Inside Out Page 71

I turned to a woman on my right, and stood on my tiptoes so I could talk into her ear. “Can you take a message to Jacy for me?”

She nodded. Her face pale and serious. When I told her the message about Gateway she gazed at me in frank astonishment.

“It’s very important,” I said. “Promise?”

When she promised, I stepped into the middle of the corridor. An angry frown replaced Cog’s smile as soon as he spotted me.

“I found it,” I yelled over the buzz and babble of many voices.

I knew he couldn’t stay mad. His whoop of joy rang through the hallway. Everyone stopped talking. The silence became an eerie almost living presence.

The Pop Cops in front finally noticed me. They shouted and pulled their stunners.

Maximum damage, I thought and rushed them. The element of surprise was the only reason I managed to knock one of the Pop Cops over. I yanked his gun from his hand and stunned him.

“No one recycles Cogon!” I yelled, pleased the ad hoc battle cry rhymed.

Then everyone moved as if my shout were a signal. Scrubs overwhelmed the rest of the Pop Cops, taking their weapons and knocking them down. A short and brutal attack. I gaped at the unexpected turn of events.

The chant rippled through the lower levels. No one recycles Cogon.

It didn’t take long for the scrubs to overpower the Pop Cops. A few scrubs were stunned, and little blood was shed on both sides. Cuffed with their own handcuffs, the Pop Cops huddled in the middle of the dining room. All the tables had been pushed back and scrubs surrounded Cog, slapping him on the back.

Cog organized teams to secure entrances. Every resident of the lower two levels had come to level one for Cog.

Understanding ripped through me as I watched them look to Cog for answers, for plans on what they should do next and for praise.

Broken Man wasn’t their prophet, Cogon was the true prophet of Inside.

Karla made a huge mistake in wanting to parade him through the scrubs as an example. The Pop Cops had grown overconfident and now her lieutenant knelt with the rest.

After a few minutes, I pulled Cog aside.

“Can you believe this?” Cog gestured to scrubs nearby.

I had been surprised, but shouldn’t have been. The signs had been there; I was too wrapped up in my own problems to notice.

“They think I know all the answers.” He shook his head in amazement, then sobered. “We can’t hold out for long. The uppers control everything but the food. All they need to do is send gas through the air shafts or shut off our air. Unless…” He shouted at one of the maintenance crew to install air filters in the ducts. “Now tell me everything about Gateway,” he ordered me.

“Yes, sir.” I dodged his playful swat, then told him how we discovered the location from the files. “I need to get a few supplies to be absolutely sure Gateway is there.”

“I’ll come along,” Cog said.

“You can’t fit through the shaft.”

He laughed. “Trell, you’re still thinking we need to sneak around. Hank,” Cog yelled.

A large maintenance scrub hustled over to us. “What do you need, boss?”

“A hole.”

Raiding a maintenance closet, we found the needed items and climbed through the air shaft. A huge section had been cut open, revealing the Gap above. Hank and his team muttered in amazement and wanted to ask questions, but the urge to hurry pulsed through my veins. The scrubs might have filters, but they wouldn’t last without fresh air.

I raced through the Gap. Cogon kept pace despite his size. We stopped at the uncovered west Wall. I shone my flashlight over the exposed metal, counting to twenty.

Rows and columns of twenty rivets. Starting from the corner and moving right.

Twenty. Twenty. Twenty. Twenty. Twenty. No deviations.

Twenty. Twenty. Twenty. No creativity.

Twenty. Twenty-two. I found the blind. A sheet of metal covering Gateway. I pointed and Cog pulled a chisel from his tool belt and removed twenty-two rivets from each side. The metal blind had been connected to the wall for so long, it remained in place despite the removal of the rivets. Inserting the edge of a crowbar Cog pulled with all his strength. Then moved to another spot.

The metal groaned and squealed and finally dropped down. A loud clang echoed throughout the Gap. We didn’t care who heard it.

Behind the sheet was Gateway.

Wild joy shone on Cog’s face. An ecstatic sizzle pumped through my veins. Gateway even appeared different than a regular door with its rounded corners and a black substance shoved into the crack between the door and the wall. The bulging substance ringed the entire door and was smooth and hard. When I tapped it with my fingernail, it didn’t clang like metal but produced a solid thumping sound.

Cut from one piece of metal, the door also lacked a knob or latch. But a small computer screen had been installed next to it. I pressed my ear to Gateway. Nothing to hear, but the Hum. The icy surface sucked warmth from the side of my head.

I pulled away. Now I knew why Inside was always heated. Outside was cold.

“Do you know how to open it?” Cog asked with a reverent tone in his voice.

“I have a code. But the uppers will be alerted.”

“Trell, there’s been a rebellion in the lower levels. I think the uppers are probably a little busy helping the Pop Cops to restore order. Besides, I doubt we’ll get another chance.”

Good point. Steeling myself, I touched the screen. It grumbled and grunted as if I had woken it from a deep sleep, then it glowed. Squares with numbers shone from the display.

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