51 Road to Nowhere, Grunt Boot Camp
The following morning, General Buzz Grunt was outside his house, evaluating Tank’s progress on the obstacle course.
The General did not expect to be approached from behind. “General Grunt,” called a male voice.
Grunt turned around. “Vidcund Curious, what are you doing here? I swore to never talk to any of you Curiouses again. You are the ones that got me expelled from school, remember.”
Vidcund rolled his eyes. “Let’s put that behind us, Grunt. There are more important things going on in our neighborhood. What happened on your side during the Beaker Castle battle?
The General motioned to Tank to continue with the obstacle practice without his supervision. He turned back to Vidcund, maintaining the frown he reserved for members of the Curious-Smith family.
“Oh, you wanna know what happened back there? My wife and other son got injured because those Beaker zombies attacked them!”
“Oh, don’t act like you’re the only one with casualties. My brother and nephew are both injured too! But we aren’t sure if those zombies are really from the Beakers. Or if they’re even the true problem at all.”
“Clean your glasses, Curious! Of course they’re the problem! They’ve hurt both of our relatives. So the Beakers must pay.”
“The Beakers will pay, but not because of the zombies. On the morning of the battle, I saw through the telescope that the zombies were dispatched FROM Specter Yard, marching to Beaker Castle. I think their target is Nervous Subject.”
Grunt smirked. “You think the zombies from are from 13 Dead End Lane, and are on some rescue mission to save that test subject? I don’t believe it, that doesn’t make sense. I think you Curious nerds are biased, because you three mistake Nervous’ raiding your fridge for true friendship.”
Vidcund sighed. “I knew you weren’t going to agree with me. But maybe this could work in our favor. If we can combine guard duties and sync our attack, with your army causing a distraction, and ours freeing Nervous, maybe the zombies would hold off. Isn’t that what you want, restoring the peace? Look, your army can smash anything you want, and do anything you like with the Beakers, while we free Nervous. I think that may achieve better results than if our armies work separately.”
Grunt took a quick glance at Tank, who did not seem to be slackening without the General’s eyes on him. “Hmm, I get it,” he muttered, his expression finally softening into a cordial neutrality. “If you’re right, then this plan may indeed be successful. If there’s one thing the military taught me, it’s to focus on the big picture. As long as I am free to command my side, while you command only your own, I agree with this plan.”
Grunt held out his hand. Vidcund accepted the handshake.
“I agree that we’re likely to succeed if we focus on different things, because our distraction will be justified,” added Grunt. “If you think those zombies are really onto Nervous, then you must rescue him first. We’ll kill any zombies in our and your way.”
1 Tesla Court, Beaker Castle
In Beaker Castle, Erin Beaker threw down a plastic bag of food into the pit. After the electric fence was implemented, Nervous Subject was fed twice a day in this fashion. An hour after his meal times, he would be allowed up to use the bathroom.
“You monster!” Nervous’ accusing wail echoed from the pit.
“You are the monster in the pit (*), Nervous Subject!” taunted Erin’s brother,
Loki, who was hobbling nearby, his limp a result of his fridge mishap in the previous battle. “Mind your words, you ungrateful dog, or I’ll let you starve down there!”
Loki sighed. His wife, Circe, had since regained consciousness, but was still resting upstairs. But Loki was sure that like himself, his feisty wife would force herself onto her feet, long before any doctors would typically advise her to.
Loki was also sure that another assault was imminent, but the Beakers were certainly in no health condition to pack up and leave now. Besides, would they not be admitting defeat if they fled the battle zone? What would they do with Nervous then? Melt him (^), because if they could not keep him, he should not have any chance to testify against them?
No, the Beakers had too much pride and too little working equipment to do any of that. Loki shuddered at the thought that he would probably still be trapped under the fridge now, if not for Erin’s intervention.
“Erin, did you recognize any of the fighters in the last battle? I only remember seeing Pascal Curious, that green Smith boy, the General and his son.”
“Not many. I think my green roommates were among them too.”
“Hmm… them. I’m not surprised. Anyone else?”
Erin hesitated for a moment. “No one else.”
“Why hasn’t Ajay moved in yet? Doesn’t he want to help us?”
“Loki, Ajay has been busy lately, working… for his new boss. He’s a Fortune sim, you know.”
“So career is more important to him than family. Or in-laws. Whatever. Are you sure he loves you?”
Erin did not even know how to reconcile within herself the idea that her boyfriend was technically “working for the enemy” in this civil war. To add insult to injury, Ajay’s Team Grunt affiliation had openly aligned him more closely with Erin’s roommate Kristen Loste, than with Erin herself.
Erin tried her best to push away all her worst fears. She thought Ajay was absurdly lucky to have not been seen by either Loki or Circe during the last skirmish.
13 Dead End Lane, Specter Yard
Meanwhile, Olive Specter was out in her yard, counting her tombstones. A female voice rang out behind her.
“Olive Specter.” The elder woman turned around.
“Hello, Mrs Specter. My name is Jenny Smith. We need to talk.”
“Address me as ‘Ms Specter’. My husband is no longer alive. If this is about the battle at the Beaker Castle, you have some nerve showing up here. What makes you think you’ll walk out alive?”
“Ms Specter, I’m not here to be intimidated,” Jenny remained firm. “I’ve come to talk to you, mother to mother.”
Specter frowned. “I have no kids. If you continue like this, then you might end up with none yourself.”
Jenny tried her best not to roll her eyes.
“Ms Specter, I know you’re acting tough just to cover up. But I know what happened in Midnight Hollow. We know you want your son back. My brothers are friends with Nervous Subject, and our goal is to save him too. We want peace. Nervous doesn’t deserve to be hurt anymore.”
Specter gasped. “What are you talking about?!” Involuntary tears stung her eyes. “You know nothing!”
“I feel your pain. There isn’t a mother in the world who wants to see her child taken away and be abused. We want to stop the Beakers too, but our main priority is to save Nervous. We know you love your son, and we will do everything in our power to bring him back to you.”
It had been a long time since Olive Specter had shown any emotions, besides anger and frustration, in front of strangers.
“I… I… I just want him back!” she sobbed. “I… I… thank you very much. I’m sorry I was so rude to you…”
Jenny smiled. “It’s OK. We can call the police, and then everything’s solved.”
Specter wiped her tears. “No, don’t call the pigs… I mean cops, please. I have done… some stuff the police considers to be ‘bad’. If a gumshoe comes sniffing around now, I’ll spend the rest of my elder days in prison. The only way I’ll see my son is through bulletproof glass, with five guards behind me. Not a good idea.”
Jenny nodded. “I understand. But if we go into Beaker Castle, we’ll be attacked by those zombie guards.”
“Believe me, they’re not Beaker’s guards. They’re my goons.”
Jenny tried her best not to look too enthusiastic at Specter’s confession.
“If your goal is to really save Nervous, I can make the Beakers their only targets,” blurted Specter. “Your team will be left untouched. Just tell them to not verbally taunt the zombies, because that’s the only way I can lose control of them. They wouldn’t lapse for TOO long, but when they DO lapse, the consequences could be catastrophic.”
“I see. I’m glad we have an agreement.” Jenny extended her hand. “To Nervous’ safe return.”
Specter shook Jenny’s hand warmly.
After Jenny left, Olive Specter wondered how it was like to have others on her side, for once. By that, she did not mean zombies under her command, but real people who chose to help her on their own free will. It felt strangely warm, but that was not enough to dissolve her grudge against the Beakers.
Specter would honor her promise to command the zombies not to attack Team Curious. But the zombies would still ensure that the Beaker family and property would be utterly destroyed. That would be the Beakers’ ultimate punishment for hurting her son. Her “agents” in both camps would ensure the zombies’ timely arrival for each battle.
Specter walked up to her niece’s room, hoping to ask her to cook lunch, while she reprogrammed the zombies.
The girl did not seem to be inside the house.
She was not in the yard either.
Where could Ophelia be? (#)
(#) To identify this place, look carefully at the earlier screenshots in this chapter (and before), or recall what you saw in the STM Machinima series. Whatever Ophelia’s reason is to be here, it seems important enough for a Racing Man Observer to be staring directly in her face.
(*) In STM 1.06, Nervous Subject was playing the “pit monster” scenario in Sims Medieval (time 3:53-4:04), as an ironic reference to his premade starting condition.
(^) In STM 1.07, Loki and Circe Beaker were faced with this same dilemma, about “melting” one of their captives. Will this captive get their revenge against the Beakers in the STSYC universe?
Make your GUESS for the Battle of StrangeTown winner.
For the POLL on the Grunt-Smith Feud, vote according to what happened in your game, or what you like to happen in your own story.
Will Team Curious, Grunt and Specter’s attempted coalition work out?