“Oh. I should have asked if Aurora was down here.” I muttered. Between jobs and spending some time with my friends, I had managed to get two more suits enchanted over the past couple days. I came down into Jarod’s lab to work on another.
“I was going to warn you, master, but mother told me not to say anything.” explained Mila.
“What?” I blurted. Why would Aaliyah… I grinned as I watched Aurora float off the ground on the latest test model of the flying contraption. “I see.”
“Oh?” inquired Mila.
“I just realized I want to enchant more than the suits. Would you be able to apply the battery compartment adjustment you planned for the suits to those flying devices?” I asked.
“You’ll have to adjust your spells for the different power requirements.” she warned. “But yes, although Aurora will probably want to make adjustments on the rest of the design to take advantage of the lighter weight.”
“I suppose I can wait. Mind running the idea by Jarod before you get her on it?” I inquired.
“I wouldn’t proceed any other way, master.” she replied. “After his approval, I’ll try to get Aurora to work on the new design. If she’s not comfortable with the change, I’ll make the adjustments myself.”
Nodding, I said, “Just let me know the specs when you have them, so I can work the spells out. Oh! Tell me if you want to cheat a little with the propulsion. I can do some fancy stuff with air now.”
“If Ai and Mai get mad, I’m laying full blame on you.” stated Mila.
“Why would they be mad? I think they’ll enjoy these.” I insisted.
“Master, the honeymoon’s started.” replied Mila.
“Oh. That’s great! You could postpone telling Jarod until he’s back.” I told her.
“I believe Jarod will want to know about your idea immediately, so I’m not deleting the message from his phone.” she replied.
“Are you upset about something?” I asked.
“Why would you think that, master?” she inquired.
I sighed and said, “If I’ve done something to offend you, I really have no clue what. Please tell me.”
“Oh, master. I was just hoping you’d offer to give me an upgrade as well.” she admitted.
“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.
“My bodies use similar muscle structures to the suits, so enchanting them for me shouldn’t be difficult, though certain adjustments to the bodies and the spells would be necessary, I’m sure.” she explained.
“Ah. Sure. I can get working on that when Aurora’s finished. I don’t really want to get enough energy while she’s here, due to the side effect.” I told her.
“You’d make my baby girl wait for such a silly reason?” complained Aaliyah, now staring up at me.
Mila picked her up and said, “Yes, mother… Not only did he fail to consider that I might want to benefit from his work as well, but he wants me to wait for an indefinite future.”
“Oh, please. You both know why.” I told them.
“Who does he think is protecting Aurora from his magic when she’s away from here?” inquired Aaliyah.
“I don’t know, mother.” replied Mila.
True. Was Aurora simply not affected by me for some reason?
“Oh, boss-man, sir, Aurora’s been affected by your enchantment since before you met her. Alma wasn’t too far off when she suggested half the state was affected when you worked on the suits.” claimed Aaliyah.
“She doesn’t really pay attention to me.” I stated.
“Sure, she does. Remember when she saved you from being electrocuted?” asked Aaliyah.
“The imaginary electricity, sure.” I replied.
Grinning, Aaliyah explained “She’s always watching you when you’re around, but she has no idea how to express her feelings. She really, really likes you even though you don’t talk with her.”
“Well, glad I have a new reason to feel guilty.” I mumbled. I really didn’t know how to communicate with Aurora.
“Wow. Under a second, and you already thought of one. Brilliant!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“I don’t really think it’s that good of an idea.” I insisted.
“What?” asked Mila.
“He realized he could relay messages through our friend there.” explained Aaliyah as she pointed at the little fairy.
I almost asked when she got down here, but Aaliyah probably brought her. I never meant for Aurora to see her. If Aurora actually noticed, she gave no sign of it.
“That could work. Otherwise, I could probably relay things for you, master.” stated Mila.
“Onto upgrading my baby!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she hugged Mila.
“I don’t even know where to begin yet.” I admitted.
“I’m already fabricating materials for mother to install on my bodies, master” stated Mila.
“Just study the wall there, boss-man, sir.” ordered Aaliyah.
I didn’t recognize a number of the spells being displayed and saw no explanation for how they worked. This wasn’t going to be easy considering these spells were even more complicated than what I had used for the suits.
“You’ll manage, boss-man, sir. Have some faith in yourself! If you really want an explanation, there’s a full course now available. Jarod had based Mila’s skeleton off my grandfather’s designs, so some of the enhancements will be affecting that instead of ‘human’ flesh. The other adjustments for her muscles are more similar to what you did to the suits, but I tweaked things a bit.” explained Aaliyah.
I nodded and started committing everything to memory. Aaliyah had also made adjustments to the spell I designed. I wasn’t completely certain, but I believed she streamlined the spell a bit more for me. I took a while to realize I was being hugged and nearly jumped to find Aurora was the one doing the hugging.
“Told ya.” stated Aaliyah as she used some device on Mila’s skin to reseal it.
Before I figured out what I should do, Aurora wandered off back to her work area.
“Are you certain she wasn’t simply feeling cold again?” suggested Mila. “She does that with me often.”
“She was cold, but she also picked James. No, she didn’t pick him because he seemed less busy, staring at the wall.” replied Aaliyah.
“As you say, mother.” stated Mila.
“We’re all set, so let’s go!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Go?” I asked.
“Yep. You’re going to enchant four bodies for Mila and the rest of the suits at once.” claimed Aaliyah.
“I can’t. Doing a single suit’s a struggle, and a single body’s even more complicated.” I argued.
“First off, you don’t really struggle enchanting a suit. That’s just concentrating, boss-man, sir. Furthermore, you’re going to do it all at once.” insisted Aaliyah as she stepped onto the lift.
I didn’t see how I could possibly live up to her expectations, but I couldn’t win an argument with her either. Somehow, this was going to work. I stepped onto the lift, turned around as it started rising, and realized Mila wasn’t following. My little friend was frozen mid-flight. between us.
Before I could jump off, Aaliyah grabbed my hand and said, “She doesn’t need to be there, boss-man, sir.”
I nodded dumbly, feeling more and more confused. As I followed Aaliyah back into my house, I spotted Brandon grinning in the hall. I was tempted to take a picture of him as we passed, so I could show him his goofy expression later. I could always claim Mila took it.
“Mila’s going to love that one! She’ll actually take it, so you won’t even have to lie!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“We’re not going to the forest?” I asked, feeling even more surprised.
“No need. In a sense, the forest will be coming to you.” she stated.
That wasn’t an entirely pleasant notion. Aaliyah led me through the house and down into a passageway beyond a hidden door. I remembered these stairs. I once thought Jarod died down here. The eerily glowing room was entirely made of stone. Countless engravings covered the sphere.
Aaliyah quickly assured me “Not countless, boss-man, sir. You could easily count them if you took the time.”
“True, but I doubt I’ll ever bother. Why are we here?” I asked.
“First, a precaution. If you ever use the room with someone other than me inside, you’ll kill them instantly, so you probably want to make sure to seal it first thing.” she informed me with a grin.
“Lovely.” I replied sarcastically. “How do I seal it?”
“Open your mind to the room like you would to the fey, boss-man, sir.” she told me.
The idea sounded odd, but I did as she instructed. The door instantly closed. I could feel my entire mansion. I knew where everyone was, though I wouldn’t say I was seeing them. I was just aware. I was aware of the army of “dolls” who did the cleaning. I was similarly aware of Marco’s cooking in the kitchen. I wondered if this was how Emma felt her plants, since I felt as if every blade of grass in my yard was a part of me. The energy of the forest moved at my whim, and I could feel every last fey. I didn’t realize quite how many there were. I hadn’t met them all yet.
My vault sat below the forest. I hadn’t known quite where before. There was so much energy around it, but not the type I could use. This was something else, like a white star burning under the forest.
“You could put a star out with that, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” whispered Aaliyah, directly into my mind.
I felt so tiny as I focused on her. She stretched on and on past the farthest stars.
“Look away, James. You’ll go mad.” she ordered.
I instantly did. Part of me yearned to keep looking, but the presence of her voice in my mind was overwhelming. I felt like I could touch planets. If I thought about any given one, I grew more and more aware of it. Many were lifeless, but I found ones that weren’t and saw beings like I had never imagined.
“Focus, boss-man, sir. You know why you’re here.” stated Aaliyah.
“But there’s something odd nearby. I don’t know how to describe it, but I can sense the thing throughout the world. Throughout many worlds… so very many worlds.” I told her.
“That’s the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.” she informed me. You can eat later, boss-man, sir. Focus.”
I resisted the urge to look at the thousands of interesting things I was sensing. I found the suits. I found Mila’s bodies. Enchanting them was easy. Practically effortless. I suddenly felt scared. I shouldn’t have this kind of power.
I was on the ground, trembling. I heard the sphere’s door slide open. Aaliyah knelt beside me and hugged me. “How long have I been in here?” I asked.
“To most everyone else, no time has passed, but you experienced nearly an hour. You got a bit lost for a while there.” she replied.
“Aaliyah, can you destroy this thing?” I asked.
“Of course, but why would I?” she inquired.
“I shouldn’t have that kind of power, Aaliyah. What if someone else figured out how to use this? It’s so simple… terrifyingly simple.” I warned her.
Squeezing me tighter, she said, “Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. No one else can use it. Well, I mean… I could if I really wanted, but…”
“You don’t need it.” I whispered. Even remembering what I felt when I focused on Aaliyah started to make my head ache. “Is there no end to you?”
“To me? That’d be boring. Besides, everywhere needs a little Death!” she exclaimed, winking and smiling cheesily as she pointed her fingers at me.
“Will you destroy this?” I asked again.
“Of course not. You’ll want to use it again someday.” she insisted.
“That’s what frightens me. I felt like I could do anything.” I told her.
“But you can’t. You can do some really amazing things once you get the hang of it though.” she replied.
“I don’t want to get the hang of it, Aaliyah.” I argued.
“No, but you will. You’ll never enjoy it, boss-man, sir, but you’ll use it to save people. Another thing you should know is that you’ll get attention when you use it. Everyone capable of using magic throughout the world would have sensed what you did if they could feel anything right now. Now let’s get back to see how my baby girl likes her upgrade!” exclaimed Aaliyah, lifting up her arms to be carried.
I picked her up and started to move. I was still trembling, but the shaking subsided as I walked. Aaliyah had frightened me before in many different ways, but never so intimately. I was scared of myself.