American Chimera – 27.2

American Chimera Cover Small

The makeup artist whimpered. “You won’t eat me, will you?”

“What? No.” Dani reached onto the makeup artist’s table and sorted through some of her goods. “How much this stuff cost? I ain’t never seen so many bottles and compacts afore in my life.”

The interrogator took the bottles away from Dani and replaced them on the table. “Just make her look real. I don’t want anyone to think what they’re seeing is computer-generated or part of a costume.”

“And how do I do that? She’s an actual spider-”

“Chimera,” the interrogator interrupted. “A spider is a pathetic creature you or I can squish beneath our feet. Dani is the result of billions of dollars of investment to create the perfect soldier, and we’re here to flush all of that down the drain. Can you achieve that for us?”

The makeup artist bit her lip. “You could start by taking off that ridiculous clothing.”

“No! I won’t go on TV without clothes. You can’t make me.” She picked out a bright red lipstick. “How ’bout you just make me pretty?” She wiped the lipstick over her lips, leaving behind a red marking reminiscent of human lips yet obviously false. “There.”

Janie stood and examined the desk. “Here. This eyeshadow’ll look good. Close your lids.” She powdered the backside of the eight black eyelids, making them sparkle. Janie’s hair, up in a fresh braid, wrapped around her head like a crown. Her eyes were thickly lined, her lips a dark red and cheeks a bold blush to stand out for the camera.

The makeup artist moved in, watching what Janie did. “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.”

Janie filled her brush again. “I’ve seen this news channel a couple times afore. You should’ve had enough practice turning monsters into people, you should know how to do the opposite for Dani here.”

“Mom! Gah, stop embarrassing me.”

“What? All them leftist celebrities are monsters.” Janie clipped the eyeshadow box closed. “Now, I cain’t claim to be an expert, but anything else we’ve tried has been a disaster. You’ve let her shower, and now her face is about as fancy as it can be.” She tugged on the spider dress. “Too bad we didn’t make it out with something better for you to wear.”

Dani rolled her eyes, just the hint of sclera showing. “Mom, stop being this way.”

The interrogator lifted her chin. A hand waved at her from a different room, calling her. She checked they hadn’t taken her gun, then left the makeup artist, Dani, and Janie to argue about colors and shimmer on their own. Her steps were quiet, determined, as they took her to the open door.

Rebecca Crowe, impeccably dressed in a modern grey coat with padded shoulders and slacks with creases on the front, waited at the door. “What is this all about?” She looked the interrogator up and down. “And who are you?”

“Who I am doesn’t matter. This,” the interrogator gestured to Dani in the other room, “Is about a young girl with her entire life ahead of her, but a country that wants to cut it short. I’m here to stop that.”

“And how am I supposed to help you do that?” Crowe crossed her arms. “What is this about?”

“I know how governments work. You, your crew, and this station could be living off American money for as long as you want. You just have to play your cards like I say, then leave the country as fast as you can until I tell you it’s safe. Understood?”

Crowe leaned against the door frame. “Go on. Tell me how this works.”

“You make a film recording Dani and her mother. Interview them, have them play volleyball, I don’t care. Make a copy, give it to me, then fly out of here. I take it to my government, tell them the cost of keeping the video secret, and that’s how we play it.”

“Alright. What do you get out of it, then? How much could I ask from the Americans before they’d refuse me?”

“Their number’s probably higher than anything you could reasonably imagine. A billion a year? Two billion? Both are still cheaper than another Chimera War.” She cleared her throat. “For my part, I will ask for Dani’s and her family’s freedom, my own freedom, and no change in my status within the…” she paused. “Within the military.”

Crowe nodded. “A billion a year should satisfy me and my crew.” She held out a hand to shake. “I’ll take your deal.”

The interrogator took the offered hand. “I look forward to making this work.”

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