Alex ran a hand through her dark locks, pulling at the ends to distract herself from the present reality. She was in the Redemption Room…again. Not only again. The second time in a row. She peaked out of the corner of her eye, seeing Shirley mumble to herself about plum-knows-what. Not surprising. Shirley had a tendency to talk to herself, laughing at her own jokes and slapping her face. Unlike some of the other girls who found it annoying, Alex stifled a laugh. To her, Shirley’s antics were not only amusing, but also a brief respite from the seriousness of the competition.
“Chin up, Al!” Shirley smiled, bouncing in her seat. “This place rocks.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Alex said, sighing. “I’ve spent far too much time in here for my taste.”
“I could live here. You think if I win, Stellan will let me stay down here?”
Before Alex could form any kind of response, the door squeaked open. Simcess came in and sat down on the bed, her neutral expression not giving anything away.
“Well, ladies.” She said, placing her hands on her knees. “The results are in.”
A brief pause settled on the three of them like a weighted blanket. Seemingly unaffected by the dampened mood, Shirley smiled. “Well?”
“Alex…” Simcess said, clasping the young woman’s hands. “Looks like you’ve got as many lives as a cat.”
Alex’s eyes widened. “I’m staying?”
Simcess nodded wordlessly. “Congratulations.”
Alex jumped up and turned to Shirley, who had a calm smile on her face. There was no ill will bleeding out from the blonde, and Alex was grateful for it. One less obstacle to overcome.
“I’ll miss you, Shirls.” Alex said, surprised to find she genuinely meant it. The bubbly girl opposite her had provided hours of laughter, happiness, and silliness that the rest of them needed from time to time.
“Bring that crown home, babe.” Shirley smiled, pulling Alex in for a long hug.
Stellan shifted nervously from foot to foot as he stood in the foyer, waiting. Shirley and Alex were both great girls, and he knew that whoever said goodbye to him today would be missed greatly. As he drifted further into his own mind, a loud whoop came from around the corner. Stellan jumped at the sound before turning around to see Shirley running towards him. With the momentum she gathered, she launched herself into Stellan’s arms.
“Shirley!” He laughed, taking a few moments to steady them both.
“I’m going to miss you, blondie.” She smirked, playfully booping him on the nose. Stellan batted her hand away and smiled.
“I’ll miss you, too. You were the first person I spoke to privately.”
“And though I won’t be the last, I hope you know I enjoyed it.”
With a final hug, the pair said goodbye.
The next day, the final six contestants found themselves on the lush lawn of Knight Palace. Birds were chirping lightly as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, glinting off the sparkling turrets. On the ground, two large squares were filled with tools and supplies.
“Good morning everyone!” Simcess called. “Today, we’re doing something a little bit different. You’ll be separated into two teams of three that have been selected by a randomizer. Together, you and your teammates will work together to build a rocket ship. Afterwards, you’ll each get a chance to go into space individually. The team that finishes their rocket first will get two tries each, and the other team one. The two girls that bring back the least valuable item – or no item at all – will be sent to the Redemption Room and will be at the mercy of the people.”
Within a few minutes the girls were separated into their teams. Kara, Ming, and London would compete against Lyric, Alex, and Raina. When Simcess shouted go, the girls all got to work. Kara barked orders at the others, urging them to work faster. The other team did their best to work together, each contributing their own opinions when necessary.
As the morning grew into afternoon, the two teams had made equal progress. Both had the bottom of their rocket ship done.
However, the gap began to widen as the day grew later. Kara’s dictator approach and previous experience contributed to her group’s success.
Eventually, Kara, Ming, and London stepped back to admire their handiwork. They had finished a good two hours before the other team, and sat back to watch. Sweat dripped down Ming’s face as London rested her face against the cool metal.
Simcess came back outside to check that the ship was in good order. When she was satisfied, she declare team one the winners. Eventually, both teams finished up and the rockets stood side by side, identical in form and function.
“Alright!” Simcess shouted. “Another randomizer has chosen the order of which you will each go into space. London, you’re up first for your team. Ming and Kara will go afterwards, respectively. Raina, you’ll go first on your team, followed by Lyric and Alex.”
The girls complied, forming into small lines. London and Raina waved goodbye to their friends, feeling the tight knot of fear coil in their stomachs. Raina tried to put on a brave face, but the most she could manage was a meager smile.
Eventually, the two girls touched down and stumbled out of their ship. London clutched a glass aquarium with such force her fingers turned white. It was a good find – worth roughly 250 simoleons at least. Raina also had something to show for her journey: A common space rock that was valued at 95 simoleons. The other girls made their way up. Ming and Lyric searched the cosmos before landing with the same shocked expression. Lyric had the same rock as Raina, and ogled it’s magenta hue as she stepped off the ship, mesmerized by the sparkles. Ming had an Unidentified Fruit Object, worth next to nothing. She decided to take advantage of being apart of the winning team and headed back up. Luckily, she returned with a space squid that was worth much more. Combined with the fruit, Ming had around 90 simoleons. Finally, Kara and Alex took their places. Both stayed in the sky for as long as possible.
Both returned with nothing.
Alex crouched down and let the tears fall freely. She had nothing, and she was going back to that horrid basement. Kara was luckier, and blasted off into the sky once more. However, she returned with less than an 80 simoleon space squid. Kara was heading to the RR alongside Alex.
Days past after the space escapade. Stellan had decided to give them all a rest, knowing that the challenge had taken a toll on all of them. Many girls explored the palace, taking time to appreciate the many rooms they had only breezed through before. Eventually, Raina met up with Stellan in the parlor. After all, she had won the reading competition. She explained her time in space to Stellan, who listened with rapt attention. It was something Raina had come to love about him – when they spoke, he focused all his attention on her. It felt as if he had no kingdom to run, no other girls to talk to. It was just Stellan and Raina – no titles.
“Something has been troubling me,” Stellan admitted.
“The last time we spoke, you said you were glad you didn’t grow up as a royal, and that you’d never want to go back.” He inhaled deeply, preparing himself for the hard part. “But if we marry, you will go back. You’ll be more than a princess – you’ll be a queen. I know you’ve enjoyed the simple life, and I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself for ripping you from it.”
“I’ll be honest: It’s something that’s crossed my mind. I worry that I’ll feel trapped here. I can’t say whether I could learn to love something I ran away from just yet. But I think that if I’m with you, it’ll be-”
“Stellan!” Simcess shouted, skidding around the corner. Raina jumped at the shriek.
“Simcess?” Stellan asked, standing up quickly. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Kara! Come quick!”
Stellan chased Simcess into the ballroom. To his surprise, Kara stood in front of him instead of being tucked away in the Redemption Room. His surprise melted away tto shock as Kara walked up to him, smiling.