Meetings have finally adjourned for John. Apparently, the corporates have agreed to let some more people in on the project. So each current member can nominate one more person to help with the research. That means John can pick one person for the board to consider letting in on the project. Obviously, I figured that would be me, since I'm already working on it in secret.
I was under the assumption that I would be John's obvious first choice as representative for his branch. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed when he said, "Oh, I think I'm going to nominate Dr. Thompson." I couldn't help but let my jaw slack for a moment.
"But I figured..."
He wrapped one arm around my shoulder and pulled me in as he said, "Oh, you thought...? I'm so sorry, but I've already brought you in on it anyway. And I figured, the more great minds we can get working on this thing, the sooner we might find a way to replicate the RA."
I tugged away from him, and answered, admittedly with some venom, "Yeah, but I have to keep this secret from everyone. At least you're allowed to say 'I'm working on a top secret project.' I can't even tell Belle that! How long do I have to live this way? And what if I find something? I hate to sound greedy, but I'm not trying to work for free here. If I found something that I'm not even supposed to be looking for, I won't be able to present my findings without getting both of us in trouble. So you would take my work? I don't think so, John."
Then the jerk had the nerve to tell me, "It's either that or you quit working on this project. Forget you ever had anything to do with it. I would prefer to have both you and Nikki Thompson working on this project, but if I had to choose between the two of you, for this work I would choose Nikki. She has a history of dealing with synthetic bio-chemistry, and she is just as bright as you. I need that kind of expertise. I can't let personal feelings get involved in something like this, Dahlia."
I couldn't argue with his logic, Nikki was an obvious choice, and had I been in John's shoes, I would have considered her as well. But as far as emotional logic is concerned, I sure as hell can come up with a good argument. He should never have invited me into this in the first place if he wasn't going to follow through! Needless to say, we no longer speak.

I finally told Belle what was going on, everything from the discovery, to the project, to the fight, and we talked about what might happen next. Belle made one very good point: John has some unknown-to-us levels of power with the people who provide our food, medicine, jobs, and housing. And I just basically called him a piece of crap to his face. He's probably not very happy with us. So, we are packing our things and getting ready for what we see as probably inevitable. Belle's finally going to have to find a career, and I'm probably going to have to find a new field.
I'm sure I'll still be able to do some independent research on this, but I'm satisfied. We know what stops PTA. So my original mission statement has been fulfilled. Obviously, the work isn't finished and refined yet, but they came across this partial answer by total accident. There's no telling how long it'll take to synthesize the stuff without a similar miracle. Either way, we're leaving tomorrow morning. We've collected all the food we can carry, two water filtering bottles, spare oxygen generators for our Worms, and I packed my box of mementos in the bottom of my bag. We've both talked to the people who matter. Belle went and talked to Imena Michaels (Who she finally admitted she is dating. What a relief, I thought they were plotting something). And I told my boss in very vague terms what was happening, "Well, I'm going to have to discontinue my service here. I've made a mistake in trust, and as it turns out the person I've trusted is more powerful than I originally expected. I'm very sorry, but I promise that soon, very soon, you'll be keen to what good has been done and you'll find you don't really need me anymore anyway." She smiled, but I could tell by the dip of the corners of her mouth she was disappointed. "I think I understand, Dahlia. But if you're leaving, you may need some protection." She took me to a storage closet in a hallway I had only crossed a few times during my stay here, and in the back she pulled out a small, black plastic gun. "I don't know how to use that," I said. The only time I'd ever seen one was when the military or body guards used them. I had never held one. I don't even know what kind it is. "It's okay. You just put the bullets in here," She showed me how to load the thing, "You put in six, and then you pull this hammer back and pull the trigger." She pointed to the parts as she explained. "When you're not using it, and this is important, don't forget this, you see this orange bit here? When you're not using it make sure you can fully see that orange bit. When you go to use it, slide this piece to cover it. That's called the safety. If you don't have the orange bit showing, the gun could misfire. No matter where you go, you can get bullets for this, and almost everywhere you'll be able to find someone who can clean it or service it if it needs. Remember, aim for the head. I'm going to give you a box of bullets for this, and every time you stop somewhere, buy a box. You can never have too many."

I thanked her, and hugged her, and pocketed the gun after being double sure the safety was turned on. Belle and I just checked all our things, checked the rooms to make sure we weren't missing anything, and Imena is spending the night, I guess as a final goodbye between her and Belle. I kind of wish John could come over and stay and hug me. But it wouldn't be the same now. Besides, we've already gone too far to turn back now. The wheels are in motion, and we're leaving in the morning. I don't know if I'll ever get to sleep...

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