thing about these Scandinavian crime novels was that no matter how warm and humid it might get, she could still get a chill up her spine reading them.
She'd only reached page 119 when she started to shift on the couch. Beads of sweat sheened her arms and she wiped a hand across her forehead. The warm breeze through the broken windowpanes had died and suddenly it felt like the whole room had turned into an oven.
"What the hell?" she muttered.
Excerpted from "Runaways"
Copyright © 2018 MARVEL.
Excerpted by permission of Disney Book Group.
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