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A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets
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A Corporate Conspiracy Chapter 2.1 Oaths and Secrets

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Chapter 2.1

Chapter 2.1

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  • 1.  
  • 2. Previously in A Corporate Conspiracy… Darwin had finished up with college and was facing some very tough decisions about his future. Mel and George had just brought Kira, the newest member of the James family into the world, while SFO Corporation had just experienced a huge loss with the deaths of most of it’s governing board members and Marie walked in on the gruesome murders of Loki and Circe Beaker in Strangetown.. Now… “ Ugh! What’s that smell? Smells like burnt bacon. And why do I feel dizzy?” George reached up and removed the malfunctioning thinking cap. “What the heck!” He stumbled to the coffee table and set the helmet down before being overcome by a wave a dizziness.
  • 3. He slumped to the floor, a victim of his desire to gain that last little bit of understanding of the culinary world and having been up most of the night caring for his newborn daughter Kira.
  • 4. In a nearby clothing boutique Darwin was sizing up all the changes that becoming an adult had brought to his life. New clothes couldn’t make up for the conflict he was feeling inside. He so very much wanted to marry Cassidy and start his own little family but it wasn’t fair to her to insist she move into his parents home. Sure the house was huge and there was probably plenty of room for everyone but it just didn’t feel right. On the other hand, Jason had been very adamant about Darwin’s moving back home as being the right step. Darwin frowned at himself in the mirror. Why was it the right step? Who was watching him and his father so closely? I’m such an idiot! Of course, it would be her. Who else cared enough about him to have him followed? But why was Marie Gray doing it? What did she want? The mirror was not giving him the answers he wanted and he sighed deeply in frustration, “I guess it’s time to go home.”
  • 5. “ Whose such a big girl? Is it you? Huh?” Mel bounced Kira gently and blew a raspberry on her tummy causing Kira to squeal in delight. “Who wore her daddy out so much that he passed out and drooled all over the floor? Was that you?” Once upon a time cuddling and playing with a baby was one of Mel’s highest priorities. So many things had changed for her since then, since her father had mistakenly struck over the head with a vase of roses. She had long since forgiven Stanley for that event but ever since things had been just a bit different. Now, babies were fun if they weren't pooping or puking or screaming their heads off but she would far rather be out chasing down a lead for a story for the Pleasant View Times or hiking the trails and paths around town. Babies meant being tied down, being responsible. Mel sighed and cuddled the little girl, “It’s a good thing you are so sweet.”
  • 6. Mel carried Kira out towards the kitchen to get her a bottle when she spotted Darwin coming in through the front door. “You’re here! I’d hug you but my arms are a little full.” Darwin smiled, “So I see. This must be Kira. Hi there little one. I’m your uncle Darwin.” Mel watched her brother make faces at the baby. “Dad said that you were moving back home.” He looked up at her, “Yeah. It’s a little complicated. Did he tell you why?” “ No, but I suspect the two of you will get around to it. Dad and George set up the room over the garage for you. It’s like a little studio apartment up there now. That way you can have some privacy if you want it.” Mel shifted Kira’s weight before continuing, “Where’s Cassidy?” “ I… haven’t even told that I was moving back home yet. I just don’t know where to begin.” “ Well, I’d help you with that but since I don’t know either…”
  • 7. Darwin continued to coo at Kira and Mel heard George call for her from the kitchen. “I’ll be right there. Here,” she said handing Kira to Darwin, “you hold her and make silly noises all you want.” Darwin gingerly took the baby from her and Mel walked into the kitchen.
  • 8. He stood there looking around the living room and cradling her. “Well, what should we do now?” Kira just stared up at him with her dark brown eyes. “ No suggestions, huh?” Holding his niece for the first time just reinforced his resolve. If there was a way for Cassidy and he to be together, he was going to find it.
  • 9. In the kitchen George grabbed Mel’s hand and started kissing his way up her arm. “Do you think your brother would mind watching her for a bit? We have lots of free time…” “ I’m sure he could be convinced.” “ Great! I’ll meet you upstairs.” As Mel followed George out to the stairs in the living room, she asked, “Darwin can you get her a bottle and put her back in her crib for a nap?” “ I suppose so. Where’s Dad?” “ Thanks. He’s upstairs making some toys for Kira.” Mel raced up the stairs to catch up to George and swat him on the butt. Darwin watched the two lovers until they disappeared from sight. “Let’s get you that bottle.”
  • 10. The next morning dawned and the last snow quickly melted away leaving only a light frost on the ground. Spring was on it’s way! So too was the time for babies to become toddlers. Cat made the cake as usual and Mel called her sisters up to come over and meet their more grownup niece. Buurrpp!
  • 11. “ Did you hear that? What are we feeding this kid?” “ Just blow out the candles George.” “ Let’s give it a minute to let it dissipate or we all might explode when the gas from that burp hits the flame on those candles.” “ George!” “ Fine. Ready Munchkin? Here we go!” He bent over and blew out the candles while the gathered family cheered and hollered.
  • 12. George turned his face away to avoid the poof of confetti that heralded Kira’s transition into toddler hood.
  • 13. A quick change of clothes and hairstyle left the family with one very active, playful child. Mel took advantage of her evening off to start teaching Kira to talk. “Say Mommy.” Kira bounced and clapped her hands. “Say Mommy.” “ No.”
  • 14. “ Great. You’re first word ever is ‘no’. Moommy. Say Mommy Kira.” “ No.” Trying a different tack, Mel switched words, “Okay say Daddy. Daaddy.” “ No.” “ Bottle?” “ No.” “ Teddy?” “ No!” “ Hippopotamus! Super Collider! Say something other than no.” Mel’s patience was wearing thin.
  • 15. “ No! No! No!” Kira kicked her feet and thrashed in a tantrum. “ Hey! Calm down young lady. That is no way to behave.” Kira went back to giggles and fidgeting. “No.”
  • 16. “ Seriously? The only word I’m going to get out of you is ‘no’?” “ Yes.” “ Alright Kiddo, we’re done now. Go play with your toys if you want.” Kira giggled and rolled to her hands and knees to crawl into the nursery. Mel sat on the floor for a few minutes after Kira had crawled through the doorway thinking. “Mom?!”
  • 17. Mel explained to Catalina what transpired between her and Kira and her concerns about limited vocabulary and anger. Cat wasn’t concerned, “Ah sweetheart. There’s nothing wrong with Kira. She just exceedingly stubborn. Laurel was a bit like that too. Give her some time and she will want to learn more words.” “ Mom! She literally threw a temper tantrum right here on the kitchen floor. Do you really think that is normal? Then when I asked her if the only word I was going to get her to say was ‘no’, she said ‘yes’. It was like she did that on purpose to make me mad.” “ Hmm… Or to make you stop.” “ What?” “ She got you to stop making her learn to talk so she could go play with her toys. It seems our little Kira learns rather quickly.”
  • 18. That afternoon the frost had cleared enough for Darwin to get started on the new garden patch. Deep down, he loved planting things and going for walks and hanging out in parks. His four year long relationship with the little bonsai tree at school had given him a new found appreciation for all plants. It now made sense when some people claimed that talking to their plants made them grow better. His bonsai tree had traveled home with him too and now sat on a table by his bed. It was still a little too cold for her to be outside just yet, though she complained about that fact regularly. As he worked around the fast sprouting seedlings he thought back to the end of his date with Cassidy the night before. He had planned to explain things to her during their dinner at Londoneste but the right time just never seemed to come up. Later, he decided to tell her before she left.
  • 19. Her face when he did told him a whole lot. “ You’re staying here? Why? I thought we were going to get married though you haven’t asked me yet, and get a house somewhere near by.” “ It’s complicated.” “ And? It’s complex so I don’t deserve an explanation?” “ I didn’t say that.” “ Then why? I can’t imagine your sister wants us to move in here and your parents don’t need the added stress. What is so important that you can’t marry and buy a house with the woman you love?” “ Let’s sit down and I will tell you everything I know. If you never want to see me again when I’m done I will understand.”
  • 20. Explain he did. Everything he knew, everything that Jason had shared with him so far, all about his ability to speak with spirits, everything. When he was finished, Cassidy sat quietly for a while and then stood to get dressed to leave. Darwin watched her helplessly. When she had gathered her things she stopped in front of him and asked, “Is there any way to make this work?” “ Maybe. I need to talk to my Dad and my friend.” Her eyes strayed around the room before she spoke again, “So you’ll call me then? When you have things figured out.” “ If you still want me to.” “ Don’t be silly. Of course I do.” She kissed him and he walked her down to the sidewalk outside before saying goodnight. Darwin crawled into bed with his mind full of thoughts and sleep was not easy in coming. There has to be a way.
  • 21. So here he was now, watering his garden and still thinking about just how he was going to help Jason and still have a family of his own.
  • 22. While Darwin was outside fretting over his beloved plants, Mel was inside receiving confirmation that her and George’s efforts to have another baby had been successful. Her stomach rolled with nausea and she felt lightheaded, and the remnants of last night’s pork chops in the toilet was not helping her overcome the sensation. With a sigh she flushed the toilet and turned to go brush her teeth when suddenly the nausea became overwhelming and she once again vomited. When it was over she flushed the toilet again and shuffled across the room to the sink. “This is the last one guys. I’m not doing this again”, she said to the empty room. Really it was her father that had goaded them into the second pregnancy. George was happy with just Kira but Stanley wanted another. “If you want another baby after this one Dad, you can do it yourself.”
  • 23. Stanley’s mind on that particular day was far away from having more babies. Years ago his sudden death had undone the wedding vows that he and Catalina had made to each other. He had renewed their engagement but they had never quite found the right time to renew their vows. Now that spring was here and their lives had become much simpler, it was finally time. “ Not every guy gets to put a ring on the women he loves twice. I wouldn't be here at all if it wasn’t for you Kitty Cat and I know that I haven’t always been the easiest man to live with.” Cat watched as he finally slipped her wedding band onto her finger. “It’s about time you made an honest woman out of me.” Stanley grinned, “I love you.” “ I love you too Nerd.”
  • 24. As they kissed to seal their renewed union their children applauded. It was a small wedding with only their children and significant others in attendance. The family danced and much cake was consumed. In some ways this renewal of their vows was far more significant than their first wedding were the witnesses consisted of three friends and one party crashing stray cat.
  • 25. The only member of the family that hadn’t attended the wedding was little Kira who had just been put down for a nap. Later that evening Cat stepped into the nursery to try and finish the process of teaching Kira to talk that Mel was having such a hard time with. “Hello little girl. Can you say Grandma?” “ Gran Ma.” “ Very good. Now can you say Mommy?” “ No. Wanna play.” “ I can see that. You have to learn how to use more words Kira.” “ Play! Wanna play!” The toddler kicked and squirmed until Cat relented and set her down. Cat was sure this was just stubbornness on Kira’s part but never the less, asked her husband to have a look as well.
  • 26. “ She seems to have more than a little bit of a temper. Just to settle Mel’s mind let’s make sure she’s not possessed or something.” The next day Stanley brought Kira out into the kitchen where there was lots of open space and tried to teach her to walk. “Ups-a-daisy. Now one foot in front of the other. There’s a girl. You learn pretty fast Pumpkin.” “ Wanna play Gran Pa!” He smiled at her, “Well, if we learn to walk then we can go play outside. And if we get to play outside, we get to see more new things and have more new toys to play with. Grandpa got you a pony but only big girls that can walk can ride ponies.” “ Pony! I want pony!” Kira proceeded to throw a kicking fit on the tile floor. “I want pony now!” Stanley frowned at her as she thrashed and in a deep stern voice he responded, “No!” The loud yell startled Kira into stopping her fit and she stared up at him wide eyed and open mouthed. “Now that I have your attention young lady, let’s try that again.”
  • 27. In the end Stanley’s dominate approach did seem to work and clever little Kira learned two things that day. One walking really did have it’s benefits and two, Grandpa was not a man to be trifled with. “ Did you really have to yell at her Dad?” Mel was concerned about the long term effects such manipulation would have on her daughter. “ I only had to do it once. She’s very strong willed and you and Cat are just a little too nice to make her listen. She’s also very smart. She needs strong rules and strong parents if she’s going to grow up right.” “ Way to use that degree in psychology Dad.” “ Had to come in handy someday.” Later in the day at SFO Corporation Paranormal Research and Development…
  • 28. “ So my theory is that the cow plant processes the life essence of the sim it consumes into a liquid via a secondary pathway that is similar to photosynthesis. This process converts the very soul of the sim into an excretable form that can be consumed and works somewhat like elixir. The trouble is that we can’t exactly insert the concepts of ‘soul’ and ‘life essence’ into a formula. We simply don’t know enough about those concepts to quantify them. I’m not sure where to proceed from here with the experiment.” Stanley nodded, “I see the problem there. We may have to develop our own equations and definitions for the formula but I suspect the Academy will most likely reject them no matter how good the are. Trying to define the very substance of life always causes a stir because no one can agree on the definition.” “ What do you think it is?” “ Not being dead,” Stanley threw out facetiously. “Which isn’t a good one since it doesn’t include zombies which are both dead and alive.”
  • 29. Jason laughed. “I don’t think the Academy would even consider that theory. Hi Darwin.” Darwin smiled, “Hi”, and he looked around the lab and waved to George who was hard at work on something with Lori. The huge sleeping cow plant caught his eye. Stanley continued, “What we could do is create terms that will work in the formula but leaves the final definition up to the person interpreting it. That way we can still use the formula to test the theory and we don’t have to worry about the little details of where life comes from.” That drew Darwin’s attention back to his dad. “Are you talking about killing sims to test a theory?”
  • 30. Stanley turned to face him, “Of course not. That would be unethical. We never do any tests on sims that might cause them any sort of harm.” Jason added, “The large cow plant behind you was the one who ate and killed Miss Scott, our resident zombie. The plant came to us with the ‘milk’ still in the udder which provides us a nice sample we can play with.” Feeling somewhat relieved that his father wasn’t some kind of ghoul, Darwin replied flatly, “Oh.” “ Is there something we can do for you son?” “ I have something really important that I wanted to discuss with both you and Jason. I hope you don’t mind me just dropping in. I have the rest of the day off from work and I was nearby…” “ Not at all. George, Lori? We are going into my office for a bit. When you are done with the sample replication be sure to freeze half of the sample lot.” George nodded and waved. “Let’s go.”
  • 31. Jason and Stanley turned and walked out the doors and Darwin was about to follow them when he heard a familiar voice. Hello Darwin. “ Oscar? I almost didn’t see you there.” Very funny. Darwin glanced at the bigger sleeping plant, “Oh, I didn’t mean that. I’m just a little distracted.” You have learned to understand me very well but you still speak in your simlish tongue “ I’ve been trying without much success to learn. The sounds are really hard to make.” Try humming and whistling the sounds. Don’t use your concept of an alphabet. “ Okay. I’ll give that a try. Sorry, I have to go catch up to my dad.”
  • 32. Darwin entered Stanley’s austere office and sat down in the free chair. Jason started the conversation, “What’s on you mind Dar?” “ I want to ask Cassidy to marry me.” The proclamation started both of the older men in on a tirade of “congratulations” and it’s about time”s that Darwin let settle down before continuing. “But I don’t think it’s fair to her that she should have to live in Mel’s house.” “ Mel’s house?” “ You know what I mean Dad. Cassidy and I deserve to have our own home and our own family. I know that you wanted me to stay with Dad to make things easier for you Jason but I just can’t. So, I’ve decided that I’m buying the empty house up the street and moving in there with Cassidy. I have plenty of money saved up and…”
  • 33. Jason interrupted, “I knew this was going to come up.” “ If you knew that then why did you ask me to move back home at all?” “ Because the future isn’t set in stone Darwin. Every single decision we make changes things. Your coming here now and simply announcing that you are moving and getting married alters everything I have already seen. Even if you don’t actually go through with it. It makes it very hard to anticipate anything that isn’t a huge event. The reason I knew this was coming up was not because I saw it in my mirrors, but because I know you very well. I appreciate that you want to follow my advice but I also know that you love Cassidy more than anything and that you very desperately want to have a normal life. What you don’t fully understand Darwin is that there are bigger forces at work in you life and there will never be such a thing as normal for you.”
  • 34. “ Do you see if his life is in any danger?” “ No. Not at the moment. I suppose I need to shed a little light on a few things to explain. I was asked by Adeline, my mentor and by her mentors to keep a close eye on Darwin and the ‘She Devil that watched him’ as they put it. They wouldn’t tell me why nor did they explain further than to say that there was a force out there that wanted Darwin to exist and another that does not. The later is the one responsible for your death Stanley. They hide themselves well. I believe that Marie Gray is the ‘She Devil’ they were referring to and I find that I am completely incapable of seeing anything she does or is about to do. Something obfuscates her so well that I can hardly even look in on those around her. She might as well not exist. And the other force… I don’t even know who they are but I do know they are willing to kill.” “ So how are you keeping track of her?”
  • 35. “ I’ve had to take to more down to earth methods to spy on her and her sneaky friend.” Darwin looked confused. “Sneaky friend? I thought you said you couldn’t see her associates?” “ I can’t scry on them. I can however employ agents that can see things on the umbral realm and report back to me.” Darwin shook his head, “The bonsai tree.” “ Among others.” “ Why didn’t you tell me that instead of lying to me?” “ I didn’t lie to you. I gave you the tree to help you learn to speak with awakened spirits. She also happens to be nearby when your elven stalker comes calling and lets me know what she sees.”
  • 36. “ Elven stalker?” “ You have been being followed for some time now by a male elf. He comes and goes and is being very careful. He is smart and well trained but our mutual spirit friend can see right through his spells. I suspect he is a mercenary that Miss Gray has hired to handle some of her dirty work. I also suspect he was involved in the plane crash that happened recently.” “ Why haven’t you told me all of this before?” Jason chuckled at the irony of his next statement, “Because you weren’t quite ready to hear it or to help me. Now that you have learned so much magic and your work with the SCIA has taught you how to be a spy we can work together to get more information.”
  • 37. Stanley shrugged, “This still doesn’t solve the issue of Darwin moving out. Why can’t you just put one of those spirits on the job and let the boy have his family. I’ve been wanting more grandkids any way.” “ Speaking of which, Mel is pregnant again.” “ She told you and not the rest of us?” Darwin shook his head, “She didn’t have to tell me. I just kind of know.” Stanley stared at his son for a bit before continuing, “Anyways, I don’t see why he has to stay put.” “ Your family may have need of him there. I know it’s hard to accept but it’s really the best place for him for right now. Someday, maybe things will be different. Let me speak with Trista before you do anything Darwin. Maybe we can come up with something that will work. Just be careful, big things are happening in Pleasant View…”
  • 38. “ And Marie Gray has more than just me paying attention to what she is doing.” Heidi and G paused outside the office door. G frowned slightly at the overheard conversation but proceeded to knock politely on the door.
  • 39. The knock startled the three men in the small room and Stanley crossed the room to open the door. “Mister Gilscarbo? I’m sorry I wasn’t expecting you today. Heidi, It’s nice to see you.” “ My apologies for showing up on your doorstep unannounced Doctor James. I’m just doing a favor for my boss and hand delivering these invitations to a house warming party for Miss Gray. Her new house was just recently finished and she seems to have a want for a party. The entire lab is invited of course.” Stanley frowned, “Considering the recent events in the company I would think she would be a little too busy for a major social event.” Heidi stepped in knowing that G was only going through the motions of being motivated, “I’m sure she understands that the timing is a little odd given that the company just lost most of it’s board. It’s a small affair, just the local employees.” G turned and crossed over to Darwin.
  • 40. “ Wow Darwin! You certainly have grown up fast. The first and last time I saw you, you were still in diapers. Welcome home. How was college?” “ Educational.” Darwin felt a strange tingle on the back of his neck. Something was strange about these two. “ What are you doing here today. I don’t think you work for me.” Turning back to face Stanley, “Does he?” “ Ahh no. Darwin is here to help us figure out that damned weather machine that we can’t get to work properly any more.” “ Excellent! We will be really happy if you could solve that little mystery for us once and for all. It has absorbed a lot of company resources and we still have no answers.” “ I’ll do my best.” G turned, “We have to go. A few more invitations to deliver. Have a nice day gentlemen.” He ushered Heidi out the room.
  • 41. Jason shrugged, “Well that was weird. Dar let’s go look at that machine. We’ll talk more outside.” The weather machine that destroyed the first R&D lab now sat forgotten and rusting outside the building. It worked only one time since Stanley had inherited the project. Now, it wouldn’t work at all and was now nothing more than a perch for passing birds. Darwin walked up to the platform on which it sat. “Are you going to the party?” Jason shrugged, “I’m not sure. I imagine that it is expected for me to attend but since I don’t trust her… Still it would be a good chance to do some reconnaissance.” “ That’s true. She’s unlikely to try anything in front of so many witnesses. You said that she’s on the side that wants me around so maybe I could try talking to her. She might actually tell me something.” “ Maybe. I’ll think about it.”
  • 42. Darwin looked the machine over, “Wow, it’s really rusted and dirty. Why didn’t you have it stored inside?” Jason scowled at the machine, “Because it doesn’t deserve to be clean and dry. It tried to kill me. More than once.” “ Dude! That is not the way to get on it’s good side.” “ I don’t really care. If I had my way, a few sticks of dynamite would take care of the whole problem.” “ What is it with you and mechanical things?” “ I’ve never had any luck with them. Even the awakened ones. They all seem to hate me. Is it talking to you?”
  • 43. “ Hmm…” Darwin listened closely. Unlike plants whose spirit voices sound like chimes and flowing water, machines make whirring and clicking sounds. Also unlike plants whose thoughts tended to wander and flit about, machines were very focused and straight to the point. Several seconds passed as the device relayed it’s message so fast that Darwin only understood a portion. “Again please, only slower.” The machine repeated it’s message and Darwin straightened up and looked puzzled.
  • 44. “ Well? Can you understand it?” “ Yes.” “ And?” “ You’re not going to like it.” Jason pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes closed, “What did it say?” “ It doesn’t like you and refuses to talk to me while you are here.” “ You’re joking!” “ I’m afraid not. Just go stand over by the pond or something while I do this. In case it does something bad.”
  • 45. Jason left the platform and went to try his luck at catching any of the fish Vyn had insisted be stocked in it. “ Okay. He’s gone. I’m going to ask you some questions now alright?” Darwin choose to go with his instincts on the first question. “You are not the original spirit for this machine, are you?” No. “ What happened to the original?” Destroyed. “ Why?” Dangerous to let exist.
  • 46. “ What do you mean dangerous?” Creator designed it to destroy. “ Destroy? Destroy what?” You. Despite the startling answer Darwin tried to remain focused, “And what do you do?” Prevent. That made some sense. The original device had come from a now deceased inventor. The first lab techs tried to study the device and there was an explosion and someone died. Doctor Long had been tasked to repair the device. He noted that it appeared to have been sabotaged. This spirit was the saboteur. But who would build something designed to destroy him? And more importantly, why?
  • 47. There were a lot of obvious questions in Darwin’s mind like who was the creator of the machine and why did it explode. He choose to skip those. “The original spirit killed the wrong scientist. Didn’t it?” Yes. “ The target was supposed to be my father.” Yes. “ Why? Why was it made to destroy us?” There was a pause. The father’s death would prevent your creation. You are an unquantifiable term. “ What do you mean? Why am I a risk?”
  • 48. You may give life or you may destroy it. You are an unknown. Darwin looked away puzzled. An unknown? Like in a mathematic formula? He mulled over the information. Finally, “Who put you in the machine? Who gave you your mission?” The Maker. The answer irritated him, “What is the maker’s name?” The Maker. “ Why does this Maker what to protect me?” Insufficient data. Darwin frowned, “Well, that’s convenient.”
  • 49. You are welcome. “ I wasn’t thanking you. I was being sarcastic.” … insufficient term. Darwin sighed, the machine gave him more questions than real answers. “Why doesn’t the weather machine work anymore?” Power unit is drained. At least that made sense. Jason wasn’t kidding when he said there was something going on in Pleasant View. Something so big that it revolved around life and death. Darwin was frustrated by the lack of a real name to go on but he had some ideas as to what the machine was talking about that he wanted to discuss with a few others. He thanked the machine and promised to return later. Jason pestered him with questions but Darwin refused to answer them stating that he needed to get home and think for a bit before sharing, leaving Jason to ponder at just what the machine had said to him.
  • 50. Across the street from the lab… G and Heidi stopped at a nearby espresso stand after leaving the lab for a little pick me up before getting back to the grind of keeping a large company functioning. Heidi was the one who said what they both were thinking. “What do you suppose Jason meant when he said that Miss Gray has more than just him paying attention to what she is doing . “ “ I suppose he means me but I don’t know how he would know anything about that. Witches can’t read people’s minds can they?” “ I don’t think so and I certainly haven't said anything to anyone.” “ Hmm… What do we know about Mister Gross?”
  • 51. Heidi closed her eyes and tried to remember what she had read in Jason’s personnel file. “Didn’t attend college, has extensive knowledge and experience with supernatural beings and is himself a practicing warlock. He did work for Loki and Circe Beaker prior to coming to SFO Corporation.” “ Did he? What did he do there?” “ According to the personal references we received, he assisted with certain behavioral experiments and made extensive observations on the resident alien population there. His experience with aliens was why I recommended that we hire him.” “ I suppose he knows about the Beaker’s deaths?” “ Who couldn’t? It’s all over the news.” “ And yet, once again, Miss Gray is in no way involved. She was right there in town but didn’t see a thing.”
  • 52. Heidi shrugged, “Well, we already assume that she is good at covering her tracks and the police are quite adamant that they know who committed the murders.” G looked at her a bit surprised, “So you believe me about her being up to something?” “ It’s a little hard not to now considering what we know. And now, apparently Doctor James, his son and his assistant believe something is up as well. It would be interesting to find out what Mister Gross looking for.” He sipped his coffee while he thought. Indeed it would be interesting to know what Jason was up to but how to go about it without alerting him or anyone else about their curiosity. “It would indeed.” That evening, in a home hidden high in the hills around Pleasant View…
  • 53. Jason stopped in to speak with the Trista Shaw, the Grand Witch of the region. She had been the one to indoctrinate Darwin into the Order and Jason often came to her for advice in his own training. “ Ah Jason! Had I knew you were coming I would have made some dinner. You look troubled. What is wrong?” He got right to the point, “Do you recall the conversation we had about the task my mentor Adeline gave me?” “ Yes. In fact I recently spoke with her about you at the convocation in Belladonna Cove. She is very pleased with your progress to Master Warlock. You really should go visit her, you know.” “ I’ve been a little busy. Trista, I need your help with Darwin. He wants to get married and have a family but I’m already a little over taxed with everything I’ve been doing and having him move away from Stanley just makes it more complicated.” “ I hope that you are not going to ask me to convince him against the marriage. He loves Cassidy so much and she loves him. It goes against my grain to harm true love.”
  • 54. “ No. Nothing like that. He’s a good guy and I want him to be happy for as long as he can. However, Cassidy and his children could be prime targets for anyone who might what to hurt or manipulate him. I was hoping that you might agree to take on the task of watching over them.” Trista thought quietly for several minutes and Jason knew better than to interrupt her. Finally, “Yes, I can do this but I will need something from them in return.” “ And what’s that?” “ Have the family set a time to meet with us both. Be sure they invite Cassidy as well. She deserves to hear and decide on this too. My price is not something that will harm the family, I assure you.” Jason nodded. “As for your limited resources… I believe that you are forgetting that all witches have someone they can always turn to for help in difficult times. You really should talk to Hex and see what she can do for you.” “ I always forget about her.”
  • 55. “ A fact that I’m sure she is less than happy with.” Jason excused himself and stepped outside the house to summon his familiar. He smiled as she slowly appeared and hoped that she wasn’t too angry with him for not having summoned her for well over a year. He reached out to stroke her and Hex swatted his hand away drawing droplets of blood with her sharp claws. “Hey! That’s not very nice.” Hex’s tail swished angrily, “It’s only a fraction of what you deserve. I might be spectral but I am still a cat! I require attention. And treats!” Jason acquiesced to the fact that he had been neglecting her feline nature and promised her several dozen cat nip mice as a peace offering. Hex held out for quite a while before finally allowing him to privilege of petting her. He then spent a fair amount of time discussing his plan with her and how she could help him.
  • 56. Later, after a long session of playing and hugging she allowed him to go back inside to study. “ It’s a good thing for him that he’s so cute or I might have had to stay mad at him longer.” She absentmindedly groomed her right front paw before hoping down from the couch and heading out the gate and towards Pleasant View. She had things to do and many cats to see. Back in Pleasant View…
  • 57. George sat down next to Mel and put his arm around her and pulling her close. “You look a little sad Mel. What’s wrong?” “ My boss Mister Martin keeps passing me over for promotion. I’m the best writer there and I’m stuck reporting soccer scores and football injuries. It’s frustrating.” “ I know it is. Your time will come Honey, don’t worry about it.” “ On top of all that I have to take some time off from work now.” “ Why?” “ Because I’m pregnant silly. Today is my last day before my forced maternity leave kicks in.” George’s face screwed up into a confused frown, “You told your boss that you’re pregnant before you told me?” “ I’ve been busy. It’s not like I wasn’t going to tell you, I just haven’t had the time.”
  • 58. “ You are going to take time to be here for Kira’s birthday tonight though, right?” “ Of course! I’m not a completely horrible mother. I coming home from work early tonight. I promise.” The birthday girl slept away in the nursery completely oblivious to the fact that today was the day she got to become a child.
  • 59. Mel did keep her promise and arrived home in time to bring Kira to her cake. “Here we are little girl. Are you ready to grow up and go to school so you can make new friends and play new games?” Kira looked up at her mother and the rest of her family that had gathered around the table in the dining room. “I get presents?” “ Your Grandpa made some very special ones just for you.” She considered the benefits for a bit, “Grow up now!” “ Then let’s make a wish and blow out the candles.” Mel leaned over and blew out the candles for Kira while everyone cheered then she set Kira down on the floor and let the magic happen.
  • 60. And little playful, short tempered Kira grew up. She hopped from foot to foot with happiness, “Where are my presents Grandpa?” Melinda frowned. Her stomach was doing flip flops and she really didn’t need the added stress of a daughter with no manners on top of it. “First, what do you say to Grandpa for taking the time to make you toys?” Kira’s eyes widened as she debated whether or not it was worth losing the new toys just to push her mother’s irritate button. She then smiled and said, “Thank you Grandpa.” “ Your welcome Pumpkin. There’s a new kite and a spinner toy for you in the back yard.” Kira ran over and hugged Stanley, all the while keeping the slightly impish smile on her face and staring at her mother. She then hurried out the back door to play. The three of them watched Kira run out the door and Cat felt the need to speak first. “Nerd, are you sure she isn’t possessed?”
  • 61. On the next day the meeting that Trista requested was scheduled to happen and the whole family except Kira assembled in the living room. Kira was far too busy with her toys to care why the grownups all wanted to sit around and talk. Stanley was the first one to bring the meeting onto point, “Have we come up with a solution for Darwin and Cassidy? We really hadn’t solved anything the other day before we were interrupted.” Mel and George were more keen to find out what the big secret was. Mel interrupted before Darwin could start speaking. “Don’t you think we should be told about what is going on as well? I mean, we live here too and George and I are not idiots. We might be able to help.”
  • 62. Darwin looked around the room at his family. “We didn’t mean to keep you guys out of the loop, honest. It’s just that up until just recently I don’t think Dad and Jason thought there was any real danger to anyone but me. But after what the spirit in that weather machine told me, I’m not so certain that the whole family might not be in danger.” Jason stiffened, “What did it say to you?” “ That the original spirit in the machine was meant to kill dad before he could get abducted and have me.” Stanley nearly jumped from the couch, “What!” Cat gently put her had on Stanley’s arm and calmed him, “Can you be sure that this spirit was telling the truth?” “ I’m pretty sure it was. I went back and did some research. The scientist that died looked a lot like Dad. Dark hair and blue eyes with glasses. I guess it just made a mistake and then someone put another spirit in the machine that destroyed the first one so that it couldn’t try again. Someone it called the ‘Maker’. Whoever that is obviously wanted Dad to live.”
  • 63. “ Don’t you think we should have been told that someone was trying to kill Dad?” Cat folded her hands in her lap and sighed, “That’s mostly my fault I suppose. Jason told Stanley and I that the lightning strike was an assassination attempt but it was only the one time and apparently they weren't able to prevent me from resurrecting Stanley afterward. I didn’t think we needed to frighten you girls.” Trista interrupted, “It is most likely because the Grim Reaper is a very powerful spirit. There are very few in the universe who would even dare to try and go against her practices and will. The Reaper allowed the resurrection, therefore Stanley is now untouchable by anyone but her.” Mel was nonplussed, “So what does all this mean for Darwin?” Jason shrugged, “We don’t know and the people who do haven’t yet seen fit to tell me.”
  • 64. Trista took advantage of the pause in conversation to speak to Cassidy, “Much of this affects the direction of your life young lady. What do think about all this?”
  • 65. Cassidy had sat absorbing the new information and adding it to what Darwin had already told her. She was feeling a bit overwhelmed and bewildered. “I… I love Darwin and want to be with him no matter what. I’m really afraid of what all this mystery might mean but life is short and if you spend all of it hiding under a rock then you waste it.” “ So, if I were to say that I am willing to protect you and your children and your children's children in exchange for an oath from you, would you say yes?” “ What sort of oath?” “ While the James family finds themselves besieged by an unknown entity, I myself have been fighting my own war and I am running short on soldiers. The ranks of the Order of Good Witches has shrank significantly. Too few are interested in the effort it takes to be a witch and many others are lured by the sense of power the dark side offers. If I protect you I require that you and all your descendants become students in my order.”
  • 66. Jason added, “Think carefully about your answer Cassidy. Trista is a kind hearted witch but if you agree, you and your family will be stuck with this burden for all eternity.” “ What if someone doesn’t want to become a witch? What if they get lured to the evil witch’s side? I can’t control what my grandchildren might choose to do.” Trista spoke quietly, “ But you can and I must insist that failure of even one of your descendants to comply with the oath would undo all the protections that I will weave around the entire clan. They will then become vulnerable to any of those who may wish to harm them and they will be stripped of their powers as witches.” Cassidy sat quietly starring at her hands. Was it right for her to burden those who might come after her just so that she and Darwin could be happy right now?
  • 67. “ Look. This is how I see this. You are getting the opportunity to have a family with Darwin, which is something I know he wants with all his heart. You get to become a witch. This woman doesn’t just choose anybody so she must have a good reason for making this offer and if you study hard you might just earn the power to help protect Darwin as well. It seems like a logical choice to me. I say take the risk.” Cassidy looked over a Darwin hoping for some help. He just smiled at her, “ It’s your choice Angel. If you say no, we will find another way to make it work. If you say yes, than I can focus on other things and not be worried about your safety. Either way, I will have to stay here and you and our family can live in a home nearby.” Cassidy folded her hands in her lap and stared at them for what seemed like minutes. “My Daddy is going to kill me but I have to say yes.”
  • 68. Darwin smiled and slid out of his chair and onto one knee. “Then I suppose I should really make this official. Cassidy Pederson?” Her heart skipped a beat and she stood up before answering, “Yes?” “ Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? Right here. Right now. Today in front of my family?” “ Yes! Oh yes!” Darwin pulled the engagement ring from his pocket and slipped it one her finger. “I’m afraid you won’t be wearing this for very long.”
  • 69. “ It’s beautiful.” Stanley leaned over to Cat and whispered, “It’s a good thing I didn’t call the rental company yet to come pick up the stuff from our re-wedding huh?” “ Mmm… It’s almost like you planned this. Alright everyone. Let’s get this over with before it decides to rain.” Cat started to herd the family outside to the wedding arch. Stanley touched her shoulder, “I’ll be out there is just a few minutes. There’s something I need to take care of.”
  • 70. Outside under the flowered arch a newly changed Darwin and Cassidy stood waiting for the family to all sit down. “ I’m sorry that this isn’t a big fancy wedding Cass. I’m sure your parents would really like to be here.” Cassidy smiled at him, “It’s fine. In fact, it’s perfect.”
  • 71. So with a quick exchange of rings and promises to love and cherish one another Cassidy Pederson became Cassidy James. The two sealed their vows with a lingering kiss. Cat gave Stanley a sidelong glance to Stanley who was beaming with happiness. “Alright what did you do?” “ Shhh! You’ll spoil the surprise.” “ Stanley!” “ Fine. I bought the family a vacation home on Twikkii Island. I myself would never trust a plane enough to fly there but Darwin and Cassidy aren’t burdened by my hang ups. I thought they could go there for a honeymoon before she has to move residence.” Cat smiled, “Very nice Stanley. Sometimes you still surprise me.”
  • 72. As the newlyweds walked back up the isle of chairs Stanley told them about the impromptu honeymoon he had arranged for them. Cassidy reached the cake and picked up the knife to cut the first piece. “I can’t believe how nice your parents are.” Darwin eyed the lime frosted cake, “I can’t believe Mom was hiding this from me. I thought I knew all her hiding spots.” Cassidy smiled and gently fed him the first bite of the cake. “I suppose that sweet tooth of yours is going to be genetic?” “ I have no idea but I’m dying to find out.”
  • 73. The plane ride to Twikkii was uneventful and the newly joined couple immediately made use of the bed upstairs as soon as they arrived. The plane trip had been tiring for Cassidy and she choose to linger in bed and nap while Darwin had set out to explore some of the island sights and pick up some cooler clothing for the hot humid environment. When he got back, Darwin changed and left the dress he bought for Cassidy laying out where she could see it when she woke up. By the time his new wife finally made her way downstairs, the sun had set and Darwin had picked up a book to read. Her voice startled him away from his study of cleaning methods, “I can’t believe you are studying on our honeymoon. How do I look?”
  • 74. “ Wow! You changed your hair.” “ And a little makeup. It’s not too much is it?” “ No. You look gorgeous.” He dropped the book on the floor beside the chair and crossed over to her. “I don’t suppose you are up for a moonlight swim in the ocean?” “ That depends. Is it clothing optional?” “ We have a private beach…” The rest of the night passed the way all lovers would want their first night as a married couple to pass…
  • 75. Leaving the daylight hours of their trip to experience the many wonders Twikkii had to offer. “ I so want to learn how to do that.”
  • 76. Wishes were made and souvenirs were purchased. Overall the young couple enjoyed their short honeymoon all though Cassidy was feeling a bit queasy by the time it came to head home leaving her to wonder if it was a bit of bad pineapple giving her trouble or something else.
  • 77. No sooner than they returned than Cassidy and Darwin called the cab to take her down the street to her new home. Despite himself Darwin couldn’t help but cry as she turned to climb into the cab. He knew that he only had to walk down the street to see her but that fact didn’t lighten the burden of feeling she was now separate from him.
  • 78. During Darwin and Cassidy’s trip the house had been very quite and Mel spent her time catching up on all the housework that her mother was having an increasingly hard time with. With Stanley taking baths sometimes twice a day the tubs were almost always dirty. The growing child in her abdomen had finally stopped making her nauseous but much like Kira was prone to moving around quite a bit. Now it was just a matter of time before she got her body back to herself.
  • 79. George was fortunate enough to have arrived home in time to witness the birth of his second child. As soon as he entered the house he heard Mel’s panting and yelling. “ Are you all right? Breathe Honey.” “ Of course I’m not all right! You try pushing a bowling ball out of you!” The last few words went up in pitch as another contraction hit.
  • 80. Catalina rushed down the stairs as quickly as her old legs could carry her. She arrived just in time for the birth of her third grandchild.
  • 81. Mel sighed and cuddled the newly arrived baby. “It’s a girl.” George smiled, “What is it with this family and girls?” “ Are you disappointed?” “ Of course not. It’s just that a six to one ratio of girls to boys seems a little odd. What should we name her?” “ Brooke Rose sounds nice. I think she has your nose George.” “ That’s a shame.” Darwin cooed over the girl, “I think she’s adorable.” He himself was waiting patiently for Cassidy to be ready to give birth herself. For Mel the birth was a relief. She loved her children but they just weren’t what she needed to fill the void she felt.
  • 82. She didn’t miss a beat returning to work later in the morning the day Brooke was born. She had been hopeful that her boss would have seen how much the paper needed her while she was gone but everything was the same as before. No promotion and no excitement. After work she fed Brooke and sat down in the empty family room to brood. “ Hello love. Did you miss me?” The scent of ginseng drifted down from the ceiling and startled Mel out of her daydream like state.
  • 83. Mel’s jaw dropped. She had to be hallucinating again but she hadn’t done that for the last few years. She pressed her fingers over her eyes and muttered, “It’s not there. It’s just a figment of your imagination. When you open your eyes it will be gone. One, two, three, open!”
  • 84. “ Nope. Still here.”
  • 85. She could hear, see and smell him. This wasn’t your everyday sort of hallucination. “Okay. Who are you and what are you doing in my home? I’m warning you, my husband is right upstairs and my brother the warlock can easily turn you into a toad or something.”
  • 86. “ Yer husband’s a tubby crème puff and yer brother ain’t that kind of witch.” “ Warlock!” “ Whatever. And technically there isn’t anything for them to attack if you did call for ‘em. Only you can see me. I’m not here to hurt you or yer family. “ What are you?” Let’s just say that I am a figment of yer imagination, the part of you that craves excitement and adventure. You can call me CC if you really feel the need to give me a name.” “ What do you what from me?”
  • 87. “ It’s really more about what you want. I don’t have an ego and therefore any real motivation. What do you want?”
  • 88. For some reason Mel felt like it was perfectly natural to confide in this odd being perched in her family room. “I want to get promoted. I want to meet new and exciting people. I want to have adventures and see things that no one has ever seen before.” “ I knew you had it in you, it just took yer daddy knocking you in the head to shake it loose. You’ve been holding things in for a while. Why not let go a little bit? I know of a way you can do all those things right here in Pleasant View.” “ I seriously doubt that. This city is as quiet as a bar on Monday morning.” “ I don’t see how. Your own brother can talk to spirits. You know a man that can see bits of the future and you live right up the road from a vampire that is up to all sorts of naughty things.” The last bit caught her attention. “What sort of naughty things?” “ The kind of things that could get you that promotion if you wrote a story about them. Here’s what you need to do…”
  • 89. Using the directions CC had given her, she quickly found the alley and the warehouse he had described. It was in one of the seedier areas of downtown and Mel was careful to avoid coming in contact with any of the residents of the area. This is crazy! Why on earth am I following the advice of an invisible cat guy? Still, this warehouse has been on the police watch list for a while now. Maybe CC knows what he is talking about. The windows were high and narrow and she had to carefully balance on a discarded milk crate to even try to see through them. What little she could see by standing on the tips of her toes was stacks of crates and the odd statue spread around the place. She could just make out the shapes of two sims sitting at a table in the middle of the open space. I’m not going to learn anything by standing here. I’ve got to get inside!
  • 90. Kneeling in front of the metal door, she quickly debated if this was a good idea. After all, these people were criminals and if CC was to be believed, she would find their leader here as well. If things took a turn for the worse her life would most certainly be in danger. If I turn back now, I’ll never get that promotion. I have to do this. She took a few deep breaths and pulled the lock picks from her pocket.
  • 91. Boy am I glad they didn’t upgrade these door locks. As she set to work on opening the door and dog barked in the distance and made her jump. Damn it! Go away you stupid dog. After a few minutes the cheap lock quietly clicked and she was able to pull the handle down and almost silently enter the warehouse.
  • 92. The sounds of voices drifted through the room and Mel carefully pulled the door closed being sure that she didn’t relock behind her. If she found a need to leave quickly finding it locked would be very bad for her. Hah! This breaking and entering thing isn’t all that hard. Maybe I should consider a career change.
  • 93. Feeling very confidant that the two men playing poker at the table hadn’t heard her she carefully moved through the stacked crates towards the room that housed the warehouse office. She could just make out a couple of figures through the window and one seemed to be dressed all in red. That should be the Big Cheese. Hopefully, they aren’t just talking about their bowling scores. “ You see that car Daryl jacked yesterday?” “ Yeah. What a piece of junk. We couldn’t even salvage any good stereo parts from it. He always goes for the crappy cars.” “ That’s ‘cause he still hasn’t figured out how to get past a security system. He only grabs cars that no one cares enough about to even put an alarm on.” “ Seriously? Why does the Boss even keep him around then?”
  • 94. “ I guess he’s the son of one of the Boss’s friends or something. He’s a waste of flesh if you ask me.” “ How many cards you want?” “… Three.” “ Three and the dealer takes two.” Mel tuned out the random conversation of the two thugs. The car theft ring was already well known about, though she would have to remember Daryl’s name for later. She tip toed along till she got within view of the office window. Once she thought she was close enough to hear what they were saying she knelt down in next to a small stack of boxes and did her best to stay out of sight.
  • 95. The first voice Mel heard was a women’s though she couldn’t see a woman in the room. “The rumor is that the town now has a new Captain Hero. This may prove problematic.” The man dressed like a comic book villain responded, “We haven’t had to deal with one for quite some time. I don’t suppose we have any idea who it is?” The man dressed in black shook his head, “No, and it’s damned inconvenient. We can’t move any of our merchandise without this goody two shoes maybe catching wind of it.” The woman spoke again, “I’m afraid we can’t accept that Steve. We have obligations to meet.” “ Yeah? Well, the rest of us can’t come and go like you two. Got any ideas on how us ‘normals’ are supposed to move these TVs without the Captain busting us?” The villain answered, “…For now let’s hold off on that until we get more information. I would prefer…”
  • 96. Crash! The sound of the cases of canned food hitting the floor jolted Mel and everyone else in the warehouse. She must have bumped them when she knelt down to eavesdrop. “Damn it”, she whispered and jumped up to run back towards the door through which she came.
  • 97. Only to find her path blocked by two very agile men. The man referred to as Steve came up behind her and the Boss nimbly leapt up onto the pallet she had been kneeling next to. In seconds she was surrounded. Steve spoke first. “ Well, lookie here boys. We’ve got us an intruder.” The dark skinned thug smiled evilly, “Heh! She’s a whole lot prettier than the last one.” “ The last one was a man.” “ That’s what I meant.” The three men started to move towards her and Mel’s mind raced to come up with some kind of excuse for being where she shouldn’t be. “Ahh… I seem to be lost. I was looking for the Port Authority office and obviously walked through the wrong door. So, if one of you gentlemen would just point me in the right direction, I will get out of your hair.”
  • 98. The red clad man smiled ever so slightly, “Strange that you had to get through that pesky locked door to get in here. Or didn’t you notice it?” “ The door wasn’t locked.” “ Are you sure? I’d hate to think that this is all a big misunderstanding.” Mel felt a chill run up her spine. The man behind the mask was handsome but the tone of his voice told her that he wasn’t someone to play games with. From the deck up above a female voice drifted down to them, “She knows right where she is.”
  • 99. Mel turned and watched the pale skinned woman leapt over the railing and land gracefully on the concrete floor. Her movements were smooth and light, like gravity only flirted with the idea of pulling her downward.
  • 100. The pale woman approached and put her hands on her hips. “Hello my dear.” Even her voice was beautiful. “You seemed to have strayed off the path a bit.” Looking up at the red haired man behind Mel, she added, “Ocean, this is the eldest daughter of one of our neighbors and I’m quite certain that your father would not approve of you being here.” “ I’m an adult now and you’re Tess Trueheart.”
  • 101. “ And what are you doing here?” Ocean had moved around to Mel’s left side and closer to the vampire in front of her. Before Mel even had a chance to respond, Tess spoke, “She’s a reporter with the local newspaper. I suspect she is nosing around for a story.” “ How do you know that?” Mel was dumbstruck. Steve smiled, “We can make sure she doesn’t ever come back.” Mel turned to face the men behind her. Her mind was racing, searching for any way out of her predicament. They are going to do unspeakable things to me then kill me! I have to get out of here! The cold voice behind her interrupted her thoughts, “No. She’s free to go.”
  • 102. “ She is?” Steve was shocked. Mel turned and looked at Tess incredulously, “I am?” Ocean tilted his head, “Are you sure? She could cause us a lot of trouble.”
  • 103. “ Yes my love, I am sure. Harming her will cause us far more trouble. But… to make sure your interest is kept elsewhere and as a way of paying for our generosity, you will pursue a different story for your publication.” “ A different story?”
  • 104. Tess smiled a sweet yet chilling smile, “The rumor mill seems to think that the new Captain Hero is a freelancer; not sanctioned by the Pleasant View PD. A vigilante prowling the rooftops of the city. I’m sure that your readers will find that a far more interesting tale than anything you might find here. Don’t you think?” Mel stood there debating her options. On the one hand, Tess was right about the Captain Hero thing being a much bigger story. On the other, a gang of thieves run by a vampire and her husband seemed like a good story too. Ocean interrupted the long pause, “Or you could stick around here and keep my boys entertained for a while. It’s up to you.” Another chill caused her to stiffen and Mel turned back to Tess smiling nervously, “Captain Hero, you said?” “ I did.” Tess moved to take her arm, “Come lets us ladies talk outside. Go back to your poker game boys.” Tess slowly but firmly led Mel out the door and back into the alley. The grip on her arm while gentle, relayed just how much strength this slight woman could muster.
  • 105. Mel could help but ask questions once they were outside. “Aren’t you afraid that I will find him or her and tell them about this place?” “ I’m counting on you doing just that. Tell them I will be here waiting if they feel up to taking me on. In the mean time, investigate and write your story but leave us out of it. Remember, I know where you live. And while your little brother, the warlock may be pretty formidable, he is no match for me.” She crossed her arms and stared at Mel coldly, “Hurry on home now. Who knows what evil lurks in the dark shadows of these alleys. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
  • 106. Mel paused with a question on the tip of her tongue but Tess put a quick end to it with a loud hiss. That was more than enough incentive for Mel to leave as instinct took over and she raced down the alley to the street and her waiting car. Once she was safely inside and speeding away from the neighborhood, Mel started to panic. That was so stupid! What was I thinking? As she waited on a red light she closed her eyes and took a deep breath trying to slow her heart rate. Her hands and feet tingled a little as she came down from the rush of adrenaline. I really walked into a crime lord’s hideout and lived to talk about it. Her body relaxed as she drove home. CC had told her she would an adventure but she never expected that she would feel like this afterward. “ I think I like this.”
  • 107. Next time in A Corporate Conspiracy… “ Here we go little Brooke. Are you ready?” The baby giggled. “I’m not really sure that I am.”  Click
  • 108. First a little catch up with the spares from generation two. At the moment the only other child in the James family tree is Kelly and Ted’s little girl Alicia. Ted is working through the politics track because that was what came up first and Kellie has topped her field of architecture. Laurel and Esther are living next door. Laurel is in music which was a job that was offered to her and Esther is in oceanography.
  • 109. I’m a little worried about Alicia's face too but given that I chose sims with extreme feature for this generation’s spouses, I’m getting what I deserve. I’ve also pre-rolled all the girl’s aspirations and know just what the future holds. I’ll save the fun for later since they will all be going to school together but be sure to keep an eye out for this little tot.
  • 110. George topped the science career track and became perma-plat within a few days of the job becoming available. Now the only ones not platinum in the household are Darwin and the two girls. On the next rotation after this picture was taken I messed up one of those hobby chance cards and George got demoted back to Theorist. He should get back to Mad Scientist the next time through.
  • 111. I sent Jason back to go fishing for this scene and figured at the most I would get was a shot of him catching a fish in the background as I took pictures of Darwin talking to the weather machine. Instead he failed his casting three times in a row including this one I caught as I was waiting out Darwin doing his nice warlock routine.
  • 112. Because I was feeling a little sad about Catalina passing away soon, I sent her and Stanley on a vacation to the islands. This won’t be part of the story as it is extremely out of character for Stanley but I thought I would share a couple of pictures. Cat got a tan and Stanley got burned. They both learned to hula dance and they collected everything you can at the island vacation except the starfish. They even got a voodoo doll.
  • 113.  I’m really going to miss Cat.
  • 114. Kira Gail James Sagittarius (4/6/9/9/1) Yes, she only has one nice point. She is the first sim in the family to be born mean. As a child she wakes up everyday with the torment someone want and if given the opportunity will tease her sister. She has George’s mouth and Brooke got his nose.
  • 115. Nemo’s simself is still pushing to get himself into my story. This time it was interrupting Darwin from finishing his wardrobe adjustment then letting the Charlatan steal his wallet.
  • 116. His fortune aspiration will not be looking too good for a while. 
  • 117. Cat did finally reach her lifetime want to max all seven skill and at the same time gave me my first impossible want point. Getting the charisma points was the hardest because she is so shy and would pout every time I gave her the command to go practice.
  • 118. I officially love the spectral servant spell. Darwin’s is dressed as a woman but make male sounds when idling which is weird but he/she cleans and gardens as well as play a mean piano.
  • 119. Darwin and Cassidy’s honeymoon didn’t take up much space in the story because it was the short trip (3 day and 4 nights) and not very much happened. Darwin learned the fire dance thing and Cassidy got pregnant.
  • 120. You know I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to my sims and very few things bother me. Watching Darwin bawl on the side walk while his new bride walked away to get into the cab was almost too much. I like Darwin a lot, which is a good thing since he is going to be around for a long time and I found this really hard to do. There just won’t be room for her and all the children these two family sims are likely to want. Cassidy’s house will become part of the family rotation and you will be seeing lots of her I promise. Next chapter will be a sad one too as Catalina’s time is running out. Thanks for reading!

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