A giant lizard – maybe the size of a pickup-truck – was perched atop of the windmill at the mini-golf course. A man wearing high-tech body armor and carrying a pair of hatchets was trying to convince it to move. While this was going on, the crowd standing behind the police line watched and cheered as if they were at a football game. Bao was distracted from all that by a man in a complete golf outfit who had crossed the yellow line to talk to him. He was trying to decide whether to arrest the man or punch him.
“No, this doesn’t remind me of my homeland,” Bao grumbled. “We don’t have giant lizards in Oklahoma, just giant cockroaches.”
It was the third time in five minutes he had heard a similar joke, but he was the only Asian in sight, so who else would they say it to. The crowd gasped. Bao turned to see the armored man being struck by the lizard’s tail. He was flung to the ground near Bao’s position and skidded to a halt, but his armor seemed to cushion the blow.
“The armored man has disengaged,” Bao spoke over the radio on his shoulder. “Should I restrain him before he re-enters the scene?”
“Negative,” a voice answered. “This guy seems to know what he’s doing. Let him handle it.”
That made no sense, but Bao followed orders. He watched the golfer help the armored man to his feet. People in the crowd were yelling encouragement as he dusted himself off. He handed the pair of hatchets to the golfer who tossed them into his bag. Was this man his caddy?
“Those didn’t penetrate that thing’s hide,” the armored man said, handing his hatchets to the caddy. “I need more reach and heft.”
“I’ve got just the thing, Sir Reggie,” the caddy said and pulled an enormous sword from his bag. It had a leather-wrapped handle, several notches in the blade, and was much longer than the bag it came from.
“That’s awesome! Thanks, Lucas.”
Sir Reggie lowered the visor on his helmet and ran back towards the lizard, carrying the huge sword on his shoulder. Lucas smiled like a parent who had just released his kid onto the playground. As Reggie approached the windmill, the lizard spat at him. It missed Reggie, but the spot it hit burst into flame.
“It spits fire!” Bao exclaimed.
“Of course, it does,” Lucas said. “It’s a dragon.”
Bao wanted to call the man crazy, but he was watching a man with a giant sword climb a mini-golf windmill towards a giant, fire-spitting lizard. Reggie was using just his arms to climb. His legs were folded up behind him, holding the sword.
“OK, who are you guys? You seem to know what’s going on here.”
“Of course, I know what’s going on. I wrote the book,” Lucas declared. “Sir Reggie considers himself a knight and his main goal in life is to be as awesome and heroic as possible. It’s not as shallow as it sounds. He has a deep and complicated backstory. You’ll have to read my book if you want the details.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Bao said. He watched for a moment, and another question occurred to him. “How is he doing this? No one is that strong.”
Reggie was now hanging one-handed from the top of the windmill while holding the sword in his other hand. Somehow, he was dodging teeth and claws and even getting a few blows in. The crowd cheered wildly and loudly.
“Again, you need to read the book,” Lucas said. “The simple version is, he’s been cybernetically enhanced, but it’s much more interesting than that. It’s all in the book.”
“And who are you, his PR guy?” Bao asked.
The crowd cheered again. Reggie had managed to mount the dragon. He was hacking at it while he tried not to get bucked off.
“Nah, I’m a writer. My name is Lucas Narthon, author of Heroes of Earth. On my planet, it’s a best-selling, twelve-book series.”
Bao choose to ignore the “on my planet” comment. He couldn’t ignore the dragon and dragon-slayer, but he wasn’t about to climb into another bucket of weirdness.
“So, Reggie’s going to be your thirteenth book?” Bao asked.
“Nah, he’s my eleventh. I finished that book centuries ago,” Lucas explained. “Well, OK, it’s more complicated than that. I haven’t written any of the books yet, but my future self delivered them to me centuries ago. I sold them and have been living on the royalties while I live out the events. I know everything that will happen,” he paused and grimaced, “which can be a little sad. Reggie’s death is coming soon. It’s a heroic and cathartic moment, but still tragic.” He shrugged and sighed. “At least I have my next book to look forward to. It’s the best one and has the best hero. If you think Sir Reggie vs. the Dragon is exciting, wait until you see the stuff this guy will fight. It’s amazing!”
Reggie had the dragon flipped onto its back. He was standing with one foot on its chest, while the other one was wedged in its mouth. The armor around that foot sizzled. Reggie raised the sword above his head, pointed it down, and stabbed the dragon in whatever vital organ a dragon keeps in its chest. It writhed for a moment, then the dragon, Reggie, and the windmill all came crashing to the ground. No one moved for a few moments and the crowd hushed as they watched for signs of life. Finally, Reggie rolled over and stumbled to his feet. After a quick decapitation, he slung the massive sword over his shoulder and began making his way towards Bao and Lucas, dragging the dragon head behind him.
Bao let out a slow, relieved breath. “For a moment there, I thought this was what you meant when you said he would die soon,” he admitted. “Your next book is seriously more exciting than this? How can you top that?”
“Oh, it is,” Lucas assured him. “It’s my best book. It’s called Bao vs. the Forgotten Army.”