Dustin tugged at the metal restraints that clattered against the table. He swallowed hard as the icy claws of fear slowly squeezed his heart. He looked up and saw only darkness but then looked past his shoes. A shadow crept toward him, a familiar sinister laugh echoing around him.

“No! Stop! Don’t come any closer!” he shouted.

But The Shadow kept coming. It moved up to his chest, and Dustin’s heart dropped into his stomach when the darkness swallowed him completely.

“I promised you’d regret it, boy,” the voice snarled. “Everything you love will burn!”


Dustin bolted upright, his blanket flying off the bed. He clutched the bottom sheet that crumpled beneath his white knuckles. Sunlight streamed into his bedroom, but Dustin stared at the dark shadow that lived under the door of his closet. It didn’t move. It didn’t grow. But Dustin felt if he stopped staring, it might.

Then his door burst open, and he hurled his pillow across the room.

Officer Thomson staggered back as he caught the pillow against his chest.

“Easy, son. It’s just me.”

Dustin released the breath he’d been holding, the tension in his shoulders relaxing.

“Was it him again?”

Dustin avoided his dad’s face and nodded. Officer Thomson sat on the edge of the bed, setting the pillow down beside him.

“The Shadow isn’t a danger to us anymore.”

“I know. But I still have this feeling that something is going to happen,” Dustin admitted. “He was going to take away everyone’s powers, Dad. What if he escapes and does? What if losing my powers meant nothing? What if he comes after me? And you. And Mom. And Jocelyn—”

“Your sacrifice was not nothing, son,” Officer Thomson said, gripping his son’s shoulder. “You may have had your powers taken from you, but you stopped him without needing them.”


“But nothing. Everything in Paladin is fine, and you are safe. You don’t need to worry about the city. That’s my job,” he said.

“Because you’re the chief?”

“No, because I’m your dad.” He smiled, ruffling Dustin’s red hair. “Come on. Your mom’s got breakfast on the table already. We can’t be late to Uncle Zak’s.”

“I’m coming.”

Officer Thomson left the room, and Dustin slowly got out of bed. He threw on a T-shirt and jeans and left his pajamas on the floor. As he left his room, he ran into Jocelyn. She had been looking down at her phone, and it fell toward the floor. But she stretched her arm like a rubber band and caught it before it hit the carpet.

“Sorry, Josie,” he mumbled and slipped past her.

“It’s fine,” Jocelyn said, but he was already down the stairs. Dustin sat at the table when he reached the kitchen, and his mom teleported a plate of eggs toward him. He grabbed it out of the air, and a glass of orange juice poured itself.

“Good morning, Dustin,” his mom said. Dustin looked at her. Even though she was smiling at him, her eyes held a sense of concern.

“Dad told you,” he said. His mother’s smile faltered. “I’m okay. Really.”

“You don’t have to keep insisting that. You can tell us when you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

“But I’m not. Seriously. I just wish you’d all leave me alone,” he added under his breath. Unfortunately for him, his sister’s sensitive hearing worked just fine. But she didn’t say anything. Jocelyn took a seat next to him, stretching to grab the buttered toast from the opposite end of the table. Dustin tried not to feel jealous.

“Are you ready to go to Uncle Zak’s?” his mom asked, changing the subject as she sat at the table.

“Yes! He promised I could practice in his wind tunnel,” Jocelyn said, spreading jam on her toast.

“As long as you’re careful,” Officer Thomson said, joining them at the table.

“Come on, Dad. I’m nine years old,” Jocelyn replied, sitting up straighter. “I can handle it.”

“You’re still getting used to your Elemental power, dear,” Mrs. Thomson said, teleporting a plate of eggs to her husband.

Dustin poked at his food, trying to drown out their conversation. But his mind returned to his dream. He shuddered, dropping his fork.

“May I be excused?” he asked.

“But you hardly touched your food.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“All right,” Officer Thomson agreed. Dustin left the kitchen but lingered in the hall by the stairs when he heard Jocelyn.

“Is Dustin okay?” she asked.

“He’s still getting used to not having powers anymore, dear,” Mrs. Thomson said.


“I hope this visit to Zak’s will lift his spirits,” Officer Thomson added. “He’s always loved going to the lab.”

“Is there any chance of him getting his powers back, Robert?”

“I don’t know. Hopefully Zak will have some good news. He’s been working on power replication since the incident. But even if he can’t get them back, I want Dustin to remember that he doesn’t need them in order to make a difference.”

Dustin leaned against the wall, lifting his eyes to the ceiling. He hoped his Uncle Zak would have the answers he needed.

An hour later, the Thomson family was walking through the large glass doors of the Paladin Science and Research Laboratory. Dustin walked in step with his father, who flashed his badge at the receptionist. She buzzed the family in and pressed the button for the loudspeaker.

“Officer Thomson and his family are here to see you, Dr. Snowden.”

Dustin followed his father into the lab. Jocelyn immediately started to jump up and down when she saw the wind tunnel. A couple other children were already floating inside it while a scientist supervised.

“Go on, Joce. I’m right behind you,” Mrs. Thomson said. Jocelyn ran to the glass chamber, with Mrs. Thomson trailing after her. Dustin stayed with his dad, allowing a smile when he saw his uncle walking toward them. His Uncle Zak was probably his favorite person in Paladin. He was a bulky man who sported a splotchy white and purple lab coat. Uncle Zak claimed the coat was magic, but Dustin figured it had just been thrown into the wrong load of laundry.

Officer Thomson and Dr. Snowden exchanged a stiff handshake before Dustin threw his arms around his uncle. Dr. Snowden lifted Dustin easily into a bone-crushing hug. His super strength was something he and Dustin used to have in common.

“How’s my favorite nephew?” he asked.

“Fine,” Dustin said as he fabricated a smile.

“We’re here to check in on your progress. Do you have any news for us?” Officer Thomson asked. Dr. Snowden’s face fell slightly.

“Come with me,” he said. He led Dustin and his father through the lab to the back corner where two other scientists were busy working on the holoscreens. Dr. Snowden nodded to them, and they paused their work. Once they were gone, Dustin’s uncle sat down on a rolling stool and motioned for Dustin and Officer Thomson to do the same.

“Well?” Dustin’s father prompted, sounding hopeful.

Dr. Snowden sighed.

“Power replication has proven to be a very complicated task,” he began. “I’m afraid that we don’t seem to be able to give back what has been taken from you, Dustin. Not without The Shadow’s research.”

Uncle Zak started a more detailed explanation, but Dustin was no longer listening. He barely paid attention the following hour while his family remained at the lab. His uncle had given him a pair of night vision goggles that he messed with on the car ride home. Jocelyn rambled about controlling her power over the wind. Dustin occasionally nodded and offered a half smile to make them believe that he was paying attention. When they returned home, Dustin went to his room and locked the door. He didn’t emerge until he was called for dinner.


Across the city in the Paladin Penitentiary, a guard walked past a series of padded cells. He paused at the final one, flipping his keys thoughtfully. He looked down each hall. Swallowing hard, he slid the keys under the door. They clattered across the floor, thumping to a halt in the center of the room. Long white fingers snatched them from the stones, a wicked smile spreading across the villain’s thin face.


Dustin woke the next morning to the slamming of doors and his father’s urgent shout.

“Renee, where are my shoes?”

“By the door.”

“And my wallet?”

“Right here. Wait! Don’t forget your papers!”

Dustin threw back his blankets, meeting Jocelyn in the hall. Both kids thundered down the stairs as Officer Thomson was tying his shoes.

“What’s going on?”

“Oh, Dustin. Jocelyn.” Mrs. Thomson bit her bottom lip and looked at her husband. He gave her an apologetic look and rushed out the door. He slammed it behind him, and their hover car whizzed down the road toward Paladin Law Enforcement. Mrs. Thomson turned back to her children, and her face blanched. She grabbed the back of the armchair to steady herself.


“Um, your father has been called into the office. There has been a breach in security at the penitentiary. Some of the prisoners have escaped, but they are being tracked down,” Mrs. Thomson said, finding her voice. She’d let go of the armchair, but her legs were still shaking.

Dustin stared at her, his heart dropping into his stomach. He silently turned and walked back up the stairs. He had a feeling that his mother wasn’t telling him the whole story. He locked his door and began pacing.

It was The Shadow. It had to be.

“He’s going to come after me,” Dustin whispered, wiping his sweaty palms on his shirt. “But if he finds me here, then Mom and Jocelyn will be in trouble too.”

He continued to pace, rapidly coming to a decision. He quickly got dressed and stuffed an extra pair of clothes into his backpack. He grabbed a couple granola bars, his phone, and the night vision goggles. He tossed everything into his backpack. After slinging it over his shoulder, he opened the window. He climbed onto the roof and slid down the drainage pipes to the soft grass below. Taking one last look at the house, he jogged down the street. He knew where he needed to go. He just had to remember how to get there.

He jogged into the city, which was bustling with reporters, news crews, concerned citizens, and officers trying to maintain order.

“What was the cause of the breach?” one reporter yelled.

“Has an officer turned traitor?” another asked.

“Has The Shadow really escaped?”


Silence settled like a thick cloud, and Dustin inched closer to the outer edge of the crowd. He stood on his toes, catching sight of his father, who stood on the steps leading up to the PLE.

“I know you’re concerned. But we are doing everything we can to catch these criminals!”

He paused. The reporters hurled another round of questions at Officer Thomson, but he lifted a hand to silence them.

“We are not at liberty to disclose the proceedings of the investigation, but rest assured that we will be doing everything in our power to keep you all safe. I have no further comment,” he said and headed up to the front doors of the PLE. Reporters kept shouting their questions, but they went unanswered. Dustin swallowed hard and continued on his way. He ducked down an alley, the events of his nightmare flashing back. He bit his lower lip and pressed on. He hated the dark, but there was no turning back now. He came to an all too familiar door and opened it.

A staircase led down to a musty underground lab. The Shadow’s lab. Where all Dustin’s troubles began. Dustin set his backpack down by the holoscreens and switched them on. They slowly blinked to life, their light making the deserted lab a little less terrifying. As he began opening files, he heard the creaking of a door. He froze. Had he closed the door to the lab or left it open? He couldn’t remember. He quickly closed out of the files but pressed a series of three buttons.

Footsteps echoed around him, and he dove underneath a table. The table. The one he’d been strapped to when he lost his powers. He tried not to dwell on it. He held his breath, suddenly realizing that his backpack was still in plain sight. The footsteps grew louder until they stopped. Someone was in the lab. Dustin tried looking for the visitor’s shoes, but it was impossible in the darkness. He jumped when they spoke.


Dustin almost jumped out of his skin. He scrambled out from under the table.

“Jocelyn! What are you doing here? You’re going to mess everything up!”

“Me? What are you doing here? What is this place?”

Dustin stared at her in disbelief.

“I’m here to save your life. You have to get out of here.”

Jocelyn didn’t answer him. She was too busy looking around at all of The Shadow’s equipment. The table. The screens. The tray of syringes. Dustin took time to look too. Everything was where he remembered. Nothing was different.

“This is The Shadow’s lab, isn’t it?” Jocelyn asked. Dustin didn’t answer her. Nothing was different. Nothing had changed. But the police had come through after The Shadow was arrested. Something in the air shifted, and Dustin no longer believed the lab was empty. He swore something moved in the far corner.

“Jocelyn. We need to leave. Now.”

“Aren’t you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“Josie, move!” Dustin exclaimed, shoving her back up the stairs. He snatched up his backpack and raced after her. Just as they reached the top, the door slammed shut. Jocelyn rammed her shoulder into it, but it didn’t budge. She then tried throwing it open with a gust of wind, but the door didn’t move. Dustin’s heart plummeted into his stomach. He slowly started back down the stairs with Jocelyn right behind him.

“Why are you here, anyway?” Jocelyn whispered.

“I thought there might be something here that might help us defeat The Shadow a second time. Or maybe a clue to where he is right now. I also thought—he might be after me. I didn’t want to put you in danger,” Dustin whispered back, scanning the room. He reached back and grasped Jocelyn’s hand. He felt her trembling.

“Why would he be after you?” she asked.

“Because I messed up his plans to steal everyone’s powers.”

“Indeed you did, boy.”

Both Dustin and Jocelyn jumped as the third voice echoed around them. They tried locating the speaker, but it was too dark. Dustin kept Jocelyn behind him and tried standing taller. His heart was thundering in his chest, but he tried to ignore it.

“I thought you might come back,” The Shadow continued, his voice full of contempt. “That you might find a way to get your powers back. You’re nothing without them, eh?”

“Dustin,” Jocelyn squeaked.

Dustin held his sister closer. He felt as though the shadows were closing in around them, threatening to swallow them forever. A sudden thumping sound interrupted them, and Dustin swore he could hear voices. He didn’t know what they were saying.

“I guess we have more company,” The Shadow said, finally stepping into the light of the blinking holoscreens. He was dressed in black and looked just as pale as Dustin remembered. His long white fingers were closed around a syringe that held a murky blue liquid. Dustin swallowed hard.

“You’ve been here since you escaped,” Dustin said. “You set this place up like it was before.”

“Why?” Jocelyn squeaked.

“Why?” The Shadow repeated. “Because of your insolent brother. That’s why! I knew he could never accept being different. I knew he’d come back here even if I were to escape. To find the secret of power replication.”

“So what’s that?” Dustin asked.

The Shadow lifted the syringe, his nasty smile glowing.

“Did you really think you’d spoiled all my serum when you broke the canister? I could give it to your sister. Should I save it for your father? Mother? Or should I give it to you, Dustin? I can only imagine what a potion such as this could do to a boy with no powers left to give.”

Silence settled between them, and the thumping on the lab’s door ceased. All Dustin could hear was the pounding of his own heart and Jocelyn’s heavy breathing. He momentarily closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“All right. You can have me. But leave my sister alone,” he said, his voice splitting the silence. The Shadow’s sinister grin widened.

“Dustin, don’t,” Jocelyn said, gripping his arm.

He glanced back at her for a moment.

“Josie, get to the stairs.”



Jocelyn ran for the stairs just as Dustin charged toward The Shadow. The man raised the syringe, but Dustin ran past him and jumped through the holoscreens and into the darkness. His movements shut off the screens, leaving them in total darkness. Dustin slipped off his backpack and fished through for the goggles. Once he got them on, it was as if daylight had finally freed the dreary lab from its evil stench. The Shadow was feeling around, a little lost even in his own lab. Dustin suddenly kicked the man down and then danced out of reach, moving cleanly in the darkness. The Shadow was bigger than him. Stronger. But that didn’t matter. In the darkness, Dustin was one with the shadows. He was a ghost.

“You can’t keep this up forever, boy,” The Shadow snarled, slowly rising from Dustin’s latest hit. “You’re going to have to give yourself up eventually.”

Dustin didn’t reply. That would give away his position. He knew The Shadow was right. Almost right. He landed another punch, knocking the man to his knees. But The Shadow seemed to be ready for the blow and snagged Dustin’s ankle. Dustin kicked up, landing a blow to The Shadow’s face. He reeled in pain, and Dustin scrambled away.

Just then, the lab door slammed open, and light poured down the stairs. Dustin dove for cover, and The Shadow staggered back. Jocelyn yelled, and six officers thundered down the stairs. Two of them grabbed The Shadow, who was still dazed from Dustin’s attacks. They dragged him up the stairs, and Dustin peeled the goggles off his face. Jocelyn ran to him, squeezing him tight.

“How did you do that?” she asked.

Dustin showed her the goggles, and she shook her head.

“No. I mean, how did you call the police?”

“When you got here, I sent a distress beacon to the PLE on the holoscreen. I figured Dad would see it.”

Jocelyn hugged him tighter.

“You saved me,” she said, burying her face into his chest. “You’re a superhero.”

Dustin snorted.

“A superhero without powers.”

Jocelyn squeezed him tighter.

“Even better,” she said. “Because you’re my brother.”

Dustin smiled.