It took us a split second to realize that we were no longer staring at a blank screen, but once we had realized that the interface had appeared, we set to finding the right button. And that was when an emergency sub-routine took control and whirled through a few panels while a calm voice told us to wait while a reality consistency check normalized the load to ensure secure confinement.
"We couldn't stop it if we wanted to," I said.
"But do we want to?" asked Dr. Hal. "It seems to be doing something rather important judging by the steady stream of panels, settings, and warnings. We wouldn't want to interrupt it."
I did not like waiting. I know there had been a liability issue in fine print when we'd bought the examination chamber. There had been a graph that displayed the percent probability of a particular component failing. I remembered a certain component that was supposed to combat any violent life forms while freezing concsiousness in the victim. Serina had certainly not been frozen. The screams she'd uttered were still causing my limbs to tingle with weakness.
The screen continued to flash through panels as settings were changed and functions were activated. Finally the voice said, "Probability: seventy percent." And then silence.
"Seventy percent?!" I roared. "Probability of what?!"
To my utter surprise, the voice replied to me in a cheery voice. "Thanks for taking part in the oral interaction of the console control panel interface. Let me think about your question." There were two beats, and it answered in a different voice. "Seventy percent chance of failure in component A2blip."
"What is A2blip?" asked Dr. Hal.
"Thank you for joining the current conversation Dr. Hal. Would you like a summary of the topic?"
"I'd like to know what a bloody A2blip is!" he roared.
"An A2blip retrieves any outgoing life from this universe by anchoring it to the side of the chamber."
"Outgoing life--?" I began, but the computer interrupted me.
"--Would you like a diagnosis to be run to determine whether the A2blip is bloody?"
"What? No! Determine whether it's going to work!"
"Sixty percent chance and holding."
"Holding? Well, when is it either going to work or fail?" I asked.
"And what do you mean by outgoing life?" asked Dr. Hal.
"In reply to the first question: A2blip is currently working but not succeeding. Failure is a matter of time. Probability of failure happening within the next minute: sixty percent."
And then the screen went black, a moment passed, and the voice said, "In response to the second question."
The screen came to life. Serina was lying on the floor of the chamber, arms outstretched and hair swimming through the air in all directions. And then the background flickered, and she was lying on purple stone with a swirling black vortex behind her. In the next moment she was back on the chamber floor. And then the stone was green and the vortex was a beast with flowing limbs of blue. It was tugging on Serina's legs.
Then, far too soon, the screen flickered back to the meaningless panels and menus. We hardly noticed for the image was impressed upon our minds. Serina was being pulled into another dimension, and the A2blip was the only thing holding her back. Damn.