“Parade of Fools” – Part 5

Fight Crime! BannerFirst time reading? Start at the beginning here.

“So when are you going to tell me the plan?” Val asked.

She was sitting with her feet propped up on a table in a penthouse apartment in Washington DC. A large TV showed news coverage of the parade—not that they needed it; they were sitting a few blocks away from the actual event. Still, it had been nice to see the interview with White Knight. Blueblood had glared murderously at the screen throughout the whole two minutes of it, making Val work hard to hide her smile. Dave looked good. It was all an act for the public, of course, but at least he’d recovered enough to fake it. That was a big difference from the last time she’d seen him, when his trauma had been raw.

She savored seeing him on TV, knowing it was the closest she’d get to him for a long time. She almost wished Blueblood would send her to attack him today. Not that she wanted to attack him, but it would be an excuse to get close it him. A small thrill shot through her at the thought, but it wasn’t meant to be. She was stuck with Blueblood today.

“I’ve told you the plan,” Blueblood answered, delicately cleaning a pistol.

“You’ve told me what we’re doing, not why.”

Blueblood glanced at her. For a first time in a while, Val was wearing her costume: black leather boots laced up to her knees, a bulletproof corset, and a Venetian mask with an intricate filigree design and glimmering crystals. Her Beretta pistols were already cleaned, loaded, and waiting in holsters on her belt.

“You don’t need to know why.”

Joey shifted, the creases around his frown deepening. Eddy was there too, along with JB and several other of Blueblood’s men. All of them were waiting for Leo, who took his sweet time walking through the door.

“Everybody ready?” Leo asked with a stupid grin.

Blueblood rose to his feet. “We’ve been ready. You’re late.”

Leo’s grin faltered but then rebounded bravely. “Yes, sorry. I wanted to get Mother’s funeral out of the way before I came. Poor woman.” He turned to Val. “You really pumped her full of bullet holes. Took the option of an open casket right off the table.”

Val barely glanced at him. “Yeah, well, when you try to kill someone like the Fox Woman, you want to make sure it sticks.”

“Is Tidal Wave in position?” Blueblood’s words were clipped with impatience.

“Absolutely,” Leo said. “He’ll keep them good and distracted while we slip in and out.”

Val took her feet off the table and straightened up. There. In Leo’s head. He was thinking of the reason behind Blueblood’s plan. Blueblood had told him. Blueblood had told that idiot and not her. Never mind that she and Blueblood were at odds right now. That was just plain insulting.

“The List,” she said. “That’s your plan?”

Blueblood turned his sharp blue eyes onto her, then glared murderously at Leo as he figured out what had happened. Val didn’t see why. It was Blueblood’s own fault for trusting such an important piece of info to someone who hardly ever remembered to concentrate on mental shields.

“That’s my plan.” Blueblood’s smug smirk reappeared as he gazed at her. “Ambitious enough for you?”

Almost too ambitious. Like any employer, the DSA kept records on the people who worked for it: names, addresses, social security numbers–everything. “The List” was the colloquial term for the files they kept on superheroes. Secret identities had been outed to the public before. Clever journalist and angry ex-boyfriends had been just a few of the types to manage it. But ever since the Lang v McNeil case had established a minimum five-year prison sentence for exposing a superhero’s identity, most civilians had given up the pursuit. Supervillains, though…

If Blueblood stole the list and published it, the DSA would be crippled. The heroes would be too busy worrying about the safety of themselves and their families, and if Blueblood could follow it up with a few precision strikes against certain targets, they might never recover. Law enforcement would be overwhelmed, giving Blueblood the chance to expand and solidify his criminal empire.

Not a bad plan, assuming they could get the List and make it out of the DSA headquarters alive.

“I assume you have a way past their cybersecurity?” she asked.

“I’ve got a man on the inside.”

Of course he did. Probably the same man who’d told him where the DSA had been hiding the witness against her father. And just look at how that had worked out.

“Sounds fun, then,” she said. And it would be, if she could pull it off. She knew what Blueblood wanted now. The gears inside her head spun, readjusting and evaluating her strategy. It could work. It could also blow up in her face catastrophically.

They were heading out the door when JB had a flash of the future.

Val reacted the instant she sensed what it showed him. She seized control of his body, making him walk steadily forward alongside Cleto instead of pausing and drawing attention to himself.

Get out of my head, he thought at her.

Can’t do that yet, she replied, nearly walking into a table while she was distracted. Her stomach was tight and her heart pounding. The next few seconds had the potential to ruin everything.

Hey, she said gently as they filed out of the apartment with the others. You don’t want to be here. I get it. That means you have a goal: get out. And you have a skill you can trade for help reaching that goal. So listen up, because I’m about to give you a lesson in Supervillainy 101: you can always forge a secret alliance to backstab your boss and advance your own agenda.

His apprehension bled over the telepathic connection. I don’t—

You don’t want to spend the rest of your life working for Blueblood. And this was where Val proved she was a bad person, giving him a small psychic push—a subtle form of mind-control—to come around to her way of thinking. Like it or not, you’re a supervillain now. I know you don’t see yourself that way, but it’s time you started acting like one.

JB’s thoughts turned to the ache in his ribs from Cleto’s fists, and anger overpowered his apprehension.

So, Prophet Kid, she said. You want to make a deal?

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Kristen’s Corner

Val might be a bad person, but she’d be such a good supervillain mentor. I should give her a sidekick. 😉

I hope everybody’s doing well this Monday. I’m currently chugging caffeine, since I worked the graveyard shift last night. Almost Invincible is in the hands of my beta reader, and we’re just a month and a couple days away from its release. Once you guys read the book, you’ll make a special note of Tidal Wave, who Blueblood mentioned for the first time in this chapter.

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