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Its Petty Pace

fantasy by Karina Fabian

The FBI agent glared at me from across a metal table.

“Don’t I get a lawyer?” I asked.

He snorted. “You got rights, dragon?”

“Back in Faerie,” I mused, “I could bite your head off for insolence. Don’t know if that’s my right, but it’d be my pleasure.” I leered.

He reached for his gun, but Sheriff Bert growled.

“Play nice,” he ordered us.

I brought my fangs back behind my lips. Bert’s a friend–and I am stuck in this dimension, rights or no rights notwithstanding.

FBI holstered his weapon. “State your name.”

“Among humans, I’m known as Vern d’Wyvern. I didn’t pick it. Call me Vern.”

“Occupation?”

“I’m — a problem solver for the particularly desperate.” Since the government won’t issue me a license, I can’t call myself a PI.

FBI shoved a photo under my nose. “Was this client particularly desperate?”

My eyes never left his gaze. We’d done this already.

“Vern, please. I’ve got a grieving mom in my lobby,” Bert said.

FBI leaned forward. “She’s been looking for her son for over two years–and we’ve finally traced his last whereabouts to that dump you call a lair.”

“Well, he didn’t move in.” I rolled my eyes. “Like I told you in my home, he hired me to escort him into Faerie, and I did.”

“Where into Faerie?”

I shrugged my wings. “Confidential. He didn’t want anyone following him.”

“He’s not contacted his family in years!”

“He’s an adult.”

“He’s a missing person!” FBI flared.

I could tell he was thinking about the mother. Not all damsels in distress are young princesses, after all. And some knights have brass badges instead of steel armor.

Maybe I could give him enough to comfort the lady fair. “He wanted to find a fairy mound –”

#

 “I’m not a tour guide,” I told the too-pale, too-thin human on my doorstep. I hadn’t even opened the screen door when he’d issued his demand.

“I’m not interested in sight-seeing,” he sneered back. “Wisdom of the Ages.  Experience of Eternity. That’s what your ad says, right? I’ve got a mission. I’ve got money. You want it or not?”

I’d have given him points for having the guts to stand up to a dragon, but I wasn’t sure he recognized me. I mean, he had to have seen the scales, the wings, the fangs, the annoyed expression, but he didn’t make the connection. I was just a tool he needed.

Had to admit, that intrigued me as much as the greenbacks he flashed from his billfold. I quoted my usual consultation fee and let him in.

I offered him a chair; he looked like he needed one. I let him shell out an hour’s fee. I figured after that, he’d go crawl back to his mother’s basement. Good riddance; there was something off about him, something beyond his sallow skin and the fidgeting. He smelled wrong. Not unwashed. Wrong. It made my scales crawl.

“Look, the first thing about fairy mounds is –”

“You can find me one, right? You can get me in?”

“It’s not a party, kid. Well, okay, it is, but –”

“– and one night there is twenty years here, right?”

“Exactly, which is –”

“– and when I say, ‘here,’ I mean where we are now, right?”

I gave up answering, and let him keep talking.

“Okay, so what I need to know is if I can negotiate the length of my stay.” He shot out of the chair, waving his arms and pacing in small circles. “Money’s no object, no object at all. Won the lottery — my only bit of luck — got good investments. Trusts, savings. They’ll survive. I just need an agreement to leave and return if needed.

“You’ll be around, right? Twenty years is nothing to you, right? Dragons are immortal. We need some long-term arrangement –”

“Just what do you think you’re going to do?” I exploded.

He looked at me as if, despite my wisdom and experience, I was really quite stupid.

“Time travel, of course!”

Okay, I did not see that coming.

He held his iPhone before me. “Twenty years ago, overhead cables connected the nation and computers took up entire rooms. Now I can contact anyone in the world on this, and it has more computing power than some of the computers that took us to the moon.”

“So — you want to see the tech?”

“It’s more than that.” He shoved the phone back into his pocket.

“This is forward-only time-travel.”

“Yes, I know.” He wrung his hands.

“You can’t come back — not to this time,” I pressed.

“Not a problem.” But he started to fidget.

“Really? Trust the immortal dragon. I’ve done the hibernation thing. Everything will be different.”

“I’ve thought this through!”

“Have you? What about your friends? Your family? They’ll age 20 years to your day.”

“Yes!” He flung his arms.

“You’ll leave them all behind.”

“I’m leaving them behind, anyway!”

His scream echoed off the corrugated steel roof.

He slumped into the chair. “I’m leaving them all, anyway. I have cancer.”

Now I understood the smell of wrongness. Technology fighting death. And losing.

I settled myself closer. “Chemo’s come a long way in twenty years,” I ventured.

“I’ll miss twenty years, but maybe I can live sixty.”

I nodded. “Hope you didn’t major in anything technical.”

He grinned. “Eighteenth-century literature.”

 #

“So,” I concluded to my dragon-incarcerating audience, “I escorted him across the Gap to a Fairy King who owed me one and likes stories. I monitor the medical literature. When he’s got a chance, I’ll go crash the party.”

“You’ve been doing this for two years?”

“And counting.”

“And you never bothered to contact his next of kin?”

I shrugged. “He never gave me his name. Besides, he said his mother was against the idea. Didn’t believe in fairy tales.”

Bert unlocked the interrogation room door. “Maybe she’ll believe when a dragon tells her one.”

He opened the door and stuck his head outside.  “Would you join us please, Mrs. Van Winkle?”

copyright July 2011 by Karina Fabian

Karina Fabian lives in Layton, Utah.  Karina edits award-winning science fiction anthologies.  She won the 2010 INDIE award for Vern’s first novel, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem and her latest novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, mixes the zombie apocalypse with reality television.  A La Mode, another Vern story, appeared in the April 2011 issue of 10Flash. Learn more about Karina at Fabian Space.

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One Response

  1. Another excellent chapter in the Vern saga. Keep them coming!

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