After I left Regina’s, I rushed over to the Browns’ residence with Aaliyah in tow. The Browns needed a computer fixed and someone to watch their son, Steven, while they were attending the fundraiser at my school. Aaliyah had arranged for me to babysit her and Steven together, claiming that fixing the computer at the same time wouldn’t be a problem. With Aaliyah being a child prodigy nearly twice Steven’s age of six, I figured she would keep him in line while I was working on the computer. If I was really lucky, she would fix the computer while I would watch him. We arrived with barely three minutes to spare, and Aaliyah insisted on pushing the doorbell, claiming a fondness for buttons “beyond the emotional capacity of most beings”. Knowing her extremely impressive knowledge of technology, I hardly doubted her love of buttons, even if her love of exaggeration surpassed her love of buttons. Paul answered the door, already dressed for the occasion, and called for his wife. As he held out his hand, he said, “Nice to meet you, James. And this must be Aaliyah.” We each shook his hand in turn, Aaliyah doing so from behind my leg. “She can be a bit shy at first but warms up quickly.” I explained. Paul gave us a brief tour of his house, and then explained that he believed his son had downloaded a virus from some website. I had my doubts after he explained the symptoms to me.
“Ok. I’m ready to go. Have you explained what’s wrong with the machine?” asked Mary. Her entrance with Steven led Aaliyah to hide behind me once more. I was amused to find that Steven was several inches taller than Aaliyah, despite being half her age. After Paul assured his wife that he explained what needed fixed, she pointed out where their cell numbers were listed, told me she had food in the oven for us, and pointed out where she kept various snack foods. Paul and Mary left shortly thereafter, so I asked Aaliyah if she wanted to work on the computer or play with Steven. “Really, boss-man, sir!? Do you see any glasses?” she asked while pointing to her face. “Just want to make sure you have fun. You usually seem to enjoy working on computers.” Steven, who had been staring back and forth at us, was then dragged into the next room as Aaliyah asked him what games he liked. I sat down at the computer desk, tried running a diagnostic I had brought on a thumb drive, and sighed when the blue screen of death appeared a moment later. I found little as tedious and boring as attempting to clean up someone else’s mess. I doubt I was even twenty minutes into trying to figure out the problem when a foam dart shot me in the side out of nowhere.
“I should really get this done before I join you two.” I called, though I wanted to find a weapon and join the battle. Steven jumped around the corner and shot at me three times while making gun noises, only hitting me once before running off. I resisted the urge to run after him and started reading through the diagnostic output, since the program finally ran after I shut off several of the processes that were bogging down the system. Another dart grazed my head, and I decided an hour of play might wear them out enough for me to get some work done. I grabbed the darts from the floor and headed toward the next room, only to have a water balloon come down on my head. “AALIYAH! I’m going to get you!” I didn’t manage to keep the laugh out of my voice, which she obviously noticed as she giggled, shot me again, and ran into the next room opposite from where I was heading. Luckily, I did find a dart gun sitting on the floor, probably left there on purpose. I grabbed the gun and chased after Aaliyah to find a barricade of chairs from which both of them were shooting me. I ducked for cover and returned fire, but they took off running again. When I pushed the chairs of the barricade aside, I found myself bombarded by a fully automatic dart gun. Both of the kids had stopped to watch the moment it went off, but started running when I recovered enough to take a shot at them.
I took a moment to look at how they had pulled off the trap. There was fishing line connected to one of the chairs which lowered a counterweight, activating the trigger of the propped up gun. I was fairly certain both of the traps had to be Aaliyah’s work. I cautiously entered the hallway, not wishing to be caught in another trap. Two water balloons dropped on me, obviously having been tossed by the giggling kids up the stairs. I fired a couple darts at them, which sent them running again. If this was an actual fight, those two would have taken me out multiple times already. I needed to convince Aaliyah not to tell Ai, Mai, or Emma about this, or they’d probably punish me worse than normal tomorrow at practice. Thinking about how Jarod would deal with this, I went back to the kitchen and grabbed the automatic gun, reloading it while trying to watch the stairs. I then went to the living room made a small barricade around myself with couch cushions, and waited for one of them to come down the stairs. Jarod probably would have given up the wait after a couple minutes, not being the most patient of people. I sat there firmly planted for a good ten minutes before questioning whether I had less patience than two kids. I had grown acclimated to the surroundings enough that I noticed when the sink started running in the kitchen. There was a second staircase!
I ran into the kitchen and was about to fire when I realized they both had glasses of water and were eating lasagna. “What are you doing, boss-man, sir? The food’s done! You can’t shoot people while they’re eating. Besides, we stopped playing with the guns ages ago.” I knew there was probably something I should say to this, but I was coming up blank. Instead, I sat the gun down and asked Aaliyah where the plates were. After she let out an enormous sigh, she said, “Don’t you want to dry off first? You probably didn’t even get the water in the hall. I can’t believe you’re slacking, boss-man, sir.” My first instinct was to tell her to clean it up, but I realized that I could use magic to do it while Steven was distracted, which would take care of the mess far more efficiently than towels. “Oh fine. Give me a yell if either of you need anything, and leave me some lasagna!” After making sure Steven wouldn’t be able to see me from where he was sitting, I sent out a seeking spell to find where all the water was in the carpet. Then I used a couple more spells to pull all of it from my clothes and the carpet, so I could float it up beside me and deposit it in the upstairs bathroom I was betting they had. I managed to finish and return to the kitchen before Aaliyah and Steven finished their food.
“Did either of you eat any of the vegetables?” I inquired. Aaliyah just smiled at me while Steven bashfully shook his head negatively. I dished a small pile of mixed vegetables on each of their plates. “But Boss-man, sir, there is broccoli in this. I can’t eat broccoli, boss-man, sir.” I looked at her and asked “Oh? Why not?” Her big, blue eyes stared up at me and said, “Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Broccoli will surely make me wither and die.” There had to be something she wouldn’t eat. “I’m made of ev-ry-ting nice too, sir,” said Steven. “Aaliyah is not a Powerpuff girl, despite what she may claim. Are you trying to tell me you’re a Powerpuff Girl?” I asked. After he shook his head negatively again, I told him “Well I’m rather certain your mother made this for you to eat because you are a boy and can handle what girls think is icky.” Then I took a big bite of broccoli, and made a display of chewing and swallowing it. Steven took the bait and did the same before telling Aaliyah “Boys are tough!” Aaliyah shrugged, started scooping the broccoli from her plate onto mine, and replied “Yep. Boys are soooo tough. I wish I was big and strong. Instead, I’m stuck eating cookies and cake and ice cream. Girl food.” Judging by Steven’s horrified expression, he seemed to be questioning whether or not being a boy was such a good thing. “Don’t worry. Boys get the sweet stuff too. She’s just teasing.” I informed him, which renewed his smile.
Mrs. Brown’s cooking was pretty decent, but it didn’t hold a candle to mother’s or the twin’s. I made the mistake of turning my back on Steven and Aaliyah when I was putting our dishes in the sink, which earned me several shots to the back from the guns they had stashed. “Games on, boss-man, sir!” exclaimed Aaliyah. “Game on, sir!” followed Steven a moment after. That game ended a few minutes later when Steven attempted to throw another water balloon at me. I managed to shoot the balloon before it left his hands. Aaliyah tumbled out of the way, avoiding the water entirely, but Steven got soaked. “Ok. That’s enough with the water balloons.” I announced. Then I took Steven to the bathroom, wrapped him in a towel from behind, and completely cheated the system by using magic to float the water through the towel and up into the sink while I held him facing the opposite direction. “Where did all the water go?” he asked. “Through the towel. Towels absorb water.” I told him. He gaped at me a moment before saying, “Mommy always uses towels, but they get wet.” I shrugged and replied “I guess I picked the best one.” He still seemed dubious when I brought him downstairs. Aaliyah agreed to play video games with him, and I cleaned the water off the floor while he was distracted. Then they claimed to get stuck, and I ended up playing video games with them for a while.
I played for too long, in fact, panicking when I heard a car pull into the drive. “Aaliyah, you’re going to have to refund them for the computer repairs.” She looked at me quizzically and said, “But boss-man, sir, the computer’s fixed. Look at the report.” The screensaver disappeared at a reasonable speed when I moved the mouse, and I knew something had changed just with how the cursor no longer jerked across the screen. There was some program I had never before seen on the screen listing off problems resolved. Apparently, the computer’s biggest problems had been caused by multiple antivirus programs running. I was surprised the thing even had started at all. I printed off a copy of the resolved issues report, and explained what things mean when Paul and Mary asked. When I went to remove my thumb drive, I found a bright pink one in its place. Aaliyah had obviously brought along her own software and ran whatever that program was when I wasn’t looking. The Browns seemed plenty happy about their night, so Aaliyah and I departed after saying our farewells. I thanked her for fixing the computer and handed her the pink thumb drive as I drove her home. To which she replied “I knew I misplaced that thing somewhere. I wrote a couple programs while on the clock to help when you’re doing computer work, but I kept forgetting to give them to you.” I told her that I’d have to see if Chad would let me copy them onto my drive before I left, not wanting to take hers from her. Aaliyah certainly kept me on my toes.