Pilot woke to a new timeline reality.
In this reality a local named ‘Mother’ had taken over running his simulation. Mother seemed well-intentioned enough but he couldn’t communicate with her. Worse, she did not operate on her own, but had a cohort whose intentions he could not judge. The cohort, named ‘Dad’, was also oblivious to his signals and seemed to unduly influence Mother in ways he couldn’t understand. Neither Mother nor Dad seemed to have much interest in Elevator’s damage. Pilot was inwardly grateful for this because he knew that repairs were delicate and if these creatures took matters into their own hands the results could be unpredictable at best, catastrophic at worst.
While El was damaged, there was little that Pilot could do except wait things out. Locomotion was limited to the least possible lumbering movements. Sure, he could ‘walk’ El, he could crawl too, and he was beginning to get how to compensate for the left-right thing but flight was impossible. He’d tried of course, but those circuits, along with much of his memory banks were either blown or fused. Without extracting himself there was no way to make repairs. Due to the local atmosphere, however, this was out of the question. So, Pilot bided his time.
Communications were limited. It would be thousands of cycles before Pilot learned even limited access to his upper arrays again, so meanwhile, Pilot had to make do with the small amount of communication he could produce indirectly, through El. El’s cameras and listening sensors were in full working order, fortunately. They had not been damaged, but Pilot’s language centers were another story. Either circuits were fused or memories were inaccessible. Pilot had no idea why—it had probably happened earlier. Hadn’t there been some kind of an accident? He couldn’t quite recall the details anymore.
Pilot busied himself with learning the local language. Fortunately, both Mother and Dad talked a fair bit. There were a couple of other characters inhabiting this local timeline as well. One was called Sister and the other Brother. Sister and Brother were Older, so they had more fluency with the dialect, but not it seemed, as much as Mother and Dad. At night Dad would take a small Chalkboard out and draw strange figures on it with a piece of Chalk. Some of these figures were called Letters and others were called Numbers. For some reason, while they looked very similar to Pilot and they all disappeared at the end of the night with a wipe of an Eraser, the others talked and used them as though the letters and numbers were quite different species altogether.
Letters seemed to have the chief quality of Sound. Numbers, on the other hand, seemed to have the main quality of Value. This was a strange and mysterious distinction to Pilot who had never heard of such a thing. Perhaps on this planet they didn’t know about unified communication yet. Since his own communication at this time was primarily in the mode of observation, however, as he had limited faculty yet with the local language, he focused on learning what he could from these monsters.
The strangest thing of all was that all four of these locals looked a lot like elevators to Pilot, but they showed no sign of being inhabited by pilots. Could it be they were a species that had evolved to represent locomotion but without internal intelligence? With the amount of internal memory damage and lack of the external Total Communications that had been so much a part of his life prior to this, Pilot couldn’t say. It was unnerving, to say the least, but there was nothing he could do about it but lie low for the moment.
One night, Dad didn’t bring out the Chalkboard as usual. Instead, he initiated a Dinner Table Conversation. Pilot was minding his own business, working hard at his panel getting El to import nutrients, when Pilot became aware the Others were all looking at him. Pilot looked up at his display, uh oh; the Discussion was about Pilot! Mother was saying that everything was going to be Alright. Pilot had learned this was code for the possibility of imminent danger. Dad interrupted next, speaking slowly so that Pilot could understand.
“Tomorrow, you will be going to the Hospital. It’s a simple Operation. When you get home you won’t have the Problems you have been having in the Bathroom.”
Pilot didn’t like the sound of this AT ALL. Something was seriously wrong and he could tell danger was imminent. He didn’t know what the Problems were that Dad discussed. But the Bathroom was where Pilot took El for some of its critical functions and Pilot needed to know these functions would not be altered. He had sensed that there were some issues in this area related perhaps to an accident at some time in the past, but it was nothing these creatures could solve. Surely, these creatures realized this. There had to be something he could do!
Pilot decided to speak up. He had learned only a few words of the primitive language but he could combine the “N” sound and the “O” sound. He did this, at first low, and then, when that didn’t do anything, he said it again higher. This time he could hear the sound through his monitors. Yes! He was making Elevator speak the dialect.
Mother looked worried but Dad wasn’t having it. “That’s enough, _____.” he said, “you’re going to the Hospital tomorrow morning. Mother will be taking you and when you get home everything will be better. You’ll see.”