Inside Out Page 18

“You know it works?”

“Well…” Broken Man rubbed his back, considering. “Obviously my original program had a few flaws, but I had found another more effective program hidden in the system. I copied it onto my disks. Unfortunately I was caught before I could use it.” The memory of pain spread across his face. His blue eyes squinted into the past.

“Who created the other program?” I asked.

“The security on it was too good to crack. But I believe it was probably a member of the Garrard family.”

“Garrard?”

“They are unhappy with the status quo. All the major families were upset with the Trava takeover, but in time they grew complacent and believed there was nothing they could do to restore the original balance of power.”

“Hold on. The Trava takeover?” I asked. “The Travas have always been in charge.”

“No, they haven’t. The Travas want the scrubs to believe that, and they’re hoping eventually, with enough generations born, the uppers will forget they ever had a say in the running of Inside. But I’ve uncovered the truth. All nine families at one point had an equal vote. Each family elected one of their members to be a part of Committee. This Committee made decisions and supervised the various mechanical systems of Inside.” Broken Man frowned. “Each family had a specialty—air systems, waste water, electrical—which turned into a major disadvantage.”

“Why?”

“The Travas’ specialty was security and only they had access to the stunners and kill-zappers.”

“Oh.”

Broken Man met my gaze. The wrinkles on his face deepened as if he alone shouldered all the responsibly in letting the Travas dominate. I guessed he was around forty-five centiweeks old.

“There was a group of uppers who tried to regain control of a few systems, but they failed,” he said.

“Would the group be willing to help us if you actually find Gateway?” I asked.

“No.” Broken Man fiddled with the computer. “The consequences of getting caught are too great for the uppers.”

It had been a hypothetical question. I planned to prove there was no Gateway. Prove to Cog that the people of Inside had been sealed off from Outside.

Besides the Pop Cops’ insistence of a purely spiritual final resting place for the good people, the rumors surrounding Outside ranged from wild guesses to tales of horror. I knew something had to be beyond our walls. And whether this place was Outside or something else, speculation ran rampant.

A few scrubs claimed it was a vast wasteland, others a magical kingdom where fairies flew through the air, a number declared water surrounded us and a couple maintenance scrubs thought our own garbage was piled around us. We reused and recycled everything, but a small portion of pure waste disappeared through a flushing system the Controllers maintained. Cog had tried to use that fact in his argument about Gateway.

All the rumors didn’t sway me. I didn’t care. Why worry or speculate about an inaccessible place? We were trapped in Inside until we ceased to exist and Chomper turned our bodies into fertilizer. End of story.

I concentrated on Broken Man’s statement about getting no help from the upper families. It fit—uppers wouldn’t risk themselves and their cushy life for a bunch of scrubs. Although, I couldn’t help thinking about Riley in his hideout on level four.

His family names seemed important to him—a source of pride. How did he feel about the Travas controlling our world? Maybe Riley and a few uppers would like to see life altered? I grimaced. Sappy bull. I was getting soft, letting hope grow a centimeter. Snip. Snip. I mentally cut it back.

“If the computer works, all I need to do is retrieve your disks and you can access them? Right?” I asked.

Broken Man bit his lip and said nothing.

“What’s wrong? I thought you have a gap in your mouth for the port.”

“I have the gap.” He paused. “Problem is…I don’t have my teeth.”

“What?”

“They’re not real teeth. We just call them that. They’re needed to access the internal computer network. They’re designed so the Pop Cops can keep track of who is in the network and restrict access to the computer system by pulling an upper’s port.”

I sank to the floor. Rubbing my face in my hands, I said, “Now you tell me.”

7

NOTHING MORE I COULD DO. THE END. THE POP COPS had Broken Man’s port. Without his port, he couldn’t access his disks and the information. No information meant no proof or disproof of Gateway’s existence.

“Lieutenant Commander Karla has my port,” Broken Man said.

I stared at him. Was he serious? “You want me to ask her for it back?”

“Think, Trella. She doesn’t know about the disks. Pulling my teeth is standard procedure. She would have sent it to computer ops to check what I’ve been accessing in the system, and they would have returned it with their report.” Sudden understanding lit his gray eyes. “The report! I should have known. A few of the files I’d viewed probably made Karla suspicious and she set a trap in my room. If only I heard about you before she rigged my quarters.”

His comment reminded me of how I had gotten involved. Cog knew I couldn’t resist a challenge. “If Cog hadn’t told you about me, we wouldn’t be here now.”

He shook his head. “Your reputation as Queen of the Pipes intrigued me first.”

Prev Next