Chapter 38 – The MatrixA Piratical LegacyChapter 38The Matrix
It was a bright, sunny day on Pirate island and a pair of simselves were just settling in to their brand new cottage, fully furnished thanks to Mansion& Garden Stuff."Well? Was it worth what you paid for it?"
"Every penny," I said happily, snuggling just a little bit closer to my "Sarah..."very deific sim-husband. "Okay, okay," I said. "Ill stop redecorating and building and stuff"And have you actually been playing your legacy families?" he and actually work on a chapter."prodded. "Well, you dont have time for that now.""Umm..." "I dont?""Thats what I thought," simChris scolded. "How are you ever goingto get to generation ten if you dont actually play?" "No, youre supposed to meet with our granddaughter in ten minutes. In Paris.""Err... well, if you increase your Nature hobby just a bit more, wemight get a genie lamp..." "Shoot!"
Hastily, I flipped on the TV to check. Sure enough, Persephone Biggs was waiting outside her house for me to show up for our coffee date."Better hurry. You know she gets testy when someone stands her up," Chris said helpfully."Oh, hush and hand me the controller."
"Okay, um, Ill have a Venti half-pump skinny mocha... with extrawhip." I stared at her."That kinda defeats the purpose of the skinny, Grandma," "What?"Persephone pointed out. "You are so your grandfathers granddaughter.""No, the skinny removes the guilt of the extra whip, child. Alas, youhave much to learn. So what are you having?" "Well, I dont like coffee. Its gross.""Um, Ill have a Venti steamed milk with a shot of eggnog." "Like I said..."
A few moments later, we and our hot beverages were seated at a "Duh. Im not stupid... just lazy."nearby table. "Right. Well, you shouldnt cheat. You might get caught.""Hows school?" I asked conversationally. "Its not so much cheating as creatively evading work.""Oh, its fine," Persephone shrugged. "I can usually talk one of theboys into doing my homework for me so its super easy." "Semantics. Keep in mind that I dont suffer cheaters lightly, Persephone," I said. "Then again... cheating the old-fashioned way is"How do you pass the tests if you dont practice the material?" just a game between you and the teacher. Using your deific powers, on the other hand..."
"Waitaminute. I have deific powers?"I coughed. "In a manner of speaking.""Really?""Sort of.""Whats with the qualifications? Do I have them or not?""Well, you do. And you dont.""Now youre not making any sense."
"Its like this," I said, gesticulating wildly with my coffee cup and slopping espresso all over the floor. "This is my verse, right? I made it, I makethe rules, all that fun stuff.""Uh huh.""So that means that I get to decide how deific powers work. And Ive decided that you get to inherit your mothers portion of the powers instead ofher."
"Me? Wont she get seriously cheesed?""Shes already pretty cheesed off at me, and no I dont want to talk about it. Its safe to say that she isnt really missing her powers at the moment.""So how do I use them?" Persephone asked."Thats where it gets complicated," I said.
"Ive got time to listen," she shrugged. "Lerts doing my homework tonight.""Howd you convince him? You cant exactly use your feminine wiles on your half-brother.""No, but I can blackmail him," she grinned."Ooh, whatd he do?""Spent yesterday afternoon making out with Tracy GilsCarbo instead of watching Horatio, thats what.""Ophelia would kill him if she found out. Or give him a medal. Im not really sure which.""Me neither. And dont change the topic. I want to know about my powers."
"Its not as easy as all that," I shrugged. "Sure, I make the rules and I the verse is because of you? Thats kinda a heavy load."assign the powers. But its way easier to demonstrate." "But fun," I said. "Now, do you want to learn or what?""Ooh... can you turn the barista into a frog?" "Im ready!""No!" I said scoldingly. "I only ever use my powers for justice.Which, you will note, is not the same as good." "Whens spring break?""Duly noted," she said obediently. "Do you predestine people?" "In theory, whenever you want it to be." She stared at me in puzzlement. "Whats that got to do with it?""To an extent," I said. "There is some free will. More in my versethan some, for that matter." "Because I want to show you, and we should really do that back at my place...""But ultimately, everything good or bad that happens to the beings in
By the time our drinks were finished, it was a done deal--Persephone would be coming over to visit in a few days so she could learn the extent ofthe powers I was willing to give her. We would have started sooner, but she had matters at home to attend to first."Cmon, Horatio," she cooed, bouncing her baby brother on her hip as she carried him into the kitchen. "Time to get you all fed and diapered beforeyour birthday party starts. Though I dont see why Dad or Ophelia couldnt be doing this."
Toby and Ophelia had a good answer for that: they were busy downstairs, both decorating for the party and redecorating the rec room.
Before long, the house was filled with the sounds of people cheering for Horatios birthday transition. Both Toby and Ophelias closest relativeswere in attendance, eager to get to know the newest Smith-Biggs child.
Once Horatio had transitioned to toddler, his parentage was immediately obvious. While he had Ophelias colouring, his features were all Toby.Horatio proved to be slightly different from both of his siblings in temperament, with a messy, outgoing, athletic, playful, and mean outlook onlife.
Right from the start, the entire family was utterly charmed by his infectious smile and laugh. And never did Horatio laugh louder than when heddiscovered a particularly exciting treasure up his nose.
Calico Legacina plonked herself down in front of her newest cousinly relative."Hey! Wheres Horatio?" she asked, covering her eyes with her hands.The toddler wiggled and squealed."There he is!""Aaah! Again, Callie! Again!"
Before Callie could repeat the maneuver, however, Laertes swooped in and grabbed her in a headlock."Noogie time!" he crowed, knuckling the top of her head."Augh! Get off, Laertes!" Callie protested, beating on him with her fists. "My hair!"Laertes snickered as he finally released her. "You know you liked it.""Did not!"The namecalling and mutual accusations continued for the rest of the night, and only stopped once Ophelia suggested that if all Callie and Laertescould do was flirt, theyd be separated.
"Come on, Horatio," Toby said, scooping up his son off of the kitchen floor. "Time for potty and then bed!" With the ease of someone whod hadmuch practice, he carted Horatio up the stairs towards the nursery.
"Now, go potty in the chair," Toby said."Why?""Because you cant wear a diaper forever. Besides, youll smell bad if you just keep going in the diaper.""I do the flush?""No flush on this potty," Toby said, grimacing. "Instead, I get to clean it out and flush it down the big toilet. On second thought..."
"I a big boy now?""Yep," Toby said proudly. "Youre my number one younger son! And getting way too big, way too fast.""Too fast?""Thats just grown-up talk," Toby said with a sad smile. "Almost done, kiddo?""Done!"
"How was the flight?" I asked, giving Persephone a great big hug a few days later. "Get through customs okay?""Pirate Island doesnt have customs," Persephone said. "I got interviewed by this dark-haired woman in a catsuit who asked something about...what was it? Oh yeah. She wanted to know if I had any merchandise to declare to the Syndicate. Nothing about Pirate Island Customs, though."
I nodded. "Dont lie to Toshiko. She can sense it.""Anyway, everything was cool and now Im here," Persephone said brightly. "So, when do I start learning how to zap people and stuff?""The zapping is the easy part," I said, gesticulating wildly. "Its figuring out when to do it thats the tricky bits.""Im all ears," Persephone reiterated. "Can we start now?"
"No sense doing anything on an empty stomach," I said. "Lets go inside and Ill make us lunch while you look around the place.""Sounds good to me!"
While I busied myself with bread and cheese in the kitchen, I could hear Persephone wandering around the living room, studying everythingcarefully."Im all about hands-on learning," I called over my shoulder. "So if you want to touch any of the stuff in there, go ahead.""Even the giantscreen TV?""Even the TV. Just dont touch the video game console. That comes later."
Persephone nodded and wandered over to the end table."Whats this?" she asked.
I looked over at her. "Oh, thats just my notebook. You know, for keeping track of the legacy plot and stuff.""Can I look through it?""Sure!""This is so cool!"
As I carried the frying pan over to the stove, Persephone settled on to and Lert in here?"the couch. "Yep," I said. I snapped my fingers. "But you cant read that part"Anywhere in particular I should start?" now. After the stuff in it has happened, though, its fair game too. A deity has to keep some secrets.""Ive got things split by generation," I advised. "You wantGeneration 7 -- its the green tab." "Aww, phooey.""Awesome. I cant wait to see what youve got in store for everyone." "Just read the main plot stuff. I know youll like it."She paused thoughtfully for a moment. "Hey, is there stuff about me
Rrrring!With the shrill sound of the final bell still ringing in their ears, the students of Pirate Island Composite began fleeing the site of their daily forcedimprisonment in twos and threes.Of course, for some of them this meant going no further than the schools front lawn. Not everyone was in a hurry to get home to chores,homework, and babysitting."So, Balthier... got a date to the dance yet?"
"Nope," Balthier sighed loudly to his two best friends. "Nobodys asked me yet. I hate this stupid rule that the girls have to ask the boys.""Oh?" a feminine giggle sounded. "Is there somebody you want to ask you?"Balthier shrugged. "There are one or two candidates, I admit."
"Dude, you cant leave us hanging with such a tasty tidbit of gossip," Chandler Platz scolded, shaking his red locks emphatically. "Whos floatingyour boat?""Its not that theres anyone in particular," Balthier shrugged. "But I could be proactive, yknow? None of this waiting around thing.""Now you know how us women feel most of the time," the third member of their party said chidingly. "Always waiting around for the phone toring... it can get quite disheartening.""You dont have to wait around," Balthier shrugged. "Thats the whole point Im trying to make, really. People should be free to ask out whoeverthey want, regardless of gender."
"I guess I can agree with that," Brittany Parker said thoughtfully. "Equal opportunity dating and all. Still, I kind of like the idea of a Sadie Hawkinsdance.""Oh? Whore you going to ask?" Chandler asked, leering across the table."Like Id tell either of you!" Brittany retorted. "I know how it would work. Youd both harass the life out of the poor guy and hed have to run offand join a monastery or something and then Id never get to go out with him."
"Aww, Britt, we wouldnt do that," Balthier said. "Chandler and I are both much too nice to tease anyone. Right, Chan?""Exactamundo, my friend," Chandler agreed. "Although we might have to beat up the guy if he tries to kiss you or something like that.""You do that, I beat up you two!" Brittany scowled. "The two of you can leave my dates alone, thank you very much!""Yeah, but you dont have any older brothers," Balthier said seriously. "As your best friends, Chan and I are duty-bound to ensure your honourremains intact."
"I suppose its the thought that counts," Brittany sighed in resignation. "Its kind of nice there are people looking out for me but--hey!""Huh?""How did this get switched around from poking Balthier about his dating choices to giving me the third degree?"Balthier grinned. "Im just a master of deflection, thats all."
"See," he continued, leaning closer to Britt, "the trick is to answer a question with a question. That gets the person off their guard, and if the otherpeople involved in the conversation are a bit slow on the uptake--""Hey!" Now it was Chandlers turn to protest. "I was just sticking up for my species, bro.""I know that," Balthier said. "You cut me off before I could get to that point. This is why interrupting is bad, Chan."
"This is why making mass generalizations is bad, Bal," Chandler shot back. "Anyway, it seems to me that Miss Britt is as good at changing thesubject as you are." He leaned forward in his chair. "So? Whos it gonna be, Britt?"
"I already told you guys, Im not telling," Brittany said, blushing a shade that almost matched her violently dyed red hair. "Youll just tease me.""Promise I wont," Balthier said earnestly. "Pirates honour.""Yeah, we all know what thats good for," Chandler chuckled. "Weve read our history textbooks, Balthier. Your ancestors are well-known for theirscoundrel ways."
"You guys like me better because Im a scoundrel," Balthier said. "There arent enough scoundrels in your lives. Why should I stop now? Besides,Im nice.""Modest, too," Britt laughed. "That doesnt mean youre not going to tease me.""Yeah, but Im totally not going to," Balthier said. "No matter how squicky the guy is. Or girl. Is it a girl?"
"Its not a girl," Brittany said. "For that matter, I dont really know if Im going to ask anyone to the dance at all. I havent decided yet.""All that and youre going to chicken out?" Chandler said. "Does this mean you like someone so much youre terrified of rejection? Or you dontlike anyone enough to risk the potential humiliation? Or you just plain havent decided yet and dont want to admit it to us?""All or none of the above," Brittany laughed. "Seriously, guys... can we talk about something else? This is getting kinda old."
"Sure," Chandler said easily. "Either of you done that homework for going to write about, but I havent started researching yet. MomMr. Buccaneer yet?" should have most of the books I need at home.""Which one?" Brittany and Balthier asked in unison, then started "Im going to write about the early colonization of Pirate Island bylaughing. the townies," Brittany chimed in. "Its a period often overlooked by scholars because they like to pretend we dont exist.""Okay, so half of the teachers in the school have that last name,"Chandler said. "I was talking about Mr. Buccaneer-the-Principal- "Maybe Ill write about the economic impact of Captain Jackswho-teaches-history." lifetime want," Chandler mused. "If hed actually paid the Matchmaker with money things could have turned out very"Ohh... that one," Balthier nodded. "I think Ive decided what Im differently. What do you guys think? Too obscure?"
"Nah, go for it," Balthier said. "Remember, if either of you ever need to look anything up my home library is even more stocked than the one at theschool. Youre certainly welcome to browse it any time.""I just might have to take you up on that," Brittany said, smiling prettily."Me too," Chandler added. "Hey, how about we get together to work on our essays... tomorrow night?"Balthier frowned. "Sorry, guys... no can do. Ive got a family thing happening. How about the next night?"
Chandler furrowed his brow as he thought about it. After exchanging a look with Brittany, he nodded. "Yeah, I think we can squeeze that in.""Other plans?" Balthier sounded a little surprised."Just some townie stuff," Brittany said dismissively. "House meeting. Somebody hasnt been flushing the toilet regularly and weve been havingplumbing problems.""Yuck," Balthier shuddered.
"How about we make a fun evening out of it," he continued. "I might have to babysit, but Kens usually no trouble. Once were done studying, wecan watch a movie or play video games or something.""Yeah, that sounds like fun," Brittany said enthusiastically. "Besides, I like your brother. He told me I was pretty, which is more than either of youhave ever done."
"Youre never going to let us live that down, are you," Chandler sighed melodramatically."Nope!""No matter how often we compliment you ever afterwards?""Not a chance!""Thought not."
"Nigella! What in the world are you doing here?" Sterling Buccaneer,eldest daughter of Shere Khan and Coxinga Buccaneer, asked "Got fired," Nigella said.happily but perplexedly. "Ouch... what happened?""Do I need a reason to stop by and visit my best friend?" NigellaTraveller asked. "Tony... you remember Tony? The Assistant Manager?""Perhaps you do when youre supposed to be at work," Sterling "That guy who keeps lording it over you even though hes only ashrugged. senior himself?"
"Thats the one," Nigella said. "Anyway, he made some implications about me being a Romancer and asking him to the Sadie Hawkins Dance andputting out -- whatever he means by that -- or having my hours cut.""Yikes!""Yeah, so I told him where he could stuff it," Nigella smirked. "Sides, hes not my type. Even a Romance girl like me has standards. I wont datejust any Pam, Alix, or Hetty."
"So youre gainfully unemployed," Sterling said."And it feels great," Nigella grinned. "Red hands?""Sure.""So," Nigella added. "About the Sadie Hawkins dance?""What about it?" Sterling blinked. "You planning on going?"
"That actually kinda depends," Nigella said."Ahh... one of those If the person I want to ask says yes, then Im going type of dilemmas?""Exactly," Nigella nodded emphatically. "A dance is usually good for a laugh and all, but with this one falling on Valentines Day... I kinda wantedit to be special, yknow?""Yeah," Sterling agreed. "Its a bit more romantic than average. So who are you going to take?"
"Actually, I was kinda hoping youd go with me," Nigella said slowly."M-me?" Sterling blinked."Yeah, you," Nigella grinned. "Ive wanted to ask you out for ages, Sterling. I have so much fun with you when were together and... yeah."
Sterling stared at her friend for a few minutes before slowly smiling. "I think Id love to go with you."
"Great!" Nigella said happily. "So... I guess we can figure out whos picking up who and stuff closer to the day, right?""Err, I guess," Sterling said. "I dont drive yet, remember?""Right," Nigella nodded. "But me getting the car is no sure thing either. So I guess well decide on the day of?""Works for me. One things for sure--were not getting my dad to drive us.""Which one? The one who doesnt speak Simlish? Or the one who doesnt stop talking about cars?""Either!"
"Anyway, I should probably get going," Nigella said reluctantly after the girls had chattered a few minutes longer. "Tina leaves for work in a fewminutes and Im supposed to babysit the kid tonight.""Yeah," Sterling said, looking over her shoulder. "Looks like Nanny Callistas about to leave, and I should probably make sure she hasnt actuallykilled my little bro or sis.""Nannies suck.""Definitely."
"Well? Are you going to be good for Nanny Callista today?" CoxingaBuccaneer asked his younger daughter, Karat, the next morning. "Invisible continence. A new sperimental idea, I has it.""Rawr!" Karat giggled. "Nanny smells like peepee." "Daddy, up!" a little boys voice demanded from the floor."Ugh," Shere Khan shuddered. "Do. Not. Want. Teh Nanny is can "Ill finish getting Karat ready if you deal with Troy," Zing saidhas litterbox." affectionately to his husband."She forgets jus like Troy does sometimes," Karat said. "Only she "Dealz."doesnt gots a diaper."
"Not learns song," Karat pouted. "Want tickles and snuggles and a "Is in a book," Karat insisted. "You look!"story." "Okay," Zing said obediently. A few short moments later he was"If youre sure," Zing said. "I guess we can stop singing the spider back again. "I couldnt find an Itsy Bitsy Spider book anywhere,song. Which story do you want?" fuzzy girl. Are you sure you dont want me to sing you the song?"Karat stuck out her lower lip for a moment as she pondered the "I guess you can sing it," Karat said finally, as if conferring a greatchoices available. "Um, itsy bitsy spider?" honour. "But I get to sing too!""Silly girl, thats the song!" Zing grinned. "Thats the best way."
"No more tickles, Daddy!" Troy cried, doubled over with laughter."No can has laughing?" Shere Khan mock-pouted. "Fun is a lie?""Potty is relevant to my interests," Troy replied, pointing."Learnin to use da box is win," Shere Khan said approvingly. He whirled Troy over to the little red potty.
When Troy was finished, Shere Khan set him down again. "Nanny food -- do not want," Troy said. "You can makes it?""Daddy, is we can be friends?" "I can makes it.""Not friends nao?" Shere Khan asked in a hurt-sounding voice. "Yay!""Always friends! I just makin sure, Daddy." "Now plays with itteh bitteh kitteh committeh," Shere Khan nodded,"Adorable Troy is adorable," Shere Khan chuckled. "Now is time for gesturing towards Karat. "I cooks."nomming, yes?"
"What is a committeh?" Troy asked his twin sister in a puzzled voice."Dunno," Karat shrugged. "Sterling can tell.""Sterlings not here now. She had to go to school.""I wanna go to school! An play with dolls. Wanna play dolls, Troy?""Okay."
"You da best brudder in da world," Karat declared, pulling Troy into a clumsy hug. "Lets go play now!""You can play in a few minutes, children," Nannys voice sounded sternly from behind the toddlers. "Your fathers have left breakfast ready for youdownstairs. Are you hungry?"
Shere Khan had indeed followed through with his promise to make breakfast for the kids, though he had to leave for work before they actually ate."Daddy makes nummies," Karat said blissfully, digging into her plate of gruel with her bare hands."Big kids use spoons," Troy chided her from his chair."I use spoons sometimes!" Karat protested. "Dis tastes better dis way.""Oh, now look at you," Nanny Callista clucked, coming over to inspect both children. "Youve got oatmeal all through your fur, Karat. Im afraidits the bathtub for you before you can go play."
As Troy settled in to play with his sisters dollhouse he could hear her shrieks ringing all the way from upstairs. Karat, like most kittens, thoughtwater was poison.
Her opinion was shared by the family cat, Echo. Echo distracted himself from the blood-curdling screams of the fuzzy orange toddler byoverindulging in nip and chasing his tail around the house. To be honest, that was how he dealt with most traumatizing experiences. Next on hislist of Do Not Want was parties, and by the time the twins birthday rolled around he was in one heck of a stupor.
Karat, the slightly older of the twins, was up first."Ready?" Shere Khan asked. "No spitting--no liecaek!"
As Karat scampered away from the thankfully intact cake, Shere Khan carried Troy over to the other one."Blowing out candles nao, plz," he said.
Both children grew up utterly adorable, as is to be expected with such handsome parents. Troy in particular was the spitting image of Zing at thatage.
"Hooray!" Karat chortled, cornering her brother in the bedroom they shared with their older sister. "Now we can play the fun games!" Suitingactions to words, she pointed a forefinger at her brother. "Bang! Gotcha, you dirty criminal scum!"
"Lie!" Troy grinned, dodging to one side. "You hafta try better than that if youre going to catch the Troyinator!""I know you stole the bukkit," Karat growled. "An Ive got the evidence to prove it!""Oh yeah?""Yeah!"
While the children played upstairs, their guests forgotten, everyone else partook of the copious quantities of cake."More?" Shere Khan urged his brother-in-law."Im so stuffed I can hardly move," Spandrell complained. Both started laughing in amusement as Spandrells stomach gave the lie to his wordswith an audible growl."There will be nomming!" Shere Khan said. "Teh caek commands you.""I obey."
Lee looked around at the assembled guests with a mixture of pride and pain. He desperately wished that Grace was still around to see how largeand wonderful their family had become. Six grandchildren, with at least two more on the way! At times he could scarcely believe it. Then again, itwas only the sharp pain of remembered loss that told Lee that he and Grace werent young, foolish, and in love still."Penny for your thoughts, Grandpa?" Sterling asked, looking up from her videogame."My thoughts are worth at least $2.59."
"I was just thinking how proud your Grandma would be of all of you," Lee smiled."I miss her pretty bad," Sterling said thoughtfully. "I kinda feel sad for Karat and Troy because they werent even born yet when you guys took meand Balthier on vacation. I wish they couldve gone too.""Well, I think Ive got enough energy in me for one last trip," Lee said with a smile. "Maybe when Balthier and Kennits little brother or sister is bigenough to go. And your newest cousin, Minerva.""Do Balthier and I get to go again, too?"
"I think so," Lee said after a moment of reflection. "Heck, with so many kids along Ill need you two as babysitters!"Sterling smiled. "Yeah, somebody has to make sure the rugrats go to bed on time."
"Now, now," Lee scolded lightly. "Is that any way to talk about your brother and sister?""Well, they are!" Sterling protested. "I mean, theyre way closer to the ground than I am...""Point," Lee conceded. "But its still not a very nice term for them.""They wouldnt know how to react if I called them anything else," Sterling shrugged. "Ive called em both that since they were infants. I think theylike it.""Teen logic," Lee said. "I should know better than to try arguing with a teenager. I never win.""Besides," Sterling said. "I like them both. Theyre just... ickle."
True to her word, Sterling did have genuine love and affection for her younger siblings. In fact, it wasnt uncommon at all to find her reading themboth a bedtime story before she settled in to sleep herself.
And if one or the other woke up in the middle of the night with a bad dream, it was Sterling who settled them back down to sleep more often thannot. It was just easier for Troy and Karat to turn to her for soothing, since she shared their bedroom.
"Arr! I remember ye, boy! Yere the one mate? I gots places t go... peoples t see...what used to eat me ears!" savvy?" "Aye!""Yes, but that was when I was little," Troy "Its the first day of school and Im kinda "Nay!" Zings voice came from down thesaid, clutching the bear tightly. "Only scared, Grandpa Jack," Troy said quietly. hall. "Hurry up, Troy... you dont want tobabies eat teddy bear ears." "Didnt want to tell Karat or Sterling cause miss your bus!" theyd laugh.""An such a finely growed specimen as With a sad sigh, Troy put the bear downyerself has no need for such comforts, "Ah, school," the bear mused fondly. "I and hustled down the hall. "Guess I cant beaye?" remember it well. I went for three whole a pirate," he mumbled. days, mate, before they kicked me out."Exactly. Only babies need that." Twere why I becomed a pirate, savvy?" "Live the dream, mate.""Arrr. So whyre we just standin here, "So if I dont go then I get to be a pirate?"
Much to his surprise, though, he learned that he did, in fact, like school. There were plenty of other kids to play with and the work wasnt veryhard. It got even easier once his dads had taught him and Karat how to do homework.
And before long, both Troy and Karat were running off of the busexcitedly, report cards in hand. "Anything at all," Zing promised."Daddy!" Troy squealed, waving the paper and jumping up and "We want pie from the Cafe Down The Road an then a movie withdown. "I got straight As!" you and Daddy," Troy said quickly. "Tomorrows Caturday--can we? Please?""Me too!" Karat chimed in. Karat chimed in her own insistent pleas to her brothers and before"Wow!" Zing said enthusiastically. "Thats great, kids! Im so proud long Zing was laughing and assuring both of them that they could doof you both! I think this calls for a celebration!" exactly that."Can we have anything we want?" Karat asked, her eyes wide. "Yay!"
By the time Shere Khan, Zing, and the twins got back from their movie the weekly Caturday Teen Party was in full swing. All of Sterlings closestfriends and relatives were in attendance.
"So I heard youre going to the dance with Nigella," Devi Zomg* said in a gossipy voice, cornering Sterling in the living room."Yeah, I guess," Sterling replied, blushing a little and glancing in her fathers direction. He appeared not to be be paying attention, much to herrelief. No teen likes discussing their love life with their peers in earshot of their parents, no matter how much they might tell said parents in a moreone-on-one setting."Thats cool," Devi nodded. "I havent quite decided who Im taking yet. But I think my sisters going with Sketch Picaso, and you know hisgirlfriends only been away at college for less than a month."_________________* Devi and her twin sister Anne are the daughters of Robinoli (omgrobinn on the Exchange) and Lucretia Marius. Lu is the daughter of ProfessorButters (loolooloo16play on the Exchange) and Flavius Marius (a creation of netsfn1427 on the Exchange).
"I heard they broke up," Sterling shrugged."Yeah, but you know hes still carrying a torch for Tammy," Devi said, a touch of annoyance in her tone. "Anne says theyre just going as friendsbecause neither of them has the hots for anyone, but I know Annes just saying that. He better not break her heart.""Its cool that youre so protective," Sterling said, "but dont you think your sister is old enough to make that kind of decision for herself?""Yeah, but I still dont have to like it," Devi scowled.
"Either of you ladies feel like coming to the dance with me?" Orlando Pseudo* asked, butting in to the conversation uninvited."Orlando, youre not supposed to be doing the asking," Sterling scolded him gently. "A girl has to ask you. Besides, Ive got a date already.""Me too," Devi said. "Im going with Isaiah Gavigan. I totally asked him out on a whim--you couldve knocked me over with a feather when he saidyes! Im looking forward to it, though.""Man, it sucks that Freemas gone to university already," Orlando grumbled, referring to his previous girlfriend. "I hope somebody asks me.""Im sure someone will," Sterling said soothingly._________________* Orlando is the grandson of Orikes (orikes360 on the Exchange).
"Anyway," Sterling continued, turning back to Devi once Orlandos attention was drawn back to the TV screen, "have you thought about whatyoure going to wear? I definitely dont want to be wearing the same dress as anybody else.""Anne and I are going shopping next Saturday," Devi said. "You want to come? Weve got room in the car for a few more people.""Yeah, Caturday works for me," Sterling said. "Ill have to cancel the usual party, but I think most people are going to be getting ready for thedance anyway since its the next weekend. Nigella has to babysit, so I can pick out something fab and totally surprise her.""Awesome," Devi said, nodding emphatically. "Ill give you a call on Thursday to confirm, okay?"
"Okay, that was the best movie ever!" Troy declared. "I want to go see it again!""Me too," Karat decided. "But next time I get to hold the popcorn.""Its not my fault I sneezed," Troy protested. "I got allergies and sometimes I just sneeze!""Yeah, but the popcorn went everywhere and I didnt even get to eat any.""Moar fight DO NOT WANT!" Shere Khan called from down the hallway."Yes, Daddy!" they chimed in unison.
"What part of the movie did you like best?" Karat asked. "My favourite was the bit where they were running across the river and all the ice startedbreaking.""That bit was okay," Troy shrugged. "But I liked the big fight the best. Especially the witch--she was awesome even though she got dead. Daddysaid the wand and the sword were classic dual-wielding, whatever that means, and I agree with him."
"I heard theres another one coming next year," Karat grinned."Yeah, but theres books too," Troy said. "Grandpa Lee said we can borrow them from him next time we go there.""Ill race you to see who can read them all first!""Youre on!"Any further competition was interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the Caturday party guests: the other kids.
"Youre orange!" Karat said in surprise to one of the guests, Ragamuffin Legacina."So are you," Muffy pointed out. "So?""I never met anyone else who was orange before, except for Daddy and Auntie Rakshasi and Grandpa Rajah and Great-Auntie Rani and yoursister," Karat explained."Thats kind of a lot of people," Muffy said."Yeah, but theyre all way older than me," the other tiger-girl said. "Youre the only other little kid Ive met.""Ohhh..." Muffy nodded sagely. "Yeah, youre the only other kid Ive met with stripes too. Except Callie, before she got big. But she doesnt countcause shes my sister."
"Its not easy, being orange," Karat said with the voice of great experience. "Everything gets stuck in your fur.""I know!" Muffy commiserated. "And baths suck because you take forever to dry off and if you have your bath at night then your pillow gets wetbut if you have it in the morning youre late for school.""I know! And its super hard to find clothes that dont look bad!""I know!"Before Caturday was over, the girls were the best of friends.
As for Troy, he was a bit shyer than his sister and sought out a more familiar face instead."Grandpa, was Sterling telling the truth when she said we could go on holidays with you maybe in a little while?""She was indeed, little Troy. What do you think of that?""I think itll be fun, only...""Only what?""If I bring my teddy bear, you wont tell Sterling or Balthier, will you?"Lee smiled and tousled Troys hair fondly. "Not if you dont want me to. Now why dont you go and see if Kennit wants to play?"
But Troy wandered upstairs to play with his Captain Jack bear instead, where he was soon joined by a few other kids who liked company andmeeting new people, but preferred quieter play. Kennit was not left bereft of companionship, however, because Karat soon sought him out."This is kinda weird," Kennit said."What is?" Karat asked."Just look at us," Kennit said, gesturing. "Were like... opposites. In colour.""Wow... that is weird..."Being children, they decided that this meant they had to be best friends, and when Ragamuffin got back from the washroom they included her intheir group as well.
Sterling and Balthier, meanwhile, had decided to retreat from the general commotion and hubbub of the party for a bit of time to chatter. Ever sincethe trip theyd taken with their grandparents as children, theyd been the very best of friends."So... what do you think about the dance?" Sterling asked."You dragged me away from the pretty girls and the movie to talk about the dance?" Balthier teased. "Youve been talking about nothing else allday!""Yeah, but I havent been talking about it with my best friend in the world," Sterling pointed out."I guess Im stoked," Balthier shrugged. "How about you? You excited to be going with Nigella? I didnt know you liked her."
"I didnt either, til she asked me," Sterling said. "I hadnt really thought about it, one way or the other. And then she asked... and Im really, reallyglad she did. How about you? Anybody ask you yet?"Balthier grimaced. "Err...""Cmon. If you cant tell me, who can you tell?""Better you than Chandler or Britt," Balthier said emphatically. "Theyd never let me hear the end of it.""Got asked by someone you dont fancy?" Sterling asked, nudging her cousin teasingly.
"Uh," Balthier blushed. "Its more along the lines of... who hasnt.""Got asked by a boy?" "Oooh... do tell," Sterling snickered. "This is gonna be great.""No," Balthier said, shaking his head. "Will the abbreviated highlights be good enough?""So who asked you?" "I suppose thatll have to do for now."
"So there I was, just minding my business at my locker after second period. You know Ive got a spare for third period, so I was taking my time."Suddenly, I hear this cough behind me so I look over.""Who was it?" Sterling asked eagerly."Hold your horses," Balthier scolded. "Im getting to it. Now, where was I?""Coughing," Sterling replied helpfully."Right..."
"Anyway, so I turned around and theres this townie girl standing "And? What did you say?"there. Im not even sure what her name is--" "Well, since I hardly know her I told her I was flattered but that Id"Whatd she look like?" Sterling interrupted. have to say no.""There may have been long black hair involved somewhere." "At least you were polite.""Sounds like Ivy Copur." "I may have said No way in heck!""Maybe. I dunno. Anyway, before I can even say anything to her she "Less polite."starts asking me out!" "Anyway, it didnt end there."
"No sooner had that Ivy girl left when Poppy Thayer--" Im a Legacy kid.""The one with the hippie parents?" "So whatd you say?""Do you want me to tell the story?" Balthier asked in an aggrieved "A part of me wanted to say yes, but the rest of me realized Id havetone. more fun if I went with someone I know actually likes me. So I turned her down. At least I think I did.""Okay, Ill stop interrupting." "I suppose you made the right choice," Sterling said. "Who wants to"Good. Anyway, as soon as Ivy walks away, Poppy walks back up to date someone who sees you as a status symbol?"me and basically repeats herself, only with less stammering. Thing is,shes never given me the time of day before. Sure, shes gorgeous... "Exactly."and she knows it. I had this feeling she was only asking me because
"So Poppy wandered off to gossip about me behind my back with her friends and then Georgia Newson came over.""Youre not trying to tell me Georgia asked you out, are you?" Sterling asked in disbelief. "Shy, bookworm Georgia?""I could hardly believe it myself," Balthier said. "And I almost said yes. Georgia and I have hung out a few times, and shes really cute. Only rightin the middle of her asking me I kind of got the hiccups, and I guess she thought I was laughing at her because she turned around and ran away!""Aww... poor girl," Sterling said sympathetically."Dont I get any sympathy here?" Balthier demanded."Not really, no. So then what happened? Did you chase after her to explain the misunderstanding?"
"I was going to, only when I turned to slam my locker shut there was Paprika Deity standing there and she started asking before I could get away.""Whatd you say to her?""I turned her down," Balthier shrugged. "I know she was just asking me on a dare. I heard her talking to Sarah Pseudo in English class firstperiod. Besides, Paprika has the worlds hugest crush on Orlando, but shes way too freaked to ask him out. I think she figured I was a safe bet."
"So once you got rid of her, did you catch up to Georgia?""Nope," Balthier said. "Last I heard, she had a date but she wouldnt tell anyone who it was.""So youre still dateless, despite being asked out by four separate girls," Sterling shook her head in disbelief."Err... not four," Balthier blushed again."Not four?""Twenty-seven. Those were just the ones after second period...""I think were in for a long afternoon, cousin of mine. Spill."
Persephone looked up from her reading, her face aghast."Are you really going to let all this happen?" she called over to where I was still bustling about the kitchen.I shrugged. "Probably. Unless something happens to make me change my mind.""But its so... harsh."
"I know," I said. "But ... all in the name of the story, right?""How set in stone is it?" my granddaughter asked, skimming rapidly through the pages. "I mean, they do have some leeway to influence whathappens to them, right? You cant really have decided this much in advance, before you even know who all of the players are going to be--canyou?"
I flipped the sandwich expertly in the pan."Ive only got some of it figured out," I said. "I know the major stuff, right? But I dont necessarily have the why or the how figured out yet. Notfor all of it. And there are some sims whose lives are blank slates. Theyve only just started telling me who they are, you know?"
"Do-do you think I could help you a little?" Persephones voice was quivering with excitement as her eyes traced the intricacies of my future plotsthrough the pages. "I really want to help. Some of this stuff is so cool. And Im getting tons of ideas.""Theres a pencil on the bookshelf," I said. "Start making some notes so you dont forget!"
The only sounds for the next few moments were the sizzling from the pan and the scratching of pencil on paper."Come on and eat," I said invitingly. "Ill go over how it all works, and then you can tell me what youve got."
"Basically," I said, putting my sandwich down after Id swallowed my first bite, "how it works is this: Im both inside and outside the verse at thesame time.""Hows that even possible?" Persephone asked."You can think of me like an avatar," I said. "My attention is divided between many, many different realms and worlds--some controlled by me,and some in which Im only a guest star. But behind all of those avatars in all of those worlds is the real me--and thats too big even for you tocomprehend. You only exist in this reality, as it were, and any other world of mine that I choose to bring you into."
"Thats... bizarre," Persephone said after a moment of silence. "How can you be here, there, and everywhere? And are you seriously just like thispuppet of yourself? Theres a real you behind everything?""Thats exactly how it works, dear," I said. "You wouldnt believe the logistics of it if I told you. Suffice to say, I have far more deific power thanyou ever will. But there are some things you can access.""How?"
"Its like a simplified version of how my real self accesses the verse," I said. "Its actually kinda technical, but only those with the right powers canmake the tech work. To anyone else... well, they get SSX3.""You mean..."I put down my sandwich, stood up, and led Persephone into the living room.
"Thats right," I said. "We play them... exactly like theyre a video game.""Ooh," Persephone said, staring at the screen. "Could I... that is..."I handed her the controller. "Go right ahead."To Be Continued...