Author Topic: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley  (Read 144161 times)

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 35
« Reply #165 on: December 27, 2016, 11:27:55 AM »
Wow Cheezey, what an absolutely riveting read!  You sure know how to build the suspense.  Even though I know what's happening, I feel like I don't really.  The emotions, the dialogue and the screenshots all help build the plot and I'm on tenterhooks waiting for the outcome.

Thank you! That was what I was going for, so I'm glad it worked as intended. :)

Yeah, me too!  ;D Soon we'll have a new Wainwright!

Coming this chapter. ;)

You've captured so many great shots of Boyd making expressive faces. Is the pregnancy making even his face a little chubby?
Perhaps those strange green lights his belly emits are only visible to his Watcher and the forum readers...how could he not notice?  I love how you are writing Boyd's pregnancy.

Thank you!  Alien pregnancy in TS3 just shows the male sim in a fatter morph, so they gain weight all over rather than getting the huge belly like they do in TS4. It does give them the pregnant waddle in the third trimester, though, which looks a little weird when it just looks like a fat sim and not one that's pregnant. Poor Boyd waddled into the lab in his lab coat in those shots above.

As for the green glow, since I've never noticed anyone but the sim having it react, I interpret it for story purposes as a sign of when Boyd particularly feels the physical effects of it. (It's also when he gains a slight bit more weight visually.)

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Susan on the other hand seems to never age.

Susan would be flattered by that, I'm sure!  But yes, even in the adult stage, Susan has a youthful look about her. Some sims show their age more even without the lines, but she's not one of them.

Later on in this save, I started playing with the Consort Age mod which gradually ages the mature adults and elders, so you'll start to see it a bit then, but writing-wise I'm still a couple of chapters away from where you first see those screenshots.

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Cycl0n3 is so smug about Boyd's weight gain--I almost wish something would happen to him as a form of karmic retribution or something, haha.

I feel bad for Tamara and her horrific taste in men...

Tamara is suppose to be very flirty\sleazy.  ::) Hence the men she gets with are often much like her!  ::) ;D

In this save, Tamara has made boneheaded romantic choices. I was kind of with Cycl0n3 when I saw the SP notification that she'd started a romance with Thornton. So far she hasn't been romantically involved with any sims that don't have commitment issues. Makes you wonder if she'd gone to University and gotten another trait, if that's what she'd have wound up with!



Chapter 35


 
Strangely, even though he fell, Boyd never hit the floor.  He was held up by some other force, and when he looked over, he could have sworn that he saw someone in the bathroom with him.  Not Susan, but a strange figure in a white uniform, projecting some sort of beam at him.  It eased the pain, and Boyd’s body relaxed.


 
He could feel himself spinning around.  His body tensed up and then let go as something burst forth from his midsection.  There was no blood and no more than a quick flash of pain that was over as fast as it came.  It felt like a great weight was lifted from him, and a warm sensation surrounded his midsection.  Suddenly there was a baby in his arms, and the heat around his body intensified.  It was not unpleasant, but relaxing, and he felt his skin shift, pull tight, and mend.

“Baby?”  Boyd realized only then that it had been inside of him.  He stared at it in disbelief.  It was a tiny male infant, hairless with dark green skin and large black eyes that had no visible irises or pupils.  He looked at Boyd and reached for him.  Boyd tried to process the fact that he had somehow just given birth to an alien child in his bathroom, and looked over at the figure in there with him, also an alien.  “Who’re you?  What—?”


 
“You have questions, Boyd Wainwright.  I understand,” the alien spoke as she approached.  Her voice was feminine, but had an otherworldly reverberation to it.  “I am Eni Jish Xip, genetic contributor of our child.  I believe the Earth term would be ‘mother.’  I teleported here to assist you with the birthing process.”


 
Boyd stared back her in shock.  “Mother?  Our child?”  He looked down at the baby, who wriggled in his arms as if to be closer to him.  He picked up a towel and patted him dry, then wrapped him in it.  “I don’t believe this.  I just… I just had a baby.”  He looked from the infant to Eni Jish Xip, trying to make sense of what was happening.  He had, of course, heard stories of men having alien babies, but he’d never seriously entertained the thought that the aliens did that to him.  Maybe I didn’t want to believe that could happen to me, and that’s why I didn’t see it. “But how?  Why?  I don’t have—I don’t even have a womb!  Human, Earth men aren’t built that way!”

“That is why you make ideal subjects for implantation.  Artificial biological encasements can be put into any healthy parent body, and unlike your females, there is no chance of the natural fertility cycle interfering with the process.”  She smiled at him.  “Your metabolic readings were as exceptional as your intellect, Boyd Wainwright.  You were an optimal selection for the human parent of this Earth-Child of Sixam.”

“Earth-Child of Sixam?”


 
“We of Sixam expand our genetic variation with favorable traits from those of other worlds.  Children such as ours are engineered with selected traits from their parent of Sixam and genetic material from their Earth-parent prior to implantation.  Surely as one who studies biological sciences, you understand the importance of a diverse and strong genetic pool in a population.”

“Yes.”  It bothered him that they knew things like what he knew and what his interests were, and made him wonder what else they knew from watching him or probing his mind. 

Eni Jish Xip looked at him.  “Do not fear.  Your body has suffered no damage from birthing the child.  I have repaired the removal wound and damaged tissues, and the artificial encasement dissolved in the energy release with your extra fuel storage.  You are whole and healthy, as you were before implantation.”

“Extra fuel… you mean the fat?”  Boyd glanced in the mirror.  Incredibly, the extra weight he had put on was all gone. 

“For a body not designed to birth offspring, much metabolic fuel is required for a healthy birth and biological repair,” she explained.  “Now you must make a choice, Boyd Wainwright.  It is the custom of our people to allow the parent birthing the off-world child the opportunity to raise it, if they wish.  Do you want to keep this child?”


 
Boyd blinked in surprise.  “What?”

“Was I unclear?  I apologize.  I am asking if you would like to raise the baby as your offspring, with your family, as a child of Earth.”

“No, I got that,” said Boyd.  “But I don’t understand.  You abducted me, you took my DNA, and then you implanted him in me, all without asking me anything.  Obviously you want this baby.  So why does what I want suddenly matter?  Why not just take him?”

“That is not our way,” Eni Jish Xip replied, as if the question surprised her.  “We only seek to improve the genetics of Sixam with this project.  It does not matter where the child is raised.  His genetics will benefit both Earth and Sixam, and he will be one of our people regardless of his home.”  She looked at the baby in his arms before continuing.  “Many who gestate and birth a child do not wish to be parted from it.  If that is how you feel, we will not take him from you.  We have no reason to believe you will mistreat or harm him.  Quite the opposite.  You and your mate have a strong pair-bond and have already reared offspring successfully.  Your second also thrives.  This child would do well here.”

Boyd looked down at the baby, who stared back up at him with wide, helpless eyes.  “He’s your child, too.  You said you were his mother.”

“I am his genetic contributor, yes.”

“Don’t you want him?”

“I have no emotional investment in where he lives, as long as he is properly cared for.  If you wish no part in his upbringing, I will take him to Sixam and see him raised amongst my kin.”

“No emotional investment.”

“Do not mistake me, Boyd Wainwright.  It is not that I have no concern for his fate.  I simply do not have a bond with the infant.  I have only contributed to his genetics.  But I would see him adequately cared for and raised to thrive.”


 
Boyd studied the baby’s small face, and his odd alien features.  Despite his green skin, otherworldly eyes, tiny nose, and pointed ears, he was hauntingly human.  “Would he be better off there?  With you?  With his people?”  He looked at Eni Jish Xip.  “I don’t know anything about Sixam physiology.  Our doctors don’t.”

“If his well-being would be compromised living with you, the offer would not be made,” she replied simply.  “You are sufficiently versed in the biological sciences to understand his needs.”  Eni Jish Xip stepped forward and held up her hand, palm outward, toward the bathroom door.  “Your decision must be made now, Boyd Wainwright.  I cannot stay.  I am forbidden to interact with any Earthling other than you on this visit.  Will you keep the child, or will you give him to me to take to Sixam?”

“I…”  Boyd was conflicted.  The responsibility of raising a child, an alien child no less, was not the sort of decision to make on impulse and under pressure.  Susan didn’t even know what was happening, and it would profoundly affect her as well as everyone else in the family.  He looked at the baby while he considered.  “Would I ever see him again?  Know what happens to him?”


 
Eni Jish Xip was firm in her response.  “No.”

“Never?”  His arm tightened around the baby.

“There are regulations about taking humans to Sixam.  I do not have time to explain further, but the answer to your questions is no.  So you must tell me now, Boyd Wainwright.  Are you keeping this child?”


 
The baby squirmed in Boyd’s arms, and reached for his face.  There was only one answer he could give.  “In that case… yes.  I’ll keep him.”

“I expected that would be your response,” Eni Jish Xip replied.  “You demonstrate strong concern for his well-being.  You will make a fine parent to our Earth-Child of Sixam.  I wish you and your family well with our son.”  She stepped backward.

“Don’t you want to say goodbye?”

“It is best to allow you and your family to bond with the child.  I will not confuse him.”  Her eyes lingered on the newborn for a moment, and she said something in her native tongue before activating a button on her suit.  “Goodbye, Boyd Wainwright and child.”  An energy field surrounded Eni Jish Xip, and then a moment later, she disappeared, leaving Boyd alone in the bathroom with his alien baby.


 
Staring at the empty tile where Eni Jish Xip had just stood, Boyd cuddled the baby and shouted for Susan, who rushed in even before he finished saying her name.  “Boyd!  I heard something and then suddenly I couldn’t move and… is that a baby?!” 

Boyd nodded, and held him out to her.  “He’s my baby.”

“What?”  Susan looked from Boyd to the infant, incredulous.  “And you look—”

“Thin again?  Yeah.  That’s what the aliens did to me, Susan.  The pain, the movement, the hunger, and the extra weight.  They implanted an embryo in me until I… gave birth.”

“But how?”  She was in shock.

Boyd explained the whole story, starting with Eni Jish Xip’s appearance and how she’d healed him after the baby essentially burst out of the artificial womb, to her explanation and demand that he decide then and there if he would raise the child or never see him again.  Susan listened, stunned and horrified, until he finished.  “So I kept him.  He’s just a baby, Susan.  A helpless baby that’s at least in part mine, my son.  I couldn’t just let them take him forever… and never know…”

“I understand.”  Susan put a hand on Boyd’s arm and looked at the baby.  “I’d have done the same.”

“I’m sorry.  It’s… wow, I mean, a baby out of nowhere, an alien baby at that.  I don’t even know how or what we’ll say to explain this, and I never even got to ask you first.  She said she was forbidden to interact with anyone else, and pushed for an answer right then.”

“The force keeping me from moving.  I thought I heard voices, not just yours.  She knew I was there.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me.  They seem to have some way of monitoring us.”  Boyd looked around the room, then at the window.  “Alien bugs?  Super Sixam spy satellites?  Psychic powers?  Who knows?”  He shuddered.  “But thank you for not being angry.  I know we thought we were done with kids after Patrick.”


 
“We thought that with Blair, too, but what’s one more, right?”  Susan reached for the baby.  “May I?”

He handed him to her.  “Of course.  You’re his mom.  As far as I’m concerned, anyway.”

“Step-mom, technically.  His mother is Eni Jish Xip.”

“She’s not raising him.  Whatever she is genetically, you’re the one he’ll know and call that.”

“And what are we calling him?  Your… our little green bundle of joy here needs a name.”

Boyd thought for a moment.  “He came from the stars.  Something cosmic?”

“A constellation?”

“Orion?” Boyd suggested, and then smiled.  “Kind of exotic, but not too weird.”

Susan bounced him and handed him back to Boyd.  “I like it.  Orion Wainwright.” 


 
“So he’s got a name,” Boyd mused as he snuggled baby Orion.  “Now comes the tricky part.  How do we explain him?  What do we tell everyone when they ask where he came from, and why he looks like this?  It’s not like we can just tell the truth.  Even in the best case scenario where no one questions the whole alien male pregnancy birth thing, he’d be a lab rat.  Subjected to all sorts of tests.”  Boyd met Susan’s eyes.  “We can’t let anyone do that to him.”

Susan nodded in agreement.  “We can figure out what we need to know about him with safe tests of our own.  You’re right.  We shouldn’t tell anyone the truth about him yet.”  She thought for a moment.  “We could say we adopted him, that he was abandoned at the lab because of an obvious genetic disorder.  We wanted to help him, and decided to raise him ourselves since he had no family.  Now that we own the lab…”  Her voice trailed off and her expression changed as something occurred to her.


 
“What?”

“Now that we own the lab, we can do that.  Isn’t that convenient?  That this happened right around the time we won the lottery and built this house and bought the lab?” 

The bite in her tone gave Boyd pause, and he realized what she was thinking.  “Susan, you don’t think that Emit—?”

“Oh, he knew, Boyd.  All that talk about Sixam and alien relations?  Showing us the ship, saying we needed to be influential for good alien relations in the future?  Giving us the means to take over the lab and build this house?”

And now I’m holding my alien Earth-Child of Sixam in my arms, to raise as our son.  Boyd swallowed back a sick feeling.  “No.  No.  He wouldn’t have set us up.  He’s our friend.  He’d have told us.  He’d have warned us.”

“Would he?”  Susan frowned.  “I’m not so sure.  Think about it.  If you’d known the abduction was coming, would you have still gone outside that night?  No.  He couldn’t risk you choosing to do that, not if his timeline project meant you had to have this Sixam baby.”


 
Boyd tried not to feel betrayed about all he’d gone through.  The nightmares.  The sleepless nights.  The stomach pains.  The anxiety, the fear, the terror of not knowing what was happening to him and why.  And now, he and Susan had an alien child to raise, sprung into their life as a complete surprise.  How could Emit not say a word if he’d known that was going to happen, that he would go through that?  But it made sense, too much to think otherwise.  “You’re right.  How better to influence the world into seeing that aliens can be good, than by bringing one into it and raising him to be one?  Of course he knew.”  Boyd looked down at Orion.  “The LI-WX923 treatment.  Eni Jish Xip said I had exceptional metabolic readings.  What if he not only just knew, but made sure it would happen?”

Susan nodded.  “That’s something I’d like to ask, too.”

“Makes you wonder what else he hasn’t told us.”

“Or if our attempt to contact him didn’t fail at all, and he’s just waiting until the right time.  After Orion was born.”

“Maybe we’ll hear from him soon, then.”

“He’d better be ready to answer some questions when we do,” said Susan.


 
Although they were still upset, they put their frustration with Emit aside to focus on settling in Orion.  Their house had not been designed with another child in mind, but Patrick’s room was spacious enough to share, and soon he would outgrow his crib and start sleeping in the bed in there.  In the meantime, they put up a portable crib, and decided the boys would share the large room.  With the baby monitors already in there, it made more sense than remodeling the guest room.

“Patrick?  This is your new little brother,” Boyd explained to their young son.  “His name is Orion.”

“Orion.”  Patrick reached out to touch him.

“Be gentle,” Susan cautioned.  “Orion’s a little baby.  Like Chris used to be, remember?”

“I’m big brother!”  Patrick grinned.

Susan and Boyd smiled at him.  “That’s right. You’re a big brother now,” said Boyd.  “Just like Blair’s your big sister.”

Patrick touched Orion and looked up.  “Why’s he green?”

“He’s a little different than us, honey,” Susan explained.  “He came to live with us from far away so we could be his family.  But even though he looks different, remember that inside he’s just like you and me and Daddy.  And you’re going to be his big brother, and play with him just like Chris.”

“Okay.”  Patrick accepted the explanation, and waved to Orion.  “Hi, Orion!”


 
Introducing Orion to Patrick was easy, but Blair and Cycl0n3 would be harder.  Even though they had no doubt that Blair would love and accept her alien half-brother if she knew the truth, Boyd and Susan realized they could not tell her.  If she knew about Boyd’s abduction and the alien birth, she would insist they take Orion to the hospital and register him like a normal birth.  She would never endanger him on purpose, of course, but exposing his existence to the medical community at this time would do just that.  They also knew Blair would be conflicted about them fudging an adoption to keep the secret, as a police officer sworn to uphold the law.  Cycl0n3 would probably understand, but he was unpredictable, and neither Boyd nor Susan were confident that he wouldn’t forget and say the wrong thing at the wrong time and raise questions.  It was easier for everyone to tell them the same story they would tell the world.  Perhaps one day Blair could know the truth, but not now, not when Orion was so young and vulnerable.

Before they could tell her, though, they wanted to find out as much as they could about the new addition to their family.  The best story would be a carefully crafted one.  Boyd and Susan brought little Orion into their home lab and began their tests. 


 
Boyd took all the readings he could from his University analyzer while Susan used her computer from Oasis Landing to connect to the databanks at Landgraab Industries.  The top secret research files they’d gained access to had limited information about the biology of the aliens of Sixam, but anything was better than nothing.

“I’ve got a DNA sample to bank, and a few others to run genetic analyses on.  The preliminary readings indicate there’s more of mine in there than I thought.  You just don’t see it.”

Susan brought up a window with readings from a blood sample of Boyd’s, and compared it to one from Orion.  “Wow.  I see some of it here.  Look at these markers.  Almost a perfect match to yours.  Close enough that you could give him blood if he needed it.”


 
Boyd set his equipment down and picked up Orion.  “Good to know.  But hopefully, we’ll never need to.”  He raised him up and smiled at him.  “I think you’ve had enough prodding for one day, huh?  Yes.  I think so.”


 
After they gave Orion a bottle and changed him, they called Blair and asked her and Cycl0n3 to come over so they could have a family talk.  They told them they’d be right there, and a short while later, they arrived.

“Hi!”  Blair did a double-take when she saw her father.  “Wow.  Dad, you’ve lost weight.”

“Yeah, Space, where’s the rest of you?  You’re missing a few cargo pods,” Cycl0n3 asked with a cheeky grin. 

Boyd hadn’t even thought about that.  “Oh, right.  I had a thyroid imbalance,” he lied.  “The doctor gave me some medicine for it, and to lose the extra weight I just splurged on one of those Lean and Mean potions they sell at the elixir shop.  Turns out they work!  Cost less than joining the gym, and a lot less miserable than that and dieting.”

Susan raised an eyebrow, but went along with it.  “I was surprised it worked so well.  He said it tasted like apples.”

“Well, as long as you’re healthy,” Blair said with a smile.

“I feel great.”  Boyd smiled.

“So, what’s going on?” asked Cycl0n3.  “Blair said you two had something important to tell us?”

“We do,” said Susan.  “We’ve got a new addition to the family.”

Both Blair and Cycl0n3’s eyes widened in surprise.  “A new addition?  Are you pregnant again, Mom?”

“Whoa!  You two do know how old you are, right?  Even if you’re not that gray yet?”

Susan shot Cycl0n3 a look sharper than surgical steel, while Boyd frowned at his rudeness.  “Shut up, Cycl0n3.”

“No, we’re not having another baby.”  Susan tried to keep an even tone.  “We adopted one.”


 
“Adopted?  Wow!  Really?  What inspired that?”

“This sweet little baby boy was abandoned at the science facility,” Susan explained.  “Just left with a note.  Birth mother didn’t want him and didn’t want questions asked.  You see, he’s got a genetic disorder.  Green skin, pointy ears, strange eyes.  The mother couldn’t raise him and thought we could help him.”

“What, was his dad an alien or something?” laughed Cycl0n3.

“Poor kid looks like it,” Boyd said, going along with Susan’s story. 

“That’s awful,” said Blair.  “Why would she take him to the lab?  Why not the hospital?  And what about his father?”

“Probably didn’t even know about him.”  That was partially true, anyway, Boyd thought.

“But the mother knew we’d take care of him,” Susan continued in her version of the half-truth.  “The science facility, I mean.  Since we own it, we took charge and examined him ourselves.  And, well...”

“We just fell in love with the little guy,” Boyd finished.  “We’re running tests to see if we can figure out what we can do to help him.  Our medical research division has some ideas.  But even after that’s done, he’ll need a family.  Someone to care for him.  Since we’re already helping him…”

Blair smiled.  “You decided to take him in.  That’s so nice!”

“He’s adorable in his odd little way, Blair.”  Susan helped her with her coat.  “Come on.  You’ll see.  You’ll love your new little brother.”


 
They headed up to Patrick and Orion’s room.  Cycl0n3 set Chris down with Patrick to play, and joined Boyd, Susan, and Blair by the crib.  Boyd lifted Orion out of it gently.  “Here he is.”

“Wow,” Blair said softly.  “You weren’t kidding about the green skin.”

Cycl0n3 nodded.  “Yeah.  Poor kid.  School is going to suck looking like that.  Kids can be brutal.”

Blair frowned.  “Well, good parents wouldn’t let their kids be bullies.  I better never hear about Chris acting like that, or he’ll be in big trouble.”

“We’re going do whatever we can to give him a good life,” said Susan.  “And he’ll have all of us and Patrick and Chris to look out for him.”

“Yeah, definitely,” said Cycl0n3.

“Of course!” Blair agreed.  “So what’s his name?  Can I hold him?”

“Sure.”  Boyd passed him to Blair.  “His name’s Orion.”

“Like the constellation?”

“Maybe the mother really did shack up with an alien,” quipped Cycl0n3.

“Be nice,” admonished Blair.  “I think it’s cute.  Orion Wainwright.  Almost distinguished, and unique.  Like him.”  She smiled and cuddled him, and Orion cooed happily in his big sister’s arms.  “Welcome to the family, little brother.  I’m your big sister, Blair!  And this is big brother-in-law Cycl0n3, and that’s your big nephew Chris.  You’re an uncle younger than him, huh?  How about that?”

While Blair baby-talked to Orion and passed him to Cycl0n3, Boyd and Susan exchanged a smile.  Their story had worked.  Orion was officially a part of their family, and he would be safe.

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #166 on: December 27, 2016, 03:50:36 PM »
Oh Cheezey, this is the best update!  I loved the little subterfuge about adopting the abandoned infant.  That was so cute. 

I also love the baby's name.  I used to work with a guy whose real name was Orion but he pronounced it O-ree-n not O-ryan. 
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Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #167 on: December 28, 2016, 03:50:09 PM »
I agree with Magz from Oz that the couple's brainstorming to keep Boyd's infant is amazing.
Patrick was already quite a late baby but now they have Orion as well--this couple (and you, of course) just won't stop pulling the surprises!

By the way, Patrick looks adorable in that shot where Susan's holding him. And I like how Chris' hair is kind of spiky on top like his father's, too.
I'm so curious to see what Orion looks like. Will he resemble Boyd to an extent that jeopardizes the secret of his birth?
Oooh, more suspense!

Offline chetanhaobijam

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #168 on: December 30, 2016, 05:51:41 AM »
Awesome update. Welcome to little Orion Wainwright. Boyd made a great choir of choosing to raise him. And like their new house. Looking forward for next update.
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Offline Nimrod Mikkusu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #169 on: December 30, 2016, 02:46:32 PM »
I pronounce Orion as "OH-ree-on".  ::) And I like to think that Cy uses hair gel for himself and Chris.  ::) ;)

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 36
« Reply #170 on: December 31, 2016, 12:39:55 PM »
Oh Cheezey, this is the best update!  I loved the little subterfuge about adopting the abandoned infant.  That was so cute. 

I also love the baby's name.  I used to work with a guy whose real name was Orion but he pronounced it O-ree-n not O-ryan.

Thank you! I've never met anyone by that name in real life.

When Boyd got the alien pregnancy, I decided to name the baby after a constellation. If it had been a girl, she would've been named Andromeda Wainwright. 

I agree with Magz from Oz that the couple's brainstorming to keep Boyd's infant is amazing.
Patrick was already quite a late baby but now they have Orion as well--this couple (and you, of course) just won't stop pulling the surprises!

By the way, Patrick looks adorable in that shot where Susan's holding him. And I like how Chris' hair is kind of spiky on top like his father's, too.
I'm so curious to see what Orion looks like. Will he resemble Boyd to an extent that jeopardizes the secret of his birth?
Oooh, more suspense!

They're lucky they got that age rewind with these kids to keep up with. I'm sure that would be no picnic dealing with that as elders! 

Thanks. I love the TS3 toddlers and enjoy any excuse to take cute screenshots of them. Chris got his dad's nose and mouth so he already looks a bit like Cycl0n3, but I couldn't resist the wild hair on him in the toddler stage, too.  There aren't nearly as many choices for styling toddlers compared to other ages, even with the store content I have.

Awesome update. Welcome to little Orion Wainwright. Boyd made a great choir of choosing to raise him. And like their new house. Looking forward for next update.

Thank you! I had a lot of fun designing their house.  Boyd and Susan make pretty good parents despite not having any traits that push it. They often end up wishing for more children when I play them, though, so this time I indulged it.  Just not maybe in the way they would've necessarily expected, in Orion's case.

I pronounce Orion as "OH-ree-on".  ::) And I like to think that Cy uses hair gel for himself and Chris.  ::) ;)

I pronounce it "Oh-Ryan" because that's how I've always heard it. 

Cycl0n3 would need hair gel to keep it up that high all the time.  He's one of the only sims I think that hairstyle doesn't look ridiculous on, perhaps because Cycl0n3 himself is so quirky that a look like that seems to suit him.  I can't wait to see him as an elder still sporting that hairdo. :D



Chapter 36


 
In the early hours of the morning, Boyd and Susan woke up to a noise coming from inside their nightstand drawer.  It was the time almanac.  Boyd picked it up and saw an alert indicating the portal was activating.  “Now Emit answers.”

“And now he’s going to give us some answers,” said Susan.  The Wainwrights quickly dressed, picked up Orion without disturbing Patrick, and hurried down to the basement.

They didn’t have to wait long.  Emit came through in a flash moments after they got there. 

“Hello!” he greeted them cheerfully.  “Boyd, Susan, and little Orion.  Good to see you all, and to meet you.”  Emit leaned over and gave the baby a little wave.  “Aren’t you adorable?”

“Hello, Emit.”  Boyd gave him a sharp look.  “I see you weren’t as surprised by Orion as we were.”

“Well, future knowledge does give me some warning about that sort of thing.” 

“Warning?  Hmm, yes, a warning would’ve been nice,” Susan said.  “Especially since you obviously knew.”

Emit took their frosty greeting in stride.  “You’re a little irked about that, I see.”


 
Boyd raised an eyebrow.  “Irked?  No, I get irked when my computer crashes.  Getting abducted, experimented on, impregnated, and mind-wiped goes well beyond that.  And you knew, Emit.  Don’t deny it.  You knew they were going to do that to me, but you didn’t warn me!  Why?  Do you know what I went through?  After all you said and did to help us, showing us the future and giving us the lottery win… why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m sorry, Boyd.  I couldn’t.”

“Why?  Because it was all part of your timeline project?”  Bitterness crept into Susan’s voice.  “That’s why you showed us the ship and told us about the situation with Sixam, wasn’t it?  To put it in our minds to look at anything alien positively, like an unexpected birth from an abduction?”

He didn’t deny it.  “Yes.”

“Then why didn’t you answer after I was abducted, when we contacted you?”  Boyd was upset.  “Orion was already in me, even if I didn’t know it.  You have no idea how horrifying that was!  The nightmares.  The memory loss.  The not knowing.  The fear that whatever they did was going to kill me.  You really couldn’t say anything, not even just let me know I wasn’t dying, for plum’s sake?”

“No.  I’m sorry,” he repeated sincerely.  “There was too much at stake.”


 
Susan frowned.  “What?  What was at stake?”

“The most important part of you shaping the perspective of Sixam.  Yes, I knew about Orion, and no, I couldn’t tell you.  But that baby there needs to exist, and grow up here on Earth with you as his parents.  So he can be remembered as someone good, someone relatable, that came from Sixam.  So that maybe in the future, it won’t be so easy to believe aliens are all soulless monsters that should be shot on sight!  Then maybe we won’t start a war that’ll mean our extinction!”  Emit was emphatic.  “I’m sorry, but keeping you in the dark was the only way to make sure Orion would be born, and that you’d keep him and not send him back to Sixam.  Because those are the choices you made without my intervention.”

“Without your intervention?”  Boyd looked at him.  “Eni Jish Xip told me that my metabolic readings were exceptional, that I was an ‘optimal selection’ because of it.  If you’d never given me that treatment—”

“They’d have done it anyway,” Emit said.  “I’m sorry.  I’m sure they were impressed, but don’t think that if they weren’t, they’d have done any different.  You’ve been on their scanners, so to speak, for a long time, Boyd.  All your interest in extraterrestrial phenomena, your queries and theories and discussions on the internet, your work at the lab, your research… don’t think it went unnoticed.  To them, it was practically an invitation.  Orion Wainwright existed in history long before I altered any timeline.  All I did was make sure you got the best possible outcome from it.”


 
Boyd felt like he’d been struck in the gut.  “So you’re saying this was always going to happen?  Even if you never came at all?”

“Afraid so.” 

“But if Orion’s always existed, and we would’ve raised him anyway, why did you need to come to us and stress how important it is that he’s a positive example?  Didn’t he turn out as one?” asked Susan.

“Did we do something wrong with him?” worried Boyd.


 
Emit’s expression turned somber.  “Back in Oasis Landing, you asked me about Blair’s descendants.”

Boyd nodded.  “You told us it was complicated.”  He and Susan both wondered what that had to do with Orion, but they listened as Emit continued.

“Yes.  It wasn’t the right time to tell you then, but I will now.  In the ninth generation after Blair, tenth after you, was a descendant of her and Cycl0n3’s named Pl4sm4 Sw0rd.  That’s with 4’s, not a’s.  That internet naming convention of Cycl0n3’s becomes trendy on occasion in the future.  Anyway, Pl4sm4 was a prominent man in his time.  Brilliant, like most Sw0rds and Wainwrights, and ambitious, charismatic, and loyal to a fault.  But there was also a darker, more ruthless side to him.”


 
Emit looked past them as he continued his tale, drifting off in thought.  “He was successful.  An engineer, and an activist.  He also never trusted the people of Sixam.  He had a lot of friends that were abduction victims.  One was a childhood friend, who he grew up with and loved like a brother.  He’d cried on Pl4sm4’s shoulder many times about what he’d been through, when he was taken on and off throughout his child and teen years.  Then one time, he came back implanted.

“As you learned the hard way, the aliens either abduct the men they impregnate to remove the baby, or teleport to them to heal them during the process.  If they don’t, it’s almost always fatal.  When the encasement bursts, the skin ruptures and the baby literally crawls out.  It’s agonizing, and the blood loss would kill you without immediate medical intervention.  For whatever reason, that time, there was no ‘delivery abduction,’ and the alien parent arrived too late.  Pl4sm4’s friend died alone, in unimaginable pain.  When the aliens arrived, they took the baby and vanished, leaving his friend’s body to be discovered by his family.”


 
Boyd imagined too easily how horrifying that must have been, and Susan held onto Orion a little tighter while Emit continued.  “Pl4sm4 was enraged.  He knew so many who’d been abused and wronged by aliens and their experiments, and he’d spent his life championing for justice for them.  He’d led protests, organized and petitioned, and pushed our leaders to do something about Sixam’s flagrant disregard of anti-abduction laws.  But now he’d lost someone he loved.  He decided that doing things the ‘right way’ would never get results.  So he took matters into his own hands.”

“Oh, Watcher.”  Horrified, Boyd and Susan realized what Emit was telling them.

“Pl4sm4 rallied his friends and his followers.  They loved him, and they felt as strongly as he did.  All the anger, the grief, and the loss.  One of them had high connections and a last name of Landgraab.  They pooled their resources and built a weapon.”

Susan trembled.  “No…”

“Yes.  Pl4sm4 Sw0rd, your descendant, Blair’s descendant, shot that ship down.  He caused the wasteland explosion that devastated Oasis Landing.”


 
“That’s why you came to us,” Boyd murmured.  “It was our family that did it.”

Emit was sympathetic.  “Try not to take it too hard.  Every family tree has an unfortunate branch somewhere, and none of us can claim we’re not connected to someone we’d rather not be in either the past or future.  But that’s why I didn’t tell you in Oasis Landing.  I didn’t want to burden you with that, especially when I need you to be positive.”

“Blair’s so kind, Emit.  She has such a good heart,” Susan said softly.  “This would devastate her…”

“So don’t tell her.  When I told you she was well-remembered by her descendants, that was the truth.  She had a fine legacy, nothing to be ashamed of.  The only shame is Pl4sm4 Sw0rd’s for tarnishing it.  Unfortunately, his name, and the Sw0rd name by association, will be remembered for that for a long time.”

“Did he die in the explosion?” asked Boyd.

“Yes.”

“But back in Oasis Landing, you said that not all of Blair’s descendants did.  Who lived?”


 
“Not his sister or her children, unfortunately, nor his one cousin and their family.  Pl4sm4 was 42 years old and never married, but he had a long-term lover that was pregnant with his child.  She survived, but for obvious reasons, never named their baby after him.” 

“Who was she?”

Emit met the Wainwrights’ eyes as he answered.  “Her name was Abigail Relevart.”


 
They were stunned.  “You’re Pl4sm4’s son,” Boyd said.

“That’s why you’re here, why you sought us out, why you knew about us inventing LI-WX923 when knowing that would’ve been so obscure,” Susan reasoned.  “Because somewhere, it was in your family history.  This is personal to you.”

“The wasteland explosion happened a century before your time, Emit.  You weren’t kidding when you said you were older than you looked.”

Emit nodded.  “And that just covers the time that passed when I wasn’t hopping around in it.”

“You’re our,” Boyd counted, “great… to the eighth degree grandson, then.  No wonder you said it was complicated.  We’d already met you.”

“Yes.  I just couldn’t tell you that.”  He smiled at them.  “So, hi, great times eight grandpa and grandma!”


 
Susan and Boyd returned his warm look.  “Thank you for telling us, Emit.  I’d rather know the truth.”

“And I’m proud to know you’re family,” Boyd added.

“So am I.”  Orion squirmed in Susan’s arms.  “But I’m still wondering how Orion fits into this.  You told us the wasteland explosion was something that couldn’t be changed and had to happen.  So that means having a good alien in the family two hundred years before his time won’t keep Pl4sm4 from doing what he did.”

Emit shook his head.  “No.  Pl4sm4 Sw0rd will always view Orion as proof that Sixam has been abusing our kind, including his own family, for generations.  Even with Orion living a long and full life, Pl4sm4 will still believe his creation was wrong, and that he was an exception, good only because he was raised by humans and not aliens.”


 
“What do you mean, even with Orion living a long and full life?” Boyd asked.  “Why wouldn’t he?”

Emit lowered his head.  “I’m sorry.  In the timeline where I never came to you, Orion never saw his tenth birthday.”

The Wainwrights were horrified.  “What happened to him?” Boyd asked, while Susan held Orion a little closer.

“Poor health.  He had a weak constitution, and when he contracted a serious illness, he never recovered,” Emit explained somberly.  “The aliens engineered him for intelligence, not physical strength, and they underestimated the toll that having him would take on your body at your age, Boyd.  It nearly killed you both.  Eni Jish Xip almost died herself keeping you both alive when he was born.  Orion never got much stronger, and you never fully recovered, either.  You died less than a year after Orion did.”


 
“But the LI-WX923 treatment prevented that from happening this time,” Susan mused, grateful that such an awful alternate future had never come to pass. 

“Yes.”  Emit smiled.  “It ensured you’d both live.”

Boyd was overwhelmed.  “I don’t even know what to say.  ‘Thank you’ feels a little inadequate.  You saved Orion’s life, and mine.”  He let out a rueful chuckle.  “And I was angry at you.  I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right.  I understand how it must’ve seemed.  You’re not the first ones from another time to give me an earful over a misunderstanding.”

“Still.  Thank you.”

“What’s family for, right?”  Emit clapped Boyd on the back, and smiled at Susan and Orion.

“We’ll raise him well, I promise,” Susan said.  “We own Landgraab Industries now.  It’s—”

“Wainwright Innovations.  I know.”  Emit grinned.  “Nice job with that.  And nice new mansion, too.  Plenty of space for your kids!”

Boyd gave him a curious look.  “Speaking of which, since you changed it so Orion lives… will he ever have children?  Descendants?”

“And how are Donovan and Benjamin and Leilani?  Are they better off with this inheritance to pass down?”


 
Emit took a deep breath.  “Those are questions I’d rather answer in Oasis Landing, when things aren’t in flux just by me being here.  But since I can’t take you there again yet, suffice it to say there are some significant changes.  You’ll see, when the time is right.”  He glanced at his almanac.  “And on that note, I should head back.  Besides, I want to look up how you turn out,” he said to baby Orion before returning his attention to Boyd and Susan.  “Good luck.  Not that I think you’ll need it.  You two have done great so far.  Keep it up.  The future’s looking better all the time.”  Emit gave them each a hug.  “Goodbye!”  He waved, and then vanished into the light of the portal.


 
“So Emit’s our descendant.  Wow.  How cool is that?”  Susan looked over at the portal as it deactivated. 

“I know!  A dedicated time-travel scientist, who fixes and shapes reality, from our line?  It’s like finding out you’re related to the Doctor.  A much better feeling than having to claim Pl4sm4 Accidentally-Nuked-Oasis-Landing-in-Mad-Act-of-Vengeance Sw0rd.”

“I wonder if that’s why Emit became interested in time travel.  Wanting to right his father’s wrongs and fix the world.”

“Someone descended from our daughter, driven with a burning desire to save the world?  Color me shocked,” Boyd remarked as they headed back upstairs.


 
Life for the Wainwrights returned to normal, or at least as normal as things got for them these days.  Caring for Orion was not that different from caring for a regular baby.  He slept like one, ate like one, and dirtied diapers like one.  He thrived on regular formula, and grew like any healthy infant.  Regular checks of his blood work on their home equipment confirmed that his nutritional needs were being met, and there was no sign of the ill health that plagued him in the alternate future Emit had averted. 

As far as anyone other than them knew, Boyd and Susan adopted their new green baby.  Their friends were understandably shocked by how greatly his “genetic disorder” affected his appearance, but they all treated him like any other child, and thought well of Susan and Boyd for taking him in.  The largest obstacle had been obtaining a “legitimate” birth certificate with no questions asked, but the Wainwrights knew how to find anything in the dark recesses of the internet, and that and their deep pockets solved that problem easily enough.


 
It was at Patrick’s birthday party that many of their friends and family met Orion for the first time, along with celebrating Patrick’s milestone of reaching school age.  He was excited about going to school.  Patrick had always been eager to learn new things, and picked up concepts and ideas quickly.


 
“So what class are you most excited about going to?” Cycl0n3 asked him.  “My favorite was computer lab.  They had some cool stuff when I was a kid, but I bet now, their stuff’s even better.”

“I’ve got cool games on my computer,” Patrick replied.  “Mom and Dad put them on there for me.”

“Your own computer already?”  Gunther let out a knowing chuckle.  “I should’ve guessed.” 

“Yup!  But my favorite program’s the drawing doodles one.  I like coloring and stuff.  You get to paint in art class at school, right?”

“I’m sure you will, along with other things,” said Susan. 

Blair nodded.  “We did when I was in school.”

“You still do,” Mortimer confirmed.  “That was one of my favorite classes, too.  I joined the art club when I got to high school.”

“And you’ve gotten quite good,” Gunther remarked proudly.  “Did you know he sold one to the gallery last month?”

“Congratulations,” Susan said.

“Yeah!  That’s awesome, Morty!” Blair echoed.

Boyd looked at Mortimer.  “You’ve always liked to paint, haven’t you?”

“Since I was about his age,” Mortimer replied.

“Can I paint, too?” Patrick asked his parents.  “It looks fun.”

“I don’t see why not,” said Boyd.  “We could set you up an easel in the study.” 

Susan raised an eyebrow.  “If we’re doing that, put down a good drop cloth.  That’s expensive hardwood flooring in there.  I don’t want it ruined.”

Boyd looked at Mortimer.  “Any recommendations for what to get a beginner?”

“The school runs a class for people who want to learn.  I took it when I was a kid.  You should try that and see if you like it before you buy a lot of art supplies.”

Gunther nodded in agreement.  “Indeed.  It’s not a cheap hobby.  But it’s been rewarding for Morty.”

“I think Emma took that class back when I lived there.  She likes painting, too,” Blair told them.

“Yeah, she has some of her paintings hanging there still.”

Encouraged, Patrick gave his parents an eager look.  “So can I take the class then?” 

Boyd nodded, and Susan smiled at Patrick.  “Yes.  Happy birthday.”


 
After they finished cake, and the rest of the guests moved to the living room, Blair approached Patrick with her jacket on.  “It’s snowing out.  Want to come build a snowman with me?”  She gave Cycl0n3 a teasing look.  “I’d ask him to help, but he says it’s too cold, because he’s a big baby.”

“Hey.  I’m going to stay in here where it’s warm.  Besides, it’s too cold for Chris.”

“Right, and it’s not like there aren’t a bunch of other adults here to watch him while you help me and the Captain out, right?” 

“Okay.  I admit it.  Couch plus TV equals comfy.  Snow plus outside equals frozen butt.  Simple math.”

“Wimp.”  Blair stuck her tongue out at him while Patrick put on his jacket.

When they got outside, the snow was too dry for good snowman making.  “It’s not even making good snowballs.”  Patrick was disappointed as one broke apart in his hands.  “Guess we’ve got to go in.”

“Or…” Blair’s eyes lit up.

“What?”

“We could play snow tag!”  She scooped up some snow and bopped him on the back with it.  “You’re it!”

Patrick laughed.  “Hey!”  He chased after her, but Blair was fast.  “No fair,” he panted as she ran ahead of him.  “You’re a policewoman.  You can outrun bad guys.”

Eventually he did catch her, but Blair had deliberately slowed to give him a chance, and she could tell he was a little tired.  “Good job, Captain,” she said, fluffing his red hair.  “Come on, let’s get back in before we get too cold.”

“Okay.  Got snow in my boots anyway.”  He made a face as he shook his leg.


 
The next morning, Patrick got up and helped himself to a nutritious breakfast of leftover birthday cake before his first day of school.  Boyd, busy feeding Orion in front of the TV, noticed Patrick’s breakfast choice when he sat down with him.  Although he did not exactly approve, it amused him enough that he let it go with a reminder that he couldn’t do that sort of thing every day.  Susan was a little more insistent.  After Patrick finished, she sent him to brush the frosting off of his teeth before school.

Patrick went up to his bathroom, but as he was about to leave, he noticed Buddy on the floor by the shower.  “What’re you doing there?”  He didn’t remember bringing the doll when he used the bathroom when he got up, but maybe he had and just forgot.  When he picked Buddy up, he was not sure why, but he felt like Buddy was watching him, and wanted him to set him back down.

Following that instinct, Patrick put Buddy back on the floor.  Then, something amazing happened.  In a puff of sparkling smoke, Buddy leapt up and grew to the same size as he was.  Patrick stared, astonished, while Buddy looked back at him, his doll face grinning.

“Hi, Patrick!”

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #171 on: December 31, 2016, 02:58:26 PM »
Terrific update Cheezey.  So Emit is a Wainwright descendant!  How cool is that!  Also I just love your choice for Patrick's T-shirt.  That's so inappropriately funny.  ::) 
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Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #172 on: December 31, 2016, 06:39:57 PM »
What a fantastic twist, having Emit being descended from the Wainwrights and Sw0rds! Really loving this story, Cheezey!
Patrick is adorable and I can't wait for Orion to age up!


Offline chetanhaobijam

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #173 on: December 31, 2016, 09:23:15 PM »
Wow, I like how Emit turn out to be a Wainwright descendent. And sad after knowing that a Sword caused that mayhem in the future. I guess everything is good in the future now. And great to see the grown-up Patrick. I will wait and see how he excels in the painting skill. Looking forward for next update.
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Offline Beezy

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #174 on: January 01, 2017, 01:44:22 PM »
I'm only halfway through the story- but I have to say that you are excellent when it comes to characterization. I love the way you portrayed Xander and Stiles, very well written!

Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 37
« Reply #175 on: January 05, 2017, 03:33:06 PM »
Terrific update Cheezey.  So Emit is a Wainwright descendant!  How cool is that!  Also I just love your choice for Patrick's T-shirt.  That's so inappropriately funny.  ::) 

Thank you! Since the game doesn't show descendants from children that don't live in the active household (their features look like Boyd and Susan, not Blair) I figured I'd go with how Emit shares two traits with Cycl0n3 and one with Blair, and make him their descendant, and say the others were Patrick's.  Also, glad you got a kick out of Patrick's shirt. I did that on purpose. :D

What a fantastic twist, having Emit being descended from the Wainwrights and Sw0rds! Really loving this story, Cheezey!
Patrick is adorable and I can't wait for Orion to age up!

Thank you! I'm glad you liked the twists! Orion is an adorable toddler, although story-wise his birthday won't happen until Chapter 39.

Wow, I like how Emit turn out to be a Wainwright descendent. And sad after knowing that a Sword caused that mayhem in the future. I guess everything is good in the future now. And great to see the grown-up Patrick. I will wait and see how he excels in the painting skill. Looking forward for next update.

Thank you! Patrick got the artistic trait when he aged up, so despite being a couch potato like his mom and dad, he's more inclined to creativity than science.

I'm only halfway through the story- but I have to say that you are excellent when it comes to characterization. I love the way you portrayed Xander and Stiles, very well written!

Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying how I've been writing the characters! I try to get in the heads of the characters as I write them. :)



Chapter 37


 
Patrick Wainwright could not believe his eyes.  A second ago, his favorite toy, his doll, Buddy, had been on his bathroom floor.  Now, as if by magic, he’d come to life.  “You’re talking!  And alive!  How?”

“Of course I’m talking.  I always talk to you.  We’re best friends!”

“But—but you’re a doll.”

Buddy put his hands on his hips.  “So?”

“So, dolls don’t talk!  Unless they’re talking dolls.  But you’re not a talking doll, and don’t have batteries. You’re just a doll-doll.”

“I am not just a doll-doll!”  Buddy seemed insulted by the insinuation.  “I’m your friend.”

Patrick frowned, feeling a little bad even though he still didn’t understand.  “I didn’t mean you weren’t.”

“Well, then say sorry and we’ll still be best friends like always.”

“I’m sorry.  Of course we’re friends.”  He looked at him in amazement.  “I just didn’t know you were real!  Like walking and talking real, I mean.  When I talked to you before it was like make believe.”

“Oh, I’m real.  I’ve always been real.  I’m magical.”  Buddy did a little twirl.  “You didn’t make me up.  You heard me.  Only you can see me, though.  Because only my best friend can see me.”

“Wow!”  Patrick was amazed.  “So I can see you and talk to you, but my parents can’t?”

“Nuh-unh.  They think I’m just a doll.”

“What about Orion?  Or Chris and Blair and Cycl0n3?”

Buddy shook his head.  “Nope!  Just you.  We’re special best friends.”

Patrick stepped closer, and looked him up and down.  “So you can play with me?  Not for pretend or like with the doll house, but play real games and tag and stuff like that?”

“Oh, yeah!  That’d be fun.  Want to go play now?”

Patrick heard his mother shouting for him up the stairs.  “Patrick!  The bus will be here soon!”

“Coming, Mom!”  He turned to Buddy.  “I’ve got to go.  Today’s my first day of school.  Will you be here when I get back?”

“I’ll always be here!”

“Okay.  See you later then!”  Patrick left, glancing over his shoulder as he did.  Buddy followed him into the hall.  When he started down the stairs, he saw a flash of movement, and where Buddy stood a moment ago, the doll that he was supposed to be was on the floor again.


 
Although discovering that Buddy was a magical playmate was exciting, so was the first day of school.  Aside from new classes, Patrick met the other kids in his class.  Penny Bunch was the daughter of his parents’ friends, so he sort of knew her already.  At lunch he sat with two boys named Jamaal Hart and Julius Langerak, and he played with them at recess, too.

His teacher told the class that they could sign up for after school activities if they wanted.  Patrick hoped that maybe he could join the art club that Mortimer Goth talked about at his birthday party, but the only ones that kids in his grade were allowed to sign up for were ballet or scouting.  He remembered Blair telling him once that she was in Sim Scouts, so he picked that one.  It sounded like it could be fun.  The teacher said he’d learn about nature and how to do different things. 


 
After he got out of school, it was time for the art class that he’d asked to take on his birthday.  Most of the others in the class were grown-ups or teenagers, but he didn’t mind that, especially when the instructor told him how nice she thought it was that creative young minds like him wanted to learn.  They gave him an information packet to take home with him, and let him try out different kinds of paints.  Watercolors, acrylic, and oil, and he also learned about different types of brushes and techniques.  “You did very well,” the instructor told him after the class ended.  “Keep practicing, and you can be a great artist someday.”

Patrick beamed.  “I will!”

True to their word, once they saw he was serious, Boyd and Susan bought him an easel.  They set him up in the study by the picture window between Boyd’s computer desk and the back stairs.  “Have fun, but be careful about spills,” Susan told him.

“Okay, Mom.”

He started his first painting, and Buddy came up behind him.  “Whatcha doing, Patrick?”

“Painting.”

“What is it?”

“A volcano.  See, here’s the lava.”  He made a broad stroke with his yellow paint.

“Lava’s supposed to be orange, isn’t it?”

“It’s really bright and hot.”

“It looks like lemonade.”  Buddy giggled.

Patrick turned and stuck his tongue out at Buddy.  “Who asked you?”

Boyd came in as Patrick was making faces at the air, and turned on his computer.  “Who are you talking to?”

“Buddy.”

“Oh.”  Boyd wondered if Patrick was playing some kind of pretend game with his doll, but he didn’t see it anywhere.  “Is he helping you paint?”

“Nah.  Just hanging out.  He doesn’t know how to paint.”

“I could paint.  I just don’t want to,” Buddy pointed out.

“Whatever.”


 
Boyd frowned, unsure if Patrick was giving him attitude or just distracted.  “Well, it’s probably better to keep him away from the paint anyway.  It’d be hard to get any stains out.”  He sat at his computer desk and loaded TarzWar.

Buddy wandered behind Boyd and snickered as he looked at his screen.  “Your dad’s a big geek.”

“Duh,” Patrick retorted.  “So what?”

“So what what?” asked Boyd.

“Huh?”

“You said so what, so ‘so what’ what?”

“Oh, I wasn’t talking to you.  I was talking to Buddy.”

“I see.”  Boyd found it odd, but chalked it up to a child’s imagination. 


 
Susan came in with Orion, who she had just changed.  She put him on the baby mat, and sat down at the chess table.

“Not going online tonight?” Boyd asked.

“No.  I have a match against Jamie Jolina tomorrow.  If I win, I’ll take Rank 3 on the circuit.  I want to prepare on the traditional board.  It helps my focus.”

“I’m sure you’ll wipe the field with her, honey.”

“That’s the goal.”




 
While Susan got herself ready for her level 3 title game, Cycl0n3 stewed because, among other things, once again he couldn’t play his.  It was the third night in a row he had to bow out of raiding on TarzWar with his buddies, because Blair was working overtime.  He’d learned the hard way that he couldn’t concentrate on a raid and watch Chris at the same time.  It was one thing if Chris was asleep, but he was still wide awake, and that meant he had to keep one eye and ear on him. 


 
It was not that he minded watching his son.  He loved Chris, but kids his age needed a lot of attention.  Even one as easily entertained as Chris—who would amuse himself playing with his toys or blocks, or watching TV—couldn’t be left unmonitored while he played TarzWar.  Especially since Chris was accident-prone.  Cycl0n3 joked that Chris was like a magnet to anything dangerous, and it seemed like he knocked over or bumped into things that gave him minor boo-boos all the time.  He’d been working with him on that, teaching him to be steadier on his feet and walk properly, but he was still learning.

Usually, Blair played with Chris after work.  She’d watch him for a couple of hours while Cycl0n3 played TarzWar, and then they would put him to bed and spend the rest of the evening together.  It gave Blair some time with Chris, and Cycl0n3 a break after playing work-at-home-Dad all day.  Being a self-employed P.I. meant they only needed a babysitter when he had to go somewhere Chris couldn’t come along.  Cycl0n3 had cut back on his case load back when Blair went to work, but that also meant less money, at least from cases.  A few that utilized his computer savvy had provided some hacking bonuses, but he had to fib to Blair that the money all came from his fees. 

Now that she was working so much overtime, though, he had less case work to keep him busy, and he couldn’t do other things he enjoyed, like TarzWar.  Even worse, Chris asked for his mommy often, and Cycl0n3 had to tell him she was working and wouldn’t be back until after bedtime.  Chris missed her, and so did he.  Lately, it felt like quality time with Blair was rarer than the undercooked steak he’d had for dinner at the diner, and he resented it.


 
Chris was already in bed by the time Blair got home that night.  Cycl0n3 had just finished a snack and was about to go online when she came home.  She greeted him, and when she didn’t see Chris, she glanced over at his closed bedroom door.  “Chris is in bed already, huh?”

“Yeah, that happens when you work until almost 10.”  Cycl0n3 hadn’t meant for it to come out as snappish as it had, but he wasn’t inclined to apologize for it, either.

It caught her off guard.  “Tia couldn’t come in to cover until late.  We’re really short-staffed with Justine out on—”

“Maternity leave.  I know.”  Cycl0n3 frowned.  “It’d just be nice if it wasn’t always you staying late every time.”

“It’s not always me,” Blair said defensively.  “I’m sorry.  I’m not thrilled about it, either, but it’s not.”

Even though it was true, her arguing about it soured Cycl0n3’s mood more.  “Yeah, well, somehow I’m not picturing Hank cutting his party time at Mick’s short every night.”

Blair frowned.  “That’s not fair.  Hank’s covered just as many shifts as I have lately.  I told you, we’re under-staffed.  They need us all.”  She sighed.  “At least it’s good money, right?”

“We’re not hurting that bad, and let’s be honest, I could make more in a night hacking than you do on an overtime shift, with what they pay you.”

“Hacking?  Oh, yeah, that’s great, until you get caught and thrown in jail.”  Blair rolled her eyes.  “That’s not even funny to joke about.”

Cycl0n3 frowned.  “Who said I was joking?”


 
“You’d better be, because you know what kind of position that’d put me in.  I’m sworn to uphold the law, not look the other way while you break it.  And seriously, is that the kind of example want to set for Chris?  That it’s okay to steal as long as it’s on the computer?”

“Well, at least I’m here to set one, which is more than I can say for you most nights lately,” he snapped.  “Sorry if I suck at it.”

“I never said that, and you’re not being fair at all!”  Her voice rose with emotion.

Cycl0n3 held a finger up to his mouth and sneered sarcastically.  “Shh, Perfect Mom.  You’ll wake up the sleeping kid.”

“Cycl0n3, I never said you were doing a bad job.  I know you take good care of Chris,” she argued.  “And I’m sorry I’ve been on so many extra shifts lately, but what am I supposed to do?”


 
“Maybe say you’ve done a bunch already this week, and that it’s someone else’s turn?  Say ‘no’ once in a while?  I say no to cases I can’t take all the time, because of Chris.  And apparently, so you can work even more.”

Blair groaned in frustration.  “Oh, come on, Cycl0n3.  It’s not the same thing.  My job is important!  The SVPD can’t just not be available.  People count on us to be there when we need them!”

“Oh.  Well excuse me for daring to think anything I do could be as important as what you do,” Cycl0n3 retorted.  “Maybe once the important people of Sunset Valley are taken care of, you can squeeze in some time to see me and Chris.” 


 
“Cycl0n3—”

“Forget it.”  With that, he stalked off to the bedroom while Blair sat down on the couch and cried.


 
Cycl0n3 never came back out, and when Blair went in to go to bed, he was either asleep or pretending to be.  She was not sure which.  It tore at her.  It was not their first argument, but it was the first time they’d gone to bed angry at each other. 

When Chris woke up half an hour before her alarm, Blair got out of bed to take care of him.  Cycl0n3 rolled over and saw her go, but didn’t say anything.  Blair tried not to let that get to her as she snuggled their son.  “Good morning.  I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you went to bed last night.  Mommy does miss you when she’s working late, I promise.”

“Mommy.”  Chris hadn’t mastered talking yet, but he knew a few words.  He smiled at her. 

“I bet you’re hungry, huh?  Well, let’s get you changed for the day and out to the kitchen for some breakfast.”


 
After she got Chris taken care of, she got herself a bowl of yogurt.  Cycl0n3 came out a few minutes later.  He ruffled Chris’ hair and got himself a bowl of cereal.  He didn’t say anything, but sat at the table with Blair to eat it.

She couldn’t bear the silence.  “Cycl0n3, I’m sorry.  Last night, I never meant you and Chris weren’t important!  Of course you are!  You know how much I love you both.”

“Yeah.  I know.”  He still sounded sour.

“But you’re still angry.”

Cycl0n3 looked at her.  “Do you know, lately, this is the only time we even talk?  In the morning, over a crappy bowl of cold cereal and your morning yogurt, for fifteen minutes or less before you head off to work?”  He let out a cynical laugh.  “You don’t even make coffee here anymore.  You get that at the java hut on your way in.  Because you’re so tired you sleep until the last minute in the morning.  Wake up, shower if you didn’t the night before, and boom.  Off to work.  Chris and I see you for fifteen freaking minutes.”

Blair felt both hurt and guilty.  “I know.  But it’s not forever.  I miss you and Chris, too.”  She looked over at him, and noticed him watching them.  “Maybe we shouldn’t get into this here after all.”
Cycl0n3 set his spoon down.  “Yeah.  He can tell.  Better not to have what time he gets to see you be like this.”

She flashed him a wounded look, but kept her voice even while giving him the benefit of the doubt.  “Was that sarcastic?”

“It was honest.  He misses you.”

Blair tried not to cry.  “I’m sorry.”  She looked over at Chris, who was playing with his bear.  “Are you and Wugglesworth having fun?”

Chris bopped the bear against the floor while holding onto his arm, and giggled back at her.

“I’m glad.”


 
Blair and Cycl0n3 finished their breakfast, and she sat and paid Chris some extra attention before she couldn’t wait any longer and had to get dressed for work.  Before she left, she picked Chris up and gave him a kiss goodbye.  “You’re going to be good for Daddy today, right?  I know you will.”  She handed him to Cycl0n3.  “I’ll see you later.  We’ll talk tonight, okay?  We’ll get dinner, and do a family thing together, when I get off work.  I promise, I won’t cover any shifts unless it’s an absolute emergency.”


 
“Sure.”  Cycl0n3 forced a half-hearted smile.  “See you tonight.”  On time, I hope, he left unsaid.


 
A little while later, Cycl0n3 received a call on his work number.  Originally he’d planned to work from home, but when this new client wanted to meet up with him in the office to discuss case particulars in person, he didn’t argue, especially after she said he’d been highly recommended to her.  “I’ll be happy to meet with you, Mrs. Landgraab.  See you in my office at ten.”  He called a babysitter for Chris and headed out.

Nancy Landgraab seemed less than impressed with his meager office downtown, but she had the class to show it with no more than a vague expression of disdain when she first walked in.  “Hello, Mrs. Landgraab.  Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you, Mr. Sw0rd.”  She shook his hand and sat down.  “I appreciate your willingness to meet with me on short notice.”


 
“No problem.  Happy to help.  So, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve heard good things about your work, so I hope you’ll be interested in this job.  As you know, my family has lived in this town for generations, and we feel strongly about the good community we have here.  We want Sunset Valley to continue to grow and thrive.”

Cycl0n3 nodded.  “Right.  Of course.”

“Unfortunately, I think corruption has become a problem in our local government.  A serious problem.”

“What kind of corruption are we talking?  Bribes?  Bad cops?”  He had trouble imagining the latter was going on; Blair would not be able to keep any knowledge of dishonesty among the SVPD to herself.  She’d be the type to crusade loudly and proudly against it.

“More the city council, and our newly elected mayor.  I’m certain city funds are being appropriated to cover it up and being used in other inappropriate ways.”

“You think Mayor Alto’s on the take?”  Cycl0n3 realized he should not have been surprised that was what it was about.  The Landgraabs and Altos hated each other, and Vita Alto had just won the mayoral seat.


 
“Indeed,” insisted Nancy.  “There are questions about where all this funding goes.  Our taxes have gone up, but the funding going to city hall expenses has increased disproportionately with the staff.  Certain positions on the council and on staff have gotten rather significant bonuses compared to historical values, and surprise, the ones who benefited most worked on Mayor Alto’s campaign.  Meanwhile, our beaches still haven’t gotten the improvements that were promised, and some of the roads in this town are atrocious.  Have you seen the potholes on Skyborough Boulevard?  You could flatten a tire in them!  And don’t get me started on the so-called employment project at Outstanding Citizens.  Despite the tax hike, our city-funded school claims they can’t afford new gym equipment.  So where exactly are our tax dollars going, if not to improve the town?  The pockets of the mayor and her friends, that’s where!  This is a serious problem, and I need evidence to take to the proper authorities to prove it.”

Cycl0n3 nodded.  “I take it you’ve already asked them to look into it and they wouldn’t?”

Nancy let out a hollow laugh.  “My family’s history of… disagreements with the Alto family is well-known in this town, Mr. Sw0rd.  Unfortunately, my genuine concern as a citizen is written off as some sort of vendetta, especially by those in law enforcement who have a, shall we say, beneficial working relationship with Mayor Alto.  Without evidence, my claims will be ignored, and the Altos’ lawyers are ready and willing to start frivolous lawsuits for slander at the slightest provocation.”  She let out a dramatic sigh.  “They’d lose, of course, but a lengthy courtroom battle means scandal, and that means a drop in the value of my holdings while investors are scared off.  Unlike the Altos, I don’t believe that any publicity, even bad, is good publicity.”

“I see.  So, you’d like to hire me to look into city hall’s handling of funds.”

“It’d be a great service to Sunset Valley.  I’d much rather pay an honest, hard-working member of the community like you than see it go to red tape and court fees to force the issue with uncooperative police and city council members.”

Cycl0n3 wondered if Nancy knew he was married to one of those police she complained about, but he supposed it didn’t matter.  It was a case, one that could really make his career if it turned out she was right.  Even if she wasn’t, he’d still make money for the time researching.  Cycl0n3 was a little wary of the Altos’ reputation, but he felt confident he could stay under the radar.  A P.I. poking around public documents in city hall was hardly unusual.   “All right, Mrs. Landgraab.  You’ve got a deal.  I’ll take the case.”  He pulled a standard contract out of the drawer and filled it in.  “Just need you to sign here, and I’ll get started right away.”

“Wonderful.  Thank you.”  She took the paperwork, read it over, and signed.  “Do keep me informed of your progress, Mr. Sw0rd.  I look forward to your results.”


 
Cycl0n3 called the babysitter to let her know he’d be a while longer, and drove over to the Alto mansion.  He knew that Vita Alto was likely to be at work, but he was not sure of her husband’s hours.  He slowed as he approached their home, and realized that the snow would make it more difficult to check out the property.  He would leave tracks anywhere he went.  He thought for a moment, and then parked at the fishing park across the street.  It was cold, but he’d have to walk along the plowed road if he didn’t want to be noticed.


 
It didn’t look like anyone was home.  He saw that the Altos’ mail had recently been delivered, from the fresh tracks leading up to the mailbox.  With careful steps, he could peek at that without being detected.  There was a utility bill, junk mail, a flyer for the 28 Hour Wellness Gym, and what looked like a bank statement.  Nothing unusual.  It was illegal to open someone else’s mail, but he doubted there was anything on the bank statement anyway, other than a depressing sum of money that would remind him how small his balance was in comparison.

After that, Cycl0n3 followed the road to their plowed driveway.  Garbage had been picked up not long ago, so he walked in the existing footprints to give that a peek, too.  He removed the lid, but then he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.  Plum!  Was that a security camera?

Panicking, he looked up, but he was relieved to see that it was just a light.  Phew!  Cycl0n3 resumed rummaging.

The Altos’ trash was more interesting than their mail.  Aside from typical garbage, there was an unopened bottle of bubble bath, a surprisingly fresh-looking bell pepper, and a bundle of buzzberry.  He wondered if it was the mayor or her business tycoon husband that was into the herbs.  Unfortunately, he didn’t find anything of use to his case.  He put the lid back on the trash can, brushed the snow off of himself, and wiped the grime off his gloves in a nearby snowbank.  He then covered it up with fresh snow so no one would notice, and returned to his car.


 
Next stop was city hall.  He was glad that part was indoors.  He was already tired of the snow.  When he got here, he headed to the records department.  He was about to ask the woman behind the counter for help, when he realized that he knew her.  He just didn’t recognize her because she looked so different than the last time he saw her.  “Hi, can you… wait, Tam?”

“Oh, hi, Cycl0n3!  How’s it going?”

“Hi.  You, uh, look different.”  City Hall’s dress code had always been frumpier than how she dressed out of work, but with the new haircut it had made her almost unrecognizable.

“Yeah, I got a makeover last week.”  She smiled.  “Got a new hairdo, and some silver highlights.”

Cycl0n3 smirked.  “Where I come from, that’s called going gray.”

“And where I come from, that’s called rude,” Tamara retorted.  “You’re lucky I know you’re a lost cause when it comes to people skills.  So what brings you here today, Master P.I.?  A case?”

“Yeah.  Got a client who’s convinced his tax dollars are being funneled into secret government research underneath the beach,” he told her, proud of his cover story.

Tamara laughed.  “What?  Are you serious?”

“I know.  Some people, huh?  So, can you point me to the budget papers or whatever so I can tell him we don’t have an underwater superweapon off the coast of Sunset Valley?”

“Yeah, sure.”  She snickered, and looked up some information on her computer.  “Where do you find these people?  They’re weirder than your internet friends.”

“They find me, for some reason.  But as long as their checks don’t bounce, who am I to judge?”  Cycl0n3 leaned on the counter.  “Oh, and I’ll need promotion and payroll records for city hall workers, too.  Whatever’s public about that.  He also thinks aliens are working here and helping cover it up.”

Tamara raised an eyebrow.  “You really do get the wacky ones!  Anyway, our salary’s not public record, and it’s not really anyone’s business.  But there are some general numbers and a list of names here.  For this year and last year.”  She opened a separate window and grumbled.  “Though I’m pretty sure everyone who works here is human, and honestly, if an alien wanted big bucks, they wouldn’t work here.”  She hit the print button and went to wait by the printer.

“So, even with that promotion you got, still not making a fortune, huh?  That sucks.”

“No, but I can’t complain too much.  I make decent money for the field.  Vita’s pretty generous with the raises and bonuses if you do your job well.  But it’s no fortune 500 kind of deal, you know?  Just steady work and good benefits.”  She retrieved the printout and handed it to Cycl0n3.  “That’s the payroll stats.  I’ll get you the other stuff.  Wait here.”

“Sure.  Thanks.” 


 
While Cycl0n3 waited, he was surprised to see none other than Mayor Alto herself come in, and with a familiar face.  What’s Blair’s mom doing here?

“…and there you go.  All finalized.”  Vita handed Susan a file of papers.

“Thank you so much for pushing that through,” Susan said to her.  “It’s such a relief to have it taken care of once and for all.  I couldn’t believe they told me it’d be another month to process and review it.”

Vita gave her a warm smile.  “What are friends and neighbors for?  I’m glad I could help.  You’ve got enough on your plate without red tape adding to it.  I was happy to vouch for you and expedite things.”

“Well, we really appreciate it.”

“No problem.  Congratulations to you and Boyd on making the addition to your family official.”


 
Cycl0n3 approached and said hello.  “Hi!  Didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I could say the same,” Susan replied.  “I’m picking up Orion’s adoption papers.  It’s all official now, thanks to Vita here.”  She turned to her.  “Speaking of which, Vita, this is my son-in-law, Cycl0n3 Sw0rd.”

“A pleasure.”  Vita extended her hand.

“Same, Mayor Alto.  Thanks.”  This isn’t awkward at all, he thought, trying to keep a straight face. 

“So what brings you here today?” asked Susan.

“P.I. work,” he replied.  “Boring record checking stuff.”

“Hardly the glamorous part of the job, I imagine,” Vita said.  “Anything I can help direct you to?”


 
“No worries, Vita, I’ve got it taken care of,” Tamara said as she returned with an armful of files.  “Here you go, Cycl0n3.  Enjoy.  I hope you find what Alien Man is looking for.”

“Alien Man?”  Vita and Susan both gave her a curious look.

“His case is some guy who thinks aliens work here and are helping cover up some secret government base by the beach where they’re using city funds to build it or something,” she said with a snicker.  “Because aliens definitely live and walk among us here in Sunset Valley, right?”

It was Susan’s turn to feel awkward, holding Orion’s paperwork.  She forced a look of amusement while Vita chuckled. 

“Oh my.  Well, as far as I know, no aliens work here.”

“Glad to hear it.  Thanks for the help, Tam.  I’m going to head out and start digging through this.  See you later.”  He waved and headed back to his car.


 
Cycl0n3 went home and paid the babysitter.  Chris was full of energy and hadn’t wanted to eat lunch, at least not until Daddy was there to give it to him.  He put off his file reading long enough to feed Chris and play with him a bit.  Afterward, when Chris was happily distracted with his peg box, Cycl0n3 got to work. 

It was tedious, but it passed the time.  It seemed to him that there wasn’t much of a legal case against Vita for paying off city officials, although it did look like the salaries had gone up a bit.  He couldn’t remember if higher wages in Sunset Valley had been part of her campaign, but some quick internet research told him that it had been one of her talking points.  Technically, there was nothing illegal about giving raises, even if many did go to favorites.  Like Tamara, who’d worked on her campaign and in her office for years, and considered Vita a close friend.  But was it truly corruption, or just shameless nepotism?  Cycl0n3 knew Tam, and while she was not one to turn down a free anything, she wasn’t a criminal.

He moved on to the local park budgets when he got a text from Blair.  It was ten minutes after her shift ended.

Sorry going to be late. :( Huge accident on ice at Main & Sunnyside. 3 cars, bad injuries. Home ASAP! Sorry! I love you and Chris.

Cycl0n3 tried not to feel hurt.  It was an emergency.  She wasn’t blowing him off.

“So much for dinner.”

He didn’t realize he’d grumbled it out loud until Chris called for him.  “Da-da?”

“Sorry.  I was just answering my phone.”  He texted back a response to Blair.  See you whenever you get here.  Cycl0n3 bent down and picked up Chris.  “Mommy’s going to be late.”  He sighed and tried not to give in to the feeling of resentment welling up inside.  “Again.”



Author's Note: This is the first chapter where you can tell that I started playing with the aging mod that shows adults and elders aging gradually. I love how it looks, but if you're curious why Nancy and Vita looked like that, that's why.  It also highlights just how much that treatment in Oasis Landing set back Boyd and Susan's aging, although you will see them start to get some gray and wrinkles, too, as they progress through the adult stage.

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #176 on: January 05, 2017, 06:31:40 PM »
Terrific update as usual Cheezey.  I love your new mod and how the Sims age gracefully.  It looks more natural. 

Patrick's interaction with his imaginary friend are super cute.  I am intrigued with Cycl0n3's case.  You know how I love a mystery ::).  I hope Cycl0n3 and Blair work through their differences.   That's one couple I'd hate to see divorced.
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Offline Nienor

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #177 on: January 06, 2017, 12:27:32 PM »
I love how much effort and detail goes into each chapter! I love the new mod, I've new seen it in action before, and it adds more of that realistic detail that is always present in your stories - despite the aliens, time travelling and imaginary friends. Orion has certainly been busy, working at the city hall and building a secret government base by the beach. Pretty impressive for a nooboo...  :P
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Offline Cheezey

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Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley - Chapter 38
« Reply #178 on: January 17, 2017, 02:57:36 PM »
Terrific update as usual Cheezey.  I love your new mod and how the Sims age gracefully.  It looks more natural. 

Patrick's interaction with his imaginary friend are super cute.  I am intrigued with Cycl0n3's case.  You know how I love a mystery ::).  I hope Cycl0n3 and Blair work through their differences.   That's one couple I'd hate to see divorced.

Thank you! I love how the aging mod looks in the game. Lucky Susan still isn't showing her gray yet in this scene. Boyd doesn't really show it at all until he's mostly gray, since his hair is that light color.

While I was playing, my story progression mod gave Cycl0n3 and Blair a few messages about how they were drifting apart and didn't have time for each other, so I decided to write that in. 

I love how much effort and detail goes into each chapter! I love the new mod, I've new seen it in action before, and it adds more of that realistic detail that is always present in your stories - despite the aliens, time travelling and imaginary friends. Orion has certainly been busy, working at the city hall and building a secret government base by the beach. Pretty impressive for a nooboo...  :P

Thank you very much!

And yes, who knew Orion was getting into all that from his baby mat? Must be those alien super powers. ;)



Chapter 38


 
After she got back from City Hall, Susan was excited for her ranked chess match against Jamie Jolina.  It was Wednesday, so she and Boyd both had the day off.

“It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Jolina.  I’ve been looking forward to this match.”

“Likewise.  You’ve been rising fast in the circuit.  I wish you luck.”  She shook Susan’s hand. 

“Thank you.  May the best player win.  Shall we?  My chess table is in the study, down the hall this way.”


 
Boyd was in there with Orion, who he’d just placed in his play mat.  He introduced himself to Jamie when she and Susan came in.  “Hi.  I’m Susan’s husband, Boyd.” 

“Jamie Jolina.  It’s a pleasure.”  She gave him a warm and, in Susan’s opinion, rather flirtatious smile.  It annoyed her.  It was too bad, because otherwise Jamie seemed like a pleasant and intelligent lady.  Fortunately, Boyd either didn’t notice or ignored it. 

“I’ll stand back and let you two get on with your match.  Hope you don’t mind if I watch.  A rank three event’s bound to have some great moves.”

“Not at all.”  Jamie sat down.

“I won’t complain about a cheerleading section,” Susan said, giving Boyd a flirty smile of her own.


 
Jamie noticed Orion in the mat.  “Looks like you’ve got a couple of them.  I see you’ve got a baby.”  She eyed Orion curiously while Susan made her move.

Boyd picked him up.  “Oh, yeah.  This is our son, Orion.”

“We just finalized his adoption today, actually,” Susan added.

“Oh.  Congratulations, then.”  Jamie wondered about his strange appearance, but didn’t ask since the Wainwrights didn’t volunteer anything about it.  “Is he your only child, or do you have others?”

“Two more,” Boyd answered while Jamie pondered her next move.  “We’ve got a daughter and a son.  She’s actually grown already.  Married and on the police force, and her own son.  Our other son, Patrick, is at school.”

“A grown daughter?  You must’ve had her young.  You two look younger than I do, and I like to think I’m not old enough to have a grown child.”  Jamie laughed.  “Would that were the case, but I like to think that we’re as young as we think and feel.”

Susan exchanged a look with Boyd while Jamie studied the board.  “Lucky genetics, sunblock, and moisturizer.  But thank you for the flattering compliment.”


 
They fell silent as it shifted to Susan’s move.  She went quickly, and then it went back to Jamie.  There was a tense back and forth of quick moves, each seemingly working on a strategy but not quite able to figure out the other’s.  Boyd held and bounced Orion, trying to keep him quiet while Susan and Jamie played their match. 


 
It went on for the better part of an hour, and Boyd eventually had to leave to change Orion and put him down for a nap.  When he came back, it was just in time to see Jamie finish her turn.  Susan’s eyes lit up, and before she even announced it, Boyd knew she had the winning move.  “And I believe that is checkmate.”  Susan could not hide her grin.

Jamie looked over the board, and then clapped her hands in concession.  “It is.  Good game, Susan.  Congratulations, and welcome to Rank Three.”

“Thank you.”  Susan beamed, and shook Jamie’s hand.  “It was a very good game.”


 
Jamie had a cup of coffee with the Wainwrights before she left, during which they talked chess strategy.  Afterward, the after-school bus brought Patrick home from Sim Scouts.  Before he could get his coat off, Susan told him to keep it on.  They were going out to celebrate her victory and ascension to the third chess rank.  The first stop was the winter festival for some snowy fun, and then afterward, a movie.

Boyd and Susan were disappointed that Blair couldn’t meet them at the festival.  She didn’t answer her phone, which usually meant she was on duty.  A follow-up call to Cycl0n3 confirmed that she was still at work.  “Sounded a little grouchy,” Boyd mused as he hung up. 

“I saw him at city hall earlier when I picked up Orion’s adoption paperwork.  He was researching a case.  He’s got a client that thinks the government built an undersea base near the beach, and aliens are working undercover in city hall to help cover it up.”

“What?”  In the past, Boyd would’ve found such an outlandish tale interesting, if not stretching believability.  Ever since the abduction and Orion, though, he found that sort of thing frustrating because it undermined his own credibility, when his experience had been real.  “Was there any truth to it?”

Patrick overheard.  “Are there really aliens in an underwater base?”

“I don’t think so, honey,” Susan answered.  “And I’m sure I’ve never seen one at city hall.”

“How do you know what they look like?  Can’t they wear disguises?  Like in that old movie where they tear their faces off and they’re lizards underneath?”  He made a dramatic face.  “What if our mayor’s a lizard?”

“Mayor Alto’s not a lizard.”  Boyd couldn’t help but be amused by Patrick’s reaction, and Susan also chuckled. 

“She’s been very nice to us, actually.  But between just us?  The Landgraabs might like your theory.”


 
When they got to the festival, they stopped in the photo booth to take a festival greeting card picture.  “It’s a shame Blair, Cycl0n3, and Chris couldn’t join us, but it’s a nice picture of the four of us.”  Susan admired the shot of the four of them.

“You don’t think it’s too cold out here for Orion, do you?” asked Boyd. 

“Hey, he can’t turn blue because he’s green,” Patrick mused.  “What color would he turn?”

“Let’s not let him get cold enough to find out,” Susan said.  “But I think he’s fine for now.”

Boyd checked the time.  “The movie doesn’t start for 40 minutes, so we’ve got time to check out a few attractions here.”


 
“Let’s make snow angels!” Patrick said.  “Mom!  Dad!  Want to do it with me?”

Boyd shook his head.  “Can’t.  I don’t want Orion’s blankets getting wet in the snow.  You two have fun.”

Susan looked less than thrilled at the prospect of getting down in the snow, but Patrick was very enthused.  A memory of years ago, when Blair had been little and asked her to ice skate at the festival with her, popped into her head.  At the time, Susan had said no because it was cold and she had other things she wanted to do.  Blair had a playmate for company, and the other child’s mother had already agreed to watch both kids, so Susan had been content to let that arrangement stand.  Later on, it had been one of those moments in Blair’s youth she regretted missing out on looking back on it.  Her little boy’s smiling face swayed her into choosing differently this time.  “Sure.”  Susan flopped down in the snow and waved her arms and legs.  “I look ridiculous, don’t I?”

“Nah,” Boyd reassured her.

She and Patrick made their snow angels, but as Susan sat up she let out a little yelp.  “Oh my Watcher.  I think snow just went down my pants.”

Both Boyd and Patrick laughed.  “Mom’s butt is frozen!”  He dissolved into giggles.

“Very funny.”  She was laughing as she stood up and brushed herself off. 


 
“Hey, can we try ice skating?”

“I’m already covered with snow.  I don’t want to fall on the ice, too.”  Susan took Orion from Boyd.  “How about you go out there with him?  I’ll wait by the rink.”

“So you’re looking to even the score by pointing and laughing when I inevitably land on my butt?”

“Absolutely,” Susan said with a grin.

Patrick grabbed Boyd’s hand.  “C’mon, Dad!”

Although both Boyd and Patrick were unsteady on their feet at first, somehow they managed not to fall.  Mostly that was because Patrick clung to Boyd, and Boyd found it a little easier to balance with someone else holding on.  “Okay.  This is just a matter of physics.  We can do this.”  They got around the rink, and then moved away from the wall. 

“Let’s try to spin.”

“Slow.  If we go too fast, we’ll fall.”  Boyd leaned in.  “And we can’t let Mom have the satisfaction of picking on us the rest of the night.”

Patrick grinned.  “Okay.”

The two of them spun in a slow circle, and by some miracle, remained upright.  They skated a little longer, and passed by Susan, who cheered them.  “Nice job, you two.  But you should probably turn your skates in.  The movie’s going to start soon.”

“Can we get hot chocolate before we go?”

“You’ll have to get it now, which means getting out of those skates.”

“We’re getting popcorn at the movies, too,” Boyd reminded him.

“Hot chocolate and popcorn, yum!”

“A meal only someone his age could appreciate,” Susan remarked as Patrick took off his skates, put his boots back on, and ran toward the concession stand.


 
After Patrick got his hot chocolate, they headed over to the theater to see Circus Roadtrip.  They all enjoyed the movie and grabbed dinner at the diner afterward.  Orion was very well behaved, and slept in his carrier during the whole movie.  When they got home, Patrick climbed under the covers while Susan and Boyd brought Orion in to put him to bed.  “Can you read me a story?” he asked them.

Susan was already changing Orion, so Boyd volunteered.  “Sure.  Any one in particular?”

“How about Where’s Bella?  I like that one.”

“All right.”  Boyd sat on the bed and read to Patrick while Susan got Orion settled in his crib.  She gave Patrick a kiss goodnight and left while Boyd finished reading.


 
Once the boys were in bed, Susan and Boyd settled in for the night.  “I can’t believe how fast Orion is growing,” she said.  “We’re going to need new clothes for him soon.”

“It’s almost his birthday.  Seems like time flew by even faster with him than it did with Patrick.”

“We’ve had a lot going on.  It’s been good, though.”  Susan smiled.  “You’re sleeping better, too.  You don’t have the abduction dreams as often anymore.”

“Only when I’m really stressed.  Now that I know what happened, even without remembering, I feel like my mind’s not eager to make me re-live it just so I can know every grisly detail.  I’m all right with that.”

A thoughtful expression crossed Susan’s features.  “Sometimes I wonder if they’re still watching us.  I don’t like to say anything because I don’t want to remind you of it, or trigger your nightmares again.  But I’m curious if they monitor us or watch Orion’s progress.”

“Me, too.  Not that I’m eager for a re-run.”  Boyd looked up at the ceiling.  “So if you do have this place bugged, that was not, I repeat, not an invitation to abduct me again.  Got it?”  He looked at Susan.  “But I think they must be, at least occasionally.”

“What will we tell Orion when the time comes?  We owe him the truth when he’s old enough to understand, and the future’s counting on us, and him.”

“I have no idea,” Boyd admitted.  “Luckily, we’ve still got plenty of time to figure it out.  I hope he understands when we do.  Patrick and Blair, too.”

Susan nodded.  “All these secrets.  I’ll be glad when things get a little less complicated.”  She rolled over and put a hand on Boyd.  “But that day will come.  I’m sure of it.”

Boyd smiled back at her.  “We both know you’re rarely wrong.”

“Make that never,” she replied, and gave him a kiss good night.




 
Over at the Sw0rd household, the day ended much better than it started.  Blair came home very apologetic for the emergency that kept her from spending time with Cycl0n3 and Chris as promised, and her warmth and sincerity eroded Cycl0n3’s grouchiness about it.  They snuggled up on the couch and watched one of their favorite movies together after ordering in a pizza.

The closeness reminded them of how much they’d missed their couple time.  A quick smooch soon turned into a more heated embrace, and when Cycl0n3’s hand began to wander to the point that Blair blushed—Chris was in the room, after all!—she whispered that maybe they could put him to bed for the night.


 
After Chris was in his crib, Cycl0n3 pulled Blair into his arms.  “So, now it’s my turn for you to put me to bed, huh?”

“You are such a romantic.”  Blair giggled just before their lips met.

The lack of time for intimacy and their recent argument only made their desire to make things right stronger.  They shared a passionate night, and went to sleep feeling like all was right with the world.


 
After Blair was off to work the following day, Cycl0n3 got back to the case Nancy Landgraab hired him for.  The records from city hall had some leads, but nothing that would be considered evidence.  One that merited investigation was something Nancy had mentioned, the funding for the mayor’s employment project.  One of the reasons Vita Alto won the recent election was her strong position on job growth in Sunset Valley.  Her administration implemented a project where qualifying local businesses received a tax break and subsidy for hiring individuals who had prison records or other marks against them that made it hard for them to find work.  The Outstanding Citizens shipping company was the largest taking advantage of the program, and received a good amount.  On the surface, it all looked legitimate.  Digging a little deeper, though, raised some red flags.

For one, a primary shareholder of Outstanding Citizens was another corporation operating out of Bridgeport.  When Cycl0n3 looked up its owner, it was none other than Nick Alto, Mayor Alto’s husband.  Illegal?  Not necessarily.  Lawyers were good at finding loopholes.  Still, it was a conflict of interest, considering her program was giving money to a company he made money from. 

Cycl0n3 knew that Blair had gone on investigations involving Outstanding and some of its employees.  She kept everything confidential as per regulations, but without naming names or specifics, she’d vented about how she and the rest of the SVPD knew shady things were going on there that couldn’t be proven.  Internet research brought up rants from former employees, and even a few eyebrow-raising accounts mentioning individuals who’d seen too much and suddenly left town or vanished.  Cycl0n3 read more than one claim about illegal trafficking of stolen goods, fraudulent accounting, and threats.  While anonymous internet trolls were hardly reliable sources—he would know, being one himself—he had a feeling the saying about where there was smoke there was fire applied.


 
Cycl0n3 decided to check out Outstanding Citizens himself.  He’d only ever seen it from a distance before, and he was surprised at how dilapidated the place was.  Whatever funds the employment project gave them sure weren’t going to building maintenance.  He parked down the road and walked up the sidewalk to check it out.  He didn’t want his unfamiliar car in the lot to be noticed by security.


 
Despite how run down and seemingly unused the front of the building was, the back lot had no windows, a high-tech security door, and a lot of cameras.  Cycl0n3 decided to stake the place out, hiding what he thought was inconspicuously in the bushes by the wall. 

There was surprisingly little traffic, on vehicle or foot, for a shipping company.  Outstanding specialized in off hours shipping, but he still expected more activity than he saw during regular business hours, since they were allegedly running 24/7.  He wondered if they did their more questionable shipping in the middle of the night because it was less obvious.  That would make sense if some of their dealings were less than legit.


 
After watching the door for a while, Cycl0n3 decided to check out the fenced in dumpster area across the courtyard.  On one hand, it’d be risky for them to discard anything incriminating in the trash, but then again, a facility that size with that many dumpsters likely had a daily pickup, so it’d be at the dump pretty quick.  And in this cold weather, who was likely to spend a lot of time looking?  He took a wide walk around, hoping to avoid being seen by the cameras.


 
Unfortunately, Cycl0n3’s poking around Outstanding Citizens’ property hadn’t gone as unnoticed as he hoped.  While he was waist deep in a dumpster full of discarded packing materials and nasty breakroom trash, some masked “security” came out to address his snooping.


 
“You’re not supposed to be here.”  The man’s deep gravelly voice held a note of threat.  “I don’t know what you think you’re looking for, but you’re on private property, so I suggest you leave.”

Cycl0n3 frowned.  “Actually, once you throw something in the trash and put it out, it’s fair game for anyone to look through.  You’re not hiding it.  You’re discarding it.  Ever hear of dumpster diving?”

He sneered from behind the mask.  “Ever hear of broken teeth?”


 
Cycl0n3 did not like the guy’s look at all, especially since he reminded him of an aging high school bully, but he refused to give ground.  “Ever hear of assault?  Because that’s a crime you just threatened me with.  I know my rights.  I’m a licensed private investigator.”

“And I’m licensed to remove nosy llama trespassers like you from corporate property,” the masked man retorted.  “So I’m gonna say it one more time.  Leave, or I forcibly remove you.”

“Do that, and I’ll see you in court, Stripes.  Bet your bosses won’t like that, especially since the cameras over there can probably see the whole thing.”  He didn’t think they could.  In fact, he’d done his snooping counting on the fact that they couldn’t, but he doubted the thug had enough brains to know he was bluffing.


 
“Have it your way, then, moron.”  Cycl0n3 barely had time to react before the man’s gloved fist hit him in the jaw, knocking him cold in the snow.  “By the way, the cameras don’t reach over here.  So this is between you and me, and something tells me you’re gonna have a little trouble identifying me, with that head injury and all.”  He punched him in the head, and kicked him in the chest multiple times with his steel-toed boots.


 
He then picked up the barely conscious Cycl0n3 and dragged him through the gap in the fence leading to the derelict side of the warehouse, out of sight from everything but the trees.  He dropped him against the building, where the roof kept any snow from leaving tracks.  “Sweet dreams, investigator.”

He pulled a walkie-talkie out of his pocket.  “Code Six.  Handled.  Coming back in.”  He slipped back through the fence and vanished, leaving Cycl0n3 alone in the snowy cold.

Offline oshizu

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Re: Brilliant Minds: The Wainwrights of Sunset Valley
« Reply #179 on: January 17, 2017, 03:24:22 PM »
I'm relieved to see that Blair and Cycl0n3 managed to settle their differences, at temporarily.
It's painful to watch them both feeling so sad and unhappy.

Ahhh no, Cycl0n3! What a cliffhanger! The "security guard" confused me a little cuz he's dressed like a cat burglar.

Waiting eagerly to find out what happens to the unconscious Cycl0n3 and to meet Orion as a child.