Inside Out Page 53

Foggy thoughts floated sluggishly. Pain radiated from my hip, but only spiked when I moved, which proved difficult to do. My right arm was trapped. Squinting, I braced for the bright daylight, but sighed in relief. Soft bluelight glowed in the room.

The familiar shapes of our storeroom surrounded me. Reclined on the couch, I still couldn’t comprehend why my right arm wouldn’t move. I wore a soft robe. A liquid-filled bag hung above my head with a tube snaking down. I followed the tube and found the reason for my frozen arm. It was tied to a white board. The tube ended in a metal piece protruding from my skin.

Memories of being chased by Pop Cops sprang to life. They must have caught me and were using a drug to torture me. I struggled to sit up. Every muscle in my body hurt and I felt as if I’d been chewed by Chomper.

“Easy there,” a woman’s voice said. She knelt next to the couch and laid a cool hand on my shoulder. “You shouldn’t move.”

Panicked, I swatted at her hand with my free arm, but the effort was weak and she caught my wrist. The cuff was still in place around it.

“If you move, you might pull your stitches out and I’ll have to sew you up again.” She used the stern tone of a Care Mother.

Stopping, I peered at her clothes. An upper, but not a Pop Cop. Her words finally pushed through the fog of fear and I realized she worked in the infirmary. Yet I was in our storeroom. Could the Pop Cops be waiting outside? “What…? Who…?” My throat burned.

“If you promise to lie still, I’ll get you a drink and tell you what happened. Promise?”

I debated. Knowledge versus promising an upper. “Yes.” But if she turned out to be a Pop Cop in disguise, then I could break my promise.

She moved away and returned with a cup of water. I grasped the heavy glass in my left hand, and she supported my head while I drank. The cold water felt wonderful going down, but turned my stomach.

“Sip it slowly,” she said. “You just had surgery.”

“Surgery? It was just a cut.” I strained to sit up.

“Remember your promise.”

I wilted. Who was I kidding anyway? I could barely lift a glass of water.

A fleeting smile crossed her lips. Her brown hair had been braided into a single long rope. The end reached her waist and she flicked it aside when she sat on the edge of the couch. In the bluelight, it was hard to see her eye color, but I guessed by the fine lines on her face she was around forty centiweeks old. Her thin fingers checked the metal thing stuck in my arm. She moved with a competent grace as if she did this all the time.

I winced when she touched my hip.

“Sorry, but I want to be sure you didn’t pull a stitch.” She pressed her fingertips through my robe and along my cut. “Feels fine.”

“Okay, Doctor. Care to explain what’s going on?” I asked.

“I was accosted by a very persistent young man who insisted I was needed for an emergency. Imagine my surprise when he led me here. You were on the couch, unconscious and bleeding. After an initial check, I determined you had a concussion and had been stabbed.”

Which explained all the blood.

She watched my expression for a moment. “The young man would not let me take you to a proper surgical room, so we had to make do.” The doctor fiddled with the tube. “I’m giving you an antibiotic, but the risk of infection is still very high.”

“How deep?”

“The knife penetrated to your pelvic bone, damaging your large intestines and your ovary. I stitched you up as best I could, but you might have trouble conceiving a child.”

Not a concern for me. “When will I be able to move?”

“You can walk around in a few hours, but it’s going to take a week for you to regain your full strength.”

A week! I’d be recycled in a week. Sooner if the doctor reported me to the Pop Cops.

“Now it’s your turn. Care to tell me why you’re here?”

“No.”

“How about if I threaten to tell the authorities?”

I considered. The doctor could have reported me hours ago. “No.”

She grinned. “You called my bluff. Good thing your young man is a friend of mine.” Then her smile dissolved as sadness pulled on her features. “I’m not an idiot, though. A rogue scrub wearing a red cuff has been reported to be in the air ducts and, although injured, is potentially dangerous. The uppers have been ordered to listen at vent covers and alert the authorities about any suspicious noise.” She gazed at me as if memorizing my features. “Once the game is up, it never ends well.”

Jacy’s comment about results repeated in my mind. “Better to make an effort, than do nothing.”

“When the effort fails, is it worth the cost?”

A tough question to answer. Failure meant Domotor, Logan, Anne-Jade, Riley and I would all be recycled along with Cog. Six people. A high cost. “No.”

“Then why try at all?”

“Because there is a chance for success. Maybe not complete success, or even the hoped-for results, but maybe just planting a seed to grow long after I’m gone. It doesn’t have to be a total failure.” Logan already knew this. I understood his words about causing maximum damage on a deeper level.

“Good answer. It’s the reason I’m here.” She glanced at the clock. “Now that you’re in stable condition, I need to report to the infirmary.” Standing, she bustled about and gathered her supplies. “I’ll be back later to check on you.”

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