Title: Dragon(e) Baby Gone
Author: Robert Gainey
Genre: Urban Fantasy
“Dragon is hard to overcome, yet one shall try.”
– Nowe Ateny, Polish Encyclopedia, 1745
Diane Morris is part of the thin line separating a happy, mundane world from all of the horrors of the anomalous. Her federal agency is underfunded, understaffed, and misunderstood, and she’d rather transfer to the boring safety of Logistics than remain a field agent. When a troupe of international thieves make off with a pair of dragon eggs, Diane has no choice but to ally with a demon against the forces looking to leave her city a smoldering crater. Facing down rogue wizards, fiery elementals, and crazed gunmen, it’s a race against time to get the precious cargo back before the dragon wakes up and unleashes hell.
I guess there’s always been a Department of Intangible Assets, in some way or another, since humanity first banded together against the dark. Ancient orders of knights, sects of religions, monasteries and their like had been the first real organizations determined to hold off the things that bled into our world from other realities. Great and epic individuals did a lot of work in the past, though more often than not mere pawns as one ultra-powerful being played against another. Gilgamesh. Solomon. Miyamoto Musashi for a while even worked as a kind of Japanese defender against the supernatural. Things must have been easier back then. If somebody had a problem with a corpse rising from the ground and eating people, or with creatures slinking out of the mountains and taking children, they could talk openly about it, and people would fit it neatly into whatever cultural narrative they had. No press releases concerning carbon monoxide leaks, no awkward local police trying to stutter their way through an ogre rampage by blaming gang violence and drugs. If you were a seventeenth-century farmer in the Tajima Province of Japan and tengu started picking off your village one by one, Musashi would come by one day, cut down all those dark spirits, and then leave. You’d replant your fields, mourn your losses, and tell warning stories about warding off evil. And, probably, pay him whatever he wanted.
Modern times gave way to a general idea that reason and logic were enough to stop something from dragging you into the sewers and wearing your skin to protect itself from daylight. It’s easy to see why: it doesn’t happen to a lot of people, therefore it must not happen. I see it all the time, people who say things like “I’ve never seen a ghost, so they must not exist.”
Oh yeah? Because if spirits did exist, they’d all be tripping over their ghost dicks to haunt you? Do you understand the preternatural forces that conspire, the circumstances that line up, to create any kind of ghost? Let alone one that shows up in your room at night and moans about revenge or betrayal or rattles some chains and teaches you a valuable lesson about being selfish?
“Well, there’s no such thing as Bigfoot. All those pictures are super blurry and grainy,” they say, their voices nasally and snobby, like all the knowledge of the world is pumped directly into their tiny brains through their tiny phones. I don’t care to get into whether or not any of the literally thousands of kinds of entities that flit in and out of forests would like to be called “Bigfoot,” but just because you haven’t left your couch in twenty years doesn’t mean there’s not something out there you don’t understand. Go stand out in a remote Colorado forest one night. Turn off your phone, open your eyes and ears, and wait. When you feel those eyes watching, and when you know, deep in that primitive monkey brain, way, way down inside, that there’s more than just the animals you have names for sharing that clearing with you, then you can call me to tell me that there’s no such thing as Bigfoot.
That is, if you live to turn your phone back on again.
I’ve got a badge that says that I work for the FBI, and that I’m a special agent. I’m not Scully, and I don’t hang out with Mulder. I don’t look for aliens in the sky or anywhere among us. The visitors that I look for aren’t from other worlds—they’re from other places. The other Planes of Existence, some of which are elemental in nature and some of which are representative of other fundamental parts of reality. Light and dark. Order and chaos. Positive and negative. There may be an infinite number of these Planes of Existence, and some are so close to our own, with a balance of all the energies bleeding over from the rest, that if you put a gas station and a burger joint on one, some people would never know the difference. The rest…well, not so much.
I’ve never been to the Plane of Fire, just like I’ve never been to the center of the Sun. Not many humans have. It’s hard to survive a trip to a place where every atom is in the process of being combusted and reformed to be combusted again. Not like the other planes are a picnic either. The Plane of Air sounds like a great place, until you consider what an infinite realm of different air pressures, gases, and temperatures turns into: storms the size of Jupiter, raging and churning, with tiny, tiny pockets of calm that come and go as fast as a breeze. But just because I’ve never left my own reality doesn’t mean that I don’t know the others exist. Just like the mephits, every other plane has their own denizens. Some are intelligent and can communicate, and some are even friendly in their own way. Others are violent, cruel, and conniving. And then there are predators that leak through, taking easy victims when pickings get too slim where they’re from.
And that’s why I have my badge. As a senior field agent in the Department of Intangible Assets of the FBI, I’m a lot like the Senior Rodeo Clown. My job is to distract the bulls long enough to wear them down and to get them back to their pens before they hurt somebody. There’s a lot of code words and slang, mostly because if you spend your entire life talking about mermaids and goblins, you’d stop taking it seriously because those things have been so trivialized that nobody in the modern age can really separate them from the fairy tales. Anything from another reality is a tourist. Anything from good old Prime Plane is a native. I’m a native. Then again, so is Ziraxariz. Native doesn’t mean nice.
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What’s your favorite thing about the fall season:
Fall is the season of change. I know, I know. Spring kind of has that whole market cornered already but in my part of the world, Spring happens so fast it’s practically summer by April. Fall is a gradual thing here. The heat of Summer stutters and fails, allowing a more reasonable cool to settle over time. Leaves don’t dramatically turn to warm colors and fall overnight, but take their time getting ready for what passes for a Southern Winter. Maybe it’s a different story elsewhere, but here Fall can last until sometime in December. There’s no real rush to it. Fall has a comfortable style all its own. It’s like being in bed with a good book and suddenly realizing you’re falling asleep. When you wake up, it’ll be time to go to school but for the moment it’s all about pillows and blankets.
What inspired you to write this story:
Dragon(e) Baby Gone came about after a discussion with a friend of mine about the broad judicial powers of the otherwise innocuous Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Our conclusion at the time was they needed the authority in order to hide the existence of Bigfoot, or at least his Floridian equivalent. From there, I got to thinking about what a secret government agency might be like if it suffered from budget cuts, lack of direction, and interference from bureaucracy. I’ve known a lot of dedicated people in my time who were trying to do the best they could with almost no resources. Mostly environmentalists. So, taking that kind of struggling altruism into an urban fantasy setting sounded like a lot of fun. The Department of Intangible Assets is what you’d get if you defunded the only people standing between you and a horrible fate at the hands of monsters.
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Robert Gainey is a born and raised Floridian, despite his best efforts. While enrolled at Florida State University and studying English (a language spoken on a small island near Europe), Robert began volunteering for the campus medical response team, opening up a great new passion in his life. Following graduation, he pursued further training through paramedic and firefighting programs, going on to become a full time professional firefighter in the State of Florida. He currently lives and works in Northeast Florida with his wife and dogs, who make sure he gets walked regularly. Robert writes near-fetched fantasy novels inspired by the madness and courage found in everyday events.
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