"Is it just me, or is this one bigger than the one they had in London?" I asked, looking up.
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"Let's go," Everest responded, slipping into the revolving door, which by the way, was coated in gold, top to bottom.
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"Is it just me or does this building have way less security than the one in London?" Honestly! There were no guns this time, no face scanners, no locks. In fact, the door was wide open for any local pedestrian to walk through as if they were entering a mall!
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However, in terms of grandeur, this building gave the London Reynolds Corporation a run for all it was worth.
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"Is it just me or is there way more gold in this building, than the London one?"
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"Will you stop?" Everest snapped.
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"What? It's a genuine question. Did you know that if you collected all the gold in the world and put it into a huge cube, the cube will be just big enough to fit under the Eiffel Tower?" I read that in a children's science book a little over twelve years ago. "Now, I know where it all goes." I gazed around the isolated building.
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His glower was the only reason I shut up after that.
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Despite my adrenaline infused enthusiasm for all the gold in the building, that was all there was. The gold, that is. Literally, except for a pair of elevator doors on one wall, the place was an expensive imitation of an abyss. A golden abyss. Whatever you want to call it, the fact remained that it was absolutely, frustratingly, empty. Yeah, not even a receptionist's desk.
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"What, so they want us to barge into her room?"
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"Be quiet," I mocked, turning around – choice, for I stupidly collided into a person.
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It was a woman who stumbled a few feet back, due to our touchy encounter.
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"Sorry!" I apologised.
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"No, no, it's perfectly alright," she spoke, straightening her clothes. "I was just going to say—" that was the moment she lifted her head. Her mouth closed briefly, and then opened, offering a weary smile. "You seem a bit... lost."
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"Just confused. And a bit lost." I laughed, not that there was anything particularly humorous in what I had just said, but to make her feel a little less terrorised.
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"Do you have an appointment with someone?" Her voice was some what strained. I couldn't blame her; Gemma probably only hired people who despised Emerald Reese with a passion.
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"We want to see– hey!" Gemma, I would have said if Everest hadn't barged me aside.
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"Who's in charge?"
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I knew I could always trust Everest to be tentative.
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"Miss Reynolds...?" She said it like the answer should have been self-explanatory from the name Reynolds Corporation.
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"Where is she?" He demanded.
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"Uh," she blinked. "I apologise, who are you?"
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"We just need to speak to Gemma," I answered, in a softer tone than the Iceberg. Even so, she seemed even more fearful when I spoke. Oh, the irony.
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"Do you have an appointment?"
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Yes, Gemma Reynolds invited 202 for tea and discussed appointment plans with her on warm autumn's day.
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"I'm afraid unless you are an employee, you cannot go in without an appointment."
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Of course she knew I didn't have an appointment! And of course she knew Gemma wouldn't have given me one in a million years! It was just a nice way of saying "you can't come in" without the fear of having your boulders dislocated by 202.
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"Go in where? There's nothing here!" I waved my arms around dramatically at the dustless venue.
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She let out a nervous laugh. "Of course there is. You see, we have these facial recognition scanners by the elevators. The doors only open to employees. Each employee has a specific number and each floor represents a range of these numbers. The elevator will take them to that number then to the floor which their number is allocated in."
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"But how would they know which floor to find someone else on?"
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"Every employee is required to learn every other employees' numbers if they want to find who they're looking for."
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Sounds like a pain in the backside kind of system.
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"Nonetheless, it's an efficient way to maintain security," she added.
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"Wouldn't it be easier to just have a receptionists desk here or something?"
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"This system is the most modern way to maintain order."
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I thought for a second. "So, if no one actually has any business beyond those elevator doors, then this whole area here," I gestured to the titanic entrance. "Is just for decoration?"
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The woman looked like she didn't have an answer for this question. I couldn't blame her, so I asked her something else instead.
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"Er... what if the facial recognition doesn't recognise someone?"
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She looked a bit more confident then next time she spoke. "That's why we have automatic firearms, alongside the doors."
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There it is.
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"Stop terrorising the girl," a deep voice spoke behind the woman. A man. He was dark and stood so tall, I had to tilt my head up to make eye contact. Beside him, cowered a smaller, thinner male.
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"It's my job to keep the place secure," the woman retaliated.
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"What if they're just looking for a job..." I muttered to myself.
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"Fair point. It's a stupid system, but Gemma insists upon it. Gum?" the big man held out a packet of Extra. Strange, and despite myself I took it.
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"I'm Bernard. I was Robert's closest friend and associate." He held out his hand, and I felt a tightening in my chest and regretted taking the gum offer. No friend or associate of a murderer was good news. Despite this, I shook off the chill that ran down my spine and took his huge hand in mine.
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"Emerald," I shook the hand as sternly as I spoke, maybe a little too stern, for he winced, causing me to loosen my grip a little, but quickly covered it.
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"I know," he offered a rigid smile, flexing his (now red) fingers and glanced over my shoulder. He pushed the small guy in front. "This is Joseph; he an intern."
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Being etiquette about this useless introduction, I shook Jospeh's hand too.
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Bernard looked over my shoulder. "And you are...?"
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It looked as though Bernard was waiting for Everest to shake his hand.
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"I assume you're here for Gemma?" Bernard half asked, half stated. "Wait," he chuckled. "I'm not assuming. Brian already told me."
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Of course he did.
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"Can we see her?" I requested, nicely with a touch of mindfulness.
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"No," he replied curtly.
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Well, I tried.
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I advanced forward. "I wasn't asking."
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They all took a tentative step back.
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"Woah," Bernard surrendered, but his face didn't exposed the slightest hint of panic. "Calm down, tiger! Before you go all nuclear bomb on me, give me a chance to explain."
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To be honest, I was expecting something along the lines of: "It's a security breach." Or, "you're the last person she wants to see," or even a "you might kill her, and we can't exactly allow that to happen." But what he actually said was worse.
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"She's not here."
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To simplify, and to put it in the most elementary sentence possible, it took the piss.
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I blinked. "What?" My voice strongly contradicted my back breaking efforts to maintain a gentle impression.
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They all took another tentative step back.
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"Gemma isn't in the building at this moment of time," Bernard explained.
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I blinked again. "She's not here?"
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"That is literally what I said the first time," there was no cockiness in his voice.
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"She's not here?" I repeated, the unconscious part of me hoping that if I asked it repeatedly, she might mystically fabricate before us.
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"Is she always like this?" Bernard asked Everest.
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"She's worse," the traitor replied in a tranquil tone.
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I, on the other hand, found it profoundly difficult to speak in the same composure. "This is ridiculous! How the hell is she not here?!"
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"It's pretty self explanatory," Bernard responded. "Her body left the buildi—"
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Before I could consider it, my hands were on the guy's collars. "Do you have any idea what we've been through, trying to locate that she-devil?! We suffered through a forest! We got soaked in a monsoon of a rainfall in that stupid city! I had be nice to the brother of the man who killed my parents! And, and, we almost got thrown in jail trying to catch a mere ride to this godforsaken country—"
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He inched his head back in a spasm of agitation. "I'm, uh, sorry that you had to go through all of that—"
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"–so did we really scavenge for her this far just, just to find out—"
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"—but, Gemma, she's on—"
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"—that she's yet to be found?"
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"—important business matters."
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"—because, honestly—" I stopped, my eyes narrowing into slits. "What business matters?"
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He opened his mouth as if he were about to answer the question but then stopped. "Highly confidential. I'm afraid I can't tell you."
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Right then, I ready to invert his rib cage. He must have sensed this, because the next thing he said was satisfactory. "All I know is that she's somewhere over the Golden Gates."
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I let go of his collars and decided to take a different approach. "Tell her to come back, then."
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He responded with a chuckle. "That goes beyond my pay grade. And if I were to do such an absurd thing, I wouldn't even have a pay grade."
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"I'll triple your pay!" I blurted some unrealistic promise. I was desperate, okay.
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"That's very generous of you, but even if I did, I doubt she'd actually come."
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Oh my God!
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"So what you're telling us, Bernard, is that we literally – and may I emphasise, literally – crossed an ocean for someone who won't cross a goddamn bridge for us? Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
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Through that hard exterior, a small hint of sympathy flashed across his face. "I'm, erm, sorry you had to go through all of that, but I don't know what you want me to do. I can't tell you where she is, and I can't tell her to come back."
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"You—" I stopped when a middle aged Reynolds employee stepped out of the revolving door, trying her hardest to conceal the terror in her face upon seeing me. About half a dozen other employees, just coming in, mirrored her impression. "Walk on," I instructed, as they scurried towards the elevators, muttering each other's position numbers to one and other – or giving warning signals to each other about the presence of a certain someone.
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"Maybe we should move to someplace, more private," Bernard offered.
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Someplace where you won't frighten my workers off.
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I let him lead us to the elevators, with the woman and the smaller guy following a safe distance afar from us. The inside of the elevator was none but gold. It came as a huge surprise. Bernard prodded four digits into the elevator board, and after that everything went silent – until the ding of the elevator announced our arrival at floor what-ever-number-he-typed.
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The large room was barely furnished; only a white table on one end, and a metal locker on the other. The walls were weird; they had straight lines streaking through them as if there were compartments hidden behind the walls. Or maybe it was just the Reynolds' hilarious style of decor.
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Oh, and there was a man in the room. He seemed to be awaiting our arrival, for he spoke immediately as he marched over to us, with a still face.
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"For introductory purposes: Welcome," his words seemed off – so off, they could have fallen off the edge of the Earth. It was what he said next that proved this cynic. "However, I think you should be well informed that I don't appreciate troublemakers."
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"How strange, you work for the Reynolds, then," I shot back.
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He let out a dry laugh that quickly came to a halt. "I'd be heedful with that mouth of yours, especially regarding where you are standing."
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I looked around. "A rather poorly furnished room?"
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"I don't like to repeat myself, Miss Reese."
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"Who's he?" I asked Bernard.
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"Mark Hemisphere," Mark Hemisphere said.
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I sustained a snort. "Those are like two actual words in the dictionary."
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"That's very didactic; I never knew," he replied, blandly.
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You're just embarrassed.
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"He's my boss," Bernard informed me in a much gentler tone than that Hemisphere.
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"I thought you were the manager," I replied.
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"Mr Hemisphere co-owns the building. He is one of Robert Reynolds' closest friends and has worked for the Reynolds for sixteen whole years."
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Robert Reynolds' closest friend rang in my ears several times. And really? Another person who isn't Gemma?
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"Look, we didn't come here to meet every bloody Reynolds worker in America. We came to see Gemma," I said impatiently.
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"'Bloody,'" Mark rolled the word on his tongue as if it weren't English.
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"Tell us where Gemma is," I insisted, getting right to the point.
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"It's not as easy as that," he bit. "You see, we can't."
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"Yes, you bloody well can!"
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Mark glared at Bernard, all fiery.
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"I tried to tell her! She wouldn't listen!" Bernard sulked.
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"Who's the boy?" Marked asked.
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"Goes by the name Everest," Bernard replied, as if Everest weren't there. "I still don't know his business here."
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Neither do I.
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Mark's eyes scanned over Everest. "Looks like a prettier descendant of Zeus."
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Now, this – was amusing. If I were Mark, I'd have taken a step back, because from where I was standing, I could just about feel the murderous energy radiating off of Everest. I have to say, if they had continued talking like this, I might have actually liked these people.
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Except, the next thing Mark said begged to differ.
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He turned to me. "Despite being a big man," he gestured to Bernard, "Bernard over here, lacks self esteem. That's why he brought you to me," he took a step towards me. "So I'll ask you nicely, once. Get out."
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I blew a bubble; the gum burst a few inches away from Mark Hemisphere's face.
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A moment went by. And then he spoke. "You're desperate. You can't leave this place without Gemma's cure. But, you won't get anything out of us, so I suggest you leave, instead of wasting your time."
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That sounded reasonable, except it was hopeless. I came here to get Gemma's cure, and I will not leave the States until I had it in my hand. The only issue was that I was stuck playing tag after Gemma, and these infuriatingly adamant people were not helping.
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Unless I hypnotised the information out of them. Literally.
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"And before you try it, your hypnosis won't work in here," blasted Mark deadpanned, almost reading my intentions. "This place is filled with receptors which will release a signal that will turn your brain to jelly if you try it."
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Oh, I see what they did. They led me to the most 202-proof part of the building. Smart. But not smart enough.
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"Okay, fine," I withdrew. "We'll go. But," I looked directly at Bernard. "You know you were working for a murderer, right?"
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"Mark's no murderer."
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"I'm talking about Robert," I stated as if there weren't any guns concealed in the walls, all pointing at me.
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Marked frowned a little, while Bernard scratched his head. "I don't know what you're talking about." It sounded more like a question that a statement, to be honest.
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"Not only that, but you were also his friend, I believe that's what I heard you say earlier," I continued, glancing at Bernard. "I wouldn't be surprised if you took part in the attack as well."
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"What attack?" Bernard's Acting skills: pending.
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"You would know," I responded in my best Everest impression before turning to blasted Mark. "And you. You said you've held your position here for how long? Oh, that's right, sixteen whole years. So, the same goes for you."
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Mark, in contrast to Bernard, let out a laugh as if the whole situation was comical to him.
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"Is that supposed to threaten me? You have nothing that could prove your absurd accusations, little girl."
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"Oh, no don't worry, we have plenty of proof back at the Front. But, of course they'd never actually publish them because that would mean their own dirty secret will come out too." All of this was true.
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"So where are you getting at? By the looks of it, you seem trapped."
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I let out a humorless laugh. "Please, let me finish. As I was saying, I'm not with them anymore," This was also true. "And, oh! Look what I happened to pocket just before I left." I dramatically pulled out the cheap hard drive the protest man gave me, as if it held leagues more value than it actually did.
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However, Mark wore a bored expression.
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"It's a hard drive made by the Front." This was a lie. "And you know how advanced they are with their tech, right?" I asked this as if it were something even a moth would have known. "See this pretty button, here?" I pointed at some imaginary button. "If I press it, all the information on the hard drive will be delivered to every single newspaper station within a forty-seven mile radius. And I hear signal reception is really good in here," I added in a mocking whisper.
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Mark's face slackened just a bit. Yes!
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Of course, I am.
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"I don't bluff."
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"I don't believe you," Mark cut through. Sharp fella.
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"Then, let's push the button and find out." I was also pushing my luck by saying this.
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"I hope that smile stays on when you're in jail," I stalled.
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Someone cleared their throat in that moment. It was the skinny dude, Joseph, I think his name was.
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"Actually, Sir, if you don't mind me saying," he started with the uttermost frightened respect, "I wouldn't test my luck. I attend MIT, and I hear these people are top notch with their technology. And I must grudgingly concede, they are more advanced than Reynolds Corporation by at least fourteen-point eight-two percent, an Oxford study found."
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Thanks, Joseph... you absolute dumbass.
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I leaped at the opportunity. "Yes!" Maybe a bit too eagerly. "I mean... that's all true. You, Sir, are looking at seven life sentences, right here in my palm," I lied limitlessly.
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For once, since this soul-sucking encounter began, at last, Mark Hemisphere looked defeated.
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"What do you want?" he spoke through his teeth like uttering those four words took all the newtons in his body out of him.
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Mark's face seemed to be beyond conflicted as he hesitated with what his next movements were to be.
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"Seven life sentences," I sang, jovially.
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Letting out a frustrated groan, he moved over to a lonely laptop on the table at the end of the room. "Even if you weren't 202, I would have killed you by now just for possessing such a despicably infuriating attitude."
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I smiled. "Eight."
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A key on the laptop broke under his finger.
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"202," Everest warned, standing beside me.
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I flickered my eyes up at him.
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"Don't push it," he somewhat growled.
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"Is somebody jealous?" I whispered. "Don't worry, you will always be my first victim of annoyance."
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Looking into his artic glare, I immediately regretted saying that.
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"Once you have her location, I want to see you destroy that hard drive in here, before my own eyes," Mark announced.
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I raised an eyebrow. "Hmm. I must look incredibly stupid, mustn't I? Perhaps I ought to get a makeover..." I stared right into Mark's firelike eyes. "I'll destroy the hard drive when we're out of this room, and you'll make sure that I leave with that address in my hand. Are we clear?"
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His glared at me in pure and utter fury.
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"Are we clear?" I repeated.
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He remained still for a few seconds, but eventually nodded. Once.
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I smiled. "Good, so we're singing from the same song sheet."
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"We have a tracker on her," Mark growled, hands fumbling angrily over the keyboard. "It will take time to load."
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"About six hours," he said it in a somewhat sadistic tone.
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"Six hours?" I exclaimed, dumbfounded.
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"You heard me," he responded triumphantly.
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"That's preposterous! What's the point of having a tracking device if it will take hours to actually track her?"
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"The tracker is located inside her. Automatically stimulating it will send a small shock through her body; she'll know she's being tracked. Doing it this way, although lengthy, will ensure she doesn't find out that you're on her heels."
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I swallowed, clenching and unclenching my fists. "You better be telling the truth."
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Bernard noticing my agitation, said, "But, if it's just the cure that you really need, there is someone you can go to."
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"Bernard," Stupid Mark interrupted in his stupid fiery voice.
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"No, no, let the kind man speak," I insisted.
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"Absolutely not. Bernard get out—"
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I wasn't really interested in what Bernard had to say before, but Mark's ballistic reaction to it evoked a tender sort of curiosity in me. Yes, that and the fact that whatever Bernard was about to say was probably very impressive.
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"Say it," I instructed.
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"Who are you to order my employer around—" Mark started.
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"Seven life sentences, Mark, seven." I interrupted.
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"Dr Leonardo Sterling," Bernard said at last.
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My eyes drooped in uninterest. "Yeah? Who's that?"
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Bernard opened him mouth.
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"Bernard," Mark interrupted sternly, "Why don't you leave the talking to me." Something about the way he said it, made me frightened for Bernard just a little bit.
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"Yes, Sir." Bernard curtly nodded.
Alright, now I want to know copyright protection10ＰＥＮＡＮＡXG6MdmkSu9
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"Who's Leonardo Sterling?"
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"Sterling; he's a doctor," Mark replied.
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"Well, duh," I responded, "What else?"
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"And he owns a clinic in at least fourteen states."
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"Okay..?" So he owned a few hospitals. I still failed to see what made him so significant.
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"He's also an FDA commissioner."
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I restrained a gasp.
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So that was what made him so significant.
"That means, only he can approve Gemma's drug!" Of course. He must have been some doctor. On average it took about a minimum of thirteen years to be promoted into becoming FDA commissioner. Add that onto a medical degree, we're talking twenty years in the industry. I wouldn't have been surprised if it were an ancient man we were talking about. 14Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡjB43Ft1qxx
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Mark nodded once.
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"So, he must know where it the drug is! Or how to get it, at least!" Screw Gemma, all I needed was a five minute talk with this guy!
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"Except there's one complication," Mark deadpanned, "he's not very fond of you."
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Oh, for God's sake.
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Bernard and the woman nodded solemnly to Mark's words.
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"What? Why?" I demanded.
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"He's knows Gemma very well, and she didn't exactly illustrate the most pleasant picture of you to him either."
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"But he doesn't know me!" I complained like a child.
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"Yes, well, he's got a very good idea of how dangerous you are."
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"I am not dangerous."
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"Of course you're not," he replied in a voice full of irrelevant sarcasm. "But, he's got a cautious eye out for you."
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"I heard he would rather give up his career as an award winning doctor before letting you set foot on his premises," the woman remarked. I almost forgot she was still here.
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"Can be short tempered and judgemental most times, too." Bernard added. "Your best option is to wait until the tracking is complete, find Gemma."
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"Then, why would you tell me about him?" You'd think these people had logic.
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"Bernard over here says things without thinking. I'd have to have a talk with him about that."
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I eyed the leathal room. So I just had to sit here for six hours. But I wasn't stupid, this room was a 202 prison. "I'll be around," I declared exiting the evil room.
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It was going to be a long six hours.
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Hella long chapter, I know.
Did anyone notice (probably not) that when Emerald says "I don't bluff", she's quoting Everest from her first (proper) conversation with him in chapter 3? copyright protection10ＰＥＮＡＮＡc2QjP4F9W9ns22.214.171.124da2