Inside Out Page 65

I mulled over the ignorance on both sides. The results created two groups of people who distrusted each other, which would be ideal if you didn’t want them to join forces. Again my contemplations looped back to why they let the scrubs grow in number.

We did the grunge work, but even if we limited births, there still would be plenty of scrubs to work. Another theory popped into mind. “Is the birth control hard to make? Or of limited quantity?”

“Not really. It’s grown in hydroponics. You only need to ingest it when you’re planning to be intimate.” She jerked her head as if struck with a sudden thought. “You didn’t seem concerned about your damaged ovary. Was it because you don’t want children?”

“Yes. I’m not going to be intimate with anyone so that—” I waved toward the infirmary “—doesn’t happen to me or to a child.”

We discussed various reasons the Travas would allow the scrubs to increase in number, but we couldn’t find a logical explanation.

“I’ll ask LC Karla next time I see her,” I joked.

But Doctor Lamont’s demeanor turned to ice. “If that woman was injured, I would not save her life. In fact, I would happily feed her to Chomper myself.” She stood and strode from the room, claiming she needed to check on her patients.

While I agreed with the doctor about Karla, I wondered what the LC had done to cause such a strong reaction from a caring individual.

The meeting with the uppers who’d agreed to help us convened in the doctor’s sitting room at hour sixty. Riley and Doctor Lamont stood apart from the group, who talked among themselves in low whispers, getting acquainted and reminiscing about prior events. Riley’s father, Jacob, kept peering at his son as if amazed the boy was there.

After learning about the uppers’ birth control, I had wanted to discuss so much with Riley, but the group arrived and we had limited time.

Takia Qadim was the most vocal and spoke for the group. “Why will this attempt work when our first one failed?” Her sharp and intelligent gaze focused on me.

I willed my heart to stop its panicked thumping, and reminded myself about the need for full disclosure. “First we already know where Gateway is.” A mixture of expressions spread over the four uppers. I waited for the information to sink in.

“Second, we have access to the other hidden files. One led us to the location, and I’m reasonably sure the others will tell us how to open Gateway and what to expect on the other side.”

“Why do you need us?” Hana Mineko asked. Her black hair had been piled on top of her head in a pleasing twist of curls. She fiddled with a curl hanging by her ear, pulling it straight and releasing it. The hair sprang back each time.

“When Gateway is open, it will alert all the systems in Inside, and we need you to cover the alert so the Controllers and the Travas don’t know. Once we know exactly what to expect on the other side of Gateway, then we can plan how to use it.”

“Why don’t you know what’s in the rest of the files?” Takia asked.

“They’re protected by passwords. We haven’t figured out the rest of them yet.” A rumble of alarm rolled through the uppers. “We have the password clues, and I hoped as a group we could deduce the answers.”

“Let me get this straight,” Jacob said. “Provided you open the files, we then have to hide your activity from the Trava family while you open Gateway.” He looked around. “You’re going to need to recruit more uppers.”

“We have two scrubs willing to ghost through the network and aid in hiding data. And don’t forget Domotor.” As long as he listened to Logan’s instructions.

Breana Narelle pulled her shirt down over her pregnant belly. “Four people were recycled last time because Domotor was caught. This time we all know who’s involved. What if someone here is the person who ratted us out?”

“We know who spied for Karla and she hasn’t been invited back. Obviously you don’t say anything to anyone, but especially not to Kiana Garrard,” I said, proud I didn’t stutter over her name. It’s possible she hadn’t abandoned me, but she still caused much pain and suffering.

Most of the group nodded with understanding, but Jacob flashed the doctor a strange, pain-filled look, which she returned. I wondered if they both knew Kiana.

“Why should we risk our lives for the scrubs?” Breana asked. “They hate us and are jealous of us. They won’t do anything to help us. Why should we help them?”

I counted to ten before answering her, reminding myself she has been fed lies about the scrubs all her life. Then I explained to the group just how much the scrubs had done to get me here. The ghosting through the network, Cog’s sacrifice and Jacy’s risks as well as the amazing fact that not one scrub has yet to provide information to the Pop Cops despite the fantastic rewards offered by the LC.

“The Travas are our mutual enemy. They have lied to you and to the scrubs to keep us from joining together. Think about it. The scrubs outnumber the uppers ten to one. But you have control of the systems keeping us alive, and the Travas have control of us both. Teaming up takes the Travas out of the equation. We can return to the times when each family had an equal say.”

My speech worked and the uppers set about planning. They wanted to hear the password clues and I read them aloud. Two questions produced answers right away. Six left. I repeated the first question and everyone brainstormed.

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