Despite being on the clock, mother and father both wanted to see my completed DB5 before letting me leave home. The twins had let themselves out and were sitting on the hood. I could tell by the frowns they wore as I stepped out that they were prepared to give a tirade of complaints about how long I had taken. Upon seeing my parents just behind me, their frowns turned to smiles, and they started going through the motions of presenting my car as if that had been their intention from the beginning. “Good evening, ladies. Sorry to hold you up, but I couldn’t let my son leave without having a chance to see the car. If you want reimbursement, I’ll gladly cover it.” I knew father had been interested in seeing my car, but that moment truly touched me with how much he was interested. He also demonstrated a respect for the legitimacy of my business in his eyes by offering to pay the twins for lost time, something only someone truly knowledgeable about father would know. I doubt he even knew how much those words meant to me as they left his lips, but I couldn’t imagine my day getting any better.
“Thank you, Mr. Somerset, but we’re thrilled to share in your first view of this car. James worked hard for it.” stated Ai as Mai opened the door and motioned for him to have a seat. Mother was hugging my side and smiling. Perhaps even she could admit that a Bond car was something beyond the norm, even though I had no intention of telling my parents that the car’s Bond-like qualities extended far beyond make and model. I was fairly certain that a number of the modifications weren’t legal in any respect, such as the guns, but I didn’t want tied up in court arguing for the need, especially if that entailed attempting to expose supernatural creatures which could likely slaughter large numbers of people. They’d probably mark my plea as “insanity” and have me committed, or lock me away for “public safety” if I demonstrated magic. “Son, did you boys do a few modifications to this? I didn’t think a DB5 had air conditioning or went quite this fast.” I was often amazed after the fact at how many obvious details slipped my mind. “Oh. Well, you know Jarod. He thought it’d be cool to put his own custom touch on it, since he had the parts available. Modifications just make it even more Bond-like in my mind.” I smiled though I could feel the sweat starting under my shirt.
Luckily, he just smiled and told me that he couldn’t agree more. I could only guess how the two beautiful girls showing off the car added to the Bond image in father’s mind. “Are you sure that you don’t have time to stay for dinner? We haven’t eaten yet.” offered mother, but the twins declined, saying, “We would love to join you again sometime soon, but we really would like to get some shopping done before the stores close and to unpack more. We only arrived last night, so there is plenty to do.” Father hadn’t left his spot at the wheel. He seemed completely engrossed in his thoughts, probably daydreams of various Bond movies. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked “Do you think we could manage a Bond marathon this next week, since we haven’t yet? I’ll make sure that Saturday’s clear for a drive if we can.” He looked up at me, gave me a smile, and said, “Son, I would love that.” Then he stepped out of my car and gave me a hug before telling mother “Come on, hon. Our boy has work to do.” They waited on the porch till we left, waving as I drove down the street.
To my surprise, Mai had set beside me instead of in the back with her sister. Some part of me warned this was just another scheme of theirs. “Mind if I do some fiddling with this thing as we drive? I need to figure out how to work the GPS, so we can get to your place.” Part of me just wanted to press buttons. “Boys and their toys,” said Mai as she looked back at her sister. “What do you think we should do with him, Mai? We can’t have him neglecting us the whole trip while he plays with his new toy.” Mai smiled and told her “We could just take it out of him when we arrive if he ignores too much.” I decided that a straight answer would be too much for them to handle, so I hit the button to switch interfaces. I couldn’t imagine the sight of the change ever getting old to me. “I should have asked Aaliyah for an instruction manual.” Before the twins could respond, the car stated in Aaliyah’s voice, “Instruction manual engaged, boss-man, sir. Would you like visual text, audio, visual imaging, or some combination thereof?” The twins looked at one another and let out a big sigh together. “Ugh. She would give the car her own voice.”
“Input from the evil twins is not accepted. Please try again.” came the voice. “Aaliyah, are you on speakerphone?” A picture of Aaliyah lit up the display between the seats and said, “Visual imaging and audio chosen for your ease. I am your DB5’s Multiplexing Interface Liaison Asset written by The Little Princess to fulfill your interaction needs. You may call me Mila for your convenience. Though accessible to The Little Princess, I am not a part of her, boss-man, sir. Any similarities are a result of The Little Princess attempting to provide the most efficient and comfortable driving environment. A full rundown of available features and options will take nine hundred thirty-one hours, fifty-three minutes, and sixteen seconds. Shall I begin, boss-man, sir?” With the twins half-shouting at me and half-begging me to say, “no,” I wouldn’t have said, “yes,” even if I was inclined to hear over a month’s worth of instructional information. “No, thank you. Will you explain how to bring up the GPS for me?” A map appeared on the dash, showing my location, and then Mila asked for the address of my destination, which I got out of the twins with little fuss.
“Do you wish to choose personal preferences en route, boss-man, sir?” One glance at Mai and I asked Mila to remind me when I was alone. “Sorry about that, ladies. As you’re well aware, I am not very familiar with my car yet. You have to admit that I could have done worse though.” After several seconds of silence, I glanced over at Mai and then back at Ai. Both of them were sitting with their arms crossed and looks of indignation on their faces. “Have I offended you?” I shouldn’t have asked. “Well, you didn’t stick up for us when your car called us ‘evil,’ and you’re paying far more attention to your car than us. I think we should just get a new best friend. Don’t you, Mai?” I was expecting more degrading, but Mai leaned against me and said, “I guess you’re all mine tonight, James. Poor Ai. I wonder what my sister will do while you and I are busy.” Mai and I started laughing as Ai sputtered and protested against Mai ever sitting up front again. “You know I was only teasing with you,” said Ai as she reached around the seat to rub my shoulders. “You don’t have to lie, Ai. Mai obviously appreciates my service more.”
“I guess you don’t like your shoulders rubbed then!” exclaimed Ai as she sat back in a huff, making Mai giggle. “I bet James would love if I rubbed his shoulders. Wouldn’t you, James?” Mai was smiling at me and gently rubbing my arm. Despite the enjoyment I was getting out of teasing Ai, I told myself that she was a client as well, even when she was being snippy. “I was just teasing Ai. She does wonders with her hands. My back was feeling a bit stiff after what you two put me through earlier. That backrub was nice.” I could see that Ai’s arms were still folded in the rearview mirror, but a smile played on her lips. “Well, you might get a better one if you behave and stop giving your car and my sister more attention than me.” Our journey continued with Ai getting irritable at the silliest things while Mai continued being completely sweet, even as she teased her sister. The twins were definitely up to something again, but I wasn’t remotely certain at their goal. When Mila said we had arrived, I was more than a little surprised.
The building at which we sat seemed extremely ordinary for the twins, who seemed to love extravagance. The six-story building was brick and appeared fairly old even though it was in good condition. The houses in the area had looked splendid as we drove past them, so I assumed the area was somewhat expensive. I just had trouble imagining these two incredible girls in a building with such a plain front, bearing virtually no decoration. “Is this the right place?” I asked as I helped the twins out of the car. They glanced at one another and said together, “What? You don’t like our home?” Wait. Did they mean… “Are you saying the entire building is your home?” They laughed and Ai told me to grab my bag. As we walked inside, Mai started explaining that Emma’s mother had arranged for them to stay here a month while they looked for a place of their own. I needed to ask Emma more about how much her mother knew, considering how she had clients with children who were well-versed in magic and melee. Something was seeming off.
“I’ll get the bath started for us,” said Ai as she walked across the room. I was busy taking in the condo from the living room. The place didn’t seem as large or luxurious as the Syphers, but the condo was well-furnished, had hardwood floors, and looked very comfortable. Mai started giving me a tour of the place. There were three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a nice dining area, all sprawled out over a long, single story. I was when surprised Mai explained that the toilet and sink were in a separate room from the bath entirely, not just a standard half-bath and bathroom arrangement. When Mai and I stepped into the bathing room, I turned around and apologized immediately. Ai was already in the enormous tub. “Come in. The water’s perfect,” she said. Mai hugged me from behind and asked “What’s wrong, James? Have you never been to a sentō? Communal bath houses are part of Japanese tradition. You don’t want to neglect our tradition and embarrass us by not bathing with us, do you?” I honestly didn’t know much about Japanese culture, but I had great doubts about high schoolers bathing with the opposite sex over there. This job was getting far too interesting for my comfort.