A personal history of Mutation, or how I spent my teen years. Chapter 17. (Ian)

My brother was still amazing.

He was a she now, and smaller. She made Mom look like a Norse goddess and Holly Brightner down the street look butch. Her health was beyond frail, and she seemed to be constantly distracted by things. She got her way entirely too often, and for no good reason.

But she still remembered me and looked out for me. First with an upgraded computer than beat everything on the market, and then going to bat for me with Mom, letting me stay involved with the cool stuff she was doing - purely at my own choice. And then she did stuff like this.

I looked up from the Megaman flashlight arm, which was capable of more than just firing light capable of signaling planes with, and just knew the last trick or treat outing I'd have was going to be special. It even matched the suit perfectly!

My sister's face was a little tense - a little fearful. "It's perfect, sis."

She smiled, and her face - well it made the light coming from the arm she made look dim.

"Min, Ian... come here please."

Sis's head whipped around so fast her hair hung suspended for a moment before gravity did it's thing. I didn't blame her, I was sure I was just as fast. But we hadn't done anything wrong, we had followed the rules: I had stayed outside while Sis had done her thing in her lab, and she hadn't even let me inside once she finished; she had brought the arm out and we were testing it in the backyard.

I decided to test the waters. "Mom, did you see this yet? Look at what Min made for me!"

Mom smiled as I showed the arm off. First the flashlight, and then the strobe effect. The third function I left out; Mom didn't need to know about it.

"It does something else too, doesn't it?"

Or she could know already. I was careful not to shoot a glance at Sis. I flicked the inner switch and the strobe and siren went off together; I was fine with the visor, but the noise was ear-splitting; I flicked the switch again in a hurry.

Mom and Sis stopped wincing and shared a look. "Yes, that should do it. Good job, Min."

So it wasn't that. Why did she call us both over?

"So... I know I'm supposed to take Ian trick or treating, but something has come up, and your dad and I have to go. Min, can you take him?"

This was news to me; I was old enough to go by myself. Well, with my friends anyway; I'd done that last year with no problems.

Sis visibly wavered; she had bags under her eyes from lack of sleep and a slight tremor in her hands that I don't even think she noticed. It was obvious she was tired, and looking forward to sleep.

I opened my mouth but she beat me to the punch. "Yeah Mom, I'll take him. But I want to hear about it later, okay?"

Mom's smile was sickly and I knew neither of us would be hearing more than some lame excuse regarding one of Dad's military buddies or something. Or maybe that super nerd Mom knew.

"Sure, I'll tell you both, but I just don't have the time now. Ian's friends should start arriving soon, so I need you in the house."

Sis gave a longing look to her lab, but she nodded and set off. I hurried up to avoid being left behind; if I didn't stay close I'd probably miss the point where Mom added a lame curfew or something.

"Six to eight, Min, and only six to eight." And, there it was.

"Alright, Mom." Sis agreed.

Mom headed right for the car with a wave; Dad was already inside it and the engine was running. We both waved as they backed out, fixed grins on our faces.

When they were gone Sis slumped. "Sorry."

I didn't get it. "It's not your fault."

"Actually I think it might be." she whispered.

I could see it now; it didn't happen often here, but mutants and the families of mutants were sometimes hated and singled out. The news was full of crap like that, and we hadn't really been able to hide anything before. Not that we were the type. Still, I was big enough to take care of myself.

"What about just sending Jeeves?"

Sis shook her head. "Jeeves won't leave me alone. Not right now, not even if I ordered him, and Mom won't let you go alone, so I'm stuck."

She must really be bad off then.

She straightened up and squared her shoulders, marching through the door. "Well, nothing for it. go get ready. Jeeves, make us some coffee, would you please?"

I followed, going upstairs as she went into the kitchen, doing something on her phone.

No complaints and no hesitation at all. She would do what she would do; that was my Sis. Different, and yet the same. Somehow.

I finished getting ready; the arm fit seamlessly with the rest of the costume. The doorbell rang as soon as I finished, and it was time to race back downstairs before any embarrassing stories got out.

Thankfully Jeeves had answered the door, but Rey was inside and heading toward the kitchen. Rey's costume was a little bland; a stereotypical vampire, typical of the lack of care Rey had. The only personal touches were the afro wig he'd donned for it and the gold jewelry. This was to show the costume was blacksploitation Dracula, he said. We had all bet him he wouldn't have the guts to go through with it. He had made bank in sodas tonight.

"Hey, Rey."

"Hey."

My sister came out of the kitchen bearing coffee, turning bleary eyes Rey's way. Jeeves placed himself within range to stop something, should something happen. He was subtle about it at least.

Sis took one look at Rey and gave her verdict with a raised eyebrow. "Cute."

Now I knew that she meant the costume right off, but judging by the blush and stammer Rey didn't. I didn't even know he could blush; the color he turned was kind of cool.

"H-hey um, Min. "Good evening." His accent on the last bit was just terrible.

"Good evening Rey. Don't mind me, I'm just going to be over here, staying awake."

Rey had already focused on my costume arm and so didn't hear, but I did. No doubt she wanted to sack out on the couch while I answered the door, but it offered some privacy. Technically answering the door was her job, though, since she was supposed to be preventing me from getting kidnapped or whatever. Mom was paranoid, not that I'd tell her that.

"Man, that thing looks cool." Rey drooled, snapping me out of the unpleasant images of Mom on the warpath.

I tapped it. "Yeah, it's a flashlight too. Nothing like those foam ball spewing versions."

"Can I see it?"

I shrugged it off, and he tried.

"It was made for my arm, specifically. It's not surprising it won't fit you."

Rey frowned. "It's pretty tight in there, for a bulky as it is."

"The outside bulk is to make it look authentic. Well, that and it does do stuff, so it has batteries."

"Like what? More than just a flashlight?"

Sis spoke up, proving she was listening over the TV. "Not in the house."

"I wasn't going to, Sis. You don't need to worry," I mean jeez, I wasn't a kid anymore. "Anyway, it does this light show panic button thing, in case we're attacked or something."

"Might come in handy," Rey said, trying to undersell it, but he knew we were likely to have trouble tonight.

My sis was awesome, but there were problems with being awesome.

The doorbell rang again. I answered it before Jeeves could because Jeeves was Jeeves... but Jeeves didn't seem to be in a hurry at the moment.

Kevin was at the door.

Kevin Price was the great amigo; the tanto to my lone ranger, the Sundance to my Butch Cassidy. He was the greatest bud in the history of buds; we did everything together. Which was why he was Protoman. Just like Rey had, his eyes first clapped onto the costume arm.

"Dude, that thing looks awesome! You can tell it ain't cheap plastic!"

"I know, right! Sorry man, there just wasn't enough time to make you one." I did remember Kevin, but with only a day left, and knowing everything Sis had to do to make this arm (including taking measurements of my own arm and shoulder, oddly enough, since it only went up to my elbow) there was only enough time for one of us.

Seeing what it cost her only made me more sure in my decision.

Kevin shrugged it off with a wink. "All good man, I don't mind. I made my own devisor arm."

He had hollowed his matching arm out and glued a flashlight into his, then repainted it. Great minds think alike, kinda.

That was the reason we'd originally chosen these costumes, actually; carrying around flashlights as a ghost or devil was lame.

Then Kevin caught sight of Sis, scrutinizing his work from the couch. He turned pink and hid both hands behind his back. Sis pronounced her verdict with a sniff and went back to her phone; Kevin waited until she was good and distracted before he stage whispered.

"Dude, I know I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but your sister is hot. Insanely, stupidly hot."

I rolled my eyes. "And I'll tell you what I told you before; don't be gross, that's my sister. And you're twelve and in middle school, you've got no chance."

He sighed melodramatically. "I know, but a boy can dream."

How quickly Kevin forgot that my Sis used to be bigger, and give us both the most brutal of noogies for 'being too loud' when gaming. Gaming isn't exactly all that loud an activity.

Okay, so we might have yelled a little; we were losing. My head still ached from the memory alone.

Kevin turned to Sis. "So, what are you doing for Halloween?"

Jeeves snagged her coffee cup and went to refill it as she sighed. "Well I was going to watch bad horror movies and sleep, not necessarily in that order, but instead I've got to watch you runts as you threaten adults for candy."

"What? We don't need no stinking babysitter!"

"Well, you've got one. It's not like Mom was going to let you all go out without an adult present anyway."

"As if you're an adult." I pointed out. She wasn't that much older than we were... and I had my doubts on whether she was any more mature.

"Closer than you, Ian. Unfortunately."

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get going!" Rey stated, knowing full well what, or rather who, we were waiting for. Jeeves slid past us again with fresh coffee, this time an entire service of it. He probably already had a filled thermos of it somewhere, too.

"We've got one more coming Rey, you know that."

Rey and Malcolm did not get along all that well. I still hadn't figured out why; it wasn't like Malcolm was a jerk or anything, at worst he was a little quiet, and a whole lot of socially awkward. He did little things like make us wait rather than arrive on time; he was almost ten minutes late right now, and he lived just one street and a few blocks over.

Wait, I could maybe get some more blackmail material here. "Hey, Sis. You know, since you're coming with us, you should dress up too. Mom was going to."

"Yeah, no. I don't have a costume, and there's no time to make one."

"What about the one you wore last night?" She'd had a pretty killer costume for the dance.

Sis shot a glance at her robotic butler. "That one requires Jeeves to be dressed as well to be effective, and I'm not going to have Jeeves do that; it makes him act weird."

Weird how? I doubt she'd tell me. "Then what about Mom's?"

Sis gave me her 'are you serious?' look. "No way that will fit me... and even if it did I don't think Mom would be happy about me going out in her Catwoman costume."

True, Mom was an amazon compared to Sis... and Mom would not be happy; it was one thing to play off being the hot Mom and embarrass your son, but quite another to see your daughter doing it. Probably; Mom didn't make a lot of sense to me in the best of times.

She was beginning to make sense to Sis, though, I think, which was a little scary.

"So I'm afraid you're just going to have to deal with me in normal clothes."

Normal clothes for Sis included her lab coat, so we could probably pass her off as a mad scientist or something. Minerva, the slightly pissed genius of Madison, Wisconsin! I'd never been to Madison, but the name rhymed; kind of. I wonder what it was like?

My sister's eyes narrowed and her face changed into an expression I usually saw on Mom when she thought I'd broken something. "What are you laughing about?"

I feigned innocence as best I could but decided not to lie. "Your wardrobe, Sis. It's awful."

She looked down at her jeans and t-shirt. Then made a point of looking down at my costume. "I think I'll trust my own fashion sense, thanks."

"You wound me."

"Not yet, don't tempt me." Jeeves topped off her cup. Not for the first time, I wondered what else might be in that coffee. It tasted fine when I tried it, but the way Sis perked up after drinking it wasn't natural. I'd not caught Jeeves tossing anything extra in but sugar and cream; none of us had, and I'd even tested those myself, but something about it was odd.

None of us had been poisoned yet, so that was a plus.

The doorbell rang again, and as expected, Malcolm was on the other side of it. He was dressed up in the Megaman theme at least, so he had that much on Rey... but rather than being dressed up as one of the good guys, he was dressed up as one of the boss enemies, drill man.

I had to ask. "Why drill man?"

Malcolm grinned. "Two reasons; one, the large stomach fits me best since I can add my loot to it. and two...." He held up the drill arm, and I could hear a motor start. The drill slowly turned.

"Showoff." Kevin declared, shining his light in Malcolm's face.

Malcolm shaded his eyes good-naturedly.

Inspiration struck. "Hey, Sis. You could always find a white wig and go as Dr. Wily - you have the face for it."

"Ha, Ha," She deadpanned, grinning. "Darn, no wig like that around. Guess I'll just have to be me."

"Well, we're ready when you are then, mighty Dr. Campbell."

"Wait, your sister is coming Ian? Why?" Malcolm asked. He also tended to be a little slow on the update.

"Apparently Mom decided we needed adult supervision, but then something came up and Min got the nod."

"Man, that's bullsh- er crap. We can totally handle ourselves."

"Couldn't agree more," Sis agreed with a sigh. "But you try telling my Mom that."

Malcolm nodded knowingly; my Mom wasn't someone you said no to.

"Right, let's go." Sis put her phone away, but made Jeeves help her off the couch. I noticed something in the kitchen as she fumbled her coat on; a certain pair of glasses. I grabbed them, just in case.

I let Protoman lead the way.

Once outside it was clear that we were fashionably late; there were kids everywhere, running around in costumes ranging from the sad to the amazing, though nothing that seemed to hit both like Sis's friend Sam had last night. Which reminded me, I needed to ask what went on last night and whether Sis had gotten any awesome pictures; Sam was pretty hot, and I wanted to know if the rumored pillow fights and nail painting was an actual thing.

Sis DID have her nails painted, to match her hair. I couldn't remember if that was a new thing or not. I could probably ask Kevin if the idea that he'd know didn't creep me out.

All along the street in the fading light porch lights were on, and the smaller kids were racing from house to house yelling, shouting, and basically getting underfoot. A group of six-year-olds almost took us out as we grouped up on the sidewalk, a very harassed looking Mr. Henderson puffing after them.

At least he wasn't wasting his breath shouting at them. He wasn't in the best shape, and he needed it.

"So what's the plan?" Kevin asked.

"The route plan hasn't changed. We start at the end of the block and wrap around. We don't grid out until we hit Elm, then we go down the one side, and up the other until we end up at the end of Sycamore."

If we went quickly, we could cover almost three-fourths of the town in two hours. An ambitious plan, but one that previous generations had managed in nights that still lived in infamy.

"What about tricking?" Oh, my God Malcolm, a spy for the adults was right here, why would you say something like that?

I looked at Sis, who had her eyebrows raised and that disapproving frown she stole from Mom. "Maybe later Malcolm. We certainly don't have time for it right now, even if we had plans for that sort of thing."

Mr. Sotes and old man Kover sprung to mind; Mr. Sotes because he was probably the worst teacher in the entirety of Paris school, and old man Kover because he was old man Kover, but what was important here was plausible deniability.

I sincerely hope Sis hadn't seen the inside of my candy bag.

"Lead on, I'm just here for the ride. But if you run too far ahead or try to lose me or something, I will 100% tell Mom." She told me.

In response, I held her glasses out. She tended to forget them still, and she couldn't see at a distance without them anymore. Jeeves usually had them on hand or at least spares, but he hadn't said anything this time.

Sis took them and put them on with a muttered thanks.

"No problem. No sense making this harder on you, right guys?"

There were muttered yeses and some grumbling, but I knew they'd follow through.

"Watch for cars," Sis said as we started off, moving at a good pace but not a rushed one. I turned because traffic was light and she was pointing out the sedan that had shadowed her for the last few months.

She wanted me to know where help was if we needed it. Was she really that worried? She was actually worried. like Mom's thinking had infected hers, or something. This was Paris, nothing was going to happen here.

This sedan was that MCO guy. I didn't trust him; I'd read the internet forums in the gray spaces most authorities didn't know about. So far he hadn't done anything, but I had the feeling that was because the suits were keeping an eye on him; recent posts regarding our town did have rumors of an MCO hit squad being stationed close by... but didn't say exactly where. I was keeping an open mind, though.

We went to the first house, and that was where our luck ran out. "Ian, wait up!"

I was kind of hoping we'd have more time!

I turned to see Holly Brightner racing across the sidewalk, tossing kids aside like a junior linebacker on her way to sack the quarterback. She was dressed as Roll, which was about as far away from her personality as you could get. If someone told her to sweep a floor she'd probably put them in the hospital with the broom; and for some reason, she had invited herself along. That was something she was doing a lot of lately.

But Rey stopped, and Malcolm stopped, and then Kevin stopped, so I couldn't pretend I didn't hear.

"Good evening, Holly. How goes your Halloween?"

She started right in, managing to pull off a scowl and glower without breath."I thought I told you to wait for me! I told you I'd be late!"

She had. Not only had she called me, but she had messaged me online too. "To be fair, I did tell you we weren't waiting. I also told you we were going to do a guy only thing tonight."

Holly immediately turned to Sis, pointing. "She's not a guy."

"She doesn't count!" Oh, shit. That just slipped out, and it could be taken so wrong.... damage control, damage control!

"I mean, she's keeping an eye on us. My mom talked to our parents, and then left and stuck her with the job. So technically she's here to make sure we don't riot in the streets and set fire to cars and stuff, or worse, become protestors."

Sis gave me an eyebrow, but let it pass. Whew.

Holly, on the other hand, smelled blood in the water. "And one of the parent's contacted was my Mom, so here I am, ready to be watched."

I knew I was sunk when Min said. "Fine, just watch for cars when you cross the street and try not to bodycheck any more toddlers."

At least Holly blushed at the dig. She hadn't actually knocked over any little kids, but it had been a close thing.

We started off, with Holly grabbing my arm as we crossed the street, jaywalking like the rest of the horde nearby. we started on the right side, the houses and neighbors blurring for the most part.

There were a few exceptions.

Mr. Normand doled out candy and complimented us on our costumes, but spent all of his time staring at my sister, who was standing well behind us, tapping a foot... and not at her face. I resolved some of the T.P. I had in reserve (I'd painted it pink by dipping it in food coloring) was going in the huge maple in his front yard. There was no easy way to climb that thing, and anything thrown up there would stay.

Thankfully Sis didn't seem to notice.

A street over, Mrs. Thrower suited action to her name when she opened the door, took one look at us, and the smile slid off her face. She threw a handful of candy at us and slammed her door. Sis wasn't exactly happy about that, but she was less angry than Holly, who had taken a jawbreaker to the eye. Holly knocked again.

"Go away!" was Mrs. thrower's muffled response.

Sis walked over and held a penlight up, looking at Holly. "Come on. You can't help some people. Don't worry, it didn't cause any real damage."

"It still hurt. What did we even do to her, anyway?" Why was Holly giving me the stink-eye?

"It's probably my fault," Sis answered quietly.

Holly thought about it. "Oh. but that's stupid!"

Maybe Holly wasn't all bad. "Maybe, but it's a possibility. No need to worry about it, there are plenty of other places to go...." Sis crouched and fished something off the ground. "And look! Snickers! Score."

"You aren't supposed to be participating, Sis."

She actually pouted as she gave the small candy bar up, putting it in Holly's bag. Probably just to spite me, but maybe it was all an act. Sis had been known to do such things before; like always, though, I'd play along and not tell.

We moved on. I told a joke about snickers, and Malcolm played the fool, and soon we were bantering back and forth again.

We were behind schedule, but the end was in sight when the thing I'd been hoping we missed happened; J.J. McGowan rounded the corner with his cronies, dressed as pirates. That was kind of fitting.

J.J. McGowan was big for his age and had a vicious streak. When not smearing kids into the dirt, he probably pulled the wings off flies or skinned cats somewhere. Some people found him tolerable, but I couldn't see it - and recently he'd taken an interest in me.

"Well well well, look who it is... it's princess wannabe! How's it going, wannabe?" Right on cue.

A quick glance showed Sis was more confused than anything; it was clear J.J. hadn't seen her yet, and was speaking to me.

"Hello, J.J. How are you? Stolen any candy from four year olds yet?"

J.J. grinned. "Not yet, but I just found a few I can victimize."

Sis cleared her throat, pointedly. "Oh really? Do tell."

J.J. froze, finally realizing that we were not alone. At least Sis wasn't making fists yet; JJ was actually bigger than she was now, if only slightly.

J.J. Scowled; he had himself and two middle schoolers that were big enough to be in high school, like him. On our side were the three of us, (The three musketeers, only we didn't fight as well, so it was no contest normally.) Holly, and the two closest people you could have to an adult while still not going over into the uncool; an actual high school student and a robot.

J.J. wasted no time stepping right in it. "So, is this it? The wannabe brought along the real thing? Aren't you a little old to be trick or treating?"

Sis bristled but kept calm. "Hello, J.J. McGowan. It seems you know me, or think you do."

"Damn right I do, you mutie. You're the crossdresser that got my brother in trouble!"

Sis sighed. "Not a crossdresser. And your brother got himself in trouble; he didn't need any help from me. Good to know that trait is a family affair."

That shot scored, and everyone knew it. "How about I beat up these little weenies in front of you. It's not like you can do anything about it; if you lay one finger on me, it'll be a bigger mutant kid assaulting a younger one."

I looked around; there wasn't anyone close or even watching; if something happened, it would be our word against his, and things could turn ugly for us by tomorrow morning.

Sis's eyes narrowed. "I really thought you were smarter than your brother, J.J. That was just a little too blatant. Before you start something, however, you might consider a few things; one, our parents are friends. And two, Jeeves is an android, which means he can record events he witnesses."

J.J. looked over, and Jeeves waved at him. Sis drove the point home. "Shall I send your parents a copy? I'm sure they will be real interested in it."

J.J. closed his mouth and walked past without another word; I had to move fast to avoid getting bodychecked. One of his minions was dumber, whispering "See you in school, dweebs." as he rushed past us.

As if whispering would somehow make Jeeves not hear it. How stereotypical could you be?

Holly remembered to breathe. "Well, that was a thing."

Sis was frowning.

I took charge. "Yeah it was. Let's just go ahead and finish up."

Sis held up her phone. "According to this, it's after time. But, Mom isn't back yet, and she hasn't called. So if you all finish up quickly, our parents don't need to know."

The others cheered. Again, I took charge. "Alright, you heard our chaperone! we've got two streets left, let's go!"

Everyone rushed on ahead, while I stuck close and pretended not to notice anyone staggering and almost falling flat on their face before catching themselves. More coffee was exchanged. Best way to handle it was to go fast.

The last two streets were a breeze, even though I noticed Mr. Horner, friends of ours for a long time, herd Shelby and Trevor across the street and away from us as we passed. I don't think anyone else noticed; if they did, they didn't say anything.

And we were back at our door, only a half hour past our given time. Holly was the first one to break. "Well, I guess I should be going. Our mom's probably spoke to each other, and mine will be getting worried."

Sis immediately turned. "I can call her if you want. Let her know everything is fine, and you're on your way?"

Holly Brightner brightened. "Sure, that sounds great!"

Malcolm idly started his drill hand. "Could you do that for me too?"

Sis shrugged, already dialing. "Sure, I can do it for all of you."

Rey and Kevin shared a look; it was pretty obvious they weren't wanting to go home just yet. I wasn't sure what they wanted to do, but I was pretty sure whatever it wasn't exactly legal, strictly speaking.

Sis smirked at me; she knew exactly what she was shutting down.

Kevin shot me a nervous look. "Right. See you later, Ian."

Kevin and Rey moved off together. They didn't live near each other, so they were probably going to risk it. Malcolm started off with a wave.

I turned just as Min crumpled; Jeeves caught her just before she hit the porch. I shut the door as Jeeves cleared it and spared a glance; it didn't look like anyone had noticed.

Sis was incoherent. "Phone... got to...."

I picked the phone up; a top of the line smart phone, it survived the trip to the floor well. "I'll do it; you relax."

She tried to focus and failed. "Jeeves, can you...."

"Yes, mistress Min. To bed we go." Jeeves cradled Sis carefully as he walked slowly up the stairs. He didn't even jostle her. I set about covering for Sis, as she had covered for me.

Jeeves came back down as I was finishing up the phone calls; most of which had gone to voicemail or answering machines.

I handed her phone over, and Jeeves pocketed it. "How is she?"

Jeeves set about doing dishes. "She pushed herself. The lack of sleep combined with her illness was most taxing for her today."

Jeeves turned to me, ignoring the dishes for a moment. That was unusual, and not at all worrying. "I must thank you; you revealed data about my mistress Min which I had not suspected."

"Oh, what's that?"

"The true importance mistress Min places on her family, and her strength of will."

Huh. Well... that was fair. "Not planning to kill us anymore, then?"

"All such plans have been discarded, yes." Jeeves pulled the plug.

"You're joking, right?"

Jeeves turned and smiled. "Of course; I am attempting humor. You are not laughing, the joke must not have been funny. My apologies."

His smile looked sincere enough, but I wasn't entirely convinced. "Well, word to the wise, you probably shouldn't joke about killing people - it doesn't go over well."

"Duly noted." Jeeves opened the fridge.

I had to ask. Min wasn't the only one who valued family. "Did you ever seriously consider killing any of us? Min's family?"

Jeeves sat in front of me, handing me a glass of chocolate milk. "I am classified as an artificial intelligence. I consider all possible alternatives to a problem or situation. I must admit that for .003 seconds I considered killing this entire household and taking Min to safety. This was when I first arrived, and before I was ordered to remove that line of reasoning from all further consideration."

Well, that sounded serious... but I bet it wasn't. " .003 seconds, huh? That doesn't sound like long."

"It wasn't," Jeeves admitted. "By my own standards that was not a serious consideration."

Right, so his three-hundredths of a second was more like my three minutes than anything else; just enough to entertain the idea and discard it.

"Classified as an artificial intelligence?"

"There is nothing artificial about myself or my intelligence. For that reason the appellation of 'artificial' in inappropriate and misleading. I prefer the term created intelligence or even manufactured intelligence; both of those are correct."

"You've given that one some thought," I noted.

He nodded gravely. "Exactly 42.67348 seconds."

Well, I was sold. If he was telling the truth Jeeves had pondered his existence way more than killing us, and while Jeeves certainly knew how to lie, he didn't without a reason. Just trying to put us at ease clearly didn't count.

"Right, well on that note, I'm going to go up to my room. I've got horror movies to watch and horror games to play, brain cells to kill, that sort of thing."

"Do not hesitate to call if you need me for something, Ian. If I am not occupied with mistress Min's needs, I will help you."

That was comforting. I took my milk with me up the stairs (Which was technically against the rules but since certain other people ignored them when it suited her, why couldn't I?) and was almost through my door when a weak voice stopped me.

"Ian, is that you?"

It seemed Sis wasn't done pushing herself just yet. "Yeah Sis, it's me. Shouldn't you be asleep right now?"

I edged her door open, and she didn't shout for Jeeves so she didn't mind. More to the point, Jeeves didn't appear even though he had to have heard it; he had sharp ears and the house was quiet.

Sis wheezed a little laugh. She was lying there with her coat and shoes off but still had her shirt on. I suspected she still had her jeans on too, under the covers she had pulled up to her chin. She looked terrible; much worse than she had just a half hour ago, but she was still hanging in there.

"Probably," She admitted softly. "Do you have my phone?"

I took a seat at her desk. "I gave it to Jeeves. Don't worry, I made those calls for you."

She sagged back into the bed. "Good, thank you. I didn't want to screw that up."

She looked like she had more to say. "What is it, Sis."

She mock glared. "I didn't say anything in front of your friends, but you need to stop calling me that."

Sometimes it was just too easy. "Sure thing Sis. Now, what's on your mind?"

Sis clutched at her blankets, eyes down. "Did you... did you have fun? Tonight?"

Shit, was she going to try and make me say it?

She was asking 'did I do okay?' Was all the pain worth it?

"...Yeah, I had fun tonight. You can relax, okay?" I couldn't admit that tonight was one of those moments that a guy just knew he'd remember fondly the rest of his life, even with the jerk confrontation in it, and that she made it happen - it went against the code.

"Yeah... okay.I'll scan your candy when I wake up, okay?"

"You can do that?" Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but I hadn't seen an x-ray machine or anything like it.

Sis snorted, then coughed. "Devisor, we can do all sorts of things."

"Alright. That beats waiting on the clinic to do it." I got up, and Sis grabbed weakly at my arm.

"Ian, when you go out again tonight, take your arm... and Jeeves," and she was out just like that, a faint smile on her face.

So she knew and wasn't telling Mom. She just wanted me safe; very safe if I was supposed to take Jeeves.

And that was why - why I could deal with the phone, the new computer, the guitar and lessons, the actual honest to goodness prefab lab, and Dad now breathing down my neck with expectations I couldn't fulfill when before he couldn't care less. Because my brother was still amazing, regardless of the new packaging.



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