Best Friend For Hire, Entry 373

“Will I have to learn that?” inquired Noelle as we headed back upstairs.

Emma patted her head and said, “No. If you manage to keep up with Jarod talking very often, you’ll be doing better than me. I’m not even going to attempt learning engineering to his standards.”

I felt Emma was underestimating herself, but her educational preferences remained with the natural world for the same reason the twins studied the ocean, a harmony with their magics. I doubted any other botanist alive would keep up with Emma. Her advantages were too extreme.

Noelle sighed in relief and smiled. “I was panicking just listening to him, but all that stuff sounded amazing! Can you really do magic?”

I nodded and said, “Yes, Noelle. You can too. In fact, you’ve been doing it.”

“Huh?” she questioned.

“Wait. She has?” asked Emma. “I mean… there’s obviously the residual, but…” Emma squinted, staring at Noelle. “Oooooh. Good catch, man-slave!”

“I can’t see it.” I admitted. “What’s she making you see?”

“Makeup? Not sure how else to put it simply. I mean, she looks stunning.”

“I have magic makeup!?” exclaimed Noelle in shock.

“No, but that’s what Emma sees. From what I understand, you subconsciously project images into the minds of others. I’ll never get to see it due to my own magic canceling it out.” I explained.

Nodding, Emma said, “So it’s kinda like how the fey communicate, but constant… and not really communication.”

“Not a type I can let through for sure, but I’d still consider it communication. Noelle probably wants to be looking good for her interview right now, so you’re seeing makeup. If she was having a bad day, you’d probably see something to reflect it.”

Noelle looked to each of us before asking “Are you two messing with me?”

I gently squeezed her shoulder and said, “No. We’re not.”

“But… like… am I doing something wrong?”

“No, you’re not. You’re perfectly wonderful as you are.” I assured her.

“I like you!” exclaimed Emma with a smile.

“I… I should probably tell you something. I’m a bit forgetful at times. I might not remember your names tomorrow…. or in an hour… Well, actually… umm…” she started.

Emma smiled and said, “You told me. Don’t worry. My name’s Emma.”

“Oh… sorry.” mumbled Noelle.

Emma hugged her. “No need to be sorry.” Then she looked at me and asked “Who are we seeing next? The triplets? Cosette?”

“Mila’s choice.” I replied with a smile.

“Fine, master. Dump all responsibility on me. I see through that smile.” she replied teasingly before stepping off the lift to lead us onward.

“So many names…” mumbled Noelle worriedly.

“How did you manage to remember mine?” I questioned.

“Oh! I repeat a name aloud several times when I first hear it, and then repeat it in my head a bunch. I sorta forget whose name it is at times, but Mila reminded me when she brought me here and even showed me a picture!” explained Noelle.

“I’ll gladly help you with the others as well.” stated Mila, glancing back with a smile.

“That would be sooo nice!” she exclaimed.

“Did you talk with Jamie about moving here yet?”

“Oh! No!” exclaimed Noelle, looking excited. “I forgot I can move here!”

“I talked with her, master. She’s going to talk with Noelle about it later. Our tentative date is this weekend, but Jamie does wish to at least see our home first. Friday, maybe?” asked Mila.

I nodded. “Sounds good. Make sure Jamie knows we also act as a moving service and would be happy to help her with a family rate.”

“Of course, master.”

“You’ll help Jamie move in after her wedding!? You’re amazing!” insisted Noelle as she hugged me.

“Probably not me personally unless I happen to be free on the right day, but yes.” I replied, patting her head.

“Is the family rate expensive?” she questioned.

I gently removed her arms and said, “No. Free, unless we think they’ll insist on paying us.”

“By ‘free’, he means that he covers the expense for his employees and their families, allowing us to volunteer to work. The rest of us get paid if we help.” asserted Mila.

I shrugged as Noelle hugged me again. “Really isn’t a big deal. Moving tends to be very efficient with our help. You’ll see.”

I heard a loud crack from down the hall that made me frown.

“Master, we have an uninvited guest. Raine’s now restraining him.” stated Mila.

“Was that her?” I asked.

“No. He kicked the doors in before I could open them. Raine must’ve heard and investigated.”

I nodded. “Noelle, Mila will continue with your introductions. Emma, meet me at the front when you catch up. The doors will need repaired.” I told them. Then I sprinted, enhancing my speed as I moved. I recognized the intruder at a glance and sighed internally.

A second later, Alma was at my side, frowning as she watched Godric demand to be released. He was obviously terrified, eyes bulging as he stared at Raine in her hybrid cat-demon form.

I sighed and said, “I’ll take him.”

“Take me!? Do you not know who I am!? I am Godric Slayer. You are to obey me. This is my world.” he claimed.

I rolled my eyes, not wanting to deal with him today. “Fine. No lunch for you. Mila, please give Raine his address. Raine, please deposit him safely home. I’m sure his mother’s worried. This’ll count as work for you today.” She glanced at me, then to her phone, and they were gone.

“He’s gotten even worse.” muttered Alma, still frowning as she shook her head.

“Hopefully, he learns not to kick down my door. Why do you think he came here?”

“To try asserting his dominance, surely. Adelmar must’ve spoken of you fondly, so Godric will want to crush you. He was always jealous of his father’s attention.” she replied. “Aaliyah’s been helping me to make some preparations. My work load here will be decreased dramatically soon, since Godric will be decreasing my assets now that he’s head of the family.”

I hugged her and said, “I’d apologize, but you’ll want more time with our kids.” Then I gently rubbed her belly.

She nuzzled my shoulder as she said, “A few more months, and I’ll be able to talk with this one. I hope to have our child prepared to meet our parents at birth.”

Such a notion would probably seem absurd to my parents if they didn’t take us into account. Our child’s brain would develop far, far more quickly than a human. The temper tantrums could be as catastrophic as the magical potential was great. A newborn who could break an adult’s arm needed training, and Alma’s fey heritage would give her a tremendous advantage in that regard. Aaliyah had assured us things would work out. I looked off to the tall building where her second child was growing and wondered what sort of playmate my child would have.

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Best Friend For Hire, Entry 372

“James! I came back!” exclaimed Noelle, surprising me by remembering my name a day later. She was hugging Emma and possibly forgot to let go. “Mila’s been introducing me to everyone!”

“Reintroducing, really.” argued Emma, who was patting Noelle’s head. “We met yesterday.”

“Sorry.” mumbled Noelle, sounding downtrodden. Then she smiled and proudly exclaimed “I remembered that Emma likes hugs!”

“Yep. I should have told her I like hugs.” claimed Brandon before getting elbowed by Deyanira, who was sitting on his lap.

“Do you?” questioned Noelle.

“Don’t worry. I give him plenty.” insisted Deyanira as she elbowed Brandon again.

“Did Mila explain our morning exercises to you?” I asked Noelle.

“Umm… Probably?” she replied, looking concerned.

“Master, Noelle was detained by her sister. Jamie didn’t really believe that Noelle had found a job so quickly and thought I was in cosplay rather than being an actual maid.” explained Mila. “I eventually did get her to believe me after showing her our website and giving in-depth detail of the types of jobs Noelle will be doing.”

I wondered if Noelle remembered that she had a job before Mila arrived to get her, but I wasn’t going to ask her, worrying I might cause her anxiety. “Thank you, Mila. Hopefully, things will be easier from here on out.”

“Jamie was so excited! She cried! Not a sad cry, I think. This seemed like a happy cry. I bet she’ll tell her fiancé today. Maybe she already has.” pondered Noelle as if considering whether or not she should know the correctness of her own assertions.

I remained dubious about whether or not we’d be able to train Noelle, but Mila seemed confident. I reminded myself that Aaliyah too thought Noelle belonged here. This would work out.

“Jaaaaaaaaaaames!” exclaimed Kayla as she ran down the hall.

Knowing roughly where she was from the sound, I created a spell to mute the noise and another one to fetch her, using a number of additions to hone in on her location and lift her gently.

When she came flying into the room, Noelle jumped behind Emma.

Lifting the noise dampening, I said, “Kayla, you were running and yelling through the halls again.”

“Sorry, James.” she mumbled.

“So why were you looking for me?” I asked, staring into her eyes when she looked up.

“Well… Mila’s supposed to give me a ride later to see my friend, Katie, and I was wanting to go in a limo, but Mila said that we can’t take one without your permission, so I wanted to come ask you.” she rapidly explained.

“I see. Why do you feel you need a limo for two people?” I questioned.

“Uh… They’re cooler?” she suggested with a grin.

“Not really. If you were to translate the price of vehicles into equivalent coolness as you’ve been doing of late, master’s DB5 is actually the most valuable car on the lot due to the modifications done to it which exceed the modifications of the limo. I must also point out that the original DB5 was actually more valuable as well before modifications.” argued Mila.

I frowned and said, “Kayla, you’re surrounded by valuable things, but how much you enjoy them for what they are matters far more. My daughter’s paintings mean far to me than any from most other artists around the building. I only say ‘most’ because I have a painting from an old friend as well as one from my mother.”

“But Dani’s like the best painter ever!” insisted Kayla.

“Yet her paintings wouldn’t sell for nearly as much as some of the others around the house.” I replied.

“But why not!? They’re really good!” she exclaimed.

I smiled and said, “Dani’s artwork isn’t well enough known to sell for as much as my mother’s, much less compare with the great artists of history. Figure out what you like best and go with it. You know Dani always does.” What I said was actually very misleading. Though Dani’s artwork wasn’t valuable on Earth, her pieces were already considered priceless throughout most of the universe.

“Is he the sweetest person ever?” questioned Noelle with wide eyes.

“Pretty much.” replied Emma with a smirk.

I refrained from smiling as I asked Kayla if she had finished her homework yet.

“Uh… Catch you later!” she exclaimed, turning and walking quickly out of the room immediately.

“She is in a way.” stated Mila. “I’ve been increasing her load considerably to keep her busy, so she’s actually far past what her friends are studying.”

I nodded and said, “We’ll get her tinkering with Jarod in no time.”

“You’ll need to be the one to tell Jemal.” replied Mila with a smile.

“Who’s Jarod?” whispered Noelle.

“Not sure you met him yet. He’s usually in his lab or with his wives.” replied Emma.

Noelle nodded and then looked back at Emma. “Wives!? Is he a… uh…”

“He’s a Jarod. You’ll see.” replied Emma.

“Let’s get Noelle around for more introductions. Mila, mind leading the way?” I asked.

“Would you follow me anywhere?” she teased.

“Behave.” I replied with a smile.

“Mila looks similar to his wife and flirts twice as much.” whispered Emma and she guided Noelle behind me.

Glancing back, Mila asked “Just twice as much? Am I failing to do your teaching justice?”

Emma giggled and said, “Fine, ten times as much!”

“Much better.” replied Mila as she looked forward again.

I’d have to double check later that Mila did inform Emma of Noelle’s romantic preferences, so she didn’t get her hopes up again. No, actually. Mila would have handled it. Emma was just being nice as always.

When we reached Jarod’s lab, he was giving Aurora instructions. They seemed to be working with Mila on a car design.

“Aurora wants her own transportation. The prototype flying car won’t be approved for city use within the year.” stated Mila. “She also seems determined to pay for it herself. Don’t worry. I’m giving her our company discount on materials.”

I nodded.

“Car? Company discount?” questioned Noelle.

“Yes! Mila, Jarod, and Aurora take care of everyone’s cars for us, even upgrading them as they develop better parts.” explained Emma, pointing out who was who as she said their names. Pointing at Maxine, she said, “That one may or may not help. She is really bright, just a bit mischievous.

“That’s so cool! Think I could eventually pay them to work on Jamie’s?” questioned Noelle with a smile. “She always takes me places.”

Mila quickly reminded her “I’ll be taking you places now, but we can most certainly work on your sister’s car whenever she needs something done. We’re best friends for hire, after all, excluding Maxine.”

“That’s awesome! I should get a car eventually. If I call you, will you remind me where I park it?”

Mila nodded and said, “I’ll also call to remind you that you parked it when your jobs are over.”

“Really!? That’s awesome! I once borrowed Jamie’s and… um… we kinda spent a week looking for it.”

“Don’t worry. I intend to install an incredible tracking system on your keys and vehicle when the time comes.” replied Mila.

“Sure you don’t want one on me too?” teased Noelle.

“Your phone suffices when you remember it, but I’m adept at finding people even if you forget. When you get your company enhancement suit, I’ll be able to track it. Raine, the skittish girl you met yesterday, will find you if I cannot.” explained Mila.

“Wow. How?” questioned Noelle.

“Scent, probably. She has many gifts.”

Jarod caught sight of us, waved, and said, “Hey, guys. Nice to meet you, Noelle. Come check this thing out!” The diagrams moved to larger screens on the wall as he started explaining his favorite parts. Toward the end, he said, “Aurora came up with this sweet composite to be used in the suspension system here.” He pointed, and the screen zoomed to the right part. “I’m going to have to modify everyone’s cars again if all this works as well as we think. I’d also like you to do a bit of spellwork on it if you don’t mind. Since this is for her use only, we left out the batteries entirely and created plans based off what we know you can do.”

“Sure thing. Out of curiosity, what would you do if I actually declined?” I questioned.

“Well, I’ve had this idea of creating a biomechanical battery and thought a bit of Iris’ DNA might give it a little extra spark.” replied Jarod with a crazy grin.

“Personally, I still prefer that idea.” stated Maxine.

I nodded, having an idea of how to get that to work. Aaliyah had talked plenty of the relationship between the soul and the body over the years and such a feat was feasible without magical aptitude, albeit much harder. I looked forward to seeing what he’d manage.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 371

Achille and Babette named their characters Ombre and Cogneur, Shadow and Bruiser in English. Ombre looked very stereotypically vampiric with black hair and pale skin. The chiseled face and downturned lips gave him a distinctly angry expression. Cogneur, despite her unfortunate name, looked as dainty as Babette herself did when she wasn’t being a violent, foul-mouthed troublemaker.

“Louise Labé?” I questioned, stepping behind Heloise.

“A poet I like.” she replied sheepishly.

“You didn’t!?” laughed Babette.

“Oh, let her be. You never complained when she used to read to us.” snapped Achille.

“We were six! I didn’t know poets were lame yet.” insisted Babette.

“Lame?” questioned Dani from where she sat, making her character pace impatiently.

“I believe she means boring. ” I told her.

“Is not!” exclaimed Dani. “I love poetry! I know hundreds!”

“Not in any language they’d understand.” I reminded her, stepping over to pat my daughter’s head. Turning back to Babette, I said, “Brandon might be the only one who agrees with you about poetry in this house. Dejon might force you to read poetry for the rest of us if he’s in the mood.” I knew several of the others weren’t really fans of poetry, but they wouldn’t be rude about it.

Babette stared up at me with her mouth open. “How? He doesn’t seem that tough.”

“Dejon doesn’t need to be tough. If he tells you to do something, you’ll find yourself doing it. You really need to stop underestimating the rest of us.”

I knew he wouldn’t break his word and use his powers on her without my permission, but I wanted Babette to think before she made unnecessary comments.

She slowly nodded while her brother snorted. Heloise was still adjusting Louise’ proportions.

“Daddy, we should do a poetry reading! Heloise and I could consult with Mila about which ones and musical background!” suggested Dani excitedly.

“If you decide on a time, I promise to attend.” I replied with a smile.

She grinned at me and started talking with Mila in her native tongue while still making her character pace.

“What’s she saying?” questioned Heloise.

“Just making plans.” I informed her.

“What language is that?” asked Babette, craning her neck to stare at my daughter.

“Nothing you need to learn. Remember, the three of you are on a job. You need to stay busy.” I reminded them.

“Sorry.” stated Babette, twisting back around to play the starter quests.

I watched for a couple minutes, wanting to make sure their characters met up with Dani’s, since she wasn’t paying too much attention, already distracted by the other people around her character. Then I went upstairs to meet our newest arrival.

At least, I had been hoping she arrived. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any such luck. Noelle Joy was extremely forgetful. She was just as likely to forget that she had a car as she was to forget the keys. Aaliyah had explained to me that the unfortunate girl didn’t have any sort of brain damage, but her fey heritage, though relatively weak, altered how her brain functions, such as a constant subconscious use of magic. Random people around Noelle had images implanted in their heads of some addition to her. When she was sad, some people might see a small cloud over her head. When she was happy, she might seem to glow. In more minor cases, she might simply be inexplicably cuter.

“Master, Noelle will be here soon. I located her and took the car to fetch her after she got off the bus at the wrong stop an hour ago.” explained Mila.

“Thank you, Mila.” I sighed and considered what else I had to do today, thinking of this day as if it included the months I’d be hopping through time before returning, but my thoughts came back around to Noelle again.

She had managed to get by this far in life largely due to the supervision of her adoptive sister and their shared friends. Her sister was to be married next month and wouldn’t have the time to hunt after Noelle constantly, which would have led to a falling out if not for us taking Noelle. When Aaliyah had given me the briefing on this one, I had some serious concerns about Noelle being able to function as a best friend for hire, but Mila’s plans to keep her on track seemed feasible.

Then there was the strangest romance I had ever seen. I had gone slack-jawed at the suggestion that Noelle would be dating in the near future, halfway thinking the poor girl would forget she had a boyfriend. When I was told whom she would date, I accepted a peek into the future to believe it.

Lost in my thoughts, I wasn’t certain how long I had waited before one of Mila’s body’s arrived, guiding Noelle into the house. The petite girl had blonde hair, bright blue eyes and wore a green dress with a smudge of something on the side. I used a spell to clean that for her as she looked around excitedly.

Catching sight of my face when she looked to the ceiling, she said, “Wow. When did you get there?”

“Noelle, why are you here?” I questioned with a smile.

“This kind lady found me and brought me here. She said I was supposed to… er… “

“Have an interview.” reminded Mila.

“Really!? I should’ve dressed up!” exclaimed Noelle worriedly, looking down to her clothes. “Oh. I did!” She grinned up at me and said, “Isn’t this great!?”

“Marvelous. Let’s get you upstairs for the paperwork. Your sister will be thrilled to hear you’ve found a job.” I told her.

“I have a job!? That’s wonderful! I knew I needed to come here.” She took two steps to follow me, and then stopped. “Wait. You have a name. Did you tell me?”

I turned around and said, “James Michael Somerset III. Welcome to Best Friend For Hire.”

She repeated my name to herself several times before saying, “I got it.”

After stopping in the kitchen to fetch some of Marco’s cookies, I guided Noelle to my office, introduced her to my wife, and got her started on paperwork. Then I left her to Mila’s supervision. Surprisingly, Noelle still remembered my name. Things would work out.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 370

“James! Been awhile since you knocked on our door, hasn’t it?” suggested Babette with a grin as she gestured for me to enter the room.

“Six days. You three have managed to go nearly a week without destroying anything. As much as I appreciate that you’ve learned a little restraint in the month you’ve been here, I feel you still have room to improve.” I replied, slightly annoyed as I thought about the number of talks I’ve had with these three.

“Not quite a month yet.” mumbled Heloise under her breath.

Achille quickly said, “So what brings you today? I don’t think any of us have… uh… you know.” He shrugged and smiled like he was trying to win me over.

“Oh, I’m not upset about anything today. As you may know, Aaliyah’s birthday was yesterday. She mentioned to me that you three have not even tried her game yet. Though playing isn’t a requirement, most people do tend to enjoy it.” I explained.

“Yeah-yeah. We’ve seen you all in the ballroom playing together. The game looks cool, but we never really had an interest in video games.” replied Babette, taking a seat and grabbing a bag of chips.

“We had an unfair advantage before. Now that you’ve given us the suits, are reflexes are crazy fast, compared to most at least.” replied Achille as he tossed an empty glass into the air, attempted to catch it on one finger, missed the balance, and caught the glass before it got away.

“Smooth.” teased Babette, her mouth half-full of chips.

Heloise sighed, looked to me, and said, “Games are expensive, we never really had the money to blow on them.”

“Achille frequented the arcade before they shut it down.” commented Babette.

Heloise’s head jerked to face her brother, who flinched and smiled sheepishly. “Where did you get the money to play?”

“Heloise, you were a bit strict with our budget at times…” he told her, backing away.

“Whatever happened is in the past.” I reminded them. Seeing that I had their attention again, I said, “For one week, I am going to pay you to play Ancient Tribes of Earth. Mila will provide you with the details just like any other job. For this week, I expect you to play as servants of my daughter. After the week, you no longer get paid and don’t have to play the game again.”

“Um… what’s the point of this?” questioned Achille, pointed looking away from Heloise.

“Getting paid.” mumbled Heloise.

I nodded and said, “The pay is more of a perk. We are very closely tied to Global Princess Entertainment, earning a great deal of profit from our shares in the company. I imagine we will be hired once again this autumn to join Aaliyah at the local convention. Last year, we cosplayed as our characters for the duration. If that’s the case again, you’ll be designing your own costume as you play.”

“That’s cool, I guess.” replied Heloise.

“What if I made my character a giant, male ogre?” asked Babette.

“Then you best be prepared to walk on stilts and wear a large number of cosmetics.” I explained with a smile. “I should also mention that my daughter’s guild is composed of vampires, so each of you will quickly be turned. Don’t worry. There is a way to cure each type of vampirism in the game. The one for this strain just hasn’t been discovered yet.”

“You must know that our family frequently hunts vampires, right?” stated Babette.

“Have you figured out how you want to take care of Cosette?” I questioned with a smile as I stared her down.

“We would never!” insisted Heloise.

“No kidding. That girl is way beyond our pay grade. We never even tried our hand against the young ones.” added Achille.

“She’s only sixteen, but Adelmar recognized her as part of your family.” I mentioned. “Unfortunately, I doubt Godric will. You should know that I am friends with the oldest three vampires, so you may end up meeting them while you are here.”

“Oh.” muttered Babette. “So what’s the point of playing a vampire in this game?”

“Some people simply enjoy vampire role-play. In this particular case, the strain of vampirism your characters will possess is part of a large storyline which you will see when your characters are turned. One of your roles will be to infiltrate existing guilds to turn their members. At least, I’m fairly certain Dani will utilize you in that manner. Her plans can get a little… silly.” I admitted. “Please do at least pretend to enjoy the game if Aaliyah comes around. She’ll pout if you don’t.”

“Where do we play?” asked Achille. “There typically aren’t enough seats in the ballroom.”

I nodded. “The ballroom has sublevels with more gaming equipment, so you can easily go down there. Some of the others do occasionally. The virtual reality gear is on the lowest levels. Just a word of caution, the VR for Ancient Tribes of Earth can be incredibly intense.”

Maple had found the VR to be too realistic for her liking, screaming every time she was attacked. Jemal never tried it again after his one go, but Kayla seemed to love it. I was fairly certain Cosette was a fan as well. The system wasn’t to spec for Alma and me. Aaliyah had offered to make one that was, but I was perfectly happy with my normal system.

The triplets and I discussed the game a little further before I convinced them to come along and just get started.

“Daddy!” exclaimed Dani, running toward us as we walk down the hall.

“Couldn’t wait, huh?” I asked with a smile.

She shook her head and said, “I need more minions! You and Mom kicked us out of the guild too fast!”

“You stood on the fountain, shouting about world domination.” I reminded her.

“I was impatient!” she replied with a grin. “Cosette came up with this great new plan where we…”

I covered her mouth with my hand and said, “Dani, we’re not on the same side, so you shouldn’t tell me your secret plots.”

“But…” she started, still looking excited.

“Cosette might get mad, so no.” I replied. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cosette already counted on Dani being incapable of keeping a secret from me, but she might not have considered that these three would be present. There were times when a plan depended on compartmentalizing information. My daughter might learn eventually.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 369

Just a week after Jarod’s birthday, his parents’ house was fully renovated, so their move was planned for the following week. Knowing in advance, Aaliyah had scheduled an opt-in work day for those willing to help. Mr. and Mrs. Davis were a bit bewildered when most of my crew arrived, despite Jarod’s warning.

“Have you toured the new house yet?” inquired Mai.

“A little. We kept meaning to look around more, but things just haven’t worked out.” replied Mrs. Davis.

“Becky, you simply must see it before we haul everything inside.” insisted Ai. “James, you’ll supervise the rest, won’t you?”

I nodded and said, “Sure thing. Let Jarod explain all of the new bells and whistles while we tidy things up here.”

“I feel like we’re imposing on all of you enough already.” stated Mr. Davis as he worriedly brushed his hand through his hair and looked around.

“No imposition at all.” I assured him. “Everyone here volunteered, so just be grateful that your son has so many friends.”

“One of us really should stay to get all of the boxes labeled.” suggested Becky.

“I’ll label them!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a grin. “I’m an expert labeler, I promise!”

“You’re so sweet.” replied Becky as she bent down to pat Aaliyah’s head.

“She actually is. You’d be amazed how much I’ve learned from her in the past year. Her gaming company alone is worth a fortune, and she constantly puts out patents for crazy inventions.” explained Jarod.

“Plus, she makes money from the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce due to some design work she did for them. Really, there’s no need to worry about us. I do know this house fairly well, after all.” I told them.

“Well, your group does seem really organized. I supposed we can be the first off. Here’s a key to lock up.” replied Mr. Davis as he handed me the key.

“Awesome. You’re going to love this!” exclaimed Jarod with a big grin.

Ai and Mai followed him to the Mustang, and he waited for his parents to get on the road before heading off. I smiled and waved, waiting until they rounded the corner to unleash the spell I prepared, shrouding the house and yard in an illusion. Then I signaled my friends to pick up the pace. I couldn’t let Aaliyah spend the whole morning of her birthday working, even though she was probably goofing off on a billion other worlds at the same time.

True to her word, Aaliyah handled the sorting and labeling, telling me what to pack as she labeled where each box should end up. In under ten minutes, everything was packed, and we were on our way.

“You forgot to lock the door.” stated Aaliyah as she shook the key at me.

I rolled my eyes, dispelled the illusion, and used another spell to twist the locks from the inside. “Better?”

She nodded and said, “Yep! Onward!”

When we arrived, Mr. and Mrs. Davis weren’t even done with Jarod’s tour yet, so they were more than a little surprised to see us hauling things into the various rooms.

“How…” started Mr. Davis.

“To make money in my business, we have to be quick and efficient with the simple jobs.” I replied with a wink.

“James has become a bit of a show off.” teased Jarod.

“A bit?” questioned Ai.

“Understatement of the year!” exclaimed Mai, after shaking her head.

“Well, don’t I feel loved. Offer a little help and get picked on.” I complained.

“Oh, we appreciate you.” insisted Mr. Davis as he gawked at Raine and Emma moving their sofa.

“They work out!” exclaimed Aaliyah, who was standing by the door to give each person directions.

“How do you know the floorplan so well?” he questioned.

“Schematics!”

“I owe her the biggest birthday cake this year.” I stated with a smile.

“Oh! Is it your birthday?” asked Mrs. Davis. When Aaliyah nodded, she then inquired “How old are you?”

“Thirteen!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“Uh…” started Mr. Davis.

“No, really. She’s a teenager.” I assured him as he continued to stare at the under-three-foot-tall girl.

“Let’s get back on track with the tour! I still haven’t shown you the security system.” stated Jarod as he motioned everyone to follow.

Explaining the benefits of Mila’s integration with their home was a big selling point to Jarod’s speech as he told them about the security. He then told them about Mila’s abilities as an assistant allowing her to operate anything connected to the network for them. Ai and Mai were surprisingly helpful, stopping him whenever he went too far on the technical side in his explanations.

“All finished, boss!” exclaimed Brandon with a grin after he found us in the home theater.

“Excellent. Mila should be bringing my car around, so you all can get on with your day.” I told him.

“That was really quick.” stated Mrs. Davis.

“They set some stuff up for you too!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“I swear they work twice as fast when I’m not looking, which is a bit vexing. Shouldn’t I get to yell at them for slacking?” I mock complained.

Laughing, Mr. Davis said, “You have a great crew, James. Jarod’s told me before that I could call when I’m shorthanded, but…” He shrugged. “I might just do that sometime.”

“I can assure you that Jarod hasn’t lost his touch as a mechanic.” I replied with a grin.

He laughed again. “Yeah, that’s for sure. He tells me a little here and there.”

I shook his hand as well as Mrs. Davis’ as I told them “I best be off as well to get this little one her cake. Her father will be expecting us soon.”

“Thanks again for all of the help, James! We miss having you stop by the house.” stated Mrs. Davis.

“You’re always free to visit us as well, you know. My parents come over fairly regularly, so you could always ride together now that you’re neighbors. They won’t mind.” I replied.

Mr. Davis nodded and said, “I’m sure we’ll be spending more time with your parents. They’re supposed to stop by tomorrow. Said they wanted to give us a little something as a welcome to the neighborhood.”

I smiled and nodded before saying farewell and leaving with Aaliyah. After a stop at the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce to view the birthday cake, I went and helped set up for the party. Aaliyah decorated the artificial womb, claiming her daughter needed to look festive too.

The party went roughly the same as the previous year with the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce catering and more guests of high society than friends invited. Most of my household made an appearance throughout it, and some stayed till the end. By the end, I felt the day had gone well.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 368

Time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye anymore. Kayla’s friends had a wonderful time at the sleepover from what I saw. There certainly was plenty of giggling the few times they were around me. Aaliyah surely instigated some trouble to keep them entertained. The triplets nearly bumbled into the party at one point, but Raine handled them for me at Mila’s behest. Then the days went back to normal for my home. We even managed to fit in a little more baseball practice in the past week.

Today would certainly be an interesting diversion. I had been hired for a kidnapping. I was certain that Jarod wouldn’t mind being kidnapped when he finally reached the party tonight, but I did wonder what all Ai and Mai were planning to do with him until then.

“He’s coming.” whispered Alma as an image in my head.

I acknowledged her and prepared my spell to dim the lights.

“Now!”

I released the spell and moved to watch after verifying my illusory disguise was still active. Jarod was a few steps from his car, briefcase in hand. He had just finished a meeting and thought he’d be joining the twins for a birthday lunch, which would probably take place in an entirely different place than he had planned.

Mila’s dummies ― partially fleshed out cybernetic bodies meant to act as a zombie horde ― were taking quite a beating. Jarod’s suit would be helping him to see, and he was showing his aptitude in a fight all too well. If nothing else was disturbing him, the zombie stench Mila concocted surely was.

Alma, who had joined me to amuse herself, was making sure we wouldn’t be disturbed on this level of the parking garage, but I didn’t want to inconvenience people too much. I created an ice slick under Jarod’s feet, hit him with a strong burst of wind at the same time as a bit of telekinetic force, and created a burst of fire from another direction, hoping he’d think multiple casters were assailing him. I knew none of the spells would do much, reduced by the protections I had made in the suit, but Jarod had rolled perfectly as he fell backward from the telekinesis, coming to his feet and knocking one of the dummies to the side quite fluidly.

Continuing to bombard him with spells of various sorts, I fetched the straight jacket and restraints the twins had provided, certain that Mila would run out of dummies too soon at this rate. I had doubts about whether or not Jarod was even starting to fatigue with the enhancement suit bolstering his stamina. I took control of the bindings with a few spells and sent them around the dummies from different directions, adjusting the spells to ensnare Jarod as he dodged. I could have restrained him more quickly, but doing things too well might tip him off.

Using a spell to alter my voice, I said, “What took so long? Get him in the van.” Then I altered my voice again, saying, “Sorry. He’s… being difficult.” Switching back to the first voice, I tried sounding annoyed as I stated “Just shut up and move.”

Mila obliged, using the dummies to load Jarod into one van before sending them into another. I removed the spell for dimming the lights and gathered up the broken pieces before joining my wife in Jarod’s van. There was damage to numerous vehicles, but all of these had been purchased and placed here for this purpose. They’d be repaired later and used as prizes for a little event my wife was throwing for her employees.

After the van started moving, Alma altered her voice and asked “So who is this guy anyway?”

“No clue. Did you see the way he moved?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s gotta be someone important.” she agreed.

“Who do you work for?” inquired Jarod, his voice muffled behind the bag on his head.

“Shut up!” exclaimed Alma, shifting her voice to sound masculine and kicking him.

She grinned at me, and I rolled my eyes. This reminded me of the time we kidnapped the ruler of a continental empire to save him from a rival country who had help from an intergalactic mafia.

We rode in silence for a time, save for the sounds I fabricated to replace what was actually outside. With Jarod involved, letting him hear what was actually around him might well let him know where we were. I was hopefully giving him slight vertigo as well, though the suit would be dampening it. Letting him track turns wouldn’t be advisable, but even he would probably be confused in these conditions after an hour. Mila was very good at planning convoluted routes.

Finally arriving at one of my hotels, Alma and I snuck Jarod up to the suite where the twins were waiting. One of them gave him a mock pout, and the other pretended to snicker. Then they both signed that they’d call when ready for the next stage of their plan.

Meanwhile, Alma and I went out on a lunch date.

“I am quite grateful that you never were that twisted in your birthday presents to me.” I told her after we took our seats.

“Really? I was just thinking that I might have let things be too boring.” she suggested.

I shook my head as I reached over and squeezed her hand. “No, my love. I am quite happy without being kidnapped and abused for fun.”

“Excellent. I’d need Aaliyah’s help to create a convincing kidnapping against you, and I would quite likely feel sorry for you after seeing what she’d do.” she teased.

We continued chatting for a while after our meal before getting a call from the twins. This was the riskier part of the plan. Ai and Mai had purchased an old building outside of the city where Jarod would be locked up. The plan was for him to escape, find a way to call for help, and then be taken home for the party where guests would be able to watch a video depicting his outlandish day as an action hero. Alma, Mila, the twins, and I were taking bets on how Jarod would get out of the building. Honestly, I just hoped he’d be able to look back on this birthday with a smile.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 367

“Hi, Jemal. What can I do for you today?” I inquired as he nervously stepped into my office.

“Well, umm… You see… Kayla has these friends she adores, and they really want a sleepover. Here.” he told me, fidgeting.

“Please, sit down. No need to stand. We’re friends.” I assured him.

He nodded and quickly blurted “I know that’s probably out of the question, but I promised Kayla that I’d ask you.”

“Her friends are beginning to have doubts about where she lives?” I inquired on a hunch.

He stared at me with his mouth hanging open, purposefully shut it and shrugged. “Yeah, pretty much. Knowing Kayla, she… well… She might say more than she should at times.”

“If she says what can be publicly known, I wouldn’t be surprised if not everyone believes her.” I pointed out. “Our home isn’t precisely normal.”

“Yeah… that’s true.” he admitted.

“As for the sleepover, I don’t see a problem. Any idea on when?” I asked.

Hesitating, Jemal said, “Umm…”

“Master, I believe tomorrow would work for everyone.” suggested Mila. “None of Kayla’s friends seem to have weekend appointments as far as I can find, and I’ll gladly provide transport with the limousine while chaperoning. Mind if I check with Kayla, Jemal?”

“W-What? Tomorrow? I uhh…” he started. “Don’t I have a couple jobs tomorrow?”

“Yes, which is one of the reasons I offered to provide transport. Here is my suggested schedule.” she informed him, displaying it on the wall.

Jemal would be dropped off for his job. Mila would then pick the girls up from school fifty minutes later, take them shopping for a couple hours, and collect Jemal before returning home for dinner. He’d then take himself for his next job while Mila entertained the girls with a movie in the theater, games, or other options depending on whether or not some of our friends decide to join.

“You know Dani will want to participate if Kayla’s fine with it.” I stated with an amused smile.

Jemal looked from the display to me and said, “I feel like I should be saying something about not letting them snack too much, but I think Marco would be disappointed if there was a party without his cooking.”

“Glad to see that you’ve got a good handle on things here.”

He nodded and said, “Seems fine by me. Are you sure you want to take up time watching them for me?”

“Are you sure you don’t mind a one-year-old watching them?” teased Mila.

“If that bothers you, I could stop in and make sure my daughter’s behaving.” I offered.

Looking a little worried, Jemal said, “Umm… no offense, boss, but is that even a good idea? Wouldn’t they… well…”

“I’m sure my magic wouldn’t bother them nearly as much as Dani’s complaints if I were to pop in.” I assured him.

“Okay, but uh… about the shopping. I doubt their parents would appreciate me asking them to bring money, so got an estimate on how much this will cost me? What type of shopping are you planning?”

“Makeover kits, some clothes, and that sort of thing. Don’t worry. The company’s party budget barely gets touched thanks to our resources, so I’m allocating a little for this.” she explained.

“We have a party budget!?” inquired Jemal in surprise.

“Yes, that was raised to fifty million per year. The party budget is also used to cover company vacations and such, so I really ought to make sure we spend more of it this year. Let me know if there is somewhere you’d like to vacation.” I told him, imagining how he’d react if he knew that wasn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to some of the other planets where my company thrived.

He was already slack-jawed and staring at me.

“I know. Our excursion to France barely touched it. We’ll have to plan at least one long vacation as well as some more little trips.”

“B-but how!?” exclaimed Jemal. “I mean… how can our budget be that big!?”

“Jemal, we receive more than that per month from our holdings in Global Princess Entertainment alone. The shares in the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce easily cover the party budget as well. I can assure you that this business is very secure financially.” explained Mila.

“Shouldn’t more of that be going to James?” asked Jemal.

“I have plenty. You’ll be seeing a substantial amount from profit sharing at the end of the year, so smile and enjoy the company benefits.

He nodded and asked “Does everyone know this?”

“Probably not. Alma and I are the only ones who bother reading Mother’s memos regularly, but all employees can easily access financial information concerning them on the company site or by asking me. You should know that I’m always happy to assist if there is any confusion.” insisted Mila.

“I do. I just… Ever wonder how some people manage to fit so much into their days?” he questioned.

I shrugged and said, “Not anymore, but I did before. Life can pull you ten thousand ways at once, so I thought lightening the load would be agreeable for everyone here. Aaliyah and Mila are kind enough to make this possible.”

“I still don’t get how such a tiny girl does so much. Oh. Think she’d want to join the sleepover? She’s like twelve, right?” he asked.

“Thirteen soon. She was already on Kayla’s list.” stated Mila.

Nodding, he said, “Right. She really doesn’t look it.”

“She never will. Aaliyah has a condition that’ll keep her body young forever.” I told him, knowing most of my friends needed to have the same misconception I once had.

“Oh. Wow. That’s… just wow. She’ll look like that when she’s forty?” he inquired.

“Without ever having aching joints or other pains from age. There are certainly perks to her condition.” I replied.

“But… think she’ll be okay without ever experiencing… uh… romance?” he asked.

“I’m certain she’ll be fine.” I assured him. “If you have nothing else to discuss, I probably should get back to work.”

He nodded and said, “Oh. Yeah. Sorry, boss.”

“No trouble. We should have a chat more often. I’ll see about scheduling it if you’d like.” I told him.

“Really? I mean, sure!” he exclaimed with a grin. Then he gave me a wave before stepping out and shutting the door.

I’d like to have a little one-on-one time time with each of my friends regularly. I knew Aaliyah would give me the time. With how much time I spent off world, I felt like I never saw anyone here enough.