Three Rivers 25.1

Twenty-fifth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Shawn Kaur, game-generated Townie, now lives in one of Pronterus’s beautiful starter homes.

25.  Checkmate!

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Shawn Kaur could read all the logic books he wanted; he was still a pawn in this checkered world.

That didn’t mean that he wasn’t looking for a chance to advance a square or two.

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It wasn’t coincidence, then, that led Shawn Kaur to introduce himself to Alec Dolan during one of Alec’s campaign treks through this working-class Oasis Springs neighborhood. Shawn had scoured the Green Party’s website, then made a few discrete phone calls to learn a reliable estimate for the time when the candidate for representative would be walking down Kaur’s street.

“I’ve been following your speeches,” Shawn said, after the initial pleasantries.

“Oh, yes? They are effective, no?” Alec asked.

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“No,” replied Shawn. “Frankly, no. They pigeon-hole you. I mean, how many people care about butterflies?”

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“But everyone, yes? They are a symbol! For putting an end to the extinction that is caused by destruction of habitat due to unregulated development and the climate change.”

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“Yeah, but the demographics?” Shawn said. “I’ve checked the polls. If you ask people if they care, sure, you get 70-90 percent saying, yes, we care. But ask in a meaningful way: would you support regulating development of open spaces in order to protect endangered insect species? You get 46.5 percent saying yes in Windenburg, 25.2 percent in Newcrest, 15.6 percent in Willow Creek, and five percent in Oasis Springs. This is a harsh world, man, with people driven more by profit than protectionism.”

“Yes, but! It is our platform! What do you suggest? We abandon the foundation?”

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Shawn didn’t propose abandoning the environmental principles on which the party was founded. Instead, he’d outlined a plan for demonstrating, through precedent and theory, the economic soundness of the platform as a means of appealing to the self-interest of the voters. And then, once he had Alec’s full attention, he whispered a few other more clandestine tactics the party might try.

“I have a place for you,” Alec said, after he’d heard Shawn out. “It is not, what shall we say, the official position. It is the position known only to you and only to me. The campaign strategist, yes? It will be very much worth your while, success or no. Are you interested?”

Shawn was very much interested.

A few weeks later, he arranged to meet Alec in Newcrest. Shawn was there ostensibly for a chess tournament, and Alec was campaigning.

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As Shawn sat across the diner, he observed Alec chatting with one of the striking clowns.

The strike had been Shawn’s idea, and it had been easy to convince the clowns he knew, chess-players, mostly, to strike for better wages, conditions, and benefits. They were talking of forming their own union, too.

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If the Green Party could be instrumental in resolving the strike, it would be a big coup, showing voters that Greens had both workers’ interests at heart and the political experience to be able to resolve labor disputes.

Shawn wasn’t worried. A word or two from him, a bit of cash funneled from Geoffrey Landgraab’s elicit contributions, and the clowns would return to work, while Alec and the Greens received all the credit.

Shawn turned his attention to the table next to him, where two of the other competitors in the chess tournament, Dominic Fyres and Jim Bee, were discussing the Ruy Lopez.

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Shawn was paired against Jim Bee in the next round.

“I never play it as white,” Jim said.

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Shawn strained to listen to the rest of their analysis.

“What do you say, Shawn?” Jim called across the table. “Ruy Lopez for white, or not?”

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More clowns on strike meandered in, and Shawn diverted his attention back to their corner.

“I should have been a dentist,” bemoaned Ashton Poe.

Shawn had to snicker. He and Ashton had gone to school together, and Ashton had neither the intelligence nor the dexterity to succeed as a dentist. One way or another, he’d always be a clown, so it was best that he was one without pretense. They’d quit their moaning once the strike ended and they received their pay-off.

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When his meal ended, Shawn joined Alec at a chess board.

“I am not so sure about this plan of the strike,” Alec grumbled. “My friends, they are not happy.”

Shawn laughed. “Don’t worry! It’s working brilliantly! My man is running a new poll next week. I’ve got a feeling once we receive the results we can end it all soon. Then! On to the next stratagem!”

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When Alec left for his next speaking engagement, Jim sat down across from Shawn.

“Shall we analyze a few positions?” he asked.

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Shawn leapt at the opportunity, though he maintained a calm exterior.  He’d been dying to get a chance to see inside his next opponent’s mind.

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“You’d really make that exchange?” Jim asked.

“Of course!” Shawn replied. “Mate in three!”

“I think you’ve overlooked something,” Jim said. It was mate in two, for white.

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A few days later, the polls showed that community concern over the clown strike was nearing the peak that Shawn had predicted for it. If they waited much longer, they ran the risk of apathy.

Shawn advised Alec to call a press conference, then he transferred the Landgraab funds to the pay-off account. Soon, the clowns would be back at work, and Alec could take credit for the successful negotiations. This would gain them twenty points in the polls, easy.

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The Oasis Springs annual Chess Extravaganza rolled around, and, with two wins, a draw, and a loss, Shawn had a decent showing. He’d gain a few ratings points, at least.

He was matched against a sassy teen in a baseball cap who’d already earned a Master’s rating.

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She had an unbearable habit of leaning forward to broadcast through her expressions her estimation of the position. It wasn’t so bad when his position looked good, but when she had mate-in-four, it took every ounce of restraint for Shawn to avoid knocking down his own king in resignation.

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With the tournament over, Shawn headed over to where Alec was explaining to the park gardener and a local fisherman the Green Party’s plan for expanding public gardens and fishing holes.

“It’s the sustainability project!” Alec said. “Our own gardener, Haley Salinas, developed it. We have, in the Greens, more gardeners and fishermen–or fisherpeople, no?–than any party can boast of! The people, yes? The workers! Laborers! Rah!”

Shawn chuckled. As far has he knew, Alec had never done a day of labor in his life.

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When they had the spot to themselves, Shawn shared his latest scheme: a sure-fire way to cast aspersions on his political rival, J Huntington III, without uttering a single word.

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Mais, non,” Alec replied. “The Huntington, he is mon ami. We are partners, you see, in friendship and politics. We have two openings, yes? One for me, one for the Huntington. Then, we work in tandem. What I want, what he wants. It is the beautiful friendship.”

Shawn felt a little disappointed. He’d been looking forward to bringing down J, and using Geoffrey’s money to do so. Both Alec and Shawn agreed that the other candidates were not serious concerns. And so Shawn was left to find a new target for his political mind.

He still hadn’t developed his next covert campaign strategy when he took a brief trip to Windenburg to play in the W. Open.

Alec met him at the chess park the evening after the first day of competition.

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“We are doing well, my friend,” Alec said.

Shawn had to agree. The polls showed Alec and Huntington well in the lead.

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“I suppose you want me to resign, then,” said Shawn. “Job’s done.”

“The job is never done!” said Alec. “Suppose the dream becomes the reality? Should I be sitting at the dais, will I not need the one who can do what needs to be done? We will keep our association. You are willing?”

Shawn was willing, not for the pay, which seemed mostly to be nonexistent–or would be, if Shawn didn’t have his own means of accessing the Landgraab fund–but for the challenge and the opportunity to think.

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In August, at the Willow Creek Invitational, Shawn faced his toughest opponent yet across the board, a ten-year-old Chess Master, well on his way to becoming an International Master.

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He lost to him, of course. It would be mildly humiliating, except that the child won the tournament undefeated.

There is more to life than chess, Shawn told himself in consolation. There is politics. And it could be that this was where his real talent lay, behind the scenes, moving the pieces, until they were all in place, and he could whisper to no one: check mate!

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Three Rivers 14.1

Fourteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

14. What you see is what you get.

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No matter how many different ways Janet Fuchs tried categorizing the financial contributions to the Green Party campaign and general election funds , Geoffrey Landgraab’s always stood out.

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“It’s going to raise suspicions,” she confided to Arianna. “I just can’t find a way to camouflage it. Not that I’d want to.”

“Can’t you leave it anonymous?” Arianna asked.

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“Not in this amount,” Janet said.

Reports were due in a few months, and Janet couldn’t find a way to keep Geoffrey’s financial donations a secret.

“It’s going to have to come out,” she said.

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“Can’t we list is as coming from a corporation?”

“Only if we want an even bigger scandal,” said Janet. “They’d track it. It’s better this way. Everything out in the open.”

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“His wife won’t like it,” Arianna said.

“I know,” said Janet. “But it might be best in the long run, don’t you think?”

Arianna knew about Geoffrey and his feelings for Janet: Janet had shared everything, even her own attraction for him, as well as her fondness.

“The funny thing is,” Janet had told Arianna, “I could actually see it working out between me and Geoffrey, in a different universe. There’s something that fits between us.” Confiding to Arianna had brought them closer: knowing that Janet chose Arianna and their family, knowing there weren’t any secrets between them, knowing that if any secrets did arise, they’d share them with each other, all of this connected them with an even stronger bond.

“Maybe he’ll finally start sharing some of his secrets with Nancy,” Janet said, hopeful.

“I wouldn’t count on it,” said Arianna.

“I’ve got a secret!” said their son Orion. “Who wants to know my secret?”

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“I do!” said Arianna, sitting beside him.

“My history teacher was a complete jerk today,” said Orion. “Can I say that?”

“You can tell us what happened,” said Arianna.

“He said that there were no formal schools in Medieval times. But everyone knows that Charlemagne began the first schools in the early 800’s.”

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“Maybe he just meant that there were no widespread educational opportunities for most boys and girls,” Arianna replied.

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“But if that’s what he meant,” said Orion, “why not just say so?”

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Janet had to smile. Her own straightforward, literal approach worked well with their son. She’d discovered when he was a little boy that statements that weren’t factual, even if made in jest, caused him to become distraught. Her own mind was practical and honest; she enjoyed having her proclivities reinforced by the family communication style.

One of her tasks as the Green Party finance manager brought her regularly to the parks and open spaces of Three Rivers. There, she’d meet with other nature lovers, the birdwatchers, fishermen and women, and park-goers, to share the party’s platform and initiatives. Often, they’d offer small contributions or ask about upcoming rallies and other events to raise awareness.

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She was occasionally surprised by the skepticism and cynicism she encountered.

“Who’s behind you?” asked one woman. “Don’t get me wrong. I like your cause. It’s just that I can’t see you going up against the big corporations. They’ve got this whole marina slated for development. You think they’re going to back down because a few voters are upset?”

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Later that morning, she ran into Savannah, a fellow Green, at the park.

“You should have told her that Geoffrey Landgraab and all of Landgraab Industries were behind us!” Savannah said.

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“God, no!” said Janet. “I mean not yet. We’re going to have to come out with it, eventually, but until then…”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said Savannah. “So his wife does find out? Geoffrey just needs to grow a pair, get up on his platform and call out, ‘Power to the People, you money-hunger land grabber!'”

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Savannah laughed at her own joke. “That’d be rich!” she said. “Maybe he’ll change his name: Geoffrey Green!”

Janet chuckled in spite of herself. Savannah always made her smile.

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On the way home, Janet met Geoffrey, out for his morning jog. His smile at seeing her faded the moment she said, “I’m so glad to run into you. We’ve got to talk.”

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She explained about the finance contribution reports coming due in a few months and how she had to declare the sources of all the funds.

“All the funds?” Geoffrey asked. She nodded. “But my wife doesn’t know!”

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“You have a few months to tell her, then,” Janet said.

“But how? And what? Everything?” Geoffrey asked.

“I’m only responsible for reporting the sources of the contributions, Geoffrey,” Janet said. “That’s all that will be made public.”

“But that’s everything,” he said. “You don’t realize. Money. The Greens. The Conservatives. I’m not supposed to be funding the opposition!”

“We present a good cause,” Janet said. “Tell her about eco-tourism!”

“I can’t. I…” Geoffrey began to hyperventilate. “I’ve got to go.” And he jogged off.

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When she got home, she was met by Arianna, who came from the container garden, where she’d been pinching the petunias.

“Did you round up lots of voters?” Arianna asked. “All the butterfly lovers?”

“One butterfly lover got away,” laughed Janet. “I just hope he’s not flying into a big net!”

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