"Any more questions?" I asked. "No? Let's move on." I stretched a wing out in the direction of the next room. Behind the crowd, Jim made a smooth gesture with one hand, and the lights on the side of the doorway flickered from red to green.
"Remember," I said as we walked, "for the safety of these priceless treasures we do have a few simple rules. For this next piece in particular, I really need to emphasize: No touching. Holophotography is not permitted, either, but we do have high-quality holograms of our most popular exhibits at MATT's gift shop. Standard-spectrum flash photography is allowed, and you will definitely want your cameras out for this one."
I stepped with all four feet over the red velvet rope surrounding the statue and turned back toward the group, stretching my wings upward, being careful to hold them in line with my body. The comforting subsonic hum of the exhibit's force fields buzzed at the back of my skull. I sat, raised my forelegs to my chest, curled my tail in around my feet, and thrust my chest out, head raised proudly.
A chuckle swept through the crowd, and several of the tourists raised their cameras. I grinned, baring a muzzle full of sharp fangs. Posing to match the stone shape always got a reaction.
"This piece is one of the so-called Atacama Dragons," I said, holding my pose steady, "but the first thing you should know is that it isn't actually a dragon. At least, there's good archaeological evidence that it isn't."
I paused as several flashbulbs went off; the soft hum from the force field around the statue changed tone subtly as it compensated for the bulbs' additional light and heat.
"Aaron Whitley -- who was one of our island's major financiers, after he made his fortune cofounding Raven's Head -- was certainly looking for dragons when his divinations drew him toward this," I continued. "His goal was to find evidence that the Changes 15 years ago were not unique in Earth's history. Most scientists don't think this statue is that evidence. But it is something far more rare and special."
I gestured at the large hunk of pale marble, which had an entirely smooth and featureless exterior but was unmistakeably dragon-shaped.
"It's the oldest artifact of intelligent life on Earth."
I paused for dramatic effect, and a hush settled over the group.
I glanced around them, trying to tell by their faces if there were any fellow dragons on the tour. A surprising majority of mythics from overseas seemed to shift back to human form almost as a reflex when heading inside buildings -- it took a while for them to realize that New Atlantis architecture was designed with them in mind -- and so sometimes my first clue of a visitor's real species was their reaction to the exhibits. Of course, Jim -- as a security mage -- carried a copy of the tour group's visitor logs, so my guessing game had little value beyond our amusement.
The current group was a pretty standard mix, even for the midsummer priority-visa crowd: mostly human, in a variety of skin colors, with only three visible therianthropes. (Tourists drawn in by the island's reputation inevitably complained about how theris were given priority for landing visas -- but that same priority extended to human mages and political dignitaries, as well as the human family of residents. Given the relative population sizes, theri visitors were a small fraction of even the warm-weather elite.) Aside from the usual crowd of Asian and Caucasian families, students and retirees, there were a few Middle Eastern men wearing robes and keffiyehs hanging together in a tight cluster -- probably a political delegation -- and two groups of Hispanics that had been chatting earlier about their respective homes in Buenos Aires.
None of them had quite the right stunned gaze to be a mythic in hiding. The Atacama Dragon was the Museum of Applied Thaumitechnology's biggest draw, and everyone reacted strongly to it, but dragons tended to approach the statue with a reverence above and beyond the standard amazement.
There was one gray-haired man in the back of the crowd that caught my eye, though: He was smiling.
He was dressed in a faded collared shirt and ironed dress slacks, with weatherbeaten Mediterranean skin and a clean-shaven face that defied the wrinkles of his years. I stared at him, forgetting the tour for a second. Nobody smiled at the statue. Adults went silent at its aura of ineffable importance, and kids found it a boring hunk of rock.
My attention snapped back as the tour's only gryphon -- a kid barely the size of a horse, flanked by two older humans who were presumably his parents -- flattened his eartufts. "If it's not a dragon," he said in a high voice cracking with puberty, "what is it?"
I dipped my muzzle in acknowledgement, sneaking one more glance at the smiling man and refocusing on my job. "I'll get to that, but the answer will make more sense if I tell you a little about how this was found.
"Whitley's research led him to the high interior of Chile's Atacama Desert. The site was at the base of a small mountain that many millions of years ago used to be a volcano. Now, how many of you have heard of Pompeii?"
Most of the hands around the room went up. "It's a Roman city that was buried intact by a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago," I said for the benefit of the others.
The old man's smile broadened, showing teeth.
"It," I continued. "Er. Was covered by a thick layer of ash, forgotten, and rediscovered in the 1700s. Well, something very similar happened to the Atacama site, except the volcano later erupted again, sealing the area underneath lava flows -- 40 feet of solid rock -- before it went dormant.
"That's where the statue lay for millions of years. And it would still be there now if Whitley's team hadn't combed the area, using spells to peer through the stone."
One of the tourists, a loud American who had been pacing back and forth with his camera snapping photos almost continuously, shouted out a question. "How old is the statue?"
I smiled and held up a forepaw. "It's at least 65 million years old, but beyond that, we can't say exactly. Give me a minute and I'll be happy to field all your questions.
"When Dr. Agustín Garcia-Russo -- who leads our research staff, by the way, and is a dragon like me -- took an archaeological team out there to back up Whitley's mages, they found not only these statues but over 100 dinosaur fossils. Many of which are here," I added, "in our Hall of Natural History, along with a life-size recreation of the Atacama dig." I always felt compelled to plug the Natural History wing; MATT's collection was world-class despite its young age, but our visitors invariably seemed determined to ignore it in favor of the magitech exhibits and the big-name historical artifacts.
"One of the major new species discovered was the dinosaurs who made this statue. They were coined 'Ctizosaurs,' builder-lizards. They were, ah --" I glanced behind me to refresh my memory; I had built up the habit of double-checking after blowing the family name several times -- "abelosaurids, distant relatives of T. Rex. And yes, at first glance they definitely resembled us dragons."
I folded my wings and leaned in toward the statue, extending a foreleg next to one of the statue's arms. "But start looking closer and you'll see the differences. Ctizosaurs were bipedal; their tiny arms were useless for walking and had only vestigial claws. Their heads were very tall, with short, blunt muzzles, a shape found on no dragons today. They had no apparent mechanism for fire-breathing and -- of course -- no wings.
"Now the statue, as a whole, looks more like a ctizosaur than a modern dragon. Its proportions match its creators. But it does have wings. So why did they make a winged statue? That," I concluded, "is the million-dollar question. ...
"Speaking of questions, let me open up the floor."
One of the theris in the audience -- a horse-headed anthro with a modest dress and laced leather hoofwraps over dappled fur that complemented her curves -- spoke up in a British accent. "They say the Changes are cyclical. Couldn't there have been some ctizosaur equivalent to dragons at the time?"
"Most mages do think that," I said, "perhaps with some justification. But scientifically, the jury is still out. Were there dragons in the Cretaceous? All we know is that we haven't found any -- at Atacama or elsewhere -- nor any six-limbed fossils that might have served as evolutionary precursors. Considering the new era of archaeology that magical detection has opened up, and the number of people that have been looking, a lot of scientists see that as a sign that there never were any dragons for us to find. But of course, our prior experience with the fossil record means little when dealing with exceptional events like The Changes ... and 65 million years from now I wouldn't blame scientists for being skeptical about me."
"But wasn't the statue itself carved by magic?" asked the college-aged human man behind her. "Isn't that itself proof of ancient Changes?"
"It's not so clear-cut. Human history tells us that it's possible to do some pretty miraculous things with no magic at all. On the other claw, carving stone without magic would require tools, and they didn't find any at Atacama. On the third claw, we do know that the ctizosaurs had crude opposable thumbs, and other clues at the site -- like pottery and building foundations -- are in line with a conventional primitive civilization. Right now, scientific consensus favors tool use."
"But then how did they bring the rock --" the student pressed on.
I interrupted with a smile. "I see you've done some reading. Yes, it's true that the stone of the statues was not local to the dig site. There are a number of veins of marble in that region of the Andes, so that isn't necessarily compelling evidence of magic. An expedition earlier this year may have settled that question by finding the quarry site ... but that's an entirely separate topic." I gestured around at the rest of the tour group. "Let's make sure everyone gets their questions answered."
One of the Middle Eastern men began speaking in his native tongue. A voice in my ear overdubbed his words. "You stated this was 'one of' the Atacama Dragons? There are others elsewhere?"
"The question was," I repeated for the benefit of the native English speakers in the audience, "where are the other Atacama Dragons. There were four statues found, in varying degrees of completeness. This is the only one that was found in one piece. A second with minor breakage was magically restored and is on display in the Museo Histórico Nacional in Chile. The third was sold at auction and the proceeds funded our History Institute. The fourth is in Aaron Whitley's private collection."
I pointed to a man at the back who had been waiting patiently with his hand up. "Did the statue originally look like this," he asked, "or was it once more detailed?"
"It was more detailed," I said, "but we don't know how much more. You can still barely see signs --" I pointed -- "of the largest of the grooves they carved in the rock. But 65 million years isn't going to be kind to anything, even stone. When rainwater leached through the ash after the volcanic eruption, the surface of the stone chemically reacted with the acids produced, and this is what was left."
"So why not fix it with magic?" the loud American asked.
"There wasn't enough resonance for consistent reconstruction."
"Hmph," the loud American said dubiously.
"To expand knowledge of the surface in detail," my translator voice muttered as one of the Japanese tourists, a middle-aged human in a business suit, spoke up, "could they not cast one of the historical replays as visible on Life Through The Ages?"
"The question was," I repeated, "why not use time windows to figure out what we don't know. Basically, because 65 million years is a long, long time ago. Magical impressions in objects and places fade over time. Mages can go back 100 years -- or 500 -- or, in cases with excellent resonance, a millennia or two. But once you start getting into the geologic time scale, it would be like trying to teleport to another planet. It simply can't be done."
"Is that why you guys don't know the statue's age?" said a loud woman who I guessed to be the loud American's wife.
"We do," I said. "Just, without divination, not as accurately as we'd like."
"Can't you, y'know, carbon date it or something?" asked one of the students as the loud American was opening his mouth again.
"Carbon dating is based on living things inhaling carbon-14 from the atmosphere," I explained. "Anyway, it's far too old for carbon-14 to tell us anything. Radiometric dating of the rock of the statue -- which is what I suspect you're talking about -- only tells us when the marble was geologically formed, not when it was carved. Our best date range for the ash that buried the site is from 82 million to 63 million years old, and ctizosaurs weren't alive for the last 2 million years of that."
A young woman at the side of the crowd -- a thin kid wearing a backpack, with John Lennon glasses and straight blond hair -- raised her hand halfway. With some relief, I pointed a wingtip at her before the loud guy could speak up again. "Go ahead."
"W...wasn't 65 million years ago when all the dinosaurs died out?" she asked faintly.
I nodded. "That's right."
"D...do you think ... the statue. Was it related?"
I glanced over my shoulder back at the marble, and allowed myself a chuckle. "One of the things about science is that a really great discovery can raise more questions than it answers. We find a 65-million-year-old statue that looks like a dragon, and for the last two decades we've had dragons of our own. Did their own version of The Changes kill the dinosaurs? What an important question, even more so because we don't have enough data to tackle it. If it's true, what does that tell us about ourselves?"
I spread open a paw, pointing down at the smooth stone floor. "The very ground we're standing on is proof that magic can change the shape of the Earth itself. It's easy to look at that sort of power and lose perspective. History reminds us not to get carried away. And archaeology -- science -- helps us to understand what we see. What we know and what we don't know.
"Science doesn't answer questions in the same way that magic does, but it's every bit as important, and when the two team up it's the most powerful force in the world. That's why MATT is one of the island's jewels."
Which is a really roundabout way of saying we have no idea, I added to myself as the crowd nodded thoughtfully.
Unfortunately, the loud American wasn't buying it. "So let me get this straight," he said. "You're saying you guys can throw an entire new island into the middle of the ocean but you can't cast a spell to answer simple questions about this thing's age?"
I considered explaining divination and resonance again, but it was the last tour of the day and I didn't feel like a long debate. "Basically, yes."
"So how's that supposed to be powerful?"
"This statue wouldn't be here at all if it weren't for magic," I said. "And we wouldn't know anything at all about it if it weren't for science."
"It doesn't sound like you do know anything. It might be such-and-such old! It looks like this but also like that! Someone might have carved it --"
He was interrupted by a strong tap on his shoulder. The loud American turned, ready to snap at the interruption, and I realized it was the old man who had been smiling at the statue earlier. He was smiling now, too, friendly but firm.
"Life does not geeve us all deh answers," he said in thickly accented English. "Let deh drahgon do hes job."
The loud American opened his mouth to protest, but glanced around at the faces of the rest of the tour group and closed it sulkily. The old man gave me a knowing nod once the loud American's back was turned.
"So," I said, recovering, "yes, there are a lot of things we don't know about the Atacama Dragons. People have written some interesting theories to fill in the gaps, and if you want to know more about those, we carry a number of books in the gift shop. But science's job here is to separate fact from speculation. That's the only way we can reach the truth. And as a scientist -- I'm working on my doctorate in archaeology under Dr. Garcia-Russo, in fact -- the truth is important to me. Sometimes 'I don't know' is the best possible answer -- because if you can be honest and say it, then at least you know what you need to find out."
I glanced up at the wall clock. It was almost 5:50. The tour had run much longer than I had expected.
"And with that," I said, "any final questions about the Atacamas? I want to make sure you guys have time to see the lobby exhibits and gift shop before we close."
The British theri raised her hand. "Have scientists figured out what the statues were for?"
"Well, I think --" I started, then checked myself. It wouldn't do to start in on that so soon after my lecture on truth. "Heh. We have thoughts, but no, we don't know. We do have some solid evidence. For instance, these statues were in the largest building in the settlement, and the only one with a stone floor -- which suggests their importance. There are clues such as the statues' orientation within the room -- which you can see in the exhibit in Natural History -- and the remains of the ctizosaurs and items found around them. There's no scientific consensus yet among the multiple theories that take that into account, although we're working on getting that settled."
The crowd digested that in silence.
"Thank you for the tour. Can you point me toward the bathroom?" a woman asked from the edge of the group.
"Sure thing! Scientific consensus says --" I paused, breaking my straight face as the tourists laughed -- "go through the doorway here, turn right and look to your right as you enter the lobby."
And with that, the crowd began to drift. A few tourists shouldered their way up to the rope for some better photos of the statue; others walked by and thanked me on their way out. As one of the Middle Eastern men wordlessly gave me a 10-scruple tip, I noticed the loud American and his wife making a beeline for the exit.
The gryphon ambled up to me, foreclaws clicking on the floor. "Uh, 'scuse me," he said. "You said you were getting a degree, right? What can you tell me about your work at AIT, cause after seeing this island, being accepted at MIT doesn't seem like such a big deal any more."
"Huh?" I asked, then held up a paw. "Oh, no, no. Atlantean Institute of Thaumology. They teach magic -- the world's best, I should add -- and I'm just an archaeologist. I'm actually getting my doctorate through a special arrangement with the University of Chile."
"Oh," the gryphon said, his ears lowering. "But doesn't AIT do other kinds of degrees too? My dad wants me to go into programming like him."
I shook my head. "I don't think so. I know there's a computer science division in their magitech grad program, but for undergrads they focus like a laser on spellwork."
"But he won't pay for a magic degree, and there's no way I could get a magic scholarship."
"I don't know what to tell you, then. Good luck."
He turned away, head drooping. "Thanks anyway," he said. "And thanks for the tour. It was really nice."
"Good luck," I repeated faintly. As much as I loved New Atlantis, there were moments when it broke my heart.
I tried walking after him -- thinking maybe I could put a good word in for the lad with his father -- when a woman with a camera and a flock of three young kids intercepted me. "Excuse me," she said. "I know this is going to sound a little weird, but would you mind posing for a photo with my children? This is the closest they've ever been to a real dragon."
I glanced down at the kids. They had been well-behaved during the tour, but had spent most of it staring at me and the other theris.
"Um," I said -- watching the gryphon and his parents walk away -- "sure." I settled down to the floor, making a mental note to get the gryphon's name from Jim, and motioned the kids over with my tail. "First day on the island?"
"We flew in last night," she said. I smiled -- the eyes of the boy nearest my muzzle went wide -- and the flashbulb popped. She smiled back. "I can't believe this place! Did they really raise the entire island out of the ocean with magic?"
"Every inch," I said. I made another mental note to ask Jim how the woman had gotten her landing visa; her questions seemed out of place for the summer crowd.
"Did you help with that?"
"No, ma'am. Emigrated in '08. Been working for the museum since it opened."
"Right, you're an archaeologist. Is there much archaeology to do on the island?"
"There aren't any fossils in solidified lava. But I help Dr. Garcia-Russo with his research, and we do a lot of traveling once the mages we work with identify dig sites."
"And he's a dragon too! Are you two related?"
I suppressed a wince. "No, ma'am."
"How funny. But I guess the odds are pretty good you'd find each other here!"
"Well, as far as I know we're Earth's only draconic archaeologists, but as you can imagine, living here had a lot of appeal for both of us." I tried to change the subject. "Have you guys been to the gift shop yet? You really ought to get some souvenirs before we close. The reproductions of the Atacamas are popular."
"Yeah!" her other son chimed in, as if on cue. "I want a dragon statue, mom!"
That started a round of pleading, and I used the excuse to slip away. Jim must have seen my pained expression, because he gave me a sympathetic grin.
I let out a long breath, thankful it was the last group of the day.
"Sometimes," a voice said from behind my shoulder, "tooreests are joost like dat."
I glanced back. It was the old man who had smiled at the Atacama.
"Thanks," I said, then automatically: "You don't have to speak English to me, you know. I've got a translator spell up."
"Ees better to know de language where you veesit," he said, waving a dismissive hand. "Magic ees not -- how you say ..."
I looked over at Jim, pointed a claw at my muzzle, and flicked it toward the old man. Jim nodded, consulted his clipboard, and traced his fingers through several arcs in the air. I felt my tongue, and the back of my brain, tingle.
"Not perfect," I thought in English, and I listened to myself speak in smooth Italian. "But it does make things much easier."
The old man laughed and gave in, speaking back in Italian as the voice in my ear overdubbed him. "Yes. I lived for most of my existence in the world before magic. You think of me as old-fashioned, perhaps."
"It's alright," I said. "It can take some getting used to. And while the translator spell is very accurate, its grammar is sometimes awkward."
"It is. ... Thank you for the tour of yours."
"Thank you for your help with the loud man."
He grinned broadly. "Several times I have wished on my own tours that someone would cause to shut up the annoying man. Even though it was not my tour, it gave me great satisfaction."
I rumbled in a contented laugh. "Where do you work?"
"The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Napoli." After some etiquette errors with foreign diplomats, the mages had rigged our translator spells to leave proper names alone. "I retired two years before. Now I travel, and as a tourist I am discovering, what is the word, karma."
Something clicked in my head. "Napoli. Naples. Near Vesuvius, yes? That was why you reacted when I mentioned Pompeii."
"Yes!" His face lit up. "The story of Atacama is much like the story of Pompeii. I wished to see this Atacama statue since its excavation. But last year I became father-in-law to the sister of a dragon who resides here, and for the first time this year our family achieved a visa."
"Congratulations, and welcome to New Atlantis." I held out two fingers for a handshake, and he gripped them with cheerful vigor.
"It pleases me to be here. I am named Fabrizio," he said, pronouncing the Z as a "ts."
"I'm Serebraxus, if you missed me introducing myself earlier." I pronounced the X as if I were clearing my throat.
I looked around the room; all but one or two of the tourists had cleared out, and we were speaking in Italian anyway. "Is there anything here you'd like to see in more detail? We're allowed to escort personal visitors around after hours. I'd be honored to show you around for a little while."
"Thank you," he said, walking up to the rope, "but only this. Your thaumitechnology is impressive, but there is nothing like the majesty of history."
We stood in silence, Fabrizio staring at the statue and me staring at the old man dwarfed by 30 tons of marble. The smile crept back onto his face -- the simple joy, perhaps, of standing face to face with a relic whose story was so familiar to him, even though its source culture was so alien. Closer up, his expression also seemed subtly wistful -- as if the statue were a joke that only he understood.
"I have to say," I interjected into the silence, "in three years here, you're the first person I've seen smiling at the Atacama."
"Yes. It does inspire a ... what is the word ... reverence, does it not?"
"It does. I'm curious -- is there something specific about it you find amusing?"
I watched his eyes scan the marble. The crowd noises in the background subsided, leaving the soft hum of the force field audible.
"So," he said after some time, "what do you think?"
"What the statues are for. You did not tell earlier."
"Um, right," I said, switching mental tracks. "It wouldn't be scientific to present guesses as fact."
"But you do have a guess, yes?"
"Of course." I chuckled self-consciously. "Actually, that's what I'm writing my thesis paper on. But the evidence is circumstantial. I don't want to put ideas in people's heads. At least until it's passed peer review."
"Still, I wish to hear your guess."
I sat, curling my tail around my hindlegs, and looked into the face of the smooth-worn stone. "Well, as I said, we haven't found any Cretaceous dragons yet. Honestly, most people keep talking like we'll find them if we keep looking, but I don't think there were any dragons before 1996. So the statues strike me as fantastic rather than representational. And based on the various symbols of importance surrounding the statues -- the building, other artifacts, and the huddled-up ctizosaurs around its base -- they must have had a profound mythological significance."
"Put it all together," I said, "and I think ... these were the gods the dinosaurs worshipped."
He looked up at me, smiling again. "So perhaps you do understand."
"Huh? ... Understand what?"
"You asked what I found amusing. It is as you said. Today, gods walk the earth."
"I ... guess?" I said. "I wouldn't put it that way."
"Never mind the differences between dragons and the statues. I don't believe in gods."
Fabrizio shrugged. "I always have. In this age of miracles, more than ever."
"Let's agree to disagree rather than getting sidetracked into theology," I said. "What I still don't understand is why the idea is funny."
He leaned forward, resting his hands on one of the poles holding up the rope around the statue. "How old are you, Serebrackus?"
I let the mispronunciation slide. "Twenty-seven."
"You were just a child when the Changes touched us." He chuckled. "Or was it a hatchling? Were you a dragon when Redwing stood up to America's president?"
"Child," I said, feeling a little defensive. "I first shifted at 16."
"Thank God there was never a war," Fabrizio said. "On one side, half the world's nuclear bombs. On the other side, the people who raised this island. I was six when World War II ended; I do not think our world would have survived a third."
I nodded in agreement.
"You must understand," Fabrizio said reflectively, "as a young child I prayed to the Lord God to stop the war. I have prayed through floods, famine, and bombings. Never once did it stop my countrymen from dying. You do not believe in gods ... but you are too young to have spent your life praying those prayers. Too young to understand the choice to have faith."
"So ... it's something funny about the idea that the dinosaurs prayed, too?" I guessed.
He held up a finger and stared into my eyes. "Ah, more than that. What were they praying for?"
"Considering that they were about to be wiped out by ..." I trailed off as his implication finally hit me.
He spread his arms, gesturing to me and to the Atacama. "I have had faith all my life. Faith in a god who was silent through disasters. Faith that, someday, I would understand that silence. Now, as an old man, I stand upon a tamed volcano, speaking face to face with a god who has answered the prayers of the faithful ... 65 million years late."
The look on my face must have been something, because when Jim glanced up at our conversation, he did a double-take, the literal kind with the head swiveling back and forth. I saw him trace a gesture in the air and hold two fingers up to his ear -- something I had seen him do before when he didn't fully catch a sentence I'd shouted at him from across the room. After several moments of listening, he raised both eyebrows, and the corner of his mouth quirked up.
"Uh," I said. "I can't speak for the other dragons on the island, but honestly -- I'm just a scientist." I pointed a folded wing across the room. "On the other claw, Jim is one of the miracle workers who helped raise the place."
Fabrizio looked over his shoulder and let out a helpless burst of laughter. "And he is human?"
"So it comes full circle. I wonder -- when humanity is nothing but statues, will the future call us your gods?"
After Fabrizio thanked me and left, Jim wandered over with a twinkle in his eye. "You know," he said, "I'm surprised none of us on this tamed volcano ever picked up on that particular piece of irony."
"Well, a volcano started our city, and ended the ctizosaurs'. Plenty of people comment on that. I just hadn't thought of it from the god perspective."
Jim stared at the Atacama appraisingly, smile broadening.
"I know that look in your eyes, Jim. What are you thinking?"
"Oh, nothing ... nothing."
He dodged the subject for the rest of the evening. The next morning, when I flew in to work, there was a button on his lapel.
"TAMS," I read, folding my wings. "Dare I ask?"
Jim put on his best innocent look. "Mr. Chiu approved it this morning. He agreed with me that, given the full range of our job duties, the security group ought to look a little more visually distinctive."
"What's it stand for?"
"Translation And Museum Security. See, it's like MATT backwards --"
"No. What does it really stand for. I saw your face last night."
Jim smirked. "I admit it. I couldn't let your comment go to waste."
"My comment?" I thought back. "You mean when I called you a miracle worker?"
He drew himself to his full height, down at my shoulders. "Exactly! You're looking at a proud charter member of the Tardy Abelosaurid Miracle Squadron. No problem too large -- if you've got the patience."
I couldn't help but laugh. "That's horrible. And you're a horrible little man. What did the rest of your team think?"
"The name has already stuck. Lily's buying the hats."
"Tam o'shanters, of course."
I raised a claw to my face. "Oh, gods."
News: It's been a while ... but there's still plenty more in store for TTU! Check out the TTU Wiki for the latest stories, background material, etc., from the setting.
At this point, if it wasn't obvious: Legend of Hero should be considered on permanent hiatus. It was a noble experiment, and it remains a story worth finishing; but my life has moved on in other directions. I'll change the setup of this blog to reflect that at some point.