a tale in weekly parts
“Let’s go then,” Kr’veth’neq’is said eagerly.
“Not so fast,” Albert replied. “This is going to be a long, bumpy ride, involving more dimension shifts than we’ve ever done before.”
“We’re ready,” Xander said.
“I don’t think you are, lad. This isn’t a trip where we can carry any passengers or any superfluous weight. You and the dogs will be dropped off at home before we leave. Kr’veth’neq’is can either go with you or do her own thing—“
“What do you mean, ‘do my own thing’?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked.
“You know exactly what I mean. Either stay with Xander, or go off and have an adventure, but keep away from Mendatian space in any dimension. Our journey to century thirty-one will cause ripples that may extend beyond the period of the Great Expansion and make the area hazardous for bitek forms.”
“How long will all this take, Albert?” Xander asked.
“Elapsed time for us? We estimate thirty to forty years minimum, though most of that will be cross-dimensional. Can’t be done any quicker, I’m afraid.”
“That’s elapsed time for you. How long will it seem to us?”
“Hopefully, no more than a month.”
“We can live with that, can’t we, Sis?”
“You can. I’m going on holiday.”
“Drop me at home then, Albert. I need to spend some time with Ixus. Chav is okay, but I need to bond more with Ixus. I don’t want her to end up closer to Mum than she is to me.” The two dogs heard and understood all of that exchange and showed their approval of the arrangements suggested by curling up at Xander’s feet.
“I need to sedate the dogs to reverse their openness to Eddie before they leave,” Jarvis said. Chav looked up and growled softly, his upper lip curled to what might have looked like a smile but certainly wasn’t one.
“Can you leave them, Jarvis?” Xander asked, “It might be useful for them to have that.”
“With what’s going on,” Albert said, “it would be too much for them, possibly overload their synapses. We must, at least cut their exposure.”
“Exposure? To what?”
“They will experience inputs from Eddie accelerated more than five hundred times – it would be like trying to pour two and a half litres of water into a teaspoon,” Albert explained. “We can limit their sensitivity to a level they can cope with long-term. They’ll still pick up the stream, but not in such great detail.”
“Okay; if you think it best,” Xander conceded.
“It’s done,” Jarvis said, almost before Xander got the words out of his mouth.
“Had you already done that, you… you… traitor?”
“Not until you said the word ‘okay’,” Jarvis replied as he opened the door.
“Are we he… okay, I know; time, casual. I should have expected it,” Xander spurted.
“Yes, you should have. See you in a month.”
“Don’t be late! C’mon, dogs.”
Xander stepped out of the shepherd’s hut, followed by his dogs. Kr’veth’neq’is phased away to only she knew where, while Albert and Jarvis fused into an amorphous blob and disappeared from view.
“That was quick,” Xander’s mother said as he rounded the leylandii, “did you find out where your sister is?”
“She’s off on a holiday, Mum. Not sure where. Uncle Albert’s gone off as well for a month or so. Says he has things he needs to do.”
“You mean we get you to ourselves for a whole month?” she asked.
“I think, Mother,” Al said, “he means a month with no bloody shimmering.”
All three laughed.
“What are those dogs up to?” Al asked.
“What do you mean, Dad?”
“Look at them. Just sitting there, staring at each other. Is it some sort of stand-off?”
“They’re just chatting, Dad,” Xander said with a wink.
“Them too what?” Madge asked.
“Nothing for you to worry about, Mother,” Al said dismissively.
“For God’s sake!” Madge exploded, “I’m just about sick of this. I knew when I met you that you were somehow different from the rest of us, though you hid it well; still do, for that matter. I soon worked out that Albert never aged or changed his appearance, or his clothes, as far as I could see. I was worried when Alice, or whatever she’s calling herself now, started acting strangely, and upset when you eventually drove her away; then our son started going the same way.”
“You’re fretting yourself again, Madge, my love—“
“Aloysius Cuthbert Cornelius Grahamson; kindly do me the courtesy of not treating me like a silly little girl! I see and I understand a lot more than you think. What I am asking you, and what I expect you to answer, is simply this. Has the same thing been done to those two dogs as was done to you and to our children? GO!”
“Let me answer that, Mum. You know a little about what we can do, don’t you?”
“Well, yes; what with the trip to France and coming back with Ixus.”
“Okay; here’s the thing. Albert is not human. He is a blend of technology and biology.”
“I don’t really understand what you’re saying, but carry on.”
“He’s also Dad’s father.”
“It’s true,” Al said, quietly.
“So you’re only half human? Ha ha ha ha; I’ve always suspected as much.”
“But although Dad is half what Albert is, he is effectively completely human.”
“And you two kids have the part that your Dad doesn’t have?”
“I can get that – dormant genes and all. So what does it do?”
“It let’s us use parts of our brain that humans have probably never used.”
“But what about the dogs?”
“That’s a bit more complicated,” Xander said.