This chapter was written by Scylla.
“What did I say, Taz?” Diokeles threw up his arms. “Four girls, one wife, and I don’t understand any of them!”
Taz just shook his head and slid back under the vehicle frame.
“Next time I have a child, I’m going to have their humor factor increased.”
The servant tilted his almost upside down, a feat rather unique to the bird-creatures. “Another child? Wasn’t this one already later and unexpected?”
“I was just kidding! Can’t I get some laughter at jokes?” The technologist threw his arms up in frustration. “Maybe I need to tinker with your humor factor?”
“A funny master, I would require first.”
Diokeles shot back a frown. “Grandfather always told me that I gave you too much free will.”
“Too late to fix that, it is now.” The Iksal chuckled, pointing a feathered arm to the hall to Scylla’s room.
“Yeah, yeah.” The man looked down the hall to Scylla’s room with a sigh. “I suppose I better try to play Dad. Sometimes, I don’t think I get any better at it.”
The technologist strode from his lab, and rounded the corner along the marble hall. Blue lines glowed in long patterns on the walls as he approached Scylla’s room. There, he found his daughter sobbing quietly, her arms wrapped around a soft colorful hug node.
“There, there.” Diokeles sat beside her on the bed, cradling his arms around Scylla’s shoulders. “It couldn’t have been that bad. You love school… all your friends, and Clio! You haven’t seen her all summer!”
“It was completely and utterly horrible!” Scylla moaned. “There was this new kid. It’s his first year, but he’s not sitting with the kinder students.”
“A transfer then?” He reached out, brushing his fingers through her lavender hair.
Third-year transfer? Second year transfers are rare enough. I wonder…
“Yes!” Scylla pouted loudly. “First he sits in my reserved seat on the transport — near the window!”
“Why didn’t you get the mammet attendant involved?”
“Clio reprogrammed the mammet attendant!” Scylla muttered into her arms. “She came back… different… from vacation. I wanted to talk about the latest collection of hug nodes, and all she wanted to do was talk about the latest clockwork controller. Who cares about that stuff?”
That Clio, always messing with the operating systems! I thought that the Curator deleted her latest hack to the security keys. But that kid always finds a workaround.
The nobleman mused to himself and chuckled.
Amazing what you can do with the newer models of clockwork controllers, even in the hands of a child. But they just updated the protocol, and she already broke it. That girl is going to make something of herself one day.
“Again?” Diokeles tried to hide his smile. “I told the faculty to rework the security protocols on those infernal machines. I suppose I’ll have to bring up this poor performance in the Security Council.”
“And she said she didn’t want to come to my hug node parties anymore!” Scylla gave a pouting face.
“Scylla, I thought we talked about this. Sometimes friends drift apart over time, and come back together again.” The man brushed a hand through his beard. “Why don’t you just give each other some distance until you figure things out.”
“I know… but she made friends with HIM.” The girl emphasized the last word, face turning beet red as she stood up. “I told her if she was friends with HIM that I didn’t want her at the parties anymore anyhow!”
“Banishment from hug node parties? This must be pretty serious!” Lord Diokeles reared back. “Now come on, he can’t be that bad.”
“Yes he can!” The girl rocked on her heels. “She likes him! Clio didn’t back me up when I said that he smelled like a hound!”
“He smelled like a hound?” Diokeles plugged his nose playfully. “Did Clio break the sanitation assurance node too?”
“She probably did! Just to get me mad!”
The technologist gave her a knowing stare. “Scylla.”
“Okay, so I really didn’t smell him… not really.” Scylla bit her lip.
“Fibbing only begets more pain down the road.” The technologist advised.
“But his ears stuck out like a hound! They stuck way out, Papa!” She motioned with her hands, as if drawing her ears out.
“Scylla!” The man stood up in shock and put his hands on his hips. “What did I tell you about judging a tome by its cover?”
“Do the Iksal deserve any less respect because they have feathers and talons?” He had argued for the beast-servants rights often in court, but often was a laughingstock for thinking of freeing his creations. “Does Clio deserve any less respect for her… injury?”
“Well, no.” Scylla looked up, rubbing her eyes. “But that’s different. He’s an evil-zen. He comes from the dark forests where monsters live.”
Elezen? I wonder if this is the boy-child they found in the forest… the one in the restricted file?
“Elezen.” Diokeles corrected, voice perking up.
Oh, this is too perfect! He’s in class with my daughter!
At his peril, the technologist decided to probe a little deeper.
“Scylla?” The man looked in his daughter’s eyes with a squint. “Does your ear-blessed friend happen to have a name?”
“Amon.” Scylla seemed unimpressed. Her expression was flat. “He isn’t my friend.”
Amon! That’s him!
“Ah, yes! He’s from the deep forest sector, isn’t he?” Diokeles’ voice bubbled with excitement. “How was his skill? Did they rate his incoming aether quota?
“You heard about him too, then. He was rated Aether Rank 5. The instructors thought the equipment was broken, but it’s real.” The girl’s face was turning red in frustration. “What does this have to do with me?”
Rank 5? Amazing! And untrained! I will have to get my hands on this child. With such aetheric potential, he could do just about anything! The council indicated that he was selected for prototype enhancement. But a supervisory investigator had yet to be picked.
“I wonder if he has a study-track yet…” The technologist seemed lost in thought.
The council would be foolish to pick anything other than my lab. We’ve had the highest level of success in aether enhancements.
“PAPA!” Scylla stomped. “He hurt my feelings and ruined everything!”
He requires enhancement, for certain. Not the standard ones… the new prototype ones. Ten times more effective than the last. To think that he was Rank 5 this early in age! To think, the greatest aetheromancer potential since the founding of the empire is in my daughter’s class!
“Yes, yes. I will have to take a look as his file. Make sure he is signed for aetheric enhancement treatments.” The man was mumbling to himself, taking notes in his mind.
“He doesn’t need anymore help!” Scylla pleaded. “He manipulated aether right there on my special royal robes!”
“Bah, new robes can be synthesized.” Diokeles countered.
“Not these ones!” The girl was visibly downcast. “These ones were special robes, made by hand. Mom had them made for the class visi-images.”
“With the right denature potion, I can clean up any stain!” The nobleman winked, standing tall.
Scylla gave a doubtful gaze as her last hug node been an unwitting victim of his denature potions.
Diokeles pulled Scylla up in his arms and gave her a tight squeeze. There was a pang of guilt, as Scylla’s dilemma would be the catalyst of possibly capturing the most important aether-enhancement experiment in all of Allag.
With Amon in my hands, I can finally get the eye of the Emperor.
“Third year is a wonderful year!” The technologist spread his arms out and bowed down to Scylla. “You’ll start to learn the foundations of how to truly manipulate aether.”
Scylla wiped her nose, looking up at her father hopefully.
“No more of that baby elemental stuff.” He tickled her into laughter before picking her up into a swinging hug. “And why don’t you try to make friends with that boy? He’s probably just lonely and homesick.”
“PAPA!” Scylla huffed in exasperation. “I don’t want to be friends with savage monster-thing!”
“I’ll have you know that some believe that we descend from those savage monster-things. We share nearly a complete genomic and aetheric blueprint with the Elezen, even to the point that we can parent compatible offspring.”
“He’s not a normal Elezen!” Scylla looked disgusted. “And we don’t need more of his kind running around!”
“Scyl-la!” The technologist called her name in displeasure. “Those of the royal Allag line are not supposed to talk that way. You’re an Enlightened One, remember?”
“Sounds like a label and an excuse.” Scylla sulked, half-disappointed. “So, you aren’t going to send Amon to Sanitation training?”
“No.” The technologist shook his head. “Of course not. I have other work-plans in mind for him.”
“The pellet-waste pits?” Scylla raised an eyebrow.
“You could call it that.” Diokeles pointed a gloved finger at her. “But I do know of a girl that needs training… Experiential Training, of course.”
The noble paused for effect.
“At the Confectionary Dispensary with your personal instructor, Lord Diokeles – Ice-confectionmancer.” He swirled about, picking her up under his arm, before putting his daughter on her feet. “There still remains several million combinations of flavors of ice-confection to try!”
“Yay!” Scylla gave a cheer, instantly breaking into a smile. He knew that was one of their special things to do together, something that held over from the times back in their old home.
With a flourish and bow, Diokeles hurried to his laboratory, to send out inquiries about the Amon, while Scylla changed into recreational gear.
Scylla is right… the boy does require a punishment of sorts.
The technologist bit his stylus as he swiped words on his tomephone. The boy already had a compiled record in the Academy disciplinary datastores. It was obvious that he was lashing out, or bored.
Community service in the aetherolab would be the perfect opportunity for personal growth.
A smile crossed the technologist’s face as he looked at the tubes of glowing, fizzing liquids.
A little aether-enchancement push wouldn’t hurt the boy either.