“Dragons? You’re certain?” asked Jarod.
“That’s what Vito claimed, and his brothers seemed to agree with him.” I assured him. I had been gradually explaining some of what I saw and heard going through the brothers’ building to Jarod over the past hour, but there was just so much…
“Wow. That’s really hard to imagine. How could we have not… Oh. Hmm.” stated Jarod. “I suppose the Slayer family would probably cover up any dragon remains found.”
“I got the impression that dragons rarely died.” I told him
“That’s scary. If they could eat as much as they could in legends, which I easily could believe with such large bodies, then they could’ve became a burden to their areas quickly.” he postulated.
I nodded, but said, “Perhaps, but their magic probably helped sustain them to some degree. I certainly feel capable of going very extended periods on just magic, and Portentia’s said before that she never has to eat, drink, sleep, or even breathe.”
“But you still experience hunger. Why wouldn’t they give into theirs?” he asked.
“True, but Portentia goes extended periods without food despite Marco’s protestations. At least some of the dragons could have been that altruistic.” I argued.
“Maybe. I doubt it. Portentia’s rare in a great number of ways.” he insisted.
“I know. Their eating habits might have played a part in why the dragons left the planet back then.” I suggested.
“Quite possibly. They were thought of as guardians from what you said, so they might well have been careful not to starve the ones under their protection.” he agreed. “Dragons though… the idea’s crazy, but I love it.”
Jarod sat in silence for a moment before saying, “The seven wonders are much easier to explain now that I know without a doubt some of what magic can accomplish. Do you know how easily Ai or Mai could have maintained the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? I’m sure you could pull it off with your magic pretty quickly as well. Then there’s Emma… she could keep a garden alive in space. The world’s changed so much for us in under a year.”
“I know. Who would have thought that you’d be married within a year of graduating.” I teased.
Jarod grinned and said, “I am pretty lucky.”
Feeling the time was right, I told him “I’m sure Ai and Mai told you about the challenge…”
“And about a magical dagger Aaliyah apparently had sitting around.” he replied.
“Care to see it?” I asked.
“Let me think… Would I like to see an old, magical weapon barely even mentioned in myth. Come on, James! Is that really even a question!?” he demanded, grinning ear to ear.
I pulled the dagger from the back of my belt. Jarod had probably guessed where I had stuck it, since he already knew about it.
“Wow. That’s obviously not normal.” he stated. “Portentia’s staff can pass for normal at a glance, but this… this is not very subtle.”
“Oh…” I replied, trying to sound disappointed. “I hoped to wear it everywhere I go.”
Jarod laughed and said, “Sure, James. I probably would, just to make people wonder. May I hold it?”
I shrugged and offered him the hilt. The light diminished somewhat.
“That’s odd.” I insisted.
“Nah. The dagger just likes you better. No surprise there.” he told me.
I rolled my eyes.
“No, really. From what Ai and Mai have told me, the weapons like this and Midnight actually prefer certain users, doing far more for them than for those they don’t like.” he insisted.
“You have plenty of friends.” I insisted.
“Thanks to you.” he retorted. “James, I don’t have your magical ‘you must like me’ aura. I’m fine with this. You need to accept it.”
I sighed. I did accept it, didn’t I? I haven’t complained to him about it for months.
“You put up with it. You don’t accept it.” he insisted. “Hey, Mila. What sort of readings are you getting from this thing?”
“The dagger is radiating heat and light, but nothing else that I can detect. I believe there is magic causing interference with some of my more sensitive equipment.” she replied.
“Have you tried cutting anything with it?” asked Jarod.
“What? No. Why would I?” I questioned.
“No curiosity at all? This is a magic weapon like something out of a fairy tale. You might be able to cut through stone, steel, or even your own hair! Well, I doubt it’d actually work on your hair. How do you get a haircut?” he asked me, looking dead serious.
“Aaliyah’s been cutting it. I never actually paid attention to what she uses.” I told him.
After handing the dagger back to me, Jarod walked over to a pile in the corner and started sifting through things as he said, “Magic scissors. Really wouldn’t surprise me. She seems to be able to get her hands on anything. The twins told me your dagger was once King Arthur’s. Can you imagine King Arthur being real?”
Yes, far more easily than I could admit, so I said, “The world’s getting crazier.”
“You mean ‘even more amazing’! That opens up the possibility for Excalibur, James. Imagine if that sword is real!” he exclaimed. “Ah!” He held up what looked like a steel pipe. “Try to cut this!”
I shrugged and tried to make a small cut with the dagger, jumping back when there was a flash of light. Jarod gaped at me, holding up the two pieces of the pipe. Soon, he was grinning again.
“I bet you could cut open a tank with that thing! Let me give it a try.” he insisted.
I was hesitant, but I wasn’t going to disappoint him. I quickly stepped back after handing Jarod the dagger. The same thing happened again when he used it, but the severed end fell to the ground.
“Wow. Didn’t really expect that, not with the dagger liking you better. This thing’s amazing!” he exclaimed.
I was about to respond, but became even more shocked when I noticed a girl wearing nothing but a t-shirt coming toward us. I looked over to Jarod, but he didn’t seem surprised.
“James, aren’t you excited?” he asked.
The girl didn’t even seem to notice us, walking between us and grabbing a screwdriver before heading back towards wherever she originated.
“Jarod… you’re getting married.” I stated.
“Huh? What does that have to do with anything?” he asked.
“There’s a girl with no pants on in your lab.” I told him.
“She might have shorts under there. Didn’t check.” he replied.
“I suppose I’m glad of that, but who is she? Why is she here?” I asked.
He looked confused as he said, “My lab assistant, Aurora.”
“When did you get a lab assistant?” I inquired.
“About a week ago.” he replied. “Mila, why doesn’t James know about Aurora?”
He handed the dagger back to me.
“No one told him.” she admitted.
“But why didn’t someone tell me? Can she use magic? I hope… I mean… we were just demonstrating a magical dagger in plain view.” I told them. Then I asked Jarod “What do your fiancées think of you having a potentially pantless lab assistant?”
“Haven’t told them. You know how they can get.” he informed me.
“But… won’t that just make matters worse when they do find out?” I asked.
“They don’t come down here that often. The odds of them running into Aurora anytime soon are pretty slim. Besides, Mila’s my witness that this is all very professional. There’s a contract and everything.” he explained. “Aaliyah wrote it.”
“Of course. She would, wouldn’t she.” I stated as I tried figuring out how to get across that this could end very badly. Jarod had to realize this, didn’t he? He was brilliant! Why would he take the chance of upsetting Ai and Mai? “Let’s start over. How did you meet her?”
He grinned and said, “She’s the daughter of a client. They were trying to find a new tutor for her, since Aurora doesn’t fit into schools very well. She’s an autistic savant. Makes me look slow at math, but she has incredible potential as an engineer. I made a deal with her parents to have her work part time with me in exchange for a top notch education provided by the Institute of Autodidacticism through Best Friend For Hire.”
“Considering everything that goes on around here, isn’t that a little dangerous? What if she starts mentioning strange things she sees, like a magical dagger, to her parents?” I asked.
“Her parents don’t know how to communicate with her effectively, so that can’t really happen. Aurora’s doesn’t speak much. She prefers… arrangements, you could say.” he told me.
“Arrangements? What do you mean?” I asked.
“She’ll reorganize an entire room to try representing an idea that she doesn’t know how to put into words. When I first met her, her bedroom was set out to resemble a circuit. I had to stop her mother from picking up the clothes before I got a good look at it.” he informed me.
“Okay, so what was she trying to say?” he asked.
“She wanted someone to complete the circuit, which I did with my shoe. I believe she realized she was missing something, but didn’t know what. She needed help, but didn’t know how to ask. Mila wrote an interactive program for her that gives her another medium to use for communication.” he explained.
I was going to ask more, but Aurora was walking back our way. She went straight to Jarod and hugged him, closing her eyes.
“Strictly professional… I see. What does this mean then?” I asked.
“No idea. Still trying to figure things out, honestly. She’s complicated.” he replied.
“I imagine she’s feeling chilly and doesn’t know where her jeans are. I’ll fetch them for her.” stated Mila as one of the mechanical arms came down from the ceiling.
“Why would she have taken them off in the first place?” I asked.
“She gets hot.” replied Mila.
I hoped Jarod really knew what he was getting into, since I felt the situation could get very messy. Aurora looked all too happy snuggled against Jarod’s arm. I didn’t think Ai and Mai were going to like this.