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.
Zak had reached the age at which the law of the land required him to enter the education system; a system that his mother and uncle felt had let them down badly. They had managed to avoid ever sending him to daycare or pre-school and had convinced the authorities that he was sufficiently well socialised not to need those facilities. Alice, Alex and Madge had regularly hosted play-dates for him and for local children of his age group, to avoid him falling into the trap of isolation that home-schooling can bring. The nurses, doctors and dentists that he saw at the appropriate intervals all spoke highly of his linguistic and social skills and were more than satisfied that he hadn’t missed out on any of the developmental advantages that pre-school offers.
On the afternoon of Zak’s fifth birthday, Albert came to visit. He knocked on the door very politely and waited for someone to come and let him in. That someone was Alex.
“Hi, Albert,” Alex said, “right on time. Not that I’m surprised, of course.”
“Where is Zak?” Albert asked, “And how do you want to approach this?”
“Nothing special. Zak already knows about you – and Jarvis, of course – and has, for his age, a good understanding and a mature attitude towards your status, as it were.”
“He understands the concepts of bitek?”
“The basics. Enough not to be fazed by probably most things he’ll witness.”
“At such a young age?”
“He’s a bright young lad, Albert. Come through.”
Albert followed Alex through to the dining room, where the Madge, Alice and Zak were seated around the table.
Zak looked up as Albert entered the room and asked, “Are you my Great Granddad, Sir?”
“Yes, Zak, I am. But please don’t call me that, or sir; it makes me sound so old.”
“What should I call you, then?”
“What’s wrong with Albert?”
“I don’t know,” Zak said then, turning to Alice, he added, “Mum, what’s wrong with Albert?”
“Nothing, Zak,” she replied with a chuckle.
“Okay, Great Granddad. As my mother says there is nothing wrong with you, I shall call you Albert.”
“Good idea, lad.”
Al chose that moment to enter the room. “Have I missed anything?” he asked.
Alice, still grinning, said, “Zak just asked Albert what he should call him. Albert said, ‘What’s wrong with Albert?’ Guess what Zak did?”
“He asked me what’s wrong with Albert.”
Al looked at the boy and asked, “How long have you got?”
Everyone laughed. Everyone except Al, that is.
“Albert,” Zak said, “A newspaper article I read suggested that a lot of people: LGBTs, ethnic minorities and stuff complain that there aren’t enough actors in films and on the TV who look like them.”
“That can be a problem, Zak. What of it?”
“I found two boys like me on the telly.”
“Well. There’s Sam, the young synth on Humans, and Young Sheldon. Sam doesn’t count, really, because he’s not human; he’s a synthetic – a robot – trying to act human. A bit like Data on Star Trek. Sheldon Cooper is human. He’s an unusually clever boy who’s at school with older children because he gets bored by the things the kids his own age do. Will I go to school with older kids, Albert?”
“That’s something we have to discuss,” Alice said, “Alex had the same trouble at school, and so did I. We don’t want that for you.”
“I may have a possible solution,” Albert said.
“I thought you bloody would,” Al muttered.
“That will be enough of that, Aloysius Grahamson,” Madge hissed then, louder, “what are you thinking, Albert?”
“Well. The law expects him to work to the set curriculum and pass the so-called key stage tests. He’ll have no problems there. In fact, I’d be surprised if he couldn’t already ace most of them – at least as far as maths and the sciences go. He’ll need to learn the other stuff—”
“But his reading and his linguistic ability are already way above what is expected at his age and his memory retention is spectacularly high,” Alex said.
“I didn’t say he’d need to learn everything in the normal classroom context. He’d be bored to distraction.”
“Okay. He needs the social aspects of school, and that means the classroom as well as the playground, right?”
“Right. Do the schools here have a gifted child programme?”
“Wouldn’t bloody think so,” Al interjected, “that would cost them money.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Albert continued, “he can attend normal classroom lessons for the soft subjects: citizenship, health and social development, comparative religions, philosophy and so on, without joining in the discussions too much; but for the hard subjects, he can go to the library with his personal tutor, where he’ll be able to learn at the pace that suits him.”
“And who, may I be so bold as to ask, will this personal tutor be?” Al asked, “And who’s going to pay for him; the local authority won’t unless we can somehow get them to classify what the boy has as a disability, and I can’t see that happening.”
“No need, Son. I’ll do it.”
“You? You’ll be his personal tutor?”
“Yes. Why not?”
“Can you make that time commitment without shimmering away every whip and trip, and worse – taking him with you?”
“One: I did it for both of your kids, Al, only I did it after school and, okay, mostly outside of time. Two: Zak and what he has to do are too important for me not to commit myself fully to it.”
“But will the school accept you as a personal tutor? You don’t have any formal qualifications.”
Albert shimmered briefly and handed a rolled diploma to Al. “Formal enough?”
“This is fake, isn’t it?”
“Is it? Have it examined; anywhere and by anybody. It’s genuine.”
“Genuine? How did you get it?”
“I took courses and passed exams. How else?”
“Dad,” Alice said, “Time works differently for Albert. How long did it take you, Albert?”
“I didn’t study full-time; I had other stuff to do, but five years in all. If it hadn’t been for the need for coursework results, I could have simply taken the exams. The coursework was boring, but the teaching practice was fun… in a way. It gave me some useful insights into how human kids develop and how chaotic their thought processes are.”
“So, let me get this right, Albert. Two minutes ago, you didn’t have this diploma, then you shimmered, then you had it.”
“And it took five years.”
“Give or take.”
“Madge, I need a drink.” Madge looked at him quizzically. “Now,” he barked.