I flicked the computer switch on the wall. “Computer, I need to call Victoria Ellington. She ’vailable?”
“Calling Victoria Ellington,” the computer answered cheerfully. A scanner from the wall stuck out and took account of my shape. It weren’t long before Victoria showed up in my bedroom, at least in holographic relief. Her face was bright with a smile, and her slick hair was curled so very stylishly.
“Oh, Brett. It’s so good of you to call. Wonderful news today, yes?” She sat in a chair the computer failed to replicate on my end.
“Yes’m, real good news,” I said. I cleared my throat. “I don’t wanna bother yeh, Victoria, ’specially since your sister’s comin’ back from the front tomorrow. But Dani says you’ve got ’er a pass into the military base at Fayetteville, and she wants to go with yeh.”
Victoria nodded. “Yes! Oh, it’ll be a once in a lifetime event. I gave Stacy the opportunity to choose one friend from her class to go with us, and I never expected anyone other than Dani to be her choice.”
I nodded. “I get all that, and I…I ’gree that Dani and Stacy’d benefit from seein’ the first wave of soldiers come back from the war. I just wanted to make sure you’d actually given permission, that it wasn’t just summat Dani and Stacy’d cooked up.”
Victoria’s light mood dampened slightly. “Stacy and Dani aren’t the types to lie, especially not about parental permissions.”
“Yeh cain’t tell me yeh don’t see why this might be a horrible idea though, right?” I gulped. “No offense, but…after today, you gotta see what Dani is. She don’t know ’bout the chimeras yet, and I don’t know what yeh’ve tole Stacy, but I just cain’t see bringin’ my daughter to a military base as a good idea.”
Victoria’s brows pinched so fiercely that I began to question my resolve. “What?”
“It makes sense,” I said. “We’ve run genetic tests, metabolic, everything, on Dani. It was all to help us figger out how to keep her healthy, of course, but it lines up too well with what they’ve said on the news.” I coughed and fought back tears. “She’s human in the brain, but her genes run the gamut of everything we know and several things we don’t. That’s what those poor bastards the Koreans made were like – genetic chimeras.”
“But Dani’s an American chimera.”
“America agreed to the Convention, though, which means they don’t recognize Dani as a person! They’re not gonna accept her as equal to me, or you, or Stacy.” ’Bout this point I sat down on the bed and gripped the post on the footboard. I gripped it tight enough that I could focus on the pain in my fingers more than the pain in my heart. “Any nation that researches chimeras, from here on out, will be obliterated by all the rest. Warshington cain’t ’ford to have Dani show her face. I’m…I’m ’fraid they’ll do somethin’ awful if they catch ’er.”
Victoria looked to her feet and intertwined her fingers. “I understand your fear. I…I’d thought of that, myself. But you do realize what you’re beginning to do? You can’t put Dani in jail for nothing. You have to be the best father you can.”
“Which means not lettin’ the Yanks get her!”
“It means not letting the…the ‘Yanks’ force you to keep her imprisoned!” Victoria’s face lit brightly with anger. “If you keep her locked up in your house, you’re just doing their work for them. Don’t punish her just because she wasn’t born the same as her friends.”
“It’s not punishment. It’s protection!”
I’ve never seen her so enraged before or since. She stood from her chair and formed fists that shook with anger. “In olden days, fathers would imprison their daughters to keep them from being raped. Are you that kind of father? Are you the kind of father that would hamper his daughter for the fear of something that isn’t even under his control?”
I gulped. I…was I that kinda Dad? Had I done an evil to Dani that no one else would even dream of committing?
Victoria seemed to settle, prob’ly ’cause my thoughts get writ all over my face. She reached out a holographic hand and comforted me. “I know you’re trying to do right by Dani, and I know you do this because you love her. But you’ve got to think – this experience is something she’ll never forget, and you’re just saying no because of what she is.” She released her hand. “We’ll have blankets and equipment to hide her if need be. Our family will be traveling in our own car, if you’re worried about my sister having PTSD and becoming upset at Dani.”
I remained quiet for what was prob’ly a longer time than was reasonable, but Victoria stayed on the phone. “I…If Dani wants to go, we’ll get her packed and ready tonight. What time you comin’ to pick ’er up in the mornin’?”
“Alright…she’ll be ready.”
“Good. Have a good night, Brett.”
“See ya, Victoria.”
The computer cut off the signal, and I just stood there, wonderin’ if I’d done right. What would I do if they took away my lil’ girl? How could I ever forgive myself? Had I let Victoria talk me into summat insane?
I lay back in my bed and watched my ceilin’ fan turn. I thought back to that trailer where Dani was born, how ever’thin was old, dirty, and broken. ’Til she come along, neither me nor Janie thought there’d be much reason to change it.
I wiped my eyes. It wasn’t because I was cryin’ or confused or anything – they were just itchy. Spring allergies were tearin’ me apart that year.