“You really don’t need to go out. I will gladly cover the lost income if that will dissuade you. Duncan seems to be enjoying your company immensely.” claimed Alma, who had walked with me out to the drive as I was leaving for today’s job. “I’ve already imposed upon your good will plenty, and Duncan will surely be awake when I return home, seeing as your family doesn’t sleep much.” I told her, wondering again what was bothering her. Did she really mind me escorting someone around town? Perhaps the client’s anonymity was bothering her. Aaliyah had kept the client’s name from me at their request, which wasn’t a first by any means. I supposed that meant the client wasn’t someone new, wanting to surprise me this time around. I sighed as Alma shook her head and marched back into the house. Judging by the lack of a fire alarm, which I assumed I had, she wasn’t too angry. Stepping into my company’s limousine, the client had requested it, I inquired about the presence of an alarm to Mila. “Oh, master. You don’t think you’d hear my panicked screams if our home were to be incinerated by my doppelganger?” she asked. I laughed and said, “Wouldn’t you be the doppelganger in this case?” I wondered if Alma would look as cute if she pretended to be shocked as Mila’s avatar did now on the privacy window.
“Master! I cannot believe you’d take Alma’s side on this! Clearly, you picked this form for me yourself, having answered a great number of questions to do so. Would you really belittle it to an imperfect copy of Alma?” demanded Mila, looking quite indignant. Alma wasn’t nearly as expressive. “I’m sorry for offending you. I merely meant that she was born first, being older than your creator.” I explained. Mila rolled her eyes and told me “Master, you truly are a silly person at times. I theorize that Alma is merely masquerading in her current shape, having taken it to appeal to you. I, however, use a handpicked shape because you desire it for me. Furthermore, I am a custom-built creation of the princess, not some lucky mix of genetic material. Don’t I obviously deserve this form more, master?” I somehow doubted even Mila believed her “theory”, but she did make me smile. “Sorry, Mila, but I’ll leave that argument between you and Alma. How are we doing on time?” A map appeared next to Mila’s avatar, which then traced the route onto the map with her finger as she explained “Unless I missed something, we’ll be arriving seven minutes ahead of schedule. We’ve detoured away from this area” ― she pointed to a spot that would’ve appeared to be a more direct route ― “due to a traffic jam caused by a drunk driver taking out the stoplight. Your client will arrive approximately three minutes before us if she doesn’t make any stops.”
“Wow. You know where our client is? How?” I asked. “I will gladly demonstrate for you, master.” replied Mila. A very large number of red dots appeared across the map. She continued, saying, “Each of these dots is a camera which I can access, as I’ve shown you before. I also follow all of our clients on social media to help me estimate arrival times and changes in schedule. You’d be amazed how many people allow their GPS to publicly pinpoint them. Then there are satellites available to me through Global Princess Entertainment, which allow me to utilize other tracking methods. Though officially used to map the world for game purposes, the princess created these satellites with abilities far superior to anything else I’ve seen. Even discussing them with Jarod, I’ve failed to come up with a clue as to how they work, how they’re disguised, or when they were placed in orbit. Despite knowing the location of her satellites, I’ve failed to spot them with borrowed spy satellites.” I stopped her there, asking “Borrowed spy satellites? That sounds illegal.” Mila shrugged and said, “The princess continually encourages my growth through all means available to me. She even insisted I participate in a contest to try hacking Ancient Tribes of Earth, though I had far more luck getting into the systems of various competitors. The whole contest is a sham, really, considering the princess entered as well.”
I laughed, remembering that Aaliyah mentioned the contest at the convention. I almost felt sorry for its participants. “Whatever you do, remember that you’re part of my company. If you were to get in trouble, I’d be the one facing the judge.” I claimed, though I wasn’t entirely certain of the legal process for an A.I. caught illegally hacking. “Master, I love when you worry about me.” claimed Mila, smiling at me. With how Mila’s avatar constantly reminded me of Alma, I felt guilty about leaving with her seeming to be upset. I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I still wanted to cheer her up when I returned, assuming I could figure something out. “Do you follow Alma on any social media?” I asked. Mila nodded and said, “Of course, master. I rank her as the most boring client we have in that area. She even retweeted my comment on Twitter saying so.” I started laughing anew. “What’s so boring about her?” I asked. “Well,” began MIla, “her tweets are all business, though she writes them in code to appear perfectly mundane. I spent over a month cracking the original code, and fear I simply don’t have enough information for the latest one. If anyone needs to get a life, it’s Alma. Her various other social media are just as bad.” I already knew Alma worked an insane number of hours each day but that wouldn’t help me with a gift idea. Or would it?
“Any idea when Alma last took a vacation?” I asked. “I’d argue that she’s been on vacation since coming to this country, but Alma doesn’t do vacations as I’m sure you’re meaning, master. She is completely dedicated to her family’s interests at all times.” stated Mila. Articles started appearing around Mila’s avatar. Then Mila explained to me that each article that involved Alma traveling was business. Her explanation quickly started sounding like a conspiracy theory, and I wondered for a moment if Jarod was infecting her with his interests. I sighed as I considered that I was being unfair. Some, at least, of Jarod’s theories were already proven true. I had no way of knowing if he had, in fact, ever been completely wrong about them. My best friend was brilliant. “We’re here, master! Your client is five point three yards northeast, wearing sunglasses and sitting on the bench. I took a moment to clear my head before stepping out, not wanting to bring any of my troubled thoughts out with me. When I saw Maxine sitting right where Mila described, I was only slightly surprised and realized that far too much had happened to me since graduating. I walked over to her and said, “A pleasure seeing you again, Maxine.” Honestly, I was more happy that she wasn’t wearing a giant, robotic suit and robbing someone, which wasn’t even near the top of strange experiences I had since graduating.
“James, you never called. When I realized what your job entailed, I could see why. You must stay terribly busy. I hope you don’t mind me clearing us a date this way.” she replied. “When I first started my business, I would’ve been taken aback by the idea, but I can’t say this is the first time anymore.” I confessed. She frowned a little before smiling and telling me “Well, this will be the first time with me, so you might as well forget the others. You and Lady Pendreigh aren’t exclusive, are you?” I blinked as I let the words sink in. “We’re not actually dating.” I told her. “Oh? I heard rumors, but I was hoping you had better taste. Care to show me to the car?” she asked, holding out her arm. I took it and guided her to the limo. When I got inside, I poured her some water at her request. “So where would you like to go first?” I inquired. She smiled and told me “There happens to be a branch of my favorite restaurant in town. Have you ever been to the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce?” I nodded, forgetting that she couldn’t see for a moment. Then I told her “Yes, actually. You have good taste.” Well, I couldn’t argue in her choice of restaurant. Mila started taking us there without a word. As Maxine started telling me how much she has been enjoying the city, I couldn’t help feeling that this was going to be my latest in bad dates. There was just something about knowing Maxine to be a villain that turned me off.