Chapter Seventy-Eight

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The smell was the first thing to hit me. Before only the general look had reminded me of a hospital, but now this did too. I wasn't sure how exactly to describe it...it really just smelt unnaturally clean.

It bothered me.

But then the figure in front of me took my attention away. The woman standing in front of me was tall and intimidating, wearing a soft smile, that seemed like it was trying too hard to be comforting. She wore thin rimmed glasses which ran backwards into her bright blonde hair. She had her hair pulled back and tied up in a messy bun, the only seemingly messy thing about her.

Unlike I would expect, she wasn't wearing a white laboratory coat, but was clothed in a perfectly ironed business suit. If this were a hospital, she did not seem to fit in very well.

"Hello, Calestia. We've been expecting you," the woman said, as she gave me a chilling smile. I tried to avoid showing fear, but it was hard with the woman being nearly a foot and a half taller than me. I felt like I was in her shadow.

She took a step backwards towards the room behind her. I couldn't see much of it besides white walls. I felt my heartbeat quicken as the boy placed his hand in the middle of my back and pushed me forward. I stumbled a few steps, not wanting to enter. It all felt wrong. I still didn't know what the Equator wanted with me, or who she even was.

The woman looked at me calmly, oblivious to my anxiety. "Come in. Please. We must talk." With that, she turned and walked into the white room.

I stared after her, not trusting her offer. Even if I didn't want to follow, I knew there wasn't really much of a choice for me. I walked into the white room behind her, and found myself surprised by its features. It held a white couch with a similar white carpet. No syringes. No gurneys. It looked like any living room one might find. At least, any living room that belonged to someone amazingly rich.

And that also surprised me. It was something I hadn't thought much about. How did the Equator manage to have so many amazing things when it was the end of the world. They couldn't have been expecting it to end. It was odd, that they hadn't seemed to have much trouble adapting to the destruction that everyone else in the world faced.

I sat down on the white couch, waiting for something awful to happen. Nothing did. The woman glanced over at the masked boy and gestured with her hand. The boy seemed to understand, and walked away, leaving the door open in his wake.

I stared at the blonde haired woman. I wanted to know why I was here. But I also felt like she was waiting for me to ask, and I didn't want to give in. I wasn't her puppet.

She stared me down with icy gray eyes, not backing off either. I couldn't hold back my curiosity. "Why am I here?"

The woman didn't seem to mind taking her time answering. And when she did, it wasn't really an answer to my question at all. "I found something...or more appropriately, my friend found something in your belongings." She took predatory steps towards a table near a window behind me and picked up something out of my line of view. When she walked back in front of me, I saw she was holding the book I'd picked up from John and Claudia's house. I'd mostly forgotten I'd had it. Usually, I just kept my things in my bag, and rarely took anything out unless I absolutely needed it. And with everything that had been happening recently I hadn't had much time to think about it.

"What about it?"

"It's something we don't see much of here in the Equator."

"What?"

The woman slammed the book down on the small glass table that separated her from me. Her stare seemed to pierce through my skull. "The mark of an enemy. And I need to know where you got it from."

I could feel my heart start to pump faster at the sudden movement. I had no idea what she was talking about. Who could possibly be an enemy to the Equator? It seemed like everyone wanted to go there for a safe haven. Except for us. There could be a possibility that more people saw how cruel the Equator was, and the cost of going through their "entry program". I doubted anyone would be powerful enough to make the leaders of the Equator genuinely afraid. From the few glimpses I'd gotten of the actual Equator, it seemed like a masterpiece of normal life, with a lot of technology from the old world that could stop anyone from ever attempting to attack its borders.

"I found it."

The woman seemed aggravated by my response. She pushed the book further towards me, as if I didn't already see it, and leaned forward with her palms pressed against the glass table. "Listen to me. The only reason you're still alive, is because of this book. Otherwise, I could've killed you a while ago, and I did try, as you can tell by the multiple attempts from my friend. But of course, there was always the problem of making it too obvious, and unfortunately he can't blow his cover. I was getting pretty damn close to telling my friends down in the training facility to just finish you off, when I was notified of this book."

I hadn't thought much about the person who'd been trying to assassinate me. I hadn't realized how much they'd also had to have seen and known about. And if they were constantly telling this woman about all of this...then was there anything she didn't already know?

When I didn't respond she continued. She stood up again, and regained her composure, trying to return to the air of superiority she'd had when I'd first seen her minutes ago. "I'm sorry for my abruptness. I'm just going to ask one more time. Where did you find the book?" She seemed completely calm.

I stared at her and didn't respond. I didn't have a need to. I didn't even know who she was.

She seemed merely disappointed. "After hearing about you, I expected something more. Maybe not somebody just so unbelievably...plain.." She picked up the book and walked back to put it where it came from.

It seemed our conversation was ending. I was worried, but I also didn't see any threat nearby. There weren't any guards. Maybe I was wrong about the Equator. It had never been confirmed that their ideals were necessarily bad. They may have done unbelievably lethal things, but that didn't mean they were particularly horrible. It was difficult surviving in such a world as this. Even I regretted my decisions. And who knows, maybe they did have some wild reason for sending someone after me to kill me. But right now, despite her threat earlier, it didn't seem like I'd be dying anytime soon. I couldn't find a threat in the room. And if she was seriously considering killing me, wouldn't she already have a gun out and ready?

"Who are you?" I asked, as she returned to her position behind the glass table. I felt oddly relaxed, now that she was no longer interrogating me. I knew I shouldn't. I guess the Equator was still technically an enemy to me, after all they'd done.

"You can call me Dr. Conway. To answer your questions before you ask, yes, you are in the Equator. Yes, I work with them. And yes, so does the person who attempted to kill you. This is the last of what you must know." She looked towards the door. She seemed disturbed.

"So what happens now?" I asked. She walked towards me and gestured at me to get up. I followed her directions.

"You must come with me," she mumbled, as she grabbed my arm, and walked me out the door.

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