Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bomb Dogs and Biology

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.

D Dragon

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It’s been a great week. With everyone in the household gainfully employed again, money isn’t tight anymore.
The spectacular black eye I got from a henchman boot to the head has faded to a mere purple smudge under one eye.

Jack, Roy and I all got assigned to the same fire house. Roy’s college friend, Bo, didn’t make it through the academy. The kicker is that we walked into the firehouse that will be our home 24 out of every 72 hours, and saw two familiar faces, Tamara Perez and Mark Novak.

I’ve got mixed feelings. On the one hand, I get to hang around with Tamara a bunch more. She is a lot of fun. On the other hand, her and Jack now spend even more time together than usual. Those two work together like me and Jack do, like two halves of the same person. I know it’s petty, but I liked that it was just the two of us who worked together like that.

On yet another hand, Jack’s not thrilled about me and Novak being thrown together so much either.

There was a dual 18-wheeler wreck on I35 on the north end of Round Rock a couple days ago. No serious injuries this time. I took one look at that big rig laying on its side and grinned at Novak. He grinned back. We had one of those moments of thinking the same thought without a word that make you realize you’ve become close friends without meaning to. Flipping an inverted big rig tractor with the driver trapped inside was the first time Novak and I pushed in the same direction, rather than against each other.

It bugged me a little as I realized that if the driver had been trapped inside this time, Novak could still push, but I no longer had the strength to help significantly. We couldn’t have flipped that 18 wheeler if we needed to.  I was just glad the driver wasn’t trapped this time.

I invited everyone out to dinner to celebrate us all being employed, getting to work together, and saving the city, for now. We had a lot to be happy about.

Tamara, Novak, Jack, Brad, Ma and me all went out to Fish Daddy’s. I can eat veggies now, but I still love seafood. I invited Donovan to have dinner with us, too, since he was following us around anyway. 

The amazing thing, to me at least, was that we had an actual celebratory meal out, and no supervillains attacked, the building didn’t blow up, no ultimatums were issued, and no wayward  Alliance heroes shattered the windows.

We just had a nice, normal dinner.

Well, as normal as my life gets anyway.

Novak was pretty quiet through the whole meal, not his usual snarky, self-righteous self. He seemed happy to be included, though.

I bought Tamara a margherita and told her, “Thanks for the lessons in fighting. They paid off hugely.”
Tamara said, “You are a very apt and dedicated student, even if you are a spaz.” She winked at me.
I kicked her under the table.

I bought Brad a Dos Equis with lime, his favorite beer. Brad said, “You don’t owe me anything.”

“I owe you my life. You should have gotten that medal, not me. If not for you, half of Austin would be radioactive, and I’d be in a coffin, if there was enough left of me to put in one.” I hugged Brad. “Thank you.”
Brad’s grizzly bear bubba look didn’t do a blush, but he managed to look like he was trying. “I didn’t do anything, Dee. You were right. They were the lamest henchmen ever.” He chuckled uncomfortably. Brad seems to have some issues with handling praise.

Jack ordered me a frozen margherita with extra salt. My love of salt hasn’t changed just because I don’t have to eat nothing but meat all the time. I’ve had to cut back a bit on the cayenne pepper, though.
“Hey, I’m the designated driver.”

Ma said, “Nonsense, I am driving us home.”

Jack chuckled. “I’ll drive us home, maam. I don’t drink anyway.”

“Neither do I,” I told him.

“You’re the one who saved the day, this time, Dee. You and Brad. You did it without any supe dragon powers at all.” Jack squeezed my hand. I’d have faced a whole passel of bad guys to see that look on his face.  “You haven’t tried a drink since you became normal. Give it a shot.”

I tried it. It didn’t smell bad like it used to. It was kind of sour and salty, cold and refreshing. It was pretty good actually. I drank the whole big glass, about the size of a large cereal bowl on a thick glass stem.
I got a bit giggly after that.

I didn’t dance on the tables or anything. Jack kept me from doing anything I would regret later. Including when I tried to seduce Jack when we got home. He said he would prefer that we did that when I was sober. He did say that he was hoping that would be soon, though.

The best part? I woke up the next morning and didn’t feel like the whole world was spinning and I wanted to puke up my toenails.

Being normal is pretty cool sometimes.

D Dragon