I started awake to the sound of Regina laughing and received a soft hit to the stomach a moment later. “Bad pillow.” teased Emma. She had insisted on cuddling between Regina and me, claiming that she could help us heal even as she slept. The large bruise across my back actually was feeling less tender. Last night’s practice involved the twins attacking me with magic while having Regina attack me with all she could muster. Emma was restricted to physically sparring with the twins, but they insisted that she made Regina’s footing more treacherous while doing so. In addition to being a difficult workout, the exercise left Regina and me both covered in bruises. Emma had a few as well, but her arm seemed completely healed today from what I could see of it. Breakfast didn’t smell ready yet, so why was I awake? What was wrong with me!? “Do you know what’s happening out there?” I asked. “Regina woke up feeling much better and saw funny sparkles floating around the air, so Ai and Mai made her work at it until she got the hang of seeing residual energy. Now she’s learning some spells.” Emma pushed her head tighter into my shoulder, getting hair into my mouth. If Regina started picking up magic other than her luck magic at all quickly, I was in for trouble when we sparred.
“Emma, do you think we should get up now?” I inquired. “Five more minutes, mom!” she replied. “Stop! Can’t sleep when you keep moving.” she pouted after I started laughing. I couldn’t believe that I was the one wanting to get up. Maybe the forest was getting to me. I hadn’t gone camping for a while and wasn’t accustomed to all the woodland sounds. Nonetheless, I laid there for a little while before I started tickling Emma. “NOOOO!” she laughed before saying, “Okay! I’ll get up!” I quickly rolled over when she stood, having forgotten that she fell asleep in a skirt last night. “Up, man-slave!” she exclaimed as she knelt and pulled up me with her. I followed her out of the tent and found Ai cooking while Mai sat across from Emma, who was making a barely perceptible light with magic. She looked completely happy and utterly gorgeous, despite the faint bruise still lingering on her arm. Last night I had thought Emma was simply being, well, Emma. She had been wrong about the bruise Mai had given me Friday. After only a couple days, it was nearly gone. Perhaps her healing was more effective in the forest. Then again that could be another boon of my body inexplicably absorbing magic. Until we figured out why that was happening, I couldn’t rightly rule anything out. “Breakfast will be a while, so sit down by those two and start practicing” commanded Ai as she stared at us imperiously.
The twins worked us even harder than last night. Only Emma seemed to keep up with the twins on energy, though she couldn’t yet match their skill at mixed martial arts. Instead of fighting one another, Regina and I were practicing techniques on some sort of soft plant that Emma had greatly enlarged and had given a humanoid form. Getting hit by them didn’t hurt nearly as bad and didn’t leave bruises, but they also didn’t get fazed by hits even slightly. When Regina and I grew tired, Emma held our hands for a while and did something to help us recover more quickly, flirting with us the entire time, of course. I didn’t even bother arguing when the twins wanted to swim again. I just drifted up into the water and started meditating, so I could have a little peace. I was utterly exhausted by the time I finished packing up camp that evening. Regina wanted to help, but the twins assured her that she wasn’t ready to try levitating things yet. After Emma was finished with what had been our campsite, no one would have a clue people had been there. I was grateful the cooler was empty for the walk back, until I lifted it and found it wasn’t. I opened it to find the cooler was still nearly full of venison, even though I would have sworn we almost finished it last night. “Did you two go hunting again this morning?” I asked the twins.
“No, of course not,” said Mai. “That would be really silly, James. Why would killing a single deer take two of us? Mai got the last one. I got this one.” followed Ai. “Must you really talk in the third person?” inquired Emma, earning her a kick to the leg that was barely blocked by a tree root. “See? I’m getting better too. You didn’t break that one. The trick’s in slowing your attack rather than blocking it.” explained Emma. “Why,” I cut in, “did you need to go hunting again?” Ai shrugged and told me “We like venison, so we thought we’d take some home. Get carrying, James. Time to see what your car can do.” I paused before picking up the cooler. “What do you mean?” Mai then explained “No one should be around for miles, and there’s a place not far from where we parked that would be ideal for trying out your car’s weapons.” Mila’s weaponry didn’t often come to mind, not with all of the training, working, and schooling I had endured for the past couple weeks. My anticipation helped me feel less burdened as we walked back to my beautiful car. I wasn’t remotely surprised to find that both Mila and Emma’s car were in good order when we arrived, and as the twin’s had promised, the area they had in mind wasn’t very far at all.
Within two minutes of pulling out of the parking lot, we were pulling up to an open field. Emma parked her bug on the side of the road. Then Regina and her both squeezed into Mila, not wanting to miss a thing. “Okay, man-slave. Show us what she’s got.” I didn’t have the faintest idea how to use the car’s weapons. I switched to Mila’s digital displays and asked her to bring up a weapon list. “I didn’t know you had portable weapons in this thing, James. What if the police search your vehicle at some point?” asked Regina. “Considering I haven’t stumbled across them, I doubt they’re that easy to find.” I responded. Other than an assortment of small firearms, tasers, and knives, most of the list seemed like random numbers and letters to me. Mai, who was in the passenger seat, touched the screen over one, which brought up a picture of something resembling a missile along with technical details about it that I didn’t feel like attempting to decipher. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” said Mai. “What if Aaliyah went overboard again?” inquired Ai. “Overboard? What do you mean?” I asked. “Regina touched my shoulder and said, “James, you have a talking car.” I turned to look at her and replied “I have a Bond car. Talking is just the latest feature.” She rolled her eyes but couldn’t help smiling.
“Mila could you tell us how much damage this thing could do without actually firing it?” I asked. “Would you like a virtual simulation of the XBGM-27 Kablam being fired?” After saying, “Yes,” Mila had us choose terrain type, building type, creature types, number of creatures, target area, and other such figures for the simulation. When at last the simulation ran, I wasn’t remotely surprised to find that the “simulation” was running in “crayon” mode, depicting a large house getting obliterated by the tiny missile. “Okay, so she might have gone slightly overboard,” I said, staring at the large hole in the simulation. “Assuming the thing works.” started Mai. “That thing’s still experimental,” said Ai. “How do you know?” I asked. “Our father’s family has defense contracts with several governments.” they explained in unison. “How about I grow a few targets out there, and you just try out the guns?” suggested Emma. After Emma stepped out of the car, Ai said, “I think you should talk with the kid about the necessity of missiles in your car.” Then Mai added “At very least, you could ask what each of your weapons does before even thinking about firing it.” I sighed and told them “She’ll probably just tell me I should read the manual, but I’ll definitely talk to her more about what Mila can do before I accidentally blow up my neighborhood.” A video display popped up on the windshield, showing Aaliyah waving.
“I can’t believe you didn’t invite me to watch things go boom!” The twins both groaned, as they seemed to do often of late, but I asked “How did you know to call us?” Aaliyah’s left eyebrow raised as she said, “Mila called me, silly.” I felt like giving Mila a stern look, but didn’t think my car would really get the meaning. “Well, the twins feel that having experimental missiles in the car is a bit dangerous, and I’d like to set up a time to go over more of the weapons with you.” She gasped, grasped her face as if feeling for something, and then ran off the screen, only to come back a minute later with a tablet and her secretary glasses on. “Okay, boss-man, sir! Writing it down. You should have told me this was official secretary business!” I just shook my head, smiled, and said, “Sorry, Aaliyah. I’ll try to remember next time.” She nodded and told me “Well, I can’t stay and chat. Daddy’s probably cheating at Monopoly as we speak. The guns work like guns. Missiles make stuff go boom! Stunners stun things. Hi Emma! If you only used the manual, you’d know these things. Got you booked though, boss-man, sir! Have fun shooting stuff!” The windshield resumed its normal transparency. Emma, who got in the car as Aaliyah was talking, said, “I miss babysitting her. She calls you way more than me these days, man-slave.” The twins were both staring at her. “What? She’s a sweetie if you give her a chance!” declared Emma.
Other than the fact that Aaliyah had a tendency to correct the twins whenever they were even slightly off on something, I didn’t really see why they were acting so annoyed with her. Well, she did program Mila to call them “the evil twins,” but they easily bribed her with cake last weekend! At Ai and Mai’s insistence, I had Mila give an overview of the different guns on the car, which all turned out to be easy enough to use for a two-year-old. When activated, Mila would automatically target “known hostiles” highlighting them in red on the windshield’s display. I could remove any off the list I wanted and tell her when to fire. The part that really seemed to impress the twins was the launch system, which I didn’t have the background to follow in technical detail. I did, however, understand that Aaliyah’s design allowed each frozen gas projectile to be fired at a different velocity “to avoid over-penetration of the target” while firing at four-thousand rounds per minute. What I could fully appreciate was the blazing speed of Mila’s processors to pull off those kind of calculations so quickly. When we actually got around to firing the guns, Mila remained completely impressive. Emma had her foot out on the ground, causing pumpkin vines to hurl their fruit through the air. Before we finished, I had Mila record some of the carnage to send to Jarod and Aaliyah, knowing they’d want to see the fruits of their labor, or at least pumpkins being destroyed by the product of their labor. Mila was truly incredible.