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Released, but also free?

EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
edited January 2017 in Stories and Legacies
"I still wake up occassionally, hearing the shouting: "It ends here" and "Run, you fools!". That night - the night when I eventually did the right thing - haunts me more than the weeks before where I did all the wrong stuff. Because while I was the bad guy, people suffered. But when I turned hero, they died, which is indefinitely worse than suffering. And whether behind bars or free-roaming, I'll never be really free.

So Enki approached me, asking if perhaps I'd like to write down everything that happened. He is like that, writing is the cure-all to him. For me it is labour. But, hey, after what I've done I hardly have the right to reject anything that's asked of me. So here goes..."

Okay, this is an external link to my tumblr. It takes you to the backstory of the tale I'll actually post here. My new tale will be narrated by the main character, Julio Escobedo, a guy released from prison, seeking to find a footing in normal life again. Check out the diary first or jump into the new story at once, but in any case: Enjoy!

No posing, little planning ahead, just gameplay commentary from a very loose rotation.
Unless noted otherwise, all builds and sims are either Maxis' or my own. None of the cc used is mine.

Also I noticed that the thread is lagging a bit due to the pictures, so I put the actual chapters under spoiler tags.
Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)


  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 1 - A quantum of Deja Vu


    Freshly released from prison - check
    Abandoned shack in the park district of Willow Creek - check
    Big dreams about a new beginning and everything getting better now - check

    Yes, I was once again at the point where it all had started, both figuratively and literally. Only this time no hostage was involved. Well, I'd served my time for the kidnapping and thought I was due a fresh new start, empty page and so on.
    Charlotte certainly viewed it this way. We'd been close friends, friends with benefits, even, and the relationship had been extra-precious to me, because I do not make friends easily. But after she had learned that I was a criminal, Charlotte had stopped calling and by now we were barely aquaintances anymore.


    At least the house was still in good shape, so I only moved the workout equipment out of the sun. Doing so I spotted, from the corner of my eyes, Nancy Landgraab. The lady of crime walked by my shack head down as if sad or in mourning. She pretended not to notice that someone had moved in, or who exactly that was. But from then on I knew I was watched.


    Trouble was, I had made a full testimony about everything I had done in the Landgraab's employ and it still hadn't been enough to even scratch their facade as upstanding business people. The authorities knew the Landgraab firm was a crime syndicate, but they could not prove it. Many more people, my attourney had told me, were required to show the courage I had shown and speak up against the Landgraab. Courage, bah! Johnny had been brave, as had Amber. They had believed in figthing the syndicate, while I only had testified to score a lighter sentence. But now they were dead and I was alive. Tells you everything you need to know about the world, huh?

    Well, about the being-alive-part... after my encounter with Lady Nancy I wasn't so certain as to how long I'd still be alive.
    So on a whim I spent all my money from prison work on a hot tub, determined to enjoy the here and now. Back before my incarceration privately owned hot tubs hadn't been a thing, not even for the rich folks. But now here I was, proud owner of one! The thought alone felt almost as good as actually soaking in the tub. And it got even better when I learned that my neighbors across the street, Cassandra and Wolfgang Goth, didn't have one!


    Mrs. Goth was part of the Welcome Wagon, as was the Lotario couple and the resident poet, Enki Scrooge. He was also one of the best chefs in Willow Creek and he had brought a fruitcake. Only when I called everyone to meal after our hot-tubbing, the guests ignored the cake and went straight for the fridge. They eagerly grabbed whatever they found inside: salted snacks, fruit and deep frozen pancakes that I had bought years ago for the hostage.


    But for me there was no way around, I had to take at least a few bites of the cake. The welcome wagon did that to every new neighbor, it was like some gang initiation ritual. And with me moving between neighborhoods so frequently, I'd recieved a taste of that stuff often. One might think I'd gotten used to it by now, but truth is, one cannot get used to the atrocity that is this cake. Even Enki's smooth words fail him when it comes to describing it.
    "I'm writing poetry, not horror stories" was all he uttered.
    I was almost glad when the dishwasher broke down, giving me an excuse to get up and conveniently forget about the rest of the fruitcake.

    All in all it was a nice afternoon and I almost forgot about the Landgraab...


    ...except when Malcolm "coincidentally" did his push ups in front of my house the next day while I was installing an upgrade to my hot tub.

    I needed out, out of these walls, out of town altogether! So I went down to the ferry station and across the bay to Windenburg.


    Windenburg by night - god, how I love this view!

    The central ferry station smelled of old cigarettes and vomit. On the upside it had graffitti of mating dinosaurs. You know it's bad when Triceratops horrides in heat is the BEST part you can name of a location.
    And it got worse... of all the residents of Windenburg I had to encounter two familiar faces at the ferry: Julie Weaver and Marina What-was-her-name-again, Alton's helpers during the hostage crisis. There was no way around it, I had to at least greet them.


    While Julie was nice and sweet and chatty and acted as if the abduction was merely a shared adventure, Marina said nothing. Her body language, however, betrayed the fact how angry she was and that she only held back for Julie's sake.

    I left the harbour district and decided to get a sundae at the market where I had a good 360 degree view of my surroundings, in case more nasty surprises were bent on jumping at me. But I was lucky: only Maurice the waiter and a couple of kids were around.

    "So you're from Willow Creek? Did you take the ferry or drive once around the bay to get here? What car do you drive?"


    "Why the interest in my car? Wanna steal it?"
    "Nah! But if it's a fast one we might be very adoptable. But only by good parents."

    Much as I could empathize with the kid's definition of a "good" parent by the size of their car, I didn't want the little one to get ideas.

    "I usually drive whatever the boss hands me when I go out grabbing children that are out late form the street", I replied. "We then keep them for a ransom, or sell them to the organleggers if their parents are poor."



    "Gee, Verena", the little red riding head laughed. "Don't you see he's only rattling your cage?"

    "Am I?"


    "Haha!" Maurice laughed. "No need to be afraid, children. Julio is a good man. He works in the furniture factory. See the red brick building over there? That's the one."

    "Oh", said the girl, Verena.

    I said nothing, simply ordered another round for everyone since the children had helped themselves to my icecream already. It's a thing in Windenburg: Unattended drinks, barfood or ice cream are free for the grabs. In fact, if you do not nick foodstuff, you are giving yourself away as a nonlocal.
    Poor Maurice... he defended me in the firm belief that what he told the girls was the truth. He only knew me as one of Mr. Baum's employees and was blissfully unaware that he sat, indeed, at a table with a kidnapper.

    I went home less elated than I had hoped. Where-ever I turned, either people or places involved in my past kept popping up. And when nothing in my vicinity reminded me of what had gone before, my own mind did me that "favour".
    Well, you may say I deserve that. But I don't care. I want it to stopp!
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 2 - And it seems that love is only for the lucky and the strong
    Note: Italic text marks authors commentary

    The next day something equally undesireable as aquaintances from a past I wanted to forget found me in my home: The weekly bill.
    At 600 Windenburgh thalers it alerted me to the fact that I might live in a shack, but that this shack stood on high-tax property. So there was no way around it, I had to keep that job in the furniture factory a little longer. What joy...

    Furniture factory (Art factory center) originally by SimDels, adapted to my playstyle

    It didn't make a difference whether I went to work as an open-prisoner like before or as a free man like today.


    I still hated the work and my co-worker Heinrich still hated me.


    And if I could not escape my past, then why not just embrace it? Everything that had been good about it, that is.
    So after work I gave Pine a call. I didn't expect her to accept my invitation, but she did!


    "Pine! Wow, you've grown! But..."
    "Still wearing the same outfit as when we met?"
    "Silly! I donned it just for this occasion. Do you think it still fits?"
    What should I say now? "Yes, you fill it out even better now" probably wasn't what the girl-no-longer wanted to hear. An adult now, Pine had grown curvier not from too many cupcakes, but from simply having left behind her teenagehood. But who knew if she'd recognize that as a compliment? No, better stay on the safe side, I thought and answered:
    "Yes, it's still perfect."
    Well, you know one should not lie and heaven sent me my punishment right on cue in the form of Pine's dad crossing the street and moving towards us.


    And Pine's dad is no other than Heinrich. The guy from work who harbours a strong dislike from me.
    We had to re-assure the man that his darling was absolutely, positvely NOT dating and especially not me, before he left.


    Pine and me proceeded to absolutely, positively NOT dating in my newe hot tub.


    "Father..." Pine complained, "he's so rigid one wonders why he doesn't have us live in a cave! Just because he's been a womanizer in his youth he wants to "protect" me from men like, well, him. And he's gotten even stricter ever since I took up acting."
    "Acting, huh?"
    "Well, it admittedly was just a small role. I played... (giggles)"
    "What? Why are you snickering?"
    "I played a medieval plum who got pregnant by an elf!"
    "Haha! That was oil into your father's fire!"

    I imagine that my Drachstedt legacy is a TV show in my main save. This is the only pic that I have of Pine in the legacy (with the founder):

    Yes, no doubt, Pine was an adult now. I fully realized that when later on I saw pirated clips of the shows she had been in on Youtube. There was a jarring difference between the way she moved and talked in season 1 of the "History Challenge" and how she behaved in "Drachstedt Legacy".

    Pine as "Treewalker" in the History Challenge. In fact, she was born ingame during that challenge

    After realizing that, I never again invited Pine into the tub. When I still percieved as a teenager it had been all innocent. A woman, now that was different, sparked different desires! I mean, the hot tub was where I wanted her, wanted us, but not that quickly. I was determined to live my life the proper way from now on.

    We went to Magnolia promenade several times in the week to follow, having fun and some real deep conversations, including a talk about the kidnapping and it's showdown. Pine claimed I was traumatized from the events.


    It wasn't a joke.
    I laughed nonetheless.

    I stopped laughing when a shopper sat down with us.

    "Mind if I grab a hot dog?"

    It was...



    My heart sank.

    Dina Landgraab!

    "So, Mr. Escobedo... long time no see?"


    "Erm, yes?"

    Coming from the same guttersnipe background as myself, Dina had never learned to veil threats in velvet and analogies. She flat out adviced Pine to be more careful in choosing her friends.
    Me, I still was shielded by the witness protection program and the Landgraab couldn't get directly at me. Oh, they might have killed me rather easily, if it had been only a question of skill and discrecy. But me dying an unnatural or just sudden death would raise suspicion. Questions would be asked, then. So for the time being I was completely safe, that much I understood in that moment. But the mob could the hell destroy everything I held dear: my friendship with Pine, for example, as well as any romance I might start.
    Out of spite, out of principle or just for the fun of it.


    I didn't hear from Pine for some time after that chance meeting.

    One day when Heinrich was out with Rocky for some father and son time, she invited me over to their place in Windenburg.
    And there I beheld her actual current outfit. It... took some getting used to, I admit.



    "Hey, what's your problem? That's what people wear in San Myshuno!"
    "What happens in San Myshuno stays in San Myshuno", I mumbled a proverb.
    Pine hadn't heard it. "We ponder moving there", she went on. "Earn some money, see a bit of the larger world."

    And "we", it turned out, was Axel and her. Axel wasn't Pine's official boyfriend, but from the way he looked at her and the way she reacted to him without even realizing, it was obvious that this was a couple in the making. So it sounded shallow when Pine remarked that I wasn't any older than Axel and if I wanted to come along, too, because the more the merrier.


    Axel... Axel... what was there about this guy in his sweater and the red shorts?! He was a mailman... omg, was he the mailman I had beaten up for making a sassy remark about my inbox being placed inconveniently? This was awkward.

    Ah, well, it's always possible to get even more awkward. Yay for selfie time with the formerly hopeful, friend-zoned ex-criminal!


    So, tell me, what good is this living "the proper way" if it gains you nothing?!
    I used to be confident, now look at what a wreck the straight-and-narrow lifestyle made me! Afraid of my own shadow and losing everything.
    Hell, maybe I should give the Villareal a call next. They are the Landgraab's rivals, after all, so working for them might count as a good deed...
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 3: Where do I go from here ( Granite Falls I fear)

    Though I felt pretty directionless during that period of my life, when people asked me what my goals were, I had plenty to answer. Not that I had some overarching desire or aspiration that guided my every step. That kind of plum is for the rich, the fools and for those that are both. I did, however, have a myriad of normal wants, like every person, things that one one could reasonably expect to get done within ones means. Pathetic stuff that nevertheless made me happy for short periods of time.
    One of these small man's goals was getting back into shape after prison. The penentiary where I was kept had a very sensible, if annoying rule: the gymn was only for the wardens. They let us work off the inevitable frustration at basketball or soccer, but not engage in real training, because the last thing they wanted us was to build muscles or keep our reflexes honed. As if all crime in the world was violence...

    Anyway, I got a subscription for the "Family Fit" gymn in Windenburg - perfect for a qick exercise before or after work. And not wanting to brag...


    ...okay, wanting to brag. Now who's awesome?! Say "Julio Escobedo"! C'mon, say it!

    Windenburg by night! I still hadn't tired of the view and I doubt I ever will.
    The disco at the harbour, that went by no other name than exactly that, became my favourite hangout.


    It also was a convenient place to bump into Hugo and Yuki Villarel "coincidentally".


    I should have started to worry when I noticed what clothes they wore. Not the expensive stuff that only looked as if five persons before had worn them, but gave themselves away as being worth a small town by some discrete label. Nope, these two were clad in the loose-fitting street chic from the local discounter for real and believe me, it wasn't a lark. These Villareal heirs had fallen on average times (which, from a formerly wealthy person's perspective, is just like falling on hard times).

    "Why else do you think does Max stay an apprentice at your factory?" Yuki asked. "We need the money!"
    "Well, to annoy his father, as he stated over and over..." I replied.


    Hugo nodded. "That's how it started. But father is dead and Luna took all the money and vanished. So if you do not by chance have a few hundred thousand thalers at hand that you'd like to invest in nicely overgrown and slightly cursed island property, chances are we cannot help you."
    "And the other way around?" I ventured. "Could I perhaps aid YOU in some way?"
    "If you feel the need to weed our island for free, don't hesitate", Yuki laughed. "But help in the fashion you might think of, no, thanks."

    That said the pair went into the disco while I took the ferry home.

    The next day it was back to the treadmill, first literally in the gmyn and then figuratively at work.
    I was getting better at woodworking...


    "Julio, over here, please!"
    The boss's voice.
    "Yes, Mr. Baum?"


    "I've watched you and I must say that your skill has grown considerably", the factory owner told me. "I think you are ready for your master craftsman exam now."

    I considered these words. Among other things that certificate allowed for running your own workshop and hirering people to do the work in your stead. Provided you had the funds to get such an enterprise on it's feet in the first place. And provided you lived in a town that could support two such enterprises, which Windenburg could not. But Willow Creek was lacking a furniture shop, as was Newcrest and if Baum wanted to open a daughter firm there, one of us could take charge of it: Carolin, Heinrich or me.

    "You'll need a mentor", Mr. Baum spoke on, "that's me. And besides the written exam you'll also need to impress the guild with a masterpiece. That's the tricky part, as I had to learn when I did my own certificate. Your best bet would be driving to Granite Falls and studying the Camping Mascot over there."
    "The one that cost's a fortune to take pictures of and isn't available as a toy, because the city officials protect it's blueprints like their firstborn?" I asked. "It being their cultural inheritance or somesuch?"
    "That's the one", Mr. Baum confirmed. "Study it intently, but be careful not to get caught at what you're doing. A woodworker of your skill should be able to pull off that stunt."

    Phew. A model of that statue would indeed sell like hot-cakes!

    "And even though it's costly, make sure to take a photo, too", my employer advised me. "Only a pixelated cellphone pic won't do. You should bring a real camera!"

    So there I was the next friday, in my kitchen with the cheap appliances, the handmade table and chairs and a brand new "Crystalclear" digicam that was probably worth more than the whole kitchen interior. Ready to depart on an innocent weekend trip Granite Falls right after that day's work shift!


    Granite Falls was only two hours drive inlands from Windenburg, but much higher up in the mountains. Coming straight from work I arrived there around eight in the evening. Strangely it wasn't as dark yet as I had expected it to be and I soon noticed why that was so: Snow was covering everything, including the top of my unprepared head. The snowflakes were dancing around me as if performing a mocking jig.
    Why hadn't I anticipated a sudden change of the weather? Why couldn't anything ever be easy for a change? I didn't even want to go into furniture making fulltime!


    Truth was, I didn't mind the cold as much as I pretended. The unexpected snow was just a symbol for my frustration about not being able to find a footing in life again. Just like those crystals I was blown here and there, a plaything of the wind, pretty to look at but ultimately of no consequence and too easily squished between the fingers. One snowflake among millions, unique perhaps, but undistinguishable from the others by the casual onlooker. But while all the other snowflakes just wanted to dance, I was irked by my status or lack thereof. I wanted to be ringleader again, I wanted to be looked up to, I wanted to dish out the money notes with the many zeros left and right, I wanted... well, out of the snow and into my bubbly hot-tub would have been a good start, admittedly.

    Instead I stalked away from my car and set up a tent on the campground.

    In the first snow of winter.

    I was really good at making myself a fool, huh?

    Credits: The awesome Granite Falls Wintermod by Kiwisims 4
    The mod only covers Granite Falls in snow, so snow stays something special and gives an incentive to go vacationing!
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 4: Winter Wonderland

    Granite Falls - scenic place covered in snow!
    And more snow.


    Having finished setting up camp, I tossed the sleeping bag into the tent and then rummaged in the car for something edible. The good news was, I knew how to survive with no roof above my head and in less then ideal weather. The bad news was that I still had vivid memories of what that kind of life felt like.
    At least unlike during my teenhood, food was in abundant supply now and though I tended to grab whatever was on sale from the supermarket, even that cheap stuff was guaranteed to be safe to eat. So what had I brought with me from Willow Creek? Turning the tin in my hands, I realized that it was one of the new health foods that were supposed to be good for you. The texture certainly looked... interesting. Artful, even.


    To not freeze off my backside while waiting for the can's contents to heat up, I plucked some easily identifieable herbs that were growing around the campground. Using these for seasoning my meal made it taste... well, more "interesting".


    But the soup was hot and somewhat creamy and it reminded me that my homeless days were past and would never return. Even if I should manage to get myself into prison again, I'd always have a bed there with the added benefit of being comparatively safe from artfully textured health food. With that thought I slipped into my sleeping bag and slept peacefully through the night - but in Georg's car, not in the tent!

    The next morning it had stopped snowing. The whole ground was glistening with last night's snow, as were the tree tops. It was a dry, clear day and the wintery forest's magic was finally working on me. I caught myself humming a song and when I realised that, broke into the few verses of it that I remembered:

    "Hm-hm-hm, snow is glistening, and hm-hm, dum-dee listening...
    we're singing our song, as we go along, walking in a winter-wonderland!"

    It was one of the silly things tourists did. I, too, was a tourist that day, so I didn't feel embarassed in the slightest.

    Looking around, trying to get a feel for my surroundings I beheld a bar.


    The place was called "At the linden tree" and indeed the bar was built around an enormous tree. To my wilderness untrained eye it looked like a hawthorn, though...
    Also I noticed that I wasn't the only one surprised by the sudden drop in temperature. Many of the other early morning patrons that had come for a cup of hot coffee or cocoa seemed to have slapped every piece of clothing that they had found in their trunks on their bodies indiscriminently.

    Whatever! There was hot wine punch to be had here!


    The locals called it "glow-wine" and it was a treat.

    In order to keep the wine punch from battling yesterday's health food in my stomach, I went for a walk.
    The same roman ruins that they had in Windenburg were peaking out through the snow here and there. Historically Granite Falls and even Windenburg had been part of the Three Lakes Federation, but for as long as anyone but my history nerd of an employer cared to remember they were territory of Newstate, a state of Sim Nation. The principality of Veronaville had played a part in the developement somewhere, sometime.
    Patchy as my knowledge in this area was, it helped me put what was written on the information boards and in the tourist leaflets a context.
    Yes, I admit I read those things. So what? Yes, I MIGHT have aquired some education while in prison. As long as I didn't end up like that tourist who had nestled his almost-genuine roman army tent within the ruined foundations of a long-forgotten structure, I'd be fine.


    Turned out it wasn't a crazy tourist's private tent, after all, but an exotic rental lot for everyone who could afford the experience. I took a picture for Mr. Baum, then proceeded to the hot springs.


    Ah, that felt good!

    Afterwards I tried my hand at fishing. It was more relaxing than I had expected. At least for one of the involved, the angler.
    For the fish - less so. But at least the fishies would have it warm afterwards ;-)

    I caught a 153-thalers salmon that evening. One. Hundred. And. Fifty. Three.
    For a single fish!
    One had to break the number into it's individual digits to digest the fact...


    ...just like I sliced the salmon into tasty filets the next day.


    This catch was mine alone and however fervently the campground monitor begged, I would not sell it to him. He'd only re-sell it so some rich bloke who dined on expensive stuff like this every day anyway.


    After having finished my prize fish sunday lunch, I set out to do what I had come to do here in the first place.

    So there I was, totally not commiting a minor case of industry espionage...


    Taking the mascot's measurements was trickier than I had imagined. It seemed to be, in it's core, a much older statue that had been preserved over a long time by - who? A long-forgotten priest caste? Druids, perhaps? I could almost feel it's age on my own skin. I had never cared much for Ea and Maxis in Origin Beyond, the church of the Watcher, Jumbok the Conquerer, the Grey Lady or any other religious concept. But this monument, this silent witness of ages gone by, I confess that got to me.


    Anyway, sometime someone had deemed it funny (or economically sound) to turn the glade's guardian into the mascot form it had today. Perhaps the medieval craftsmen had come to fear and demonize what their ancestors had left them, so they tried to make it harmless by changing it's form? Or had a missionary wanted to ridicule the old beliefs? And why my sudden interest in this case? All I needed to do was figuring out a way to transform the thing into an easy-reproduceable, to-scale living room ornament!

    So that's what I did.

    Back in Willow Creek - mission accomplished:

    And the campground was bookmarked for another visit.
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 5: I must not tell lies

    With the model and the blueprints in my posession I returned to the factory come monday. I was eager to show Mr. Baum what I had learned, however, my employer payed less attention to my demonstration than I had expected him to. After getting the info for the man, I felt I deserved better!


    "Don't you want to learn how to do this?"
    "Uh-uh." Baum shook his head. "The assignment wasn't for my, but for your benefit. You are the one who needs to produce a masterpiece for his exam. I already have my certificate."
    "About that", I started, about to explain that I'd gladly sell my knowledge to Mr. Baum to use as he pleased, because I wasn't interested in a woodworking career.

    I had just started my speech when the wife, Aerith Baum, came down the stairs. She crossed the hall, a blank expression on her face, proceeded into the backyard and while we were still looking at each other in puzzlement, there was a bright light outside and a
    humming that quickly increased in volume. Other than that there was no sound. No shouting, no crying, nothing.

    "I know what that was!" Max gasped.
    Well, we all knew. Though none of us had ever witnessed it, we had seen enough newsfeeds about abductions during the alien-earth shadowwar.


    There was nothing we could do but inform the authorities and then take turns standing watch in the backyard. Sometimes the abducted were returned four hours after the event, but other times they'd been gone forever. But even if the victim did return, there were reports of people who had changed after the experience - and that didn't refer to alien pregnancies and the expected ptsd only. Some abduction victims had developed new abilities and we all know that the things you can do also change the way you see the world and, ultimately, how you lead your life. In the case of one who developed alien powers... nah, that was mind-boggling.

    I was relieving Heinrich from watch duty when it happened. You know, "it", the bright light and the creepy, unnatural silence that swallowed every sound instead of just dimming it like snow did. Aerith stalked back the way she had come, still caught in the same trance as before.
    Had we not intercepted her, she might have walked straight until she'd bumped into something, in our case the bridge crossing the canal.
    Heinrich shouted for Mr. Baum, but our employer had already reealized what was going on and came running.


    While the couple embraced, I lowered my head, mumbling: "I owe you an explanation, Mr. and Mrs. Baum."
    "There's nothing to explain", Baum replied. "The war against the aliens ended years ago and we won, but a bunch of disgruntled military members as well as religious fanatics is still fighting on. It might take another generation until earth's and the hive's governments have put a stopp to that."

    "No", I objected. "It's the Landgraab. They have allied with rogue aliens during the war: crashlanded pilots desperate to escape captivity and others that were willing to desert for the promise of money. The UFO crew answers Nancy Landgraab alone and I've plum her off, so she goes about hurting me whichever way she can... destroying everything I hold dear..."


    "You inconsiderate plum!" Baum snarled at me. "I know you want to quit this job for some time already, but there's no reason to make up a story such as this to achieve your goal! You could simply have asked instead of coming up with that rubbish! And in a moment like this, too..."

    Well, I should not have been surprised, I suppose. That was the state of affairs in Windenburg: Had I claimed the Renegades were behind the rogue UFO, no one would have contradicted me. It was believeable, nevermind that the Renegades were war-heroes, every single one of them except for Max, who had been a child during the war. The Landgraab firm, to the contrary, the true villains, they maintained an untarnished reputation in the eyes of the public. They were seen as upstanding businesspeople who invested generously in education and welfare projects. There was no getting at them.

    On the upside, the Baum family recieved the usual reparation for a post-war abduction: two specimens of each of the four iconic alien plants.


    These plants could yield even inexperienced gardeners a small fortune. This particular form of compensation was meant to ensure the wellbeing of pregnant, often heavily traumatized, abduction victims as well as their offspring.
    If you asked me, I wouldn't want my abductor's plants on the balcony, but to each their own, I guess.


    Mrs. Baum then joined the local abductee support group. They assembled in the members' homes and since one of these members lived in my neighborhood, I sometimes got a glimpse into their meetings. Enki enjoyed telling his tale more with every re-telling, Isimud was mainly in to exchange gardening tips, but Laura and the two half-alien girls really needed the group's support.


    From my shack I could see how the first meeting didn't go that well for Aerith. I didn't overhear what exactly she said, but it seeemed to hurt the children to no small degree. Probably something to the effect of "Sending them home to live with their own kin is much better for the hybrids".
    It had been a popular thought before the war until people realized that babies sent to the alien homeworld would inevitably grow into more soldiers for the aliens. So the "sending back" got outlawed not for humanitarian reasons, but stemming from the people's fear for their own skins.


    For my "lie" right after the abduction, I got suspended indefinitely from the furniture factory. I counted that as a positive side effect of an otherwise terrible incident. So for once a move the Landgraab hade made to hurt me hadn't produced the desired effect. But I knew there was more to come and I wouldn't be so lucky a second time.

    I didn't live in fear after the incident. I stopped, however, going to the ice cream parlour where Maurice worked and also stopped calling everyone else who qualified as even a remote friend. So, no, not in fear, but even lonelier than before. The Landgraab had won, nevermind where they'd gotten the impression from that I'd been out to fight them in the first place. I just wanted to forget, to move on, but they could not forgive that a minion had dared to develop an opinion of his own.

    (Backstory of the alien conflict here: Willow Creek Scavenger Hunt Diary
    You'll see that Julio's perception of the group's members is somewhat off the mark.)
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 6: We didn't start the Fyre(s)

    Sometimes being alone wasn't half as bad as I painted it. Ever since my trip to Granite Falls I had a new hobby that fully occupied me, a hobby that required solitude or at least quietness. I had to make a living, somehow, too, so my new fishing skill came in handy not just for relaxation.


    I also had a new girlfriend, of sorts. At least she had moved in with me and went about naked all the time, oblivious to or not caring about the fact that I went homicidal on her kin for fun every day. Um, that would be fisho-cidal? A murder rampage, anyway.


    One day I met a girlchild dressed all in black at the riverbank. Mourning attire wasn't common in Newstate anymore, only the most traditional of families still practiced it: Goth, Villareal and Landgraab. The Goth were living in my neighborhood, I would have known had someone there passed away. And had the Villareal suffered a loss, we'd learned about that from Max, who was apprentice there. That left only my erstwhile employers, so the child had to be Landgraab.
    My stomach tied to a knot, I asked the girl who she was.

    "Jo", she answered. "Johanna Landgraab."


    Now the rest of my innards crinched, too.

    "Johanna Stein..." I whispered and the child eagerly nodded.

    The girl then erupted into a waterfall of blabbering and information that I could only follow because I already knew half of her story. Johanna told me that she was indeed Amber and Johnny Stein's child, but her parents had died in an accident and the kindly grandma Nancy and gramps Geoffry had taken her in and taught her what was really important in life. But the grandparents had passed away, too, and now she was alone with her nasty cousin Aubrey whom aunt Dina and uncle Malcolm liked better and and and...


    "Kind grandma Nancy", for real? And there it was again, that nagging feeling. The same I uneasyness I had felt when Maurice had called me a good man in front of the children. Had someone flatly called me and late Lady Nancy out as crooks, it would have hurt less than hearing our praise out of the mouths of innocents while knowing better.

    That night I recieved a call from Julie Weaver who asked if she could come over. And by night I do not mean eight in the evening or so, but 3:43 am.
    "Do you f-word know what time it is?!" I groaned.


    Julie's answer caught me by surprise: "Yes. Time to make a move against the Landgraab firm!"
    While I was still lost for words, Julie hastily informed me that she was desperate for a hiding place.
    "Where are you at the moment?" I asked back, suddenly whispering, what was stew pit, because I wasn't the one being followed! "The old boathouse? That should be safe enough a place to hide in for a few minutes longer. Stay there and do not draw attention to you! I'm going to pick you up."

    "Okay", I told the woman when we were back in my shack. "You can stay for the night."
    It was the least I could do.
    "But do not expect me to get involved any deeper!" I added. "I'm trying to get off the Landgraab's radar here, not confront them head on!"


    Julie opened her mouth to give a sharp reply, but I was faster:
    "You vigilantes' half-witted plan to free ONE hostage cost the life of TWO good people!" I yelled at her.
    "The Stein couple! As I was reminded to by... As I was reminded yesterday, I mean."
    Julie, however, felt the need to correct me. "We freed two people that day", she claimed. "Alton - from captivity. And you - from working for the
    Landgraab any longer. If you help us now bring down the mob as a whole, Amber and Johnny Stein won't have died in vain."
    "I don't even want to know who "us" is", I snapped back. "Look, I saved your life once. Probably I did so a second time tonight. Don't throw it away over your crusade. That's not fair!"

    Julie shrugged, too tired to continue argueing.
    "What's fair in the world at all...", she murmured before going to bed.
    Or to couch, rather, because that bed was still mine.

    Life was unfair. In the past I'd added to that unfairness, because doing so had seemed to be my ticket into wealth and power. The price for that folly I paid not to the authorities or my victims, but to the very people in whose employ I had commited all my crimes. Because I had dared to stand up against them on that one occasion when I had refused to execute the hostage. And now the mob would not let me get off the hook for my rebellion.
    There really was only the choice between crawling deeper into my mousehole or jump out and hiss at the cat. Sometimes cats were spooked by a mouse doing that. Then they turned around and ran away. But you could bet that they'd return the other day to get even with the audacious rodent!


    "Hypothetically speaking", I ventured the next day, "what do you think could be done? Realistically, I mean. That's a moloch you want to confront, like the beast that's said to climb out of the water at the end of the world."
    Julie was well aware of that fact, of course. She picked up my analogy, reminding me that the people in that tale had venerated the beast, just like people today were looking up to the Landgraab.
    "This falsed image we need to destroy!" she told me. "Me and my friends are active as bloggers or activists. We try to open people's eyes to the truth."
    "Bloggers? Activists? But the Landgraab rule internet crime as well as the streets!" I exclaimed. "I'd stand the chance of a snowflake on the Twikki islands if I joined you!"
    Julie stared at me intently.
    "And how does that differ from your current situation?" she challenged.

    Alright, THAT barb had stung.


    To get a feel for the waters, I started a blog about my fishing. Innocently enough I uploaded pictures from my trip to Granite Falls. I commented on other blogger's shopping lists. Favourited their cats. Entered flame wars about the best browser. It was the closest thing I could think of to having a social life. Not my ideal situation, but it did go a long way towards preserving my sanity.

    Julie was determined to change that. Getting me back into life, I mean, not ruining my sanity completely. Though with Julie the difference often was hard to tell. Sometime she seemed to be a younger copy of late Amber. So Julie dragged me all the way to Granite Falls for Single's night, so we could get to know people. Woot, just what I wanted! More people that I could endanger!



    It looked as if I hadn't been the only one that Julie had worked her persuasion magic on:
    Enter Morgan "But I don't want a relationship!" Fyres, a member of the Renegades gang from Windenburg.


    But if I had the choice... if the Landgraab weren't after everybody I got close to, hm... Which one would it be, I wondered? The ex-space ranger who was into health food and wore sandals in the snow or the suicidical pianist who had declared war on Newstate's most powerful crime syndicate?


    I don't know, how about a normal girl instead?!


    Argh, how I hate it when the swearword filter goes mental on words that are used in-character :(And is "stew pit" in english really a worse insult than "half-witted"?"

    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 7: Once upon a time in Newstate

    For an (involuntary) loner, my family grew alarmingly quickly. It's newest member was called "Minka" and actually belonged into Enki Scrooge's household. I had only borrowed her to prepare for my next stage of internet fame: Viral cat videos!
    "There's only two types of cats", Enki had adviced me, and asked which one I prefered: A fish eater or a chicken eater. Any given type would not dine on the other's favourite diet period, he had claimed. Naturally as a caring ornamental carp owner I chose a chicken-eater, which





    ON FISH!

    Watching my new roommate enraptured by my Koi, I wondered if Enki should perhaps have shared his wisom with the cat instead of me!


    "Playing the innocent, are we? I'm going out, catching us a tuna. Wanna come along?"

    What gave this man the impression I'd want to eat that cold, slimy thing? The Koi's a cat toy, is all.

    I grabbed my fishing equipment and walked down to the stream. Johanna was there, too.

    Whim: Get to know Johanna

    Against all common sense felt the urge to socialize with the kid. I do not hate children, to the contrary, for the longest time my cover-identity during the hostage situation had been that of a babysitter. But this girlchild in particular only brought to mind that I was responsible for the death of her parents. And no amount of friendly chatting, dishing out advice or candy could make up for that. So why did I even try? But here I was, showing the tyke how to fasten the bait to the hook.


    "Basil is only good for catching parsley", I explained, which made the child giggle. "You'll want to use bluebell. For some rason the local fish cannot resist a bite of freshly plucked bluebell petals."
    "Perhaps because they always see the bluebell from afar, but cannot reach it? They never see basil or parsley!"
    "Right. These we only put onto them AFTER they cannot see any longer..."
    Again the child giggled, then we tossed out the lines.

    It didn't take long for an unsuspecting water dweller to take the bait.

    "Ui, look, it's a pufferfish!"
    "Huh! In our river?!"


    "Did you know that you can kill people with this, if you prepare it correctly?" Jo asked me.
    "Incorrectly, you mean. People die from incorrectly prepared pufferfish."
    "Well, yes, but if you wish them to drop dead, you'll want to prepare the fish incorrectly, so incorrectly becomes correctly."
    Simple children's logic. And a perfectly normal way to talk about death for kids that age. It didn't make them killers or bad persons, they were just being kids. Still I couldn't wipe the mental image of Lady Nancy giving Jo a demonstration of how to correctly-incorrectly prepare pufferfish nigiri in the Landgraabs's kitchen.
    "This pufferfish isn't in the mood to kill people", I said softly. "It is far from home and misses it's family. Toss it back!"
    With a splash the fish vanished below the waterline again.
    "I should go home, too", Johanna said.

    That evening I was motivated to really hurt the Landgraab. What I did instead was putting online a small ad for a product one of their rivals sold.
    It was like holding up a pin against an onrushing tank, but I felt satisfaction when the video went live. Soon the first comments came in. With a smug grin I read through them all, only to have that grin freeze on my face first and then give way for a blank expression next. For my followers were deserting my blog in troves.


    "You've betrayed your principles! For money!" they accused me.
    Wait, what? I wasn't aware that I HAD any principles... And I really liked that sportswear! Well, to be frank, what I liked about it was it not being a Landgraab brand. So I should have said "I really like the company". Now THAT would totally not discredit me further...
    I scraped off the deserters and went to take a bath. plum happened, most of the time to me.

    But if the world around you went crazy, trying to turn with it was probably your best bet. So after the bath I messaged Charlotte. The gods of commerce and non-Landgraab sportswear must have taken a liking to my actions earlier, because they arranged it so that my ex-girlfriend agreed to an outing!


    "Um, Charlotte... is that particular choice of a location somehow significant?"
    I mean - a wedding venue?!
    "Lol, no! Last time I checked there was only a lonely beach bar here. The Villareal sure are bent on gentrifying this island!"
    "Yes, but they need to take loans for... wait a moment, did you just say "lol"?"
    Charlotte laughed out loud: "I did!" Then she winked at me. "I thought you rising star on the internet might like it."
    "Wow! I didn't know you knew my blog. Why... nevermind, great, I mean!"
    "I didn't mean to embarass you", Charlotte said.
    By then we had, without realizing it, walked down to the beach, away from the awkward sight of the wedding venue.
    "I kept the tabs on you", Charlotte admitted. "Even though I wasn't ready to meet you face to face again, I didn't want you out of my life altogether. So I followed your blog, but I never found the heart to comment on it."


    "And are you still following me?"
    "You mean because of that ad? Of course! I know you'd never promote a brand that you do not like at least a little. You're a man of principles."
    That was the second time today someone had used that word, "principles", and my name in the same sentence.
    My mimic must have betrayed my consternation, because Charlotte added: "You are the laziest man I know, Julio, always looking for the shortest route to riches. That got you into trouble. But where you stand, there you stand, and solidly, that's a fact, too."
    "Haha! I do not stand anywhere!" I broke into a dash, because by now I had spotted the beach bar Charlotte had talked of. "Follow me!" I teased her further. And then...


    ...the night became too good for words.


    I later updated my status on the blog as "made a big catch on Windy Island tonight".


    Charlotte reblogged the one-liner together with a photoshopped picture of her sporting a mermaid tail.
    I was so not in favour of catch-and-release on this one!

    With a girlfriend in my life now, my determination to turn my life around for the better grew even stronger. Julie was right, it was time to take the fight to the Landgraab. Instead of constantly reacting only, we had to seize the initiative and I already had an idea how to accomplish that:

    Whim: Fight Dina

    "You wish to what?!"
    Even Julie couldn't believe it when I told her of my plan. As if I was talking in a foreign language suddenly!
    "Fight Dina, you heard that right", I said. "Look, you were right about our objective: We need to tear down that mask of benevolent post-capitalist enterpreteurs that the Landgraab wear. Make the public aware of their true face. Lady Dina is a hot-head, she won't be able to resist a couple of taunts or a snide remark about her mom."
    "Not her poor mom, Julio! The dead let rest in peace!"
    "As you wish."

    We arrived at the plaza near Landgraab manor the next day. Maurice that coward turned on his high heels and vamoosed immediately. But the rest of us stayed and Marina even cracked a few jokes with me as if I belonged to her and Julie's fellowship now.


    With grim determination we surrounded Malcolm when he showed his face. Aerith Baum was with us, and the sight of the poor thing in her misery served as a motivation to see this through till the end.

    Then everything happened very fast. Johanna had seen me through the window.
    "The angler-guy from the park!" she cried out, then she came running and would not let go of me before I had watched her collection of ... I honestly had no idea what of. Some "critters". The snippets of description Jo blabbered at me sounded terrifying.
    I was spared the sight of the monstrosities that prowled Willow Creek's gardens by the arrival of a bigger monster: Dina Landgraab.
    It was somehow fitting that our confrontation took place in Jo's room.


    "I do not fancy full-grown men in my step-daughter's bedroom!" Dina snarled.
    "Then we finally have something in common, for I do not fancy life-sized UFOs violating the people I care about", I retorted.
    "Implying something, rat?"
    "Nope, um, say, what's the foal of a llama called again? I need to know so I can use the correct insult for you."

    "Them are fighting words!" Dina hissed and with that a rather lopsided battle was joined.


    When I woke up from unconsciousness I heard every last one of my bones scream in pain. When the skeleton was calm for a few moments, fragments of an agitated conversation downstairs reached my ear:

    "What does that prove?"
    "You... trying... how..."


    After a while I identified the male voice as Malcolm's and the female as Julie's.

    "How does this look, after all!" Malcolm sneered. "A previously convicted thug provoked my wife in our own home. Of course she lost her nerve and beat him up! Everyone will empathize with that!"
    "Everyone but the law", Julie replied. "It's called vigilantism and taking the law into one's own hands is illegal. Especially if the retribution is as out of proportion as Dina's was. For real! Beating a man to within an inch of his life over a few brash words? How, do you think, will that make your family look?"


    Malcolm said nothing. I imagined he was either thinking hard or smiling down on poor Julie. Eventually she added: "People might also be interested in the fact where your wife learned how to defeat an experienced, hardened criminal in hand-to-hand combat..."

    "Alright, alright!" Malcolm caved in. "What do you want? Speak up and I'll grant it! Within reason, mind you!"
    "That you stopp harassing Julio."
    "Oh, are we doing that?"
    Now it was Julie's turn to maintain a telling silence.
    Eventually Malcolm spoke up again: "To end it, he needs to work for us again. Actually I thought that was pretty obvious? Once part of the family, always part of the family! We'll find a position for Julio where his liability causes no problems."


    My unwillingness to kill... a "liability". But, wait, had I heard that other part right? They'd take me back? I'd get my life back?! Would not have to fear the mob anymore? Could be ringleader again instead of filming Minka twitching an ear every other hour in front of my aquarium? Now what was not to like about that arrangement?

    This was a chaotic session with an unexpected chain of whims, chance cards and phone calls. The sims totally screwed with my initial ideas about how to proceed, but their input is part of what makes simming fun.
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 8: Read the manual!

    The mob granted me some time to recover before they wanted my answer. For the longest time of my period of grace I wasn't in the condition to think about anything. I lay on my couch, watching the fish swim in circles in her tank. Occasionally I woke from my stupor, wondering what that rasping sound right next to me ear might be. Then I discovered I had been stroking Minka for some time without realizing and her purring was just entering overdrive.

    The rumour mill, however, did not stand still during that time. I learned that when I eventually gave Charlotte a call because I felt ready again for some hot-tub woohoo. My girlfriend arrived raging as a bull - apparantly she knew very well that I was considering the Landgraab's offer.
    "Where you stand, you stand I said", Charlotte threw at me. "But that's where-ever you're paid the most handsomely, right?"

    Whim: Woohoo in the hot tub (and he's flirty from me misclicking at the mirror, had wanted confident instead)

    "You've been to college?"
    My out-of-the-left field question served to silence Charlotte mid-rant.
    "Huh? No, I..."
    "But seen any college movies? Cheerleaders, llama- and cow mascots? So tell me, if a cow mascot kissed you, should I be angry at you or rather at the mascot?"
    Charlotte's first response was a single "Oh...".

    Then her shoulders sacked. In that moment I felt like the most pathetic loser on earth. You could screw up at your job, lose all your money to a scam or run over your neighbor's chickens, but when you put your own girlfriend into misery you were at the lowest.

    "I'm sorry, Julio. Really, I realize that you are not responsible for the offer you were made by the Landgraab firm. I think... well, in fact I think the most sensible thing to do would be to accept. One cannot rightly be mad at you for wanting to save your life, after all! I believe I'm angry at myself for being mad at you nonetheless. Everything's such a tangled up mess inside my skull..."


    "I know, right?" I answered. "I mean, their bait is tempting: Do something innocent enough for us, like babysitting Jo and Aubrey! Or maybe they'll have me catch a cutesy pufferfish. But somewhere at the end of a long chain of events I'll have helped rearing new mobster queens and someone will die from my pufferfish. Of course I do not want that. Trouble is, I don't know how strong of conviction I really am - but do I know that I'll know by the end of the week."

    "Well, I hear hot-tub woohoo clears the head", Charlotte replied with a weak smile. "Look, I wish I could help you, but all I can think of is that if, one way or the other, I might lose you, I'd like to enjoy the time I still have with you to the fullest. Selfish, huh?"
    "Maybe. But also human!"

    And so I had angry woohoo with my girlfriend. Everything was so messed up!

    Time seemed to pass slower when I was out fishing.


    And by chance I discovered that pufferfish in our rivers weren't the only oddity Willow Creek's waters had in store for the patient fisherman. For once I did not exitedly blog about my angling success. What I had "caught" that day for was only for me alone to know and mine alone to keep.

    There were still four days left of the ultimatum when I saw Dina Landgraab in our neighborhood again. Taking care not to be seen, I positioned myself...


    ... and took out the item the pond had spat out.

    It was a voodoo doll, don't ask me how it had ended up in our park. The vicious thing did come with a manual of sorts, as in: it imparted the knowledge of how to use it and what could be accomplished with it directly into my mind. Conveniently so, because the potential user was unable to glean any actual arcane knowledge from the artifact. He stayed dependent on an initiate if he wanted more.
    Anyway, borrowed or not, real power flew threw my fingers that morning!


    Dina hadn't noticed what was going on. She was still chatting up a tourist from Newstate's capital, probably forging more connections for the mob at this very moment. Well, not much longer! The crime queen's aura was keyed to my voodoo doll now. Without wanting to, I closed my eyes. I really, really didn't like what I had to do next. Remember what I told you in the beginning? That everytime I played the hero somebody had to die? Only this time I chose who, when and how!


    At the ferry station I rented a motorboat and drove out to the bluffs. There I lit a bonfire, then waited.
    Sure as death and taxes Lady Dina arrived not much later, courtesy of the magic doll.


    "What's going on? I walked all the way up here - why was I compelled to do this?"
    "Don't worry. You neither have to understand what's going on nor contribute much. Just stand still, relax and enjoy..."


    And with that, I tossed the voodoo-doll into the fire! The effect was... worth the effort, I suppose?


    "Whoa, hot, hot, hot!"

    The sight along with Dina's yelling would have been funny, had I not known how it could only end: with her death.

    "Put it out! Put it OUT!"


    Seeing my victim blow on her burning sleaves it took all my strength not to run over and help her put out the flames. Perhaps, if I saved her life now, Dina would be so thankful that she'd never mess with me again? Maybe she'd even do my bidding for fear of further assaults? But, no, this wasn't how it worked in the real life. If I wanted to be free I had to let the fire do it's work all the way.

    And then it was over. As spontanously as the flames had erupted, they stopped.


    Lady Dina stretched her body, unharmed. She patted the stains from her miraculously still intact attire.
    "Phew... can't say this was my favourite pasttime", Dina moaned. "But for real, Mr. Escobedo, if these dolls worked the way you assumed they would, we'd employ them on a regular basis."

    The bonfire was slowly dying down and me, I didn't know whether to feel relief or to dread what was to come next.


    "So you have made your decision, Mr. Escobedo. That's good to know. Let me just inform Malcolm... be back with you in a minute."

    Ever so casually, as if commenting on one of my catvideos, Dina texted her husband. When she looked up again, the smile she displayed was put-on, her body language tense. So I HAD scared the mob queen on some level. Would that help me in the long run or had I just dug myself an even deeper grave?

    "Just to spice this up a bit", Dina announced, "the Landgraab will wait out the period originally allotted to you before we put anything into motion. Use this time however you see fit, Julio."


    With the airs of one who could afford it, Lady Dina turned her unprotected back towards me and walked away.

    I stood there at the cliffs, listening to the waves breaking at the rocks beneath me, staring into the clouds. The residents of Windenburg were preparing for the nightlife right in this moment, laughing, trying on outfits and applying makeup.
    But up here at the bluffs a war had been declared.

    Four days till oblivion.
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 9: A retcon on demand and a reveal, government funded for my (in)convenience

    After everything that had transpired, it was time for a chat with my contact in the Witness Protection Programm. These people dealt with high-profile crime all the time, they'd know what to do. Up until now I had been a very small fish in their eyes, one that warranted installing a sec cam plus an emergency call button in my house, perhaps an armed employee patrolling the neighborhood now and then, but not putting the whole new identity-routine into motion. My contact didn't even remember my case when I told her my name.


    "Assuming I attacked Dina Landgraab with voodoo magic today, what could the state do for me?"
    NOW I had the officer's full attention!

    "First class burial in the backyard of an asylum?" she replied. "By Poseidon's raging waves, were you out of your mind?! - Alright, I think of something. A relocation would be in order, naturally. It isn't foolproof, though. Nothing ever is. That's a risk you'll have to live with from now on. But at least we can make sure that you'll live for a while longer. Whether that kind of life is worth it, you need to decide for yourself."
    I wasn't sure what to make of that remark. Did that woman suggest I should suicide myself to cut down on the cost I was settling the government with? After all, I'd already told them everything I knew, so my continued existance held no benefit for Sim Nation.

    Over the next three days I learned how wrong I had been in my accusation. Sim Nation's government wasn't just the mob's rival, another faction of the same kind, only on the opposite side of an imagined line. No, they were in fact the good guys who acted out of gratitude and concern. Well, not my actual contact, she'd thrown me into the canal with my hands and feet tied together, if she'd gotten her way. But her superiors would not allow that. The ressources, both financial and man-hours, that the country invested into helping the criminal rat that was me... it was amazing!
    Amazing, but not always easy or painless. Getting my tatoos removed to prevent an all-too easy identification certainly wasn't high up on my list of things having done to me, especially not so soon after my recent brawl with Dina. At one point an alien disguise projector was brought into play, even. I still bear the emotional scars from wearing that thing as they are keyed to the alien psyche, not ours.
    Being the recipient of all the effort was a very humbling experience.


    When everything was prepared and still 12 hours of the ultimatum left, we drove to the state of New Maxisland at the border between Sim Nation and Al Simhara. We passed Strangetown, Viper Canyon and other places that I didn't recognize. The region had suffered during the shadowwar with the aliens, because out here, unlike around the Windenburg Bay, there had been nothing shadowy or clandestine about the conflict. It had been open, dirty and brutal.
    Today New Maxisland and Al Simhara were almost depopulated from mass-abductions and people fleeing to the hinterlands in troves. Landgraab, Beren, Caliente, Bellamy, Stein, Qat and Lotario... many of the families that were now residents of the Windenburg Bay in Newstate had originally come from the desert two decades or so ago.

    Eventually we arrived in Oasis Springs, the state capital of New Maxisland. The whole town existed for a single reason: commerce.
    After the peace-treaty Oasis Springs had become SimNation's most popular tourist spot. It's new fame still being more a local phenomen of SimNation's, we didn't see many foreigners, let alone tourists from Sixam here.

    "Let's go shopping!" Charlotte exclaimed. "And then visit the Ziggurat of mighty EA! Ea and Maxis are a big deal around here, right?"

    We'd been provided with a new wardrobe and everything we needed already, but I agreed nonetheless. Window-shopping with the wife while grumbling about having to do so... it was the closest thing I've had to a normal life ever since my first conviction.
    So I took my girlfriend's arm, smiling encouragingly. We were Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza now, shop-class instructor and part-time barkeep instead of mobster and art critic.


    Ziggurat shell by maxiscreator_01, interior by me


    Charlotte didn't even mind our situation much. She was at home anywhere as long as there were other people and it usually took her no longer than a day to behave like a local. Her true background remained an enigma even to herself, for Charlotte was an orphan with no memory of her childhood. She confided in me that this dragged her down sometimes, though I'd never actually seen her gloomy so far.
    That was only one example of how much we still had to learn about each other. Seeing that we were living together now, I could only hope that we'd not learn too much about one another for our relationship to endure. We had to make this work, if not for our own sake, then for Franklin's.

    I was Dustin Mendoza now, as Charlotte had become Anita. And the Mendozas had a son, Franklin. A thoughtful pre-schooler that tended to tag along when his mother visited this or that art gallery, because his father wasn't available. His father. Me.

    If they weren't going a tad too far by adding a random orphan to our family, I had asked my government contact. And never had the officer's grin been wider than in the moment when she revealed to me that there was nothing "random" or "orphan" about Franklin.
    I was a father and had been all along without knowing!
    Anita hadn't lied to me about our kid's existance. She just had chosen never to mention it.
    Now I understood a lot better why she had never visited me in prison: a growing baby belly would have sparked unwanted questions for certain! And after Franklin had been born, his mother had yet to come to terms with the question if and how deep to involve me into raising him. A difficult situation that had been solved rather forcefully by our need to escape from the Windenburg Bay.

    With the Landgraab firm bent on revenge, I should have been concerned that a child as young as Franky might tell the wrong things about our family to the wrong persons, thus jeopardizing our cover. But instead little Franklin gave me back my self-confidence. I was daddy, his daddy that had returned home from war captivity on the alien homeworld. I could do the sawing and cutting and glueing magic that
    created new toys, I could read (preferably to him and 24/7) and I never yelled when he sneaked noodles or rice out of the kitchen to apply to his drawings, or when he left clay all over the place.
    In short, I was a hero (mommy was a godess, though, one step higher and even more perfect, but sometimes less relateable to than a mortal hero was).


    The clay-toy slightly worried me, as I recalled the days when I had been longing for real, manufactured, battery-powered toys while all we children had was clay and maybe a toad in an empty jam glass. I didn't want my own son to grow up wanting for anything, for I knew where my envy had gotten me.
    For probably the first time in my life I cared for someone else's wellbeing, not just mine. Sure I had tried not to endanger my casual friends in Windenburg and I had saved that hostage's life, but these ideas had come from the mind, because they were sensible. With my new family it was different. The desire to see them well cared for and happy came not from reasoning, but from the heart.

    The prisoner of war part of my cover story Charlotte had made up last year when her son had started asking where his father or his other mother was. Because every kid he knew had two parents, not just one. And the government had made the lie official, even called a prisoner of war background believable, given my two incarcerations within short succession. They claimed I was showing all the textbook symptoms of a person that needed to adjust to life outside the slammer again.
    Issued at my name there existed now a service record that included a minor medal of valour and release papers from Sixam. Without having to lift a finger I had gone from a failure of a mobster to honorably discharged member of New Maxisland's engineer corps.
    It felt... waaayyy less awesome than it sounded.


    It felt so unreal to visit the war-museum inside the Ziggurat with my wife and son, a wife I had never married and a son I had met just a couple of days ago for the first time! It was a hundred facettes of awkward, especially with said son having been aware of my existance all the time!

    "What's a genie-soldier doing?" my son asked.
    "Do you mean an engineer corps soldier?"
    "What I said."
    Drat, the boy even knew the correct term for my pretend-occupation and could cite all the info about the war that tended to slip from my mind! Glancing around I quickly scanned the texts that Franklin couldn't read yet. They informed the visitor that the ziggurat had been used as a fortress and this region's command center during the war, with a vast network of vaults beneath.
    "Well, we do all the tinkering, constructing and programming needed in the field", I answered and explained how I had worked on a site almost like this. I grabbed measurements and terms from the information panels to weave into my story as I went along. Eventually I concluded my tale by saying: "We fight by making others safer."
    Franklin beamed! It was obvious how much he liked the fact that I hadn't directly employed a weapon.
    "He's your son through and through", Anita whispered.
    "And yours", I replied, pointing at Franklin who was going straight for a display case that presented some of Lt. Ulrike Faust's handdrawn studies of Sixam's flora instead of looking at the photographs.
    "Photography can be art, too!" Anita protested.
    "Well, maybe, but not the way I do it", I joked.

    We proceeded to play at the arcade machines, um, to experience the totally historically correct simulations of major battles from the war, I mean. Arcade machines and the latest models, too! This museum sure knew how to attract visitors beyond the occasional school trip group!
    "Well, this ziggurat is still a holy site of Ea and Maxis", Anita said with a grin. "The museum is bound to offer opportunities for proper worship to the believers."
    "Um, yes? These two are the Overlord and the Creator or did I miss something there?"
    "But when they deign to leave their land of Origin and mingle with the mortals, they do so in the guise of a businessman and an entertainer. If the museum is neither financially succesfull nor entertaining enough to the visitors, the gods might stopp giving their blessings to this place."
    This adventure was getting weird and even morer weirder by the minute! I'd never before worshipped a deity by playing a videogame. Well, come to think of it, I'd never really worshipped any god at all, so it evened out, I guess.


    "Have you seen the Blue Meadows on Sixam?" Franklin inquired mid-battle.
    "No", I said softly. "They didn't let us prisoners out at all. We had to train to battle each other in their arenas all day."
    Having remembered that particular detail correctly gave me a real confidence boost. It brought back memories of how I had strived on making things up and always being one nose ahead of others during my time as a con man, before my first conviction. It had been fun, I had felt alive and best of all: it was neither work nor real crime. Well, from the point of view of my twenty year old self, at least.
    Franklin's thoughts, to the contrary, were about the future, as were all children's.
    "So when I'm old enough to go to Sixam as a tourist, you'll see the planet for the first time, too?" he asked.
    My son seemed to like that prospect very much.
    "Will we go to Sixam?" I wondered aloud, smiling.
    For Julio conflicts were simple: Greenlings and Humans had argued, subsequently brawled and were now ready to be friends again, just like it happened kindergarden all the time. But I doubted Dina and Malcolm would see things this way anytime soon...
    I tried to shove away such thoughts best as I could. Determined to make the best of my time, I took life as it came. For a time, there was bliss only.

    There: Could life get any more perfect than this?


    All through my childhood I had valued the good things money could by. Later I had learned that things money could not buy, because they required the right connections or were rare, were even more valueable (and thus more desireable). But lately I had come to treasure other gifts that were very hard to come by: Peace and peace of mind.


    Franklin: "Can life get any more boring?"

    "If we are patient, we'll have fishes noboby else in town has!"
    "Really nobody? But... but, but aren't the fish lonely then?"
    "Well, are YOU lonely being a single child, sprout? Just say so and we'll immediately drive to the hospital to buy another one!"
    That silenced my kid, because the last thing he wanted was a sibling. He took comfort in the fact that we didn't have the kind of money to purchase another child at the hospital (which was how Anita had told him children came into being).

    Note: I have no idea why I captured the UI in the first museum picture. Well, obviously for something I wanted to show you/use in the story, but it slipped from my mind and isn't in the notes, either.
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited December 2016
    - deleted double post here -
    (sorry,hit "comment" instead of "edit", really not my best day today :s )
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 10: Worst memory at it's best

    With our escape from the mob, the reveal about our child and my new teaching job that allowed me to profit from all the official school holidays at full pay with none of the downsides real teachers have to deal with, there was only one thing missing in my life.

    It started with a lie...


    "Say, Anita, now that I'm back and we are together as a family again, would you like to renew our vows?"


    ...and ended with a truth from the heart:

    "Yes, every day of my life!"


    Hooray, soon I would marry my wife!
    Man, was our life messed up...

    Look at Franklin's mimic in the pictures: Romantic proposal - not worth looking at, exchange of pretty gifts - very doubtful look, snogging - yay, now mom and dad are getting to the good stuff!

    The preparations for our "anniversary" took some time. In between organizing things we often hit the local lounge, one of the few buildings in town that had gotten through the war almost unscathed. Still, unlike around the Windenburg Bay, the war years were the most common topic in Oasis Springs. For some it was more intense than for others. There were other New Maxislanders who had spent the war in refuge in Newstate like Anita pretended, and others were traumatized from captivity at Sixam, just like my own cover-story went. So we were not seen as oddballs, but perfectly normal residents of Oasis Springs. Despite this, we hadn't made any friends in Oasis Springs so far. Our relationship to neighbors, co-workers and the parents of my students remained on friendly terms, but shallow.

    The first real friend we made was a tourist, Vanessa Hilgers by name and one quarter alien. Seeing that we were of roughly the same age as her and didn't push her away at first sight, Vanessa attached herself to Anita and me. Soon we learned that our new aquaintance was here on a vacation with her boyfriend and that they both had moved from Granite Falls to Willow Creek, but continued to work in their old hometown.
    This was where Anita and me grew very still and very silent.


    "I'm a park... ranger... and Keith... is..."
    Vanessa's voice trailed off when she noticed how tense we had become. She believed the awkwardness was due to it sinking in only now that she was part alien.
    All the while my heart beat loudly. Park ranger! Granite Falls! Willow Creek! Had this Vanessa seen me on my weekend trips to the campground and to singles night? Had our pathes crossed at the river in Willow Creek? Now that place wasn't exactly a village where everybody knew everybody else, but still... Please, no, this isn't fair! Please, everyone in Origin who can hear me now, do not let us be found out so soon!

    It turned out that the woman didn't recognize me. She gave us all the time we needed to pull ourselves together, firmly under the impression that we needed some time to adjust to her presence. When Keith joined us later that evening, the awkwardness had subsided already.

    The four of us met a few more times and one day we undertook a long trip together with Franklin. And when the couple was still there when we had our we-must-not-call-it-a-wedding party, it felt only natural to invite them.


    Our secret wedding/pretend-anniversary was far from the lavish festivity I had imagined a wedding of mine to be when I had joined the mob. I should not be ungrateful, but I admit it stung. Other than Keith and Vanessa there was only Jasmine Holiday, a traveling cleric of Ea and Maxis. Just like Keith she was a half-fairy, as her ears gave away. In Keith's case it was only his full name that betrayed his otherworldly heritage: Kethriama Qat, from his fairy and his Al Simharian parent.

    The exitement one should feel about meeting fairies just didn't manifest, because their otherness had long dwindled in the face of the utter alieness that The Hive represented. Form the war's onset the species and races of earth had managed to percieve themselves as one people. There was a politically correct word for us, but most people simply used "human" to refer to all the different species alike. And Franklin was priviledged to grow into that mindset naturally. To him it wasn't a big achievement, but normality.

    Speaking of Franklin... the child had become the sole focus of our life and we cared about nothing else.


    Um, right, make that last one "little else" B)

    We taught Franklin how to swim, about the only kind of exercise we were able to goad him into.


    Splashing in fountains was not only more fun, but also more adviseable given the state our neighborhood's public pool was in. The only clean and functional item there was a waterslide and that one, surprise, cost money to use. On the upside, the ticket machine was out of function most the time, so that evened out.
    credits: Die Alte Therme (only partially shown) by, I think, DerFlix

    We went through the suggested pre-school exercises with Frank:

    And we read to him the good old tales we had grown up with ourselves:
    Picture: I replaced almost all the ingame books. "First" unicorn" is one of the few that I kept, but it became "Jimmy Sprocket and the first unicorn".

    Franklin re-enacted Jimmy Sprocket's adventures, but still wasn't too fond of exercising. In turn we took inspiration from our kid's games and sometimes adjusted a few lines in the books to his imagination. In time the Jimmy we read about became of blend of the fictional character and our son. At first I was afraid that this was strange or even unhealthy and that we plum at parenting, but Anita re-assured me that her aunties in the orphanage had done the same.

    Here, let me show you: this is the most terrible thing that happened in the last week.

    "Look here, junior! This is something I loved to do when I was a kid!"


    "What, spraying crawlies?" Franklin looked sad. By now he knew that I had grown up in poverty and understood what that meant. "You didn't have a tricycle, even, dad?"
    Putting aside the unfortunate implications of "tricycle" and "crawlies" in the same sentence I quickly corrected:

    "No, doing graffitti! That's like painting, only on the ground."

    When she saw what we were doing, Anita, too, wanted to give it a try. Only she was clumsy at it at first:



    "Oh, oh no! I'm coming, I'm coming!"


    "It's alright, my glasses saved me. I have to be more careful next time."


    My wife liked the new hobby, but let me never again invite our son to it.

    It was a real problem. First the shock, then Anita's verdict that sparked some snarky comments from me in the days to follow... Yesss! My worst memories are about a household accident and an argument over child-raising! I'm so lucky :-)


    But still not fully there. To be back into normal life again I need to not even notice anymore how good everything is, but take it for granted instead.
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 10a: Outtakes that didn't make it into the story

    Too close
    When Julio and Charlotte visited Oasis Springs' lounge for the first time, the game drafted Malcolm Landgraab to visit there, too. I wasn't ready to deal with my sims being discovered so soon, so I fervently kept them out of Malcolm's line of sight. Fortunately he left after getting a drink from the bar without noticing the runaways. For purposes of this story it was just a guy that vaguely resembled Malcolm, not the mobster himself. But the encounter sure gave the couple a scare!

    Progressive parent
    Try, just try talking a four year old out of their favourite colour combo. Good luck with that...
    The plush unicorn, a girly toy, gave Julio the repuation of being a very progressive parent for raising his son gender-neutral. Charlotte smiles and nods to this, but she knows the real reasoning behind the purchase: The unicorn is the most expensive one of the giant plushies and it gives an environment bonus. For a materialistic sim like Julio the other toys just weren't worth considering.
    (Also both parents would probably have gone insane from seeing yet another dinosaur.)

    The chronicle will now take a break until next year.
    Thank you for reading & if you liked it, now would be the time to hit the button that says so ;)
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Played a bunch of other households and added a new sim, but have a rough idea what direction to take the Mendozas into. Until I get back to them, have an exited "yay, I have a new sim" post ;)

    Interlude: A mobster and her UFO

    A newcomer had moved into the neighborhood where Julio had lived and where the kidnapping (link in the first post) had taken place before. As if she'd emerged right from a TVtropes article, the new resident's haircolor matched that of her eyes. It wasn't that she had decided to dye her hair, or at least she'd only brightened up a few strands and left the rest well alone in it's natural color - which was blue. Blue as the endless ocean in the thereafter where the Grey Lady's palace emitted it's welcoming light for all children of the ancient mother godess.
    The blue haired woman went by the name of Tia, daughter of house Ubaid and she was what the humans called an alien. Tia's thoughts revolved around her appearance, her leisure activities and her religion, just like it was true for so many residents of Newstate. In this all "talking animals", be they humans, fairykind or of the hive, were more alike than they were different.
    Tia spoke accent-free ancient sumerian, because that was what she'd been taught in school as "the human language". Her simlish was patchy and seeded with military phrases, because that was what she'd occupied her time with after school: getting drafted to fight in the shadow war against humanity. But that dark chapter of hive history was over now and the only crimes Tia commited these days were violations of the park rules:


    A newcomer to Willow Creek, Tia nevertheless was no stranger to life on earth. She'd lived planetside for a couple of years already and had finally saved up enough money to buy a small house in a nice neighborhood. Incidentally that was Julio's abandoned shack.
    When she moved in, Tia wore her disguise and didn't plan to drop it anytime soon. For one, while in disguise she could wear any outfit she wanted regardless of price or wearing comfort, because she simply projected what she wanted to look like over her actual appearance. For two, Newstate was alien-friendly, so she didn't have to expect hostilities. But otherworlders were still exotic and Tia didn't want to deal with curiosity or gossipping. Not there would be much fodder for gossip, mind you. Tia's reputation was untarnished, for she was no wartime offender. In fact, she had deserted the hive during the early years of the shadow war. Captain Tia Ubaid didn't want to fight and pollinate humans on behalf of the Disciples of the Grey Lady. She was, however, perfectly willing to fight and pollinate humans for the promise of money. In short, Tia was a mercenary. For the Landgraab firm.

    Three other members of Tia's crew regularly visited Newstate, though they prefered to live aboard their stolen spacecraft. Of all of the rogue aliens only Captain Tia was allowed in the headquarters of the Landgraab firm. Malcolm Landgraab, husband and second in command to the mob queen, was pleasantly surprised by the Captain's appearance:

    "That's from the Santo Myshuno fashion line, isn't it? I didn't know you could afford that brand with what we pay you."
    Tia laughed!
    "I can't! What you see isn't real clothing - just part of my disguise."
    "But you aren't in disguise at the moment!"


    "Am, too, Mister Landgraab, am, too. See, I programmed the projector to display a human bodyshape and these clothes, but fed it the data of my real skin, hair and eyes. It's as easy as creating a recolor in Sims Forever."
    Malcom said nothing. Either he didn't want to imagine what (if anything) Tia actually wore underneath her holographic disguise - or he DID imagine it in the most vivid colors.
    Eventually the man spoke up again: "Copyright violations and assorted crimes are real bad, Captain..."
    "Wait, what?"
    Tia shook her head in disbelief.
    "What do you mean by that, crime?"
    What she'd done was a common practice among the hive people and Tia told Malcolm so.
    "We'll make sure it won't be common anymore - or practiced at all", the mobster promised. "Using brands in a holographic disguise will only be allowed if the associated protection fee is payed."

    Not for a single moment did Tia doubt the Landgraab were able to goad industry and government into passing such a law. The mob's influence was strong, especially with half of their contacts being blissfully unaware that they were dealing with a criminal organisation.

    "Landgraab! Me and you and your wife know you're doing this for the love of the money. But think about how such a law would look to me brethern! I'll tell you: Like another demonstration of earth's power after winning the war. It won't sit well with the hivepeople."
    "Well, then next time don't lose... oh, I forgot you WANTED your side to lose, Captain Turncoat..."
    Tia smirked. "I'll consider this as my surname should the need for one ever come up."

    Tia turned away from the man, looking out through the window, her arms folded in front of her body as if protecting herself from something only visible in her memories.
    "What me and my crew are doing for you... what Lady Dina has her other subjects do... everything the mob does... it doesn't compare to the evils of the Disciples of the Grey Lady. They turn everything our mother is upside down. Not even you would want them to rule the hive once again."
    Malcolm shrugged. "My mother concluded that they were bad for business, is all. But enough of this! I see Dina return from town. She's brought Victor and the girls should be back from school any moment, too. Let's settle down for a game of cards and a round of drinks!"
    After a short pause Tia agreed: "I guess that would be for the best."

    In the days to follow the new resident made some friends in her neighborhood. As a noblewoman and officer Tia wasn't used to household chores or cooking, so she usually downed some cereal with milk in the morning and scrounged leftovers from picnic tables for lunch and dinner. It still wasn't the proper demeanor expected from a daughter of house Ubaid, but letting perfectly good food go to waste was even worse, right?

    Alton Bellamy seemed to be of the same opinion and so the two of them met for the first time over plates of yesterday's grilled fruit:


    Tia greeted the man in a jolly fashion, unaware of how he had suffered in the same house she inhabited now years ago. Why he went back to this place from time to time Alton could not tell himself.

    Tia noticed how her new aquaintaince was prone to brooding, so she took him into town a few times.
    "Let's get you into shape!" she told him to which the young human smiled.
    "Training? I've never tried that before."
    "So what are you doing for fun?"
    "Reading comics. But I'm not good at staying with the same hobby for long anyway."

    And so that weekend they ran the treadmills together.

    Originally Tia had planned to test several fitness centres before deciding on one to get a card for. But then there was Kerigo Hasegawa, the local coach:


    Kerigo had the dull black eyes that were typical for hybrids in contrast to the star- glowing eyes of the hivepeople. But hybrid or full-blooded hiveman, he was kin in a land of strangers and Tia felt a sudden surge of attraction to the male. However enlightened the captain might be about everyone being made of the same stardust, the pesky ancient segments of the brain had their own ideas about whom Tia should befriend.
    For once a coach wasn't a hulking heap of muscles, to the contrary, Kerigo seemed very spindly, which led Tia to assume that he was a disguised alien. In truth the man was probably three times her own weight and could jog once around the neighborhood with herself perched on one shoulder and Alton on the other.

    During next weeks Tia found little time to socialize with Alton or Kerigo. Now that she was living close to their headquarters, the Landgraabs were quick to summon their vassal for this or that odd side job. One of these was touring Victor of the San Myshuno branch of the mob through Willow Creek.

    Tia and Alton met again at the Spice Festival in San Myshuno where he worked a part time job at the barbecue:


    "Hey there! Need a fire?"
    "No, I... why do you pester me?"
    Tia nearly dropped the stick. What was that about pestering? If Alton had the right the mad at her, she thought, then for neglecting him, not the other way around for catching up with him again! But instead of defending herself or accusing the man, Tia simply teased:
    "You are everywhere, huh?"
    "It's an old habit. You wouldn't understand."
    "You haven't even tried!" Tia was about to yell, but then reconsidered. This wasn't the time to argue, for Alon clearly wasn't in the right mood. If she pressed him any further, everything would spiral into a catastrophe. No, it was better to bide one's time and try again another day.
    "Um... okay."
    The sparkler burned down.
    Tia nodded her farewells and went to check the souvenier booth...
    Post edited by EnkiSchmidt on
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 11: On the wings of a ... bat?
    "If wishes were horses, where would they take you?"
    "Same place I am, but with all the added luxury your horses can carry here!"
    - Pine and Julio during the kidnapper challenge

    There once was a couple that went by the names of Anita and Dustin Mendoza. These weren't there actual names for reasons already detailed in the previous chapters. But since man and woman were doing their best to forget about all that had transpired (or at least were determined not to let it drag them down) Anita and Dustin is what we will call them here.
    Anita was your typical person in her late twenties: She worked for her living, not the other way around, was interested in many things without having mastered one and was prone to the occasional gloomy day.
    Dustin on the other hand seemed to be, at first glance, an average, down-to-earth husband who kept the household afloat and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life: a hearty meal, a saturday spent tinkering and nice, not too imaginative woohoo. It came to nobody's surprise that Dustin did all the homestyle cooking while Anita baked the more fanciful pies for desert. Their son, Franklin, enjoyed both.
    However, Dustin had a restless soul, a lust for wealth paired with a loathing for steady work. Ever so often he's dream up some get-rich-quick scheme that kept the little family on their toes for a week or so and that ended in a near-desaster. Afterwards the Mendozas were richer by memories of a shared adventure, but rarely if ever in measureable money.

    Their latest adventure began, as it always did, at a perfectly normal afternoon at home...
    Franklin was playing by himself in his room, Anita leafed through an arts & crafts magazine and Dustin pinned postcards the Hilgers couple had sent from all around the globe onto the hobbyroom's wall. When there was a knock at the door, Anita cursed the bell that had went out of commission AGAIN, put aside her magazine and went to see who was there.

    A moment later she peeked into Dustin's little workshop.

    "Um, darling?"
    "What would you say if I told you that a shaikh of Al Simhara just knocked at our door?"
    "I'm sure he hasn't."
    "Has, too... come and have a look for yourself!"
    "Oh, I believe you that the man is standing there alright, but sure as birds fly he hasn't knocked. I bet a servant or bodyguard will have done so in his stead."

    "If this amusing display of domestic goofing is done, can we get to business, Mr. and Mrs. Escobedo?" a teenaged voice interrupted the exchange. Then a boy of about sixteen years elbowed his way into the floor. "My master indeed bears the title and responsibilities of a shaikh, however, today he is here in his other function as chairman of the New Maxisland/Al Simharian histoirian's society", the lad claimed.
    Dustin left the workshop to intercept the visitor.
    "And you are who?" he demanded.
    "Korbinian Sentrie, secretary in training and humble servant of his excellence Shaikh Beren of the Prydelands."
    The Mendoza's strongly suspected that "humble" meant something else in Al Simharian than it did in simlish. Most probably "incredibly rude"...
    "And you knocked at our door?" Dustin asked.
    "Um, yes?"
    "See, Anita? I called it!"


    Leaving Korbinian with a dumbfounded expression and Anita giggling, Dustin turned his attention towards the adult visitor.

    "Good afternoon Mister... what was the the correct way to adress you again?"
    "It's "Mr. Prydeland". Just use the domain as a normal surname."
    "Well, then, Mr. Prydeland, come in and let's touch bases! Fancy a soda? A coffee?"
    "A glass of water would be refreshing now, thank you - Korbinian, you?"
    "An orange juice, please. Thank you, sire."

    After everyone was seated, Dustin spoke up again: "So, Chairman, what brings you to us?"
    "We've heard tell you are quite the adventurer, Mr. Mendoza. The society would like to ask your help in an excavation. The site is actually nearby, on Sim Nation territory."
    "Private property?"
    "Governmental and do not worry, we secured all the required paperwork. Buerocracy and research is what the society members are good at. Physical prowess - less so. We need an extremely dexterous individual to open a door that was bolted shut in the mountains."
    "What exactly is that door and where do you suspect does it lead to?"
    "An old mine, abandoned since the times of the conquistadores." The chairman smirked when he added: "With a name like yours, you are practically their kin!"

    "Yeah, right", Dustin replied.
    Of course he knew about the (unfreiwilligen) founders of Sim Nation. The conquistadores had come from across the ocean with guns and their foreign gods, Jumbok and Poseidon. In their advance they had crushed everything under their heels, an unstoppable avalanche. At least until the principalities had united and driven back the invaders. Unity had won against modern weapons, but though they were gone, the conquistadores' legacy remained. Along with the inevitable plum children they had left tidbits of their knowledge and culture behind. They had also founded the Knights of the Hedge - or had that been the crusaders? Dustin couldn't tell for sure. Far too many conquerers had been interested in the Al Simharian desert, from the earlierst days of humankind up to the alien incursion about twenty years ago. The important thing to remember about them all that they had left treasure scattered around!
    So, no scavenging for crashlanded alien espionage satellites this time, but something as simple as putting a crowbar to a door.
    "Why not dynamite?"
    "Nah, that might destroy something valueable behind that door. Or trigger a trap. We better play it safe."
    "Sensible", Mr. Prydeland nodded.


    "And I want a fair share of the spoils: ten percent!"
    "Mister Mendoza!" the chairman exclaimed. "As a legitimately employed excavation helper of the Society
    you'll of course get payed by the hour! Plus expenses."
    "Okay, in this case be prepared for some long hours, because I do not intent to lift a finger for your starvation wages!"
    A smile crossed Mister Prydelands face. He had expected nothing else and, truth be told, would have been disappointed had the New Maxislander simply accepted his initial offer.
    "I think I can agree to this: Pick one item from inside the mine and the society will buy it from you for the material worth."
    "Mhm, okay."
    Dustin sealed the pact with a handshake, then both men signed a contract.
    "I'll be the first in there anyway", Dustin thought, "and then it will be finders, keepers..."

    Outtake - What really happened:
    Now Korbinian is normally a good kid. After I let him and Beren in, Korbinian went straight for the Franklin's room and started chatting with him, leaving the adults to their own business. I had to lock him into a group with the others to include him in the negotiations. When I saw that Anita was slightly hungry I had her grab a drink. Korbinian immediately rose and followed her into the kitchen, then he stared at the poor girl and eventually made the gesture in the right picture, as if he wanted to say "One for me, too, please!"


    But back to the story:

    Whatever the various invaders had sought here, the Maxis desert for sure was rich in one thing: landscape. A photographer's paradise, but hell for every other living thing. Korbinian had settled into "stoic servant" mode, but Mister Prydeland was beaming with anticipation and eagerly answered every question Franklin shot at him. Anita was driving and Dustin's thoughts were far away. He returned to the present when the car stopped, asking "This is the place?" just to say something.
    "Yes", Mr. Prydeland confirmed. "The entrance we want re-opened is down that canyon."
    Dustin took his wife's hand and then they ran down the canyon together, followed by Franklin and the employers.


    "Step back, okay?" Dustin asked his companions.
    "Oh, oh!" Franklin exclaimed. "Something nasty coming out of the cave?"
    In truth Dustin had thought about his tools flying from his hands or splinters, but he grinned and told his son to keep his slingshot ready.
    Then he went to work.


    His first attemps at prying loose the bars taught Dustin a lot. He realized that brute force would get him nowhere. Instead the man took his time to identify which bar connected to which and worked his way from the inner- to the outermost strata of wood. Only then he disessembled it piece by piece like an elaborate game of mikkado.

    "I'm going in now."
    Anita kissed her man on the cheek. "Be safe!"
    "Be cool, dad!" Franklin added.
    Since nobody was willing to wish him "be rich" Dustin entered the maw.


    The tunnel right behind the entrance was surprisingly wide, the floor flat. It might easily lull an explorer into a false feeling of safety, Dustin thought. Determined not to fall for this, he took his time to check for traps and whatnot. After some time it was obvious that the tunnel instead had done a good job at lulling an explorer into unfounded paranoia... still Dustin kept his routine going.
    He passed a side tunnel that had collapsed long ago and didn't look like a man could squeeze through, the reached the end of the tunnel.
    A ladder led deeper into a shaft. Dustin didn't trust the ancient wood. Instead he drilled a hole into the wall, put in a hook and fastened a stury rope around it.
    In the light of his headlamp he double-checked his progress every meter. The descent seemed to go on endlessly. Somewhere deep down there was a faint, blueish glow that Dustin took for crystals. It could just as well have been the streetlights in Takemizu village on the opposite side of the globe, because it didn't come any closer. Eventually Dustin's arms grew weary. He stopped and climbed up again until he reached a narrow ledge that he had passed before. Heaving his body onto that ledge he planned to rest up a bit. Dustin leaned his back against the shaft's wall - and keeled over!

    "Whoa - what the...?"

    Tumbling backwards down some slope Dustin cursed all the demon-bugs that barred the righteous souls entry into Origin Beyond. Of course, the trap was always where one least expected it!
    When Dustin's fall came to an end, he realized that he had not fallen into a trap, but by chance found what he had been looking for: the real entrance to the mine, concealed by the fake wall that had given way when he had pressed his full weight against it just a couple of moments ago.
    He rose and entered the first room. Discarded tools lay scattered across the place. Cobwebs and mold were covering everything and none of the stuff looked serviceable anymore.


    Much to Dustin's surprise the entrance room was the only space that showed signs of human interference. Right behind the creates and garbage opened a natural cave of unworked stone. The strange glow was present here, too, but instead of just blue it was a myriad of colors blending into each other. Somewhere in the ceiling had to be at least one hole, because faint daylight lit the cave and hundreds of bats were sleeping through the day until it was time to swarm.

    After having taken all this in, Dustin knelt down. If his eyes hadn't decieved him, there was a vein of some ore running right under his soles. The man brought out his tools to take a sample. Ores and crystals that were deemed to lay too deep inside the rock to get at with the means of the conqistadores might still turn out profitable now - 500 years later.


    "So, that's it. A fossil embedded in limestone worth about 200 New Maxisland thalers and an honorary mention in the minutes of the historian's society", Dustin said to himself when he was done. That couldn't have been everything!

    And indeed there was a gleam of gold in the shallow pond. Or brass, more like it. The hinges of a small chest that had found it's way into the pond - because someone had hidden it there? Not fancying taking a bath Dustin returned to the entrance where he cobbled together a fishing rod.
    "Now, come to papa!"
    The hook caught the chest. Maneuvering it gently, Dustin managed to dislodge his "prey" and soon it floated upwards and into his waiting hands.


    "Yay, treasure!"


    ...well, if one considered five hundred years old snapdragon seed treasure, that is. Perhaps the flower had been a rare one back then, but nowadays it grew all over the place.

    However... during his "fishing" for the chest Dustin had glimpsed fish jump out of the water and dive in again. Occasionally it had looked as if one of the bats had taken a dive in the pond. Looking again more closely Dustin realized that he was watching fish whose fins had taken she shape of batwings. Such a species was unknown to science as well as cusine!

    Click... click... click...

    Dustin wasn't the best photographer in the world, in fact, he was close to the worst. It took several tries until he times his shots right until he finally held the resemblance of a photography in his hands. Granted, it looked rather like a drowning bat than a fish, but it was undeniable proof of his discovery!


    Elated, Dustin returned to the shaft where his rope was still dangling. Though he couldn't help but wonder how that strange fish would taste, the man had had enough adventure for one day.
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 12: The fish that ate the cat

    So what do you get when you take a photo of a hitherto unknown species of fish? Or at least one that was forgotten for about 500 years?
    Dustin Medoza knew the answer:

    60 Al Simharian crowns and a mention in National Geographer where his picture was published accompanied by the following description:

    "Reflection of a bat flying over a pond, giving the impression of a batlike fish."

    The crowns were worth 80 New Maxisland thalers*. The disappointment, however, was hard to express numerically.
    No one believed Dustin. No one took his sincere protestations that the fish was real as anything other than a joke. And after a couple of days even his closest friends tired of hearing about the batfish, telling Dustin to drop that topic already. He'd had his fun and his five minutes in the spotlight and if he wanted five more, then he'd have to come up with another creative picture.

    "Creative", bah! The only one who had been creative with that fish was almighty Maxis in Origin Beyond! But unlike the deity, whose existance was assumed, yet never proven, the fish was real.

    There was a saying, "seeing is believing". Dustin didn't want the people to "believe" in his fish. He wanted them to know for certain and if he had to beat them with a cold, wet and still still twitching specimen, so be it! If said specimen bit one or two of the "experts" in the process, all the better...

    So Dustin's next goal was clear: Catch a batfish and present it to the scientists!

    But what to use for bait? What would a batfish eat? Probably other fish and the frogs that lived around the pond in the cave. Such a diet was certainly healthy for the fish, but Dustin had yet to meet an animal that wouldn't have jumped at the opportunity to dine on something totally not species-appropriate. Something close enough to it's normal feeding habits, something that was easy to digest, but an interesting change of the normal meals.
    So the man took his time exploring the neighborhoods of his hometown and gathering a variation of tasty amphibs before heading off to the cave again.


    Dustin cleared the entrance room from the broken mining equipment and established his basecamp there. The temperature wasn't a problem, not after having survived a sudden onset of winter in Granite Falls on a tin of health food before. How long ago that seemed now...
    Anyway, the cave was uncomfortably damp and every meal felt like having the cold. What lifeform that wasn't a slug might strive in these conditions?!


    Well, the elusive batfish, for starters.

    It was still there, as it had been the week before and the centuries before that all the way back to the conquistadores and probably the dinosaurs. And to be frank it was quite amused by the intruder into his ancestral doman. Jumping and cartwheeling close to the blinker, but never taking a bite, it teased the fisherman.

    "Alright, chum, enough is enough", Dustin hissed through clenched teeth. "Now it's personal between me and you!"


    Soon night fell and the bats that had been hanging below the ceiling began to swarm. It was a majestic sight. Well, not the actual opening of wings, sleepy looking around, careful change of position and clumsily plummeting towards the ground - that part was rather cute. Bats in this state couldn't help being anything other than cute. But once in flight, hundreds of individuals in seemingly chaotic patterns, yet following an order of it's own, that was impressive.


    The uge crystals started humming, probably caused by the bats' ultrasonic shrieks. The sound grew in volume and intensity. It was unsettling, so Dustin decided to call it a day and go to bed. Closer to the mine entrance the crystals' song wasn't audible anymore.

    The next day Dustin resumed his fishing adventure.

    Not even half an in he was rewarded by a catch...

    ...which was the exact opposite of his sinister batfish.

    As if the cave wanted to mock the angler, a fat fish with rainbow colored fins and tail dangled from the hook. It looked like something straight out of Oz. Checking his catch Dustin decided that it was good enough to practice his taxidermy on. It would look nice above the computer at home and might inspire Anita for a pinata for Franklin's sixth birthday.


    During the days to follow Dustin fished empty glasses, dislodged hinges and the remains of wooden crates out of the pond. The man found the collection of driftwood that was steadily growing slightly disturbing.
    Images of a party crossed his mind unbidden. People were tossing their empty glasses into the water... Dustin could almost hear them laughing. There was a pale girl wearing nothing but a metal helmet - obviously one of the conquistadores from across the sea. She was dancing with a clansman of the local principality, an enemy, as history taught, but didn't seem to bother the couple.
    Steps... were that dancing steps that he heard or was it just the sound of water dripping from the ceiling?
    The angler turned around.

    But no, Dustin was alone. What he saw was only his own reflection in the crystals, his features weirdly distorted, the skin bereft of color.
    The sight wasn't pleasant and Dustin instantly wished he'd kept daydreaming instead of looking into the crystal-mirror.

    "Now that's a sight even less welcome", Dustin commented his latest catch.
    A catfish had greedily grabbed the bait and was now attached to the hook.

    But just when a curse threatened to escape Dustin's lips, he noticed how heavy the fish was. Heavier than a specimen of this size should be!
    "Now let's see, have you perhaps gobbled up the Capitano's secret stach of gold coins from the pond floor?"
    Looking closer Dustin noticed that a second fish was holding on his catch: A batfish had jumped after it just when Dustin had reeled in the catfish! It held fast and slowly slurped the bigger fish dry.

    So that was what they really ate: like leeches the batfish fed on blood!

    Dustin waited till the gruesome meal was over. Then he grabbed the batfish and turned it arund a few times. It was no bigger than a human hand and indeed looked remarkebly like a bat that had learned how to swim. The fins were attached in a weird angle. Probably the batfish were living fossils, descendants of some prehistoric fish from a time and place where this build had been viable.


    "Okay, don't squirm, the worst is behind you", Dustin told the fish. "Lucky for you you never bit the hook."
    The fish was unharmed and had eaten well, most likely it would survive the little scare. With a bucket Dustin fetched water from the pool and put the fish in there.

    He took it home and built a cool cemetary vampirefish-tank together with Franklin. The boy named his new pet "Victor", because "Vlad" would have been too cliche.


    "So, when will you call the journalists?" Anita wondered. "I'd assumed they'd swarm our house by now just like your bats."
    "Our house?" Dustin laughed. "Ha! Far too nice! Now that I know how to reliably get these critters out of their element, I'll catch one life for the press. But before they can see that, it'll be the damp cave for the lords and ladies!"

    * My Sim Nation doesn't has a unified currency. The worth of a thaler varies between the states which opens the door to all kinds of financial speculations. I do not actually play this out, it's just a little backgroundflavour that I use for stories and screencaps in my photoalbum.

    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited January 2017
    Chapter 13: The batfish's point of view

    Time: The present
    Place: The fish bowl in Franklin's room
    Narrator: unknown

    "History... history can be a tricky thing.
    For the most part it is percieved as linear, with human societies gradually incresing in their complexity. There are setbacks, of course, but the "from simple to complex" idea is generally accepted, because we also find that in evolution.
    Of the ancients little is known, but it is said that the gods walked among men during this era. And among women, naturally, because, well, your basic deity is a leecherous lout. Those who offended the gods (for example by stating aforementioned truth about them aloud) were cursed in various fashions."

    pic: A roman legionaire pranking in a temple of Neptune/Poseidon

    "But history isn't about these unfortunate souls, but about those who survived unscathed and produced children.

    So, the first civilisation that appeared in the history books was the globe-spanning roman empire. From it's core, a small mountain fortress on the northern continent, the empire grew until it was too large to be efficiently governed and as a result the whole structure collapsed under it's own weight.
    On the southern continent several dozen principalities picked up the pieces, preserving what they could of their predecessors' culture while trying to keep the upper hand in the rivalries with their neighbors. It was a time of chaos, yet there was also a sort of timelessness to the ever-repeating cycle that brought a measure of calm to my soul."

    pic: A displaced legionaire in some forsaken forest in what used to be a roman overseas province

    "In time things became more stable again and Al Simhara in the desert was the first second generation nation to be formed. I admit I failed to notice how much they prospered, until we were called to arms against the "heathens". Zealots of the Watcher initiated a crusade against the worshippers of Ea in Maxis of Al Simhara and I found myself right in the middle of it. This marks one of the few points in history where the principalities actually worked together...
    The crusades ended by each faction integrating the other's gods into their own pantheon as subordinate powers. Everyone had to admit the other gods existed, but nobody was forced to worship anything they didn't want to. Win-win, right? Well, for some, at least.

    For myself it was a catastrophe. I vowed to never again let me get taken by surprise by mortals like this! Me, a former legionaire of the roman empire, had been drafted as a pikeman in the service of a tiny principality that I hadn't even deigned to put on my worldmap! Embarassing!"

    pic: No picture of the crusades. I'm trying to block that time out!

    "Oh, by now you'll have figured it out, but I better state it outright so we can get it over move on: I am a vampire, one of those who got the gods on their wrong feet and got slapped with a curse. Admittedly the joke here is hard to get, because if immortality is a curse, then please, by all means, go on "cursing" me!

    So, yes, I was there when the empire broke into pieces and I lived through all the centuries that followed. When I tell you about history, it isn't the empty rambling of a scholary fanboy of this or that old king, but someone speaking from experience.

    After the crusades I payed more attention to the world politics. To do so I traveled the world and had I believed me wise and experienced from having lived such a long time, I had to learn that I knew absolutely nothing. All I had done was repeating the same eat-have fun-sleep- routine with no progress at all. Mere mortals had amassed education and skill beyond my understanding in their short lifetime. It took several embarassments until I had caught up.

    But back from sandgrain me to the big beach that was the world as a whole.

    While I did all my traveling, on the northern continent the Jumbok dynasty flourished. Jumbok IV. built a modern warfleet and set out to conquer the high seas. First to fall were the islands of the Nunchuck culture: Twikkii, Wanmami and Felicity. I was there when it happened and I found something I hadn't expected to ever: my first lover."

    pic: Yes, that's us!

    "She was one of the so-called conquistadores and destined to rule as governor over one of the islands. It was a great honor, but my friend had a restless soul and would have prefered more journeys into the unknown even if that meant participating in warfare. So I did the only thing I could: I turned her into one of my kind, thus enabling her to do her duty for a lifetime and afterwards spent eternity as she pleased.
    We witnessed Jumbok's funeral together and we also witnessed how the population came to worship him as a deity of war over the course of the generations. The real scary thing about this was that we met vampires cursed by Jumbok. How was that possible? The man had not been a real deity to start with!

    But this was a puzzle my love and me were not fated to solve. Instead we happily signed up for the second wave of the conquista: Using the islands as a halfway base, the Jumbok dynasty eventually reached the southern continent that had been my home for so long.
    Pretty much nothing had changed here since I had left. Granted, a few principalities had perished, but others had emerged to fill up the ranks again. The ones near the coast fell quickly under the newcomers' rule.

    After several generations of conquest and slavery the remaining inland principalities united against the invaders. I MAY have had a hand in the negotiations that led to the alliance... It also MAY have something to do with my love having started a dalliance on the side, a beefy warrior-king of one of the small countrys that were still offering resistance. Was I jealous? Nope, why should I? By then I was well aware of the the fact how quickly a human's life flickered out and that after the warrior's death my love would be mine again."

    pic: Perhaps not jealous, but not happy, either...

    "So we united the continent and stopped the invasion, the three of us.
    The people didn't suddenly turn into enlightened hermits or the like. The union was a purely military pact, nothing more. After the conquistadores were driven back to the ocean, it took several decades for it to grow into a nation, the early predecessor of what is known as Sim Nation today. In the wake of Sim Nation's formation the Three Lakes federation was founded. Three Lakes, Sim Nation and Al Simhara entered into a friendly, neighborly rivalry that resulted in good fortune for everyone.

    Well, everyone but me, obviously. In case you wonder what had changed the minds of the princes to suddenly become all chummy with each other: this was all the doing of my love and her mortal lover. Only that he wasn't mortal anymore. Unknownst to me, my love had turned him into a vampire during a party."

    pic: In the forgotten grotto a new vampire is created.

    "So, yeah, peace and happiness all around, except for the decrepit old fool of a legionaire.

    To get my mind of all of this, I participated in the witch hunts that started in Three Lakes around this time, playing the part of warlock and hunter interchangeably."

    pic: Our vampire passing his time during the witch hunts.

    "When my game bored me, I ended the whole witch-hunt nonsense, restored peace to Three Lakes and traveled north.

    On the northern continent the Jumbok dynasty prepared to attack Takemizu nation, another uge warlike country. They were looking for mercenaries and I joined their ranks. So I was there when Jumbok the umpteenth (I lost count, admittedly) dueled the emperor of Takemizu and both nations pershed in the chaos that ensued.

    The Nunchuck islands became independant again, what joy.

    I didn't care.

    I had lost interest in pretty much everything.

    Wandering aimlessly I found myself in the grotto where my love had turned her warrior-king. And here my strength of will finally left me. How easy the bats had it! Sleeping through the day, hunting through the night, with no hopes, no fears, no guilt and no pride to drive them or hold them back... Following a whim I attempted to change, to participate in the flight's life, if only for a single night.


    Instead I went "splash".

    I haven't told you what deity exactly it was that had cursed me in pre-history times, right? Well, here's the answer: Poseidon.
    And it turned out that a vampire of the Poseidon line does not turn into a bat. We turn into bat-fish instead. Combine that with our inherent weakness to water and you'll see why this was kinda unfortunate for me.
    I flailed around with my fins and in my panic allowed the fish-part of my brain take control. Submerged in the underground pool I left behind all my worries, but also the rest of my humanity."


    "For how long I have dwelt in the cave, I cannot say.
    All I know is I seem no longer to be there...?
    There was... a tasty catfish... and a fishing line...
    Oh my god (not Poseidon)!!!

    I do not want to be here.
    Where-ever "here" is.
    I mean, a fish bowl? With a spooky mansion for decoration? For real?
    I want out! Anybody can hear me?
    I'm the darkness incarnate, wielding powers beyond mortal ken!
    You cannot just dump me in a glass! I need to find my true love and win her back from that warrior oaf of a so-called best friend!"
    *swims in circles looking adoreable*
    "I'm the terror of the night!!!"
    *looking even more adoreable*
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 14: Where's my backstory?
    Or: When you load your game and write a whole page about finding one sim crying in bed.

    Dustin's joy in his discovery of a new species waned quickly after learning that there was no money in it. Instead he'd been required to pay for a scientific dna analysis and assorted hurdles. Annoyed he just left all of this to the historical society (who wasn't much interested, either).

    The decision turned out to be for the best, because back at home Anita needed her husband more than ever. Dustin found her crying in bed. Ever so gently the man pulled back the blanket, stuffed a teddy bear under it and then placed it back. That made Anita laugh and she rose to sit with Dustin. For several minutes the couple just held hands. Then a strand of hair fell into Anita's face. Dustin blew it away gently. Anita raising her head to smile at her partner told Dustin that it was safe to speak now.

    "Hey, why so sad?" the man started. "Another kid on the way, perhaps? Not to sound selfish, but that would be great, seeing that I missed out on all of Franklin's toddlerhood! Not too keen on the diaper-changing business, though..."
    Dustin waited if his words cheered Anita up or if they had at least taken some worries of her. When nothing of that sort happened he stressed his point again: "Don't worry, honey! I can provide for four!"


    At last two words escaped Anita's mouth. They didn't make sense, but at least she was saying something:
    "My parents..."
    "Well, they probably couldn't", Dustin agreed. "They ditched you immediately after your birth, right?"
    Anita sniffed. "My parents!" she repeated, louder now. The look she gave Dustin seemed to indicate that her parents' inability to raise a child was somehow the man's fault. It was a single accusation.
    "Our change of identities destroyed every chance of getting to know my mother and father!" Anita yelled. "I didn't think of that back when we fled from Willow Creek, as everything happened so fast. But now? What if they are poor or elderly and frail and need me? They might be searching for their daughter at his very moment!"
    "The daughter they never wanted until now, you mean? Change of heart because of sudden economic need? In this case I say let them search for you until they rot! You owe these people nothing!"
    "But I do!" Anita protested. "They gave me life when they could just as easily have me aborted!"
    "If refraining from murder is your primary criterion for good parenting, you are setting your bar rather low..."

    At this Anita shouted "You are NOT helping, Dustin!".


    "Yeah, right, I guess so."
    Right or wrong, the man understood, wasn't the point here. He had goofed up with his rational argument when in fact comfort and re-assurance had been required.
    An awkward silence followed that was broken again by Anita:
    "What about your own family? You rarely ever talk about them."
    Dustin let out a sigh. That was familiar territory again. He was sure he could handle this from here onwards.
    However, he wasn't prepared for the direction Anita took the talk into:
    "They were poor, right? What if they had me and gave me up for adoption and... and... we could be siblings for all we know!!!"

    "Anita, you... pardon me, but you're out of your mind!"
    Fortunately Dustin's words were drowned in more yelling. Eventually he managed to reach out and simply hug his wife. She calmed down... only a little, but enough for Dustin to try reason again.
    "I'm older than you, you know?" he whispered into Anita's ear.
    "Not by much! How would a toddler have noticed his mommy's growing baby belly?"
    "Hey, cut that out!" Dustin begged. "You seriously frighten me!"
    "Well, you SHOULD be frightened! What if Franklin manifests some terrible genetic disease or..."
    "STOPP! At once! Look, hon', your woe is real. Every adoptee goes through that phase at some time, I reckon. But there is absolutely no reason to add imaginary worries to it, alright? And if it means so much to you, then I could browse the database with our IP supressed. I'll find your mother and father!
    Or father and pollinator, because that is more likely than the scenario you were drawing."
    The joke made Anita chuckle. She returned to reality, a reality where alien incursions were indeed believeable explanations for many things. Their grandparents might not even have believed in life outside earth, yet here their descendants were, dealing with the aftermath of the alien war as part of their normal, daily routines.

    "You'll do that research?"
    "Sure thing! But if I uncover that you are a long-lost Landgraab princess, then I want a share of the wealth!"
    "Sure thing!" Anita giggled. "I think I'll just return to bed. Not useful for anything today."
    Wiping her forehead she unsteadily walked out of the room to make some relaxing tea. It was six in the afternoon. If she slept through the night she'd be awake early. Maybe Dustin wanted to go on a nightly hike and then watch the sunrise with her? Or whatever else he wanted. Diligently as the man sat down at the computer and started the browser he had certainly earned a wish to be granted, Anita thought.
    "Me and my overactive imagination", she grumbled. Dustin was right, she could be anybody's daughter. So why couldn't she fantasize some noncontroversial, even cool parentage?


    While Anita was determined to make believe a fairy-tale heritage until sleep claimed her exhausted mind,
    Dustin went to browsing. By that he actually meant hacking, a skill that he had hardly any experience in. With a bit of luck, by the time he had mastered it, Anita would have forgotten the whole idea...


    At first glance hacking seemed to be the perfect job for Dustin: Just sit back and let your programs do all the work! However, the little profit his endeavour yielded was hardly worth the risk. At the end of day the man was richer by 42 thalers, but had yet to make any progress in his research.
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 15: Child of the night, out of the waters

    Dustin had finished his hacking browsing and was ready to join Anita in bed. Just when he rose from his chair, he heard a sound like the crashing of glass from the next room, a chair falling and then something large, probably Franklin's activity table, ramming against the wall. Above all the ruckus the boy was shouting: "Burglar! Burglar!"
    "Baseball bat... baseball bat..." Dustin frantically looked around, but that didn't make the club appear. So he clenched his fist, pushed back the chair, left the master bedroom and kicked the door to Franklin's room open.

    In there the remains of the fish tank were scattered across the room. Shards and puddles of water littered the floor and a pair of indignated snails was on it's way to the big fishtank in the living room. Dustin let them pass to pick them up later, focussing instead on the man who was standing in the middle of the room. He must have entered through the window and, while entering the room, pushed the fishtank off it's table. This stood to reason, even though the window was firmly closed. Dustin explained the oddity away by believing the burglar had tried to close the window behind him. While doing so in the dark room he certainly had toppled the fish tank, thus waking Franklin and ultimately alerting Dustin to his presence. Only the emotionally exhausted Anita was sleeping like a log during all this chaos.

    "He killed Victor!" Franklin cried. "And he was all nekkid when I saw him!"

    "Listen!" Dustin called out to the stranger. "Whatever your story is, I fully empathize, but you've picked the wrong house!"


    The words meant nothing. Neither did Dustin wait for an explanation nor did he waste more time with discussions. While he was still uttering his sentence, he already went at the burglar. Dustin had to bring him under control, time to sort out whatever didn't add up later.


    Dustin had lost twice against Dina Landgraab, but he had picked up a few pointers from each brawl. Nowadays he fought like a woman: with ruthless efficiency.

    While pulling and tearing the man suddenly realized he was touching his own clothes! The burglar must have stolen them before anything else.
    Desperate for a disguise, are we? Dustin thought while forcing the stranger into a firm lock. No Sim Nationer is so poor that he needs to break into someone else's home for a new set of clothes! Let's see how desperate exactly you are...

    Finally the fight was decided. Though both men felt rather dizzy, Dustin stood victorious. It was a very welcome change, especially as it felt that the last fight Dustin had won had been the one with half-starved eightteen year old Alton Bellamy back in Willow Creek.

    "If you do not want the police getting involved, you work for me from now on", Dustin told his defeated opponent matter of factly. "Are you good at something? A useful skill might save you from ending up chained to the woodworking bench..."


    "Oh, wonderful..." The burglar rolled his eyes. "Of all people I have to happen upon the neighborhood's would-be crimelord!"

    "And I have the questionable pleasure with...?"
    "Let's say my skillset revolves around the night and subterfuge and contrary to what I've shown tonight, I'm actually a decent warrior. With weapons, that is."
    "You got a name?"
    "You can call me Victor."

    "Victor is dead!" Franklin reminded the adults to the fate of his pet fish.
    The burglar chuckled as if the boy had spoken some big truth in a naive fashion.
    "We'll make this one pay for killing your fish", Dustin promised his son. "No worries!"
    To the burglar he said: "Your real name! I demand it!"

    "... it's Mark. Marcus, actually, but please call me Mark."
    Dustin grinned.
    "Mark Minion - has a nice ring to it!"
    "Minion?! But I haven't agreed to anything yet!"
    "Well, in this case... be so good as to bring daddy his phone, please, Franklin!"
    "Alright, alright!" the burglar resigned. "Truth is, I don't know my way around here and need a primer about this ti... town."


    The next morning Anita cast Dustin a similar look to the one the snail couple (that had by now found a new home in the koi tank) had given the humans last night. Her voice dripping with acid she asked: "Do I want to know why this man stayed the night with us? Or why he's wearing your old shirt? And, Ea above, will you sit down already, Franklin!"
    "Yes, mom."
    "Totally!" Dustin replied joyfully.
    "Well, I'm all ears."
    The man nodded. "First of all, no flowers anywhere and the kitchen is as shabby as always - see? So that should tell you that there's nothing weighing down my conscience that needs apologizing for. Franklin, grab a chair and place your butt on it!"
    "Yes, dad."
    "I just took in a drifter who unsuccesfully tried his hand at burglery, is all."
    In hasty words Dustin explained the pact he had entered into with Mark to Anita.


    "I bet he's an alien!" Franklin chimed in, still happily standing at the table instead of sitting down as instructed. "An evil alien general who's hiding from justice!"

    "Alien, huh?" Mark shook his head in disbelief. "In my time we said "foreigner". It sounded less offensive."

    It was a joke, obviously, it could only be a joke. There wouldn't be a person alive who didn't know what aliens were. So Mark, too, had to know. Yet the little family could have sworn that the burglar was serious.
    Dustin grinned. So his new aquaintaince was a better con artist than he had ever been or could ever hope to become. And he was like butter in his hands, his skills at Dustin's disposal! Things were looking real bright for once.


    Mark looked from one to the other, then shrugged.
    "I'm from the north continent and there a small town you wouldn't find in the atlas", he told the Mendozas. "Been awhile since I was there...
    last job I took was for the Palemoon Empire."
    "The old name of Takemizu Nation", Anita explained. "Or it's predecessor anyways."
    "You say "for", not "in"", Dustin realized. "Does that mean what I think it means? That you were a mercenary during the war?"
    "During many wars."
    "Braggard! Ever since the shadowwar no nation of earth has fought an other. And you aren't that old to have been in the old wars."
    "I'm older than I look", Mark protested.
    Dustin and Anita both chuckled, because that response was clearly the one of a man who was a little younger than them.
    "Hm, so, a mercenary..." Anita turned towards her son. "That means", she explained to the child, "Mark fought for the government who payed him best, knowing no principles and no loyality. He might very well have sided with the aliens some time during the war."
    "Oh", the boy uttered.

    Anita shoveled ham and scrambled egg into his mouth. For the longest time her Dustin had not operated on the right side of the law, too, but he had prided himself in being a loyal vassal of the Landgraab firm. Not one who changed allegiance as it suited him. Only when Lady Dina had commanded him to kill had Dustin broken from the mob. This Mark, to the contrary, had killed readily for less.
    Dustin now almost rued having given his word to shelter him and refrain from handing him over to the authorities.

    When the silence became uncomfortable, Mark coughed.
    "I do not just fight, I have an education, too", he told the family. "I'm a military historian. You know, the ancient romans, the conquistatores, feuding principalities and so on."
    And, as intended, the icebreaker did it's charm.
    "Science?" Dustin murmured. "That doesn't pay the bills. The social sciences even less than biology, I imagine."

    At these words Franklin cringed! Biology!
    He had to...

    "Back in a minute, mom, dad!" the boy shouted, then he darted out through the front door.
    He had to be quick and reach the trash can before garbage collection truck took it's contents.


    Franklin opened the lid, pulled himself upwards and leaned forward.
    His father's mentioning of biology had reminded the child to the forgotten victim of last night: Victor! There was no dead fish anywhere in his room, so it stood to reason that his mother had taken poor Victor out with the morning garbage already. Franklin would not have that! Short as their time together had been, Victor had been his beloved pet and deserved better than going out with the trash. The boy was determined to retrieve Victor and give him a proper burial down by the river. Or, better yet, let him float on the river until the element hat had spawned him claimed his body back.

    However, thoroughly as the boy went through the trash, Victor he could not find.
    And that was strange, because the bugger had been uge! Even if more trash falling onto him had ripped his body apart, there'd be a fin or a tail or some other gruesome bodypart somewhere in the bin.

    Only when he heard the "clapp" of the mailbox and saw, from a corner of his eye, the mailman leave again already, did Franklin understand: His father would have sent the dead batfish to some institute for research. He'd get some money and Franklin in turn a Voidcritter boosterpack and with luck Victor would end up stuffed in a museum. With a little less luck they'd cut him up into tiny slices for study. Tears welled up in the boy's eyes when he just thought about that.

    Franklin started to sprint after the mailman, to jump at him and make him give the parcel back. But being untrained as he was, the boy had to stopp soon from his heart pounding and chest aching. Nevertheless there was enough air in his lungs for one final, desperate cry:



    That day Franklin went to bed early while Mark worked off some frustration at Dustin's punching ball.

    Dustin generously left his new minion a good chunk of his wardrobe and took Anita out shopping for new pieces for both of them. For some reason San Myshuno brand was no longer considered hip. Instead the people now went to great lengths presenting their state or even town. In New Maxisland that meant you had to wear jeans clothes, neckerchiefs and a cowboy hat, even if you had never in your life seen a real cow or bull.

    Mark turned out to be quiet the nightowl. From the man's body language Dustin picked up that it wasn't a matter of preference, but of fear. When the sun came up, Mark became tense as if the daystar was able to cause him physical harm. This was the behaviour of someone on the run. Probably there was a hefty price on his head? Dustin knew he had to talk about this and soon!

    He was just about to adress the topic, when Mark recieved a text message on his phone. Upon reading it, the man frowned.


    "What's the matter?" Dustin asked, grabbing Mark's arm and jerking it around so he could see the display. "Let me see!"
    "Knock yourself out", Mark sighed. "It's your funeral."

    Dustin studied the message. It was in Lakerese, the old language spoken by scholars in Three Lakes. Lakerese had infused the Simlish spoken in Three Lakes and the neighboring countries to some degree, so Dustin had picked up a few phrases during his stay in Granite Falls near the border to Three Lakes. Not enough to fully translate the message, but to get the general meaning:
    Someone was refering to Mark's nighttime based profession and called him a noob, which obviously infuriated the burglar.

    "That nerve of the kid!" Mark hissed through clenched teeth. He was pretty good at hissing, Dustin noticed. "Just you wait 'till I've put you back into your proper place, you young upstart!"

    Picture: The actual text in which Victorian age born Vlad greets around 2000 years old Mark as a "new child of the night". He'll have sensed Mark returning from batfishform, but mistakes his weakened aura for that of an only recently turned vampire. I forseee having much fun with Vlad and Mark, though probably not during this story.


    "Yeah, about that", Dustin said after his fit of laughter had abated. "It's high time you pulled your own weight, Mark! We've been feeding you for the whole week now and have yet to get something back."
    "Then, pray tell, what do you have in mind!" Mark snarled. "Before I continue feeding off you and, Poseidon forbids, bleed you dry?!"
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 16: Don't send flowers

    Franklin still occasionally suffered from vivid daydreams about Victor being dissected. And why was a criminal living in their house now? But the boy understood that these were things not to be adressed and so he channeled his frustration into complaining about that new fashion trend that dominated in Sim Nation:


    "Suspenders? For real, mom? I'll be a schoolchild soon! You cannot put me into... these!!!"

    Anita, however, had other concerns. "So the leopard really doesn't lose it's spots, huh?" she threw an old proverb at her husband. "Listen, do what you cannot resist doing. Just be careful that won't wear stripes anytimme soon again: black and white ones!"
    Dustin smirked. "That would be black and yellow in this state", he corrected, then added with a smirk: "But I'm not about to discuss prison attire with you, because I won't end up there. I'm not doing anything forbidden, after all - that's Mark's job."
    "A task YOU are putting him to", Anita replied. "So you are the Landgraab now..."
    The air of sadness around his wife didn't escape Dustin's notice. But suddenly she smiled and so everything was well again, right?

    "Hm... the kid seems miffed at something, too. How about I make icecream for everyone tonight?"
    Anita kissed the man's cheek.
    "Yes, you should totally do that! Icecream is what summer is for. I mean, 'round here it's always summer, but... well, erm."
    "Yeah, well, um..."
    Anita kissed Dustin again, then shoved him towards the kitchen nook to end the awkwardness.

    Yes, she had smiled, and sincerly, too. Truth was, feeling sad about Dustin's recent development strangely felt better than rolling in self-pity over her parentage. So that's why the smile.

    Meanwhile Mark had finished his preparations for whatever he was up to in Dustin's employ tonight. He joined the family at the dining table.
    "Ah, icecrea..." he started, but was cut short by Franklin. The boy had decided to make his parents's lodger the new focal point for his frustration.
    Not that it didn't take much for that, after Mark having inadvertently smashed Victor's fishbowl.

    "What good is this Wild West enthusiasm if only the adults get to wear the cool hats? And we kids only..." At these words Franklin flicked his suspenders. "... these?!"
    "Well, that was what children wore back then", the adult replied.
    "No one asked YOU, killer!" Franklin shot back, despite the undenieable fact that he had asked Mark.
    Anita smiled again, this time with only thinly concealed glee. Earn your upkeep by getting a little taste of what parenting a pre-schooler is like the grin seemed to say.

    "I despise this trend, too", Mark told Franklin. "If for other reasons."
    San Myshuno Wear had become too expensive, so the people had looked for inspiration for a more affordable fashion and found it much closer to home than in far away San Myshuno. Mark was afraid this might signal a general return to localism now that the unifying thread from the aliens faded farther and farther into history. Important as a little friendly competition was for a healthy economy, Mark hadn't worked his backside off to unify the principalities, only to see them sunder in Franklin's generation. Not before he had achieved a position where he could prevent it!
    Mark wasn't used to experience politics as a subject. He had always been a ruler and if not that, then he'd stood outside the system altogether. Never a follower!

    "If YOU united the people of earth..." Anita spoke up.


    At this point Mark realized that he had mumbled a bit too loudly.
    By the Watcher's grace and sick humor, have I said that last one out loud? What else have they heard?! And what of what they heard did his family understand?!

    "... that means, you are an alien, after all! Like my son suggested the morning we took you in!" Anita concluded.
    The thought didn't seem to trouble her overmuch, Mark realized. Well, that was something he could work with.

    "Mark's an alien?" Dustin made himself heard from over at the icecream maker.
    "Well, yes, you got me there", Mark "admitted". "I didn't lie about my age that day, by the way."
    "You've programmed your disguise to make you look younger? Clever! Though I must assume you are a girl in this case, because why would a guy care to look younger?"
    Mark laughed! "Because if you do not look rich, you need to look at least young to score with the ladies, kid. You'll see my point eventually."

    Franklin gasped! He had not yet learned how adults covered tensions with (often inappropriate) jokes. All the boy understood was this:
    Mark was an alien. And now that it was confirmed, there was nothing cool about anymore. Because the aliens had captured and tortured his father (or so he had been told). What if this very mercenary had had a hand in this?
    "I hate him!" the child hissed. "I hate him with all I am!"

    And so the goodbye Franklin had for Mark when he set on on his nightjob was simply: "I hope the police finds you and that it is an old 'n deaf officer who doesn't hear you when say "I surrender" and shoots you down! Peng!"

    Mark headed over to the public bath. The original concept had been that of an ancient roman thermal bath in all it's glory, but war and neglect had made it into the ruins the original empire had crumbled into, too. The all-too familiar sight sent a jolt down into Mark's heart that he almost suspected it would start beating again.
    "plum", the ancient being scolded himself. "You don't even remember Rome that clearly anymore!"
    But Mark couldn't help: that his first job in this "new" world should bring him to a place that resembled the place of his birth felt significant somehow. Perhaps it was an omen for good things to come?

    It was close to midnight and the venue deserted by everyone but a lone figure. A youth sat at the round bassin, letting his legs dangle into the filthy water:

    picture: My game has a sense of irony: The visitor is Alton Bellamy, Dustin's victim during the Kidnapper Challenge. On vacation, obviously, and oblivious to the fact who's living right across the street!

    Again, Mark couldn't help, the lone stranger looked way too inviting. Well, not the stranger himself, more like the stuff that could not be seen, but smelled, if you were a vampire: The living blood circulating in his body! Mark licked his lips. Finally, a real meal! After decades upon decades spent preying on catfish, not to mention the pesky solid food in the Mendoza's household, Mark could not turn down this treat.

    Yes, that youngling Vladislaus had gotten that part correctly: thirst could not kill a vampire. But it severly pulled down their mood and only those strongest of conviction could resist for a length of time. And self control had never been high up on Mark's list of virtues.

    The fake roman ruins, the statues reminiscent of these in the temple of Poseidon, the deity whose holy site Mark had defiled as a dare,
    the thirst, the exitement of the hunt... all of this culminated in his glamour dissipating, baring the vampire's true form.

    Mark fully let go and fed on the human until he felt satisfied:


    For a short while the fluids in his own dead body were pumping again, as the drink rejuvinated it.
    "I am back!" Mark hissed as the power rushed through him.
    He felt alive, energized, and then laughed at his limited thinking. No, more than alive, more than dead, back to unlife!
    Not the pathethic legionaire Markus Ligustinius had returned, but the Grandmaster of vampires!

    Besides, Mark told himself, as the human's now ragdoll-like but still living form slumped to the ground, he would have needed to silence the witness to his soon to be commited theft anyway.
    No longer distracted by the terrible thirst, picking the lock and removing the bandatron's cash box was child's play for Mark. Not that he had suddenly blossomed into a master thief, but he was able to succesfully follow Dustin's instructions on how to disassemble the comparatively simple mechanism.


    And there was still enough time to look for a desert course, too...

    Mark returned with the cashbox, two crystals and two hypnofrogs. If he was forced to stay with the Mendoza's for a while longer, he needed a better source of food than homestyle cooking and composure. Frog blood wasn't the most tasty snack, but it would do.

    For the time being, the breeding pair was housed in Franklin's room:


    "I know this is supposed to be a replacement for Victor", the child accused Mark. "But nothing can replace Victor!"

    "I know", Mark agreed. After all, he had been that "Victor" and he felt hismelf quite irreplaceable, too. "But what about the darkness on your heart, little one?"
    "The what?!"
    "You heard me right. The night of my first job, your words hit nearly as deep as a curse. I noticed your parents were shocked at how much anger there was in you. That's what we need to replace."
    "Um... I'm not Anakin Vader or so! Not dark!"
    Mark nodded. "I know. You just miss your fish friend. Sorrow has it's time, but not for all of eternity."
    "Hm, okay, of you insist in sounding wise... But father says you are still a good for nothing!"

    Mark let out a deep sigh. He hadn't fully won over this child, but it was a start. For all the vampire cared, as long as Franklin didn't become enslave by burning hatred, he was free to despise Mark in the normal way. Nobody could be everybody else's friend, after all.

    The frogs soon became way more interesting to Franklin than his batfish had been. They also were a lot more mobile and got to places... mostly where they were not invited to. But contrary to vampires the animals did not care about little details such as these.


    "Good work with the frogs for Frank", Dustin congratulated his employee one day. "Keep it up!"
    "Thanks, I guess. Another jobto do tonight?"
    "Naturally! As long as what you bring in exceeds your upkeep, you can stay with us."
    "Why would I want? I could just leave."

    Dustin shook his head, amused.
    "No, you cannot. If you could, you'd already done so. I'm probably doing you a bigger favour than you are doing to me."
    "I won't argue that, especially since all you get out of me working for you is money."
    "I don't really follow...?"
    Mark shrugged. "Wealth is overrated, Dustin. It comes and goes and the things it can buy wither as quickly. Everything fades away. All that remains are happy memories and we all know how time and distance can change our perception of what lies behind us. Everything looks less terrible in retrospect... except the crusades, of course."

    Dustin took this as another learned joke, one of the history-referencing ones that Mark seemed quite fond of.
    "Is there something you are preparing for here?" he asked. "A revelation or special deal, perhaps? Feels almost like it..."

    Mark flashed Dustin a mixture of smile and tootchache. Smile, because a favorite student had gotten the day's lesson ahead of the other children. Toothache, because he wasn't a mortal teacher, but an ancient power that should not have been read so easily!
    Then he answered:
    "Actually, yes, though I had planned to kindle your curiosity a couple of days longer first. But I guess this is as good a time as any. Look, Dustin, it is obvious that you love your family. But you define your worth as a husband by the size of your bank account. In between adding to that, I did some more research on this Vladislaus-person. You know, the one I have a grudge with. Help me get even with him and you'll never lack in the money department anymore!"


    "Vladislaus... Is he an alien, too?"
    "Just like me, but of the worst kind. To him humans are cattle."
    "And what are humans to you, exactly?"
    "Honest answer? Precious pets. I play with them, tease them ultimately I want them happy, though I do not see it as my responsibility to get them there."
    "But if you put work into something, you do not want to see it go to ruin?"
    "Yes, you got that right. Vlad, to the contrary... his use and discard attitude makes me sick!"

    The alien sounded believeable to Dustin's ears. Certainly not a good-two-shoes, but not too different from Dustin's own outlook instead.
    There was only one question remaining: "What proof do I have that you can deliver what you promise?"
    "Well, for starters, I could send your wife flowers."
    "What?! Is that supposed to be a threat?!"
    "Haha, no! Does it sound like one in anglo-simlish? No, I meant it literally. For a certain quality of "flowers". Wait and see!"

    Mark departed on his nighjob, saying nothing more about that matter.
    The week after a package of rare Sixam Flytrap seeds arrived in the mail. The gift served two purposes: First it proved that Mark had ressources that school teacher like Dustin could not tap into and second it underlined his cover identity as an alien.

    In truth Mark had stolen the seeds from the ziggurat of Ea and Maxis. The museum was a public place everyone was invited into, provided he payed for a ticket. So for several nights Mark had honed his skill at entering uninvited by meditating in the open-for-all lounge until he felt confident to proceed past the ticket booth into the main hall. Seeing that ziggurat was a temple, but not one to the god whose curse he bore, Mark could linger inside just long enough to steal the seeds. Overall it had been a very succesful week for the vampire. He felt ready to face the outside world once more, starting with Vladislaus Strahd.


    The Sixam Flytrap became Franklin's new object of interest. He documented every stage of growth in pictures and his pre-school writing.
    "You've got a little nerd in the making, there", Mark commented.
    "Yes." Dustin sighed heavily. "And no idea how to raise one properly. I'm mildly curious in science, at best. you know, the stuff you can impress with at parties."
    "It's not your responsibility to teach him everything", Mark replied. "But to find people who can! Enroll Franklin in the boyscouts, the what are they called again? Sim Nation Junior Pioneers? He'll learn much about nature there and before you know, he'll even start exercising. These shiny merit badges are some powerful incentive!"

    "When did you go from too dumb to tie your shoelaces to replacement grandfather?" Dustin asked.
    He felt a little guilty, because that made Mark his replacement father while Anita's heritage issues were still unresolved.
    "I told you I had gotten a bit rusty and had to do my share of catching up", Mark replied in an unusually serious tone. "That deed is done now. - And I don't need this father-plum, Dustin! The last promising kid I took under my wing stole my girlfriend from me!"

    "As long as you don't turn the tables and snatch mine, we're good. So, tell me more about your plans concerning Vladislaus! Do we corner him and beat him up? Drag his reputation into the mud?"
    "The first, I think. Power is something Vlad understands. We cannot change him, only make him stopp the things he does by proving to him that we can give him trouble if he doesn't."

    And so the two men sat down and started making plans...
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 17: I know the night is not as it would seem

    Just when Dustin and Mark were about to leave, a stranger was knocking at the door.
    "We really should have the bell repaired", Anita muttered.

    pic: That's Corey Blake, my newest sim in this save, hogging a place in the spotlight.

    "Alba!" the stranger greeted Mark. "It's good to see you again, even though I cannot really see you at the moment!"
    "Yet another alien in disguise, I take it", Dustin commented.
    "Yes", the newcomer agreed, "disguises are very convenient."
    "Corey Blake - Dustin Mendoza", Mark introduced the two men. "And I go by the name Mark Prince at the moment."
    Corey nodded. "Fitting."

    "So he's a prince, working as a mercenary", Dustin mused. "And we are going to... Gondor?"
    When Corey laughed at the remark, Mark looked from one to the other. It irked him that Corey and the human could exchange pop cultural references with each other so casually. A reminder of how much catching up he had to do. Was he really ready to face Vladislaus already? After all, if that one was anything but incredibly powerful, Corey and Cornel would have dispatched him long ago...
    What bloodline was the newcomer, even? Mark asked his old friend outright.
    "We're not entirely certain", Corey admitted. "Grey Lady, I believe."

    "Vladislaus is a disciple of the Grey Lady?" Dustin repeated. "In this case count me in!"
    Mark's jaw dropped visibly.
    "What's the matter?" Corey asked. "He'll know the disciples were the driving force behind the war."
    "Yes... yes, I understand that. It's just that I'm not used to seeing my Dustin motivated by something other than greed."

    Dustin swallowed the "my" without complaint. So he had sort of been adopted into an alien prince's retinue. Exiled alien noble, the way it looked, but still somewhat influential and wealthy exiled noble. Therefore he didn't mind playing Bilbo to this Aragorn and the stranger that had knocked at his door as out of the left field as Gandalf in the book.

    To reach Vladislaus Straud's domain, the group would travel "by cave" as Corey put it.
    "Some historians have opened the batfish cave recently", he explained to Dustin. "A real bad idea."
    "Why exactly?"
    "You remember the shaft leading upwards?" Mark asked Dustin. "It opens into a hidden valley in the mountains, a place aptly named Forgotten Hollow. It is a very small community often overlooked by Sim Nation, at least before digital tracking of taxpayers became a thing. Vladislaus has his lair up there. Secure. Hidden. The opened mind shaft is like an invitation to him."

    Dustin didn't like the way Mark said "invitation". He didn't like having to scale the upwards leading shaft roped to two inexperienced climbers who wasted their precious breath by complaining repeatedly that they could not just fly upwards. And he especially did not like Forgotten Hollow. It was hard to put a finger on what exactly was off about this place. The first place the group passed by was lake and in it a sunken shrine to the Grey Lady.


    It might even have looked scenic in broad daylight. The aliens set great store by the Grey Lady's word, that much Dustin knew. While around Sim Nation the goddess was known as a Saint that protected children and pregnant women from death by fire.
    Dustin told himself he was apalled by the town, because he knew now that it was inhabited by aliens. Though nothing here, not even the shrine, looked particularly alien-ish.

    The group was approaching Vlad's house now.
    The surroundings were looking... foreboding.


    It didn't seem as if anybody was home.

    The first thing Mark tried was talking to the door. At least that was what it looked like to Dustin. And the door, being the polite piece of victorian furniture that it was, even answered the man: there was a shout and at the same time a puff of black smoke emanated from the wood. Black tendrils were reaching for the intruder and Mark was pushed back and nearly off the patio onto the cobblestones in front of the house.
    "Whoa! What sorcery is this?!"
    Mark couldn't believe what had just happened: He, who had entered a temple of the chief gods uninvited recently, should have been repelled by a common mansion door?!

    "Are you alright?" Corey asked.
    "Doesn't matter", Mark replied, rolling up his sleeve. "I'll try again until it works!"
    Dustin raised his voice, amused: "Why not just pick the lock?"
    "We cannot", Corey answered. "We must abide by certain rules that balance out our powers. Either get invited or use magic, that's how it's done."


    Dustin snorted.
    "Used a magic item once and it gained me nothing that a party trick could not accomplish better! - Let me at this door with a crowbar!"
    "By all means, do that!" Corey exclaimed. "Alba did bring a rogue for a reason, after all."
    "Nah, never been a burglar. Working with hinges and locks is something I learned in the furniture factory."

    By now Mark was attemtping his third try, after the second had landed him in a flowerbed. Before he could botch this one, too, Dustin grabbed him by the arm.
    "Let it be already."
    "No need to uphold your pride before someone who already beat the living daylights out of you after you stole his used underwear."

    The two "aliens" waited while their human companion put the crowbar to the door.


    While he was at it, they spoke in low voices:
    "Your fondness of the humans will be your downfall some day, Alba."
    "I should answer "no, they are my strength" or something like that, but you may very well be right", Mark replied. "But you know, the same goes for smoking and drinking. People love their vices, even their weaknesses, so do not expect your warning to fall on receptive ears."
    "Yeah. I guess I just feel better for having said my piece. So that I can say "Told you!" at your pile of smouldering ashes later, my prince. Though it will be a shame to lose you this way. Or any way at all."
    Mark waved his hand.
    "Dustin's done with the door, so enough with the empty flattery! Once I've dealt with Vlad, I want to hear some well-earned praise instead!"

    The trio entered the mansion. Inside there was an old man playing the pipe organ as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

    "Ah, a visitor", he said without looking up or losing his tune in the slightest. "And I see you have brought snacks, too? How thoughtful of you, Mr. Blake."


    "Turn around and look into my eyes!" Mark shouted. "I am no mere mortal! My deeds in life were grand enough for the gaze of a god to fall on me! There was enough darkness in me for a deity himself to feel the need to put a curse on me! But instead of destroying me, it only made me stronger! I am a cursed of Poseidon, no "snack"! I demand proper respect and the leadership over the godtouched!"

    "My, my", the organ player smiled while finshing his music. "That's quite an entrance!" He rose, then nodded towards the visitors. "I am Vladislaus Straud, Cursed of the Grey Lady. Mr. Blake I already know. Then there's the snack." Vlad's eyes came to rest on Mark. "And you would be...?"

    "My name is Marcus Ligustinius Alba. Or in these parts of the world better known as Albus the Grey."

    "For real?!"

    pic: I used "Disclose secret" to resolve this scene and Vlad's reaction was priceless!

    "Heard of me, have you?" Mark grinned. "It's been, what, 150 years, since I vanished?"

    Mark had disappeared from the scene before Vladislaus had been cursed, before that one's birth, even. And now he was back. The legend. The one who had been a legend to Vlad long before he had learned about vampires. There were situations when you wanted to evapirate from shame. Vladislaus Straud was in the fortunate situation to do so literally: He turned into a dark mist and disappeared.


    "Albus the Grey?" a dumbfounded Dustin repeated. "King Arthur's advisor?!"
    "The very same", Corey confirmed, while Mark, aka Albus, muttered minor curses under his breath. "Your continued health might benefit from not mentioning Arthur within Alba's earshot. At least not in that admirering tone."

    "What are you two gossipping about?" Mark yelled at the other two in a very un-mythical wiseman manner. "We need to follow him into the cellar!"
    "He could be anyw..."
    "He's in the cellar, Corey! Trust me, I know how people tick inside and he's several walking TV tropes pages!"
    Mark grabbed Corey by his scarf with one hand and Dustin by the collar of his shirt with the other.

    "Wait, what's going on here?" Dustin uttered while they were dragged after Mark, down the stairs and into what looked like a small dungeon complex or crypt below Straud manor.

    "What's happening here", my plum! As if that wasn't obvious! I was slow... Dustin realized. If beings that were unwilling to show their true form talked about being aquaintances of King Arthur, then that left only one conclusion about their nature: vampires. They were not involved with aliens or the Disciples or the war. And in a way, that came as a relieve to Dustin. For dead humans were just that: incredibly powerful beings whose actions, however sick or insane, were still founded in the human psyche, unlike the aliens' often incomprehensible mindset.

    The downstairs level confirmed Dustin's suspicion nicely with coffins and bat motivs everywhere. In a way the trio had just invaded not Vlad's underground storage or hurricane retreat, but his bedroom. Dustin could only hope that there was no extended family around.


    "Found already? That was quick", Vladislaus said with genuine surprise. "Well, then, Marcus Ligustinius, if you want to assume leadership, you'll have to best me in single combat!"

    Mark rolled his eyes.
    "Predictable! How typical for a youth..."

    While Vladislaus had already turned into mist again, Mark ordered Corey to take inventory of everything in the mansion that was stolen from their own bloodline.
    "Dustin, you give him a hand! In case I do not make it, the two of you make your escape with the artifacts! That way this raid will not have been in vain, after all."

    Vlad was waiting for Mark in the hall. The older vampire barked only a single word and the sheer force of will behind it made Vladislaus cringe: "Outside!"
    Vlad's glamour dissipated, baring his bald, wizened true form.
    Mark dropped his disguise voluntarily on the way out.

    On the small plaza in front of the mansion, battle ensued.
    And the sun was almost coming up...

    Through clenched teeth Vlad stated the only rule to their duel: "Powers only!"
    "My pleasure, you bald-headed baby!" Mark hissed back.

    He had planned to shout the insult out loud, but found his conviction inhibited. Standing so close to Vladislaus their auras overlapped not unlike the magnetic fields of two planets. Only that it felt like being a very small moon that orbited a uge gas giant. There was no denying: Vladislaus was the stronger vampire when it came to raw power. Their age meant nothing, talent would win the day.

    How long had it been since Albus the Grey had to fight for his very life?
    The crusades, the crusades..

    The moment passed. Reflexively Mark exhaled. Lungs that had stopped working centuries ago suddenly were pumping again. Sometimes an undead body produced such an effect, because it was neither dead nor alive. It happened and when it did, it hurt to no small degree.

    "I'm just warming up here", the younger vampire claimed.
    A grin was playing on his face. So the infamous Albus the Grey had been affected by his fear power! Two or three more rounds and "affected" would have added up to "defeated", of that Vladislaus was certain.
    "Your turn, old man!" he said.

    Free from the other's spell, Mark went at his opponent with everything he had.


    He had to seize this chance, because he would not get another one. Mark was ready to employ every trick he had learned in every back alley and seedy bar. Every piece of strategy aquired in the field of battle. And everything he had learned about the psychology of an accursed.

    It turned out that a well aimed swing followed by a grapple was enough already. Even Corey the scholar could have done it, or so Mark presumed, if only had he found the courage in himself to challenge Vlad.

    "No... gasp... I... said... kch, kch... powers only..." Vladislaus protested.

    "These ARE my powers. Channeled into augmenting my physical strength, true, but still dark energies derived from my curse!"

    "You... brute!"
    It was all Vlad could utter while he was lifted high up into the early morning air. To add insult to injury, an insolent early morning bird was chirping merrily somewhere in the bushes.


    And now Mark shouted, not aiming to hurt with words, but letting out a primeval scream of one who knew he had faced death but not allowed to claim him:


    When Vlad knelt before the victorious challenger, he knew that he had been beaten by Mark's human part: his warrior training and the old body's well honed reflexes. The realisation added to the humilation and left the younger vampire nauseated.

    "What now?" Mark challenged. "Will you submit or shall we wait for the sun to come up together?"


    "I... yield..."
    "Then here dies Count Vladislaus Straud the fourth", Mark declares. "You'll assume a new cover identity to symbolize you serving me now."
    "I will, master."

    Mark was savoring the moment. It was only slightly tarnished by Dustin's asking "So we are done here, Alba?"
    The vampire smiled upon being adressed thus by his newest companion.
    "Yes, we are. And I must thank you for keeping the "Oh, but you are vampires!" and the "But they are a myth!" offstage, my friend."
    "He, yes, I imagine that would get old soon!"

    The two scoundrels walked inside casually, while Vlad sped past them.

    "The Grey Lady bloodline is pathetic", Mark commented. "Vulnurability to Fire, Water AND children. Better remember that and never anger a goddess of her calibre, Dustin."
    "Wasn't planning to..."

    After what had just transpired, not only Vladislaus, but also Dustin was glad to be back inside the mansion. The thought that all of Forgotten Hollow was a vampire community and a good score of these seemed to be Daywalkers didn't endear the outside to Dustin.

    While Corey was happily taking inventory, Mark found some new clothes from among the posessions of Vlad's victim and Dustin tried to doze a little.

    "It was a gamble", Mark confided in his human friend afterwards. "The sun is indeed harmful to me. Less harmful than to Vlad, but bad enough." He sighed. "There used to be a time when I could walk around in the brightest daylight with no ill side effects. I'm afraid to fully recover I'll need Vlad's assistance. Despiseable as his ways are, this youngster seems to be a prodigy when it comes to vampire powers."


    "As for your reward..."
    "No, thanks!" Dustin declined. "Your little introduction speech earlier made me reconsider. I do not want anything from you. See, when all is said and done, it's not memories that remain, as you claim, but my soul. I'd rather leave that intact."

    "That's your call and I respect that. They money's not going anywhere. Or, rather, it's going 'round and 'round, growing daily. When you have need of it or of the godstouched's assisstance, you'll know where to find me. Chances are we'll find you before you even scream for help. Because I will keep the tabs on you to make sure your short life won't get cut even shorter."

    "Do you even need to ask?"
    "Because I'm your beloved pet..."
    "Nah! You gave me back my consciousness, sheltered me and helped me corner Vlad. That's me being in your debt thrice."


    And so it ended:

    Following the sudden death of Count Vladislaus IVth, the man's son arrived in town to accept his inheritance. Mark invited Vlad as well as two more Cursed of Poseidon into his personal court. He still had to find Arthur and Isabel, but this was another story for another day.

    Dustin returned home and to normality, richer by a huge favour from Mark, but no actual money.

    Like always.

    And this concludes the supernatural arc for now. The next chapter will most likely take place in San Myshuno or follow Alton to his vacation in Oasis Springs

    In the meantime here's a link to Corey's backstory: prisoner of windy island/chrono
    It was based on real world history, but I ditched that save and imported Corey and Cornel into the mainsave.
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    Chapter 18: The king has lost his crown

    Alright, let's dust this thread off. I just KNEW the old man would tire of continueing it some day, time for new blood to take or over. Hello world, I am Johanna Landgraab Jo Zest-Stone and this is my story!"

    Sorry for the long hiatus, but this tale is gameplay based and my gameplay mostly revolved around households unrelated to the Landgraab/Julio/Dustin arc lately. But now Jo (who first appeared in chapter 7) grew up to teen and livened up things.
    Normal text is Jo's narration, italics represent my gameplay comentary. Enjoy!

    The plan I set in motion at my twelvth birthday I had harboured for a long time already. I was out and about to meet a boy! Not what you might think, not in THAT kind of way, but... oh, I'm screwing up everything, right? You do not understand one word of this, huh? Ey, no sweat, people tell me I'm a bit of a goofball. I get that from my mom, and from my dad, I guess, though he had to train himself as a comedian while for mom it came naturally. Aaaaaaaanyway, soon as the official part of the party at my aunt's and uncle's was over, I made my escape from the mansion and went all the way to the ferry station and from there to WIN-DEN-BURG! Guess whom I lunch-crashed there? That's the same as party-crashing, by the way, only minus the party. Max Villareal!


    Thing is... he... changed... from when I knew him as a child.
    Like, a lot.
    Teenaged Max looked, um, very windenburgian, for lack of a better word.


    I flat out told him that I was ready to become a Renegade! Any challenge he'd throw at me I'd meet!!!

    At this point of the session I got a festival notification: Humour and Hijinks. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to let the children bond and sent them over immediately.

    "We could, um, go to the festival", Max said, pointing towards an announcement poster. "It should be fun?"

    And there we were, in the coolest town around the bay, the capital of Newstate: San Myshuno.
    Even better, the festival had already been set up and you won't believe who was just checking in: Ulrike Faust, a veteran Renegade!
    And right next to her Stefan Clover, who totally is a secret agent, everyone knows that, there's no denying, and he's so good that the whole world might know and he'd still get all the bad guys.

    Naturally both of them signed up for the dark team...


    ...and I told Max that we should compete against each other. I'd voluntarily join the light team, because my parents were more like jokers than pranksters and if I beat Max, he'd have to admit me to the Renegades.

    "We should be in the same team", he replied.
    Ui, what do you think, some sparks here?

    As a K.I. controlled sim Max couldn't join the other team. And he didn't seem interested in joining Jo's, either, because next thing I knew was him walking away, over towards the art gallery.


    Um, Max? Yeah, I know, there's a bubble-blower said to be in there, but I think it's only fow sho-ow! Hello? Over here is where the action is!
    By his namesake, great Maxis in Origin beyond, what was wrong with that boy? Wasn't he the king of mischief of the Windenburgbay anymore?
    I had to trust that he did what he did for a reason, making me nervous, probably.
    So I mustered all my confidence and strode towards the tea dispensers to take a sip.



    ...officially registered as partner-in-crime of the Renegades!
    Amazing, huh?

    A... a... a... am I seeing ghosts?!


    The guy in the white tank top, who just joined the goody-two-shoes, he looked stunningly like Julio Escobedo!

    That Julio... by now I knew his full story and how he was involved with my parents's deaths. But I still remember him as the kind angler who took the time to teach a bored kid how to fish and how to not kill people.

    Sooo, Julio... Nah, couldn't be. Julio could not show his face anywhere in Newstate lest he'd desired to get killed by Landgraab.
    Oh, and the Landgraab, that would be my family, who killed my real parents and the won custody over me. It's so sick but no one in the world cares enough to do anything about it and that's why I sometimes wish the world would burn, burn, burn.

    Looking around, trying to focus, I saw Max stand there like a pillar of salt.
    Again, what was wrong with that guy? Why did he stand there as if... oh, wow, suddenly I recognized that stance from myself whenever aunt Dinah and uncle Malcolm had their business partners over: As if he didn't belong!


    But this, the pranking, had been his life!

    Had he perhaps gotten in a row with the other Renegades?
    By now more and more of them appeared on the scene, all of them joining the same team, like a family reunion.


    Silly as it sounds, I felt the need to justify Max' absence to his friends.
    So I approached the table where Ulrike, Stefan and some enterpreteur from Windenburg sat and shouted:
    "Well, of yourse Max wouldn't touch the festival tea! Don't you know it's poisoned?!"

    The jury allocated some points over way, for effort, I suspect.

    And with that the duel was on!

    I was nearly bursting from exitement and then, then I found myself twitching uncontrollably.
    Definitely not from exitement, but from a handbuzzer attack!


    "What was that supposed to be good for?!" I yelled at the attacker, Stefan Clover. "We are on the same team, thank you very much!"
    "That's why", that plum replied. "It made you an unsuspecting target for an easy point."

    "So?" I asked, then grinned.
    Because the most unsuspecting target for sure was Max Villareal, who dream-walked the festival grounds as if he'd gotten a whiff of the bubble blower, after all.
    "Come on, DO something, you fake!" I shouted and then, then I slapped him right into his face!
    I do not know what had come over me, but I told myself it was okay when the referee marked our team down for another victory point.


    Meanwhile the Julio-lookalike stood at the microphone, totally ignored. If he'd been the real Julio, and in need to keep his head down, me and Max's quarreling served as a perfect distraction that day.

    "She likes him...?" I heard Morgan Fyres ask her fellow Renegade, Wolfgang Goth.
    "I think so", the man replied.

    "For real, what's wrong with your boss?" I threw at the adults. "You having become squares I can forgive, that's what old age does to people, but Max??? He's a teenager like me, he should..."


    Suddenly, totally out of the blue, and with no provocation whatsoever, Max slapped me!


    "No one calls the Renegades squares!" he hissed.

    "Look, he hit her back! I didn't know he likes her, too", Morgan commented, grinning, as if this was slap-slap-kiss-kiss.
    But in truth it was serious!
    "Let's grab another tea and let the kids sort it out", Wolfgang suggested. "They are racking up points for the team like the apocalypse."

    I cannot tell what was scarier: Seeing my childhood idols acting like ladies at tea-time or Max scowling at me for insulting his friends. Or the fact that he hadn't reacted to my earlier insult that had been aimed at himself. It was almost as if he had... stopped caring about himself, somehow?

    Whatever. The dark team won, naturally, and the fireworks went into the night air.
    Max stood close to me when it started and he winced at a particularly impressive rocket exploding right above our heads.


    "Scared, square?!" I teased him.

    But Max, he just slumped to the nextbest seat and started to snore!


    Puzzled and disappointed I turned towards Morgan Fyres.


    "Let him", she said before I could open my mouth. "The Renegades were everything to Max, yet he was forced to outgrow them even before the rest of us. Max had to drop out of school to work in the furniture factory. Adult shifts, because they pay more and the Villareal need the money. It's... nothing you should concern yourself with, kid."

    For a minute or say I said nothing. It wasn't Morgan's fault that she mistook me for a worry-less teen, 'cause that was what I'd acted like all evening. And she really didn't need to know how wrong she was.

    Someone else, however, already knew:

    Julio. Yes, it was him for real.
    And the woman was Julie Weaver, whom we talked about at home in hushed or acidic voices, depending on how severly she had damaged the family business AGAIN. But I, I secretly admired that woman.


    Julio and Julie sat down with Jo autonomously, still wearing their embarassing festival clothes. Remember - he is a Landgraab mob dropout and she leads a movement with the intent of bringing the mob down. Befriending Johanna will go a long way towards that goal.

    "We need to talk", Julie told me.

    And so, while Max slept as he deserved, a new alliance was forged.

    The Landgraab will go down!


    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
  • EnkiSchmidtEnkiSchmidt Posts: 2,812 Member
    edited June 2017
    Chapter 17 a: The fake cowboys

    "Dustin" and "Anita" made an appearance in my Homeless Toddler gameplay thread, so I'll link to that.
    Storywise these two chapters go before Johanna growing up to teen but after the vampire story arc.
    Currently running: (Just random family play from my Detroit save for the rest of the month)
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