2. Last time in A Corporate Conspiracy… Stanley began having bizarre and frightening nightmares while his eldest daughter Melinda had found her first love. Unfortunately for Mel, Stanley’s insecurities caused him to attack her one night thinking she was an intruder into the home. Now… “ She’s coming here? Tonight? “ No, no. I’ll make all the necessary arrangements.”
3. “…” “ Perhaps you could send over a packet with a photo and her preferences on lodging and food.” “…” “ Thank you. I will check my email now. What? Of course Mister Gilscarbo will be delighted that she is coming for a tour. It’s not everyday that the owner of a huge corporation visits such a small subsidiary. He is very proud of the work we’ve done so far. Thank you for the call. Goodbye.” Heidi Swenson, executive assistant, hung up the phone with a dejected sigh. One glance around her boss’s office told her she had a lot of work to do before tonight. Files and papers were piled everywhere and Goopy Gilscarbo had called in sick everyday for the last week. “It’s time to come back to work G or you will be out of a job.”
4. Back in Pleasant View a short while later… The bedroom door snapped open and a rather determined woman walked in. She looked down at the sleeping man with a look of annoyance and worry on her face. “Goopy Gilscarbo! Wake up!”
5. Slowly he rolled over and sat up, yawning as he did. “What time is it?” Heidi looked at her watch. “One in the afternoon. I need you to get up and come back to work now.” “ Ugh! My mouth taste like I’ve been chewing on a mummy. How much did I have to drink?”
6. “ From the looks of your bar downstairs, any number of martini’s, half a bottle of tequila and about half of the township’s supply of bourbon. You have to get up now. We need you back at the office.” He looked her up and down for a while, “You’re already dressed? I’ll get my housekeeper to fix us some breakfast after I brush my teeth. Then I can work on getting that bun undone again.” She rolled her eyes, “I did not sleep with you. I brought you home from the bar over a week ago and I left right away. I am never going to sleep with you, so stop asking. And as far as your housekeeper, from the condition of the house I would guess that she stopped coming to work three days ago. Now get up or you are going to lose your job! Though at this point, I’m not sure why I care.”
7. “ What do you mean ‘lose my job’? I’m the boss, no one can fire me.” “ The owner of the corporation can and she arrives here in about twelve hours for an inspection.”
8. “ The owner?!” He jumped to his feet and the room spun around him for a few seconds. “Why is she coming here?” “ The secretary on the phone wasn’t completely forthcoming as to a reason, only that it was to evaluate our progress on the alien project as well as a general inspection.” “ But why is she coming here. We sent the board reports on the project. Didn’t we?” “ No we didn’t. The reports that Doctor James submitted are all sitting on your desk. In your office. Waiting for your signature. But instead, you are here in your room. Drunk. Again.” The emphasis on each of the ‘your’s made his head ache.
9. “ I guess I have been taking a few too many sick days lately.” “ Yes, just a bit.” “ We should arrange something special to welcome her. What time does her plane arrive?” “ Midnight.” “ Midnight? What is she? A vampire?” “ I do not believe so as her secretary was nice enough to include a food list in her info file. No where did it mention blood type.
10. He ran his hands through his unwashed hair, “I guess I should get ready then. I don’t suppose you could rustle up some food while I take a quick shower. Unless of course you want to join me?” She pinched the bridge of her nose and rubbed her eyes. He was incorrigible. “I’m sure I still remember how to cook. Just hurry up with your shower Sir. We don’t have much time and we have a lot of things to take care of before the inspection.” Goopy shuffled off to the bathroom giving his assistant’s backside an appreciative look as he went. Much earlier in the morning a different couple was dealing with their issues as well…
11. Stanley had showered and dressed after picking up the shattered glass and roses from the living room floor. Cat had been in the girls’ room for quite a while and he paced nervously in their bedroom waiting for her to come out. I can’t believe I hit my own daughter in the head with a vase! What is wrong with me? Many, many long minutes later Cat quietly came out of the girl’s room and went downstairs. He heard her down there on the phone. She’s calling Doctor Trueheart, isn’t she? He listened for any clues to what Cassandra was saying at the other end but the conversation was cryptic. Finally, Cat came back upstairs to their room. “Is she going to be okay? Shouldn’t we take her to a hospital? Please tell me she is going to be okay!”
12. Cat folded her arms and thought about what she was going to say before blurting out what she was feeling. “Melinda has a mild concussion, a small cut and several bruises and abrasions. She should be fine but I will be keeping her home from school for a couple of days so she can rest.” Now came the hard part, “Tell me again what happened and this time tell me all of it.” Stanley looked at her eyes and could tell that simmering just below that liquid blue surface was a whole lot of anger. Understandable anger. He found himself trembling and his voice wavered a bit when he started to speak. “I… woke up last night after having a nightmare again and since I couldn’t get back to sleep I got up and went downstairs to make a sandwich. While I was in the kitchen I heard a sound on the porch and thought it was a thief trying to break in.
13. Stanley continued, “I remembered back in school when you complained about me sleeping through the alarms when the bungalow was broken in to and I just kind of acted.” She continued to stare at him so he continued, “When the thief…I mean Mel crossed the room I didn’t have my glasses and could only see an outline in the darkness. I picked up a vase and I threw it at…her head.” The last words were almost a whisper. “I swear to God I didn’t know it was her! What was she doing out so late?” “ Don’t you dare blame this on her. She had a date with George last night.” “ George?” “ Yes, her boyfriend. You met him or don’t you remember that too?”
14. “ Yes I remember. I feel bad enough about this Cat. I don’t need you poking fun at me.” Cat’s eyebrows went up, “Poking fun at you? You smash a glass vase over the back of our daughter’s head, knocking her out and you think I’m poking fun at you?” She paused ominously, “Stanley, I want you to leave now.” “ What? Cat I…” “ Go to your office. Doctor Trueheart will meet you there. Tell her everything , including about the nightmares. I have to go to work in a couple of hours. I will have Kellie stay home as well to look after everyone. When you get home I don’t want you to talk to Mel until I have had a chance to explain things to her.
15. “ I want to apologize to her. It was an accident.” “ I know that you feel bad about this Stanley but I just can’t trust you to be alone with my…our children right now. I imagine that Cassandra will be putting you on some medications to help control your impulses but until we know they are working I just don’t feel comfortable with you being alone with them. I will be home at four and I don’t want you to come back home until then. After I talk to her, then you can apologize. Stanley was hurt by the implication that he couldn’t be trusted with his own children but after what happened last night he didn't think he could be trusted either. He adored his children and his wife. Why do I keep hurting them then? He nodded in agreement and grabbed his things to leave. He heard Catalina start to softly cry as he closed the bedroom door behind him.
16. Once the sun had come up, Cat joined Kellie who had come outside to play in the light dusting of snow that fell overnight. “Honey, I need you to stay home from school today and look after Mel. I have to go in to work today but I will call around noon and check on things.” “ What happened to her? Her face is all bruised.” “ She slipped on the stairs in the dark last night.” It was a lie. “I don’t want her to move around too much today. If she gets really dizzy or starts to feel nauseous or vomits call me at work right away. Okay?” Kellie nodded. “Make sure Laurel and Darwin get to the school bus on time.” “ All right Mom. We have a book report due today in English class. It’s going to be late.” “ I will call the school from work and explain things. I’m sure they will let you two turn it in late.”
17. The day passed quickly and Mel caught up with her youngest sister Laurel after the bus had dropped her off. “Whoa sis! What happened? You look like someone lobbed a soccer ball right into your face, repeatedly.” “ I don’t really remember. Kellie said I fell on the stairs last night and Mom made me stay home from school today in case I got dizzy or something.” “ Way to be a klutz! Did George ask you to go steady with him?” Mel rubbed her nose gingerly, her face was swollen there and ached badly. “Yeah. He even brought more roses which I know he can’t afford. Speaking of which, have you seen the first vase he sent me? It was in the dining room on the dresser but now I can’t seem to find them.”
18. “ Nope. Haven’t seen ‘em. You know what Meadow did today? She came over to Alvin during recess and called him a p.r.i.c.k. then she kicked him right in the shin and ran off. Sandy says it’s because he tried to grab her chest when they were at the swimming pool on Saturday. I think it’s because she really likes him and he hasn’t asked her out on a date. Daddy says that sometimes boys are too afraid to ask a girl out and I think she really shouldn’t have done that right in front of everyone.” Laurel paused for a breath and Mel interrupted her. “I’m a little tired. I think I’ll go lay down and read for a bit.” “ Oh, okay.” Mel loved her little sister dearly but Laurel had an opinion about everything and quite often her opinions took a long time for her to explain. She didn’t have the patience for that today.
19. Later in the afternoon, George stopped in to see her. He was concerned when she didn’t arrive at school that morning. After being stopped at the front door by Kellie, he came upstairs to check on her. “Are you going to be okay? You look really tired.” “ I’m all right. It hurts a bit but everything should heal. I’m glad you came by to see me.” He hugged her close, “I was worried when you didn’t come to school today. You never miss class. Ever. I knew something was wrong. Are you going to still be able to take your SAT’s this week?” “ Of course. I can’t miss those or I won’t get to go to college. What about you? Are you ready for them?” “ There’s no point in me taking them Mel. Even if I do pass I don’t have the money to attend. ”
20. “ I guess college really isn’t in the cards for me.” George only stayed for a few minutes as he had to get to the news stand for his shift. He worked so hard and he was only seventeen. His father didn’t make much money and they needed to extra income to support both of them. Mel was upset with the reality that she would be going to college and George would be staying here. She looked out the window at the grey skies and heavy snow. The world felt very sad and heavy right now and her pounding head wasn’t helping. From the newly added family room, Mel heard her mother’s voice. “Mel honey, would you come in here? I need to talk to you.”
21. Mel joined her mother on the sofa. “What’s up Mom? You look worried.” “ How are you feeling? Has there been any nausea?” “ No. My head hurts and my nose feels pretty swollen.” Cat leaned over and pressed gently on the bridge of her nose trying to feel if the cartilage was damaged. “Oww!” “ Sorry. I don’t’ think it’s broken.” Thank goodness for that. “ On top of everything else, George just stopped by and told me he won’t be going to college after we graduate because they can’t afford it. I don’t want to go without him.” The tears were trying to sneak out of her eyes.
22. “ It’s not fair! He’s smart. Why can’t college be free?” Cat looked down at her hands helplessly. She had wanted to tell Mel the truth about her injuries this afternoon but this little bit of unhappy news made her start to reconsider. No, I need to tell her the truth. “I’m sorry about that honey. Higher education does cost money and if George doesn’t qualify for any scholarships then there isn’t too much that can be done. I know that you love him but you are still very young and there are lots of really great guys out there you haven’t met yet.” “ I don’t want anyone else. I love George.” “ I know you do. And if when you graduate you still love George, he will be here waiting for you. I just don’t want you to limit your future because of a boy.”
23. “ Mel, I need to explain something to you that is very important. It’s about your ‘accident’ last night.” “ Kellie told me. I tripped on the stairs.” Catalina looked at her daughter’s bruised face, I’ve never really lied to my children and I’m not going to start now. I can do this. “I told Kellie that you tripped because I wanted to talk to you first before telling your siblings the whole truth. Last night when you came home from your date, your father mistook you for a burglar and hit you over the head with a glass vase. He didn’t know it was you until he turned on the lights. You know how paranoid he has been lately and last night things just got a little out of hand for him.” She stopped and carefully watched her oldest daughter’s face.
24. It took some time for all of her mother’s explanation to sink in. It couldn’t possibly be true. Then again she did see her normally sweet and gentle father explode the last time Nemo had come to visit with her mother. “Dad…hit me? I guess that’s why I can’t find my first vase of flowers that George bought.” “ He didn’t mean to hurt you Honey. I hope you can see that.” “ Is that why Dad hasn’t been home all day?” “ He is spending sometime with his therapist today and should be home soon. I’m sure he will want to talk to you about this. He feels very bad that it happened. Do you think you could handle talking to him? I don’t want to rush you and it’s understandable if you don’t feel up to it right now.”
25. “ Can it wait till tomorrow Mom? I want to think about it.” “ Of course it can.” “ Dad! Dad! Look I got an A plus!” Darwin danced around in the newly formed puddle from Stanley’s shower. “ All right! Way to go little man. You must have passed your geography test then.” “ Yep. I got all the capitals right.” “ Excellent!”
26. Stanley bent down and gave his son a hug. “Why don’t you go play for a while then I will help you with your homework.” “ Okay.” Darwin skipped off to drop his books on the study floor. Stanley stood there numbly looking at the water puddled under his feet. Why does this always happen when I take a shower? The news from Cat that Mel didn’t want to speak to him tonight was painful but he understood it. He did something awful to his oldest child and now she was uncertain about him. All day he had gone over and over the event both by himself and with Doctor Trueheart and each time it was the same. He thought he was doing the right thing by overcoming his fear and paranoia only to be struck with the reality that when he did he had hurt someone he loved.
27. He had talked about Darwin with Doctor Trueheart today too. He loved his son despite all the difficulty in having him. Stanley knew that the corporation wanted reliable, positive proof of alien impregnation and now they had it. But now what? Darwin was only one of three half-aliens living in Pleasant View. The community accepted them as part of the whole but what did the future hold for his son? Would he be afflicted by the same demons that haunted him? So far the girls seemed fine. Laurel was a little clingy and resentful of her brother but that was normal in big families. Right? Doctor Trueheart had no answers for Stanley except for what he already knew. ‘Darwin and the girls are your children and all you have to do is love and nurture them for things to work out.’ Stanley looked down at the pill vial he pulled from his pocket. “I hope these work”.
28. Elsewhere others were seeking answers to some other difficult questions… “ Adeline have you discovered anything about my inability to see the lightning strike? Did your friends have any ideas?”
29. “ Well it was an unusual visit I must admit and I learned many things but I’m not sure how helpful to information will be to you.” “ What did they say?”
30. “ You haven’t met Aranhkil and Laishma before. They do not speak with humans that haven’t met a certain level of enlightenment. Aranhkil is the Elvin keeper of the Temple of the Elements which lies deeper in the forest than even my glen. It was him I wanted to speak to about you.”
31. “ When I arrived I found Aranhkil deep in meditation within the temple. This is usually how I find him. Personally I don’t know how he sits in that position for so long. My knees start to ache after only a few minutes. He will sit there for days!” “ Can we get on with this?” “ No need to be rude boy!”
32. “ You have a question for me Adeline?” the elf asked as he finished his meditative stance. “ Yes Elder. I do.”
33. “ Is it about your protégé, Jason?”
34. “ As usual Aranhkil you know my mind before I speak it. He has encountered difficulties with his gift and came to me for advice. As I do not have his ability to foresee the future I was unable to help him. I hoped that you may be able to give me something to pass on to him.” The elf gestured to the low table in the center of the room, “Please sit. I will help as much as I am able.”
35. The two of the knelt before the table and Aranhkil began to brew some tea for them to share. “Tell me the nature of his ‘difficulty’, as you put it.”
36. Adeline was often surprised when he asked her such questions. The elf already knew why she was here and exactly what he was going to tell her. And yet, he would still ask. “My apprentice has recently experienced a situation where when he scryed upon someone he knew well, he saw a future that was incomplete. The fact that the man would be struck by lightning and killed was not shown to him. He has been very accurate with his visions in the past and he is confused as to why such a major event was hidden from him.” “ Hidden from who?” Drawn by the scent of the fragrant tea, the pair had been joined by Laishma.
37. “ I’m sorry I’m late. A death was hidden from who?” “ My apprentice, Jason.” The pixie cocked her head, “The handsome one with the golden eyes? Did he die? That is one human I’d willingly travel to the underworld to collect.” “ No. A friend of his was killed by lightning while stargazing.” “ Oh. Still…”
38. “ Laishma, please. Adeline is here for our help. Her apprentice is confused as to why he couldn’t foresee the death and warn his friend.” He sipped his tea thoughtfully before continuing, “Perhaps you should share the rest of the story Adeline.”
39. “ Uhm… Let’s see. The man was killed but he happened to own a Resurrect-O-Nomitron which his wife used that same night to bring him back though she was short on funds and her husband came back a little different.” Laishma smiled and nodded, “Last time I spoke with Grim he told me that he was going to have to start standing firm on his fees. Too many sims were making bargains and backing out at the last minute. Not to mention the unplanned children! Grim has more bastard brats than anyone I know.” Aranhkil sighed, “That really is his fault.” Turning back to Adeline, “What was the man trying to accomplish by stargazing?” “ He was trying to be abducted and impregnated by the alien race that is studying our planet.”
40. “ Oh! She means ‘that man’.” “ So it would seem.” Adeline was confused, “ ‘That man’? You know who Jason’s friend is?”
41. “ Yes. We know. We also know why his life was ended before he could be abducted and conceive. However, the forces responsible have only a limited ability to manipulate sims and they could not prevent his resurrection by his wife. After that, they could no longer affect Stanley James as he was being protected by another, equally powerful force and the conception occurred.” “ Who was responsible? And how do they hide themselves? Who is protecting this man now and why?” “ All logical questions with very complex answers. Answers that your apprentice is not yet ready to hear. And yet he must be prepared for the future and what those answers will mean. For now I can only give him two pieces of advice and one warning.”
42. “ Yes?” The elf blew on his freshly refilled cup, “First, your apprentice must redouble his efforts to master both his visions and his magics. He will need them in the future. When the time comes I will summon him here for the last of his training. Second, he must keep a very close eye on the boy and report anything and everything that happens to him to you and by extension, us.” “ And the warning?” “ Be wary of the boy and the demon who watches over him.”
43. “ That’s it? They didn’t tell you anything else?” “ I’m afraid not. And they aren’t going to until the time is right. Something big is happening Jason and you seem to be right in the middle of it. Keep your eyes and ears open.” “ I will. Before you go I was wondering if you would give me a recipe for a particular potion. My friend will be needing it soon.”
44. “ I sure hope this stuff works as good as Hannah said it would.”
45. Around one am, downtown… “ Heidi, that can’t possibly be her in there.” She leaned closer, putting her finger to her lips to get G to lower his voice. “It most certainly is her. You didn’t read the article Sim Business Weekly did you?” He shook his head. “That woman developed and owns a corporation that spans the globe with interests in over 20 nations. SFO Corporation is her brainchild.” “ But the board…” “ The board just helps oversee day to day functions. She’s the one who comes up with all the ideas.” “ Yeah. But look at her…”
46. “ Looks can be deceiving. Just because she doesn’t look or dress like me doesn’t mean she can’t be brilliant. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” “ Hmm… a cheap copy of one of Will Wright’s lesser works. Predictable and boring.” G panicked, “She doesn’t like my artwork.” “ So?” “ What if she doesn’t like me?” “ She hired you. She’s not going to fire you because of a silly painting. Get in there!” “ No!”
47. “ Yes!” Heidi pushed him around the corner into the office. She didn’t leave however, choosing to lean against the wall out of sight so she could listen. “ Ahh Miss Gray. Welcome to Pleasant View. I hope you had a nice flight.” “ Mister Gilscarbo.” She took and shook his hand firmly. “You have a very… traditional décor in your office. Not what I expected.” Taken a little aback, he glanced nervously at the painting. “The decorator’s idea. Still, it’s comfortable.” He motioned to the chair for her to sit, “I’m curious as to what kind of décor you thought I would have.”
48. She took the offered seat before responding, “I see you as more the modernist type. Sleek lines, simple colors yet comfortable. Victorian can be so stuffy.” G sat on the nearby couch, “Well…I suppose it could be redone. “ Nonsense. If you like it than it is fine.” She paused to push her hair away from her face. “Besides, I really didn’t come half way around the globe to discuss interior décor with you.” “ Of course you didn’t. I suppose you would like an update on our progress with the little project you and the board asked me to handle.” “ That would be nice as I haven’t seen any updates in a least a week.”
49. G felt his heart rate increase and he nervously brushed his hand across his face. “Yes, well…ahh… we have the most recent reports from Doctor James here and compiled them into a complete report for you. We wanted to submit a more thorough report and were unaware of your visit until today.” God, I hope she believes me. I can’t tell her I was drunk for a week and ignored it. She’d fire me on the spot.
50. “ I see. And?” Her eyes drifted to the sound of a creaking floorboard across the room. “ Well, the boy has grown up quite well though he did test lower than expected in early IQ test. His most recent test scores have improved significantly though Doctor James did suggest that some of the improvement may be due to memorization.” Miss Gray stared intently across the room as he spoke. “The child isn’t damaged in some way due to the near death experience his father had is he? I would hate for us to have gotten so far and have a half alien that couldn’t handle the public’s scrutiny.” “ No. He’s now testing above average and is quite personable I hear. Apparently, he has a huge fondness for sweets.”
51. She smiled, “As all good little boys should. Miss Swenson, we are both grown adults and do not require a chaperone. Would you be so kind as to leave us alone please.” From behind the wall came a muffled apology and the sound of the floorboards creaking again as Heidi left. Turning back to G, “You said he is personable? How so?” “ Well, he likes people.” Finding that answer a bit silly, he added, “He seems to get along with everyone he meets really well and doesn’t seem to be fearful or shy.” “ Excellent! And the genetic study? Can we… replicate the alien genome as I asked?”
52. “ Doctor Krug is certain that, given time, we can. But I don’t really see the point of doing so. If the purpose of the project is to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that aliens exist and are mating with us I think we have done that. What profit is there in genetic replication?”
53. “ Not all profits are immediately apparent in any given endeavor. Cloned copies of the child’s DNA can be stored and researched by multiple facilities. We did promise Doctor James that the original child would come to minimal harm but extensive studies of anatomy and physiology are required and cloned bodies can easily be created by those who know how to do so. Who knows? The cure for many diseases may lie hidden in his DNA.” G nodded and stared absently at the offending painting, “That was the purpose of all this? To get alien DNA? We could have done that without spending all the money we have on this project. There are two documented aliens here in Pleasant View and several in Strangetown. We could have collected samples from any of them easily.”
54. The smile that crept over her face worried him a bit. “Yes. We could have used the Curious children or the son of the simself who lives here in Pleasant View. But, with it done this way we have documentation by a trained scientist about the abduction, the pregnancy and the child itself. With the others… Let’s just say that I don’t trust what everyone tells me.” “ I still don’t see how this profits the Corporation.” “ That is because you are short sighted. Besides…”
55. “ It’s my money and I get to spend it however and wherever I want.” “ I can’t really argue with that.” “ Good. I want to meet the boy and his father. Perhaps a nice dinner somewhere?” G nodded. “I’m really quite tired now and would like to go to my lodgings.” “ Miss Swenson arranged for a condo for you. The limo driver has the address.” “ I will be touring the offices and the lab over the next couple of days. I trust that will not be inconvenient for anyone?” “ No. We expected that. I’ll see you tomorrow then.” He stood as she left. Heidi was wrong about this woman. She was very scary.
56. The next morning at the James household… Stanley joined his family at the breakfast table. He had slept through the night with no dreams of any kind for the first time in months. He looked around at the brood of children at the table. Despite it being early spring it had snowed so much overnight that the school closed for the day leaving him home with all of them alone. “ So…what would you kids like to do today? We could build a snow fort and have a snowball fight or play some board games.”
57. “ Today is Mom’s birthday. I think we should have a party with balloons and lots and lots of cake.” Stanley grimaced, “I don’t think your mother wants a birthday party and you eat too many sweets as it is.” “ Why not? Doesn’t she like cake?” “ She likes cake just fine but when ladies get older they don’t always like to be reminded that they are getting older.” Stanley also didn’t want to remind her that he wasn’t going to be getting older anytime soon either. Another little surprise from the Reaper was that Stanley got to live all of his adult life span over again meaning that Catalina who was technically younger than him, would become a senior citizen this evening while he still had fourteen more days to go.
58. “ I didn’t get to go pick out a present for her. Could we go shopping today Dad? I saw a nice painting she would like at the art shop downtown.” Stanley considered the idea, the roads would be plowed by noon. “We could do that. I ordered some new furniture for the front room for her that could be from all of us but if you want to do something on your own…” He looked at Melinda who sat quietly across from him. The bruises on her face seemed to jump out at him. “Mel, do you feel up to a trip downtown or would you like to stay here?” She didn’t look up from her cereal, “I have a book report to finish. I’ll just stay home.” Stanley nodded. He understood her reluctance to spend time with him.
59. “ I’ll stay with her Dad.” Laurel turned to her sister, “We can do our homework together and you can help me with my biology. I just don’t understand why we have to learn all the phases of cell reproduction. It’s not like I’m ever going to use that.” Stanley winced at the idea of one of his children not understanding the value of science. “Even if you don’t use it in your everyday life, it is very important to understand how the world works Pumpkin. Besides if you actually pay attention in class you might enjoy learning about science.” Laurel gave him a big smile, “I’ll try Daddy.” “ That’s my girl.” Mel just rolled her eyes and focused on finishing her cereal.
60. The day crept past quietly for Mel. Her father had taken Kellie and Darwin out to do some last minute shopping and Laurel pestered her with her biology questions. Lunch time finally came and Laurel, who loved to cooked, reheated some omelets from the day before for them to eat. Mel ate hers quickly hoping to get away from her little sister long enough to have some time to herself. “I’m going to go lay down a take a nap for a bit.” “ Okay.” Laurel watched her stand and pick up her plate. “Are you feeling alright?” “ I’m fine. I just have a lot on my mind right now.” Mel headed into the kitchen to clean up from lunch.
61. As she bent over to load the dishwasher she developed a sudden pain in her head. “Oww!” She pressed her hand to her skull and winced, “Man, that hurts.” “ You should try some ginger tea. That will fix your swollen head right up in a jiffy.”
62. She straightened up quickly and turned. Finding no one there she called out to her sister, “Did you say something Laurel?” “ Nope.” Mel looked around the room. Okay. That was weird. I really should go lay down.
63. Later that afternoon Kellie happily served up the cake her mother had just finished baking. It was so fresh that the aroma filled the house and drew Darwin like a magnet. “ I thought Dad said that we weren’t having any cake today.” Kellie smiled, “Mom thought that everyone might still like some even though there wouldn’t be any candles.” “ Where is she? And why are you already in your pjs? It’s only six.” “ I like wearing my pjs. They’re comfortable and I think mom is in the bathroom. Eat up spaceman otherwise dad will come along and inhale it.”
64. Upstairs in the master bathroom Cat was coming to terms with the most recent change in her life. She leaned close to the mirror and evaluated the damage. “It could be worse I suppose but I definitely need to go shopping. Hmm… I need new clothes and maybe a few things for the kids.” Cat snuck down the stairs and quickly grabbed her keys and coat. “I’m going out for about an hour!” She quickly rushed out the door before anyone could stop her to ask why.
65. In the family room Stanley cautiously approached Mel as she sat practicing chess. She was smiling and her mind was definitely somewhere else. He hated to disrupt her happy mood but just couldn’t wait any longer to speak with her. “Mel, Honey? Can we talk?” She looked up at him and he noticed that some of the swelling and bruising had improved from the morning. Mel put away the chess pieces and stood up with a sigh, “Sure dad. Now is as good a time as any.”
66. “ First of all, I want to apologize for what happened the other night. There is no good excuse for what I did and I want you to understand that if I knew it was you it wouldn’t have happened. You’re my daughter and I would never, ever hurt one of my children on purpose.” “ I know.” “ It’s just that I get a little mixed up from time to time and my doctor has put me on some medicine that should help. I don’t want any of you to be afraid of me and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
67. Mel continued to stare at the floor for sometime and Stanley started to worry about what her response would be. Finally she decided on how she wanted to say what she had been thinking about all day. “Dad, I know that you didn’t mean to hurt me but you seem to have a really bad temper. I saw it when you had that fight with Mister Nemo and mom. I don’t know what your meds are supposed to do but I hope they will stop you from being so angry sometimes. I just…”, she ran out of words to express her worry about him. Stanley smiled and lifted her chin so that he could look at her eyes. He gently brushed the bruised skin on her temple. “This is my promise. I will never strike anyone in anger or fear ever again. From now on when I look at you I will see this bruise and be reminded. Okay?” She nodded and wiped the tears from her cheeks.
68. Mel smiled and hugged her father. “I won’t let you forget daddy.” After she released him he stepped back and tugged one of her braids playfully. “Are you ready to head off to college? Living on your own, meeting new people, maybe a boy or two?” She frowned and looked down at the floor again. “Or maybe not? What’s wrong?” “ George can’t go to college with me and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” The tears rolled down her cheeks again. “ Please stop crying. George seems to be a nice young man but…” He paused. “Nothing I can say is going to make you feel better honey. I’m sorry.” He hugged until she finished crying because he didn’t know what else to do.
69. Meanwhile at the local clothing boutique… Cat rushed in just before closing to find some suitable clothing and had the hairstylist try something different for her newly silvered locks. She was pleasantly surprised to find the young man on whom her eldest child was so smitten behind the cash register.
70. After he finished ringing up her purchases she stopped to speak with him for a bit. “George? I thought you worked at the news stand. What on earth are you doing here?” “ Missus James? I almost didn’t recognize you.” He stopped to brush the hair out of his eyes, “The girl who normally works here got the mumps and I offered to fill in for her. I could really use the extra cash. How’s Mel feeling? I didn’t get a chance to stop by today.” “ She’s doing well. Her head still hurts a bit but it will get better. She’s awfully sad that you won’t be joining her and Kellie when they head off to college though. Surely there is some way for you to go. If it’s a grade issue I would be happy to tutor you.”
71. “ No it’s not my grades. My father doesn’t make very much money and we have lots of bills to pay, what with my mother having been sick for so long. I just can’t afford to go.” Cat looked at him thoughtfully for a bit, then an idea struck her. “Give me something to write on. I know someone who might be interested in taking on an intern. Let me call and talk to her tomorrow then I will call you. Maybe if she has a position available, they could fund your entrance fees. The rest would be up to you of course.” George nodded, “Okay. That would be awesome Missus J.” He wrote down his phone number for her. She took the paper and her purchases and happily hurried home. If it worked out it would be a great surprise for Mel.
72. Back at the house, Cat pushed the front door closed and announced, “I’m home! Come see what I brought you.” The family all joined her in the empty front room. She smiled and pulled a wrapped box from her bags, “I have cell phones for the girls and a video game for Darwin.” Laurel hopped up and down excitedly, “A real cell phone? With my own number?” “ Yes, that way when your sisters leave for school we can reach them no matter where they are and the rest of us here a home will be able to use the normal phone since you won’t be on it anymore.”
73. Melinda took the gift from her mother, “Aren’t we supposed to be giving you gifts? It is your birthday after all.” “ I needed something to wear and the kiosk was right there. It wasn’t a big deal.” Cat looked around, “Speaking of gifts…”
74. Stanley and the kids brought in the rug and living room suite that he had ordered for Cat. Kellie added a beautiful painting of a landscape and for the first time the James family had one essentially completed room in their home. Cat shuffled the children off the bed and kissed Stanley goodnight as he headed up the stairs. The very first thing she did in her new room was sit and read the paper until two in the morning.
75. The next morning, the spring sun had finally worked up enough strength to thaw the ground and on his doctor’s recommendation Stanley decided to plant the garden. “It will help burn off some of your nervous energy and the sunlight will be good for your mood. Just don’t over do it.” Stanley wasn’t too sure if digging in the dirt was to his liking but the fresh air was definitely a plus. Stanley added some flowers to the newly placed front walk as well. “The girls will love these.”
76. Later in the day at SFO Paranormal R&D Lab… “ So, since the reconstruction we have been working very diligently on the unusual weather machine that was the cause of the explosion and fire. Doctor Long was able to reconstruct the device and discovered that some of the wiring had been altered to cause a short circuit that caused the accident. Since then Doctor James has been trying to learn more about the device but there have been some set backs.” “ What kind of set backs?” “ One of our employees was badly shocked during a recent test and ever since the team has been unable to get the device to power up. Doctor James is very hopeful that he has the problem corrected and is attempting another power up this afternoon. I thought you might like to observe.”
77. “ Absolutely.” The trio entered the mechanical lab just as Stanley was finishing up an adjustment to the device. “Okay Lori see if you are getting any readings now.” Lori scanned the monitor, “That seems to have done it. We are getting feedback from the energy probes on the orb as well as the control panel.” Goopy cleared his throat, “Doctor James we have a guest.”
78. Stanley straightened up to face the newcomers into the lab. “Ahh! You’re just in time. I think we’ve sorted out the power issues. This machine has given us a great deal of trouble. Hopefully, we can get it up and running for you today Miss Gray. Though, I should warn you…this machine seems to have a habit of hurting people.”
79. She laughed, “I think my insurance will cover me. Please proceed. I’d love to know what you think of this particular machine’s functions.” A little confused, Stanley nodded. “How are you feeling Jason? Any problems yet?” “ No. Go ahead and flip the switch.”
80. Stanley turned and cranked the lever that would deploy the focusing dish.
81. Energy crackled through the device and a beam to light shot through the open skylight and into the cloudless sky. Soon a light rain began to fall. Lori smiled, “It’s working perfectly. I am however getting energy fluctuation readings from the probes on the orb.” “ How much fluctuation?” “ Only a few volts in a steady rhythm. It’s very strange. If I were looking at an ECG the wave pattern would resemble a heart beat.” Stanley turned to look at her, “A what?” Right at that moment there was a massive surge through the device.
82. Stanley jumped back from the machine and Jason cringed as an all too familiar pain arced through his skull causing him to cry out in pain and nearly drop to his knees. Heidi panicked, “Turn it off! Turn it off! It’s killing him!”
83. There was no need for Lori to hit the emergency kill switch they had rigged into the system as the energy surge tripped the building’s circuit breakers cutting off power to the entire facility. “Is everyone all right? Jason?” She could hear him breathing hard next to her. “ Where are the damned emergency lights? “ Give ‘em a minute.”
84. At last the battery back up lights clicked on allowing the group to survey the damage. Lori helped Jason stand up and checked him over quickly. Stanley shook his head, “This machine has been the biggest pain in the ass! Honestly Miss Gray I don’t think we can do anything with this thing. Every time we try, we blow up expensive equipment and nearly give Jason an aneurism. The thing is a lemon.” She nodded, “I’ve been told that before. No one has ever gotten this weather machine to work correctly except the man who invented it. Unfortunately he passed away sometime ago.” She turned and looked at the smoking hulk of metal. “It’s almost as if it doesn’t want to work for us.”
85. Trying to make light of the situation G added in, “Maybe it has a gremlin.” Stanley frowned, “A what?” “ You know a gremlin. A evil spirit that keeps making it break. Pilots have reported them for years, messing with the wiring and the mechanical systems on planes.”
86. Jason pulled his hand away from his head, “Gremlins are specific to aircraft but there are other kinds of spirits that can cause malfunctions in equipment.” G frowned, “I was joking.” “ And I’m not. It is entirely possible that there is some kind of spirit inhabiting the device and preventing us from using it. It would explain why I’m so sensitive to the energy fluctuations and possibly why Lori recorded what appeared to be an energy wave created by a living thing.” Goopy shook his head, “Ahh…Are we seriously saying that the machine is possessed?”
87. Miss Gray nodded, “It would seem so. Doctor James what do you think?” Stanley thought for a bit. “I believe that there are things in the universe that we can’t see or explain fully yet. Things that manipulate us and the world around us. As a scientist, I would have to say that if we can’t find a way to prove it then it’s just a theory.” “ And would you be interested in trying to prove that theory?” He looked back at Jason who nodded. “I suppose so.” “ Then I say, let’s focus on that for now. If the idea can be proved than maybe we can find a way to remove the theoretical spirit from the machine.”
88. Back at the James home… That afternoon Cat found Darwin outside burning off some excess energy. Darwin always seemed hyper charged but found several ways to release some of that pent up motion. Jumping rope was one of his favorites and Cat couldn't find any reason to dissuade him as the fitness benefits were huge and it kept him out of trouble.
89. She approached once he stopped jumping. “Are you ready for your birthday tomorrow?” “ Will there be cake?” “ Of course there will be cake. You can’t have proper birthday without cake.” Darwin smiled. His mother knew how much he loved sweets. “Mom I was thinking, why don’t I look like you or dad? Everyone I know looks like someone in their family except me. Am I adopted?” “ No Sweets, you’re not adopted and you do have black hair like your father.” “ That’s the only thing that matches. My eyes and ears are all weird and my skin is green. Laurel says I’m half booger. Isn’t a booger a lump of mucus?”
90. I’m really going to have to have a talk with that girl. “Your sister is just teasing you Sweets. I guess if you are old enough to ask the question you are old enough for the answer. You see, when an man and a woman really love each other…” Cat went on for about an hour and that was the edited version of ‘The Birds, The Bees and the Telescope’ talk. At least now Kellie always calling him spaceman made sense. And he knew for sure that he wasn’t descended from a random glop of goo out of someone’s nose.
91. Later that afternoon came the event the twins had been planning for. Their clothes were packed ready to go. All that was left was to say goodbye to their friends and family. Mel opened the door and looked at the yellow cab. “College here we come. With or without George.” Kellie wrinkled her nose, “Who wants him? All that blonde hair stuck in his eyes…” Mel elbowed her in the ribs. “Just because you couldn’t find a boyfriend doesn’t mean you get to pick on mine.” The family followed them out to the side walk and waved goodbye as the cab pulled away.
92. The next morning was a little somber in the house and Cat decided to have Darwin’s cake a little earlier than normal. The twins couldn’t attend as they were still en-route to Sim State but the rest of the family was there to cheer him on.
93. Darwin looked at the cake puzzled, “I don’t know what to wish for.” His father smiled, “That’s the good thing about wishes. It can be anything in the world, the universe even. Just close your eyes and something will come to you.” Darwin squeezed his eyes closed and thought really, really hard. But nothing was coming to him. “It didn’t work.” Laurel rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. Cat leaned down and whispered in his ear. He perked up, “Oh yeah! I forgot.” He closed his eyes on concentrated. “ Just blow out the stupid candles Booger! I don’t have all day!”
94. When the confetti was all gone Darwin turned around and faced Laurel. “I am not a booger. I’m half alien and I like being me.” “ Whatever!” Laurel stormed out of the room.
95. “ Heh. More cake for me then.” A private conversation between Stanley and Cat reveled what young Darwin had wished for. Adventure and chocolate. Perhaps not the most imaginative of wishes but for Darwin reality was in the here and now. Not the unreadable future. Out at Sim State University Kellie and her Twins sister Kellie are just getting settled into the tiny house their father had built so many years ago…
96. “ Can you believe they raised the rent on this tiny little shack. I had to sell most of the kitchen counters and downgrade the refrigerator and other furnishing just so we could afford to move in.”
97. Kellie nodded, “We can’t even use the bedroom until the plumbing gets reinstalled. What a pain! Why can’t we just live in the dorms? They built a new one across campus. I hear it’s really nice.” “ Because Dad says they aren’t safe. Too many strange people and not enough security. You know how he is. We will just have to be creative in some ways to come up with more money until the end of the term.”
98. Across campus in the very same dorm that Kellie had mentioned another new student was settling in. Heidi looked George up and down, “You clean up pretty well Mister McCarthy. How are you liking the new living arrangements?” “ The dorm is great! Lots of space and everything a student could want to improve their mind. I really appreciate the help with the initial expenses Miss Swenson. I would never have been able to attend college without the assistance.” “ Catalina was very persuasive in her argument that you would make an excellent intern for the Corporation. Have you already chosen your major?”
99. “ I enrolled in the drama department.” “ Drama? That won’t serve you very well in the business world. Economics or History maybe, but not drama.” “ It was what looked fun.” She shook her head and sighed, “You’re still young yet and you have time to change your major up until your junior year. Enjoy the acting classes George but do keep in mind that interns at SFO Corp. need a strong understanding of finance and management. Personality will not make you successful in business.” “ That makes sense. It’s just that I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer, like a comedian or something.”
100. “ Dreams are a nice thing to have but do you really have the talent to make your living on the stage? Most people don’t. Along with that to consider is the fact that you will have to work for on year as an intern to pay back your loans to the company. If the management likes you they may offer you a permanent position within the Corporation. In the end you will make far more money in business than you will telling jokes.” George listened to Heidi’s advice carefully. He knew she was right about the hardships involved with stage work but this was his first big break in his young life and he wasn’t quite ready to think about reality just yet.
101. Back in Pleasant View, the rest of the James family had the rare opportunity to dine with a woman who, while very different in appearance, seemed at least on the surface to be very intelligent and straightforward. After dinner she asked Darwin to join her outside for a bit so she could get to know him a little better. “ I’m so glad that you and your family could join us for dinner this evening Darwin. I have been very anxious to meet you ever since you were born. I’m sure you have a lot of questions for me as well and I want you and I to feel comfortable enough with each other to ask and answer them.”
102. “ Well, I guess I’m a little curious as to why you want to study aliens so bad and why it has to be me? I mean, there are other alien half-breeds around. Mom told me how it all happens and stuff.” She smiled a rather curious smile, “Because I wanted my very own alien with which to take over the world.” Darwin sat stunned for a few seconds, “Are you serious?” Marie laughed, “No. Do you know what kind of business I run Darwin?” “ Not really. Dad works at a lab for you. So, some kind of science stuff I suppose.” “ Science stuff, medicine stuff, financial stuff, military stuff. That about covers it. To be more precise, I invest in things that I think will make me a profit. That’s not really different than any other business plan out there.”
103. She continued, “Sometimes I choose unusual projects like the mystery of why the aliens choose to breed with us. Most likely the answer to that question won’t be very profitable but the research that leads up to the answer may be. For example, when you were just a few day old, your father collected samples of your blood and skin cells. From those sample we can develop a blueprint of your DNA. Your DNA could hold all kinds of secrets like the cure for cancers or common viral illnesses.” “ So I’m just a big petrie dish for you?” “ No you misunderstand. When I contracted your father to be abducted by the aliens I promised that no harm would come to you due to our research. However, cloned copies of your cells can be studied freely.”
104. The pair sitting in the gazebo were unaware of the near silent figure that crept up to listen to the conversation. Darwin scratched his head, “So… You’re making clones of me? Like in that movie with all the storm troopers?” “ Not clones of you, just some of your cells. It’s all very safe. Now my turn, I know your birthday was today but have you thought any about what you would like to do when you get older?” “ You mean like a job?” “ Yes.”
105. “ I don’t know. I really, really like sweets. You know like cake and candy? I could maybe be a chef or a spy. No matter what I want to make lots of money.” “ Money? Money is always good. In fact it’s my very best friend.” “ My turn! Why is your hair all weird?” Marie giggled, “Do you like it?” “ Yes.” “ I do to.” She leaned forward, “You want to know what my favorite game is?”
106. “ Sure.” “ I love to make people feel uncomfortable. I dress differently, act differently, stare just a little too long. All just to make people squirm in their seats. It’s called manipulation Darwin. With it you can change how people think.” “ Kind of like brainwashing?” “ Umm…Kind of. My turn. Do you ever feel things around you that others don’t seem to notice?” Darwin sat back in his seat. That question made him a little uncomfortable. “No.” He lied.
107. He lied. But Jason was more curious about why she would ask such a question. He’s lying, She thought to herself. He’s ashamed of it. Good. “Are you sure?” “ Yes, I’m not all weird like my Dad.” “ Your father senses things?” “ I didn’t say that!” “ Of course not.” She sensed that she wasn’t going to get anything more from him today. “It’s getting a bit late. I’m sure your parents will be wanting to get you home. Thank you for talking with me Darwin.”
108. “ No problem.” He jumped up and ran down the walk towards the house. As she watched him go she decided that she was going to have to arrange better observation of the boy. If he does have extra sensory abilities she would want to know as soon as possible. Jason quietly left the way he came avoiding the gaze of the pensive woman in the gazebo.
109. Next time in A Corporate Conspiracy… “ Ohh! Well, that can’t be good.”
110. <ul><li>Heh! Be glad it’s so dark out here! </li></ul><ul><li>I hope you liked this chapter. It had a little bit of a choppy feel to me with all the jumping around from story to family and back. You did get a little bit of insight (a tiny, wee, little bit) from Aranhkil that will probably get some of you asking me all kinds of questions. </li></ul>
111. Speaking of Aranhkil, his friend Laishma, I think is one of the prettiest sims I’ve ever made in CAS. Enya’s pixieskin, Yummydust’s eyes, Zombiejill’s eye shadows and Bruno’s lip glosses. The hair is by Peggy but was fixed and retextured by someone over at Garden of Shadows (I forgot who). When I create background characters like her I always try to think up a little history for them. Laishma is a pixie pirate who has had adventures all around the world and the otherworldly places that living sims don’t usually go. Fun loving and outgoing and just a little bit innocent. Also, a huge thanks to the creators at Parsimonious who made the awesome elemental alters (you can just see the air one over her shoulder) that you saw in the temple scene. They really do work and look stunning!
112. Another new character for you to ponder. This is Marie Gray- Art critic and mysterious business woman. That’s all I’m sharing about her. You will just have to keep reading to learn more.
113. George McCarthy- His face isn’t going to do my family’s already questionable genetics any favors except that we might get some blonde hair in the next generation. He and Melinda only have a one bolt attraction that will become two with some study in the mechanical area. Stats: Capricorn (4/6/2/9/4) Fortune sim with the LTW to be an entertainer. Turn ons: Makeup/Mechanical Skill; Turn off: Cologne; Hobby: Games I went with him because he seemed to have good story potential and a young lady’s first romance is always one she will remember till she dies. As a side note all sims going through college WILL take the reroll for aspiration, except maybe Darwin (story purposes).
114. Here are Darwin’s updated stats: Sagittarius (1/6/10/10/8) Fortune sim with the LTW of becoming the Head of the SCIA (this could work nicely with my plot) Turn ons: Cleaning/ Plant sims; Turn off: Brown hair Hobby: Nature All turn ons/off are rolled randomly as well. So, yes Darwin is looking for a little plant sim loving!
115. Catalina made it to the top of the medicine career track in about one sim week. I’m still working on her LTW of maxing all skills. Having four kids to take care of really limits her time with the books. She just needs charisma (she whines about it) and body skill.
116. A better picture of Cat post aging makeover. I seemed to have taken every picture post make over except this one looking at her back.
117. The house from street view. All that is left to add now is a nursery off the kitchen area and a deck out back. Then some landscaping and some kind of graveyard/mausoleum. I’m pretty proud of the layout on this house. It looks nice from the street and has good flow for the sims inside. The only things on the top floor are bedrooms, one bathroom and a skilling area for career rewards. Everything else is on the first floor. The newest addition on your right is the family room and Darwin’s new bedroom. The girls have a room they share.
118. Thanks for reading! Well, I thank you. Marie would just tell you to sod off.