Not to sound cynical or anything, but this was a stupidly thought out plan. I concluded this when I realised three things:
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Number one, you needed a plane ticket to get on a plane.
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Number two, you needed a passport to enter a different country – in this case, an entirely different continent.
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Number three, we didn't have either of the two.
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When I asked Everest about this, his answer made me contemplate the risk of going back to the Front and grabbing a pair of passports and a couple of shillings, instead.
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To put it simply, the genius' idea was to crawl through the mile-long air vents of the airport, get out once we reach the control room, knock out any staff if necessary, modify the plane's seating plan, conserving two extra seats, crawl back through the air vents until we reached the nearest bathroom to the terminal, get out and wait for our plane in the terminal, like the ordinary passengers we were.
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One part in particular perplexed me.
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"Why a bathroom?" I asked.
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"If you want to leap out of an air vent in the middle of a crowded terminal, be my guest," he replied, bitterly.
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So that detail was pretty excusable, but the rest was imprudent. It sounded like something out of a James Bond movie; I was about to mention this to him, but then realised that it was essentially the only way. If we got caught, at least we would get caught doing something I loved: being foolishly reckless.
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As we entered Gatwick, another part perplexed me.
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"How are we going to get into the air vents in the first place?"
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"Stop overthinking, and just follow me."
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I tried to, for a few seconds anyway, until another thought occurred to me.
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"Don't you think that it's a bit suspicious how we're traveling four thousand miles, without any bags?"
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"I think, at this moment of time, 202; bags are the least of our concerns. Even if they were, please; suggest how we would drag a couple of suitcases behind us through a few hundred meters worth of air vents."
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I remained silent after that. He had a way with words, knowing exactly how to phrase them in a way to make one feel utterly dense. So, I did exactly what he said: followed his footsteps. Quite literally, for we were walking in sync.
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Upon entering the entrance of the airport, he took a sharp right. A few dozen metres later and after a few more turns, here and there, we reached a narrow, isolated corridor. There was only one door at the end of it, with the letters STAFF ONLY blatantly sprawled across it. Striding down the corridor, his hand landed on its handle, twisting it.
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As if it were going to be open...
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My eyebrows furrowed. Why on earth would a room prohibited to the public, be left open? Surely, if you were to write STAFF ONLY on its door, the room must have held some sort of importance, that you wouldn't want any random person of the streets, entering it.
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However, when the door fully opened, and the contents of what actually lay inside it was brought to full view, I understood why no one bothered to lock it in the first place. It was a janitors closet. With mops, broomstick cleaning products, wipes... just like in any old janitors closet. And at the top of one wall of the room, clung a vent.
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A tall shelf, with cleaning equipment coating every inch of it, some even on the brink of fall off, stood in front of the wall.
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"We are going to have to climb it." Everest ordered. "Try not to move anything around too much. It will rise questions."
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I nodded, removing a couple of objects out of the shelf to create an almost clear pathway to climb.
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Everest went first, initially bouncing a foot on the bottom shelf to test its strength. It held. Soon, perching on the top of the shelf, as it were the roof of a building, he worked on taking the air vent off. With minor difficulty, he removed it, then crawled through, as I began climbing the shelf.
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I reached the top. "Move up!"
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Once I completely entered the vent, which was just about wide enough for one person, I replaced the lid back onto the wall, and we fell into a dark abyss.
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"How are you going to navigate in this?" I quizzed.
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Just then, the sound of the closet door clicking made my eyes go wide. Under the thin strips of light that fell upon Everest's face through the lid of the air vent, I saw how it remained unmoved.
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"Stop asking so many questions!" He whispered. "Just follow m–" His sentence abruptly stopped. "No." He paused for a moment, presumably collecting his thoughts, as if he made an error. "I was supposed to be on the side you are on, to lead the way."
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"It's fine. I'll be behind you. Follow my instructions. Move forward."
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I moved towards him.
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"Not my forward! Your forward!"
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I scowled. "Be specific then!"
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The shelf creaked.
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I crawled rapidly down the vent.
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"Are you looking to wake all the jet lagged passengers? Move quieter!" Everest called from behind me.
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"Oh, shut up!"
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About a minute later, we ended up at a cross section. He was so close to me, I could feel his soft breaths on the back of my neck. Or was it the air conditioning? If air conditioning was hot, then yes.
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"Left," he ordered, and I turned to the left.
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About a dozen meters later, we reached another cross section. I waited for his next order, as voices entered through the vent. They were muffled, but there were lots of them, joined with the sounds of trolleys and wheels sliding across smooth surface. We must have been at the luggage check-in.
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"Right," Everest instructed.
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I was just turning right, when the metal under me creaked.
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I tried to move, only for it to creak louder. My pulse shot up. The longer I spent at the spot, the more sound it made until I suddenly felt a jerk.
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Abruptly, he proceeded to the left of the cross section, opposite me, and his hands enveloped around my waist.
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In a swift motion, I was pulled back. If I had thought my pulse was high before, it was less than nothing compared to now. I was breathing fast; too fast for my own liking. But what else would you expect? I almost plummeted down from air vent in the middle of an airport.
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That's why you're breathing fast right, Emerald?
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Of course it was!
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"Wait," He ordered.
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"They will know something is wrong if the vents continuously creak," he explained. "That, and you would probably land on the ground if you went back there, right now."
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For some bizarre reason, I couldn't interpret what he was saying.
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"Can you remove your hands now, please?"
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In an instant, his hands dropped as if I were on fire. At least, my cheeks were.
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"What now?" I questioned.
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"When I tell you to, you have to move as fast you can across there." He instructed, referring to the part I just moved away from.
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I moved as fast as my knees would carry me, the sound of the metal bending, making me cringe.
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After a few more turns, and a lot more crawling we reached the air vent just above the control room.
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I looked through the lid. Much to my gratitude, there was no one in there. Pushing off the stern cover, we leaped out of the vent and onto the ground, one after the other.
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"We need to do this quickly," I said, hands ecstatically fumbling over the mouse of a computer.
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"Do what quickly?" A foreign voice spoke.
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My eyes widened, meeting Everest's. He didn't so much as bat an eyelash.
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Slowly, we turned to face a small young man, whose eyes narrowed, under thick rimmed glasses.
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"Well?" He persisted.
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Everest gave me a weary look out of the corner of his eye as if to say, knock him out.
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But, that was stupidity.
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I turned around, facing my back to the worker. "Don't be daft! We won't make it five feet into the plane, if they found an unconscious employee in here!" I whispered.
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"Miss, turn around!"
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I turned, flashing a sweet smile. It wasn't returned.
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"What business do you two have in here?"
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Just as I was about to come up with some pathetic excuse, the door opened and three more people stepped in. It was woman, in a blazer and a skirt and two men, also in the same outfit, minus the skirt. All in all, the woman looked the most powerful of the three. Yay, women!
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Everest, if you could actually freeze people with that glare, now would be nice, thank you.
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"What's goin' on?" The first huge man spoke. He had about as much hair on his head, as we had money.
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"These two seem to be a bit lost," Glasses replied. He turned to us. "You didn't answer my question. What are you doing in here?"
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The woman's eyes flickered up to the air vent, which was left open.
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"Oh, I see." She observed the pair of us, pursing her red stained lips. "Looks like we've got a pair of stowaways on our hands, boys." Well, at least she was smart, and didn't waste time asking stupid questions like the other guy. I must say, I quite admired–
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"Arrest them." Damn you!
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Just as the second big guy stepped forward, Everest put his hands in the air. "Woah, woah!" A completely distant tone overtook his voice. It sounded almost... soft, the velvety kind – harmless and innocent. Great, we're all going to die. "You didn't even give us a chance to explain—"
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"Save it." The guy cut him off, putting a hand on Everest's shoulder. "Let's go. You too," he said to me.
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"No, hold on—" Everest took the colossal hand off of his shoulder with ease. Although his voice sounded astonishingly glacé, his actions begged to differ, and the look on the guard's face proved that had it been anyone else, such an act would have required the manpower of a mammoth.
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"We need to ask you some questions," The woman spoke. "So, please follow us into the interrogation room, or we will have to take you by force."
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Ah, good luck with that.
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"You can question us in here," Everest rebutted.
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I watched, amused, without saying anything. Besides if I did, chances are, it would have gotten us into even more trouble than we already were in. All that crawling would have gone to waste.
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"Sir, we would like you to cooperate with us, and come into the interrogation room, or I am afraid there will be consequences," the woman said.
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"Consequences," he scoffed. Very distant indeed. "Because you couldn't ask your questions if the environment wasn't perfectly set out for you?"
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Wit? Had an unseen phantom from the air vents, possessed him?
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"Sarcasm is only deepening the hole you've dug yourself into," the way woman spoke, calmly. "I will ask you one more time–"
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"To be fair, Heather, it ain't too big ov-a deal," astonishingly, the first, hairless guy told her. "I mean, the lad's gotta point. Maybe you should jus' listen tuh him; question them in 'ere, get it ovah with."
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Losing her tranquility, the woman's eyes flared. "Have you gone ballistic, Gary? What are you—"
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"Yeah, Heather, maybe you should listen to me," Everest teased, in a honeyed tone.
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I think I'm going to faint.
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"There's no harm done," he finished.
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Ha! Just watch.
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"You," she pointed at Everest. "Stop speaking." Oh please, if she were in my position, she would have been begging him to speak.
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Her eyes then landed on me, raking me up and down. Well, this was uncomfortable.
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"You," she commanded.
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I lifted a pierced eyebrow. "Me?"
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"You haven't said much."
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"Please," Everest's still sugary voice interrupted. What was up with him? "If she begins, you'd be begging her to stop." He did it again! He read my mind!
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The woman, or perhaps I should say, Heather, glared at him before turning to me.
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"Really?" She cheered. Her expression changed as soon as her chocolate eyes landed back on me. "Let's hear it then. What are you doing in here?"
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I could evidently see what she was thinking: this is going to be easy. Unfortunately, I was going to have to rain on her parade.
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"Didn't you just tell us to save it for the interrogation room?" The smug question escaped my mouth before I could prevent it. I tried, really I did!
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On the exterior, she tried to remained calm, but I could practically see the smoke fuming out of her ears. She smiled, nevertheless, but it seemed off. "I didn't realise I would have to deal with two smart mouths?"
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"Did you just call me smart?" I placed a hand on my chest. "I knew I always liked you."
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"Flattering," she said in a flat tone. "But I'm afraid, I will have you put in prison if the next thing that comes out of your mouth isn't the answer to what you are doing in here."
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I kept my smile up, unfazed. In fact, I should have been smiling wider! Prison seemed like the perfect safe haven! At least Director couldn't get ahold of me if I were in there. "Clearly you are in need of a few brain cells. Any idiot knows that the first question you ask a suspect is their name." I tapped my temple with my index finger to emphasise her stupidity. And here I thought she was smart.
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"I am warning you," she... well, I guess, warned.
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"I mean, don't take it personally, but I could easily perform a double roundhouse kick, followed by a nutcracker choke, and escape whilst you lay collapsed on the floor. And, when they ask you what happened, you wouldn't even have a name to give."
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Her eyes narrowed. "Are you threatening me?"
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"See, you're focusing on the wrong part, Heather! The names! You must ask for the names first! It's policing 101!"
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"Do not tell me how to do my job."
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"Is that what I'm doing?" I asked, innocently.
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"Are you sure?"
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"Would you bet your life on it?"
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"I'm supposed to be the one getting answers from you!"
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"Really? How's that working out for you?"
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Her little finger twitched. "I will have you locked up until Prince George becomes king!"
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"For what?" I laughed. "Being told the truth?"
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"I mean it."
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I pouted. "Is someone looking for that promotion?"
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Her finger twitched again. "You watch your mouth."
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I looked down. "That's... tricky. Besides I was giving you free advice," I grinned. "Take it or leave it."
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She looked away. After a few moments, she glanced back at me. "What is your name, then?"
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"But we're not in the interrogation room yet!" I mocked.
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She clenched her jaw and focusing closely, I saw a tear begin to form in the corner of her eye.
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Oh, now I feel bad.
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"Forget the interrogation room!" She hollered, losing all tranquility. "Answer the goddamn question, you imbecile!"
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There goes my sympathy.
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I grinned. "But, you just said it."
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She cursed at me.
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It may have been my overactive imagination acting up again, but I could have sworn, I saw the corners of Everest's mouth twitch.
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"Thank you," I replied to Heather.
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She groaned in frustration. "Shut up!"
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"I told you, you'd be begging her to stop talking if she started," Everest made sure to remark.
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I smiled, for real this time. Why couldn't he always be like this? Such a pity.
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Heather blinked. "You know what? Fine. Fine!" She turned away. "I think I'll pull my own hair out if I speak one more word with her."
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I laughed. "I see you've been taking fashion tips from Gary."
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My humour was not appreciated by the big guy.
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"Sorry. That was mean," I apologised to him.
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"So, what exactly happened?" Heather asked Glasses, this time, knowing that it would be a hopeless case to ask either one of us.
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"I'm not sure of all the details. I came back from my break earlier than you guys, and these two were...."
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I edged closer to Everest. "This is useless! What's your Plan B?"
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"I don't have one." His voiced inched with that infamous frost, again.
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I glared. "What do you mean you don't have one? Are you telling me, you came in here without—"
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"Hey you two! Stop talking. And separate." The second guy demanded.
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I liked Gary better.
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Everest and I walked to either ends of the room, choosing to be obedient for the first time. Gary stood close behind me, whilst the second guard stood cautiously near Everest. In the center, a fuming Heather had just finished listening to watch Glasses had to say.
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She back turned to us. "It is obvious that the two you are here with criminal intentions," she said glancing up at the air vent.
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Criminal? We were only trying to change the seating plan of one your airplanes to California, so that we can board without actually paying for a ticket!
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"We will not need any further answers. It is clear that why you are here," She spoke distinctly to Everest, avoiding me.
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"Amuse me." His voice sounded syrupy, again. Alright, that's got to be a talent.
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"It is quite obvious, is it not? This is room is prone to being bombarded by stowaways. In other words, people who do not possess a plane ticket. Why? Because this is the only place with the plane's seating plan. But I am sure you already know that."
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Wow, she was smart.
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Everest's face remained unmoved. As always.
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"As you two have strongly opposed to cooperate with our interrogation protocols," She continued. "We have decided to arrest you here, right now."
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"We have?" Gary asked.
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"Shut up, Gary!" She snapped.
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"Someone's working hard for that pay rise, am I right?" I joked, smacking Gary's shoulder.
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"Tell me about it," He muttered.
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"Gary!" She thundered.
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"I mean, yes! You are under arrest," he parroted.
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Aw, Gary man.
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"Please hurry up with your arresting. Our flight is going to depart soon," I responded, cockily.
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"Make her stop talking!" She shouted.
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"What do you want me to do?" Gary quizzed.
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"You don't want to shut me up," I exclaimed. "You don't even know my name yet! How are you going to find out my name if you shut me up?"
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She closed her eyes for a moment, and spoke in a cool tone. "Alright I'll make you a deal. If you tell me your name, I'll make sure they go easy on your sentence. So, I'll ask you one more time. What is your name?" It sounded something in between a question and a command.
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I smirked. "202." Under different circumstances, I would have hated addressing myself that, but now, I realised it could finally be put to use.
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She stormed towards me. "I am not fu—"
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"Ah, ah, ah. Language, Miss. It doesn't reflect very well on your company." And trust me, I know a thing or two about companies.
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"What. Is. Your. Name."
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"You heard me."
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"You just said a few numbe—" Abruptly, her sentence stopped in midair. Suddenly she started towards me. Once she got close enough, her eyes oogled my face. "Wait, just a second." They narrowed. She gasped. "No, you're not!"
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I gasped too. "Yes, I am!"
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"Pleasure to meet you." I put forward a hand for her to shake.
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She stared dumbfounded for a while, before speaking in a monotone voice –not quite Everest-monotone, but monotone nonetheless. "The fact remains as it is. You have breached this airport's protocols. You will arrested."
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Now would be part where they all mysteriously fall into unconsciousness.
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But then, she spoke, again. "Unless you've got a £6000 cheque to pay for today's plane ticket to California... and another £5000 cheque as a gift to those who are about to get you out of this terrible situation," she hinted. "I hear the Front is worth billions." Bribery. Admirable, yet useless at this moment.
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"We don't have money on us," I replied. "We would have done things the legal way if we did!"
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"That's unfortunate," she paused. "Not even a credit card?"
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I rolled my eyes. "Yes, my invisible purse can hardly close shut, because of all the credit cards I have stashed in there."
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"At least a cheque?" She seemed to be pulling on strings at this point. Seriously how low were this woman's wages?
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"I told you—"
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Hold on! That might actually work.
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"On second thoughts," I smiled. "Can you give us a second?" I pulled Everest aside, without waiting for their response. "We can do that. We can write them a cheque!"
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Despite the expressionless expression on his face, I could practically see his brain working like a complex system of clockworks. And then: "You can't use your account. Director will keep track of any transactions, and the last thing you want him to see is that you purchased two flight tickets to California."
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Way to drop a bombshell.
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My face dropped. "Oh yeah... I don't remember all the numbers, anyway," I can shamefully admit this was true. I never really bothered with all of those digits. Then, an idea worked its way into my mind. "I don't suppose, you can use your bank account, do you?"
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He began walking away.
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Cone on, again?
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"I mean, do you have one?" I called after him. "Or do you, at least somehow, have £11,000 sitting in there?"
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Without answering me, he went straight to Heather. "I'll write you the cheque."
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So he does?
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I'll take his walking away from me as a "That's a good idea, Emerald! I don't know why I didn't think of that before, but instead of admitting it, I shall ignore you."
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That brought us to the cheque book. How he was scribbling away the details onto that soon to be precious piece of paper, and how I stood there gawping at his ability to remember all of that information.
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He filled his name in last. Some part of me found myself wondering if he did that deliberately. However the most interesting bit was that, from my side elevated, birds eye view, I made out two names.
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Unfortunately (and I'm guessing also deliberately), despite the neatness of the rest of the details, his name was written in the most atrocious writing known to man. It was visual torture. It butchered written English. It was one that you'd have to look at for a few moments, rather than a rapid sly glimpse (like I was doing), to fully decipher. He handed it to heather, who practically had pound signs in her eyes as she took it.
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"I'm going to have to check this. If it's valid, I'll print off your tickets."
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Get you a guy who takes you on holidays like Everest, over here –or whatever the hell they're doing.
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In addition, 'Gary' just resembles a guard name. I think I know quite a few security Garys... off tv. It goes without saying, 'Gary' just seemed to be the perfect name for our insignificant security guard.
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