“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Epilogue

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Jean-Baptiste Dupree spent maybe half an hour in the car. Eddy had on a radio station that played rock from the 50s and 60s, and he didn’t talk. JB had thought the Black Valentine talked too much, but now he wished she was there to fill the silence. When Eddy stopped the car, he got out and had a muffled conversation with someone before telling JB to get out, too.

They climbed up metal stairs and entered something that JB figured out was an airplane when the cabin pressurized. It must have been a private one, because there didn’t seem to be anyone else on it besides the pilot. It figured the Black Valentine had a private plane. She’d probably robbed enough banks to own a whole fleet of planes. Eddy spoke again, his gravelly voice asking if JB wanted anything to eat or drink. JB ended up with a Sprite and a bag of Doritos, which were the highlight of the boring, quiet flight. They landed about two hours later, got into another car, and maybe an hour after that, stopped at what JB assumed was their destination.

JB smelled pine trees before they went inside. Then Eddy led him through twisting hallways, across thick carpet and smooth wood before finally grunting “sit” and pushing him down onto a soft couch.

“Jean-Baptiste Dupree,” said a voice as dry and brittle as an old book. “We meet at last. So you’re the one that all this fuss has been about?” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Epilogue

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 10

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Once the rescue workers had cleared away as much of the rubble as they could, Dave pushed himself up, shrugging off the final slab of concrete from his back. It landed on the rest of the debris with a loud thud, and Dave fell into a sitting position beside it. It took a lot of self-control to keep his back straight and not just lie down in the middle of the disaster zone. His arms felt like silly string, his back and legs as stiff as a corpse with rigor mortis. Then there was his nose, which was throbbing so strongly he was starting to worry it was broken.

The workers clapped and cheered. Dave would have to thank each of them personally once he was actually able to stand up. Then another pair of hands started clapping, slow and deliberate. The Black Valentine had sat up, posed atop the rubble like a model in a photo shoot, never mind that she was covered in gray dust. It sat in her hair like powder and stuck to her clapping hands, hiding her deep burgundy nail polish. Dave looked down and found it covered him, too. His uniform could no longer be called white by any definition of the word.

“Well, look who’s not dead,” Moreen said.

She was standing on the rubble to Dave’s right, sleeves rolled up and hands scraped and dirty.

Dave returned her grin. “I’m surprised, too.”

“I knew we’d be fine,” said Val—the Black Valentine. When Dave gave her a look, she winked at him.

“Which reminds me.” Moreen signaled a couple of police officers behind her and led them across the rubble to the Black Valentine. “Valentina Belmonte, you’re under arrest.” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 10

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 9

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Val woke up coughing, her throat scratchy and dry. Where was she? She opened her eyes—and nothing changed. The world was pitch black. Had she gone blind? Was she dead? She couldn’t be dead. She could only feel a few aches and pains up and down her body. Hell was bound to hurt a lot worse than this.

She was lying on her back atop something hard. A tile floor?  She started to sit up—

“Don’t—”

Her forehead smacked something solid, and she fell back with a curse.

“Don’t move.” It was White Knight’s voice, strained and rasping right above her. “We probably shouldn’t talk, either. I don’t think we have much air.” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 9

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 8

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The back of Dave’s skull felt like a cash register that had been smashed open with a crowbar. He put a hand to his head, groaning, and tried to get his bearings. His eyes were closed. Why were his eyes closed? Well, that was easy enough to fix. He opened them and saw a hole in the ceiling, sparks jumping from torn electrical wires. When had that gotten there?

Jeffries spat a curse.

Oh, right.

Dave pushed himself up so fast that dizziness nearly took him back down again. But it wasn’t fast enough. Jeffries was already on his feet. His massive fist swung at Dave’s head, and Dave knew instantly that he wouldn’t be able to dodge in time. He flinched back on instinct, but Jeffries’ fist never made contact.

The bulky man screamed, clutching his head as if someone had set his brain on fire. Movement caught Dave’s eye near the hole in the ceiling, and he saw the Black Valentine glaring down at Jeffries like a vengeful goddess. Either she’d just saved Dave, or he’d hit his head so hard that he was hallucinating.

Jeffries’ eyes widened as he saw her, too, and he jumped a good four feet into the air. His meaty hand grasped for her feet, but she scrambled back just in time. Instead, Jeffries grabbed the edge of the hole and tore off a chunk of ceiling as he came down. The same chunk that the Black Valentine was standing on. She fell with a startled cry. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 8

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 7

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Val sprinted up the stairs. She’d gotten a stitch in her side on the fourth floor and was still climbing. Why was this building so big? What did a courthouse need besides a few courtrooms, some private offices to bribe people inside, and maybe a food court? What exactly was on all of these floors? Nothing interesting, that was for sure. She caught the thoughts of a few frightened bystanders hiding under desks and gave them a telepathic nudge to get out of the building, but there was no sign of the action yet. Wait—

The feel of a punch knocked her back a step. She wavered and barely managed to catch her balance. That was White Knight’s mind. He and Jeffries were fighting, and she stayed on the very edges of their thoughts so she wouldn’t feel any more hits. They weren’t alone. Nearby, someone dashed down a hallway, calling for JB. That would be the DSA agent in the ugly brown pantsuit. Val couldn’t remember her name. But where was JB?

Val raced up one last flight of stairs, the kid’s panic calling her like a blinking neon sign. She could feel the sweat dampening his shirt and dripping down his face. His hand touched the plaster wall, tracing it as he tried to find the stairs, but each doorway he reached had furniture inside. Where was the damn stairway? He’d gotten turned around and there wasn’t enough time—

“JB!” she shouted. She could see him now, moving in quick jerky steps. He stopped at the sound of his name, and the sheer explosion of emotions he felt made Val lightheaded.

“I can’t find the way out,” he said in a dazed voice. “I keep looking into the future, and no matter what I do it’s just the bone-shaking boom of the explosion and the building crushing me as it comes down. I can’t get it to change.” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 7

[Insert Update Here]

Today’s the first day after my big cross-country move, and I figured I wouldn’t have time to post this week’s update until late evening. What I didn’t take into account is that I won’t have internet set up at my new apartment for a few days. I’m writing this on my cell phone, and the next update is saved on my laptop, so…yeah. *headdesk* I’ll post it as soon as I can. Sorry for the wait!

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 6

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Agent Moreen Lee rushed up the stairwell after Dave, her breaths short and quick. She didn’t like trailing behind him, but there was something to be said for having a bulletproof human shield in front of you.

“This place must have ten floors.” Dave’s voice echoed off the tall, blank walls. “They could be anywhere.”

“The Black Valentine mentioned a helicopter. Head for the roof,” Moreen said.

Which meant they had to climb every single stair in the whole damn building. When they reached the tenth floor, Dave yanked open the door so hard that it came off its hinges. He tossed it aside, and they found themselves in the corner of a nondescript gray hallway.

“See any way to the roof?” Dave asked.

“You go right, I’ll go left. Shout if you find more stairs.”

Dave turned to her, his eyes full of annoying concern. “If you run into Jeffries—”

“I’ll shout. You’ll be able to tell I found Jeffries and not the stairs because I’ll be shouting profanity.”

“I think I’ll shout a polite request for help if it’s me.”

“Great. Get going.”

Moreen walked swiftly down the hall, Glock held out in front of her but pointed at the floor. The walls were lined with wooden doors that opened to small offices. Plaques displayed room numbers, and she kept her eyes open for one that said “Roof Access.” The whole floor was ominously quiet. If Jeffries had already left in his stupid helicopter, she was going to be pissed. Then again, maybe the Falconer or whatever his name was could ask his birds to track the machine to where it landed.

A bump came from the room to her right. Either something had fallen off a shelf, or someone was in there. Moreen’s arm muscles tightened, but she kept her gun pointed at the floor. The door was cracked open. Moreen approached it slowly, alert for any sign of movement. This could be a trap, someone waiting in there to shoot her. She shouldered the door open, and of course the hinges creaked. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 6