First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
Dave looked helplessly around the room as if hoping he’d spot the supervillains if he just checked one more time. He had to go. He had to do something. If Blueblood and Black Valentine got away with the List…. It wasn’t Dave’s identity becoming public that he was worried about. He could deal with the media scrutiny and move to a different apartment or something, but that list would expose his and his coworkers’ families. Harris’s wife Benita would become a target for Supersonic’s enemies. The Gold Guardian just had a new baby last month who’d be at risk. And Dave’s own mother….
He dashed back to empty, gas-filled hallway. Even if Blueblood and the Black Valentine had gotten away from the tear gas quickly, exposure to it would slow them down. They couldn’t have gotten far. Dave would check the rest of the seventh floor and the other staircases, and if he still couldn’t find them, he’d report back to Walter. They had to put everyone on high alert.
He crisscrossed the hallway, pushing open doors so hard that he knocked a few off their hinges. Nothing. Nobody. This was taking too much time. If they were hiding in the one of the offices, he could come back and find them later. He decided to check the stairs first and raced to the end of the hall. His gas mask was still working, but the exposed skin on his hands and neck stung in irritation. Blueblood and the Black Valentine would be in a lot more pain. He could catch them if he could only figure out which way they’d gone.
Someone coughed. Dave’s stomach gave a little lurch, and he barreled around the corner. Someone lay prone in front of the door to the north stairwell, as if they’d been trying to escape before they collapsed. They were wracked with violent coughs, and Dave sped up to reach them faster.
Once he got close, he recognized the DSA agent and felt disappointment like a blow to the stomach. It wasn’t one of Blueblood or the Black Valentine’s men. Dave crushed the feeling ruthlessly, ashamed of the reaction when the agent so obviously needed his help. He quickly picked her up and fireman-carried her into the stairwell. Some of the tear gas escaped with them before the door fell closed, but it was still a vast improvement over the suffocating hallway. Dave lowered the agent gently to the floor, where she couldn’t do anything but cough and rub her eyes.
“I have to go after them.” Dave felt a pang of guilt for abandoning her. “Help should come soon.”
He reached for the door handle, but the agent rasped, “Up.”
“What?” Dave turned back around.
The agent had lifted her head, tears streaming down from inflamed eyes. “They went up.” She lifted a shaking hand to point up the stairs, her voice hoarse. “I saw it.”
Up? Were they after something else besides the List? Or was that their escape route? Dave thought back to Pretty Boy Jeffries and his plan to escape the Ft. Lauderdale Judicial Center by helicopter.
“Thank you,” he said. Then he rushed up the stairs, feeling a profound sense of déjà vu.
If today ended with another building crashing down on top of him, he was gonna be mad.
Val wanted to curl up in a ball and die.
Her eyes were on fire, tears streaming down her face no matter how many times she blinked. Her beautiful Venetian mask was on the floor somewhere, knocked off as she rubbed her eyes in an attempt to relieve the pain. She climbed the stairs as fast as she could, but her legs were trembling, and she was having trouble breathing. The air in the stairwell might have been clear of tear gas, but each breath she took inflamed her stinging throat. She was a wreck.
Her only consolation was that Blueblood was no better. He’d made the decision to stay until they’d gotten a hundred percent of the List, and by the time they’d fled the room, the tear gas had already reached them. Now they were a truly pathetic sight, staggering up the stairs as they coughed and cried. At least they only had two more flights to go until they reached the roof.
She sensed someone chasing them and jerked like she’d gotten an electric shock. She couldn’t read his thoughts, but she would recognize the feel of that mind anywhere.
She turned around just in time to see him dashing up the stairs after them. When he saw her, he jerked to a halt. Inexplicably, Val found herself smiling.
She shouldn’t be happy. With White Knight here, the chances of her plan failing just shot up exponentially. But here she was, grinning like a fool. He stared at her, and after a brief, shocked moment, grinned back. Val’s eyes still stung, and her throat still burned, but somehow, she didn’t seem to notice as much.
Then one of Blueblood’s men shot him.
Dave flinched but didn’t fall. Blueblood’s second man joined in, the two of them emptying their guns pointlessly. Bullets couldn’t take down White Knight.
Dave stormed up the stairs. Joey put a hand on Val’s shoulder and pushed her gently towards the next floor.
“Go,” he growled. “I’ve got him.”
His tone made her pause, and when she tried to read his mind, pure rage hit her. She got flashes of the empty room after White Knight’s escape and her own blackened, bluish arm. Joey blamed Dave for what Blueblood had done to her. He wanted to kill him.
Val started to say “wait,” but Joey was already charging down the stairs. She looked over her shoulder for Blueblood, and it took her a moment to find him. He was already a flight above them, running, and if he reached the roof first, he wouldn’t wait for them. He’d hop in the helicopter and leave Val behind.
She refused to let that happen.
She shot Dave and Joey one last glance and then ran up the stairs.
It’s rematch time for Dave and Giordano. And Giordano, buddy, if you think you hate Dave now, just wait a few more years. 😛
In other news, I finally saw Thor: Ragnarok this weekend and absolutely loved it. Can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie. What did you guys think?