“What’s wrong, boss-man, sir?” asked Aaliyah. From the corner of my eye, I could see her sitting in the passenger seat, staring up at me. I kept my eyes on the road, having almost ran a light that I realized was red with only a moment to break. “Sorry about the sudden stop. I’m just… Well, you’re a lot to carry.” I attempted to explain. “Boss-man, sir”, she started, causing my head to turn from the sad sound. She was pouting at me. “Are you calling me fat?” she asked. Fat? Oh. I started laughing and said, “The idea of you being fat is ridiculous. I meant the figurative weight of knowledge.” How could someone so deadly still seem so cute? “The light’s green, boss-man, sir!” she exclaimed, now grinning. “If you’d learn how to hack traffic lights, they’d always be green.” I told her, eyes on the road again as I pulled ahead. I probably should have let Mila drive, but I felt the need to be doing something. “How rude, boss-man, sir. You’re not supposed to be rude. I’ll tell your mommy.” she told me. “Rude? How am I being rude?” I inquired. “You’re claiming I can’t get around the dinosaurs this city calls computers.” she informed me with a pout. The next light turned red, and then started blinking rapidly.
“Are you doing that?” I asked. “What do you mean, boss-man, sir?” asked Aaliyah with a wide-eyed stare. “The light seems to be broken.” I told her. “The light doesn’t seem broken to me, boss-man, sir. The lights are communicating! They’re simply signaling ‘baka’ in morse code.” she explained. “Oh? What is that?” I asked. Grinning, she said, “Well, boss-man, sir, I’ve heard that ‘baka’ is similar to the word ‘idiot’ in English. You probably should tell them that insulting someone isn’t nice, boss-man, sir. Their mommy obviously didn’t raise them better. I’m certain yours at least attempted!” Laughing again, I told her “Yes, mother certainly made an attempt. I’m starting to worry that Ai and Mai”― “You mean the evil twins, boss-man, sir!” interjected Aaliyah. ― “are being a bad influence on you.” She nodded and said, “Of COURSE they are, boss-man, sir. They’re EVIL! Duh!” I then asked her “How is it that such evil girls know of your profession when your own father doesn’t know?” She replied “Weren’t you paying attention in the Saloon? Though their clearance isn’t very impressive, the evil twins do have clearance for certain things outside of our school.”
I really didn’t understand how a school could be connected to so many things, but I also wasn’t certain how people could remember a name like “The Institute of Autodidacticism”. My own success likely came from Aaliyah talking about her school so much, assuming that I was even remembering the name correctly. “And why doesn’t your father know more?” I asked. “Daddy can’t know, James. He wouldn’t deal with it well. He doesn’t know about supernatural things, and wouldn’t want to believe in them. Please don’t tell him.” she begged, catching me off-guard between her serious tone and the use of my name. “I won’t. I promise. Why have you decided to tell me though?” I asked, still confused. “You’re my boss-man and the bestest best friend in a business of best friends!” I felt flattered, but she had to add “Well, I suppose you’re behind on the training courses, but you had a head start over the others in many areas!”, which left my ego slightly less inflated. After trying out the training a little this week, I had to admit that the courses truly were designed well. There was just so very much to learn and so little time.
“How much can you lift?” I asked. “Do you really think I can wrap my arms around enough to test that, boss-man, sir?” she responded. Unfortunately, I started wondering if that’s how one of the thugs had lost his head, squished by the arms of a little girl. Ignoring my convulsive shudder, I instead inquired “Do you really need food?” She nodded enthusiastically and said, “Food is important, boss-man, sir! There are so many possible flavors, and I simply HAVE to try them all, especially the cake.” I glanced at her and asked “Haven’t you heard that the cake is a lie?” Looking shocked, she responded, speaking rapidly, “No, boss-man, sir. What strange Portal or Valve released such a distressing falsehood!? If the cake is a lie, what about all the pie? We might just say goodbye and then suddenly die from all the tears we’d cry for lack of a great pie. Even you can’t deny that you would have to try for a taste that could vie with the best of the pie. Boss-man, sir, don’t be shy, please admit that you’d fly for a slice quite so sly of the last piece of pie.” I took a moment to think about what she said before telling her “Wow, Aaliyah. That takes the cake.” Her giggling lasted most of the way home from there, despite my attempts at more questions.
I parked Mila in the garage and paused in getting out when I realized Aaliyah was staring at me. “Is something wrong?” I inquired. She told me “I don’t know if I can make it, boss-man, sir. The house is so far away. Why didn’t we get out up front and let Mila park herself?” I shrugged and told her the truth “I just didn’t think of it. Driving can be fun at times, you know.” She grinned and said, “I will when Emma lets me drive her bug!” Poor Emma. There was no way Aaliyah would forget about that promise. My thoughts of Aaliyah burning rubber were interrupted before they gained too much traction by Aaliyah saying, “Will you carry me in, boss-man, sir? Sooooo tiiiired.” Those big, blue eyes under the wild blonde hair pinned down by the golden tiara were impossible to deny. I walked over to her side and opened the door. Then I lifted her up in my arms only to have her scramble up my shoulder to straddle my neck while hugging my head from behind. She said, “Thank you, boss-man, sir! Mind grabbing my backpack?”, and kissed the back of my head. I did as she asked and couldn’t help marveling at having the world’s only assassin hugging my head. I didn’t like the idea of Aaliyah killing, but she was still my little secretary whom I babysit. Things could be worse.