A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 1.7 Changes

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Part seven of chapter one

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A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 1.7 Changes

  1. 2. Previously in A Corporate Conspiracy… Laurel has finally left for college leaving Darwin as the only child in the house, while Melinda and Kellie were settling in to the college routine. Stanley began having his nightmares again and Jason offered a possible alternative to traditional medications. Now… “ What do think Cat? Should I do it?”
  2. 3. “ Well, we know that the traditional medication is causing some trouble. I suppose that it is worth a try. I called Jason and asked about the ingredients and many of them are known herbal remedies for anxiety and stress. Granted, it is a ‘magical’ potion and I don’t know of how much value powdered praying mantis is to you.” “ Ugh, please don’t tell me what’s in it.” “ Nerd if you trust Jason enough to give you something that won’t hurt you, then I say let’s try it. If nothing else it should help regulate your sleep patterns.” The bottle was just as entrancing as it was in his dream sitting on the faux granite counter. Should he or shouldn’t he? Old Stanley would never have even considered this without days of thought and discussion but having been to the afterlife and back again really can change a man’s way of thinking.
  3. 4. “ You’ve been keeping your wild side on a leash for a while now. Just do it!” The stopper on the bottle was sealed with a bit of wax and Stanley gently broke it off with his finger nail and pulled the stopper out. Now freed of it’s prison the swirling blue liquid emitted a glow and Stanley raised the bottle to his lips.
  4. 5. Thinking about Cat’s mention of the praying mantis as an ingredient he choose to swallow the elixir in one go and reduce his need to taste it any longer than necessary. Almost as soon as the potion entered his stomach he felt a surge of confidence and energy. “Wow! That beats any energy drink on the market. We could make a fortune selling this stuff. I just hope it works like Jason said it would. It even tastes a bit like blueberries.” That evening Stanley pulled Darwin over to the chess table for a friendly game and a little father son chat.
  5. 6. “ Dad, why are we playing this? I’m terrible at it.” “ Actually, you are better at it than you think you are. Sometimes instinct is a better method of playing. Real chess masters use both knowledge and instinct to win.” Stanley considered Darwin’s second move, “Though don’t forget to refortify your king.” He watched his son’s face as Darwin considered what he had done. “Are you ready to head off for college?” “ Are you trying to get rid of me already?” “ No, but I’m sure your mother would like to be there when you graduate.” God! That was a morbid thought! Jason had mentioned something the other day…
  6. 7. “ Darwin, you know that you can tell me anything. Right? Anything that might be troubling you or you have questions about.” Darwin looked up sharply, finally he spoke, “What did Mister Gross tell you?” “ He said that he believed that you might have an ability like he has and quite frankly, I’m a little concerned that you felt you could tell him and not me.”
  7. 8. “ It’s a little weird Dad. I guess I was afraid of what everyone would think. I’m already strange enough being all green…” Stanley nodded. He understood the need to be accepted and to not stand out too much. “So what’s going on?” Darwin thought for a bit, “It’s had to explain. Sometimes I think that some things are trying to talk to me. Like this one tree in the park or your weird weather machine at work.” “ My machine spoke to you?” “ Well, not ‘spoke’ exactly. More like whispered, though I can’t understand what they are trying to say.”
  8. 9. “ Has anything else tried to whisper to you?” “ Not exactly. Once I thought that the really old car that Mister Dreamer drives might have tried. Then there was Miss Grey…”. Stanley was perplexed, “Miss Grey whispered to you?” “ No. Something nearby was when she had me go out in the garden with her to talk. It kind of scared me. She kind of scared me.”
  9. 10. Stanley’s hand froze over his queen, “What about her scared you? Was it something she said or did?” “ It was just a feeling Dad. She said that she liked making people feel uncomfortable on purpose. It was probably just her doing that.” “ There’s no reason for her to try and manipulate you like that son. What did she talk to you about?” “… She wanted to know if I could sense things about other people and stuff.” “ What did you tell her?” “ Nothing really. That’s when I got scared and asked to leave. I hope I didn’t get you in trouble or anything.”
  10. 11. Stanley finished his move and thought about what he just learned. Have I been too trusting of my employer? Why would she want to know something like that? Why would she even suspect it? I didn’t think too much about the DNA samples of Darwin we produced for the Corporation. Could the two things be connected? “Maybe I should arrange for you to have a talk with Jason. I’ve seen his gift in action and he knows a whole lot more about this sort of thing than I do. Maybe he can teach you to use it.” Or maybe he can tell me if I should be worried about this or not. He told me once he didn’t trust the people who run SFO Corporation. “ Sure, or he can tell me if I’m crazy or not.” The next morning across town…
  11. 12. G was not happy. He had had some time to think about the assertive manor in which Marie Grey had dismissed his opinions about keeping the alien DNA project exclusively in Pleasant View. And now, his former training as a police officer was getting the better of him. “ Something fishy is going on but I just can’t put my finger on what it is. She’s up to something big. Bigger than Pleasant View.” The cat playing with it’s spring toy across the room just ignored him. He closed his eyes and recounted the events he was familiar with. “SFO Corporation comes to town and starts spreading cash around to various charitable organizations. They were huge at that time, but by the time the new divisional headquarters building opened up downtown, they had begun to be described as a ‘mega corp’ by some financial experts. They come to Pleasant View PD and offer to buy us new equipment.”
  12. 13. “ Which we really needed so I as police chief accepted it. The board then offers me a position with the company as CEO of the Pleasant View division.” He stopped to ponder. “I thought it was strange then as I have no training what-so-ever in business but took it anyway because I saw it as a chance to do something bigger for the community than just enforce the law.” “ A few new parks and a community center later and what have I really succeeded in getting done? One of the biggest scientific research projects in years and I let her take it away!” He was startled out of his train of thought by the doorbell.
  13. 14. He opened the door to find Heidi standing there with a newspaper in hand. “Heidi!” “ Good morning. I’m sorry to bother you on a Saturday but have you seen the paper this morning?” “ No. I hardly read the thing. I get my news on line now.” “ There’s an article in here about the Academy of Science nominating Doctor James’ work for their top prize this year.” She set the paper down on a small table in the hall.
  14. 15. “ Heidi you look… different. I’ve never seen you in civilian clothes before.” She was only momentarily distracted, “The nomination is huge G! We’ve really put Pleasant View on the map!” “ You look nice. I like your hair down.” “ Are you even listening to me?”
  15. 16. “ Absolutely. Nomination, huge, map. Got it. That still doesn’t change the fact that you look really nice.” “ You’re incorrigible!” He smiled, “Yes I am. I am glad that you are here though. I have something I want to do and I would like your opinion about it.” “ Of course. What is it?” “ I’m planning to go over to Miss Grey’s office today to speak to her again about the alien project.” Word this carefully G. “I feel the need to apologize again for my assumptions and I was wondering if you have any ideas to make things go a little smoother. You know more about her than I do.”
  16. 17. Heidi was a bit taken aback. She had always assumed that G was the kind of man who always pushed forward and never looked back at the wreckage behind him. “I suppose that if you are polite and that you always keep in mind that she is the one in charge you will do okay. Why the sudden change in attitude?” “ I want to be more involved. It’s about time I took real ownership of this opportunity. Up until now I’ve been little more than a body to operate a pen. A rubber stamp could do my job and be much better at it.” “ That’s not really true.” “ It is. I was Chief of Police for heaven’s sake! I know how to manage people and resources but so far I’ve only managed to mess things up.” He turned and opened the door for her, “I call you when I get back from my visit with the boss and let you know how things go.”
  17. 18. In a condo downtown, Marie Grey was having her own discussion about the future of SFO Corporation and Pleasant View as well. “ I honestly get so tired of having to listen to every little problem. Is it too much to ask to have a set of employees than can just do as they are told? I don’t care about their problems at home or who took who’s stapler. I’m the owner of the company! I shouldn’t have to hear this crap!”
  18. 19. “ Move forward with the plan to liquidate the board. They have exceeded their usefulness. Just make sure to tag their financial accounts first. I don’t want to be losing money just because some idiot drowned himself in his own bathtub. Understand?”
  19. 20. “ I understand.”
  20. 21. She was interrupted by the beep of the phone intercom. “ Yes.” “ I’m sorry to bother you ma’am but Mister Gilcarbo is here and wishes to speak with you if possible.” She paused mid brush stroke What does that idiot want now? “Send him in in five minutes. No sooner!” “ Yes ma’am.”
  21. 22. She put down her paints and crossed the room to speak face to face with her companion. “Keep a close eye on the boy. Send me regular reports. I want to know what he is doing, who he’s dating, what he eats for breakfast. Everything. Do you understand?”
  22. 23. “ I understand. Do you understand that to do so I have to avoid a nosey warlock and his mentors? That’s not as easy as it sounds.” “ And I pay you well for your effort. I choose you because you are more than capable of handling difficult missions Theron.” “ You pay me for difficult. We never negotiated a cost for ‘the impossible’.” “ The cost is insignificant. Just. Do. Your. Job. And you will get your money.”
  23. 24. The hooded man bowed and smiled evilly, “And the bonus?” “ Yes. The bonus too.” “ Then I will do as you ask.”
  24. 25. As Marie turned to face the door to greet her visitor, Theron leapt into the air and vanished in a puff of smoke. “ Everyone has their price”, she said with a sigh.
  25. 26. Goopy entered the office with a smile. “Miss Grey I’m so sorry to bother you on a Saturday but I felt what I need to say just couldn’t wait.” Do I smell smoke?
  26. 27. “ Come in G. It’s fine to bother me on the weekends. Corporate owners don’t really get weekends off anyway. Have a seat.” The smile actually hurt her face. “What’s on your mind?”
  27. 28. G sat on the sofa. “First, I wanted to apologize again for my outburst the other day. I quite often open my mouth without thinking and it gets me into more trouble than you could possibly know. Heidi explained to me later about the upper level of corporate culture. I’m still kind of new at all this.”
  28. 29. “ I didn’t hire you for your business acumen. I hired you because you are a well known face here in Pleasant View and the community responds better to the devil they know than the one they don’t. As for the ‘outburst’ as you put it. I do understand pride and ego. But when it comes to making a profit, those things can only get in your way. If you want to succeed within this company you have to learn to accept the direction of those above you.”
  29. 30. “ Even if it’s the wrong direction?” Marie’s left eyebrow shot up and he knew he had just pissed her off again. “What I mean is, what if you think you might have a better idea than the one your superior is suggesting?”
  30. 31. “ I’m confused. Do you think that by starting your conversation with ‘I want to apologize’ gives you the right to continue to question my decisions? Miss Swenson is a smart woman with a lot of corporate experience. So I have to assume that you didn’t really listen to what she told you. Am I right?”
  31. 32. “ This is not going like I planned. I didn’t mean to insinuate that you don’t know how to run your business. I just wanted to try and learn what I needed to get better at my job. All I wanted to know is how you want your subordinates to make suggestions so I don’t screw it up again in the future.” “ You don’t.” “ I’m sorry?”
  32. 33. “ I hired you to be a face Mister Gilscarbo. Not a brain. If you are unwilling to fulfill the duties of that job description then you should submit your resignation now. I have no time for your inabilities.” “ I like my job! I just believe that there is more I could do.” “ Stick with the media events and parties. Open a home for orphaned children. I don’t care what you do. Just make sure when you do it, it gives SFO Corporation a good name in the community. Leave the big plans to those who know what they are doing. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to get back to my painting.” G left with a certain feeling that he was right about the ‘wrongness’ within SFO Corporation.
  33. 34. Marie was left with the bad taste in her mouth that dealing with lower life forms gave her. “I may have to add him to Theron’s to-do list after all.” She returned to the front of her easels and picked up her brush.
  34. 35. “ Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?”
  35. 36. That same night at Sim State University… “ Man I’m glad this place is open late. I don’t have a proper thing to wear.” Laurel picked out a new dress for herself as well as for Kellie who, as soon as Laurel arrived at the house, was informed that the track suit she was wearing was horrible.
  36. 37. “ That will be four hundred simoleons please.” “ It’s a good thing mom sent some extra money along with me”, she said smiling at the bubbly cashier. Hmm… She’s kinda cute.
  37. 38. Laurel changed her clothes right there in the store. “Now that is much better. I’d best be getting back to the house or Mel will have a fit I’m sure.” College life was already suiting Laurel to a T.
  38. 39. Laurel really had no worries when it came to Melinda being mad about her being out so late when she herself was out on a date with her fiancé, George. Though George was questioning whether or not this was really a date and not a ‘come shopping’ with me girl thing. “ I really thought we were going to do something fun honey.” “ This is fun. Ohh! Formal wear.” “ Well maybe it’s fun for you.” “ Just a few minutes more and then we will go to Red’s. Okay?” He rolled his eyes, “Okay”.
  39. 40. Mel picked out a formal dress that caught her eye and they made their way over to the changing booth so she could try it on. George stood outside waiting patiently and thinking to himself that the only thing that could make this worse was if he was standing there holding her purse. “ George? Could you come in here and help me? The zipper is stuck.” “ Alright. Here I come.” Mel giggled at him as he tentatively stepped inside.
  40. 41. “ Mel, you’re not wearing the dress. What are you doing? We’re in a public place! Mel? People will notice.” She kissed him and whispered, “And now that you have been so noisy they all know what we are doing in here so, shut up.” A crowd outside gathered as the sounds of George and Mel fumbling around in the tight space attracted them. There was some cheering and George could feel the blush spreading across his face.
  41. 42. “ Quickie woo hoo in a public closet. Great.” He was embarrassed and a little excited too. He had never done something like that and most certainly never expected Mel to try it either.
  42. 43. She quickly pulled on the dress because she really did want to see what it looked like. The crowd outside was noisy but she put on a brave face and stepped out of the booth. A few weeks ago she would have never, ever done such a thing. The dress looked pretty nice on and while her budget didn’t allow for the cost of it right now, she would keep it in mind for the future. George had wandered off to talk to a friend so Mel quickly changed back into her clothes, picked up the ones she had intended to buy and called the cab.
  43. 44. “ I still can’t believe you did that.” “ Shall we have the chicken? Or did you want mac and cheese again? I know it’s your favorite.” “ The chicken’s fine.” He waited patiently for the waitress to finish taking their order and leave. “What’s up with you?” “ What do you mean?” “ Never in a million years would I have imagined you pulling me into a changing booth for a quickie. Don’t laugh! I want to know why the sudden turn around from slightly uptight to party girl.” “ Party girl? Why are you always insulting me? Besides, didn’t you have fun doing it too?”
  44. 45. “ Well yes, it was embarrassing but yes, I enjoyed it. It’s just, not like you.
  45. 46. “ What? You can become Mister Super Student but I’m not allowed to have some fun?” “ I didn’t say that.” “ I know. I’ve been thinking a lot about…things lately and I’ve decided that most of the stuff I was worrying about wasn’t worth the time. I could waste my whole life worrying about my sisters or what other people think about me. I’ve decided to give it all up.” “ Just like that?” “ Yep.” Mel’s attention drifted to the door. “Ah! Cheese and crackers!”
  46. 47. “ My mother‘s here! Of all the burger places in town, she has to come here.” “ I thought you liked your mother.” “ I do. But I really don’t want her riding shotgun on a date with you.” Mel leaned in closer, “Besides, what if I want to try out the photo booth?” “ I…” He put his hand over his face, “We won’t be doing that. There are too many people and quite frankly your mother scares me a little bit for some reason. I wouldn’t find it surprising to wake up one day and find myself in a hospital missing a few vital bits of my anatomy.” Mel laughed and waved at her mother as she passed, “She would never do that. She’s too nice.”
  47. 48. The waitress arrived and swiftly deposited two plates of crispy fried chicken on the table. George picked up his fork and tasted the mashed potatoes. He watched Mel as she pushed the items on her plate away from one another before taking a bite. It was one of her odd little quirks. “Are you going to change your major?” She shook her head and finished chewing, ‘Nope. But I do know what I want to do when we graduate.” “ What’s that?” “ I thought it would be fun to work for a newspaper writing articles and reporting the news.” “ I suppose that would be fun.”
  48. 49. “ What about you. Are you switching over to economics?” “ No. I thought I might try science.” “ Science?!” She almost choked on her bite of food. Once she collected herself, “You mean like my dad?” “ He does paranormal research doesn’t he?” She nodded. “I was thinking more along the lines of chemistry and physics. SFO Corporation recruits from the university all the time now. And it pays really well.” “ It almost doesn’t suit you George. I thought you were going to go into business or work at the corporate headquarters.”
  49. 50. He reached over and put his hand on top of hers. “I guess we’ve both changed a lot over the last couple of years. But I wouldn’t change anything about us.” “ That’s awfully sweet George. Are you sure? This is the test drive period. After we graduate your ability to opt out on the lease is gone.” He smiled at her attempt at humor. ”No way Miss James, soon to Missus McCarthy. I’m not changing my mind.” “ Yeah. Ah… about that taking your last name thing…”
  50. 51. The next morning over breakfast… “ Did he freak out about the name thing? I know daddy would be sad to see the James name die out.”
  51. 52. “ It wouldn’t really die out since I’m sure Darwin will have a family too, but no he didn’t freak out. I explained that dad wanted for there to be a continuation of the family line and that if we wanted to inherit the house he would have to make a small sacrifice. I suppose we could do the hyphenated thing.”
  52. 53. Kellie casually ate her pancakes listening to her sisters chat about random things. It was kind of like things used to be at home and it felt nice. Soon Darwin will be here too. Then things will really get fun. “Umm…I don’t suppose you two have anything planned for today?” Laurel shook her head, “I have to get my books and go to my first classes this morning.” Mel frowned, “Why?” “ Well, I wanted to invite Ted over.” Laurel perked up, “Ted? Who’s Ted?” “ Just one of three guys Kellie’s been dating all at the same time.”
  53. 54. “ She’s exaggerating.” “ No I’m not.” “ So…is he cute or from a good family? Come on! I have been away from all the drama since you guys left.” “ I don’t think he’s rich. But he is really, really nice and he loves children. I was hoping that you two might disappear for a while today so I could invite him over.” “ But I want to meet him.” “ Maybe later. Please.” “ Fine! But you have to bring him here for dinner or something so I can check him out for you.”
  54. 55. Getting rid of her sisters for the day turned out to be harder than she thought but finely they agreed if she took the cleaning duties for the rest of the week. Ted was happy to come over when she called and she greeted him with an enthusiastic kiss.
  55. 56. “ I thought you were never going to call.” He said softly as he caressed her cheek. “I was certain that Hayden had you wrapped around his finger.” “ Oh God! You know!” Her heart was racing, “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone Ted. I was just…” “ Finding yourself?” “ Yeah. You’re not mad?” “ That depends. Did you call me over today to be with me or just for some more physical entertainment?” “ To be with you.” “ Then I’m not mad, but I’m not really one for sharing Kell.”
  56. 57. Back in Pleasant View… “ So dude! Your sisters all take off for school and you leave on Sunday. Who am I supposed to hang out with now?” Darwin was really beginning to hate this game, “I don’t know Chewy. How about Randy and Ivy?” “ Man! All the fun people are leaving and I don’t get to go.” From the other room his mother’s voice interrupted, “Darwin? You have a phone call.” “ That’s probably Carrie. We’re going to the park tonight.” Darwin jumped up and rushed to the phone. “ And he’s dating?” Chewy sighed, “My life is so boring.”
  57. 58. Later that night the cab dropped Darwin and Carrie Wong off at the park. Darwin had known her since he entered high school and they were really just barely friends. She was related by marriage to his father’s therapist and while he didn’t find her particularly attractive they seemed to have a lot in common. “ So…Here we are at the park. After dark. To do…What exactly?”
  58. 59. “ Well, I thought we could go for a walk around the lake and talk and stuff.” Man! This was a lame idea. Maybe we should have gone bowling or something. “ Fair enough.” Carrie surveyed the park from where they stood. It was empty at the moment. “Darwin James! You didn’t bring me here to do something bad did you?” “ No! I would never…” “ Because my dad’s a cop and he knows where we are and who I’m with.” “ No, Carrie! Honest! I just wanted to spend some time with you before I leave for college and I really like this park.”
  59. 60. “ At least you get to go to college.” “ Shall we?” Darwin gestured towards the path dramatically and Carrie couldn’t help but laugh. “ You are so weird.” “ Yeah. I hear that a lot.” The pair walked through the small flower garden and out to a bridge which crossed a small stream that fed the lake.
  60. 61. “ You know Carrie, You’re the first girl I’ve ever been on a date with.” “ Really? That seems a little odd considering how nice you are and how much fun you can be.” “ I think that goes back to that weird thing you mentioned earlier. ‘Cause you know? I’m half alien. The green skin?” He pointed at his face. “ You’re the same as my uncle Titus. Well, I think he’s my uncle. Aunt Psion always says that they have the same alien father.” She inhaled sharply, “You thought I was calling you weird because you’re half alien! I didn’t mean it that way. Really!” “ Your uncle’s half alien? Does he have any special powers?” “ I don’t think so. Unless you call being a great musician a power.”
  61. 62. They continued their walk around the lake looking at the fish swimming lazily in the moonlight till they reached the oldest tree in the park. It was a weeping willow that stood a dozen feet taller than anything else there. As he approached, Darwin heard the whispering sounds this tree often made when he came to visit.
  62. 63. He sat on the bench and looked out over the lake. A few other people had congregated near the chess boards since they arrived and he watched them as Carrie settled down next to him. “ I can’t say that I’ve been on lots of dates, but usually we do something other than walk around.” “ I guess I’m boring you huh?” “ You seem really down or something. Is something wrong?” “ No. Maybe. I don’t know. I miss my sisters a lot and I’m kinda nervous about going to college. Among other things.” He choose to not tell her about the whispering tree.
  63. 64. Darwin quickly changed the subject, “We could talk about you. Girls like to do that right?” Carrie frowned a bit at the insinuation that all girls were conceited, “That would be fine except my life is really boring.” She looked at the ground and fidgeted. “Oh! Did you hear that my cousin Wren got picked to be on this game show thing?” Darwin shook his head. “It’s this thing were they pick a guy or a girl and put them in a house with seven other people that they might be attracted to. And then each day they eliminate one of the seven. Wren wrote me a letter and said that the bachelor, his name is Djor, is really cute and if she wins she gets to marry him. Wren can be really competitive and I think she has a good chance.” “ What if she doesn’t love him?” “ I guess she would get eliminated.”
  64. 65. “ It seems a weird way to find a husband to me.” They continued along the path towards the front of the park and Carrie looked at her watch. “I really can’t be out much later.” Darwin nodded silently and she pulled out her cell to call for a cab. “It was fun.” “ No it wasn’t.” “ Okay. It wasn’t. But it was nice to get to spend some time with you before you left for school.” Darwin walked her to the cab and opened the door for her. As she got in, “Call me when you get to Sim State or email me and tell me all about it. Okay?” Darwin smiled, “Okay.” He had hoped that things would go a little better on his first date ever but it could have been worse.
  65. 66. The next day was a momentous one for Darwin. It was the last day at home before he headed to school and his father had arranged to have Mister Gross to come talk to him. He was really nervous. What if it was all a mistake? Maybe he was imagining the voices? His dad had those kind of problems. Couldn’t he? They all gathered in the living room after Jason arrived and Darwin found he could hardly sit still. Granted that wasn’t unusual for him. His energy levels had always been high and the slice of homemade berry pie he had for lunch hadn’t helped matters.
  66. 67. Stanley started the serious conversation. “Now Darwin. This is all about helping you figure out what is going on. There is no pressure to do this and if you feel uncomfortable at any time just say so and we will end the conversation.”
  67. 68. “ Jason is my best friend and I’ve know him for a very long time. He sometimes smells like rotting animal parts but he is someone you can trust.” “ Hey!” “ He is also a warlock and has a lot of experience with all the different kinds of unusual creatures we find in our world. That knowledge is why he works in my lab and if anyone can help you figure this out he can. Even if he did get me struck by lightning.” “ I did not come here to be insulted.”
  68. 69. “ Just ignore the jabs Jason. He’s been feeling very frisky since he took your potion and the flippant remarks seem to just pop out.”
  69. 70. “ Then it’s working? That’s great. If you don’t mind I would like to talk to Darwin somewhere private so that we can focus on the task at hand.” Cat nodded, “You can use the dining room or the back yard. Stanley and I will just have to find something else to keep us occupied.” Stanley hopped up from the couch, “Yes!” “ I wasn’t talking about that .”
  70. 71. Jason and Darwin moved to the dining room table leaving Cat and Stanley discussing what they were going to do for the next hour or so. “ Your parents really do love one another.” Darwin grimaced, “It’s gross. I caught them on the couch yesterday.” Jason smiled, “Someday you won’t find it so disgusting. I promise.” His face turned serious, “Darwin what I’d like to do today is find out all I can about what you are sensing. I need you to be absolutely honest with me. I will know if you lie and lying won’t help you in any way. I’m going to ask you some questions and I have a small test. Okay?”
  71. 72. “ What if this is all some kind of mistake. Like I’m imagining the voices or something.” “ I don’t believe that’s the case but if it is than we will figure that out today. Are you ready?” “ I guess so.” “ I need you to focus. Before you answer the questions, close your eyes and concentrate on what I am asking you about.” Darwin took a deep breath and did his best to calm himself. It wasn’t easy to do. “Alright. I’m ready.”
  72. 73. “ When did you first hear anything like these whispers and what was making them?” “ Umm…I think it was the weeping willow in the park. Mom and Kellie used to take me there when I was little.” “ Can you understand anything you hear?” “ No. It’s just noise. The trees and plants seems to make a musical humming sound and things like electronics sound like static. There aren’t any words.” “ What make you think that it isn’t just a normal background noise?” “ Not every thing does it and some things do it more than others.”
  73. 74. “ Am I crazy?” Jason frowned, “Absolutely not.” “ Then what is it?” “ I think I will reserve my explanation until after we try a little test. Okay?” “ What kind of test?”
  74. 75. Jason set a small twisted tree on the table between them. “I brought with me this bonsai tree. In case you don’t know bonsai trees are really bigger trees or shrubs that a sim carefully tends to keep small and sculpt into unique shapes. Some of them can be hundreds of years old. I happen to know a great deal about this tree’s history. I would like to tell me if you hear the humming noise you told me about from this particular tree. And I really want you to try and focus on the sound.”
  75. 76. Darwin studied the little tree closely. He tried to clear his mind and focus but as usual for him there was always something else trying to creep in. It took him several minutes of hard concentration but eventually he began to hear the musical like humming. Try as he might though he could not make out any words or even sounds that resembled words. Jason watched patiently knowing that it took a lot of concentration for almost anyone to do this if they had a talent for it and that Darwin’s natural proclivity to always be in motion would be working against him. Finally, “I can hear it humming but none of it makes sense.”
  76. 77. “ Did I fail?” “ It’s not really a pass or fail test. Describe the sounds to me.” “ Chimes and flowing water. I think.” Jason nodded. “Then you hear the same thing I do. Have you ever studied magic in any way or did Laurel bite you when she was a vampire? Have you been exposed to anything unusual?” “ No. I don’t thing so. I’m just half alien.” Jason closed his eyes and sighed. “I don’t exactly understand why you have the ability but you seem to be able to hear the spirits that live in the world around us talking.” The incredulous look on Darwin’s face prompted Jason to continue, “Lets’ go outside. I want to show you something.”
  77. 78. The pair made their way into the sparse back yard and Jason turned. “All around us, the world is filled with entities that most normal sims will never see let alone hear. Commonly they are called spirits and everything that exists has one. Even the objects that we sims create. Most of the time these spirits sleep and are inactive, but occasionally they wake up or are awakened by someone for a purpose. What you are hearing is the voices of these awakened spirits. Most warlocks and witches, some vampires and werewolves and all fairy folk and plant sims can hear them if they concentrate.” “ But I’m not any of those.” “ I know. And that’s puzzling to be sure. Darwin I believe that you can learn to talk to them given time and effort. For some reason you received this gift. No doubt in time we will figure out why.” “ Does this mean that I can learn magic?”
  78. 79. Jason stepped away from Darwin and pulled out his wand, “Well, that’s up to you. Almost anyone can become a warlock or witch but very few have a real talent for it. Every time one of us casts a spell we are calling on the spirits to create a certain effect. Being able to speak with them easily would certainly be helpful.” Jason focused his will and chanted a simple spell.
  79. 80. And a small group of butterflies appeared and began to flutter about.
  80. 81. “ That is so cool!”
  81. 82. Jason smiled, “Yes it is. Now watch this.” Swirling lights formed around him a coalesced into a golden glow. Within seconds Jason had vanished from view.
  82. 83. “ Huh? Where’d he go?”
  83. 84. Jason easily teleported to the front side walk and called for Darwin to join him. Adeline had always chided him to be humble about his abilities but the teleportation spell was just too much fun not to play with.
  84. 85. Darwin jogged around the house to join him. “That is so awesome! Please teach me how to do that.” “ No.” “ What do you mean no?” “ I can’t be your teacher for magic. But there are two here in Pleasant View who can. Which one of the two you choose is up to you. I can help you some with your ability to hear spirits but I’m not allowed to teach magic to anyone. I haven’t learned enough myself to do so.” Darwin was a little disappointed but it made sense. “What do I do to get better with the spirit thing?”
  85. 86. “ Keep the bonsai tree I brought. Take it with you to college. Spend a little time each day just listening to it. Don’t try to understand, just listen. I will come by from time to time to teach you something of the spirit language. I have to go now. Say goodbye to your parents for me.” Jason summoned his broom with a snap of his fingers and flew off into the sky with a laugh.
  86. 87. Darwin stood there in the yard for some time after watching Jason fly off. Did he really just get told that he would be learning to talk to spirits? There were other witches in town? How was he supposed to find them? What’s so special about that silly little tree? He had far too many questions and essentially no answers. “I need some candy.”
  87. 88. That evening Darwin made his final arrangements for his trip to Sim State. He had carefully packed the bonsai tree in a box so that it wouldn’t get smashed and packed his bags. The cab came very early in the morning and he hugged his parents before hopping into the cab. As the cab pulled away he caught a glimpse of them making out in the den through the window.
  88. 89. Back at Sim State… Things were going well for the James girls. Mel had slipped into her more carefree existence with gusto and while her grades had slipped a little she was still well in the passing range.
  89. 90. Kellie had also changed some. She found a new appeal to the idea of being well educated. She still schlepped around in her nightgown for most of the day until she had to leave to go to class or something but actually starting and finishing a term paper or an assignment became just as important.
  90. 91. For Laurel, Sim State was one giant playground full of new sims to meet and special sims to get to know better. And apparently those special sims were other girls. It surprised everyone in the house.
  91. 92. Darwin stepped out of the cab on a sunny morning and immediately found that he wanted a new set of clothes. Not that the backwoods look was terrible but that it didn’t really suit him very well.
  92. 93. “ Yes Dad. He got here safe. “…” “ Ahh? He enrolled in biology.” “…” “ I’m not sure. I’ll ask.” She turned towards Darwin, “Dad wants to know why you choose biology?” “ Forensics. I want to be a spy.” “ He wants to be a spy.” “…”
  93. 94. “ I don’t know. Didn’t you talk to him about that before he left?” “…” “ Fine. Dad. I will tell him but I’m not his keeper and he’s a big boy now and can make his own decisions. I have to go now. Kisses to mom. Bye.” She hung up the receiver and headed into the kitchen to find something for lunch.
  94. 95. Darwin soon followed her and grabbed a leftover hamburger from the refrigerator. “What was dad complaining about?” “ Apparently being a spy is too dangerous and I should tell you to rethink your plan about joining the SCIA after graduation.” “ He can’t tell me what I’m gonna do with the rest of my life.”
  95. 96. “ I don’t think he means it like that. We’re talking about our father here. Everything bothers him at some level and most likely he’s just worried that you will be brutally tortured for some meaningless bit of information and then killed.” “ Nice. You know, a lot of journalists have lost their lives looking for the truth too. Why isn’t he bugging you about that. Or reminding Kellie that one miscalculation could lead to a building collapse killing her and all the workmen inside.” “ Those jobs are mostly desk jobs. Only the rare sim gets hurt or worse. A spy on the other hand purposely goes into danger. Look, I don’t care what you do. Besides you just got here. In a couple of years you may change your mind.”
  96. 97. “ Unlikely.” “ If you say so but look at George. He went from wanting to be a comedian to wanting to be a chemist. Things change as you get older. Your perspective changes.” “ Are really going to marry him?” “ What’s that supposed to mean?” “ You’ve never, ever even dated anyone else. Haven’t you even once thought about spending time with a different guy?” “ Nope.”
  97. 98. “ Not even once?” “ Nope.” Darwin himself had only been on one and only one date during high school. Most of the girls found him odd and avoided him so he really couldn’t judge Mel on her choice. Right now the closest thing he had to a girlfriend was a silly little tree that sat by his bed. Every night she hummed a tune to him. At least he felt it was a ‘she’. Usually it was the same tune but Darwin thought that he noticed that when the weather changed the tune would change a little. This idea of the weather affecting the tree reoccurred to him one afternoon while he was hanging out on campus…
  98. 99. When he heard and felt a subtle change in the air and found the source to be a woman dressed in an unusual dress and surrounded by a blue glow. Just like Jason had done, she summoned butterflies to the area and somehow changed the cloudy sky to clear and gloriously sunny. She’s a witch! Here on campus? He rushed to speak with her before she vanished.
  99. 100. “ Excuse me? I’m sorry to bother you but are you a witch?” The elderly woman turned and smiled at him. “I most assuredly am. And you young man are a… an alien.” Sarcastically he replied, “How could you tell?” “ I have a very keen eye for such things.” She looked around her at the unusual décor of the dance club. “What is such a nice young man such as yourself doing in such a wretched place. ‘Hellion’ indeed. All sorts of naughty things go on in places like this. You should avoid them.” He was confused at first. “Oh it’s just a club where people come to dance and have fun.” “ Really?” “ Yeah?”
  100. 101. She looked at him coyly, “I bet that you like sweets. I have the most delicious, buttery butterscotch here in my pocket. Would you like one?” Darwin was quick to pick up that she was testing him. “I was told to never accept candy from strangers.” “ My name is Trista. And you are?” “ Darwin.” He offered her his hand to shake. She shook her head and refused his hand. “Well, Darwin. Let me give you your first lesson in magic. You were wise to refuse the candy but readily gave me your name. I can now cast any spell I wished upon you. You unwisely rushed up to a stranger and placed yourself in danger.”
  101. 102. “ But you’re not green. Evil witches are green.” “ Lesson number two. Those who seek to do bad things can easily learn to hide their face.” “ Ahh? But the website said that…” “ Website? This is not a game Darwin James and you are not ready to learn what I have to teach.” She started to turn to leave.
  102. 103. “ Oh! Please don’t go. You’re right. I know nothing about magic but I really want to learn. My dad’s friend Jason said that learning magic would help me learn to control my… I just did it again didn’t I.” “ You seem to be a slow learner. Did you say Jason?” “ Yes. Do you know him? Did he mention me?” “ Yes and no. You still have much to learn Darwin but in time you just might be hammered into a decent warlock.” She snapped her fingers and summoned her broom. “I will come back when it is time for you to learn what I have to teach. For now, might I suggest you learn to be a little less forward with those you do not know well and cautious with those you do. It could save your life someday.”
  103. 104. “ She flew off and didn’t say anything else. I don’t know Jason. I think I screwed it up. I failed her test and now I won’t ever see her again. I don’t suppose the evil witch flies around and does the same thing does she? I could always try to get her to teach me.” Darwin pulled the phone away from his ear as Jason’s voice got louder. “ Alright! Calm down! Sheesh. I’m just saying that I could learn the basics from the evil witch than switch over to the good side right? It’s not like it’s hard.” He once again had to pull the phone away to protect his hearing. “ Fine! What am I supposed to do?”
  104. 105. “…” “ Patience isn’t really something I’m good at.” “…” “ The tree? It’s fine. I water it once a week and listen to it everyday like you said. I think it’s a girl.” There was a pause on the other end, “…” Darwin shrugged, “It sounds like a girl. Other than that, the only thing I’ve noticed is that the tune changes when the weather changes. Oh! I noticed that when the witch showed up at Hellion too!”
  105. 106. “…” “ Okay. Can you talk to her for me? Maybe convince her to come talk to me again?” “…” “ Why does everything have to be so complicated?” “…” “ Tradition?! I…” “…” “ Thanks Jason. Bye.”
  106. 107. He hung up the phone and sat down to work on his term paper. It seemed for now he had nothing but time to spend on his classes. For Mel and Kellie, their time at Sim State was now up…
  107. 108. The next day was a flurry of heavy duty exams and packing for the twins and when it was all over they threw the second party to ever be held in the house. Of course George was invited and Mel greeted him in an overly dramatic way. His own tests were fast approaching as well.
  108. 109. Ted was invited as too and Kellie quickly took the opportunity to introduce him to her mother and father.
  109. 110. Stanley and Catalina were impressed with how much the little house had changed since their college days. Stanley flirted with his wife the same way he used to when they both were much younger.
  110. 111. Then Darwin saw her walking down the street during the party. Her hair was golden and glowing. Her face was like a cherubs. Her eyes were like pale sapphires and he was instantly smitten. So taken by her looks, he nearly missed the opportunity to run out and speak with her. “Wait!” She turned toward him. “ Yes?” Remembering what the witch he met had told him, “Hi. You look a bit cold. Would you like to come in and join the party? We have plenty to drink and one of my sisters made a cheesecake.” You’re so pretty! Please talk to me. She smiled a shy smile, “That’s awfully nice of you but I don’t want to intrude. I’m on my way to class anyway. Thank you though.” “ Oh.” He so wanted to ask her name and give her his. This angel was about to get away and there was nothing he could do to stop it. She continued on down the sidewalk and Darwin was certain that everything had gotten a little bit darker when she passed out of site.
  111. 112. Now that the party was over Mel and Kellie called their cabs and headed back to Pleasant View to start their adult lives. Mel would be moving back home to help Stanley and Catalina construct a new garage and nursery for the house and to await George’s arrival.
  112. 113. Kellie had found herself a small townhouse across town where she planed on having Ted come and move in with her. Over at George’s Dorm…
  113. 114. Arcadia was giving her flirtation one more effort. “So, you’re still planning on moving back to boring old Pleasant View and marrying Melinda. I can’t change your mind.”
  114. 115. “ Sorry. I’ve known I was going to marry Mel since our first date when we were teens. Not even a pretty girl like you is going to change my mind.” “ I suppose after today I will never hear from you again.” He looked up at her, “I’m more than happy to consider us friends Arcadia but that’s all. If you can be happy with that, then you are always welcome to call or visit anytime.”
  115. 116. George finished his finals and packed his few belongings. Leaving Sim State was a little bitter sweet for him. There was a time when he never even dared to dream that he would be able to go to college. Now he was graduating at the top of his class and headed for a job with SFO Corporation in the paranormal R&D department. He would be working alongside his future father in-law. He had come a long way since that day at the news stand when Mel first flirted with him.
  116. 117. Next time on A Corporate Conspiracy… George looked at his bride and realized that today he was getting married. Married! Mel looked out at her friends and family and thought “would all please just sit down! It’s not that hard to do people!”  Click
  117. 118. Hey there! Excuse me for a bit. I have had the Pets EP since it came out and have never tried out the savage option. Let’s see what happens.
  118. 119. Excellent! Marylena should make an awesome werewolf. I would like to take a moment to point out a slight change to my sim’s skins (because it is very subtle). See Marylena’s blue eyes and my golden ones? I installed new default skins that include all supernaturals (except vampires). My golden eyes are the EA defaults for werewolves. Marylena’s are the new overly which does not change the eyes. For normal sims the skin change is very subtle, less pixilated and smoother. The scene between Goopy and Marie was shot after they were installed. For those of you that can see the difference there will be a few scenes next chapter where the skins go back and forth. I will be adding in a new overlay for vampires as well that is not so gray. I will be keeping the golden eyes because I am the Alpha werewolf in this neighborhood!
  119. 120. Now for the more interesting stuff… George, after doing a complete 180 degree turn on me aspiration-wise graduated with a 4.0 in physics and will become Stanley's replacement at the lab when Stanley decides to retire. He managed to raise his mechanical skill high enough for me to get him and Mel back to a two bolt attraction again.
  120. 121. Melinda went from family to pleasure/popularity. Another odd twist. Her daily wants include dancing the smustle, slap dancing, going for a hike and going on a date. I was lucky to keep her grades up as high as I did. She graduated with a 3.5 in literature and will be seeking employment with the Pleasant View Times.
  121. 122. Kellie went form pleasure/romance to knowledge/pleasure. She managed to max out her creativity and was in love with three guys at the same time. She graduated with a 3.9 in art and will be moving in with Ted Thompson.
  122. 123. Laurel and Darwin still have a lot of college left and I will be filling you in on their romantic interests in the first update of chapter two. Can you believe it took me seven updates plus a prelude to get this far?
  123. 124. Ahh! Hayden dropped out right as I hit pause. Don’t they look like they are rehearsing for a musical like State Fair or something? The slap dance is like a virus!
  124. 125. Way to scare the green guy for life!
  125. 126. For those of you who read my Officially Wacky Boolprop Challenge you will recognize this guy on the right. For those of you who didn’t, this is Titus Pie. Alien son of simself BlueBerryPie360. Why am I showing you this picture? Two reasons- One every alien in Pleasant View so far recognize each other as siblings. I’m guessing that my other Poli Tech is on vacation or something. And Two- don’t let the nice smile fool you. Titus was an ass to Darwin when I had them talk together and now they have a negative relationship score! I expect Titus to be rude to everyone except family. In the past he has always been great with family.
  126. 127. Nice! Stanley! This is your fault! I had a whole family of shy neatniks and you just had to go and die when we didn’t have enough money.
  127. 128. “ Bye!” “ I wonder what’s on Oprah.” Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed chapter one. The next update will be the start of chapter two with a redesigned cover page and Melinda Elise James as head of the family. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood strikes you. They really make me happy! 
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