Inside Out Page 59

“What about the uppers? Did Logan have time to check them?” I asked.

“Yes. He said he found one of the names mentioned as an informant in the security files. The rest had clean records.”

“Which one?” I asked.

“Kiana Garrard.”

Her name banged hard against my metal heart, sending vibrations along my skin. I shouldn’t be surprised. If she could abandon her child in the lower levels, she could rat out her husband and others.

“Anything else about the uppers?” Riley asked.

“Yes, Logan said Takia Qadim would be the best person to have on our side as she has access to multiple systems.”

“How will she and the others know to trust us?”

I shuffled through all the information Domotor had told me. “This is going to sound hokey, but tell them the Force of Ten is back in action.” Which was true. If I counted Logan, Anne-Jade, Riley, Doctor Lamont and myself the number was ten.

“I don’t know if I can say that with a straight face,” Riley said.

“Just think of the consequences if they don’t help us.”

“Good point.”

Anne-Jade had been fidgeting with the top button on the Pop Cop uniform. Dipping her head down, she spoke to her chest. “Did it work?” Then she pressed a fingertip to her earring, cocking her head.

Riley and I exchanged a significant look. Had the pressure been too much for her?

“Okay. I’ll give it to her. Thanks.” Anne-Jade noticed our dubious expressions. “I can’t keep playing messenger between you and the lower levels.” She pulled the small blue earring from her earlobe. “Receiver.” She dug into her pocket, and removed a strange metal device that resembled a rivet gun. She placed the earring in the gun and pressed it to my left earlobe. “Hold still.”

Before I could protest, she squeezed and a loud pop sounded in my ear followed by a sharp pain. Anne-Jade batted my hand away as she finished, wiping my lobe with a medicinal-smelling cloth. It came away wet with my blood.

“Now you can hear Jacy.” She yanked on her top button. It popped off with ease and revealed an identical button underneath. “Microphone. It’s built into a standard issue button and attaches with ease. Go on, try it.”

I clipped the metal microphone to my top button.

“She’s on,” Anne-Jade said.

“Trella?” Jacy asked.

I started and glanced around. His clear voice sounded as if he stood next to me.

“Trella, are you there?”

“Yes.”

“No need to shout, I can hear you just fine. These devices of the Tech Nos are wonderful. Once they make more, we can coordinate our team’s efforts.”

“What team?”

Anne-Jade averted her gaze.

“The Gateway team of course.” Jacy’s matter-of-fact reply contrasted with his upsetting revelation.

“How did you—”

“He threatened to report us to the Pop Cops,” Anne-Jade said in her defense.

Under normal circumstances, Jacy wouldn’t interact with the Pop Cops.

“You fell for his bluff. How much did you tell him?” I asked her.

But Jacy answered. “Everything and you should have come to me right away instead of blundering around.”

Riley’s confusion increased as I talked to Jacy, but he kept quiet.

“Blundering? You would have done better?” I asked.

“Of course. I would have assigned people to cover your shift, to help smuggle food and to supply you with information.”

“But I couldn’t—”

“Trust anyone. I know.”

I had planned to say “get you in trouble,” but he was right, too. “You’re helping now.” With Jacy, we were the force of eleven. It didn’t have the same cachet.

“Small consolation, considering the havoc down here.” Yet a gleeful challenge spiked his tone as if he looked forward to the upcoming difficulties.

“What’s the status?” I braced for his answer.

“Pop Cops everywhere, snooping around. It’s only a matter of time before they do a full level-wide search, and there are certain…things I’d rather they not find.”

“What about the negotiations with Karla?”

A pause. “There are none. Before you yell, hear me out.”

I growled my assent.

“Karla offered every enticement possible to get the scrubs to rat you out. Failing that, she has announced Cogon’s life could be spared if you turn yourself in. Wait! Since nothing has resulted from her efforts, she believes you’re hiding in the ducts, wounded and close to expiring. The air shafts are filled with RATSS. And I don’t want to bust her illusions.”

“What about Cog?”

“He’s been protecting you since we were toddlers, and the worst thing you can do for him is to undermine his efforts and turn yourself in. Besides, once you open Gateway, it’ll be a whole new world.”

“But what if—”

“Stop! Don’t what-if me. Do your part and get Gateway opened, and I’ll do mine, making life miserable for the Pop Cops. Time to go. I’m needed elsewhere, but I’ll keep a man monitoring this frequency.”

His comment reminded me. “Jacy, what’s the frequency for Karla’s bug?”

“Ninety-eight megahertz.”

“Thanks for your help.”

He chuckled. “Don’t worry, you will return the favor. And once the Tech Nos build more of those receivers, I’ll contact you.”

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