The book opens with Nova, Adrian, and their Renegades team in hot pursuit of some rogue prodigies, quickly reintroducing readers to many of the superheroes and their abilities. The rogues take a civilian hostage. While the Renegades are debating whether to forsake their rules to fire on the guy holding the innocent girl hostage, the rogues get away.
Both Nova and Adrian feel like they should’ve forsaken the rules and acted to save the girl. So Nova chases after them. Adrian takes off in another direction to secretly change into his Sentinel suit.
Nova hits a dead end when Hawthorn, the rogue she’s pursuing, jumps from a bridge onto a barge. But Adrian (as the Sentinel) manages to get aboard the ship further down the river. He and Hawthorn battle, much of which Nova can’t see as the barge continues to drift away. When she gets a good view again, it looks like the Sentinel has lost the battle. Hawthorn tosses him overboard.
The Renegades search the water for the Sentinel’s body but don’t find him. Meanwhile, Adrian washes up nearby onshore. He’s soon spotted and comes up with a flimsy reason for why he’s soaked from head to toe. Nova gets permission to take on a second job (in addition to her work on the patrol) with her extra time since she doesn’t sleep. She gets to work at the artifact warehouse with Snapshot (who can look at any artifact and discern its usefulness). Snapshot supposedly has information on where Ace’s real helmet is stored. The Council gathers all Renegades together in a big conference to show them a top-secret project. They have developed a new serum coined Agent N that can erase a prodigy’s abilities. They have been testing it on imprisoned prodigies and now have it perfected. This makes both Adrian and Nova uncomfortable. The Council then brings the Puppeteer (aka Winston Pratt) on stage to do a live demonstration. This really bothers Adrian and Nova. But sure enough, the serum works. They see his puppet-like features change before their eyes. Winston sees Nova before he’s escorted back to the medical wing for observation. He doesn’t reveal who she is.
When Nova asks whether the effects are reversible, she learns they are not. Adrian and Nova feel like this is a big violation of human rights. They also know the scientists have been using the Bandit’s blood to make this substance. That doesn’t sit well with them either.
Adrian asks his Dad if he can question the Puppeteer to try to get clues about his mother’s murder. Even though he’s not thrilled with the idea, Captain Chromium allows it. Winston promises to give Adrian some information he’s wanting if he brings back his puppet called Heady.
Nova goes to visit Ace Anarchy. She tells him about Agent N and the demonstration the Renegades did on the Puppeteer. She tells her uncle how she plans to use her new position at the artifact warehouse to search for his real helmet. He tells her to exploit her friendship with Adrian because his family is a powerful one.
Nova works her first night in the artifact warehouse. Magpie brings in an artifact she found in the subway tunnels: Nightmare’s mask. Nova keeps it without logging it. Callum, the non-prodigy who is Snapshot’s assistant, finally arrives and gives Nova a tour of the Vault.
Adrian goes to the subway tunnel to try to find the puppet Winston has requested. He thinks maybe the Renegades have missed it in their search. His visit is cut short because he promised to go watch Ruby’s brothers participate in a field day-type event. Nova is there, too, and discusses the helmet with him.
Adrian and Nova let Oscar and Ruby go off on their own. They end up talking about dreams and nightmares they had as children.
The next time Nova takes a shift in the artifact warehouse, Adrian comes to look for Winston’s puppet. There’s so much debris, he doesn’t think it’s possible to sort through it all. Nova spots a couple of her things and pockets them. Adrian wants to talk about that day at the park. Nova thinks he wants to ask why she dodged his kiss and ran off. He actually wants to talk about the guts it took for her to kill the Detonator. But then, out of the blue, he finally spots Heady the puppet. When Adrian takes Heady to Winston, he tells the doll it did this to him. Adrian reminds Winston he owes him information about his mother in exchange for the doll. Winston says that instead, he has other information Adrian will want. He says that Nightmare is still alive.
Adrian rushes to his dad with this news, but they brush it off. They think he believes it because he wants it to be true so badly. Adrian knows this is the logical explanation, but he still wonders. He begins absently sketching to try to clear his head and soon realizes he’s drawing the dream Nova described to him in the park. He decides to try to paint a mural of it in his room downstairs. His dads give him permission. Before their first Agent N training session, Adrian tells Nova what Winston shared with him. During the training, Nova asks what controls the Council will put on Agent N usage to make sure no one abuses it. This question isn’t well-received, but the Council agrees to put out a memo and mention some guidelines in later training. The group is then turned loose to practice learning to shoot the Agent N darts. Nova is great, but Adrian is terrible. She tries to help him learn, flirting all the while. She ends up exasperated that he hasn’t improved. She’s even more disappointed that her charms don’t seem to have any effect on him. Nova steals one vial of Agent N when no one is looking.
She goes to visit Leroy and Honey. Nova gives the vial of Agent N to Leroy so he can begin studying it. He thinks it will be hard to replicate from just a small sample and without the Bandit to study, but he’ll get started on it immediately. Nova asks Honey to teach her how to use her female wiles since Adrian doesn’t seem to be interested in her anymore. Adrian is working with the vitality charm/medallion, the other piece he took from the artifact warehouse, hoping the ancient piece will help him be able to interact with the Bandit more closely. He can’t imagine giving his little brother a high five.He goes to Max’s partitioned room and is disappointed to see their dad there. But Captain Chromium soon leaves, so Adrian gets to demonstrate the power of his new medallion to Max. It works like Adrian hoped, and they can be in Max’s room together.
Nova arrives and sees Adrian in Max’s cell. Her first thought is how this could help Anarchists. She also wants to know why they didn’t try Agent N on Max. He said they already had at his request, and it didn’t work.
Nova comes up with a plan to try to retrieve Ace’s helmet. One night when she’s working at the artifact warehouse alone, she slowly makes her way through the vault with a cart and a clipboard. To anyone observing the security camera feed, it looks like she’s perusing the items and making notes when necessary. When she gets to the helmet in its case, she puts the metal casing in a contraption she made with her scientific knowledge to try to dissolve the chromium.When she’s only a few steps away, an explosion sounds behind her. The chromium obviously isn’t in its typical form and/or has some extra protections on it. Nova’s frustrated getting the helmet wasn’t as simple as she’d hoped.
Adrian heard his dads yell angrily for him while he’s downstairs working on his mural. They’ve seen the footage of him going into Max’s room and want an explanation. They are fascinated by the medallion but still think it was too big a risk for him to take. Frostbite comes to the artifact warehouse one day while Nova is working to check out something to help her patrol team. They’ve been assigned the task of tracking Hawthorn down and capturing her. She rubs this in Nova’s face.Callum soon arrives to work. He gets a little philosophical about what they do in the warehouse and says he has something to show Nova. He takes her to the top floor of headquarters to show her some of the coolest artifacts that they keep displayed up there outside of the council offices. He then has her look outside and see a huge tree planted across the way. He begins to discuss how much foresight and patience the person who planted the tree must’ve had. She realizes he does have a prodigy power after all: He’s Wonder Boy. He can help people tap into their true feelings. Callum admits it’s true.
Adrian helps surprise Max by showing him he can be around his other dad, the Dread Warden, when he wears the medallion, too. They embrace for the first time ever. Captain Chromium pulls Adrian aside to let him know how sorry he is that they didn’t have this long ago to be able to change Max’s life. They want to investigate all of the artifacts closely to see what else they missed. Adrian thinks Nova would be able to help.Adrian secretly follows Frostbite’s patrol group just to make sure they don’t need help apprehending Hawthorn. He’s a little disappointed to see how efficiently they are capturing her and how smoothly it goes. But then they threaten to torture her. Adrian’s afraid they might use Agent N on her. So he approaches them as the Sentinel. A fight ensues. Frostbite’s crew ends up killing Hawthorn.
Nova heads to the Mayor’s Mansion to try to spend time with Adrian in hopes of winning his affection. He answers the door and takes her downstairs to his bedroom. She’s amazed at the mural he has drawn of her dream. She doesn’t remember mentioning very much detail, but he captured the possible future world—which looks more like a step back in time and into the jungle—perfectly.Alone in this semi-paradise, Adrian and Nova each tell the other the true story of their parents’ deaths. They hold hands to comfort each other while they talk. Nova admits to herself that she likes Adrian. They then curl up together, and Nova falls asleep after Adrian gives her some noise canceling headphones.
When she finally awakes, Nova is shocked to learn she slept for about 24 hours. They hear Captain Chromium call from upstairs that dinner is ready. They head upstairs to eat with Adrian’s family.They watch a movie and eventually kiss. Nova puts him to sleep during the kiss and goes to search the house. She searches the office looking for any information on the helmet. She finds nothing until she comes across a collection of drawings of a monster with empty, haunting eyes (sometimes with weapons) and also Adrian’s Agent Z comic books.She knows she needs to search his dads’ room, too, so she listens again. One of them heads downstairs, so she tries to make her way back to the basement. But she has to sneak into the dining room when she hears whistling nearby. She peeks in a closet and finds the vitality charm hanging around the hanger of some dry cleaning. She swipes it and sneaks into the kitchen. When the Dread Warden comes in, she acts like Adrian fell asleep downstairs and she got hungry for a snack.Adrian wakes up and is confused about what happened and the gaps in his memory. Surely he didn’t fall asleep mid-kiss! Nova assures him everything is fine.
Nova goes to the catacombs to share everything she learned at Adrian’s house. A butterfly is there, and they trap it before it can get word back to Danna.Adrian watches closely for Nova at the gala. When she arrives, they peruse the gift shop. Nova dances with Adrian and Oscar, leaving early because of her uncle’s fake illness. She thinks she’s saying goodbye to her new friends for the last time.Nova goes to the artifact warehouse and is surprised by Stingray’s presence. She puts him to sleep as soon as he touches her. Callum surprises Nova next when he jumps out to try to stop her. She throws one of the Captain’s chromium pikes (which she also obtained at Adrian’s house) at him, knocking him out. She retrieves the pike and throws it at the chromium box next. She’s amazed when it shatters the box like she’d hoped. She retrieves Ace’s helmet.Adrian is bored with the gala now that Nova’s gone. He leaves as soon as he can without appearing rude. He sees a butterfly and follows it, wondering if it’s Danna and, if so, why she’s not coalescing in front of him. He realizes it is her, one of the other butterflies must be trapped, and she’s leading him to it.Adrian can’t believe where they end up: at the Anarchist’s old lair. He disables Phobia after seeing his greatest fear: his mother’s death he was powerless to prevent. Adrian changes into the Sentinel in front of one of Danna’s butterflies to defeat him, so she knows his secret now.Oscar and Ruby show up and are going to fight the Sentinel until Danna’s a group of butterflies swoop in and swarm him, showing he’s a friend. He takes off his helmet and reveals his identity to his friends. They are shocked but accepting. They absolutely want further explanation later. First they need to find out where the trapped butterfly is. The swarm leads the way further into the old lair.Nova fights Frostbite and Gargoyle. It looks like she might lose until she uses Leroy’s untested Agent N gas bulbs on them. Gargoyle is close enough that it works. But Frostbite is too far away to feel its effects and hits Nova with ice. Nova drops another Agent N bomb, and Frostbite has to run. The Renegade named Aftershock hits headquarters with an earthquake. The ground begins to split, and the quarantine around Max falls.Adrian and crew follow the butterflies to a staircase they would’ve never noticed and are shocked about who is down there: an old, weakened Ace. But he’s not as weak as he looks. He fights and coffins open around them. One dead being pulls Oscar and Ruby in, and the tomb shuts again. Ace tires pretty easily during the fight, and Adrian is able to capture Ace as well as rescue Oscar and Ruby. They get an alert from Max that Nightmare is at headquarters, and he’s going to fight her.
HOW IT ENDED?
At headquarters, Max approaches Nightmare. As she fights him and the others there, Max is hit with an ice weapon that Frostbite throws and Nova dodges. Nova forgets all about the fight and falls to her knees by Max. His proximity starts sucking Frostbite’s powers, and Frostbite wants to kill him to retain them. But Nova can tell his new ice powers are helping him fight the injury. Max is only semi-conscious, but she can tell he knows she’s helping him. She wonders whether she sees recognition on his face, too.
The Sentinel arrives and wants to fight Nightmare. She grabs Ace’s helmet and runs. He doesn’t follow her when he sees Max is injured. He assumes Nightmare did it. He rushes Max to the nearest hospital, calling for a non-prodigy doctor when the first one who approached crumples as Max begins to inadvertently drain his abilities.
Nova goes home to tell Leroy and Honey about Ace’s capture. After they’ve retired to their rooms to process it all, she hears a knock at the front door. It’s Adrian. She stashes Ace’s helmet in the hall closet and lets him in. He looks horrible and needs someone to talk to. They embrace as he goes over everything the Renegades have been through since she left the gala. Nova’s relieved when he says Max is still alive and is being treated at a local hospital. He vows to find Nightmare and asks Nova to help. She agrees to.