Inside Out Page 74

“You are the reason I’m here,” Riley said. “If you remember, I didn’t get involved to find Gateway. But to find a way to improve living conditions in the lower levels. I talked to Doctor Lamont and there is a way to even things out between uppers and lowers. The Force of Sheep is worried about being caught, but they’re also motivated.”

“Why?” I figured they would do what they had done before and lay low.

“Because of you.”

“Me? You’ve got to be joking.”

“You’re right. I am. It’s really because of Sheepy. How he risked his life for them, and how he showed them that scrubs are real human beings who care and want the same things in life. Opened their eyes to the fact the Travas are our mutual enemy.”

“Sheepy’s a great guy…er…sheep.”

“He is. But he’s going to be mutton chops soon if he doesn’t fight back.”

Energized I raised my head and glared at Riley. “Hard to fight back when I’m cuffed to the bars.”

“Your legs don’t work?”

“Vinco’s built like a tank. Have you tried to resist him?” I demanded.

“Yes. If you remember, extra duty is being Vinco’s sparring partner. Except he has a weapon and you don’t.” He rubbed his left forearm.

I remembered Riley’s bloody sleeve. “Then you know how hard it is.”

“I never said it would be easy. Giving up is easy.”

I grumbled.

“Vinco isn’t very smart. If you do decide to try resisting, there is a package for you in the heating duct right near the vent.”

“Who—?”

“Logan rigged Zippy to deliver it to you.”

“Hard to get it out with solid iron bars acting as a vent cover.”

“Think about it,” Riley said.

I grudgingly realized Logan would know about the bars and had probably packed the gift so I could pull it through. I wiggled my fingers. My hands felt swollen, and my wrists felt as if the metal cuffs had ripped off my skin.

“All you need to do is free yourself from those cuffs,” he said as if commenting on the food in the cafeteria.

“The Force of Sheep don’t really need me. You have Logan for the computer stuff and Anne-Jade building anti-stunners. In fact, by staying here I’m keeping Vinco and Karla busy for you.”

“That’s mighty nice of you. But don’t you think you’ve suffered enough? Or do you still feel guilty for Cog’s loss?”

I sputtered, fuming. “You act like I can just saunter out of here. I didn’t ask to be tortured. If it were up to me, I’d have been Chomper’s dinner hours ago.”

He sighed. “It’s going to be hard to tell Sheepy that Trella has given up. To tell him that fierce, spunky scrub I first met is gone.”

I refused to comment.

“Poor Sheepy will be sad. He’ll miss his best friend.”

“He’s a toy, Riley. He’ll get over it.”

He remained quiet for a moment. “You’re right. He will recover. But you’ve gotten a lot of other things wrong.”

Now it was my turn to sigh. Here we go again. “I don’t have the energy to argue anymore. My throat hurts.” Every word burned and my dry tongue kept sticking to the roof of my mouth. I rested my head on the bunk and closed my eyes.

“Then just listen to me. I’ll tell you all the things you’re mistaken about. First, you’re not going to be able to resist Vinco much longer. Cog eventually broke. He’s the one who named you and told Karla that Domotor was still alive.” He paused, probably to let the news sink in.

No wonder Cog had been so frantic when I had visited him the second time. But I couldn’t blame Cog for anything. He suffered enough for me.

“Second, you’re wrong about no one needing you. The Force of Sheep has been working to infiltrate the security systems, but they need motivation only you can provide. Doctor Lamont needs her intern back, and I need…”

I waited, but when he didn’t continue, I looked up. He sat on the bunk in his cell with his face in his hands. We both startled when the heavy clang of metal sounded as the main doors to the holding cells were unlocked. For me, it meant Vinco returning for another dreaded session.

Riley jumped to his feet and stared at me through the bars. “Whatever I say to the commander about the scrubs and you is all a lie. Understand?”

A wedge of bright light grew between the doors.

“Yes.” Before he could turn away, I asked, “What do you need?”

“I need you. I need to give you a proper kiss. I need you to be my mate.” His words were a harsh whisper, but tenderness shone in his eyes. Nothing like the shock that must be in my own.

The door swung wide, slamming into the wall. Vinco eyed Riley with disgust. “What’re you in for, boy?”

“Telling Lieutenant Arno to go screw himself, sir.”

Vinco laughed. “That takes balls, boy.”

“Well, I didn’t know there was a scrub in the cells, sir. Otherwise I would have been nicer. Don’t you think being so near one of them is cruel?”

I bit my lip, remembering Riley’s words about lying.

“Worse than extra duty with me?”

“Yes, sir.”

The commander chuckled again. “Okay, boy. You can work off the rest of your brig time. Ensign Hollis,” he called, “release Mr. Ashon.”

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