“What is gene therapy?” Mr.Grest asked. I could take hours to explain this, why such a plain question? I’ll just go for the simplest way out. I had already collected sufficient points so there was no need to over explain. “Gene therapy is altering the genotype of a tissue or organ enabling the patient to lose the gene that makes him/her sick.” I stated.
“Well said Mr. Underhill.” Mr.Grest nodded in my direction. We were at the end of the second round, two more people to ask and its off to round three. This intellect test reached ever limit of my thinking. One more person would be disqualified now and my name was pretty closer to the bottom then I’d hoped for. I bead of sweat ran down my brow, yes this was more complicated than I imagined. I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm myself down. Everything is going to be ok. Before I knew it I heard Mr.Grest announcing a rest.
I walked off the stage and as soon as my foot touched the carpet the students of my year had surrounded me.
“Drake you are doing great.”
“Those are some tough questions.”
“We are rooting for you.”
“You’re the best.”
“Your almost not going to make it”
“I can’t believe you made it this far.”
“He’s just lucky”
And the comments went on and on, I kind of wish they hadn’t allowed my class to show up this time as well. I felt a wet hand on my shoulder and there he was Thomas in the flesh.
“You are more nervous than I. I assure you I’m going to succeed.”
“Drake, you haven’t been here for long so you have no idea what’s coming for you. They can disqualify as many as they see fit in the next round and they can ask you anything. This round isn’t about knowledge even if you knew everything in the world you could still mess up.”
“Thanks for warning me but I’ll be fine. When I set my mind on something I accomplish it, you should have noticed that by now.”
“I know but this is not something you can control.”
Was he that worried? I mean there was no way it could be that difficult could it? He was just over exaggerating or maybe he just didn’t know me enough. When will these people learn, I’m not like them. I can always handle myself and I always, always won.
I moved between the crowds and headed to the corner of the room. She was there, watching me. As I walked towards her, her lips pursed upward. “Aww drake I think saw you sweating. Are you really that nervous?” She said sarcastically. I just stared her in the eyes then redirected my movement towards the bathroom. She sighed and quietly followed. Once we were alone and I was sure nobody had followed me I said coldly, “Why are you here?”
She looked at me disappointment in her eyes, “I just wanted to cheer you on.” She said in a fake innocent voice. Her fingers started making twirls around her straight hair. “I told you its over. It was a stupid idea in the first place, I know you’re mad but we are better off being just friends.”
“No drake, we were just fine why did you change your mind all of a sudden?” I really didn’t have time for this. Why did she pick now? I mean it’s been a while since we decided I broke the news to her. I realized it was too risky playing with her emotions so I had to end things before it got serious.
“We talked about this before Aurora and you were ok with it. You know more than I do that it would have been wrong if we continued.”
A tear emerged from her eye. It was weird she was one of the only ghosts that id actually seen cry. You’d be expecting they’d all be, due to the experiences they’d been through but it seemed that death sucked most of your emotions from you. Even Katelyn has lost all urges that once boiled strongly in her. We’d met a couple times since the incidence and it’s like she’s lost her passion and her soul is slowly turning to nothing. I’m not sure how aurora could still be so alive, so human.
“You’re the one that brought it up, I just came to support you like everyone else.” She finally replied. “But I guess you don’t want me around. I’ll see you later Drake.” And with that she disappeared. I admit I have totally screwed that up. Ugh there is no time to think of these trivialities I need to get back. I splashed some water on my face then headed back to the conference room.
Lou smiled at me when I entered the room. “Good luck” I heard him whisper as I walked by him. “Thanks” I said back. I took the final steps onto the stage and took my seat in the middle. Mr.Grest was already at the microphone.
“The participants that have passed the last round are Blake Norway, Andy Binx, Ravi Ajmal, and Drake Underhill.” I felt the pressure building up in my lungs dissipate away. I had made it. I was too close to lose now. I watched as they walked off the stage, dissatisfaction was clear but they still stood proudly not a hint of regret in their posture.
“I wouldn’t be too pleased Drake.” Mr. Grest addressed me. Apparently I got lost in the moment and was smiling a bit too much for his liking. “This round is the most important. You might all continue or we could disqualify you all and the old president will continue in his reign. You need to be creative and be able to think quickly in order to pass this round. I wish you all the best of luck.” He spoke then reached to get the papers from the other judges. I wonder what they were all talking about I mean it can’t be that hard can it?
“We have 4 questions prepared from the 4 main categories of science. Since drake has the lowest score so far he will have the privilege to pick the first category once you have picked you cannot change no matter what. Understood?” We all nodded in unison. He turned to me, “Drake you may choose from chemistry, physics, earth science or biology. Think wisely.” There wasn’t much to think about, I had bulked up on the biology subject already. I was pretty good at the others but this is what I’ve studied. I smiled as my stomach churning slowed. I can’t believe they had given me this choice. “Biology.” I said monotonously. He nodded then asked the others. Blake had picked earth science, Ravi chemistry and Andy got physics.
“OK now that you have decided your question ill explain what will happen.” Mr. Grest began. “This stage has nothing to do with your social skills thus you will only explain your answer to one specialized judge. This method may decrease the accuracy of your mark but logically thinking getting a social teacher to mark you for science just doesn’t work either. We have been doing this for 5 years now so if you may I don’t want to hear any complaints. You will have 15 minutes to deduce your answers, think wisely but quickly as I said before this test in the final and most important one yet. I wish you all the best of luck.” He moved away from the microphone and took a seat at the judges table.
The other teachers began to rise; they each walked towards their candidate. Mrs. Elena began walking my way. I recognized her but have never really met her personally she was the A-level biology and human biology teacher and people say she’s really strict. She has short blonde hair that barely reaches her ear; she also has small green eyes cowardly concealed by her overly thick glasses. Her face was stiff as she read out my questions, “In your opinion what is an effective cure for cancer.” What? How could they ask such a thing? A cure for cancer? Scientists have been working on this for decades now and they still haven’t found the answer. How do they expect me to get it in only 15 minutes? I noticed her smirk as she walked away. The surprise was apparent on my face, I was just too shocked. This couldn’t be right. Plus there were numerous types of cancer each requiring different treatments. We also have different stages. What do they want exactly? The question is too vague and too open.
I stood there blank paper on my desk and not an idea what to write. OK I need to snap out of this, I can do this of course I can, I don’t need a perfect solution I just need something that will convince her. Something practical that can kill cancer cells in such late stages. OK I need to break this down. Firstly cancer is an uncontrolled growth in abnormal cells. SO we either have to stop the growth or change them into useful cells. People are doing that all over the world, if I say the same thing I doubt ill will be able to pass. Ugh this is getting on my nerves, what else could there be? Well maybe we don’t need to remove the cancer; we could get it a place that it’ll be safe to stay. But what if it’s already spread? What if it’s in a lethal area of the body? There were way too many possibilities they had to have a reason for this question didn’t they? I’m sure they already know there is no way anyone could answer this, they made it indistinct on purpose. They want to see how I’ll do under pressure that has to be it.
I closed my eyes and took a couple breaths. I grabbed the pen and began jabbing stuff down on the paper, just random thoughts and ideas eventually I’ll have enough and I’ll just need to connect the dots.That’s when I got it an idea that could work if I said it right. Mr.Grest was wrong. The way I presented the idea, picked my words could mean everything to me right now. I placed the pen on the paper and took a seat. Everyone was too stressed out to even notice me, I watched as the others scribbled over papers of work. I was done and still had some time to spear. The trick was I didn’t really need to find a cure for cancer and since the question was so open I could even pick the simplest stage and go with that, technically I wouldn’t be wrong. A cure for stage one skin cancer is still a cure for cancer so that was what I was going to start up with then ill add my idea just because it sounds ok, it might succeed if done fittingly. Andy was next to finish; he had a couple of extremely organized papers in his hands that he kept looking over. I wonder what his question had been, physics has always been considered the hardest subject amongst most people that is probably why nobody had picked it. He looked pretty pleased with his answer though, so I doubt it had been too hard, or maybe he’s just smarter than I thought.
“Time’s up.” Mr. Grest spoke into the microphone. As if by magic all pens dropped and the room went silent. I stood up again then followed Mrs. Elena to our private room. She glanced at me curiosity on her face then stated again. “You question was to give us a cure for cancer.” She said rearranging the question.I looked into her doubtful eyes and smiled.
“Cancer is I diverse topic that has been in discussion for quite awhile now. In my opinion the best way to cure cancer is to remove it from the start. A simple surgery can be done to remove the tumor when it first develops, we could then program the white blood cells to notice these cancer cells and kill them if they ever develop again. This is in my opinion,” I emphasized, “the best cure for cancer.” I had gotten her attention; she was jotting down notes at record speed. What was she possible writing? Her face was expressionless; I had no idea if I was spot on, saying exactly what they intended or miles away. I took a deep breath; I had to continue I had to make this personal.
“What I would do if I were working in a lab is try out my own theory. Since the human genome projects we have been advancing at incredible rates, our genes are the keys to everything. We can develop cells that will stop dividing, cells that will not undergo interphase and will also send out a toxin forcing apoptosis to take place. This will be able to spread in the area with the cancer cells, killing them in the process. We could change these into what I like to refer to as a time bomb. After 50 cells are produced, this special property of the cell will activate. We can inject these cells into the region where the cancer is developing and will mix with the cancerous cells; later on there will be cells that cannot undergo further division surrounding the cancer cells and apoptosis will become more rapid. After it has stopped growing we will allow the patient to take a drug that will stop the effect of these cells. Then we either remove the tumor or keep a small part that will be activated again if another tumor starts to form. We could also add ways to transport the cells around the body to the needed regions afterwards, though I don’t completely know how at the moment. There is only so much one can do with 15 minutes. I know this will have almost zero effect on metastatic cancers but the best way to prevent that is stopping cancers from getting to that stage in the first place.”
I exhaled allowing all the stress and excitement building up in me to float away. I know the idea was a bit farfetched but it could work, maybe if we can reach that level of control over our cells and that time wasn’t so far away. A minute later she let down her pen, got up and left the room just like that. Not a single syllable spoken. I hope I wasn’t being too radical, and that shed see my idea as a try to get things right. There was nothing I could do now, so I simply went to the nearest desk and layer my head down. My eyelids shut and a world of vivid color appeared before me.
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