“What? Strap me to a gurney again?”
“If that’s what I have to do to get you to listen to me, then I will.”
A hard determination settled on her face as if her skin had turned to metal. The woman was serious. She seemed to have two separate personalities, Kiana and Doctor Lamont. I was facing the Doctor right now.
“You can’t. Not when—”
She brandished a syringe and a “try me” stance.
I stepped back, bumping into wall. Damn. “Where did…” She had planned this little chat.
If she knocked me out, I could have her arrested for assault. But would Anne-Jade’s new Inside Security Force (ISF) even charge her? Probably not. Especially not since she proved to be invaluable after the explosion.
Unwilling to make this easy for her, I crossed my arms, sat and glowered. “I’m listening.”
“Good.” Lamont remained on her feet with her weapon pointed toward me. “For the last 1,430 weeks my heart has ached for my daughter and husband. And yes, I betrayed all of you just for the slim chance to hold Sadie in my arms again. Karla knew my weakness. And she had the comb I had hidden in Sadie’s diaper. It was wrong, and stupid, and I regret it. But I can’t change the past. All I can do is atone for my mistakes. Karla might not have lied about you. Why would she send a hundred-and-two-week-old to Chomper? I’d like you to take a blood test.”
I surged to my feet. “No blood test.”
“It would settle the question once and for all. And if you’re Sadie, you can stay here.”
“But if I’m just plain old Trella, I need to leave?”
“No. You’re still welcome to be my intern and stay.”
“I’m not interested in being your intern or your daughter.” As I brushed past her, I braced for the needle’s prick. Would she stoop to knocking me out and testing my blood? Not yet. Unharmed, I hurried into my room and stopped. I wore my pendant, earring and transmitter. Besides my tool belt and moccasins, there was nothing here I needed.
Changing back into my air scrub uniform, I buckled my belt, secured my mocs to a loop, climbed up to the air vent, opened the cover and entered the air ducts. I wasn’t about to give Lamont another chance to trap me. After securing the vent, I followed the familiar twists and turns, deciding which way to go.
The abandoned controller’s room in Quad C1 remained empty. Domotor had hidden in there during the rebellion, but it was next to the power plant and the heat and dirt made it less than ideal. However, it did have a small kitchen and bathroom.
Despite the amenities of the controller’s room, I headed toward the storeroom on level four. The place where I first met Riley. It had a comfortable couch—all I needed. I’d eat in the uppers dining room in Quad G3, and use the scrub washrooms on level two. It’d be just like old times. Well, without the constant fear, which was a bonus.
And just like the past, I’d have to use the air ducts to get to the storeroom. Since the room was located deep within Sector D4, I couldn’t use the hallways. I wanted the room to remain forgotten by all but a few people, and Sector D4 was patrolled by the ISF to keep the Travas in their quarters.
When I reached the room, I peered through the vents. The bluelights were on, and I couldn’t spot any signs of recent activity. Opening the vent, I swung down and dropped onto the couch. Dust puffed and I sneezed. The daylights snapped on, triggered by my motion. Riley hadn’t disconnected the motion sensor and I wondered if my entrance would signal him.
By the film of dust on all the furniture, I knew Riley hadn’t been here since the rebellion. I tried to contact him again. No response. Perhaps he was still mad at me.
I cleaned the room as best as I could. Finally exhausted, I switched back to bluelights, dumped my tool belt in a corner, curled up on the couch and fell asleep.
The sudden brightness of the daylights woke me. I stared at my surroundings for a few seconds in confusion until I remembered my location. According to the clock, it was hour twenty-five of week 147,021. Riley leaned on the door to the hallway, but his posture was far from relaxed. His black hair hung in his eyes, obscuring half of his expression.
I sat up and pulled my legs in close, making room for him to sit down.
He didn’t move. “What are you doing here?”
“Lamont kicked me out. It was either this, the pipes or the barracks.”
“Dad and I have a couch.” His flat tone held no emotion.
I sensed I trod on thin metal. One wrong word and it would buckle underneath me. “Last I heard, your brother had claimed it.”
“Blake moved back to the barracks weeks ago. He couldn’t stand the quiet.”
Which made sense. Growing up in the lower two levels, we had been assaulted by the constant noise of the other scrubs. For most of the scrubs, the clamor soothed and comforted. For me, the racket grated and drove me into the pipes, seeking privacy and distance from the noise.
“I tried to contact you a couple times,” I said in my defense.
Not good. “Riley, I’m sorry for getting angry. I’ll skip my next shift and we’ll spend time together.”
His muscles relaxed just a bit. Progress.
“Why did Doctor Lamont kick you out?” he asked.
“She gave me an ultimatum.” I told him about the argument.
As I talked, he moved away from the door and closer to me. “I’m surprised she didn’t tell you to leave sooner.”