Marian headed towards her husband’s office.
The shadows were long and deep; it was already very late. She would have wanted to go to bed already, to sleep off the tiredness from their trip to the capital – with Aaron’s machines, they didn’t need to drive the car or anything, but still – but Aaron had asked her to visit him, only hours after they’d arrived back home.
Why at this time, though? Something the children shouldn’t hear? Someone else is showing the wrong kind of interest on his facility? Or is it more death threats?
Aaron usually didn’t care about these sorts of things, but there were a few people in the kingdom – like that Duke Bumfuck, or whatever his name was – who could be a tad more troublesome to deal with than most of the nutters who found themselves outraged enough by Aaron’s uncommon intelligence to launch an attack on him or someone related to him.
In those cases, Marian was usually the one who took it upon herself to make it very clear to anyone with the wrong ideas exactly what would happen to them if they tried to implement those ‘ideas’.
Fortunately, there were few enough of such incidents. Information control was made markedly easier when one had a gaggle of AIs combing the net for anything incriminating…
Marian knocked on the door to the study, and Aaron’s deep voice invited her in. She opened the door and slipped inside, quickly closing it behind her before turning to face her husband.
Then, she stopped, her mouth opening in shock.
Aaron was seated in the darkness behind his large mahogany desk. Which wouldn’t be particularly shock-inducing, in and of itself, but it was his attire that brought her pause. He was wearing some sort of ridiculous black cloak, the hood worn low over his face, almost concealing his features. His mouth drew a flat, grim, unsmiling line, and the atmosphere he exuded was grave and solemn.
Then, Marian laughed. She tried really hard to restrain at least the volume of her mirth, so as not to wake the children.
“Pfft, hahahaha, what is that? What’s with the getup? Hahaha!”
“We need to discuss something, Marian Storm. Something of terrible import for the future of the world.” Aaron’s voice was somehow even deeper than usual. It sounded almost as ridiculous as he looked.
Still chuckling, Marian plopped down on one of the chairs set on the opposite side of the desk from Aaron. “All right, oh great dark lord of doom. What is it you wanted to tell me? I sure hope this is important enough to warrant cutting into my beauty sleep.”
“Hmm. Very well,” Aaron said, still with his affected voice, “let us cut into the heart of the matter. Gaze upon this, warrior woman.” He swept his arms wide to the side, and the various screens stuck to the walls around and behind him lit up with baby photos of their youngest daughter engaged in various activities. “Gaze upon this face. Gaze into those eyes. Gaze…”
“All right, all right. I got it,” Marian said, raising a hand to cut him off. “Yes, Nova has very beautiful eyes. We all agree on that. But I’m sure you could have reminded me of this particular fact tomorrow, after we got a bit of sleep. Also, without all the theatrics.”
Aaron suddenly whipped his shapeless hood off his face and leaned back into his seat, shrugging off the cloak. “Fuck, this thing is hot. Anyway, yeah. Nova. Ingrid made me a suggestion about her, some weeks back, before the trip, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I wanted to get your opinion.”
“Ingrid? What’s wrong? Did something happen at the daycare?”
“Hmm.” Aaron hesitated, rubbing his chin. “Well, not really, but kinda. What she asked me was, would I homeschool Nova and teach her myself – although, I say ‘myself’ but I guess the guys at the facility would help, too.”
“Homeschool? Why, all of a sudden?”
Aaron shook his head. “It’s not all of a sudden, and I get Ingrid’s point. Nova is smart. Very smart. Too smart. I mean, she basically taught herself to read in something like two years. To write in three. If she isn’t smart, I don’t know who is. Well, me, I guess. But I’m an exception. A magnificent exception.”
“That’s right, that’s right. You’re a beautiful and unique flower. But isn’t it too early to think about all that, anyway?”
“A bit, yes, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to start discussing it now, just to get an idea of what we want for our little girl’s future.”
“I see.” Marian reflected silently for a few seconds before continuing. “Well, if you want my opinion, I’d say that I agree that the kind of schooling that you and your friends could provide would certainly be of a higher standard than a public school’s – some of your friends were actual teachers and professors before coming here to participate in your antics, weren’t they? – but I also think a school gives more than just an education.”
“Friends, you mean.”
“Well, in short, yes.” As she hesitated over what she wanted to say, Marian looked a bit sad. “You know as well as I do that she hasn’t made any friends at the daycare. She doesn’t even play with the other children. I don’t want to force her to do anything, and constantly hounding her to open up to the other kids would do more harm than good, I reckon, but the problem needs to be addressed at some point. Nova can’t stay closed off in her shell forever.”
Aaron nodded and was about to speak when Marian sighed irritably and shook her head before continuing.
“Haaaa, no. Saying it like this doesn’t feel right, either. She’s just 3 years old. It’s way too early to make any conclusion as to her development. Yes, all right, she hasn’t made friends at the daycare, but on the other hand, she has no problem interacting with Ingrid or her siblings. And she had a whole ‘conversation’ with Louis, too, while we ate with the Astias.”
“Hahaha, yeah. It’s always a bit hard to tell what Nova’s feeling at any one moment, but I think he pissed her off. Understandably so. She did have to constantly put down her fork so she could type on her bracer and respond to his questions, after all. That must have been annoying.”
Marian giggled too as she remembered it. “I think her words made her feelings clear enough, even with a robotic voice and no facial expressions.”
Marian was pretty sure her daughter was the first commoner in quite a while to tell a kingdom’s prince to ‘shut the fuck up and let her eat in peace’. At max volume. Of course, Aaron and Marian scolded her severely for her lapse in politeness, but few of them around the table found it easy to hold back their laughter when they gazed upon the prince’s shocked, open-mouthed face. Ingrid didn’t even bother to try.
“All right,” Aaron said, “Then, here is my proposal. We leave her full-time at the daycare until she’s 4 years old, see what happens. Afterwards, for 3 days per week, I’ll instead take her to the facility and try to see if anything we study there strikes her interest. Maybe nothing will come of it, I don’t know, but that’ll still leave us 2 or 3 more years to make sure of our other options, if this doesn’t work out.”
“And if she does show interest? Are your friends really going to teach her? Now that I think about it, aren’t you guys just too advanced? Would you be able to teach a primary school course? Doesn’t that require a different set of skills?”
“Hmm. Well, you may be right, but I’m sure we can manage. If worse comes to worst, we can hire a private tutor for the parts we don’t feel confident enough to teach properly.” He shook his head. “Nah, I’m frankly not worried about such a thing.”
“And, well, if we really don’t find a proper solution to this issue, I guess we could just ask Nova what she thinks of this. That might just be the simplest way to solve everything.”
“So. Good. Everything solved.”
“Right. Can I ask why we had to do this so late at night, now? And why you had to wear this strange getup? Also, what’s with the photos of Nova on the screens? I’m pretty sure I’d know which daughter you’re talking about just by her name.”
“Oh, this. Theatrics and melodrama.”