Inside Out Page 48

“Surprise you how?”

“Oh, the usual way, I guess. Suddenly appear out of nowhere and completely change my life. You know, boring stuff.”

He increased his stride so I couldn’t see his expression, but I thought he might be joking with me.

“How about you?” he asked in a too-casual tone. “Anyone surprising?”

Domotor would qualify for appearing out of nowhere and changing my life, but I didn’t think he was referring to him.

“No,” I said.

“Why not?”

I huffed in annoyance.

“You have to answer,” he said. “I answered you—it’s only fair.”

I bit back a sarcastic comment about fairness and sighed. “Would you bring a child into the scrubs’ world? Add yet another body into an already overcrowded place? To be raised unloved and ignored as one of too many? I won’t do it.”

He remained silent for a while. “You don’t have to have a child.”

“But when you’re intimate with someone, it’s usually just a matter of time.”

He slowed, glancing at me as if puzzled. Up ahead was a large intersection with many uppers grouped together, talking. A bunch of Pop Cops strode into view and turned toward us. Without thought I stepped back.

Riley grabbed my hand, pulling me beside him. “Confidence,” he whispered. “You belong here.” Riley squeezed my hand in encouragement.

Easy to say, harder to act. Especially when Lieutenant Arno was among them. I gazed at the floor, but realized it was a scrub reaction. Uppers made eye contact and nodded in greeting. With effort, I returned Arno’s semidistracted nod and continued down the hall as if my heart wasn’t trying to jump out of my body.

Riley kept my hand as he turned left at the intersection and increased his pace. He made another left into a smaller corridor without doors and which ended. He headed straight for the end.

I scanned the ceiling, looking for air vents. “Riley, where are we going?”

“Trust me.”

Almost running now, I kept close to him. When we reached the end, he let go of my hand and stepped to the side, disappearing.

“Hey,” I called and he poked his head out.

“Optical illusion. Pretty cool, isn’t it?”

I felt around. The wall on the left side of the end was solid. The right side appeared to have a solid wall, but the wall was actually a meter past where it should have connected to the end. The corridor jigged to the right for a meter before going straight again, but it looked like another end. After I made the turn, I glanced back. The illusion worked from both sides.

However this hallway was only about two meters long and contained one door. Riley typed in a number sequence on the lock and the door opened into our storeroom. Relief coursed through me when we entered and I plopped on the couch. I couldn’t believe I had just strolled through the upper level.

“That’s why no one knows this room is here,” he said.

It made sense. Unless you put your hands on the walls, you wouldn’t discover the illusion. “How did you find it?”

“Lightbulb duty.” When I didn’t say anything, he continued, “During training, the newbies get assigned lightbulb duty. We go around changing lightbulbs in the corridors and public areas. Then we fix the broken filaments. A painstaking process.” He waved his hand as if pushing away the memory. “Anyway, I was assigned this sector and the bulb at the end must have just burned out. It was still hot and I dropped it. The bulb landed on the rug and then rolled through the wall.”

He grinned. “It’s amazing, but that bulb has never burned out since I found this place.” Riley pulled a drawer open. It was filled with lightbulbs.

After stashing the upper’s training uniform under the couch with Zippy, I found Logan in the air shaft not far from Riley’s room. We returned to the lower levels and he raced to make his shift on time. The poor guy would be awake for thirty hours straight. Not fun, but doable. Having worked my shift, Anne-Jade would also be dragging. Perhaps the news of Gateway’s existence would wake her up.

Gateway. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around all the implications. But I did know actions and alliances needed to be made and I couldn’t do it on my own. So I climbed into the heating vents to visit Domotor.

He sat in front of the computer, but turned an expectant expression toward me. I kept my face neutral, but couldn’t maintain it for long.

“You found it!”

I smiled. “We know the location.”

“Yes.” He shouted and banged his chair’s arms with his fists. “When are you going to open it?”

“It’s not going to be easy.” I explained what Logan had said about the alarms. “We need trustable uppers and we need to know more about Outside. Do you even know what’s there?”

He played with the long strands of his hair. “Not really. I was hoping there would be more information in the computer system.”

“Logan said there were about ten hidden and protected files. He moved them.”

“Protected how?”

“With passwords.”

“Passwords are the old security system. Those files are probably what I’ve been searching for. Did Logan move the files so we can access them down here?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe I can find them now.” Domotor returned his attention to the computer.

“Wait for Logan. He mentioned how the ports log your ID number every time you open a file.”

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