Best Friend For Hire, Entry 336

“James!” exclaimed Jarod before looking up to see how many of us were on the lift. “And more visitors!”

“Sorry to intrude, but we knew Dani would love to see your lab and needs her suit to keep up around here.” explained Alma. “Aurora works this late?”

“Occasionally, though not frequently. Don’t worry. Her parents are informed.” he explained.

“I wasn’t worried, just surprised.” she replied.

Aurora was piecing together the prototype vehicle… or just napping inside of it. I couldn’t really tell from this angle, since I couldn’t see her head.

“Aurora? Oh! I remember!” exclaimed Dani leaning precariously over the lift’s edge to try looking at her.

My little fairy friend flew down there and started circling the vehicle.

Smiling up at us, Jarod told her “I loved your painting earlier, Dani. Sorry that I didn’t stick around longer, but I wanted to get some more work done.”

“Where did Ai and Mai go?” inquired Dani, jumping off the lift before it reached the bottom, using a spell to slow her descent, and glancing around. “I thought they’d be with you.”

“They’re probably doing their own work. Alma likes to keep them busy.” he replied, shrugging.

“Mom? Why!?” asked Dani as she spun to look at Alma and jumped over to her as we touched down.

“Dani, you know that civilizations need workers to continue developing.” stated Alma as she brushed back some of Dani’s hair from her face.

“But they’re so happy around him!” exclaimed Dani, practically pouting.

“And I’m happy when I’m with them, but they don’t really enjoy watching me work and can be a bit distracting.” insisted Jarod.

“But… but…” started Dani before stepping closer to Emma, staring into her eyes. “What’s wrong? I know what you’re feeling… that you sense what I feel as well. Don’t you think they’re better when they’re together?”

Emma looked shocked, actually stepping back slightly and looking away.

Cosette stepped up between them and said, “What do you feel from me?”

“Amusement, among other things. You’re hiding something.” stated Dani, reaching up to place her hand on Cosette’s face. “Daddy! She’s cold!” exclaimed Dani as she glanced at me.

“Didn’t notice earlier?” I inquired.

“No, we never touched till now. She’s too fast.” complained Dani.

“What..!?” exclaimed Cosette, quickly stepping away from Dani.

“Dani, behave.” stated Alma.

“But… I was just…” she started, but then said, “Fiiine.”

“What were you doing to me?” questioned Cosette.

“Showing you what I feel.” pouted Dani.

“You can do that?” inquired Jarod. When she nodded, he asked “Mind showing me?”

Dani grinned and so did Jarod.

“What sort of range do you have for… whatever you call that?” he inquired.

Dani shrugged

“Several hundred feet at least. You should try hide-and-seek with her.” suggested Alma

“I wouldn’t stand a chance against either of you.” he admitted.

“Still could be fun to try. There’s nothing wrong with practicing stealth.” claimed Cosette as she eyed Dani curiously.

“Sure. I’d like a couple weeks to prepare first. I have a few things I’d like to test out.” replied Jarod.

“I don’t suppose we can add ‘no gizmos’ to the rules.” teased Emma, though she was still watching Dani as well.

I hoped she was doing as I asked, trying to observe my daughter before becoming attached. Her discomfort seemed to indicate she was.

Dani spun around and attempted to hug Aurora, who had wandered up behind her, but Aurora stepped out of the way too quickly, grabbing one of Dani’s arms and examining it. The little fairy had followed Aurora and started doing circles around both of them.

“Daddy, I need my suit!” complained Dani. Then she slowly reached over and touched Aurora’s golden brown hair, grinning when Aurora didn’t move this time.

“Yes, but you need to go over designs with your mom first.” I told her.

“Designs? Planning a modification without me?” inquired Jarod.

“No, you’re here.” I teased. “Alma and I have been talking about the possibility of reducing the suit’s bulk by decreasing the synthetic muscle mass. If I’ve successfully fine-tuned my spells for it, there shouldn’t be too much of a drop off compared with the enhancement currently provided.”

“I’ve honestly wondered if the suit’s even needed or if most of the work is done by your spells.” admitted Jarod.

“My spells enhance what’s there first and foremost. Unfortunately, flesh can’t hold the enchantment, or I’d be able to use this directly on people. I did add spell layers which should further enhance the muscles of the suit’s wearer as well as general durability of the wearer’s skin, muscles, and bones, but there still will be a net loss compared with what the enchantment would do on the current suit design until you come up with even more incredible fibers.” I explained, having already seen what the suits will eventually become.

“I would have thought the spells used to add the morphic quality on my suit could be used to reinforce muscles as used. The effect seems to be rapid enough.” suggested Cosette.

I smiled at her as several of the others stared.

“What?” she asked. “I study and pay attention.”

“I’m actually going to be using something of that nature on Dani’s suit.” I promised.

Cosette nodded, not seeming surprised.

“Dani, let’s start looking over possible designs.” stated Alma, pulling Dani away from Aurora, who had moved onto examining Dani’s hair.

I didn’t know what Alma conveyed to Aurora with her telepathic ability, but Aurora seemed to understand, meandering back toward the vehicle prototype.

“I still am not used to the idea of you being called ‘daddy’. Might take a few weeks.” suggested Jarod after stepping closer to us. “Do I get to tell my parents?”

“Of course. We’re not going to hide her, though we are going to disguise her in public.” I explained.

Smiling, he inquired, “Don’t think the pink skin will go over well?”

“She’d certainly draw attention.” I agreed.

“What’s on your belt?” he then inquired.

“Pardon?” I inquired, confused at first. Realizing what he meant, I said, “Oh. Well, Excalibur draws attention as well, so I started using an illusion over it.” I hardly even thought about carrying it anymore. “How did you notice?’

“I wasn’t even aware that you decided to take the sword on your honeymoon. The way you move gives away that something’s there. You turn or step around people now as if you’re keeping them from hitting something.” he explained.

“Ah. At least I no longer rest my hand on it. That was a bit awkward for a while.” I admitted. “Care to show me the designs for this new project of yours?”

He grinned again and said, “Sure thing! I was hoping you’d be willing to work out a spell to power it.”

“Happily, though you won’t be able to market them with a magical power source.” I stated, curious what his plan was.

“I know, but I still haven’t found a solid solution yet. Aaliyah keeps telling me to give myself time, but impatience has been winning out lately.” he explained.

“Why not take advantage of Maxine’s knowledge?” suggested Cosette.

Nodding and smiling, Emma said, “Portentia and Mila seem to be keeping her out of trouble.”

“Has she inquired about making a new optical device yet?” I questioned.

“No. I really don’t want to work with her on principle, but she’s brilliant. I know discussing designs with her could be nice if she was forthcoming about her achievements.” he told me.

“She’s probably planning on waiting us out still, but I can try to persuade her if you aren’t opposed to giving her a chance. I’d like to believe she can change.” I assured him, already knowing she would change eventually.

He nodded, so I made a mental note to talk with her again soon. In my travels, I saw part of this world’s future, a future without strife for those who stayed behind, and Maxine was one of those who remained here. Things would work out.

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Best Friend For Hire, Entry 316

Raine hissed as she entered the room, and Cosette’s arm sizzled as it passed the corner in front of her. I quickly sheathed Caladfwlch and put the sword on the table.

“Cosette, are you okay!?” I asked, moving toward the door.

Raine was frowning at me.

“What was that!?” she demanded, rubbing her arm as it healed.

“Excalibur.” I stated, feeling they wouldn’t recognize the name Caladfwlch.

“Ex-Excalibur!? The sw-sword in the st-stone!?” exclaimed Raine, grabbing my arm as she stared up at me with wide eyes.

“Yes. That one.” I assured her.

“We still don’t understand when you found the time to hop over to England.” mentioned Ai.

Nodding, Mai said, “Lady Pendreigh should’ve invited us for the trip.”

“Sorry. You should ask to see her engagement ring too when you complain to her. I decided she needed it after you two visited me.” I told them.

“We will!” they exclaimed.

“En-engagement… r-ring.” muttered Raine, dashing out of the hall.

“Uh… yes.” I stated, looking after her.

“I can’t believe Excalibur destroys vampires.” complained Cosette.

“Sorry.” I told her. “I didn’t realize the light from it would have that effect on you.”

Nodding, she said, “Father never mentioned that part when he told me the tale. Of course, the sword was already dormant long before his time.”

“How did you know the sword was dormant!?” exclaimed the twins.

“My father was the king of a rival nation. Do you really think he lacked spies? He knew of all the weapons the family possessed at that time.” she informed them.

The twins glanced at each other.

“Who were the spies?” asked Mai.

“Did he give you a name for any of them?” inquired Ai.

Cosette smirked and asked “Wanting to make sure the descendents aren’t still active?”

“No.” lied Ai.

“We are just curious.” insisted Mai.

“You’ll forgive me if I can’t quite seem to remember at the moment.” replied Cosette.

“Don’t you just hate when you conveniently forget information that could expose someone?” teased Jarod as he hugged Ai and Mai from behind.

They elbowed him, making him wince.

“Well, I don’t think it…” I started to say when I caught the door opening at the end of the hall.

“It’s gor-gorgeous! D-did you… really m-make it!?” asked Raine, having ran back to us.

“Thank you. I’m glad you approve. Getting the shape right took some time.” I replied with a smile.

“You made her ring?” inquired the twins.

“Yes. Then Alma and I made our wedding bands.” I admitted.

“C-can… I see?” asked Raine, practically bouncing on her feet. Suddenly, she moved again. “QUIET!” she yelled from the war room.

Everyone around me was covering their ears, but my jaw dropped. Muramasa listened to her. The whispering had stopped.

“S-sorry.” she muttered, timidly walking back out.

“I hope you didn’t break it.” stated Jarod as he uncovered his ears. “I didn’t know you could yell so loud.”

“N-no. S-sorry. I j-just sh-shook it. It’s m-mean.” she mumbled, staring at her feet.

I laughed and then told her “Yes, it’s not the kindest of weapons.”

“Hey now. Don’t make fun of my sword.” stated Jarod, crossing his arms.

Raine looked ready to apologize more, but quickly spun as Aurora reached toward her. She looked shocked when Aurora hugged her. “S-sorry. Aur-Aurora.” she told her.

Aurora kept hugging her.

“You grabbed it’s blade though! I saw you setting it down.” stated Mai, stepping up to Raine.

“S-so?” asked Raine.

“The sword kills anyone who touches the blade.” explained Ai as she took to Raine’s other side.

“It kn-knows b-better.” mumbled Raine. “W-we talked.”

“You talked, as in an actual conversation?” I asked.

Rained nodded. “You d-didn’t hear?” she questioned, looking up at me.

“No, not until you yelled.” I replied.

“It’s b-been talking to m-me. C-constantly… s-since it a-arrived.” she informed me.

“Really?” I asked. “Alma will want to hear about this.”

“I’ve been keeping her informed, master.” stated Mila.

“Oh. Thank you, Mila.” I told her.

“Thank you!?” demanded Ai.

“That’s spying!” insisted Mai. “What else do you tell her about us?”

“I assure you that I only inform her of conversations that I deem relevant to her and public. Given the number of people involved at this time as well as the nature of the conversation, I felt she would want to be informed.” explained Mila.

“We want a list!” exclaimed the twins.

“Show us every last thing you’ve relayed to her from our quarters.” demanded Ai.

“Or we’re going to disconnect you from here again.” insisted Mai.

“Ignore them, Mila. I’ll show them the log later.” stated Jarod.

“What!? You knew she was doing this?” asked Ai.

“Yes, dear. I talked to her about this before you reconnected her panels here, since I knew you two would take issue.” he assured them.

“Says the guy who was hiding this!” exclaimed Mai as she grabbed Aurora’s shoulders.

“If I was hiding her, why did I bring her with me here?” he asked.

Ai and Mai stared at each other from across Aurora’s shoulder.

“Fine, but you still could have told us when you got an assistant.” stated Ai.

“How does she assist without speaking?” asked Mai, turning Aurora’s head toward her.

“B-be nice.” stated Raine.

The twins all-too-casually stepped away from Aurora to cling to Jarod.

“Always, Raine.” claimed Mai.

“We’ll never forget how you stood up to our mother.” insisted Ai.

“Her expression was priceless!” they exclaimed.

Aurora reached up and started feeling their heads.

“What’s she doing?” asked Mai.

“She’s going to ruin my hair.” complained Ai.

“Checking for a loose screw?” suggested Cosette with a grin.

“Trying to figure out how you two work, I’d guess.” replied Jarod. “Don’t be surprised if she tries to corner you in the lab sometime. She’ll probably want to run tests.”

Mai sighed dramatically.

Ai then turned to Cosette and asked “Did you know that Joyeuse in France is a copy?”

“Oh really? I wonder how that happened.” replied Cosette.

She was lying, though her face seemed perfectly inquisitive.

“So your father never heard about that?” inquired Mai.

“I suppose not.” agreed Cosette. “I’d be more interested in hearing what happened to Durendal, personally. Imagine a sword said to be indestructible which was known to easily slice through stone and to be wielded by kings.”

“There are many of those.” stated Ai as she rolled her eyes.

“There are two in the room next to us, of course, but not all of them are suggested to be the ‘master of stone’ or a ‘sword of fire’.” insisted Cosette. “Though I suppose you could argue that sitting in a stone for years might make Excalibur its master.”

“We know what you’re implying. There’s no way that Excalibur could’ve been stolen after Arthur’s time. We’d have a record of the theft.” argued Mai.

“I’m sure you would. That’s an interesting idea though. Who would place Excalibur back there if the sword was stolen by an angel to give to Charlemagne? I do love the tales.” replied Cosette wistfully.

“M-me too!” agreed Raine, smiling excitedly.

“Are you quite finished?” snapped Ai to Aurora, who had started feeling down her back.

Jarod kissed her head and then said, “Be nice. If you’ll take a look at her work, I’m sure you will appreciate her talent.”

“Ai, your husband wants you to appreciate a girl’s… talent.” stated Mai.

“Whatever should we do with him, Mai?” inquired Ai.

“Behave in front of company!” exclaimed Cosette, grinning at them. Then she turned to the nearest mirror and asked “Mila, when is Portentia returning? I’m hungry.”

“No talking about drinking blood in our wing!” protested the twins.

“Then no searing me with fantastic weapons!” replied Cosette.

Mila’s avatar, which had appeared on the mirror, said, “Portentia still has over two hours on her current shift. Provided that she doesn’t get distracted, I estimate that she’ll return in roughly two hours and thirty-six minutes.”

Aurora moved over to the mirror and stared at Mila. I wondered if she had actually seen Mila like that much, considering that Mila was often assisting her in one of the bodies Jarod had built.

“James, would you mind holding Mai still, so I can have a snack?” asked Cosette.

Mai ducked away from Jarod and said, “What!? No. Sorry, but no. Not happening.”

Cosette pouted at her.

“I-I’ll help.” muttered Raine, holding up her hand.

Cosette jumped at Raine with elongating fangs, but she just hugged Raine without even pretending to bite her. “You’re so sweet! I’m not really that hungry. I just wanted to tease the twins. They can be so squeamish regarding my meals. I have a feeling I couldn’t even pierce your skin.”

“S-sorry.” mumbled Raine. “I c-could probably g-get some out.” she suggested.

I was surprised to see a single, long claw grow out from her index finger, stretching toward her hand. Even like that, there was a distortion around the claw, a wavering bit of space that shouldn’t be in our world.

“When did you learn to partially transform that well?” I asked.

“I-I’ve… practiced. Y-you said I sh-should.” she replied.

“I’m simply glad that you’re making progress.” I assured her even as I noticed Ai’s grip on Jarod tightening.

Jarod didn’t look too composed himself. Aurora actually ducked behind the twins to stare.

Looking slightly uneasy herself, Cosette gently pushed the clawed hand away from Raine’s other hand as she said, “I really appreciate that you’re willing, but I’m fine. No need to hurt yourself.”

“Since you’re all here, would you like to sit down, have a snack, and maybe watch something with us?” asked Mai, turning to face me.

I agreed along with the others. Well, Aurora was sort of dragged along. As I followed the twins to another room, I found myself wondering if exposure to Raine’s blood was even safe for any of us. When she took on a hybrid form, every part of her seemed exceptionally dangerous. Even Muramasa seemed scared of her. Considering possibilities of how her blood might interact with things, I was very, very thankful that she was such a sweet, wonderful person.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 315

“Welcome home.” stated Alma as I walked into the room. She was busily working on several computers via spells while texting on her phone with one hand and holding Caladfwlch with the other.

“Aren’t you supposed to be taking the day off, so you don’t appear to be in two places at once?” I asked.

“Mila’s routing this through my home network for me, and I’m being careful not to cross paths with my past self. I do remember what I’ve done, darling.” she replied. “Before you ask, no, I haven’t made any real progress determining what to get Portentia yet. I am looking.” The last was said while holding her phone for me to see.

“I don’t know if we’d be able to find clothing that Portentia actually likes. Her tastes are a bit unique.” I told her, remembering how she reacted to the dresses she had tried for my birthday party.

“Yes-yes, but I could could always make a variation of these designs to better fit her needs. I’m sure she won’t protest to looking less like a hermit as long as the clothing is comfortable, durable, and allows for movement.” she argued.

“I suppose. If we fail to provide something she likes, we can always do something else for her.” I suggested.

“I will find something. Just let me know if you come up with any good ideas.” she insisted. Then she suddenly thrust Caladfwlch toward me.

“Already tired of your family’s sword?” I asked.

“We were fine until you returned. As we’ve been speaking, the sword’s been growing heavier. I can also feel it wanting to go to you. I’ve tried communicating with it off and on, but all I ever receive are somewhat vague impressions from it.” she explained.

Taking hold of the sword, I sighed before telling her “And here I hoped we’d be able to get it to sing.”

Alma frowned, staring up at me.

“Sorry. I’m not the one who is disappointed that a sword won’t speak to me.” I teased. Seeing her cross her arms, I quickly told her “I am glad that you tried. At least we can guess that it can’t speak.”

“Right. Well, I have much to do. The others haven’t seen Caladfwlch yet. I’m leaving that to you.” she informed me, turning back to her computers.

I leaned down and kissed the top of her head. Then I said, “Let me know if you desire any company while you’re avoiding time off.”

“Thank you. I will.” she told me, sounding happier.

Instead of heading to the ballroom to see if anyone was gaming in there, I checked with Mila to see where Jarod was as soon as I was out of Alma’s wing.

“He’s in the lab, master.” she replied.

“Is Aurora with him?” I asked.

“Yes, master. He’s having her look over the design for his new power converter.” she explained.

“Ah. I can’t imagine her telling anyone about my new friend here, so I guess that doesn’t hurt.” I admitted.

“If she tried, very few are likely to guess what she means.” agreed Mila.

I jogged over to the lift and jumped down, since Mila already had it descending for me.

Jarod glanced up and then stared at me. “What is that he asked after a moment?” he asked, pointing to the sword.

“Caladfwlch.” I replied, pulling it out. The flame from the chimeras blazed forth, igniting the blade into its extraordinary glow.

“Master, Aurora knows.” stated Mila, sounding amused.

“Knows what precisely?” I asked.

“She brought up stories of Arthur and Excalibur when Jarod asked about the sword.” replied Mila.

“Is Aurora interested in myths?” I asked, looking over at Jarod.

“Myths!?” he exclaimed. “How can you hold that sword and call it a myth!?”

I shrugged and said, “Some myths were based on fact, but that doesn’t mean they get the details right.”

“Neither does the news, but people still quote it as fact.” he retorted wryly.

“Touché.” I replied. “Still, I wonder how she figured it out that fast.”

“She’s brilliant and has an incredible memory.” explained Jarod. “How did you get that? Can I hold it?” he inquired, shielding his eyes as he tried looking at the sword.

I nodded, handing the sword over to him. The light went out, and he dropped it immediately. For a fraction of a second, there had been a sort of pressure against my mind, like something trying to communicate telepathically, but the feeling was gone. I quickly caught the sword before it hit the ground.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, stepping back as Aurora ran up to him.

“I heard something like a growl in my head. Maybe not a growl, really, but the same sort of malice was there.

I found the idea that Caladfwlch didn’t like Jarod to be preposterous, but I wasn’t coming up with any other theories.

“Hello?” asked Jarod, answering his phone. “Really!?” he asked, absently patting Aurora’s head.

She was hugging him while periodically squinting at the sword in my hand.

I sheathed it. Having heard Mai telling Jarod that Muramasa was glowing, I wondered if Caladfwlch somehow knew that Jarod had Muramasa. “Interesting.” I commented.

“Yeah. We’ll come up.” stated Jarod before hanging up. Then he told me “I don’t think our swords like each other.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you.” I admitted.

“Aurora, go back to work. I’ll be back.” stated Jarod as he pointed to her station.

She stood there, staring at him.

“Oh, fine. I suppose it is time they meet you.” he told her.

“I seem to recall Alma needing something.” I teased, looking away from him.

“Ha ha.” he muttered. “You’ve gotta be interested in seeing what’s happening.”

“Yes. I do.” I replied, following him onto the lift with Aurora close behind.

As we rose, Aurora tentatively poked Caladfwlch. I moved the sword, positioning the hilt toward her and was surprised she actually drew it. A faint light emanated from the blade, so I guessed my sword liked her. I quickly snatched the sword, returning it to my sheath, when she moved to poke the ground. I didn’t really want a hole there. I shook my head when she looked up at me with a frown, but I didn’t have a clue how to explain to her how dangerous this blade could be. I was going off rumor, of course, but I had no doubt that the sword’s ability to cut would match Muramasa or Midnight. We jogged over to the East wing and headed inside.

Ai looked ready to say something when the door opened, but her mouth snapped shut as she stared at Aurora. When she glanced at me, she suddenly curtsied.

With a groan, I said, “Please don’t.”

“Lady Pendreigh would be displeased if I failed to meet basic propriety, your worship.” she insisted with a mischievous grin.

“Aurora, this is my wife, Ai.” stated Jarod, gesturing toward her. “Aurora’s my lab assistant.”

Aurora saluted, and I found myself wondering again what being inside her head was like.

Mai came running around the corner and grabbed Jarod, pulling him away.

Ai stepped closer to Aurora, took the hand that was pointing at Mai, and said, “You’re beautiful, aren’t you. I want to hear everything you do with my husband in the lab.”

“Aurora doesn’t talk.” I informed her.

“Oh? A lab assistant that doesn’t talk. Care to explain?” she told me, sounding like she was giving me an order.

I pulled out Caladfwlch and said, “I must be off. I’m on a mission.” When Ai looked away from the light, I grabbed Aurora, lifted her in one arm, and ran after Jarod.

“James!” called Ai as she chased us.

Muramasa was sitting on the table in the war room. I wouldn’t have said the sword was glowing precisely, but the area around it seemed untouched by Caladfwlch’s light. The distortion from Muramasa actually reminded me of Raine. Perhaps the Slayers weren’t far off when they called it The Demon Blade.

Jarod picked the blade up, and I could hear its song of battle. As always, Muramasa was ready to kill. Equally apparent was the calm of Caladfwlch, a sense of patience.

I wasn’t prepared to see Jarod toss Muramasa toward me. What was he doing? Should I dodge? No. Ai sounded too close. What if she touched the blade!? I quickly set Aurora to the side. Then I grabbed Muramasa’s handle, turned to Jarod, and asked “What are you doing!? This sword’s too dangerous.”

“Huh?” he asked looking at me like I was being crazy. “I knew you’d catch it, and it wouldn’t hurt you even if you stopped it with your palm. I wanted to see what would happen if you held them both. Seems like they’re both happy enough to me. Show off.”

He wasn’t wrong about how the swords were reacting in my hands, but I still felt that was reckless. I handed his sword back to him as I said, “Don’t offend the sword either. They obviously can be touchy.”

“Fair point.” he replied, nodding as he set Muramasa back on the table.

“Is that really safe?” I asked.

Jarod hugged Mai and said, “My wife likes keeping it close to hand.”

“The whispering can be a bit distracting at times, but I think the sword’s happier nearby.” explained Ai.

“Now tell me about Aurora.” stated Mai.

I turned to see Aurora looking back and forth between the twins.

“Pardon, but Cosette is asking if she and Raine may enter.” stated Mila.

“Whoa. You two reintegrated Mila?” I asked the twins.

“Jarod insisted.” stated Ai.

Then Mai said, “Please let them in.”

Guessing those two had noticed us running past the ballroom on our way, I felt there were quite a few questions about to be asked. I quietly apologized to Alma, thinking I’d be quite a while before stopping in to visit her.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 296

“James! Who’s that!?” exclaimed Emma as she excitedly grabbed my arm and pointed at Aurora.

I sighed while wondering what would be the best way to protect Aurora from Emma. Then I said, “Everyone can be introduced shortly. First off, step up beside one of the devices on the ground.”

I had spent a large part of the past week enchanting the flying contraptions Aurora had tweaked for me, but she was rather determined to demonstrate them. At least, that seemed to be her plan with how she was showing the device to everyone and pointing to parts.

“Is Jarod already having an affair?” teased Brandon.

I didn’t bother dignifying the question with a response and certainly wasn’t going to stop Brenna from hitting him.

“Ow!” he exclaimed. “I was only joking, sis. Chill out! Boss, my sister’s using her suit to abuse an employee.”

“Oh?” I asked. “I didn’t see anything. Mila, do you have any record of abuse?”

“No, master. I surely would have filed such a thing immediately.” she replied.

“Come on… You both saw her hit me!” exclaimed Brandon.

“Just pay attention.” snapped Alma. “Aurora’s already starting her demonstration.”

“Are we supposed to do what she does?” asked Jemal.

He and his sister just moved in yesterday. I already had enhancement suits prepared for them, though Aaliyah had to convince me that his sister needed one already. The thought of an unnaturally strong ten-year-old running about the house didn’t seem safe, but Aaliyah pointed out that she’ll be safer in a suit than out of one if she falls victim to someone else’s horseplay.

“Yes. Please, follow along.” I told him.

“Jemal! Jemal!” whispered Kayla excitedly. “There’s a fairy!”

“Pay attention. You know better by…” he started to say, but his words cut off as he caught sight of my little friend. “J-James… There’s a… There’s really a…”

“Yes. Don’t mind her. Just try to pay attention.” I told him. “Oh. You may start to feel like you’re daydreaming due to images and sensations coming to mind. That’s just how she communicates.”

He nodded, but Kayla was quite obviously too distracted to watch Aurora’s instructions, not that the instructions were exceptionally helpful without narration. Alma seemed to agree with me on that point, suddenly giving voice to how the latch mechanism grabbed ahold of shoes. Well, she also pointed out the potential for scuff marks and mentioned how to disable the mechanism if one were to try using the device with bare feet.

Oh. I had missed that Emma’s shoes were missing. I wasn’t particularly surprised, not even when plant matter rushed around them to form a sort of shoe with a wooden sole. Typical Emma. She even added a tree-shaped emblem on the side.

Unabashed by the mixed attention she was receiving, Aurora took hold of the control and lifted into the air. She then stared at the rest of us, possibly wondering why we weren’t flying yet.

I carefully used the controls to rise into the air as Alma finished her explanation of the control parts. Portentia and Emma were quick to do the same.

“Jemal! They’re flying!” exclaimed Kayla.

“Yep. Let’s see if we can too.” he told her, looking determined.

Before he even lifted off the ground, Aurora was demonstrating the mobility of the craft, flying circles in the air.

“Yo, boss. Mine seems broken.” stated Brandon.

“Did you hit the ‘on’ switch?” I asked.

“Huh? Where’s that?” he replied.

“Twist the bottom of the remote, doofus.” stated Brenna.

“It’s working!” he exclaimed.

“Hey, James. How fast can this thing go?” asked Portentia. “I could probably make use of this for my…” She glanced at Jemal and Kayla before saying, “For my nightly activities.”

“I should mention that flying outside of my yard is probably illegal for the time being, but Mila informed me that her mother is already negotiating a law to be passed in the city to allow use of these devices for testing purposes. We could save a great deal of time getting to our jobs if we bypass traffic, and I’m sure any of you who are interested will be able to master the use of these devices.” I explained. “Besides, they seem like fun.”

“Kayla look! I’m flying!” exclaimed Jemal.

“Can’t catch me!” she replied, shooting into the air.

I was surprised by how easily she took to it, slowing and spinning around thirty feet off the ground.

“Careful! It’s not…” started Jemal as he tried to pursue her, but he lost his balance, veering even farther in the opposite direction when the machine tried to adjust for his positioning.

I didn’t bother moving, seeing Aurora already diving toward him. Besides, Raine was watching with one sleepy eye open as she napped in her cat form. I was certain that she could catch him if he was an inch above the ground before she moved. Furthermore, he was only around ten feet in the air when he lost balance. A drop like that was insignificant while wearing the enhancement suit.

I hadn’t expected him to catch himself with magic before he spun all the way over. Aurora still pushed him upright and started demonstrating movement again when he was watching.

“Did you see that?” asked Alma, flying over to me.

My little friend seemed interested in what was happening as well, darting over to investigate.

“Yes. I told you about their abilities.” I replied.

“His expression though. I don’t think he realized he could do that.” she told me.

“I’m not surprised. He seemed dubious about magic existing when I interviewed him.” I explained.

Kayla dove down by her brother, nearly falling herself, and started teasing him.

“Would you be offended if I did a bit of matchmaking?” asked Alma.

“I’m afraid so. You want him to marry into your family.” I stated, guessing at her intentions.

“His magic’s strong enough to lift his own weight. Imagine how such magic could be utilized with the strength of my family behind it.” she suggested.

“At least allow him to get acclimated here before you start meddling.” I told her.

“He might not be interested in leaving then.” she claimed.

I smiled and said, “I can hope.”

“James, my family really isn’t as bad as you seem to believe. We do protect this world.” she insisted.

I was well aware that she believed what she said, but I believed in the eldest three vampires more than Adelmar Slayer by the end of one night with them. I had no intention of idly letting the Slayers do as they wished, at least not in regard to my friends, and I was certain Jemal could be my friend.

Our discussion was interrupted by Portentia rushing over to me and signing

I replied.

She grinned, obviously hopeful. Then she said, She flew over to the side, jumped to the ground, and maneuvered the flying machine higher into the air as she ran beneath it. Then she leaped into the air, flipped backward, and landed on it again before spinning around with a grin.

“Jemal! Did you see that girl jump!?” exclaimed Kayla.

“Yeah. Don’t try that.” he replied.

“But Jemal… how did she run so fast?” she asked.

“No idea.” he admitted.

“I did warn you that everyone here had abilities.” I told him, speaking loudly enough that he might hear.

Jemal barked a laugh and said, “Yeah, you did.” His mouth went slack as giant plants grew from the yard.

“Obstacle course, everyone! Let’s really test these things!” exclaimed Emma as she rode one into the air and hopped back on her flying apparatus.

I really needed to get Jarod to name these things, but I approved of Emma’s initiative. This could be fun.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 291

“Master, this will increase my efficiency dramatically!” exclaimed Mila.

“Well, more bodies does tend to have that effect.” I replied, leaning against the wall. I was still feeling shaken by the experience. The memories were too much, giving me a momentary headache if I thought too much about them.

“You didn’t increase the number of bodies, master, only the speed. Are you feeling okay?” asked Mila.

“I’ll be fine. I hadn’t realized you had four bodies.” I told her.

“I don’t, master. Only two, unless you’re including the cars, but I am not seeing any difference in those.

What? I know I enchanted four… I cringed away from the memory. As effortless as enchanting those bodies had been, thinking of all I had done was too much right now. There were four though.

Aaliyah winked at me, grinning.

I wondered what she was thinking, but knew I couldn’t take it. The memory of seeing more of her was far too much for me; her mind would be even beyond what I saw. A thought occurred to me as Mila danced around her mother with incredible speed and grace. Maybe I enchanted future bodies as well. Aaliyah knew I didn’t want to use that room again, so she might have saved me some future effort. When Mila did want more bodies, she wouldn’t want them left without enchantments after growing accustomed to the increased abilities of her current ones.

“I think I’m going to try on my own suit.” I announced, wanting something to take my mind off what had happened.

“Sorry, boss-man, sir.” replied Aaliyah.

“I’ll be fine. I know you mean well.” I assured her.

“About your suit.” she stated.

I stared at her blankly, not sure what she meant. I enchanted one for myself as well. I knew precisely where the suit was and moved to grab it. As my hand touched the fabric, things clicked. I sighed.

“I can’t use it, can I.” I told her.

“Well, you can wear it.” she replied.

Nodding glumly, I said, “But the enchantment is worthless on me. My own magic will counter it.”

“I’m sorry, boss-man, sir.” she stated again before coming over to hug me.

Mila hugged me as well. “Now I feel bad for complaining about not getting an upgrade. Had I known you couldn’t, I’d have been less pouty.” she told me.

“I’m glad I was I able to help you, Mila. No need to feel bad.” I told her, though I was greatly disappointed. The gap between Alma and I would be rather large when she wore hers. “I guess I could use Carnwennan to destroy this.”

“Boss-man, sir, that’d be quite wasteful.” stated Aaliyah, sounding disappointed that I’d suggest such a thing.

“No one is my size, so this’ll just take up space. We can’t exactly resize it.” I argued. “Oh. I suppose Brandon could resize himself to fit.”

Aaliyah flicked the suit, causing its shape to ripple and shrink. “Boss-man, sir! This suit’s perfectly sized for Aurora!”

“I guess the suit could be resized, but how is giving Aurora a suit wise? Wouldn’t that cause issues when she’s at home?” I asked.

“Not if she’s only allowed to wear it here.” replied Aaliyah. “You won’t have to worry about her stripping this way, since the suit will keep her comfortable.”

That truly would be a tremendous advantage. Ai and Mai would certainly have less to complain about when they did find out about Jarod’s lab assistant. “Point conceded.” I told her.

“Another option would be to give the suit to our sleepy friend there. I could totally do fairy size.” suggested Aaliyah.

I looked at the tiny fairy resting on a workbench and felt she was perfectly fine as she was. Having her be any more dangerous could be extremely hazardous to others. Looking back to Aaliyah, I said, “No, I think Aurora will enjoy it more. They fey don’t really seem to enjoy clothing.”

Aaliyah shrugged and grinned as Mila took the resized suit over to Aurora. There was a bit of an exchange between the two, and I quickly turned around as Aurora started to strip. The girl had no sense of modesty at all.

“She was easily convinced.” I mumbled.

Aaliyah giggled and said, “Aurora’s been wanting one, silly. She really is observant, boss-man, sir.”

I supposed the girl would take interest in what else was being done down here, considering the sorts of things Jarod normally did, but I didn’t think Aurora and a semi-thick suit meshed well without knowing what all it did.

“You’re focusing on the wrong train of thought, boss-man, sir.” suggested Aaliyah.

I took a moment to consider before saying, “She really does just want to fit in?” I had also been considering how much quicker she’d be able to complete her project, wondering if I could get Brandon’s suit to adjust to his abilities in some way, and pondering what Alma might be doing.

Nodding, Aaliyah said, “I can also point you in the right direction to improve Brandon’s next suit, but I’ll tell you upfront that letting the Slayers learn about magic to transform matter is a bad idea.”

I could think of far too many ways they might abuse such magic if they learned of it, so I couldn’t argue. “I don’t really see them finding out the specifics of how to accomplish it.” I admitted.

“They won’t, but that’s another spell you should hold off on showing Alma till after you’re married.” she insisted.

“Do you have some insane prenuptial agreement written up?” I asked.

“Of course, boss-man, sir!” she exclaimed with a grin.

I found myself briefly hugged by Aurora before she ran back to her station and started moving her arms around very quickly. She seemed to have mastered the gesture interface already.

Aaliyah informed me “Hers is custom, of course, as is her schooling. Aurora will end up living here eventually.”

“What? Is something going to happen to her parents?” I asked.

:They die in a car crash and Aurora is hospitalized on a family vacation.: she replied.

I took a moment to realize that Aaliyah hadn’t spoken aloud. Aurora was staring over at us now.

:The suit enhanced her hearing as well due to those spells you added, and she can’t know in advance.: explained Aaliyah.

:Won’t you save them?: I asked. I knew she could.

:That’s their time, boss-man, sir.: she stated.

I knew by her tone there was no arguing. When Aaliyah said someone’s time was up, nothing I said could change her mind. :Doesn’t she have other family?: I asked.

:Yes, but she wouldn’t be happy with them.: she insisted. :She’ll have all the family and friends she’ll ever want here. You bring so many people together.:

:I’d argue that you do, and I am just blessed by it.: I told her.

She smiled and said, :If you hadn’t saved me, I wouldn’t have helped you find them. I can show you how many people you’d personally have found and saved then. There would still be many, boss-man, sir. In all the realms of what could have been possible, you were always magnificent.:

I laughed and gave her a hug. I made far too many mistakes to really be that amazing, especially without her help, but no one could compare with my tiny secretary.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 290

“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.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 281

I felt a touch guilty in the morning when so many people headed groggily to the airport. We had been up fairly late, playing Ancient Tribes of Earth together. Our visiting guildmates loved seeing the setup we used after the ballroom had been cleared of the wedding supplies. I hoped the lack of sleep didn’t cause them issues as they headed home.

Jarod and the twins departed as well, already leaving for Japan. I was certain Ai and Mai would take advantage of his sleep-deprived state in some way, but he wouldn’t mind. He married them after all. Well, I didn’t really know if this counted for marrying both yet or not. Only one went through the ceremony as a bride so far, but with minds linked as theirs were, they both would have experienced it. The idea still seemed a bit odd to me. I didn’t really think I’d like experiencing multiple bodies, but that was all they knew.

“James, are you ready?” asked Alma as she stepped into my office.

“Ready?” I asked.

“We need to start planning our wedding.” she stated.

“Here you are, Alpy!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she ducked around her and handed her paperwork.

“What are these?” asked Alma, already looking through them. “Oh.”

“Yep. All the paperwork you need to sign as well as a few for your father. Everything’s booked and ready to go.” stated Aaliyah.

“Wait. What? You picked a date for us?” I asked, feeling a bit startled. I did want to marry Alma, but was I really ready to be a husband? I hadn’t been ready to become a fiancée just yesterday. I could feel Alma’s magic boiling within her hidden away from most as her temper was hidden behind the impassive expression she bore.

“Aren’t you getting a little presumptuous?” demanded Alma, her temper coming through in her tone.

“Want to fight about it?” offered Aaliyah, cracking her neck and knuckles simultaneously as she turned to Alma.

For a moment, I thought Alma might try, but good sense apparently won out. Fighting Death would always be a terrible plan.

After a long pause where Alma stared down Aaliyah, she said, “Did you even bother considering how much I’ll have to rearrange make this date work?”

Nodding, Aaliyah said, “Yep! I started preparations for you months ago. You’ll find the day and following week surprisingly clear, the perfect day for a wedding.”

“What? That’s preposterous. How could you possibly have known that…” started Alma, before being interrupted.

Aaliyah spoke over her, saying, “If you really want to know the variables that could be considered in determining that exact date from the moment I started preparations, you’ll need to clear your schedule for the next month. I assure you that you’ll give up trying to follow along by that time.”

“James! Help me here. You simply cannot be okay with this.” insisted Alma.

“What’s the date?” I asked.

“March twenty-third.” snapped Alma.

“Oh, look. My schedule’s free.” I told her, not bothering to actually check. I knew Aaliyah would have taken care of whatever was needed.

She sighed and stated “You’re incorrigible. You’ve let her control your life for too long.”

“No, I simply trust her to know what’s best far better than I’d ever manage. We traveled in time yesterday to make Jarod’s wedding. How often do you think Aaliyah takes advantage of Carl’s abilities? I imagine that Aaliyah’s already seen our wedding.” I told her.

Aaliyah nodded enthusiastically and asked “Want spoilers!?”

“No!” exclaimed Alma, though her anger was subsiding.

“She’s tempted to ask for a peek.” teased Aaliyah.

“I most certainly am not!” snapped Alma as she blushed.

“Oh, Alpy… I said you were tempted, not that you’d give in to your temptation.” explained Aaliyah, reaching up to pat her arm.

“There’s that as well.” I stated. “Knowing what everyone is thinking has to make planning easier.”

“James, she cannot possibly know what everyone is thinking. There are far too many people in this world.” she told me.

“No spoilers, boss-man, sir.” stated Aaliyah.

I had been thinking about the other worlds I had visited, considering if Aaliyah could read each civilization’s thoughts. Wait… spoilers… did that mean Alma would see them eventually? I would love to share them with her.

“Spoilers? What do you mean?” demanded Alma.

“Spoilers!” exclaimed Aaliyah. “I know a great guy who has trouble resisting spoilers. You wouldn’t believe in him either, Alpy! He’s a time traveler.”

“Lovely. Another one.” stated Alma with a frown.

“Oh, no. He’s not like Carl. He’s just a youngin’. Wonderful person though.” claimed Aaliyah.

“Great. Now she’s coming. I really was hoping she was heading elsewhere.” muttered Alma.

“Who?” I asked.

“Portentia, boss-man, sir. She wants to use a ticket tonight.” explained Aaliyah.

“Oh. Do I have plans?” I asked.

“Yes, master. Mother scheduled you to be out with Portentia tonight, so you have plans with her.” Mila stated over the speakers.

I had no clue where her bodies were at the moment. I hadn’t seen her since she brought me tea a bit ago.

“She’s cooking with Marco and instructing Aurora.” replied Aaliyah.

“Correct!” exclaimed Mila.

“Aurora? Is that Jarod’s lab assistant?” asked Alma.

“Also correct!” exclaimed Mila.

“I still haven’t met her. Jarod had mentioned her to me a while ago. He apparently thought I might be concerned about a girl frequenting the garage. Surely, he knows I trust him by now.” stated Alma.

Knowing Jarod, he probably figured out that Alma had some means of sensing people. I wasn’t surprised that he’d be a step ahead of any assumptions Alma might make, but how would Alma take Aurora’s tendency to remove her clothing?

Alma then went on to say, “I’m quite interested in meeting her at some point. Anyone Jarod would accept as a lab assistant simply must be fascinating.”

I wasn’t certain Alma would approve.

“She’s quite fantastic, I assure you.” insisted Mila.

“Oh. You’re busy.” stated Portentia disappointedly from the doorway.

I waved for her come in and said, “I have a moment. What do you need?”

“I was just wondering if tonight would work for you to be my sidekick. I wanted to use one of my tickets.” she told me.

“Sounds wonderful.” I assured her.

“Thank you! Mila’s fabricating a costume for you.” she informed me.

“Oh, this I simply must see. Shall we all head to Jarod’s lab?” inquired Alma.

I quickly tried coming up with an excuse not to go there, since I wasn’t inclined to have Alma meet Aurora when Jarod wasn’t around.

“Only if we get to force James into his costume! I want to see it!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

Well, maybe things would work out.

She winked at me.

Standing, I said, “Fine-fine. Let’s go.”

We all headed down to the lab under the garage, and I was quite thankful that Aurora was fully dressed for the moment, though I wondered if Mila somehow managed to get her that way in preparation for our arrival. If Aurora noticed us, she made no sign of it.

“How old is she?” asked Alma.

At nearly the same moment, Portentia inquired “Who is she?”

“She’s sixteen.” stated Mila. At the same time, she signed

While the group of us coming down the lift didn’t catch Aurora’s attention, Mila signing did. The girl started making hand motions herself, though nothing that had meaning to me. At that point, Mila turned her to face us. Aurora’s only reaction was to tilt her head as if trying to figure out what we were.

Smiling, Alma said, “Hello, Aurora. I’m Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V.”

No reaction.

Portentia introduced herself as well.

Aaliyah held up a paper, but I couldn’t see what was on it.

Aurora walked over to her, picked her up, and went back to working on something.

“Did Jarod mention that Aurora’s not socially adept yet?” I asked.

“No, but I guessed as much” replied Alma.

“Is something wrong with her?” asked Portentia, sounding concerned.

“I wouldn’t say anything was wrong, but she is different.” I told her. “She’s an autistic savant who Jarod says has remarkable potential.”

Alma, who had walked over to where Aurora was working, said, “I’m inclined to agree.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Do you see what Aaliyah drew?” she asked.

I looked and said, “Some sort of schematic.”

“Aurora understood it at a glance and is implementing the design into her own work already, some sort of propulsion system going by the arrangement of the fans.” stated Alma.

“Correct!” exclaimed Mila. “Aurora’s helping Jarod design a lightweight flight system. Mother just pushed things forward a bit with her suggested revision to the power control circuit.”

“Couldn’t you do this even faster?” asked Alma.

“I certainly could do some of it faster, but Aurora’s also here to learn.” replied Mila.

As she talked, Aurora walked over to me, seeming to examine me. Then she grabbed the front of my shirt and walked back to where she was working, pulling me along. She let go the moment we were back at her computer, so she could move the mouse with her free hand.

“Does she want me to see something?” I asked.

Aaliyah looked up at me and said, “Nope. You were in the wrong place is all. She didn’t want you electrocuted.”

“Huh? By what?” I asked.

“She’s picturing a very large version of the machine in the room.” explained Aaliyah.

“Master, your suit’s finished!” exclaimed Mila.

I wasn’t honestly looking forward to tonight’s excursion, but looking like a superhero might be fun. Things could be worse.