Author’s Note: This is the second installment in my Simself story. I’ve scrapped my original plans. The story will still follow Lizzie and her family. I’ve decided to write somewhat in letter format, hence the rename – Letters from Lizzie (LFL). This chapter follows ARP-0107X, an alien from the planet Orbis, whom Lizzie just happens to contact. I won’t spoil anymore for you. Without further adieu, Letters from Lizzie, Prologue, Part 2.
He was never going back.
As the flames licked the tiny window of his escape pod, ARP-0107X recognized his fate was changed forever. He could no longer see the battle ensuing above Planet . He was certain his father’s ship would soon implode, unable to handle the stress fractures to the hull of their massive vessel.
ARP-0107X could still see his face. That is, his father’s face. He had never seen his father look the way he did. His father’s eyes were wide like little planets spinning out of orbit in space. His father’s skin wrinkled across his forehead, sweat trickling through the little chasms and plunging down the sides of his jawline. His father’s shoulders were slumped in abject defeat. This was not the figure of a proud war general who sent enemies crying and crawling to the far reaches of space, that is, if they were not killed in battle first. This was not the figure of a man who had seen many victories and led many triumphant war parties. This was not the figure of a strong father who told his sons majestic tales of glory and guts. This was a figure of a man – a man, simple and broken, his hard facade cracking under violent pressure, a man who faced death and was unready.
When it became clear the impossible was happening – they were losing – his father had grabbed his arm and forcibly removed him from the command deck of the mothership. He whimpered at the sudden strength of his father’s hand collapsing around his own still-developing muscles. His father ordered him to be quiet. His father half-dragged and half-pushed him through the ship, sprinting through corridors, scrambling down ladders, slamming many doors behind them. With each pneumatic swish of the door locks, he grew more and more terrified. He knew what was coming. His father would be abandoning him, and he would not be going down with the ship.
He felt robbed of his birthright, gypped of his honor. The glory of defeat and death should be his choice, not his father’s. The proud warrior had always said any man or woman aboard the flagship knew their duty and to not fulfill their duty was worse than death.
The tears surged over his cheeks. The dam had broken and there was no going back. This couldn’t be happening. He could never go back. He tried to think about his pledge to the military. He tried to think about happiness.
What was happiness? Was it his mother’s bright smile on graduation day? Was it the sun rising over the ridge on Orbis? Was it the sense of accomplishment that he was the youngest in his class to complete training? Was it the sweet smell of success after his first battle – to watch other ships burn and accept that you were the cause?
He recalled the words he recited.
Will you stand in the sea of darkness?
As he tumbled through the atmosphere of the planet, he cried out for the darkness. He longed to see the expanse once more, to see the stars glimmering on the fringe, to see his father’s face again.
Will you stand in the face the fire?
The light was killing him, strangling his soul. He assaulted the claustrophobic walls with his tiny fists. He begged to be let out, to be released from the prison that doomed his life to a fate worse than death. He couldn’t face himself again. He should be dying. He should’ve died with his father aboard the ship. Instead, his father had cowered in a moment of weakness and abandoned him to life – a life he did not choose.
Will you stand in the face of death?
“I WAS READY, FATHER!” he screamed into the abyss. “I was ready to die. I was ready to stand in the face of death. Why didn’t you let me?”
He wished he could force the door open and dive into the fire. He wished he could end it all. Blast the rules! He knew the override command would not be accepted because the computer had a built-in safety feature to prevent such a thing. He cried until every last ounce of water fled from his body, and then crumpled over, resigned to his fate. It is unfair, he thought as he reached forward and touched the glass, that a small thing could separate me from the death I desire. He was certain his father and comrades had already been killed. The ship hadn’t much longer when he was forcibly ejected… at the hand of his father.
His body jerked up in the seat, and his head bonked the roof despite his safety restraints. In almost the same amount of time, the pod jerked back downward and leveled out. He fell forward out of his seat. The rush of flames no longer pounded the sides. Instead he was greeted with comforting darkness once more. He rubbed his head and squinted as he leaned forward, curious about his location.
This was not the familiar darkness of space, but the darkness that descends over the land once a day. This was the darkness of night. He felt a pang of disappointment. He had survived the atmospheric fire and was descending upon the planet of Lunula.
He imagined his pod crashing, unable to survive the harsh impact on the planet below. He grunted, knowing the pod was built to withstand the shock. Again, he felt robbed of his duty, stripped of his honor. He could’ve died with everyone else. He could’ve gone down in glorious defeat. They would’ve spoken his name for centuries to come on Orbis. Instead, he was forced to retreat like a dog with its tail between its legs, a shame he couldn’t bear.
There has to be a way. He searched for a way to end it all. His little ship had just enough provisions for three days and modest accouterments to withstand any and all weather. He heard the pod sputter and reduce speed all on its own. The life vessel leveled and lowered in an spinning fashion, touching the earth faster than he had expected. A puff of dust engulfed the pod.
He released the safety straps and began pushing buttons on his computer screen. Perhaps he could flood the compartment with gas or suck all the oxygen out. Suffocation seemed a fitting solution given his stifled duty. If he should survive, he knew he could never go back. He had heard what happened to those who deserted their posts and he determined that he would never face the consequences of that great mistake.
Death was the only way.
Death was the only solution.
He shook the cobwebs from his mind. The impact must have affected him more than he realized. He was hearing voices.
“Must. find. a. way,” he grunted as he strained to reach the controls on the panel behind his seat.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
The voice was speaking Simlish, a language he was required to learn in case of an encounter with one of Orbis’ many enemies. He figured his computer was malfunctioning.
“I’m not hearing things?” he squeaked, and then coughed and cleared his throat. “I’m not hearing things. I’m not hearing things.”
“Hello? Is this thing on?“
He wasn’t hearing things. The voice was real. The voice was coming from his computer. His antennae was picking up a signal. Perhaps he was hearing the voice of the enemy. He frowned. The voice didn’t match clipped tones of the Centaurs, nor did it compare to stretched sounds of the Sirian speech, and certainly wasn’t the familiar timbre of the Tarin, his own speech. The rhythm and cadence flowed too much to resemble the punctuated intonations of the Xenozi.
“Hello? Are you there? My name is Lizzie. What’s yours?”
The pleasant lilt belonged to the computer readout program. He frowned as he read the words on the screen.
Simway Chat 001
Sim Nation Elementary Letter Exchange Program
Do you want to chat with Lizzie?
It couldn’t be an enemy. He had learned that Simmians do not recruit their young in the military. The planet of Simterra and its outposts had not seen the horrors of war. They had not seen the effects of decades of battles with the Xenozi. He waved his hands over the computer keypad and spoke numerous voice commands until he realized where the voice had originated.
Somehow, he had engaged something called c-h-a-t-r-o-o-m. A message in Simlish popped up on his screen. He squinted as he leaned in to read the words, rearranging the letters so as to understand the message in his own language.
Do you want to chat with Lizzie?
“Who is Llliiiizzzzziiiieeee?” he asked himself more than the computer.
The monitor beeped a few times and a new screen popped up.
It must be a greeting, he supposed, quickly hunting for his file on the Simlish language. How do I greet her in return?
He typed out the first phrase he came across – h-i-y-a.
She typed a response quickly.
Hiya back. I’m sorry if it’s late there. My teacher said we should try chat tonight with our pen pals as part of our assignment. I’m Lizzie and what’s your name?“
He frowned and scratched his chin as he waited for the translation system to load.
I’m sorry – an expression of regret and guilt. Bother – to annoy or irritate. Late – as in late in the day – as in inappropriate time to contact species. Teacher – an entity that bestows knowledge on the young, typically in the form of a school.
School? Oh like battle training classes, he surmised and then frowned. But she would not attend battle training, would she?
He skipped over the next few words and pondered her final statement and question.
“Lllliiiizzie,” he tried aloud, then typed out her name.
“That’s right. And what’s your name?”
Name. Name. Name? A word by which an entity is classified, designated, or known. Oh!
“My name is ARP-0107X,” he typed, mimicking what the computer had suggested he say to introduce himself.
“Really? The teacher said I was paired with someone named Sully. Is that some sort of code phrase or screenname?”
“My name is ARP-0107X.”
“Um… ARP… arp…arp…ooo… I know I can call you Arpeggio.”
“Arpeggio?” he repeated aloud and quickly looked up the word.
A musical term. The sound of notes played in rapid succession as a broken chord.
She was typing again.
“Yeah, we’re learning about chords in music class right now and I am in love with the arpeggio chord. If you’re going to be all weird and call yourself A-R-P-whatever, you might as well have a much cooler sounding screenname.”
His computer began rapidly processing the information and spitting out responses for him.
“Oh I see,” he said, feeling awkward and then realized she couldn’t hear him. What’s a pen pal? he typed.
“A pen pal is what we’re doing. We’re supposed to be writing each other via email letters for a year for school. It’s for writing class. I guess our teachers are allowing us to use the informal chat tonight to get to know one another. I wanted to chat since you are online.”
“Oh I see,” he said again, beginning to understand what she meant and then typed his response, “We write each other via these e-machines… I mean… mail… mail over the Internet… a letter via the online system.”
He quickly glanced through some of the phrases and sentences his computer had deciphered for him. “How old are you, Lizzie?”
“Oh I’m nine and how old are you?“
I am ten, he decided. Ten, that sounds correct. He typed the number and added “Where do you live?”
“I’m not supposed to tell you that, but I guess I could…”
“I’m in Pennsimvania. Where are you?“
He looked at the map. “Lu…Luu-nar Lakes.” He typed the letters.
“Really? That’s far away. That’s not even on Simterra.”
“I’ve never had a friend from one of the colonies.“
“Thank you,” he replied, though the words sounded unnatural and alien. He typed his response.
“Welps, I really need to get offline. Dad will kill me if I stay online too long.”
“Kill you?” he repeated, worried that his new ‘friend’ would die just for speaking with him. He typed, “No, I will come there. I will stop him. You will not die.”
“It’s just an expression, silly. A figure of speech. I’ll be okay. But it is past my bedtime. I need to sleep. I can’t wait to tell the kids tomorrow at school that I met you Arpeggio.”
Silly? “Arpeggio,” he said aloud.
“Do you like it?“
He thought about the strange sequence of events that had caused him to crash land on this planet. He thought about his father and how the ship was about to blow up. He thought about how he could never return to his home. The world felt strange and new. He would not be scared. He was trained to be a soldier. He would not be afraid. Perhaps he could make the most of his life amongst the Sims. He looked back up at the teal sky through his triangular windows. Rain had begun to fall, but somehow he could still see the stars, an impossibility on his home planet. The stars glimmered like beacons of hope, assurances of things to come. His fingers typed.
“I like it!”
He stepped out of his pod and walked down the long staircase, ready to touch the dusts of Lunula. I do not really want to die, do I? Perhaps he wouldn’t need to go back and face the consequences. I could stay here, right? Perhaps he found a fate better than death. I do not need to battle ever again. Perhaps he could make his own fate. He already made a friend.
ARP-0107X is dead.
I’m Arpeggio now.
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