Fafnir told me some great stories before he left the state to follow the renaissance faire circuit. He likes the faire scene. Feels homey to him. He's not real big on the stinky, busy, asphalt and steel of the modern world. Folks in leather chilling while watching jousters and jugglers is more his idea of proper civilization.
I've been meaning to write down some of the stuff he told me about my family history, and dragon history, and all kinds of cool things. He knew my dad! And my grandad and grandmother, too! I had no idea my family was so famous.
But instead of writing in my diary about my amazing family history, I've been helping out with fires. It feels like half of Texas is burning.
The fires in North Texas are so bad that the smoke made it look like Austin was having a foggy day a few days ago, and Austin is hundreds of miles from the actual fire.
The Protectors had the good sense to leave a few heroes here to help out, and even some of the Alliance supes are starting to come back. They're allergic to bad PR. The Protectors sent heroes to help with the fires in North Texas, but supes aren't real well-equipped in general to fight wildfires. White Knight knows a thing or two about fighting fires, so he gave the other heroes hints on how they could help. The Devastator and a couple of the other flying heroes could carry people out of the worst hit areas, for instance.
It's ironic, really. When supervillains were our biggest problems, the Protectors were on the other side of the world. Now, the simple lack of rain presents a far bigger threat to the lives of the people of Texas. And the heroes are largely worthless. Firefighters from several states are all helping out, something in the neighborhood of 450 plain normal humans banded together to make fire breaks and controlled burn areas to stop the flames from spreading further.
I didn't go with them, even though Liberty and Devastator asked, not just White Knight. I had a badly neglected day job to think about. I have to pay bills, keep a roof over my head and Ma's. I don't get a salary and benefits from the government like the Protectors do. Plus, I'd already seen what happens when all the heroes leave an area. I told them I'd stick in Austin.
At first, it seemed like I'd stayed home just so I could get a serious cold shoulder from Jack at work. He absolutely refused to talk to me about anything other than our jobs. He just shut down if I brought up the subject of us or Vlad or any of it. I hope if I give him a little time, he'll cool down enough that I can talk to him, and make it up to him somehow. This dating thing is really complicated.
About the time the fires in North Texas got more or less contained, a wildfire started in Oak Hill in south Austin, where residential neighborhoods and woodland mesh. Jack and I were called in along with the firefighters as a precaution.
More than 20 homes were wiped out, but the people got out early for the most part, so no injuries. There’s always a few holdouts who won’t go, but a huge fire gets people’s attention.
The only people Jack and I treated were the firefighters, gave them some oxygen hits to help with the smoke.
It seemed to be going as well as any wildfire fight in a residential area could go when I saw a kid’s face in the window of a house that was already half on fire. The kid ducked down a second later. No one else saw her.
I should have told the firefighters, but I didn’t think about it, just ran for the house. I’ve been spending more time as a superhero lately than as an EMT, so my reflexes are mixed up. Jack shouted behind me, “Dee! What are you doing? Dee! Don’t be stupid!”
The smoke already made the interior of the house look like a dense fog. I coughed, and headed down a hallway off the living room that led in the general direction I’d seen the kid. “Hello?” I shouted. “Come with me. I’m here to help.” Lame, I know. But what do you say to a scared kid to convince them to leave their house before it burns down?
I turned into the bedroom I thought I’d seen the kid in. I wasn’t entirely sure. The smoke was messing with my sense of direction. The room looked like a little girl’s room. Hannah Montana posters on the walls, stuffed animals, but no kid. “Kid? You in here?”
No answer, but a small, high pitched bark from under the bed. I got on my knees and looked under. There was a little girl about eight clutching a blonde ball of fluff that barked at me.
“Hey, there. What’s your name?”
“Cassie,” the kid said with eyes as big as saucers. “This is Jenny.” She introduced me to the ball of fluff. Looked to be a Pomeranian pup, just a couple months old.
“How about we get out of here, Cassie. You, me, and Jenny, too. Dogs don’t like fire much.”
“I couldn’t leave her here to burn up. Mom said she’d be okay, but I didn’t believe her.”
“Well, I think you’ll both be okay. But we really do have to go right now.” The room was noticeably hotter, and I couldn’t see the ceiling for the thick smoke. I put my hand out and the kid took it.
I hauled her out from under the bed, and started back out the way I came. The fire had spread and I could see flames in the living room between us and the door.
“How about we go out through the window?” I suggested. I went back into the kid’s room to the little window where I’d seen her face. It wasn’t much of a window, only about a foot by two, but the kid was pretty small.
“The window doesn’t open,” Cassie said. I picked up a little wooden rocking chair, about Cassie size, and stood between the kid and any flying pieces as I bashed the window glass. I cleared the glass slivers from the bottom sill and stuffed a section of the quilt off Cassie’s bed over it to make sure she wouldn’t get cut. Then I fed her through the small hole carefully, feet first, still clutching her squirmy ball of fluff.
As soon as the kid’s feet touched ground, she ran for the firefighters.
That taken care of, I turned around to find another way out. The window was way too small for me, even if I wasn’t much for eating sweets. Hips my size were never going to make it through.
I took a deep breath of the clean air from the window and dove into the fog, groping for the door I’d just come through a few minutes ago.
I stumbled into the hallway and bonked my nose on the opposite wall. There was no seeing in this mess. My eyes streamed like I was heartbroken, and when that last breath of clean air ran out, there weren’t any more. I felt my way along the hallway to the living room, coughing and trying desperately to see. I tripped over what was probably a coffee table, and fell sprawling. My head hit a couch leg.
As I struggled back to my feet, I had no idea which direction the door was in, and felt a little dizzy. I could hear, more than see, flames licking at the walls and feel their heat. But it was hard to tell which direction the fire was in.
I struck out in a random direction, feeling my way with hands and feet. If I could find a wall, it might guide me toward a door.
I made it to a wall, but was coughing so hard, I could barely keep moving. My head swam, and the wall was the only thing that held me up.
I think I made it a couple of steps, but don’t really remember. Next thing I remember clearly was an upside down view of a nicely shaped rear end covered in silver scales, and something very solid digging into my belly.
White Knight had me over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. He laid me down on the gurney and Jack put an oxy mask over my face.
I shoved it away. “The kid, Cassie? Is she okay?”
Knight nodded. “Yeah, fine. You really should know to get down low in a fire where the air is cleaner. Would have thought an EMT would know better.”
I could feel my face flush with embarrassment, even as I coughed. He was right. Bastard. I should have gone out on hands and knees. I might not have had to be rescued by mister self-righteous.
That was when it hit me. The White Knight had saved my life. A Georgian saved my life.
I looked pure resentment at him and his mouth twisted under the scale coif. “You’re welcome.”
It made my jaws tighten. “We’re even then.”
He nodded acknowledgement and walked away, leaving me with Jack, who looked really pissed off.
“What the hell were you thinking, Dee?”
I coughed until I thought a chunk of lung was going to come up, and it saved me from having to answer. Jack stuck the oxygen mask over my face whether I wanted it or not.
My life was a lot simpler when I had no close friends and my main goal was not to be noticed. Less interesting maybe, but definitely simpler.