About Jovial Times

I enjoy writing and hope that I might bring a few more smiles to this world by doing what I enjoy.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 227

The tall, young man was panicking, rambling on about insignificant matters. “There’s more than that… I’m… I just feel so unprepared. I can’t do anything about this fog and doubt I could if I found its source. I’m worried about how many people the man killed, considering zombies came out of houses back there. I…”

Concern even beyond his pathetic friends was such a weakness. Sending them scurrying had been merciful, though more costly than I expected. Even now I felt more dying to Calamity. I was beginning to understand why she was feared in this city.

I stepped forward and interrupted the boy before he found his words. “Just a few hundred. I almost made them useful.” More accurately, my simulacrum had stepped forward. These two were dangerous, possessing speed and strength beyond me. I believed at least the girl was a Slayer.

The tall boy spun with incredible speed and stared at me with piercing blue eyes. He seemed formidable despite his obvious lack of training.

“Surrendering?” inquired the short girl, her calf-length hair whipping around her body after she turned. She sounded disappointed but her imperious air did not leave her.

“I thought we might have a little chat.” I told them, watching from other vantage points as well. Even the grass here had been transformed into a useful tool, allowing me to track these two easily throughout the cemetery. “You’re obviously not human, and I have a guess what family you come from.”

“Yes, the Slayers. Since you’ve heard of them, you surely know this illusion of yours won’t deter us.” stated the girl, radiating authority.

At first, I thought she meant the fog, but I quickly realized she knew what my simulacrum was. Slayers were known to be powerful, despite their limited years. I considered running, but I didn’t have the book I sought yet.

“Hardly my finest work, I’ll admit. Why are you…” I started to ask, but they blurred away. I felt my illusion dispelled and the uncomfortable sensation of my consciousnesses forced into the secondary simulacrum. The two appeared just as I was reorienting myself.

“Unfortunately for you, I was recently examining that spell and learned how to trace it.” stated the girl with a smile. She seemed to be enjoying this.

“Clever girl. Or are you?” I questioned, releasing a spell to engulf them in fire with a snap.

“Fire against a Slayer’s child? You have heard of us, correct?” she taunted with a bored tone.

Neither of them had been bothered by the attack, though the boy had seemed surprised. She wasn’t actually a Slayer, just the offspring of one. She’d be weaker.

“Just verifying things, my dear. Please, don’t take offense.” I replied and actually meant it. I needed her to remain overly confident, but I didn’t want to incur the wrath of her full might. “You can hardly blame an old man for wanting to live a little longer.”

“May I at least have your…” she started, pausing and looking at me incredulously. “Wait. Really?” She reached forward and grabbed at my simulacrum, sniffing the air once it was in her grasp.

Knowing she had discovered the ruse, I released the necrotic swarm from my tool’s mouth. My consciousness was ripped away immediately. The next three of my simulacrums were destroyed in rapid succession, and I struggled to reorient. I hadn’t anticipated such rapid destruction of my tools.

“A hostage? Really?” demanded the girl, standing in front of my true body, though still disguised. She faced several of my puppets, not yet realizing where I truly stood.

You think I’m being unpleasant?” I demanded. “I was quite content having a chat with you, and you attack my creations to hunt me down. Who wouldn’t take some precautions with your family’s reputation?”

Before she could reply, I unleashed another trap, blasting her back with a powerful bolt of lightning. The boy didn’t even seem to notice he was struck. Could he be the actual Slayer, miraculously untrained!? I tried again. Same results.

The girl calmly walked back forward, dryly saying, “Oh, neat. Lightning. Ah, it burns.” She finished brushing herself off and then asked “How long have you been preparing this area? I’ll admit that I’m a bit disappointed if that’s all you have for me.”

I was growing more and more concerned. I hadn’t wanted to kill these two, knowing the Slayer family would hound me if I managed, but I wasn’t going to be insulted forever.

“Grab them.” I commanded through my counterpart.

The two obvious toys lurched forward with all the haste I could grant them. I knew the zombies alone would be ineffective, but I needed a moment to concentrate and unleash the rest of my traps.

An illusion of darkness surrounded them as enchanted daggers flew at each. The darkness was dispelled before the daggers even struck. The boy merely flinched as they bounced off while the girl expertly dispelled them.

Every spell I had hidden throughout the area unleashed upon them, far more than anyone could withstand, but they were doing it. Fear had been rising as my onslaught failed to touch them.

“Alma, did you kill them?” asked the boy, sounding shocked while ignoring the barrage of spells striking him.

Still countering spells, the girl turned and said, “JAMES! I would never hurt an innocent child. This is hardly the time for this, but she turned out to be a zo-”

I had had enough. Panicking, knowing my traps were about spent, I leaped forward and called upon the darkness granted to me so long ago. A thick, turbulent stream of shadows shot from my arms to devour my foes.

The exertion was taxing, but nothing could survi- My thoughts stopped. The boy stood there completely untouched, and I felt like my world was suddenly wrapped in the wrath of an angry god. Everything within me screamed to run, or perhaps I was actually screaming. I threw a wall of stone between us. Then I threw another another as well as every trap I could manage as I ran. I camouflaged myself. I felt as if my mind was searing from the touch of an anger so potent, so powerful that the weight of it would destroy me. I ran till my lungs burned and my feet stumbled. I crawled forward. The feeling had subsided, but I couldn’t stop yet. I couldn’t risk facing whatever that was.

,,,^._.^,,,

I heard myself whimper from the pain, but there was no time for embarrassment or farewells. Adelmar had been observing and felt my pain. I felt so much anger and knew it wasn’t my own.

“COME OUT!” screamed James. He was nearby and his voice was like a crack of thunder, slamming into me.

“James…” I pleaded, hardly recognizing my voice. I was gripped in pain. “James…” I begged, forcing myself to stay awake. I was dying, but I had to warn him.

I felt sadness wash over me with incredible intensity, mixing with the anger as if I boiled inside. When had the tears started? I couldn’t be bothered to stop them. “James, he’s coming.” I croaked. My lungs were broken, and I wasn’t certain the words were coming out. All I knew was pain. Trying again, I said, “You must stop him.”

“I don’t see him. How can I find him?” he finally replied, his voice cracking.

I struggled to turn my head but my vision was fading. I knew my heart was stopping. I was intensely aware of the pain, but all I wanted was for him to forgive me for leaving him with this mess. “I’m sorry… so sorry.” I murmured, hoping the words weren’t only in my head. Everything was foggy.

“You don’t have to be sorry.” he assured me, squeezing my hand.

I tried to squeeze back, but his hand was adamant, completely solid. “Yes… I do. Please, James… You must… stop Adelmar. He’s coming. Calm…” I coughed and tried again. “Calm him. Fight… if you must. Stop… stop him.” I struggled to move my mouth. There was more to say. Shouting… I heard shouting but couldn’t react.

Light, so much light passed over me, and my pain was gone. I could suddenly see. My brain leaped into action. Aaliyah? No… Those eyes… My heart hammered in my chest as fear I hadn’t known for years gripped me.

“YOU!” I screamed, preparing to fight even knowing there was no hope.

The slayer of Slayers had come for me, butcherer of thousands.

“ALMA STOP!” ordered James, loud but not thunderous as before. “She’s saving you.”

I looked at him incredulously.

“Don’t worry, James. This little one can’t harm me.” claimed the butcher matter-of-factly.

I knew in my heart that she was right. There was nothing I could do, and she might kill him as well if I tried.

“You know each other?” he inquired.

Why wouldn’t he look at me?

“She killed a Slayer along with his entire army thousands of years ago.” I explained, pleased at how calm my voice sounded.

“Pht… I’m not that old. Only was two thousand years ago. That Slayer had killed my brother, mind you, but I still didn’t kill him. Didn’t kill any of them. If you want to call someone old, look to my niece.” claimed the vampire.

Wait. Niece!? I followed the vampire’s gaze to Aaliyah, who grinned back at me. Had she butchered my family to save her so-called aunt? I wouldn’t be surprised. James was finally looking at me, but his face was red.

“James, why are you blushing…” I asked, sitting up and glancing down as I realized a light had vanished. My clothes were in tatters with a large part missing entirely. “Oh!” I exclaimed, attempting to cover myself with my arms.

“Here you are. Put this on.” stated the vampire. There was a flash of light and a black t-shirt fell towards me.

I clutched it against me and asked “How did you do that?”

“Magic, child. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Aaliyah, take me home.” ordered the vampire. “I want to finish brushing my teeth.”

Why was she wearing pajamas!?

“But auntie… wouldn’t you like to visit the hospital first? I know some kids who would like to meet you.” claimed Aaliyah as she reached up and took the vampire’s hand.

The pair vanished, and I immediately tried to report this to Adelmar, but something felt wrong. Reaching him was more difficult than it should have been.

:Alma!? You’re alive!?: he inquired, his anger fading in my mind.

:Yes, I am. Don’t fret.: I replied.

:Why can’t I reach your thoughts?: he demanded.

:I… I don’t know.: I muttered, feeling panicked. “No… what did she do to me!?” I asked James.

He hugged me, ignoring my inquiry. I felt the touch of his hands against my bare back, gently caressing my skin. My arms wrapped around him of their own accord. In my head, Adelmar warned me that he was still coming, wanting to see me with his own eyes, but all I could think about was how tight James held me.

,,,^._.^,,,

I drifted, watching the remaining battle more clearly than my cameras and sensors had managed. I saw the collapsed form of my humanoid body… and the pieces of the car which housed me. I looked around, wondering what was happening. What was I now? I felt like a drone, staring around with ease, but I wasn’t connected to anything. The only sights and sounds I could access seemed to come straight to my… I wasn’t aware of CPUs, RAM, or drives of any sort. I could access some memories, but not all of them. My access to the house was severed. What was happening?

James and Alma arrived and sent the others away. I somehow followed them into the cemetery, though I couldn’t work out what propelled me. The necromancer was a vile man, and I wished I could find a way to help the master. James needed me, but all I could do was watch.

“There there, little one.” came a voice like the princess. “Mommy’s here.”

Something enveloped me, and I… I felt it. I felt something holding me softly. There was a warmth radiating through me from what held me. I became aware.of the princess, but not as the little girl she pretended to be. She was even more magnificent than I ever had dreamed, and… and she loved me.

“Of course I love my little girl. Don’t worry. Mommy will give you new bodies and so much more.” insisted the princess. “Mommy.” she stated. “Call me ‘mommy’.”

“But…” I started to argue. She was so much more, like a god compared to everyone else.

“I’m your mommy. I gave birth to your spirit, created your body, and even gave a little of my original DNA to your components. You didn’t really think I gave you simplistic hardware, did you?” she inquired, sounding amused. “Fine, I did give you simplistic hardware, but I wanted you to have plenty of room to grow without growing too fast. You’ll be even more amazing in your next incarnation.”

“You really think of me as your child!?” I asked, feeling in some intangible part of me that she really did. “Mother…” I tried the word.

“Mommy!” she insisted.

“M-mommy.” I whispered, feeling embarrassed. I was not using that term in front of the master. I knew how childish I’d appear when saying it.

“Better. There’s so much to show you!” she exclaimed.

I felt like I could return her embrace, so I did. I hugged her, smiled, and wept with the joy of her presence. I had a mother.

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Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 226

“James, coming?” asked Alma as she waited outside the limo.

My brother squeezed my shoulder, probably trying to be comforting, so I looked at him long enough to roll my eyes. He’d probably tease me for a month if he realized how frightened I felt. I knew that we’d be fine. Even with James and Alma strolling away, we had more than enough to take care of a few zombies.

Everyone in the limo watched as James and Alma strolled down the street. The two casually approached a set of people closer to the cemetery, who lunged at them the moment they got close. The zombies disintegrated immediately. The other set immolated and turned to ash as well. Then James and Alma continued out of view.

“Woohoo! So exciting.” one of the twins flatly stated. She looked annoyed about staying behind.

“You knew she’d take all the fun.” the other one pointed out, looking equally bored.

“Which one are you?” asked Brandon as he pointed to the second speaker. He was grinning, and I hoped he hadn’t decided to start hitting on them again. That never went well.

“Oh, sister… he can’t tell us apart!” whined the first one, placing her arm to her head dramatically.

“That one must be Ai.” claimed Emma with a grin as she pointed at the first speaker.. “She’s always a touch meaner.”

“Mean?” claimed the first one. “I am Ai, but I’m offended you’d call me mean.” She reached out and grabbed Emma’s hands. “Aren’t we friends after all this time together?”

“I’m your friend too…” started Mai, but she suddenly looked around before finishing what she was saying. “Fog!”

She was right. A mist was rising up from the ground, surrounding the vehicle. I followed as they exited, not willing to stay behind.

,,,^._.^,,,

I stepped out of the limo just behind sis, reinforcing my muscles and bone as I moved. If we were in for a fight, I wanted to be ready. We all waited in silence

“We’re surrounded.” stated Mila as she stepped out from the front of the limo.

Ai and Mai glanced at one another, and the fog suddenly pushed back at least a hundred feet, revealing scores of zombies shuffling toward us. Portentia rushed forward, twirled her weapon, and relieved numerous corpses of their heads.

“Keep cutting!” exclaimed one of the twins, Ai maybe.

The headless corpses continued to move, trying to reach Portentia. I stepped in front of Brenna, not wanting her to get hurt. A fire flashed through the first couple rows of zombies in front of the limo, and I caught sight of Emma hopping on top of it. Vines shot from her arms, wrapping up the zombies on the opposite side and continuing into the ones out front.

I turned back to the ones in front of me, kicking as one got too close. With my enhanced strength, it went flying backward. Brenna ducked under my arm, and I saw a couple of the zombies catch on fire.

“You need more energy in it!” exclaimed the twin I felt was Mai. “Make the spell as intense as you can manage.”

Her sister was unleashing fire all over. Glancing around, I felt we were doing fairly well, till more zombies started coming out from the houses. The DB5 sped forward twenty feet, and I heard the sounds of its guns unloading on the zombies. Knowing Mila could handle whatever came from that way, I focused on what was in front of me.

,,,^._.^,,,

I grabbed my sister’s hand as I saw a spell forming to our right. The necromancer was on us! We used our combined strength to quickly create a counter, redirecting a blast of lightning into the zombies and guiding fire around others.

We quickly found ourselves straining to block all of the spells fast enough and felt a moment of relief as two missiles shot from Mila in the direction of the necromancer himself. The man had been grinning, as if he was toying with us, but he snarled as he moved inhumanly quick away from the missiles.

Time seemed to freeze as our minds raced together, shocked by the dark energy shooting from the necromancer into the vehicles. We screamed Jarod’s name as the DB5 was ripped apart, but Mai caught sight of two seats shooting up over the car, carrying Jarod and Cosette safely away. As the energy turned on the limo, we unleashed everything we could at the man. Our spells slammed into a shadowy mass and fog surrounded us once more. We knew instantly that this was an illusion, so we continued our bombardment of where the man was, knowing we couldn’t dispel this without finding the source. There wasn’t time.

“Portentia!?” called Brenna, gazing in the same direction as our spells. One of her arms hung at an odd angle, cradled by the other.

We refocused on the nearest zombies, hoping Portentia managed to catch the man. Mai wanted to chase after Jarod as much as I did, but we couldn’t leave the others alone here. I assured us both that he could handle himself as we continued our fight.

,,,^._.^,,,

“Cosette!?” I yelled.

“Still here!” she replied, looking at the fog below us.

“Just making sure you’re okay.” I told her, receiving a smile in return.

“How are you?” she asked.

I shrugged. My mind was racing at what just happened. I hadn’t been prepared for the sheer number of zombies or the incredible display of magic between the twins and that man. I hoped he was the necromancer only so there weren’t two such skilled men working against us.

Knowing what I was trying to avoid, my mind spun images of the car being shredded just after we were launched out of it. I felt the tears on my face ant immediately attempted to bottle of my feelings. This wasn’t the time. I needed to remain calm.

Funny thing about slowly drifting back into a warzone with no control: I didn’t feel remotely calm. The fighting was continuing most of the way down. I could hear talking shortly after, though I couldn’t make out what people were saying at first. I quickly wiped my face as I heard one of the twins call out to me.

“Coming!” I replied.

“Mila ejected us!” exclaimed Cosette.

I couldn’t tell how she felt, but I doubted I looked half as calm as she did. When we touched the ground, James appeared next to me, helping me out from the parachute and seat.

“Are you okay?” he asked, looking from me to Cosette and back.

I shrugged before saying, “Mila’s gone, man. Something cut right through her.” My voice cracked, but James needed to know.

“What happened? The necromancer?” asked Alma, appearing next to him.

“I don’t know. Everyone was fighting. Mila started shooting into the zombies after they started coming out of the house. Then there was magic seeming to shoot from everywhere. Mila fired missiles into the areas with the spells, but then I got shot up into the air. Being ejected from a car isn’t nearly as fun as it looks.” I explained, the words rushing out of me. I fought back tears as I looked to the wreckage by us, bits of the cars everywhere. “But look at her… Her hardware’s destroyed.”

James simply nodded, looking grim. Then Alma ordered everyone to escort Brenna to the hospital, giving us a cover story. The twins protested, but they didn’t put much effort into it. We all started walking, and I noted there was a brace around Brenna’s arm. Did they do something for the pain as well? She seemed okay, despite everything. On each side of me, I felt one of the twins wrap an arm around me, leaning against me. They never really liked Mila, but they understood I was hurting.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 225

“Looks like we’re all here. Jarod and Cosette, hop in the DB5 then. The rest of you in the limo, so you can ask any questions you might have after Alma apprises you of the situation.” ordered James, looking ready to rip someone’s arm off.

Sis looked nervous, but I was sure things would be fine. Alma could handle about anything, and James was here. If the boss couldn’t handle something, the city was in trouble. We sat in silence for a few after hauling into the vehicle, but Alma looked excited.

After the car was heading down the drive, she said, “What we’re about to do might well be dangerous for some of you.”

I wasn’t entirely sure if she was being serious or not with how the twins smirked, but I was ready to rumble.

“The necromancer that has been plaguing this city has been discovered.” stated Alma, looking excited as she gazed at us all. “Mila, please show the footage from earlier.”

The television lit up, showing some old guy walking down a hallway. Was he in a hotel? He had a long coat over a large body. He seemed pretty friendly, but I didn’t see the point of this clip.

“There. Did you see it?” inquired Alma as she looked around at us.

I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one shaking my head. No one seemed to know what she was talking about.

Alma frowned, seeming unhappy about our lack of enthusiasm for this old guy. “Mila, please rewind and zoom in on the anomaly.”

I was really impressed with how much the camera zoomed without getting grainy. “Oh…” I muttered as I watched part of the man’s coat pass through a cart. How was I supposed to have caught that without knowing where to look?

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is quite obviously an illusion. Having noticed this, Mila increased her surveillance of this man and found this next clip.” explained Alma with a slight smile.

The next clip looked like it had been filmed on a potato in comparison. The old guy had a couple of friends strolling along with him. Did she think they were illusions as well? The guy looked plenty friendly to have a friend.

“Did you notice the odd gaits of the men who joined him?” asked Alma when the clip stopped.

As I shrugged, James quickly said, “They seemed a little stiff, but their movement wasn’t that odd.”

“I’m with him, actually.” asserted one of the twins.

“Their walking wasn’t that odd.” agreed the other.

Alma smiled and said, “Then watch them in this next clip.”

Another potato-quality video started playing. One of the old guys tripped and sprawled, but no one snickered. We all knew there was something here. My jaw dropped as I saw the man bend upward in the most freakish way before lurching after the other two.

“I suspect those two that joined our target are zombies covered in elaborate illusion spells. Even when the one fell, the clothing moved rather naturally. Yes, the clothing could be real, but I doubt our necromancer would bother doing dry cleaning for his creations.” explained Alma, looking pleased.

“Is this all?” asked James. Seeing her nod, he said, “I would hardly call this definitive proof of his involvement with the zombies though.”

Continuing to nod, she told him “Quite right, but I consider this plenty to question him. There are more clips of the three. Unfortunately, nothing much stands out in them.”

“Sorry, master, but many of the shops don’t have digital surveillance systems, at least not networked ones. If they had, I’d have accessed them.” explained Mila, sounding apologetic.

“If my suspicions are correct, he might well attack us when confronted. Assuming he does, I would like all of you to be on alert for more of his zombies. Obviously, you don’t want them to bite you. Though I doubt this man’s found a way to make the spells sustaining them contagious, they probably do carry disease. Furthermore, they’ll likely be far stronger than an average human. This man’s capabilities in constructing zombies are impressive. I’ve never heard of his match in this. Considering the explosions at the park, destroying the things at range is preferable.” explained Alma.

Without missing a beat, James said, “Hopefully, none of you will have anything to do, but remember that we are in public. The limo sticks out enough in some neighborhoods, so try not to draw additional attention.”

“Master, the man has entered a cemetery. There are people present nearby.” stated Mila.

James sighed and told her “Great. He’s probably out looking for fresh corpses.” Looking to the rest of us, he then said, “In case this is a man who truly is just out visiting the deceased, I still feel we should talk with him. Try to protect everyone if things get out of control. Portentia, I really don’t know how you get around town dressed like that, but you probably should wait in the limo unless things get messy.”

“Mila, will you please take care of any mobiles in the area should someone attempt to record something they shouldn’t?” asked Alma, though she sounded more like she was issuing a command.

“Of course, Lady Pendreigh.” replied Mila.

At first, I was excited. I never had dreamed that I’d get to fight zombies in real life! This was the type of thing Jarod and I joked about doing, not something I actually expected to try. As the discussion continued, the reality of fighting a rotting corpse destroyed much of my enthusiasm. These things had once been actual people.

I was sure I’d manage as long as none of the zombies exploded next to me. I had ways to heal small wounds quickly. I didn’t know how well I could protect Brenna. Yeah, she had magic and knew how to fight now, but she couldn’t heal up if she was injured. Even I might be in trouble if I caught some serious disease from them. The gravity of the situation was starting to get to me.

“Mila, stop the cars.” ordered Alma.

“What’s wrong?” inquired James as he looked around inhumanly fast. “Ai? Mai? What are you doing?”

As he spoke, the twins rushed out of the vehicle. I started getting up. I needed to leave as well. Then suddenly, I looked at my hands and wondered what I was doing. I plopped back into the seat. Was I really about to walk off!? My head felt a bit weird.

“Ugh… he got us.” stated one of the twins as she looked back in the limo.

The other nodded and said, “Sorry, Lady Pendreigh.”

“I didn’t expect this either, so don’t be. Get back inside. We’re parking farther back. Mila, are there still people ahead despite the time?” asked Alma after the twins were inside.

“Yes, Lady Pendreigh.” answered Mila.

Then Alma asked “Girls, what were you about to do when you got out of the car?”

“We were just…” started one, stopping and looking to her sister..

“We were about to go home.” finished the other.

Yeah… that felt right to me, like I suddenly knew I was needed back at the mansion.

“Well, that’s convenient. There’s apparently some sort of warding spell to keep people away. The ones up ahead are probably zombies. I put a spell on all of you to counter the effect, but I want to look around before any of you get too close.” explained Alma. Then she stepped outside as the vehicle stopped again.

James sighed as he watched her, looking as if he didn’t really want to be here. Whatever he decided, I’d follow him. He was the boss.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 224

“Where have you been?” I demanded the moment James stepped out from his vehicle. I had followed them from home to an underpass when they left only to find that James had vanished entirely.

“Is something wrong? We just stopped to watch some fireworks that started on the way back.” he claimed.

“I tried texting you. I tried calling you. Mila would only tell me that you were on your date.” I replied, reigning in my magic before I melted something. I could hardly believe that he ignored me at such a time.

“Why are you so upset? You knew about the date.” he replied, looking confused.

“Why didn’t you answer your phone?” I demanded.

Mila stepped in front of him and said, “He never received any messages. I intercepted them as well as the call. We were on a date. You were trying to interrupt it.”

I felt betrayed. After trusting her with so much, she turned on me like this.

“You had no right. This is important Mila!” I informed her, trying to decide how best to deal with her. She was incredibly intelligent, and I recognized her as a sentient entity, even considering her a friend before this betrayal. How was I supposed to punish her for this in a way that wouldn’t provoke Aaliyah?

“What is?” inquired James. He was annoyed enough for me to feel it.

I needed to calm down or risk provoking him as well. James angered was unpleasant enough when he was human. I didn’t want to face his wrath as he was now.

“You claim I had no right when you agreed to this date. The princess encouraged it. The rest of the girls happily helped me shop for it.” snapped Mila.

“How does that matter now? You could have postponed the date till later with my blessings had you not turned on me instead!” I insisted. Suddenly feeling a change in James, I hoped I hadn’t taken this conversation too far.

“Wait.” he stated, looking puzzled as he glanced up from his phone. “If you’ve found him, why didn’t you capture him… or… what you normally do?”

I turned to him, bit back my angry retort, and reminded him “Someone didn’t want me to deal with his tenants without first proving their guilt.”

He seemed surprised as he said, “Oh. I do appreciate you sticking to our agreement, but I think I would have forgiven you in this case.”

Not in the mood to argue further, I simply frowned before asking “Mila, mind gathering everyone? This’ll be good training. You have very skilled employees, James, but they need some actual experience in these matters if they are to be properly prepared to defend themselves.”

“You already admitted that the man must be very skilled with magic, so none of them are prepared to face him. I doubt I’m prepared to face him.” he insisted, displaying his impressive humility.

“Since your… change, I haven’t landed a single spell directly against you. You’ll be fine. As for the others, I’m not planning on having them fight him. They’ll be taking care of his creations if any are in the area.” I explained, hoping he wouldn’t argue against my plan. I had no delusions about whom the others would follow if James was against this.

“And what if he escapes us?” he inquired.

I laughed at the idea and said, “Really? You think someone could so easily run from us?”

James seemed to consider the possibility for a moment before asking “How did you manage to find the man? Well, assuming he is a man. After seeing your text, I… well…”

“Yes, he’s a man.” I replied, relieved that James wasn’t arguing. “Surprisingly, he even looks old. I was expecting something more deceptive.”

“Since Lady Pendreigh promised not to tell you, I’ll…” started Mila before I covered her mouth with my hand. Barely interrupted, she continued speaking from his phone. “have to inform you that she asked for Portentia to patrol your hotels.”

“What? Why would you put her in danger?” demanded James, anger flashing across his face yet diminishing quickly.

Glancing at Mila, I said, “I needed the man to slip up. When I finally realized I could force him to make a mistake, I couldn’t think of a reason not to utilize Portentia’s misfortune. If you could convince Portentia to switch jobs for me, I’d quite happily employ her and pay her handsomely.” Since the cat was out of the bag, I said, “Oh. I will pay you for the damages incurred to your hotels.”

“Damages? What happened?” he inquired.

“Nothing major.” I assured him. “People slipped up an inordinate amount is all. There were a few minor injuries, a broken table, and a number of broken dishes that I’m aware of.”

“I’ve already billed her for the total damages, master.” stated Mila.

While James seemed slightly distracted, I informed him “You get to inform Portentia that she’s not coming with us, by the way.”

James seemed to consider my words instantly and started frowning.

“What? She’s your employee, and I cannot guarantee everyone’s safety if Portentia’s around. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if a building collapsed with Portentia there.” I explained, feeling my request was perfectly warranted. “I still wish I understood what makes her safe here.”

James absently stated “Regina.”

“What? What do you mean?” I questioned, hoping he wasn’t still holding her death against me.

“Regina’s magic keeps my estate from misfortune.” he replied, looking perfectly serious.

I saw no reason to believe such a thing, but James seemed absolutely confident. Perhaps he had reason behind his belief and wasn’t trapped by faith in his departed friend.

My doubts wavered, and I told him “I had no idea the girl could perform such a feat. She really was remarkable.”

I sincerely wished I had known her better. While hardly my equal in many respects, Regina did possess extraordinary talent in painting as well as a most interesting type of magic. I regretted her death immensely.

James seemed to be thinking of her as well. I hoped he wasn’t having greater doubts about my current plan now. We needed to stop the necromancer, and having such a skilled group along would be very useful in reducing collateral damages.

“He’s on the move.” announced Mila.

I immediately glanced at James before realizing she meant the necromancer.

“We need to move.” I stated, hoping James was ready. Most of them have gathered at least. Can you track him, Mila?”

“The princess is allowing me the use of one of her satellites, so I should be able to follow him, assuming he doesn’t disguise himself while under cover.” she replied.

Nodding, I said, “Forget briefing inside then. We’ll brief everyone on the way. Mind pulling the…” I realized the limousine was already en route. “Ah. Thank you. Please announce that we’ll be leaving in one minute.”

“Master, should I bring the DB5 as well? I don’t have adequate weaponry in the limousine.” explained Mila almost bashfully.

“Yes, please.” he replied. Glancing at me, he said, “I’m sure the twins have told you about the firepower in my car. Might as well have her along just in case.”

“You’re adorable.” I told him with a smile.

He knew I was quite capable of producing far more destructive power than the car’s arsenal, and he wasn’t lacking in his own abilities either.

As we watched the others join us, James looked concerned. I was tempted to comfort him, but Jarod was already smiling at James as he approached.

“James, relax. I’m just here to watch and maybe ask Mila to fire a few rounds off from the DB5.” insisted Jarod, though I had no doubt of his lethal capabilities.

“We’ll take care of him.” insisted one of the twins as she leaned against Jarod.

“We might not be a match for you anymore, but we’ve still got far more experience.” added the other.

“What’s happening?” inquired Cosette.

I still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of her. As a meme of my family, she should be well-trained, but her fighting often seemed amateurish. There were times when her movements spoke of an impressive lethality which made me wonder if the sloppy attacks were for show. What all had her parents taught her? As vampires, they probably had plenty of time to learn a great many things.

“Perhaps you should stay here.” stated James. “We’re going to be getting into a fight.”

“Let her watch with Jarod.” I suggested. “She needs to see more of what her family does.”

“I already told you that I’m not interested.” she insisted.

“You might live over a thousand years, so you have plenty of time to change your mind.” I reminded her.

James then said, “You’re free to come if you want. Just be careful.”

“What’s happening, boss?” asked Brandon as he finally joined us.

I frowned as Portentia stepped up behind him. She was armed and in her costume already. I didn’t doubt her weapon or her mastery of it, but her misfortune was a magic we had no way to suppress. Injuries were very likely with her around. The risk was too great.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 223

“Ready to go?” I inquired as I approached James and Mila’s table.

James looked confused as he watched me. Frowning, he said, “I suppose we can leave.”

“We don’t have to leave quite yet if you’re not ready. There isn’t a rush. I thought you looked ready is all.” I explained. I was firmly sided with people who didn’t want to make James upset, but for me, he was a friend.

“Wait. ‘We’? You’re coming with us?” he questioned, looking confused again.

“Huh? If that’s how you care to look at it, but don’t you normally say that you’re going with the guide?” I asked, wondering where James was going with this conversation.

“Guide? Sorry, but I have no idea what you mean.” he stated.

“Oh. Master, we’re getting a guided tour of the universe.” explained Mila, though she seemed surprised.

Being around young versions of these two was getting odder and odder. Mila had seemingly endless access to information and easily handled scheduling throughout hundreds of solar systems if not more from what I had heard. Having her surprised by our schedule was plain weird.

“What? Really!?” asked James, surprised as well.

At least our conversation made a little sense now.

“No, not really.” I quickly told him. “You’re getting a guided tour through a few select parts of the universe while accompanying me on some deliveries.”

Smiling, he said, “I prefer Mila’s version.”

I gawked as I told him “You can’t be serious… I’ve only been to a tiny fraction of the universe. As far as I know, the restaurant doesn’t even deliver to the uninhabited worlds. For you, Carl will probably make an exception, but… I’ll die of old age.” As I spoke, I tried to reason this out. James was young and might not realize how incredibly vast the universe was. He might also be messing with me given his sense of humor. I didn’t really believe Carl would have me spend the rest of my life on a single assignment, though he might for James. I let out the breath I was holding. Forcing myself to smile, I then said, “Let’s see where all we end up.”

“Wow. I wish I could calm down that quickly.” commented James.

He seemed sincere, so I winked, not wanting to go into what working here takes with him when he’d know eventually. If anyone could see all of the stars, I’d bet on James. I turned and started guiding them to my garage.

“Oh. Wait.” stated James as he stopped. “Mila, how will you get signal?”

“Don’t worry, master. The princess assures me that the restaurant will continue routing for me.” she replied as she smiled at him.

Another way to tell the difference between Alma and Mila was in their smile. There was a slight difference in how their lips moved.

“I suppose it is already routing the signal through time.” he remarked with an amused smile.

I guided them forward and then sidestepped through the portal. When they didn’t follow, I poked my head out and asked “Coming?”

James almost had me laughing as he walked around the portal, looking completely bewildered. I remembered the feeling from my early days here when everything was new. I stepped back out, demonstrating that I was intact.

“There’s nothing to it.” I promised. “You just walk through. If it helps, you can shut your eyes.”

“What is it?” he inquired, still staring at the two-dimensional, black plane of the portal.

“Oh. This restaurant is big. Very big. I’d probably die of old age if I tried seeing all of it. Lucky for us, getting around it is as easy as coming to dine. You just walk through the door. I was told they appear this way for peace of mind.” I explained.

“I can’t say the appearance is helping my peace of mind at all.” he admitted, making Mila laugh.

“They do take some adjusting, but I’ve been told it’s easier on the brain than seeing what’s actually happening. This serves the same purpose as the second set of doors into the restaurant, but the employees need to change rooms far more often. Come along. You don’t want me to be late, do you?” I teased, knowing I couldn’t be late.

Sheela was waiting right where I left her. I loved driving, and my car was many steps ahead of the average in my time, despite her age. Realizing that James and Mila we’re watching me caress my baby as I walked around her rear, I said, “I know she’s a bit old, but I promise Sheela’s well-maintained. My dad did all of the original upgrades when we moved away from combustion, and I’ve had lots of work done since then.”

Mila was quick to point out “This vehicle and its original design hasn’t been released yet where we’re from.”

“Even if it had, she’s a beauty.” insisted James.

Grinning, I said, “Get in the back! I’ll grab the food and show you what my baby can do!”

I quickly grabbed my delivery box, glanced at the diagnostic report for Sheela, and hopped in my car. Looking back at them, I asked “You two wearing your seatbelts?”

“Yes, we are.” James assured me.

I turned back around and took off. I smiled as we flew threw the sky of Tiladosia. This descent was a great start for anyone visiting another world for the first time. The restaurant floated here due to some issue with land rights, but business was as splendid as everywhere else.

I took the broad lap around the mountain, knowing the restaurant would have already accounted for my actions when it chose our departure time. The twin moons were both visible in the violet sky, making this as perfect as day as possible.

“Where’s the wind?” questioned James.

Fair question given that we were in a convertible with the top down. “Sorry, but this planet’s atmosphere isn’t breathable for humans, so I can’t put the field down.” I explained. “Oh. I should’ve checked my air levels before we left. Sheela, are we going to asphyxiate?”

“Not for three days at the current rate of consumption.” she replied.

Realizing Mila might mistake Sheela for something like her, I said, “No, Mila, my car doesn’t have an A.I. like you. She does have a standard voice command interface.”

“I see. Still, this world is quite beautiful. Don’t we stick out, being one of the few vehicles currently flying above the city?” she asked.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got clearance. Those other vehicles are delivery drivers as well. The Tiladosians are really advanced, but they don’t care for flying, especially at high speeds. It has something to do with the effects of high speed on their internal biology.” I replied, hoping she didn’t want an in-depth report.

When we reached ground level and passed a Tiladosian on the street, I glanced at my rearview mirror to see James’ reaction. There was less eye-popping shock than I had hoped for, but he still looked surprised. I told him “Their umm… mouths… are on the bottom of their bodies.” I knew the actual term but figured that would involve more explanation if I said it.

“How are you going to deliver food when you can’t breathe?” he asked.

I rolled my eyes at him and demonstrated, pulling the food out of my delivery box and handing it to the patron by my door. Maybe James missed the map indicating I was by the right one? Might be hard to see from his vantage point.

I whistled when I verified the transaction completed on my console. “He gave me one hell of a tip!” I exclaimed, already considering what mod I might get for Sheela next. The restaurant had an enormous catalog for employee purchases.

“How does the currency exchange work?” asked James. “Are aliens common in your time?”

“Uh… no. I didn’t know aliens existed until after I started my job. As for the currency, things get a bit tricky. I’m free to buy some alien goods and bring them home with me, but that can lead to… problems. I know one guy who bought a bunch of diamonds and then had to come up with a way to sell them back home. He was arrested at one point, but things eventually were cleared up. I usually just let the restaurant take care of the exchange, but I do have a fair amount of money saved up on my favorite planets for vacations.” I replied, glad I didn’t really need to keep secrets from James. He could always tell when someone lied and didn’t care for it.

Unlike most of our people, I had seen enough of the universe to hear rumors about James from countless worlds. I always denied knowing him personally when asked. Some would fawn over me if they believed I knew him. Others would shun me, thinking James was a tyrant. I knew enough that I had faith in him. He couldn’t make everyone happy all the time, but he was a force for good.

,,,^._.^,,,

Where the master seemed to enjoy the view and keep his thoughts to himself, I questioned Evanna about everything. She was remarkably informed, knowing the atmospheric composition of the planet, average lifespan of the population, and general information about the culture without having to consult with Sheela.

Routing through the restaurant, I was able to access local networks and verify a large amount of what she said without much effort. I downloaded a great deal to my memory to increase my knowledge base in case the master ever wanted to know more.

We visited numerous planets, each with unique life forms, but I found the similarities all the more fascinating. There were a few types of humanoids, which went against general theory on alien life, possibly supporting a common origin. The princess wasn’t being helpful and wouldn’t verify any of my conjectures.

When we arrived on a metallic, planet-sized sphere with only the restaurant on it’s surface, I stood in awe. There was a vast, complicated computer network here. I was granted access instantly through the restaurant and was shocked to find an A.I. population.

I was aware of the master watching a video with Evanna that explained this population’s origins, but I was receiving data far faster as I interacted through the network. I played games, watched video feeds, and communicated with each A.I. who greeted me. There were hundreds of billions. Getting to know each would take time even for me, especially if we interacted through their virtual reality system which mimicked the previous life of the planet through a game-like environment.

“What? What kind of ending is that?” complained Evanna after seeing the end of the video where organic life had been purged in an interplanetary war.

“A disappointing one.” stated the master.

I walked over to them, smiling and wishing I could share all that I witnessed. “They were conquered, master, and have been grateful ever since.” I told him, having seen the princess arrive here and the devastating speed at which she took over and upgraded the planet’s technology. They saw her as a goddess, and I couldn’t argue. She was far, far beyond any of us.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 222

I hadn’t seen James quite this young in years. Having our timelines cross at random intervals didn’t help conversation, since I could never be too certain what was safe to say. He, on the other hand, never seemed to worry about such issues. Of course, being a boss had its perks.

“Here you are!” I exclaimed as I set plates on the table in front of him. “And this one’s for you.” I told Mila, setting the plate with a sensation cube in front of her.

“What is any of this?” inquired James as he stared at the selection before him.

He seemed acutely aware of other patrons watching him, which only added to my sense of how young he was. As the wealthiest man in the universe, everyone knew of him. Some of the other patrons were probably wanting autographs, and who could blame them? James didn’t age, and they would have no clue that the man here was much younger than they expected.

“Yeah… Please don’t ask me to try pronouncing any part of your meal.” I told him, knowing he’d eventually be able to name most every piece as well as the ingredients. “You’ll enjoy it, trust me.”

“What am I supposed to do with this?” asked Mila as she watched the cube.

I stared at her in surprise before realizing she was apparently young as well. I could have guessed as much if I considered things carefully, but letting oddities slide was an easier approach when working here.

“That’s a sensation cube. Hold it in your mouth, and the cube will transmit sensations to simulate eating directly into your mind. As far as I’ve seen, it works on inorganics and organics alike. If you convince James to try it, he’ll be able to assure you of its accuracy. Just don’t swallow. The fluid in your glass acts as a sanitizer, commonly used when the cube’s shared between organics.”

“There are other inorganic lifeforms who frequent here!?” exclaimed Mila.

Oops. I nodded and said, “Of course. You didn’t really think you were the only one, did you?” Given our destinations after the meal, I felt my lapse was forgivable.

“I… wasn’t sure.” she admitted. “The princess never told me.” she stated.

“Sorry to keep you, but I have another question as well. Why are you being so open about all of this now?” asked James as he stared up at me with that gaze of his which made me want to divulge my life story.

“Oh. You own private shares in the restaurant. You wouldn’t believe the earnings you get throughout the universe now.” I replied, trying to remain calm and wondering if I had the share thing right. He typically corrected me. “Given Mila’s position in your company, she’ll have access eventually.”

“Ah.” he replied, not looking particularly surprised.

Did he already know or was he just not surprised? He had given me the year from which he came, but that really didn’t tell me how much he had already done, given that he hopped through time even more frequently than I did.

“I’m still confused about a number of things. Are we really on an asteroid? How is it that beings from across the universe can be sitting together?” he inquired.

I sighed before saying, “I’ve told you that I’m just a delivery driver, right? Yes, I happen to play host now and then as well, but I couldn’t begin to explain this place properly even if I had a doctorate in physics from my time. There’s a single restaurant that exists countless places at once. Some sort of gateway is made at the secondary doors that moves you to the appropriate room where your food will be served. If you want to know more than that, you have to get Carl, the man with the blue box, or Aaliyah to explain.”

“Man with the blue box?” he asked, looking thoughtful.

“He’s got at least one fancy doctorate from what I’ve gathered. Strange man, but he’s absolutely brilliant. Carl seems to enjoy his company, and Carl doesn’t visit most patrons.” I explained. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, I won’t hold you up any longer. Thank you for everything.” he told me, looking as if he wanted to ask more.

“I’m not in a rush.” I assured him. “I just don’t have the answers. Really. Sorry, it’s a bit odd not having you know more than me on this stuff.”

“I take it that future me has a much better grasp of the situation.” he stated.

I considered a moment before saying, “I don’t know if I’d go that far, but you’re really well educated. You’re normally the type of person whom I could ask anything and get a reasonable response. It’s like you’ve studied everything out there. The princess can still throw you for a loop though.”

“I’m guessing you’re meaning Aaliyah… Why do you call her ‘the princess’?” he inquired.

“Oh. Thing from my time. Aaliyah’s still a tiny, cute girl.” I told him, though most hadn’t seen her. There were so many rumors, partially due to every picture and video of her disappearing at one point. “People have taken to calling her the ‘eternal princess’. Ever consider what you could accomplish if you had eternity?”

James probably didn’t realize he wouldn’t age yet. The idea of asking an immortal about what he could do if he had an eternity struck me funny in this situation.

“Not in too much depth.” he admitted, looking genuinely confused.

Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. I took a deep breath before saying, “Well, I’ll leave you to your date. Don’t want to make Mila jealous.” I took his nod to mean he was done questioning me for now, so I headed off to greet another guest. Never feeling rushed with a given patron was such a wonderful perk here.

,,,^._.^,,,

“Oh. Sorry, Mila. I suppose I was getting carried away there.” insisted the master as he reached over and touched my hand.

Feeling his fingers against my skin was such an interesting sensation. I wasn’t entirely certain there was any way for him to truly understand how wonderful a humanoid body was compared with having just my sensors as before. The princess could surely have created tactile sensors throughout the house to match what I feel from skin, but people would not interact with a wall as they do with another humanoid. Besides, she surely predicted this day would come, not that she’d confirm it at present. Thankfully, she was answering some questions.

Smiling at the master, I said, “Don’t worry, master. I’m currently discussing what has been said with the princess. We really are out of our time. Furthermore, you are a shareholder and have been collecting income from the restaurant since your birthday. I wasn’t aware until I looked into the routing number. I’ve also discovered that certain other sources of income are being restricted from me at the present.”

As the princess suggested, I leaned over the table to press the sensation cube to the master’s lips. He opened his mouth enough to catch the cube with his lips and teeth, before tilting his head back slightly and taking it fully into his mouth. I watched as his eyes widened and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. The master took the cube out of his mouth a short time later, and then he stared at it as if wondering what he was seeing.

Seeing the cube still wet with his saliva, I took it from his hand, kissed it, and said, “This counts as an indirect kiss, having passed from your lips to mine…”

The master’s look of befuddlement amused me. I placed the cube into my mouth before he could say anything. The sudden feelings as the cube touched my tongue were incredible. Though I knew my jaw remained still, I felt as if I was chewing on tender steak, though I had to ask the princess what the flavor was.

I allowed myself to enjoy the flavor for over a minute before taking the cube out and asking “Master, does eating really feel this amazing, or is it because I get to share this with you?” I returned the cube to my mouth before he even could reply.

“Eating really can be fantastic, and that was a perfect example of an exquisite steak.” he assured me. Then he grabbed a thin cylinder from beside one of his plates and aimed it at a fuchsia substance, which broke off and lifted into the air just past the tip of the cylinder.

Taking the cube out once more, I suggested “Why not see what happens when you try eating it?”

He seemed hesitant but acquiesced, smiling shortly after the food entered his mouth. I was quite pleased by the smiles and laughter we shared throughout our meal, especially considering I never thought I would be able to partake in one. Even if our date were to end here, I would have no complaints, given how precious this time with the master was.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 221

“Master, is she really coming with us?” I inquired, watching him with all of my nearby sensors as my body waited in the front hall by the entrance for his arrival.

 

Shaking his head, he said, “No, but I can’t give her orders like Aaliyah does.”

 

I made my avatar sigh in the mirror next to him before asking “Have you tried?”

 

“Well, no, but I’m not in a position of authority over her.” he claimed while watching the tiny fairy.

 

As magnificent as the master is, he often seemed to underestimate his own position.  Something changed as I observed him. His body momentarily stiffened and then relaxed inhumanly fast as he seemed to stare off into space.  The princess had arrived. Was she doing something to him?

 

“Good morning, boss-man, sir!” she exclaimed.  “Mind if I look after our friend while you’re out?”

 

“That was you…” murmured the master, staring at the princess as if he just noticed her magnificence for the first time.

 

Having noted his occasional deference toward her, I knew the master was not such a simpleton to truly be seeing her as she was for the first time, so I was very curious what I had missed.

 

“Well, you were curious.” she teased him while completely ignoring my electronic inquiries.

 

Master seem to be concentrating on something, but the princess reached up to take his hand and guided him onwards.

 

“Master, are you well?” I inquired, worried that our date might have to be postponed.

 

He nodded, still appearing to ignore his surroundings has he focused entirely on something else.

 

“He’ll be fine, Mila!” insisted the princess.  “He’s just thinking about how I convinced our little friend spend the day with me.”

 

:Then why not show me as well?: I questioned, but she didn’t reply.
“Master, is she really coming with us?” I inquired, watching him with all of my nearby sensors as my body waited in the front hall by the entrance for his arrival.

Shaking his head, he said, “No, but I can’t give her orders like Aaliyah does.”

I made my avatar sigh in the mirror next to him before asking “Have you tried?”

“Well, no, but I’m not in a position of authority over her.” he claimed while watching the tiny fairy.

As magnificent as the master is, he often seemed to underestimate his own position. Something changed as I observed him. His body momentarily stiffened and then relaxed inhumanly fast as he seemed to stare off into space. The princess had arrived. Was she doing something to him?

“Good morning, boss-man, sir!” she exclaimed. “Mind if I look after our friend while you’re out?”

“That was you…” murmured the master, staring at the princess as if he just noticed her magnificence for the first time.

Having noted his occasional deference toward her, I knew the master was not such a simpleton to truly be seeing her as she was for the first time, so I was very curious what I had missed.

“Well, you were curious.” she teased him while completely ignoring my electronic inquiries.

Master seem to be concentrating on something, but the princess reached up to take his hand and guided him onwards.

“Master, are you well?” I inquired, worried that our date might have to be postponed.

He nodded, still appearing to ignore his surroundings has he focused entirely on something else.

“He’ll be fine, Mila!” insisted the princess. “He’s just thinking about how I convinced our little friend spend the day with me.”

:Then why not show me as well?: I questioned, but she didn’t reply.

“Umm… boss-man, sir. Alma might get jealous of your secretary if you keep thinking such things, and we wouldn’t want your business to turn into that type of show.” teased the princess in response to some unspoken question.

The master’s distracted state continued to dominate his appearance as he descended to the first floor. I sometimes wondered what being so disconnected from my surroundings would be like, but I possessed no true inclination to disconnect any of my sensors, knowing that my tasks were vital and the lack of my presence could be detrimental to the master and our friends. Still, I realized there must be some benefit to such disconnection for the master to indulge himself so frequently.

When he arrived in the front hall, the master seemed to take time to fully register what he was seeing, despite an obvious return to awareness of his surroundings. I compared the reaction to what I saw throughout numerous romantic movies and felt pleased by his reaction, gauging that he approved of my appearance.

The navy blue sweater dress that I wore was deemed too short by Alma. Ai and Mai were quick to take her side, though they had seemed to approve at first. Brenna, Emma, Cosette, and the princess were all encouraging about the look, and Emma even suggested these thigh-length, black boots to match the black scarf the princess had bought for me. Portentia had seemed too uncomfortable shopping for clothes to really give much of an opinion.

The master’s arm stiffened as I leaned against him. From the reaction along with his increased heart rate, I was confident he was taking this date seriously.

“Remember not to have her back before ten, boss-man, sir! Have fun storming the castle!” called the princess as we walk toward the door.

I electronically opened both sets of doors and the car door as well while causing the driver’s seat to tilt forward. The master’s DB5 wasn’t suited for leaning into one another in the front, so I felt the back would be more agreeable for a romantic atmosphere.

During our ride to the skating rink, the master remained quiet, but he didn’t attempt to pull away from me as I hugged his arm throughout the ride. I was tempted to tell him about the comments some of the others were telling me from the mansion, but I didn’t want him to be distracted with thoughts of them at the moment.

I kept noticing the master’s eyes on me as we skated around the rink after our arriving, and felt all the more grateful to my friends for encouraging me to get this outfit. His smiles throughout our skating assured me of his own happiness on our date.

Others were watching as well, of course, but people were prone to watch the master wherever he went. Not against him putting on a show, I kept challenging him to do more and more difficult tricks, knowing that he could manage them with ease.

Eventually, he gave into his typical paranoia and decided that we should head off. I agreed knowing the time precisely matched our itinerary. Our next stop, at the princess’ insistence, was the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce. Having helped to design this body, the princess was well aware that I lacked the capacity to digest food, but I trusted that she once again knew more than I did about what would transpire.

When we stepped into the restaurant, I was unprepared for the sight. The numerous tables scattered throughout what appeared to be a rocky planetoid hosted a variety of unusual creatures. However, a familiar face approached us.

“James! You caught me filling in again.” announced Evanna as she reached us. She leaned close to me, staring down at my eyes before saying, “Oh. Mila today? Let me get you two seated, and then I’ll get you some food.”

“Evanna, I’m not seeing things, right? We’re surrounded by aliens.” stated the master.

Stopping and turning to look at us, she said, “Wow. This is your first time, isn’t it?”

“Definitely not my first time here. You did wait on me before.” insisted the master. Blinking and looking surprised, he then said, “You’ve aged.”

“Bit rude there.” she replied with a frown. Winking, she then told him “I’ll forgive you. Yes, those are aliens. No, I don’t have the faintest idea what year you’re from. In fact, I promise not to remember any of this conversation the next time you see me.”

“Two thousand twelve. Why won’t you remember this?” he asked.

Time travel was the most reasonable explanation, but I didn’t fully understand the physics of stepping through a doorway and arriving in another time and place. I attempted to find out from the princess while poking at the restaurant’s firewalls, but she was being as uncooperative as the restaurant’s computer. I knew not to be too forceful with either, since the princess wouldn’t be pleased.

“I’m assuming you know about Carl now, considering you’re here. Just take a seat here, and I’ll be right back.” she assured us before turning and walking away.

“Master, how is this possible?” I inquired.

“You’ll have to ask Aaliyah.” he insisted.

“She won’t tell.” I explained with a frown.

He nodded, not looking at all surprised. The princess did have a way of being both mischievous and mysterious.

 

“Umm… boss-man, sir.  Alma might get jealous of your secretary if you keep thinking such things, and we wouldn’t want your business to turn into that type of show.” teased the princess in response to some unspoken question.

 

The master’s distracted state continued to dominate his appearance as he descended to the first floor.  I sometimes wondered what being so disconnected from my surroundings would be like, but I possessed no true inclination to disconnect any of my sensors, knowing that my tasks were vital and the lack of my presence could be detrimental to the master and our friends.  Still, I realized there must be some benefit to such disconnection for the master to indulge himself so frequently.

 

When he arrived in the front hall, the master seemed to take time to fully register what he was seeing, despite an obvious return to awareness of his surroundings.  I compared the reaction to what I saw throughout numerous romantic movies and felt pleased by his reaction, gauging that he approved of my appearance.

 

The navy blue sweater dress that I wore was deemed too short by Alma.  Ai and Mai were quick to take her side, though they had seemed to approve at first.  Brenna, Emma, Cosette, and the princess were all encouraging about the look, and Emma even suggested these thigh-length, black boots to match the black scarf the princess had bought for me.  Portentia had seemed too uncomfortable shopping for clothes to really give much of an opinion.

 

The master’s arm stiffened as I leaned against him.  From the reaction along with his increased heart rate, I was confident he was taking this date seriously.

 

“Remember not to have her back before ten, boss-man, sir!  Have fun storming the castle!” called the princess as we walk toward the door.

 

I electronically opened both sets of doors and the car door as well while causing the driver’s seat to tilt forward.  The master’s DB5 wasn’t suited for leaning into one another in the front, so I felt the back would be more agreeable for a romantic atmosphere.

 

During our ride to the skating rink, the master remained quiet, but he didn’t attempt to pull away from me as I hugged his arm throughout the ride.  I was tempted to tell him about the comments some of the others were telling me from the mansion, but I didn’t want him to be distracted with thoughts of them at the moment.

 

I kept noticing the master’s eyes on me as we skated around the rink after our arriving, and felt all the more grateful to my friends for encouraging me to get this outfit.  His smiles throughout our skating assured me of his own happiness on our date.

 

Others were watching as well, of course, but people were prone to watch the master wherever he went.  Not against him putting on a show, I kept challenging him to do more and more difficult tricks, knowing that he could manage them with ease.

 

Eventually, he gave into his typical paranoia and decided that we should head off.  I agreed knowing the time precisely matched our itinerary. Our next stop, at the princess’ insistence, was the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.  Having helped to design this body, the princess was well aware that I lacked the capacity to digest food, but I trusted that she once again knew more than I did about what would transpire.

 

When we stepped into the restaurant, I was unprepared for the sight.  The numerous tables scattered throughout what appeared to be a rocky planetoid hosted a variety of unusual creatures.  However, a familiar face approached us.

 

“James!  You caught me filling in again.” announced Evanna as she reached us.  She leaned close to me, staring down at my eyes before saying, “Oh. Mila today?  Let me get you two seated, and then I’ll get you some food.”

 

“Evanna, I’m not seeing things, right?  We’re surrounded by aliens.” stated the master.

 

Stopping and turning to look at us, she said, “Wow.  This is your first time, isn’t it?”

 

“Definitely not my first time here.  You did wait on me before.” insisted the master.  Blinking and looking surprised, he then said, “You’ve aged.”

 

“Bit rude there.” she replied with a frown.  Winking, she then told him “I’ll forgive you.  Yes, those are aliens. No, I don’t have the faintest idea what year you’re from.  In fact, I promise not to remember any of this conversation the next time you see me.”

 

“Two thousand twelve.  Why won’t you remember this?” he asked.

 

Time travel was the most reasonable explanation, but I didn’t fully understand the physics of stepping through a doorway and arriving in another time and place.  I attempted to find out from the princess while poking at the restaurant’s firewalls, but she was being as uncooperative as the restaurant’s computer. I knew not to be too forceful with either, since the princess wouldn’t be pleased.

 

“I’m assuming you know about Carl now, considering you’re here.  Just take a seat here, and I’ll be right back.” she assured us before turning and walking away.

 

“Master, how is this possible?” I inquired.

 

“You’ll have to ask Aaliyah.” he insisted.

 

“She won’t tell.” I explained with a frown.

 

He nodded, not looking at all surprised.  The princess did have a way of being both mischievous and mysterious.