Hurriedly, Dallin brought her back to the gowning room where all the used cloth was placed in one bin and the neoprene gloves in another. The interrogator held the precious fruit delicately in her hands and followed Dallin’s instructions outside, into the hallway.
She pinched the fruit by the bottom and held it up for examination. It was short, yellow, and not like the ones she’d seen in pictures, but it was certainly a banana.
“Go on. Eat it.”
The interrogator’s hands shook. “Eat it?”
“Sure. What else are we going to do with it? There’s no research going on with the tree. No point in saving the ripe ones. In fact, most of us get completely sick of bananas and banana bread by the end of the fruiting season. You enjoy this.”
The interrogator gulped and pulled on the stem. She peeled it down the sides. “You’re sure it’s ok?”
The fruit inside was a pastel yellow, soft, unmarred by disease or bruising. The interrogator took a bite and chewed it, relishing in the delight. She leaned against the wall and chewed the fruit slowly.
Dallin leaned forward, eyeing her. “Are you ok?”
“This…this is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.”
“You’re acting like you’ve never eaten one before.”
“I haven’t, not that I can remember. I was probably around 10 when they went completely extinct.”
Dallin’s eyes widened. “Really? That’s…oh my, I…I hadn’t realized. I’m sorry.”
The interrogator took another bite and closed her eyes. “No. Don’t be sorry.” Her hands shivered. “You’re saving this for when the world can handle it again. That’s…that’s amazing.”
“Oh. Ok!” He easily unpeeled his fruit and took a bite of it. “So, what was it you wanted? I am so sorry for getting you off on such a tangent. And those sperm are probably dead by now…well, still have a couple hundred more samples to sort, so nothing lost!”
The interrogator’s eyes returned to her banana as she peeled down a bit more of the skin. She chewed what was in her mouth and blinked wistfully at the couple bites that remained.
Dr. Smith remained quiet for a moment, then cleared his throat. “Well?” He waited a little longer. “You said you had something to ask from me. I’m glad you liked the banana, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you came to see me about.”
Her attention shifted, the usual serious glare returning to her face. “Oh…oh, yes.” She stood, carefully ensuring her banana didn’t fall. “I’ve uncovered some rather disturbing information regarding specimen 803. I need to speak with her.”
Dallin shook his head and leaned against the wall. After attempting to sit, his knees cracked and he altered his course. “Well, that’s certainly…something. It’s not easy to just let you in there. You’ll need training, and there’s the potential you’ll need a size of suit we don’t have. Just give me the questions, and I’ll send along her answers.”
The interrogator finished the banana and folded the peel into her palm. “No, I need to be there. I need to see her, hear her answers myself. Part of interrogation is being able to take advantage of a moment of weakness when it comes along, and I can’t trust you to do that. I have time to go through training, though. There’s no indication my job will end as long as her parents and Stacy Ellington live.”
Dallin turned his face away from her. “It’s rough. It’s like BSL 5 – except you’re the incredibly contagious disease and she’s the…the thing that can get the disease. You’ll need approvals from my boss and the CIA and the NIH’s IBC, and you’ll have to get on the BUA, and-”
“I can do all that,” the interrogator assured. She stood from the floor and winced when she put a hand to her left knee. “I got you those notes from Dr. Worthington and convinced my superiors to let you have a copy of the relevant interrogations. If you help me gain access to Dani, I’ll consider us more than even, Dallin.”
Dallin sighed, shifted the glasses on his face, and crossed his arms. “I didn’t ask you that as a form of payment. I just wanted us to work together.”
“And that’s why I’m asking you to help me get access to Dani.” The interrogator took a step closer to him. “If you’ve examined Dani, you know as well as I do that she’s perfectly capable of talking. You know that she can think, that she isn’t the same as those males you showed me. None of the testimonies I’ve heard about her could be possible if she weren’t at least of moderate intelligence. So why can’t I interview her? What would she tell me?”
“It’s…It’s not that I don’t want you to talk with her, it’s just that…oh, it’ll just be such a bureaucratic pain.” He threw his hands in the air, the banana pointing upward with surrender. “But you know, you’re right. We work in the same building, and this is for the good of the nation. I’ll start the edocs and send you the parts you’ll need to fill out. Let me know when you get the online trainings done, and we’ll begin the Tyvek training in person.”
The interrogator nodded and offered a hand to shake. “Thank you, Dr. Smith. Er, Dallin.”
Dallin gave a warm shake in return. “I really hope you get what you want from her.”