Summary: A game is more dangerous than they thought
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the S&MK universe, or any of the games mentioned. I am writing for entertainment purposes only Ė I donít make any money from this. Any copyright infringement is unintentional.
Feedback: of course!
Timeline: A couple of years after the 4th season. The marriage is common knowledge. This story is a continuation of "It's All Fun and Games..."
Lee, finally conceding that he'd lost the battle for sleep, sat up carefully, trying not to wake his wife as he did. Her quiet voice told him he hadn't succeeded.
"Did you get any sleep at all last night?" Amanda asked, blinking her eyes to try and clear the sleep from them. She glanced briefly at the clock, noting the early hour, then looked back at her husband.
He shook his head tiredly. "Not really. I'm sorry if I kept you up." He reached over and placed a gentle hand on her cheek. "And that I woke you now."
She smiled at her husband, placing her hand over his. "If some tossing and turning is the price I have to pay for waking up beside you, it's worth it."
He smiled back at her, but all too soon a worried look reappeared on his handsome features.
"It's just this case... we know that the information is being leaked out, but we still have no idea how or when or..." He pulled his hand from hers and ran it through his sleep-tousled hair. "It's just really starting to get to me."
She nodded, sitting up as she spoke. "I know - it's bothering me too. But you need to get your mind off of it for a while. Get some distance from it. Then maybe you'll be able to see it from a different perspective."
Lee grinned at his wife, and with a look that bordered on leering, asked "Did you have any ideas on how to distract me, Mrs. Stetson?"
"Oh no, Scarecrow, don't you trying starting anything like that this morning." He responded with the best innocent 'Who me?' look he could manage, causing her to laugh. "We have a lot to do today. Besides, as I recall I tried 'distracting' you last night, and you still couldn't let it go."
He held his hands up in surrender. "All right, you've got me. Now what do we have to do on this beautiful Saturday?"
Amanda ran down the list of things she wanted to get done. It was, after all, spring, and therefore time to think about spring cleaning.
"And I'd like for the boys to clean their room - and I man really clean, not just shove stuff into the closets."
"Good luck with that." Philip and Jamie, both teenagers now, had fully entered into what Lee thought of as a "Yeah, whatever" phase.
Amanda smiled sweetly at her husband, and Lee knew something was up. "Actually, I was thinking that you'd be able to get them to take care of it."
"Me? No way, Amanda. I know I'm their stepfather, and that they still think I'm 'cool', but I don't see how I'm going to be able to get them to make that disaster area into anything you or I would consider livable."
"They'd listen to you if you promised to take them to that gaming store they love so much once they're done. Especially if you let them each pick up something while they're there."
"Bribery, Amanda? I didn't think you'd stoop to anything like that."
"I wouldn't. Their 'cool' stepfather, on the other hand..."
He nodded, seeing the logic of her statement. "All right, I'll give it a shot. But as long as we're talking about bribery, don't you think I might need a little motivation, something to get me to participate in this little deception?"
Amanda grinned at her husband, and innocently asked, "Do you have anything specific in mind, Scarecrow?"
"I'm sure I can think of something," he replied, leaning over to kiss her.
It was late afternoon when the three finally made it to the store. Amanda had been right - Philip and Jamie had jumped at the chance to pick up some new gaming supplies, and had completely believed Lee when he told them it was his idea, and not to tell their mother. Amanda had stayed behind, saying that she still had plenty to do.
The boys made a beeline for the back of the store, with Lee following behind at a more relaxed pace. He still couldn't believe the variety of things this place had to offer. As he made his way back, he saw Philip and Jamie were involved in an animated conversation with their favorite staff person, Erin, at her usual station behind the counter where the dice and metal figurines were kept.
He chuckled a bit at the memory of telling them that he'd found their presents last Christmas with her help. They'd both wanted to meet the 'girl gamer' - apparently they were a rare breed. When he'd brought them in a few weeks later to use their gift certificates, they'd bombarded her with questions, trying to see if she really knew what she was talking about. Apparently she did - the boys had taken an immediate liking to her, and loved coming in to tell her how their game was going, and see what she'd been doing in hers.
"And then it turned out that the first time the dragon breathed on us it was an illusion, so the second one nearly killed us all!" Philip was saying as Lee walked up.
Jamie nodded his head. "It was really cool, except for the part where we all almost died."
Erin laughed and nodded her head sympathetically. "Sounds like your DM is the sneaky type - I'm in the same boat. Remind me to tell you sometime about how one of the main bad guys of our campaign turned out to be disguised as a butler, so he could hear all of our plans!"
She looked over at Lee and smiled. "Hi, Mr. Stetson. Sounds like your boys have been pretty busy."
He smiled. "That they have. And we've still got a lot to do in the real world." He looked at the boys meaningfully. "So why don't you two go and see what's new, so we can get back and help your mom, huh?"
They looked disappointed for a moment - the butler story had sounded interesting. She waved her hands to shoo them off. "Go on, your heard the man. I promise I'll tell you both all about it next time."
They perked up at that, and went to see what new materials had come in.
Lee watched them walk off, and shook his head. "I still can't believe how excited they are about all of this. They barely say two words to us at home sometimes, but whenever they come in here, you can't get a word in edgewise - it's like they're different people."
"They just like having someone new to tell their adventures to - someone who understands what they're talking about."
"Well, I hope you don't mind too much that they try to talk your ear off whenever they're here."
"Nope, not at all. They're good kids. Besides, I always have a new story or two myself."
He looked around at the store for a moment. "So, are they really going to be able to find something new? Different material comes out that often?"
"Depends on what they're looking for. D&D stuff comes out pretty regularly. Other systems, especially the newer ones, aren't as reliable."
She pointed to a nearby display. "Take this one, for instance. You won't hear anything from them for what seems like forever, and then all of the sudden they have three of four new books at once. You just never know."
Lee went over and picked up one of the books in question. It was different from any of the ones he's seen Jamie or Philip use. The man on the cover wasn't wearing armor, and had a gun, not a sword.
"What kind of game is this?" he asked. "I thought that all this stuff had to do with dragons and swordfights."
"A lot of the role playing games do, but some people want something a little closer to reality. And this company, despite their odd release schedule, does seem to deliver in the reality department."
"You've played it?"
Erin shook her head. "No - I'm strictly a 'dragons and swordfights' kind of girl. But I've talked to people who do, and they always have good things to say about it. Apparently the writers really try to make sure they have all their i's dotted and their t's crossed. And I'm told that the maps are phenomenal."
Lee was flipping through the book as she spoke. He stopped when he reached one of the maps she had mentioned, curious as to how realistic these things could get. Something about the picture in front of him was naggingly familiar... his eyes widened as he recognized the map. It was to a real government installation, one that had recently been broken into. He hurriedly scanned through the rest of the book.
Erin couldn't help but notice his excitement, though for the life of her she couldn't understand it. "Mr. Stetson..." she trailed of questioningly.
Lee looked at her, her voice reminding him of where he was. He put on a calm facade, and asked if they had any of the older books in stock. As she went to check, Lee turned quickly back to the display, and grabbed a copy of each new book. A brief look through each confirmed his suspicions - someone had used real government plans to create this game! He finally had a break on the case!
She returned a few minutes later with a small stack, and placed it on the counter. "This is all we have right now. A lot of the older stuff is out of print - that's the other weird thing about this company. They do short print runs, and I don't think I've ever seen them reprint anything, no matter how much demand there is for it."
"I'll take them all," he stated. Realizing he needed an explanation, he added, "I have a friend who'd really get a kick out of this stuff. You know, big into the whole 'spy' thing. I never realized that books like this were published. And if they're as had to find as you say, I should just go ahead and get them all now." He stopped, realizing with a smile that he'd gotten as good at rambling as his wife.
She smiled at him - if she had any trouble with his reasons, it didn't show. "Sure thing, Mr. Stetson. Will that be all? Or are the boys getting anything today?"
"Actually, why don't we take care of their stuff separately. I have a feeling they'd love to tease me about this, since I don't really understand the game they're playing, which they claim is simple. I don't need two teenagers having any more ammunition on how out of touch I am than they already do."
"I understand completely." She started to carry the stack to the front register, then reconsidered. "Maybe you should have someone else ring this up. That way, if the boys come looking for you, I can distract them with tales of my daring adventures." She laughed at that and added, a twinkle in her eye, "If you're lucky you'll make it to the car and back before they even know you've gone."
Lee took the books to the front of the store. By the time he'd safely hidden them in his trunk and returned to the store, he saw that Erin had been true to her word. Jamie and Philip were once again by the counter in the back, listening intently to the story she was telling.
"So we finally figured out that the two people who could've spotted him right away never went to the house. Once they did, he had to come out of hiding. And all because our DM wanted to be able to say that the butler did it!"
The boys groaned at the bad punchline, and she laughed.
"I know! And since my husband is the one running the game, the rest of the players blamed me for his terrible sense of humor!" She noticed Lee approaching the counter, and the boys followed her look to see their stepfather walking toward them.
"So, you boys about ready to head back? You know your mom is expecting us all to help her with more of the cleaning this weekend."
They nodded, and showed him what they had picked out. Lee nodded his approval, and handed them each some money. "You two go on and pay for those - I'll be up in a second." They said their good-byes, and went to the front of the store to pay for their newest finds.
'Thanks again for your help with them. I owe you one."
"Not a problem. I meant what I said earlier - they're good kids."
"I did have one more question..." He paused a moment, trying to find a way to ask that wouldn't seem too odd.
"Do you have any contact information for that company. I mean, I know you said that they don't reprint any of their materials, but I thought that maybe if I called, they might have one or two old copies of books just lying around."
"Well normally I'd say just try the contact info in the front of the books, but this company really is an odd duck."
She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then continued. "I really shouldn't do this, but since you're the father of two of my favorite customers..." She reached under the counter for a folder, looked through it, and then jotted a number down on a piece of paper.
"This is the order line. It's supposed to be for store use only, not individuals, so you didn't get it from me."
He smiled as he took the paper. "Thanks, Erin - this means a lot. And I promise, they won't find out how I got the number."
Lee met up with Jamie and Philip at the front door, feeling lighter than he had in days. He finally had a break in the case. He couldn't wait to get home and tell his partner - he just hoped she'd be understanding about him not helping with any more of the spring cleaning.
Also, as an FYI, the idea for this story is very loosely based on actual
events. In the late 80's one of the game publishing companies was
raided by the US Secret Service, and materials on a new game were confiscated.
When told that the information was just for a game, one of the agents was
quoted as saying, "This is real." There is no indication that the
makers of the game used or had access to sensitive information, but the
raid took place nonetheless, and they never did get back the majority of
what was taken. Truth is stranger than fiction!