When the coffee runs out, she drinks tea instead. It’s bad, overly floral and cloying. She drinks it anyway, hips bumped up against the chipboard kitchen counters, sink at her back, eyes on the peeling desk on the other side of the cabin.
The screen on the computer flickers for a second before steadying.
She sips the tea, holds the liquid in her mouth and grimaces when she swallows.
It will be another hour at least before the system is up and running. Until then she will have to be patient. The screen flickers again, blanks out temporarily.
She holds her breath.
She keeps the breath in her lungs until they burn.
She lets it out slowly, carefully, so not to break the internet connection’s concentration. The screen stays clear and she closes her eyes. It would be easier if she could leave the system to do its thing and come back when the download was complete. Outside was not an option though. Not even in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to run.
They’d still locked her in.
Besides the disgusting tea she’d found in the back of a cupboard, the ancient set up on the desk, and the towers stacks of her notes, the cabin itself was mostly bare. There was no bathroom, only a lime green mop bucket and a damp roll of toilet paper. She hadn’t decided if the lack of food was encouragement to work faster, or an oversight of her captors. Unfortunately, the wavering broadband connection dictated the timeframe, and fourteen hours in, her stomach was threatening to turn in on itself.
She’d tried sleeping but there was no bed, no chairs, and a scritch, scritch of tiny feet scurrying beneath the floorboards.
She’d checked for gaps in the floorboards, for holes in the walls. Logic told her that there was no way out, and no way in. Logic didn’t let her sleep though.
She blinked at the screen, checked she wasn’t mistaken.
Her next mouthful of tea was cold. It didn’t help the taste but at least explained the jump in progress. She’d lost time.
She dumped the mug on the floor.
Her mentor called the coding demonic, but he’d been overly conservative in his approach to the future of technology. War was a race, and she just happened to be the one who worked out the winning hand. Every nation wanted control over the others, they might claim to work only for their own protection, but reality dictated that it was more than that. She could take control of every government system and hand over the keys to a single person. That was why they’d taken her.
She picked up the closest pad, felt the grooves in the paper where she’d pressed to hard with her pen. Burning them would not keep them safe, copies had already been made, and killing herself had turned out to be trickier than anticipated. They were going to take this power from her no matter what she did.
If she had more time, she could have written an antidote. Something to consume her programme before it could get its claws in anywhere important. Half the coding was already dancing behind her eyes, but there was no way to implement it. Interrupting the upload would not end well for her, she’d been shown an example of that already.
They could have got someone else to implement her programme. She had been so helpful in leaving clear instructions on how to do so in her arrogance. She was the quickest option though, the most efficient.
It was her idea after all.
She’d done the maths on the outcomes. Her best estimate left around ten percent of the human population alive three months from the current date. Dissenters would always find a way to fight back, even against impossible odds.
How would they kill her? Her fingers curled and the notes under her hand crumpled. She wasn’t sure if she should hope for a quick death or not.
The screen flickered and a bang beneath the desk announced something blowing up. The room went dark.
The locks on the door clunked open.
‘On your knees! Hands behind your head! DO NOT MOVE!’
She follows the orders. Laces her fingers into her hair.
‘Get the back up going so we can see in here.’
Footsteps move around the outside of the cabin, followed by a loud click, and the whirling groan of a generator grumbling into life.
She flinches at the sudden brightness, the impossibility, it should have failed. She watches the pixels turn to static and then reform.
Her stomach rumbled.
A gun presses against the back of her skull. A slow trickle of sweat runs down her spine.
A bag drops in front of her, the gun retreats, door closes. She waits. The lock turns.
She rises slowly, brushes the grit from her knees.
Fifty-four percent, two hours at most. Then she would be making gods out of men.
She reaches for the bag.
No, she decided. She wouldn’t be making gods out of men. They would not be taking this power from her. She would make sure of that.