Some knuckles rapped on her window. The interrogator, beneath a shiny cloak of thermal blanket, a crust of salt on her lips, opened her eyes but found only darkness and a flashlight shining in. The door, unlocked ever since the battery died completely, opened.
“I finally found you,” a man said. He put away his flashlight and handed over a steel canteen. “Drink it slowly.”
She took the canteen and sipped a bit. She put it down and coughed, her mouth still dry. She smacked her lips, then said, “Ivanov.”
Ivanov, dressed in dirty civilian clothes and more than a 5 o’clock shadow, frowned, climbed into the car and sat in the driver’s seat. He remained quiet for a moment, just breathing while he stared at her. “You ruined everything, you know,” he said. He removed some cuffs from his belt and put them around the interrogator’s wrists. “I was yelled at, nearly jailed, and definitely demoted – miracle they didn’t end up firing me and having my throat slit. But you, you stupid bitch, you had to run out into the desert and make it hard for me to hunt you down.”
“You weren’t supposed to find me at all.” She sipped some more water, held the canteen with her bound hands. “I was perfectly fine dying out here.”
He examined the back seat. Empty cans of water, beans, rice, and emergency rations littered it. A few uneaten cans of food and two leftover chocolate bars sat in a cardboard box on the rear passenger seat. “Looks like you had only enough water for a week. You really weren’t planning on much, were you?”
She shook her head. “No.” Another sip of water. “I’ve been listening to the radio during the day. Things aren’t going too well out there, are they?”
“No nukes have been dropped-”
“But that doesn’t matter, does it?” She laughed, then coughed from her dry throat. “The politicians and upper-level officers will get itchy fingers. There’s not enough oil left to wage a good conventional war, and we’ve got to strike to win. We have to take out the innumerable enemy before they take out us.”
“Funny, the way you say ’us,’ as if you’re still a real American after what you did.” He opened his own can of water and took a sip. “Financial systems collapsed when all the hackers were unleashed. We bombed London and Beijing just to shut those smug assholes up, and the coalition forces have done their damnedest against us, too. But the death toll doesn’t matter; plenty of unwanted people to burn through in cities. You know why I’m here, don’t you?’
“I have my suspicions.” She took some more water. “They might have sent you. It’d make sense – kill me before I can make it worse. Kill the traitor and use her as an example. But I don’t think so.” She sat up in her seat, and the mylar blanket fell down to lay on her lap. “I think you were placed on administrative leave, and you’re here because no one was going to stop you.”
He smiled. “Your intuition always made you a good spy.”
“Shut up. I wasn’t a good spy.” She took a sip. “I was the best spy.”
“And no one will ever know about it. Oh, except that woman you ranted to at the Amazon warehouse, who just thought you were crazy.” Ivanov poked the interrogator on the nose. “You’re losing your touch – if you hadn’t made that mistake, I might never have figured out which car you were driving or where you’d gone.”
“I don’t make mistakes.” She tossed the small, empty can into the back of the vehicle.
“I suppose not.” Ivanov reached into his light jacket to his shoulder holster, then pulled the pistol out. He left it lying on his lap. “Why’d you do it? I still don’t understand. You literally doomed the world, you know.”
“The world was already doomed, as far as I could tell.” She stared out the windshield, into the twinkling stars. “Every human’s future was limited to a single lifetime. And all it took to reach that goal was destroying the planet.”
Ivanov lifted a brow.
“Janie put it best, Agent Ivanov. ’Blackies go under the knife.’ You ever heard that before?”
He snorted. “That’s ridiculous. Everyone took the same test. The population couldn’t continue to rise, not if the human race wanted to survive.”
“That test wasn’t fair. No test you could think of to replace it would have been fair. It wasn’t made for humans to pass – just monsters and sons of Mammon.”
“Monsters? Why, were you jealous of Dani? Dani who we’d put in a basement to be raped until she died?”
The interrogator shook her head. “No. I helped Dani because she was human, no matter what she looked like on the outside.”
Ivanov laughed nervously. “Then the monsters are white people? Are you serious right now? You complain about Brett and Janie being racist, and you destroyed the lives of millions – perhaps of everyone – because of some perceived slight to your race?”
“Oh, Ivanov, don’t be ridiculous. I said nothing of the sort, though I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought it.” She removed the full can of water from Ivanov’s hand and took another sip. “How much water did you bring with you? You planning on going back to work?”
“I’ve got enough water for one of us to make it back to town.” He held tight to his gun. “You understand how this is going to work, don’t you?”
“You’re going to shoot me. You’re going to feel nice and smug about it, then you’re going to take that gun and shoot yourself in the head because even success wouldn’t be worth it anymore.”
“I’m not going to shoot myself.”
“Fine. I was wrong about that. It won’t matter, though, because I’ll be dead, just like I would have been if you’d not come to find me in the first place.”
“Yup.” He pointed the gun at her. “So, agent, any last words? Or have you gotten everything off your chest?”
She sighed. Her breath was deep and satisfied. “No one else will get to say they killed Fiendish Dr. Kim. No one else can say they ended the first Chimera war and pulled the metaphorical trigger that started the second. I’ve done enough for one lifetime.”
Ivanov nodded. “It was a pleasure working with you.”
He aimed the gun at the interrogator’s head and killed her.
Thank you for coming along on this journey! It’s been a long one, but I think it’s been a worthy train wreck. Hope to see you again in the new year!