Vampire Code: Veins

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Sylvia loved the quiet hours before dusk. Fresh from school, Zap spread his homework on the dining room table, and, after a fond gaze at her brother, so innocent, so earnest, Sylvia climbed the stairs to the garret studio.

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She selected her favorite brush, an old camelhair with a thick, soft bristle that had belonged to her grandfather. When the canvas was dry, it made a sandpaper shoosh, like the sound of her father’s hand when he brushed snow off her wool coat. When the canvas was wet, it made not a sound, but instead spread a butter sensation through the handle and into the index finger and thumb of her left hand.

She’d always painted left-handed, though most practical things, like holding cups or books, she did with the right.

She knew what they said about hands and hemispheres, and she liked to think that her body and mind had naturally chosen the most effective cross for each task.

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“Sylvia! Only half an hour until your lesson!” Her mother called up. “Have you done your homework? Stop what you’re doing and finish it before you go!”

These new lessons that she was forced to take interrupted the golden hour. Like her mother before her, Sylvia had acquired a mentor. Or rather, one had been foisted upon her. This was one of the reasons they’d moved back here, her mother confessed.

“You must have a mentor,” her mother had said. “You’re of the age. The powers, my dear! And Count Straud is simply the best. You’ll be like me, my love, learning from only the best.”

“You can teach me, Ma,” Sylvia protested.

Her mother blushed.  “No, dear,” she said. “It wouldn’t be seemly.”

The first lesson was scheduled for that evening. Sylvia dreaded it.

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Sylvia pulled out her calculus text and opened it to the chapter on the mathematics of love, written by Hannah Fry:

“Love, as with most of life, is full of patterns and mathematics is about studying patterns.”

Maybe that’s why she hated these new lessons, she thought. They interrupt the after-school pattern. She sped through the math homework.  If that’s the case, she realized, it would be no matter: soon enough, new patterns will form, and maybe she’d come to love them as well.

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Zap, finishing his own homework, had launched into a story when Sylvia walked through the kitchen on her way to her first lesson.

“So that’s why sunlight makes you burn up!” he was explaining.

Their mother smiled. “That’s an interesting theory, son,” she said. “But I think it has more to do with pigmentation than retribution.”

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Sylvia raced up the hill to the Straud estate. She’d spent many nights in the oak forests on either side of the lane, following owls and looking for newts and salamanders.

But she’d never gone through the gargoyle statues or under the cast-iron archway. She’d never walked up the steps nor rattled the bronze door knocker.

She jumped, it sounded so loudly!

The door swung open of its own accord, and Sylvia followed the sound of an organ playing Bach.

The music stopped abruptly.

“You look nothing like her!” said a high-pitched nasal voice.

“Like who?” asked Sylvia.

“Miranda De Suena,” he replied. “You cannot be her daughter.”

“Oh, but I am!” Sylvia replied.

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“No!” hissed the Count. “Her daughter would not be dressed in flannel! Like a hillbilly! Like a boy! Where is your silk? Where’s the lace? And why does your hair look like snakes?”

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“I didn’t realize adherence to stereotypical fashion was a prerequisite,” Sylvia answered. “Maybe my wardrobe can get me out of these lessons, then!”

She turned and began to leave.

“Halt!” The Count shouted. “You have your mother’s walk! I am convinced. Come back. The study will begin.”

For hours, they practiced harnessing the upward currents of energy. They began with breath work.

“You must breathe in from the soles of the feet,” the Count demanded, “and exhale through the crown of your head.”

It came easily to Sylvia, thanks to her experience with meditation.

“Now open the crown,” the Count instructed, “to let the energy enter. It will circle through your body and flow up your spine.”

Sylvia, tracking the flow of breath in one direction, opened herself to the flow of energy in the other, and soon, she felt herself lift of the floor.

“Good, good!” said the Count. “How long can you stay there?”

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He left her hanging.

She heard organ music rising up from the basement, and suspended in mid-air, she lost track of time. The music played, but it sounded without pattern–this was no Bach. Lost between discordant notes and wide spaces, Sylvia couldn’t tell how long the music played, how long she remained suspended.

She woke in a heap on the floor, with silence stretching around her.

Thirst had woken her. The Count was nowhere to be seen. His castle was empty. She looked through the icebox–not a single carton of plasma.

Through the window over the kitchen sink, a purple light caught her attention. The veins of a tree glowed.

Sylvia had never seen a tree like this.

She raced out to get a better look.

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Was it the tree of life?

She caught a whiff of a blood-like scent, and her thirst raged.

At the end of a gnarled branch hung a glowing purple fruit. That’s where the scent came from. Sylvia picked it without thought, jammed a hollow twig into it, and drank.

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Slowly, the veins of the tree pulsing, she sipped the glowing fruit. It didn’t satisfy. But it did erase.

The craving grew weaker. Her thirst died. If the fruit of this tree could kill her thirst, then it was the tree of life, she reasoned.

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The moon still stood high in the sky.

The door to the castle was open. Sylvia returned. The Count was nowhere to be found.

Sylvia discovered the old organ in the basement. It had an even richer sound than the one upstairs that the Count had been playing when she arrived.

For the rest of the night, Sylvia explored the organ’s keyboard, testing the voices, letting her fingers become familiar with the touch of the keys, finding her way through a simple prelude in C major.

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The music flowed like veins,  branching, pulsing, extending from the organ through her.

She fell back into place.

A few hours before dawn, she headed home, running down the steps onto the cobblestones.

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She’d survived her first lesson.

Her teacher didn’t like her. She knew that. But he’d taught her. She couldn’t put into words what she’d learned, the learning had happened on so many levels. But she could feel it. It felt like power.

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Wonder: Notes on Skilling and Strategies

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After eight days of childhood, Charlie is making great progress towards the Wonder Child goals. He’s completed three childhood aspirations: all that’s left will be for him to complete Whiz Kid, which requires the availability of new homework so he can “complete homework while focused” twice and the earning of an A. With five days of school, he should be able to do this. Of course, I’d like him to be able to earn the A more quickly so that he can take vacation days and skill.

I neglected to review the rules until now, and I had forgotten about this one:

  • As a child, the moment the Wonder Child becomes an “A” Student in school, see how many days they have until aging up into a teen. You gain a number of points equal to the number of days left as long as you remain an “A” Student (for example if your child becomes an “A” student and has 5 days left until becoming a teen, you get 5 points). If they are demoted back to a B student during childhood these bonus points are lost. These points become permanent when the Wonder Child becomes a teen if they ended childhood as an “A” student.

If I’d remembered this, I might have sent Charlie to school sooner. This might turn out to be a wash, though, because by staying home, he was able to max childhood skills more quickly, and thus earn logic, violin, fitness, and charisma skills. It’s possible these will make up for the few extra days it will take for him to earn the day due to his three-day vacation at the beginning of childhood.

The super-skill strategy worked fairly well, and I learned more about it, so even the time when it seemed not to work provided me with useful information.

In case you’re not familiar with this strategy, here’s an overview:

  1. Have the child play chess to reach one mental skill point.
  2. Once one mental skill point is achieved, have the child build mental skill in any way to reach level 9 mental. (I usually have the child play Arithmetic Attack, as it provides fun and children will not cancel the action once they start.)
  3. At level 9 mental, have the child play Arithmetic Attack. If super-skilling is working correctly, the child will simultaneously quickly gain physical skill, maxing physical before level 10 mental is reached. If this doesn’t happen through playing Arithmetic Attack, then switch to Research Simpedia, and the child should super-skill physical while researching.
  4. Once physical is at level 9 or maxed, have the child play Keyboard Commander. If the super-skilling is working, then the child will max creative very quickly.

Arithmetic Attack and Research Simpedia worked like charms to provide the super-skilling of physical once Charlie reached level 9 mental. As a result, before his second day as a child was over, he’d maxed mental and physical.

We weren’t so luck with Keyboard Commander. At first, it didn’t work to give us the super-skilling of creative. I tried various things: Research Simpedia, Browse Art. Nothing seemed to work. Then, when I was playing with Florinda and Sparkroot Tea in another save, I discovered that while the creative super-skill didn’t work for one of them, it did for the other. This led me to experiment, and I discovered that if the super-skill doesn’t work at first, just keep trying. For it did eventually work. It’s possible that the chances of it working are increased if the child is “inspired,” so Browsing Art might be a helpful way to kick start it. But it’s also possible that simply taking a break and then coming back at it will also work. At any rate, we were eventually able to get Keyboard Commander to super-skill creative, so Charlie had maxed Mental, Physical, and Creative by the end of his fourth day as a child.

Social skill is very easy to max: just choose those social interactions with the social skill icon (the mouth with the speech bubble): talk about school, pop culture reference, and goof-off. Goof-off can have negative relationship consequences if the child goofs off with a Sim that he or he doesn’t have a good relationship with, but Charlie was able to goof-off with his mom and it increased their relationship.

Heading into Charlie’s first weekend as a child, he’d maxed all four childhood skills. By the end of Sunday, he’d completed all three aspirations save for Whiz Kid.

One advantage to maxing childhood skills early is that the child then gains adult skill while engaging in activities: once creative is mastered, playing the violin will garner violin skill points. Swimming will garner fitness points. Chess will gain logic points. Social interactions will gain charisma. For a wonder child, this is useful!

With the aspirations, I switch between them frequently. This allows Charlie to make progress with the activities he’s currently engaging in. I plan to try this technique with adult aspirations, too, once he’s a teen. For example, Friend of the World requires that the Sim meet someone new in three locations: Body Builder requires working out at a gym, and the Painter one requires viewing art at a museum, so I can switch between these three so as to maximize the visits to the other lots.

The first reward trait I purchased for Charlie was “Incredibly Friendly.” I find this to be the most useful first trait to buy because it makes completing the social aspiration a breeze. With this trait, friends are often made after the first introduction or within a few friendly exchanges thereafter. This will also be useful when Charlie works on the Friend of the Word aspiration as a teen. (I anticipate that he should be able to complete this within a few days, depending on how long it takes him to max charisma.)

At this point, my goal is for Charlie as a teen to complete Friend of the World, the Club aspiration, Body Builder, the Painting, and possibly the music aspiration. Five aspirations is a lot, but he’ll have a good head start on the skills, so he might be able to do it! I’m going to be doing some serious strategizing as we get closer to that time.

I’m very glad that I chose glutton as Charlie’s childhood trait: that glutton zest just seems to provide an enthusiasm that makes Sims skill so fast! Plus, it takes less time to eat!

 

For the teen trait, I’m considering (at present) Outgoing, Creative, or Active. All three of these seem to fit who Charlie is, and they all three would provide benefits to completing aspirations. We’ll see what we end up choosing when we do the birthday spin!

It’s been really fun to approach this challenge a second time, especially since aspirations are so much easier than they were the first time I played this, in October-November 2014!

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