I was barely through the door when I saw Portentia in the hall. She spun and ran up to me, saying, “James! We need to talk. Is Jarod with you?” Alma, who had entered at my side, was rolling her eyes when I looked at her, but she let go of my arm and walked off. “What’s going on?” asked Jarod as he entered with Ai on his arm. Mai and Duncan were on his heels. “Jarod! I need to show you something. Are you free?” asked Portentia upon seeing him. “Jarod will be indisposed all night.” claimed Ai. Grinning, Mai said, “We’re afraid that our dear brother wants to hire his company for a rematch.” Duncan looked startled as he said, “No, I don’t. I haven’t even finished healing from the last match.” Mai pouted and told him ”But Nii-san, won’t you entertain us a little while you’re here.” Then Ai, grabbing his arm, said, “Don’t you want to entertain your cute sisters while you’re here?” Duncan removed her arm and replied “If anything, I am your guest, and you should be entertaining me for once.” Mai looked at him in shock “Nii-san, what horrible things are you trying to make your sisters do!?” Ai grabbed her, hugging her tight as she said, “Dear, sister, nii-san wants to use us for entertainment!” Then they both grabbed Jarod and begged “Jarod, please save us from our perverted brother!”
Jarod laughed and replied “If your brother was being serious in a fight, I’d be the one seeking protection from you two. I have no defense against magic.” Duncan nodded and smiled at Jarod before saying, “Still, I underestimated you. You have fine skills and a good mind.” Ai pulled Jarod her way and told him “No, Jarod! Our brother can’t have you. You’re mine!” Then Mai pulled him back toward her and said, “She means mine, Jarod. Don’t let our perverted brother charm you two!” Duncan, looking inquisitive, admitted “I’m embarrassed to say but I haven’t came across this word, ‘perverted’, that my sisters have been calling me. What does it mean?” Ai and Mai turned to him and exclaimed “Hentai!” Duncan’s face went serious and he crossed his arms as he started saying something to them in Japanese. Suddenly hugging him, Ai then said, “Sorry, nii-san.” Mai, hugging his other arm told him “We were only teasing.” I sincerely felt for Duncan, since putting up with those two for so many years couldn’t be that easy. Out of nowhere, Alma stated “Come now, you three, and be my guests for this evening. James and Jarod will be busy for a while with that one, I’m sure.”
The twins protested leaving Jarod with Portentia and me, but they followed Alma out of the hall as they did. After they left, Jarod said, “What’s so urgent? I have half an hour before a job James hired me for, something rather vague I might add.” Jarod was signing part of what he said, and I didn’t know whether to feel impressed that he was learning that as well or guilty that I still hadn’t. Portentia had been working here for a while now. “I have part of her suit!” exclaimed Portentia. Jarod and I asked “What?” at nearly the same time. “While you were out being duped at the villain’s party, I was fighting her. Well, I was too late at most of the scenes, but I got some help from a friend getting to the last one. I didn’t manage to stop her from breaking in, but I did take her arm and send her running!” explained Portentia. I informed her “Maxine was actually there the whole time.” Nodding, Jarod said, “She must have an accomplice or some clever type of control system.” Jarod seemed certain as ever about Maxine’s involvement, which eased my doubts. “So where’s the piece?” he asked. “In the garage, of course. I wanted you to be able to work on it.” she told us, motioning us to follow her.
Portentia led us to the garage, talking about how crazy her fight was the entire time. Midnight, her weapon, made a huge difference in fighting Maxine, allowing her to damage the suit instead of just being knocked around by it. She felt her adversary wasn’t prepared for an actual challenge, obviously happy about how their rematch went. I was considering whether or not I could call their fight a rematch without knowing whether or not Maxine was controlling the suit herself when I saw the giant fist on the ground. I knelt down to look at the fist but jumped to my feet when the floor started to move. “There’s a subfloor?” I asked in surprise, seeing that we were passing through a circular tunnel. “Oh yeah. Every parking spot can descend into the larger part of the garage, so you can store quite a big collection. There’s also more sophisticated equipment down here. Took me a while before I stumbled across it.’ explained Jarod. I was beginning to feel I’d never know all the secrets of my own home, especially upon seeing the immense room extending out before me. Taking up two of the long walls was a giant contraption that looked somewhat similar to an automated parking system I saw in Europe a couple years back, but there were transparent, empty rooms where cars would be parked. Other machines throughout the room looked less familiar.
“Whose is this?” I asked, realizing there was an old Volkswagen down here. “Oh. Brandon asked for an oil change the other day, and I noticed some other problems. This is a 1987 Silver Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Wagon. Bit old, but it’s in reasonably good shape now. I just have a bit more that I want to do to it.” claimed Jarod. “I have no idea how you find time to do anything.” I told him. He shrugged and said, “I actually have more room in my schedule than you on most days. I had Mila give me an analysis on a whim one day. Hey, Mila, would you mind moving this over by my suit?” Long, electronic arms came down from the ceiling and lifted the giant fist, carrying it over our heads to a distant corner. “Is your suit behind the sheets?” I asked as we headed that direction. “Nah. That’s a little project for Mila. It’s not ready yet. My first suit’s straight ahead, though I doubt I’ll be using that too much.” he told me. “Oh? Why’s that?” I inquired as I tried to figure out where his suit was. “I was mulling over a new idea during the… umm… auction. The problem with a suit like Maxine’s or my first one is that they’re too bulky. Even if I figure out the power supply, I couldn’t use the suit in many parts of the city without risking collateral damage like Maxine constantly causes. I was reading up on some tech the other day that could potentially replace muscle for electronic arms. Thinking through the tech used in creating a cyborg, I’ve realized I might be able to make a less intrusive interface to communicate our thoughts to a durable fabric that could enhance our strength by acting as additional, external muscle while also providing support to save our joints.”
“The general idea is nice, but that’ll take a bunch of research and development if it’s possible.” I argued. Jarod shrugged and said, “I think I can manage. Thanks to Aaliyah, we have access to resources that most people don’t. Plus, my assistant is top notch, right Mila?” Mila sounded happy as she said, “Not having to sleep does have its advantages, but I am still learning a great deal from you.” A learning A.I. of Mila’s caliber could run tests vastly more quickly than most human teams and provide a unique view on ideas unlike any others. “The biggest part I’ll need your help with, James, is finding a way to enhance the design with magic.” I stopped walking and stared at him. Noticing, he turned and said, “I know you have a ways to go, but Ai and Mai don’t know how to enchant things like Midnight there. Alma, if she does, hasn’t been interested in aiding in my endeavors. For now, there are some spells that Mila’s chosen from her database which should give temporary boons.” Inability to cast spells obviously didn’t stop someone from learning about them. I was such a slacker. “I’ll try, but I have a long ways to go.” I told him. There was a determination in his eyes when he spoke of building his suits that I hadn’t really seen in Jarod before. I couldn’t let him down.