Edelweiss Wolff and her mobile phone had a love-hate relationship.
Okay, it was mostly hate.
Edelweiss mashed the predictive text selection panel over and over again with her finger until the text window was good and full and hit Send, as though she were somehow winning by submitting the garbled message to transmission.
Her daughter Freesia’s phone vibrated at the other end of the house.
“What’s so funny?” Freesia’s friend Ace wondered.
“Mom’s fighting with her phone again.”
Freesia showed Ace the recent conversation history, which was full of much of the same with the occasional weird photo thrown in.
“Haha..” he laughed, “I like the accidental selfie.”
“Hahaha! My mom is a freak!”
Freesia’s sister Forsythia joined their chat. With just a few days of high school left for the twins, the kids had been making a concerted last-ditch effort to bring their grades up. Forsythia had taken it upon herself to act as homework ringleader, if you will – rounding up nearby minors and whipping them into performing in her studious circus.
“Homework time, kids!” Forsythia announced. “Chop chop.”
“Ugh,” groaned Freesia.
Ace took the opportunity to excuse himself. “I’ve got to go check on my dad – I’ll come by later?”
“Sure, deserter – quit the field!” Freesia teased.
“Hey, I’m going to a damned bunker, Sarge!” he laughed.
. . .
Despite the grumbling, these group homework sessions were already having an impact. Fennel had a strong A grade, Forsythia had a B, and Freesia’d brought her own D- up to a C+.
“He’s cute,” Forsythia commented.
“Do you want his number?” Freesia retorted.
“I’m just saying,” Forsythia went on, “if I weren’t so much older you’d have some serious competition on your hands.”
“Don’t be gross.” Freesia balked.
“Oh – so you do like him!”
“Shut up. God.”
They finished the extra-credit assignment just in time for Forsythia to run off to work.
Freesia was feeling a bit peckish so she thought she’d make herself something to eat. Not having much cooking skill to speak of, she went for her favorite easy-to-prepare meal: some fancy oatmeal.
The doorbell rang just as her food was ready.
Wow, she thought, he’s back already.
Freesia was expecting a friend at the door, but found an enemy: it was her brother’s sleazy buddy, Chester.
“Oh Lord,” she moaned. “Not you again.”
“Hello, Beautiful,” he grinned.
As was the norm with Chester, he showed up feeling Flirty. Following her into the kitchen, he lined up the unwanted advances and started lobbing them at Freesia, who deflected them with a certain natural flair.
“That’s funny,” she scoffed, “’cause from here they look like itsy bitsy rubber bands, flapping in the wind that comes out of your mouth.”
Chester started ranting incoherently; it was how their conversations usually ended. Freesia got up from her chair and went back for her food. But the microwave was empty.
“Did you take my plumming oatmeal?!” she snarled at him.
Chester didn’t visibly have Freesia’s bowl of oatmeal, but she was sure he had something to do with its disappearance.
Until Fennel moseyed in from the table.
“Dude. Is that my oatmeal??”
“I guess,” Fennel shrugged.
“What’s the big deal?” Fennel asked. “Just make some more.”
It doesn’t take much to set off poor Hot-Headed Freesia. But being tired, hungry, and insulted was enough for her to become fully enraged.
Fennel and Chester had the good sense to vacate the kitchen, but not until Freesia’d had a chance to fully express her disgust.
“I can’t believe you,” she said.
“Don’t ever speak to me again — no, don’t even look at me.”
. . .
Much later that evening, after the others had gone to bed, Ace finally made it back by. He found a strangely quiet Freesia waiting up for him.
They stood a while without a word.
“Are you staring at my boobs?” Ace joked.
But there was no witty comeback from his fiery friend.
“Today sucked,” she said flatly.
“Aw, c’mere.” Ace offered himself up for a sacrificial hugging.
Freesia Wolff and Ace Sloan had just finished one of their impromptu roleplay sessions at the local bakery.
“We just needed more time,” Ace said.
“For a zombie and a smuggler?” Freesia scoffed. “Like that’s ever gonna work – that fight’ll always be over quick.”
“It could work,” Ace protested. “And not everything needs to be a fight all the time.”
To illustrate, Ace tried to “eat” Freesia’s brain in a quizzical, friendly manner.
“Not gonna happen, bub. I have lightning-fast smuggler reflexes and I need my brain to pilot the ship.”
Freesia jabbed playfully at Ace’s zombie face.
“OW!” he yelped.
“I’m so sorry.” Freesia said pitifully. “Does it hurt?”
“GOTCHA!” he yelled. “Zombie beats smuggler!”
“You cheating undead ass!!”
. . .
To the pack of teens that lived in the Wolff house, it probably seemed like youth would last forever. But their father Malcolm was feeling his years.
“This is it,” he thought as he struggled to fill out his daily reports. “This is all there is. I’m just going to keep going to work every day until I come home one evening and keel over on the sidewalk.“
Since he quit his sweet gig as Ede’s Life Coach, Malcolm had been slowly working through a personal goal to earn 200,000 simoleons. He was at $93,877.
“Not even halfway,” he sighed. “There’s a depressing thought!”
He’d joined the Business career and managed to work midway up the corporate ladder to Regional Manager. But promotions were few and far-between these days, and the tedium was driving him mad.
“Well, at least one of the kids will probably drag my corpse onto the lawn and bury me in the backyard,” he fantasized aloud as his wife Edelweiss walked in.
“And then you can claw your way back out and eat some brains?” she asked.
“Hey,” he said. “I’m sorry, it’s just.. This job. It seems to be going nowhere, but we need the money.”
Ede paused for a moment in hopes of collecting sufficient tact before opening her mouth. She hadn’t quite perfected that skill yet.
“I don’t mean to tell you what to do, my sweet,” she began, “but we don’t actually need the money. And if for some reason you do, there’s plenty that can be done with the estate to generate capital. You’re Creative – use it.”
“You think I should quit,” he observed.
“Well, you’re miserable, so yeah,” she said. “You don’t need to hang onto a lousy job to make money. We have resources – hell, we have enough crap in storage to build Newcrest ourselves.”
Malcolm seemed to be seriously considering what she said, but his face went from hopeful to despondent with the changing of the clock. It was time to leave for work – the narrow window for imagining possibilities had closed for the day.
Ede pulled her husband into an embrace before she lost him to corporate drudgery for another day.
“I know you have to go now,” she said gently. “Just think about it, ok?”
[This is part of the #wheresfree collab – more info here.]
Ace Sloan hadn’t meant to leave Free-Jon alone at the park for so long, but his mom had some interesting news concerning the whereabouts of a certain Emelia Johnson. As soon as he finished the call, Ace collected his newly chicken-hatted friend and brought him back to his house for a long-overdue reunion.
“Em? Is it really you?”
“Free! Where have you been?! Are you okay?” Emelia asked, worried and relieved all at once.
“Em, something went really wrong! Why are we old??” he demanded to know.
“And why isn’t your hair grey like mine?” he added before she could answer.
Emelia shrugged. “I dunno. Good genes? But listen, we–”
“I was naked when we got here, too. Were you naked? That doesn’t make sense!”
“I wasn’t, but, I’m pretty sure the player of this world is a Geek; maybe she was trying to make a Terminator joke.”
Free-Jon didn’t get it.
“You know, The Terminator? Big scary robot-man travels through time naked to assassinate someone’s mom?”
“But then this other naked guy shows up, and he’s all ‘Come with me if you want to live!’ ” Emelia chuckled. “Don’t worry, Free. It’s just a movie.”
“Oh god,” Emelia realized, “She gave me Geek as my adult trait.”
“No matter,” Emelia continued, half to herself. “We’re going to have to use the Time/Space Thingy to get back. I do have it, which is kinda weird because Amina should have it – where is she, anyway? – And of course it’s broken, but Reagan says that her son can fix it for us.. I mean, I haven’t actually met him – he might be, like, eight or something.. You know, we should probably just hurry up before the writing gets any worse.”
But Free-Jon wasn’t hearing a darn thing she said anyway.
“Aw, Free – I’m sorry,” Emelia paused. “What’s on your mind?”
“I want to see my cousins.”
“About that. Free – while we’re stranded here, we should try not to draw attention to ourselves. You’ve only ever been a child, but I’ve been older before and I’ve traveled a lot, and I can tell you for sure that most adults don’t have the same, uh, flexibility of imagination that kids have. If you stray too far from local expectations, things can go very wrong. We’re gonna have to act somewhat normal, and we shouldn’t tell people who we really are – not here.”
“What is normal, anyway?” Free-Jon balked. “The one thing I haven’t wanted to be when I grow up!”
“Look,” Emelia sighed, “I know it isn’t fair, but we are grown up on the outside – and we need to try to play along. If you can do that just a little bit longer, I promise we’ll get you your cousin party before we leave.”
. . . .
Ace waited outside for a bit to give his guests time to get caught up. His tiny house could only hold so much enthusiasm before it became painfully obvious just how little square footage there actually was in there.
Better to give them a little privacy anyway, he thought.
“There he is,” said a female voice.
Ace sputtered for a moment. His friend Freesia just laughed.
“Dude, where were you today?” she asked. “I went to freakin’ school because I thought maybe you forgot how much it sucked and decided to show up.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Something came up. Something important.”
“Like you having an old-people convention in your kitchen slash living room?”
“Heh. Something like that.”
“You want me to go?” she asked seriously. “I can come ba–”
“Stay. It won’t take long.”
. . . .
Four hours later, and they were still at it.
“That’s why the Thingy doesn’t recognize me,” Emelia said.
“Right,” Ace said. “I mean, as a Sim your coding seems to be fairly intact – but all those experiences you’ve had since you started traveling must have added enough variables that the original Emelia got kind of.. spread out.”
“What about my coding?” Free Jon asked. “I mean, my outfits were all empty again this morning.”
“Huh,” said Emelia. “I wonder if that has to do with the lack of reference material on older forms of you.”
“Cas.fulleditmode glitch,” Ace said.
“Hey – there’s game awareness, and there’s immersion-breaking game awareness!” Emelia snort-laughed.
“Sorry,” said Ace, slightly embarrassed.
Emelia cleared her throat. “So, uh..”
Ace recovered. “You should be okay, Free-Jon. Once you two get back and synchronize with your local selves, the problem should resolve itself.”
“So everything is good again?? We can see my cousins now?”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Emelia cautioned. “It’s not like we can just stroll into some community lot and host an ice cream social.”
Finally someone said something interesting, Freesia thought.
. . . .
With Reagan home from work, it was standing room only at the Sloans’. Conversation was boisterous and the lights were all on — if one were wandering the streets looking for signs of life, they’d certainly find her house difficult to miss.
Which was, perhaps, why it didn’t surprise her all that much when another visitor showed up.
Reagan got to the door before he could knock, and stepped outside to greet him.
“Wrong turn at Albuquerque?” she asked.
Geoffrey Landgraab snorted. “No. Well, perhaps. May I come in?”
“I was trying to remember where I was going, and I just followed the clearest path,” he apologized. “I’m not sure why it lead here.”
“It’s alright,” she smiled, “I’m getting used to it.”
. . . .
“Why is there a Geoffrey Landgraab here?” Emelia asked Ace in a whisper. “Your Landgraabs died out generations ago. You don’t think we opened some kind of wormhole between d’Angers and.. ”
“You didn’t,” said Ace quietly. “That’s been there for a while now. Our Player leaves the porch light on.”
“More like she won’t leave the poor guy alone,” added Freesia at full volume.
Emelia resisted temptation to join in as the others had a good chuckle at the local Player’s expense.
“Anyway, I don’t want to freak anyone out,” Emelia said gently, “but I do have some experience with this and if I didn’t know better, I’d say your player is losing interest in this Legacy. You should probably do something to guard against distractions.”
. . . .
At the perimeter of the room, Geoffrey Landgraab in the blue shirt hung back. His memories were still fuzzy, but comparing the state of things here to what he knew of the law of averages, the place he’d just come from couldn’t possibly have been more messed-up than this.
It’s like some kind of brainy Lord of the Flies over here, he marveled with a measure of dread.
This woman Reagan seemed ok, at least. She had offered Geoffrey some tea. There was a certain familiarity to her and she had a warm, calm presence that put him at ease.
“Shall we?” she asked, holding the screen door open.
“Might as well,” he said as he followed her out to the patio.
. . . .
“Consider this,” Emelia expanded on what she’d been saying before, “Free and I have been here less than 48 hours and already your Player has broken Pinstar’s 9th rule of gameplay just to accommodate us.”
“Oh, she does that all the time.” Freesia said. “But she never tampers with Legacy relationships or anything.”
“And how do you account for the huge gaps between updates?” Emelia asked. “I mean, Meggles, her contemporary, has already finished her Legacy and started an Amazon Challenge — and you guys are still stuck on generation 5.”
“Oh yeah!” said Freesia, “I read that one! Man, that part where she abandons her status and leaves her betrothed at swordpoint to go start her own clan? — Lady Suzu is badass!”
Emelia chuckled while Ace shot her a concerned look.
“Look,” Freesia addressed Emelia, “I know you wanna go, and I appreciate the heads-up about our Player or whatever. But somebody promised hat-boy here a party.”
Emelia sighed. She was right, plum it.
“One more day won’t kill anyone. And your identities will be safe,” Freesia insisted. “Me and Ace have done this a million times. It’ll be fun. And after that you two can go your merry way, and we’ll get back to being boring and Legacyish. Ok?”
Emelia didn’t say no.
“It’s settled then,” said Ace. “Now, let’s see that Time/Space Thingy.”