American Chimera – 23.4

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The interrogator entered the dimly lit cell.

Janie shot up from her bed, fists formed. “What you think you’re doin’ here, in my cell?” She marched over to the interrogator and threw a punch.

Despite carrying a bag on her shoulder, the interrogator smoothly took Janie’s fist and used her momentum to drive the poor woman into the door. “I’m here because I want to be.” She pulled Janie’s arm behind her and held it stiff against her back. “No guards are here to save you, so I suggest you do as I say.”

Janie fought against the interrogator’s instructions. She struggled, tried to kick and elbow, but the interrogator still managed to throw her into the cot against the wall. “I ain’t ever doin’ anything for you! I was happy to rot here as long as I didn’t have to see your ugly face!”

The interrogator put a knee to Janie’s back. “I’m sure you were. But you’re not in charge here, see? I am. And I get to do what I want.”

“Then what do you want, bitch?”

“In a week’s time, I’m leaving for Washington for at least a month. Maybe more. I’m seeing all the prisoners before I leave, just so you have some human contact while I’m gone.”

“Better I be alone than see you!” She snapped her teeth at the interrogator’s wrists, missing.

“That’s not how your husband felt.” The interrogator, with one hand free, lowered the pack on her shoulder to the edge of the bed. “He was lonely, wanted any form of company he could get – even if it were me.”

Janie growled. “Stop trying to make me jealous. We’re both sterile – and I doubt he’d waste any motivations for sex on you.”

“But he tells me things. Many things,” the interrogator continued. She withdrew an unlabeled canister from her pack and placed it on the bed in front of Janie. “He told me about how you used thermite on the hinges of a bus door to get Dani out and save her. She was trapped inside a composite and steel box, but you knew how to break that open.” She shook Janie forcefully and put weight on her. “You still know how to do that?”

Janie nodded. “I fucking know how to do my job!”

“You’re a dangerous little thing, you know.” The interrogator pulled Janie back, ensuring she couldn’t yet make it to the canister. “In Brett’s tale, you used the thermite on the hinges. The hinges, you understand?”

“I understand!”

“And you waited until an emergency to use it. You didn’t waste it on something stupid. You waited until the bus’s alarm was screaming, telling you that Dani was in trouble. Didn’t you?”

Janie stopped struggling. “What are you getting at? Is…Is Dani in trouble-”

“Don’t question me!” the interrogator shouted. She pressed a hand into Janie’s back, making her squeal. “The computers always watch and flag anything out of the ordinary. I am visiting everyone out of kindess and courtesy, and that includes you. Fighting back won’t help anyone.” She released some of the pressure, then waited a second. “When you rescued Dani from the bus, you used thermite to get her out. You used it on the hinges. Then you went uphill, right?”

Janie nodded. “Uphill. Yeah, uphill.”

“It was a hard climb, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

The interrogator reached back into her bag and withdrew two syringes with capped needles. “Old Man Potter and Stacy were unconscious, weren’t they?”

“Yeah.”

“Imagine what they would have seen had they been awake. It would have been painful. It’s probably well and good they were asleep.” She withdrew a key fob and tossed it into the pile. “It would have been nice if you’d had a van ready to take Dani to the hospital, wouldn’t it?”

Janie nodded, blinked. “A van. A van, uphill, past unconscious people.”

“I hope you enjoyed this story. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“And you never acted unless there was an alarm, correct? You didn’t act without reason or signal?”

“At the alarm, I used thermite on the hinges to open the bus. I went up the hill, found a couple people unconscious, and wished for a van with which to get to safety.” Janie nodded. “I…why are you giving-”

“Do you understand?” the interrogator asked.

Janie squealed as the interrogator pushed her arm into an even more painful position. “I understand, I do! Agh, you’re hurting me!”

The interrogator let go, picked up her empty bag, and backed away from the bed. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll think about what I said today.” She took out her key card, showed it to Janie, and used it to open the door.

After she left, Janie put the canister, two syringes, and key fob between her thin mattress and the top of her cot.

The computer, after detailed voice and video analysis, flagged the video of the encounter for potential weekly review by humans.

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