American Chimera – 14.2

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Janie pointed to the holographic note. “Now, you know what we said earlier. Not gettin’ the score you want don’t mean you’re bad.”

“Yeah,” Dani said. She rubbed her claws in excitement then reared back onto four legs. I remember her cute little pink dress, the one my mother had made special for the summer. It had white polka dots and Minnie Mouse on the print.

Janie gave me our secret look. We’d been married long ’nuff that I could ’bout read her mind. She was worried.

Hell, I was ’bout to piss myself I was so worried. Janie couldn’tve been much better off.

The end of year tests. When I was in school, leastwise up ’till it mattered, the tests just determined if you passed to the next grade. I’d scoot by on the minimum and look for’ard to fishin’ in the summers. There weren’t no fat-measurin’ contests nor beauty pageants nor physical fitness tests. Janie might’ve failed the phenotypic tests just ’cause she ain’t never learned to swim. The tests were real hard back when they was first cuttin’ out people’s testicles and ovaries. Had to get rid of a slew of undesirables, ya know.

Anyway, the scores came in the mail. “Open the letter, Mama.” She hopped up and down, just shy of bein’ able to touch the hologram.

So Janie tapped the note, and the airy envelope opened. On the inside of the envelope was the scoring rubric and what the state had given for each category.

Dani tugged a claw at the bottom of the letter and pulled it to her height so she could see it. “2!” she cried out. “I got a 2!”

I looked at Janie. A two? Our daughter?

A tear came to my eyes. I couldn’t be more proud of her, couldn’t wish greater success. At the same time, my heart sank – how would getting a tentative two-child rating help a creature so clearly inhuman?

We knew she was a Chimera. The news had broke just a couple weeks afore her first exam results came in. So who was she going to breed with? How would we break her heart?

Well, of course we decided not to break her heart right then.

Janie pointed to a number. “Dani, look at this! You did so well on your physical aptitude test – that’s a very high score!”

I looked over her shoulder. “Wow…holy mackeral, sweetie, that’s perfect in every subcategory. When’d you learn to swim?”

“Basketball camp,” she answered, “And the internet.”

I whistled. “Lord have mercy, child. I’m gonna have to see that. You teach me how to swim?”

She nodded. “Yeah!”

Just so it’s clear, the swimmin’ lessons didn’t go too well. Ain’t gonna suggest learnin’ to swim from an 8-legged person to no one.

Janie shook her head incredulously. “It’s…this is amazing. Reading, writing, math, science, history are all very good! You’ve done so well, Dani!”

“I think this calls for ice cream!” I decided.

“Yes! Absolutely. You want ice cream, Dani?”

The little girl pulled the paper down and kept perusing it. Her ecstatic demeanor crashed when she pointed out a single number. “I got a zero in this one.”

I blinked and looked at what she pointed out. “Aw, that one ain’t worth jack diddly.”

She dropped the hologram and left it floating in midair.

Janie offered her a hand. “The rubric ain’t fair for you on that one, sweetie.”

Dani clutched her claw tight. “Am I ugly, Mama?”

“No!” Janie denied. “Look at this sub-rubric – ear size. Sweetcakes, your ears don’t look nothin’ like Mama’s or Daddy’s. They’re on your face, kinda like dolphin ears ’cept tuned to work in air rather than water.”

“And nose,” I said. “You say you smell with your legs. How they gonna compare your legs with my nose?”

Dani’s legs curled in. “How do I get a nose like yours? Ears?” She reached up and caressed my legs, then held tight to the pants on my outer thigh. “Do I get to grow up to be human, eventually? Is that going to happen?”

I shook my head. “No. You’re a chimera, and we love you for who you are.”

“But that makes me ugly.”

“Swetheart, no,” Janie insisted. “This is a stupid paper. See this bit?”

Dani nodded, saying that yes, she understood that Janie’s finger pointed to ‘Morality.’

Janie ran her finger down the list. “You are just. You are kind. You are smart. You are way ahead of the curve on altruism, which means niceness. This section right here says you’re gorgeous.”

“Then why is this section called ‘beauty’?”

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American Chimera – 14.1

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“What in tarnation?!”

The interrogator unfolded a canvas and aluminum chair then plopped it next to the cell door. She sat down and unfolded her tablet from its stylus. “I need information. Information I don’t have time to ready the interrogation chamber for.”

Brett hurriedly stepped into his trousers and hopped around. “Well, you could’a tole a man you were comin’ to visit afore you caught ’im with his pants down!”

“You could wear clothing instead.”

“I ain’t gonna wear pants in my own room.”

“Fine.” She cleared her throat. “I’ve seen Dani’s grades. I know she’s somehow rated for a two child future despite being a chimera. How did you swing that?”

He tightened the drawstring at the top of his jumpsuit and sat to pulling the overshirt around his shoulders. “I reckon she’s got more brains than me. Maybe more than her mama – er, Janie, you know – but I’m a bit too dull to tell. She passed them tests, all I can tell yeh.”

“You didn’t rig them?”

“No. Wouldn’t know how anyway.”

“Her teachers could have cheated for her.”

“I don’t reckon that’s what happened.”

“Then prove it. Tell me something that will assure me Dani’s…safe. Prove to me that she’s both intelligent and moral.”

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American Chimera – 13.4

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“So when you go to see Dani, you’ll notice her cephalothorax is a bit distended on one end. That’s from the injections and the extra growth of her exoskeleton.”

The interrogator chuckled. “I’d say it’s more an ‘if’ than a ‘when.'”

“You’re the only person I know of that can travel from our prisons to hers. You have to make sure it’s a when. I don’t know your Dr. Smith, but he has to be cruel if he’s used biosafety and science as an excuse to keep Dani from her friends and parents. Even if it’s only a few times, I need you to assure Dani that we’re all thinking about her.”

The interrogator let go of Dr. Worthington’s hand. “You think she’s Brett and Janie’s actual child, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“That’s ludicrous. And why would you support that? You know what they were. You knew they were poor lunatics, the exact kind of people the government wouldn’t want raising a child.”

Dr. Worthington leaned in close to the interrogator. “I had two children. They each had two children. All of it with no oversight, no chance of involuntary sterilization. I lived a life you can’t even imagine, a life filled with sugar and beef and butter and wine.” She pointed to the door. “But I know what votes I had to cast. My generation knew that sterilization would be unpopular, but it had to happen or none of us would be here now. So hate us and hate our hypocrisy for as long as you want, but none of that will change my past. None of that will change the fact that you are suffering for choices you couldn’t have made. None of that will change the fact that Dani exists and is here now, imprisoned.”

The interrogator stood, her face dour. “I do what I have to do. If I were to treat this specimen like an accident child as you do, this country would be lost.” She crossed her arms. “So I’ll do what I have to. I’ll deal with the mess your generation left this world in.”

“Help me back down?”

The interrogator turned away from Dr. Worthington and left.

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American Chimera – 13.3

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“I told you before that I don’t know what she is, but…you’re right, in a way. I think her mind is human, or at least human enough. Her cranial cavity isn’t growing correctly given her brain size.”

“Can we…is there anything we can do?”

I nodded. “Yeah. There are things we can try.”

I actually didn’t have a clue. It was at this point, when I realized I was trying not to let them know I couldn’t save their daughter, that I stopped being jealous of doctors that worked on humans. Oh, hell, that would be the worst.

Brett nodded. “What we gonna do?”

“I have to do a couple more studies,” I said. “We’re going to need to run some metabolic and hormonal tests, and it’s…it’s going to be a lot of them. We don’t know what she is, so I’m going to have to run the gamut. After we figure out what growth hormones she produces, I should be able to order a cocktail to inject near her brain immediately after she sheds her next exoskeleton. It’ll force the soft, new flesh to grow more than normal. If we do this every time she molts, we should be able to control it.”

Brett held his little spider close. “Any side effects?”

“I don’t know.” I leaned forward, putting a lot more weight on my arms than I can manage now. “Everything we do with Dani is uncharted territory. The only way I could make better decisions is if we knew what she was – but that would require me asking for help from an agency. Is that what you want?”

He shook his head. “No. Keep this quiet. I git the sneakin’ spicion that Uncle Sam won’t take kindly to us raisin’ this little girl. Not that I think the gov’ment’s involved or anythin,’ since we definitely didn’t just steal her. Nothin’ classified or anything, not that we know of.”

I moved some of the images into Dani’s electronic folders. This was the first time I knew for sure that Dani was supposed to be government property. I looked at some of the wrinkles and liver spots on my hands. I didn’t have that long left to live, not the way the environment was falling apart and disposable plastics were disappearing. A lifetime of excess and luxury was catching up to me.

And to Dani.

My wrinkles and spots and failing health made me part of the generation that had made Janie and Brett sterile, that had failed to stop the temperatures from rising. I can blame my parents and grandparents as much as I want, but they’re long dead now and there’s no point. Assuming time goes on, you’ll understand one day. Your generation will do things to irrepably change the lives of those younger than you, and they won’t like your decisions no matter what they are, no matter if they’re all that stands between the planet and total destruction.

“I’ll help you. It’s going to be expensive, but I’ll put you on a payment plan. There’s no point in making you pay for a child’s medical care when no one else on the planet has to.” I typed into the records system a few notes and made another appointment. “Bring her back in a couple weeks and we’ll do the complete workup. I’ll formulate the first therapy, and we’ll try it. If we don’t, well…I fear the alternative is worse than the possible side effects from the treatments.”

Brett nodded. “How can I thank you, Dr. Worthington?”

“Keep your job. Do right by this girl you’ve adopted. No one else with kids is going to slack off.”

“I’m not sure I wanna go to college.”

I let my shoulders down. “That’s up to you. But one of you should try – they have scholarships just for sterilized people.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Yeah.” Dani wrapped a few legs around his neck. “I’ll see you in a couple weeks then, Doc.”

I nodded and saw him off.

He paid his bill in full.

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American Chimera – 13.2

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Spiders go through something called a molt. It’s like growing pains, like how your very bones hurt when you’re actively getting bigger, but more violent, explosive, and energetically expensive.

During her first few months of life, Dani molted several times. Given the rates I saw her growing, I decided the little girl was going to live at least as long as a tarantula, probably longer, and reach a size I couldn’t predict. I charted her as accurately as I could, tried to maintain constant interaction with the Huffmans, and still my predictions seemed entirely guesswork.

Toward the end of her first year, the Huffmans called me with concerns about her molt. Ever since a few days after she’d shed her previous exoskeleton, she’d been holding her head with her claws and keeping her eyes closed. They theorized that she had a headache. I had them bring her in.

“Dada?” she asked.

I’d heard it a few times. I’d heard her say Mama, Daddy, and a few other things. I knew that she was progressing like a human baby more than a spider or even a monkey.

“Was Janie sick today?” I asked.

He shook his head. “’Mergency at work. You wouldn’t b’lieve how many folks think Bojangles robots got money in ’em – I mean, how long’s it been since people’d carry cash?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. A while.”

“And yet they think it’s a smart idea to crawl up the cookin’ hole to find money. So Janie’s gone downtown to cut sommun outta the box.”

“That’s insane. Though, I suppose I should be proud of her – and you, really – for holding a job for a year. Didn’t expect it, to tell you the truth.” I stroked the spider’s smooth back and wondered if she’d ever develop urticating hairs (hint: she didn’t). When I touched the top of her head, she’d grimace and flail her eight legs. “Brett…I know I’ve said it before, but I’m still not sure what she is. I don’t-”

“She’s a little girl,” Brett said. He pointed at her and waggled his thick, calloused finger. “Ain’t you ’eard what she just said? That’s my name. Dada. And here – lookit – came in the mail recently.” He fumbled in his phone until he pulled up a copy of an official document. “See? Social security card. Bona-fide human.”

“Oh good lord.”

“It’s even legal an’ everthin. Had some illegals help me figger it out, though.”

I put a palm to my forehead. “Whatever. I don’t know what’s going on with your legal situation, and I don’t rightly care. Do you want to pay for an MRI?”

“You think it’ll hep ’er, doc?”

“I’ve got no better idea. Her head’s hurting, and I’d see a break in the exoskeleton if that were the problem.”

He nodded. “Then yeah. I got the cash, so I reckon we ort’ta figger this out. Whadda I do?”

I swaddled the blanket around her a little. “Pick her up and follow me.”

MRI machines are amazing now. They’re incredibly inexpensive. When I just started out in veterinary medicine, it took a room full of scientists and equipment just to run one, so most animal MRIs were done at veterinary schools or some of the biggest, most expensive hospitals. Now even po-dunk country doctors like me could just have one in a back room. I shuffled down the hallway and opened the door to the room, then instructed Brett to sit her in the ring openeing.

I’d never had a patient so…patient before. Calm. Trainable. At that moment, I felt insanely jealous of doctors practicing on humans. They had such an unfair advantage.

Brett helped hold her still while I operated the machine, and in about fifteen minutes I had an image before me. He picked her up at my direction and brought her over to the screen. While he bounced her in effort to make her happy, I pointed at the place on the screen I wanted him to look.

“The problem is obvious,” I said. “If you look here, you’ll see that the brain is growing about as you’d want in a human of her age. The problem is that the exoskeleton is growing for a spider of her weight – and that doesn’t match up.”

Brett sucked in a breath and held it.

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American Chimera – 13.1

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Dr. Worthington’s eyes blinked a few times when her cell unexpectedly opened. “Lord, you nearly gave me a stroke. I didn’t expect visitors at this hour – assuming time’s still ticking out there.” She reached out a withered, old hand. “Help me sit up.”

The interrogator let the door shut and lock behind her, then walked over to the feeble old woman. She offered a hand and picked Dr. Worthington up from the soft trap. “Would you like me to place a pillow behind you? For your back?”

“That would be nice.” She groaned with relief when she leaned back against the feather-filled cotton. “Oh, Lord, sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to have just died when my husband did.”

The interrogator took a seat on the foot of Dr. Worthington’s bed. Her nose twitched as she sniffed the room. “Why?”

“Should be obvious. The world’s going to hell in a handbasket, and nothing I or my friends or even my generation did can stop it.” She coughed a bit after she breathed in. “Now. I’m glad you’ve come to visit an old woman in her death chambers, but I’m sure you’re looking for something else out of me.” The doctor leaned forward a bit, then back when she realized it was hard to hold the position. “And why haven’t you taken me to the interrogation room this time? Why visit?”

The interrogator looked to her own feet and intertwined her fingers. “Records indicate you’re not in the best of health, and our living conditions aren’t improving that. The guards suggested I come here to question you today.”

“Hmph. Now I know you’re lying.”

“Will my lying change anything?”

“Depends.”

“I’ve learned from Dr. Smith, the resident scientist here and foremost expert on Chimeras such as Dani Huffman, that your medical notes have been invaluable. He told me something about, uh, ‘cranial treatments’ that you’ve done. I was wondering if you could tell me more about those.”

Dr. Worthington closed her eyes a moment. “I know what you’re talking about. I couldn’t tell you exact formulations, and most of the medical documentation’s already in my logs. I don’t think there’s anything more definitive I can tell you.”

The interrogator’s face turned directly to Dr. Worthington. She placed a dark hand on top of Dr. Worthington’s pale white. “I was allowed to see the male chimeras. They’re little more than animals, but the stories I’ve heard from Dani’s parents, friends, and teachers have all indicated she’s more than a pet or a killing machine. I’m on the training docket to visit with Dani eventually, but I need assurance, doctor. I need assurance that I shouldn’t be afraid, that what’s inside her exoskeleton is something human.”

Though hidden beneath mounds of wrinkles, Dr. Worthington beamed a gummy smile. “I’m not sure if you’re trying to play psychological games with me. You’re wilier than you want people to think. I’m too old for your crap, though.” She clutched the interrogator’s hand. “So listen, and listen well, because Dani deserves better than what you’ve given her. She deserves better than what you’ve given me.”

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American Chimera – 11.4

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The interrogator looked up from her pad. “So you allowed Dani Huffman to attend kindergarten because you felt insulted. You felt your values were being questioned, so you worked to prove Mr. and Mrs. Huffman wrong.”

Mrs. Rogers crumpled up on her chair. “I felt like I was evil enough for the KKK to call me bad. Even that day, when I talked to my wife and thought about what I’d done, I couldn’t blame poor Dani. The mind inside that spider’s body wasn’t an animal, and I had treated it as if it were. My wife suggested I make sure Dani was physically safe for other children to be around before making a final decision. When I was able to prove to myself that Dani had about as much strength and a lot more self control than a normal five year old, I resolved to integrate her into my classroom successfully.” She cleared her throat. “That’s why I made my first unit be about…bugs and spiders.”

“And most of the kids accepted it?”

“Most. Once Stacy Ellington decided it was ok, everyone else fell into line.”

The interrogator nodded her head. “Stacy Ellington…she’s still best friends with Dani.” She cleared her throat. “One more thing – you said something about a flag in the window. Could you tell me about that again?”

“The confederate flag?”

“Yes. That one.”

“Well…” Mrs. Rogers wiped her nose. “The flag was a battle flag. It was the popular one, the…umm…sorry, ma’am, but the racist one. I don’t want to be offensive or anything, seeing as you’re…a…um…person of color.”

“And you’re sure that was what was in the window?”

“Yes. But please, don’t hold it against Dani. I was scared when I went to see her, and you’ll be scared too, especially now that she’s even bigger. Don’t think she’s racist. Don’t think she’ll hate people of color just because of her parents’ flag.”

The interrogator wrote something down on her tablet. She stood and motioned for Mrs. Rogers to get up as well. “Thank you for your time. I’ll let the powers that be know how helpful you’ve been.”

“Don’t make me go back to that cell,” Mrs. Rogers begged. “It’s so lonely.”

“You’ll only be there a little while longer.” The interrogator showed her to the door. “Once again, thank you so much for your help.”

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American Chimera – 11.1

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A guard dragged in a woman with auburn hair and a sweet demeanor, then slammed the door shut after her.

The interrogator looked up from her tablet and pointed the end of her stylus to the chair across from her. “Have a seat, Mrs. Sophia Rogers.”

Mrs. Rogers didn’t immediately take a seat. Instead, she shrank away from the darkened lights in the ceiling and searched the rafters as if looking for monsters. At last, she gasped and turned her gaze to the interrogator. “Where am I?”

A comforting grin formed on the interrogator’s face. “You’re in a government facility, northern Nevada. Please, there’s no need to be frightened; you’re not in trouble.”

“Then why am I here? Why did I get yanked from my house in the middle of the night?” She took a brave step closer to the interrogator. “What did you do with my wife?”

“Your wife is fine. She’s been released and sent home, like…like some of your other friends.” She urged once more for Mrs. Rogers to sit. “I just need to ask you a few questions. The sooner I get through all the formalities, the sooner you’ll get to go home. I promise.”

Mrs. Rogers at last nodded and gulped, then found her way over to the well-lit chair. She gulped. “I’m so lonely. I want to go home.”

“Don’t worry – you’ll be among the second batch of people to get out of here. I just need you to answer a few simple questions, and then you’ll just have to wait for the powers that be to finish the paperwork. Sound good?”

Mrs. Rogers shed a tear, but she nodded yes.

“That’s good. You were Dani Huffman’s kindergarten teacher – could you tell me more about that? Tell me why – or even how – she was allowed into school?”

“Yes, ma’am…”

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American Chimera – 9.2

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The interrogator swallowed. “They don’t know how you got a female specimen. There’s something weird about her genetics that mean her biological sex wasn’t determined at conception, but by some event that happened later. The scientists think you did something with the egg that made her be female.”

Janie’s face blanched, and she sat back. Her chains relaxed for the first time since the interview began. Her cheeks sagged without the tightness of anger and showed the beginnings of wrinkles. “Don’t they have Dani’s mother to help them with that? Her biological mama, anyway?”

The interrogator shook her head. “No. Dani was the eight hundred and third created specimen of her generation. They had no mothers, no fathers. They were simply generated by scientists.”

“Then why would I tell you? Why would I help y’all make more creations like Dani, just to see them suffer?”

“To ensure that your daughter doesn’t suffer. I will fight for Dani, assuming you help me in this one way.”

Janie gritted her teeth. “No.”

“No?” The interrogator lifted a brow quizzically. “You won’t help the flesh of your own flesh?”

“Why would I?” Janie asked. “There’s no guarantee your boss or your scientists’d ever listen to your beggin.’ Dani may be forced to suffer anyway, but her pain’d be even greater ’cause she’d know her daughters were being tortured too.”

A tear fell down Janie’s cheek.

The interrogator bit her lower lip.

“I…” Janie’s hands formed fists. “I know what it’s like to watch your daughter tortured. Your scientists can call it what they like – fertilization, impregnation, insemination, whatever – but I know what they’re doing. I know it’s the same thing as rape.”

“Is it, though?”

“Even thinking that question qualifies you for the Devil’s hell,” Janie growled. She coughed up mucous and spat it onto the interrogator’s pants. “I ain’t gonna tell you nothin.’ I don’t believe you’d ever help Dani, not on purpose anyway. So I ain’t ever gonna help you. I hope you suffer before you die. I hope you get a nice brain tumor or somethin.”’

The interrogator’s face darkened. She stood, gripping her tablet tight with shaking hands. “I’m not getting what I want out of Brett, and it appears no one else has access to the information. So there’s only one thing left I have to bargain with: my power to release or retain.”

“You already said you ain’t gonna release me.”

“Yesterday, I spoke with your idiot husband. I found out he hates a certain Reverend Hinkley due to some sort of incident with your so-called daughter. I spoke with the good Reverend this morning, and I’ve decided he’s worthy of release.” She showed the list on her tablet to Mrs. Huffman.

Janie’s eyes widened. Her hands shook in their chains.

“What about that, Janie? What do you think about me releasing Reverend Hinkley?”

“You’re going to hell!”

“Am I? You raised the demon, Mrs. Huffman. I’m just letting a preacher out of prison.” She closed the tablet into its stylus then stuffed it into her pocket. “So tell me what I want to know. Tell me how you got Dani to be female, and I’ll keep him in for as long as I can.”

“If you release him, it will be the biggest mistake of your career.”

“Why? Give me a good reason. Better, give me information about your daughter. Keep this man you hate in jail. Make him suffer, just as you would have me suffer.”

Janie screamed into the darkness of the small room.

“Stop it!” the interrogator shouted.

“I’m making you suffer!” Janie wailed. “I hope your eardrums break into as many pieces as you’ve crumbled my heart!”

Janie continued to screech. The interrogator opened her tablet and used it to call in the guards, who came in with a gag and restraints to cart her off.

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American Chimera – 8.1

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The interrogator looked up at the lights in the ceiling. “It’s bright in here,” she said, voice muffled by an N95 dust mask.

Dallin Smith smiled and, with considerable effort, pulled his leg up to put the cloth bootie around his foot. He tied off the cotton drawstring around his ankles. “Well, it might have been darker in the past. Settings change when you get older.” He grunted and allowed the clean booties to touch the floor. “Wash your hands before you put on your gloves. You just got done covering your shoes, after all.”

“But I dipped the shoes in antiseptic.”

“Only the bottom, though!” Dallin wagged a finger and moved to the small sink. He pumped the handsoap a couple times and lathered beneath the warm water. “You can’t be too careful. We treat this like any veterinary research facility, and you’ve got to follow the rules if you want a tour!” He chuckled and used his elbows to turn off the flow of water, then dried using an autoclaved towel.

The interrogator followed suit, using her own elbows to turn on the water. “I suppose your house, your rules.” Once her hands were washed, she chose a new, clean towel to dry off with, then slipped on a pair of cotton then viscose gloves. “I’m ready.”

Dallin stepped over to a clean table and picked up a small, aluminum box, which was slipped wordlessly into a pocket on his lab coat. With a nod at the camera, a light on the door turned green. A buzzer sounded, a lock clicked, and the door swung open.

The interrogator walked into the much dimmer hallway, following Dallin where he led. “It looks just like where my prisoners are being kept.”

“Well,” Dallin said, “The prisoners are actually stored in a section of the facility we’d shut down about five years ago – oh, golly, has it been that long?” He shook his head and pointed onward. “So yes, the cells are the same.”

“Is that why there’s a trough of flowing water instead of a toilet? Why there’s a giant gerbil dribbler instead of a sink?”

“No. The trough was actually where the specimens drank – the dribbler was added because we didn’t know how to get plumbing for a sink into the rooms quickly enough. I’ve heard from the contractors that work is being done for some of your assuredly permanent residents, so things should be improving shortly.”

One of the doors thudded and shook on its hinges. The interrogator jumped back. “And these cells will hold?”

“Ever since we removed the windows, we’ve had no problems with escape. Trust me – your humans won’t get out.” He pointed at a door and stopped just outside. “Ah, number 951. He’s a calm boy, will let you give him a belly rub if he’s in a good mood. This is our first stop.” He typed in his door code to the lock. “Now, you are ready for this, yes? Two hundred pound spider, you know. Not for the faint of heart.”

The interrogator nodded. “I’m prepared. I read through the manual of a board game to access a simulation – hint I got from one of my interviewees – and I think I’ve prepared myself.”

“Sounds good!”

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