Inside Out Page 79

Karla swaggered into the Control Room with a smug smirk. Vinco followed with ten Pop Cops behind him. One of them pushed Doctor Lamont into the room. The door hissed shut with a thump that crushed the remains of my heart.

“Report, Lieutenant Commander,” the admiral said.

“The lower levels are secured, sir.”

“Excellent work. How did you manage it so quick?”

Karla glanced at Doctor Lamont. “We had a few hours’ notice.”

“Well done. Braydon, send instructions to our men below and have them separate the leaders.”

“Yes, sir,” an upper called, typing at his computer.

Takia remained at her post. Her fingers rested on her keyboard, and I hoped she countered the admiral’s order.

The admiral pulled his kill-zapper from his belt and advanced on me. “I’m going to enjoy weeding out the first troublemaker.”

I shrank against my captors, but they held me tight. My heart trembled when he pressed the nozzle to my chest. Hell of a way to find out if Zippy worked and neutralized the kill-zapper.

“Stop,” Doctor Lamont shouted.

The Admiral paused. He frowned, turning toward the doctor. “Why?”

“She’s the leader of this whole thing. She knows everyone involved. If you recycle her before you question her, you might miss a few troublemakers.”

“Trella’s proven resistant to torture,” Karla said. “If you keep her alive, the scrubs will have someone to rally around.” She scowled at Vinco. “Or she might escape into the pipes again.”

He hunched his shoulders and ducked his head.

“She might become a martyr and you’ll have more scrubs revolting,” the doctor said.

“I don’t care,” the admiral said. His focus returned to me. “Clear.” The men holding me let go. He pulled the trigger and I screamed. Nothing else happened. I swayed with relief.

My relief was short-lived. The admiral scowled, threw his weapon down and gestured for Karla’s kill-zapper. She hadn’t been here when Zippy had knocked the other weapons out. Hers would work.

Before he could press it against me, I smiled. “Go ahead. That one won’t work either.”

“She’s bluffing,” Vinco said. “If she’s so confident, why did she scream before?”

I shrugged. “I was having a little fun.” My voice remained steady despite my muscles turning to mush.

Vinco flashed his knife. “This will work.” He grinned in delight.

Breathing was difficult, I sucked in air through my tight throat, trying not to gasp.

The admiral considered then returned Karla’s kill-zapper. “It’s too messy. Take her to the brig, Commander. Find out what she knows, but if you don’t learn anything new, feed her to Chomper.”

“Yes, sir!” Vinco snapped to action, striding toward me.

“Wait,” Doctor Lamont said.

“Now what?” Annoyance creased the admiral’s face.

She turned to Karla. “What about our bargain? You said she would be here.”

“And she is.” A nasty glee sparked in Karla’s eyes. She pointed at me. “Meet your daughter, Kiana. Trella, or should I call you by your birth name, Sadie?” She rubbed her chin as if deep in thought. “I liked the name Trella. Guess I’m partial to TRs and As.” She shrugged. “Anyway, Trella, meet your mother.”

Horror gripped Doctor Lamont’s face, but she shook her head. “You’re lying, Karla. It’s too big of a coincidence.” She uncurled her fingers. My pearl-handled comb lay across her palms. “I fell for it, too.” The faint words just audible.

“Troublemakers tend to breed more troublemakers,” Karla said. “Although, I must admit I was a bit surprised when I went digging into Trella’s records. I knew keeping your child alive would come in handy sometime—she’s your weakness. I suspect Domotor also did a little digging into the computer files and recruited her to his cause.”

“No. I don’t believe it. She looks nothing like me or Nolan,” the doctor said.

“Really?” Karla cocked her hip, studying me. “With her new blue eyes wide with fear, she looks exactly like Nolan did right before we fed him to Chomper.”

A murmur ran through the Control Room as the others either agreed or disagreed.

“Touching as all this is, there is much work to be done.” The admiral issued orders for the Pop Cops to carry the stunned officers to the infirmary. “Doctor, please make sure they are comfortable. Commander, take this scrub from my sight.”

As Vinco’s hand wrapped around my upper arm, I said, “This is just the beginning.” It was a delay tactic, but the truth of the words knitted my heart together. Even though our rebellion failed, and we had been betrayed, I stood in the Control Room. A future effort might bring the scrubs even further.

I laughed. “You can try and weed out the troublemakers, Admiral, but you’ll miss one or two and they’ll multiply. Think about it. How do you think we managed to get this far? If I can take advantage of Karla’s incompetence, then it’s only a matter of time before others do the same.”

The lieutenant commander yanked her kill-zapper and shoved it into my ribs. “Let’s see if my weapon works.”

Vinco released his grip.

“Hold on, Karla,” the admiral said. “What do you mean by incompetence, scrub?”

“Look at what we accomplished. Domotor disappeared. We opened Gateway. I escaped the brig and have been living in the upper levels for a week. We infiltrated the computer system. And I’m in your Control Room and your captain is stunned. It was ridiculously easy to break into her office. The list of her incompetence is endless.” I tsked.

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