Over a week on Earth passed since Maple joined my company. I wasn’t certain how many years I spent in business during that time, and was happier in my ignorance. I had decided to do additional work off-planet ahead of time, so I wouldn’t be taking time away during this trip.
Maple was far from being a competent fighter, but I had faith the enhancement suit would keep her safe enough if trouble arose. Her room had been furnished, she was adjusting to her new schedule, and her course work was progressing nicely enough. Her first Pathfinder game with Mila would be underway soon, and I looked forward to hearing about it. Maple was at her liveliest when talking about role-playing games. She had gushed about her guild’s reactions to her new job as they responded that day, though she did keep the new Ancient Tribes of Earth event a secret.
Dani, Kayla, and Iris were making great progress with their new guild, at some cost to my guild. The trio had Mila helping them pick out likely candidates, which gave them quite an advantage. Mila’s assessments for everyone’s capabilities and usefulness to the new guild were, unsurprisingly, extremely accurate from what I saw. In a single week, the trio had poached over one hundred players. The advancement would likely lessen while those three were on this trip.
The excitement in my limo was palpable as we arrived at the airport. The other two limousines weren’t far behind. I stepped out, offered a hand to my wife and waited. Mila would protest if I attempted to help with luggage. Jarod, Ai, Mai, Cosette, and Aurora had ridden with us. Jared had convinced Aurora’s parents that this trip would be a unique opportunity for her to see more of the world in a safe environment. He, Mila, and Portentia were going to take turns chaperoning her, so I was confident things would go well.
“Why aren’t you hurrying?” questioned Iris as she joined us. “We still have to make our way through security before our flight.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll be heading to an exclusive wing, and security won’t bother us.” I assured her. “My wife and I have a great deal of experience flying.”
Alma smiled knowingly. Before our honeymoon, her experience flying and had vastly outstripped mine. She still had more experience flying on Earth than I did, but Earth wasn’t the only planet with annoying security practices. Of course, Alma never actually bothered to fly commercially even before our honeymoon, so she might not even be aware of what passing through security here was like.
“Daddy! We may starve to death before we even arrive at this rate. Traffic is sooo slow.” complained Dani.
Alma and I may have spoiled her a bit much, but the smile she gave me even as she complained made me not really care.
“Wow. Do you two really only have one bag?” asked Brandon, eyeing the bag severely.
Alma laughed and said, “We’re planning on shopping. This may surprise you, but I have been to France before. I know of a few stores in Paris that I find entirely lovely, so we’ll just buy what we want to wear there. Our luggage contains gifts for family. James and I will be expected to pay our respects before roaming the country. Jarod, Ai, and Mai probably should as well.”
“Mind showing me some of these stores?” asked Brenna with barely contained excitement.
Cosette looked eager too.
“I probably already know them and can show you if she’s too busy.” stated Maxine. She was wearing a wig and sunglasses at the moment.
“Don’t try to escape me.” warned Portentia.
“Of course not, cretin. I’ll enjoy watching you suffer as we shop.” replied Maxine with a warm smile.
“How will you even afford anything?” demanded Portentia.
Maxine’s smile turned smug as she said, “I’m owed favors around the world. Mila allowed me to call one.”
“James! Did you hear that?” asked Portentia indignantly.
“Mila wouldn’t allow anything criminal on her watch, and Maxine’s been well behaved. I think we can afford to trust her intent here. She knows not to cause trouble.” I assured her, glancing at Maxine as I said the last part.
“Fine.” stated Portentia grumpily.
Maple had watched the exchange warily. She was rather shocked when she met Maxine and was informed of Maxine’s criminal history. Her dubiousness toward Maxine’s abilities was amusing up until Portentia’s demonstration, slicing a finger off during lunch with a steak knife. Maple, unfortunately, didn’t finish her lunch even after confirming that Portentia still had ten fingers, excluding the one that was the floor. Alma had gently chided Portentia over the timing, but only briefly.
With everyone gathered, Alma led us into the private wing and onto our “aircraft”. I enjoyed watching as eyes bulged in shock. Alma and I had grown a bit attached to our spaceship, so she had a modified ramp constructed for use at this airport. There were numerous questions, of course, but I explained that Aaliyah and Mila had modified this craft with classified components. Then I apologized for being unable to accommodate them with answers.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked Maple.
Jarod laughed and said, “I trust her tech more than anything else on the planet. Just don’t try to disassemble anything.”
“Why isn’t she with us? I thought she was meeting us at the airport.” commented Iris as she looked around.
Mila frowned and said, “She’ll meet us in France. Mother likes taking commercial flights to annoy customs. Her flight left hours ago. I’m on it, unfortunately. Please follow me. We’ll have a brief tour before take off. The master has graciously allowed use of the bedrooms if you wish to nap, since he and Alma will be on the bridge. The kitchen is out-of-service, unfortunately, but Marco came prepared with drink and snacks.”
The kitchen wasn’t actually out-of-service, but the technology in there was blatantly alien. Even Dani was impressed by it when she had learned enough to understand it, and she had still found the controls odd. Aaliyah had advised us to keep it locked. The rest of the ship could be passed off as extraordinarily advanced without any obviously alien features. I’d have to sit and listen to Jaord theorize after this trip.
Before long, we were in the air. Nearly half the group would be trying Pathfinder with Mila. The rest would probably read, talk, or play Ancient Tribes of Earth. Since Alma was keeping our craft in the atmosphere, they still had hours to kill.