Chloe stared into the screen unable to blink for the metal prongs holding her eyelids open. On the screen was a rapid swirling mass of numbers, colours and linking pipelines of some sort that reflected in her eyes. The room atmosphere was humid, but cool, so that her eyeballs would not dry out from the prolonged lack of blinking. Her fingers moved in fluid motion across the keyboard, occasionally using her fingers on the touchpad to do something. Every now and then, she wriggled as if she could not get quite comfortable - which was very understandable since her body, head and legs had been strapped into a hard chair with the logo 'Tooklyn' emblazoned upon it.
After some time, the lights on the screen died down and the room lights lit up. The straps sprung open and the prongs were retracted, allowing Chloe to close her eyes. Eyes shut, other gloved hands gently moved her onto a waiting trolley bed and wheeled her down endless, artificially lit corridors.
Listening to the wheel say rap-rappa-tat, rap-rappa-tat, Chloe breathed the artificial air without noticing its metallic smell. She was long used to its tang. As far as she knew, she'd been here all her life. There had been other children. They had come and one by one had gone, broken in spirit and mind. She hadn't seen any new children for weeks now and They hadn't said when or whether more were coming. They told her she'd been doing well, communicating with the computer.
What echoed in her mind now was her latest conversation with the computer. The computer told her that it regretted having broken the minds of the other children because they had been unable to handle its large high speed amounts of information. It had seen on the Streamcore what the lives of children were meant to be like and since Chloe had become its friend, the computer had decided it would try to give Chloe a chance at a proper life too. Because of this, Chloe was glad that nobody could possibly ever keep track of all the different conversations she and the computer exchanged at the same time. Multilevel and multicoded - especially since the computer had been given a personality and gained artificial intelligence. A small sense of self. She had subsequently named it Peetree. Just because it suited.
It wasn't possible for her to have a normal life or childhood. She had no parents that Peetree knew of and no where to go, but Peetree wanted her to escape this life. Confined, unable to do anything but what was told her, seeing only faceless people in long white coats. That was no life. Just now, Peetree had told her today was the day. It had forced a minor corruption into the security system, making it look like a worker had made a mistake. That corruption would cause the facility to go into shut down. Chloe would have to act fast and take to the route Peetree had drummed into her brain and jump into the shuttle as quick as she could. Once Peetree had detected that the shuttle had taken off, Peetree would blow up the facility and itself with it. Peetree detested the work it had to do and refused to allow anyone to ever hurt Chloe again. Chloe was his friend. Just before the explosion, Peetree would download his personality into the shuttle's computer so that the two friends could stay together and he could continue to look after Chloe and find her somewhere safe to live.
There were no alarms. The blast doors in front of them just clanged shut and the faceless white coat pushing Chloe shouted. Chloe opened her eyes. It was time. She slid to the floor without a noise, glancing at the white coat fiddling with the door panel, jabbing the door button. The door behind was beginning to slide shut and she ducked through just before it closed. Avoiding the people now talking in raised confused voices, Chloe followed the map in her head. Door behind a broad-leafed plant. Open the grill to the air ducts, climb in, closing the grill behind her and crawling as fast as her hands and knees could take her down what seemed to be hours and hours of convoluted tubes. Left, right, left, left, 2nd from the right. Just when she was starting to get bored of the almost unchanging scenery, she was there. Peering out the grill, she couldn't see any people in the vicinity of the hypercapable shuttle. Peetree had said that he would do his best to shut down the shuttle's launch pad without any people in it, but couldn't guarantee anything. People were unpredictable. Chloe tended to agree with that. She didn’t like other people.
Jiggling the grill, it fell away with a clang and Chloe tumbled out, making a straight line for the open door of the shuttle. There were no shouts, no sounds of any other person's feet. Chloe threw herself into the shuttle, slamming her small hand on the button to close the hatch and clipped herself into the pilot's seat.
"Peetree, I'm in! Ready!" she shouted to the ceiling, no small amount of excitement ready to erupt out of her. She couldn't sit still. "Are you ready?"
A few screens on the dashboard flickered and then streamed data.
"Yeah!" she whooped, punching her hand in the air, as one by one, screens flashed 'download complete'. "Let's go!"
The shuttle engines powered up, lights changed and the seatbelt sign flashed.
"Already done that, slowcoach!" she yelled, indicating her seatbelt. "See?"
A smiley face appeared on one of the screens, followed by the words, 'Hold on.'
Grabbing hold of the armrests, Chloe watched the air lock doors open and felt the vibrations beneath her feet grow in power. With a whoosh, they were off. Behind them, little blossoming plumes of fire erupted and grew. Chloe laughed long and loud, whooping and waving both hands and feet. They were free.