American Chimera – 6.5

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The interrogator lifted a brow. “Did she go? Obviously she wasn’t noticed or captured.”

He scoffed and took down the last of his Pepsi. “Yeah, Dani got into the base, watched the soldiers parade back in, and came home safe and sound – and you Yanks didn’t catch ’er.”

The interrogator leaned forward. “Did Janie agree with you tearing down the flag?”

“Why don’t yeh shut up? Stop overanalyzing this crap, you colored Yank!” He huffed angrily and dropped the glass bottle to the floor beside him. “I love my daughter, and I was skeered. Judgin’ by what’s happened to me since that news column came out, I was right to be skeered. I was right to be angry! Where is Dani? What did you do to her?!”

The interrogator stood. “Dani is perfectly safe. The doctors here wouldn’t want to see her harmed even the least bit. I can-”

“If she’s here, she’s in prison. I did ever’thin’ I could to keep ’er free, Yank, even up to lettin’ her outta my control. So I know what y’er a doin’ cain’t be ’unharmed.”’

The interrogator nodded. “I understand your concern, but please be assured that our doctors are the best for her kind of chimera. She’s in good hands.” She tapped the end of her stylus on her tablet. “There was a name you mentioned that I’ve heard before, and I’m curious as to why it’s come up twice now. Reverend Hinkley – who is he? What did he do?”

At her question, Brett Huffman’s visage fell. “He was awful to my sweet daughter. He’s the one who tried to get ’er kicked offa the volleyball team, get ’er shoved outta school. Hell, I’d not be s’prised if’n he was the one what wrote that article in the Observer that got yer ’tention. If there’s anyone I’d like to strangle more than you, it’s that punk.”

The interrogator nodded. “So he’s an enemy of Dani’s?”

A pinched nose and furrowed brow gave the interrogator answer enough.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Huffman. You’ve been very helpful.”

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Reading List – April 2020

This is my second of four Indie Book Months in 2020!

Child of Humanity – Alyse N. Steves

514w6vjoailI’m a pretty big fan of sci-fi, but it seems a little more rare than fantasy when it comes to indie books. Still, I’m excited for this in part because I’m fairly certain the author is a PhD in the science (like me! Oh man, I’m so glad I’m not in grad school anymore, holy shit). The author also runs/ran the old twitter game #MeetAWriter, which I enjoyed.

Amazon Link

51n4vq2bfuylLegacy of Souls – D. Wallace Peach

I reviewed The Melding of Aeris by Diane back in April 2019, and I really enjoyed it. For that reason, I decided to see if her quality carries through to her newest series, The Shattered Sea! It seems to be a fantasy with soul-based magic, and I hope it carries similar tinges of darkness as Aeris did.

Amazon Link

 

Laevatein’s Choice – E. Kathryn

51wxlvkpovlSo, as an aside/heads up: I beta read this book. Whenever I beta read something, I get a little more attached to it than if I just pick the book up cold. I feel like I had some input with it, and I tend to give it more benefit of the doubt than I would otherwise.

Still, I can go ahead and tell you that this book is really cool, and it even blows Fire’s Hope out of the water! If you like YA and superheroes, definitely an indie book to check out.

Amazon Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read, and those slots will be opening before you know it!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

The Aberrant Storage Site

green-shed-in-trees

“No,” Major Jennings ordered, “Don’t go near that.”

I stopped, not being one to question, but I ached to know why. The box was covered in vines, surrounded by trees, as if it hadn’t been touched in a long time. If I were going to work at this Aberrant Storage Site (or ASS, as military personnel were inevitably going to dub it), shouldn’t I know what was going on?

I swallowed a bit of fear. “Who’s in charge of this, then?”

“No one,” Jennings answered. “There are reports from 1962 that say some men captured a thing – creature, artifact, it’s not clear – and started doing it’s bidding. Soldiers disappeared, guns were found in strange places, and inscrutable symbols were carved into the sides of the barracks.”

“So?” I asked.

“Eventually, the group of men in charge of the object started bleeding themselves and collecting it in a barrack bathtub. The Base Commander at the time was appalled and put them in prison, but they kept bleeding then used the blood to write strange words all over their cell walls. Orders meant nothing to them, food or friends didn’t either. He ended up having them executed out by the hangar, then burned the corpses off site. They sealed whatever it was in this lead-lined box, and standing orders have been to shoot anyone who gets too close.”

I hadn’t expected something like this. “So, how close do you think the brainwashed soldiers came to fulfilling the thing’s goal?”

Jennings shrugged. “Unclear. It’s even possible they succeeded.” He pulled something out of his pocket. “Werther’s Original?”

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This was written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #73. I saw this picture and just couldn’t resist.

 

American Chimera – 6.4

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Eventually I got up from the bed and carried my sorry hind-end back to the livin’ room. Dani was sittin’ on the sofa, legs wigglin’ with excitement while she waited for the news to come on. I ran my eyes over her black carapace, over the multi-faceted eyes, and down her long legs. My heart sank when I thought back to when she hatched from the egg and I had…I had…

“Dani,” I started, then scooted into the place of the sofa just next to ’er. “Dani, you know Daddy loves you, right?”

She leaned onto me and hooked two legs around my neck. “Oh, please, please let me go with Stacy. I’ll be good! I’ll wash the dishes!”

“I wasn’t going to say you couldn’t go, but-”

She hopped up and down, no more of my words mattering. “Thank you, Daddy! Thank you!” She hopped from the couch and ran in circles. “What am I going to wear? Ooh, what avatar should I use on the phone? This is so exciting!”

“Now, hold yer horses there, Dani,” I said. I stood and grabbed her by the large, curving abdomen, realizing after just how unafraid I was of this 80-pound spider. “Dani, I…I’m lettin’ yeh go ’cause I don’t want yeh to be gypped just ’cause yer Mama and Daddy’s poor. I don’t want yeh to have any less than the other kids in yer class. But I’m ’fraid, too, ’cause y’er not just any kid. You unnerstand that, right?”

Her excitement died down significantly. “What are you sayin,’ Daddy?”

I didn’t cry when I sat down and held her tight. Not a single tear was shed. “Somethin’ happened today, sweetie.”

“Yeah. The war ended.”

“And the war was about summat called chimeras.” I turned her head to look at me and placed a hand under her chin. “Dani, I…I think you’re a chimera. That means if the government finds you, they’ll take you away from me and Mommy, and I…I don’t want that, Dani. You understand?”

She was quiet.

“Stacy wants to take you to a military base tomorrow. They’ll have cameras, and they’ll be watchin.’ I’m skeered they’ll find you.”

Dani pulled away from me. “You don’t want me to go with Stacy tomorrow, do you?”

“I’d be lyin’ if’n I said I did. But I’m not gonna treat you like a father from the Bible treated his daughters. I’m not gonna lock you ’way. But please, Dani, you gotta be careful. Please, keep quiet, and keep yer eyes peeled. The Yanks – er, the gov’ment’s there, and they ain’t gonna love you near ’nough to let you live a happy life. You promise me you’ll be good tomorrow, right?”

Dani shook. “Yes, Daddy. I’ll be real good. I won’t take my clothes off or nothin.”’

I let her go. “Good. Now figger out what y’er gonna wear tomorrow. Mommy’ll be home soon, and she’ll check it to make sure it matches.”

She scurried off on her eight legs and went to her room. I noticed how much she had to struggle to stand on rear legs and open the door, yet with what happy vigor she rushed. The world wasn’t built for her, and I’d done nothin’ to help. Now the damn world was out to get her. The damn Yanks’d never done nothin’ right, far as I was concerned. They hated ’er ’cause of what she was, how she was born. It was unfair. No nation should be able to do that to any of its people, especially not mine.

I shambled over to the window, right aside the front door, and moved my flag just a tad bit so I could look down the road for Janie’s car. She wasn’t nowhere to be seen, so I sighed and let the flag cover the window again.

I grunted and tore the damn flag down. I ripped that sucker in half and bent the tension rod over my knee.

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American Chimera – 6.3

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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’?”

“Six.”

“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.

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Caravan Security

desert caravan dune ride

“Now, which of you men have been filching from our caravan?” He put the tip of his scimitar beneath my chin. “I’m not having it.”

I grimaced. Someone had to take charge, fight this maniac if we wanted to live. Al-Rashid approached quietly with a heavy stick, so I distracted with, “Can you prove it wasn’t you?”

“Yes. I’ve got the sword.”

Al-Rashid knocked the man on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. I picked up his sword and finished the job.

I revealed a bag of coins. “I’ll share what I stole, since he’s dead now.”

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This was written for the March 26 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, take charge. This prompt wasn’t hard for me to come up with an idea for, but boy was it hard to come up with something that would fit in the word count! Hope you’ve enjoyed the flash.

Also – stay tuned to the Carrot Ranch on Tuesdays. You may be (pleasantly, I hope) surprised by what’s coming up this next Tuesday.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

American Chimera – 6.2

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Summer break don’t mean jack diddly anymore. Even so, the Fifth Geneva Convention ended on the 18th of June that year, and most schools let out on the 19th. Loved ones who had been fighting in the wars were coming home, and a national day of mourning was declared.

I suppose that kind of response is what you get when most of the poor sots returning from the front are the final kids and grandkids of people who’d since been sterilized. It was the last generation of expendables, so a war was inevitable, really.

’Cause my close relatives hadn’t had a kid since my little brother was born back in ’53, I didn’t know none of our soldiers comin’ back from the front. I ’preciated their sacrifice to keep me free, but that’s ’bout as far as it went. I also ’preciated that Janie, who’s just this absolute computer whiz, got outta bein’ old-fart-drafted on account of her finishin’ up school. So I was s’prised when Dani asked if she could go to Fayetteville and see the first wave of soldiers comin’ back.

I put down my Coke – I didn’t have Pepsi then, prob’ly ’cause of a sale – and squinted at ’er real good. “Why’d yeh wanna do that for?”

“Stacy’s aunt is comin’ back in the first wave, Daddy. She asked me if I wanted to come with her to Fayetteville tomorrow – she’s got passes to enter, and her Mama already said yes.”

I sucked in my gut and held my breath. Stacy probably hadn’t realized what Dani was, not yet. I wasn’t sure about Dani, myself. “You sure you got her Mama’s permission?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“I’m gonna have to give ’er a call, without you spyin’ on me, and make sure she knows what she said yes to. Then we’re gonna have to wait ’til yer Mama comes home to figger this out.” I stood from the couch and headed over to my bedroom. She follered me, and I reckon she might’ve put an ear against the door to listen, but she’s normally too well-behaved for any of that mess.

I hope she weren’t listenin.’ It would shatter her little heart, and I needed to break the day’s news to her more… personally.

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American Chimera – 6.1

American Chimera Cover Small

The interrogator waited with crossed knees while Brett Huffman chugged down some Pepsi – honest to goodness Pepsi, not Coke – from the slender-necked glass bottle. She tapped her finger impatiently on her tablet.

“What you want now?” Brett asked. “I thought I tole yeh ever’thin useful last time.”

“I don’t think you understand my purpose here,” the interrogator said. “The government can’t afford for the existence of American chimeras to hit the news. My job is to figure out who is too much of a risk to release and who can be trusted and let go. You’re obviously never going to be released, Mr. Huffman, but what you say could lead to a quicker escape for a lot of people. People like Stacy Ellington. Do you understand?”

He drew a bunch of Pepsi into his mouth and swallowed it down. “Means Dani’s ne’er gonna be released neither, is she?” He chewed on some potato chips. “You can screw over my life, put me in a cell all alone. But you cain’t ’spect to destroy my daughter’s life and get away with it.”

“All you’re doing here is hurting other people. Most of your friends, family, and even some of your enemies are trapped in a cage just like yours. I’m offering you a chance, today, to help someone you probably like go free.” The interrogator’s chin lifted up primly. “Daenerys has a friend, Stacy Ellington. I find it cruel to imprison a girl with such potential, especially when she did nothing wrong. All she did, according to my other sources, was try to be nice to Daenerys when no one else would. Your statements will probably help me get her out of this facility and back home.”

“Why don’t yeh just talk with her?”

“I will, but the information I need is best gotten from the mouth of an adult. A youth’s words aren’t worth much to my superiors. With Janie Huffman refusing to talk, you’re my best source of information.” She removed her stylus from its holder. “Tell me what Stacy did on June 18th, 2081.”

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American Chimera – 5.1

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The interrogator clutched her tablet tight. She gave a salute as she entered the oak-paneled room. “Agent Ivanov?”

Ivanov saluted back weakly, giving her permission to enter and remain at ease. He pointed to a chair on the other side of his barren desk and waited for her to relax in its cushioning. “I’ve been looking over your work. A bit distracted, as of late?”

She nodded. “Our mission was to take the statements from all the witnesses and force silence on all those who seemed amenable. I’ve a list of about twenty candidates for release here,” she shoved her tablet forward and clicked ‘send’ to share the list with him, “If you’d like to look over my decisions.”

He took the tablet and scanned over her suggestions. “Yes. Looks in order – should be easy enough for me to go through. But I see here you’ve been wasting time with people like Dr. Worthington and Stacy Ellington. When we picked them up we never expected to release them, so why run them through questioning?”

The interrogator nodded. “I spoke with the head scientist earlier. He indicated that his venture could benefit from the information I gathered.”

“And you agreed to spend your time on his job?”

The interrogator waited a moment, looked away from Ivanov a short time, then said, “I was unaware he wasn’t to be helped. His request sounded reasonable, and I still think it possible I could come across the information he wants.”

Ivanov grunted and scooted closer to the table. “You work for me, not him. We may all be paid by the CIA right now, but his type and our type don’t fall under the same authority.”

“I don’t see how helping him could possibly lead to harm.”

“It wouldn’t, as long as you kept doing your job.”

“I am doing my job. The interviews I conducted with the Huffmans, Dr. Worthington, and Stacey Ellington were all done after my obligatory work had been completed.”

Agent Ivanov groaned and flipped through her report. “Fine. Your reports show you’ve been diligent enough, but even so, I just don’t want you going down that rabbit hole. Dr. Smith is a madman.”

The interrogator smiled and leaned regally into the cushioned chair. “Oh, I gathered that. Fiendish Dr. Kim seemed more ethical a scientist than Dr. Smith, and I – I mean, God killed her for crimes against humanity.”

“Well, seeing as classified documents indicate it was you who blew up the chimera labs and killed Dr. Kim, I’ll have to take your word for it.” He cleared his throat. “Dr. Smith seems nice enough to me, though. The research he’s got hiding downstairs is his business. I’m sure he’s ignored protocol and has been cloning as many little monsters as he can with what time and money we can give him. Everything he’s made since the Convention treaty was signed is a threat to our nation’s existence. But his specimen 803 – the one that got away and was raised by lunatic white trash – is his key to becoming more than an obscure scientist that has been squirreled away by his government. Make him actually deserve his funding, Agent. Don’t do his job for him when your own job is so massive and important.”

The interrogator didn’t move. “With all respect, Agent Ivanov, I would like it to be logged that I disagree with you. The Convention treaty states that the sheer existence of chimeras is proof of a crime against humanity. Mere evidence that research into chimeras existed is enough to warrant a new war. Do you remember the last war? Were you there when the North Koreans sent their monkey men against us?”

“I wasn’t on the ground at the time, unlike you.” Ivanov kept his nose up and his lips pursed. “I hear the bloodshed was fantastic.”

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘fantastic’ to describe what I saw. Be glad you didn’t have to go through it.” The interrogator shook her head. “But things are different now. With birthrates declining as planned, no nation has the manpower to support a war -”

“But they do have the firepower. Nukes.”

The interrogator’s face contorted at the interruption. “What I was about to say was that no nation has the manpower to support a war except, perhaps, us. I’ve seen a couple videos of specimen 803 playing volleyball. I’ve seen statistics from Dr. Smith about her capabilities, her nearly bulletproof hide, her ability to control the males, everything. If Dr. Smith’s work succeeds and he can create a self-suficient species, we’ve won any war that could come our way. No nation could summon an army to fight his monsters. Nuclear weapons assures mutual destruction, but many may believe Dr. Smith’s monsters could provide American superiority for generations to come.”

“That’s a bit of a stretch, but ok. Plenty of people would probably believe it, and that’s really all that matters.” Agent Ivanov’s lips moved, and his eyes glanced over the interrogator’s list. “Everything was after hours, you say?”

The interrogator nodded. “Yes sir. In addition, all my work towards Dr. Smith’s answers have brought up names and information that will become important later. Coach Jones, Reverend Hinkley, and Brad Roten have all come into this story unexpectedly.”

Ivanov nodded. “So you’re saying affidavits with a single source aren’t going to be enough to keep the witnesses in line.”

“In a way,” the interrogator answered. “This Reverend Hinkley, especially, seems to be more highly involved than I’d originally expected. I’ve recently received a shipment of Pepsi – don’t ask – and wanted to speak with Brett Huffman again tomorrow. I’ll ask him about the good Pastor and at least try to get my story straight before speaking with the Reverend himself the following morning as I’d already planned.”

Agent Ivanov nodded. “I think I’m going to hold off on giving the final ok for release until after you’ve done a few more interviews. If any of these people seem like they’re more closely involved than they claimed, it’ll be easier to keep them here than to arrest them a second time.”

The interrogator nodded.

“Anything else, Agent?”

“In fact,” the interrogator said, swallowing nervously after, “I have one concern. Though Dr. Smith hasn’t hinted to it, the stories from several of my interviewees has led me to believe the American chimeras aren’t like the North Korean ones. It seems these aren’t animals, but sentient creatures. I hate to admit, Agent Ivanov, but that concerns me.”

Ivanov chuckled and waved the interrogator off. “Then I’d ask Dr. Smith to show you some of his creations. I’ve been here several times, and I can assure you that I’ve seen nothing human in any of his little monsters.”

The interrogator raised a brow.

“Humans have ascribed anthropomorphic traits to dogs, monkeys, and, hell, even automobiles. Specimen 803 is intelligent enough, but I guarantee a little more investigation will reveal these people are giving their pet too much credit.”

“But the end of year exams – what about those? Her records indicate she’s passed like a human would.”

“Cheating, obviously. Ask a teacher about it.” He folded her records into his tablet and put his hands on his desk, the usual sign that he was ready to be finished with the meeting. “Thank you for your work. I’ll be back in a few days; report to me after your work is done on Wednesday, and I’ll release anyone you confirm. Sound good?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Dismissed.”

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American Chimera – 4.7

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“This is becoming fabrication,” the interrogator said. “Snork? What does that even mean?”

Stacy waved the interrogator off and rolled her eyes. “You’re old. You wouldn’t understand, so don’t even try.” The interrogator wrote something down in her tablet and waited, quiet. The silence went on for quite some time, until Stacy finally said, “So, we done here or what? You gonna let me go?”

“I’m not sure. We’ll need many sessions of work before I can release you. Your parents are starting to get worried about you seeing fabricated spiders and spending so much time with a sterile couple.”

Stacy stood up. “Whatever. I’m so done here, and you’re not clever enough to make me think I’m crazy and that Dani isn’t real.” She stretched her arms up and yawned. “So, you takin’ me back to my cell, or am I gonna have to snork the whole facility?”

“No snorking for today.”

“Ew, stop saying it. You’re making me reconsider my plan just by the way it kind of gurgles from your mouth.” Stacy walked to the door. “Hey, you think you can give me a clock in my room? It’s hard to tell how long I’ve been here, and the lights never turn off.”

“Hopefully you’ll just get released soon,” the interrogator said. “If you’re ready to talk, just tell your guards. They’ll let me know, and I’ll try to fit you into my schedule as soon as I can. In the meantime, we’ll see if you stay safe outside a padded room. Sound good?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Stacy Ellington left with her guards, and the interrogator ordered the chaise lounge be switched back for a cleaned interrogation chair.

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