Inside Out Page 42

“Sounds still carry, and I’m about to show you a place only I know about. You can’t tell anyone. Not even Anne-Jade. Promise me?”

“Ooh. Sounds like fun. Of course, I promise.”

I slid through the shaft, stopped under the near-invisible hatch and pushed it open. Logan pressed a hand to his mouth to smother his cry of surprise. Turning on my light, I climbed into the meter-and-a-half-high space and moved aside so Logan could join me. He stared at his surroundings while I closed the hatch.

“What is this place?” he asked in a whisper.

I shrugged. “I call it the Gap. There’s one between each level.”

“Wow. What’s it used for?”

I gestured around. “Space for the pipes and wires. I think everyone’s forgotten about it. I can only get in here through one near invisible hatch on each level. Come on, but crawl quietly.” I hurried toward the lift. The easiest way to get Logan up to the fourth level was by riding on top of the lift.

A meter-high metal barrier divided the Gap from where the lift cut through the four floors of Inside. From the inside of the lift, it appeared the shaft was solid, but each level had a half-meter opening into the Gap. I pulled my extendable mirror from my tool belt. Shining the light in the shaft, I used the mirror. The lift was on the third level.

“When the lift comes down to our level, we don’t have much time but we need to quietly move onto the roof and stay there until we reach the top,” I said.

“What happens at the top?” Logan bit his thumbnail.

“We climb into the Gap before the lift descends.”

Logan stared, and nibbled on his nails. If he were a computer, he would be making the rumbling crunching noise that meant it was calculating.

“Once we’re on, do we have to wait until an upper wants to go to level four?” he asked.

“No. Once it’s down, there are override controls on the roof.”

Logan shivered as we waited. “It’s cold here. I wonder why there is all this extra room. Does the Gap run the entire length of Inside?”

I explained how each level was connected by steel I-beams to the Wall.

“How about under the lower level, is there a Gap there?” he asked.

“Yes. All the levels are surrounded by Gaps.”

“What’s beyond the Gaps on the sides?”

“The Walls of Inside.”

He considered. “What do the Walls feel like?”

“There’re covered with insulating foam.”

“I meant temperature. Hot or cold?”

“Oh. The foam’s room temperature, but the few places where there isn’t foam, it’s ice-cold.”

He grinned. “Have you pressed your ear to it?”

I admitted I tried to listen for sounds from the other side. “I heard nothing besides the Hum.” Produced by the machinery, the Hum was a constant background noise. It seemed like Inside’s breath, and most scrubs no longer noticed the Hum.

“Too bad.”

Eventually the lift passed with a chilly blast of air. We scrambled over the barrier, but landed with care on the lift’s roof. I pressed the override button for the fourth level. I didn’t think it would concern the occupants too much. The Pop Cops always complained about the lift’s odd quirks.

Voices reached us from below, but they were indistinguishable. I put a finger to my lips as Logan’s eyes flew wide when the lift ascended. It moved fast and in a handful of seconds we reached the top. I waved Logan on. In his haste, he fell with a grunt and a bang over the barrier into the fourth-level Gap.

We halted, listening for sounds of discovery. Nothing but the hiss of the lift’s door shutting. I grabbed the edge of the barrier and pulled until my h*ps rested on it. The lift dropped away, leaving my legs dangling. Logan scooted back and I joined him on solid ground.

After taking a moment to recover, I led him through the maze of pipes and ductwork to the hatch. Finding the hatches the first time had been difficult. I’d spent hours exploring each Gap for the near-invisible hatch. Grinning, I remembered how disappointed I had been when I found the last one. The search had provided me with a challenge unlike my prior week-to-week pointless existence.

When we reached it, I whispered in Logan’s ear, “No talking, no sounds at all from now on. Got it?”

“Yes.”

The fourth-level hatch opened into air duct number fifteen, which crossed over the giant water storage tanks in Sector H4 before cutting through the uppers’ rooms in Sector E4. I counted the suites, but then realized I didn’t need to as I felt Riley’s impatience through his air vent before seeing his worried face staring at the ceiling.

Under the vent, he had a stepladder set up on a table. Removing the cover, I slid my legs out. “Feet first,” I said to Logan before lowering myself down.

Riley hurried to put the ladder away after Logan had reached the floor. We stood in the middle of a small living area. Couch, two chairs and one low table decorated the room. The two men eyed each other.

“It’s safer if I don’t introduce you,” I said into the uncomfortable silence.

“He’s a scrub,” Riley said.

“So?” I shot back.

“He doesn’t have a port and can’t access the computer network.”

Logan smirked. “Don’t need a port. Where’s your terminal?”

Riley failed to look reassured but opened a metal curtain just like the one in Broken Man’s hideout. He pulled over one of the chairs and gestured for Logan to take a seat.

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