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.

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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.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 277

“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.