Part 6 – finished with heroics

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Governor Alfonzo Taxmoore, Esquire considers himself to be a patient man. Redirecting his newly hired assistant has provided plenty opportunity for him to explore whether or not this assertation holds true.

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He had met the young woman while visiting Isla Paradiso on a fundraising engagement. She was his masseuse at the spa and he became immediately and completely enthralled with the young and beautiful island girl; to the point where he required her services on his personal staff. He was unprepared for her sharp wit and strong will, however. It became evident rather quickly that her skills could be leveraged for more than just physical therapy. She may require some polish and grooming before hitting the campaign trail. But if she’s willing to cooperate and play the game by his rules, she’ll go very far under his political tutelage.

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The situation on Isla Paradiso has become ripe for a massive progressive push. A number of his contemporaries have already scored great successes mobilizing the island’s youth toward social reformation. Political reform will require a more delicate touch, however. Many of the locals are resentful. This is where his skill set is best put to use. Resentment can be a very powerful weapon if wielded properly and directed toward strategically vulnerable targets. Right now, the Isla Paradiso church is what stands between him and his political goals. Its teachings are incompatible with his modernist vision of a perfect Sim Nation and its influence must, therefore, be dismantled.

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He needs a new church on the island. One that does not marginalize its residents by worshiping ancient, white men or perpetuating the privilege enjoyed by their modern counterparts. Instead, they must focus on celebrating the power of self-determination. They must be taught to take what is owed to them. It is his responsibility to secure the emancipation of the people from their shackles of doctrine. The new church’s message must be clear, progressive, empowering, and overwhelmingly positive; actual faith notwithstanding. If all goes well (and it will), his new assistant will become key in making his vision a reality.

chap5rule

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For once, Van is thankful for the cheap plumbing installed in his bathroom. Taking cold showers is never enjoyable, but he finds it to be a much-needed distraction away from Skyler. She had crawled into his bed very early this morning. He woke up to find her in a freakishly deep sleep, completely undressed, and cuddling closely. He thought for sure that removing himself from her vice-grip would have awoken her, but she didn’t miss a snore.

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There are times, like this morning when Van feels the arrangement with Skyler just isn’t working out. He’s asked her repeatedly to wear clothes if she wants to sleep in his bed. It’s typically a roll of the dice with that issue. Some mornings she’s wearing night clothes, other mornings she’s wearing nothing at all.  His biggest complaint is that she’s somehow unable to speak more than two sentences without resorting to some kind of crude vulgarity. He’s as warm-blooded as any young guy, and she’s as gorgeous as any woman he’d ever seen. But Skyler’s filthy language and raunchy demeanor is a complete turn off for him. In a sense, she’s the antipodal Benita.

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To confuse the issue, there is a contrasting aspect of her personality he really enjoys having around. She is prone to random and unexpected fits of generosity and kindness. They always happen at the right times, forcing him to look past her flaws. Inexplicably, he discovers one such instance while looking into breakfast. When Van went to bed last night, there was nothing in the house to eat except some dry, overcooked fish. Not looking forward to it, but needing to eat nonetheless, he enters the kitchen to find that Skyler had brought home groceries. She had also taken the time to prepare pancakes for him. She set aside a plate, flowers, and a note thanking him again for trusting her. Van smiles, shaking his head in bewilderment, then breathes an exasperated sigh. He’s always loved pancakes.

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More than two weeks has passed since the night Benita broke off their relationship without so much as a text message to communicate how she’s been doing. She had called her family to let them know she was safe and working hard as an administrative assistant for some big-shot politician on the mainland. These past two weeks, plus the time she was working two jobs here on the island, add up to more than a month since the last time he actually spent time with her. Van sits on the beach a few steps away from the back of the house, enjoying the warmth of the mid-morning sun while eating Skyler’s pancakes.

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He sits alone for an hour or so before he sees movement out of the corner of his eye. It’s Skyler walking through the back door. He turns his head, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun. Thankfully, she had put pajamas on before coming outside. One of her more admirable qualities is the confident manner in which she always carries herself. She is very deliberate in everything she does and says. It’s a fine quality to possess, providing one is content with sims only seeing what one chooses to project.

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Over these past weeks, it has become very obvious to Van that he does not fit many of the assumptions she had formed governing guys his age. He can see it makes her a little bit crazy. And  he’s okay with that. She sits next to Van smiling her “up to no good” smile. Van has learned a strategy for navigating through conversations to avoid them ending in frustration. Most important is to avoid asking her personal questions, especially difficult and probing questions. That, and let her lead the discussion. After a moment, he smiles and thanks her for the pancakes. They were perfect. Skyler stares at him for a long time, wearing the expression of a woman who has locked her keys in the car.

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She utters a short, exasperated grunt. Speaking to herself, she comments that after two weeks of trying every way she can think to *expletive* him silly, he finally decides to compliment her perfect *expletive* pancakes.

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Van’s smile disappears instantly, and his good mood shifts. She presses her lips together in frustration then casts her gaze to the ground, but stops short of apologizing. Her recovery is as smooth as silk. She concedes that she finds him to be a puzzle she just can’t seem to figure out. There are a few exceptions, however. Discovering his favorite food was really pretty simple.

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Skyler stands up and offers her hand to Van. She tells him she has a surprise that doesn’t involve reproductive organs. Van smirks in appreciation of her effort. He follows her to the kitchen, then to the end table by the front door. There is an envelope sitting on it. She wanted to wait for him to discover it, but she knows how serious the money situation is. Before he is able to move forward to collect the envelope, she steps in front of him, informing him that it will cost him a kiss.

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Van smiles and rolls his eyes, thinking she is playing another game with him. The determined look in her eyes says differently. She is serious. Van silently searches her eyes while wearing an unreadable expression. She whispers that she hasn’t decided whether his hanging on to Benita is sad and desperate, or whether she’d given him reason enough to stay this strong and faithful to her. Either way, it’s just a kiss and she wants to give him something else to think about. Van reaches his hand to touch the side of Skyler’s face. He begins to explain why he won’t kiss her but chooses to say nothing. He weighs the two scenarios she presented. The problem is that he doesn’t know which to believe, either. While distracted in thought and before he has a chance to react,  Skyler leans into him and takes the initiative.

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Van loses track of time as he becomes drawn into what can only be described as a truly amazing kiss. There is no one thing he can point to that would qualify it as such. The softness of her lips, the way their breathing synchronizes to maximize contact, the smell of her hair… too many other factors to mention, but every one of them perfect. When they do finally step away from each other after two or maybe three minutes, there is a long delay as they both recover enough to speak. Skyler does so first, purring softly that she would have been happy with just a kiss but she’ll gladly take another of whatever that was.

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Clearly flustered and extremely worked up, Skyler shoves the envelope at him, explaining that she has been working nights at the warehouse. The money she’s earned should be enough for him to cover her rent for the next few weeks. In the same breath, she slinks closer to him then caresses his bare chest, telling him that they had better get out of the house and do something exciting before she  beats him down and *expletives* him into next week… and then some.

chap5rule

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The old, beat-up, windsurfers hadn’t seen action since Van was a teen. Diving had become more his thing. They were both in surprisingly good working condition for having been stored under the house’s crawlspace for a few years. This is a good thing. Because without the distraction, there would have been no stopping Skyler, who has been on the prowl again. The situation is already dicey enough as it is, he doesn’t need another complication.

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A strong headwind generated from a nearby storm provides plenty of speed, not to mention a good coastal chop. The conditions provide exactly the kind of excitement needed to dispell their lunchtime kiss. After a couple hours, they meet about a half-mile out near a diving buoy where a small boat is anchored, but missing it’s diver down flag. Maneuvering themselves near the boat, they come together straddling their boards and using each other for balance to ride out the larger swells. She eyes him suspiciously after one wave launches her nearly into his lap. If this is is his idea of some kind of joke, it isn’t very *expletive* funny. Van apologizes quickly, then points out the diving boat missing its flag and radio.

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Skyler shakes her head and rolls her eyes, reminding him that NOBODY follows every, single, *expletive* rule, adding that he’s just about the most *expletive* uptight sim she knows. Ignoring the jab, he counters that some rules exist to keep sims alive. The sim who owns this boat is either ignorant or suicidal. Skyler scoffs defiantly with a flash of anger in her eyes. She asks if he’s just going to sit here and wait so he can lecture the poor *expletive* about the proper rules for diving.

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Using Van for leverage, she stands on her board and takes the sail. If that’s the plan, then he can do it alone. She ignores his appeal to wait which forces him to follow.  Van takes up his board and catches up with her quickly. When a mood like this strikes, there’s little point in rationalizing with her. The best thing to do is just ride it out. They were having such a good time, too.

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His head snaps almost completely around when he hears a gasp for air followed by a muffled scream. A submerged scuba diver has surfaced but is in trouble. The sim’s head resurfaces again, followed by frantically waving arms. Van shouts toward Skyler, “They’re drowning!”  He then dives gracefully off of the rear of his board, which is still traveling in the opposite direction.

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Skyler navigates her windsurfer into an 180-degree arc, completely in awe of the man she had been nearly ready to discard only a few seconds ago. She has never seen anybody swim with such skill. He moves like a bullet shot underwater.  Van intercepts the struggling sim then attempts to achieve a rescue hold while swimming toward the boat.  But the other sim is far too panicked. Between the weight of the scuba gear and the wild flailing of death throes, they both go under together before Skyler has finished turning her windsurfer around.

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She whimpers, “oh, god, no…” in helpless protest.

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They have been under water no less than thirty seconds when she finally succeeds in her fight against the wind, arriving where Van had gone under. The sound of her own breathing has never been so deafening. She cannot see anything through the choppy waves. Skyler is nearly  hysterical, looking around for anybody who can help. She huddles close to her board, trying to keep it steady against the battling winds. Her mind wanders back to the last words she had said to him. Blinded by some childish notion of indignation, she found it necessary to curse at him, “you can do it alone!”  What the *expletive* was she thinking? What is so *expletive* unbearable about Van being the most decent human being she has ever known? About him being so completely *expletive*  faithful to his ex? About actually daring to possess …integrity?

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It all happened so quickly. If she had only listened …and waited. Skyler closes her eyes then moans in quiet despair. Van was the only thing she had left

it’s just a simple leap from her board, and…

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He emerges on the port side of the small boat anchored nearby, gasping violently for air and grabbing onto the landing with is right arm. His left arm is still fully submerged. Van had somehow removed the diver’s gear and managed to slip the flippers onto his own feet.  Groaning loud and fiercely, Van exerts monumental effort hefting the unconscious diver out of the water using only his left arm.

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After what feels like an eternity, Skyler and Van move the unconscious man to the bottom of the boat . Although completely exhausted, Van continues tending to the stranger. The man has started shivering despite wearing a wetsuit. Van feels weird as well. He had pushed himself far past his physical limits. Regardless, he ignores his own discomfort asks the man where he hurts. Through gritted teeth, the stranger manages to say the word,  everywhere. This guy came up too fast and gave himself the bends. Van is sure of it. As he turns to talk to Skyler, the man groans again, then says the name Linda, followed by,  still down. Van’s eyes widen when he makes the connection that there is another scuba diver down.

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Before Van can move toward the edge of the boat, Skyler shrieks loudly. A thick stream of blood is flowing unabated down the back of Van’s leg. Holding him steady, Skyler suggests that he’s finished with heroics for today.  It is more a command than a suggestion and Van is in no position to argue. He has already started to feel light-headed. And worse, he cannot feel his left leg. Skyler cautiously inspects the damage. Working to control her gag reflex, she quietly retches before looking away.Skyler informs Van that it’s bad. They cannot wait for the other scuba diver. He’ll bleed out unless they get to a hospital. Now.

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Van tries to clear his head. This guy had been flailing around in a panic and gave Van a real beating. He tries to think what could have caused this kind of wound. But everything is a blur. There is one thing he does remember clearly. Before dumping this guy’s gear, he had had seen that both the main and reserve tanks were completely depleted.

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One thing is certain. If this man and his colleague had gone down together, then she is already dead.

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