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.

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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.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 220

The night before my birthday, Aaliyah had shown up, carrying a box larger than she was tall and claiming she wanted to start the party early. At her insistence, I opened the large, wrapped box she had brought with her. Under the wrappings was a finely carved wooden box. When I attempted to open it, nothing would move. Glancing at Aaliyah, I found her smirking at me. I should have known better than to think she’d make this simple.

“Do I get a hint at least?” I asked.

She nodded, walked around the box, and slid a small section of the box to the side, barely a centimeter. Taking a closer look at the piece, Ansegisel was written below a portrait on it. I knew that name from somewhere.

“Mila, will you do a search for Ansegisel?” I asked.

“He’s one of your ancestors, son of Saint Arnulf who claimed to be descended from Roman aristocracy.” she replied.

“Did he have children?” I inquired

“Of course. You’re probably looking for Pepin II.” she told me.

“Mind putting my family tree as you know it… there?” I asked, pointing after I picked a mirror.

“Not at all.” she told me as she complied.

I quickly located the next few descendants down to Charlemagne, but his portrait popped out when I went to move it. “Did I break it?” I inquired.

Aaliyah shrugged and said, “I made this for you. Not just anyone is capable of solving it.”

I pushed a finger into the hole and felt around. There was empty space in four directions. I elongated my finger to see if there was a hidden switch and felt writing as well as a hidden portrait.

“Ever notice that most names of Slayers don’t appear in history?” inquired Aaliyah. “Some history was altered. Other parts were completely omitted. Either way, some of your ancestors were hidden.”

“How am I supposed to know which one to move then?” I demanded, finding such a tactic unfair. I didn’t really doubt Aaliyah knew the truth of such things. She had resources and knowledge far beyond me.

“I guess you’ll have to try your luck.” she teased.

After trying each hidden plate, only one of them moved. I ran into the dilemma a few times, some of which went back to what was hidden behind Charlemagne. Others were hidden elsewhere.

When I finally finished the puzzle box by pressing Papa’s face like a button, the front unlatched, revealing an incredibly expensive-looking diadem, earrings, and necklace. There was also a gorgeous dress.

“I thought a princess theme would be fun for your party.” explained Aaliyah.

“Are these real?” I asked as I lifted the necklace.

“Of course. Just a few things your family lost over the years.” she told me.

“If you could prove that, they’d belong in a museum.” I told her.

“Nah. They’ll look far prettier on you!” she insisted.

I felt like arguing, knowing that the jewelry must be extraordinarily valuable, but there really wasn’t a way to win when fighting Aaliyah verbally or physically. I acquiesced and played with her until she fell asleep.

She woke early, styled my hair, and had me attempt to style her unruly mess as well. Then we dressed and went out. I followed her into the dining room where breakfast was held on the long, wooden table there. Everyone was in costume, as if we were some royal court.

The day proceeded in an equally elaborate fashion, and I managed not to cry as I wished my parents could be there to see everything. Papa’s face, so perfectly carved in my enormous puzzle box, kept coming to me, and each time I thought of Mama as well. Even Alma had given me a gift, an elaborate ring hosting a large sapphire, but she didn’t offer one word of apology for killing my parents.

James seemed distracted the entire day, but he had been that way since purchasing his father’s hotels. I wasn’t sure what was bothering him, but I wished I knew. I wished I could help. Just managing a business surely wouldn’t keep James so distant.

,,,^._.^,,,

The day after James completed his purchase of Somerset Suites, he agreed to interview his staff and allow me to accompany him. I was wary of an imposter, but I was also suspicious of a few I had seen before. Unfortunately, James insisted on bringing Aaliyah along as well.

James knew many members of the staff by name, having met them when working for his father. He was obviously surprised when I whispered in his ear and told him that the first person we interviewed from the night crew was a vampire. The creature hadn’t even attempted to fake a heartbeat or warm its blood.

“Jeremy, correct?” asked James. When the man nodded, he then inquired “I do realize you need blood to survive as a vampire, but have you ever killed a person when feeding?”

The shock on Jeremy’s face was priceless. He tried to flee, but I easily trapped him in a spell. James asked again if the vampire was a killer. The creature ardently denied it, claiming to be very careful.

Nodding, James said, “I’m very glad to hear that. Please take your seat and try to calm down. You won’t be harmed, and I’ll quite gladly keep you employed. I’m aware there are advantages to being a vampire, and you can surely help keep a watch over this hotel for me.”

“You can’t simply believe him, James. He’ll say anything to be released.” I whispered.

“Since my consultant has some concerns, I’m afraid you’ll be required to sign this contract, swearing by your life that you will never kill a human. You can, of course, resign, but I cannot extend to you any sort of protection if you do choose to leave. Continue working for me, and I will help keep you safe.” explained James.

I snatched the contract and read through it. I blinked, hardly believing what I was seeing here. The contract was not just with James but with Aaliyah, clearly stating that he would be killed should he break it by taking a human life. I never expected such a bold move from James, but I could guess Aaliyah was the one who put him up to it. How did she get him to go along with it?

Another vampire was found working the night shift, this one a woman. She didn’t attempt to run, probably considerably older than the first. Things went quite smoothly with her. She didn’t even bat an eye at signing a death warrant on herself should she take a life.

The next night at another of the hotels, we encountered a werewolf. The stench of his kind was obvious the moment he entered the room. Surprisingly, even James noticed this man was lying when asked about killing people.

“A werewolf and a killer then. What will you do now?” I asked, glancing at James.

The man started to transform, so I took care of him. I felt a touch of guilt when I saw James’ expression, but he simply shuffled his paperwork to the next person and told Mla to fetch him.

Mila was an integral part of the new surveillance system, given that she could easily watch countless feeds simultaneously. I demonstrated to her and James how numerous types of magical disguises could be spotted, since there typically was a flaw in the design.

In addition to reviewing the truncated footage when we could actually observe guests passing through, I felt out guests using magic as I passed through the halls of the hotels. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any with sufficient skill to have created the zombies, though several who could use magic were present.

Given the continuous sightings of zombies throughout the city, I knew my adversary hadn’t fled yet, but after most of a week without any luck in finding the necromancer, I began to wonder if I was wrong about where the necromancer was hiding.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 219

When Episode IV was over, Alma insisted that everyone take a break from our fun, so she and James could have their nightly lesson. We all moved to the gym to watch as Alma demonstrated a spell for long range communication. Seeing the sparkling energy jump into position into a very large, intricate pattern was another sign of her skill. After sparring with her, I was further convinced that Aaliyah had been right yet again: I needed time if I were to plot my revenge.

My parents had been stronger, faster, and more skilled than I am, but I didn’t believe they even managed to fight back. I needed to find a way to kill someone whom most weapons wouldn’t even slow down. Aaliyah had suggested a sword, Joyeuse, but I would need to find a way to pierce her with it without her knowing it was present.

“Do you feel you can duplicate it?” inquired Alma as she watched James examine her spell.

“Yes, I believe I can.” he replied, easily maneuvering energy to match her patterns.

“Perfect.” she told him, smiling and gazing at him as if she referred to him, not the spell. “If you were to use that spell, you could allow someone to hear your voice from half the planet away.”

“Hold on. This isn’t actually telepathy?” he inquired.

“I never said it was telepathy. You inferred that it was, and I didn’t bother correcting you until now.” she explained.

“That’s still awesome! I think I’ll have to be taught it in parts though.” stated Brenna, frowning as she spoke.

If she managed to learn the spell at all, I’d be impressed. I certainly wouldn’t be able to match those patterns yet even if I was confident in moving the energy. That sort of magic was far too new to me.

“I suppose you’re right.” stated James. “Wishful thinking I guess.”

“Sorry to disappoint you. Now visualize the target of the spell. I haven’t figured out precisely how this functions, but this area” ― Alma pointed to part of the spell. ― “seems to interpret your thoughts and ties your visualization to a target. Once you have a clear picture of the recipient in your mind, release the spell and speak. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, how much you can say is determined by how long the spell is maintained via this area.”

“Too bad your instructor didn’t explain the thought interpretation in more detail.” teased James as he smiled at her.

She frowned back.

How would James feel if she died? He already knew she was a murderer, yet still could smile at her in such a way. Would he ever forgive me if I became a murderer as well?

“Well, this is different.” stated James, his voice coming from his mouth and over by Jarod.

“Yeah! Not sure how I feel about you whispering in my ear.” laughed Jarod.

“Notice how you didn’t hear the response from up close? If the other person doesn’t know the spell, you’ll have to rely on other means for a response. In the days before all our technological marvels, this spell was quite important. We’re probably the first to bother with it in fifty years.” explained Alma.

“I like it. If my phone dies while I’m out on a job, I’d still be able to get help.” suggested Brenna.

Alma glanced at her before saying, “I imagine that you would simply charge your phone or borrow one, but I do see your point.”

I did my best not to show my shock when a tiny, glowing fairy flew into the room. I nearly asked if this was some sort of spell, but images were flooding my mind, clearly showing her disapproval with James’ absence. The tiny creature seemed to think he was supposed to be with her at all times. There was a pause in the images, but I soon felt as if I were flying, watching from the fairy’s eyes as she soared around the forest, playing with all manner of strange creatures. No one seemed even slightly surprised by this.

“Girls, you might as well learn this.” stated Alma as she looked over at Ai and Mai.

They nodded after glancing at one another and moved near her. Brenna and Emma followed them over, apparently interested as well. The twins would certainly be a problem if I exacted my revenge.

Aaliyah lightly wacked my leg with a lightsaber before turning her two on, so I pulled mine up and prepared to fight her. Brandon, Jarod, and Mila were quick to join us. Given the obvious difference in skill ― at least with what I was willing to show ― neither Brandon nor I were too keen to go up against Jarod, Mila, and Aaliyah. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely certain I could match the first two and knew I was no match for Aaliyah.

Brandon, however, would have been easy if I weren’t holding back. To make things more interesting for him, I kept a fast pace and morphed my body around the blade when he would have scored a decent hit. He didn’t complain, smiling as he continued to try slicing me with his lightsaber. Even as I fought him, I did my best to observe the other three, studying what I could of their movements.

After a fair amount of sparring, Alma announced “I suppose that’s good enough for today, so we might as well return to watching the movies.”

No one argued, so we playfully fought our way back to the theater. Darth Vader would have been envious of James’ grace if he could have seen how James moved in the costume, practically dancing as he blocked, dodged, and attacked in easy succession. As Episode V began, my plotting resumed, consuming most of my attention even after Aaliyah started to drool on my sleeve.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 218

Foolish as ever, Brandon rushed us despite being greatly outnumbered and outmatched. One need only glance at how he held his lightsaber and swung to know he was an amateur. James really needed to do more weaponry work with everyone.

“This one’s a traitor to the Jedi Order! Cut him down!” I commanded pointing my lightsaber at Brandon.

He stopped and gawked stupidly before saying, “Shouldn’t you be trying to capture me as Jedi?”

Without responding Brenna and Emma approached him, moving to opposite sides. Brandon moved his hand as if he was using Force Push, and the spell formed too fast for anyone but James or me to manage, lifting Emma off the ground and carrying her in a line backward as if Brandon actually had Force Powers. Well, James was more gentle with Emma than the Force would have been.

Brenna sliced at her brother, nearly catching him, but Brandon was already utilizing his own magic, altering his physique to move more quickly. As they fought, I admired James’ stride towards us. With his costume and height, he took the role of Darth Vader very well. The intimidating mask hid the typical kindness of his face, making him seem even more formidable than usual.

Jarod and James countered the moment Ai and Mai attempted to use Force Push. One of the twins went after each of them. I frowned, seeing James needed to work on his own swordsmanship as well. Jarod, on the other hand, was making the other twin dance even as she cheated, moving faster than she should.

Mila quickly intervened, blocking for the twin before Jarod could claim her hand. The twin used the moment to slash at Jarod, but he flipped up and over a chair with ease and then motioned for Force Lightning. Despite his own struggles, James created his light effect to simulate the lightning, and I smiled, admiring his work. He really was a quick study, though Cosette still surprised him, striking his arm with her lightsaber, which she had ignited after it was already in motion. James motioned for Force Push against her and created a spell to send her flying into Emma, too gently again. Despite the skill those two boys showed, we were going to win this soon. Portentia and I hadn’t even attacked yet.

A brightness too powerful for the wasters appeared near me along with a very intense heat that should have been too dangerous for the surroundings, yet was shielded so none escaped the blade. How did Aaliyah create an actual lightsaber!?

“Doesn’t anyone want to play with me?” she inquired.

“Play!?” exclaimed the twin by James.

“You could kill someone!” insisted the other one.

“I don’t suppose you would be willing to sell that technology.” I commented, knowing she would refuse.

Laughing and shaking his head, Jarod muttered “Figures.”

“Nah. I just made this to play.” claimed Aaliyah, smiling at us.

“I see. Well, please do not pull that out when we’re play-fighting. I know that Mila handed you two lightsabers when she and the others brought the gear up from the shop.” I stated, Death would be more generous in sharing her secrets. The technology used to restrain heat in such a way could be invaluable for generating power.

“Fine, Alpy, but the weight’s not quite right on these.” she complained. Looking to Jarod, she quickly said, “No offense.”

“None taken.” he told her with a laugh.

“By the way, aren’t you girls supposed to be out having a girls’ night?” inquired James.

“Mila told us about how manly you were being.” stated the twin nearest to him as she stepped over to lean on Jarod.

“And shopping was so girly.” teased Brenna as she stared down her brother.

“We didn’t want to interrupt such manly endeavors as movie watching.” insisted the other twin.

“But we couldn’t help noticing that none of you asked if we wanted to use the theater tonight.” I stated.

“And though we just met, I’m certain you wouldn’t want to deny us the room, not with only the three of you using it.” added Cosette as she stared up at James.

Overtop the last of what Cosette was saying, Portentia said, “I thought this sounded like a fun training exercise.”

“And Star Wars!!!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she jumped into the air and raised her arms over her head.

“At least Aaliyah’s explanation explains the costumes. Looking good, ladies.” commented Jarod.

“I’m glad you think so.” teased the twin who was leaning on him.

“We’d hate for you to say that Star Wars is too manly for us.” stated the other as she approached him.

“Come on! Mila, I thought we were cool!” exclaimed Brandon. “You know I was just trying to get in a guys’ night mood!”

“I didn’t blame you for anything. I simply related what you all were doing for guys’ night.” explained Mila, appearing perfectly sincere.

I was still annoyed that she, Jarod, and Aaliyah took reproducing my likeness to that extent, but I would love to see the designs. Aaliyah’s method of reproducing tissue seemed flawless, and the synthetic muscles Jarod designed were impossible to distinguish from organic ones by Mila’s movements.

“And we didn’t want to miss out on Star Wars!!!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she jumped again.

“Well, my sister hasn’t actually seen the movies.” admitted the second twin.

The other quickly pointed out “Neither have you.”

Jarod looked at them with utter dismay, as if they had committed the most vile of sins.

“Sorry, Jarod. I did try before.” I assured him.

“Once.” stated the first twin.

“When we were obviously busy.” claimed the other.

“Oh, yes. How could I have not realized that cataloging the fish in my pond was that important?” I replied, trying to emphasize as much sarcasm as possible while rolling my eyes for effect.

“That was considered field work for our class!” they insisted together.

Nodding, I said, “Optional field work, which didn’t teach you anything new.”

They spun around with a “hmph”, facing Jarod again.

“I don’t mind rewatching the first one.” offered Brandon.

“You mean Episode IV, right?” inquired Emma with a smirk.

“Of course.” he assured her.

“Shouldn’t Episode I be first?” inquired a twin.

“I agree.” I told her. “The original trilogy is made all the more exciting if you watch Episode I through III first.”

“The newer movies did have their moments, but should you watch all of The Clone Wars after them if you’re doing things that way?” inquired Jarod.

“That series is not finished yet, so we can hardly watch all of the episodes, especially in one night.” I argued, honestly not wanting the series to finish. I could enjoy an indefinite number of seasons stretching throughout the years.

Brandon nodded and said, “They do add something to the story, and I really doubt we’ll all make it through the movies in one night.”

“We’ll fight you for it.” suggested the twins as they lifted their lightsabers again.

I frowned, sensing Aaliyah putting on robes. When I looked over, she was igniting two red lightsabers, obviously joining the boys. The black robes fit her too well, and I knew we had lost. Our position became even more lopsided as Portentia stepped in front of James, squaring off with the twins. I was certain they could take her if they used their magic, but I wasn’t willing to wager on them in these circumstances.

“Girl Power!” exclaimed Emma as she charged at James.

Brandon reignited his saber and stabbed at her, nearly striking home, but she managed to evade. Brenna took advantage of the moment to attack Brandon from behind, easily striking him. His shoulders slumped as he stepped off to the side. Brenna then moved to help Mila face Jarod, but he casually cut her without even seeming to take his eyes from Mila.

I ignited my saber and stepped toward James. Cosette and Aaliyah stepped in front of me, attacking without a word. I didn’t think Cosette was holding back her speed at all, but she was still far too slow for that to be an issue for me. I couldn’t decide whether she was skilled or not as I worked to hold her and Aaliyah at bay. There were plenty of clumsy attacks from her, which I used to deflect her lightsaber into one of Aaliyah’s, but some of the attacks were just too perfect to ignore, forcing me to start dodging the instant she began to move.

Aaliyah was toying with me. There were numerous opportunities for her to strike, given that she wielded two lightsabers and Cosette was occasionally very precise, but she slashed at what was obviously my outfit instead. I frowned as I considered the various locations. The girl would have been disrobing me with her attacks.

Force Lightning signaled Emma’s defeat nearby.

“Master, Darth Vader couldn’t use Force Lightning.” stated Mila over the room’s speakers instead of her body’s mouth.

“Fine-fine. I’ll step out too.” he replied.

I used the momentary distraction to stab Cosette’s chest. There was a flicker of irritation across her face before she took a seat against the wall. Even with James out now, I knew my side was at a disadvantage if Aaliyah decided to win, though she also wouldn’t be willing to move too quickly in front of everyone. Maybe there was a chance…

“Alpy, pleeeease. You know I can rain lightning down on you while attacking with both hands.” claimed Aaliyah as if responding to my thoughts. “I really should get a third lightsaber cutting you from behind too.”

I obliged her, pulling Cosette’s lightsaber from the ground with a spell and using Emma’s to block it. I almost forgot to block as James’ lightsaber flew at me.

“James!” I exclaimed, shocked that he’d be cheating.

“Alpy, I can totally fight with a lightsaber in each hand and two in the air.” teased Aaliyah.

She might as well be able to with how fast she could move. I released the spell on Cosette’s lightsaber and created a new spell to fight James’ floating lightsaber. James took control of Cosette’s with another spell and attacked with it as well. When I jumped the lightsaber attacking my legs, Aaliyah sliced my leg with one of her sabers.

One of the twins pretended to be distracted by my defeat to trick Portentia into attacking her. The other blocked for her as the first slashed up without even glancing at Portentia, smacking her stomach.

“You’re out. We win.” they proclaimed.

“What?’ asked Portentia, obviously confused. “That wouldn’t stop me.”

“You’d be cut in half!” argued one of the twins.

Portentia shrugged and said, “I’ve had worse.”

“But your character isn’t you!” insisted the other twin.

“I don’t know. My character might heal just as quickly.” claimed Portentia.

The twins stuck their tongues out at her.

“Oh, just let her have it.” I stated. “You two won’t take on Jarod and Aaliyah, and Mila’s out now.”

Mila didn’t have a chance when Aaliyah stepped over to distract her for Jarod.

“Fine, but we still beat her.” insisted the twins in unison.

To resume the pretense of having a girls’ night and guys’ night, we divided the theater between the two groups before starting Episode IV. I smiled as the familiar words appeared on the screen, happy that my friends were finally watching this with me.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 217

”Mila, what’s bothering you?” inquired Aaliyah.

I did my best to look at them inquisitively, though holding back my rage and tears was taking considerable effort. Alma, who had killed my parents, was within arm’s reach, not that I could likely do much to her if I did reach her. I was managing to appear calm due to all of the distractions, but maintaining my facade felt taxing.

“Brandon used the word ‘manly’ again.” replied Mila with a frown.

“Oh? What are they doing that’s so manly?” asked Emma, grinning.

I couldn’t care less what the boys were up to. They had nothing to do with my revenge. Even thinking the words to myself, I knew they weren’t true. The death of anyone here would greatly affect the others. Everyone was very tightly knit, except me, the outcast who had barely been introduced to them. Why was I going on a girls’ night? Did they actually want to know me, or were the Slayers trying to manipulate me into joining them?

“Remember how I mentioned that the boys are planning on watching Star Wars in the the theater tonight? They haven’t actually started yet, having been sidetracked with acceptable attire for a manly night. I helped Jarod fabricate stylized lightsaber wasters along with fitting costumes, such as a Darth Vader costume for the master. Brandon found it especially manly, of course. They’ve been practicing with the lightsabers in costume for a while now, demonstrating manly ways to be killed by Jarod when not toying with Force powers.” explained Mila.

“Sounds fun!” exclaimed Emma.

At the same time, Brenna said, “Ugh. Only my brother would be going on about how manly he is.”

“Force powers?” asked the twins in unison.

Nodding, she said, “Yes, the master is utilizing spells to simulate whatever the other two signal to do. He’s been perfecting Force Lightning for over twenty minutes, trying to get the color and motion true to the films while leaving out the actual shock.” She motioned to one of the windows which darkened more before displaying a lightning effect shooting from James’ fingers.

“Let the boys have their fun. We’re each getting a very nice collection of ensembles.” stated Alma.

I couldn’t read her at all. Her face was an obvious mask between her emotions and the rest of us. Could someone really get to know her?

“Of course. Brandon did say how girly shopping is. We’re doing just as he would expect. You should have seen how manly his deaths in the kitchen were as the master prepared food.” replied Mila with a nod.

“Oh really?” asked Alma, though her voice suddenly made ice seem warm.

“Brandon has a way of contrasting all of the boys’ manly endeavors with our own girly plans. I apologize if our schedule was supposed to be a secret, but the topic came up with the master.” replied Mila.

Nodding, Alma flatly stated “I see.”

Emma grinned again, suggesting “Why don’t we go show the boys the power of female Jedi?”

“Indeed. Mila, would you mind fabricating costumes and lightsabers for us?” inquired Alma.

“Not at all.” she replied, smiling now. She motioned again to the window she had used as a screen and said, “I have a selection of styles for Jedi garments which I believe will accommodate everyone’s tastes. As for lightsabers, I’ll show you known hilts as well as what the boys are using.” Another window darkened and then lit up as Mila motioned to it. “For anyone interested in seeing which Force powers the boys are utilizing, I’ve compiled a list along with the appropriate motions, though I can’t provide suggestions on duplicating the effects.”

Mila was incredible. Really incredible. My parents would have loved seeing the things she could do. The idea that she was artificially constructed would have been just as mindblowing for them as it was to me, despite the many years of experience they had.

“Are you sure we should derail our plans? We won’t really be having a girls’ night anymore if we’re with them, and we’ll be in the way of their manly activities.” stated Brenna.

“Mila, did the boys inquire if we might be using the theater tonight?” questioned Alma.

“No. None of them pursued our schedule that far, and Brandon seems to hope that they can watch all of the movies tonight.” she replied.

Looking at Brenna, Alma said, “Are you fine with them claiming the theater without even inquiring whether or not we might want the use of it? I’m sure getting revenge for perceived slights is quite girly in your brother’s mind, so we won’t even be disappointing him. What more invitation do we need?”

Brenna rolled her eyes and smiled. “Fine, but I want to get him, though I may need help if he cheats.”

“I feel we should get some practice before attacking.” stated Portentia, who had been perfectly quiet through most of the exchange as she watched each of us intently.

“I agree. None of us will be accustomed to our new garments or the weapons, so we’d be at a disadvantage otherwise. If the boys are just starting the movie, we have time. Reaching the house will take over an hour. Will you be able to fabricate everything by the time we arrive?” questioned Alma.

“Most everything, even if the costumes chosen are a bit elaborate. I’ll prioritize the weapons, so you can start dueling, so please select them first.” replied Mila.

“Excellent. Let’s plan for our attack to coincide with the end of whichever movie they’re watching.” she stated with a small smile.

Portentia was excited to see saberstaves when her turn to pick came.

“Are you a fan of Darth Maul?” I asked.

“Who?” she questioned.

“The horned guy who uses a saberstaff with red blades.” I told her.

“Oh! I saw a picture of him.” she replied.

“You weren’t interested in watching the prequels?” I asked.

“I haven’t seen any of them.” she stated.

“No way. Are you serious?” demanded Emma, looking shocked.

“Not everyone is into Star Wars.” stated Brenna.

“Oh, come on. You know you enjoyed the movies.” argued Emma.

“Well, yeah, but I was just saying it’s okay if she doesn’t.” insisted Brenna.

“Between the orphanage and being homeless, there wasn’t really an opportunity to see much of anything, and Mama Vera didn’t own any movies when she was alive.” explained Portentia with her eyes glued to the screen.

I noted that text of what everyone was saying appeared instantly for her. Yet another of Mila’s marvels. Emma and Brenna had gone silent and looked a little uncomfortable. I needed to find out more of Portentia’s past. I hadn’t been aware of her being homeless at some point and was more than a little curious from where she came, given her abilities.

“You’re going to love it, because Star Wars!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a huge smile.

Nodding, I said, “I really enjoyed the movies, and there are actually many interesting books as well.”

Portentia frowned as she told me “I already get distracted enough with things like this. Someone might get hurt tonight because I’m not there to save them.”

“You really can’t be everywhere, so you’re not at fault for not always being at the right place at the right time.” stated Alma.

“No. The criminals are at fault. I just can’t be negligent in stopping them, or people who could have been saved won’t be.” insisted Portentia. “Imagine how many you could save in a night.”

“There aren’t even attacks every night, and I’ve heard the crime rate has substantially been diminished thanks to your efforts.” replied Alma.

Portentia shrugged, finally choosing a black hilt with silver engravings.

One of the twins sighed while the other shook her head. The selection process took even longer for the clothing, but everything still seemed to be finished when we arrived under the garage. Despite myself, I was having fun with the dueling by the time Mila suggested we head to the theater room.

I had chosen an elegant, silver lightsaber with an engraved hilt gracefully tapering toward the bottom. The wide yet thin guard which curved from the top and spiraled down might seem pointless to most, but a material such as cortosis could allow the guard to be functional against lightsabers and blaster fire. Besides, the design reminded me of a fantastical rapier.

Alma used spells to hide us and soften everyone’s footsteps to the point I couldn’t even hear them. None of the boys seemed to notice us stepping inside to see credits rolling on the screen.

“Want to watch through the credits?” inquired James.

“Nah. No real point.” stated Brandon.

“Mind starting the next one, Mila?” asked Jarod.

Alma signaled and the lights went out.

“Mila?” asked Jarod.

We all ignited our lightsabers and prepared to do battle. The boys were in for a fight.