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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American Chimera – 25.4

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The interrogator entered level B5. Two guards stood at the entry to a long hallway. They looked up at the unexpected entry.

One, a man in his late twenties, raised a brow. “Can I help you?”

The interrogator marched up to him, stabbed him in the neck with the half-empty syringe, and plunged the top down and let go of the syringe.

The second guard pulled his gun. “Drop it!” he shouted. “Drop it!”

She held up her hands and took a step closer. “I have two guns in my belt. Here, take them.” She took another step.

“Stay back – I’m warning you-”

“It’s going to be ok. Just take the guns from my belt.”

After another step without altercation, the interrogator grabbed the end of his rifle-grip gun and shoved it past her. The man was too late to pull the trigger as the interrogator shoved the syringe into the man’s neck and pushed. Something slightly more than half the contents entered his neck.

She reached down to his pockets and grabbed his key card. She touched it to the keypad and unlocked the door to the males’ cages. “Dani!” she shouted. “Dani, get in here.”

The spider cracked the door to B5 open.

The interrogator closed her eyes and supported herself by leaning against a wall. “Behind me is the door to the males’ cages. I need you to go in, open the door to as many cages as you can, and incite the males to attack everything except you. Understood?”

She shook her head. “That’s terrible-”

“They’re animals. When the alarm starts in a few seconds, your mother will attempt to escape and find the getaway vehicle. We need the guards to respond to a crisis – any crisis – other than your escape. Can you do this?”

The spider whimpered. “Yes.”

“Good. I’m going to hold off the guards from the break room. If they kill me, just get upstairs as fast as you can. Find your mother and drive west to Reno. Understood?”

“Yes.”

“Then go. Release at least twenty males, then meet me in the break room.”

Dani took the door from the interrogator and entered the veterinary area.

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American Chimera – 25.3

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The interrogator held herself straight and stable, then turned the knob. She exited the B6 floor into the stairwell.

A guard, snacking on an oatmeal and yeast snack cake, looked up from her meal. Her dark face, similar in tone to that of the interrogator’s, smiled. “You back early.” She pulled the wrapper up and around the snack, then placed it in a pocket.

The interrogator shook her head. “Tyvek suit had a hole in it. Only other one they had in operation was needed for veterinary work, so they told me to try again later.”

The guard removed a computer from her bag. “You ready to sign out?” She smiled at the interrogator.

“Yeah, just let me find my card…here we are-”

The interrogator withdrew the gun from her jacket and pistol whipped the guard in the face. She pushed down on the guard’s helmet and kicked out her legs, dropping her to the floor.

The second guard went for his gun. “What the fuck-”

The interrogator pointed her pistol at the second guard. “Touch your comm and you die.” She kicked the guard on the ground and stood on her neck. “I’ll kill her for good measure, too.”

The guard shook his head and lifted his hands. “What’s going on here?”

“On the ground. Nice and easy.”

He nodded. “The computer’s going to see this, you know.”

“The computer’s betrayal is within the parameters of my plan.” She took out one of the ketamine syringes and stuck it in the female guard’s neck. She depressed the syringe halfway, then pulled the needle back out. She removed the gun from the female guard’s holster, all the time keeping her aim trained on the male guard.

Once the female guard started mumbling about how good life felt, the interrogator walked over to the male guard. She pointed the gun down at the man. “Sadly, I have far more bullets than I have drugs right now.”

“But you – you used one on her!”

She pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced the man’s head, and blood spewed out onto the floor next to the brains and other flesh. “Dani!” she shouted. “Dani, come on!”

The door opened, and the interrogator launched to the stairs. She didn’t look back, didn’t look at the frightening chimera.

“My God!” Dani shouted. “You killed him! Did you mean to kill him?”

“At the top of the landing there will be a door. I’ll use my badge to get us in to B5, then shoot the two guards waiting just inside. Then I’ll head to the break room where the guards wait. If I get there before the alarm sounds, I might be able to close them off from their guns.”

“I don’t want anyone else to die! Oh my God, Gramma said this would happen – I don’t want to kill anyone! I’m not a weapon!”

“That’s why I’m doing this for you. Wait just inside the door at B5. When the alarm sounds, I’ll finish off the guards one way or another. I have five doses left, which means I’ll have to use seven more bullets on this level.”

“Don’t kill people! Please, not in my name!”

The interrogator grumbled. “Fine. I won’t kill anyone.” She put away the gun and took out two syringes, one in each hand. She uncapped the one that hadn’t been used. “But I’m depending on you now. Wait here – I’ll motion for you to follow through the window.” She thrust her thigh up so her pocket touched the pad that read her key card, and the door unlocked.

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American Chimera – 25.2

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A giant spider sat on a cot. As soon as she saw her guest at the entry, she pulled a blanket up and over her abdomen in attempt to cover herself.

“Don’t worry with that,” the interrogator said. “Get up. It’s time to leave.”

Dani let the blanket fall a little. “What?”

“I knocked out the guard at the computer. We have about five minutes before the computer has enough data to trip the alarm. If we’re not at least up to level B5 by then, the doors will shut and we won’t be able to escape.” The ethanol still sprayed behind the interrogator. “If all works well, your mother will be waiting in the getaway car.”

The spider dropped the blanket. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“Come with me and I’ll tell you on the way.”

As Dani stood, the interrogator’s knees melted. She held onto the threshold, kept herself up, and closed her eyes.

“Something wrong?” Dani asked.

“I’m afraid,” the interrogator said.

“Don’t worry. I’m not just a spider – I won’t bite you-”

“I’m not afraid of spiders.” She breathed heavily. “I’m afraid of chimeras.” She turned away from Dani’s room and jogged down the hall, trying to forget what scurried behind her. After her pace and breathing steadied, she said, “You’ve been stored on level B6. B5 contains the males – do you still have mind control over them?”

“Yeah. But I don’t like ’em.”

The interrogator led Dani out through the prep room. The guard she had previously injected seized violently, but she walked by and out the door, teenage mutant just behind her. She used the man’s knife to cut off her Tyvek suit, stepped out of the booties, and pointed to the long hallway.

“A couple of guards are placed at the bottom of the stairs. Ten more, probably the ones that stormed your cell last time I visited, wait in a break room on level B5 in case of emergency. I have three – er, probably more like six – ketamine doses left and…” The interrogator checked the magazine on the stolen pistol. “Ten rounds in this pistol.”

“What’re we gonna do then?”

“As long as the alarm hasn’t been triggered, hopefully stealth.” She hid the gun beneath her jacket and looked at her watch. “Three minutes left. Follow me. Don’t show yourself unless I order you to.”

“I’m scared,” Dani whined.

“Me too. It’s not an ‘if’ we get caught, it’s a ‘when.’ They might find you valuable enough to save, but me? I’m dead. No doubt.”

“Then why you helpin’ me?” Dani asked. “You jus’ tryin’ to get me in trouble?”

“I’m trying to do the right thing. It’s what I’ve always done, and I plan on dying for the cause of righteousness.”

“So breaking a chimera out of jail is the right thing to do?”

“It’s not the first time I’ve done it. Contrary to popular belief, God wasn’t working alone when fiendish Dr. Kim was eaten by her own monsters.” She put one hand on the knob to the exit and lifted another to silence Dani. “I’m going in. Don’t say anything or enter unless you have to.”

Dani hushed and held a claw up to her mouth.

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American Chimera – 25.1

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The interrogator pulled the Tyvek suit over her shoes. She zipped it closed, and a guard behind the windows started the fans. The suit inflated.

“Pressure is holding. Everything seems ok. Reversing fans-”

“Are you sure?” the interrogator asked. “I can hear some whistling. I think there’s a leak. Can you come check?”

The guard behind the window looked over some numbers. “Everything’s holding fine. You’re within parameters.”

“I’d still feel more comfortable if you came to make sure.” She wrung her hands. “It’s only my second time going in here, and last time Dallin helped me. I’m…I’m scared.”

The guard let out a huff, then leaned to the mic. “Ok. open the door and I’ll be there in a second.”

While he walked around to the door, the interrogator opened the zipper on the front of her suit. She reached beneath her jacket, into an internal pocket, and withdrew a syringe. She uncapped it and held it close to her chest.

The door clicked open and the guard washed his hands. “Alright. Let’s see if we can’t figure this out.”

“Yes,” the interrogator agreed. “Lets.”

She stuck the needle in his jugular and pushed the syringe.

The guard whacked her hand and tried to fight back, but his motor control had evaporated. The interrogator helped him to the floor while he blinked his eyes rolled back into his head. He drooled, mumbled incoherently, and stiffened into a paralysis before becoming still. The well-placed injection knocked him out within a half a minute.

The interrogator fell to her knees and reached for the guard’s key card. She took his physical keys, the gun in his holster, and a knife from his pocket. “You’ll be ok. I didn’t take you down with a bullet.” She turned him so he lay in the recovery position.

She took off her Tyvek helmet and, using the guard’s key card, opened the door to the sanitation hallway. She left her hands by her side as the ethanol sprayers detected her entry and doused her. She ran down the hallway, passing the now-empty table that had once held syringes filled with ketamines. She took the stolen card and shoved it between the door and the threshold. The lock, built to keep animals in rather than thieves out, popped open as she pulled it over the locked section of the mechanism. The interrogator pushed the handle down, then opened the door.

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American Chimera – 24.3

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“Luckily,” Dallin said as he ate a slice of cinnamon-laced banana bread, “The CIA has plenty of operatives available when things leak or get out of hand.”

“You called your boss and told them about Elder Thorpe’s extortion?”

“Yup.” He swallowed the bread. “I sure hope he’s ok. No one ever heard about him again after that.”

The interrogator frowned. “That should have been expected.”

“Oh, true. You plan on eating some of your bread?”

The interrogator lifted the waxed canvas wrapped over the tin in front of her. “Yes. I’m sure it’ll be a new and exciting adventure. I’ve had a lot of firsts since I got here – many of which I can attribute to you, Dallin – and I guess I’ll just have to add cinnamon to the list.”

“Always glad to be of service.” He blushed.

“I’m afraid, however, that I must intrude upon your hospitality once more. I have every indication I’ll be back in this facility once the new budget has been approved, but that leaves me with six days to set up everything for my return.” She sighed. “I anticipate being assigned to fish information from the Huffmans and the others still imprisoned here in order to help you. I expect I will update the agents of the CIA as to your progress with the Chimeras. I don’t have much time to prepare for all that.”

Dallin smiled. “You really think they’re going to increase our funding?”

“I have every indication from the higher ups that your funding is going to increase significantly. And, because my own wellbeing and career will ride on your funding, I have vested interest to make sure I prepare for my return adequately.” She leaned over the table. “I’ve convinced a zip code’s worth of people to divulge their greatest secrets in the past month. I’ve convinced them to do things they wouldn’t normally do, and I’ve finagled my way into their hearts. I think I have enough information from Dani’s family that I might convince her to be more amenable to your research. I doubt I convince her to let you impregnate her, but I might make it so that she’ll listen. She might help you in other ways.”

“And you think you can do this?”

“I do,” the interrogator answered. “I know her parents. I have access to everything they’ve ever owned. I can convey messages from her parents, whatever we want them to say.” She cleared her throat. “If I get information from her, as well, I might gain some leverage against her parents. I believe her mother knows more about how they made her female, and that could be invaluable.”

Dallin nodded. “You want to see her before you leave?”

“The sooner the better,” the interrogator said. “Tomorrow or the next day would be best. The rest of the time I have will be spent on final reports.”

Dallin opened his holographic computer screen. “I’m sure we can work something out.”

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