The two scientists stared at the screen wordlessly for a few minutes. Both of them were equally shocked by what had unfolded before them. Ballinger opened his mouth, then closed it again. He was at loss for words. Helen took a deep breath. It was time to make a confession.
“Tony…”, she began nervously, “I am scared.”
Ballinger did not answer. Helen was indeed afraid. Very afraid. She hadn’t even been this afraid since they had woken up after 2000 years of suspension and discovered what had become of humanity. Monsters… In the end, Ballinger had been right and everyone who disregarded him as insane or publicity hunter had been wrong. Now, they were all dead and the only humans left on this earth were the small group of recruits Ballinger had gathered in the 20st century. Some more voluntarily than others, but still, about 1500 people had been saved. They had build a huge fence to protect themselves from the monsters but still they had lived every second of their new lives being afraid. But his was different – they were not in control this time.
How could she break out of this house? The house was only a virtual world, a simulation everyone of their recruits went through to regain mental abilities after waking up from suspension, nothing more. It was programmed, every inch of it. Only that the outside of the house was not programmed, it was not supposed to exist.
“Tony”, Helen started anew. She had to tell him what Jennifer knew. They might be in danger. “I might have given her information… you know, about all this, about us. She… she saw the files.” Helen held her breath waiting for Ballinger’s reaction. For a few seconds he said nothing, then he slowly paced around the room.
“YOU DID WHAT?!”, he suddenly exploded. “Are you insane? We have no idea what she is capable of! She could kill us all!”
“That what I have been saying all along but you never-”
“Shut up, shut up, just SHUT UP! I don’t want to hear your excuses. She was not supposed to get out, she CAN’T!”
Helen felt like he was more yelling for the sake of yelling and not at her. She could see it in his eyes. He was no longer amazed with the wonderful things Jennifer could do. Finally, he was afraid.
“This is impossible!”, he continued ranting, “No, no, no, all my hard work, this is impossible! 745 recruits went through this process and never ever did something like this happen!”
“Tony, I know, but what-”
“NEVER! She was practically dead when we came to wake her up. Her body is BROKEN, it did not survive the suspension, how the hell did she survive and then do THIS?!”
Helen believed that Ballinger now truly lost his mind like those newspapers had predicted over 2000 years ago.
“She was dead… And if she has information about us… she broke out”, Ballinger kept on mumbling while pacing around the room until he suddenly turned on Helen again.
“I want you to turn it off, now! It’s the only way!”
Although Helen had believed turning off the machine would be best for Jennifer, suddenly she refused to do it.
“I won’t! It would kill her!”
“I don’t CARE”, Ballinger screamed, “I want her dead. DEAD. NOW!”
“She is your daughter, Tony. Don’t you care at all?!”, Helen stared in disbelief at the man who used to be one of the most brilliant minds in the world, suggesting to kill his own child.
“Whoever she is, she is not my daughter. My daughter died, the suspension killed her”, and with those words he stomped off to the suspension room.
“Tony, no!”, Helen called and ran after him. He could not do this. She would not allow it! All this time he had kept Jennifer alive in a state of broken body but sound mind. All the time Helen had been against it. She had thought so often of turning off the machines and finally letting Jennifer go. With no hope of ever waking up, to Helen it seemed like a torture to keep her confined in that tiny simulated house. But now, she found herself on the other side. Jennifer broke free. She gained greater control of the virtual world. The world expanded itself! It was incredible and Helen was not willing to let Ballinger destroy it.
She jumped in front of him, blocking the door to the suspension room.
“Get out of my way”, he growled. Helen was taken aback. This was not the man she had known anymore.
“No!, she tried to sound as confident as she could but her hands were shaking.
“I said. Get. Out. Of. My. WAY”, he got louder with every word and practically screeched at her by the end. Helen did not move.
She saw the blow coming but she never felt it. The next thing she knew was that she was lying on the floor and with blurry eyes watched Ballinger open the door.
“No…”, she whispered, her voice faint. She still couldn’t see straight but she scrambled to her feet. She had to stop him. But it was too late.
By the time she had gotten up the only thing that was left for to do was stand and watch as Ballinger hit a big red button. The lights went out and the noise the suspension machine had been making slowly faded. The silence was sickening.
Jennifer could not believe she had finally made it out of that house. She was still amazed by the way the walls had just disappeared at her will. In hindsight, it seemed so easy.
She was jogging around, taking in every inch of her beautiful surroundings. She came through a small park, saw a children’s playground and a softly flowing river. She had never seen anything more beautiful.
Suddenly, she felt dizzy and her vision began to blur. What is this? The felt like she was about to faint. Stars danced in front of her eyes and she almost fell to the ground. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. The feeling passed as quickly as it came.
She looked at the dawning sky and felt liberated. She was finally free. This nightmare was over. She could go where ever she wanted to. She had no idea which town this was, but she would find out soon enough. Then she would find her mom and tell her that everything was alright. She could return to her family. And maybe, one day, she found find this man called Tony Ballinger and exert her revenge on him for what he had done. But right now, she felt too much at peace to think of such things.
As the sun was rising, Jennifer was still walking through the town. And then, as she came past a small pond, she saw something she had ached to see for weeks. Another human face. The man was about as tall as her and also redheaded. He was fishing. Jennifer felt a smile curve up on her lips and a wave of happiness was rushing over her. She walked over to him.
“Hello”, he said in a friendly tone as he noticed her approach.
“Hi, I’m Jennifer, I’m new in town. Nice to meet you”, Jennifer beamed.
“Hey, Jennifer, I’m Elijah. Don’t worry, there are lots of great people around here, you’ll make lots of friends in no time”, he smiled. Jennifer thought she had never felt so happy. Finally she was free. And finally, she was not alone.
— The End —