Part 21 – help is on the way

I have kept these drafts from Van’s story unpublished for years. The likelihood of reinstalling “The Sims 3” with all the characters and content I used to own and pose the remaining screenshots for the final three posts is fairly close to “nil”. Please enjoy these text-only wrap-up posts from the first Chapter. If I continue with his story, it will be in an entirely different format.

Gabriella’s birthday party provides a very much-needed distraction away from the controversial circumstance of Benita being several months pregnant and living with Van while remaining conspicuously unmarried.

Van has given up debating the matter with her, but her parents have seemingly dug in for the duration. It is the central topic of conversation at every family gathering and typically ends with Benita fuming, Louis shouting, and Louisa crying. Van has learned to simply stay out of the fray and play video games with Natalia, who also seems exhausted by the relentless bickering. The youngest Goncalves fails to comprehend the rationale driving Benita’s indefinite marriage postponement. But if she has learned anything during her post-childhood journey, it is that Benita’s actions are rarely governed by reason.

Louisa and Louis forgo their typical litany during the party, which yields a collective sigh of relief from other members of the family; particularly Gabriella. News that she has been recruited by a prestigious medical school has the entire family excited about her future. She will be the first from either side of her parents’ families to have ever earned a college degree, as Phillipe had recently dropped out to work as a laborer. Many of Gabriella’s school friends wish her well, but end up leaving the party soon after she becomes an adult. Her older friends remain, however, and the last hours of daylight are carried over to a large bonfire party at the beach.

Phillipe and his fiance follow the group, but Benita and Van remain behind with Louis, Louisa, and Natalia. Assuming the worst, Van and Natalia each grab a video game controller. The gesture is not lost on Louis, who nods with the realization that his and Louisa’s lectures have become overbearing and unwelcome. Louis raises his opened hands to eye level in an expression of surrender. Louisa smiles sadly, then approaches Benita to ask how she’s feeling and if the baby is moving around much.

Tensions ease over the course of the early evening as Natalia shows off her considerable video gaming skills, executing yet another brutal finishing move against Van’s grossly abused avatar. She laughs with a giddiness none in the room had yet witnessed coming from the overly serious and oftentimes brooding teen. Van makes a light-hearted remark about her enjoying his misery with just a little too much zeal; to which she offers a quirky response about simple girls enjoying simple pleasures. After cleaning up from the party, they each carve out a small spot in the cramped living room to watch a movie on the tiny, antique television. It is a luxury compared to Van’s home, which lacks even this basic commodity. Moments after the movie begins, it is preempted by the sound of booted feet walking up the porch steps, followed immediately by a sharp rapping at the front door.

Slightly annoyed at the untimely intrusion, Van opens the door and is immediately surprised to see Jamie Paraski. The reserved nature of her greeting is unusual, as is the fact that she is still clad in her full field uniform; from combat boots to Area 15 beret. The uniform, in addition to Jamie’s stoic expression, suggests this is not a social visit. She clears her throat awkwardly after Van invites her inside, seemingly dismayed that five bodies could feel comfortable watching a miniature television while packed into such crowded quarters.

Jamie’s serious tone remains unchanged after a round of introductions. Van makes eye contact with Jamie and immediately senses an unspoken urgency conveying the matter of a serious problem. Van curtails any further small-talk and allows her to get to the point. Jamie turns toward Natalia with a long and ponderous glance, then frowns. Addressing everybody in the small room, but talking directly to Natalia, she states flatly that she has news affecting the entire family. She soberly informs the household that Area 15 has given her permission to break protocol and divulge strictly classified information. They may neither discuss nor share any details so divulged. Amid confused and concerned expressions, Jamie continues.

Military intelligence has identified the individual responsible for Natalia’s kidnapping. She presses her lips together in a frown then hesitantly makes eye contact with Van. That same sim also organized and led the massacre in Pleasantview. Benita’s sudden gasp and fearful mention of Joan Mosley’s name interrupts Jamie. The fatigue-clad scientist nods in Benita’s direction. The security breach at the science lab has also been attributed to Mosley. Thanks to Van’ safe keeping of Linda du Pont’s diary, investigators have evidence linking Joan to numerous confrontations with Linda prior to her death. Jamie frowns, stating that Enzo’s and Linda’s diving tanks had been quietly recovered by Area 15 after reading the notebook. They were found to be contaminated with a mild stimulant which, combined with the pressure change, had caused the disorientation they both experienced while deep diving that day. After a short pause, Jamie reveals that intelligence reports suggest Mosley is currently somewhere on Isla Paradiso, though her exact whereabouts are unknown.

Jamie works to calm the family’s understandably anxious reactions by reassuring them help is on the way. She has also reached out to the du Pont family through Corinth. The du Ponts have been made aware of the situation and have assisted in forming a plan of action. Enzo du Pont has offered to sponsor Gabriella’s attendance at a prestigious medical university in France and arrange for private living accommodations for her at the du Pont chateau. Unfortunately, she must be deployed immediately. Rumors trickling down from the former Taxmoore camp serve to reaffirm the belief that Benita is still a high-value target. An overabundance of chatter has been generated regarding her recent political activities. Benita has touched upon something tangible enough to aggravate a few very dangerous individuals. They have dispatched Joan Mosley to make Benita “go away”.

The sound of several heavy vehicles driving up and then coming to a stop in front of the tiny residence causes Jamie to hesitate and listen. She flashes an odd, wistful smile after a moment then informs Louis and Louisa that her colleagues have collected Gabriella from the beach. As though responding to the mention of her name, Gabriella bursts through the front door, clearly more relieved about her family being safe than her own well-being. Jamie stands quietly toward the small kitchenette near the front door as members of the Gonclaves family all vocalize their collective anxieties at once. Van cocks his head and watches Jamie. After a short time, she looks away from the spectacle unfolding before her and makes eye contact with Van. Her expression is a half-smile/half-frown. She nods slightly, then gestures with her head for him to exit through the front door with her.

Jamie opens the door and moves part way through, looking back toward Van and then to the boisterous calamity the Gonclaves family has become. He follows her without saying a word. Dusk has set in across the island, bathing it in hues of orange and lavender. Several military vehicles have been strategically parked outside and a small contingent of enlisted personnel stand at ease around the front yard. One figure, near the front porch steps, stands out among them. He is clad in military fatigues lacking any rank or insignia. Van recognizes him immediately. Warren Gilscarbo walks toward Van with an almost imperceptible limp, reaching his hand to greet the young man. He is now much thinner and appears drawn and tired.

No words are necessary to communicate the loss both men feel. They lock eyes silently until Warren eventually speaks, proudly affirming that Skyler acted fearlessly and died smiling while speaking Van’s name. Warren regards him with the same piercing eyes Skyler possessed. She wanted Van to know she loved him “fiercely”, and that she had found the little girl; who, with Van’s help, had finally found happiness. Van looks away, nodding and blinking back tears. The realization strikes that he is standing in precisely the same spot where he and Skyler parted ways.

Benita emerges from the house, immediately halting Van’s rapidly progressing relapse into grief. She speaks Warren’s name with shock and dismay. Van notices that she is struggling to find her center of gravity on the porch steps, then quickly moves to assist her down. She kisses him affectionately on the cheek, then sees his despairing frown and hint of tears. She searches his eyes, then hugs him tightly while affirming her love for him. Benita wobbles toward Warren and hugs him somewhat less affectionately. Warren steps back and smiles, complimenting her lovely appearance. Jamie interrupts the reunion to innocently quip that the “help” she had mentioned has arrived ahead of schedule.

Natalia, who had emerged onto the porch with the other members of her family, scoffs conspicuously. After inspecting Warren with a brief and disapproving visual appraisal, the aloof teen speculates wryly that Benita is surely doomed. Warren’s lighter side emerges as he laughs out loud. He greets Natalia by name; assuming the cynical, drive-by criticism could only have come from the same Natalia whose biting commentary and unrelenting curiosity had occupied Skyler’s many stories of Isla Paradiso. After a moment, his smile fades somewhat as he verbally ponders the lot of psychotic maniacs and murderers he has personally retired from crime over the years. Joan Mosley has earned a unique distinction among them. Regardless of any personal grudge he might bear and despite his own somewhat unimpressive appearance, Area 15’s standing orders are clear. He will not rest until Joan Mosley has been permanently neutralized.

Warren continues by explaining that their best defense is, for the moment, a campaign of misdirections. Joan is dangerous but predictable. She relies too heavily on statistical probabilities and carefully calculated stratagems. By introducing unexpected variables and unknown quantities, her threshold of uncertainty will most likely cause hesitation. Warren smirks and explains that this is where he comes in. With Gabriella being flown away from the islands tonight, the opportunity exists for Van and Benita to move into this living space without delay. Combine these operational parameters with new construction at the site of Van’s home… plus a few other surprises he’s arranged… there should be enough operational fluidity to keep Joan guessing long enough for the military to isolate her location.

Natalia’s left eyebrow rises into a cynical arch and she fires back with a critical retort, asking if Warren fancies himself some kind of International Super Spy or something. Warren corrects Natalia with a smile and a wink; his words causing Jamie to shake her head and roll her eyes dramatically, “Time-Travelling Interdimensional Super Spy, actually…”

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