It felt like Felicia was falling. The sort of terrifying free-fall feeling you get in a dream. Her body instinctively spasmed from the shock.
“Felicia, sweety, we’re almost there.”
Felicia blinked blearily, feeling sweaty and looking around in confusion.
“Where am I?” She asked out loud, then immediately clamped her mouth shut.
Her voice was several octaves too high and didn’t sound right. Looking down, she found her body to be small and dressed in a disturbingly bright pink frilly dress. Her mouth dropped open in shock.
“Did you sleep so hard you forgot?” Came a chuckle in front of her. She looked up and realized a woman was driving. “We’re moving to your new Dad’s place today.”
Felicia was in a car, a high end looking one, sitting in the back seat. The woman who had just been talking had bright red hair and smoky makeup that looked several years out of fashion. Her voice was low and smooth, the sort of voice usually associated with radio stations.
“...Dad’s place…?” Came Felicia’s bewildered reply.
“Wake up, sleepy head!” The woman said with some exasperation. “I told you we’d move to your new Dad’s place after the wedding. Hopefully all that sleepy sand between your ears didn’t make you forget my wedding!”
Strangely, Felicia did remember the wedding in question, she even recalled being the flower girl. It was the most bizarre thing, to remember something she was 100% sure she hadn’t been there for.
As the images and voices cycled through her mind, the woman driving became more and more familiar. This was her… this body’s… mother: Kimberly O’Hare, more commonly called Kim. And formally O’Hare. She was now Kimberly King.
Felicia touched her face, which was the face of a child, and felt ill.
“AAAAAGH!” She screamed out in surprise.
Kim swerved on the road dangerously, startled by her daughter's loud high pitched yell. She finally regained control and hastily parked on the shoulder of the road, turning around in alarm to look at Felicia.
“Sweety, what’s wrong?”
“THAT!” She pointed at DARS, who was floating next to her serenely.
Kim looked to where Felicia was pointing and frowned.
“What? I don’t see anything.”
“You don’t… you don’t see it…?”
[User, only you can see me.]
Felicia's mouth dropped open again.
[User, tell the host’s Mother you saw a spider.]
“What?” Felicia asked in confusion.
Kim looked at her daughter in equal bafflement. “Huh?”
DARS face showed a # of anger, followed by: [If the user continues to behave this way, the host's Mother will think you’ve lost your mind. There is a limit to how forgiving this timeline can be, please follow this System’s advice immediately.]
Felicia’s traumatized brain finally caught up with what was happening.
“S—spider…” She sputtered out and glanced at her “Mother”, repeating more firmly, “Sorry, thought I saw a spider.”
Kim relaxed and then rolled her eyes, scowling at her daughter in mock anger.
“I know you’re scared of spiders but you almost got us both killed screaming like that. Don’t do that again.” She scolded.
“Mmm, as long as you know.”
Kim put the car back in gear and got on the road.
Felicia sat there feeling stupid.
DARS had said she was taking over the step-sister’s body but… she didn’t believe it. She really didn’t believe what he’d said and that it was really going to happen. She’d only somewhat accepted being dead emotionally, as to the rest…
When she woke up in a stranger’s body, of a child no less, her mind immediately wanted to reject what was happening to her. How could this be real? How could any of this really be real?! She didn’t want to believe it!
Felicia looked out the window to a familiar but unfamiliar world outside. The trees and vegetation seemed normal. They were apparently in an affluent area. The houses had massive yards with high fences and elaborate gate entrances. When she caught a glimpse of a house, it was always a huge two sprawling stories with several attached and detached garages of various sizes. Sometimes the garages would be open and she could see some super expensive sports car or antique vehicle peeking out.
When the sun peeked out from the clouds, the glass reflected her face. A little girl stared back at her. She had red hair like Kim, put in two pony tails on either side of her head, a few freckles on her pale nose and two large round green eyes. The face was very cute, much cuter than Felicia had ever been at this age. Seeing a stranger’s face staring back at her felt very surreal.
Cautiously, she reached up and touched the plastic bows attached to the rubber bands holding the pony tails in place. Then she grabbed her pony tails and pulled the ends near her face so she could see the red hair with her own eyes. She bit her lip and saw the reflection on the window glass do the same. Everything felt very, very real…
She jumped but didn’t scream.
[This System would like to explain the Tutorial Mode for this Mission?]
Keeping her voice down, she whispered, “Tutorial Mode?”
[User can think at this System, speaking is not required.]
Felicia stiffened. ‘I thought you couldn’t read my mind?!’
[That is only in the user’s room.]
‘Why only there?’
DARS didn’t answer the question directly, instead explaining, [While in a Mission, this System can only hear the thoughts aimed at this System. So, if the user doesn’t want this System to know something, simply do not think at this System.]
Felicia squinted at him suspiciously. He didn’t really answer her question.
[User, please note this System is currently under many restrictions. If this System doesn’t answer a question directly, then the user can safely assume it is due to a restriction.]
She pursed her lips saying ‘Fine, whatever!’ and then asked, ‘Do you have to say ‘this System’ every time you talk about yourself? It’s annoying AND weird.’
DARS face dots blinked several times before he said, [Is it preferable to use the pronoun ‘I’ and ‘me’?]
[User request to change speech pattern has been accepted.] DARS then went on to say, [I ask again: is the user ready to have the Tutorial Mode explained?]
‘..can’t you call me by my name?’
‘Ugh, fine. What about this Tutorial Mode thingy?’
[First, I will help the user adapt to this life step-by-step. Even if the user does not ask, does not know to ask, I will make sure the user is informed of all the pertinent details to complete the Mission. This is unique only to this Mission. In the future, if you do not ask me, I will not tell you.]
‘Why can’t you be like that in the future missions? Aren’t you supposed to be a guide?’
[Guides are not teachers or cheats. I can help the user succeed in missions, but it is not in my programming to do all the thinking for the user. The user must learn, adapt, and grow. Only in this way can the user reach higher mission levels!]
‘I’m not sure I care about high levels or whatever at the moment…’
[That is temporary. As the user succeeds, the user will care.]
She raised her eyebrow, doubtful.
[Second, you now possess the item [JJ Alarm]. Please note your necklace.]
Blinking, Felicia felt around her neck and, sure enough, there was a necklace. It had a delicate gold chain and on the chain hung a gold butterfly with an expensive green jewel in the center.
[The [JJ Alarm] will notify the user anytime Janice or Jenny get near Darius. It will make a sound similar to a chime and begin to flash red the closer they are to the target. When the alarm’s jem goes completely red, they are 10 seconds away from being seen or seeing Darius. Please be advised, if Janice sees Darius, the user will restart the Mission. If Darius sees Jenny, the user will restart the Mission. Keep the necklace on at all times.]
‘What if someone tries to take it off?’
[No one can see it but the user.]
‘Oh.’ She paused. ‘Does the ‘JJ’ stand for Janice and Jenny?’
She rolled her eyes.
[Other things the user should note: Every host body the user indwells comes with their own memories and personality. To prevent the user from being overwhelmed, all these aspects of the host have been… reduced. However, they are still there and they will still affect the user to some degree. The user should make full use of the memories and feelings of the host rather than rejecting them and trying to dominate the host with the user’s own personality. Remember: in these missions the user is not Felicia Li Yun, the user is the host. The more like the host the user is, while still keeping the goal in mind, the higher the user’s chances of success.]
Felicia frowned, ‘So I can’t be me?’
[Think of it as acting.]
‘How long do I have to keep up the act?’
[Mission length varies depending on the goal.]
She was quiet for a long time. ‘I don’t know if I can pretend to be someone I’m not…’
[If the user embraces the host’s memories and personality, the user will discover it is not that hard.]
‘Easy for you to say, you’re not the one in the body!’
[It would not be logical for the user to be chosen for these missions if the user did not have the ability to complete them. Therefore, the user has the ability.]
Felicia stared at DARS in astonishment. That was probably the most encouraging thing this weird little system-creature had said to her so far.
‘You really think I can do it?’
[I have total confidence in the one who chose the user.]
‘...is it even worth me asking who that is or…?’
[Not worth it.]
She sighed. ‘Alright, so I gotta pretend to be the… the host… but what about me? What if I pretend so hard I forget who I am?’
[User does not need to worry. When the Mission is over, the user will return to the user’s room and reset.]
‘Reset?’ She felt a shiver run down her spine.
[User will reset to her default personality, Felicia Li Yun. All the things experienced as the host will become like a movie: the user will remember it, but there will be no emotional attachment to the memories.]
‘So if I make a friend during a mission I won’t… I won’t care about them when I return to that white room?’
[That depends on what Felicia Li Yun thinks of the friend. The user came from a place where people felt attachment to fictional characters, correct?]
‘Uh… I guess…’
[It will be similar to that. Felicia Li Yun will think of the friend made during a mission in the same way a person might think of a favorite fictional character.]
‘Wow that’s… that’s super weird…’
[It is a necessary safety measure put in place to protect the user’s emotional wellbeing.]
‘Hm? Your boss actually cares about me?’
[That information is—]
‘Ugh, don’t say it! I know!’