First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
Dave’s cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling so much. The parade float continued its slow progress down the street with him on top, a chilly wind whipping past him. The high school marching band was on their fourth cycle of the same three songs they’d been playing all morning, and their steps were starting to drag. Dave should be grateful; at least he didn’t have to walk the whole way. But he just wanted to climb down from this damn thing and sit alone somewhere quiet.
The noise was the worst. The screams and cheers of the crowd packed onto the sidewalks merged into one never-ending roar. He wouldn’t be able to escape it even if he covered his hands with his ears. He waved steadily, keeping his smile in place and hoping everyone was far enough away not to notice that it was actually a grimace. The countless faces stared up at him, shouting his name. They held up hand-made signs proclaiming, “White Knight = Invincible” or “We ♥ You!” in marker and glitter, shaking them in a bid for his attention. They jumped up and down and waved their hands wildly, stomping and shouting until the movement all blurred together into one writhing mass.
Dave gripped the railing with his free hand as his waving slowed. Vertigo hit him, making him sway. The air had felt so chill before, but now he was roasting. He would have tugged at his collar if he had a hand to spare. He kept waving, but the movement had turned jerky, and he struggled to keep his head held high and the smile tight across his face. The street was swimming out of focus, and he wanted to squeeze shut his eyes.
Breathe, he told himself. He couldn’t lose it with all these people watching. Talk about the story of the century. The headlines would never stop. “White Knight Breakdown at Parade.” “White Knight Traumatized After Capture.” “White Knight Forced to See Shrink.” He had to get a hold of himself.
He focused on breathing, on bringing cool air in and out of his lungs, and the awful thing gripping his chest began to loosen. The overwhelming heat faded, leaving his skin clammy, cold sweat lingering on his scalp and the back of his neck. Realizing he was slightly hunched over, he straightened up and readjusted his smile. There. He was fine. Unless the news cameras had been zoomed in on him during the past minute. Then they’d already be playing the footage on air and speculating about what was wrong with him. But they had no way of knowing what was going on in his head. He could probably pass it off as just a dizzy spell.
Dave’s smile couldn’t have been more fake. The panic was gone, but it had left an uncomfortable feeling stewing in the pit of his stomach. That wouldn’t happen again, would it? It couldn’t possibly be a good thing that Walter had benched him?
His immediate instinct was to push away questions like that, but he forced himself to…if not answer the questions, then at least look at them. He was thinking it over when a loud bang interrupted.
The crowd shrieked, and Dave tensed. A fire hydrant on the sidewalk had burst, shooting a river’s worth of water about two stories into the air. The people around it pushed against the rest of the crowd to get away, most of them already soaked. Several were lying dazed or hurt on the pavement.
Another bang, and a fire hydrant a dozen yards down on the other side of the street did the same thing. Not an accident, Dave concluded, already going through a mental list of powers that could make that happen and the people who had them. He wasn’t going to be able to do anything from up here. As the crowd’s noise turned from excited to fearful, he looked over the float and determined he could make it to the ground in two jumps.
He hopped over the railing and landed on top of one of the shorter fake skyscrapers. Then the crowd’s shouts hit a crescendo. The water from the hydrants was no longer gushing upward and falling back to earth. The two streams wormed through the air like dragons and flowed into each other directly over the street. The water hovered there, an amorphous blob the size of a small lake that wasn’t affected by gravity. Then it surged straight at Dave.
He jumped, but it wasn’t fast enough. The water slammed into him like a tsunami, and the float ruptured beneath the impact.
Dave fell, water and rubble covering him like dirt atop a grave.
Poor Dave is not having a good time of it these past few episodes.
In Almost Invincible news, I’ll be finishing revisions and sending it off to my editor today. The cover art is taking a bit longer than I’d like, but I’m really hoping I’ll get it in time to do a cover reveal later this week.
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If you’re in the USA, I hope you’re enjoying Labor Day weekend. I had to work this morning, but I hope those of you with the day off have a relaxing holiday.