Inside Out Page 56

“And you need to listen to your doctor. Now hold still.”

I bit my lip as he removed the old dressing and replaced it with a clean one. He covered me with a blanket. Rummaging around his desk, he returned with a tool resembling bolt cutters but smaller.


I held my arm out. “Any chance you have some sheep oil?” I asked as he tightened the clamp.

“Nope. And this will hurt.” He grunted and the metal cuff buckled.

It broke with a crunch snap, gouging a hunk of skin in the process just like Emek had warned. Riley pulled the damaged cuff from my wrist and bandaged the bleeding gouge. He poured me a glass of water. Remembering the doctor’s instructions, I sipped it.

Riley sat on the edge of the couch, and I knew the questions would start. He didn’t disappoint me. “What was so important?”

I told him about Cog. About his strength, his sacrifice and his beliefs. “I couldn’t let him be recycled without knowing about Gateway.”

Riley listened without interruption. “Then we need to open Gateway before he’s recycled.” He glanced at the floor as if undecided, then met my gaze. “You said you didn’t have a mate.”

I almost laughed, but remembered the pain it caused. “I don’t. Cogon is like…” I cast about for the right upper word. “A brother to me. You should know how that is, you have one.”

“I saw him once, and then he was gone.” He frowned. “I thought scrubs didn’t have families.”

“We don’t. I was trying to match the feeling. Cog was my care mate. Which means we grew up together, looked after each other.” I struggled to keep my eyes open.

“Get some rest, Trella.” Riley smoothed a few hairs from my face and stroked my cheek.

“We need to plan.”

“We’ll make plans when you’re stronger. Rest now. Doctor’s orders.”

This time I listened.

I woke to the ungentle prodding of the doctor.

She perched on the edge of the couch and held up the needle I had yanked from my arm. “I see you decided to stop your medicine. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes.” The dizziness and nausea were gone. My stomach rumbled, and I had no energy. The doctor helped to prop me up, bending caused too many spikes of pain.

“Here.” She handed me a warm bowl of tan-colored water and a spoon.

I sniffed the strange substance.

“It’s broth. It’ll help you recover.” Amusement filled her voice. “If you keep that down, I’ll give you a thicker soup.”

Sipping a spoonful of broth, I waited for my stomach’s reaction. My hunger strengthened, and I abandoned the spoon to drink right from the bowl.

“Enjoy being able to recover quickly. When you get past thirty-five centiweeks old, it’s harder to heal.” She handed me the soup. “In a few hours you can return to your normal diet.” Rising, she glanced around the room. “Eventually, you’re going to want to take a shower and sleep in a real bed.” Her gaze returned to me. “You already have the student’s uniform, and I have an extra bed in my rooms next to the infirmary you can use. It’s supposed to be for an intern, but none of the current class has the skills needed, and I’m waiting for a few of the younger kids to grow older.”

A generous and dangerous offer. She would be recycled if I was found in her rooms. “Wouldn’t my presence be suspicious?”

“Not really. Students have more freedom and aren’t tracked as closely until they choose a profession and are given a port. My supervisor would actually be happy to see I have selected an intern—he’s been nagging me about it for weeks.” She checked my pulse. “Strong. You should be fine.”

Collecting a few medical items, she headed toward the door. Before she left, she looked at me. “Think about my suggestion, Ella. Riley knows where to find me.”

Her offer was out of the question. Karla would not stop until she found me and I needed to confirm Gateway’s location, talk to Logan about those files, open Gateway and turn myself in to the Pop Cops for Cog. Playing Ella the upper with a very nice lady wasn’t included in my to-do list no matter how much I wished it was there.

Instead I reviewed each task. Confirming Gateway’s location would require climbing through the shafts. Not possible right now, but could be accomplished in another ten hours or so I hoped. The concern was if Karla had gotten the coordinates from Domotor or Logan and beaten me to Gateway. What then? The Pop Cops would control it. I could tell the scrubs about its existence. I barked out a laugh. I’d be the new prophet, raving about Gateway for everyone’s amusement. No. If Karla had Gateway, the game would be over.

If I found Gateway, I would need to learn more about Outside and how to open the door. Logan guessed the needed information hid in the old files. Opening the files required passwords and Logan. Again I needed to be able to climb to contact the Tech No. If Karla held Logan, or if we couldn’t deduce the correct passwords, then it was game over.

Opening Gateway depended on the success of task two, plus we would need uppers to cover the computer alerts. I had a list of possible sympathizers, but one of them was a spy. Logan had planned to check the computer records of the uppers. If he couldn’t discover who worked for Karla, we’d need to find another group via Riley, and hope we didn’t contact another spy. If we did—game over.

The last task, turning myself in to Karla had the least problems. And once the game was over, it would be the only job left for me to do.

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