Amanda led us to the front reception, where a woman in her middle ages sat.
"Hi, Imogen, can you ring Brian and ask if I can see him, please?"
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"Of course," the receptionist replied. These people were friendlier than I had expected.
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"Who's Brian?" I whispered, not so subtly.
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"He's, uh, Gemma's close associate."
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"Um, uncle-niece close?" She replied warily.
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I couldn't hide the surprise in my voice. "She has an uncle?"
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"He's the manager of this branch."
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"She has an uncle?" I repeated.
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"Yes, Emerald; he's her father's brother."
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"Are you sure he wouldn't send a SAS bullet through our heads, the moment we walk into his office?"
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"Stop being such a cynic!" She scolded.
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"Well, I'm sorry for being cautious of the people who blew up my parents."
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"Brian didn't have any part it that, Em. He's not that bad."
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"His brother murdered everyone at the Fr—"
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She yanked me away from the receptionist's desk, who by now, looked as if she regretted making that call.
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"Will you quit it?"
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"And, his niece doesn't seem to feel all that sorry for what her father did! So how can you be so sure that he is indeed the saint you make him out to be?" I finished.
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Amanda opened her mouth to reply when the receptionist spoke.
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"Ma'am, Mr Reynolds says now isn't the best time."
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"Mr Reynolds," I mimicked, which got me a deadly glare from Amanda.
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"Tell him 202 is here," Amanda told the receptionist.
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A bewildered look placed itself on the receptionist's face as soon Amanda said that.
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Oh no! 202! The 202! Danger!
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I smiled at her in an attempt to cease the the fear in her eyes. She only looked even more afraid.
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Oh, come on. What do you want from me?
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She then cleared her throat. "You want me to tell him 202 is here?"
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Amanda nodded, as the receptionist glanced at Everest.
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He leaned close to her, quite like a polar bear dipping its head under water, in search for prey. "Tell him 202 is here."
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The poor receptionist nodded quickly, muttering she something into the telephone. It was understandable why he didn't mention his name, if after all, it was him who the Reynolds intended to kill during their attack on the Front.
Could have been nicer about it, though.
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The receptionist put the phone down. "Mr Reynolds would like to see you immediately."
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"Hey, when Robert was alive and all, what did you call Brian then? Wouldn't it have been sort of confusing referring to both of them as 'Mr Reynolds'?" I asked curiously.
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"Emerald!" Amanda never really liked my curiosity. "Honestly, is it that hard to keep your mouth shut for five minutes?" She rebuked, as we made our way to the – gold – lifts.
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"It's a genuine question! And what would they have called Robert's father? Mr Reynolds Senior?"
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Amanda pinched the bridge of her nose. "Five minutes, that's all I ask."
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"Okay." I shrugged, turning around to prove a point, but then turned back around, realising Everest was closer than socially accepted, on the other side. In fact, everything was too close in this tiny lift.
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When the doors finally opened with a ding, I was the first one to break free and stumble out.
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Amanda then showed us to a secluded glass door at the end of the hallway, which she knocked on.
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"Come in," a faint male's voice spoke from inside.
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Amanda opened the door and let us in, as I looked around almost cautiously for those SAS bullets.
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"There they are!" The man in behind the huge wooden desk, at the end of the room, exclaimed, a little more enthusiastically than I had anticipated. He got up, making his way around the table and approached us... well me, specifically.
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His brown eyes gazed deeply into mine. He smiled. "You must be 202." He was younger than I anticipated; probably around Amanda's age.
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"Emerald," I replied.
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"Ah yes, my apologies. Pleasure to meet you, Emerald, I'm Brian Reynolds." He took out his hand for me to shake.
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He was also nicer than I'd anticipated.
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I stared at his hand for a moment. This man was really Robert's brother? Or was this part of their show?
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"There's no need to be afraid," he said.
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"I'm not afraid." I took his hand and squeezed.
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I released it, and he chuckled. "Fiery, I like that."
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He walked over to Everest. "You failed to mention another – and might I add, devilishly handsome – party would be joining us."
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What is he, gay?
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"This is Everest," Amanda introduced.
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Wait, so what happened to the whole protecting his identity thing?
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If I thought Gemma's uncle's smile was already big, it had just gotten bigger. "Everest! The famous Everest I've heard everything about!" He cried. "From my brother, especially." He added.
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I had a feeling Everest was thinking the same thing as I was. Why? Because he was giving Amanda that glare.
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Amanda sheepishly avoided it. "Stop looking at me like that, Everest, he's on our side."
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"Would you care to elaborate?" Everest made a sentence that should have usually sounded gentle and etiquette, into something of a death threat.
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"You don't need to worry about me," Brian interrupted. "I was never a huge fan of my brother's work. Truly, I am so sorry for the losses that the Front endured on behalf of him."
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At least, one Reynolds apologised.
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"We were here for Gemma. She has something we need," I explained.
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"The cure to 202?" He asked, blandly.
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"Oh, there isn't a soul who works for Reynolds and Co that doesn't know about Gemma's cure."
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"We need it," Everest stated getting right down to business. Again. I like that.
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"I understand," Brian replied, walking back to his seat. "But, it's not here."
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"Why are we here, again?" I asked Amanda.
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"You are here because I'm going to help you get that cure," Brain said.
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"And, how are you going to do that?" I queried.
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"We'll find a way," he dismissed my question, his hands scrambling through some paperwork.
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I marched over, slamming my hands onto his desk. "We haven't got time."
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Just as my hands touched the table, guns, the same ones that greeted us on the way in, shot out of the ceiling.
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I knew they were hiding SAS bullets, somewhere! And I also had I knew that, that was an oddly shaped ceiling!
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I froze. However, not so much as a hair flickered on Everest's part, as he kept his cold eyes glued into Brian's.
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Brian reached out and pressed a button. "It's alright, lads, put those away." He spoke into what seemed to be a microphone. Instantly, the guns withdrew. "Security team," he chuckled. "They tend to go a bit overboard on the secure part."
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"So what's your plan?" I invaded. "And how do you know Amanda anyway?" She worked for the Front, he worked for Reynolds and Co. They were polar opposites.
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"It's... a long story," he replied. "We should get to work," he clapped his hands together. "Right now, my dear niece is in Los Angeles. As she's the only one able to access the cure, it's her who you're going to have to ask. Now, I'm quite certain she wouldn't lend you the location of the cure over the telephone. So we could ask her to fly back over here..."
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"But, your dearest niece isn't nice enough to do that," I interrupted.
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"Brutal truth," he agreed, shrugging. "But, neither can the two of you travel alone to the US." Yes, Amanda wouldn't let us forget. "I hear the Front's security team is bigger than the Ottoman Empire," he chuckled.
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"Haha," I responded, drily.
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"Emerald," Amanda warned from behind.
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"So, that leaves, us," Brian continued. "We'd have to go get it."
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My, my. That doesn't sound suspicious at all.
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"If you insist," Everest interrupted, this time.
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What? I thought he was smart!
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"Right. But, for now I think it's best if we found you both drier clothes." Brian said, eyeing our soaked clothing. "Amanda, show them to the fourth door on the right."
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I had to admit, that was a smooth way of dismissing company.
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"You're crazy," I hissed at Everest the moment we stepped out of the office. "You are crazy and stupid. That's what you are."
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"May I ask what provoked these colourful views you have on me?"
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I clenched my jaw. "May you ask...? What you do think?"
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"Emerald! Keep it moving!" Amanda called from about a meter away.
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"Keep it moving!"
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"I'm not done." I scowled at Everest, following Amanda.
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"When are you ever?" I heard him mutter from behind.
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"Damn, what do they use this room for?" I asked Amanda glancing around the new, stunningly furnished room we just stepped into.
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"Nothing," she simply replied.
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"Nothing?" I blinked. "They realise there are homeless people in the world, right?"
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Amanda tossed some clothes at Everest.
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"Here," she walked over to me, holding out another small pile of clothes. "Wear these."
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"So what's his deal?" I asked.
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"How do you mean?"
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I tilted my head. "Nothing about what he said seems... I don't know, stab-y in the back, to you?" I inquired.
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"I told you before, he's trustworthy."
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"And you're sure that he will get us the cure?"
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"Because, 202 is only being released to, you know, the world in about twenty nine days."
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"You know, I've only worked for Director for sixteen years," she answered back, with smile. "So, I think I'd know when 202 is being released."
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"Did you at least get a pay rise?"
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"Change," she pushed the clothes into my arms.
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"In here?" My eye flickered to Everest.
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Without – unsurprisingly – saying a word, he walked into the ensuite bathroom.
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"Okay, just to see where our heads are at, we need to get Gemma's cure two prominent reasons. One, so that because of the distribution of 202, which as you specified very clearly, will be released in twenty nine days," Amanda clarified, as I changed into my new clothes. "And two... for you."
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I nodded, slipping on a foreign pair of jeans.
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"I can't believe Director never told me about you." She shook her head.
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"I can't believe Director never told me about me."
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"How did you find out that..." she let her sentence linger in the air.
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"That I'm going to die? Everest told me."
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The corners of her mouth lifted. "How hard was it to get it out of him?"
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"Oh, it was very easy. It only—" I peeled off my old t-shirt. "—required days of begging, followed by some—" I threw the new t-shirt on. "—arguing– actually, a lot of arguing, but I didn't give him an easy fight."
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"I can imagine," she muttered.
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"Ah, and some quick sand."
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"Quick sand?" She gasped.
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"Yeah! It was amazing! That was when he finally cracked!"
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"I mean, he didn't really crack, in fact he tricked me! That cunning bastard—"
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"—but like I said, I didn't give him an easy fight."
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"What quick sand?"
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"Oh, there's quick sand in that forest. You should really check it out."
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"No one was hurt, right?"
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"He only nearly joined the underground sand world."
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"But I saved him! Just about."
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"Because if you ask me," I continued, ignoring her hysteric yells. "It really looked like he wanted die!"
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"And you let him?!"
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"Yes, Amanda, I let him die in the quick sand. That's how he's here right now: because he butterfly stroked his way out of the mud."
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"Sarcasm isn't a kind trait, Emerald."
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"Good talk." I nodded at her, just as Everest returned, wearing a plain black t-shirt and plain grey joggers. "Colourful outfit you've got there," I remarked.
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He ignored me.
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"Have you two eaten?" Amanda asked.
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"Had a buffet last night in the forest," I replied.
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She sighed. "Emerald, what did I just say about sarcasm?"
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Once a mother, always a mother. That doesn't even make sense. This place is doing things to my brain.
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"It's not a kind trait," I chirped. "That's interesting. Hey, maybe you should teach Everest a thing or two about kindness."
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He glared at me. "Kindness is a prospect used to please others. I don't see why I have to please anyone."
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"Stop bickering! Honestly, it's a wonder how the two of you are still alive!" Amanda invaded. "Dinner will be served soon; let's go and eat."
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And that brought us to the cafeteria. I was surprised to see that the food itself wasn't gold, regarding all the other gold in that colossal room. Reynolds' employees lurked in very corner – I didn't expect anything less; it was Reynolds and Co compound after all. What did surprise me, however, was the sheer number of employees who were still willing to work this late. It made me think: damn, the competition with the Front was real!
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Finally, after plate of spaghetti and a slice of carrot cake, Amanda led us out, and into yet another room. This one was filled to the brim with bunk beds.
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"They use this room for interns, but it's not in use for now," Amanda explained.
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My eyes raked around the room. The creaseless white duvets signified that it had been a while since they were last put to use. All except one.
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"And I'm guessing that's where you sleep," I said to Amanda, nodding towards the nonidentical bed.
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"Quite the observer, aren't you?"
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I winked at her.
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"None of these other beds are in use, so choose the ones you want, and get ready for bed. Bathrooms are down there," Amanda informed me and Everest.
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In the end, I fell into the first peaceful slumber I'd had in days in the bed next to Amanda's, whilst Everest took the one opposite.
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Sadly, my peaceful slumber was disrupted, and it wasn't because of the glowing lamp beside me.
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Throwing my eyes open, I woke up to blue.
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Hey, I thought I was out of the forest!
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Nevertheless, turned out, it wasn't the sky I was looking into. These were too small to be the sky. And the fact that there were two of these, was a promising quality that proved I wasn't seeing the sky. I mean, I was quite certain there weren't two skies!
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That doesn't even make sense!
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They were eyes! It was a face! And it was considerably close to me. It was him!
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At lightening speed, his steel-like hand clamped tightly over my mouth.
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How about you be less serial killer-y! I thought, instead of saying, seeing as I couldn't open my mouth so much as a millimeter.
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He let go.
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"Everest!" I hissed.
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He placed an index finger to his lips, glancing at Amanda, who turned over in her bed, still asleep. Or at least half asleep.
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"What are you doing? It's the middle of the night!"
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"It's dark outside!"
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I gave him that one.
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"Get out of bed," he ordered, without any further explanation.
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As usual, nothing came.
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"We're getting out of here." Again, no further explanation. But I didn't need one.
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"Okay!" I replied, getting up with a little more enthusiasm than I had intended. I wasn't looking forward to idea of staying in this place any longer like a spineless sheep, waiting on Brian to come up with a way to get the cure, anyway. Especially, knowing how most of everyone were either afraid of me, or despised me. In fact, I was waiting on Everest to come up with this bizarre suggestion. Even though, he was more commanding that suggesting.
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As quietly as the creaky bed would let me, I slipped out of it, creeping out of the room on soft toes.
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That was a boring ending. Unfortunately, story telling requires tedious chapters for the sake of naturalisation of tension. However, next few chapters are will involve quite a bit (a lot) of mischief.
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Opinions on Brian?
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There's a dumb story behind the choice of his name, which I'll tell you in the next chapter if anyone wants to know.
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