American Chimera – 15.5

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“And you know what pisses me off most about this whole thing?”

The interrogator, her head resting in her palm, asked, “What?”

“Mrs. Ellerson did check the math we did for that homework. And literally everyone except Dani got points off for cheating, and Dani got points off for not finishing, so literally everyone was screwed. It was such garbage.”

The interrogator blinked her eyes a couple times. “You nearly died and all you can say about it is you got points off your homework.”

Stacy’s eyes opened widely. “Uh, chyah?”

“No. No, that’s not the point of this story.” The interrogator pointed to her tablet. “How did Dani get out?”

“Does it matter if she’s actually just a figment of my imagination?”

The interrogator paused.

“That’s right. You just got caught. Dani’s real, and you’re trying to get some kind of dirt on her.”

“I’m just trying to find out how to help you, Stacy.” She leaned forward. “You obviously imagined Dani. You got Mr. Potter out all by yourself.”

Stacy leaned back. “You don’t give up easy, do you?” She rolled her eyes. “Well, Janie – Dani’s mom – works with Bojangle’s robots. Sometimes people get stuck in the machines because they’re stupid and decide to crawl in. So she has a few cases of thermite at all times. Dani said they used it to burn the hinges off the back door, and Dani was able to bend the composite up enough to get out. After her next molt, which came sooner than anyone had planned, the crummy burns on her exoskeleton went away. The plating came back good as new.”

“And what about Mr. Potter?”

Stacy shrugged. “I guess he lived, but he lost his job. He was old enough to retire, but he didn’t have any savings. They…Mom and Dad didn’t tell me how he died, but I bet I know. There wasn’t much left for him on this Earth, after all.” She swallowed. “His wife had died of cancer a few months before the crash. He had no kids. He had no job, didn’t own his house – it was just all gone. All gone.” She put a hand to her mouth. “I didn’t save him, not really.”

The interrogator swallowed. “Well…that wasn’t the story I expected from you. I was expecting you to talk about Reverend Hinkley.”

Stacy’s face blanched. “Why?”

“Because of what he did to you.”

“Nothing happened.”

“That’s not what I heard.”

“Who told you?” Stacy stood from her lounge chair. She formed fists with her hands and gritted her teeth. “The only person I ever talked to about Hinkley was Dani. Don’t you fucking dare try to pretend she’s my imagination ever again.” Stacy stomped toward the door.

“You weren’t dismissed, Stacy Ellington!”

“Fuck you!” She grabbed the door handle and tried it repeatedly. “Let me the fuck out!”

The interrogator signed off on her tablet, and the guards took Stacy away.

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