Five days. The less time I had, the more focused I became. I spent nights awake, scribbling notes on what to say, practicing arguments in front of the mirror.
Chloe didn’t say where she’d gotten her info, not that I asked, but it was invaluable. At the very least, it gave me a few openers. An ambitious man, and lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family. The guy also had a wife and a kid. I could ease into a discussion about the relinquishment of the DNA-OD project rites. Start with something a bit light but more substantial than, “Oh, how’s the weather? You don’t like clouds? That’s too bad.”
And, as Chloe’d been quick to point out, it also gave me an edge over him. Knowing about the guy’s family, the address of his kid’s prep school, where his wife got her hair done. Yeah, things like that could turn a conversation. It was my backup plan. If I couldn’t talk him into an agreement, I could blackmail or threaten. I didn’t like it. But it was that or…collapse the European economy.
And this’s what my life’s become. I rubbed my eyes tiredly. Fuck.
Four days left. Thomas and I kept to ourselves, rarely conversing with anyone else. He had to account for every possible counter-argument he could. I helped with that. I wasn’t president of the debate club back in high school for nothing. But he had to spin everything in such a way that he sounded like he had the best possible business plan for Landgraab Labs.
I had several plans in place just in case Thomas couldn’t get through to the agent. A few keystrokes and the seventh circle of hell would be unleashed. Figuratively speaking, of course.
These things I didn’t mention to Thomas. He flinched whenever I took out my computer. It got to the point that I just researched charities whenever he was in the room.
With a few suggestions from Shaye, I’d decided to partition the lump sum out to multiple charities, in order to have a better chance of avoiding detection. I’d donated the first hundred million simoleons to a charity helping children learn to read. The second went to a no-kill animal shelter in Appaloosa Plains. The third to an art school in Bridgeport. The fourth to a veterinary in Aurora Skies. The fifth to a government drop library in Lucky Palms. The list went on and on. And it hardly put a dent in the money.
After another day of trawling through lists of charities Shaye, Thomas and Daddy had ever donated to, I took a break. I drug up some energy and started looking into escape plans. A cheap bottle of nectar, some bleach, a box of baking soda…
Wake up. Shower. Feel the hot water and think about nothing else. Get dressed. Get to work. That had become my schedule. I couldn’t handle anything else at that point.
As time crept closer and closer to the date, I got closer and closer to losing it completely. Peace and stability for all of us were right there in front of me. If I fucked up, peace was the last things we’d have.
It was okay. It was fine. All I had to do was convince an international laboratory to give up their research right at the forefront of extraterrestrial study. Yep.
Two days. Stay calm.
I hadn’t achieved sleep for days. I hadn’t stopped working for 34 hours. My last cup of coffee had been seven hours ago. I was exhausted. But I couldn’t sleep. Every time I tried, I would lie awake, staring up at the ceiling. If I closed my eyes, I would picture the network detailing how everything could go wrong. There were only three branches on that convoluted tree that lead to happy endings, and they all hinged on Thomas’s talk.
Damn you, Murphy.
One day. Oh my god.
Every morning I woke up and had a brief freak-out. Just let out all the anxiety, take a hot shower, then get to work. I worked better that way. Could focus more. It also helped cut down the number of times I’d space out, just staring at a wall gibbering.
I spent the day wracking my brain, trying to find some angle I’d forgotten to cover. I’d practice my arguments repeatedly, then drag Chloe out of her hole to pick them apart for me. She was good at it.
Over the week, I think both of us saw daylight a grand total of three times. The room I shared with Donovan had a window, so it might not count for much. Chloe had taken to hiding in the cellar, muttering numbers under her breath and sketching out bits of chemical equations by a weak lamplight.
If it wasn’t for Donovan, I think both of us would’ve starved.
The end is nigh!
Thanks for reading! ^_^