Inside Out Page 51

“It’s still unwise to have such sensitive information listed,” Logan said.

“I agree, but I’d bet the higher Pop Cop officers feel rather confident about their security network, believing no one, especially no scrub could breach it. So try not to bust their illusion.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m like a—”

“Ghost. I know.” Two Pop Cops headed in our direction. “I better go. I can’t miss any more shifts, but I’ll stop by your barrack during one of my breaks.”

Logan nodded and returned to work. I left the recycling plant and hurried to find Emek. Only five hours remained in my off time and I was determined to locate Gateway.

Emek issued orders to a couple scrubs. When they left, I pushed a marker into his hands. “Sign, please.”

“Hold on, you still owe me five hours,” he said.

I met his gaze. “Cogon’s execution is in twenty-four hours. I don’t have time.”

Understanding softened his face; he signed the cuff. “Ever have a cuff before?”

“My first.”

“Put a little sheep’s oil on your wrist under the cuff before the Pop Cops remove it. Otherwise, the sucker tends to grab a hunk of skin when it’s cut off.”

“Thanks.” I strode from solid-waste handling and headed to the right. My supervisor’s voice called from behind me. She wasn’t kidding about watching me. Suppressing a groan of annoyance, I turned.

My heart dropped into my stomach and ran laps. Lieutenant Commander Karla and three Pop Cops followed my supervisor. The LC’s smug expression and the terrified fury on my supervisor’s face told me all I needed to know.

Without hesitating, I ran.

16

MY SUPERVISOR’S SHRILL VOICE CALLED FOR ME TO stop. One of the Pop Cops threatened to shoot me, but LC Karla’s calm order to stun me made my legs run faster. I reached an intersection just as a sizzle slap sounded behind me. Diving into the hallway on my left, I felt the pulse clip my legs.

I rolled along the floor. A burning pain danced along my calves and left my muscles numb. Scrubs yelled and scattered. The corridor filled with noise and confusion. Regaining my feet proved difficult, I used my upper arms to balance on numb legs. The quickest of Karla’s Pop Cops reached the intersection.

Pushing scrubs out of his way, he aimed his stun gun at me. Without thinking, I grabbed a screwdriver from my belt and flung it at him. The tool knocked into his arm. His shot flew low, hitting me below the waist.

I fell over, landing on my back, feeling as if a million needles jabbed through my uniform and into my thighs. The Pop Cop stepped closer, raising his gun again.

He was bumped from behind. Cursing, he turned to stun the closest scrubs. I hurled my wire cutters at him. They grazed his head, so I lobbed my flashlight. A direct hit. His gun clattered to the floor with a satisfying crack. Surprised, he stared at me a moment, then glanced over his shoulder.

His buddies should be arriving any second, but sounds of a commotion reached us from the other hall.

Taking advantage of his hesitation, I rolled onto my stomach and pulled my body away from him—the benefits of having strong arm muscles. A heating vent beckoned from two meters away.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said.

Too much weight on me, I strained to a stop. He had latched onto my ankles.

“Don’t you want to help your boss? Sounds like she’s in trouble.” I transferred my weight to my left elbow, turning my body sideways and freeing my right arm.

He paused. Karla’s voice boomed through the sounds of panicked scrubs, ordering them to get out of her way. The sizzle slap of a stun gun increased the noise level.

“She can handle a couple of scrubs. You should worry about yourself.” He reached for his handcuffs with his right hand. “You’re under arrest for—”

I stabbed my needle-nose pliers into his left forearm. He yelled and let go. I continued, gaining another meter before he lunged for me. I managed to roll away, but he snaked an arm around my waist, pinning me down. He grinned as I searched for another tool.

“You’re out, but I’m not.” He pulled a knife.

The ruckus in the other hallway spilled into ours. The LC was caught in the middle of stampeding scrubs. It would have been comical if I didn’t have an armed Pop Cop wrapped around me.

Taking advantage of the distraction, I grabbed the comb from my belt. I poked the teeth into his eyes as the crowd reached us. He let go of me, and I lost track of him as we were stepped on, kicked and crushed. The comb dropped from my hand, but all the while, I closed the distance to the heating vent. Removing the cover, I wormed inside, and replaced the metal grate.

I pulled my aching body through the semidark shaft until my arms shook with exhaustion. Laying my head down, I listened as the clamor from the hall died and the angry voice of LC Karla echoed.

Only a few of her words were coherent, but two stood out. Injured and blood. Then the grating sound of a metal cutter vibrated. I turned my head. In the faint light, a thin black trail shone. I wasn’t in pain, but then again the lower half of my body remained numb. Running my hands along my skin, I stopped when my fingers encountered wetness.

The Pop Cop’s knife had sliced a gash near my hip. I couldn’t tell how deep, but I needed to stanch the blood. The rumble of the cutter stopped and a bright light glowed behind me.

The slide step rasp of a person in the shaft reached me. I continued, but I still left a blood trail. When I arrived at an intersection, I tore a part of my coveralls and made a makeshift bandage which became soaked in no time, alarming me.

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