Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chapter 50: How Objects Accumulate Memories

"Horner has been made," Peridot reports to Geoffrey, "We have to neutralize him."

"I saw the feed," Geoffrey answers, "Horner isn't a total loss yet. Shadows suspects something, but he doesn't know about the chip we implanted in him."

"But when he lets their local doctor run a scan..." Peridot says, not needing to finish the sentence.

"We'll get the chip removed before we send him back to Drake's Hollow," Geoffrey replies.

Peridot shifts slightly in her chair, her eyes resting on the large relic of book Geoffrey has on his desk. He hasn't mentioned it or told her what it is, and she won't ask. He doesn't tell her everything, she's noticed, and she wonders if that's a sign that he doesn't fully trust her. "I don't understand," she says hesitantly, "What use is Horner to us without the chip? Why go through the trouble of removing it and sending him back? He's become a liability; who knows what he could tell the Brannons about Bluewater? His contract with Bluewater would allow us to deploy him anywhere in the world, and quietly take him out. No one would be the wiser."

Geoffrey frowns sternly at her, "You put so little value on a man's life?" he asks. Her mouth opens as if to speak, and closes again as her brows furrow in confusion. "No, you are what I made you to be, aren't you?" he asks, a rhetorical question he doesn't expect her to answer, "You're an assassin, trained to put the needs of the company ahead of everything. Even your own life. I won't pretend to have clean hands, but I'm not ready to throw Horner away just yet. The chip has to be removed before we send him back, but I do want him to go back. There are still ways he can be useful to us. I've been working on less invasive ways to get a mole into their nest. Post hypnotic suggestion may even work against the Hawksquill's ability to read the past, if we go deep enough, repress real history with a false one. I've sent an agent in recently to test that theory. If it works, we may be able to do the same with Horner."

Shadow's shop manager, Charlie Glover, quit suddenly, giving no explanation, leaving Shadow in a bit of a bind to find a suitable replacement. Drake's Hollow is a small town and not many of its citizens have the interest or knowledge required to manage a shop dealing with magical potions and the like. But as luck would have it, an applicant with excellent qualifications arrived the same day Charlie failed to show up. Adan Smythe has a vast knowledge of the occult, and, a recent immigrant to Drake's Hollow, is in need of a job.

Iola can read the man's whole history just by shaking his hand. He seems sincere enough, and passes her test.

So far neither Ryan nor Fergus have shown signs of having precognitive visions, but they've both inherited the Hawksquill ability to read the past, so Iola spends time with them each evening, training them as her father trained her, to take in so much history at once without allowing it to overwhelm their consciousness.

Fergus has some difficulty paying attention to his mother, entranced by the painting over the desk he shares with his brother. He had shown a strong interest in art even as a toddler, so on his birthday, his grandfather Farrell let him choose any painting he wanted for his room. As soon as he saw this image of a man battling a dragon, he knew he had to have it, and spent many hours since gazing at it. 

His mother explains about how objects accumulate memories as they pass through time, pass through hands. "People invest emotion into objects, and that emotion remains within them for a very long time. The longer an object has existed, and the more people that have interacted with it in some meaningful way, the more history you will read from it when you take it in your own hands," she says.

The painting of the dragon slayer has no history, Fergus knows. It went from manufacturer to shop to his wall with little meaningful contact. The man who drew the original didn't even invest much emotion in the creation of it, it was simply his job to create a series of paintings based on fairy tale themes to decorate the childrens' rooms. But whenever Fergus looks at it, he's filled with the sense of history he gets from very old objects, but more, it's i history he feels as one who lived it, not something he sees played out like a movie in his mind. The weight of armor on his chest, the heft of a sword in his hand, the heat of the dragon's fiery breath, the exultation of taking it down, watching the life die in its eyes...

Farrell and Aouregan pay a visit to their daughter and her husband.

Their son, Dexter, is a toddler now, and hasn't inherited the magical ability of Aouregan's line, though he has her bright blue eyes.

Sometimes he's the dragon slayer, but sometimes, Fergus is the dragon. (No one has been able to convince him that this costume is a dinosaur and not a dragon.)

Fergus the dragon takes revenge on the human village for slaying one of his brothers.

"Witches are more powerful than dragons," Ryan challenges, "I could defeat you with a simple spell."

"Go ahead and try," Fergus taunts.

Fergus does not have fiery breath and his talons are soft and plush. Both boys have inherited their father's magic, but neither is old enough to cast a spell yet. So their duel must be resolved another way, with the pillows from their parents' bed.

"Sweetie, it works better if you scootch back a bit so you aren't sitting on the xylophone," Delaney advises, spending some time before her planned job for the night with her daughter.

She leaves Jilly to figure it out on her own, glancing back one more time before heading down the stairs, a bit reluctant to leave.

Jace passes her on the way down. She's never come out and told her family that she's a master thief, but it's hardly a secret, either. Jace grew up learning to never speak of it, or ask his mother questions about where she went at night.

"So, I had Dr. Hawksquill check me out," Jack says, meeting Shadow for a drink at the Toadstool, "No tumors or anything."

"That's good," Shadow says, in a voice that doesn't sound quite convinced.

"Well, yeah," Jack says, puzzled by Shadow's response, "Not having a tumor is pretty damn good."

"No, of course," Shadow says, mustering a smile, "I am happy for you. It's just, I wish I knew the source of the darkness I felt. It clings to you..."

"You think this darkness is worse than being sick?" Jack asks.

"I really don't know," Shadow says, "I've never seen or heard of anything like this. I wish I was just imagining it, but I don't just imagine things. Now that we've ruled out a medical condition, I'm going to continue my research into a more spiritual source for this darkness."

"Maybe it's just me," Jack says quietly, "I haven't been exactly the best kind of guy..."

"It's not you, Jack. You aren't a dark person by nature. And you are the best kind of people. I know you, I've known you since childhood. You were mischievous, and rebellious, but never really mean. You don't give yourself enough credit."

Farrell has taken a perfectly ordinary seed from his wife's garden.

And turned it into the perfect empanada.

For Science!

"Your father says Jack is okay," Shadow tells Iola.

"Well, that's good," she answers.

"I'm still worried about him."

"Of course you are," Iola says, "You want to solve everyone's problems and won't rest until you have."

Jace will be graduating soon, and has already started making plans for his future. "I'm going to propose to Kirsten right after we graduate," he says, "And then we'll have our first baby."

"Slow down there," Delaney laughs, "You're a little young to start thinking about being a parent."

"You were my age when you had me," Jace says, "I'm going to finish school first, but I want a family right away."

She's too young to have a midlife crisis. She also too young to have a son graduating high school and talking about making her a grandmother. Delaney looks at the pictures of her childhood, pictures with Cassidy when they were children and shared this room, a picture of herself and Jack as teens at the Autumn Festival, not long before she got pregnant with Jace, and a picture of the three of them right after she and Jack started getting back together again. Life has gone by so quickly, the son she had as a teen is now a teen himself, getting ready to become an adult. And here she is, still living n the same room she grew up in. She always liked it here, and never wanted it to change, never wanted Cass to leave her behind, but for all of them to stay young forever.

"A retirement party?" Jack laughs, "Babe, you haven't even got your first wrinkle."

"And I'm not going to get one any time soon. Cole has taken off and I haven't heard from him, and I'm tired of running his show. I was only in it for the thrill, and the thrill is gone," Delaney says, "So I'm throwing myself a big bash and quitting." And what better place to have getting out of the business party than the warehouse they use to stash their gods before they fence it?

Shadow and Iola come to dance the afternoon away.

Even Ian shows up with his cougar wife.

"What about Cole, Laney?" Jack asks, "He's probably going to come back sometime and want to know why his business went to shit."

Delaney shrugs, "I'm not afraid of him. And, I know more about him. He's not in this for money, either.  He left this in my hands when he took off, and I'm changing direction. I'm thinking of converting this place into a coffeeshop. It's already set up for it, pretty much."

"Let's take a picture," Delaney says, "I want to remember this day."


After installing UL, my game decided to shuffle around my shop cashiers, and the previous cashier in Shadow's shop, Charlie Glover, disappeared, replaced by new guy. So I decided to work that into the story.

I've been having an issue with the Crime career. When Delaney goes to work, she gets stuck on the 'Going to Work' thing, and never makes an job progress. I can get around it by using Master Controller's career>Go to Work, but it's kind of a pain in the ass to remember to always send her to work via MC rather than the normal way. So, ow that she's achieved her LTW of becoming a Master Thief, I'm so done with that, and letting her quit.
Her 'retirement party' is actually a party thrown by Jack, Ian and Cougar Wife, who still all  live in that warehouse together. For the story, Jack lives somewhere in the city most of the time while training for Bluewater, and 'lives' with the Brannons when he's in Drake's Hollow. Of course he's only spending the night when he's there, since Delaney has the single parent roll. But since in the story, both Jack and Ian have moved on from the crime career and are not supposed to be living there, I made the party be Delaney's.
It was actually pretty rockin' for an NPC party, though I didn't use any pictures of the guests, there were lots of them. And they all brought food, so it wasn't one of those lame affairs where everyone, including the host,  is going around complaining of starving.
I will be finding new homes for Jack, Ian & Cougar so I can re-convert the warehouse into a coffeeshop using the barista thing from UL.
This party also counted for Shadow's 'social bunny' goal. The book club idea is fun, but the venue I have is too small and  gives me a lot of routing failures. So, hopefully the new venue Delaney is buying will work better. It certainly has a larger space for roaming around in.

Out take:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chapter 49: To Relieve Pressure on the Brain

Jack makes it back to Drake's Hollow early on Snowflake Day morning, and is immediately challenged to a snowball fight by his son.

"Okay, boys, it's time to open the presents!" Delaney, giddy with excitement, comes out to call them inside

As the family gathers around the gift pile, Shadow notices some disturbance in Jack's aura. He can't quite put his finger on the source, but there is a darkness there, a wrongness.

Whatever it is will have to wait until after the holiday. Ryan is first to open his gifts.

Followed by Delaney, who is still as thrilled as a child with the unwrapping of presents.

But in the end, no new toy can compare with the gift of having her Jack home with them.

Later in the afternoon, Cassidy and Jesse arrive with their daughter Laurie for a holiday visit.

"Jesse would like to get you alone for a minute," Cass says, nodding her head toward where her husband is standing in the yard.

"Has Jack told you anything about what he's doing?" Jesse asks.

"Not much really. He said he's working for some global security company," Shadow answers, vague on the details. But he's getting a strong vibe from Jesse, he's worried about his brother, and that just adds to Shadow's own concerns about the wrongness he felt from Jack earlier.

"Bluewater," Jesse says, "Jack works for a company called Bluewater. 'Global security' is just a gloss for mercenary operations. They do the things a nation's real military can't be caught doing. Cass and I have been investigating them for years now. They cover their tracks really well, and it's hard to get any hard information, but everything we have been able to get points to some really dark dealings on their part."

"And now Jack works for them," Shadow frowns.

"I don't think he's in deep enough to be involved in anything yet. Thy still have him in training. But, I'm worried. And I was hoping you'd, you know, look out for him."

"I do, Jesse, as much as I can," Shadow says.

As worried as they are about Jack's new career, Jesse and Cassidy keep it to themselves during the family meal, instead talking about their daughters and how lucky they re to have had their girls so close in age.

Jillyan and Laurie look so much alike that Farrel doesn't know who he's potty training. Laurie is too young yet to be bothered by the fact that this old man keeps calling her 'Cass'.

The toddlers in the family are also too young to be aware that today is a holiday. New toys, old toys, it's all the same to them.

"Do you remember our first time?" Jack ask her.

"Of course I do," Delaney answers, reaching up to stroke his hair.

"I knew, that night, I wanted to be with you forever, Laney," Jack continues, "That's never changed."

Delaney sits up, wrapping her arms over his shoulders so she can touch her forehead to his. "I knew it then, too. I may not have thought about stuff like that as hard as you did, Jack, but I've always known in my heart that you were the one."

"But--" Jack starts, and Delaney hushes him.

"Don't bring up Ian," she pouts.

"I can't help it," Jack says, "I really try not to think about it. But I don't understand how you could go with him, if you really loved me. I don't want to doubt you, I really don't..."

Delaney drops her head down to his shoulder, moving deeper into his embrace. "I have to think real hard to even remember that night. I honestly don't know what I was thinking. But I know it had nothing to do with love. I take a lot of stupid risks, Jack, but I almost lost you, and that changed everything. I'll never put us on the line again. I couldn't face losing you again."

"Bluewater," Iola says, repeating the name of the company, "I had this weird feeling not too long ago, about blue water."

"Just a feeling?" Shadow asks, "Nothing more?"

Iola shakes her head, "Just this sense of dread, and the words blue and water. That was the day I saw the shower acting all possessed."

"The spirit realm is closest to us between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice," Shadow says, "Maybe that wasn't your normal precognition, but a spirit trying to warn you of something."

"Perhaps," Iola says. Her own precognitive abilities have been sketchy at best lately, "I hope Jack isn't in any real trouble. But, what about Fergus? Does this have anything to do with him?" Everything coms down to Fergus, their worries for their son since Shadow's Spooky Day visitation by the spirit of his long dead grandmother.

Shadow shakes his head sadly. "I have no idea, my love. He seems fine, normal. If it weren't for my vision, we wouldn't even be thinking of him as any different from Ryan or Weylin."

Shadow turns out the lights and lifts Iola onto their bed. "Tonight is the solstice," he reminds her with a whisper, "The days get longer, and the world is lighter. It's time to put our worries aside, and trust that everything will be all right." His words speak more confidence than he feels, and Iola knows it. Still, they can't spend every moment in fear for the future, and for this moment, they are able to forget their cares, and wrap themselves in their love like nothing else exists.

The next morning, Shadow and Iola take Fergus and Weylin to the park for a little fun in the fresh, cold air.

"I had a strange dream last night," Shadow says, "I dreamed I was performing a trepanation on Jack. When I cut the hole in his skull, a dark spirit emerged."

Iola mulls over this for a moment before responding, "You aren't considering...?"

"Actually doing it?" Shadow laughs, "No. Neolithic shamans would perform trepanation to relieve pressure on the brain, and it was effective in its way. But, I think this dream was more symbolic. I've been sensing something wrong with Jack, and I think this dream was telling me it's something from the outside that has gotten into him. Something that needs to be removed."

"Maybe he should see my father," Iola suggests, lifting a fussy Fergus from the spring rider, "Have him check for tumors."

"That's not a bad idea," Shadow admits, "But I think we're dealing with something more malign in its intent. Still, ruling out medical issues can't hurt."

Though their work is vastly different, father and son share space in the attic for alchemical experimentation and scientific research.

"What are you working on son?" Farrell asks over his shoulder.

"Something for spiritual cleansing. Detoxification of the spirit," Shadow answers.

As he has with Aouregan for all these years, Farrell keeps his disbelief to himself. He's seen his wife and children work magic, and has never understood how they do it or where it comes from, so he tucks it into the back of his mind and focuses on hard science. Quantum mechanics is magic enough for him.

In the evening, Delaney goes off to 'work', while Jack, on leave for a few days for the holiday, stays home. Shadow takes the opportunity to have a private talk with him.

"I was always jealous of your family, growing up. You guys always seemed so happy. I feel more at home here now than I ever did in our house when I was a kid."

"You're family," Shadow answers simply, "You belong here." And it's that tight sense of family and belonging that allows Shadow to broach the personal and sensitive subject of the darkness he senses in Jack. "I'd like to perform a cleansing ritual on you," Shadow finishes.

Jack agrees to be subjected to Shadow's spellcasting, though he doesn't himself feel this 'darkness' he was talking about. But, what can it hurt, Jack figures, and Shadow has been helpful before with the dream work thing.

"I, uh, don't feel any different?" Jack says when the ritual is apparently over.

"No, you wouldn't," Shadow says, "Whatever it is that's gotten into you wasn't affecting you on a conscious level. It's till, there, Jack. This was a simple purification spell, and not enough to completely purge this thing from you. I'll do some more research, and in the meantime, I think you should check in with Dr. Hawksquill, to make sure it isn't a medical issue."

"I feel fine, Shadow," Jack says, "And, anyway, the company runs physicals on me, like, every week. I swear, I've never had this much medical care in my life."

Shadow frowns, thinking about what Jesse told him about Jack's employers. "What kind of tests are they running? Do they tell you what they find?"

"Well, no," Jack admits, "But, that just probably means everything is fine, right? They'd tell me if something was wrong, I'm sure."

Shadow is not quite as sure about that as Jack is. "Please, Jack, let Dr. Hawksquill have a look at you. For me."

"All right, sure," Jack agrees, "I have to go back in to training tomorrow, but as soon as I get my next leave, I'll see the doc here." He pulls Shadow in for a strong bro hug, "I think you're worried over nothing, Shadow, but it's nice you do worry."


Ten Sims in the house is just chaos! Sorry I got no good pics of Weylin as a toddler.

Now some out takes:

"I'm going to post this on my blog."

"You post pictures of us on a blog?"

"All the time. Look."

"Shit, Laney, is that a picture of my ass?"

"I got 26 followers after I posted that one."