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Yes he is! He must be!
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"Really, I'm not," he deadpanned, but it was easier said than believed.
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"Gemma?" I gawped.
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"I believe I specified that before."
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"You better not be lying to me, or I swear to God—"
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"202," he stepped close. "I'm not lying."
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I stared into the distance, bewildered. "Gemma?" I repeated. "Gemma Reynolds?"
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"You're not just winding me up, are you?"
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"Should I even bother answering that?" He replied bluntly.
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I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Of all the people in the world..." I looked at Everest. "Do you know how many people are in the world?!"
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"As of now, seven billion, increasing at a rate of one-point-zeo-nine percent."
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I smiled, bitterly. "Seven billion people, increasing at a rate of one-point-zero-nine percent?" My smile morphed into a scowl. "Seven billion goddamn people, and it had to be Gemma! Gemma bloody Reynolds!" I spat.
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"Objectively speaking, her dad was the only person who knew about what the Front had been up to."
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"That's why he set up a branch in London anyway."
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In actual fact, Robert Reynolds was American, as was Gemma – that was why everyone made a huge deal out of it when she appeared at the launch evening. The base of their company was located in San Francisco, but just after the discovery of the cure, Robert established another commercial building in London, – hmm, I wonder why – making it geographically closer to the Front's Headquarters. The two rivals were practically neighbours.
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Suddenly, I gasped, realising something. "That's why you wanted to go to London!" My stare attempted to penetrate through his rigid exterior. "To find Gemma!"
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"Needed," he corrected.
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"Oh, come off it," I grumbled. "What do you even intend on doing there, anyway? Walk in, and demand they give you the drug?"
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Silence dominated the forest.
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"Oh for the love of God, just tell me! I think we're past the whole I-ask-you-questions-you-don't-answer-them phase."
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"Fine. That's exactly what we're going to do."
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"The, I ask you questions, and you don't answer them phase?" I quizzed.
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"We're going to demand the drug from Gemma?"
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"We will take a more tactful approach, than how you put it."
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"Smarter," he said, flatly.
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"Hey!" I swatted his arm. It was equivalent to hitting steel. "And, then what?"
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"We expose Director."
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Good plan. Except: "How are we going to do that?"
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"One thing at a time, 202."
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"So, you're telling me," I spoke, nibbling on an almond. "That this time next year, I'd be dead?"
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Even with the bizarre ability to maintain hunger for an abnormally long period of time, it didn't take much brainpower to understand that two days without food or water was over-doing it. Hence, the next morning, we busied ourselves with the job of finding edible food; it proved to be a success.
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Everest gave a curt nod.
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"Because the semi-cure only lasts twenty years, or so?"
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We also agreed on calling 202 the 'semi-cure', since it only half worked.
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He nodded again.
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"And they were serious about the termination thing?"
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"So, the real reason for the termination wasn't because you're better than me, it was because they're going to release 202 anyway, but don't want the world to know that it doesn't do what everyone what everyone actually think it does?"
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"Not quite. I'm still better. It's how they made me."
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I scoffed. "And how exactly did they make you? Director said you have something that I don't. What?"
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This time, I didn't even get a nod. Not that it was a question that could be answered with a simple nod.
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"It's getting late, we have to move," he said, a while later, getting up.
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"It's midday," I stated, cornering him. Physically.
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"It doesn't matter—"
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"What do you have, that I don't?" I demanded.
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I gasped. Humour was my thing!
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"Dead brain cells!" I couldn't help but shoot back.
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"We both know that I'm smarter than you," he retaliated.
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"Tell me!" I pushed.
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And we're back to square one.
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"I don't owe you anything, 202," he replied.
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No! Do something, quick! Make him speak!
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A sad smile plastered itself across my face. "That's true you don't. But I'm going to die soon," Ha! Of course I wasn't planning on dying! "So whatever you say, I'll take to my grave,"
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I sighed for effect. "Isn't that enough insurance for you?"
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His chiseled face remained as still as igneous rock. "You and I both know you are not dying. Now, drop it."
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Unexpectedly, that made me feel a tad – just a tad – better. But the second part initiated a frustrated groan from me.
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"Bloody hell, just tell me!" I rid myself of my vulnerable pretense. "You know everything about me! Hell, you know more about me than I do! So, you do in fact, owe me this!" Plus, the curiosity was eating me inside out.
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At first, I received no response. Then, just as I was about to cuss him for being his obstinate self, he spoke, his voice low.
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"It's not what I have. It's what I don't have."
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Don't have? My mind flickered through the various things which he might've lacked in order to make him stronger. Fatigue? Flesh? Nerve-endings?
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"Emotions," he stated.
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"Yeah well I knew that," I replied, uninterested in the obvious.
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"No. Neurologically speaking. I don't have emotions."
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I made a face. "What do you mean? You do have emotions." I could name a few: anger, distrust (in me, particularly), pride, annoyance (at me also), narcissism... it went on!
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He gave me the same cold look that I'd already received a hundred too many times from him. "Of course I have emotions. I said, Director took away emotions, not emotion."
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What the hell?
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I snatched the almonds from his hands.
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"They're doing something to you."
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"They're not," he said, taking them back. "When I said emotions, I meant they took away specific emotions, not all of my emotion. If that were the case, they would have created a robot."
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"They already have," I muttered, unable to restrain the comment from slipping out.
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He sent me a glare that could have cooled plasma.
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I shuddered. "Kidding. Continue."
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"They removed emotions that cause weakness."
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I cocked my head. "Weakness?"
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"Grief, empathy, shame, remorse, fear, contempt, love," He recited at meteoric speed.
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I glanced up, repeating them in my mind, at a much slower pace...
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True, such an act seemed impossible. But for a multibillionaire company that possessed laboratories which stretched as far as football pitches, it would have been as easy as baking a cake. Scratch that; I tried baking a cake once, and that night, I went to bed with a blocked ear, thanks to the relentless scream of those damned fire alarms.
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"When they decided they wanted you dead." He clearly didn't understand the concept of sugar coating certain details, I concluded.
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Gazing at his handsome yet stony face, I uselessly pondered at the thought of what it must feel like to have your emotions torn out of you – or rather, what it wouldn't feel like. Eventually, I gave up on the thought, realising how it paralleled a paradox: He wouldn't have felt loss, because they seized the very thing that stimulates the feeling of loss. So he wouldn't have actually felt like he lost something, despite simultaneously acknowledging the fact that he had.
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I fiddled with the ring in my eyebrow. In a twisted way, Director played us both. But why him?
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"So when they said you have something I don't have, they meant you haven't got something, I have?"
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"Yes. You've got weakness, and I haven't," he stated.
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"I was talking about emotions! And these emotions don't make you weak! They make you... a good person. They make you human!"
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"And that leads to weakness."
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"That's a lie. They fed you lies."
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"Is it? If that's the case, am I right in saying that loss wouldn't bring about grief? And, that in turn, wouldn't drag you down?"
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He was doing it again! He was turning my views against themselves.
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"That depends on how you handle it," I said, sternly. "Emotions are a work of nature; you can't control it. It might drag some people into a dark corner, but other people fight it. That's what being strong is."
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"What if you can't bring yourself out of a dark corner?" For the first time since I met him, the question wasn't asked in rebuttal, but rather as a genuine question. He was actually asking me, to answer something for him.
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Wow, they really did remove those emotions.
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But if the question were asked to contradict what I said, then he had a point. "Then... that's it." Suddenly the feeling of defeat spread through me, one which I despised. "But getting these natural emotions removed just so you don't have to experience them isn't strength. It's cowardice."
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Something flashed in his eyes, in that moment, but was concealed just as fast. A poor acorn stood, frozen under his glare. "I didn't ask for this."
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I sighed, guilt flushing through my veins. "Everest, I didn't mean that."
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"No," he said, emotionless. Right. No sorrow. Got it.
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This discovery made me contemplate one thing, in particular: Is the front constructed of a bunch of Hitlers? Because, damn, was there anything else left on the evil things to do list of theirs?
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I peered back at him; his eyes were still fixated on the acorn.
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"How did they do it?"
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"You can find out if you take a fourteen year neurology course at university."
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Translation: I don't know.
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"Okay, fine," I asked him a much better question. "When did they do it?"
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When I first asked it, it felt like an ordinary question, prompted by sheer curiosity. It was when his jaw clenched, that I reconsidered its significance.
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"They did it when you were eleven, a few years after they made you, after they found out where they went wrong."
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I was about to ask why, when it hit me. They noticed they messed up. They rid Everest of removed grief, empathy, shame, remorse, fear, contempt, love, so that he wouldn't feel the traditional guilt that's usually felt when someone murders another person in cold blood – cold blood indeed, if he had to fuse both of our bloods to finish the job. But the point was, they were preparing him for it! But, that also meant...
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"They meant to kill me since I was eleven! Using you!"
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"That's why they took your emotions away."
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"You were supposed to kill me."
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"You were supposed to kill me!"
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"We've established that already."
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"No. You were supposed to kill me. So why didn't you?"
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I wasn't really expecting him to declare his undying love for me, or anything, especially regarding the whole removal of emotions thing, but his reply was drier than I had expected.
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"I didn't want to slave for Director."
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I raised an eyebrow. I knew he wasn't being honest with me as soon as he said it – not that I particularly expected him to be honest either.
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"And it took you up till the last minute to decide this, huh?"
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"If you suppose."
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"Be honest!" I demanded. "You wouldn't have ended up in this position. Why didn't you follow Director's orders?"
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His face remained unmoved. "I don't have to explain myself to you, 202."
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No, he didn't. I could have tortured the answer out of him, but it wasn't important, anyway. He had already told me everything I needed to know, including the whole Gemma Reynolds thing.
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So, London it is.
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Author's note: To those bothered to read:
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And there you have it, folks, your (and Emerald's) burning questions have finally been answered. Now, that wasn't so hard was it, Everest?
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What was your reaction when you found out Everest's secret?
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Thank you for reading, I really, really appreciate your amazing taste in books. Please, vote comment (no, seriously, go nuts), and share.
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