Pierce looked through the glass and stood perfectly still, his hands clasped firmly behind his back. He knew that on the other side of the window the creature could not see him, but it’s strangely clouded eyes still seemed to take note of his presence. To say Pierce was distilled was an understatement - though he had been prepared as to what this beast might look like in his briefing - shown photos, even - he could not help but stare. It was the most inane and disturbing specimen that he had ever laid eyes upon, somewhere between a man and a beast, a complex and distorted form that seemed impossible to conceive. Yet the creature was just…sitting there. Calmly. Looking through the glass, knowing that Pierce stood on the other side. Never had Pierce’s bravery deserted him so promptly as it did in that moment.
“Sir?” his assistant piped, dislodging the silence. “They are ready for you now.”
Pierce took in a sharp breath, pushing some of his dark hair back into place, and straightened his tie. His assistant watched him cautiously: he knew all too well that his superior was a precise man, and the fact that he was organizing himself showed nerves.
“Sir? Are you going to be alright?” he asked.
“Of course.” Pierce said firmly. “Why wouldn’t I be? Is it restrained?”
“Yes, sir. They chained it at the feet and...wrists.”
He lifted an eyebrow at the hesitation.
“Something the matter, Milton?” he asked.
“No, sir.” Milton replied. “It's just, I don't think that the creature is dangerous.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well...” Milton glanced through the glass beside him, a little sympathy visible in his eyes. “It's just a boy, by all accounts. And the men said it came without any struggle at all. In fact...the creature asked to be chained.”
“All this nonsense about asking and speaking,” Pierce snorted dismissively. He had heard the stories that morning, rumors of the beast having entire conversations with the guards, but there was no room for wishful thinking in the investigation of a crime. “I told you Milton, that's not possible. I'm here to prove it.”
“Alright, sir,” he assistant said quietly. “But...I know what I have heard. This one is not like the others.”
A uniformed figure entered and ushered Pierce forwards: a large white door divided the double-sided window and provided the only entrance to the sealed chamber. The man asked for Pierce to show his identification and then took it from him, slotting it into an opening in the wall. It revealed a smaller chamber inside, and another door beyond that, which would permit him into the room with the beast. The chamber smelt clinical and clean. It should have felt safe – but he found his hands still trembling as he was searched. Finally, the guard addressed him.
“I can give you ten minutes.” he told Pierce. “Everything you say and do will be recorded. If there are any problems, even the slightest, we can get you out of there and sedate the creature. He has been fitted with a collar that will shock him should we activate the alarm.”
“He?” Pierce remarked. “I thought the Chief told you to not refer to them by gender. This is confusing enough without personification for these creatures,”
The guard exchanged a glance with Milton. Though more stoic, it seemed he was no stranger to the rumors either.
“As you wish, sir.” he murmured. “But...I think you will understand a little better after the interview.”
With a last nod to his assistant he moved towards the entrance.
“Once the doors are closed, activate your microphone. Are you ready?”
Pierce nodded. His dark eyes had already trailed to the next bleached doorway, and beside Milton, the camera panel activated, revealing the officer – a blot against the startling white walls – to the onlookers.
“Good luck.” the guard said.
There was a shift in the system as the door closed behind him, and a set of bright lights flickered into life. A moment passed as he turned on his microphone as instructed - and then the last smaller door lifted, opening to reveal the prison within. Pierce found his feet stubborn to react. Immediately, his eyes fell to the two chairs ahead of him - one of which was already occupied by the creature - the other, behind a table, waited to be filled. The room was padded from top to bottom, tarnished only by the restraints that hung from the walls and trailed across to the creature's hands and feet. Pierce stood briefly, staring at it. The creature looked up and stared back.
Up close it was even harder for Pierce to comprehend it's appearance. Indeed, referring to the beast as 'he' now warranted some credit, for the face looked as if it belonged to a person. Even the skin and hair were human, the eyes bright and inviting upon its face. The creature’s body however were quite different to behold: a torso that perched into two deformed legs supported it's frame, and long, wide arms extended to the ground, ending in hulking claws. Pierce swallowed. He looked at the creature's face again – the one that resembled a child – and started to open his mouth to speak. But the creature interrupted him.
“Am I in trouble?” it asked.
Pierce blinked. He gaped a little, something that was uncharacteristic for him. Outside, Milton grinned.
“I told him it could talk,” he said to the guard, who nodded, equally as baffled, as though viewing a sideshow. “It's not like the other ones.”
Pierce straightened himself and regained his propriety. Surely it was a trick – mimicry, like a parrot of some kind, he thought.
“In some ways.” he replied with difficulty, looking around the room as if to find evidence of a hoax. The boy looked despondent, but also a little relieved that someone had spoken to him in turn. He licked his lips, his gaze following Pierce as he fidgeted.
“You're the first person who has answered my questions,” he said, and smiled, revealing a mouthful of crooked teeth.
More silence followed, until Milton prompted Pierce on an earpiece at his side. Some distortion came through and then his assistants voice:
“Keep talking to him,” he said. “Ask him the questions. You haven't got long.”
“Do you know why you are here?” Pierce asked.
“I don't think so.” the creature replied. “Have I done something wrong?”
Pierce cleared his throat.
“Do you know what you are?” he said.
The boy frowned innocently. He seemed nervous, and scratched at the floor.
“I think I do,” he replied. “Is this a test?”
Pierce sighed and sat on the white chair, scraping the floor as he pulled it further from the creature. The boy continued to watch him as he straightened his suit again and folded his arms. His breathing was slightly labored and audible in the expanse of the chamber, like a dog panting to recover. Outside, a number of guards had gathered to listen in on the interview - Pierce couldn't hear them but they were muttering excitedly; the beast, the creature they had captured could speak after all! The rumors had been confirmed and this changed everything about their investigation.
Pierce extracted some papers from his jacket and laid them out upon the table. He cleared his throat.
“You have been taken from laboratory 6569, from Wing 08, the one you were made in.” he explained. “You are now in the possession of MI5 under the Recovery of Illegal Matter act, and have been confiscated until further notice.”
The creature blinked at the papers.
“I don't understand.” he said.
“You are an experimental creation that has offended a great many people.” He reiterated. “You are here in custody, until such a time wherein we can decide your fate.”
“...I'm sorry.” The creature said, his eyes darting around as he tried to process the long words. At least he seemed to understand the word ‘offend’. “I...didn't mean to upset anyone. Perhaps I can apologize to them?”
Pierce watched the creature, which now had begun to fidget. He was not a cold natured man by any means and did not intend to make the beast uncomfortable, but he was struggling to consider how else to tackle the situation. This was after all, something of a first for him: he'd been used to interviewing criminals, drug dealers and gang members, not oddities made in laboratories. Though certainly he did not feel threatened by the creature - if anything, he found himself sympathetic, something which he had sworn not to be – but he was torn between treating it like an animal, irrespective of it’s skills, or to kneel beside it as he might a child. This time he focused his eyes only on the creature's face, ignoring his misshapen body.
“How is it that you are able to speak?” he asked.
“Yes. None of the other hybrids we found can speak. Is it just you?”
The creature considered.
“I learnt it. From Dr. Miller. She taught me.”
He shrugged, a human like gesture.
“I suppose...she thought that it would be a good idea if I could speak. It made it easier for her to understand how I was feeling. And I used to copy her when I was smaller.”
Pierce glanced down again. The torso of the child looked older then his voice implied – sculpted and lean, and he wondered exactly how old he was. His nostrils flared every time he seemed to be thinking; a peculiar trait that reminded him of a rabbit he had held when he was small.
“Do you have a name?” Pierce asked quietly.
The guard behind the speaker was a little anxious now – this question wasn't on the list. He prompted Milton to put him back on track, but Pierce ignored him.
“I have a number,” the creature said.
“Can you tell me what it is, so we can match up your records?”
He lifted a pen from his pocket and prepared to write, but the boy now seemed conflicted.
“Most just called me Gold.” he murmured.
Pierce looked up.
“Like the color?”
The boy's head was indeed covered in bright blonde hair, a rather spectacular shade that most humans would have envied, but he seemed unaware of it. Perhaps he could only see in black and white.
“Do all of the creatures have names, Gold?” Pierce asked.
“I don't know. Some. I don't know them all.”
As he began writing, Pierce remembered some of the other beasts that they had retrieved from the laboratories – quite a mess of things he recalled, some of which had been particularly unfortunate in their making. This one was lucky to have a human face, much less speak. He was something of a miracle.
Gold scratched irritably at an old wound on his wrist – he seemed anxious and eager to please, as though he might receive a thrashing if he didn’t. While he waited for the creature to say more, Pierce heard Milton's voice again.
“Show him the photo, sir,” he told him. “The one of the attacker.”
The guards outside paused, knowing the creature by the term alone. Suddenly he was reminded all too well of a certain hybrid that they had encountered, and somewhat reluctantly, he withdrew a photo from his file and slid it across the table to Gold. If he could speak like a human then perhaps he could understand like one.
“Do you know this hybrid?” he said.
Gold stared at the photograph. His lips moved, as if whispering something to himself.
“...yes.” he said eventually, able to reason with imagery. “That's 065. We called him Black.”
The hybrid in the photo had been tethered and was quite crudely restrained. Gold's eyes seemed miserable.
“He can be scary.”
“He's very violent, isn't he?”
“...not all the time. He gets scared.”
“Can he speak?”
“I don't know. Maybe. I've not spoken to him. I'm not allowed to speak to them,”
Pierce pressed the matter.
“It's important, Gold.” he persisted, and the creature's eyes flickered when he heard his name. “If Black can speak then he can defend himself. He has been very aggressive to my men, and may well be killed for it.”
Gold looked away sadly, as if he had expected such behavior from the hybrid in question. After a time, Pierce took out a newer photo. Seeing it brought back a sharp feeling of empathy and guilt.
“Do you know this hybrid?” he asked again.
Gold flinched. He reacted differently to this photograph, and after a moment lifted up his massive hands to touch it. Suddenly the men outside panicked: the tethers tightened and his hands were drawn sharply back down to his sides. But the creature didn't resist, perhaps accustomed to such violence, and Pierce stood up, waving at the tinted windows to assure them that Gold was not going to try to escape. Though he had only met him for a short time, he was fairly certain that it was not in his nature to swipe at him with his great paws.
As the men bustled behind the glass, the creature’s oddly formed ears moved by his head like radars. From this Pierce could gather that he could hear them.
“Do you know her?” he encouraged.
“Yes.” Gold whispered, his voice trembling. His hulking hands rested tamely at his sides again.
“Does she have a name?”
The photograph showed the upper part of a very pale skinned girl, lying on a slab, her hair strewn about her face, her eyes closed.
“That's White.” he said.
After a moment of studying the image, he looked back up at Pierce sharply, even accusingly.
“...yes.” he replied honestly. “We took her from the laboratory like the rest of you, but she died in transit.”
His accusation faded away promptly and he softened, looking at the picture with remorse. Behind the glass, Milton could be heard clearing his throat: evidently he was feeling nervous as well. It was just as Pierce had been told - regardless of some of the others that they had encountered in that laboratory, this one was different, and the girl had been as well. Certainly, White had not been dangerous. Pierce found himself jarring. He had attempted to tackle the photo as if talking about a dead animal, but now felt guilty that he had not been tenderer around the issue. That hybrid had been the bane of his existence those last few days...when arriving at the facility all everyone could say was how human she appeared, and when she died...some of the best doctors he knew had refused to perform the autopsy on her, insisting she be moved to a hospital morgue. She looked so young, so pure…so different to the rest of them. But surely, surely she had not been a human, he told himself.
“...Gold, could White speak? I need to know.” he asked softly. Much to his relief, the creature shook his head.
“She never spoke to me.” He said.
Pierce sighed again. He was reassured at this proof of the creature's inhumanity, until Gold spoke again.
“But she sang.”
“Sang?” he echoed.
“At night. When it was dark. When the men were all gone. She sang.” Gold muttered. “Not words, but she sang. Black liked her very much. We all did.”
Pierce turned to the two-way glass, a look on his face of uncertainty as to how to continue. The other officers had also gone silent.
“Are you going to kill me, like you killed White?” Gold whispered.
As he turned back to the creature, Pierce found himself lost for words. He wanted to protest, to argue that White's death had been accidental: but he knew the intent of the government’s plans, keen to wipe away the stain on their research records.
“...maybe.” he managed to reply. “We don't know yet.”
“...why?” he said calmly.
When the call came to end the interview, Pierce could not answer that question.