We got a call that there was a bomb threat at UT yesterday. Some guy called the campus cops, said he was with Al Qaeda and 90 bombs were planted on campus. Our unit got called along with three other fire trucks, the supe squad, ten bomb sniffing K-9 units, and Detective Long.
Liberty, Jupiter Joe and Alrek, the dragon who looked just like Agmund, my great-great grandfather, also came.
We parked our fire truck by the biology ponds, on Inner Campus Drive, right in front of the clock tower in the center of campus. I love that spot. Under normal circumstances, the pigeons and the squirrels are so tame as to be practically pets. I’ve gotten them to eat out of my hands and let me touch them at quiet moments in the past when this campus had been my home.
Now, the birds were all scattered from the tension and noise of the huge unfamiliar vehicles. One squirrel griped at us from the branches of a huge spreading oak. But the glassy ponds with their blooming water lilies and turtles sunning on rocks still managed somehow to look peaceful. It made me smile a little until I saw another vehicle pull in behind us and park off to the side.
Donovan followed the fire truck, in his pickup. His long strides closed the distance rapidly.
“I’m supposed to be rescuing people and putting out fires. I don’t really need a bodyguard,” I told him.
Donovan shrugged. “If you don’t, I don’t know anyone in the world who does. You’ve still got a black eye from the last time you snuck out without telling me.”
“I didn’t sneak out.”
“No, of course not. You just left an hour before you usually get out of bed, without informing anyone, including your bodyguard, that you were changing your routine.” He glared at me.
I ignored him.
It sort of defined our relationship.
The entire campus was evacuated. Everyone was afraid that it was the same guy who blew the highway, the hospital and the Erwin center. I kept waiting for the muffled thump of bombs and for the stately old buildings around me to start collapsing.
Detective Long called me over to the clump of superheroes and cops and asked me if I had any personal relationship to UT. Novak came over with me.
“I went to school here,” I told Donovan, “but that was forty years ago. I doubt anyone remembers but me.”
The detective grinned slightly. “I forget how old you are sometimes.”
“You think it’s ‘Him’” I did air quotes with my fingers. “The yellow striped skull guy?”
The tall, broad-shouldered detective straightened his vivid maroon tie and shook his head. “He’s never given us a warning before. He seems to prefer for the people to be IN the buildings when he blows them up.”
I shuddered. Not a cheery thought, but accurate.
I wondered why Jupiter Joe and Alrek showed up with Liberty.
“I’m surprised you’re even still in town, Joe, since the triple-A sent you to recruit me and I’m no longer a supe.”
Jupiter Joe tipped his hat. “I believe, as Liberty does, that your powers will return, Dee. But my superiors do not have that level of patience. I told them I was trying to recruit a dragon instead.”
I looked at Alrek, eyebrows raised. “You thinking of becoming a superhero?”
Alrek chuckled as if that idea was pretty funny. “Joe is using me as an excuse to remain in Texas. I believe he is in no hurry to return to the Alliance headquarters in Chicago.”
Joe grinned, and shrugged, not denying it.
“What brings you to Austin, Alrek?” I asked him. I’d been pretty freaked out when the Erwin Center came down around my ears, and hadn’t really had a chance to talk to him since.
“I saw a news film of a dragon who was sighted here, a large Red with black markings. I think, perhaps, he is an old acquaintance. I had hoped to find him.”
“You and Fafnir are friends?”
He smiled, showing teeth. “I knew Prince Fafnir a very long time ago when he was no older than you are, young Damson. Is he a friend of yours, your mate, perhaps?”
I snorted. “Jack is my boyfriend. Fafnir is more like my mentor. He’s a little old for me.”
“Jack.” Alrek blinked, his golden-bearded Nordic face a wash of shock. “The small dark-haired human we saved from the bombed performance hall?” He looked over at Jack, who stood way too close to Tamara, chit-chatting and laughing while they waited to have something useful to do.
“He’s a dragon lord. His family were emperors, with dragon ancestry a few generations back.” I’m not sure why I felt the need to defend Jack, but I did. Alrek had such a sound of disbelief in his voice when he found out my boyfriend was human.
“He is a son of direct royal lineage then.” Alek nodded as if something made sense to him.
I was about to object that his lineage didn’t have a heck of a lot to do with anything when frantic barking made all of us look up. Apparently, one of the bomb detection dogs had detected something.
A uniformed officer waved at us from the front door of the biology building.
Actually, he was probably waving at either the police detective or the two costumed superheroes standing next to me, but Novak and I ran with them and no one objected.
Donovan ran a little behind us, watching our backs, because that’s what Donovan does.
I noticed that Alrek limped when he ran, but didn’t have a chance to ask him about it.
We had a little argument at the door to the building.
“Stay here, Dee,” Novak said. “Let us handle it.” When he said us, he nodded toward Liberty and Joe, and somehow also included Alrek.
I realized something. Two Protectors, a nationally famous Alliance hero, and an elder dragon stood next to me. In this group, I wasn’t one of the gang anymore. Being normal meant I was the one who was different. I was a civilian to be protected.
I was about to get in Novak’s face when Liberty put a gentle hand on my arm. “Just until you get your powers back, Dee. It would be best if you tried not to go into any more buildings that are likely to have bombs in them.”
Donovan nodded agreement. “It would make my job considerably easier.”
It was a conspiracy.
“But Detective Long isn’t a supe, and he’s going in.” I objected.
The detective patted me on the back. “Don’t pout. When you learn how to defuse bombs, we’ll let you come in, too.”
He chuckled and they all ran into the building, leaving me and Donovan on the front steps.
“I wasn’t pouting,” I told Donovan.
Donovan didn’t crack so much as a hint of a smile. “Of course not, boss.”
It turned out it was a false alarm. The dogs were trained to identify certain chemicals, like sodium nitrate and potassium chlorate, since they can be used in explosive compounds. In the biology building, those chemicals were just stored in jars in the biochem lab along with bunches of other chemicals.
The whole bomb threat turned out to be entirely a false alarm.
It was probably just some student who desperately wanted to get out of an exam who called in the threat.
So, there was no real danger, this time.
I kept thinking that if it had been the real deal, I’d have been standing outside waiting and hoping, not in the middle of things helping. I’d spent far too much of my life already, waiting and watching instead of doing.
Sometimes being normal sucked royally.