Black and White

( 14 )

Overview

It's the ultimate battle of good versus good.

They were best friends at an elite academy for superheroes in training, but now Callie Bradford, code name Iridium, and Joannie Greene, code name Jet, are mortal enemies. Jet is a by-the-book hero, using her Shadow power to protect the citizens of New Chicago. Iridium, with her mastery of light, runs the city’s underworld. For the past five years the two have played an elaborate, and frustrating, ...

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Black and White

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Overview

It's the ultimate battle of good versus good.

They were best friends at an elite academy for superheroes in training, but now Callie Bradford, code name Iridium, and Joannie Greene, code name Jet, are mortal enemies. Jet is a by-the-book hero, using her Shadow power to protect the citizens of New Chicago. Iridium, with her mastery of light, runs the city’s underworld. For the past five years the two have played an elaborate, and frustrating, game of cat and mouse.

But now playtime’s over. Separately Jet and Iridium uncover clues that point to a looming evil, one that is entwined within the Academy. As Jet works with Bruce Hunter—a normal man with an extraordinary ability to make her weak in the knees—she becomes convinced that Iridium is involved in a scheme that will level the power structure of America itself. And Iridium, teaming with the mysterious vigilante called Taser, uncovers an insidious plot that’s been a decade in the making…a plot in which Jet is key.

They’re both right. And they’re both wrong. Because nothing is as simple as Black and White.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this complex tale, Kessler (the Hell on Earth series) and Kittredge (the Nocturne City novels) create a dark world where the narrow line between hero and vigilante is defined by corporate interests. When tragedy strikes during their third year at a young superheroes' academy, best friends Jet and Iridium begin to grow apart, seeing their heroic world in different, and irreconcilable, ways. Shadow-wielding Jet becomes the Hero of New Chicago, where light-powered Iridium is seen as a rabid vigilante, and they find themselves archenemies. Both characters are intriguingly flawed: Jet suffers from insecurity, while Iridium's arrogance repeatedly gets her into trouble. When an investigative reporter disappears, Jet suspects Iridium's involvement, but the truth is far more complicated, keeping readers guessing whether the finale will be a reconciliation or a spectacular showdown. Jet and Iridium's multifaceted relationship will appeal to all who have come to want more from their superheroes than good vs. evil and mindless battles. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553386318
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series, a sexy, funny dark paranormal about a succubus-turned-stripper who ran away from Hell (devilish antics ensue).

Caitlin Kittredge has been an unrepentant geek since the age of twelve, when she first saw "Star Wars." When she's not writing about super-powered dystopias, she blogs, goes to the movies, reads books and comics voraciously, collects vintage clothes, and turns her music up too loud. She lives in Olympia, Washington, with a garage full of comics and two pushy cats.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Iridium

“The thing people seem all too happy to forget is that where there be superheroes, there also be supervillans. It makes one wonder: If the heroes went away, would the villains follow?”
Lynda Kidder, “Origins, Part Five,”
New Chicago Tribune, April 23, 2112

Heroes always need someone to play the villain. Iridium saw the truth in this when a hero tried to slip up and cold-cock her on the back of the head.

She spun around and blasted him with a strobe–nothing crippling, strictly visible spectrum, but the hero landed on his ass and started yelling. Probably “Ahhh, my eyes, my eyes!” That one was the most common.

“That was sloppy,” Iridium tsked. “Where’s your mentor? Did he go get a latte and leave you all alone?”
By her feet, a bank guard whimpered under his gag. “Shut it,” said Iridium. “It’s not like you won’t get a fat settlement in the lawsuit that you’re going to file against the bank for hazardous working conditions. Right?”

The guard considered this for a minute, shrugged as much as he could with Iridium’s disposable handcuffs around his wrist, and nodded.

Iridium turned her attention back to the vault, watching the hero stagger to his feet out of the corner of her eye. He was wearing a purple and black skinsuit–that alone pegged him as an amateur. No one in their right minds stuck with the skinsuits after they graduated from the Academy.

Well, except one, and her picture was splashed on every piece of extrahuman propaganda in Wreck City–or, if you had to get official and euphemistic about it, Reclaimed Borough 16, for the City of New Chicago–so the junior hero could be forgiven for thinking that skinsuits were the thing.

“Turn and face me! You’re under arrest,” the hero shouted.

Iridium continued her contemplation of the vault. A triple-retinal lock. A backup deadfall bolt system. Two and half inches of tilithium steel with iocore tumblers. “I’m just gonna have to melt it,” she said, more to herself than the hero.

He took out the silver baton he’d first tried to hit her with, and some kind of Energy power turned it blue and crackling with electricity. “Last chance, bitch!”

Iridium let one black eyebrow slide up. “ ‘Bitch’? Don’t you feel that’s uncalled for? All I did was strobe you in self-defense.”

“You almost burned my damned eyes out of my head!” He was edging up on her slowly, in some kind of textbook combat stance they must have started teaching after Iridium’s time at the Academy. It made the hero resemble a colorful, deranged crab. Aside from the skinskuit, his costume had a purple face-shield and black bulbous goggles that did a poor job of hiding big, scared eyes.

“Now, see, that’s the thing,” said Iridium. “In my day, they taught us not to swear.”

The hero struck with the baton and Iridium sidestepped, then put a foot into his side, just below his last rib. There was a crack like a twig being stepped on. Oops. So maybe not exactly below it.

“They also taught us to guard our offhand side,” said Iridium, standing over the groaning hero. “Who the hell trained you? They should have their mentor merit badge revoked.”

“I…”

“Look, kid. What’s your name?”

“Blackwasp,” he managed.

“Ouch. Sue whoever stuck you with that one. My point is, Blackwasp, that to survive as a goody-goody, you need to learn when you’re outclassed.” She turned her gaze back to the safe, pushed with the part of her mind that saw in spectrums, and felt the light concentrate on the surface of the door, blossoming like a small sun. The tilithium began to hiss as it peeled slowly away from the tumblers.

“I’ll always be better than a rabid…freak…like you,” Blackwasp gritted. He was pale with pain, but he wasn’t fading. She had to give the kid credit–he had more balls than most Corp rentboys.

Iridium favored him with a close-lipped smile. “Maybe so, Blackwasp, but today, I’m the one walking out of here with e75,000 in digichips, and you’re the one who’s on the floor with a silly look on his face.”

“Never…defeat me…”

Iridium strobed Blackwasp hard enough to knock him out, then stepped through the dripping hole in the vault and collected the cases of chips from their gleaming mount next to the long boxes of cash. As she left, she leaned down and gave Blackwasp a kiss on the cheek. “Better luck next time, kid.”

Her lips left a faint imprint, like a sunburn.

Chapter Two


Jet

“Of course, the best thing about superheroes is that they’re real. We get to see them, hear them, cheer for them. If they were in a zoo, we could even pet them and feed them.”
Lynda Kidder, “Origins, Part Twelve,”
New Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2112

If she had to smile for another minute, her cheeks would fall off.

Jet wouldn’t dream of complaining, though; she never questioned orders, and Ops had told her in no uncertain terms that Jet was to publicly accept the Humanitarian Award in all good cheer. No assigned Runner would take her place; no official Corp or Academy member would appear on her behalf. So Jet increased the wattage of her smile, dazzling the crowd with her pearly whites.

And told herself that she absolutely would not vomit. Light, she hated these public engagements.

Outside of New Chicago City Hall, thousands of spectators roared their approval, cheering loud and proud for their favorite heroine. Beneath her cowl, Jet stood tall and breathed heavily through her wide grin. Give her a villain or a terrorist over public speaking any day. Would it be too much for her to hope for an Everyman protest? Probably.

She smiled, big and false, and prayed the ordeal would be over soon.

Next to her on stage, the mayor beamed as the crowd applauded. He’d overdone it with the cologne, which he tended to do whenever he anticipated a crush of people. Jet had noticed that about Mayor Lee long ago, just like she’d noticed that these sorts of events happened only during an election year. She fought the urge to wave away the overly musky smell. Seduction, she thought ruefully. Lady Killer’s cologne. Jet wondered if the mayor had actually believed it when the charismatic hero had announced to the world at large that Every lady killer knows it’s all about the seduction. Stupid tag line, in Jet’s opinion, but the cologne sold like crazy. Superheroes and celebrities: the best assets when it came to selling products.

In her left ear, her comlink hummed. Meteorite’s low, husky voice said, “Babe, would it kill you to smile like you mean it?”

It just might, Jet thought, stretching her mouth impossibly wide.

Meteorite chuckled. “I said ‘smile,’ not ‘set your mouth in a rictus of horror.’ ”

Jet ground her teeth. Light knew, she depended on her comlink; the white noise it filtered into her ear was as necessary to her as breathing, and getting immediate feedback from Ops at the Academy was fabulous when she was on the hunt–there was nothing like having electronic eyes and ears to do her scouting for her and scan any opponents for weapons and tech. But at times like this, when the comlink was all about the PR–especially when someone as media-savvy as Meteorite was pulling a shift–Jet was tempted to yank the thing from her ear and stomp on it until it bled wires.

Keeping her lips frozen in a grin, Jet whispered, “I’m trying.”

“Try harder. You look like you’re constipated.”

Right, she thought. Smile for the vids, wave happily at all the civilians, act like you want to be on display at City Hall like some fashion model instead of out there, fighting crime. Making a difference.

Jet exhaled her frustration and smiled. The sponsor was always right–especially in her case, when the sponsor was the City of New Chicago. The mayor’s voice boomed as he extolled the virtues of the extrahumans in general and Jet in particular, and how proud he was to be the mayor of the city that housed the Squadron, UCSA Division. Even as the crowd before Jet proclaimed its undying love, behind her on the platform, the uniformed officers of the New Chicago Police Department radiated their hatred. The space between Jet’s shoulder blades itched, as if one of the officers were taking aim. As always, she tried not to dwell on how the police loathed her, pretended it didn’t sting.

Her comlink hummed. “Come on, babe. Think happy thoughts. They gave you flowers.”

“They were lovely,” Jet whispered, not moving her lips.

“Any phone numbers tucked between the petals this time?”

“A few.”

“Poor Jet.” Meteorite laughed. “Burdened by her adoring fans.”

It did sound foolish that way. But Meteorite didn’t understand; the former Weather power had been grounded in Ops for three years. She’d forgotten how maddening it was to be tied up at some so-called good will event when everyone knew it was just political maneuvering.

Not that Jet was complaining. Jet never complained. Duty first, always. And when her duty happened to be smiling for the cameras and making a public speech, then that’s what she did. Even when it was a monumental waste of her time. And made her sick to her stomach. The mayor pumped her hand and thanked her loudly as he grinned at the cameras.

“Lee’s in fine form today,” Meteorite said. “I figure he’ll run out of breath in about forty minutes, but Two-Tone here thinks he’s good for at least an hour. It’s an election year and all.”

Jet bit back a groan as the mayor prattled on and on about her good deeds while he himself managed to take the credit for cleaning up New Chicago. Fine by her. She’d be happy to shout out that all her successes were part of the mayor’s grand plan, if only she wouldn’t have to do any more of these ceremonies. Beneath her leather gauntlets, her palms began to sweat.

“Not to worry,” Meteorite said. “Even if he runs long, you’ll have plenty of time to make your three o’clock with Rabbi Cohn.”

Jet whispered, “On Third Street?”

“No, that’s Reverend Cohen, at the Templeton Church on Third. Jews for Jesus sect. I’m talking about Rabbi Cohn, of the Third Temple. He’s on Lakeside Drive.”

“Ah. Right.”

“Cohn’s a good spot. According to Two-Tone, today’s sermon will be all about how humans and extrahumans are all children of God. Or Gods, I suppose, depending on the affiliation.”

Good. Cohn wouldn’t be openly hostile. Most of the religious leaders were at least tolerant of extrahumans and the Squadron. Some were ardent fans. Others…were not.

“And at four thirty, you have that thing with Jake Goldwater.”

“Light,” Jet muttered. The only thing worse than public speaking was talk show appearances. “Can’t Steele take that one?”

“Sorry, babe. She’s in the Canadian States for the next few days, helping the Dudley Do-Rights. Besides, Goldwater wanted you specifically to go head-to-head with Ted Wurtham.”

Damn it to Darkness. “You didn’t tell me the chairman of the Everyman Society was going to be on the Goldwater show with me.”

“I just did. Play nice with the fanatic, Jetster. The vids will be recording. Just let Wurtham be all insane and bug-eyed and ranting about humans first. You be the demure superheroine who modestly saved New Chicago no less than two times this calendar year alone. Oh,” Meteorite added, “PR says no cowl for the show. Too intimidating. You’re to appear with your hood back, hair gleaming. Ponytail or braid; your choice. Light makeup–nothing sluttish. And no perfume, so be sure to catch a shower before you go.”

Jet hated election years.

“On to happier news,” Meteorite said, sounding perky enough to set Jet’s internal radar beeping. “You’ve got yourself a new Runner, effective immediately.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Smile and nod; Lee’s talking about the reclaiming of New Chicago. Be all supportive.”

Jet nodded in response. The vids whirled; lights flashed. She whispered, “What happened to Cathy?”

“Her PTO kicked in this morning. Vacationing in the Adirondacks for a month. So it’s a new gopher for you, fresh out of the lottery.” A pause, then Meteorite purred, “And he’s a cutie, I must say. Even Two-Tone agrees, and he doesn’t play for that team.”

Straining to keep her lips from moving, Jet said, “You met him?”

“Two-Tone? I’ve done more than that with him.”

Through clenched teeth, Jet whispered, “No, the Runner. You met him?”

“Babe, I meet all of them.” Jet could practically hear the woman’s grin. “I think you’re going to like this one.”

“I liked Cathy.”

“Not this way, you didn’t.”

Oh boy.

The mayor droned on, oblivious to her nearly silent conversation. In the audience, the civilians cheered on cue. It was a spectacle sure to make the headlines for the next two days; Lee must be almost fevered with the thought of deliriously happy constituents. Jet whispered, “Aren’t you supposed to be keeping me informed instead of setting me up?”

“Far as I’m concerned, Jetster, it’s the same thing. When’s the last time you got laid?”

Jet choked, which she quickly covered with a dainty cough into her gauntlet. Mouth hidden behind her hand, she hissed, “That’s none of your business!”

“Like I thought. Forever and a day. You need to loosen up, babe. Or get yourself someone to loosen you up. If not the new Runner, then I highly recommend Two-Tone. And I’m not just saying that because he’s right next to me.”

Terrific, Jet thought, checking herself from rolling her eyes. Between Meteorite, the mayor, and the carefully screened civilians in attendance, it was practically a Jet lovefest–which made someone who strongly preferred to blend with the shadows exceptionally uncomfortable. At least this time no one was showering her in chocolates or throwing men’s underwear. Or, Light help her, women’s underwear.

Mayor Lee boomed on, calling Jet New Chicago’s “Lady of Shadows.” Behind her, Jet distinctly heard one of the cops snort.

“My goodness,” Meteorite said brightly. “I think you just lost a member of your fan club.”

Just a little longer, Jet told herself as she smiled, smiled, smiled. Soon the mayor would finish, and Jet would gratefully accept his gift and murmur her thank yous, and make a very fast acceptance speech. Then onto the religious and television stops of her daily circuit. And then, finally, she could get out on the streets and actually do her job. Off camera.

“Hang on,” Meteorite said. “Data coming in.” The Ops voice clicked off, filling Jet’s ear with the white noise of a waterfall.

Jet smiled and waited, hoping that the data would be something big enough to pull her out before she had to launch into a speech that she really, really didn’t want to give. Maybe an armed robbery, or a fire…
The earpiece hummed, and Meteorite said, “New marching orders, babe. We spotted her.”

Jet’s heartbeat quickened. “Her? You’re sure?”

“Positive. It’s her energy signature. Whatever she’s been using to block it these past few months must’ve sprung a leak. You’ll have to ask her when you find her.”

“Where?”

Ops gave her the coordinates. “And Jet?” Meteorite said, all traces of playfulness gone. “Corp’ll be all over us if she pulls another vanishing act. Don’t let her get away again.”

“Oh, I won’t,” Jet said, her voice dark and full of promise. No, there was no way that she’d let her slip away. Again. After five years of cat and mouse, Jet was done playing.

“I’ll reschedule Cohn for tomorrow, but you have to make the Goldwater spot.”

“Understood.”

“Now make with the apologies to the mayor, and get your ass in gear.”

Jet cleared her throat, then interrupted Mayor Lee. “Thank you, Mr. Mayor. It’s a real honor to be receiving this award today.”

Lee stared at her, his mouth working as if it dearly wanted to keep speaking, his eyes betraying his irritation. The audience hushed, waited in rapt attention as their savior stood on the Mount.

She smiled at the people of New Chicago, and this time, it felt right on her face. “And thank you all. Your support means more than I could ever say.” Flicking her wrist, she summoned a floater of Shadow. “But now I must go.”

“But…” The mayor spluttered, caught between indignation and professional courtesy. “We haven’t even given you the award yet!”

“I’m sorry, sir, but duty calls. A villain is at large, and I must rein her in.” Stepping onto the smoky black circle, she commanded it to rise. Her cape billowed around her as she hovered over the crowd, giving them one last look. The vids clicked and whirred, and the spectators cheered as Jet waved.

“Enough posing,” Ops said. “Time to go kick some rabid ass.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jet said, and her smile pulled into something feral. “She’ll never know what hit her.”

Jet rocketed away.

Chapter Three

Iridium
“Other than the occasional deviation, the extrahumans are all sworn to serve and protect, far more diligently and thoroughly than the standard officer on a police force. ”
Stan Kane, Chairman of Corp-Co, to Corp-Co Shareholders at the 110th Annual Meeting of Corp-Co Investors
, January 31, 2112

Down the numberless alleyways that crossed Wreck City like burst capillaries, Iridium stopped walking and turned around. “You can come out, you know. That Shadow-walking trick hasn’t fooled me since we were fourteen years old.”

Iridium waited, patiently. She was so goddamn paranoid. Probably expected a lasgrid cage, or a net with pointy sticks attached. “Any time now,” Iridium coaxed.

Still the bricks behind her, bars and brights of light and dark, stayed quiet, still and empty.

Iridium set down the metal case of digichips and rolled her eyes. “For Christo’s sake, Jet. Get your ass out here. I read Art of War in the same unit you did. This is not dampening my morale, or whatever it is you’re hoping to accomplish with the Big Scary Shadow Puppet routine.”

“You cheated in that unit,” Jet said, finally letting herself separate from the shadow of a computerized dumpster that bore the grinning face of Green Thumb, super-shill for Chicago Consolidated Hauling. The fact that a plant-controller was posing for a major polluter made Iridium smile.

“Honey, I cheated at a lot of things,” she told Jet. “Sun Tzu doesn’t actually have a problem with cheating.”

Jet flexed her hands so the night-colored leather gauntlets casing them creaked. “I do.”

“Jehovah,” Iridium muttered. “Is that some elective I missed out on? ‘How to Sound Like a Cheesy Action Vid’?”

“I didn’t come here to talk.”

Iridium felt a pang in the air, like a stray draft of cold wind had come off Lake Michigan. Just a moment before they wrapped around her ankles, she saw the shadows running off of Jet’s form, crawling towards her feet. Creepers, manifestations of Jet’s power. Alive.

“Imagine that,” said Iridium, creating a strobe that hung in the air above the pair, arcing and spitting. Jet hissed as her goggles irised from the sudden burst of light. With her cowl, skinsuit and leather belt and gauntlets, she looked more like a nightmare than anything Iridium saw when she shut her eyes.

Seeing the shadows crawl back to their mistress, Iridium pushed the strobe closer. “Any other day, I’d love to stay and continue our witty repartee, but right now I’ve got places to go and corporate slimewads to rob, so I’ll be jetting. No pun intended.”

“You stay where you are!” Jet shouted. “You can’t get past me, Iridium, no matter how much your ego likes to think so!”

“Christo, shut up!” Jet couldn’t just speak; it was always a Superman with her. A platitude, pat and rehearsed. She might as well have been one of the ’bots the Academy kept around to wax floors and wash dishes. She was wired into Corp, as much as all of their machines. “You make me sick, Jet,” Iridium said. “You can either get in my way and be burned by my strobe–careful,” she snapped when Jet tried to bat the ball of ever-brightening light away, “that’s over a thousand BTUs of heat! Or you can slither away into the dark. As usual.”

Jet held her ground.

Iridium took another step forward and felt a droplet of sweat slide down her spine underneath her unikilt. Just the light heat, she lied to herself. Don’t worry about it. “You forget that I know you, Jet.” She pushed at the strobe, making it fly at the cowled woman.

Jet woman dove to the side at the last second and landed in a heap of garbage, clawing at her face as her goggles overloaded from the brilliance.

Iridium went to Jet, leaned down and ripped off Jet’s earpiece, crushing the squawk of her operator’s voice beneath her boot heel. “You scare easy,” Iridium hissed into Jet’s ear. “You always have.”

She turned her back on Jet, got the digichip case and walked away at a measured pace, into the ruins of Wreck City, feeling only a slight prick of guilt for what she’d said.

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Foreword

Read an original piece “Black Meets White” written for the book Black and White, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge.

Jet

Jet frowned down at the brick in her gauntleted hands. It was heavy enough to be a nuisance without being so heavy that she had to rely on her power to carry it. "And I'm supposed to cart this thing around why?"

"Because you're the rookie," Metal Man said. "All newbies have to tote the brick, Rook."

"Jet," Jet corrected.

"I know. But until you're officially in, you're a rook."

"But I am officially in the Squadron," she insisted. "I was told two days before I graduated the Academy that my application had been accepted, and I was awarded alpha-status, and a Runner, and-"

"Slow down," Metal Man said, chuckling. "Just because you're part of the Squadron doesn't mean you're in with the Squadron. It's something all of us had to do." He patted her shoulder. "Just think of it as your hero's burden."

Jet was positive there was nothing in the Squadron Handbook about carrying a brick as part of an extrahuman's entry into the elite fighting force, but she wasn't about to say so to her new partner. "Got it."

"Just remember to hold the brick at all times, and follow my lead. You'll do fine. Come on, Rook. It's time for patrol."

They took to the sky-Jet on a Shadow floater, Metal Man on his hoverbike-and flew methodically across the numerous grids of New Chicago. Some rays of sunlight broke through the ever-present pollution layer, illuminating the smog and urban decay as Jet and Metal Man zoomed over Grid 16, known popularly as Wreck City. This part of New Chicago was known to be a cesspool of crime; it was a place, rumor had it, where criminals worked in concert with the cops. Jet peered down to the streets below, the wind pressing her optiframes against her face as she tried to spy any illicit activity.

"We have something." Metal Man's voice came through clearly, thanks to the commlink snuggled in her left ear. "Mugging in progress. You want to take this one, Rook? Get some Squadron brownie points?"

"That's very generous." Jet bit back her disappointment. A mugging? Extrahumans weren't needed on something so…minor. "Is there a preferred method of containment you recommend?"

Over the commlink, Metal Man laughed. "It's your collar, Rook. Do it the way you see fit. Unless you need help with this…?"

"Not necessary," she gritted. "Thank you."

"I'll continue patrol. If you need backup, comm me."

Jet would sooner bash her own head with the stupid brick than ask for backup on something like a mugging. "Okay."

She swooped down on her disc of blackness, already summoning Shadow to do her bidding. By the time she landed in the mouth of the alley, the thief was on the ground, arms and legs wrapped in thick strands of pure darkness. He struggled as his victim snatched her purse from the ground and leveled a kick at his ribs.

"You are under arrest," Jet announced to the groaning mugger.

The woman kicked him again, and he yelped.

"Ma'am," Jet said to the would-be victim, "there is no need for violence."

"Junked-up jerk almost stole my bag!"

"But he didn't, ma'am."

The woman kicked him again. Jet wondered if she'd have to restrain the victim.

"Please, ma'am. He's been stopped."

"Yeah, thanks…" The woman's voice trailed off as she eyed Jet from cowl to cape to boots. "Why you holding a brick?"

Jet was about to reply when a flash of light caught her eye. She darted a look down the block…and gasped as she spied an all-too-familiar figure, one she hadn't seen in months-and had secretly hoped she'd never see again.

"Oh no," Jet whispered, feeling her stomach knot. "No, no, no."

She stared at the white-clad person crouching by a storefront window. The white-clad glowing person; that meant she'd also be hot. Jet remembered that all too well. Duty first, Jet told herself.

She blanketed the mugger in Shadow, then summoned the inky tendrils back to her, barely noticing as they crawled over her and sank into her skin. On the ground, the mugger didn't move.

"Call the police," Jet said to the would-be victim. Farther down the block, the glowing figure was still crouching, apparently melting her way through the safety plates of the shop window. "Wait here until they come for the man. He won't bother you; he's unconscious."

"But…where you going?"

"Off to catch a criminal." With that, Jet Shadow-slid. All but invisible, she crept toward the woman in white.

Iridium

Iridium felt the cold first, that finger-light sensation on the back of your neck that signaled an uninvited guest. She looked right; saw that the darkness had seemed to grow legs and move.

"Jet." She brightened the light cocoon around her body. "Knock it off."

Jet materialized, frowning. "How did you know it was me?"

"Because there are so many caped crusaders that can chill your blood and turn invisible in shadow. It was tough to pick you out, lemme tell you."

Jet bristled.

Iridium grinned. "What's that you've got there?"

Her former...partner? That wasn't the right word; Iridium had never made it to graduation, and thus never became a full hero. Roommate. That was all she was. Her former roommate might have been blushing, if Iridium could see past her optiframes. "A brick."

"Yeah." Iridium bent down to finish melting her way through Gregor's pawnshop. The man was a weasel and a cheat, and he was two weeks behind on his payments. Iridium meant to teach him a lesson by robbing him blind. "Heard of that. My dad had to tote the brick his first day on Squadron."

"Stop!" Jet shouted. "In the name of Corp!"

Iridium spun, angry now. Shadow creepers blossomed all around Jet, but that just made Iridium angrier. "Or you'll what, Joan?"

"My designation is Jet!"

"No." Iridium pointed at her friend-no, former roommate. "You're just scared little Joan in a fancy new costume, and you're not a hero. Not yet." Darting close, she snatched the brick from Jet's hand and tossed it back and forth.

Jet's lip trembled. "Give that-give that back!"

"Here's some advice, Jet." Iridium knew she was snarling and didn't care. Seeing the girl who'd gotten her axed from the Academy, who'd killed any chance of her ever following her father's path, stirred an anger she thought she'd conquered months ago. "Wreck City is my city now. You come back here again, you'll get hurt." The brick dried up under her light heat, and Iridium dropped it. It hit the pavement and shattered into clay shards.

"Iri," Jet whispered. "You still don't understand what happened back then."

"Right, here's the part where you try to talk your way into being the hero. Well, you're not. You're the furthest thing from the hero." Iridium turned, started to walk away. "Run back to Corp, little girl."

A shadow creeper wrapped around Iridium's throat. Worse, Jet's voice smacked into Iridium, ice cold: "Don't you walk away from me."

Choking, Iridium burned the shadow-thing away. "Temper, temper, Joan. You're starting to sound like your dear old dad."

Jet flinched at that. Flinched--and then turned and fled without another word.

Jet

Jet shivered as she ran. If Iri hadn't burned the Shadow off her throat…

No, not Iri. No nicknames. The woman was Iridium. Maybe she'd trained to be a hero once, but that time was long past.

"Jet!" That was Metal Man, sounding like an angry wasp in her ear.

Bracing herself, Jet tapped the commlink. "Yes?"

"What the hell happened? You walked away from a containment, you engage a rabid without calling for backup, and you run away from the rabid? Are you insane?"

Iridium's voice, mocking: Like your dear old dad.

"I realize I broke protocol," Jet said stiffly, "but the mugger had been successfully contained. As for the rabid…since you were apparently monitoring me, you could have helped."

"If you'd followed procedure, I would have."

Ouch.

"And you destroyed the brick." Metal Man sighed. "I can't believe you destroyed the brick."

Technically, that had been Iridium. But Jet kept her mouth shut.

"Report to Corp HQ," Metal Man commanded. "I'll collect your penalty for you."

"Penalty?"

"You're officially upgraded from brick to cinderblock."

Terrific.

But the entire way to Corp HQ, Jet wasn't thinking about her penalty, or even about how she'd run from Iridium.

She was thinking about how she'd wrapped Shadow around Iridium's neck…and how, in that moment, Jet had wanted to kill the woman who'd once been her best friend. Maybe she was just like her father after all.

Iridium

Iridium watched Jet go, running back to wherever her mentor hero was. It should have been satisfying to watch, but it wasn't. It just made Iridium feel slightly nauseous. She didn't even collect her loot from the pawnshop-she just turned and walked away, fading back into Wreck City.

Iridium didn't want to be the villain. She wanted to prove the people who whispered about her hero-turn-baddie father wrong.

She didn't want to hate Jet, and she didn't want Jet to hate her.

But the world wasn't perfect. It just was. And Iridium was the villain in the story.

It was over between her and Jet. They were enemies now, hero and villain. The way it would always be.

Iridium walked on, and felt that truth like a stone around her heart.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2009

    Good vs. Evil isn't always Black & White

    Not being all that big on comics or movies based on comics, my expectations for Black and White weren't that high. Don't get me wrong, I love both jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge and knew they would put together a fantastic story, but I didn't think it would be my cup of tea. I was so wrong. This book blew me out of the water, and has officially made me a huge fan.

    When I first flipped through the book (I like to get a feel for the layout before I start reading), I noticed that the book was split up into sections of "Now" and "Then", and that each of these sections were split up between the two main characters, Jet and Iridium. What sounds confusing, ended up melding together perfectly. At the end of each "Now" section, the reader is left with a cliffhanger, but is then sucked into the past in the following "Then" section. This could have easily become confusing and choppy, but for Jet and Iridium's "frenemies" realationship, it was the perfect way to progress the story while still giving the reader the background information needed to truly understand what's going on.

    Almost every chapter in Black and White switches between Jet and Iridium, with a few actually integrating both. Each writer gives their character a unique and distinct voice, while still blending seemlessly together (Jackie Kessler writes Jet, Caitlin Kittredge writes Iridium). Even when one writer was writing about conflicts between Jet and Iridium, the parts involving the character that was not their's did not stray out of character. And secondary characters blended seemlessly between the two writers also.

    Black and White kept me constantly on my toes and completely surprised. Coming from someone who tends to figure things out a couple scenes ahead, this is what sets this novel apart from most. I recommend this book to both comic book lovers, and urban fantasy readers who are looking for something new within the genre.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Superhero Novel?!!?

    You don't have to be a fan of superheroes or comic books to like this novel. In fact I can't say that I've ever been interested in either of them. It's about two former friends, now enemies, that attended the same school for superheroes. This book plenty of drama as you would expect from something with superheroes and villians but it is also extremely funny. Kessler (Jet) and Kittredge (Iridium) do a great job displaying the differences between the two characters but at the same time show how very similar they are. This one of a kind novel lures you in and makes you crave the next installment by the last page. 5 stars for this unique novel by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge.

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  • Posted October 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    What's a Superhero without her Supervillian?

    To be honest, I dragged my feet when it came to reading this book. I didn't think I'd enjoyed the story, being that I'm not really into superheros. This book done proved me wrong because I absolutely I loved it! Jackie Kessler writes Joannie Greene (code-name Jet) (shadow), the superhero who is the darling Lady Shadow of New Chicago; Caitlin Kittredge writes Callie Bradford (code-name-Iridium) (light) runs the city's underworld. This story tells the tale of two friends who depended on one another to survive growing up and started out on the same course in life, but eventually both took very different paths. They say opposites attract and that saying holds true for Jet and Iridium. Jet's goal in life was always to use the power of her shadows to save people. Jet is a cookie cutter representative for "the man", Corp-co. Corp-co is responsible for keeping the "extrahumans" in line and training them to serve the people. Iridium is a futuristic robin-hood, who's a thick thorn in Corp-Co's side and also her so called friend, Jet. Unconcerned with photo-ops and fan worship, Iridium thinks, speaks and acts for the unfortunates Corp-Co plows over everyday. This story was well written, the world building fantastic and the repeated pendulum swing between the past and the present flawless. Their was plenty of action, twits and turns, displays of heroism and very little sex scenes. I highly recommend this book to dark urban fantasy readers and also look forward to the next book in the series Shades of Gray due out 6/22/2010.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    Hero's For Sale

    Imagine what the world would be like if super-hero's were real. Now imagine that same world, but instead of the Heroes charging off to Battle the "Bad Guys", They have to stop and clear every action through a Corporate Comittee. "Whats that, Super Steve? Someone is Robbing First Federal Bank? No, I'm afraid thats not on the schedule today, Perhaps after the Photo-shoot for Guy's Health Magazine and your interview on Entertainment Tonight."
    Iridium and Jet live on opposite ends of the Polarized world. On the one Hand, Iridium Fights crime outside of the law, often stealing from the Corporate Establishment that outlawed her years before, using her Light Based powers to fight crime on its own terms. with a Fowl mouth and a Nasty temper, she Does what she must and makes no excuses for her ruthles outlook on the world. Then there is Iridium, A shadow power hero that always follows the rules and fears her own powers even as she uses them. The Pinnacle of her corporate sponsor's ideal of the "Perfect Hero", she tow's the line while smiling to the crowd and reminding everyone to brush their teeth before going to bed.
    The story follows their story as once friends at the training academy to their current conflict from opposite sides of the Law. But a Dark force is behind the latest series of events that seems to be drawing the two back together again. When all is said and done, they will need to depend on each other to survive the machinations of the Corporation that makes decisions on stock prices, the public that mostly fears and in some case despises them, and a mysterious plot that may very well end them both.
    If you Enjoyed "The Watchmen" and its darker look at what the life of a Hero in a more realistic and Corrupted world would be, then I suggest you check out "Black and White". Be aware there is some Foul language and adult situations- I'd give it a PG-13. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2009

    Jackie and Caitlin combine powers for a fantastic story

    I've never been one to seek out superhero novels but through word of mouth and staff recommendations at my B&N I picked this one up and I am extremely happy that I did!
    The pacing story and amazing characters suck you into this story and lock you in with it's supergrip. I dare you to not read this book in a day! I am an instant fan of a new genre, this is why it always pays to try something new based on endcaps and staff recommendations.
    If you are looking for something new, exciting and terrifically written then you must read this book. One of the best reads you will find all summer.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fans will enjoy the action-packed quarrel between two former super friends

    The extrahumans attend the Academy where they obtain intensive training learning how to control their super powers before going out amongst civilians to stop crime. Five years after graduating from the Academy, Joannie "Jet" Greene tries to catch her former school roommate Callie "Iridium" Bradford for dealing with unsanctioned (by the ruling Corps) criminals. The pair was once best friends, but their differences over brainwashing by the Academy and the Corps abuse of extrahumans led to a dispute. Jet believed what she was told while Iri saw a dark commercial purpose behind the institutions. This acrimonious split might be a legacy of their fathers with Jet's dead and Iri's jailed or more to the point could be their powers as Jet uses shadows and Iri the light.--------------

    The former BFFs separately begin to uncover a dangerous conspiracy in New Chicago. Meanwhile Jet meets and teams up with normal human Bruce Hunter who brings a metaphoric light to her heart while she thinks Iri is part of the treachery. Iri meets and teams up with vigilante Taser who brings a bit of the dark into her heart while she deems Jet is part of the treachery. Soon these two BFFs and their new sidekicks will learn that neither is all light or all dark as the universe has an abundance of colors and shades; that is they will learn if they stop fighting one another and live long enough.-------------------

    Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittridge provide a fun super friends fantasy that blends elements of romance, thriller, and science fiction into an exciting BFF (in this case BFF was best friend forever but has become best enemy forever) superhero tale. The cast is solid as Jet and Iri begin to understand that the whole is greater than either part. Although fast than a speeding bullet story line lacks depth, graphic comic book fans will enjoy the action-packed quarrel between two former super friends.-------------

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted November 28, 2009

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