First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
A gargantuan green dragon appeared out of thin air in front of the helicopter. Val dropped her gun, staring with an open mouth. What the hell? Just how hard had Blueblood hit her over the head? That was a dragon. An actual dragon. Its scales glittered in the sunlight, and sinuous muscles moved beneath them as it flapped its massive leathery wings. It opened its gaping, fang-filled mouth, and the pilot did the only sensible thing and panicked. The helicopter swerved.
Its tail passed right through the dragon’s head as if it were made of smoke. An illusion.
The Illusionist had been scheduled to appear in the parade, hadn’t she? She must have conjured the dragon from somewhere nearby. Val put a hand to her forehead, glad she hadn’t lost her mind. Her relief lasted until the helicopter jerked and careened. It wasn’t supposed to move at that angle. The pilot must have lost control. The helicopter was falling—right on top of her.
Val stepped back but knew she’d never make it out of the way in time. Then Dave was there. He pushed her down and threw himself on top of her. A second later, the helicopter crashed.
It sounded like the sky had fallen. The noise of the spinning helicopter blades ended with an ear-splitting crash that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Dave jerked and grunted, and Val curled up as small as she could get, not wanting to leave a hand or foot out from under his protection. An awful metal screech assaulted her ears, and then there was a heavy silence. Val kept still for a good three seconds, unsure if it was truly over.
Dave went limp, his weight pressing down on her. That worried Val more than anything. Even when a building had collapsed on top of him, he’d kept himself propped up.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He made a groan that sounded like an affirmative and tried to lift himself up. It didn’t quite work, but Val managed to wriggle out from under him. He immediately slumped back down, and Val sucked in a sharp breath when she saw him. The back of his uniform had been torn to shreds, and there was an angry red line across the skin of his back. The helicopter blades must have struck him. If that had been Val, she’d have been cut clean in two.
She touched his back gently, and he hissed.
“Sorry,” she said, jerking her hand back.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m okay. Just going to lie here for a while.”
Val smiled. Then a metal groan caught her attention.
The helicopter was still on the roof, but Val couldn’t say for how much longer it would stay there. It was on its side, perched precariously on the edge of the building. It teetered, and a blue hand reached out from the door that was now facing the sky.
Val stood up and walked slowly towards it.
“Val…” Dave said in warning.
“It’s fine,” she replied.
Blueblood was trying to climb out. With the helicopter having fallen onto its side, that would be hard enough if his every movement didn’t make it sway dangerously. His hands grasped the side of the door, and he’d managed to pull his head and shoulders out when he noticed Val.
“Get me out of here!” he shouted. “Hurry!”
He was leaning desperately forward, trying to tip the balance of the tilting vehicle towards the roof rather than the empty air. He must have hit his head during the crash, as unexpectedly red blood dripped down his blue forehead. Val smiled cheerily at him.
“Thanks for leaving me behind,” she said. “I’d hate to be in that mess right now.”
“You’ll die, too,” he snarled. “If I die, no one can stop the infection from spreading and killing you.”
“You make a strong argument.” She approached the helicopter carefully, then stopped, putting a finger to her chin and looking up in an exaggerated pose of thoughtfulness. “Although I have no guarantee you’ll help me if I save your life. You certainly weren’t going to before.”
Blueblood tried to heave himself up, and the helicopter lurched. He froze.
“I’ll do it,” he said. “I swear to you.”
“Yeah, like I’m going to trust your word.” She crossed her arms. “I want leverage. Give me the List.”
“You can have it back after you fix my arm. I only trust you to help me if there’s something in it for you.”
She held out her hand, palm up, waiting for him to hand it to her. Blueblood barred his teeth, but the wind picked up, making the helicopter waver. He reached into his pocket, pulled out the disc, and tossed it at her.
It hit the floor in front of her feet with a loud clatter. Val reached down and picked it up. The case was cracked, but the disc itself was fine.
“Now help me!” Blueblood reached out his hand.
Val smirked and turned her back on him.
“Val!” he shouted. “Val! You idiot! I’m your only chance! Do you have a death wish?”
She looked over her shoulder. “Oh, Raf.” She grabbed her right glove and pulled. The leather went up past her elbow, so it took a moment to slowly slide down her arm. When she’d gotten it all the way off, she held up her right hand, revealing smooth, fair skin all the way up her arm. She didn’t have so much as a blemish, much less the blackened infection he’d given her.
Blueblood gaped, making her wish for a camera. She settled for giving him a smile every bit as smug as the ones he’d bestowed on her over the past weeks.
“Did you really think I’d work with you and not have a countermeasure for your powers?”
I’ve been waiting to post this scene forever. Val FTW. Make sure to stop by next Monday, since she’s definitely not finished rubbing her apparent victory in Blueblood’s face yet.
So, did anybody correctly guess that the dragon was an illusion last week?