White walls, white floors, and white doctors in white coats—the whiteness engulfed Laurie until she thought she couldn't take it. But she was used to it by then. She'd spent her fair share of time walking and being wheeled around in the big, white hospitals. Only mostly, she found herself there wearing the patient's smock they gave her, not her own clothes.
She was sitting in a waiting area, a picture frame on the wall next to her. She studied the painting—a winter's scene of a dog and a boy by a tree—until she found it boring, so she studied her reflection in the frame instead. Her hair had once been full and straight and long, a waterfall of dark brown over her tan skin, but cancer had soon taken care of that. She had it short and boyish now, but managed to make it more feminine with the added flower headband. Anything to defy what the illness had done to her.
She'd just been in a meeting, with her parents, a man who casually called himself "Junior," and four other girls, and their parents, all in the same position as she was. It was called the Megagirl Initiative, Junior said. A way for humans to reclaim the control they once had on robots. The secret to controlling robots, he said, was in the inhibitor chip. Scientists had discovered a way of instilling something close to emotion into robots, to keep them from being able to harm humans. It wouldn't make them want to not harm humans, but it would take away their ability to. Laurie didn't understand the details, but she liked the idea.
However, Junior had told them, the inhibitor chips weren't perfect. They couldn't control robots with different robots, and that's all the inhibitor chips were. But, they had proposed an idea. To download a human brain into a microchip, and to program a robot using the actual human experience as a base—it might actually be enough to prevent robots from rebelling.
And so she had been called. Laurie, along with the other girls, had been selected to be offered a spot in the Megagirl Initiative, due to their "ideal circumstances." In other words, it was because they were dying. Laurie knew that, even though nobody would say it. She was going to die anyways, that was given, or she could sell her soul to science. As she sat in the waiting area with the four others, none of them talking, while their parents still discussed things in the meeting room, Laurie turned over the choice in her head. That's what Junior had said—That it was entirely a choice. They didn't have to take part in the initiative if they didn't want to. And that was precisely the reason she wanted to do it.
She hadn't chosen to have cancer. She hadn't chosen to be her parents' only child, their only chance at being parents. She hadn't chosen to die before she was twenty—that had all chosen her. Now, here was a chance at a second life, or something close to it. The presentation had said that it would be almost like being alive, but with some major distortions. Junior described it as living inside a dream, in a way. She would feel consciousness, but her range of emotions and reactions would be stunted. Her free will would be cut off, as well, as robots were actually just machines.
And then there was the humanity side of the argument, that her parents hated the most. She'd be becoming a robot, after all. And she'd still be practically dead. Not a human anymore. Her mind would technically live on, but only as a robot. The Laurie she'd been would be gone forever. And Laurie was fine with that. She didn't have long to live, anyways, the doctors said. It was down to a matter of months, a couple of years at the most. And, at least in the Megagirl Initiative, she could go on experiencing life, in one way or another. Her parents wanted her to pass naturally, not being downloaded into a new body. But, ultimately, it was Laurie's decision.
That's why, when her parents exited the meeting room with the others, she walked right on past them, and went to Junior, saying, "I'd be honored to take part in the Megagirl Initiative, sir."
And, in reply, Junior smiled congenially, shook her hand, and said, "That is excellent news, Laurie Mambat."