Chapter 3--Alex Verin

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I jumped out of my seat.

“What’s wrong?” Mom asked.

My eyes stayed fixed on Dad as the Ambassador went from being seated to standing two feet behind him just as fast as Andrew had whirled me into the wall. At that moment, I knew why Andrew had been so concerned about his family’s safety. If the Ambassador had attacked Dad in front of dozens of news cameras, it would’ve looked like it was out of anger over the vote instead of a biological reaction he couldn’t control. It would’ve hit the news within seconds and erased any progress he’d made—not just on the medical scanners but everything.

By the time Dad turned around however, the Ambassador was smiling at him. His eyes weren’t even bright. He said something to Dad I couldn’t hear, but several people around them laughed. Then the Ambassador just turned and walked away, meeting two bodyguards dressed in black armored uniforms at the exit door. Dad stood where he was until another representative got his attention to shake his hand.

“I’ll be right back, Mom,” I said. “I’m going down to see Dad.”

“Be careful,” she said then shook her head as if she’d known what Dad had just tried to do.

I went out the door as several people were filing into the hallway to leave. Instead of going downstairs however, I went around the corner where I’d last seen Andrew. I counted to the sixth set of doors that I hoped would get me to their balcony. I opened one of them just as Andrew and his mom were walking up the stairs.

“You’re Representative Verin’s son,” Andrew’s mom said as she gave me a confused look. “What are you doing here?”

At that moment, I noticed everyone in the section staring at me. Several women wore scarves on their heads and bald men held their baseball caps on their laps. These people weren’t Hannarian. They were human cancer patients and their families. I felt my heart drop into my stomach.

“Yes, I’m his son,” I replied nervously, “but I just wanted to tell Andrew—tell all of you—that I had nothing to do with what my father just did to the Ambassador down there. I know he’s my dad, but that wasn’t right. That’s all I wanted to—”

“You must get your integrity from your mother’s side of the family,” a voice said behind me. “The last time Adam tried to set me off like that was when the vote on the Destiny project was getting close—and it didn’t work then either. Just one more year, and I think we’ll have this. Thanks for wishing us luck, by the way. I appreciate that, especially coming from a Verin.”

I knew I had to turn around at some point, but my legs wouldn’t move.

“I-I should go,” I stammered without making eye contact with the Ambassador. “If my parents find out I’m even talking to you, I’ll be grounded for the rest of my life—if they even let me live.”

“They’re on the first floor near the parking garage,” he said, apparently able to hear them. “They’re wondering where you are, so you should go. We need to go, too.”

My legs finally cooperated, and I ran up the stairs toward the door.

“Alex?”

I sighed and forced myself to turn around. The Ambassador stood next to his wife and Andrew. Instead of his metallic red and blue uniform, he wore jeans, a red t-shirt, and a black hooded jacket. His blond hair was spiked, making him appear even closer in age to Andrew to the point I now had to depend on their clothes and height difference to tell them apart. The Ambassador and his wife also wore contacts, and for a brief moment my mind could see all three of them as human—as people.

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