First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
A cool breeze carried the smell of hot dogs and popcorn from one of the street vendors, and Dave hoped his stomach didn’t growl on live television.
“—really have to commend both local and national law enforcement,” he finished up. “If it weren’t for the quick response of the Chicago PD and the DSA’s tireless efforts to track me down, I wouldn’t be here today.”
A pretty reporter held a microphone in front of him, and he looked at the camera as he spoke. The parade hadn’t started yet. They stood in a fenced off section of city street where the marchers and support teams were either sitting around waiting or frantically rushing to get things ready on time.
“Thank you, White Knight. I think I speak for all of us when I say it’s wonderful to have you back.” The reporter turned as the camera focused on her. “We’re less than twenty minutes from the start of the parade now. Tune in for continuing coverage throughout the day. Back to you, Karen.”
The camera lowered, and Dave relaxed. That was the hardest part of the day, and he’d made it through without sticking his foot in his mouth. Now all he had to do was smile and wave.
He shook hands and exchanged thanks with the reporter and cameraman before they packed up and moved on. Dave’s handler from PR, a tiny yet formidable woman in a business suit, checked her watch and told him to start heading for the float.
They walked through the crowd. Members of the military in full dress uniform stood ready to march, and dancers in sequined costumes took these final minutes to practice twirling batons and streamers. The giant Crimson Phoenix balloon, a tribute to the country’s first superhero, was almost completely inflated, hovering off the ground as men and woman in white gloves gathered around it. Shouts and laughter came from all around, and excitement buzzed through the air like electricity.
The float Dave would be standing on was designed to make it look like he was perched atop a skyscraper in the middle of a city. The fake building tops were more stylized than realistic. In colors like blue and purple, they had sweeping lines like something out of an old comic book, and their small rectangular windows glowed yellow. It was enormous and must have taken forever to make.
In front of the float waited what looked to be a high school marching band. Some of them were practicing on their instruments, but a big group was clustered around a familiar figure in a crimson cape.
The Illusionist was getting her picture taken. But where most superheroes would be content to stand next to the students and smile, Yuna used her powers to make the experience a hundred times cooler. She created the frozen image of an explosion for the background of one photo, and she and the kids posed like they were casually walking away from it. Then she made it look like they were underwater and conjured a huge shark for them to take turns pretending to punch. Dave paused to watch them goof off, cheeks tugging in a way that felt different from when he’d been faking a smile for the camera. He hadn’t been standing there long when Yuna noticed him.
“White Knight! Hey!” She said a quick goodbye to the students, gave them a few high-fives, and hurried over to Dave. She too had a handler holding a schedule book who followed her.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Dave greeted.
“My powers are showy. They put me on a lot of publicity stuff like this.” She glanced around. “I don’t mind that much. The people here are great so far. Nobody’s thrown a single soda can at me yet.”
She gave a small, fake laugh which hurt to hear. Dave had heard about that incident a couple months ago. The Illusionist had gotten caught up in the backlash against Lightblade when his crime became public, and some of the Seattle population had expressed their anger by throwing stuff at one of her public appearances.
“People are stupid and mean sometimes,” he said. “But from what I’ve seen, you’ve been handling yourself like a pro.” He crossed his arms. “So how are you really?”
“Better. I think the worst is over with.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m actually getting transferred soon. My boss told me to Fresno. It’s…. Seattle is home, you know? They’re only doing it to get me out of the way so the controversy will die out, but… I dunno. I guess it could be nice to start over somewhere new. Maybe.”
“Give it a chance,” Dave agreed, because there was nothing else he could say. “Fresh starts can be good.”
“So what about you?” she asked, obviously wanting to change the subject. “How are you really? The news is acting like you’re a hundred-percent better, but I don’t believe anything they say.”
Dave stiffened. “I’m…fine.”
“Uh-huh.” Something about her look reminded him eerily of Moreen.
Her smile flickered. “Okay, then.”
Dave’s handler interrupted to say he should really be getting onto the float, and Yuna’s took the opportunity to say the same.
“At least yours is kind of cool-looking.” Yuna gave his float a wistful look.
She pointed to a smaller float that was covered in flowers. Whoever had been responsible for it had obviously decided that the Illusionist was a type of magician, because there was a giant top hat and towering wand. The whole thing would have been alright if not for the gargantuan white rabbit. Its monstrous teeth and bulging eyes missed the target of “cute” and landed somewhere near “terrifying.”
“Um, good luck with that.”
A small set of stairs was hidden at the back of Dave’s float, and after some final instructions from his handler, he climbed them to the top. A thin guard rail surrounded the top of the “skyscraper,” and it seemed too big for him alone. He looked out over the street. Teachers were corralling the high school marching band into formation, and the Crimson Phoenix balloon was flying high. It was almost time to start.
Dave’s heartbeat turned to quick, hard bursts. Soon thousands of people would be staring at him. He took a slow, deep breath to calm himself, inhaling through his nose and exhaling through his mouth. He’d be fine. He’d done this sort of thing a hundred times before. All he had to do was smile and wave.
He’d be fine. Really.
Spoiler alert: he won’t be fine. 😛
Anybody like parades? I’m totally the type who prefers to enjoy them by TV from the comfort of my own home. Granted, if real-life parades had more superheroes, that might be a different story. 😉
Have a good week, everybody! Next Monday, we’re back to Val as she discovers Blueblood’s evil plan.