Sunday, March 20, 2011

Superheroing is a Tough Gig

Superheroing is a Tough Gig – March 15
I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. Oh, yeah, I was, some guy robbing a bank figured that would take me out of the fight yesterday. Make that several trucks, and a herd of elephants, too, at least it feels like it.
Actually, my first day as a superhero, I only fought 5 supervillains and some gangbangers, but then I followed that with a shift as EMT that included an epidemic at a retirement community, 2 overdoses and a 4 alarm fire. Then back to supervillains, and regular criminal gangs for another 12 hours straight.  By the time I got back to work for my next shift, I’d been up for 36 hours straight, and had, literally been hit by a truck. My boss took one look at me, and told me to go home. I must have looked like I’d have to heal up some to qualify as dead. My boss isn’t exactly the compassionate type.
Gladly.  I went home and crashed face down on the bed, still fully dressed.
Ma woke me up some time the next day, checking to make sure I was still breathing, that and to tell me TakeDown was in trouble. Five supes at once, holding kids as hostages.  I was still so tired that a part of me really wanted to say, screw it, and go back to bed. But I dragged my sorry butt there, and helped. The bastards were hurting kids.
Ma accepted my sudden foray into superheroing a lot better than I expected. She seemed to see it as somewhat inevitable. The news crew hadn’t gotten a good look at my face that first fight, and a dark-haired lady in jeans and a denim jacket isn’t too identifiable. Ma insisted that I put on a mask, and wear the exact same jeans and jacket, and never wear those again except for crime fighting so I couldn’t be identified by my outfit. I began to understand a lot of things about heroes that had just seemed like posturing to me before, special costumes, masks. She also insisted that I keep my wings and scales hidden. Without those, I was just another supe, no way to be identified as a dragon.
Don’t know how he did it, but TakeDown never stopped. He’s like the energizer bunny of superheroes. He doesn’t have any flashy powers, just some non-lethal gadgets, tazer gloves, and a tendency to be a bit faster and stronger than whoever he’s fighting at the moment, but that guy just never gives up.
I have a whole new level of respect for TD, and for superheroes in general. You can’t take time off when crazies are holding hostages, no matter how beat up, and just plain beat you are. I asked him, when we were hiding from the press for a few minutes so I could patch up his latest batch of injuries, how does he do it? He told me he never has required much sleep. Just a quirk. And, besides, he took the week off from his day job, claimed a family emergency.
I know it’s completely uncool, and a major violation of superhero etiquette, but I asked. “What’s your day job?”
And he actually told me, with this sort of embarrassed grin, “I make toys.” He showed me a couple of the gadgets on his belt that he made up close, and I realized they were made of flimsy bright red and black plastic, like model cars and RC helicopters.
He wasn’t rude enough to ask, but I told him I was an EMT.  Seemed fair.
He asked why I was so nervous of publicity, and White Knight in particular.
I told him avoiding publicity was to keep a promise to my mother, and the other was a religious thing, White Knight and I had opposing religious beliefs.
That raised TD’s eyebrows, but I didn’t want to go into it any more than that, and he let it go.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to call Vlad or Fafnir. I knew they were both handy in a fight, and we could use all the help we could get. Just too busy dodging laser blasts, and armored fists to think that clearly, I guess.
Vlad just showed up when TD and I had our backsides in a crack, facing a dozen normal human gangsters with plain old-fashioned guns, but too many and too far away for us to stop them before they turned us into swiss cheese. I was about ready to let the bad guys shoot me in the head so I could get some rest. My only thought was to pop out a wing, and see if it could protect us from bullets like it had protected me and Jack from falling hunks of plaster and wood. I kind of doubted it.
We were in this big warehouse and it was, I don’t know, nighttime. I’d lost track of even what day it was, much less what time. TD and I ran in after a couple of punks who robbed a liquor store, and I now know what a trap closing sounds like: like the charging handle being pulled back on a half dozen automatic weapons at once. Oh, and a couple of shotguns getting pumped at the same time.
A giant black winged shape swooped down from behind the guys. TD and I must have shown our surprise on our faces because the mafia guys turned around to see what we were staring at just before Vlad hit them. He laid six of them out at once with a solid whack of the bony leading edge of his wings.
TD and I went opposite ways and disarmed the remaining thugs while they were freaking out about the giant bat-winged scaly creature. They got off a few shots at Vlad, but he just shielded his eyes and let them. Bullets bounced off his scales with bright sparks to show where they hit.
I thanked Vlad for the timely assist once we had things in hand.
TD raised his eyebrows at me again. “You know this um, person?”
“He’s kind of a friend, or maybe a stalker. I haven’t decided.”
Vlad pretty much ignored TD, and fawned over me. “Are you all right, my love? These vile scum didn’t injure you, did they?”
 “I’m fine, Vlad. How did you end up here, just now?”
“I saw these individuals,” he lifted scaly lips in a sneer and kicked one of the downed thugs that was starting to stir, “come in, and send the two that you chased out again. It was clearly a trap, and I thought this might be my chance to prove that I am worthy of your affection.”
“Vlad, how long have you been following me?”
“Only a day or so.”
“Okay, first, that’s really creepy. And second, it didn’t occur to you to help before now?”
“You were never alone, always with this one.” He gestured to TakeDown. “Fafnir the Red told me that there was at least one Georgian in this city, and I would need to keep as he put it, a low profile.”
“So, you let me get hit by a truck?”
“I believed you would survive such a blunt attack, and I did not wish to expose myself to the Georgians until it was on my own terms.”
“Yeah, you’ve got a point. If White Knight had seen you, he’d be trying to lop off your head with that big sword of his, but TakeDown’s okay. He’s definitely not a Georgian.”
Vlad’s eyes reflected red for a second. Very weird. “White Knight, the Protector, is a Georgian?”
“What’s a Georgian?” TakeDown asked.
“It’s White Knight’s religious order,” I told him. “They believe that Vlad and all of his race should be slaughtered on sight.”
TakeDown nodded. “I can see where you both might have some issues with that.” He nodded to Vlad. “Thanks for saving my life.”
Vlad waved a clawed, scaly hand in dismissal. “I sought only to protect the woman I love.”
I so didn’t have the patience for this. “We just met a week ago. We had dinner together once. We’re not exactly Romeo and Juliet here.”
“Ah, but you are my Juliet, I am certain.” Vlad went down on one knee, which made him about shoulder tall, lifted my hand and kissed my knuckles. “Given time, I shall prove to you that I should be your Romeo.”
It was sweet, in a somewhat melodramatic, overdone kind of way. And he had just saved my life. And he did look really hot as a dragon, and not bad in human form either, actually.
I squeezed his hand where he held mine, careful not to puncture myself on his claws, and gave him a tired smile, and quick peck on the cheek.
His face lit up like he’d won the nobel prize.
I heard sirens pull up and stop outside the warehouse about then.
TakeDown wore a special bluetooth headset that was tuned into police frequencies. That’s how he always knew where he was needed, and he also used it to call in the paddy wagons to take away the criminals once we had them subdued.
I told Vlad, “You better make yourself scarce.”
Vlad flew back up into the rafters, found a dark corner, and shifted to small, inconspicuous human form. He might as well have been invisible. No one would ever have spotted him up there.
It’s been like that all week: Me grabbing a few hours of sleep here and there, then going back out into the thick of it. TakeDown being Johnny on the Spot, and calling me when he’s outnumbered. Vlad occasionally showing up out of nowhere, whenever he can help without being seen, and saving our bacon. The criminals seem to be getting the message that Protectors or no Protectors, this town is not available for free looting. The incidents have slowed down enough that I think even TakeDown has gotten to sleep some.
I can’t wait for the Protectors to get back. I never thought I’d say this, but I think I even miss White Knight.
D Dragon

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