Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 38: Loyalty and Trust

As soon as Sage enters the office of MorcuCorp's house in Redwood Harbor, Lannister is praising her work in Al Simhara. "You're an excellent asset to the company," he concludes.

"The people of Al Simhara have a very negative view of MorcuCorp," Sage says hesitantly. More than once while talking to the locals she had felt ashamed of her association with her employer, "Madbouli had some crazy idea that MorcuCorp is run by the Landgraab family and the Illsiminati, whatever that is, and that you're trying to take over the world."

Joffrey laughs, with just a hint of bitterness, "World domination has long been the goal of the Landgraab family. We do run MorcuCorp. As for the Illsiminati, that's just a conspiracy theory. As far as I know, anyway. I'm not high enough on the chain of command to know everything."

"We...? You're a Landgraab?"

"I am. Joffrey Landgraab. I apologize for lying about my name when we first met. We don't like to reveal ourselves to employees until we're sure of their loyalty."

"And are you so sure you have mine?" Sage asks, raising an eyebrow, "I did the job I agreed to, but the more I learn about MorcuCorp, the less inclined I am to work for you again."

"I don't blame you in the least. MorcuCorp is probably the most evil entity currently operating on the planet."

Sage starts to speak, then closes her mouth, not sure how to respond to his rather open admission. "I don't understand, are you saying you don't like MorcuCorp? Or are you bragging about it?"

Joffrey leans close to her, resting his hand on her shoulder, "I'm not bragging about it. I never wanted to be part of the family business, and the more I'm involved in it, the less I like myself."

"You could leave," Sage suggests.

"You don't just walk away from MorcuCorp. Especially not when you're a Landgraab."

"Then why don't you work to change it?"

"I am, but I can't do it alone. I need allies. And that's why I hired you."

"You want me to help you take down MorcuCorp?" Sage laughs.

"Nothing so grand," Joffrey laughs with her, "What I need right now is for you to go to Champs les Sims and retrieve some documents for me."

"Champs le Sims?" Sage's voice trembles.

"Is something wrong? You aren't worried about Lefebvre accusing you of stealing from the museum?"

Sage shakes her head, "No, nothing's wrong. My..ex-husband...and I visited Champs les Sims together, and that's when our marriage started to fall apart, I guess. But I'm fine, I can go back there."

Joffrey's eyes light at the mention of her ex-husband, but he says nothing about it. "There's chateau there that belongs to my family. I need you to infiltrate the building and find some documents stored there."

"If it belongs to your family, why can't you just go there yourself?" Sage asks.

"I don't want MorcuCorp to know what I'm looking for, or why. I can't be seen anywhere near Champs les Sims."

"And what happens to me if I get caught breaking into MorcuCorp's property?"

Joffrey slides his hand into hers, "I don't think you will. But if you did, I'd tell them you were working for me," he says, looking her in the eyes, "You're too valuable to lose."

"Me? I can't be the only tomb raider and housebreaker in your employ," Sage says, deliberately missing the subtext. His hand in hers makes her tremble, but she doesn't pull it away.

"You're the only one who's loyal to me, not MorcuCorp," Joffrey answers.

"I do have your loyalty, don't I?" he continues, whispering like a lover as he wraps his arms around her.

"You don't have to seduce me to buy my loyalty," Sage answers, "I want to help you."

"That's good to know, Ms. Bowman," Joffrey says. Then he kisses her, his lips soft against hers. "I'm ultimately after more than just your loyalty," he whispers in her ear as he nuzzles her neck. "But for now, your loyalty is what I need," he continues, business-like, pulling out of her arms.

Sage staggers, feeling faint; Joffrey steadies her, smiling. "This dossier has all the information you need. The chateau is extensively trapped. Only one person has ever gotten past them and gotten out alive, Wane McMottder. After his incursion, MorcuCorp fortified the security system. So be careful in there. Call me, often, to let me know how it's going."

"I will," Sage promises, getting a hold of herself, trying not to look as flustered and confused by him as she feels. She takes the dossier and turns to leave.

"Before you go," Joffrey calls after, "There will be various relics and gems lying about the chateau..."

Sage blushes, "I won't take anything," she says.

"You will," Joffrey laughs, "Take whatever you want. Make it look like a burglary. MorcuCorp will discover the chateau has been infiltrated eventually, it's best they think the motive was robbery."

Sage breaks into the Chateau du Landgraab late at night. Getting by the traps was a challenge, but nothing she couldn't handle. As she's picking up the jewels and other treasures left lying around the house, she wonders why she's putting herself in this position. If she got caught, she could do serious time for burglary. Joffrey promised he'd take the blame, but what if he didn't? Worse, what if this were a set up? Maybe she said too much against MorcuCorp to him and he concocted this whole thing as a way to get rid of her?

She decides that if Joffrey wanted to be rid of her, he could come up with easier ways of doing it, and she proceeds with her mission, finding the documents he wanted in a chest in a locked office at the top floor of the building. Trusting him might be a stupid thing to do, but when she remembers his kiss, his hand in hers, she wants to believe in him, stupid or not.

"I've got the documents," she says when he picks up the phone.

"I was just dreaming about you," he answers, his voice thick with sleep. Sage didn't bother to check the time before she phoned.

"I'm sorry, I woke you."

"Don't be. Your voice is always welcome any time of day or night. I wish you were here with me. Or is that inappropriate for me to say while I'm in bed?"

Sage flushes, "You aren't afraid to cross boundaries," she says, laughing.

"Neither are you. Listen, as much as I'd love for you to hurry back here, I need you to stay in Champs les Sims for a few days. Visit the nectary, look like a tourist. Then hurry back."

Lefebvre put the word out around the village that Sage was willing to investigate dark basements, and Jules Fournier asks for her help searching the nectary cellars for long lost recipes. What she finds is a hidden chamber full of Egyptian paraphernalia. Since it doesn't help him make more nectar, Fournier doesn't care about her discovery, but Sage is intrigued enough to want to consult with her contacts in Al Simhara about it. When she gets a chance to visit Egypt again.

Since she's been spending so much time here, Sage buys a house.

Challenge Notes:

Since I haven't mentioned it yet, here's the roll for Gen 7:
Second Chance (again), 3 kids. Primary career is sports. Secondary careers are Busker, then Inventor.
The goal is awesome, and the Fun is Runs in the Family. I've chosen Brave for the trait. Tearney had it, Sage has it, so it will Run in the Family in more ways than one.
Kieran is probably not the heir. The likely heir is the second child, still not conceived.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chapter 37: Questionable Ethics

Sage and Jeremy have a son, Kieran.

"What do you mean you're going to China?" Jeremy demands, "What about your son?"

"Kieran will be fine with with my parents. And unless you change your mind about coming with me, you'll be here with him as well."

"Go with you? So I can sit by myself all waiting on you? I don't think so, Sage."

"Jeremy, this has always been my dream. I'm not giving that up."

"I don't want to fight with you, Sage," Jeremy backs down his anger, "Go if you have to. Just remember Kiern and I are waiting here for you."

At last, Sage has arrived in Shang Simla. Wane McMottder always wrote that China was his favorite travel destination, and Sage had longed to see it for herself.

"Look out for cubby holes in old temples," McMottder wrote in 'Traps and Triggers', "There are often secret levers to open hidden doors inside them. Sometimes, you'll find gems or other treasure."

"The worst that can happen is you'll stick your hand into a nest of insects."

Sage eschews the hostel, full off tourists, in favor of spending her nights camping outside under the stars.

After a few nights of camping, Sage decides to purchase a vacation home in the hills of Shang Simla.

Her visa expires shortly and she's barely scratched the surface of sites to explore here, so Sage is excited to have a home base she can return to on her next trip to China.

While Sage is out of town, Jeremy cares for his newborn son.

Kieran becomes a toddler.

"You bought a house in China?" Jeremy responds to Sage's news, "That means you're going back?"

Sage nods, "There's still a lot to discover there, and I wanted something more permanent that a tent at a campsite. But don't worry, I'm not rushing off again right away," she promises.

The couple try to forget the fight they had before she departed.

For awhile, everything seems perfect. Jeremy continues to put off starting his career so he can be around for Kieran's important moments.

Sage receives a letter in the mail from one of the antique dealer in Champs les Sims, Andre Lefebvre's contacts, saying how impressed he is with her work for the French curator, and requesting she come to Redwood Harbor for an important assignment. The letter compares her favorable to Wane McMottder, which seals the deal.

Jeremy is not pleased to hear his wife will be leaving town again so soon. "Are you going to spend any time at home with us?"

"It's just for two days," Sage yells.

"Two days to interview for this, and then what?" Jeremy asks, "Another long trip somewhere else?"

Sage can't answer, because Jeremy is probably right, and it's what she's hoping for.

"What kind of marriage is this?" Jeremy asks, more sad than angry, "You're home for a few days and then you're off again."

"You knew I wanted to travel before we married," Sage says.

"I knew you wanted to travel, I didn't know you wanted to live on the road," Jeremy sighs.

Sage arrives in Redwood Harbor and heads straight for the address in the letter.

"My name is Joffrey Lannister," the young man introduces himself. Sage had expected someone older. "I represent MorcuCorp."

"Do you live here?" she asks, taking in her surroundings. Everything seems so clean and new, like a real estate demo house.

Lannister shakes his head, "No one lives here. The house belongs to MorcuCorp, we use it for meetings like this one."

"And what's the important assignment you have for me?"

"MorcuCorp once had a strong interests in Al Simhra, but local resistance pushed us out. The situation has eased somewhat, and we feel like now is the time to get back on the ground. We need you to help smooth the way."

"I don't know what you heard, but I'm not a diplomat..."

"Of course not," Joffrey answers, "You're an adventurer. And MorcuCorp is interested in acquiring some relics lost in the Al Simharan desert. You will need to soften up some of the locals to get access to some of these relics. You may not be a diplomat, but you are exactly the kind of person we are looking for."

"And what kind of person is that?" Sage asks, trying not to get lost in his beautiful blue-green eyes. She heard a lot of strange things about MorcuCorp, and she wonders for a moment if he's been genetically engineered to be perfect.

"A person of questionable ethics?" Joffrey answers with a wicked smile.

"Excuse me? What are you accusing me of?" Sage asks.

Lannister laughs, "Of breaking into ancient tombs and making off with cultural treasures. Lefebvre suspects you even stole from the Museum while you were working for him." Sage frowns at his words, because they are all true. She had never given the ethics of her behavior a single thought. "Don't be ashamed," Joffrey continues, "You are the next Wane McMottder, I'm sure of it."

The offer was too good to resist and Sage took the job before Lannister could even tell her what he was paying. After they shook on it, Joffrey insisted she spend the night in the house rather than in a motel or campsite.

Sage has a few hours the next morning before her flight home leaves, so Joffrey insists on taking her to see some of the sights. "They call this park Lover's Landing," he explains, "It is very romantic, isn't it? Whenever I have to be here for work, I like to come to this park to paint."

For a moment, she allows his embrace, then pulls away, "I'm married," she says.

"Forgive me, I didn't know," Joffrey says, immediately dialing back to a neutral tone. Sage is almost disappointed that he drops the pursuit so easily.

When she gets home, she tells Jeremy about her planned trip to Al Simhara. Then she braces herself for argument.

But it doesn't come. Jeremy just turns his head away. "I figured," he answers.

Somehow his cold dispassion is worse than anger.

As soon as she arrives in Al Simhara, Sage meets with her contact, Inji Ameen, who sends her on a quest to recover some important MorcuCorp documents lost in a tomb.

It turned out to be an incredibly simple job.

Sage walks out of the tomb pleased with herself, thinking about how happy Joffrey Lannister will be with her first day's work.

Inji then sends her to her underling, Fahad Madbouli, who sends Sage out on a variety of unsavory jobs, bribing local merchants, supplying the local relics dealer with metal to make forgeries for the tourist trade, and spending time talking up MorcuCorp to the native residents, all of whom seem to have a strong distaste for the company and its representatives.

Finally, Madbouli sends her on a real job, to acquire some flame fruits from the Temple of the Burning Sands. When Sage pointed out the people back home grow these things in their gardens, Madboulu laughs and insists the ones in the temple are different, more powerful. He tells her MorcuCorp wants them to fuel a Post Atomic Propulsion Drive. Whatever they are for, Sage had to get past several dangerous traps to get to them, and she's never ben happier.

When she returns with the fruit, Madbouli confides in her that he's a double agent, and tries to recruit her to work for the resistance. Rather than risk losing her contact, she agrees to his plan.

Then she call Joffrey to tell him about the traitor in his organization. "He wants me to break into your secret headquarters to place a bribe," she explains.

"What have I done to inspire such loyal from you, I wonder?" Lannister asks.

Sage is dumbfounded, "I may have 'questionable ethics', but I'm not a traitor," she says.

"I knew you were the right one for this assignment," Joffrey says, and Sage can hear his smile over the phone. "I want you to do the job, and plant the bribe."

"You what?"

"Let Madbouli and his superiors think you've turned. Now that he's revealed himself to you, it wouldn't be safe for you to back away from them now. Do the job, and do it with zeal. MorcuCorp will crush this resistance before it gets started."

"You want me to be an informant?" Sage asks in breathy wonder.

"You'll be an excellent spy."

Lannister warned her that the secret headquarters was heavily trapped, and he sent her a map detailing the location of all the traps. Disarming them was up to her.

Once the bribe is planted, MorcuCorp sends a jet to pick Sage up, getting her out of Al Simhara before the resistance realizes she was still working for the corporation and not them.

When she gets home she doesn't even have time to change out of her travel clothes before Jeremy is breaking off their marriage.

"I can't be in a marriage where I only see my wife one day a week," he says, "I can't spend my life waiting on you to come home, only to have to say goodbye again the next day."

"Jeremy, please, give us another chance," Sage pleads.

"Another chance for what?" he asks, exasperated, "You aren't going to change what you're doing. And if you did, if you stopped traveling all the time, you'd be as unhappy as I am now. This isn't working, and it's not going to work any better just by drawing it out even longer."

"I'm sorry, Sage," he says, holding her while she cries, "I didn't want it to be this way, but I don't know what else to do."

Challenge Notes:
I haven't had a Sim divorce since Sims 2, and I only ever did that once. So, partner one is gone, next up will be partner 2. Poor Jeremy. But at least now he gets to pursue his career in Science (his LTW). My career roll for first partner was None.
My roll for the second partner is Artist.

So, the little flirtation with Joffrey Lannister was totally autonomous. I know there are no autonomous flower giving mods out there, but I keep forgetting to download it. So, while Sage and he were on a 'group outing' to the park, he popped out the flowers and turned it into a date. And he hugged her. But that was the only romantic interaction. But as soon as Sage met him, she rolled a want to kiss him, and that wish kind of colored the whole scene for me.

Joffrey is a clone of Harris Landgraab from Brooklyn Heights, the evil Governor who had himself cloned. There will be more about that to come in future chapters.
A cookie for anyone who recognizes where the name Joffrey Lannister comes from. =D

I've had a few issues with adventures. One is it takes a few days before metals and gems start spawning. And many quests have parts that require turning in metals and gems. I've had to resort to buying them from the relic merchant rather than wait round for days for stuff to spawn.
In Egypt I had issues with the quests that require you to hack a certain computer. When I got to the computer, no actions were available. I mean, no actions at all, but it glowed like a quest item. So I was unable to complete them. 
I'm still keeping up with the Adventurer career despite setbacks.

Oh, I keep meaning to mention, Wane McMottder is an anagram of Ewan McDermott, my adventurer from my McDermott legacy. I had serious game issues that firced me to move neighborhoods during his generation, and I couldn't carry on with his career. He then moved on to the Author career, and I had him write non-fiction books about adventuring, like 'Traps and Triggers'.
Then, Becky came up with the Wane McMottder name, mentioning his books in her Archers of Barnacle Bay legacy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chapter 36: A Wide Variety of Gnomes

Sage and Jeremy arrive in Champs les Sims.

Their first stop is to the local market. Sage is amazed by the wide variety of garden gnomes on display.

Sage asks the shopkeeper if there are any old tombs in the neighborhood for her to explore.

He gives her a curious look and shrugs, "Eh, there is an old burial mound out behind the Nectary."

Jeremy really wanted to visit the art museum or the nectary, but he lets Sage drag him out to the old burial mound.

"Look," she says, pointing excitedly at the ground, "There's an entrance here."

"You don't really want to go down there...?"

"Of course I do!"

"I bet that's a hidden door behind that pile of rocks," Sage declares, setting to work on the obstruction with her pick axe, "Wane McMottder says hidden entrances or treasure are often buried under piles of rubble like this."

Sage turns out to be right, when the rubble is cleared, a door is exposed. Without hesitation, she walks in to the formerly sealed tomb.

"Wouldn't you rather be tasting nectar, or browsing through the museum?" Jeremy asks, knowing what he'd rather be doing, "This place is creepy. And dirty. And probably dangerous."

"This is what I've wanted to do since I was kid," Sage says, "We can visit the nectary and museum later."

Jeremy sighs, "Okay. If you don't mind, I'll go back to the market and wait for you. I'd probably just slow you down."

Sage promises she'll only be a few hours exploring the old tomb and she'll meet him at the cafe for dinner.

When she discovers the skeleton behind a hidden door, she's glad Jeremy isn't here to be freaked out by it.

Jeremy shopped in the market, picking up some books at the bookstore and buying a few trinkets from the general store. Night fell and he finally had hid dinner alone in the cafe.

As the market square emptied, he went back to the hostel to wait for her, reading his books until after midnight, when he finally gave up waiting and went to bed.

Sage completely lost track of time while exploring and looting the old tomb. She feels just like her hero, Wane McMottder.

She doesn't realize how late it is until she gets back to the hostel at 2am. She slips quietly into bed with Jeremy, not wanting to wake him.

"I was worried about you," Jeremy says when he wakes in the morning to find her with  him.

"I'm sorry I missed dinner with you," she says, "Let me make it up to you."

After they finally get out of bed, they go to the cafe for breakfast. while Jeremy is finishing his meal, Sage drops by the relics shop to talk to the merchant about her recent acquisitions.

"You got these from the old burial mound?" Andre Lefebvre asks, perusing her old vases and broken pottery shards, "People are always digging up little treasures around there, but no one has actually entered the tomb. Some of these pieces are worthy of display in the museum. I would know, as I am the curator there." After they haggle over prices, Lefebvre finally makes her an offer she's happy with. He looks her over a minute before continuing, "We are having some issues at the museum, strange sounds coming from the basement. From behind the walls in the basement. No one can figure what is making the sounds. Maybe you could find a way behind the walls and investigate?"

Sage agrees to take the job.

"Don't try to steal anything," he warns, "Everything is catalogued in detail, I will know if anything is missing."

Jeremy finally gets to visit the museum.

"I have to investigate something in the basement," Sage tells him, "Look around for awhile while I'm working. If I'm not back in an hour, don't wait for me here, go to the Nectary of whatever you like, and I'll meet you back at the hostel later."

"This isn't much of a vacation for you," Jeremy protests.

"This is exactly what I want in a vacation. but I don't want to spoil yours, so have a good time while I'm busy," Sage answers with a smile, not understanding that Jeremy's disappointment comes from her absence, not from boredom.

Jeremy does as she suggests, and visits the nectary, where he tries his hand, or feet as it were, at nectar making.

He tastes some of the fine aged nectars.

And spends the evening fishing in the river near the hostel.

Sage discovered a large network of sealed chambers beneath the museum basement, and after much exploring, and looting of objects that couldn't possibly be catalogued, she finally discovered the remains of a long dead curator who had been trapped here and was now haunting the museum. By returning his remains to his family crypt, Sage appeased the ghost and solved the mystery of the strange noises in the museum.

This time she makes it back to Jeremy before midnight.

Their plane is leaving soon. Jeremy had wanted to propose at some suitably romantic moment in their vacation, but no such moment occurred, since they spent so much of their trip apart. So after their breakfast in the hostel kitchen, Jeremy gets on his knee, and fumbling clumsily with the ring box, proposes. Sage happily accepts.

When they arrive home, Jeremy giddily tells the news of their engagement to his future mother-in-law.

Scout greets Sage with a big doggy hug.

Following her family tradition, Sage gets a tattoo, a small design on her wrist.

Sage and Jeremy opt for a private wedding. Getting their two large extended families together for a party would take too long, and Jeremy is eager to make it official.

Very shortly after their return, Sage finds that she's pregnant. Jeremy is so excited, he puts off starting his new job so he can be with Sage continuously through her pregnancy.

"You're reading 'Totally Preggers'," Kelsey observes.

"Yeah," Sage sighs.

"And, are you? Totally preggers?"

"Yeah," Sage sighs again.

"You don't seem happy about it," her mother says.

"I did want to have children...someday. But this is so sudden. And I was planning to go to China right when we got back from France. Now I'm stuck here."

Kelsey knows how she feels. But while Kelsey had chosen to set aside her dreams of travel to raise her unexpected children, she fears her daughter takes after Chayton more than herself and might not be able to turn away from a life on the road.