Inside Out Page 19

“Yeah, but Cog was the only person who knows what I’m really capable of. And he’s too quick to trust, he falls for any line and is too eager to get involved.”

“The opposite of you?”

“Of course. I’m not the one getting my hopes dashed every time a new prophet arrives.”

“Yet here you are.”

In trouble with no solution in sight. “A moment of weakness and an excellent lesson on what not to do in the future. Provided I even have a future.”

“From what I’ve seen in the lower levels, do you really want to live the rest of your life in these conditions?” he asked.

The standard scrub reply was to shrug and say there was nothing I could do about it or to regurgitate the Pop Cop line about a better afterlife. But I had the opportunity to actually prove or disprove the theory about Gateway and Outside. If I wanted to risk my life. Was being alive enough for me? Could I really walk away without trying?

Broken Man could see the answer in my eyes. “Karla’s office is on level four, Sector—”

“A. I know. It’s the only area I avoid.” Last thing I needed was for the Pop Cops to catch me in an air duct above their offices and holding cells. I enjoyed a challenge, but I wasn’t crazy. And I limited my time spent in the Gap above four to trips to my box.

Contemplating the theft of his port from the lieutenant commander, I crossed over from rational to insane. “Do you know what type of security measures are installed in her office?”

“The door’s always locked, but I’m guessing you’re not going to use it.” He smiled. “Probably the usual motion sensors.”

LC Karla knew someone had used the pipes to get the disks. Would she rig the air ducts above her office with sensors? Broken Man had said she was smart, so I assumed she had. But did she know about the Gap above the ductwork? I needed to do a reconnaissance mission to her office. It would require a great deal of planning.

“How do I know which port is yours?” I asked.

“There’s an identification number etched into the bottom.” Broken Man recited his number and I committed it to memory.

“I need to eat before my next shift. Hopefully I’ll think of a way to bypass the LC’s security measures.”

Various scenarios ran through my mind as I returned to the main corridor of level two. No brilliant ideas had formed by the time I shuffled through the cafeteria line and sought a free seat. And consuming the casserole of the day failed to ignite any exceptional plans.

The only way I could enter Karla’s office would be to find the wires for the motion detectors and disable them without setting them off. It would be time consuming and dangerous. The probability of missing a sensor would be high.

The noise in the room rose to an uncomfortable level. I grabbed my tray, intent on leaving, but two scrubs stood right behind me. A young man and woman. They both had the same nose—a distinctly petite feature with a perfect shape. Combined with their matching oval faces and light greenish-brown eyes, I knew they were related. They wore the drab-gray and shapeless overalls of the recycling-plant workers.

Pitching his voice so the sound cut through the din, the man said, “We want in.”

I stepped aside so he could claim my seat.

He shook his head. “We want to help you.”

“With what?” Confused, I glanced at each one.

She gestured to the table. Two more seats were empty. The scrubs sat and she pulled me back down.

I yanked my arm away. “Who do you—”

“I’m Anne-Jade and he’s my brother, Logan. We want to help you find Gateway.”

Stunned, I gaped at them a moment. “But, I’m not—”

“Save it for the Pop Cops,” Logan said. “We know what you’ve been up to. We saw you with Cogon before he entered the lift. Saw the lift stop and Cogon leave the elevator’s maintenance room with the laundry bin. It wasn’t hard to figure out.”

They hadn’t told Karla, which meant a bribe. “What do you really want?”

“To help,” Anne-Jade said. Her lips pressed into a thin line, drawing her oval face into a serious expression.

“Why? You could get recycled.”

She swept her hand out, indicating the mass of people. “This is intolerable. I’d rather be recycled than to continue to live as livestock.”

Instinct kicked in. Too many people increased the chances of getting caught. Besides, I couldn’t trust them and I preferred to work alone. “Sorry, no. I can’t get anyone else involved.”

“We’re already involved,” Logan said. “Who do you think covered for Cogon?”

I scrambled for a reply. “Look, I’m thankful you saved Cog, but I really don’t know how you can help right now, and—”

“Listen.” Logan held up a metal wind-up toy near his ear then handed it to me.

“What—”

Logan gestured for me to listen to the toy. Not happy, I brought it close and almost dropped it when Broken Man’s voice whispered in my ear. He talked about Gateway and the disks, and I heard my own harsh reply. I stared at the little mouse murmuring in my hand. Its metal key turning. “How?”

Logan grinned. “Voice transmitting device sewn onto Broken Man’s shirt. This—” he picked up the mouse “—records and replays the conversation.” He held the device in the palm of his right hand, acting indifferent to the incredible danger he had placed us all in.

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