“Try not to be home too, late, ok? We’re going to visit Ellie later.”
“Oh, and Leo? Have you got your homework this time?”
“See you later, then,” Malik smiled, waving them off. “Have fun!”
“We will,” Lyra said, trying not to rush out the door. The train would be at the station in half an hour – plenty of time to get there, but what if it was early? She didn’t know how to re-book these things.
The door shut behind them, and she sighed with relief. The hardest part was over – thank goodness for Al’s habit of leaving early to meet his girlfriend. It would have been harder to give him the slip than their dear old parents. They jogged a little way down the road before Lyra stopped them.
“Quick, our disguises!”
She activated hers, shivering slightly as the hologram took effect. No matter how many times she did it, it never felt quite natural. How her brother had managed to live like this for so many years was beyond her.
“Ok, ok. Keep your hair on.”
“Isn’t your disguise kind of meant to look like you?”
“Says who? It’s not me, so I might as well be someone completely different. I mean, I could never wear these colours normally. I’d look ridiculous.”
“But, Leo… a man-bun? Really?”
“Yup. Come on, Ly. Your carriage awaits, but only during a five minute window.”
So this was Willow Creek. The train station looked like something out of one of her fairytale books. She half-expected a wood elf to pop out from behind the fountain and whisk her away to be his princess. Well, maybe less ‘expected’ and more ‘hoped’.
‘My princess,’ he would say, ‘so long have I waited for you to appear. Come, let me whisk you away on my noble steed, and we shall be married. We will have twenty different kinds of cake, and an all-night disco.’
Ah, to be living the dream…
“Come on, Ly!”
She grinned and raced after him, excitement pounding through her. She may not have that dream, but she would have this one. She was going to the city, and she was going to be a dancer.
It would be perfect.
Lyra threw her arms out wide, twirling as she tried to take everything in at once.
“Calm down,” Leo laughed, holding out a hand to steady her. “It’d suck if you broke your ankle before the audition so lets keep the spinning to a minimum.”
“Isn’t it beautiful, though?”
Leo looked around. It was nothing like he’d imagined. Yes, the buildings were tall and the streets were bustling, but everything was so much more open than he’d expected. There were even trees!
A hand waved in front of his face, jerking him from his thoughts.
Earth to Leo~ Did that hairstyle cut off the blood to your brain?
He glared at her, though it was hard to keep any annoyance when Lyra was giggling like that. The girl was a fiend – she looked so innocent, but behind those big eyes were even bigger schemes. He loved his twin.
“It’s wonderful, Ly.”
She wrapped him in a hug and his eyes widened. She wasn’t normally the touchy-feely type.
“Thanks, Leo. I know I said I would have done this on my own, but I think I’d have been too scared without you. You’re the best.”
“Come on, sap time is over,” he said, pulling back and tugging her across the square. “You’ve got three hours ’til your audition, right?”
“Then lets go have some fun!”
“We’re so high up! Do you think this is how Ellie feels in her rocket?”
Lyra knew she was babbling, but unfortunately that was what happened when she was nervous. Some people hid, some people got angry… and she became one of those robotic fish things people put on their walls. As long as she didn’t start singing Don’t Worry, Be Happy when the panel asked her name, she would consider herself lucky.
“Maybe, Ly. I imagine she gets quite a bit higher, though.”
“Oh! Speaking of high, maybe we can try the bubble things later.”
“Come on, Leo, you don’t do ‘scandalised’ very well. I know you were thinking the same thing.”
She giggled. As long as they were together, everything would be ok.
“Don’t worry~ be happy~”
“Stay out of my head, Leo.”
She could hear him laughing even as she shut him in the elevator room.
“Ly, let me out!”
“Say you’re sorry and I’ll consider it.”
Her heart was thudding so loudly she was surprised that no one had mentioned it. It felt like it would crash through her ribs and lie bleeding on the ground, all in the name of screwing with her.
Focus, Lyra. She shook herself mentally and smiled at the two ladies in front of her.
Lily Feng, Headmistress of the San Myshuno School of Dance. One of the most renowned ballerinas on this side of the ocean, and a serial philanthropist. She was everything Lyra wanted to be one day, and this would be the first step.
Miko Ojo. Oh, even the name sent shivers of delight down her spine. She was the up-and-coming star of the stage. Features in all the magazines, face plastered on billboards, advertising deals – you name it, she had it. And Lyra was in a room with them.
Don’t start singing, don’t start singing, don’t start singing-
“You must be Miss Lyra, correct?”
Miss Lyra, she had said. It sounded so good that she never wanted to be called anything else again.
Plum. She’d gone all medieval on them. This was almost as bad as being a fish, but hopefully it looked a bit less gormless from the outside.
“Please, call me Lily,” the older lady smiled, and Lyra melted.
“Thank you, Lily.”
“Miko is sitting in today, I hope that won’t be a problem.”
“Of course not. I hope I won’t disappoint you.”
What were they doing to her? Sure, she felt nervous, but normally she wouldn’t dream of letting it show. Did they have some sort of magic truth gas in the air conditioning?
Focus. Bad brain.
“Have you prepared a routine for us using the set steps?”
“Then you may begin.”
The music began and she closed her eyes, letting it wash over her. This was no different to all those times she had practised at home. She could do this.
“Very good. Now, how about a bit of ‘freestyle’, as the kids say?”
“Lils, you’re not that old.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Miko. But thank you.”
Freestyle? She hadn’t been expecting this.
“Do you have any poi?”
“In the box in the corner.”
She hefted them in her hands, testing the weight. Well, they weren’t on fire, but they would do.
“Thank you, Miss Lyra. That was wonderful.”
“It was,” Miko piped up, smiling at her. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up sharing the stage with you at some point. If you start breathing again, anyway.”
Lyra let out the breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding and blushed. “Whoops.”
“Did you enjoy yourself?”
“Very much so.”
“I’m glad, because we’d like you to do this again. You’ve passed the first stage.”
“I have?” she said, hardly daring to believe it. Was this actually happening?
“You have. You’ll need to have a total of three routines for the next round of auditions, but you have a month to choreograph them, so I hope it won’t be an issue.”
“It’s not an issue at all. It’s perfect!”
Everything was wonderful. She had known she could do it. All those hours, night after night, year after year… they’d all paid off. She was off to the next round – and that one was televised! Her dads would be so proud of-
“Woah, are you glowing?”
“You’re all green.” Miko rubbed her eyes and studied her closer. “Lily, you’re seeing this, right?”
“I… I am. Miss Lyra, I hope you have an explanation for this.”
Miko gasped, stumbling backwards. “Hold on, you’re not a-” she paused, hunting for the word. “I mean, I knew they existed, but you look so normal. You aren’t, are you?”
“What are you on about, Miss Ojo?”
“Don’t be silly. Does this girl look like an alien to you?”
“Well, no. But what if they can disguise themselves?”
How was this going so wrong so fast? Lyra opened her mouth to speak, but no sounds came out.
“Seriously, Lils. Aliens glow.”
“But what would one be doing here?”
Her heart was racing and adrenaline pumped around her body. How was she still glowing? Why couldn’t the blasted thing just stop? Her hold on her disguise started to flicker. Nothing too visible, just a split second of silver-white skin.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?”
They didn’t just look angry – that would have been bad enough. They looked scared. They were scared of her.
“I promise, I-” she covered her mouth with her hands. Her voice modifier wasn’t working anymore. She must have lost it when her control had slipped. She sounded Sixan…
“I knew it! She is one of them!”
Lily backed away from her, disgusted. “Miko, call the police.”
“No, please don’t,” Lyra begged. “I just-”
“You stay out of our heads, you… you creature!”
“I haven’t done anything!”
“You tricked us. We thought you were a nice, normal girl.”
“I am a nice girl. What does my species matter? I love dancing, and I’m a hard worker. I have feelings and dreams, just like you!”
“You are nothing like me.”
Her joy had already turned cold, but now her blood was beginning to burn.
“Yes. You’ve made that clear.”
“Miko, stop talking to it and call the police!”
“Don’t bother, I’m leaving.”
She heard their voices as she made her way back down the stairs. They were actually calling the cops on her. She hadn’t broken any laws, had she?
Her red glow dimmed and she sank against the wall of the elevator as it slowly travelled downwards. She’d been an idiot.
He blinked. Ly? It’s over already?
He stood and turned, startled by how close she was. Woah, hi. He took in her face, and his heart sank. She hadn’t passed.
“Oh, Ly. It’s ok. There’s always next year.”
“I messed up, Leo. I messed up really bad.”
“I’m sure they won’t remember a little mistake, Ly. You can keep working at it and I’m sure-”
“No!” she sobbed. “I’ve messed up everything. I’m in so much trouble.”
“Ly?” He hated seeing her like this. “Were they really awful to you? Want me to punch someone?” That just made her cry harder.
“Ly, I swear, if someone hurt you I will march right up there and-”
“What? Ly, what do they know?”
“They called me a creature, Leo,” she wailed.
She grabbed onto his arm, and it took all his restraint not to shake it off and keep on walking. How dare they make her cry?
“They called the police. They’re going to take me away.”
Plummit all! This was all wrong.
“Ly, if that’s the case then we’ve gotta go. Like, right now. Ok?”
She nodded, sniffling against his shoulder. He hugged her close, and then swore. There were men in uniforms at the entrance to the studio building. They needed to leave now. He grabbed her hand and pulled her along. There should be a train along any minute now. If they could get on board before the cops realised they were missing, they should be safe.
Lor was terrified. It had been all over the news. Of course, the first thing he’d done was phone the schools, hoping that they could tell him that yes, of course your children are all here Mr Centauri, but no such luck. He’d left work immediately, stopping to bring Al and Shea home with him. If their classmates had gotten wind of what had happened before he’d had a chance to tell them himself…
Shea had been genuinely shocked, but Al… Al had looked distraught. The guilt on his son’s face was almost enough to tip him over the edge, but he’d managed to stay calm long enough to find out what he knew. It wasn’t much, but it had been enough to confirm his suspicions.
He almost overlooked the two figures at the end of the road. They were sims – unimportant at the moment. He needed his children back. It was the woman’s hair that gave it away. The two sims, walking slowly down the road towards him, were his children. He wasn’t sure whether to cry, or hug them, or scream at them. Mal was inside keeping an eye on the others, but he knew that the little control his husband had over them would vanish the instant they knew that the twins had returned. He decided to put the screaming on a back-burner to begin with.
Her voice was so quiet he could barely recognise it.
“Lyra. Leo.” Oh, but he was furious. “You weren’t at school today. Care to explain?”
Leo looked at him.”Now’s not a good time, papa.”
Lor liked to think of himself as a reasonable man, but everyone had their limits.
“‘Not a good time?'” he repeated, eyes flashing. “Do you two have any idea how much trouble you’ve caused?”
“We’re sorry. It’s my fault, please don’t blame him.”
“Oh, I have plenty of blame to go around, young lady! Now, both of you, take off those ridiculous disguises so I can look you in the eyes properly when you tell me what the plum you were thinking!”
“Don’t yell at her!”
“Leo, it’s fine. I-”
“No, it’s not. Papa, she wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t promised to go with her.”
“Then why did you say that you would?”
“She deserved a chance! She’s a great dancer, you know that.”
“And you wouldn’t have been satisfied doing that here? It had to be San Myshuno?”
“How do you know we went to-”
“It’s all over the news!” he shouted. “‘Aliens: confirmed’, ‘Could your neighbour be an alien?’, ‘Are they invading?'” he reeled off, pacing back and forth. “They’re going to be hunting us. We were safe here!”
Lyra looked stunned, and he could hear Leo’s ragged breathing behind him.
“I got a phone call from the central offices of FutureSim labs. I spent over an hour trying to convince them not to deport us!”
“No…” she whimpered. She sounded just as lost as he felt.
“All those years we’ve spent here, trying to build a life for ourselves…” he sighed. “I’m going to keep arguing our case, but for now we’re under house arrest. No school, no park. Nothing. If we break those rules, we’re as good as gone.”
“I’m so sorry, papa.”
Lor rubbed his temples. He knew they hadn’t meant for this to happen.
“Papa? I thought I heard voices,” Shea peeked her head out the door, gasping when she saw the twins. She ran up to them and hugged their legs. “I was so worried. Al’s been crying, and I think dad has, too. I thought you’d died or something.”
All the energy had left him. He couldn’t keep this up anymore.
“I’m glad you’re both back safely. I love you, you know that. Just… go inside and let your dad know you’re ok.”
Leo turned and stalked off, a faint red glow pulsing around him. It was probably best to let him cool off for a bit before trying to get anything else out of him.
He turned to Lyra, heart breaking as he saw the tear tracks on her cheeks. “Yes, Lyra?”
“I am sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Lyra had stayed downstairs just long enough to reassure her family that she was all in one piece. She had done better than Leo on that count, at least. She could hear the steady thwack of boxing gloves on a punching bag as she walked up the stairs. She’d never seen so much grief and disappointment in one room. She’d been hugged to within an inch of her life, but it felt like she’d already been squeezed dry before she’d reached home.
She would apologise to Leo tomorrow. Not even she would be able to get through to him tonight. She walked into her room and flicked the light on. Her posters glanced coyly at her from lowered lashes, inviting her to join them. She’d believed them, and this was what it got her.
She tore them down, scrunching them up and throwing each one into the bin with more anger than the last. Her fairy posters were the last to go. She’d loved them the most. Of course, she’d known that the lady wasn’t a real fairy, but it had given her hope that maybe unusual wasn’t so bad. If a fairy could make it, then why couldn’t a Sixan? Looking at them now, she could see just how fake they were. She ripped them off the wall, tearing them to pieces with a sob. She’d been an idiot. That lady was the ‘desirable’ type of unusual. Lyra was the undesirable.
She heard a knock on her door, and she rubbed at her eyes furiously.
“Lyra, please let me in. I’ve brought hot chocolate.”
“I don’t want it.” That was a lie. She always wanted hot chocolate.
“I’ve got biscuits, too.”
She walked over to the door slowly and unlocked it.
“May I come in?”
She nodded and sat down on the bed. He placed the plate and mug on the bedside table.
“Can I sit down?”
She nodded again. There wasn’t anything he could say that would make her feel worse about things, so what was the harm. They sat in silence, and Lyra grabbed a biscuit. It tasted good.
“I’m sorry for shouting. I was just scared. The news said that the government was after you, and I had all these visions of them keeping you prisoner or experimenting or gods know what.”
“Didn’t the government give us permission to live here in the first place?”
“That was one part of the government. The rest aren’t quite so inclined to trust us. Besides, there were rules we had to follow.”
“Like staying in Newcrest..?” Oh, how she’d hoped she’d been wrong.
“Yes. Like staying in Newcrest. By keeping us contained, they could avoid widespread panic, and sims would be able to get used to us without wondering whether we were trying to take over.”
“You make it sound like we’re animals in a zoo…”
“Once sims got used to the idea of what we could do and what our motives were, we’d have been given more freedom. We already had more freedom than your grandmother did when she lived here. We got free access to Magnolia Promenade – something she never even dreamed of. Slowly, but surely, they were getting used to us.”
“Until I screwed it all up.”
Lor sighed. “They didn’t know we could look like Sims.”
“Wait, what? But Al-”
“That was kept on the down low. Because we were sticking to the rules, the teachers and governors were willing to let it slide. Now, however…”
“They think we’re trying to take over the planet.”
“Worse. They think we’ve already done it, and they’re just the last to know.”
This was sick. This whole, stupid thing was completely barbaric.
“All I wanted was to be given the same chance anyone else would be.”
“I know, Ly.”
“No, you don’t.” She stood up, fuming. “They treated me like I was some sort of diseased freak. They called me ‘it’, papa. ‘It’! Why do they hate us?”
“They don’t hate us, love. They’re afraid of us.”
She sobbed, sitting back down on the bed with a thump. He hugged her tight, and she cried.
“I want to be alone.”
Lor nodded, standing up.
She cried herself to sleep that night. It would be a different world when she woke up, and she was the one who had created it.
A/N – I’m sorry to leave you all on something dramatic like this! I’ll be back next week, I promise.
These are the builds I used in the chapter:
Train station by ikrecic
Dance Studio by gemmgirl. I edited this lot a bit to allow me to place it on a penthouse (elevator etc needed to be built), and then added an outside area, but the building itself is this one 🙂