- SIMaS: Chapter 20 – The Raid
- SIMAS Chapter 1 – Link Moss and the Magic Hippo
- SIMAS Chapter 2 – In-Flight Memories
- SIMAS Chapter 3 – Link Moss: Devious Mastermind
- SIMaS Chapter 4 – Curiouser and Curiouser
- SIMaS Chapter 5 – Welcome to Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 6 – So I Married a Supervillain
- SIMaS Chapter 7 – Little Talks
- SIMaS Chapter 8 – His Excellence, King Link
- SIMaS Chapter 9 – The Megardian Royal Family
- SIMaS Chapter 10 – How Double Lives Start
- SIMaS Chapter 11 – The Morning Report
- SIMaS Chapter 12 – Paradigms Shifting Without a Clutch
- SIMaS: Chapter 13 – Thunderstruck, Enlightening
- SIMaS Chapter 14 – Eris Lives
- SIMaS Chapter 15 – The Guardian Spirit of Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 16 – Midnight Council
SIMAS Chapter 3 – Link Moss: Devious Mastermind
“I am not sharing a room with her.”
Nathan was standing in the two open doors between the two hotel rooms Amanda had reserved for them, arms folded, gaze straying to Chloe, who was happily watching cartoons from the couch in their two bed suite.
Link was putting things away in his own room and privately looked heavenward, seeking the strength not to get into a shouting match with his son. “This is how it’s always been, ever since Chloe’s been old enough to sleep on her own. You can’t act like you’re surprised after all the trips we’ve taken.”
“It was okay before.” said Nathan, “But I’m a grown man now and I can’t share a room with some little kid. She’s going to be watching cartoons instead of real television, she’s going to ask all sort of stupid questions, and at night, she’s going to bug me for water, or read to her like you do.”
Turning from putting his suitcase away, Link started ticking off on his fingers. “First of all, you’re not a man. Not legally, and seeing as we’re having this conversation, not mentally either. That’s your little sister, and until you got into all this dark crap, you loved her. Two years ago, you begged us—begged us–to let you take her trick-or-treating. Do you remember that?”
Nathan sputtered, but nodded. “Yeah, but—“
“But what? Did you find out she’s somehow not your sister? That you’re not a member of this family? Because I really might buy into a story featuring some pseudo-goth pod right about now.”
A huff escaped the boy and he hunched his shoulders. “Dad, you don’t understand…”
“Then talk to me Nate.” Link sat down on the single bed in his room and gestured for his son to sit on the couch. “Man to man, come on. Both me and your mother would really like to know what the he…” He became hyper aware the Chloe was in the other room, “…ck is going on with you. I get it more than you think you know; I thought my parents were stupid and unfair too.”
Nathan refused to move from the door frames, but did relax a bit against it. “Look, it’s just… I didn’t want to come, okay? Like my friends have parties or just hang out and watch movies, and all kinds of stuff on the weekends and I miss half of it because we’re flying to Hawaii, or London, or Tokyo all the time because mom feels guilty about being gone most of the time. And hey; you know the best part? They get mad at me when I tell them because they think I’m bragging.”
He’d uncrossed his arms and started talking with gestures halfway through, and was out of breath by the end, thanks to his over the top gesticulations.
Careful not to laugh at the display, which reminded Link of his mother and sister, he clasped his own hands in front of him. “I can see why you’d be upset over that.”
“It just sucks, you know?” Nathan paced into the room, “Everyone thinks I’m this rich snob and I don’t get any of the benefits.”
“Except that exotic vacations and first class travel.” Link pointed out.
“You aren’t helping.”
“I’m not sure what you want me to say,” Link bent down and pulled off his shoes. “They’re your friends and they’re the ones with the problem. I don’t think it’s fair for you to throw the nice things your mother does for this family back in her face because your friends are jealous and won’t take your word for it that you’re not some over-privileged prat.”
Kicking the hoes under the bed, he straightened back up, “Which friends are we talking about, anyway?”
“Jake and Melody.” Nathan said as he sat down heavily on the couch and easily sank into a good brooding posture.
Link couldn’t stop the snort before it escaped his nose. “Melody Macomber?” He had a private laugh at everything about the situation now. First, because one of his son’s bad influence friends was the daughter of one of his old bad influence friends.
Butch Macomber had been one of the biggest stoners in school. He was so efficient in his quest to get high, in fact, that Link ended up never touching a single joint just because he saw how getting big into it turned to for Butch.
Time change, and apparently pot’s long term effects weren’t as bad as their health class had threatened them with, because Butch was an accountant for one of the largest companies in town and…
“Her house is bigger than ours.” Link pointed out. “They have an in-ground pool. Butch gets a new car every year. How in the he…” again, he remembered Chloe just in time, “…ck does she get off thinking you’re the snotty rich kid here?”
Nathan shrugged because logic and reality had no place in teenage drama.
“Yeah.” Link said, defeated by that ironclad argument, “I figured. But look, these vacations are going to keep happening, and either your friends really are your friends and they’ll learn to deal with it, or, you know, whatever. You might as well learn to enjoy it.”
“While sharing my room with a toddler.” Nathan muttered.
Link decided to pick his battles a bit more carefully and didn’t get lured into the obvious war of semantics. “Be nice to your little sister. She looks up to you.” He had a flash of his father saying the same too him, not ten minutes before Billie decided to practice origami with his comic book collection.
Tensing with a bit of long buried anger, he held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “I’ll take Chloe out to see the sites and you can have the room all to yourself until sundown. I’ll even take her over to the children’s hula class from the brochure so you have even more time, okay?”
It was clear that Nathan was fighting to keep from smiling. “That could work.”
“Yeah, thanks, Dad, you’re the best.” Link imitated his voice and earned a barely hateful glare. “No worries son. Just… don’t bring women up to your room.”
Nathan gave him an indignant glare that time. “But what if—“
You have a choice here, son. We’ve had the talk, explained as well as we could to you about protection and the emotional component of… that sort of thing. We’ve told you that we trust your judgment on the issue and that we understand what you’re going through… But here’s an addendum, Nate, so listen close.”
“Dad, I’d really rather—“
“Listen. Close.” Link allowed himself a smug smile when his sullen son snapped to like an obedient soldier at the same voice Link’s father used on him when he was getting mouthy. “Okay then. Allow me to impress this upon you: going with any girl you meet who is willing to come back to the room of a seventeen year old boy who will be gone by Sunday night within hours of meeting him—is a bad choice. And if you make that choice, although I will still care about you and love you as a son, I will no longer have any faith whatsoever in your judgment as a man. Are we clear on this?”
Nathan hemmed and hawed, then rolled his eyes. “I’m not stupid Dad.”
“And all I’m asking is for you to prove it.”
“Fine. Whatever.” he slouched dramatically back on the couch.
Link knew that this wasn’t a sign that he’d won, but one that something spiteful was coming online. Far too many times in the past, both he and Amanda had taken it as an admission of defeat only to get blindsided by teenaged pettiness.
So instead of letting it drop, he took advantage of the situation in a way his father never would have considered. “Don’t pout all over my couch, Nate. I’m planning to sit on that to watch TV. Now listen: all I’m saying is that you can’t sleep with some random girl the second you meet her. This is neither an unfair or wise rule. You’re a smart kid, no matter what your grade say,” Admittedly, his father had once used that exact phrase with him and had been proven one hundred percent right.
“This isn’t some buckle-shoed, pilgrim hatted ‘no sex before marriage’ thing; just as ‘know who you’re with first’. Believe me, that other path leads to the kind of stuff they use for those scare slide in health class, and also to becoming the kind of guy who treats women in ways that make punching him in the face almost worth the assault charges.”
That crack managed to get Nathan’s lips to twitch in a quickly quashed smile.
“Yeah, see? I’m not saying you can’t date a girl while you’re here. And this is the internet age, after all, it’s not like you have to lose contact if it becomes something more. Heck, you’ve got an advantage there no other guy your age does: thanks to your mom, you know you’ll eventually get to come back here.”
Nathan gave him a wary look, expecting to hear a torrent of provisos, and restrictions that would render the whole thing moot. None came.
“That… doesn’t sound half bad.” He admitted.
“That’s because it’s completely good. Do you have any idea what I would have done to be in your position when I was your age? I never left my home state until I went to college.”
Sitting up, Nathan scrubbed his hands through his hair. “I guess this can work out. But if Chloe wants to watch cartoons, she can do it in here.”
Link gave what he hoped was a magnanimous tip of his head. “Deal. Glad you’re finally on board, son.”
It was around noon that same day, and n the heat of the day, Link was starting to feel both bored and alone.
Nathan, as per their agreement, had the room to himself and a few bills to keep himself amused. And, on the way to the children’s hula school, Chloe had spotted a sign for the day camp all about native plants and animals and begged to go.
The price was pretty steep for a late arrival, but the absolute joy on her face was worth it. Even though Nathan tried to hide it those days, both kids had a natural curiosity and excelled in most of their science courses because of it. Luckily, they didn’t get so wrapped up in things that it ended up hurting them in terms of raw grade like Link had.
If he wanted to be honest with himself, he knew it was still getting him into trouble. He daydreamed at work, which got him booted off more than one job, and in others, he’d actually made improvements, only to find out that they were against company policy for whatever arbitrary reason, resulting again in dismissal. Other times, the strange schedule he had to keep for the sake of Amanda’s family vacations were the deal breaker.
He’d tried to go into business himself, but he was an idea man with no skill in engineering or marketing: he knew when something was possible, but not how to bring it about, and certainly not how to get people to buy it.
Sometimes, he wished that he didn’t know certain things were possible. At least then it wouldn’t have been so frustrating knowing that, for example, there was no practical reason why they lived in a world without a full in-dash diagnostics system in every car; just political push and pull between manufacturers and mechanics.
Drifting in a haze of thought, he wandered into the hotel lounge and took a seat that the bar. There was live entertainment playing; a band of older men playing soft rock tunes about summer and the beach, and they all looked delighted to be playing covers in a mid-scale hotel, like it had been their lifelong dream.
He wished he could find a job that made him feel like that. But the reality was that he failed because he didn’t know how to play the game.
No matter how many times he’d get back up, scrape some money together from some minimum wage cesspit job, and try again, the secret and nebulous landscape of the business market foiled him. But Amanda still stuck by him, keeping the family afloat on her paycheck, even if it took her away from them constantly. In fact, she insisted he never give up, because the way she saw it, the children could learn a valuable lesson from the triumph she was sure he’d reach one day.
He ordered a rum and coke, heavier on the coke, because he did have to be alert for the kids’ sake, and settled in to contemplate his next move.
There was already a concept sizzling around in his head: an all-in-one, hand-held medical scanner. There were hand-held units that checked pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar, respiration, and a dozen other vital signs, so why hadn’t anyone combined them into a single device that first responders could carry, that could be tucked into every first aid kit, and hanging from the belt of every doctor and nurse?
He’d told Amanda about it in bed a week or so ago, and she’d thought it was a great idea. But then, she loved him and professed to think all his ideas had been good; from the special tarmac for gas stations that absorbed spills and could be processed to reclaim that lost gas, to paint-on solar cells. Her enthusiasm rarely translated into success.
Someone sat at the bar beside him and he looked at them sidelong.
It was a beautiful woman with midnight hair that sported red highlights and reached to just above her shoulders. Her skin was lightly tanned, probably just from laying out on the beach that day, and as if completing a list of stereotypes, she had a perfectly round mole just below and to the right of the corner of her mouth.
She caught him looking and smiled before ordering a long island iced tea.
In his head, Link laughed: she must have been someone else that visited Hawaii frequently. Most people exclusively ordered fruity drinks that had umbrellas in them, or came in coconut shells and hollow pineapples because that’s what you drank when you went o Hawaii. Unless you came to Hawaii four or five times a year, at which point, you were comfortable just ordering the drink you liked instead of one that told you that something fun and exotic was happening.
He sipped at his drink and started thinking about what to do once it was gone. Normally, those trips were all about keeping Chloe entertained, but the day camp wasn’t over until four, so he suddenly had free time he didn’t know what to do with.
Link glanced to the side and found that the smokey, confident voice belonged to the woman beside him. In his head, he wondered if she’d been built in a factory or something, because no woman hit all the typical high points like she was outside of movies. And that smile she was giving him—it set off warning bells.
“Afternoon.” He said, facing forward again. In the movies, the middle aged guy always seemed to believe that the only reason a beautiful younger woman would look at him was because he, unlike every other middle aged man, was still a stud and women were suddenly noticing after having failed to for the past decade.
Those guys ended up dead, robbed, chained to hotel beds, or, in one particularly memorable film he recalled, transformed into a vampire. It never ended well. Ever.
And even if he was that gullible, he wasn’t that guy. He loved Amanda and cheating on her was one of the few ironclad things he would not do. He wasn’t even sure he wouldn’t kill a man, given the right situation, but he knew he would never willingly hurt his wife or children; emotionally or physically.
“Here on vacation?” the woman pressed.
Yeah, she was definitely after his wallet. Or organs. But not that one.
“Honeymoon.” He lied, taking another drink. “Yeah, this plus the wedding nearly wiped us out, but it’s worth it. I’m waiting on my wife to finish booking our boat tour.”
Link felt proud of that one. In one fell swoop, he’d removed the most likely reason she was trying to hook him; money, and the things she almost certainly planned to use to hook him; sex. It made him feel like an evil mastermind, out-gambiting the obvious hustler beside him.
The cover band had stopped playing and were taking down their equipment, leaving an uncomfortable quiet in the room. There didn’t seem to be very many people in the bar anymore. As he pondered this, the bartender brought him another rum and coke without being asked.
He nodded to the man, took a long drink, and immediately knew something was wrong. The drink left a bitter taste in his mouth and left his lips and tongue instantly numb.
Panic rising, he pushed the drink away and tried to stand, but his legs wouldn’t respond. His breath started to become shallow and his vision fuzzed around the edges. Cobwebs started to fill his head as he looked over at the strange woman.
She smirked. “Interesting, Mr. Moss: I didn’t know you could go on a honeymoon after seventeen years of marriage. Speaking of which; when you wake, I should like to have a conversation with you about your wife.”
Bookmark the permalink.