Friday, May 31, 2013

Chapter 55: All the Way to China

"Don't cringe when a kick comes your way, Laney."

 "Slide under it, gracefully. Like this."

Delaney growls, chafing under Rory's instruction.

"You're improving," he says, smiling at her scowl, "But you're letting your emotions cloud you."

"To be ready for anything that comes at you, your mind must be clear," he finishes, throwing out another kick, "Anger at your opponent only slows your reaction time."

Rory wins two out of three rounds, and after they shower they meet up again by his pool.

"I don't like the way that last job went down. Landgraab just showing up like that...he must have known we would be there," Rory says.

"He said he saw us in security footage from the museum," Delaney answers.

Rory shakes his head. "I'm not buying it. He was already in place when we got there, waiting for us. He knew what we wanted. And he offered up something of his own, that book Shadow wanted so badly."

"Shadow had his father check it out; there's no bug on it or anything. And they haven't exactly sent troops in after us."

"Well, I suppose that's something," Rory chuckles, "I've dealt with MorcuCorp before. They abducted my niece, for their experiments. I don't know what this Geoffrey Landgraab wants from you, but I wouldn't trust him."

"I'm not the one that needs convincing," Delaney says, "Shadow wanted that stupid book, and he wants to trust, well, everyone and anyone."

"Keep an eye out for trouble," Rory warns, and Delaney nods. "Listen, there's something else I wanted to talk about," Rory continues, "I've set up a meeting for you with some friends, in China."


"A village called Shang Simla. There are dragons there, like us, but also, not like us. I think it's time for you meet them. Also, there's a martial arts tournament. I think you're ready for some real competition."

"My daughter's birthday is coming up," Delaney says, "I can't go before that."

"That's fine," Rory says, "Maybe you should take Jillyan with you." 

"You think she's a dragon?" Delaney asks, surprised.

Rory shrugs, "It's possible. With us hybrids, it's hard to tell sometimes when a true dragon will manifest. But that's not the point. I never took the time to get to know my kids, Laney. I'd hate to see you go that way. You don't want to find yourself alone."

It's mid-morning when Delaney leaves Rory's house and heads across town to the apartment Jack stays in when he's not in Drake's Hollow. She hesitates outside the door for just a minute; she's never been to Jack's place before, and has mostly tried not to think about the life has he away from her, like he just ceases to exist when he's not with her. Walking through this door, seeing the place he calls home, will change that, she thinks.

"Baby!" Jack exclaims, lifting her into the air as soon as she's in the door.

"Did you just get up?" she asks.

"We got in late last night," he answers, "So I slept in this morning."

"I was having the craziest dream," Jack continues, his word coming between kisses as he guides he back toward the kitchen counters.

"Was it a dirty dream"" Delaney giggles.

"I wish," Jack laughs, hoisting her up to the counter, "No we were at some conference or something in a hotel. There was a speaker, going on and on about, I don't know, that kind of spiritual crap Shadow is into. I felt like I was supposed to be paying attention, but you were sitting next to me in some hot little dress, and all I could think about was how tight you looked, and how long would it be before I could get you up into a room." 

"Did we ever get to that room?" she asks with a laugh.

"We got to the room, but I woke up just as I was getting under your skirt," Jack answers, reaching his hand under her skirt now, pulling her panties down.

"All this morning, all I could think about was being inside you," he whispers as his pants fall to the floor, "I'm so glad you're finally here."

"Oh, me too," she gasps as he enters her.

In the bedroom, Jack gets the rest of her clothes off. 

"I have dreams about you, too, you know," she whispers, licking her lips as he spreads her thighs with his knee.

"You want to tell me?" he asks.

Laney wraps her hands around his neck, "I prefer the real thing."

"All the way to China?" Jack asks when, after an afternoon of lovemaking, he and Delaney finally get around to talking.

Delaney nods, "Right after Jilly's birthday. I'm going to take her along."

"I'll miss you," he pouts.

"It won't be any different than your deployments are now," she answers.

"It will be different to me, knowing you aren't home. But it's okay, Laney. It'll be good for you and Jilly to take a trip together. And for you to connect with your dragon thing. Or whatever."

Delaney smiles at his attempt to understand and sympathize. "I don't really get it either," she sighs, "Cole says we're dragons, and he means, like real dragons, you know. But, I can't get my head around that. To me it's more like, I have a temper and I don't always think things through. Like, there should be some 12 step program where I show up and say 'I'm Delaney Brannon and I'm a dragon", and talk about what a shit I've been to the people I care about.

"You haven't been that bad, baby," Jack says gently.

She strokes his hand, "You know I have. But I'm glad we're moving past that. Are you going be home tomorrow for Jilly's cake?"

"Absolutely," Jack answers, glad his current leave coincides with his daughter's birthday, "I just have to go in tomorrow morning for my psych eval. I'll be home before she's out of school."

"Home as in my house?"

"That's the only home I have, Laney."

Weylin and Jillyan go rock collecting together one last time as children on their final day of elementary school. Today is their joint birthday and they will go to bed tonight as teens.

Jack shows up at the house, as promised, before school is out for the day.

"When you get back from your trip, I think we should start thinking about maybe getting married," he says hesitantly.

"I don't know, Jack," she says, grabbing his ass before he can startto frown, "We're not big thinkers. I say we just go ahead and do it without thinking about thinking about it first."

"Yeah? You want marry me?" he asks, making sure he understands her right.

"You and no one else," she says. She thinks about dragging him into the bedroom, but the excited shouting of the kids' coming home from school puts that plan on hold. "It's birthday cake time."

Jillyan is first up to her cake.

She's her mother's double.

Weylin is up next.

And he's nearly a twin of his father.

"I'm so happy you could be here for my birthday," Jilly enthuses, getting her dad alone for a minute after they've had cake.

Jack wants to say he would never miss her birthday, but he knows his job doesn't let him make that kind of promise. So he takes the moments he can.

Jilly and her mother are flying off to Chin a tomorrow, so tonight she spends as much time as she can with Jack, showing off her kicky bag skills while she talks about getting camera so she can learn photography while she's in Shang Simla. "Mom says I can learn martial arts, too, like her," she says, turning to catch the ball on her heel behind her. "I did some research on the area, there are gemstones and indigenous insects there that you can't find here. And you can even dig up old relics."

"Sounds like you're going to have a lot of fun," Jack says, wishing he could go with them. But he has other obligations.

Fergus slips out after the cake is done to visit the Hawksquill house. His grandparents are out tonight, as anticipated, and Fergus is able to get his uncle Max alone as he comes home from his shift at the hospital. "Anything I say to you, you have to keep confidential, right?" Fergus opens the conversation.

"You mean the doctor-patient confidentiality thing? That doesn't apply to minors," Max explains, "And I'm not a full doctor yet. Is something wrong? Are you feeling ill?"

"No, not exactly," Fergus says, "It's not physical."

"It's the curse?" Max asks, and Fergus nods, "Your mother has been training you, hasn't she?"

Fergus nods again, "Since we could talk." He looks down at his shoes uncomfortably. There are things he'd rather not discuss with his mother. But thinking that telling his uncle would be any better was probably a stupid idea.

"So, you want to talk about something you've seen that you don't want to talk about with your mother?" Max surmises, "Okay, have a seat. I can keep your secrets."

"I touched something, something really old, with lots of memories," Fergus starts, "I've never been near anything that old before and---"

"It was overwhelming," Max finishes.

Fergus nods, "I've tried what Mom said to do, filing the memories away in a mental library. But, they won't stay there. I dream about this person, I live this whole other life in my head. I feel like I might lose myself, and be taken over."

Max sits quietly for a moment, and Fergus fears he might not just be cursed like the rest of his family, but he might actually crazy.

"My father always warned us that that could happen," Max finally breaks the silence, "He said that when a memory is that persistent, instead of resisting, you should give it the attention it wants. Just take some time to take it all in. It could be there's something in there that your subconscious has flagged as important for you to know."

"Okay," Fergus says weakly, "But. This person, the memories--they're violent, some of them."

"That's always hard," Max answers with sympathy, "Only the strongest feeling get invested into objects, so we are forced to witness some truly horrifying scenes when we come in contact with them. But once you've made that contact, you can't break it off. Those memories are in you, so you have to deal with them. I think it's better for you to confront them than let them haunt you while you sleep."


I really wasn't planning on more travel this generation, but Delaney got this opportunity to go to China to learn secrets that will improve her Athletic skill. She actually maxed that skill, and martial arts, ags ago, but I couldn't resist accepting the opportunity and making a trip to China part of the story. Even though I really just want to move this thing forward to gen 4. But, at least they are all teens now and I can get this thing moving once China is done, yay.
Jack should be aging up the same night as Jilly did, but the fact that he's been invited to spend the night might delay the transition. Delaney will age up when she gets back home. Then Shadow and Iola in the next days before that.

On to the out takes.

This one is for Aunt Estella, who will not doubt wag her fingers at the shameful., shameful lack of curtains.

For shame, Jack. For shame.

And this is Jack being proposed to. I couldn't use these in the story, but I had to show them anyway.

Stupid goofy proposal animations. Also, as soon s this was done, Delaney attempted an autonomous try for baby, which I canceled. I know I have that turned off in woohooer, but my wishacy Sims have been sneaking around that, and now it's happening here. Maybe retuner is somehow conflicting, I'll have to check that I have that set to non-autonomous there, too, I guess. Just, don't tell Shadow he can sneakily make another baby, because he will. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chapter 54: Vanguard of Change

"The entrance to the vault is through this passage," Rory says. 

"I'll use the ghost potion to get through the wall. Then I'll turn off the security and let you in," Delaney finishes.

"What about the book in the main hall of the museum?" Shadow asks, "We want to pick that up too."

"Rory and I have discussed this. We don't think it's such a good idea."

"They don't check the vaults very often, so they won't notice a missing dragon tooth until they rotate their displays. Which usually happens a couple of times a year. But you saw how the docent was drooling over this recent acquisition in his tour yesterday. We take that book and it will be missed immediately."

"We'll be gone before morning," Shadow says, "And we've covered our tracks, haven't we?"

"We have," Delaney says, "But this business always comes with a certain amount of risk. I don't think we should push our luck."

"Maybe she's right," Iola says quietly, "Maybe we should just take the tooth and leave the book be."

Peridot jumps up, taken by surprise as Geoffrey whispers her name. He wasn't supposed to be here. But then, neither was she.

"Your orders were to return home right after delivering the book to the museum," Geoffrey says, his voice low so as not to be heard by the thieves discussing their plans below.

"I couldn't let this opportunity just pass us by," Peridot answers, "Shadow is right there for the taking. I decided to take the initiative and bring him to you."

"We're going to have a long talk about how I expect my orders to be followed, Agent Shinji," he says, speaking to her as an employee rather than as a lover or even a confidant, "But right now I have guests to entertain. Follow me. And keep quiet."

"Good evening," Geoffrey says, and they all turn to face him, "Welcome to the Landgraab museum."

"Shadow! Zap him or something," Delaney hisses under her breath.

Geoffrey chuckles and steps closer to the group, showing no fear, "I don't think your cousin's magic works quite like that. And there's no need for confrontation. I've come to greet you in person, and give you what is rightfully yours."

"You expect us to just trust you?" Rory laughs harshly.

"As I trust you not to blow up my family's museum, Mr. Bowman," Geoff responds with a light smile, acknowledging Rory's role in the destruction of a secret MorcuCorp cloning facility long ago, "You all have a history with my family's company. There's been much bad blood between MorcuCorp and your families. And I've come to put an end to that. Come, I'll let you into the museum."

 Geoffrey flips on the lights as they enter the main hall. "You know what this book is," he says, nodding in Iola's direction, "You should take it, Shadow, it belongs in your family."

"My family?" Shadow asks, surprised, "It's a Landgraab heirloom, isn't it?"

"It's a journal kept by one of my distant ancestors. One that happens to be your grandfather," Geoffrey answers, "Our families, our history, is intertwined, Shadow. You are a Landgraab as much as you are a Brannon. Or an Avendale."

Behind him, Peridot and Rory face off, each watching the other, ready to strike if either of them makes a move.

"I don't know, Shadow," Iola whispers, "Why is he offering us this book? I don't like it."

"It's knowledge, Iola," Shadow answers, "Knowledge can be dangerous. But I think we should take it, all the same."

The whole situation feels wrong to her, but Iola can't argue with Shadow's reasoning. The book contains, history, knowledge, and nothing more.

From the main hall Geoffrey leads them down into the vaults in what was once the dungeon.

"My research says all the teeth they have on record as taken by Reinier Landgraab are stored. So, unless, they kept bad records, Talfryn's tooth should be here," Rory says, standing next to Iola in front of shelves of dragon's teeth. One by one, Iola touchs them, feeling the death of each dragon, learning his name and history, until she finds the one they were looking for.

Shadow is drawn to an ancient statue of a woman, worn and broken with time. Like many of the objects stored here, it emanates a magical energy.

"There were thousands of these across the continent," Geoffrey explains, "One of the earlier images of the Lady to be venerated by humankind. This particular sculpture belonged to the Avendales. Your own mother would have seen it, touched it as a child growing up. When my family conquered her town, they removed such images from display, replacing them with their own religious iconography."

"And those images are stored away in basements now along with the Lady," Shadow observes, nodding toward the row of altars to the Watcher lined up in the cage behind him.

"Indeed," Geoffrey says, "Religion was a useful tool for my family, once. But we've advanced along with world. Or, we've made the world advance along with us. Landgraabs have always been the vanguard of change. Every innovation, every new discovery, has our name on it."

"What did you want with us?" Shadow asks, "My sister and I, we were born in your labs. You imprisoned my mother..."

"I'm no older than you are, Shadow," Geoffrey lies, "Had your grandmother not stolen you away from the labs, you and I would have been raised together like brothers. I am only the latest scion of my family. I am no more my father than you are yours, and I have no intention of trying to carry out old plans hatched before I was born."

"But you would still know what those plans were," Shadow insists.

Geoffrey shrugs, letting his eyes wander to the two beautiful blondes standing watch over him, one ready to leap to his defense, he other ready to attack him. Dangerous beauty is always the most attractive. "Genetic engineering," he finally answers Shadow, "MorcuCorp has a long history of toying with DNA. I am myself a product of such experimentation, as is my lovely assistant," he nods toward Peridot.

"I recognize her," Shadow says. His grandmother, Pearl was an elder when he knew her, but her features are unmistakable on Geoffrey's young companion's face. "And that's it? You kidnapped us with no greater plan than just experimenting with our DNA?"

"That's all I know," Geoffrey lies, "When I took over, I scrapped all the old agendas. I mean to keep MorcuCorp on the cutting edge, be the vanguard of change we Landgraabs have always been, not stay mired in plans from the last century. And that is why I came to meet you here, when museum security alerted me to your visit. To bury the hatchet, as it were."

"I don't think we're going to be able to just trust you, after what our history has been," Shadow says.

"No, of course not," Geoffrey agrees, "But this is the first step in earning your trust. We're family, Shadow. Landgraabs have always valued family." 

"It's good to see you home safe, son" Aouregan sighs as she embraces Shadow in welcome. She hadn't been able to sleep properly since they left the safety of Drake's Hollow.

Shadow waits to get his father in his shop, away from his mother, to give him the details of their trip, and most importantly, their meeting with Geoffrey Landgraab himself, and the truce he offered between their families. "He gave Reinier Landgraab's ancient journal, because he was mother's real father, and he did seem sincere about acknowledging our family ties," Shadow concludes.

Farrell sits quietly, taking all this in, learning for the first time something his son has known for awhile, that Aouregan's real father was a Landgraab. "Son, not everyone feels the same way about family as you do," he cautions, "Taking any Landgraab at his word is foolhardy."

"I understand," Shadow nods, "But, I am a Landgraab, by blood at least. That must mean something to them..."

"I'm sure it means something, son," Farrell answer, "But bear in mind, they took your mother captive and brought her out of her own time, despite being a Landgraab's secret daughter. And this Geoffrey told you he was himself a product of their genetic experimentation. Being a Landgraab seems more dangerous than not being one, in terms of what they'll do to their own."

"Well, it's not like I've invited him for dinner," Shadow says, "Or even told him where we are. Don't worry, Dad. I'm not going to endanger my family."

"You may not have given him your complete trust, but it's in your nature to think the best of people. Even the worst people. Be careful in how you deal with any Landgraab," Farrell gives a final warning to his son.

"Are you going to tell Mom?" Shadow asks, "About her father?"

Farrell's lips press together as he considers. He hates lying to the woman he loves. "It would only upset her to know. And the knowledge would do her no good, I think," he says with a grim sigh.

"Dad is suspicious," Shadow tells Iola later.

"I don't blame him," she answers, "I don't think we should believe anything the Landgraab said."

"He did give us the journal..."

"And we don't know why," Iola adds.

"Have you sensed anything in it that could arm us?"

Iola shakes her head. "I've spent some time with. As much as I can handle," she says, "The emotions he invested into his writings are powerful. It's hard to sort through it all."

"Then leave it alone for awhile," Shadow suggests, "Let's go out tonight, and forget about everything."

"A date?" Iola asks, smiling.

"A date."

"We haven't done anything like this, just the two of us, since high school," Iola says, swaying against him as they slow dance to the songs on the Toadstool's jukebox.

"We should make time for ourselves more often."

While his parents are out, Fergus slips into their bedroom. Normally, he and his brothers don't come in here. Not that they've ever been expressly forbidden entry, it's just, there's never much of reason to be in here if one of their parents hasn't called them. But tonight, Fergus is drawn into the room, like he's being beckoned by some unknown power. When he sees the old tome on their desk, he understands. His mother, his brothers, all share the same gift, can read the same history just by touching the cracked leather binding, but none of them can get from it what Fergus can. He can't quite explain why, but this book is his, he feels it.

Fergus sits, not touching it right away, knowing the flood of images, the wash of emotions, that will follow when he does.