Chapter 8.18 – Gamble

The city of Bridgeport was definitely not on Luke’s “must visit” list.
If anything, he’d made a point of avoiding places were there are more sims per acre, than trees. Circumstances, however, have required some kind of action on his part, as fallout from erasing the algorithm continues to build. Luke is certain that military brass suspect his involvement. But given that he was somehow whisked away to a strange meeting with Moira, then deposited back home, there is absolutely no substantial proof linking him to the incident.
Still, Luke had been promptly discharged from active duty with no explanation. He was given a dire warning about trespassing anywhere near Fort Gnome, however. Losing his job might be a blow to his ego. But it is meaningless in the larger scope of things. The real problem is Anna. She was captured by military police, and has been incarcerated ever since. His efforts to speak with her have failed; even after sending Makayla inside to apply legal leverage. But unfortunately, civilian and military laws are two entirely different things.
Anna had come to him asking for help. And he is not about to give up on her. If money and prestige hold sway anywhere, it is in the realm of politics. So, after placing a quick phone call to a senator who maintains deep connections to his grandparents, Luke finds the first flight available. Politicking is not a game he enjoys playing. Honestly, it reminds him too much of Sandi and her father. Just that situation alone is more trouble than he is prepared to fight. But with Buford and the algorithm seemingly materializing from out of nowhere, it makes him wonder what other enemies might still be lurking.
Throwing simoleons at a problem is not the way Luke prefers to do business. This situation calls for drastic measures, however, and he sees no other reasonable option. The senator is both clueless and disinterested in who “Anna” is or why she is being incarcerated. After a very sizable contribution to the senator’s campaign fund, and a conference call with top brass, Luke is satisfied with the assurance that Anna will be released while an investigation into “trespassing” is conducted. Then, before the schmoozing begins, Luke respectfully reminds the overly-friendly politician that the check has already been written, and there is no need to make a sales pitch.
He leaves the office suite feeling comparatively happy, but also like he needs to take a shower. There are sims who would question the ethics of what he has just done. And normally he’d count himself to be among them. Unfortunately, Anna had no comprehension of what she was getting herself into; other than perhaps taking Luke where he shoudn’t have been. And as things stand, she’s in a precarious position of becoming the “fall guy”.
As he walks through he lobby of Bridgeport’s government building, some little inkling in the back of Luke’s mind recognises a voice among the sea of sims bustling around him. Despite already suffering the feeling of being closed in, Luke stops to take a look around. During his trip to China, he had dreamt a very vivid dream about a young woman named Ying. There is not much he remembers about Ying, other than the non-existent night they shared together. But he does remember one thing. She told him that his and Sandi’s fates were woven together. That she should be here now, seems more like outrageous luck than coincidence.
Luke finally spots Sandi, who is engaged in a heated discussion with fellow politicians about protecting some kind of llama-fly habitat. He calmly approaches her, just as the group breaks up. As Sandi turns to leave the building, she finally takes notice of him. By this time, he is just a short distance away. Her expression immediately tells him that she has been caught completely off guard. Forgetting about the summons, the argument, and the demonic father, Luke smiles a warm smile and greets her like he would any old friend.
Sandi quickly (and coldly) turns down an invitation to have lunch with him. Still, he can sense that some some part of her wants to accept the invitation. Or is it just wishful thinking? Luke watches as Sandi frantically storms from the building. Regardless of his one-time girlfriend’s feelings for him now, she should at least know the truth about her father. And the opportunity has just presented itself in a rather interesting way. In Sandi’s world, money talks. So Luke picks up the phone makes another call to his new senator friend, asking what he knows about llama-flies.
When Sandi shows up for dinner and sees Luke sitting with the senator, she sets her jaw and appears ready to turn around and walk right back through the door. But Luke is quick enough to point her out to his companion. With another huge donation riding on his efforts to to help the poor llama-flies, Sandi had absolutely no chance of ever leaving the building.
Luke sits silently though the excruciating details, posturing, and doublespeak that consumes their dinner conversation. By the end of it, Luke is sure that nothing of value was actually said. All he knows for sure, is that there are some very wealthy insects. Sandi has telegraphed through body language, her outrage about having been set up. It is also clear that the senator has sensed the awkwardness between Luke and Sandi, and seems particularly unhappy about being used as a decoy to stage some kind of dinner date.
Luke has no sympathy whatsoever for the discomfort felt by either of his dinner companions. They’ve likely perpetrated countless scenarios just like this one; it’s just part of the job. But if his hunch is wrong, Luke could come out of this with egg on his face (and an apology owed both to his grandparents and the senator). Luke is pretty sure he’s not wrong, however. Sandi’s father had tried to kill him once, already. And now that Luke has ventured away from Sunset Valley again, there’s no doubt he’ll make another attempt. Ordinarily, a sim takes precautions to avoid violence and possible death. In this case, Luke wants to make the job look easy. He had booked the flight back to Sunset Valley and ordered to have a taxi waiting for him after dinner to take him to the airport; narrowing the window of opportunity. Luke understands that he is playing with fire, and that his gamble could turn into a disaster. He thinks back to Moira’s mistake, and wonders if his odds of winning are worth the wager.
Once the deal is sealed, and the second large check written, the senator excuses himself to speak with another fellow politician who had just entered. Sandi immediately glares at Luke and asks through gritted teeth what kind of game he is playing with her. Luke leans forward and expresses soberly that he is not playing a game. The truth is, he’s in trouble, and he needs her help. Sandi eyes him suspiciously, but listens. Luke explains that he doesn’t want to talk about it in the restaurant, but if she would ride with him to the airport, he’ll explain everything.
Sandi’s phone rings before she can give him a response. A frantic voice on the other end of the call shouts excitedly while Sandi nods and quickly writes down an address. Without looking at Luke she begins to collect her things and readies herself to leave. Luke says her name firmly, but gently, reminding her that she has not answered him. Still not wanting to look at him, she stammers, saying something important has just come up and she cannot go with him.
Luke stands, reaches out for her hand and asks for just twenty minutes. Sandi’s determination begins to melt after feeling his touch again. She finds his eyes and starts to shake her head, but Luke reminds her about the night she trusted him enough to sleep over. He didn’t try to trick her, or lead her into doing something she wasn’t ready for. After a moment, he repeats firmly, that all he needs is twenty minutes.
Luke’s grandparents had learned some neat tricks for dodging paparazzi. Whenever they were forced to use a taxi, they would ask the driver to take them to a service entrance. They typically don’t make for very good photo ops. But more important to the immediate situation, they provide plenty of cover. Oddly enough, Sandi has become a much higher profile celebrity than Luke, and she expresses some guarded measure of thanks for giving her the tip. Being captured on film with one of the “giants” she has sworn to slay would be very difficult to explain away.
Luke had chosen to utilize the airport maintenance dock for a different reason, however. They do not have to walk very far before Luke senses that same, sinister presence he had felt in China. He tenses up immediately while Sandi checks her watch. She arrogantly clears her throat and informs Luke that he has five minutes remaining. Luke smiles a nervous, competitive smile when he spots a figure hiding in the shadows. His voice echoes throughout enclosed loading dock, inviting Sandi’s father to take his best shot. Sandi looks at Luke with a confused, almost betrayed expression.
Luke follows the figure with his eyes as the shadowy form moves to find a clear shot. Luke moves in kind, making sure that both he and Sandi have plenty of cover. After several minutes of this, Luke taunts his hidden, would-be assassin, explaining that he is running out of time. Soon, he will board the plane back to Sunset Valley and then his opportunity will be lost… AGAIN.
An angry voice growls for Sandi to move out of the way. Her recognition registers instantly, and Luke smiles. He knows immediately he has won.
Her confused and betrayed expression intensifies, and she quietly calls out to her father… Dad? What are YOU doing here? Sandi’s father repeats his command, swearing that he’ll shoot her too, if necessary. Sandi stammers, and demands to know what is going on and why is he talking about shooting them?
Sandi had once told Luke about her father’s bad habit of going into a lecturing diatribe whenever she disobeyed him. He knew it was coming, he just didn’t know when. Her father begins to shout his disapproval for her continued failures at making significant progress in changing Sunset Valley. His vision will never become reality if she doesn’t learn to stop asking questions and do what she is told to do. She must stick with the agenda and find others who likewise follow her without question. THAT is how nations are conquered; through ideological warfare, not weapons of destruction.
Luke uses the opportunity of distraction to stealthily move his way into a position conducive to taking out his attacker. As Sandi’s father continues his outraged admonishment, Luke can see that he has begun to panic, having lost track of his target. He steps into one of the dim overhead lights to confront his wayward daughter. Anxiety builds on his sinister face, and he begins to tremble and spit. Sandi’s mother also refused to see the truth, …and look what happened to her. Sandi’s eyes open wide with shock, as she puts together for the first time, the understanding that her mother had been murdered.
Before he can lift his weapon and use his daughter as an expendable tool to flush out his target, Luke strikes. Only this time, a chilling and gut-wrenching cry of agony accompanies the crushing maneuver; which lands with crippling and bone-breaking results.
An hour, perhaps more, has passed. Sandi had purchased a ticket on Luke’s flight home, and they are very likely already gushing all manner of disgusting affection over each other. To make matters worse, it is also very likely that Sandi has already …apologized.
Corwin approaches the so-called man who has failed on too many occasions. The agonizing pain he’s endured as a result of his injury is payment enough for this failure – for now. Since healing is not a word that exists in Corwin’s vocabulary, the ghost haphazardly repairs ruined bones inside the body of his pathetic failure of a henchman.
When he stands, he cowers before the angry ghost… no.. worse than a ghost; far worse. No words need to be spoken for him to understand that the cost of another failure will make death seem desirable. But this is far from over.
There is still one more opportunity that even the Barimen brat does not suspect; and this time he will not fail.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 8.18 – Gamble

  1. Weee! Sandi and Luke made up! 😀 Are they going to save Anna together? Are they are they?
    😮 surprise by going into Bridgeport! I miss that city so much. It’d be a great town if there were more room for lots.
    Corwin’s grave needs to be “accidentally lost” >=P


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