I have kept these drafts from Van’s story unpublished for years.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. Please also note that I had initially intended to start doing some crossover posts between my ongoing stories. This appearance by Cole Donblas from “The Donblas Lineage” was the first planned crossover.
Van stands at a distance, watching as a demolition crew razes the last remaining timbers of his childhood home. He feels no lingering sentiment or loss. Whether alone or living with Skyler or Benita, the house had always maintained a sense of cold emptiness that reminds him of Mitch and Wade. Much like them, the house too is now gone from his life. Also, like them, the house will be replaced with something warm, vibrant, and alive. Van smiles proudly toward Benita, then turns to face her as she cradles her protruding belly with both hands. The words he had once spoken to Skyler surface in his mind,
…a place my children and my children’s children may always return to say, with conviction, ‘This is where I am from.’
Since childhood, Van has lived a mostly autonomous and self-sufficient existence. Mitch and Wade, who were barely adults themselves, enjoyed every aspect of their exuberant and whimsical lifestyle. There were times when they failed to return home at night, leaving Van to prepare his own meals and see himself off to school. Staying temporarily with Benita’s parents and Natalia inside their tiny home while his new home is constructed, has provided Van with a bold contrast to this previous existence. For all the good, bad, and ugly; Van finds his recent immersion into the Gonclaves family to be one of the most meaningful and positive experiences of his lifetime. It has not come without its share of challenges, however.
Benita’s nightmares continue to plague her throughout the pregnancy. They are less jarring and do not seem quite so vivid as before, but they refuse to relinquish their authority over her sleep. The long hours she had been accustomed to working eventually become impossible for her to maintain. Van convinces her to cut back on work hours to enjoy some relaxation before the birth. The strategy helps in more ways than one. She is forced to reach out to her network for help. And they show up in force. With only weeks remaining before the birth of her first child, Benita celebrates an unprecedented legal victory against the “Sparkling Sands” resort, calling into question the veracity of its claims of ownership to numerous artifacts, legal documents, and works of fine art.
The judges who rule in her favor rely heavily on testimony from expert witnesses. One authority, in particular, is world-renowned for his work in art restorations, recovery, and appraisal. Cole Donblas gained notoriety by way of “liberating” priceless works of art from private collections and donating them to galleries and museums for all people to enjoy. Cole learned about the situation and offered his services without pay. His easy disposition, charming demeanor, and impressive body of knowledge easily convince the court that many leads and trails of evidence for missing and stolen works of art terminate at the Sparkling Sands Resort.
The ensuing warrant provides unrestricted access to the collection. Authorities, with help from Mr. Donblas, are able to identify no fewer than a dozen pieces missing from churches, historic landmarks, private and public museums, and numerous other private collections. In some cases, items had gone missing decades ago. Legal documents, deeds, affidavits, and colonial contracts still in force, found hidden among items in the collection, pose a much more serious matter for the parties involved. Benita’s legal team is quick to secure and protect the fragile documents before transporting them to city hall for further study.
Cole Donblas also emerges somewhat victorious, having located a very old colonial-era painting he had tracked to Isla Paradiso. While speaking with his companion about the painting, he inadvertently voices the self-incriminating admission that he had sought the painting all along, and agreed to testify at the hearing to gain access to it. He becomes aware of his revealed subterfuge too late to prevent Benita from realizing she had been manipulated. She allows her anger to spill over, nearly flying into a rage over the fact she had been duped to serve Cole’s ulterior motives. Cole later apologizes for not sharing the full scope of his interest in the collection and begs her forgiveness. Helping the investigation had not been his primary objective, and it was wrong for him to have misled her.
Cole shares that he just recently survived a powerful and life-changing encounter. As a result, he has committed himself to complete a pilgrimage intent on locating his scattered family and healing the many wounds he has created over his lifetime. It is a journey of faith and penance. Though he has changed considerably since that time, it is clear he still has a long road of contrition and humility ahead; as he easily slips into old habits and attitudes quickly. The painting he sought had been created by a direct descendant of his, several generations ago. It is one of many he must locate, as each contains details hidden within their aged pigments. He has already found what he sought within this painting and has committed the details to memory. As for the painting itself, it should belong to the people of Isla Paradiso along with all the other artifacts. He promises to remain as long as it takes for him to fully document his knowledge about the many items found today, for the benefit of all.
Authorities gather enough evidence at the museum to implicate Omar, the resort manager, on numerous criminal charges. Sparkling Sands is immediately thrown into a state of disarray, as high-profile financial backers seek to cut their losses and distance themselves from the scandal. This happens quickly, leaving the resort rudderless and moneyless. Within days, the resort closes for business and becomes the most modern and costly vacant property in the world.
Alfonzo Taxmoore’s vision of the future, coupled with a tenacious will to succeed, created enough momentum to set a political and cultural dynamo into motion. Eloquent, rhetorical sermons promoting a modern, secular utopia empowered those whose appetites and proclivities were shunned by a “god-fearing” society. Like-minded individuals; a veritable army of disembodied, digital personas scattered throughout the emerging new media, sought him out and commissioned him to lead their audacious fight. Future inhabitants of a perfect and progressive society would surely come to revere Alfonzo Taxmoore as a great hero; father of a modern, secular era, and a singular force of great cultural and sociosexual significance. Bigotry, hatred, and oppression prevent such a future from existing, however.
Taxmoore is poised, more than any contemporary, to create the perfect utopian world. Why would anyone choose to oppose such a brilliant visionary to perpetuate archaic boundaries? Humanity has evolved beyond the limitations of nature. It has moved beyond worshiping unexplainable things and has, instead, become worthy of worship in and of itself. It is only fitting that humanity supplants the imaginary god and realizes its own grand divinity. Alfonzo Taxmoore may not have been the first to understand that such an evolution had occurred. History does show, however, that he is among the first to vocalize the concept and seek to challenge the way all humanity thinks about itself.
Suppose, for a moment, that an inhabitant from some distant future discovered a way to reach back through those centuries to act as an advocate and help to shape and guide Taxmoore’s decisions. Imagine what progress could be achieved with the means to re-engineer past opportunities. Known hindrances and obstacles could be effectively avoided before they are ever encountered. Intolerances, undue privilege, and opposing beliefs could be eliminated. Laws could be enacted to rehabilitate those who cling to incompatible worldviews, implementing correctional rethinking programs for the benefit of all. Truly, then, humanity could claim its throne of enlightenment.
Guiding Taxmoore to Isla Paradiso seemed the right thing to do. It did, at least, until his unexpected meeting and subsequent infatuation with a young, local woman started the “Great Unraveling”. Rather than gaining a historical advantage, a good measure has been lost. There was no conceivable way to foresee the interference from unknown beings who possess unexplainable technologies or their intercession on behalf of Benita’s sister. The considerable power leveraged to save the girl also generated a spectacular, visual phenomenon witnessed by thousands across much of the region. They succeeded in this endeavor and the window of opportunity Natalia’s death would have exploited has now expired. To make matters worse, Joan Mosely’s encounter with one of the entities triggered an uncontrollable violent streak that ultimately caused more damage than any good she had accomplished.
Ann’s death was an unexpected setback; disastrous, actually. Her work still needs to be accomplished with exacting accuracy. History also prohibits Benita’s child with Van from being born; and yet requires her children with a dead man to be conceived. Skyler’s death is equally troubling, though its future impact seems less clear. As it turns out, for every tiny action, there have been a million unexpected and impossibly complex undesired reactions. All things considered, perhaps it would have been better just to leave “well enough” alone.
Visitors who travel to Isla Paradiso from abroad often share a common misconception regarding the region’s geopolitical boundaries. They also share a popular but mistaken belief that “Isla Paradiso” is confined to the three large islands where resorts have flourished. From a sovereignty standpoint, the equatorial archipelago encompasses numerous small islands and many miles of open ocean.
Surrounded by miles of nothing but water, the unnamed island serving as Joan Mosley’s temporary domicile had been annexed by a foreign military sixty years ago for the purposes of atomic testing. Unhealthy levels of residual radiation, coupled with rugged terrain and a dangerous and difficult maritime approach, all have left it forgotten and uninhabited for decades. Joan had been activated for the purpose of conducting much of the heavy lifting and unpleasant groundwork deemed necessary to continue Governor Taxmoore’s forward social progress. She alone understands Isla Paradiso’s significance and why so much of Alfonzo’s energy is being directed toward it. Few persons who remain alive comprehend her role as Taxmoore’s right hand. One such person has recently arrived in Isla Paradiso, and his untimely return has caught her unprepared.
Joan had sent ahead a shipment of mission-specific gear to this location through the usual channels. It arrived this morning via air-drop, almost a full day late. Transporting the equipment back to her hidden base before daylight has now become an unexpected but necessary operational parameter. Several unmarked fishing crafts have been lingering nearby, raising both her apprehension and suspicion about their intent. Utilizing a winch, a ramp, and a hastily constructed pulley system, Joan was able to load the heavy container onto the flatbed of an old truck. She then drove back to inspect the equipment sheltered by concrete and steel in her secret, underground bunker.
A familiar, angry grimace forms on her face upon discovering the cache had been compromised during transit. The presence of a simple manila envelope causes her a large measure of uneasy hesitation. It was not present when the shipment departed SimCity; of that she is certain. She reaches for the extraneous item, which must have been added at some point during the untraceable, illicit chain of custody. It is labeled, simply, “EXACTLY FORTY-FIVE SECONDS”.
Whether the written statement was intended to serve as an ironic warning or retaliatory intimidation remains unclear. Four seconds elapse as she contemplates the possible distinction. Either way, its significance is not lost on her. She breaks the seal and allows the object contained within to slide into her hand. It is a mangled chunk of carbon-composite cranial substructure that had broken loose from her body during the Pleasentview firefight, where Warren Gilscarbo had landed several unusually perfect shots to her left eye socket. The damage had been nearly impossible to repair given technological limitations, at present. Ten seconds have elapsed already, then another two seconds before she is able to calculate and begin moving toward the fastest escape route.
At thirty seconds, she is running inhumanly fast through the doomed complex. Sometime around the forty-second mark, she hears the unmistakable roar of turbofan propulsion units originating from an indeterminate number of inbound cruise missiles. The ground shakes violently at forty-five seconds as the massive force from numerous detonations reduces the bunker to rubble.
Her body stops working at forty-six seconds. Clarity strikes her, just before deactivating, that the contents of the envelope clearly communicated the label’s intent. It was not meant to serve as a warning or intimidation. It does, however, imply an unwritten sentiment echoing words she had spoken nearly two years ago in precisely the same context but with less thorough results,