Inside Out Page 43

“What about your port?” I asked. “If you’re too close—”

“Took it out and put it in a metal box.” Riley rubbed his right jaw as if he were unused to having it missing.

Logan wasted no time. His fingers flew over the keyboard. “This is going to take a while. I have to distract the Controllers and take a circuitous route in. Don’t want anyone to know I’m in here.” He flashed us a wild grin.

Riley and I stood next to each other, looking over Logan’s shoulder. The strange symbols popping up on the screen meant nothing to me. Riley, though, frowned. Time to distract him.

“How about a tour?” I asked. “I’ve never actually been inside an upper’s suite.”

He turned his displeasure on me. “Really? But you’ve spied on them from above?”

For a moment, I wished for the goofy Riley. The one who mussed my hair and communicated telepathically with stuffed sheep. “I don’t spy on anyone. I avoid the living areas, they’re too dangerous. The places I’ve been on level four are the storeroom and Karla’s office.” And the holding cells, but I didn’t think it would be wise to tell him. I pointed to a half-open door on the opposite wall. “Is that a bedroom?”

Still unhappy, Riley showed me his room. The tiny interior had two beds with a table between them and two desks. A few metal sculptures were propped against the light blue walls, and circuit boards littered the one desk, the other was neat. Same with the beds, one was made, the other was heaped with blankets.

He followed my gaze. “I share the room with my father. He’s always harping on me to make the bed and clean up my stuff.”

No other items decorated the space. “Where’s Dada Sheepy?” I asked.

A half smile flicked on his lips before sadness dragged it down. “With my brother.” Turning away, he strode into the living room and opened the door next to Logan. “Standard bathroom.” He waved at the remaining door. “Suite entrance.”

Except for the small peephole and extra locks, it mirrored the other two.

“There. That’s the grand tour,” he said.

“That’s it?” Surprise tainted my voice.

“Yep.”

“But I thought the uppers lived in apartments with lots of rooms.”

“The admiral’s and vice admiral’s families do, but most have suites like mine. If my mom were still alive, we would have two bedrooms and a small kitchenette. But since it’s just us, we get this and a refrigerator.”

The rumors about the uppers’ living quarters had been exaggerated. I wondered what else had been blown out of proportion. “What happens if you…want a family?”

“If I find a mate, my father would be reassigned to share a suite with another single man, and if he finds a mate then I would move.”

“Does he want another mate?”

“No.”

The whole mate thing was odd to me. Scrubs hooked up with others and stayed together for as long as they desired then moved on. Any children from the pair went to the care facility. A few couples never parted. The Pop Cops tracked the pairings, and would separate them if their bloodlines were too close.

Logan whooped with joy. “I’m in!”

Riley stood behind him and watched the screen.

“Do the uppers mate for life?” I asked Riley, hoping to pull his attention away from the computer.

“Most do, but if a union isn’t working then they’ll split.”

“What do you do for fun?”

Riley glared at me. His stiff posture radiating his ire. “Trella, I know what you’re doing. You haven’t asked questions about the uppers unless it was directly related to your mission. You have a very strong opinion about the uppers, and you haven’t shown any interest in us before. But I do know the systems your friend is accessing can only be seen by people with ten-degree security clearance. So unless he’s a rear admiral, he’s neck-deep in serious trouble—”

“Only if I get caught,” Logan said. “Don’t worry, I’m ghosting.”

“Ghosting? What the hell is that?” Riley demanded.

“Not leaving a traceable trail,” I explained. Coming here was a bad idea. I hoped Logan would finish soon.

Riley’s anger flared. “You didn’t tell me the whole story. Time to talk, Trella. What exactly is this man looking for?”

“Well…” To tell him we were looking for Gateway might have ruined whatever credibility I had left with him. He knew Domotor had been trying to find ways around the Controllers to seize control of the computer for the rest of the upper families.

He studied my face and when I opened my mouth he said, “Don’t lie.” His words growled and I knew I trod on dangerous ground.

“Got it!” Logan whooped.

“Got what?” Riley asked.

Before I could say anything, Logan, who hadn’t listened to anything we’d said, proclaimed with pride, “The coordinates to Gateway.”

“Yes!” I jumped and slapped Logan on the back. Cogon was going to be ecstatic and very smug. I could already hear his I told you so. But my jubilation died when a strangled sound escaped Riley’s throat. The anger drained from his face. His flushed cheeks and red-tipped ears turned white, and I suddenly wished I could ghost back to the lower levels.

“Hold on,” Logan said. His attention returned to the screen. “No…no…you lousy unrecyclable…”

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