Chapter 10 - The Greatest Sim
For the first time since I arrived at the group home, I wake on my own feeling alert and clear-headed and not lazy and dopey like the last two mornings. Wondering if the building AI dosed me with Sombulant last night, I roll over to check the time on the wall display.
Friday, August 29, 2115 7:45 a.m.
Congratulations, Fumie. You scored 93% on your trigonometry test. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep and have a nice day.
That explains it; an extra hour of sleep and no Sombulant and I’m as good as new. I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling while I think about Noah. I hope he did well on the test too, but more than anything I hope he and I can put our fight from yesterday behind us. He was totally out of line, but I over-reacted, which basically makes us equally at fault.
Music starts to play, and the display changes to a picture of the Golden Gate bridge. Another minute or two and the alarm’s obnoxious mode will kick in. I get up, turn off the alarm, and dump the box of clothing Kamila ordered for me onto the bed. There’s nothing fancy in it, just pant skirts like the other girls wear and a couple of flowery blouses. Not exactly my taste, but beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, anything would be better than the ugly jumpsuit I had to wear the last two days. I pick out a black pant skirt and a light green pastel-colored blouse and go to the bathroom to wash up before heading downstairs to the Simatorium.
* * *
Rachel, the girl who let me take her turn playing Journey to Thisavros, waves as I get off the elevator. She’s with the same two boys as yesterday, and if it weren’t for the different clothes they’re wearing, I’d swear they hadn’t moved since the last time I saw them. I walk over to see what they’re doing.
“Morning, what are you guys up to?”
“Playing Journey to Thisavros,” Rachel replies like it was never in doubt. “Do you want to take a turn?”
“She isn’t getting my spot,” the boy wearing the helmet blurts without taking his attention from the game.
Rachel makes a face at the back of his head, then she looks at me and rolls her eyes. “Never mind him. He’s a sim-hog. You can have my spot if you want. I’m sorry that I was a bit of a witch yesterday.”
I smile at her. “That’s okay. Kamila shouldn’t have forced you to give me a turn. Besides, I don’t think I’d last any longer than my world record of two minutes anyway.”
“That was pretty bad,” she says, grinning. “But if you practice, you’ll get better. Journey to Thisavros is my favorite sim. I play it all the time.”
“You sound just like a girl in my class.”
“Does she play JTT?” Rachel asks me.
“Journey to Thisavros.”
“She used to. She told me she was third in the entire city one year.”
“Third is really good,” Rachel says. “What’s her name?”
“Bex, but I don’t know her last name.”
“That doesn’t matter. I can look her up.”
Rachel takes a pair of learning glasses from her pants pocket and unfolds them. She puts the glasses on and murmurs under her breath in the same way I’ve seen other people do. After a few seconds, she says, “Bex Bloom is your friend’s name. She almost won the city championship two years in a row and is one of the top players of Mutiny on the Hispaniola. Wow, she’s really good.”
“She probably gets unlimited sim time,” the boy standing next to me gripes. “I’d be that good too if they’d let me play more.”
“There’s no way she gets extra time,” Rachel replies. “She’s in Haight. That’s the worst home in the entire city. I heard there are so many kids there, they have to take turns sleeping.”
“Then she’s just lucky,” the boy mutters.
Rachel shoots a dirty look in his direction. “I made it to ninth place. Are you saying I’m just lucky too?”
“No, but it’s not the same,” he says.
“Because you’re not a sprawl-rat like everyone in Haight.”
Rachel puts her hands on her hips and stares at him. “How do you know I’m not a sprawl-rat?”
He shrugs. “I just do.”
“No, you don’t,” she says defiantly. “Even I don’t know what I am.”
Puzzled, I ask Rachel what she means. She reaches beneath her shirt and pulls out a gold chain with a pendant hanging from it. “I don’t know anything about my family,” she says, “except I had an older sister named Rebekkah.”
I lean forward and look closer. The pendant has writing on it in a language I don’t recognize. I point to the inscription and ask, “What does that say?”
“It’s Hebrew for Rachel and Rebekkah. My family was from Israel,” Rachel says, “but they were visiting San Francisco and were killed during the riots. The nurses in the hospital told Child Services the pendant was in my diaper bag with a note from my parents asking whoever found it to look after me and my sister.”
“What happened to your sister?”
“I don’t know,” Rachel says, looking sad.
Every muscle in my body tenses. Madison is the absolute last person in the world I want to see. I slowly turn around. Charlotte is with her, and they both have the same ugly smirk on their face as they march across the Simatorium towards us.
“Are they your friends?” Rachel whispers.
“No, but they live on my floor.”
“That’s too bad.”
Madison and Charlotte come to a stop a few feet away. Charlotte crosses her arms while she waits for Madison to say whatever horrible thing she’s going to say to me.
“What are you doing?” Madison asks. It’s not so much a question as a demand.
“Good. We need a third player.”
“Only the greatest sim ever developed,” Rachel gushes, “but it’s not available yet.” She stares wide-eyed at Madison. “How do you have access to it?”
“Because I’m me.”
“You’re so lucky,” Rachel says. When is it going to be released to the public?”
“No idea and don’t care,” Madison replies. She turns to me. “So, what do you say? Do you want to play the greatest sim ever made?”
I shake my head.
“Fumie, You have to do it!” Rachel makes it sound like I’d be committing a mortal sin if I don’t.
“I’ll go if she won’t,” the boy next to Rachel says.
Madison doesn’t even dignify him with a look. “This is a one-time offer to Fumie.”
“Why me?” I ask, suspicious. It doesn’t make any sense that Madison would suddenly be nice to me.
“To thank you.”
“For helping Noah.”
I feel my mouth drop open. After all the steps we took to avoid being seen, somehow she found out. I can’t imagine Kamila told her. It must have been Noah. But why would he say anything after all the sneaking around?Maybe he was trying to get even with me for kicking him out of my room?
“So, how about it?” Madison asks. Do you want to play the best sim in the world?”
“Fumie, you’ve got to do it,” Rachel says. “And then you’ve got to come right back here and tell me every single detail.”
I open my mouth to say no, but Rachel starts to beg “Please, Fumie. You’d be the first person I ever knew who got to play a sim before it was released.”
I know I’m going to regret it, but the words come out on their own. “Okay, but just one game.”
Madison and Charlotte share a satisfied glance. They turn and walk away. Rachel nudges me and says, “What are you waiting for? And remember, come right back when you’re done. I want to hear all the gory details.”