If all goes well a corrected copy of My Life at the MBRC will be available for free this time next week. (I’ll make the official announcement when I have the book scheduled and ready to go. I’m currently groveling to Amazon to get My Life at the MBRC in the program that will let me set the price as free.)
Thank you to everyone who voted in the poll. I had a great time with the various character conversations that popped up as a result. I enjoy over-thinking characters. I find it difficult not to analyze their personality, so it was highly enjoyable to discuss the nuances of Morgan’s romantic possibilities with you all. Aysel’s domination of the poll came as a bit of a surprise to me. I’m very fond of him, mostly because I like sourpuss characters, so it was gratifying to see how highly he is esteemed.
The still yet-to-be-titled MBRC sequel should come out the last few days in September, or the first few days of October. The manuscript was a little longer than I was planning, although that shouldn’t surprise me anymore. ALL my books turn out longer than expected. Anyway. As a thank you for answering the poll, I’m giving you a sneak peek of a MBRC II scene. Please keep in mind that this hasn’t been as well edited as the final product will be.
Enjoy the preview, Champions. I’m off to start writing Rumpelstiltskin!
Saturday morning rolled around, and I was more than prepared for my class’s field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. I arrived at the MBRC, took roll, and inspected everyone’s glamours.
The students going on the fieldtrip were what I consider my core group: Dave, Frey, Frank, Perseus and Athena—his centaur girlfriend—Madeline, a drabby wood elf nicknamed Oak, three drabby fairies—Corn, Sage, and Zinnia—Sacmis the sphinx, and Asahi and his high elf girlfriend Kadri. Esmeralda came with—more to commiserate with me than out of any sort of curiosity—and Harrison, of course, trailed after us.
Perseus, Athena, and Sacmis wore glamours—which served to disguise their less-than-human bodies. Everyone else, though, was disguised mostly by wearing hats, gloves, and jackets. And with good reason.
Because I am occasionally stupid, when we were mapping out the trip everyone begged me to let us walk to the corner of State Street and Jackson Boulevard where we would pick up Bus 10, instead of tacking on CTA bus 7 as well to cover the distance. It was a little over half a mile between Union Station and the bus stop we needed. They reasoned it wouldn’t take long, and they badly wanted to people watch as they walked.
They were right. Relatively speaking it was a short walk. But there was just one problem.
IT WAS FREEZING COLD!
“Whose idea was it to walk?” I asked Madeline through clenched teeth, longing to strangle someone.
“Asahi’s I think.”
“Let’s kill him,” I said as Madeline huddled closer to me while we waited for the bus.
“Okay,” she agreed.
Dave and Madeline faired the worst, being that they’re pretty dang cold to start with since their blood wasn’t pumping. Poor Sacmis wasn’t doing much better than them, but Frank and Frey were disgustingly chipper about the whole thing.
Frank tipped his head back to scent the air. “I smell popcorn,” he said, his eyes bright. He wore a medium coat, no gloves, no hat, and was fine.
“There’s a Garret Popcorn Shop back there,” I said, tipping my head down Jackson Boulevard, hopping in place to keep my feet warm.
“It smells good,” Frank said.
“Yeah,” Frey agreed after sniffing the air. “Let’s stop and get some on our way back.”
“Oohhh no,” I said. “You are not going to convince me to walk that distance again. No, we’re taking bus 7 back.”
“What?” I said a little more sharply than I meant to as I turned around.
Kadri—dressed in a warm, green colored ski jacket that set off the green of the hazel in her eyes—cringed and took a step back. (Over the past two years her clothing choices, and thus Asahi’s, had gotten increasingly more fashionable and sophisticated.)
“Sorry, Kadri. I didn’t know it was you. Did you need something?” I asked, making a big effort to sound cheerful in spite of the fact that my fingers were soon going to fall off.
Kadri scratched at her ears—the glamour used to cloak the pointed tips probably itched. “I was wondering if you have time to meet me for coffee next week?”
I blinked. “You want a personal field trip?”
“No-no. I meant coffee at the MBRC. I just, I would like to talk to you,” the high elf said, fixing the way her matching scarf covered her neck.
“Sure. Does Tuesday work for you? Say, 4:30?”
Kadri beamed, hitting me with the full force of her high elf beauty. “That would be great. Thank you, Morgan.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, mollified by Kadri’s brilliance. I turned just in time to see our bus coming down the street. “Okay guys, this is it. Everyone have their passes?”
My students got on the bus without gawking too much, and they were pretty well behaved during the ride. In about twenty minutes we were outside the Museum of Science and Industry.
“Into the entry hall. Go, go, go,” I said, running into the building. I counted my students as they came in, ticking them off.
“The museum entrance fee is $18—Krusher I already have your ticket. Everyone get your money out. I’m going to put you in a line in pairs,” I said, observing the ticket lines. Thankfully it was early enough in the morning that it seemed pretty slow. As long as the ticket sellers weren’t in a hurry, my students were advanced enough to buy their own tickets.
“Asahi, Kadri, you go here. Sacmis, Esmeralda, here please. Perseus and Athena, right here. Frank and Madeline—” I paused and squinted at the backpack Madeline carried on her back. It moved as I watched it. “Madeline, what is in your backpack?”
Madeline twisted to face me. “What do you mean?” she asked with false innocence.
I spun Madeline around, ignoring her outraged squawks, and unzipped the largest pocket of her bright pink backpack.
A blue tinted dragon that was a little bigger than a housecat poked its head out of the backpack and held out a cookie to me with one of its front paws.
“Doggy,” I said, recognizing the little dragon from my stint at working the information desk of the MBRC. He is a Miniature Doodle—a dragon-poodle, don’t ask. Basically he is a housepet dragon. His owner is a flamingo pink dragon named Miss Bea who teaches at the MBRC. “What is Doggy doing here?”
“I’m watching him while Miss Bea is visiting relatives in Europe,” Madeline said.
“But what is Doggy doing here?”
“I couldn’t leave him alone,” Madeline protested.
“Madeline, you have brought a dragon into a human museum!” I said, zipping the backpack up again after Doggy ducked inside.
“Do we need to go back?” Frey asked.
“We might,” I said before turning, looking for a student. “Corn, could you come over here, please?” I called to one of the three drabby fairies in my class.
“Yes?” Corn asked.
“There is a Doodle in this backpack. Do you think you can glamour it to look like a service animal?”
“I can try,” Corn said, looking around the museum entryway. “Could we go somewhere more private?”
“The bathrooms,” I said, dragging Madeline along. When we reached the bathrooms Harrison took up a post outside, looking conspicuously nonchalant for a guy wearing a suit and sunglasses in a museum.
Madeline, Corn, and I claimed the handicap stall—which was big enough to fit all three of us. I unzipped Madeline’s backpack, my arms dipping when doggy popped out of the bag and climbed up my arms so he could sit on my shoulder.
Corn cast her magic, and when the glamour was complete I had a furry service animal on my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, I’m not very good with animal glamours,” Corn apologized as I skeptically looked Doggy over.
Doggy no longer resembled a dragon, but a fluffy…thing. He had a little blue vest identifying him as a service animal, but it was anyone’s guess whether he was a cat or dog. When I pushed back the fur on his face I was mildly repulsed. He had the bulging eyes of a pug, and the nose and muzzle of a slightly squashed faced cat—although he still had the teeth and lower jaw of one of those toy/purse dogs.
“No one will mistake him for a dragon. And that’s the important thing,” I said, brightening when I discovered Corn had somehow given Doggy a collar and ID tags. “Madeline, your belt,” I said.
“What?” Madeline said.
“Your belt. I need it.”
“Why?” Madeline asked, struggling to remove it under her puffy jacket.
“Because even if he’s a service animal, Doggy has to be leashed.”
“What? Why do we have to use my belt? What’s wrong with yours?”
“We’re using your belt because you are the one who brought Doggy here. Now hand it over,” I said.
Madeline grumbled, but eventually fished her belt out from under all her layers. She was wearing a neon pink dress today, but it had a matching, cloth, neon belt that went around her waist. It was quite long since it was meant to be tied in a bow, which was great because I had to knot it around doggy and then weave a hand loop for myself. It made a passable leash—it was more convincing than Doggy was, anyway.
“Ok, let’s try this,” I said, taking a deep breath before shifting Doggy to my arms. “If they ask for certification, we are in so much trouble,” I said as we left the bathrooms.
“Why?” Corn asked.
“Because I won’t be able to show them any,” I said.
“So? Can’t Harrison use his goblin powers on them?” Madeline asked, sulking a little as she trailed behind me.
“Oh,” I said, pausing. “Krusher, would you do that?” I said, stopping to ask my bodyguard.
“It’s Harrison, Miss Fae.”
“Thanks, Krusher. You’re the best,” I said.
Everyone except Corn and Madeline had purchased tickets—I bought Harrison’s and mine online the night before—so as one big group we stormed the entrances. (Getting up the escalators went well. Which was lucky, last time we encountered them Perseus almost took a tumble.)
Sure enough, at the actual entrance into the museum—where they look at your tickets and stuff—I was stopped by a museum guard.
“Miss, may I see some certification for your service…animal?” the guard asked.
“Um,” I said.
“You don’t need to see this animal’s certification,” Harrison said, his voice smooth and rich like chocolate cheesecake as he took off his sunglasses to look the guard in the eye. “We can move along.”
“You know, I don’t need to see any papers after all. Enjoy your visit,” the guard said with a smile before waving us on.”
“So are you a big Star Wars fan?” I asked.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Fae?”
“Hmm. Did George Lucas base jedi knights off goblins?” I asked, putting Doggy on the ground, but holding tight to his leash.
“I do not know, Miss Fae.”
“That’s totally a yes. Okay, gang. We’re starting with the Coal Mine. It’s pretty popular since it’s an interactive type experience, so we want to go on it now while the line is short. Anyone claustrophobic?” I asked.
Everyone shook their heads.
“Good, this way,” I said, leading the way—Doggy trotting at my heels.