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They would have died within minutes if Val hadn’t gone with them.
The lobby was full of broken glass, the wrecked cars they’d abandoned, and people who were either cowering or scrambling to counterattack. It was a big open space, where those on the second floor could look down over the first from behind glass railing. Nice from a design standpoint, but it meant potential snipers could take them out from practically anywhere. Blueblood led them up the stairs—not an enclosed stairwell in the side of the building, but the one in the middle of the lobby where they were completely exposed.
“I’m counting on you, Val,” he said, barely audible over the screams and gunfire.
Val glared at his back. If he was paying her, she would have insisted on a raise.
She didn’t mind-control anyone deeply or for any longer than a few seconds. She spread out her telepathic senses as far as they would go, jumping from head to head in descending order of threat. When a DSA agent aimed a gun at them from the second floor, she made him think someone was sneaking up behind him. He turned around and wasted his bullets on nothing. A group of security guards rushed towards them, so she gave one hallucinations of monsters all around him, making him scream and flail and force his companions to restrain him. She made a man reaching for a phone to call for backup feel like his throat was closing up so he couldn’t speak. She could barely focus on her own feet going up the steps. Her concentration needed to be everywhere at once.
Then Supersonic showed up.
He dashed down the stairs at super-speed, and before Val could do anything, his fist cracked against her jaw. It knocked her back, and she fell down half a dozen steps before stopping. When she tried to get up and saw all her allies staggering, she realized Supersonic had punched everyone on his way down. She hoped he’d hit Blueblood extra hard.
Zipping across the lobby floor, Supersonic grabbed a baton off one of the security guards. Val instantly sensed his intention, and it was going to hurt. He sprinted for the stairs, and Val threw a telepathic wrench into his motor control, tripping him.
He hit the floor and slid about two feet, his costume squeaking against the tile. He pushed himself up, and a shot rang out. Val clutched her shoulder at the same time Supersonic cried out, and it took her a second to realize the bullet had hit him and not her. Supersonic dropped back to the floor, howling, and Joey offered Val a hand to help her up. He’d been the one to take the shot.
The sight of their hero writhing on the floor inflamed a sense of righteous fury in the agents and guards. They rushed to retaliate, and Val flinched as a bullet hit one of Blueblood’s men a foot in front of her. She reached out to every mind she could touch and filled them with a sense of uncontrollable terror. Everyone in the lobby flinched, giving Val and company time to make it up the stairs.
On the second floor, Blueblood led them away from the lobby and down a narrow hallway that offered much better cover. Val put her hand against the wall to steady herself, squeezing shut her eyes for a moment and breathing deeply. The pulsing pain in her head began to fade to a dull pounding, and she rubbed her aching jaw. That had been too many people’s minds too quickly, especially with so many of them in terror or pain.
Joey stopped to hover over her as she gathered herself. “You couldn’t have brought us in through a side door,” he growled at Blueblood.
“Time is of the essence,” Blueblood replied. “Val, are we going to have to leave you behind?”
“Would you?” she asked through gritted teeth.
His hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. Her costume’s gloves went up past her elbows, covering where he’d touched her with his powers. He wrenched her arm up roughly, holding it in front of her like she wouldn’t know it was there otherwise.
“I would,” he said, “And I wouldn’t come back for you, so you’d have no one to stop the infection from traveling up your arm and killing you.”
Joey shoved him against the wall with a snarl. The moment Val’s arm was free she threw herself between the two men, pushing Joey back. One touch was all it would take. Blueblood wouldn’t hesitate to kill Joey to make a point.
“Enough,” she said. “We’re wasting time.”
She worried Blueblood would reach out and kill Joey out of spite, but he simply straightened up and smoothed his lapel. “Right you are,” he said, and took the lead again.
His pleasant tone sent a cold chill up Val’s spine. No way did Blueblood shrug off being manhandled so easily.
She shot Joey a warning glare. Not yet, she said telepathically.
As she followed Blueblood and the others down the hallway, she wondered if she should have just told Joey to shoot him. She’d been saying “not yet” for days now, and she could only say it so many more times before it became too late. She’d spent too long balancing on this tightrope already, and now the wind was picking up.
She had to kill Blueblood today… before he killed her first.
And we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming of mayhem and murder. We’re getting very close to the end of Fight Crime! (A Love Story), and it’s pretty much just one big fight scene from here on out. Buckle up, because you’re in for a wild ride.
Just a reminder that Almost Invincible is out on Amazon now, so if you haven’t bought it yet, you’re missing out.