During my four-hour coach ride, I observed a lot. For starters, they drove on the right side of the road, here. Next, the average house in this country was at least twice the size of the average U.K. home. Along my prolonged en route, I witnessed at least six marches. Interesting place.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡgpcdObfJiy
However, I soon came to realise, it wasn't what I was going to see on to the way to LA, but rather what I was going to see in LA, that I should have prepared myself for.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡafWgGGvGql
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡLiw36hXSMP
I saw to see myself. Everywhere.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡK3fXh39wNr
Let me explain. In the heart of Los Angeles, as soon as I set foot out of that coach, I saw myself. On an enormous screen. On a stage. In front of a crowd. One which was relieved I wasn't in.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5XG2enIK49
My initial thought was, what the hell? But reading the words under my picture, I understood.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6PrDSxUQqH
202 discovered, but are we to buy our way out of cancer?
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡFbLU82YhzL
The image changed.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJEJpHYMpJR
Make a stand for our corrupt health care system, before it takes its burden on our children.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡyPG0szynqZ
So that's what it was about. It was a protest. America didn't have a free healthcare system. That meant when (and if) 202 released... they would have to buy it. And that meant, clinic owners would be given the chance to exploit patients, which in turn would mean, most citizens wouldn't be able to afford 202.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ46aP1jSZBr
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡLk6vJNuwcd
Americans had never dodged a bullet so good.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡnL34MvEkT5
For a moment, I marvelled at their the timing of this protest – it screamed coincidence from miles away. But then I rethinking this idea, I laughed, and even Everest's glare didn't stop me.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡjXbuNcNGco
It wasn't a coincidence, it was a motive. A scheme.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7YJdus1YZe
"Don't you see?" I chuckled. "They were expecting us to be here! I knew someone would spill!" Come on, only everyone in the train station, a part of London, the airport and Vegas saw us. Hoping no one would recognise me at the rate those newspapers were being printed out, was a tad too hopeful.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡcn0frML67E
"Stop drawing attention," Everest growled.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡbrCmWqzJ6M
But it was too late, someone had already noticed me. I knew this, because they yelled my name. Both '202' and 'Emerald'. This caused at least a dozen people to turn around.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ8eKRsektdk
"It's her!" Someone from the crowd shouted. "She's come!"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡHpHHF9uqfB
A woman ran to me. "Oh my– thank God, you're here! You-you need to speak for us! We're here to listen! You need to speak!"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5r3IOZ9nJf
Speak for them? I looked over at the crowd. In front of that? About what? Oh, hi! I know you guys are pretty bummed about the cure not being free in the US due to your crap health care system, but on the bright side, 202 was made wrong and will kill you like it's going to kill me, so ya'll should be thanking your lucky stars, right now. Peace!
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡaSuUKW94pn
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡp7M6PsfjTv
But then again, I couldn't do nothing. As far as the world knew, the cure was real, and despite knowing the truth, we were going to keep it that way until we got Gemma's cure.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVYWYHKYQ8H
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6izAdkxnpW
"Speak out for us!" Someone else shouted.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKO4xUTZadS
—these people seemed desperate.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡF8RB7zm5pv
"Please!" Another man pleaded. Okay, now that was an offer I couldn't refuse.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNwOn71HEp6
"We need to get out of here," Everest said, grabbing my wrist.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡA9UFHPyGZL
I'll be honest, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Give in to Everest's cold glare, or follow the people and stand up for humanity?
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡzFUrh10D7q
Then, like a bathtub filling up with water, one by one, my name echoed in their mouths. They were chanting my name. They were actually chanting my name!
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9UWXh3ZZHo
I went with the second option.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5iy0XfQwWQ
"No." I pulled back.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡhvvbWMdWqk
"No?" He shot icicles at me.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡnzfjwwmww4
"No. This has to end. We can't keep running from the Front."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡUCnsDkHtQD
He stepped towards me. "You're not going to run anywhere when you're dead!"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡj89Ok5Bx21
"Oh, come off it. They already know we've come here." was talking about the Front. "There's no point in running anymore."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡSpB7J8E6Ea
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡazNx1qSJTJ
I turned, walking in the direction of the podium.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡndSw2cCDKF
"202!" I heard him call after me, but ignored it with all the force I can muster, and that was hard, trust me – it sounded like he was ready to kill me there and then.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡFD5hKOppV4
Cheers reverberated from within the sea of people, as I walked to the stage with artificial confidence. Before I knew it, I was standing above the very audience that I'd feared showing myself to. I expected to only see politically engrossed, middle-aged people in the crowd, but to my surprise, I was met with all sorts of age groups. I waited, as their cheers slowly quietened.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡz5DmDFNwoG
A formally dressed man was standing beside me There was a formally dressed man on the stage with me, who offered a small smile. There were many cameras in front and several microphones on the podium. Media. Just the thing I'd been avoiding, this past week or so. Awesome.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡgMU8iWlVA6
Everything about this reminded me of the evening we launched 202. I always found myself wondering why on earth they would launch a drug that they got wrong. There had to be more to it than money. And every time, it all came back to him. Back to the guy with the glacial blue eyes, so dark that you'd have look at them in the perfect lighting just to make out that they were blue. The same eyes, that were penetrating through my own eyes from the front row, as I took the podium. It was because of him that they launched 202. It was because they launched 202, that nobody targeted him, nobody chanted 'Everest' even though he was the real cure. Because he was the only one they wanted to protect. But he defied it, that's why he was standing there today – and for what?
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAfJGxuuWTp
The formally dressed man approached me. "You don't have to do or say anything you don't want to. We understand you didn't come prepared, so just answer the questions they ask you," he said into my ear.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1tvFQ9kDGJ
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkWve5ObrJL
"The audience, the press, anyone."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡxk1h0yMvvF
I nodded, ignoring the small stomach drop I felt at that.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVw9rbZBwDh
"She looks sixteen! She should be in high school!"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡfXeLcjznKj
That was the first shout, it sounded like it came from a middle aged woman.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9iDaAEIm9d
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ25KbwWb7sO
"She could be at my high school," said another younger looking boy all flirtatious.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡpILDtYX2mH
"Shut up, dude," the friend next to him, said.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlv0ZFADoXN
"She's alright," added another.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBZSmapilwK
"I thought this was going to be political," I hissed to the man next to me.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡaWtWzWUwZg
"Daaaaamn! That's an accent!" Another member yelled. Apparently the numerous microphones in front of me picked up on what had said.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡelMfkrPYPN
I brought the mic close to my lips, looking at that guy dead in the eyes. "Okay, you know what? Shut up... but thanks!"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡLrMEOX36jA
The man in the suit quickly took over.
"Good afternoon Ladies and Gentleman–" Gentlemen! "We very are privileged to have Emerald Reese with us, today." The man sort of paraphrased every Traitor Director had said in the launch evening but at a much faster pace. He turned to me. "Thank for being here with us today, would you mind answering a few questions?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRtwkp5gkCg
What choice do I have, I almost said. Instead I nodded – a tad too vigorously courtesy to all that adrenaline pooling in body.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAQBm5VOVUE
Silence lapsed over the audience. Then, a member of the press who had brought along an assistant with a camera the size of a vacuum cleaner, put their hand up. I answered it.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡIF6vjUsm1M
"If the cure was discovered when you were born. Why hadn't it been released until nineteen years later?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡWSfscFytZa
There. A sensible question. And one which I didn't have an answer for.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJA1lX6hL2b
"Safety precautions," I lied, raking my eyes over the series of microphones laid before me on the podium, unsure of which one to speak into.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡqLQwgarJxs
The pressman spoke again. "But isn't nineteen years overdoing it little?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡvukLXxqv1p
Ah, screw it, I'll just speak into the air.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡGL0H6XOnIQ
"You'd be surprised." At how they still managed to get it wrong.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡy8CpFSA7C7
"But, imagine all the lives you could have already saved if it had been released earlier," he challenged.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡz8BUTyrj4t
Maybe it was the fact that I knew what I was about to say would be broadcast all over the world that provoked me to say: "And if they got it wrong? Imagine all the lives lost, then. Imagine all the hope we would have given. 202 isn't a drug that fights off a short-term illness like the tradition cold. It fights cancer, and well, malignant cancer stays for life. They had to monitor me throughout my entire life to ensure the drug was efficient all the way; to ensure that it didn't just..." I looked directly into the camera. "Wear off." Enjoy the show, Director.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJKeJrkGfIp
"How does it feel to be given such responsibility and recognition for something so serious at such a young age? At an age where you'd rather be partying than attending political talks."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6hyIHeBhld
This one I had an easy answer for. "I mean, that depends on how you look at it. The recognition is something that I've just received recently. But, the responsibility? It's always been there. Ever since I was young, knowing that this was my parents' legacy, it's been nothing but a huge responsibility for me." This wasn't a lie. After all, they did create the original cure. "It's what keeps me going, even if I don't act all too responsible at times." As I said this, I was speaking to one person in the audience in particular. "Some people my age would probably prefer to be off partying, but that's not me."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡoUl0OfzgyD
Someone else raised their hand. "How do you think the world would turn around after the cure is released?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJioY1QiI51
I had to think about this question before answering it. "Right now, cancer is a deadly, lethal, merciless disease that is often too simply referred to as a 'terminal disease'," I made air speeches. "But it's so much more that. It strikes fear into the hearts of innocents. It grips faith and crushes it under its hand. If a war, that kills millions, is man-made evil, then cancer, which also kills millions, is natural evil." My eyes flickered to Everest. "But, I think if we pull this off," I choose my words purposefully, "we could save the world from this natural evil. We can end the war between man and nature. And we will win."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7ciGVZUwgf
I didn't expect it to happen, but the crowd erupted into a storm of cheers just as I said the last word.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKF95GYlffT
"Let's talk about the release of the 202 drug and how our national healthcare organisation is going to deal with it," the man in the suit announced. "I'm sure you are aware, that in the US, we are not privileged to free health care as other nations are. What are your views on this?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTZchXd8gWe
Wow, now I really had to think carefully about I was going to say if I didn't want to piss off a bunch of Americans. "It's a tragedy that the health care system is so biased in this country that it takes protests like these for your voices to be heard. And personally, I don't think there's much I can do about the system. However, in terms of 202, I'm sure I can get them to negotiate vaccination fees with clinic owners. I don't want anyone in any country to feel as though they have to buy their way out of cancer," I referred to the one-liner on the screen. "There are many ways to make profit. Medicine is not one of them."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡh4qzKlzESP
I could only wish to be this mature all the time.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTCv3Ib23rh
There was a whole minute worth of cheers later, and then another question was asked:
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXkh9CenKuj
"Speaking of your parents, we hear that at least forty percent of profits made post-release of 202 is actually theirs, but due to their passing, the money will go to you."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYLnpl8KUMD
Huh. Hadn't put much thought into that. "I guess."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKGffKXrN1S
"202 is estimated to make seventy billion US dollars worldwide
Oh damn, no wonder why Director was so keen to release it.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5Ycm7PAuz5
"That means you will receive around ten-point-four billion dollars, as part of your share," Oh. "Even with this, what do you aspire to become? What ambitions do you strive for? Any career pathways?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOyQbXckI67
They were asking me what occupation I was planning to take up when in the future.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlRNA6yyylz
"Um, I want to be a..." I'd thought about this same question many times. When I was younger, I had the childish dream to be a teacher. And then, when I was in my early teens, physics caught my attention. I was abnormally smart; if I wanted to, I could have become a physics professor, or a surgeon, or maybe, due to my like for literature, a writer. However, recently the idea of becoming a businesswoman seemed most suitable. I didn't really have a passion for it or anything, but the idea worked well. It was simple – the Front was a multibillionaire company, and everyone always spoke of the figures I'd make after 202 was released, courtesy to my parents' work. So business worked fine. But with everything that had been going on since the launch evening, I came to know the dark side of the business industry. It wasn't something that I was ready to involve medicine into. Not out of people's miseries.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡqqyCNFrna1
I wasn't looking at the crowd anymore. I was looking into the distance, at the hills of Los Angles, when I said, "A humanitarian."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsYzjaxwufC
"A humanitarian?" His eyebrows arched up. "All due respect, Miss Reese, that– that isn't exactly an occupation."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBBupcAXL8j
"It isn't," I agreed, focussing my attention back onto the stranger. "But I figured, with ten-point-four billion US dollars, I wouldn't need one."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkzKTbxyDVI
The man straightened his tie. "Uh, would you mind elaborating?
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡFoHfIRMel2
"I don't want to sound like a beauty pageant contestant here, but um I think... free healthcare is something thing that should be available in all countries. Forget free healthcare – healthcare in general should be available everywhere. In every country. You might complain about having to pay health insurance, but I can assure you, there is a child out there on the other side of the world, who can only pray that such facilities even existed in their third world country. I want to gift something to the world. When I'm older, I want to build schools, and hospitals, and better shelter for the people in those nations. I want to visit sick patients; I want advanced nations to see how life would be, had they lived in a different location. I want to give to these people. So I guess, I want to be a humanitarian."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRWElmQWjB5
For a while, everything muted. My ears had muted. All I saw were the opened mouths and raised hands of the members of the audience. Then, it hit me. The sound. The ear-splitting sound of cries.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡDWEoPQVouR
I was so infatuated with it, that it was only when I glanced at the grandfather clock at the very end when I was brought back to reality.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ79gOoYFbd0
I had to get to Gemma. If I wanted any of those things I wanted to happen, I need to get to her. I tapped on the guy's shoulder. "Hey man, thank you for the opportunity," which went completely divergent to the train wreck I had anticipated it to be. "But I really need to be somewhere now."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡe4XSpkImDk
"Don't thank me, thank you! Thank you for coming out and speaking out, today." Yes, that was so what I was planning. "And," he winked at me, "best of luck." He took my hand and raised it in the air. "Emerald Reese, everyone."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrhh6F6WBvq
You know how Elvis Presley probably felt whenever he finished performing on stage? The support that exploded from the crowd then, came close to that feeling.
I was about to leave when the man's hand stopped me. He handed me something.copyright protection12ＰＥＮＡＮＡykXoZ1V6jr
"It's a hard drive containing your speech from today. Thank you." copyright protection12ＰＥＮＡＮＡXn6rJeZKQ4
I turned the small object in my hand, smiled at the man, and pocketed it.copyright protection12ＰＥＮＡＮＡRbhOKUMvRS
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡtCAJqZH5aU
Climbing off the stage, I sheepishly dragged my feet in Everest's direction, who waited for me with his arms crossed.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6pZ4hpo0L2
I am so dead.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkckCiZJfBe
On the bright side, if he killed me, at least I wouldn't have to speak with Gemma. Good, right?
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡF4RgNhfvnq
I either expected him to scold me without missing a beat, or to begin walking off before I caught up to him like he always did – and when I say always, I meant. Every. Goddamn. Time.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡquPpz6OY7A
But he didn't. He waited until I had fully caught up to him, and even then he didn't start walking. He was so going to kill me!
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0rMl45lNkW
Then he spoke. "If you can act that mature up there," he looked up at the stage. "Do you choose to annoy the hell out of me deliberately?"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ201TgPawky
Blinking, I opened my mouth. Then closed it. And then, I opened it again. And closed it. When I opened it a third time, some sound came out. Yes! Finally! "Did I miss something?" I frowned, perplexed. "What? No you are going to get yourself killed? No we need to move? No you're an idiot? Where are the bossy orders, the snappy responses? Come on, let's hear them."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡWL2LbCSZAZ
His jaw clenched. I was flirting with danger.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡzBrmWvshiM
"Not this time," he replied curtly. Then after a while, "Your responses were... reasonable."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡdkNfd44oAo
I blinked again. A few times, actually. "You just complimented me," I gaped. "You've never complimented me! You've never even come close—"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXwa0ilCalc
"I get the point."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9VNAhK6K1o
"Oh," I stopped. "Sorry."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡxfJkuXoymY
"Don't be," he said flatly. "What you did was stupid."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXjv7jNtWXO
"You just said it was reasonable!" I gasped. "Make your mind up, mister!"
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ87JWH1GNLI
"I said your answers were reasonable. But going up there? That was stupidity speaking."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡciXWDsU10g
"Hey, hey, this is America! It's a free country! I can go up there if I want! Besides..." I looked over at the podium, longingly. "...for a moment, for just a short moment, it was nice. When they asked about humanitarianism, it felt like I had this whole picturesque life just waiting to be lived. I forgot about 202, I forgot about the Front, I forgot about Reynolds Corporation... I forgot about everything for a moment."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0YAw5UjyQh
His eyes lingered on me for a while after I finished. Then:
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡnZo6W57DTT
"So did I."
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡl6cj3PLXQM
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡeRKOnQJHpz
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYMymSvs08m
Yo, Evs, wanna tell us anything?
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡUts6NvVytM
P.s. This chapter's all about Emerald because it's the 19th chapter and she's 19. Okay, I lied, it was just a coincidence.
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkHD5w1VfIk
Thanks for reading!
16Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPG6o3ZTv01