a tale in weekly parts
(formerly Albert and Jarvis)
In episodes 1-88, Albert and Jarvis told the story of a bitek construct that had been in the lives of the Grahamson family for three generations. Appearing in the form of a shepherd's hut (Jarvis) and its elderly occupant (Albert), an earlier experiment had resulted in the birth of Aloysius, a non-manifesting human/bitek hybrid. Alice and Alex, the two children that Aloysius had fathered with his wife, Magdalen, displayed strong bitek capabilities from an early age, though Alice was significantly more precocious than her younger brother. Albert and Jarvis nurtured and enhanced these capabilities through many adventures until the point where, to prevent a global catastrophe, the two needed to act together. The action needed more power than the two possessed. To produce stonger hybrids, Alex's seed was used to produce a young in a distantly related hybrid female in another dimension, while Alice was impregnated using her own bitek components. Albert and Jarvis absented themselves from the lives of the Grahamsons to allow Alice's pregnancy to progress in a safe, normal environment.
You can see the full story so far at this link.
Throughout the pregnancy, Albert and Jarvis kept to their word and remained absent. Alice was aware of Albert’s presence at the moment of the birth of her baby, although he didn’t appear in visible form. He told Alice that he needed to satisfy himself that the infant had arrived safely and in good health, and to tell her that Kris had safely delivered a daughter on Terra; a partner and eventual mate for Alice’s son. For her part, Alice informed Albert that, in a total break from Grahamson tradition, the boy’s name would not start with the letter A. The name she had chosen, and agreed with her parents and brother, was Zachary – Zak for short. Albert gave a small chuckle at that and informed her that Kris and Xander had agreed that her daughter be called Zara.
Albert took his leave again, promising to stay away, unless called, until Zak’s fifth birthday – the age at which Alice had started manifesting abilities.
The next five years passed without event in the Grahamson household. Alice, Alex and their father were still aware of the presence of the Eddies, but mostly this was only as background noise. The abject loneliness the siblings had felt after their first separation from Albert and Jarvis wasn’t there, though. In large part, this was because they knew that they could call on them at any time, but the connection with the Eddies and, through them, with the dogs, also served to prevent the emptiness and disconnectedness they had experienced earlier from being an issue.
The Grahamsons settled into their new reality and reached an acceptance, not only of the powers and possibilities they had been given but also of the negatives that accompanied them; particularly the dire consequences that could follow if anyone else learned of their situation. This knowledge, and the awesome responsibility of raising such a unique child, served to strengthen their bonds and to allow them to grow as individuals, as a family and as a support system. The greatest growth was, without doubt, in Madge. She had passed from being a subservient, somewhat downtrodden ‘little lady at home’, through a period of anger and pushiness based mostly on insecurity and fear, finally ending up as a confident and competent manager of the team. She could be relied on to support the children in all they do, and to keep tabs on her husband who, whilst still authoritarian, was probably the least stable member of the family.
Young Zak was, unsurprisingly, the image of his mother at his age; he had the same honey-blonde hair and rounded face with cherub-like features as well as skin so white that people often asked if he were albino. But the likeness went beyond the physical. His mannerisms mirrored those of his mother at each stage of his development such that, as he approached his fifth birthday, Al, his grandfather, started to look out for the kind of manifestations that had culminated in his mother’s disappearance from the family. Needless to say, Al became more nervous, more protective and, as his only real outlet, more authoritarian every day.
One evening, shortly before Zak’s fifth birthday, Madge, Alex, Alice and young Zak were seated at the dining table. The adults were telling the boy about Albert and explaining that, although he was, technically, Zak’s great-grandfather, he was more like an older friend or uncle to Alice and Alex. They were about to introduce the subject of Zak’s heritage when Al burst in on his return from work.
“When’s Albert coming again?” he asked.
Madge got up from the table and approached her husband, moving to give him a hug. He pushed her away.
“I just asked you a question,” he shouted, “and I deserve and expect an answer. When is that… that thing, that unnatural abomination coming?”
Zak started to cry. “Why is Granddad so angry?” he asked through his tears.
“It’s alright, Zak,” Alice said, “he’s not angry. Not really. He’s worried—”
“And,” Madge interrupted, “he doesn’t know how to express worry other than by shouting like a drill sergeant.”
Alice calmed her father in her special way. Al took the empty chair.
“So,” he said, more calmly, “why did you choose now, today, to talk to the lad about Albert?”
“Because, Dad,” Alice said, “Zak will be five soon. Alex and I want to prepare him, to let him know about the changes that will start happening to him soon. None of us wants him to go through the confusion and difficulties that Alex and I went through when our nature changed.”
“And how’s talking to him likely to help?”
“Dad,” Alex said, “a lot of kids have trouble dealing with puberty. Think how much harder it was for us… and will be for Zak.”
“Yeah, I get that, but how can talking help?”
“What’s my job?” Madge asked.
“You’re a counsellor. What’s that got to do with anything?”
“It’s what I do. Watch my lips. Talking helps. Right?”
“Right?” she asked more forcibly.
Under Madge’s watchful eye, Alex and Alice started to explain to Zak a little of his true nature. They told him the basics of bitek and began to prepare him for what he should expect in the short term.
“He’s four, for God’s sake,” Al said, “you can’t expect the poor kid to follow any of that. It’s all I can do to keep up myself, and I’m… it doesn’t matter how old I am, but I’m not bloody four.”
“It’s okay, Granddad,” Zak replied, “I get most of it. Don’t worry, I’ll let Mum know if there’s anything I don’t understand.”