“Aren’t you going to take it apart?” asked Portentia, practically bouncing with excitement as she looked at the giant fist on the ground. “Eventually, sure. I’m going to have Mila scan it first for explosives, tracking devices, etcetera. Don’t want to risk breaking anything, and a tracking device might be useful if there is one.” claimed Jarod. “Aren’t you worried about her tracking it here?” I asked. Jarod replied “Ha. You’re joking, right? Imagine what Alma would do if Maxine tried to start something here. Besides, the estate’s defense system is absolutely incredible from the little I’ve seen, and no signal’s getting out of here in any case.” I checked my phone, but I found that I still had full bars. “I think elevators block signals better, Jarod.” I told him as I showed him my phone. He looked surprised for a moment, and then said, “Oh. Mila’s probably relaying it as she does for mine.” Mila’s tricks never seemed to end. “No, I’m not. In fact, I can’t even find a signal coming from his phone. The princess must have installed some technology I don’t understand in it.” explained Mila. “You say an elevator blocked your reception?” asked Jarod. I nodded and told him “Yeah. When Portentia, Alma, and I got stuck in that elevator at the convention.” Jarod laughed and said, “I have the strangest feeling that Aaliyah chose to ignore you for some reason.”
The idea surprised me at first, but I had to admit that Aaliyah did seem to do whatever she pleased for reasons that were often beyond me. “Maybe we should take a look at your phone instead.” suggested Jarod. “But… but the fist! Who knows what we can get out of it! You might be able to find some weakness in her suit or find some way to hack it. You’re the tech master!” protested Portentia. Jarod rolled his eyes and told her “More than likely, I’ll just see the finger mechanisms and possibly a weapon of some sort. I really doubt she conveniently placed something in the fist to reveal her secrets. However, being able to transmit a signal that can penetrate this garage could have many uses.” Portentia looked completely disappointed by the news, but Jarod was making sense. “Master, I don’t recommend examining your phone too closely. The princess is superb at keeping her secrets, and she keeps them very well.” stated Mila. Jarod then told me “Yeah, she’s right. I really wish Aaliyah would share more of her tech, but I can’t really complain to her when she does so much for us already. Oh well. So what’s this job you’ve hired me for?” Portentia looked between us and said, “I missed part of that. What job?”
Remembering to talk so Portentia could see us was hard at times. She was very good at reading lips, and I still forgot about her being deaf all too often. “I’ve hired Jarod for the next few hours. Sorry, but there are a few things we need to do.” I explained. “Oh. Okay. Promise to tell me what you find when you get around to examining the fist?” she asked, staring at Jarod. I hated seeing someone look as glum as she did. He nodded and said, “I promise. I’ll even give you the details if you want.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she told him “Yeah. As if that ever does any good.” Then she turned to me, smiled, and said, “Be sure to hire me next time. You know I’m a great listener!” Laughing, I replied “I never doubt that you’re paying attention. Sorry for stealing Jarod away. I’ll try to make it up to you soon.” She grinned, grabbed my hands, and said, “It’s a date!” Then she spun around and skipped to the lift. I really hadn’t meant a “date”, but calling out to her wouldn’t do any good. “I’d call that another win for Portentia today. Tired of your endless string of girls yet?” asked Jarod with his ear-to-ear grin. “Asks the guy who seems to be playing with twins.” I replied. “I’m not playing with them. We’re going to start dating.” he casually admitted. “Which one?” I asked. “Don’t know. Can’t tell them apart.” he replied.
I stared at him, trying to figure out whether or not he was joking, but he was just smiling at me, ridiculously pleased with himself. “That doesn’t bother you at all?” I asked, guessing he still couldn’t tell them apart. “Should it?” he asked. I exclaimed “Jarod! They’re two different girls! You know you’ll have to figure out which is which and pick one to date, right? As close as they are, there’s no way they’d want to share you.” He shrugged and told me “I offered to implant chips into their arms, but they refused. Not my fault if they don’t want me to know who I’m speaking to at any given moment. Relax. Breathe. If things get serious, I’m sure Ai will figure something out without forgetting Mai feelings.”, emphasizing their names as he spoke. With my own lack of experience regarding relationships, I really wasn’t in a position to lecture him on his own. I told him “Okay. Just be careful. I don’t want any of you getting hurt over this, and you know those two can really hurt.” Smiling, he said, “Did they tell you I managed to make Ai’s heart skip a beat the first time we sparred?” I remembered things a bit differently and told him as much. He shrugged and said, “Yeah, but her heart still skipped a beat.” I still didn’t understand how almost being killed led Ai to be interested in Jarod, but her family was odd at best.
“So I’m sure you didn’t hire me to talk about my budding romance. What’s up?” he asked. “Want to take me for a spin? I haven’t seen your Mustang in a while.” I suggested. “Sure, but my boss makes me charge for gas.” he told me with a grin. “Well, you’re a best friend for hire, not for free. Losing money on a job would be silly.” I told him. Jarod replied “So would be charging gas money on an electric car. You haven’t gotten a ride since I reworked the old girl.” I remembered him talking about how he might switch his Mustang to electric, but I didn’t realize he had gotten around to it. We started walking to the lift, which started back down as we walked, and Jarod told me “Don’t expect too much. I don’t have Mila incorporated into the Mustang or any of the digital works you have. I honestly haven’t decided what all I want yet. Aaliyah provided me with a power source when I inquired about buying one. No charge even. That’s another problem with my first suit. I haven’t figured out a good way to power it yet. Got it running with a power line at the moment. I wish Portentia could have cut that out of Maxine’s monster. I was really tempted to stick the power source Aaliyah gave me in there, but Mila would probably rat me out.” Instantly, Mila exclaimed “Would not!”, sounding perfectly indignant. “Sorry, Mila! We both know she’d find out somehow though.” replied Jarod.
I laughed, thinking he was right. Aaliyah always seemed to know what was going on, no matter what anyone else wanted. I was glad the Mustang didn’t have Mila connected yet, since she hardly made me feel any conversation was private. When I stepped into Jarod’s car, I started reminiscing about working with him on it. We had a great time fixing his baby up. “Whoa. You didn’t shift. Did you disconnect the stick without removing it?” I asked, shocked when he just backed out of the garage. “Yes and no. You see, I cheated a bit on your Aston Martin. Mila handles the transition between gears to smooth things out. The torque from my engine is enough to seriously damage things if there’s any misalignment, so I felt more comfortable with an outrageous computer handling it. For this, I decided I really didn’t need as much top speed, although I gained some back from a lighter car, so there’s no shifting. The shifter now controls the noises the car emits through the speakers to simulate a combustion engine. Pretty sweet, huh?” he asked. “Yeah. You’re amazing as ever. Wow. Sorry that I didn’t help out at all.” I told him, feeling guilty about how much I had been missing lately. “Don’t sweat it. I know you’re busy. Besides, I have a great job, an awesome place to live, and some cool new friends thanks to you. Things are going great for both of us, so relax. You stress way too much.” he insisted. He had no idea how much I was stressing over what I needed to tell him. I hoped he would forgive me.