Shades of Gray - By Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge Page 0,1

possible—my co-author Caitlin Kittredge, without whom none of this would have happened; Miriam Kriss, the best literary agent in the world; the entire Ballantine Spectra team, most especially Anne Groell, our tireless and phenomenal editor; Heather Brewer and Renee Barr, for their support and humor; my mom and dad, for understanding the importance of comic books in a girl’s formative years; my Precious Little Tax Deductions, Ryan and Mason, who watch the best cartoons; and my Loving Husband, Brett, the thief who stole my heart many years ago.


First and foremost, I have to thank my superb co-author, Jackie Kessler, for being endlessly patient and creative. This book is a true collaboration, and we couldn’t have done it alone … only together. To my lovely agent, Rachel Vater, solver of problems and soother of nerves, and our wonderful editor at Spectra, Anne Groell. All of the readers who enjoy the Icarus Project around the world, my parents, Team Seattle, and Ed Brubaker, a fantastic guy who writes fantastic comics. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Byrne, and Neil Gaiman—for me, they started it all.


Other Books by this Author

Title Page



What Has Come Before

Prologue: Channel Surfing

Part 1 - Now

Chapter 1 - Jet

Chapter 2 - Iridium

Chapter 3 - Jet

Chapter 4 - Iridium

Chapter 5 - Jet

Chapter 6 - Iridium


Part 2 - Then

Chapter 7 - Vixen

Chapter 8 - Angelica

Chapter 9 - Luster

Chapter 10 - Night


Part 3 - Now

Chapter 11 - Iridium

Chapter 12 - Jet

Chapter 13 - Iridium

Chapter 14 - Jet

Chapter 15 - Iridium

Chapter 16 - Jet

Chapter 17 - Iridium


Part 4 - Then

Chapter 18 - Vixen

Chapter 19 - Angelica

Chapter 20 - Luster

Chapter 21 - Night

Chapter 22 - Vixen

Chapter 23 - Angelica

Chapter 24 - Night

Chapter 25 - Luster

Chapter 26 - Night


Part 5 - Now

Chapter 27 - Jet

Chapter 28 - Iridium

Chapter 29 - Jet

Chapter 30 - Iridium


Part 6 - Then

Chapter 31 - Vixen

Chapter 32 - Angelica

Chapter 33 - Luster

Chapter 34 - Angelica

Chapter 35 - Night

Chapter 36 - Team Alpha


Part 7 - Now

Chapter 37 - Jet

Chapter 38 - Iridium

Chapter 39 - Jet


Part 8 - Then

Chapter 40 - Luster

Chapter 41 - Vixen

Chapter 42 - Angelica

Chapter 43 - Night

Chapter 44 - Vixen

Chapter 45 - Angelica

Chapter 46 - Luster

Chapter 47 - Night


Part 9 - Now

Chapter 48 - Jet

Chapter 49 - Iridium

Chapter 50 - Iridium and Jet

Chapter 51 - Iridium

Chapter 52 - Jet


Part 10 - Then

Chapter 53 - Night

Chapter 54 - Arclight

Chapter 55 - Night


Part 11 - Now

Chapter 56 - Jet

Chapter 57 - Iridium

Chapter 58 - Jet

Chapter 59 - Iridium

Chapter 60 - Jet

Chapter 61 - Iridium

Chapter 62 - Jet

And in the End …


About the Authors


What Has Come Before

It’s a dark world out there. Whether it’s from the ever-present pollution layer in the sky or from the power-hungry tentacles of corporate consolidation, none can truly say. It’s a world of gangs and guns, of good people scurrying like rats and trying to avoid notice. It’s a world where you have to be some sort of hero to change the way things are.

That’s probably why the heroes—the powerful extrahumans in the Squadron—are all under strict control by the megalomaniacal global enterprise known as Corp-Co. But the heroes are too busy to notice, what with fighting crime and working for their corporate sponsors. (After all, heroes need to earn their keep when they’re not off battling for justice.) Some members of the Squadron, like the Shadow-wielding Jet, resent that photo ops are just as important as keeping the streets safe. But there’s no changing the system.

Then the day comes when Iridium, daughter of New Chicago’s most infamous villain, and Taser, a vigilante, attack Corp through its Academy for extrahuman students. The duo’s intention is to take down Ops, the high-tech operations system that links Corp to the Squadron. Iridium thinks this will simply leave the heroes without Corp eyes and ears.

Instead, it destroys the only mechanism that keeps the extrahumans—all Squadron extrahumans in the United and Canadian States of America—under Corp-Co’s thumb. Once Ops goes down, the subtle brainwashing signal that had reined in the heroes is cut off.

And suddenly, hundreds of superpowered men and women realize they had been slaves. For years.

Most of them don’t take the news very well.


Channel Surfing

Nothing good on the tele anymore. Hey, thanks for the drink.”

“No problem. You checked everything already?”

“Mostly. Pretty much everything’s just more of the same. Depressing stuff. Here, see for yourself.”


[Mega Broadcasting System’s Financial News, with Miles McCormick, already in progress]

MILES: … again, the Dow dropped more than eighteen hundred points today in the wake of what seems to be an unprecedented Squadron rebellion—


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