American Chimera – 28.5

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“The males aren’t smart, though,” Dani said. “They’re smarter than dogs, but prob’ly not as smart as monkeys. It wasn’t his fault, and I didn’t have to kill him – but I didn’t know what I was doing.” She hid her eyes behind her claws. “I don’t quite get how, but I can control the males. When I escaped the desert facility, I did it by controlling a bunch of the males and making them run interference. They do what I want and give me updates I can understand, kind of like what I reckon the drones do for human soldiers. We’re bulletproof, have poisonous fangs, and are scary.”

“But then why make it easy for you to make friends? Why give you such a positive personality?”

“I don’t know,” Dani answered. “I ain’t sure they knew who I’d be. Far as I know, I’m the only female spider chimera ever created.”

“How many males do they have?”

“Alive right now? I dunno. But I was specimen 803, so at least 802 males had been created at some point.” She leaned forward. “Miss Crowe, I hate to be such a bother, but that jail was terrible. I’d love to tell you ’bout volleyball, maybe play some with you or the crew. It’s been a while since I got to stretch my legs.”

Rebecca Crowe laughed. “My! That is something to consider. When we get you to Britain, we’ll take you to a court right away. That sound good?”

“Yeah,” Dani said. “That sounds great.”

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American Chimera – 28.4

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I woke up in a dark room with red lights. The floor was covered in wood chips and straw, and a trickle of water ran in the back.

I stumbled around. My motor control wasn’t quite right, and it felt hard just to stay awake.

People in hazmat suits entered through a door. In my mind, disturbed by whatever drug I was on, I thought I mighta caught Ebola or California Measels or polio. It wasn’t ’til later I learned they wore the suits to keep my environment clean, not keep themselves safe.

A man, Dr. Smith as I later found out, flashed a light in my eyes. He examined the pupils while he hummed, then put the light in a pocket. “The drugs are wearing off.” He giggled like a schoolgirl and clapped his hands. “Oh my goodness – a real, female specimen! I’ve not been this excited since my last child was born. She’s such a beautiful specimen. Look at the size on her! Almost twice the bulk of a male.”

He ran a hand down my abdomen, which I noticed was completely naked. I pushed his hands away and tried to tell him off, but my words slurred around my tongue, and my body slid in the mulch.

“Careful,” Dr. Smith told the aides in the room, “She might not be as well trained as our males. But what a beauty. If she’s half as powerful as Dr. Whitehead promised, she’ll make everything we’ve worked with before now seem like cannon fodder.”

He walked around me, examining me like my dad might look over a new bicycle. “Powerful legs. She could probably rip a man in two. We’ll need to test her strength and combat capabilities when the drugs have worn off. For now, get 718 in here. We need to start the breeding process.”

“You think it’s a good idea to bring 718 in right now?” an aide, a woman, asked. “She might not be receptive to him.”

“Oh, it’ll be perfectly fine. The sooner we get this process started, the sooner we get a new generation to raise. Bring him in.”

The door opened again, this time allowing in a couple aides pushing cage. Inside the cage was the biggest spider I’d ever seen. When it noticed me, it raised up on its legs and squealed. It shook the bars of its cage, bending them slightly.

Dr. Smith waved to his aides. “Come on, folks! I can feel it coming in the air tonight!” He slapped his legs, ordered his aides out, then pulled a pin that held the cage door closed.

Just after he exited, the door flew open and the male chimera leapt after me. It tried to get behind me, to my reproductive organs, but I turned and wouldn’t let it.

I still couldn’t talk well. Poison and drool dripped from my mouth and burned through some of the wood chips on the floor. I tried to scream for help, but all I got out was some stupid yelping and whining.

The male tried to trip me, so I pushed him away. I’m strong, very strong, so it wasn’t hard to send him flying. He was built out of the same stuff I am, though, so he wasn’t damaged. He seemed invigorated, actually, and came back after me.

I bit at him. He bit back, but our carapaces were too hard for each other to penetrate.

With my motor control reduced, the male turned me over. He mounted me, then started rubbing himself with his pedipalps.

I got desperate. With my front claws, I took his head, then pushed against his abdomen with my back legs.

He stopped paying attention to himself as it started to hurt more. He screamed, but I didn’t stop. I was so scared, out of my wits, and I couldn’t control my own strength.

I couldn’t help it – it was so terrible! His head popped off his abdomen. Blood spewed everywhere. The legs continued to flail and scramble despite the creature’s death.

I dropped the head and screamed. What had I done?! I’d killed someone – this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be!

“Where am I!?” I tried to cry out. I didn’t say that well, didn’t say anything right, but I felt so alone. So broken.

Tears streamed down my eyes, and I huddled in a corner, as far away from the body I’d murdered.

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American Chimera – 28.3

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“And that’s where she came from,” Janie said. “Gov’ment made her. I found her in the holler back in ’72, then took ’er home. She’ll turn 17 soon, and she’s still my baby.”

“Mom, that’s so embarrassing-”

“Well, it’s true, sweetie.”

Crowe smiled. “That’s a…a very interesting story, Mrs. Huffman. How did you keep from getting caught with a chimera for 17 years, especially after the war?”

“Easy,” Dani answered. “I just worked hard to make a lot of friends. Like Stacy, or Dr. Worthington, or my teachers. If you make friends with someone, they’re a lot less likely to turn you in to the goverment or get you killed.”

“I’ve noticed you’re very friendly! Do you have any ideas, Dani, why the government made you that way?”

The spider’s head shook, her eyes blinked simultaneously. “No, not really.”

“Why did the government make you, Dani? The Americans are powerful. Why did they need to make a chimera? Why didn’t they hide or destroy you when they signed the accords?”

Dani wrung he front claws. “Well… I cain’t tell you for certain, but I can say what I learned when they first caught me… ”

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American Chimera – 28.2

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I was sterilized in the first round of cuts. I failed the test and, with me bein’ in the right age range, had to go to the doctor and get gutted. Ovaries, gone forever. Children, gone forever.

At first, it didn’t bother me. I had welfare ’til the day I died ’cause I accepted my summons to the doctor, and me an’ Brett were in love. Unlike a lotta folks, the sterilization didn’t take that away from us. I s’pose it wasn’t somethin’ hormonal between us, but somthin’ deeper. Maybe it was the weed. Lord, we smoked so much weed back then.

We was smokin’ when we found the egg. A gov’ment truck barrelled through the mountains where we lived, and the back door swung open. A box landed in the holler, so me an’ Brett went to investigate. Higher ’n kites, we took the egg home with the hopes to hatch a dragon.

I loved the egg. It was robin’s egg blue, shiny like a gemstone. The first few weeks we had it, I’d light up a bowl and just look at the beautiful thing. I thought ’bout the dragon inside, wondered if it’d imprint itself on me like the Queen of Dragons.

Before long, though, we ran out of propane and money. Though I didn’t know it’d be forever, gone now were the days I could laze about and smoke a bowl whenever I wanted. Brett and I got jobs to pay for heating the egg. I turned it, cuddled it, cooed at it. I loved my dragon inside, my Daenerys. My baby.

Bret…Brett never knew this. I never told him. But a couple weeks after I stopped using weed, I candled the egg again.

The thin strands we’d thought were the wing-fingers had thickened. I could tell they weren’t wings. I turned the egg while I looked at it through the sunlight, felt the fragile shell.

Then it hit me like a shoe at a political rally – it wasn’t a dragon. It took me a few more days of studyin’ to figure it was a spider.

Lord have mercy, I near ’bout had a heart attack. I realized Brett and I had gotten some crazy Yank disaster, that the box we’d took the egg from was labeled “Top Secret” for a reason.

But I couldn’t tell him. The thing inside the egg, no matter what it hatched to be, was my baby. Mine. The Yanks had taken any other baby from me, and I had taken their secret baby from them.

And she hatched. I didn’t care that she was a spider, ’cause she was crying for me. Her mommy. I wiped the egg gunk from her precious little body, cried ’cause I didn’t know what to feed ’er, ’cause I hadn’t prepared. I rocked her to sleep, held her tight.

A couple months after we’d had her, she wrapped a couple claws around my hand. I stroked her head – she was havin’ some awful headaches at the time ’cause the Yanks didn’t design her skull to be the right size – and sang to her, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird…”

She latched onto my finger and sucked on it like a baby. She definitely knew how to bite to make it hurt, so I knew she’d done this out of a longing for comfort. She couldn’t suck a tit, not with them lips, but she wanted that comfort of a pacifier or a bottle. Something.

“If that mocking bird don’t sing, mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”

I loved her from the moment we found the egg, but it’s that moment I pick out as the time I knew she was my baby. Mine. Not someone else’s failed dragon, not a stolen creature, but my baby. Through thick and thin, sickness and health – ’cause lord have mercy, there’s been a bunch of sickness – I’d be there. And so she took my heart, ripped it right outta my chest, and kept it for herself.

Oh, no, I ain’t bein’ literal. I’m bein’ figurative, you limey bitch.

I let her suck on my finger as I finished my song. I cuddled her in her blanket, lulled her to sleep, then took her to the bedroom. Her black body stood out against the pink sheets we’d gotten her. The cloth diapers I’d made and sewed velcro on fit so awkwardly, but they were so cute I wanted to cry.

I spun the little mobile over her crib. It didn’t have music – we were too poor at the time – but her eyes followed the wood cutouts spinning. Brett had done a good job makin’ and balancin’ the thing.

I’d get her a real room, one day. One that wasn’t shared with us, one that had a working ceiling fan and a computer and everything a child could want or need.

’Cause she was my baby.

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American Chimera – 28.1

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Rebecca Crowe, her legs crossed, held a pad of paper on her lap. Dani and Janie sat next to each other on her interview couch, stage lights bright on their faces.

The newswoman, prim despite the strange company, looked at the camera and read her lines from the teleprompter. “Hello, and welcome to a very important BBC News Special Report. Tonight you will see an interview with who – or what – may be the most important person of our era. Though no gore, cursing, or sexual content is included in this broadcast, what you’re about to see will shock you.”

She turned her head to another camera, one that captured her and the couch with the guests. “I’d like you to meet Daenerys Charlotte Huffman, who goes by Dani, and her adoptive mother, Janie Elisabeth Huffman. Dani, could you tell the viewers at home why you’re on the show?”

Dani’s legs crumpled inward, and her claws pawed at the place on her shirt next to the lapel microphone. “I – I’m a spider girl.” She closed her eyes, glittery eyeshadow sparkling in the stage lights, then said, “A chimera.”

Crowe, without missing a beat, asked, “A chimera, like the ape men created by Fiendish Dr. Kim of North Korea?”

“Oh, I hope not,” Dani replied. “I’m not like them. You see, I can think and talk, and I have lots of friends who love me. The ape men couldn’t do that.”

“I see. Janie – you’re the adoptive mother of Dani. You’ve told me you named her, kept her, raised her. How did you, a sterilized woman from humble beginnings, gain the trust of the American government? How did you get the honor of watching this magnificent creature grow up?”

Janie bit her lip and shot a glance at the interrogator. “You know, this sounds jus’ like what them MP’s and crazy folks were askin’ me back in jail-”

“This isn’t jail,” Rebecca interrupted. She flicked a finger, sending a crew member into motion. “This has nothing to do with the American government, in fact. You can leave out any details you want, sweetie.”

Janie heaved a sigh, looked to Rebecca. “Alright. But I don’t want her,” she pointed at the interrogator, “Gettin’ a copy of this.”

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American Chimera – 27.2

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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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American Chimera – 27.1

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The small commuter vehicle sputtered, on the last few volts of charge, into a parking deck in San Fransisco. The western sun hung large and orange over the horizon, and the air smelled like that special, Bay Area combination of salt and garbage. The interrogator drew in a breath and held it, contentment on her face.

She put the vehicle into park, then looked into the back seat and tapped Dani’s claw. “Dani,” she whispered. She tugged on Janie’s hand. “Janie, Dani – wake up. We’re here.”

Janie roused first. She rubbed her forehead, pushed her hair back. “Time for action, Dani. C’mon, girl.”

Dani stretched her limbs, taking up most of the room in the car, but stopped when her dress – a couple emergency blankets Janie had sewn together with floss – threatened to tear. “Whew. It’ll be good to get out and stretch.”

The interrogator stuffed one of her pistols into a shoulder holster, then covered it with a shell jacket. “Just don’t be too big about it. This is a large city, but there are eyes and ears everywhere.” She opened the car door, stepped out, and scanned the parking garage. “Come on. Let’s go.”

Janie and Dani opened the back doors and followed the interrogator to a small fire-escape door. They entered the stairwell, which smelled of sweat and piss from people who occassionally chose to turn the landings into the bathroom, then exited a couple floors above. They entered a couple of glass doors with clean-cut block letters, “BBC America.”

“Should I wait outside?” Dani asked.

“No,” the interrogator said. “Safest place for you is inside these doors. Once they even have you on closed circuit TV, I’ve got enough blackmail to keep you alive forever.” She puffed her chest. “Just stay behind me. A week’s been enough to get used to you, but I need to be on top of my game. I don’t want people to realize I’m afraid of chimeras.”

The interrogator entered, followed by Dani and Janie. She walked up to the front desk, tapped on the marble. “I’m here to see Rebecca Crowe.”

“She’s busy. I can leave her a number-”

“Not this busy.” She pointed to Dani. “Did you not watch us come in? I brought an American chimera with me.”

The receptionist lifted a brow and bent to see over her tall desk. “Oh god, what a costume-”

“It’s not a costume,” the interrogator said. “That is 100% American-made, bulletproof chimera.”

Dani waved a claw sheepishly.

Her face now white as a sheet, the receptionist sat back down and drew her holographic computer up. She pressed a red button, then said to the chest-up image of a woman, “Rebecca Crowe? This is the front desk. A huge piece of news just showed up, and I think you might want to come down-”

Rebecca Crowe, a perfectly British woman complete with crooked teeth and no-nonsense bun, interrupted, “What is it? Did Brangel Lee show back up, ready to do that interview?”

“No, ma’am – it’s…it’s some army lady here with a giant spider. The spider says he’s a chimera.”

“I’m not interested in the San Francisco homeless problem.”

“It’s not that – it’s a real, honest to goodness giant spider! Look!” She turned the computer around so the Crowe could see the guests.

Crowe’s eyes widened. “Send them upstairs. Get them into makeup.”

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American Chimera – 26.2

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The interrogator left the cabinet near the window and threw open the kitchen door. Gun still in her fingers, eyes scanning each of the four towers, she made a mad dash to the identified van and pulled open the sliding van door. Dani, never far behind, jumped into the open door before the interrogator joined.

“Dani!” Janie sat up in the front seat. “Dani, thank God, my beloved baby girl!”

Dani stuck a claw between the front seats and scrabbled to get as much vantage as possible.

The interrogator pulled Dani out of the way. “Reunion later! Go!” She pointed to the facility gates, secured by a chain and a few ancient hinges. “That gate’s the weakest point – ram through it!”

Dani sat back on the bench in the second row, and Janie fought back tears. She pressed the button to start the car, released the emergency break, and set off toward the gate.

“Faster!” the interrogator shouted. “I chose an armored vehicle – the bullets won’t matter unless they hit the windows, and even then we might be ok.”

The screens showed the draw on the battery’s electrical reserves as Janie put the pedal to the floor. The van rammed the gate, which flew off its hinges, and Janie stopped. The gate fell to the ground, and Janie backed up to go around it.

“West,” the interrogator said. “Nearest water is Reno, and they’ll know it’s our only option. Road’s there – take it. We can’t afford to get lost right now.” The interrogator climbed up between the front seats and pointed to part of the console. “Dani, rip this out.”

“What? Like, just rip it out-”

“Yes. It’s GPS – they’ll track us. The rest of the car will function without it.”

A few strong claws reached up between the seats, pried out the GPS and governor computer, then ripped it from the console. “What do I do with it?”

The interrogator took the box from the spider and tossed it out her window. “It’s already going to be too easy for them to find us. Reno’s got the only major water supply within a reasonable distance, so they know what road we have to take. Our only hope is that they can’t follow us when we do go offroad” She leaned back in her seat. “That’s why I stole a bunch of water from the banana tree supply and put it in the back of the van. We’re going to need to hide, cleverly, for a week or two.”

“What’s a banana tree?” asked Dani.

Janie interrupted the silence when the interrogator didn’t answer. “It’s supposed to be extinct, ain’t it? You crazy Yanks, wasting water in a desert on a banana tree…Speakin’ of crazy, you sure you know how to hide? How to run from the gov’ment?”

The interrogator nodded. “I was in the Chimera War. I was in the force that made its way to the Pyongyang gulags. If you wanted a safer person to be with, you couldn’t have chosen better.”

“Alright. Let’s say I believe you ’bout that. What’s yer grand plan when we get to Reno?” asked Janie. She eased up on the pedal, increased the mileage she could get from the battery. “You good at hidin’ us for decades to come?”

“No,” the interrogator said. “I can’t hide a chimera for that long. But I am very good at something else: espionage. Blackmail. Leverage.” She smiled, leaned on Dani’s side, and closed her eyes. “After Reno, we steal a new car and go to San Fransisco. I have contacts there who can help us. Wake me when we have about twenty miles of battery left.”

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American Chimera – 26.1

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The interrogator held still when she ran into the back of the line of males. She opened her eyes, glanced to the final door, and melted against the steel rails leading down into the dry depths of the Nevada dungeon. Dani followed her closely, and a smattering of three males after.

“What next?” Dani asked. Her voice wavered, the usual tender chipper tones hidden beneath a veneer of fear.

The interrogator swallowed. “There’s a trap door. It opens into the warden’s office of what used to be a prison.”

“Used to be?”

“There’s not enough prisoners left to spend the money keeping them close to one of these labs. You can’t just make people disappear without questions anymore, so there’s not really a point.” She pointed. “I need someone to open that door.”

Dani squinted her eyes and stared at the male at the head of the line. It reached up and, after fumbling with the latch, at last knocked it out of the way and pushed the trap door out of the way. The two males below it hefted the first one up and out of the hole, then the rest clambered up in effort to scramble out of the facility.

Sunlight flooded in through the door, baking the shaft that was usually lit by single bulbs in cages spaced throughout the stairwell. The interrogator pulled herself up from where she had melted and, eyes closed once more, made her way to the ladder at the end of the stairs.

“You know, I still don’t understand how they got Dr. Worthington down here,” the interrogator said. “No way she walked in, that’s for sure.”

She pulled herself out from the shaft and blinked to adjust to the sunlight beaming in through the warden’s window. The males had dispersed from the small room, their noises and screeches of delight echoing down the hall. The interrogator shied as the trailing males screamed like their companions and delightfully plunged into the adventure of escaping the facility.

She leaned against a wooden desk – old, decrepit, abandoned for decades – to hold herself up. She reached one hand out, felt for a wall, and eventually discovered the door. With the male chimeras gone, she cracked open her eyes and motioned for Dani to follow her. “Come on. It’s a straight shot to the nearest exit, but it’s better for us to make our way to the kitchen.”

The interrogator held her gun pointed down, turned to the left, and ran for the door. No guards or police stood at the metal detector or inspection station where generations of wardens had once entered the prison for their shifts. She hustled through open doors, the mechanisms no longer connected to electricity, all hanging as still and pristine as the day the prison had shut down. A gunshot rang out. The sound of a stream of gunfire rattled the windows.

She crouched as she passed a window. “The males have escaped. That’s why they’re shooting.”

Dani curled up. “What about mom, though? Wouldn’t she have gotten out first?”

“Her stairwell exits in a trapdoor at what used to be the kitchens, which is where we’re headed. That exit should be closer to the vans, and she should be able to maintain cover if she’s clever about it.”

“What if she ain’t clever about it?”

“I can’t help that now.”

They hurried through the jail, through hallways with windows the size of fists and past rec rooms with bars on glass-free openings. Dust from years of storms and accumulated grime coated the halls and gritted beneath their feet and claws. At last the interrogator pushed the swinging door to the kitchen, revealing the dust-ridden tables. Despite the dirty tables, the floor was sparkling clean, almost as if to hide the common foot traffic in and out of the east-end trap door.

“Look,” Dani said. The interrogator turned her head just long enough to see Dani pointing to a place on the table where a person had written in the dust with a finger. “You reckon it’s Mom?”

The interrogator released her held breath. “You would know her handwriting better than I.” She stifled a laugh to a meager chuckle. “Still, I don’t know who else would have wasted the time to write ‘Fuck the Yanks.”’

Dani crept closer. “Really?”

The interrogator ignored the question as she crept up to the barred window. She bobbed her head left and right, then squinted in the face of the bright sunlight outside. She winced at the males playing in the sand and ineffective gunfire, but focused on the line of cars nearby. “I see the van I gave her the keys for. I can’t tell if she’s inside or not.”

“I know how to find out,” Dani said. She reared up on her hind four legs and spied out the window with the human companion. She squinted her compound eyes and hummed gently. “Which one’s the van Mom’s s’posed to be in?”

“That one. Third from the left. Number 13.”

Outside, a couple male chimeras changed direction. The clawed up the sides of the vans, peeked inside, then climbed to the top where the guards tried to shoot at them. When Dani stopped humming and caught her breath, the spiders hopped from the top of the vans and back to the ground.

“She’s there,” Dani said between breaths. “At least, someone’s inside the car. I ordered the males to get on top of the van with people inside.”

The interrogator swallowed. “Is this bond telepathic or something?”

“I thought it was supposed to be pheromones, but I don’t know. Maybe it was the humming.”

“Well, as long as you’re right about their message, I’ll take it.” The interrogator took out her gun. “Send the males to the other corner of the facility, then we’ll make a run for the van.”

“Won’t you be in danger?”

“Better to get shot now than face legal punishment later. Give your orders, then signal me when it’s time.

Dani focused on the males she could see, hummed a different tone, and released the order with a few heaving breaths. “Alright. Let’s go.”

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American Chimera – 25.5

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The interrogator released the door. She marched over to the wall where the riot shields were and picked one up, then fastened a gas mask over her face and eyes. She grinned and took a canister of tear gas and two stun batons from behind the protective equipment.

Red lights flashed.

The alarm blared.

The interrogator pulled the pin on the tear gas canister and walked over to the break room door. She threw the can inside, then closed the door behind her and threw her weight onto it.

Through the coughing and crying, the guards in the break room managed to put together a team to batter the door. Though the interrogator held fast as best she could, the people on the other side were bigger. They pushed the door open at last and poured out, choking.

The interrogator activated a stun baton. She whacked one of the guards with the electric prod and held him down with it. When she could smell the kevlar burning into his flesh, she moved to another person and repeated the process with her.

“Bet you wish you’d stayed in the tear gas, huh?”

She put the baton back in her jacket and pulled out her gun. She sized up her enemies, chose the biggest, and fired.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Three down. The rest seemed harder to choose.

Pop. Pop.

She placed the gun back in her belt and withdrew the emptiest syringe. Into the throat of the smallest guard, she pumped the ketamines, then split the remainder between the two guards still choking from the gas.

She checked the number of bullets left in her chamber, opened the break room door, and allowed some of the tear gas to escape. She kicked a bullet-ridden corpse as she waited. “You might not realize it yet,” she said, “But you were one of the lucky ones.”

The emergency guards on B5 were down. Other officers patrolled the facility, but the most potentially dangerous had been neutralized. The biggest threat to the interrogator’s escape were the doors, which the computer may have locked, and the tower guards outside.

A screech sounded from the cages. The door jangled and clanged, something big behind it trying to escape. Claws scratched at the metal doors, hinges squealed at the weight battering against it. With each beating against the door, the strain worked against the hinges. A steel screw popped out of the door.

The interrogator closed the door to the break room as the male chimeras swarmed out.

The squealed, screamed, voices like cracking wails of teenage boys hoping to see the sun for the first time. Several made their way over to the bodies on the floor and, in their hormone-induced rage, ripped the bodies of the guards to pieces, living or dead. The interrogator held the door still while blood seeped under the door and soaked into her boots.

The scurrying and ripping outside stopped as quickly as it had begun. “Stop that! Stop – oh my God, oh my God! What have I done?”

“Dani!?” the interrogator yelled, hoping her voice carried through the door. “Dani, send them away.”

“I killed them! I killed the guards,” she wailed.

“You didn’t kill them. Now listen to me,” the interrogator said. “If we play our cards right, it’s a straight shot from here to the exit. As long as we can get to the van, we’ll be safe. I’ve packed the back with food, water, and solar panels to recharge the van.” She cracked the door open slightly, but jerked it closed again when she saw the team of spiders just outside. “Send your boys up the stairs in front of us and let a couple follow.”

“But they’ll kill people,”

“If the scientists at this facility have any sense, they won’t get in the way. You don’t fight twenty bulletproof super soldiers with a handfull of half-trained aides and a few CIA agents.” She gulped. “Send your boys on. We need to drive a long ways.”

The male spiders scurried, exiting into the stairwell as Dani held the door for them. The interrogator, eyes closed and gas mask still on, exited the break room and felt along the wall. She made it to the door.

“Something wrong with your eyes?” Dani asked.

“I do better when I can hear your voice and imagine a human.”

“Is it about your fear of chimeras?”

“Close enough.” The interrogator exited into the stairwell and, a gun in one hand and the stair railing in the other, followed the angry scurrying and clacks of the males’ footsteps in front of her.

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