Brady Scott stood in the center of a smoky battlefield, surrounded by soldiers and superheroes. A figure emerged from the smoke—a glowing man in a green uniform. Brady recognized him—the Human Nuke. He tried to run toward him, but he couldn’t move. His arms and legs wouldn’t obey his commands.

The Human Nuke began to glow brighter and brighter as he built up a radioactive charge. “For all superhumans!” he shouted.

“No!” Life turned to slow-motion as Brady watched the supervillain release his energy. He screamed—

—and then woke up.

Brady sat straight up, his lungs gasping for oxygen. The dream had been so real, just like the janitor’s story the day before—the Alpha Corps, the Battle of Washington, even the Human Nuke’s devastating attack.

Footsteps thudded in the hall, and a light clicked on. Mom burst into the room, with Dad and Brie following on her heels. “Brady! What happened, honey?” she exclaimed, her arms wrapping protectively around him. “We heard you screaming.”

Brie gasped and pointed past him. “Oh, my goodness! Daddy, look at the windows!”

Brady craned his neck and was shocked by what he saw. The windows were gone—the glass was shattered, as if someone had smashed it from the inside. Brady felt a sudden pang of fear, and he clung more fiercely to his mother. “What in the world is going on?”

Dad’s face was ashen, as he put a comforting hand on Brady’s shoulder. “Brady, I think it was your scream that did this.”

“What . . . my scream?”

“Your super scream.” Dad nodded his head. “We’ve been expecting this for a long time. You’ve unlocked your superpowers, son.”


More than forty miles away, a battle raged in a seedy Baltimore alleyway. A woman in a fedora jumped aside as blue flames lunged toward where she stood moments before, licking at her crimson trench coat. From atop a three-story building, her adversary—the superhero known as Cobalt Flame—leaped and dove into the alley below, landing in a three-point crouch that cracked the pavement.

Some superhumans were just comic book nerds at heart, and the woman could see Cobalt Flame was no exception. He wore a full black-on-blue suit—tattered from the fighting—with a cowl covering all but his face. A pair of welding goggles protected his eyes from the heat of the flames dancing on his palms.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Cobalt Flame insisted, his fires dwindling to embers. “Just stand down and tell me what you want with the superhumans you’ve taken. Then we can call it a night.”

The woman sized him up. Cobalt Flame would have all the Basic superhuman powers, like super-strength, enhanced senses, and a healing factor. His Advanced powers of pyrokinesis also included the bonus of being invincible to his own flames. Which meant he had only two weaknesses—his morals and his eyes.

And that was all she needed.

Without a word, she charged toward Cobalt Flame, wooden baton in her left hand. The hero brought his hands up to protect his face, but that wasn’t where she was going for. She went low, sweeping his legs out from under him with a single kick. Cobalt Flame fell to his knees, stunned. Seizing the initiative, the woman delivered a swift baton strike to his lower back, causing him to fall face down in a puddle. She quickly ripped the welding goggles off and rolled him over on his back to face her. Then she took a cannister from her pocket and sprayed an aerosol into his eyes. Cobalt Flame screamed and grabbed for his eyes, blinded as the woman in red quietly took a restraining collar from her pocket and fastened it around his neck, dampening his powers.

The fight was over. The woman stood victorious over the crumpled hero, peering at him through a slit in her mask. She adjusted her fedora as he made a feeble attempt to push himself up with one hand.

“Who . . . who are you?” he gasped, gritting his teeth. “What do you want with me?”

The woman inclined her head. “You can call me Red,” she said in an even tone.

“What, is your partner the big bad wolf?” he quipped, smirking.

She responded by knocking him unconscious with her baton. “You licensed capes are all the same. You never take anything seriously.”

Beams of light pierced the alley’s darkness as a van pulled up and stopped behind her. She pivoted around as two men in black got out of the van and approached her.

“He’s a pyrokinetic,” she said. “Get him back to base, and make sure you keep him in the restraint.”

Red watched stoically as the men carried the hero to the van and loaded him on. Only when they had pulled away did she discard her fedora and peel away the mask. Shoulder-length black hair spilled out as she took a deep breath and sighed. Cape busting was exhausting work.

Her phone rang abruptly, startling her. She quickly answered. “Hello?” she answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Gray,” a gravelly voice responded. “I think I’ve found Dark Condor.”

Red stiffened. Can it be? After all this time?

“Where?” she finally asked.

“Harper’s Hollow, Virginia. It’s not too far from Arlington.”

The woman nodded. “Fill me in and keep an eye on his movements. I’ll be there in the morning.”


Mom held Brady close while Dad rummaged around the attic, never letting go for a minute. She looked as shaken as he felt. Brie, on the other hand, was very excited about her brother’s new superpowers.

“This is so cool,” she chirped, her excitement palpable. “My big brother is a real superhero! What else can you do, Brady? Can you run faster than a bullet? Leap over skyscrapers? Ooh, ooh, fly and shoot lasers from your eyes?” Brie chittered away excitedly, pausing for neither breath nor answers.

“Brianna, please,” Mom pleaded, “let’s give your brother a moment to breathe, sweetie. I’m sure we’ll know what his powers are soon.”

Brady wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He had wished for superpowers ever since he was three. But now that he had them, whatever would he do with them? More importantly, where had they come from in the first place?

Dad came into the living room with a box tucked under his right arm. He set it on the coffee table and took a seat opposite Brady and Mom. Brady waited patiently for Dad to speak while he stared at his hands.

“I think,” he said at last, “that an explanation is long overdue. Your mother and I thought it best to wait to tell you what I’m about to say. We wanted you to enjoy normal lives for as long as possible.” He glanced up at the hole in the ceiling. “That time, I’m afraid, is now past.”

Brady tensed. He had a feeling that he wasn’t going to like whatever he was about to hear. “What do you mean, Dad?”

Dad reached and took the lid off the box. Brady saw what was inside and did a doubletake—a superhero costume, neatly-folded, with dark colors and a familiar gold insignia . . .

Oh. My. Goodness.

“Is this . . . is this a Dark Condor suit?” he blurted out.

Dad smiled and nodded. “Yes, Brady. It’s my original Dark Condor suit.”

What now? Brady’s mind reeled as he tried to process the information. “Dad . . . are you saying that you’re Dark Condor? The Dark Condor?”

Dad took Brady’s hand in his own. “Yes, son, I was Dark Condor. I retired after the battle with the Brotherhood of Superhumans.”

Brie’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “This is even cooler! My daddy and my big brother are superheroes! Isn’t this totally awesome?”

“B-but that’s impossible,” Brady stammered. “Dark Condor was killed when the Human Nuke destroyed the Alpha Corps.”

A shadow crossed Dad’s face. “I guess that’s true, in a sense. Dark Condor was killed with the rest of the Alpha Corps. Few knew who the man behind the mask was, anyway. I was cool with people thinking I was dead—it was a chance to start over.”

“But . . . how, Dad? How did you escape when no one else did?”

Dad closed the box and put it aside. “When the Human Nuke exploded, the Blue Sprite tried to teleport us all to safety at the last second. Unfortunately, she could only save me. It was too late for the others and for the army.”

His shoulders slumped, and his hands trembled. “We lost our will to fight after that. Sprite blamed herself for not saving the others, and I knew I was responsible for them being there in the first place. So, we went our separate ways, and the government declared that we had died in the battle. I went to seminary and became a pastor—and you know the rest of the story.”

Brady struggled to process this revelation. It was all so surreal to him, and he could barely keep his thoughts together.

My dad was a superhero.

He was Dark Condor.

He led his friends to their deaths.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” he asked, his voice cracking.

Dad’s face twisted in pain as his eyes met Brady’s. “We wanted to keep you and your sister safe for as long as we could—to let you live normal lives. Good men and women were killed because of my pride. I didn’t want you to be ashamed of me.” He bowed his head. “I’m not saying it was right, but I made the choice I thought was best in the moment, and I hope you can forgive me for that.”

Brady was silent for a moment. He didn’t know how to respond. “So . . . what about my powers? What should I expect?”

Dad’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Well, I can tell you right now that you will have Basic superhuman abilities like super-strength and a healing factor. You’ll also have enhanced senses—sight, smell, reflexes, the works. But a super scream is an Advanced ability. What’s more, it was one of my abilities.”

Brady nodded. “So, I can break glass if I yell really loud?”

“You’ll break a lot more than that with practice, son. I could also manipulate sound waves to cancel out noises or to mimic people’s voices. All of which you’ll learn how to do in time. I’ll help you.”

Brie, who had been quiet the whole time, spoke up. “What about me, Daddy?” she exclaimed. “Will I have superpowers too?” The heaviness of the situation seemed to have gone over her head.

Dad shook his head. “Probably not. We ran tests on both you and your brother before you were born to see if either of you would get superpowers. Brady’s test came back positive, but yours was negative.”

Mom smiled sadly as Brie’s face fell. “Don’t feel so bad, sweetie. Superpowers are a terrible responsibility—you may be glad not to have them someday.”

Dad rose and tucked the box under his arm. “Look, I understand that this is a lot to drop on you in one night. We’ll talk about it more in the morning, but right now, we need to get back to bed.”

Brady spent the rest of the night in the guest room. Mom and Dad offered to stay up with him, but he insisted he was fine. He tried to sleep but couldn’t—not with the weight of Dad’s revelation pressing on him. So much had happened all at once in two days. First there was the discovery about the Alpha Corps, and now the fact that his dad was Dark Condor? It was all too much.

The new morning brought him no comfort. Dad tried to talk to him, but Brady kept his responses to a bare minimum. He wasn’t trying to be rude, words just failed him. Eventually, Dad took the hint and stopped trying while Mom tiptoed around him with caution all day.

The only one who seemed excited about the turn of events was Brie, who seemed to have gotten over her disappointment about having no superpowers. She spent the whole morning following Brady, geeking out about his powers and pestering him with questions.

“You know what you need, big brother?” she said while they shot hoops in the driveway. “A cool codename!”

Brady absently dribbled the ball. “A codename?”

“Sure! Every superhero has a codename, and yours has to be the coolest ever!” Brie said as she attempted to block his shot.

Brady sidestepped for a clearer shot and hurled the ball toward the hoop, watching as it hit the backboard and circled the rim before dropping in. “I don’t know if I’m ready for a codename, sis.”

“Oh, don’t be silly! Look, I’ll help you come up with one right now!” Brie walked over to the lawn chairs and sat. “Let’s see . . . you’re super-strong, you scream really loud, and you’re a boy.” She tilted her head. “Screaming Boy?”

Brady raised an eyebrow as he sat next to her. “Screaming Boy? I don’t think so.”

“Okay, you don’t like that one. What about Thunder Mouth? Or perhaps Bellow?”

Brady couldn’t help himself as he cracked a smile. “Hard pass.”

“Okay, then. Picky, picky.” Brie snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it this time—the Sonic Lad!”

Brady chuckled. “Maybe the codename can wait, sis. I don’t know if I want to be a superhero yet.”

Brie’s jaw dropped. “What are you talking about? Of course you want to! Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”

“Well, yes. But . . .”

“But what?” Brie’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “Brady, you have superpowers! That makes you a superhero!”

Brady smiled weakly. “No, it doesn’t, sis. It just makes me superhuman. And not every superhuman is a superhero—I’ve heard most of them do other things with their powers. Ordinary things, like construction work or firefighting. Some even compete in the Super Olympics.”

“Okay, but it doesn’t sound as cool as being a superhero would be.” Brie pursed her lips. “I mean, if I had powers, that’s what I would want to be.”

Brady didn’t want to tell Brie the real reason he was having second thoughts about being a superhero—that he wasn’t sure he wanted to be like his dad. He still struggled to reconcile what his dad had told him with the man he knew—the same one who preferred a quiet day in the office to adventure and travel; who seemed ordinary in every way; who always told the truth about everything. Now the image had been shattered for good.

Brady felt betrayed. He could understand why Dad would want to keep the fact that he was Dark Condor a secret, even from him. But why hadn’t he told him after he learned the truth about the Alpha Corps? Dad had defended the superheroes to him. Had he only said it so he could feel better about himself? Was it all a lie?

“I guess I still have time to decide,” he said at last.

Brie nodded her head. “Yeah, I guess so. Say, you want to play some Lodecraft or something?”

Brady smiled again. A video game sounded pretty good. “Lodecraft it is.”

They rose and were walking to the garage when a large black van pulled into the driveway. Five imposing men in black trench coats and masks got out of the van, followed by a shorter man wearing a gray trench coat and a fedora. He pointed at the children.

“Grab ’em first!” he shouted.

Brady grabbed Brie’s hand, but the men were upon them before they could run. He struggled against the man holding him as someone pressed a sweet-smelling cloth over his nose. Brady’s arms and legs relaxed, refusing to obey as he slowly lost consciousness.


An hour passed before Brady woke up with a serious headache. He squinted against the dim light, trying to figure out where he was. As his vision cleared, he realized he was tied to a chair. He felt something fastened snugly around his neck, too—some kind of collar?

“Son? Are you okay?”

Brady was startled to hear the familiar voice. He inclined his head to the right and gasped. “Dad?”

Dad smiled reassuringly. “Are you okay?”

All things considered, Brady was happy to see a familiar face, even if it was his dad’s. “I guess so—got a headache, but that’s all.” As his memories started to come back, a panicked thought suddenly gripped him. He frantically scanned the small room. “Where’s Brie? She was with me, and . . .”

“We’re all here, son.”

Brady turned to see Mom and Brie sitting next to him. They were also tied to the chairs but had no collars. Mom’s smile wavered with a hint of fear. “They brought us all here together.”

“They? Who brought us here?” Brady asked.

Dad shook his head, and Brady could see fear in his eyes. “I’m not sure, son. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re cape busters—vigilantes who hunt superhumans for a living. No one knows where they take their captives.”

“They’re bad guys,” Brie said with a shiver. “I don’t like them.”

Brady tugged against his ropes. “We need to get out of here. Why don’t these ropes break or something? Don’t we have super strength?”

Dad shook his head. “They’ve put power dampening collars on our necks. Most licensed superheroes carry them to restrain supervillains from using their powers. Makes them easier for the police to contain.”

“Only the very best for Dark Condor.”

Startled, the family turned to the source of the voice. It belonged to a woman in a red trench coat and fedora, her face covered entirely—except for her eyes—by a red ski mask. She was followed by a man in a similar costume, who Brady recognized as the man in gray who kidnapped them.

“I was expecting more of a fight from the formidable Dark Condor,” the woman said. “But Gray says you were almost as easy to nab as your two brats were.”

Brady’s temper flared at the insult. Brie made a face at her but hid it when Gray turned to look.

“Who are you?” Mom asked. “And what do you want with us?”

The woman gave her a cold look. “My name is Red, and what I want is a world with no capes.”

Chills shook Brady’s spine. “You kill superheroes?”

Red shook her head. “No, boy, I do not kill. And hero or villain? Those are just labels. You superhumans are all the same to me.”

“You’re the ones who broke into my home and kidnapped my family,” Dad said through gritted teeth.

“Unfortunate, but necessary.” Brady thought he saw a hint of a smile beneath Red’s mask. “But Condor, I admit there is a certain satisfaction in having you at my mercy.”

Dad raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

Red swept off her hat and mask in one swift motion, revealing shoulder-length black hair and an olive face. Her eyes sparkled with hatred. “Do you recognize me now, Michael?” She sneered. “I’ve grown a lot since you came to my eighth birthday party.”

Dad did a double take. “You’re Cheyenne Weiss? Blue Sprite’s daughter?”

Red—or Cheyenne—backhanded him in the face. “Silence! I will not hear you speak my dear mother’s name.”

Brady’s jaw dropped. Two children of the Alpha Corps in the same room? What were the odds?

“But your mother,” Mom asked, “she escaped the Human Nuke’s attack, right?”

“Yes, much to her regret.” For a moment, Red’s tone lost its edge. “My mother was never the same after the battle. She failed everyone—her country, her teammates, even her family. She chose to save the man who led her team to their deaths, instead of her own husband. He died when his news chopper was vaporized in the explosion.”

Brady was confused. His dad never mentioned a husband. Hadn’t he said she tried to save everyone?

“She never did get over her loss,” Dad said. “I’m sorry you had to grow up without a father.”

“I don’t need your sympathy. It’s not like I had much of a mother, anyway. For years, I watched her descend into despair. Then one day, she . . . she . . .” Her voice quivered, as she blinked away tears. “Then one day, she decided to end it all.”

Brady was stunned. “Suicide?”

Red glared at him. “Yes, you brat. She finished the work your father started.”

Brady felt hot anger course through his veins. “You can’t blame my dad for that!” he shouted.

“It isn’t blame, it’s fact!” Red’s voice crackled with anger. “People are dead because of your father’s arrogance, and my mother was one of those victims!”

Mom and Brie’s faces registered dismay. Brady fell silent. What could he say to that? He turned to his dad and was startled by a single tear slipping down his cheek.

“You’re right,” he said. His voice was heavy with guilt. “What happened in Washington was my fault, and I am truly sorry.”

“So, you take responsibility. How noble of you.” Red seemed to size Dad up. “Gray tells me you are a pastor now, Condor. Do you really think you can earn salvation for your sins?”

Brady watched Dad shake his head. “I could never earn salvation, Cheyenne. It was given to me.”

Red smirked. “How quaint. Your invisible God forgives your greatest sin and eases your conscience. And I suppose you expect me to forgive you too?”

Dad shook his head again. “I don’t expect you to forgive me, Cheyenne. My mistake cost my friends their lives, and you have every right to hate me for what happened to your parents. All I can do is ask for your forgiveness.”

Red didn’t even blink. She shook her head. “Your apology means nothing. All that matters now is that you pay for what you did.”

Dad lowered his gaze. “What are you going to do?”

“Killing capes isn’t my style. They’re just arrogant fools pretending to be gods. The ones I capture are going on ice until we figure out how to remove their powers.” Her grip on the gun tightened. “But you and your family, Condor, are special cases.”

Special cases? What does that mean? Brady’s heart hammered with fear as Dad’s face paled.

“My family?” he asked. “They have nothing to do with any of this. I’m the one you want—leave them alone!”

“On the contrary, Condor, they have everything to do with this. Remember, I lost my family because of you. It is only fair that you should pay in kind. An eye for an eye, right? Doesn’t your Bible say that somewhere?” Red breathed a mirthless laugh as she pointed her gun at Brady.

“No!” Mom and Dad screamed.

“Dad!” Brady cried out.

But before Red could pull the trigger, Gray was immediately on top of her. He seized her shooting arm, and the two of them began to struggle for control. Red hissed angrily as she used her free hand to claw Gray’s face.

“Let go of me, uncle!” she screamed. “This has to be done!”

“We don’t kill, Red,” Gray’s throaty voice growled, “not even the capes. And we especially don’t kill children.”

“He . . . needs . . . to . . . SUFFER!” Red shouted. She wrenched and pulled free of Gray’s grasp but lost her footing and stumbled. Gray followed up with a swift punch to the face, knocking her flat on the floor.

The family watched in shock as he took her gun and pocketed it. Then he turned to them and began unlocking their handcuffs one at a time. Once they were free, he took another key and unlocked Brady and his dad’s restraining collars.

“Go,” he rumbled.

“Why . . . why are you helping us?” Brady asked.

With a deliberate motion, Gray pulled away his hat and mask, revealing a weathered face and a gray ponytail. Brady and his dad gasped in recognition.

“Cade Weiss?” said Dad. “Is that you?”

“You’re the janitor from the superhero museum!” Brady exclaimed.

Gray frowned. “My niece is right that capes are arrogant fools. Your kind needs to be put in their place. But killin’ ain’t my way, and besides, ya seem to have changed since then. Maybe be I wasn’t entirely right about you.” He gestured to the door. “The exit’s that way. Go now, before she wakes up.”

Brady took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart. His fingers intertwined with his dad’s as the family made their way to the door, to freedom. But a word from Gray made him pause in his tracks.

“Don’t think this is over, Condor. Not by a long shot.”


The family decided not to return to their home for a while. Since Cheyenne knew where they lived now, it wasn’t safe from the cape busters. Dad drove the family to another town where he booked a room in a small motel for a few nights. They would stay there until they figured out what to do next.

Over the next few days, the family members dealt with the trauma differently. Brie was shaken from being kidnapped but exhilarated to have survived. Mom was a nervous wreck, her protective gaze never wandering from her children. Dad seemed more alert than ever before, seemingly prepared for Red or her agents to strike again.

As for Brady, he was talking to his dad again. Whatever Dark Condor had done in the past was history. He was a good man at heart, and Brady knew he could trust him. One evening, after Mom and Brie had gone to bed, Brady and his dad stayed out late by the motel swimming pool to talk.

“I called a friend of mine earlier today,” Dad said as they relaxed on the pool chairs, staring at the stars. “She runs a private boarding school for superhumans in Florida, and she says she’d be more than happy to take you on as a student.”

“You're not sending me away, are you?” Brady asked.

“Not at all, son. We’re all moving there with you, so you’ll be staying with us most of the time. But Dr. Lawford’s school is one of the best schools for superhumans in the country. They’ll help you hone your new powers in ways that I can’t.”

Brady nodded and smiled. “You’ll still teach me, right? I want to learn all your moves, like that one you used on Crazy Count once.”

A chuckle escaped Dad as he shook his head. “I’ll teach you all of my moves except that one, Brady.”

“Why not?” Brady asked, disappointed.

Dad lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Between us, it was a one-time wonder. I couldn’t do it again to save my life.”

They laughed, and Dad hugged Brady. Brady hugged him back. It felt good, like happier times.

“Son,” Dad said at last, “I love you.”

Brady smiled again. “I love you too, Dad.”

And he hugged him tighter.