<Are they here yet?> I asked again, signing to Mila. I wasn’t sure how many times I had asked already, nor could I really care. I was bouncing with excitement, having fought off Maxine and taken a trophy off her suit.
<They’re almost up the drive.> she replied. < I should warn you that James and Jarod both have plans, so they won’t have long to hear you out.>
<They always have plans. If James worked anymore frequently, he wouldn’t sleep.> I insisted. I already wasn’t sure how he found the time. He wasn’t like me, so he needed his sleep.
<Don’t worry. I monitor his sleep cycle to ensure he receives adequate rest each day.> she assured me as if reading my thoughts.
I nodded, trusting Mila’s judgement. She knew a great many things that I didn’t, some of which she couldn’t reveal to me. I still wondered at times how I became so lucky to have such a home. The answer was always James, of course. Without him, none of this would have happened. He was such an incredible person, and I needed to get his attention before he slipped away tonight.
<Turn around.> ordered Mila, vanishing from the mirror.
I spun to find James stepping into the house. “James!” I exclaimed. “We need to talk. Is Jarod with you?”
He watched as Alma walked off, and then opened his mouth to say something.
Before he could answer, I saw Jarod stepping in with one of the twins holding his arm. The other twin and their brother followed. Jarod was saying something, but I missed it.
“Jarod! I need to show you something.” I insisted. “Are you free?” I asked, hoping that his plans weren’t starting immediately. Mila implied they weren’t.
“Jarod will be indisposed all night.” claimed the girl on his arm.
The other twin was saying something as well, but I couldn’t see her well enough past the others to know what exactly. I didn’t bother looking around to see if Mila transcribed what she said. They rarely spoke without harassing someone, so they were probably just teasing me. I became slightly more interested when I noticed Duncan looking startled by what was said.
“No, I don’t. I haven’t even finished healing from the last match.” he was insisting.
I hoped they weren’t trying to get him to fight me. With him already injured, I might hurt him too much.
The girl who was on Jarod’s arm had turned around to bug her brother. Duncan was quick to remove her hand, but I couldn’t see him speak past her head. Didn’t anyone understand this was important? I needed James and Jarod! The twins started hugging one another and staring at their brother. What were they doing now?
As they turned around to grab Jarod, they said, “Jarod, please save us from our perverted brother!”
What!? Those two had to be half villain. I felt sorry for their brother. Jarod seemed to be saying something, but I couldn’t see what now. I was running out of patience. I needed him to come see what I had before he was forced to leave. The girls seemed to be fighting over Jarod, pulling him back and forth between them. James was turned, watching the exchange. Was I really going to lose my chance here? No. I needed to do something. I started to formulate a plan of attack when everyone suddenly looked off to the side. I turned to see Alma there, serene as ever.
For once, I was quite glad to see her when I realized she had called off the twins and their brother. The three followed her away, leaving Jarod and James with me! She might be part saint after all.
Someone touched my shoulder, so I turned to find Jarod looking at me.
“What’s so urgent? I have half an hour before a job James hired me for, something rather vague I might add.” he informed me, signing as he spoke.
His sign language wasn’t perfect yet, but he was sweet for bothering to learn at all.
“I have part of her suit!” I exclaimed, finally getting to tell them.
“What?” they both asked in surprise.
“While you were out being duped at the villain’s party, I was fighting her. Well, I was too late at most of the scenes, but I got some help from a friend getting to the last one. I didn’t manage to stop her from breaking in, but I did take her arm and send her running!” I explained. Mila didn’t want me to mention her aid yet. She seemed concerned about how James would take it.
“Maxine was actually there the whole time.” stated James.
Nodding, Jarod said, “She must have an accomplice or some clever type of control system.”
I hadn’t considered that she might not actually be in the suit.
“So where’s the piece?” he asked.
I smiled and said, “In the garage, of course. I wanted you to be able to work on it.”
I started walking that way and explaining how the fight went. Jarod seemed impressed by the lasers, but I insisted that they were nothing compared with my staff, Midnight. Dodging missiles was pretty intense, but I related what happened as best as I could up until we arrived. James, noticing the fist, immediately knelt down to look at it. He was interested! I hadn’t been sure with how impassive he seemed as I told my tale. Maybe he was spending too much time with Alma.
James jumped when we started descending into Jarod’s work area.
“There’s a subfloor?” he asked, looking around.
I didn’t know how to take him not being aware. How could he not have known? I missed most of what Jarod was saying, but he just seemed to be explaining what was down here to James.
“Whose is this?” asked James as he walked over to the old Volkswagen that was being repaired.
“Oh. Brandon asked for an oil change the other day, and I noticed some other problems. This is a 1987 Silver Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Wagon. Bit old, but it’s in reasonably good shape now. I just have a bit more that I want to do to it.” explained Jarod.
“I have no idea how you find time to do anything.” replied James, looking completely sincere.
“I actually have more room in my schedule than you on most days.” insisted Jarod. “I had Mila give me an analysis on a whim one day. Hey, Mila, would you mind moving this over by my suit?”
I knew Jarod had been constructing a suit as well, but I hadn’t seen it in action yet. Well, I hadn’t seen it at all. He was keeping the whole project hidden. I missed part of what they were saying, but Mila was transcribing for me on the far wall.
James had asked “Is your suit behind the sheets?”
Then Jarod told him “Nah. That’s a little project for Mila. It’s not ready yet. My first suit’s straight ahead, though I doubt I’ll be using that too much.”
“Oh? Why’s that?” asked James.
“I was mulling over a new idea during the… umm… auction. The problem with a suit like Maxine’s or my first one is that they’re too bulky. Even if I figure out the power supply, I couldn’t use the suit in many parts of the city without risking collateral damage like Maxine constantly causes. I was reading up on some tech the other day that could potentially replace muscle for electronic arms. Thinking through the tech used in creating a cyborg, I’ve realized I might be able to make a less intrusive interface to communicate our thoughts to a durable fabric that could enhance our strength by acting as additional, external muscle while also providing support to save our joints.” explained Jarod.
“The general idea is nice, but that’ll take a bunch of research and development if it’s possible.” insisted James.
With a shrug, Jarod said, “I think I can manage. Thanks to Aaliyah, we have access to resources that most people don’t. Plus, my assistant is top notch, right Mila?”
“Not having to sleep does have its advantages, but I am still learning a great deal from you.” she replied.
“The biggest part I’ll need your help with, James, is finding a way to enhance the design with magic.” stated Jarod.
James stared at him, looking surprised.
Jarod smiled as he said, “I know you have a ways to go, but Ai and Mai don’t know how to enchant things like Midnight there. Alma, if she does, hasn’t been interested in aiding in my endeavors. For now, there are some spells that Mila’s chosen from her database which should give temporary boons.”
“I’ll try, but I have a long ways to go.” replied James.
I was growing impatient again. Yes, everything said was important enough. Jarod could come act as my sidekick if he finished any sort of suit to help him keep up, but we had something important to do at the moment! Weren’t they interested in what was in the mechanical hand?