Inside Out Page 44

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It requires a password.”

“But you just said you got it.”

“I have the file. To open the file we need a password. Any ideas?”

I wanted to shake the screen until it surrendered and let us read the file. To come all this way and to put so much at risk…I shoved my crushing disappointment aside and concentrated.

“How about Gateway?”

“Nope.”

“Inside? Outside?” I looked at Riley for help. He just shook his head. A horrified fascination settled on his face.

“No and no. Wait!” Logan sat up straighter. “There’s always a fail-safe.”

“A what?” I asked.

“People forget things. It’s part of being human. You don’t want to risk someone discovering your password by writing it down, so the computer has a way to help you remember your password.” He typed for a while.

“How?”

“It will ask you a question and the answer is the password.”

“What if we don’t know the answer?”

“Then we don’t get the coordinates and we have to guess again. Except…” He leaned forward. “There’s a limit on the number of guesses. After ten, the computer notifies the Controllers someone is trying to access the file.”

“Not good.” Horrible in fact.

“No.” The clicking keys filled the silence. “Okay. I found the question.”

“And?” I prompted.

“I don’t know the answer,” Logan said.

I reached out but managed to stop my hands from wrapping around his neck. “What is the question?”

“Oh. It’s the end and the beginning. What is it?”

14

“A CIRCLE?” RILEY SUGGESTED. HE HAD RECOVERED from his shock about Gateway, and was now intrigued by the mystery question. “A circle doesn’t have an end or a beginning.”

Logan moved his hands over the keyboard.

“Wait,” I said. “How many other passwords have you tried?”

“Three so we have seven guesses before the computer shuts down.”

“A circle is good, but let’s think this through logically.” I swiped hair from my face and tucked it behind my ear. “The question has to refer to something about Inside. We know it is an object or place and not a person’s name.”

“We do?” Logan asked.

“Yes, the question contains the word it and what. It’s the end and the beginning. What is it? A person would be who, and a place would be where.”

Riley sat in the remaining chair, and covered his eyes with a hand as if blocking out all distractions. “Everything in here is squares, rectangles and cubes. No circles.”

I settled on the couch. The living room was too small to pace. Searching my memory for circles, I tried to find a connection. “If you think about it, everything in here is a circle. The air circulates throughout Inside, going through the filters and purifiers. Same with the water and sewage. Reused and recycled, nothing wasted.”

“Should I try circle?” Logan’s fingers hovered over the keyboard.

“Yes.” I held my breath.

“Nope. Try again.”

Damn. I repeated the question in my mind. It sounded familiar as if I read it or heard it before. Maybe when I was living in the care facility. But there had been so many weeks of lessons in math, biology, science…. “Water?”

“How does it fit?” Riley asked.

“It has a cycle. Evaporation, condensation, freezing and melting as it changes from a gas to a liquid to a solid. Water is a vital resource for Inside, without it we couldn’t exist.”

“So is air and food.” He considered. “Air has a cycle. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. The plants in hydroponics absorb the carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Growing food is also a circle with eating and producing. Think of the sheep.”

“Sheepy?” I wished he were there. “Would Sheepy know the answer?” I joked.

He removed his hand and shot me a smile. “No. Sheep eat grass and vegetables and produce manure which fertilizes the grass and plants in hydroponics. Another cycle.”

Logan tried, water, air and food. “No. Three guesses left.”

Thinking along those lines, I realized a hundred different aspects of our life were cycles, including people. Perhaps the answer wasn’t a representation of a circle, but more a concrete object or mathematical symbol. “Zero is circular. Isn’t the symbol for infinity a sideways eight?”

“That’s assuming the answer is a circle of some kind,” Riley said.

“Can you think of another answer?”

“No, but to try and connect it to a mathematical number or concept…” He threw his hands up. “There could be a million different possibilities. I wouldn’t—”

“Stop!” One of his words triggered a memory. I replayed the incident in my mind, searching for reasons why it wouldn’t work. Certainty bloomed in my chest. I knew the answer.

Logan and Riley stared at me, waiting.

“The millionth week. That’s the answer.” I remembered the assembly and the old man’s words: the millionth week isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.

Riley groaned and the hope dimmed in Logan’s eyes.

“That’s just a myth to scare people. Week one million will be like all the others. Its importance doesn’t exist,” Riley said.

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