Duncan Avocado had prepared and was about to teleport into the center of the Gaston sim when he looked at the map. Someone was already there in that Central Park at 128/128. Never seen that before. He teleports in at a safe distance and remote checks… another black man!
Who was he waiting on, if anyone? Was this a potential ally or foe? Could it possibly be someone investigating prison corruption in the sim like himself? Another dancer Sugar sent in, perhaps to taunt him? Speculation goes many directions. But his presence is real. He better lay off Gaston involvement and send another avatar from the core over here. Or, better, just use another core…
What a mess.
The time to act is now, he then thinks. “I must do what I planned to do. Tonight.”
“So we’re at the couch now, Mr. Babyface. Do you know who the ring is yet? 450,000 lindens worth of the ultimate 500,000 remain to be paid out. Do you want to be a wealthy man or a poor man, Mr. Face?
What’s this precocious child’s end game? he wondered while puffing rapidly on his pipe. Red Dragon, mmm. So soothing. But, Collagesity to Middletown — it really happened! She really did it. “Wealthy, I suppose,” he then answers.
“Then find Leona and her village full of mechanoid people at the hilltop lakes with the lone star shaped swimming pool and ask for Flo. And also: go *with* the flow. Synchronicity.”
“All right.” He was trying to keep up with her pace, or at least pretend to.
“(And) take Greg Ogden with you. That’s her husband after all. Good cover for you as well.”
“Didn’t know that fact. But: will do. I’ll take Red Boy.”
In fact, Mr. Babyface and Greg Ogden had become quite close during their stay in the Kidd Tower. A common heating system can sometimes bring people together.
He was staying with Thimble these days, another dancer. Not that their relationship was all that serious of a thing to him — when was it? — but her second floor apartment’s view toward the Gaston-Berry Police Station put her top shelf over the other Berries.
And, yeah, The Berries really dug Duncan. He was different, unique. No, I’m not really talking about his singular status as a male African-American in Sugar’s employment. It’s just that they could see the inner boy within, the core innocence, unruined — unlike the case with about all of them. It attracted these kind of women like flies unto maple syrup.
But tonight we flip sides of the record. He had to dance for a dude. Alright, cool, cool, he said to himself when learning about the assignment. It’s all for the art form — good to keep practicing and staying limber. And he gets to keep all his clothes on; no funny stuff there. Sugar said the guy also requested that he doesn’t look at him. “Just focus on the dancing,” she ordered. “Don’t make eye contact. Just interact with him in as minimal a manner as you can get away with. He’s probably self conscious because of the damage to his face. I don’t know what happened to him — don’t really care. He paid good money and that all I need to know. And you too.”
Midway through his first sequence, the bleached face man spoke. “You don’t even know who I am, do you?” But Duncan kept to his routine per Sugar’s instructions and didn’t answer.
“I see you out there Georgie Porgie!” screeched Sugar Dumpling from the rickety pier. “You can’t run away from me! None of them will work. I made *sure* of that!”
George Duncan gives up finding a functioning sim skipper for the day. Maybe forever. He might as well go back into town and enjoy the advantages of being grown up, pheh. What he understood of it. Only in his Abbey was it safe to be himself. A boy of 10 to 13 and back to 10 in an endless loop. Sometimes he glimpsed 18 on sunnier days.
But there was another way out, he knew, impossible as it sounded. Find Jacob I. and bring him home to Gaston. Back to his Sugar Dumpling. Then he would be set free… and only then. It seems I simply have to give it a try, he thought to himself while clambering out of the boat and exhaling loudly. I can’t go on with this. And I feel I don’t have a lot of time left before The End; the Abbey will ultimately be found out and then cease to exist. Like a bug extinguished with a magnifying glass.
“Get back to your apartment and do some real work for a change!”
“A sim skipper you say?” George states, looking out at the boat moored in the small harbor beyond the broken windows.
“Yeah. That Joint Joint appears to be part of a regional chain from the looks of it. We must be close. That’s where you’re from. But my current theory is that you’ll be grown up there. You won’t be the same as here.”
George stands up, makes a proclamation. “Then let’s not ever go. It’s nice here. There’s the Joint Joint, like you said.”
“It’s better than I originally thought,” admits Billy Jean Kidd, speaking about the town they’re in. “But this is not really Hana Lei. This is not where Marion’s high priced pot is. High Money Pot. The bee fell into the collage for a reason. We must find the bee and bring him home. It may take, um, several novels.”
“Novels?” queries the boy.”
“Wish I knew how the heck to start this old, beat up sim skipper,” spoke Duncan Avacado across the sea with a sense of urgency. “I’ve got to get to those kids before they get to me!”
When it got dark enough, Tonya Two Egg’s two egg shaped eyes “turned on”. She’d had this ability since infancy, according to family members. It also gave her special vision to see things that weren’t *quite* there in reality but actually really were still.
Like Marion here, crashed out on top of the couch formerly occupied by Harry. Uncle Harry he insisted she call him at the end of their conversation, which was refused by the wise child. Just because he was one of a *number* of suitors strung along by her 18 year old sister Anorexia — Annie — doesn’t give him that privilege. She had only one uncle she knew of: Dick. And he had moved away when she was 8 to distant Mimosa (so they said), several years after Arale had been constructed. And not too long after the mysterious disappearance of her parents. Couldn’t be coincidence, she had concluded while pondering the odd conjunction down through the years now. Dick must have known the whereabouts of Ruth and Benjamin. And then there was also James and Fuschia, Billy and Donovan, Jackie and Ona. And the strangely cool yet confusing Sis brothers. All flesh and blood family members. All gobbled up by an unknown force between the times of June 2010 and October 2013, she’d decided. She even had a name for it now: JERRY. All caps. Tonya Two Egg was bound and determined to uncover the nature of this, in her eyes, malefic entity.
13 Annie was at the time. *Just* old enough to act as their legal guardian under Horizons laws of the day. Upheld during a 2015 hearing involving 23 such guardians under the age of 18 — grandfathering in the old law the judge had called it. And now she herself would be 13 in 2 weeks, old enough to be on her own according to the same exemption. And Arale too — they could move. She was already secretly scouting out locations away from the prying eyes of her older sister. The ice fishing shack near their house acted as a dream portal.
Arale was so excited for her sister… was planning a big birthday ta-do, which Tonya Two Egg had discouraged but also had become resigned to participate in. Cousin Rufus was flying in from Mobile, Alabama. Ted and Jemima from Jacksonville City. Bob and Wanda — little Utah village of Indiana County in Pennsylvania. Never mind that these were more robots created by her own robot, and that, outside of Annie, no one knew the whereabouts of any of her real family. Mechanoids were her true kindred spirits now. Tonya Two Egg has even pondered that she herself may be a very well made robot sent back to our present from the future.
And this turns out to be spot-on truth.
Marion Harding sees those red and greenish lights above him again, but in a different location.
And he’s wasted as hell from the pot recently purchased from drug lord Santa God at The Octopus Ink.
“Who *are* you guys??”
“So we need to talk, Harry,” spoke Tonya Two Egg to the bleached face man sitting across from her. “About Annie. About a lot of stuff.”
“It’s not safe here,” he replied, then glances over at the giant bong to his right.
But no one was there.
The sim changes the man in this case. Or makes a boy into a man, as it were.
And not being 13 certainly had its advantages.
“I wonder what’s behind the starred man on the striped couch?” asks Hucka Doobie about the most recently hung Bodega Gallery collage, killing some time while waiting for The Table meeting to start over at the Blue Feather.
From behind, thought-to-be friend Tammy Whatammy then pushes the bee person *into this collage*…
Maurey “Jiff” Monroe, the Gaston-Berry Police Station staff psychiatrist, wanted it plain and simple today. “Well, Tom Casey. Or, if you prefer it, Casey One Hole.”
“I do.” Casey was ever the method actor.
“Let’s talk about motives. Why would you kill a beloved Collagesity bartender with one deadly swipe of your metallic Wilson driver?”
“He had information he wasn’t providing for me. I hate… dislike people who don’t give me the information I want to complete my mission of…” He paused.
“Yes,” Jiff proclaimed, seeing an immediate weakness. “Tell me about this mission. Hopefully it at least serves free gravy to the poor.” He attempts a weak smile which, of course, wasn’t returned.
“I’m looking for someone.”
By now, George was back in his secret hiding place, listening in. His abbey as he called it. I had been stupid to walk the road today, he vilified himself.
“I did what you told me Casey One Hole. I befriended the bee person and got the scoop on Hunt. It has started.”
“You are my eyes, ears, throat in Collagesity now, Tammy Whatammy. Furry Karl was a much loved figure. Don’t let me down.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he continues in his robotic, emotionless manner, “I must return to my dream of playing golf on the back nine of my course. I’m about to tee up on the 17th. I think an 8 iron will do it this round for yet another hole in one. I’m feeling more energetic all the time.”
He turns to his left. “Who is that starred man on the striped couch outside, Tammy? Did he come with you?”