The interrogator sat down in the comfortable, faux-leather chair. Across a mahogany desk, in an even more comfortable looking faux-leather chair, sat a cheerful old man whose hair still glinted blonde in places between all the gray.
The old man unwrapped a scone. “Oh, it’s so good you could join me this morning. Would you like a scone? My wife made them. Whole wheat.” His voice was sweet, the accent a comforting, nearly standard American. He reached in his canvas lunch sack and withdrew another package in waxed brown paper.
The interrogator took it, peeling off the corner and smelling the rich pats of butter that had gone into making this treat. “This is too much. I couldn’t-”
“Oh, Mara loves making these things. Now that we got grandkids visiting us, it’s just around the clock for her with baking. Stop by when we get cheese rations – her funeral potatoes are…to die for.” He snickered at his pun, pushed his glasses up his nose, and chewed another piece.
The interrogator looked to a photo frame on the old man’s desk. It was a picture of him and his wife, four (four!) children, and a smattering of six grandchildren. “Your kids were obviously born before the Family Planning Acts were in place.”
He nodded and smiled. “Oh, yes. Couldn’t have got away with four otherwise.” He patted the top of the picture and began to say something, then resisted the urge to brag about his enormous family. “Anyway, it’s so very good of you to come visit. It’s not your job to answer to me, after all.”
“But we still have to work in close quarters, Dr. Smith, and we do so with the same goal: protect the country.”
He smiled. “Of course.” He coughed and opened a drawer on his desk before rummaging through for a tablet. “You don’t have to call me Dr. Smith – we don’t believe in a true heirarchy here, and ‘Dr. Smith’ makes me feel like I have too much power. Call me Dallin.”
“Yes, Dallin.” The interrogator cleared her throat and opened up her tablet. “You said you were interested in some information from our prisoners. As you know, it’s my job to determine which – if any – of the captives pose a threat to national security. I conduct exit interviews and collect sworn affidavits stating that they will never speak about the specimen again.”
He smiled and opened a thermos full of cold water. “Yes, good work you’re doing. It’s such a shame we had to imprison all those unfortunate souls. Yes siree, you’re doing God’s work here. Water?”
She shook her head. “No, thank you. I’m going to drink this coffee as long as I’m on the base and can wallow in the luxury.” Dallin frowned as she sipped the hot brew. “But that’s enough about me, Dr. Smi – uh, Dallin. You’re the head scientist here, of course, but I’m curious as to what you do. Chimera research is highly illegal.”
He smiled. “That’s sweet of you. ‘Highly illegal’ isn’t usually the term I hear for it!” He chewed through a bit more scone. “I know, I’ve thought about all that ‘crime against humanity’ mess, but it came down to the fact that I needed to keep my job and feed my family. Being head scientist, at this point in my life, is mostly just due to me being the oldest. None of us really see me as being in charge, except for me having these nice chairs and fancy desk.”
“So what do you do?”
“Well, before the Fifth Geneva Convention and the end of the Chimera Wars, I researched growth cues and embryonic patterning. I started my work back in the 40’s at the Rocky Mountain Labs, figuring out how to make creatures grow limbs or features in a controlled manner. At first I did it on ordinary orb weaver spiders, and that was just so delightful and fun. Some of the poor things didn’t turn out too happy, but it was good science. I’d kill them humanely even though spiders usually don’t require such careful disposal. In the late fifties, the NIH revealed some of the other pieces of the project and I realized my work was at the middle of all of it. Then they transferred me here, revealed my grants were actually with the CIA, and…well, the rest is history! Without my research on the orb weavers, none of the other pieces could have been placed into the same organism.”
The interrogator swallowed. “Your work was the key that allowed all the other genetic research come together.”
Dallin poured himself a cup. “Yup. That was my job in all this beautiful mess. Now that we’re all settled, I suppose we should get down to a little bit of business.” He dabbed a cloth napkin to his chin and corners of his lips. “As you know, this facility is the last one to contain the American chimeras, and we’re currently very limited in scope. We are only allowed to work with the specimens we’ve already created, and we’ve technically been barred from producing any additional creatures. In a cruel twist of fate, if I want to secure more funding for the project, I’m almost required to produce more specimens.”
The interrogator palmed her thermos of coffee and turned the lid. “Based on my briefing, there are hundreds of chimeras in the basement cells. Why do you need more subjects?”
“Because all of ours are male,” Dallin answered sweetly. “Our chimeras were designed to be a self-sufficient, reproducing species. They’re not even close to the same thing as those pitiful creatures the War was fought over. The problem is that we’ve never successfully produced a female. I need to know how those silly rednecks managed to get something we’ve never been able to produce ourselves…”