I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday. Ma, apparently, told everyone.
I had a surprise party waiting for me when I got back from the Texas Workforce Commission today. I’ve had to adjust my schedule to daytime people hours. Gah.
Donovan bought a turkey. Sounds like a weird birthday present, I know, but I absolutely love turkey. Ma cooked it up with all the fixings for everyone else. My birthday dinner looked like Thanksgiving. I had a lot to be thankful for, too.
Brad got a job. He was real cagey about the details, wouldn’t tell us what it was, but apparently it paid well. He volunteered to start paying rent. In fact, he offered to start out with six months back rent that he felt he owed us. Jack, Ma and I all told him that was silly. Brad had lived with us long enough that he was practically family.
With him putting a few hundred bucks in the household kitty every month, it would make it a lot easier for Ma to buy groceries to feed this herd. And, I could put gas in my Jeep again. We wouldn’t let him put in much, but it eased up the pressure. Now, if I could just get the hospital I used to work for to stop hassling me about paying the copayments for my two recent stints as a patient. Hmph. If they hadn’t fired me, I wouldn’t be struggling to make the payments.
Jack got me a necklace, rainbow obsidian, hand made. It’s possibly the most beautiful piece of jewelry I have ever owned. Did I mention that I have the most awesome boyfriend ever? I gave him shit about spending the money on me, though. I knew he didn’t have it to spare.
Tamara said that she chipped in on it some, too. She had a friend at the Abzu Emporium who cut them a deal on it. Once Jack put it on my neck and I saw how gorgeous it looked, I’m not sure I could have let it go anyway.
Liberty got the prize for most amazing present, though. She showed up as Ma had me blowing out candles on a cake everyone else was going to eat. (I got the turkey liver in mushroom gravy, yum!)
Liberty brought me a badge.
The badge was an official Protectors thing. I’d been training and working with them for a while now. They’d voted me into the club, I suppose. Once I let them know about my various identities, I passed the government security checks and such. Lots of folks can’t be a superhero full time, or they’re support crew, not front liners, so the Protectors have the Adjunct role. It doesn’t pay, not for part-timers, but you’re considered part of the team. You get an official Protectors badge which grants you access to the Protectors facilities and authority in the field.
My status with the local police department just got upgraded.
I thought that was a pretty cool thing Liberty did for me, a way to give me some of the prestige and respect of a Protector without putting me in the spotlight, or dragging me away from home when they got sent on assignments.
"Thanks, Catherine." That’s her real name. Not Cathy or Cat, Catherine. She’s very picky about that.
She grinned like a Cheshire cat.
"The badge isn’t your present. As an official Protectors adjunct, you’re not on the payroll, but you do get certain perks. Like access to and the services of … the lab techs." She handed me a small suitcase. I thought she’d brought it because she was planning to sleep over, maybe join us in a marathon D & D session. But no. It was my present.
I opened the little black shiny metal suitcase, not sure what to expect.
It was purple. That was my first impression, deep, vivid, awesome royal purple, my favorite color, with shiny silver accents.
I picked it up. The fabric had an odd feel, sort of like a fireman’s coat, sort of like TakeDown’s body armor. Most of it was just fabric, but chunks of it were actually solid, shiny metal armor. It was really light, though, some kind of super-alloy. There was a thin, flexible helmet and mask with it, too, with built in sunglasses to protect my eyes, open over the ears so it wouldn’t block my hearing.
"It’s fireproof and stab resistant," Liberty said. "The heavier parts are also bullet resistant, although they won’t stop armor piercing rounds. The lab techs will make any necessary repairs if it becomes damaged. I’ll have them make you a spare, once I get your feedback on any design changes you’d like." She thought a second, then said, "Oh, and its machine washable."
"It’s a real superhero costume." I didn’t quite believe it. There were boots with it, too, and a belt with special handcuffs and compartments to put stuff in. It had a big D on the belt buckle in silver. "Wow." I just looked at it for a few seconds, stunned.
Jack grinned at me. "I can’t wait to see you in it."
I had to try it on, of course. The fabric was stretchy, form fitting, but thick enough that I looked smooth. There was no sign of scales showing through, and it covered me completely, neck to toe. The heavier armor parts were all on my right side, over the parts of me that weren’t naturally armored. The asymmetrical armor had a sort of Mad Max look to it that I liked.
The upper body section was held on with Velcro strips that ran all along both sides, and under my arms. If I had to pop out my wings in an emergency, the only thing that would get ripped would be the strips. If I had time, I could un-velcro the strips and fly without messing up the suit at all.
I put on the little helmet mask combo. That girl in the mirror looked like a real superhero.
I showed everybody. They all said I looked great. Jack practically drooled on me.
Ma was the only one who didn’t say much.
While everyone dove into the cake, I went and helped Ma in the kitchen a little. Seemed odd to rinse dishes in my new supersuit, but I could. The built in gloves were thicker than surgical gloves, but about as easy to work in. They were a huge improvement over the clumsy leather glove I had before. I punched holes in the left one when I popped out my claws experimentally, but the weave of the tough cloth made the holes inconsequential.
"You okay, Ma?" I rinsed the big pan she cooked the turkey in, and passed it to her.
She nodded. She placed the pan in the dishwasher without saying anything.
"I should be less recognizable as me now. No one will know me in this getup."
She nodded again, still loading pans and utensils.
"What is it, Ma? What’s bugging you?"
She straightened up, sighed, put her hands on her hips and faced me. "Damson, I know this is what you want. It’s what you always wanted, to help people. I just worry that you don’t realize the potential cost."
"Liberty said the outfit was a perk of helping the Protectors. No charge."
"The cost to you, Damson, of pursuing the life of a superhero. The outfit makes it seem that much more real to me."
"It’s real, Ma. I love helping people and making them safer."
Ma sighed again. "I know you do, dear. It’s just that this has already cost you your job. I’ve spent a lot of my life keeping you safe from Georgians, but they’re not the only threat in the world. Next time, the cost could be your life, or someone you love."
"I can’t spend my whole life hiding, Ma. I’m a dragon, not a mouse."
She chuckled, and the tension went out of her shoulders. She resigned herself a little more to my new career path. She hugged me hard. "Your father would be so proud of you."
Having spent some time inside my dad’s head when he was a young man, I know she was right about that.