I looked around in wonder, amazed that these primitive giants had even managed to colonize this world. During my brief stay, I quickly realized that they do not deserve the planet. Pollution was rampant and very few seemed to care. My kind would thrive here and easily repair the damage, though it would take some time.
I suddenly froze, sensing danger. I couldn’t see anything threatening, at least not at first. A shadow loomed over me, and I prepared to release my venomous cloud. The fear increased as I stared up. Something terrible and vast was looming over me. I named her Death as a voice penetrated my mind.
:Wrong planet, little one.: she stated.
I wanted to respond. I wanted to assure her that my people could better care for this place. I wanted to explain that my own planet was too populated for my offspring to really thrive. I wanted to say so many things, but I could only nod.
:You’ll be a good girl and leave now, yes?: asked the voice.
I knew to my core this wasn’t a request. I quickly thought :Yes. I’ll leave this night. I won’t leave anything behind.:
The feeling of terror instantly abated as she vanished from my sight, but something dreadful remained just past what I could see. I felt it there, watching me, waiting. I was frozen, fear building inside me again. Humans passed me, unaware of how close my family was to colonizing this planet ourselves. I wanted to look at the thing near me, yet every fiber in my being warned against turning. I ran as fast as I could. This planet was guarded by Death herself and possibly something worse. We would never come back here.
“I don’t see why she needed to come along.” I stated, resisting the urge to tap my foot as Aaliyah crouched over some type of large beetle. I didn’t recognize the species, so I was guessing the creature was rare. I wasn’t going to admit my ignorance, not with how gladly Aaliyah would surely give me an overly detailed explanation which would undoubtedly tell me little of actual interest.
“Sorry, but you know my schedule is pretty tight. How was I supposed to know that Chad would desperately need a babysitter today?” asked James.
I rolled my eyes and said, “You could have pawned her off on Emma. Emma would’ve been overjoyed.”
James was quite well aware that Aaliyah was an exceptionally dangerous being who didn’t need “babysitting”, but he took the role seriously, as if what he did could make any difference to her. Would he still believe himself a babysitter if he ever found out that Aaliyah was Death herself? He had seen her true form once already, a fact that gave him nightmares for a month. Would he even be able to handle that knowledge?
Aaliyah looked up at me with her wide, blue eyes as she said, “Emma’s modeling for one of her favorite brands. You wouldn’t really want to have her be distracted on such a big day, would you?”
Was she threatening me? There was just enough variance in her tone toward the end that she might have been. I was surely over-thinking the situation.
“Are you quite finished now?” I demanded.
The girl looked too adorable as she excitedly nodded and said, “Yep! She’s promised to return home tonight, so all is well! Crisis averted!”
Was she protecting the beetle, knowing it was rare? Could she actually communicate with it? I shook my head as I started walking. I would get nowhere if I allowed myself to continue this line of thought. Aaliyah would kill me in a heartbeat if I revealed her secret to anyone, she might well kill me just for discovering another one.
“You do know that as the owner of the company you do have a say in the schedule.” I pointedly told James, settling on a safer line of thought. “I realize that Aaliyah is a marvelous secretary, but don’t you rely on her a bit heavily?”
I was dramatically understating things, but telling James he was being deceived wouldn’t get me anywhere. Unfortunately, his trust in Aaliyah grew by the day.
“You do realize that I can’t keep up with her at all, don’t you?” he asked. “The amount of work Aaliyah does in her free time is mind-boggling.”
“Quite, but aren’t you making enough to spend more time managing and less time in the field, babysitting your employee?” I pointed out, perfectly well aware that I couldn’t come close to keeping up with her either.
“But the boss-man likes his job, Alpy!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
I really disliked that nickname.
“You shouldn’t bully him when he’s finally having some fun with his life.” she continued.
I started to argue, pointing out that James had been having a sufficient amount of fun merely playing her game, but he was being oblivious when I tried to get him to confirm the point. What was distracting him now!?
Gently squeezing his hand, I asked “James, are you even listening?”
“Sorry.” he stated, blinking and looking at me. “Was thinking about stuff. You wouldn’t believe how strained my head’s felt of late, having to communicate with a fey so frequently.”
I nodded and said, “I actually appreciate the fairy’s company during your lessons. I never would’ve guessed quite how skilled you are with multitasking without seeing you attempt to fight, chat with her, and maintain a spell. You’ve been improving quite satisfactorily. However, I do still maintain that the fairy should not be allowed off your yard, particularly out of that forest. Can you imagine what she’d do to some daft bloke that attempted to mug you?”
If someone managed to harm the little creature, we’d both be quite devastated. She was probably the last of her kind. As pointless as her conversation regularly was, she always brought smiles and laughter. I really would miss her if she were gone.
“I am getting better at communicating with her, you know. I might be able to persuade her to stay out of it.” argued James.
“Alpy, want to hire a mugger and test it!? We can place bets and everything!” suggested Aaliyah.
“I’ll never speak with either of you again if you hire a criminal to attack me.” he told her, attempting to appear quite put off by the notion.
“Come now, James. We would just be having a little fun.” I teased.
He stared at me in that way which encouraged an urge to embrace him. I wished he wasn’t so fragile… I could literally hug him to death with next to no effort. I refrained from further acknowledging the urge and instead started speaking of his staff, gently pointing out ways he might be able to guide them more.
“Here we are.” I stated, having walked another block. “This will only take a few minutes, but please make yourself comfortable.”
Anna worked for me, using her antique business to aid in finding non-humans to investigate. She barely started discussing this month’s leads when I realized James seemed to grow cold in the other room. Whatever could be troubling him? He was shivering!
“Boss-man, sir? What’s wrong?” asked Aaliyah.
The way James grabbed her protectively against his chest worried me too much. I dashed into the room and inquired “James, whatever is the matter?”
“I’m… well… I’m fine, so far as there’s nothing physically wrong with me.” he assured me with a tremor in his voice.
I didn’t think he was lying, considering I could find no wound.
“Anna, might I trouble you for some tea?” I asked loudly enough for Anna to hear from the other room.
“I want some too!” exclaimed Aaliyah, her voice muffled behind James’ arm.
He released her, saying, “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t trying to suffocate you.”
“Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. Everything’s fine!” she assured him.
Everything was most certainly not fine. What happened!? I needed to be more delicate. James looked on edge, and his mind was quite obviously not with us at the moment.
I gently touched his shoulder to get his attention before saying, “James, you can talk with me. What happened?’
He looked from me to Aaliyah. Was he not wanting to say something in front of her? He seemed to be considering a long time and concern was clearly on his face.
“Aaliyah, will you cover your ears until the tea is out?” I asked, knowing she’d hear us from half a block away with ease. “I’ll give you the last of my chocolates if you don’t listen to us for the next couple minutes.”
She grinned and nodded, looking every bit the adorable child she pretended to be. She might well be gouging out her own eardrums at the moment, though I didn’t sense anything of the sort. A deal was struck though, so she would adhere to it.
“I really don’t see how covering her ears will stop her from hearing us.” stated James.
I sighed and explained, “Due to her condition, she is quite capable of turning off her hearing. We made a deal some time ago that she’d do so for me whenever she covered her ears. Now please explain what happened to frighten you.”
I was well aware of some type of machinery inside her, but the entire form was a ruse. The machinery seemed nonsensical at best and changed periodically.
James looked embarrassed as he said, “I saw Death’s daughter when I looked in one of the mirrors. She killed someone outside, and I just started shaking. I couldn’t help it.”
What was she playing at!? Was she purposefully messing with us, or was there a bigger game afoot? I had no doubt she could seem to be in two places at once to James. Aaliyah was the fastest being known to me by an incredible margin.
Trying to console James, I said, “Don’t feel bad. You’ll meet few who aren’t traumatized by the sight of her.” Then I inquired “Sorry, but I have to ask, were you holding Aaliyah the whole time?”
“No. I grabbed Aaliyah the moment I managed to look away.” he told me.
I smirked and tried my best not to laugh. I was relieved that James hadn’t gone completely crazy from the sight of her and amused that he was trying to protect the very being who terrified him.
“Sorry. Truly. I’m terribly sorry.” I insisted, unable to explain to him why I was having difficulty containing my mirth.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, looking as if he might laugh now.
I started laughing, unable to keep the mirth inside any longer. He was completely adorable.
“I can’t help it. You’ve seen some of what she can do, yet you were trying to protect her of all people? James, I am sorry for laughing, but you’re ridiculous!” I explained, trying not to laugh anymore.
He was laughing too hard to reply, possibly realizing how absurd the situation was to some degree.
“Would you do the same for me if I would have been the one close at hand?” I asked after he calmed down some.
He shrugged and said, “I’d probably hide behind you, honestly.”
“Somewhat more sensible, but a bit less chivalrous, don’t you think?” I replied, not that I was disappointed in his response. The idea of having him pull me protectively to his chest was simply at the forefront of my thoughts.
Grabbing my hand, he said, “I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you either.”
I smiled as I gazed up at him. His sincerity and kindness were admirable, even if they led him to rash judgements at times. James was undeniably a splendid person.