The early morning sunrise cut yellow and orange shards of color across the sky. Stephan shivered as the wind of their momentum carried them through the air, and tried to wrap his leather jacket more tightly about his torso, wishing he had opted for something a little warmer. Temperatures varied wildly sometimes with altitude, and with the clear day Rosa was flying higher than she usually did.
There, to the left. Do you see it?
Stephan looked off to the left after Rosa’s telepathic message, bringing glasses to his eyes to help him see better in the distance.
Yes, replied Stephan. Looks bad from here. Bring us closer please?
The great dragon extended its wings, its red scales glinting like fire in the light. It turned and dove at the same time, giving Stephan the familiar feeling in his stomach. He kept his glasses on the scene.
I see one. Not bad. Minor?
No, there are two. The other is below in the trench. I sense human death…suffering.
“Shit,” exclaimed Stephan aloud. The deaths were always the worst part of the job. They gave him nightmares at night.
How long? asked the dragon.
One minute ‘til they contact us. Our timing is perfect on this. It looks like this one is going to cause major problems.
No doubt. I can sense human anger and frustration stretching for at least three miles, and the incident couldn’t have happened more than three minutes ago.
Okay. The contact is almost ready. Just one moment…
A green light appeared on his headgear.
“Thank you, Dave. We just came on the scene of an injury-accident on east bound I-94 near Woodward, and traffic is backing up already at least to Livernois, with gawkers causing a slowdown in the west bound lane. I can see police and EMS on their way to the scene. You might want to look for an alternate route on this one. Also, we have the regular construction slowdown on I-75 at I-696. The morning rush is otherwise quiet, with traffic moving at posted speeds elsewhere. And this is Stephan Hudson on the dragon Rosefire with the WWJ traffic report.”
Stephan sighed and turned off his comm. Something about his job made him feel dirty. Down below was pain and suffering, and here he was, announcing it over the radio so that Joe and Mary Business-person could get to work 10 minutes earlier.
“Is there anything else we can do here?” asked Stephan, voicing his question rather than thinking it, as he often did right after a broadcast.
No, Stephan. Shall we move on? The automobile fumes smell like dragon flatulence here.
“Yeah, go ahead. Back to the regular routine.” Stephan bit back his frustration as the dragon beat her beautiful wings, leaving the traffic far below her.
Two hours later Rosefire glided into the ranch that they called home. Stephan dismounted and removed the saddle, and Rosefire tottered off to her horde beneath the straw roof of her open stable. While the horde was breathtaking from a distance, Stephan knew that it was mostly composed of costume jewelry, polished brass, colored bottles, and other pretty but largely worthless shineys. Even though there might be some decent loot in there, no human would dare to try to steal from it. Very few human laws applied to dragon behavior, and for any human to attempt to steal from a dragon’s horde… Suffice it to say that no one in history has ever successfully gotten away with it for long, and human law very much looked the other way at whatever the dragon chose to do with the transgressor. No humans were stupid enough to make the attempt.
Stephan looked at his dragon. Since he was bonded with it when he was ten, Rosefire had grown from a tiny hatchling to a strong, magnificent beast. The dragon was a fiery red color with streaks of white, and its neck stretched to nearly twice the tall man’s height. In his eyes, Rosefire was one of the most magnificent dragons he had ever seen. Of course, he was somewhat prejudice because of the bonding, but still…
“This job is beneath your dignity, Rosa,” he said, voicing a thought that was simmering in the back of his mind.
The dragon turned to look at him and smiled, in as much as a dragon can smile. You feel so, do you? Dignity is a human thing. I exist and do as I do. Perhaps it is YOUR dignity you speak of?
Stephan shook his head. “No, Rosa. This job is all I’m good for. Look at you though. You should be fighting wars, rescuing damsels…I don’t know. Something! Something better than being a traffic dragon.”
I find it odd how humans are capable of equating fighting wars with ‘dignity’. No dragon will participate in a human war, and we only fight when we must. As for rescuing humans, that is your choice, Stephan. There are always positions for emergency rescue dragons. But I could only get you to the scene. You would have to be the one to do the work. And you are not…fond of the sight of blood.
Stephan cringed. He could not watch Rosefire eat. Dragons liked their food fresh and alive. The ranch had sheep and cattle and pigs for this very purpose. Rosefire ate while Stephan slept out of respect for him. Stephan felt a surge of inadequacy rise up in him. He didn’t deserve a dragon.
“I don’t know, Rosa. We have to come up with something better than this. You are being wasted.”
What did you have in mind, Stephan? I am open to new ideas. I am content with what we do. It earns money and keeps me with plenty of meat. I miss hunting, true, but that is something I can do when we vacation, and that is adequate.
“Then I’m going to have to rise to your potential, Rosa.”
Rosefire nodded. Very well, but it is your potential you must find, Stephan. I am who I am, and feel no desire to be more. I will try to help you think of something though, my friend.