American Chimera – 20.3

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The interrogator cleared her throat. “I understand. You don’t have to go any further into it if you don’t want – I was there. I know why it was so awful.”

“You?” Jen scoffed. “I have a hard time believing that. You’ve got to be 15, 20 years older than me.”

“I was there.” The interrogator put her hand to the back of her neck and lifted up the mounds of curls that covered her skin. A square of skin was bare, no follicles for hair. Deep, old scars wound their way around a few places near her neckbones.

Jen stood from her chair to get a better look. “Shit. Shit, that’s the Mel76 model, if I’m right.”

“The reason you can’t tell for sure is because they had to remove the old M3 first. With all the scar tissue from that upgrade, I was unable to move up to the new Mel83 model when they changed all the interfaces again. So here I am, out of rotation.”

Jen looked the interrogator up and down. “What branch did you serve with? Unit?”

The interrogator said nothing.

Jen’s eyes widened. “You’re still serving.”

“I just don’t need the whole damn war recapped. I saw plenty of death, and the fact that I’m still living indicates I dealt my fair share of it too.” She bit her lip, then divulged, “I was at the Pyongyang gulag. The one where they kept the mothers of the monkey men.”

“Holy shit,” Jen responded. “You made it out of that mess? I don’t know anyone else who lived through that. It was supposed to be the biggest bloodbath-”

“I don’t want to talk about it. I did my duty, and I’m done with that now.” The interrogator cleared her throat and returned her attention to her tablet. “Please, proceed. Tell me about when you returned, how you know Dani. Don’t talk about the ape men, please.”

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American Chimera – 20.2

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Let’s get this straight: war is hell. I’m convinced that when all us shitty people die, we’re going to be thrown into Verdun or Stalingrad or My Lai or Pyongyang as punishment.

I can tell you, without doubt, that Pyongyang was the worst place anyone could have been at the time of the battle. I was there, in three different places – where my body was, and where each of my two drones were. If I wasn’t fighting, my drones were. My cranial implant fed into information from all over the battlefield and couldn’t be turned off by anyone but my superior. It was bloodbath and artillery fire at all times. The tactics at the time weren’t prepared to fight monsters that wouldn’t die from a few shots. We weren’t ready to deal with soldiers who had to watch their siblings in arms ripped apart, raped, and eaten in front of broken down drone cameras.

I watched an ape-man literally fuck my boyfriend’s throat after beheading him. I couldn’t turn my drone’s eyes away. It was broken…I couldn’t move.

Combined arms could do nothing against the cyber-psychological shithole.

It was hell.

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GIVEAWAY For LETHAL IMPACT Release!

2020’s the year to learn about what’ll happen after the apocalypse, and you’ll have no better chance than now – Lethal Impact, an anthology of post-apocalyptic shorts, is nearly here!

Lethal Impact officially releases on 30 September, 2020! I have no idea how to get universal links, but here’s one to American Amazon!

But yes! Come one, come all, and have some fun! And, what’s more, I’ll give away a couple prizes (ebooks of both Lethal Impact and Dark Divinations, a publication that includes another of my shorts) to a randomly selected person who comments on this post before next Tuesday, October 5th! If you’ve already bought a copy, I’ll earmark you for an ebook copy of anything I publish next. 1 person will win both books, and one person will win just Lethal Impact. Sorry, not going to do paperback right now because Amazon’s a butthole and I don’t want to present a different reward for international people.

Still not sure you’re interested? Well, let me give you a little… somethin’ somethin’ right here, right now. Behold: the opening passage of my little contribution to the apocalypse, A Little Less Conversation.

“Would you like to mate?”

I gulped. I couldn’t let him – it, her, whatever – know I couldn’t mate with a psychopathic slug even if I wanted to. After I thought a couple seconds, I answered, “No.”

The human fleshbag in which my supposed boss resided lifted a brow. Nothing salacious, nothing even sensual, just a motion to show his piqued curiosity and mild discomfort. “You performed your job adequately, and I have had the correct hormonal injections to perform my part. It’s time you were rewarded for your troubles.” 

“No. I don’t want it,” I responded. I fished around in my human brain, looking for answers to satiate his confusion. “Is there any reason I must accept payment for services rendered?”

“Why would you not?” He tapped his ballpoint pen, likely stolen from the human who’d previously lived in that husk, onto a pad of paper. “It takes a lot of nurgles to infest an entire planet, and a zertig like you needs to birth a lot of nurgles before you can be promoted to a remelp like me.” 

I swallowed, said nothing. The silence lasted a long time, longer than a normal human would have accepted, but the remelp wasn’t bothered by it.

After a while, his demeanor darkened, his eyes squinted. “You’ve been around those pesky humans too much, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I answered. It was true, and this way I didn’t have to tell him I was one of those vermin. “The humans don’t interact the way we do. Their relationships are marred by unique feelings which I have difficulty grasping. I wish to understand these concepts prior to the encephalization of Earth’s nurgles.” 

He lifted a chin. “Ah. You want to birth your nurgles in mid-flight on the way to the next planet.”

Good enough. I’d be long dead by the time they left for the next planet. “That would be a fair trade, yes.”

“I’ve never heard of this happening before. Everyone wants to birth more nurgles. But I suppose it is a loss I can cope with – you are our primary spy amongst the human resistance faction, and birthing nurgles would remove you from that role. Use your clever emotions to bypass their defenses. Convince them to come out of hiding so we can finally rid the planet of those meddlesome people.” He scribbled something with his pen and motioned for me to leave, so I obeyed his directive and exited the office.

That’s right, Covid-free fun, right here on the internet. Good luck!

American Chimera – 20.1

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The woman in the interrogation chair leaned forward a little bit. She cleared her throat. “Ma’am? Everything ok, ma’am?”

The interrogator swallowed, nodded, and wiped her nose. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I just…let’s get started.” She cleared her throat and adjusted the way she sat. “I am here to interview people who may have been involved with Daenerys Huffman, determine how much they know about her, and fill out release paperwork with appropriate clients. Do you understand?”

The woman nodded. “The giant spider? The one that’s friends with my niece?”

“Your niece?”

“Yeah. Stacy Ellington. She’s my sister’s kid.”

The interrogator flipped through some files on her tablet. “You are Addison Wells? My notes indicate that you had no relationship with the subject.”

She nodded. “Yeah, that’s me. Victoria Ellington’s maiden name was Wells. Most people call me by my middle name, Jennifer. Or sometimes Jen. Or, if you’re Stacy and Dani, Antigen.” She chuckled. “You know? Like ‘Auntie Jen’? It’s clever. Classy.”

The interrogator sighed. “Well…fine. Tell me what you know about Dani, how often you saw her. Tell me how you met.”

Auntie Jen smiled. “Sure thing.”

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American Chimera – 19.3

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The interrogator swallowed a lump in her throat. “That was…that was a sweet story, but about as relevant as some of the stuff Brad Roten told me.”

“I told Dani to be calm, to keep her mind soothed.” Janie’s brows folded once more. “But I swear upon all that is holy, I will cut your fucking head off if I got out of these chains! She’s my daughter! You, out of all people, orta know what that means! You orta understand what it means to have the option of children wrenched from you.”

The interrogator scoffed. “I’m not sure I catch your drift.”

“You think I deserved to be sterilized?” He breath huffed in and out angrily. “You one of those high-falutin’ coloreds think I must be absolute trash to be white and sterile? That you didn’t deserve it when they cut you open, but I did deserve it?”

The interrogator lifted her chin. She laughed nervously. “I’m a high ranking investigator in the CIA. Why would you think that I’m sterilized?”

“’Cause you’re black. Blacks ain’t good at passin’ the test.” Janie looked up at the interrogator with an innocent face.

The interrogator stood from her chair and formed fists. She pointed at Janie with an accusatory finger. “That was out of line.”

Janie’s muscles tensed back up. “I just stated facts!”

“Facts? Saying that people of color aren’t as smart? As beautiful? As athletic? Somehow phenotypically inferior?” The interrogator shoved the tablet away and folded it into her pen. “I’ve had enough of you hillbillies and your racism. I’ve been called everything from ‘colored’ to ‘negro’ and way, way worse. You and your own damn husband had a rebel flag in your front window! And you expect me to help you and your monster pet?” She put her hands over Janie’s wrists and leaned close to her face. “Not on your life, you miserable, childless waste of air.”

Janie bit at the interrogator’s face but was too slow to meet her flesh. “I used to feel sorry for you people. I mean, you’re uglier than spiders, by the rubric. And you ain’t nice atall, you evil fucking bitch! No wonder coloreds get cut up just as much as us ‘white trash’!”

“I have only done my duty!”

“Yeah, to the damn Yanks that cut out your ovaries!”

“You idiot, I passed the test!” the interrogator screamed. Her chest rose and fell in rapid succession as she waited for a rebuttal that never came. “I passed the test. You can’t tell me I didn’t deserve to pass, especially not when you failed so badly.”

Janie scowled. “Doesn’t mean you ain’t sterile. Blackies go under the knife.”

“No.” The interrogator shook her head. “No, I don’t have to deal with this…this outright racism. This hate speech.” She clapped her hands. “Guards! Guards!”

“Go rot in hell, you childless, sterilized negro! You goddamn Yank!”

“If you expected Hinkley to be arrested, you can consider your testimony proof of his innocence. You blew it, Janie Huffman. You should have just remained a useless pothead – you would have at least been successful at that! The tests proved you weren’t fit to be a mother!”

As the guards stormed in and roughly accosted Janie from her chair, the interrogator left the room. Janie’s screams and flailing couldn’t stop her.

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American Chimera – 19.2

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I was layin’ down on a blanket. The grass beneath it was thinner than what I remembered from when I was little, but it’s hard for me to tell whether it’s nostalgia or environmental decay. Either way, I reached my arm around Dani’s middle. I pointed up to the sky, and she moved her eyes to follow it.

“That’s the big dipper,” I said. “Way back, long time ago, they’d keep a big spoon next to the sink or the water barrel and they’d take a swig from it when they was thirsty. They thought that constellation looked like the big spoon.”

She squinted her eyes the way she does when she doesn’t quite believe you. She pursed her mouth, wiggled her chelicerae, and stared at the constellation. “I don’t see a spoon in the sky.”

“It’s like a connect the dot,” I answered. I hugged her close and, pointing from her face, traced the outline of the dipper. “See?”

“I guess.” She rolled onto her back, forcing me to remove my arm from around her.

I gave her a few moments to breathe, then asked, “Somethin’ wrong, chickadee?”

She nodded.

“Somethin’ from school?”

“Grammy,” she said. “When I was visitin’ Grammy, she started tryin’ to make me learn to knife fight.”

“I tole and tole her not to do that!”

“But what if she’s right?” Dani asked. Her eyes turned to stare at me. “She says the Yanks are gonna come down here and get me. She says I gotta be ready to defend myself and my land, or they’ll…they’ll cut me open. Kill me to get my insides.”

I ran my fingertips over her side, touching the smooth exoskeleton, noticing the warmth emitted from her body. It was heat like none of the bugs that chirped and wiggled in the background could generate. Though I couldn’t feel it through her hard carapace, I knew blood pulsed ’neath the skin. “Are you afraid?”

She nodded. “It’s gonna happen, ain’t it?”

“I dunno.”

“Am I gonna have to kill people?”

I put my hand around her and pulled her tight. “No. For the love of God, no.” I squeezed her to me. “You saw the war. You know what chimeras were built for. Well, Grammy does too, and she…well, she loves you, sweetie. She saw what the Korean chimeras could do, and she knows that you’re even more impressive. No one’s seen another chimera like you, so she’s assumin’ the Yanks won’t either. She’s assumin’ you’ll want to fight ’em off when they figger you out.”

“Why? Will they really wanna cut me apart?”

“I cain’t tell you what they want. But Grammy’s right that they probly won’t like you runnin’ round loose out here.”

“So should I learn to knife fight?”

I buried my head into the corner between her brain encasement and the rest of her cephalothorax. “Let’s ’magine you do learn to knife fight. Even if the Yanks get through Mama and Daddy and anyone else that’ll defend you to the death, you’re just one person. You fight, but they’ll keep comin.’ They got the money, so they got the people to throw away tryin’ to get you. ’Ventually, they’ll win, and there ain’t nothin’ you or I can do to stop it. So the question ain’t really whether or not it’ll save you – the question is will you have fun mowin’ down as many Yanks as you can. And, if not, then you gotta ask yerself if you’ll have fun learnin’ to knife fight.”

She shivered. “I know I like volleyball.”

“Then do that. Forgit ’bout this knife fighting crap.” I let go of her a little and tilted her head up so she could see me better. “Daddy was worried ’bout you last year when the war ended and we figgered out what you were. And we’re still scared, because we know that the danger ain’t over. And yeah, it looks bad, but that’s why you gotta have as much fun as you can now.”

“But what will happen when they get me?”

“You’ll respond with honor. You will hold your head high and know that you ain’t done nothin’ wrong, and you will realize that it’s the Yanks in the wrong. And you will do whatever it takes to survive, ’cause I’ll want to see you again, to free you.”

Dani curled up into herself. “I’m scared, Mama.”

“I know. So we’ll prepare. We’ll go see Dr. Worthington, and hopefully she can help us learn mindfulness and stuff. And you’ll be able to handle it, ok?”

She nodded. “Tell me ’bout the animals. Tell me ’bout cows, how they looked and how they used to live here.”

And so I did. I told her about animals, about fur and fuzz, and she lazily nodded off to bed before I took her into the tent for the night.

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American Chimera – 19.1

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The lights in the interrogation room were dim. Janie Huffman sat, cuffed tightly, in a steel chair when the interrogator waltzed in. Their gazes met each other.

The interrogator moved first. She focused on her own chair and took her seat, unfolded her tablet onto her lap, and breathed deeply.

Janie clenched her fists and tensed. “What do you want now?”

The interrogator smiled. “I wouldn’t be so adversarial if I were you. I brought you here as a favor. You may never see another person or animal as long as you live.” Her eyes squinted. “I’ve got all the information I need to quickly free the innocents trapped in this facility. If you’re not nice to me, I can make the decision to let you rot in that cell, alone, until you die.”

Janie spat onto the floor. “Then do it. Put me in the cage. Least then I can ’magine you’re alone, too.”

“There’s still…well, there’s still one matter I’d like to attend to, and you have a lot to gain from working with me.” The interrogator stood to pace. “You already know that I had been trying to discover what made Dani female. My boss told me to give up on that, and I mostly had, but Dr. Smith, the head scientist here, got me access to Dani. It’s only been a couple days since, but her information has increased the speed at which I progress by an astounding rate. I feel indebted to the man, seeing as I might actually get out of this hell-hole within the next couple months. So I’ll ask you one last time – tell me about when you found the egg. Tell me the conditions you kept it in. I need anything you can tell me.”

“Like I tole you afore, I ain’t got no reason to help you. Rot in hell.”

“Oh, but there you’re wrong. You do have a reason to help me.” The interrogator reached in her pocket and withdrew an old hard drive. “Yesterday, I got video proof that a certain Reverend Hinkley deserves to be arrested, and not just because you hate him. There’s a bit of a problem with the evidence though, see…the problem is that I don’t have to give it to my superior. If you help me out, though, I’ll have him arrested. I’ll bring you proof that you exacted some petty revenge against the man.”

Janie’s jaw shook from anger. Through clenched, hateful teeth, she asked, “What did he do?”

“I’ll answer that question if you answer mine. You work with me, and I’ll give you plenty of reward.”

“Tell me what he did now. As up front payment.”

“No. I tell you what I will do, though: I have a message from Dani. I told her I’d try to relay it, so you get it for free. She says to tell you she loves you, though she requested I say it after you ‘calmed down.’ I thought she’d rather me get it out now anyway. She’s safe, has good medical care, but is lonely.”

Janie’s face softened a bit. Her hands relaxed.

“Tell me about the egg. Tell me about how you brought Dani into this world. If you do, I’ll let you know what Hinkley did, and I’ll talk with you one more time to show you video of his arrest and return to the facility. If you say nothing, I put you back in your cell, and it will never open again.”

Janie grunted. “I need one more promise.” She swallowed. “I want you to tell Dani to stay hopeful. Tell her that Mama loves her, that we’ll get through this. Tell her I miss her, but that I’m thinkin’ and prayin’ for her.”

The interrogator sat back in her chair. “If that’s what’ll seal the deal, sure. I can do that. I’ll bring proof and any response from Dani next time I see you.”

Janie nodded. “Listen up, then.”

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American Chimera – 18.3

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“But so many legacies would die. There is no reversing what we did back in the 60’s, no going back to the world as it was before. I realized that when I die, I’ll do so with hope. Hope for the future.” She pulled up a file and circled it rather than opening to examine the video. “For the majority of people who walk the Earth today, though, that’s a dead hope. When Al died, it hit me that I am the past. The past is a fine thing to let die, because it will always be sitting there, waiting in memories and writings and pictures. Even those people and things and thoughts that are forgotten still had opportunity to exist.”

“Don’t tell me you had remorse. I won’t believe you.”

“I don’t regret what I voted, no. I still believe sterilization was necessary for the good of the human race. But you see it, don’t you? You see that it’s ok to feel pain for the future? To mourn futures you know will never happen?”

The interrogator took the tablet back from Dr. Worthington and started copying the video file. “This sounds like philosophical idiocy.”

“I told you the story of when I first met Dani. When Brett and Janie brought that girl to my office the first time, I saw what the governnent wanted me to see. I saw poor people both incapable and unworthy of procreating. But I was wrong. After Dani patted my back and tried to cheer me up on that hill, I realized that Brett and Janie had every right to claim her as a daughter. They were refusing to watch their futures die.”

“I don’t feel sorry for you.”

“You shouldn’t. I’m asking you to feel sorry for Dani. For the Huffmans. Empathize with their distress, with their decision to adopt something that was so very inhuman.”

The interrogator removed a syringe from her pocket and pressed a few buttons on the tablet. “I will do what is right.”

“Then give me the needlestick. I promise I’m better at implanting needlestick drives than you are.”

The interrogator handed over the syringe. “Fine.”

Dr. Worthington stabbed the needle into her arm and injected the drive. She winced when she pulled it back out of her arm, then handed it back to the interrogator.

As the interrogator closed the needle into a cardboard box, she asked, “So, if your husband’s death was so important to you concerning Dani’s health and safety, why did you work on her for all those years? 10? 12?”

“I didn’t need the push you need now. I fall in love with animals easily, and that’s what I saw when Dani and I first met. But you, like most people, aren’t going to give her that kind of benefit of the doubt.”

“It’s not her that’s the problem,” the interrogator said. “I spoke with her, as is obvious given that I knew you had the files I was looking for. She’s human. Intelligent. And I know, from all my interrogations, that so many people love her. It’s obvious. The problem is that her mere existence puts our nation at stake.”

Dr. Worthington’s eyes narrowed. “When you go to sleep tonight, I want you to think about what you just said. Think real hard.”

“Why?” the interrogator asked. “I’m not willing to kill everyone in America for some experiment.”

“And that’s your decision to make. But I want you to feel bad while you make it, just like I felt bad when I voted for the sterilization plan.” Dr. Worthington started scooting her walker away. “Are you coming? I’m getting tired, especially of trying to make you see the light.”

“Yes. Of course, doctor.” She put the needle, drives, and tablet into her pocket.

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American Chimera – 18.2

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It was January of 2086. My husband Al had just died.

It never snows anymore, not really, and the pathetic dusting we had on the day he was cremated just made me want to cry all the more. The stupid, crazy, adorable man had wanted his ashes to be buried in a musty, old roasted peanut tin, and the Lord in all his power decided it was going to snow that day.

My daughter patted me on the back. “It’s time, Mom.”

I looked to her face, realized how many wrinkles she’d accumulated, and realized that even my own child was old. I’d created something that was just fated to die, probably only 20 or 30 years after me, depending on if the world lasted. She was right – she was fucking right – but I didn’t want to let go. Al was just a crazy nut tin full of ashes, and…where did that leave me? He’d gone ahead of me, left me alone.

So I cried. I hugged the tin to my chest and refused to leave my seat until both my kids picked me up and forced me out. They tucked me into the car, a middle seat, and piled in on either side of me. Their spouses were in the back, and Al’s favorite grandchild drove us to the cemetary.

Stop looking at me like that. Favorites are inevitable.

We got out of the car. The cold bit into my ankles and I wished for better socks, socks like I could have worn back when I was young and my circulation was better. Back when they had nearly infinite materials to choose from. I walked through this “snow” to the hole in the ground where the preacher was.

I took a moment to look around at the crowd that had gathered. During the funeral at the church, where the preacher gave the sermon and I stumbled through my garbage eulogy that should have been better, I had been too distraught to look at who had come.

There were many faces, far too many to count. People from all over the world had come to celebrate Al. People of every color, nationality, language group – they were there! People from his old work, people from jobs he’d completed in dozens of countries. Everyone knew Al, and almost all of those people liked or admired him. He’d kept up with hundreds of contacts over the years.

And almost all of them were old.

Dying.

Many with genetic lines now extinguished.

And yet here they were.

Words were said, things were done, and I somehow forced my chilled fingers to place the nut tin into the hole. They covered it, said some more words, and I fell to my knees next to the hole. I didn’t care if my old bones never got me back up.

Bereaved guests offering condolences whispered in my ear. Some of the spouses of dead people understood, but they couldn’t help. There was nothing anyone could do for me now. Those whispers and sympathies given were sometimes memorable, but I don’t suppose you care about most of them.

Dani, as you probably suspected, was in that line. She folded her claw and thumb-like appendage over my shoulder. She said, “I didn’t know Mr. Worthington very well, but if you even loved him half as much as you do me, then he was a lucky guy.” She gave me a hug, and I felt the looseness of her exoskeleton near a molt. “If you ever need a place to put some extra love, I’ll come down to your office!”

I didn’t smile at the time. Even now, it’s hard to feel that pure, innocent desire quite the way Dani intended it.

Dani walked away. I took the opportunity to look around, both at the line waiting for their attempt to console the bereaving ancient and the straggling few walking down the hill to the parking lot. There were only a handfull of children, and we were a well-off family who had known plenty of well-to-do families. The old crones and fogies like me and Al far outnumbered the young. I had two great-grandchildren and hopes for a couple more, so my legacy would continue. Al’s legacy would continue.

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American Chimera – 18.1

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Dr. Worthington stumbled in, most of her weight on her walker, and the door slammed shut. Her eyes scanned the room and landed on the interrogator. “I take it you’ve had time to think on what I said?”

The interrogator stepped out of the shadows and leaned against some of the boxes that were piled throughout the large warehouse room. “I’ve had time, but I haven’t given your weak defense of your generation much thought. Your argument about ‘saving the world’ has been made a million times – I don’t need to go through it yet again.”

Dr. Worthington’s face remained grim. She pushed her walker in a couple more steps and gestured to the room. “This isn’t the interrogation room. What do you want from me now?”

“This, my good doctor, is the evidence room. Everything your homes, offices, or other places of residence contained was boxed, catalogued, and brought here. Some people – like the Huffmans themselves – have nothing remaining to their names. Some people, like Brad Roten,” the interrogator allowed herself to smile for a brief moment, “Only lost access to information containing devices, books, or objects.”

Dr. Worthington smiled cheekily at the interrogator. “I suppose you want me to give you passwords into my system. Were the ones I already gave not good enough? I’m a veterinarian, so my documents aren’t as tightly guarded as those for human patients.”

“I don’t know if it’s hidden among your medical records or not. What I do know is that your digital documents have been hoarded for a good seventy years, and you have file types that can only be read by specialized government computers. Your home computer has things no one recognizes anymore.”

“And you expect me to?” Dr. Worthington scoffed. “Half that stuff is probably things my husband left. Anime, technical documents, weird Muppet porn. Hell if I know.”

“I’m looking for a video file given to you by Dani. A video concerning a child molestor at her volleyball games.”

Dr. Worthington held her breath. Her jaw wiggled and her wrinkled lips pursed.

“Where is it?”

“What are you going to use it for? Are you going to prosecute? Seek justice?”

“I had the perpetrator released from this facility on accident. I found out after the fact that he had conducted illegal activities against a young student’s will. This video will assure his return – and punishment, seeing as I need no court to convict him. All I require is permission from my superiors.” The interrogator gestured down an alley between stacks of boxes. “Even if you don’t help me, I’ll have my tech personnel find it. The sooner I get my hands on the file, though, the sooner I can recapture and more likely I can hold him without any legal proceedings.”

Dr. Worthington followed. “Are you going to wipe it off my drive? I don’t know if a backup exists. Hell, if the drive’s corrupted over the years, I might not be able to help you anyway.”

“If we can find it, I’ll make multiple copies. I’ll even give you a needlestick version you can take with you back to your cell. How does that sound?”

“I have no computer to read it in my cell.”

“But you’ll know it’s real. You’ll know it exists. I can’t guarantee anything better for you, and I may be sticking my neck out as it is.” The interrogator scanned a box with her tablet, opened it, and showed a set of neatly organized drives of various ages, sizes, and inputs. “Which one are we going to need? How many adaptor modems will we require?”

Dr. Worthington shook her head and pulled out a set of three identical drives. “Nothing. It should be on one of these – sorry for not labeling them better.”

The interrogator tapped a few buttons on her tablet. “All of them are loaded. Here – find the file for me.” She handed the tablet over to the doctor.

While Dr. Worthington shuffled through files and looked into folders, she said, “You’re all about information. Finding answers to questions. I’m going to tell you some things I believe you’d want to know, whether you were aware of it or not.”

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