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.
Without waiting for his mother to move, Alex shimmered and handed his father a long, cool beer. Al and the others had grown accustomed to it, but it was a revelation to Zak. Alice and Alex had, until that time, been very careful to shield the boy from manifestations of their bitek abilities that they weren’t yet ready to explain to him.
Zak’s eyes were filled with awe and wonder (not to be confused with shock and awe which history may well define as a misnomer of near-classic proportions). He looked up at Alex with real appreciation. “Cool, Unk” was all he said.
Al sipped his beer, exhaled loudly and wiped the froth from his chin. The froth, you should understand, did not come from the beer, but from something more personal to Al.
“Right, Albert,” he said at last, “If you’re to be involved in the boy’s education, there are a few ground rules I have to set out.”
“This should be good,” Madge said to her daughter, barely above a whisper.
“Yeah, Dad; good luck with that,” Alice mouthed back.
With a calmness built of many centuries’ practice, Albert replied, “Two things, Al. Firstly, it is not for you to lay down rules for me—”
“And why not, may I ask?”
“Let’s just leave it that Zak is not your son. If Alice has some special requirements, I may listen to what she has to say, but you… no.”
“Alice?” Al said, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“Most assuredly I will, Dad. But not until I have something to say… For now, I’m in listening mode.”
Suitably chastened, Al did what he should have done all along: shut up and drank his beer.
“Secondly,” Albert continued, his calm by no means affected by Al’s brief sojourn in Angryville, “you have no power to enforce any rules you may stipulate, so for you, it would be no more than an extended exercise in futility.”
Albert wiped the foam from his mouth again.
“Here’s how I see this working out,” Albert added, followed by a detailed exposition of his ideas for the next five years of Zak’s life. Alice and Alex listened intently, as did Zak, although he did interrupt his great-grandfather on a number of occasions with requests for more detail. Al sought inspiration in the bottom of his beer glass and Madge… it’s difficult to say what Madge was doing or where she was doing it. Don’t get me wrong, her body was still seated at the dining table, but it was anyone’s guess where her mind was.
Finally, Albert came to the end of what he had to say. “Sounds good,” Alice said, “What think you, Bro?”
“Yeah,” Alex replied, “he should have an easier time of it than we did.”
There being no objections from around the table, the plan Albert had outlined was… you guessed it – put to a vote.
Al put on his officious, union rep’s face and said, “The proposal is that the five-year plan outlined by Albert be adopted. As many as are of that opinion, say Aye—”
Alex, Alice, Albert and Zak all said “Aye.”
“As many as are against, say No,” Al said, nudging his wife.
“What?” she asked.
“Don’t argue, just say no.”
“No,” she said.
“The chair abstains,” he added, to which Albert replied, “but the Shepherd’s Hut doesn’t. It votes Aye.”
“You can’t do that,” Al objected.
“Can so,” Alice countered.
“Very well,” Al continued, “The Ayes to the left, five; the Nos to the right, one. I think the Ayes have it, the Ayes have it. Order.”
“You should have stood for parliament, Dad,” Alex said, “You might have got the Speaker’s job.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” Madge giggled, “he wanted to stand for local councillor, but they wouldn’t have him.”
“Madge, please,” Al muttered reproachfully – or maybe it was pleadingly.
“Which party?” Alice asked.
Madge was clearly amused by this line of thought – interestingly enough, exactly in a way that Al equally clearly wasn’t. “All of them!” she said, exploding with laughter.
For the next five years, Zak followed the plan. Soft subjects he found boring, not because he knew everything, but because he only needed to be told anything once. If information was presented in a clear and logical way, he absorbed it immediately and helped the teachers to explain it to the other kids (who were somewhat in awe of him for his ability to do this and to explain it to them in terms they found easier to understand than how the teacher had put it). What happened if the information weren’t presented in a clear and logical way? I hear you ask. It didn’t happen often. The teachers soon abandoned their sloppier methods when they realised that they could teach Zak in a very few minutes, then sit back while he taught the rest of the class. The maths and science teachers were less fortunate; they had to teach the ‘normal’ kids in the old-fashioned way while Zak was off with his personal tutor. By he time he was ten, Zak was at a level equal to PhD candidate – and that was only in the knowledge generally available to humans.
On one occasion, when Zak was approaching nine, Albert omitted to clear the whiteboard after a session. The head of science in the school saw it and was puzzled.
He photographed it and sent it to the university, whose professor of theoretical physics was minussed (the word he used was nonplussed, but we all know what he meant, don’t we, children?). When challenged, Albert said that the equations were meaningless; that he was merely demonstrating the beauty of maths in abstract form.
“But that’s just nonsense,” the aforementioned professor said, “you can’t impute value to meaningless squiggles.”
“And yet people pay millions for what passes for modern art, and what’s that, if not meaningless squiggles?”
“You have a point, Doctor erm—”
“Just call me Albert.”
“And a fine name it is, to be sure. If it was good enough for Einstein—”
“And Steptoe,” Albert added.
“Don’t know the name.”
“Look it up, Professor. Look it up.”
On the day of Zak’s tenth birthday, everything changed.