Barimen Legacy 2012 in Review

Dear Barimen Legacy readers,

Please allow me to take a few moments to thank those who have helped to make the Barimen Legacy something more than just a blog. Your continued interest and wealth of positive support and feedback has been instrumental in keeping the story going. And for that, I thank you!

For me, the commitment is not a trivial one. I have five kids already, with another little one due in March. I volunteer many hours between the Scouting program and my church. And I find it to be hugely important that I spend quality time with each of my children. Oh, and of course, there’s my actual job (you know, that work thing). Somewhere in the middle of all this, I manage to squeeze out a post or two a week and play the Sims.

At your leisure, please enjoy this short annual report provided by the generous folks at WordPress. Thank you again and Happy New Year!

Barimen Legacy 2012 Annual Report

2012blog

 

 

 

Chapter 9.16 – Threads

From the diary of Moira McAllister~
I’ve never spoken to Papa regarding my intuition about the two angelic creatures who left me here (my parents, presumably). He’s never told me about them, but I know they exist. I can’t explain how. I just know.
 
My long melancholy spells are usually a result of wanting to know who they are, and who I am. Though I don’t remember them, their story is fresh in my mind. Their tenacity to exist despite the insolent crusade to crush them (and the ideals they represent) is pure inspiration. Was it breath from Heaven that filled their lungs when the poisonous stench of perdition sought to smother them out? I cannot begin to imagine what bravery, what fortitude, what faith, they must have drawn upon to survive their encounter with the legions of Hell. Every claw, hoof, and flaming maw was brought to bear against their bid to escape. But they escaped. And they survived. The question I ask, is how did they get here?
 
The answer, in part, must rest in the relationship between time and space. And of all places, I discovered this while shopping to mend my dress. It was a comparatively mild encounter with a rather nasty patch of thorn bushes that had ripped it. Papa had taken me to the trading post where the shop-keep (who was not keen about the visit) noticed my general state of disrepair. He’d mentioned not knowing that Papa had a family. After a few tense words exchanged between them, I kindly introduced myself in an effort to ease the obvious ongoing feud.
 
The shop-keep was clearly taken with me, and the unusual quality of my hair; which Papa often compares to threads of spun gold. Granted, it does posses a rather unusual shimmering, almost burnished quality. I am quite fond of it, actually (and admittedly a bit boastful at times). After speaking for a time with the shop-keep  Papa was surprised to receive three times the usual sum for his potato harvest. With the extra proceeds, we purchased a hank of wool thread and some sewing needles. It’s curious that something so simple as watching the shop-keep wind thread into a neat ball, would manage to spark a wealth of insight. I had been confounded by the means in which they were able to transfer themselves from that time and place, to this time and place. Then it occurred to me:
Time, like the sewing thread, is linear. But collectively, it is tightly wound into a ball. Only forward motion is allowed on the thread, but it may be possible to “slip” to an adjacent thread on the ball while still maintaining forward momentum. The calculations would be monumental. But still, I am intrigued by the possibility of uncovering the “algorithm” which makes this possible. Perhaps solving it will afford me the honor of someday finally meeting them…
 
 
Malachi McAllister clicks, whistles, and reigns in his spooked mount.
 
 
Normally docile and as steady as a sailor, Shena whinnies and snorts, and prances around in unsteady circles. Malachi fights to keep her on the trail toward home, but loses the contest. The moment he dismounts, she bolts into the woods neighing and snorting. Now completely infuriated, Malachi throws his hat to the dusty ground and pitches a loud, cursing rant. This continues for some time, but he finally regains his wits after hearing Shena squealing loudly in the woods. Breathing a heavy sigh, Malachi grabs his hat and ventures cautiously into the woods. His rifle, of course, is still with Shena.
 
He’d been returning from a trip to the trading post with a bushel full of nearly perfect potatoes to sell for a few coin. It’s no secret the Irish are not well-liked in these parts. And the shop-keep made pains to let this fact be plainly known the moment Malachi plowed through his front door hauling a giant, canvas sack of spuds. It is also no secret that the Irish have a hot-blooded streak that runs deep, and turns mean with little provocation. After verbally milling the old hoor, Malachi accepted half the coin he should have earned for such a fine crop.
 
He’d have carried the sack home again, if not for the promise he’d made to his late wife on her deathbed. He’d promised that he would look after her doddering, old father as an honor to her memory. Fiona’s passing had been tough on the old goat. Aye, and it’s been no easier on Malachi – especially so soon after losing their only son, an infant, to fever. The fact is, that both men have become lost since the tragic deaths. Tending potatoes seems to be the only thing keeping them from giving up and reuniting with their lost loved ones.
 
He had no idea what to expect upon reaching the spot where Shena had stopped running. Being a simple man of simple words, he finds he cannot express exactly what the peculiar sensation feels like. He is reminded of that same feeling of smallness he’d felt when trying to comprehend the night sky; or how it came to be.
 
It is not fear that Malachi feels. These days, fear is has nowhere to set up shop in Malachi’s gut. This hadn’t always been the case. He’d seen what suffering came with the famine, and the more suffering that came from weeks of living within the steerage of those great, floating, metal coffins; where the air was so foul that some prefer to simply stop breathing than continue sucking down the vile stuff. A man who lives through that, has little else left to fear.
 
Shena’s panicked agitation subsides as Malachi approaches. Honestly, he’d figured that she had spooked and ran *away* from something. This wasn’t the case. Sweet old Shena must have somehow sensed these two being attacked by …something. The pair had remarkably survived, but had lost consciousness, still huddled tightly together. The viscous bites and gaping claw marks on their bodies leads him to believe they’d been attacked by a bear; or more than one. But it’s the burns that cover each of them from nearly head to toe that has Malachi feeling skittish.
 
Malachi is no bleeding heart when it comes to charity, but leaving these two here to die would be nothing short of evil. Besides  there is something about them he finds compelling. It’s probably the strange quality to their hair, which shines like fine strands of metallic silver. Malachi quickly lays them both across Shena’s back and grabs Snenna’s reigns.
 
Ignoring the fact that no sign of struggle seems to have unsettled the woods where he’d found them, Malachi instructs her to follow by making a clicking noise. The complete absence of bear, wolf, any other kind of large animal tracks speaks to the suggestion that these two simply fell from the sky in this condition. What’s worse, Malachi ignores the overwhelming and eye-watering stench of brimstone that pervades, not from these two, but from the section of woods where they were found.
 
His anxiety does not subside until the tiny cabin he’d built for Fiona appears over the bluff. An odd smile tugs at the corners of his mouth upon seeing it. It’s a sentiment he’d never before felt living on this dreaded rock, but he welcomes it nonetheless.
 
I’m home.

Chapter 9.15 – Goodbye

Adam wakes to find brilliant, blue eyes searching for some kind of coherent awareness.
 
The smile he sees, is one he’d seen many times during his visit to distant memories. Is this just a memory now? The smell of smoke in his throat and nose say that he is not daydreaming. He last remembers being trapped under the collapsing estate, and thinking that he would surely be burned alive just as the Flaumel’s had. His blurry vision begins to focus and he sees Kacey. Only this time, she is  real and substantial.
 
He tries to say something but he can only stammer in confusion. His mind is still racing, trying to figure out what happened. He is badly disoriented and he struggles unsuccessfully to find his bearings. Finally, he manages to eke out that he had called to her for help. She smiles and softly hushes him, planting her finger on his parched lips.
 
That simple touch ignites a peculiar, though not entirely unpleasant sensation. She closes her eyes and breathes in sharply. At the same moment, a exhilarating sensation rushes throughout Adam’s body and limbs. Her touch is electric. Kacey opens her eyes and smiles again, still enjoying the shared experience. Then she nods and acknowledges shyly that she’d heard him.
 
While Adam was sleeping, Kacey had explored and found a small pool of bubbling spring water. She’d bathed and changed into clean clothes left behind by the ancient inhabitants who had once dwelt here. She’d also found a change of clothes for Adam. She helps him to stand and gently suggests that he use the pool himself. The smell from being nearly burnt alive (combined with stinky seaweed) is offensive to him. Adam can only imagine how bad it must be for Kacey.
 
 —
 
Adam bathes in the pool. And while doing so, he swims to the bottom of the deep spring and gathers a large number of ancient coins. This helps to clear his mind, and wash away the any trace of of the burnt estate. Finally, after what must have been an hour, he hops out, and dresses his injuries. Thankfully, the wardrobe Kacey had found for him is soft and gentle against his painful burns. He smiles at the thought of her name.
 
Suddenly very anxious to see her, Adam finishes dressing and finds Kacey sitting alone, meditating by an arrangement of candles. She attempts to hide her excitement as he approaches. Failing to do this, she asks with embarrassing giddiness, how he’s feeling. Adam’s burns are still very tender, and his insides feel as though they’d been taken to a blender. But considering the alternative, he’s purely ecstatic.
 
Adam sits down on the floor next to her and quietly enjoys her actual presence. Normally, Kacey would immediately work to establish a safe buffer zone from any sim encroaching on her personal space. But she feels no threat and no discomfort when Adam presses closer. They sit like this for a few minutes, just absorbing the encounter. Finally, Kacey is forced to speak, when she remembers the imminent threat Hendrake still poses.
 
She gently explains to Adam that Sunset Valley has likely been crushed under Hendrake’s legion. And by now, it is also very likely they have spread to outlying areas looking for them. And there are other …things, that have been attracted as well. Kacey sighs, trying hard not to fall back into the scared little-girl role. She shakes her head, lamenting that she knows they have to both leave. She’s just not sure how, or where.
 
Adam reflexively puts his arm around Kacey to comfort her. He’d held her like this a number of times in his memories. But he’d never imagined that the real thing could be so inexplicably perfect. Kacey surrenders any discomfort and allows herself to fully experience Adam’s adoring affection.
 
They had likewise kissed a few times during those visits to David’s memories. But when their lips finally meet together in the same reality, it is unlike anything either had ever expected. It is not the physical aspect, so much as it is the emotional release of having finally found each other, that seals the moment in their minds. Okay, the physical part of it is pretty good too.
 
The kiss naturally evolves into a pair of purely spontaneous smiles, pressed amorously together. They laugh, and then settle into a quiet, meaningful, and gently swaying embrace; which continues for a very long time.
 
 
Government disaster managenemt officials believe a nuclear device may have been detonated underground somewhere near Sunset Valley; possibly the result of a tragic mishap at the Fort Gnome military base. A seventy-five mile quarantine radius has been established around the site. Nobody is being allowed to enter or exit. Military personnel are quickly massing around the quarantine zone. But the effort has been clouded by confusion and chaos, as reports of fierce battles involving heavy weapons and grievously injured combat troops continue to surface…
 
Amber turns off the television, then stands in shock and dismay. She’d had difficulty sleeping after consuming too much nectar at a party tonight. She’s definitely not as young as she used to be. Amber smiles absently, thinking back to the first dinners she and Wendell had shared together, many years ago. She was just a teen then, and the poor guy nearly drowned himself in nectar because of her.
 
But the smile is very short lived, as reality sets in again. She had turned on the television to relax and hopefully find sleep. What she found, only made her feel worse. It was all over the news on every channel. Something has happened in Sunset Valley; something terrible. Only, Amber suspects that it was something more than a bomb …something worse.
 
Amber squeals in alarm when Kacey and Adam appear from out of thin air. She had seen pictures of Kacey during her years as a teen author. She also remembers wondering about Kacey’s appearance throughout the generations of Barimens (see chapter 8.4). Every one of the heirs who had protected Adam, were connected on some level with Kacey. Amber had been the first of the heirs to understand what was happening; what “the entity” was, and how important their role as guardians were.
 
A new understanding immediately forms in Amber’s head. Her instincts were correct. There was no nuclear bomb in Sunset Valley – and it is far worse. The hunters had finally found Adam and Kacey (See Chapter 7.25).
 
Amber fusses over Adam’s injuries while regarding Kacey with some fascination. Amber had suspected that Adam was with a young woman when he failed to return home tonight. But this is not at all what she’d had in mind. Amber studies the pair for a moment. Then, after quickly analyzing the situation, she comes to a very somber conclusion. She hugs Adam gently.
 
This is goodbye, isn’t it?
 
Adam nods and politely hugs Amber in return. She stands back, holding Adam at arm’s length. A knowing smile appears on her face. Smirking, she observes that he’d actually come here to say goodbye to somebody else. Adam shrugs his shoulders apologetically, and nods again. Amber winks at him and wistfully announces that she’ll go and wake up his mother.
 
A moment later, she emerges again into the living room with a sleepy Makayla. Adam cocks his head and smiles when he notices the manner in which she carries herself. He has two young sisters already, and he loves both of them dearly. Unfortunately he’ll never meet the twin girls Makayla now carries.
 
Adam hugs her very close. Then, addressing her as “mom”, Adam gently explains the situation to the best of his ability. He continues, rebuffing her sleepy protests, and reassuring her that staying here will only mean more death and destruction. He must leave with Kacey; not only so save their own lives, but to save the lives of his unborn sisters.
 
Adam takes a step backwards, holds Kacey’s hand and disappears into nothingness while his parting words hang potently in the air.
 
I will never forget you, Kay…
Author’s Note: So it has finally happened after eight generations. Kacey and Adam have been finally and formally brought together. The major plot line is finished now, but I still have a few posts remaining and a tenth generation heir to introduce. So, where do Kacey and Adam go from here? Some of you may have already figured it out (but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t).
This post does, however, bring the story of the human Barimen family to an end. I had prepared a short preview of a story I’d wanted to write using one of Makayla’s and Luke’s offspring. But I’m just not ready to commit to another story just yet, and I still have some plot problems to figure out. Luke and Makayla live out their lives happily together in South Sim Beach. They end up having three sets of twins – all girls. I do play them occasionally when I want to play “easy mode” (9 million simoleons takes care of that). Oddly, I find myself playing in Sunset Valley with the sims who were present after I removed the legacy family from the game (literally exported the family, then leveled the lot with the bulldozer). There are still many Nava offspring running about, as well as some Barimen from Amber’s brother, Peter. After running only one family for so long, I’m finding it fun  hopping into different households and meddling with their lives for awhile before moving on the next unsuspecting household…

Chapter 9.14 – Needle

The ground begins to rumble beneath Kacey’s feet, as though Sunset Valley itself were in upheaval over Hendrake’s assault.
 
Kacey has seen, firsthand, the vast network of underground caverns and tunnels beneath Sunset Valley. And she can sense now, that they are filled with the same monstrous creatures that visibly stream like molten lava, out of caves and crevices in the foothills. Hendrake will destroy this world looking for her and Adam; possibly this entire reality. That is, unless they find a way of removing themselves from it.
 
A sick, seaward wind hurls itself from the bay, as though clashing with the vile demons bleeding out from somewhere deep with in the earth. Panic begins to overtake Kacey’s judgement, and she runs back toward the beach where she had landed her boat. It does not occur to her that in her natural state, she could easily take wing and fly to her destination.
 
Unfortunately, she has never moved beyond the scared little-girl who was left alone in that cave while the only advocate she’d ever had on this world was burned to death. Her “mother” had done the right thing, of course. There is no arguing that. She had been protected from the then-living Corwin. But more importantly, the cavern sufficed as a  shield, protecting her from the being that now calls itself Hendrake. Her formative memories of childhood are not those cherished moments playing with swing-sets and baby-dolls. They are, instead, dominated by the sense of awaiting her own murder, as the unseen beast sniffed around her with terrifying proximity. Indeed, she had survived. But Kacey is left with the torture of remembering. (see Chapters 8.10, 1.12)
 
Her silvery hair is whipped wildly around in the unholy gale blowing in from the sea. The sea itself, it seems, has become a threat. Hendrake’s presence has provoked the attention of other …things. They are unspeakably evil and impossibly ancient, and have become drawn to Hendrake and his unusual display of power on this little speck of a world. If she weren’t so afraid, she’d cry for this place and it’s inhabitants. She can hear their dying screams, even now.
 
A figure is waiting for her by the boat. It is Adam’s brother, Noah; the one who calls himself Caine. He sneers at Kacey over the howling wind and demands to be told where she is hiding Adam. But Kacey does not acknowledge Noah. A black, oily mass of squirming, gigantic, trunk-like tentacles has emerged from the sea, expanding menacingly toward her. They instantly smother Noah, while also smothering his startled cries of terror.
 
Perhaps it is some fight-or-flight instinct that sparks a keen lucidity from within Kacey’s troubled psyche; or perhaps it is something else. Her fear parts like a veiled curtain, allowing her to finally embrace herself for what she is.
 
Neither Kacey nor Adam were conceived in the same manner as other sims. Noah was the biological fusion of his mother’s and father’s DNA knitted together through a physical reproductive process that, while mundane, is still worthy of awe. Kacey’s and Adam’s origins are not so simple. They are living beings whose physical forms are insubstantial and inconsequential; manifested from a primal concept and brought to life in a domain where such concepts are real and tangible. In essence, they are the manifestations of perfect love; an articulation of the perpetual, loving bond forged between a mother and a father under the auspices of that which begat the universe.
 
That is what Deirdre had been trying to tell her; but lacked the understanding necessary to effectively verbalize it. Julian had told her to remove the dagger from her side. The dagger, of course, represents the abuse she had suffered over her curiously long lifetime.
 
With love comes forgiveness; and the forgiveness frees her. Wings unfold with a grace and beauty that cannot be effectively described. She leaps into the sky and speeds toward Adam, toward her love, with a single-minded clarity she has never once in her life enjoyed. And oddly, she finds herself smiling.
 
The monstrous tangle of oily, black tentacles have retreated back into the sea, leaving no sign of Noah. Those same horrific appendages now assail the lighthouse, squirming up the sides of the building; hundreds of hellish constrictors crushing the landmark to rubble. She penetrates the mass with the ease of a hot needle through wax, and emerges from the other side with Adam in tow. There was no sign of Jopin, as he had likely fought to the end to protect his ward.
 
She does not look back as she soars high into the sky, and away from the doomed town. It will not take long for Hendrake to realize they have fled. And once Sunset Valley has been reduced to an uninhabitable wasteland, he will come looking for them. She and Adam must both leave this place. But first, she must rest.
 
 
Ancient ruins lay scattered about the world. They are the artifacts of an age where reverence had been never been in question. These hallowed, sacred places are where sims once came to give thanks and praise to that which created everything. They now sit unused and forgotten; much like the ideals that had seen them originally built.
 
Kacey is welcomed by the warm glow of lit candles and the soft voices of those who had once sung their praise to the almighty. They will be safe here. For a little while, at least. She lays Adam down in a primitive bed and covers him with simple linens she’d found nearby. No longer quaking from the pain of his injuries, Adam settles into a soft breathing rhythm. Kacey lays tentatively beside him and attempts to process what has happened. Before drifting off into her own slumber, she mumbles a small, but powerful prayer.
 
 —
 
Thank you.

Chapter 9.13 – Dagger

Kacey cringes while Jopin re-applies his concoction of gross-smelling seaweed to Adam’s badly burnt limbs, chest, and face.
 
Deep inside, Kacey recognizes there is little cause for concern. She had personally suffered cataclysmic trauma. The sims around her had literally been shredded to bits by an explosion she’d inadvertently triggered in a secret, underground lab (see chapter 3.7) . And yet, she had somehow healed with no trace of the event. The only requirement was time. Coincidentally, this is what worries her most. Time, it appears, has become a scarce resource.
 
She senses the event horizon of something terrible approaching. Not knowing what it is scares her more than anything. Both Reid and Jopin had alluded to it earlier. They’d both seemed to also sense the looming dread. And what of Jopin? Who is he? She finds his timely appearance at the lighthouse almost too fortuitous. Had he been placed in her path via some manner similar to the boat on the beach? He’d told her that she and Adam wouldn’t be able to stay here much longer. The question remains, What did he mean by “here”?
 
Kacey lands the boat on the same shore she had found it, then walks cautiously up the bluff toward the ruined estate. The stench from the gutted building hangs in the air as a thick, black fog. Her stinging eyes widen in horror as she crests the bluff. She is greeted by the sight of wildfires burning out of control through the recessed parts of Sunset Valley not visible from the lighthouse. She can hear Hendrake, bellowing brutally from some far-off point in the distance. There is a moment of terror when she comprehends that what she sees is no simple wildfire. It is a host; his army. Hendrake intends to destroy this place looking for her.
 
The horde has already made its presence known, and it burns with the brightness of an unnatural pyre. Kacey does not know whether Hendrake is able to sense her presence or not. Regardless, Jopin was correct about one thing. She needs to find whatever she is looking for and get back to Adam. And then what?
 
 —
 
Heat and flame from the smoldering ruins of the estate are repelled away from Kacey’s body by some unknown force. It lends the visual effect of her moving about the ruins inside a vortex of fire and smoke. She ignores this, and instead reflects upon her ponderous sadness. Before seeing Reid today, she thought had shed her last tears some time ago, after sadness had became the norm. So many memories lay buried here now; memories of David, Mark, Hope, Faith, Doc …Gerard. All of it is gone. As far as she knows, Adam is all that remains of the Barimen legacy.
 
She finds a place among the smoldering rubble that captures her attention. A chest has survived the blaze, seemingly unmolested. She cautiously approaches, then opens the box. Those tears she had thought were barren, easily spring from her eyes again. She begins breathing in sobs, attempting to control her emotional response to the box’s contents.
 
A ring …the ring.
 
And her artifact, or something like it. Her artifact was old and dying. But this …seed … like an unborn child, is pure and bursting with life and potential. Through her confused tears, she reads the note written to her by Luke (See Chapter 8.24). She laughs, then cries, then laughs again. Then, after a short time, she hears an old Irish lullaby and wonders if she’s finally gone mad. She works to dismiss this as a relic from her profoundly vivid visit with old memories. But soon, it becomes very evident that the song is no figment. Her mind reels as suppressed memories from her terrifying childhood surface.
 
A deep, smooth, and reassuring voice calms her deep anxiety. She looks up to see a vaguely familiar face. Their last meeting was not a pleasant one (see Chapter 2.19). But everything is different now. It is the same, self-assured, confident, and silken voice she remembers …Julian? Having appeared through through the smoke, the aged Barimen founder offers his fraternal sibling a warm smile (see Chapter 8.10). Kacey’s face contorts in confusion and uncertainty. The lullaby stops abruptly, and is replaced by a sweet, soothing, melodic voice from her distant past. It is a voice she had not heard since she was a baby; since before the cave…
 
Eva, love, you’re so beautiful! Look how you’ve grown!
 
Any remaining defense against the unwelcome flood of childhood memories fighting to reclaim their place in her mind, is immediately smashed to splinters. The past forcefully occupies its long-empty compartment, while Kacey …Eva, stands with slumped shoulders, weeping. Desiree and Julian both support her for a long time; saying nothing, but speaking volumes.
 
Finally, Desiree steps back and gently consoles the angelic being she had carried and birthed. She quietly hushes Kacey, encouraging her to let go of the burden. The things that have happened to her are no better than having a long dagger repeatedly plunged into her side. Choosing to to leave the dagger in place, and attempting to ignore the pain, is completely understandable. Removing it is a very scary proposition. But it has to be done; for herself …for Adam. Yes, there will be some blood shed; and tears too. But she will never heal unless she first removes the thing causing her wound.
 
Julian’s deep voice, as usual, provides context; It’s already done it’s harm. Why let it continue hurting you?
 
For Kacey …Eva, there had always been something missing; though could never quite grasp or comprehend what or why. Radiant blue eyes stare into those of the woman whom she’d always missed so terribly, and longed to be comforted by; the way she’d been comforted as an infant.
 
And though the words never actually emerge, as they are obscured by Kacey’s weakly quivering voice and sobbing breaths, Desiree smiles as though they had been perfectly spoken. Kacey had never in her life used these words before, not even for David. But what’s important now, is that she’d attempted to use them at all. Desiree comforts the young being she had carried and birthed, then musically returns the long-overdue sentiment.
 
I love you too, deary… I love you too.

Chapter 9.12 – Lighthouse

A blazing, golden beam of light breaks through the smoke and flames that greedily engulf the Barimen Estate.
 
Weak and incapacitated, Adam expends the last of his strength to escape the raging hell-fire surrounding him. He sails through the air in a lazy, ballistic trajectory. And he lands with an audible thud somewhere on the beach below the bluff.
 
Kacey had never really become comfortable using her innate abilities. It could be that in some way, the multiple instances of trauma she’d experienced as a result of her uniqueness has subconsciously suppressed them. She runs on foot down the bluff, and toward the beach where she begins to frantically search for some sign of Adam.
 
The new moon provides an inky darkness, through which only the eerie light provided by the burning estate seems to penetrate. A weak cough in the distance captures her attention. She focuses her eyes in the murky, smoke-filled air, and carefully scours the area. She finds him laying in a rough patch of singed beach grass. She immediately attends to Adam, gently hushing his incoherent mumbling; and squelching her urgent panic response. His condition is dire.
 
She has nothing to dress Adam’s burns, which require tending. Any thought of taking him  to the hospital is out of the question. She remembers her own captivity at the hospital while recovering from her own near-fatal wounds. By that time, a young and ambitious Jon Buford had already figured out her “gifts”. It was Buford who had her placed under constant surveillance under David’s nose. It has taken her decades to realize it, but Adam had saved her life the day she finally regained consciousness. The baritone choir that always accompanies his presence instructed her to flee Buford (see Chapter 3.?? – Voices).
 
Adam’s was the lone voice she had heard when she was contemplating suicide after David’s funeral (Chapter 4.12). And he had also helped a teen-aged Faith to clear the mountain of earth which had entombed her beneath Sunset Valley (Chapter 5.19). He has been the only constant relationship in her life. And as bizarre as it may seem, she’s really never actually met him.
 
Moving Adam, given his condition, seems counterproductive. But she heeds her intuition and it’s urgent warning to find cover away from the beach, and away from the estate. Reid had alluded to Hendrake’s return. After what she’d witnessed, she’s not sure how that’s even possible. But one thing is certain; something is going to happen here. And whatever it is, it isn’t going to be good.
 
Adam quakes from the pain of the burns that cover the majority of his body. He will heal. But it will not be easy. Kacey struggles under the encumbrance of Adam’s dead-weight  and only manages to get him onto his feet before the hair on the nape of her neck stands on end. She had hoped there would be more time…
 
Before she can complete the thought, a young man stumbles from out of the underbrush, then stands unsteadily before her. He bears some resemblance to Adam, but there is a toxic aspect of hatred hemorrhaging from his soulless, green eyes. He steadies himself in an effort to play off an almost drunken state. His hesitant laugh is enough to cause Kacey some uneasiness.
 
She had retrieved the weapon Reid used to slay the demonic beast. But with Adam’s full weight leaning against her, coupled with his sudden agitation, Kacey finds it nearly impossible to react. Then, in what must have been a colossal effort of self-discipline, Adam spits out a single, garbled word – Noah.
 
Noah frowns. Then through gritting teeth, he impatiently questions his brother as to why he insists on using the deprecated name. The name is Caine, and he promises to personally witness his brother speaking it using his last, dying breath. Another explosion inside the estate (this one being the largest yet) shakes the ground beneath their feet and deadens their eardrums for a moment. That was no simple fuel canister.
 
Debris from the blast plucks at the sand all around them. Distracted for a brief instant, Noah looks away to admire his handiwork. It is all the time Kacey needs. Adam crumbles to the beach immediately as she removes her support. She reaches nimbly backward and hefts the ancient weapon. The blade is still crusted with black gore.
 
Noah turns to see the evidence of his associate’s demise. He growls, pausing for a long time to think, then calls out the name Hendrake into the troubled air. He calls the name again, after there is no response – HENDRAKE! Noah’s murderous eyes narrow, and then he wisely takes a step backward. He curses under his breath while retreating quietly into a nearby shadow, then vanishes without a trace. Kacey breathes a very sobering, albeit anxious sigh.
 
She hobbles with Adam for a brief distance down the beach until she finds the object she had been looking for. Kacey had wanted to find a small boat that could be used to transport them to the relative safety of the lighthouse (a place where she had fled many times in the past). She has yet to fully comprehend exactly how her abilities work. Whether the boat had been here all along, she is unsure. Perhaps she created it herself out of sheer willpower, or summoned it here from another place and time. It could be any of these, or none of them. But what matters most, is that Adam be taken to safety.
 
Jopin is a rugged old-timer  hired to maintain the aging lighthouse and preserve it as a landmark. He had been watching the blaze from afar when he spotted Kacey in her boat. The weathered, old salt waited for Kacey at the shore of the small island where the lighthouse stands. Having felt no immediate apprehension about him, Kacey trusted her instincts and allowed him to help.
 
 
Surprisingly spry for his advanced age, Jopin had easily lifted Adam from the bottom of the boat and carried him up a long flight of stairs to the living quarters. He cursed a few foul oaths worthy of a sailor, when he saw Adam’s burns. Still, he did not hesitate in tending to them. Kacey wondered whether allowing Jopin to wrap a foul-smelling seaweed around Adam’s burns was a good idea. But it seemed to immediately sooth Adam’s quaking, and so she said nothing.
 
Afterwards, Kacey stands with Jopin on the lighthouse’s terrace, where they silently ponder the Barimen Estate’s destruction. If there was ever a time where the words “the silence was deafening” applied to a situation, that situation would be now. Eventually, Jopin’s harsh, gravelly voice marks the last of the flames dying out of view from their lighthouse perch. He points out that she and “her boy” won’t be able to stay here much longer. Kacey levels a measuring gaze toward the worn, old goat of a man. She knows, somehow, that Jopin is not referring to just the lighthouse.
 
Kacey squints suspiciously toward the old-timer when he speaks again. He recons that it would be best for her to go now and be back before morning, if she’s intent on finding whatever it is she’s yearning. Kacey again searches the man’s deep eyes, which give away nothing. He’s right, of course. When she first arrived, Kacey had sensed something very familiar near the estate. It was something that hadn’t been there before; something she had lost a long time ago. There’d really been no time to think about it or to investigate. But now she wonders what it might have been.
 
Kacey’s whisper is barely audible, and it’s tone conveys her anxious uncertainty when she asks Jopin how bad it’s going to get. Jopin breathes in a tired breath, then exhales very slowly. He regards her with ancient eyes that communicate more of a warning than a suggestion. He nods in the direction of the ruined estate, and mumbles thoughtfully.
 
As I said, you’ll want to be back before morning...

Chapter 9.11 – Thunder

Given his present condition, there is not much else he can do now, but watch and wait.
 
Corwin had been the one to set him down this path. There is no point in placing blame, regardless of how easy it would be for him to believe otherwise. He’s accepted that his own choices in life are responsible for this current, miserable condition. It is a simple matter of cause and effect; the most basic principle in physics.
 
Still, polluting the mind of a child for the purpose of ill-gain is completely reprehensible. Fortunately, there was some small shred of conscience that kept him grounded enough to resist when it counted most. Of course, he’d died as a result of his defiance against Corwin’s evil.
 
While he was alive, he’d never once considered the possibility that there was something ELSE driving Corwin’s malice. Even if the thought had come into play, he would have immediately dismissed any non-scientific explanation as idiotic folklore. The idea was laughable, even. Now he’s left contemplating the reality of things in what remains of his disintegrating mind.
 
He’d never really bought into the whole good and evil thing during his lifetime. He’d decided they were sim-made concepts, manufactured to scare young sims into obeying antique customs. Perhaps some remote part of him had known that Kacey’s condition was not merely a breakthrough in human evolution. Why had he worked so hard to disprove reality with irrefutable (and mostly manufactured) science? Kacey is what she appears to be. And Hendrake, clearly, is what he …IT …appears to be.
 
The fire at the estate continues to rage unchecked. Deadly conditions within the gutted building make any hopes of extinguishing it nearly hopeless. Not that it will matter. Hendrake’s mechanations have payed their dividends tonight. And unless Kacey obtains some outside assistance, both she and Adam will die here tonight.
 
He frees the ancient Chinese weapon from its tomb of smouldering cinders, and studies its unblemished surface. There are few things capable of actually harming Hendrake; even in his measly and feeble sim form. The artifact is likely sufficient to get the job done. He may finally be able to collect some long overdue compensation, but it brings him no satisfaction. He still feels nothing; only the deep shame of remorse …and the fear of knowing that certain damnation draws near.
 
It is widely accepted by experts, that thunder is the sound produced by a shock wave which forms after air molecules are instantly super-heated to temperatures that approach those found on the surface of the sun, transforming them into electrodynamic plasma. Something very similar in effect presently rips throughout the cosmos; as a being of extraordinary ability slices through spacetime with the focus and intensity of a massive arc of lightning.
 
Her arrival is marked by an instant of blinding, golden light which illuminates all of Sunset Valley as though it were daytime. The wake created by her transit is so significant, that it causes the clouds to part, and a thunderous noise of indescribable quality and volume to erupt from the point of her appearance.
 
She’d had a singular objective in mind during the course of this amazing display of power – to find a boy named Adam. Leaping before looking is nothing new for her and her kind. Call it a genetic flaw. They had been well known for their deep-seated empathy and overly-demonstrative theatrics. Unfortunately, this flaw is immediately exposed upon her appearance.
 
Before she can inhale her first breath of Sunset Valley air, Hendrake materializes between her and the burning estate. She recognizes it immediately. This is the same evil presence that had tormented her inside the cave as a baby (see chapter 8.8). It evokes an immediate, gut-wrenching sense of dread. Her scream is drowned out by the rumbling echoes of the earth-shaking fulmination that had followed her appearance.
 
Kacey hadn’t prepared for this kind of reception, so she stands frozen in indecision, uncertainty, and fear. Then she screams again. The creature produces a blade, as rolling echoes from the shock-wave that had accompanied her arrival continue to spread across the valley. It seems possessed of the malevolent intent to wield the weapon with deadly force.
 
This is insane. No more than twenty seconds has passed, and already her life is being threatened. Kacey’s mind searches for some kind of escape. But before the beast can take a single step forward, there is a loud WOOSH! and a violent flash of steel from behind it. Hendrake’s head falls to one side, and his body to the other.
 
After a moment, Kacey breathes again, still wearing a mask of terror and panic. Eventually, she removes her eyes from the slain creature at her feet. A spirit stands where the monster had fallen. It too, is holding a dangerous looking blade. The spirit is barely cohesive enough to maintain itself, let alone heave a weapon. Kacey jumps nervously when the thing falls and clatters loudly onto the flagstones.
 
Kacey takes a few seconds to absorb the chaotic environment. She had leapt from her spot in Nowhere, the instant she’d heard Adam calling out to her. She’d actually scared herself with the method in which she’d travelled here. Before she could process what she had done, some monster from her past appeared and tried to kill her. Then a ghost with an axe cut its head off. Oh yes, and the Barimen Estate is buring to the ground. Having took mental inventory of the situation, Kacey finds herself wanting to go back to Nowhere.
 
She regards the unusual spirit as it tentatively and cautiously approaches her. It stops only a few feet away. It stands without moving, presumably studying her. Honestly, it is difficult to determine exactly what the spirit is doing, with it being in such bad shape.
 
Anticipating her question regarding its identity, the remnants of Reid Kimura speaks to Kacey for the first time in many, many years. His voice has the quality of crumbling, rusted metal grinding in her mind; as though every word further disintegrates his corroded form. Fresh tears spring from her eyes from this new shock.  She speaks his name in a nervous whisper; verbally acknowledging that he has just saved her life.
 
Reid’s barely visible apparition regards the buring estate. He warns that there is not much time before Hendrake reforms. He will return sporting a much more resilient body. Adam still lives, inside the inferno. He estimates, somewhat wryly, that it would probably require something on the scale of a volcanic eruption to actually kill either she or Adam using fire. Kacey thinks back to the terrifying experiments Reid had subjected her to as a teen. She shudders involuntarily. As though reading her thoughts, Reid changes the tone and instructs Kacey to call out to Adam with her inner-song.
 
Kacey’s eyes dart back between Reid and the buring building. She’d been here only a few moments, and already so much has happened. Her confusion is staggering. But one thing remains clear. She came here to find Adam. She feels herself being lifted, both metaphorically and physically, as her voices emerge like never before. It is a rapture unlike anything she has ever experienced.
 
From within the warm, radiant light generated by her angelic form, she sees Reid; as whole and real as he has ever been. She smiles. Kacey gently whispers her unconditional forgiveness for everything he has ever done to harm her. Clearly, this was unexpected for him. She hardly remembers ever seeing Reid smile, even when he was a young boy. But the expression on his face now, is one of pure, disarmed joy.
 
Her musical voices continue to call out to Adam. But they also seem to sooth Reid’s torment. She goes on to explain that obtaining her forgivness is unimportant. She continues, reassuring him that true forgiveness is never out of reach; and the gift of perfect love will always be given freely. All he must do is just simply, and unconditionally, accept it into his heart.
 
After a moment, Reid closes his eyes. Then, what little bit of him there is remaining, shimmers peacefully out of existance.
Is he dreaming?
Her voices, they sound so close. Is he dead?
 
Adam opens his eyes, coughing smoke and soot out of his inhuman lungs. The heat in the cellar should have been sufficient to not only kill him, but to reduce his body to carbon. Kacey’s voices wrap around him, giving him the drive he needs to free himself. He struggles briefly and realizes that he is pinned beneath tons of burning rubble.
 
Then he makes another realization… it’s Kacey …she’s HERE!

Chapter 9.10 – Nowhere

Every relationship she has ever known during her curiously long life, has resulted in nothing but grief and pain.
 
There was one exception. At seemingly random intervals, a boy would appear to her in place of David, or occasionally, his offspring. The boy seemed to defy the rules of reality. His name was Adam, and he was the same as her. She’d cried for nights on end, thinking about him; wondering who he was, and why they couldn’t be together.
 
She’d heard his angelic voices, singing out to her from somewhere in the cosmos. She responded, hopefully and excitedly, in hopes that they would find each other. But then his voices stopped singing to her (or, perhaps, she’d stopped listening for them). She fought desperately to find Adam; to discover where he had called her from. Her final conclusion was equally confusing as it was disheartening. He was Nowhere.
 
Having no better options remaining, she set out (somewhat defiantly) to find out where, in Nowhere, he was hiding. And that is how she reached this place. Should such a place even exist? As it turns out, it does exist. It is a place where there are no relationships; and thus, no pain. In fact, it is a place where there is nothing; only the soft, steady beat of her heart and the rhythmic tides of her breathing. That, and an endless, empty, and desolate wasteland.
 
She had successfully found Nowhere.
 
She has spent a hundred years here alone, or possibly more (time is a difficult thing to measure in Nowhere). There is no warning when, from out of somewhere, something drifts quietly past her in the same manner a soft breeze would transit though an open window. It invokes a sensation akin to panic. And she flinches. This is the very same thing she has sought to escape. But it has found here, nonetheless.
 
The appeal is almost completely undetectable, at first. But in a place where there is only nothing, not even the smallest something can be ignored. It is imperceptible, yet concrete enough to demand notice. She reluctantly emerges from her perpetual meditation; a self-imposed emotional purgatory from which she has little chance (or desire) of ever emerging.
.. PAIN …
 
The walls she had built protecting herself, crumble easily against the sudden, unstoppable surge of the stuff. Oddly, it is not that quiet whisper of pain that had succeeded in breaching her defenses. It is her own suppressed, compressed, and pressurized emotions that burst forth and make quick work of tearing down her carefully built fortifications.
 
This leaves her a trembling and sobbing mess. It is an agonizing and unpleasant thing to witness. But thankfully, she is Nowhere.
 
Something unusual stirs within the settling dust and rubble of her freshly ruined certitude. She hears Adam’s sweet, angelic voices calling her name again, and it immediately quiets her suffering. Stifled sobs escape from deep within her gut, causing her to breathe in little gulps. After all this time, Adam had never stopped calling her. Under better circumstances, she would smile. But the words she hears him speaking produce only a meek and indecisive frown.
 
Kacey …I need you…

Chapter 9.9 – Inferno

It is a universal truism that any confrontation in any schoolyard, will immediately attract a throng of vocal and rebellious kids itching to see a fight.
 
And when this fails to happen one afternoon after school, Adam realizes there is something very, very wrong. Adam had been discussing his birthday with friends after dismissal.
 
It took less than a minute for them to scatter after Noah overheard this, and pushed his way through; leaving he and Adam face-to-face, alone in the schoolyard. It was as though Sunset Valley had held its breath. Not a bird was left chirping, and not a bug was left buzzing.
 
The air of impending hostility surrounding Noah’s threat could not be ignored; Enjoy the ashes, freak; it’ll be the only thing you’ll have left to inherit.
 
Now, in the present, Noah’s dangerous words immediately awaken something latent from deep within Adam’s being. Clarity finally emerges from the obfuscated muddle of useless questions paired with irrelevant answers. The problem, it seems, is that Adam had been asking questions which were where bound within the context of a human sim’s observable domain. But Adam is not a human sim.
 
It is during this moment, in which Adam sees into his brother’s hateful heart. Noah’s cruelty has become a tangible and real thing. It manifests in the form of a creature that now calls itself Hendrake. But it is no singular beast or being. It is the cumulative amalgamation of arrogance and narcissism, jealousy and avarice, greed and gluttony, fornication and sodomy; from all beings across all times.
 
It is the spirit of hubris and insolence. But it had not always been so potent as it presents itself now. Over time, too many sims had opened their hearts to it’s enticing seductions and sinister perversions. Once it finally grew strong enough, it desired a way to demonstrate its contempt.
 
Adam’s ancestors had been peace-loving and gentle. Forged via the same incomprehensible force that had willed the universe into existence; they had been blessed with gifts to travel anywhere and to any time; for the purpose of spreading the message of perfect love throughout the universe. Hendrake commanded the Legion that destroyed the home of Adam’s ancestors, effectively silencing their voices for many eons.
 
This is the threat Adam now confronts. Noah had killed Flora. He had done it to evoke the emotions that would give Hendrake a toehold into Adam’s psyche. The intent is clear. Hendrake wishes to crush whatever remnants stand in his way of changing the universe to fit its corrupt vision. Adam and Kacey pose a direct threat to any further progress. It will leverage any means possible to finalize his and Kacey’s mutual oblivion; even if it means destroying everything – just as it had done to the Garden countless ages ago.
 
Adam emerges from the revelation feeling sick to his stomach; with panic welling up inside his throat. In conflict, there often comes a time when diplomacy no longer follows the path to resolution. He now realizes that what has come to pass is unavoidable. The time has come for him to pick up the shield and sword; and fight.
 
South Sim Beach is the one place where Adam can always escape the taint of Noah’s wretched presence.
 
Adam had been the one to suggest surprising Amber with a visit for his birthday. He’d managed to convince Luke and Makayla, after reminding them that Amber hadn’t seen the girls since they were babies. They weren’t necessarily opposed to going on the trip. But they are understandably concerned about leaving Noah alone at the estate. Adam inevitably wins the debate with the observation that Noah will do whatever Noah wants, whether they are there or not.
 
Seeing no benefit in giving Hendrake and Noah an easy target, Adam pushes his family through space-time. The resulting car trip to South Sim Beach is reduced to something approaching instantaneous. The bold move provokes unhappy protests from both Luke and Makayla. Adam hides the true reasoning behind his actions, and assures them that they did not really want a twelve hour road trip with two very energetic girls and one very uptight teen. Besides, it gives them twelve more hours to spend with Amber.
 
With Wendell’s recent passing, Amber had been alone inside her mission-style home on the beach. They’d both understood that the age difference between them would eventually play out in this way. But it still hasn’t been easy for her. Needless to say, she is thrilled to see her son and his family.
 
 —
 
They spend a couple days (and many, many, many simoleons) visiting Magical Mouse Land, then hang out together at Amber’s beautiful beachfront home. Adam spends quite a bit of time visiting the same spot where he and Flora had made out a few years ago. Here is where he apologizes to her, and promises that her death will be vindicated.
 
On the night of his birthday, Adam is treated to a surprise party courtesy of Amber and her long list of friends. When bedtime arrives for Grace and Joy, Adam follows Amber and the party to a local club. Although he is not feeling terribly celebratory, he plays along; knowing that both Luke and Makayla will enjoy being back in their comfort zone after all the party guests leave.
 
He spends the next few days meeting new sims and building friendships.  Amber, meanwhile, does her best match-maker routine, and introduces him to a number of her younger, single friends. Adam does his best to relax and enjoy the company. But an unconscious timer in his head continues to tick down. To what? He’s not entirely certain.
 
On more than one occasion, he’s been obliged to tell those young ladies who ask, that he’s already in a relationship. At least that’s the conclusion he has finally reached.
 
Kacey has occupied his every waking thought since before Flora’s death. How could he possibly commit to a relationship when another woman has already captured his heart? It’s such an unusual situation, to be completely enamored with a woman who may not even exist. If he could only just reach out to her… if only there was some way to find her…
 
It’s all the more reason to put an end to Noah and Hendrake. Adam silently steps out of Amber’s beachfront home, late one evening, while everybody is asleep. There is no time to explain; no time to say goodbye.
 
The only thing there is time for now, is avenging Flora’s death and ending the hunt; one way or another.
 
An unoccupied squad car parked haphazardly in front of the estate, predicates the presence of trouble, even before the ripples of displaced space-time fade from around Adam’s form. The driver’s side door has been ripped off of its hinges, and smashed through the front windshield. He hesitantly checks for survivors, then breaths a sigh if relief when he finds the front seat empty. His solace does not last long, however. Barely audible screams, from both a man and a woman, emerge from inside the darkened estate.
 
 —
 
An orange flicker from deep within the structure, ignites a gruesome scenario in Adam’s head. Noah’s unexpected voice startles Adam, and he whips around, reflexively taking a defensive posture. Noah is standing only a few feet away, where there had been nobody standing only seconds beforehand. He mockingly offers his brother with a vulgar birthday greeting, then chastises Adam for ruing his plan to roast Makayla and her brats alive. Then he smiles and boasts about his own masterful creativity for substituting the Flaumels.
 
The way he sees it, Adam has two viable choices. He can stay and attempt to pulverize his naughty brother, who may just decide to burn down the adjacent mansions if he’s left to his own devices. Or he could save the Flaumels, who will surely be burned to death in a matter of moments inside the inferno that now rages unchecked through the estate.
 
Acrid, black smoke has invaded the otherwise pleasant evening air. Adam shakes his head in disbelief. This is almost too crazy to be real. Contributing to the surrealism, is Noah’s sinister taunting. He recounts with exacting minutia, his sexual encounter with Flora on the bluff the night she vanished. Then, as though it were still part of his encounter, Noah describes with unimaginably vivid and gory detail, the process of ending her life. It was, in Noah’s words, delicious.
 
Shock and fear, coupled with his overwhelming desire to rescue the Flaumels, douses the sickening sensations of rage and grief that Noah has exposed; after reaching in and ripping them out of Adam’s gut. Using his painful emotional response as fuel for his determination, Adam launches toward Noah, baring his teeth and growling like a feral beast. But no physical contact is made. Adam disappears mere inches away from his brother.
 
Adam has learned that entering the space-time continuum has some parallels to diving into a swimming pool. One can interface with it smoothly, injecting into the medium with very little disruption. One may also cause tremendous disruption when interfacing with the local space-time; or as it’s called colloquially in swimming terms – “doing a cannonball”. This causes no more damage to space-time than a cannonball causes damage to the water in a swimming pool. Anybody close enough to the event, however, is sure to feel the aftershock.
 
Waves of inter-dimensional disruptions wash completely over Noah, who is both unprepared and unconditioned to this kind of disorientation. He falls immediately to his knees and begins retching from the experience, then mercifully falls unconscious as his inadequate sensory facilities become overstimulated in an attempt to understand and interpret what had just happened.
The estate’s interior has taken on a hellish quality. Blackened remains of furniture glow orange where greedy flames consume any remaining fuel before leaping to its next destination. Adam shifts from room to room inside the massive structure. Explosions shake the besieged building, simultaneously breaching previously unharmed sections of the home, and adding fresh accelerant to the raging inferno. Noah had worked hard to assure that nothing remained standing. Adam shifts from room to room, narrowly escaping explosions and the collapse of weakening supports.
 
His chest burns from inhaling poisonous smoke and the exposed parts of his body are badly burnt. If he lives through this, he may never be the same again. He had been through many rooms in the estate, but there are still many more he has not checked. Sadly, there is still no sign of the Flaumels. If he has any hope of saving them, he must think like his twisted brother. Noah would hide them where they would likely be able to survive the longest, but with the least opportunity for escape.
 
The cellar…
 
Heat from the massive hellfire above has turned the cellar into a roasting pit. He sees the Flaumel’s remains, where they had died embracing each other.
 
A profound sensation sweeps over Adam. It is a mix of grief, sadness, rage, and disgust. A conversation he’d once had with Mr. Flaumel springs into Adam’s mind …entire families had died
 
Before Adam can pull himself away, an explosion rocks the cellar. It had detonated directly above him, and it sends burning support beams and building material showering down.
 
His injuries are grievous. Is this how it ends? Noah wins? As the heat and smoke finally overcome his consciousness, Adam’s thoughts fade to a sentiment he’d been feeling for years, but had been unable to form into words; until now.
 
Kacey… I need you…

Chapter 9.8 – Hendrake

The warehouse has seen a considerable uptick in activity since Corwin’s destruction, and the subsequent release of a creature that had been unwillingly bound to him.
 
The creature has since taken on a more sim-like appearance, but is no less unnatural now, than it was the day Noah first saw it. It has provisioned itself a name – Hendrake.
  
Noah smiles broadly when Hendrake compliments the elegance with which he had implemented his assigned task. It was nearly flawless. And, as promised, the power he seeks will continue to be portioned out to him. There is, of course, the small matter of a cleanup job that had been required at the beach.
 
Noah understands the consequences of gambling with such high stakes. Fortunately, he had been prepared for this turnabout. Feigning over-confidence, Noah laughs out loud and points a finger toward Hendrake. If anything, he had rendered the service of arranging both entertainment and a meal for Hendrake’s greedy minions. THEY should be indebted to HIM.
 
After a few seconds of tense silence, where the temperature in the room raises some twenty-five degrees, a booming laugh erupts from the creature. It continues for some time; until a vile grin appears on Hendrake’s somewhat sim-like face. He mockingly congratulates Noah for acquiring his first debtors; observing that he has a very innate business sense for these types of “transactions”.
 
Noah smiles wearily and nods. He is rather good at what he does. But he has outgrown the name Noah, and whatever moronic principle it is supposed to invoke. He has a much better, and more appropriate name in mind; and it takes into consideration his long-term “revenue growth plan”. He’d even had the courtesy to draw it out of the same source material. Another booming laugh erupts from Hendrake.
 
The name slobbers greasily off Hendrake’s gross lips, with an edge that punctuates its intended malice …Caine.
 
There is an old adage stating that “nothing happens in a vacuum”.
 
Noah had been released from the hospital after having been treated for a concussion, a broken clavicle, broken nose, fractured jaw, two dislocated shoulders, and temporary crowns to replace his missing teeth. Doctors thought he’d been hit by a car. Those who witnessed the affair, would likely attest that Noah probably would have been better off, had it only been a car.
 
Even so, it may be somewhat shortsighted to assume that Noah was completely unaware of the power he was provoking.
 
From the very beginning, he has displayed great proficiency at manipulating sims and finding opportunity in the most mundane situations. Never, has he once shown any regard for caution. Perhaps he had speculated that Adam would ultimately show restraint, and was willing to endure some measure of physical discomfort. But it does leave one glaring, unanswered question – what could he possibly hope to accomplish?
 
Mack and Evelyn Flaumel had witnessed, firsthand, Adam’s transformation. There is no explaining that away. Luke and Makayla cement their friendship with the Flaumels based upon this revelation. They openly share their grief over Flora’s empty casket funeral. A monument is placed inside the Barimen family cemetery as a memorial celebrating the vivacious, young girl. And while it may be a reminder for the others; for Adam it represents a challenge. He’s not quite sure how, but he will make this situation right.
 
Since that day, there have been many conversations with Flora’s parents regarding Adam’s uniqueness. At times, Adam is keenly aware of their unspoken questions regarding his origin; and whether it is within his power to bring Flora back to them. It is completely understandable to Adam how they may have come to this conclusion. To spare them the agony of speculation, he takes the time to gently explain that he’s no different than any other kid in that regard. The truth, is that he doesn’t know, exactly, who he is or where he came from. What he does know, is that he may the last living member of his species.
 
As the weeks and months progress, Noah continues plaguing the family with his psychotic games; pitting the Flaumel’s suspicions of his criminal activities against the good Barimen name. There is nothing like a good dose of paranoia and subterfuge to ruin perfectly good friendships. Noah watches, with pure entertainment, as the details around Flora’s disappearance slowly begin to materialize and raise difficult questions. Had Adam not pulled his “guardian angel” act in front of the Flaumels, they might have eventually accused the silver-haired freak of killing their daughter. From Noah’s perspective, it’s just as well. He continues a mocking campaign of smug indifference while police gather enough information to loosely implicate Noah in her disappearance, but not nearly enough to indict him.
 
In the midst of all this, another cruel pattern has emerged. Noah had always hated Makayla more than any other sim, dead of alive. He finds new and inventive ways to make her life miserable. As a result, the pregnancy is plagued by many visits to the hospital, stemming from complications connected with hypertension and stress. Both her body and her state of mind suffer under the strain of his intangible assault. Just simply by showing his great enjoyment whenever she experiences these painful and frightening episodes, he’d succeeded in intensifying the situation.
 
Her pregnancy may have been difficult, but it was the childbirth that had actually put Makayla’s life at risk. Thankfully, Luke and Adam are both able to breathe a sigh of relief when they visit her in the hospital, proudly holding her twin girls. Both girls bear a striking resemblance to their mother. Joy had inherited her father’s blue eyes and features. Grace’s features clearly come from Makayla. Both girls possess their mother’s dark skin and hair.
 
Noah’s voluntary absence from the celebration welcoming his sisters home, provokes a good bit of animosity. So be it. Anything capable of generating happiness in the lives of the three people he hates most, amounts to nothing more than fodder for him to create more misery for them down the road. He’d allow them their little bit of “joy” and “grace”. But one thing is certain; it won’t last forever.
 
The presence of Joy and Grace at the estate, evokes a spirit that had been missing for generations. The home now bristles with excitement and energy; and the girls somehow manage to dispel the wards of misery that Noah had erected.
 
They grow quickly, and also quickly assimilate the dynamics of the situation between Noah and the rest of the family. It gives the appearance that the girls have managed to put Noah somewhat off balance. But appearances can be deceiving. Noah, who has taken to calling himself “Caine”, may have the rest of the family fooled, but Adam suspects there is something very ominous behind his recent quiet spell.
 
The frequency of Adam’s “interactive” memories involving Kacey has greatly increased, as though they are somehow inversely proportional to Noah’s angst. Most of them are very fleeting; where they are able to only exchange yearning glances before it is over. Adam still does not fully understand what triggers them. All he’s been able to deduce, is that Noah is somehow pivotal to the process; though he can’t imagine why.
 
There is one common theme binding these memories all together, however. When he sees Kacey, he does not need to speak for her to understand the message. It is the same dire warning that Anna had given to Adam the night she died; …run …and hide.

 
Adam has never actually met Kacey; and yet he cannot stop thinking about her. He also cannot stop thinking about Flora, but for an entirely different reason. They’d been dancing together that entire evening, along with Makayla’s family. Actually, they were having more fun together than ever before.
 
But then she started putting her hands where they didn’t belong; and pressuring him, almost relentlessly, to take her somewhere private. He pulled her aside and tried to explain his feelings. But she stormed off angrily before he could finish. He was going to go after her, but it was late and they were both pretty upset; so he just went back to dancing. Looking back, he should have gone after her.
 
Then there was the night he attacked Noah. Unfortunately, Adam doesn’t remember much of anyting about it. All he remembers is that awful moment when he’d grasped that Noah’s insolence was actually a  veiled admission of guilt. Adam lost any sense of restraint or self-control. He could have easily killed is brother.
 
But something very unusual provided a rather unique intervention. He had been transported into another memory. It was much more realistic than anything he had previously experienced. This memory was not about David. This time, he had been completely transported into Hope Barimen. And as far as he can tell, he’d saved Hope’s life; and quite possibly, his own?
 
There is something more about the episode that has been bothering him, as well. While he was gone, some part of him had remained here, in Sunset Valley. The problem is, he does not know what part of him that was. Was it emotion? Instinct? …revenge? If for no other reason, Adam has avoided even the smallest pushes through spacetime. What if he did hurt Flora, and just doesn’t remember doing so?
 
One fact remains crystal clear. Flora is gone. And whether it was directly responsible, or not; his breaking up with her that night, had been the sole catalyst for her disappearance. And he will regret it until the day he dies.

Chapter 9.7 – Retribution

Author’s note: This post depicts situations and imagery that some readers may find unsettling. Please read at your discretion.
 
Makayla has been keeping a little secret.
 
Actually, it hasn’t really be that much of a secret at all. Evidently, everybody except Adam had already figured it out weeks ago; even his girlfriend, Flora. They all enjoy a good laugh when the dumbstruck expression of awareness first appears on Adam’s face. Then his cheeks turn bright red after he grasps how, exactly, Makayla came to be pregnant.
 
Makayla mercifully ends his discomfort with a maternal hug, then invites him to say hello to his sisters. The plural usage of that noun causes Adam’s eyebrow to jerk upward. And it elicits another round of laughter from his family. Twins have been relatively common in the Barimen bloodline; so again, it’s not much of a surprise.
 
With the mystery behind Amber and Wendell’s surprise visit solved, Adam is able to relax a bit. Evidently, Luke and Makayla had been waiting to announce the pregnancy before exchanging their marriage vows in a private ceremony. With Adam having finally caught up to speed, they waste no time, and set the big day for the upcoming weekend.
 
Luke had been an only child, so his extended family consists only of Amber and Wendell. But Makayla’s family is a different story entirely. With her parents, sisters and brother, and all their children present at the estate (plus Flora and her parents), it feels like half the sims in Sunset Valley are in attendance. Makayla’s mother, Lisa, had been best friends with Amber growing up. Technically, Amber is Lisa’s niece. They’re only hours apart in age, and they’ve always acted like sisters (see Chapter 6.20).
 
Makayla visited the estate often as a child, and had played with Luke many times. She’d even danced with him at his teen birthday party. They have always been close friends, and would inevitably end up hiding out together at parties, away from the larger group of revelers. Oddly, she’s helped Luke navigate his romantic relationships on more than one occasion. She is Luke’s best friend, the mother of his unborn daughters, and now the woman he will happily grow old beside.
 
 —
 
 —
 
The wedding party carries on throughout the evening, with Adam enjoying a rare gathering of family and friends. He has always been a very outgoing sim, so he spends a lot of time socializing with Makayla’s numerous nieces and nephews.
 
It was never his intention to ignore Flora. Regardless of his intention, Flora becomes very upset with Adam for not registering her not-so-subtle hints to go outside and make out with her. Eventually, Adam takes Flora’s hand, somewhat impatiently, and they sit together at a table near the buffet.
 
Noah gleefully watches this drama unfold. The lovebirds have not been the same since their tropical vacation together. The music blaring inside the estate’s lounge is far too loud for Noah to hear what is being said. Thanks to a few neat tricks he’s learned recently, he does not need to hear. Adam is telling her that he wants to just be friends with her. She is his best friend, and doesn’t want to complicate that with all the physical stuff (Noah finds this particularly interesting).
 
He is quick to act when Flora storms off, red-faced and humiliated. It is exactly the opportunity he has been waiting for. Noah intercepts her before she is able to locate her parents to convince them that it is time to leave.  Flora’s father had been carefully watching him throughout the party. But after a few hours, and a few cocktails, and some very close dancing with Mrs. Flaumel, he has become sufficiently distracted.
 
Some weeks ago, Noah had stumbled upon a very startling discovery regarding Adam’s origins. As it turns out, his silver-haired freak of a brother is incredibly valuable. He’d realized this information after making the acquaintance of a rather impressive monstrosity. It had promised a reward beyond anything Noah had ever thought could be possible. There is one slight problem, however. Collecting his reward will require delivering his brother’s corpse alongside that of the only other creature in the universe like him. But first, she must be found. And for that to happen, Adam must be properly focused. It just so happens, that he’d recently earned a few fancy tricks to assist in that endeavor.
 
Noah slides slyly up beside Flora and slips his arm around her waist. She levels a warning glance toward him; which conveys the ultimatum that either he removes his hand, or she will remove it for him. He steps back and raises the offending extremities innocently into the air. Noah smiles; wickedly flashing hypnotic green eyes
 
Flora pauses for a moment, seemingly entranced, then reaches out to move the hair away from Noah’s face. A smug smile appears on his lips. Even this small taste of power is intoxicating.
 
Noah nods, then replaces his arm around her waist.  He carefully leads Flora into the courtyard, where they slip unnoticed through the back gate, then down the bluff to the rocky beach below.
 
Noah returns a short while later, alone. He mingles with the guests in the same manner he had done all night; creeping out the old men, and ogling inappropriately at the beautiful women. For all practical purposes, it’s as though he had never left.
 
Police and volunteers scour the area for weeks before the search for Flora is finally abandoned.
 
Mack and Evelyn Flaumel have come to grieve, and break the news to Adam. The Flaumels have grown very close to Luke and Makayla during this time. The Barimen estate had poured nearly limitless funds and resources into the unprecedented search effort. But it’s as though Flora has completely vanished. They’d even expended their search to nearby towns and cities, to no avail. Noah, of course, understands that no body will ever be found.
 
Not wanting to seem rude, Noah offers his condolences to Flora’s parents. And then to Adam. It really is a shame that his girlfriend’s disappearance had spoiled Makayla’s honeymoon. Perhaps Adam should pay closer attention the next time a hottie wants to get funky with him.
 
It is all Luke and Mrs. Falumel can do to restrain Mack from causing grievous bodily harm to Noah. A furious, and very pregnant Makayla snaps an order at Noah to apologize. He responds with a vulgar, two-word directive and begins to walk away, chuckling quietly to himself.
 
The adults do not have the same success restraining Adam. A burst of blazing, golden light erupts from him; and he descends upon Noah with supernatural retribution. The stunned adults can do nothing but watch.
 
Michael is not stopping this time.
 
Broken bones grind together with every slight movement, causing Adam to double over in agony. Hope cannot do this alone. Michael will kill her. They must push through the pain together; and escape (see Chapter 4.19)
 
Adam gingerly lifts Hope to her feet. Michael has already started moving in for his next strike; possibly a killing one. Michael is fast and unbelievably strong, but it does not matter. Adam meets him half-way and deflects the drug-fueled assault with his own unnatural strength, countering with a crushing blow to Michael’s midsection. Michael roars in rage as he circles back to bear down on the frail, teenage girl. A straight-leg kick to the jaw hurts Hope more than it does Michael. But it gives them the few moments needed to escape.
 
Hope is out. Adam takes control and directs her broken and naked body down the stairs, where he ploughs into Michael’s brother. Richard is trembling with fear, but is somehow still functional.
 
He haphazardly covers Hope with one if his jogging suits while Michael quickly recovers. Richard instructs her to run while he does is his best to provide a distraction. Richard will be beaten to a pulp, but Adam does not argue. He slams the back door open, then sprints; with every agonizing stride sending searing pain throughout Hope’s body.
 
He runs for a long time, until finally, he is exhausted. Hope’s pain is his own. And there is something more… Hope is pregnant. The tiny sim had only just been conceived days ago. He must decide whether it is safe enough to make the transition. There is no telling what damage Michael has done; and no telling if the child will survive …or if Hope will even live through the night.
 
It is too dangerous to move Hope’s body any farther. But if he does not, she will very likely die here. In a final act of desperation, Adam cries out for help.
 
He sits alone, attempting to subdue the pain; for how long , he is not sure. The fight to stay awake against nausea and fatigue is not going well. It is a fight he will eventually lose. Fortunately, somebody arrives. Is it Michael? His recognition of shining, silvery hair and glowing blues eyes is instantaneous. He reaches out to Kacey in an effort to thank her, but he cannot speak.
 
 —
 
He must make the transition now, before it’s too late…
 
Adam breathes heavily and looks upward toward the four adults standing awestruck and horrified around him.
 
His hands are wet, and he feels the weight of something heavy in his off-hand. The smell of blood is unmistakable. He releases Noah’s shirt collar, and deposits an unconscious Noah onto the floor with a dull thud. Adam frowns. He’d been kneeling over his prone brother. Blood is dripping from his knuckles, and flowing out of Noah’s mouth and nose.
 
Adam falters as he stands, his wobbly knees nearly giving out from under his weight. He doesn’t remember anything. His throat closes when he tries to speak. And it generates only a sick, choking sound. After swallowing nervously, he calls for an adult; any one of them, to do something.
 
Noah needs an ambulance.
 
Sometimes, when the moon is just right, the sound of Flora’s aroused exhalations may still be heard; rising softly from among the rocks and waves below the bluff.
 
And if the wind is blowing in from the sea, an observer might distinguish them steadily intensifying to a gentle, yet stirring pinnacle.
But then the rhythmic beat of the waves upon the rocks abruptly stops, and the wind from the sea falters, then ceases; so all that remains is a completely still and dead silence.

Chapter 9.6 – Nephilim

Wendell and Amber surprise their teenage visitors with news that they’ve decided to follow them back to Sunset Valley, and stay at the estate for an extended visit.
 
This unexpected change upsets Flora, as she had likely been planning to repeat her attempts at diversionary tactics on the way home. Flora spends some time pouting as they head out on the road. But Adam manages to snap her out of it by recalling the highlights of their trip.
 
He says nothing about the memory he’d experienced while they were making out on the beach. It felt like he’d been away with Kacey for an hour. But in reality, he had zoned out for only a few seconds. Still, it was difficult to ignore the emptiness he felt at the pit of his gut about Kacey. Is it even possible to fall in love with a memory? Any excitement Flora had generated, instantly evaporated along with the memory. Adam was successful with a smooth recovery, by asking if Flora was prepared for the possible outcome of risky woo-hoo.
 
After cheering up, she giggles and thanks him again for the amazing vacation. Still, a few times on the way home, she attempts to steer the conversation toward planning when and where they can try it again; along with the proper safeguards. Finally, Adam explains that his beliefs revolve around waiting for marriage. At first she laughs, thinking he’s joking. But when she eventually realizes that he is serious, Flora changes the topic with a sly grin. She promises that  when the time comes, he’ll eagerly change his mind.
 
Flora’s parents (Mack and Evelyn Flaumel) had met while serving together on the Sunset Valley police force. They immediately hit Adam with a line of questioning when he delivers Flora home.
 
It feels like an interrogation at first, but they eventually lighten up, and he agrees to stay for supper. By the time the meal is finished, her parents are both satisfied that nothing had happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. This leads Adam to believe that the Flaumel’s are acutely aware of Flora’s somewhat carnal curiosity.
 
Before dark, Adam sits with Mr. Flaumel on the simple back patio. He thanks Adam for taking care of his daughter and being a man of his word. Fully expecting a lecture about keeping his hands to himself, Adam is surprised when the topic of conversation changes to Noah.
 
Police have been watching Noah closely in connection to a string of arsons. Actually, they were worse than arson. Someone had taken the time to transform a number of homes into elaborate death traps. In some cases, entire families had died. The problem, is that they only have a few inadmissible leads, but no tangible evidence linking him to the crime.
 
Adam sits silently pondering Mr. Flaumel’s words. This drastically overshadows any anxiety he’s been feeling about Flora. The episode with Kacey had provided some clarity in that regard. He understands now, that he values Flora more as his best-friend than girlfriend. Flora doesn’t invoke the same flutters he feels in his gut when he thinks about Kacey. But that’s hardly important now.
 
 Entire families killed …for what?
 
Gigantic creatures had ripped through fractures in spacetime, with help from an apostate who had been seduced by the promise of limitless wealth and power.  There was no warning. There was no mercy. The great tree of life, which had stood for eons, was being sieged. They swarmed like locust upon the Garden, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake (See Chapter 8.38.??).
 
The Nephilim had arrived.
 
A short time before the attack, a young girl had appeared in the Garden.  She possessed shining, golden hair and glowing blue eyes. Her magnificent, angelic wings burned with the brightness of the morning sunrise. She was powerful and mysterious; a harbinger among the Harbingers. She’d found a spot within the branches of the great tree, where the tiny, formless offspring of their kind lie incubating. She sat silently and expectantly; her shining, golden hair waving in the foretelling wind, and her glowing blue eyes fixed on some unseen subject.
 
Those glowing eyes filled with tears as the assault began. She vanished as quickly as she had come, taking the only things she was able to carry. A seed. And a branch of the great tree where she had gently transferred two of the formless offspring. Those two, a male and a female, would be the only survivors; and the last of their kind.
 
Adam frowns, staring intently at Mr. Flaumel. Then, after a long time, he quietly offers whatever assistance he is able to provide.
Corwin Bariman has been a very naughty ghost.
 
These must be lean and desperate times for the spirit, for him to make such a daring move. Noah had quietly listened to what the spirit had to say regarding Adam. But Noah was far more interested in what the Corwin didn’t tell him. For example, why would a ghost be so concerned about a silver-haired freak?
 
It had taken quite a bit of research, but Noah has gained a great deal of insight about his very distant ancestor. Now what he needs, is insight into why Corwin had come to him in the first place. After gathering a few “tools”, Noah cheerfully begins to walk out the front door. He frowns when he sees the unmarked police cruiser parked across the street. They’re not going to make this very easy.
 
Noah smiles, waves, then ducks back into the estate. He uses a back entrance, then darts down the bluff to the beach. He can see the cops running down the bluff to catch up to him. Noah laughs, finds cover in some thick underbrush, then disappears into the woods. It is fairly late when Noah emerges again near the warehouse.
 
Corwin was wise to avoid the graveyard. Inside the warehouse, his remains could easily stay hidden, virtually forever. But Noah possesses a secret weapon. His grandmother had documented, with amazing detail, her own experiences at the warehouse (see Chapter 8.4). Evidently, Corwin had stolen a valuable portrait of his son, Julian. Amber wrote about her frustration regarding this one, unsolved mystery. Why had Corwin placed the stolen painting in such a random location?
 
Noah suspects that it was not random at all.
 
The warehouse sees little use these days. It is still the hangout of choice for Sunset Valley’s scaled back criminal underworld, but huge sections of it remain unused. Noah creeps through areas that likely had not been occupied by a living sim for decades. It is a maze of crates and dilapidated equipment. Fortunately, Amber had conveniently written down the exact location where she had found the painting (Chapter 7.97.10).
 
Noah smirks when he reaches his destination and spots a mundane-looking crate. Without hesitation, Noah begins to rig the crate with an explosive device. He fully expects resistance, and had prepared himself for an appearance by Corwin.
 
But the fury with which the spirit rages onto the scene had not been anticipated. His startle reflex nearly makes him drop the device; a mistake that would likely have likely seen him joining Corwin in the afterlife. After the initial scare, Noah ignores the raging spirit. And when he is finished, he takes a few steps back.
 
He speaks simply and calmly, demanding to be told everything. Having no recourse, Corwin’s spirit complies. Noah listens for a long time, digesting a tale that seems too impossible to be true. Noah mercilessly presses every scrap of information from the ancient remnants of a man who, in life, was possibly more evil than he. Corwin has manipulated many sims in an effort to destroy Adam…
 
Reid Kimura: unbelievably intelligent, wickedly malicious, and wildly insane. He could have easily killed both fugitives, but insanity overpowered reason.
 
Ali Zalne: Allowed his lust for revenge and penchant for sadism to obscure his mission to destroy the entity.
 
Jon Buford: Brilliantly evil, and relentlessly meticulous. His perfectly detailed plans should have succeeded. And yet, they did not.
 
Michael Nava: Too stupid to see the opportunity he was given, and too preoccupied with hedonistic gratification to have been successful.
 
Khaliq Hasan: Nearly succeeded, but also nearly destroyed all of reality in doing so.
 
Brandon Logrus: Soulless, and so corrupted by decadence that he had ceased being human at all. He was slain by his own considerable arrogance.
 
Finally, the most recent sim; quite possibly the most petty and useless of them all, too worthless to be regarded by name. He’d killed his wife and only child in a bid for power. And in the end, he lived among the rats thinking he would escape his fate.
 
Noah would be an addition to this list, if Corwin were to have his way. Noah’s face becomes a grim and sadistic mask. Now Corwin will be the final entry. He squeezes mercilessly for the last remaining bit of missing information… WHY?
 
Corwin hesitates a moment too long. Noah triggers the device without so much as an instant of hesitation. It explodes, rocking the warehouse and creating a shock wave that sends Noah sailing across floor.
 
Corwin’s only anchor to this world was his urn. With it destroyed, he has nothing to resist the inescapable torrent that now carries him greedily toward eternal damnation. The scream he emits is not a thing that any living sim should be subject to. And still, Noah smiles.
 
A moment later, it is silent again; and the unspoken answer to Noah’s question stands, revealed, upon the very same spot where Corwin was destroyed. This was highly unexpected.
 
Noah stands and sizes up the gigantic, demonic figure towering fearfully above him. Resisting the urge to panic and run, he speaks to the creature with the voice of a sim who has come unhinged…
 
Now we’re finally getting somewhere…

Chapter 9.5 – Interests

Nine generations of Barimens, spanning nearly two-hundred years, have lived on a bluff in Sunset Valley, overlooking the sea.
 
Adam Barimen, the ninth generation heir to the Barimen Estate, contemplates what he had been told by the woman who birthed him. Under normal circumstances, Anna would have been considered his mother. But things being as they are, it would be difficult for her to qualify as such. She had carried his physical form (presumably, a form that he had unconsciously chosen himself), and then bore him into this world. But that is the extent of their relation. To put it in simple terms, Adam is not human.
 
This, perhaps, is the only reason that Makayla and Luke give any merit to Adam’s account of the ill-fated visit to Anna. Noah has maliciously refused to corroborate Adam’s account of their mother’s death, if for no other reason, than to oppose his brother. In the long-run, however, it proved to be unnecessary. Makayla expertly wielded her considerable litigious clout, and pressed Fort Gnome with a blistering legal assault.
 
Months later, Anna’s remains are returned to the family with an apology. Anna had committed suicide ten years ago. But due to a clerical error, her records had been mixed up with those of another prisoner.
 
As Adam grows older, the memories of his formless past have begun to solidify. They are much more than memories, however. He is somehow able to consciously re-visit them, and interact with others by proxy. He has visited several of David Barimen’s memories in this fashion. And what’s more, Kacey is able to see him – not as David Barimen, but as himself, Adam. There is something amazing and special about her.
 
Adam has also discovered that he is able to travel through space and time as easily as a sim walks to the mailbox. It happened for the first time inadvertently, when he was injured during a fight with Noah. He had fled to Makayla, the sim who he’d always considered to be his mother.
 
Noah was able to deduce what had happened, and convinced Adam to use his ability to visit Anna. To be honest, it can’t all be blamed on Noah. Adam had often wondered about his birth-mother. He does not remember much about her, with the exception of one very special memory from when he was an infant. She was nursing him, and he remembers her beautiful, green eyes, and a warm smile that he can still visualize to this day. That memory proved to be sufficient enough for Adam to walk a few steps through spacetime to find her.
  
A short time later, he watched the life drain from those same eyes. The experience was traumatic, and he will never be the same because of it. But what she had told him with her dying breath, left an even larger impact upon his psyche. If what she told him is true, then he must somehow find a way to warn Kacey, the girl with silvery hair. Anna’s final words were a warning for Luke and Adam to leave Sunset Valley and hide; but he has no intention of hiding. He intends to stand…
 
…and fight.
 
The boys’ teen birthday arrive amid very little celebration; mostly, due to Noah’s continued struggles.
 
Since witnessing Anna’s death, Noah rarely says anything. But his malicious glare speaks volumes. He’d hated Adam already; but that night, when they visited a dying Anna, something snapped inside his mind. Noah’s annoying, attention-seeking pranks have become more secretive. And more dangerous.
 
At times, it is difficult to determine who Noah hates more, Makayla or Adam. He’d resented Makayla since childhood, and would often seek to play her and Luke against each other. But after the news of Anna’s death, the relationship between Luke and his closest, oldest friend had slowly warmed into an affectionate romance. This has only caused Noah to sink deeper into his twisted world, adding Luke to his list of perceived foes.
 
Luke and Makayla had tried to hide it, at first. But there are some things that just cannot go unnoticed, even inside a home as huge as the estate. The truth is, Adam couldn’t be happier. From his perspective, it brings everything full-circle. Obviously, he cannot begin to imagine the pain Luke must have felt when Anna was sentenced to spend her adult life in military confinement. And news of her death must have been crushing. But if anything, Luke is resilient. The transformation of his relationship with Makayla was restrained and respectful of Anna’s memory; or as Makayla often describes it – adorable.
 
Emergence into his teen years affords Adam some measure of independence. He has proved himself to be a responsible and dependable teen. Of course, it’s likely that he’s at least a hundred years older than any sim in Sunset Valley. But developmentally and physically, he’s still just a teen – and prone to those insurmountable hormonal rampages that all teens suffer. Adam chuckles, remembering what his biology teacher had said regarding her theory about aliens taking over the brains of teenage sims. If she only knew…
 
After learning to drive, Adam is given the opportunity to stay with his grandparents in South Sim Beach for a few weeks during summer vacation. Adam’s girlfriend, Flora, had asked her parents if she could go with him. Oddly, her parents agreed to let her go (possibly, the aliens never gave them their brains back). The fact of the matter is that their daughter is dating an heir to one of the wealthiest families in Sim Nation. What else where they going to say? They agreed with the stipulation that they keep separate sleeping arrangements throughout the trip.
 
Flora is a little bit on the wild side, and does not hesitate for a moment when the opportunity to do something rebellious presents itself. The trip should have taken only about twelve hours of driving time. But the teens do more stopping than driving. And when it starts to get dark, they’ve progressed less than half-way. Both teens understand what would likely happen if they were to make an overnight stop. The mischievous grin on Flora’s face betrays the fact that this was her plan all along.
 
Unwilling to fail on his end of the bargain, Adam subtly pushes through spacetime as they drive toward the nearest hotel. And much to Flora’s dismay, they arrive in South Sim Beach eight hours sooner than they should have. Adam shrugs off the impossible feat, and gives credit to the fuel booster he had used before leaving.
 
 —
 
 —
 
 —
 
Amber and Wendell show the teens all of the tourist traps and shopping venues. And even though they’re both quite a bit older, his grandparents understand that young love also needs some quiet time. It’s those times that Adam and Flora spend together, alone on the beach, they enjoy the most.
 
 —
 
It is late one evening, when the teens are too preoccupied with a very steamy make-out session to realize that it is well after their curfew. The police are a lot more relaxed here, and Adam is quite sure that they could easily spend the night on the beach without incident.
 
Adam’s mind races and his gut twists with the anxiety of having choose between two very conflicting outcomes. There is a line in the sand, and Flora has already leaped across it. Adam hesitates and considers consequences of doing something so risky. Then, within the blink of an eye, the decision seems wholly unimportant. His surroundings begin to gently shift into something less tangible; and Flora seems to fade away into the distance, even as she continues to entice Adam with her increasingly bold affections.
The police in Sunset Valley are quite a bit more strict when it comes to curfew. Kacey barely makes it through his bedroom window, before a police spotlight shines into the room. She giggles excitedly, then kisses him firmly on the mouth. Still breathing heavily from her sprint away from police, Kacey stops, opens her eyes and takes a cautious step backward.
Author’s Note: See Chapter 2.13
 
She surrenders a shy smile upon recognising Adam. She is no longer the little girl from David’s earlier memories. She is even more beautiful now. They stare at each other for a moment. Then, after feeling a draft, Adam realizes that he is wearing only his boxers.
 
He leaps to grab a pillow, blanket, or anything else to conceal himself. Kacey laughs at his reaction. With Adam scrambling to pull on a pair of pants, Kacey lets her hair down, then asks if he remembers their past few nights together.
 
Adam meekly shakes his head. She closes the space between them with a few graceful steps, then gently kisses him on the lips. Afterwards, with her eyes still closed, she smiles and whispers that his kisses are different than David’s. She opens her eyes and touches his silvery hair. She smiles again, absently murmuring that he’s not like other sims. He is the same her.
 
Adam tentatively takes Kacey’s hands into his. He manages to choke out the words that the two of them are somehow connected. He tells her about being David’s distant descendant, and that he cannot control when he comes to visit. She quiets him with another kiss.
 
Their physical voices remain perfectly silent. And it’s doubtful they would have spoken, even if they were able to find the words to describe what they hear. The booming voices of their ancestors have emerged and started singing in unison, weaving together an otherworldly harmony. The resulting hymn shakes the earth beneath their feet. And it easily moves them both to tears. They stand like this, locked in an embrace, for a long time.
 
Then, when Adam senses it is about to end, he kisses her wet cheeks, strokes her slivery hair, and promises that that he will not rest until he finds her.
 
Fire consumes without hesitation and without discrimination; hypnotically and addictively.
 
Somewhere within a small, nameless suburb of Sunset Valley, Noah stands inside the tree-line, just out of sight. Emotionless, he admires his work of art. The flames defiantly resist the efforts of firefighters to extinguish them. Another canister of fuel ignites inside the burning farmhouse, bringing a smile to Noah’s face. That was the master bedroom.
 
A cold chill interrupts his enjoyment. A spirit has joined him. Is it the spirit of a sim trapped within the burning house? Could he possibly be that fortunate? No. The spirit is old, angry, and evil. Noah likes him already. Its chilling inner voice grates over Noah, while dreadful, icy fingers probe his defective mind. He compliments Noah for producing such a fine work, which clearly bears the mark of a prodigy. Another explosion produces a small mushroom cloud, and a wide grin on Noah’s face.
 
That accounts for all five residents. No escape. Impressive.
 
The spirit introduces himself as Corwin, and he suspects they likely share some very intriguing common interests.

Chapter 9.4 – Hunger

Adam doesn’t remember much after finding Makayla, or even going to the hospital.
 
The one thing he does recall, however, is another memory about that cute, silvery-haired girl. Much like the other memories he’s had of her, this one only lasted a little while. But there was one important difference. He’d never been able to talk to her before. And this time, he could. Her name is Kacey, and she had told him she was afraid of her weird brother.
 
But was it a memory? Or was it a dream? It felt interactive, like he’d actually been there, experiencing it.
 
The gash on Adam’s head had bled a lot. But when doctors are finally able to treat his injury, there isn’t much to treat. Doctors are more concerned that Makayla had over-exaggerated the extent of the injury. But she was not imagining things. The only explanation (which she obviously does not share with doctors) is that Adam’s body had already repaired much of the damage by itself. Adam returns home with Makayla with little more than sticker for his trouble. And of course, ice-cream.
 
 —
 
Spending quality time alone with Luke and Makayla together is a very rare treat for Adam. He enjoys the opportunity while Noah is at school. Both adults do a lot of talking. It’s mostly about when Adam was a baby. Luke talks a lot about Anna, and how she loved spending time with Adam before she was taken away ten years ago.
 
Adam can sense immediately when the topic of conversation is about to change to “the accident”. He shares the few details he can remember. He was sound asleep when Noah came into his room to frighten him out of bed with a prank. They started yelling at each other, as usual. But then Noah poked Adam in the chest and started saying stuff about Makayla. Adam swung first, and landed a couple really good punches. He’s not sure how, but they ended up wrestling and figthing into the hallway. Then the next thing Adam remembers is Noah shoving him down the stairs.
 
Makayla kisses Adam on the forehead and looks him directly in the eyes. Then asks him, very gently, how he was able to find her.
 
Adam hesitates, losing himself in thought. He remembers hitting his head and being really scared. He knew right away it was bad. All he wanted at that moment was Kay. Then he just went to her.
 
As Adam begins to verbalize his thoughts, he hears a very familiar sound. It’s the voices again; the ones that have been with him from the very beginning. Brilliant, golden light erupts around him as he feels the weight of feathery wings manifesting on his back. Being somewhat unprepared for this revelation, Adam’s eyes dart between Luke and Makayla. And then, quite suddenly, he understands something very important.
 
He is different…
 
Adam lays awake in his bed, late that night, contemplating what had happened today. After the startling discovery, he and his parents sat together, spontaneously hugging and laughing. It finally felt like what real families are supposed to do. But unfortunately, Noah eventually came home from school. And he scowled silently at Adam all through dinner and up until bedtime.
 
He’s not surprised at all when his bedroom door quietly eases open. The safety of his bedroom is not enough to prevent chill-bumps from raising on his skin when Noah’s mocking and sinister voice drips into the dark room. Tell me how you did that.
 
Noah emerges from the shadows, his green eyes blazing in the darkness. He repeats his demand to know how Adam was able to find Makayla. Adam sniffs defiantly and dismisses his unstable brother, stating that it is none of his business. Noah scowls again, and states that is completely his business. He’d always known that Adam was some kind of freak. But he had no idea that he could be a useful freak. He points demeaning finger at Adam and accuses him of being a brainless idiot. Adam can feel his anger seeping up again, but he swallows it and tells Noah to leave. Noah ignores him and continues.
 
He conjures up his best condescending tone and asks if Adam had ever considered the possibility that he would be able to go to their REAL mother in the same way he went to Makayla…
 
Hunger.
 
It is the only real weapon she has to use against them. It may have been weeks already; but it’s impossible to tell when she ate her last meal. They’re not even human enough to notice. All they care about is her knowledge regarding the experiment Luke destroyed.
Well, they’re not going to get it…
She had been at death’s door once already, and she is very close again. It is a last, desperate bid to protect her family for a little while longer. Her only regret is that she will be unable to warn Adam …and Luke…
 
His name forms as a whisper on her parched lips for what might be the last time. A small twinge of jealousy tugs at her gut. She’d seen how well he and Makayla had meshed together. There were times after the boys were born that she’d felt like she was on the outside looking in. There is no doubting Luke’s loyalty or love for his wife. But she’s only served the first few months of her bogus fifty-year sentence. It cannot be easy for him. The slightest smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. Makayla has been a blessing. And she’ll be a loving wife for Luke. She just prays that her sacrifice will afford them some intimacy before…
 
 …before the end.
 
Her thoughts wander to Adam, the son she birthed but could never have conceived. It all revolves around him. Thinking about it, the whole thing smacks of some half-baked science-fiction saga. Two warring, alien races bringing their fight to a tiny speck of a town on an impossibly innocuous, little world. And now she gets to die protecting the last, living member of the “good guys” from a murderous contingent of “bad guys”. She laughs out loud into her disgustingly dingy cell. Maybe all the drugs she took in the past have finally cooked her brain, and she’s just hallucinating the whole thing.
 
Pain grips at her insides; a signal that her body is cannibalizing itself for sustenance. Death cannot be far away.
 
She calms as a burst of radiant, golden light floods her sickly accommodations. The sound of singing angels accompanies the light. Her heart races in anticipation. But then a sudden realization strikes. She knows those voices. They had sung out into the cosmos during her entire pregnancy. And the warm, golden light is the hallmark of Adam’s glowing wings.
 
She’d suspected he was powerful. But she had no idea he would be able to do this sort of thing so soon, and at such a young age.
 
Her vision has been ravaged by starvation. Still, she sees two tiny sim shapes emerge from the fading, golden light. One has shining, silvery hair – Adam? And the other possesses her own penetrating, green eyes – Noah!?
 
The sim with shining sliver hair shouts ecstatically and races toward her. His embrace causes her to wince in pain, but she ignores it. She kneels to his level and brings his face close. He looks just like Luke. And there’s something else. The boys appear to be at the cusp of their teens. But that’s impossible. They should be no more than three years-old. She’s only been here a few months… hasn’t she? There’s no time to worry about it now.
 
The presence behind Adam’s powerful eyes conveys an intelligence and wisdom far beyond his youthful exterior. He can sense that she is about to die. She sits with her back against the filthy wall and reaches out for Noah. His intense, green eyes widen in horror. Then he cowers away; as though repulsed by the thought of hugging such a sickly looking creature. Sensing her disappointment, Adam holds on tighter. Anna cries out as pain racks her body. Then her breathing begins to shallow.
 
She pulls Adam closer, whispering to him everything she has learned. His face remains expressionless until the end, when Anna’s breath becomes faint. Life fades from brilliant, green eyes and her final words linger on unmoving lips.
 
…leave… sunsetvalley …and… hide…

Chapter 9.3 – Altercation

 Author’s Note: After nine generations in Sunset Valley, I’ve found that a very interesting thing has happened. The vast majority of families now living in the town are somehow related to the legacy family. Four bloodlines seem to have really been very prolific:

  • Doc and Hope – they had five kids together, and the offspring from those children are all over the place.
  • Mary Upchurch  – Mary was Mark’s sister. She and her sister Elizabeth were the last kids between David and Ciara. Again, there are quite a few Upchurch family branches in town.
  • Tina Mann  – Tina was Faith’s daughter, born at the same time as Amber. Tina had five children. Makayla is the middle child. Her older brother and sister have started families of their own, as well.
  • Nava – By far the most extensive family tree in Sunset Valley. Dara (Hope’s sister) and Richard only had one child; but Nava offspring are virtually everywhere.
One of the great ironies of life, is that childhood lasts forever in the eyes of a child. But from the point of view of their parents, it disappears all too quickly.
 
As years stroll past, sims in the Barimen household struggle to find peace. Any hopes that Noah and Adam might strike common ground to foster the bond of brotherhood, are fleeting at best. Noah’s mean-streak is mostly to blame for the ongoing feud. Though Adam, at times, can come across as slightly high-and-mighty; especially when he begins lecturing his brother about being Good.
 
Makayla was present for the boys’ birth, and she understands that Adam is something different and special. But his glowing, angelic wings had not appeared since toddler-hood, and he shows no indication that he remembers anything about his otherworldly origins. She often wonders to herself whether he understands that he is not like other sims.
 
Socially, the boys are polar opposites. Adam has grown to be one of the most popular and well-liked kids at school. There is no questioning the natural leadership and charisma he possesses. And while he is far more social than his father ever was, he displays Luke’s gracious humility and charm.
 
Then there is Noah, who has chosen to travel a different path than the vast majority of Barimens before him. An outside observer might explain his propensity toward wrongdoing as “lashing out” at the trauma over being separated from Anna at such a young age. Whatever the cause, one thing is clear. He despises his brother, and he goes out of his way to make misery for Makayla and Luke.
 
However improbable it may seem (considering how Noah is only a child), Makayla cannot help but sometimes wonder whether the little creep is driving them toward a chaotic family implosion, just so he can stand back and enjoy the carnage. Some days, the tension caused by Noah’s antics is unbearable.
 
And, if things weren’t troubled enough already, Makayla soon realizes that she has become increasingly dependent upon the innocuous hugs Luke provides when consoling her. It is particularly evident when she is at her weakest, worn down by Noah’s wiles. She catches herself somewhat awkwardly embracing Luke in return.
 
Granted, she and Luke are both desirable, young adults with a lot in common. They’ve managed to keep their friendship grounded and platonic for years. But at times, the attraction is undeniable. Makayla suspects that extracting herself out of this situation would be sensible, if not outright advisable. But Leaving now would crush Adam, and set Luke into an emotional tailspin.
 
Still, she sometimes contemplates finding a man she can settle down with to start her own family. But, then, there is an uneasy sense that she’s already found him; and he is hopelessly out of reach. Despite her emotional battle, Makayla decides that she is exactly where she needs to be. She calls up her inner-strength and willpower to overcome the temptations, and finish the job she has started.
 
The decision is selfless and commendable. But Makayla does not entirely comprehend its scope until late, one evening, when she is working at her office at Doo Peas. There had been no contact with Anna since the first few months of her incarceration. The only information she is able to glean, is that Anna had been placed in the mental ward, where contact with family is prohibited. Neat trick, that.
 
Military legal code is far different than civil law. Nonetheless, Makayla has made it her mission to find a way to get Anna released. Obviously, it’s just simply the right thing to do. But personally, keeping Anna in the forefront of her thoughts provides Makayla the reality check needed to remind her that Luke is a distant cousin; and also a married man.
 
Makayla rubs her eyes and directs her tired gaze to the clock. She’d lost track of time and it is getting pretty late. She stands, stretches, and begins to pack her things. Then a faint sound causes her to take pause. It sounds a little bit like a men’s church choir, with booming baritones and trumpeting tenors. When the floor abruptly shifts beneath her feet, Makayla lunges out to the desk to steady herself from falling.
 
Adam’s voice, crying in long wails, grows in volume until it sounds like he is right next to her. She can also hear Noah, laughing maniacally some distance behind him.
 
Her office instantly  becomes flooded in an otherworldly, golden light. Then, sobbing in gulps, Adam launches himself into Makayla; burying his face into her midsection. The golden light vanishes as quickly as it appeared. The angelic voices fade, until only Adam’s muffled sobs remain.
 
Even in the subdued lighting of her office, Makayla can see thick globs of blood flowing from a deep gash on top of his head. Amazingly, she does not panic. She manages to piece together something about Noah frightening Adam out of bed, then some kind of altercation, then Adam falling down the stairs.
 
Makayla frowns and comforts Adam. How on earth did he get here? Never mind that. She needs to get him to the emergency room; and quickly. A picture of Noah’s wicked, little face comes to mind and she sneers involuntarily.
 
It’s a miracle Adam wasn’t killed.
 
Reid has been acting really weird, lately. Adam’s birthday is in just a few days, and he hasn’t said much of anything about it. All he does is talk about that stupid, old mine.
 
His kid sister, Kacey, hasn’t been quite the same either. The three of them sit together at Reid’s dinner table, doing homework. When she glances up at Adam, her eyes widen and something like a smile tries to emerge on her pretty face. This goes on for some time, with Kacey continually making a point to look at him, as though she were periodically checking to see if he was still there.
 
Reid finishes his homework then sternly announces that he has work to do on the computer. He shoots an suspicious glare at Adam, then a warning glance at Kacey. Something here is not right.
 
After Reid leaves the room, Kacey’s musical voice, now colored with worry and stress, nervously whispers out to Adam. She asks a really strange question – who are you?
 
Adam stands, approaches Kacey, then cocks his head. Wearing what is sure to be a confused expression, he chuckles and begins to make a joke about it. But then, it doesn’t seem quite so funny; because he was about to say his name was David. He steps forward, sensing Kacey’s anxiety, and realizes that this is no laughing matter. He pauses, stutters, then tells her his name is Adam.
 
She smiles a quick, sad smile. Then her eyes begin to fill with tears.
 
Adam, please stay with me. I’m really scared…