Sammy whistled cheerfully as she walked around her room, grabbing a mug from her bedside table and dancing around her bed to the drawers on the other side. She pulled out her phone and smiled at her reflection, moving her lips this way and that and looking at her teeth closely. She groaned and rubbed her middle finger over the top row, rubbing away the piece of toothpaste stuck to it. She blew a kiss to herself and slipped her phone into her pocket.
A slow knock came on her bedroom door. She danced over to it and pulled it open. Her friends, Daisy and Ant, waved to her and she waved back, coming out into their shared living room as she did. They both joined in the whistle and all three of them danced into the kitchen where Sammy put her mug into the sink. Ant came from behind and slipped her coat onto her shoulders. She pulled her arms into the sleeves.
Daisy was doing a foxtrot around the kitchen table and grinning to herself like a Cheshire cat. Sammy laughed and joined her. Ant danced over to the front door of the flat and tugged on the handle, smiling and tilting his head to the left. The girls followed him out of the door, still dancing.
A large bustle was happening outside. People were running to-and-fro, shouting loudly into walkie-talkies and screaming at anyone they passed, ‘emergency, emergency’. Sammy looked around and frowned. She’d stopped whistling.
“Emergency, emergency,” she said as she ran down the corridor in front of her. Ant and Daisy had run off down separate corridors. She headed down the metallic stairwell in front of her and down to the main control room. The closer she got to the hub of the station the more people she saw flying around in a wild panic. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what to do.
Sammy pushed herself through the crowd and headed to a large raised area in the middle. A balding, middle-aged man stood on top barking orders at the frantic hordes around him.
“Move them to Sector A,” he yelled. “Get them out of Sector GI now! That’s an order, get them out now! We can’t afford to lose any more people.”
“How’s it looking, Dad?” she asked. Her father turned around and saw her. He was red in the face and sweat was dripping down his cheeks.
“Ah, good, you’re okay,” he said, giving her a hug. “I thought you’d gone to the dogs or something.”
“I’m fine.” She looked up at the large computer screens hanging on the walls. “What’s happened?” There was live film footage showing the hubbub she’d just seen in the corridors. She could see Daisy who’d now joined up with her co-workers in the Artillery division.
“An escapee,” her father said. “From Sector 6F. They’re causing all kinds of trouble for our systems, turning off lights, computers and cameras everywhere.”
She nodded. More and more screens and cameras were going dead by the second.
“Is there anything I can do?” she asked whilst her father barked out more orders to the men below.
“If you really want to help you’ll go to your sector,” he told her.
She frowned and tugged on his jacket sleeve. “Can’t I help you with something? Surely you need someone to check on things down in 6F?”
“No! Nobody’s to go in there, let alone my girl.” He looked down at her stubborn little face. She reminded him of his little sister, her Aunt, when she was in a mood. “Just go to your sector, Sammy.”
She grumbled and watched as he walked away from her and down to the floor below. He hardly ever trusted her to do anything. Her brother Danny ran up the stairs to the podium and took her by the arm.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said, pulling her along with him. They ran down the corridor and pushed through the swarms of workers buzzing through the halls. They ran and ran and ran. Amber lights flashed, sirens sounded, red lights flashed, the sirens were switched off. It was all just one big game of Operation.
They came to a large metal door and Danny pressed on a panel by the side.
Sammy looked around, confused. “Wait, where are we?”
Danny didn’t say anything.
She tugged on his sleeve. “Danny, this isn’t my sector,” she said, worriedly. The door slid open. She’d never heard a door open so quietly before.
She looked inside and saw an empty space with a bed and a few tins of food laid next to a bucket.
“Danny, this isn’t my sector.” She was getting annoyed by his silence. He wouldn’t even look at her. “Danny, this is ridiculous. We don’t have time.” She turned to leave and Danny grabbed her wrist. She wiggled, trying to get out of his grip. Her brother wasn’t usually so fierce, she couldn’t understand it. With one quick move he flung her inside. She toppled backwards and fell onto the floor.
“Da…” she said, in surprise but she didn’t get enough time to finish. He shut the door on her, turning the locks and shutting her inside. Sammy began to panic and ran forward, slamming her full weight against the door. It wouldn’t budge. She yelled out but nobody could hear her. Danny had run off down the corridor, giving the express command not to go anywhere near where he’d put his sister to anyone he passed. They all obediently followed his orders.
The alarms were still going but Sammy couldn’t hear them anymore. Just as nobody outside could hear her from inside the room, she couldn’t hear anything from the outside either. She was all alone. She was all alone and she was annoyed. Her father had done this to her. Her father had locked her up like she was a child that needed to be protected. But she wasn’t a child anymore. She could look after herself.
“I have to get to my sector,” she screamed. “I need to get to my sector. Danny, let me out!” When nobody came after fifteen minutes of screaming, and her voice hoarse, she gave up. She groaned and slid onto the ground. It wasn’t like she couldn’t have helped. She’d practically been raised on the company’s rules and procedures. When other children had been learning how to walk she’d been running drills in the gym. By the age of six she was better with a weapon than most experienced soldiers. It was stupid that she should be locked up.
She looked over at the tins of food. There was barely enough to suit Ant’s appetite, let alone Sammy’s. She figured, by her trained reasoning, that it would last perhaps two days, three at most. And if they did expect her to stay any longer then they could rethink their plans. There was no way she was staying in here, starving herself to death.
“This is ridiculous,” she croaked, her throat still sore from her yelling. She stretched and rolled into a ball, stuffing herself in a corner and burying her face in her legs. “I should be out there, not in here.”
“You and me both,” said a voice not far off.
Sammy sat up straight, startled. She put her hands down on the floor to hold herself steady. “Who said that?” she asked, looking around the room. No, it was definitely empty.
“Oh, sorry,” the voice said. “I forgot about this thing.” A light was switched on and the far wall suddenly showed another room just like hers. There was a young boy stood inside and he waved at her cheerfully.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Graham.”
Sammy stood up and brushed the wrinkles off her trousers. She touched the wall Graham was looking through and swept her hands across the glass. The strange thing was—it didn’t feel like glass.
“It’s a new material,” Graham said, smiling at her. He had glasses perched on the end of his nose. He pushed them up to sit on the bridge, near his amber eyes. “They’ve been working on it in the labs for a while now. It’s a good thing they finished it, isn’t it? Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”
“Good for you, maybe. I should be out there,” she grumbled, still wiping her hand over the mysterious material.
“So should I,” Graham admitted. “I’m supposed to be working on a new software with my friends, but here I am.” He shrugged and pulled a face. “Sometimes things happen.”
“Yes, well, they shouldn’t.” Sammy hadn’t liked the face he’d pulled. She didn’t know whether she liked this boy or not. “At least they shouldn’t for people my age. I’m old enough to be looking after myself.”
“Apparently not, otherwise you wouldn’t feel so bad about having to take care of yourself in here.”
She glared at the younger boy but he didn’t mind. His smile stayed on his face, looking like it couldn’t be removed no matter what anyone did. “You could consider this an opportunity to prove yourself right. Prove you can look after yourself then next time they might believe you.”
“And why should I listen to a little boy?” she asked.
“I’m not a little boy,” he said, indignantly. “I’m already into my teens, same as you. I’m just short for my age, that’s all.” He seemed embarrassed by his height and tugged on his shirt, trying to pull it lower.
“Incredibly short,” she said, but she stopped herself before she said any of the crueller thoughts she was having. “Anyway, how’d you know I was a teenager?”
Graham grinned and pushed his glasses back up. They’d fallen down again. “My mum’s in charge of the computer labs, with all the records and data stored on them.” He paused and looked her up and down. “You look a bit different from your I.D. Photo. I thought you were taller.”
“Hey,” she said, “I’m plenty tall, believe you and me, shortie.” She laughed and he joined in with her.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know much about anybody off the computer. Other than my friends I barely see anyone.”
Sammy looked into his sad eyes and pitied him. She knew how it felt to live like that. Even when she’d been training as a child the gym had always been empty. “You have friends then?” she asked.
Graham nodded. “Bobby and Gwen, yes. They’re parents work here too.” He took a crumpled photo from his pocket and pushed it against the see-through wall. A cheeky brown-haired boy and blonde-Barbie girl stared back at her.
“They look nice,” she said.
“They are.” He tucked the photo back into his pocket again. “I suppose they’ll be locked up in one of the other safe-rooms right now. They’re probably playing all sorts of games.” He sighed and blushed when he saw Sammy staring. “I don’t have a very big imagination,” he said, and he pushed his glasses again. They hadn’t fallen down but he sometimes did this when he felt embarrassed.
“Well, you’re lucky, at least,” Sammy said. She moved over to the bed and sat down. “I didn’t have friends when I was your age—and I didn’t have an imagination either.”
“Really?” Graham had sat down on his bed too. They couldn’t see each other anymore but they could still hear each other.
“Yeah,” Sammy said. Graham could hear the sadness in her voice as it shook. She zoned off for a few seconds, thinking back to her childhood. “I suppose that’s why I’m so happy when I’m around Ant and Daisy. They keep me interested. I never was when I was a kid.”
“I’d be the same,” Graham said. Silence fell for a few minutes. Neither knew what to say to each other and both had disappeared into their minds to consider their pairs of friends.
“I’m sorry for not speaking, by the way,” Graham said through the silence. “I didn’t know what to say.”
“It’s okay,” Sammy said, with a yawn. “I needed time to rant to myself anyway. I’m just sorry you had to listen to it.” She looked at the ceiling with a puzzled expression. “Hey,” she said, attracting Graham’s attention, “what do you think’s happening out there right now?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Something exciting.”
“Yes.” She turned over and rested her head on her hands. “Something exciting.”
A Short Song About The Children
If the children succeed us
Why can’t we let them succeed?
And if the children need us
Why don’t we just let them need?
And when the time comes
When they need us no more
Why don’t we let them succeed us
Whether they’re rich or they’re poor?