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“Do you really think Occupant 412 will tell the truth?” The Commander questioned the sheriff. He was one of the Leader’s men, commissioned to ensure the government’s safety, and at the moment, that included interrogating everyone who was linked to the suspects. That included us, the staff at Instructional Testing Facility 943. One thing was certain; we could not be guilty.
“I don’t know. Maybe. It depends,” replied the sheriff.
“And you, doctor?” The sheriff scrutinized me with demanding brown eyes.
I took a deep breath. “I don’t know. According to her DNA, she’s 43 percent likely to lie. She has high levels of stress, and, sheriff, you know how they can get about these kinds of things. They’re like animals, really.” I straightened my lab coat, careful to make sure a certain part didn’t show, and turned to face him.
He laughed. “Doctor, they are animals.” For a moment, I saw a flicker of doubt in his eyes.
“You’re right, I suppose.” He shifted his gaze uneasily.
He smiled mischievously. “Now, shall we bring it in?” I forced a smile.
“Sir, it’s a female. I suppose we will, if you’d like.” I brushed back my dark hair and strode out of the circle. The Circle of Truth, it was called by the underlings, those with violent eyes and cold, alien skin. We knew more than they thought we did. We were dominant and powerful; what did they expect?
I walked over to the wall, and unlocked the door by pressing the code. “Occupant 412, you have been summoned,” I called in a clear voice, into the loudspeaker. Halves couldn’t hear much, but this one was young. Maybe she was sharper than most. Not that such a thing would mean much, of course. The squabbling from behind the door hushed, as it opened. The Half came out, silently. The sheriff watched her with steely disapproval in his eyes.
The Half walked onto the circle reserved for Halves, and stood there, waiting. Her hair was messy and the red color of pottery relics from centuries ago; it was strange, just like the rest of her characteristics. She was a Half—that was to be expected. Her vicious eyes, evergreen-colored, frowned at us. We’d been trained many years ago not to react to that sort of thing, so we didn’t. Her dress was ragged, and her features were as cold as stone. Her features were of humans, Pures, but her skin and nature were of the inferiors.
“Occupant 412,” I announced, “What do you have to say for yourself?”
She was silent, and her eyes alone showed her fury.
“You’ll get rewarded if you just tell the truth. Did you murder the Leader?” The Commander watched her, searching her for clues, his gaze impassive.
She stared at me, reluctant to answer. We had to get through to her. I walked over to her, and grabbed her arm roughly, pinching the tainted flesh. “Listen,” I hissed, “answer us and we will let you go. If you lie, you will be put to death. Understand?” She didn’t answer. I signaled to the sheriff.
The only sound was the pounding of the sheriff’s well-made shoes as he left the room. Blood pounded in my ears. I had to go through with it this time. He returned with the medicine.
He handed the greenish vial to me, and I attached the needle slowly. I held the Half’s arm still as slowly, I drew up the medicine. I injected it into her arm as she stared at me.
“The truth serum will be setting in shortly,” I explained. The Commander nodded, and took a seat. The sheriff stared at the Half.
“Doctor, I think something’s wr—“
I turned around and glanced at the Half. The blood drained from her face, and her mouth frothed. Panic set in, and my hands trembled slightly, but the Commander didn’t notice.
“It seems that there are some unexpected side-effects, and--”
The Commander rose from his seat. “What have you done to her? She is a Half—not one of us, to be sure, but she is to be kept alive. We need information from her.”
“Commander, sir, it’s not my fault.” I placed my hand on her heart. I could feel a faint, pulsing heartbeat. The sheriff scurried to my side with a cool towel, which he placed on her forehead.
“She’ll be all right,” I replied, but he didn’t look at me. He watched the Half.
She opened her eyes, and the Commander stared at her. “Did you murder the Leader?” His voice was as cold as her steely gaze, and I stepped back for a moment.
“No.” Her voice was thin but clear, like the glass that separated the Halves from the Pures. “It was her.” I watched her as her arm extended, and her finger pointed straight at me.
“It wasn’t me,” I stammered. The Commander got up and circled me, so close that I could smell the liquor on his breath. “The girl’s a liar. I’m loyal, I swear.” I didn’t meet his eyes.
“You word means nothing now.” He glared at me with fierce, parasitic hatred. He reached out and pulled a strand of my long mahogany hair. I winced, and he raised an eyebrow. “Tell the truth. Or else.” I shivered. The threat was more than implied.
“Answer me, now.” I looked at him, but I didn’t meet his gaze. “Are you a liar, doctor?”
“No, and it’s the truth.” I looked at him, but his gaze was impenetrable.
“Doctor, there is blood on your coat. That seems like the mark of a traitor to me.”
“It’s not true, I’m telling you. Why can’t you believe me?”
He drew back his hand and, before I could realize what had happened, the sting spread across my face. I gasped, my face flushing the color of the Commander’s ruddy complexion. “Liar,” he muttered with contempt.
“Will she be executed, sir?” The sheriff gazed at me, as though he’d never seen me before. Traitor, I wanted to whisper. Fool, but I bit my tongue. My words could only hurt me more.
I held myself in silence, my anger seething, as the Commander waited for a moment. He sneered as he declared my sentence.
“It is decided. She is the traitor. Her execution will be in an hour’s time. Escort the Half to her chamber and she will later be rewarded. Find a doctor who can perform the operation.” He spoke crisply and calmly, as if he handed out death sentences every day, but the meaning of his words was blurred by my silent, pleading sobs. As the tears surged down my face, the Half didn’t meet my eyes. So it was true, it was all true.
Maybe I stayed late one night, the Halves’ silent eyes watching me feverishly. Maybe the Leader had done something unspeakably wrong, but nobody knew. Maybe I mixed the iridescent, treacherous potion and labeled it as a harmless serum. Maybe he sent his men out to kill me but I escaped. Maybe a low cackle tumbled from my lips as I gave it to a servant with the instructions to slip it into his drink. Maybe his love for me was once as pure as the hollow of my purebred throat, not tainted like his inferior Halves’ blood. Maybe as he was announced dead, a secret smile flashed across my face. Maybe I framed the Half girl, and I almost won. Maybe he almost killed someone very close to me once, and only I heard the screams. Maybe the screams were my own.
As the death potion was being injected into my veins by a former comrade, bleaching all semblances of life from my still, tired body, the Half came over to my deathbed. My heart pounded, and my death trickled slowly, waiting to seize me at last. I’d eluded it too many times; now it was my turn. Her off-white teeth showed slightly and forgotten foam spilled from the corner of her mouth, so pale against her skin. Quietly, she whispered a word, “Mother.”